Thursday, March 26, 2009

Legal retainers: you never know how valuable they are until you have to use them.

To quote the title, "Legal retainers: you never know how valuable they are until you have to use them."

Seriously. For an LLC, it's much more cheaper and efficient then lugging around an attorney who just chills out all day until he has to write up a contract of some kind.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slow going in the fjord of his mind.

If you look at my Spiced Incese Warehouse post below you'll notice that it has a few comments, probably by the owner or a shill perhaps. 

There are some deleted ones: two were posting someone's phone #, address, etc, and two that were just pure spam. Well, not pure spam. If you've been around the 'net long enough you'll occasionally find people who are essentially being paid by the hour to 'attack' a site in an attempt to render it unusuable. It never works, of course, but it's still kinda funny to watch.

Anyway, it's a classic case of not knowing how the Internet works. By commenting repeatedly and shilling in an attempt to sweep whatever under the covers, I don't think he's realized that he's raising the popularity of the articles in question. The blog post, for instance, fell off the front page for awhile, then suddenly found itself ranked 4th or 5th for the search term "spiced incense warehouse." It'll probably outrank his site in a few days if he keeps up the pressure -- I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Good in the sense that it would be hilarious, primarily because he did it to himself, and bad because then my blog post turns into one of those little battlegrounds where everyone with a keyboard converges and argues -- same thing happened with my 'oDesk vs RentACoder' review, which I won't link to since its mostly obsolete and I haven't tried RentACoder in forever.

Plus, I think he underestimates the intelligence of his potential customers. I showed some non-tech friends the original blog post and the comments, and they totally lol'd their eyes out (or so they assured me).

So, it made my ask myself, you know, what exactly is going on in this guy's mind? Is there some part in the back that tells him that making a fool of himself is the best course of action? Or, does he think he's not making a fool of himself at all?

I sat down and thought about it for awhile -- I had just finished playing two crappy rounds of Halo Wars and didn't have much else to do until She Who Is Unknown returned, so, you know, why not? After a bit I came to the conclusion that he's one of those types who gets red in the face and acts irrationally without thinking. That probably explains the sudden quiet-time that occured while I was waiting to be served (which apparently isn't going to happen).  I've never worked a salaried job in my life, so I've never had the great misfortune to be exposed to those kinds of people, but I've read about them and of course I've had the usual antecdotal "you wouldn't BELIEVE what this bossy motherfucker did today!" story from friends.

On the plus side, his annoying behavior spurred me to change the way pages are cached on FearlessBlogging, which is neither fearless nor, technically, blogging. I actually had an entirely different concept for the site, but then realized it would be redundant and more-or-less worthless in the grand scheme of things.

The caching changes I made were to localize all of my caching logic in a cache sweeper. Oh god, I know what you're thinking, and no. Caching was implemented initially as a *very* quick (talking, 15 minutes) hack, which involved a lot of cut-and-pasting of code everywhere. Things got messy fast, and as a result somewhere along the lines, during a random site upgrade / bugfix, I broke the admin panel. I could mark posts as disabled, but particular portions of the cache wouldn't refresh, so they'd show up in the sidebar but still be unviewable. Yeah. Stupid, I know.

I also re-learned one important thing that I forgot: Never. Use. Page. Caching. In Rails. Ever. That shit causes boatloads of problems. Page-level caching in Rails is the goddamn devil. And there's no easy way to clean the cache, either, except to "manually" remove the files, as far as I know.

The moral of the story?

That stories don't have to have morals to be stories.

(oooh, yes I did just go there).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hotmail login doesn't do HTTPS by default. ^.^?!

So, I almost never use my Hotmail or Y!Mail accounts anymore.

Too much spam, obviously.

So, today, I did my monthly email check. Nothing but spam in the both of them.

But I did notice something funny.

Logging into Yahoo! Mail took me to an SSL protected page, where-as logging into Hotmail took me to a regular HTTP page.

Now, I was extra concious of where I was on the web because this morning my Mom got scammed; she followed one of those 'reset your password' emails and lost a couple hundred dollars from her Paypal account.

So I gave her a 20 minute lecture (again) on not following those links. Frankly, she got off real lucky -- as far as I know he only took money from her account, and not a lot at that. The scammer could have done way worse.

So, after my high-and-mighty lecture, I notice that Hotmail doesn't do HTTPS by default. I totally lawl'd.

I've become used to seeing the SSL certificate in the browser bar as a way of verifying I'm where I meant to be, even though that's not exactly what it means. So I found Hotmail's lack of security on the login landing page very... unusual.

That's the end of this blog post!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Games I've been playing.

About a week ago, I purchased both Halo Wars and Tom Clancy's HAWX.

