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Malik (6/19/06)  

If there was any bit of rumor from the last several months that I had quite enough with, it would be focused on Microsoft's supposed attempt to enter the portable market. Would this be portable gaming, music, video, computer...who cares? I just am sick of this type of news.

First we had the talk of the Halo playing portable that was on the horizon...which turned out to be the Oragami, which is nothing more than a non-Microsoft made tablet-style portable PC with a tweaked Windows OS as it's backbone. That was one thing. After all, it was a computer, and Microsoft knows computers. Also, it wasn't even Microsoft. It was companies, like Toshiba, who would make a new style of PCs that would run a modified Microsoft operating system as it's platform.

There are now some new reports that Microsoft is once again going to enter the portable market. Once again, the issues and ramifications are completely unknown. Is this a game system? Is it a music player? Video player? Does it allow web surfing? Does it tie in to supposed XBox Live music download services? Are we even supposed to be interested anymore?

In reality, if Microsoft enters another hardware realm, I will not even bat an eye. Not counting the XBox line of products, Microsoft doesn't really do hardware, and when they do, it's usually sub-standard. They can handle some major software libraries like they were nothing, but hardware has often times eluded the big M.

I would personally bet on Microsoft not going the handheld gaming route. With console gaming, they had a lot of competition, but they also had a great opening with the recent (in terms of when the XBox launched) demise of a key player; Sega. There is no opening in the portable gaming market. Beyond that, Sony has the do-a-little-of-everything market covered with the PSP, and Nintendo has the entire gaming-on-the-go market handled with the DS. This would not be a time to throw anything new at the market. On top of that, Microsoft would not be dumb enough to introduce a new competitor in the middle of an established gaming generation. Maybe they could make a portable gaming machine when Nintendo and Sony are both ready to bring out their next generation of portable game machines...but now is not the time to share any news, at all.

I would go with Microsoft making a portable media player. Namely, it would be an MP3-style player (probably with WMA files, or some equivalent) that would also handle some video files. In other words, it would be competition for the iPod video. Also, "iPod killer" is definitely not a term to throw around. Rather, I'd use the term of "yet another portable media device".

In fact, I don't think "iPod killer" should be in any of our lexicons for a long time. I am a long time Apple hater (ever since the Mac was first introduced so many years/decades ago). If my PC broke, right now, and I was told that due to some weird circumstances (maybe a major earthquake destroyed some key factories or's happened before) that I could not replace my PC for less than double the price of a new Intel ran Mac...well, I'd get ready to pony up some major money to get a new PC. Even with how Windows can be laid down on the Mac OS, and with how there's a good amount of cross platform functionality going on, I would never stand with the thought of putting a Apple product in my home.

However, after my enTempo (piece of crap) MP3 player broke, I jumped on the iPod bandwagon. I hated it...philosophically. However, while I may hate the little Apple logo, and using iTunes has been like stabbing myself in the eye every time I use it, I would not change things. I love the damned, little, trendy, sell-out white box that produces so much musical stimulation to help me get through on boring work day after another.

If the iPod can do that for an Apple hater, and with it's massive market dominance, let's just say that I have nothing to expect from the made up term of "iPod killer". The iPod is here, it was here, and it will remain here for many long decades to come, in many new forms and with many new features. The day the extra-reliable and trustworthy iPod is overthrown by a (very likely to be) faulty Microsoft chunk of hardware will be the same day that Windows is not the OS of choice for 90% of the world's