I purchased HAWX, an action-intense fighter-pilot game, because when I played the demo level, "Glass Hammer," I immediately thought back to Ace Combat 6 and, of course, Garuda team. I nabbed Halo Wars because the first two demo levels were OK and I thought it'd be an average RTS game I could stomach.

As it turns out, my expectations were completely fucked: Tom Clancy's HAWX was a total chore to get through once, and gut-wrenchingly boring the 2nd time around on "Elite." CO-OP mode is a little better: the missions are harder, and if everyone is playing on Elite mode some missions can be pretty fun (as long as everyone is playing with a headset). However, the game is full of more misses than missiles in the air (ha hah, why does a fighter plan have 82 missiles?!-style joke!). 

The storyline is a total mess, from its incredibly implausible premise, to its jerky storytelling method of hopping around the entire planet (planet meaning the United States and Tokyo). I'm going to get some hate for me ripping on the storyline while loving Ace Combat 6, but there's a big difference here, I'd like to think, and that is that Ace Combat 6 goes full-throttle into fantasy land, with its giant flying fortresses and city-sized rail-guns. HAWX clearly went for a super-realistic takes-place-in-the-near-future feel, going for a gritty story of nuclear threats with the overarching theme of capitalism taken to the extreme. Unfortunately the actual execution of the story is bullshit. Yes, bullshit. Go watch a friend play it if you really want to experience the roller-coaster of suck for yourself.

The game itself suffers from weapon-itus, meaning there are a ton of starter planes you use once, because the mission forces you to, and then never again; missions that DEMAND you bring a free-fall bomb, even though you can just as easily use multi-target air-to-ground missiles to do the same thing; missions that are incredibly easy but gimmicking -- one in particular involves having to aim your plane at a radar signal while flying through radar net gaps so large you could drive a fleet of trucks through, yet somehow bomber planes can't manage that themselves.

Oh, and then there's: bad scripting (I've inadvertantly broken several levels by destroying all the enemies before I was supposed to insert eye-roll here), bad dialogue (THE NUCLEAR MISSILE WILL GO OFF IN MINUTES CRENSHAW!!!!!!, WE HAVE ONLY MINUTES UNTIL THE INVASION ARRIVES CRENSHAW!!!!, BACKUP WILL BE HERE IN ONLY MINUTES CRENSHAW !!!, MY HOT POCKET WILL BE FINISHED IN ONLY MINUTES, CRENSHAW!!!), and an extremely annoying AWACs who announces EVERYTHING to you. If you miss with a rocket pod attack -- even one rocket -- you get to hear, "You missed the target!" even though that's on my fucking HUD and I clearly knew that by the lack of exploding enemies on the ground.

Did I mention the super anti-climatic finale levels? One of which is really just an interactive epilogue and a total waste of 10 minutes?

Ugh. Anyway.

As it turns out, the best mission of the game was the one in the demo: Glass Hammer.

Now, Halo Wars...

Halo Wars!

I'm no fanboy, and I wasn't even sure this was going to be a good game, since the first two levels are pretty much a snore-fest, but right after that the action and pacing starts to pick up. The controls are quick to learn, the gameplay challenging but not "goddamn cheating-computer!"-challenging, and the game itself is just genuinely fun. The cut-scenes are just long enough to tell a bit of story but not so long that you get bored watching them.

Even losing a mission and having to restart from the beginning is a pleasant experience: overall missions are about 30 minutes long, and the gameplay and strategies you can use are varied enough that it is actually kind of fun to lose, since it means you can try another technique. 

There's built-in CO-OP for all the levels, I think. Haven't gotten there yet -- just finished the campaign, but I'll definitely have to try... there's no way I'm going to save the citizens of Arcadia City all by myself.

The story is fairly solid, told with ingame communications and cut-scenes, typical gaming fair. There's nothing particularly epic about the story; it's just there to support the gameplay, which it does very nicely. There are a few unexplained WTFs at the end which I won't mention because of spoilers.

Multiplayer can be hit or miss, depending on the mode. 1v1 is good, 2v2 or 3v3 can either be excellent or horrible. This is entirely dependent on the people you're playing with: I got a good team going my first few games, so we stuck together and decimated the enemy with good teamwork and communication. The next matches a few days later ended terribly. Players not communicating, some of them not even really playing "right" (new players, clearly). As this is an RTS, there's no solution to an AFK or non-responsive team-mate: you're going to lose, plan and simple. 2v2 lessens the odds of you having a doofus on your team, but doesn't quite have the huge epic battles that 3v3 brings to your door.

Still, multiplayer can be pretty sweet when it's all workin' right.

All in all, a very enjoyable game.

* * *

Also, have you ever wondered what would happen if a Blue Whale ate you?

Don't. It's a weird thought to have.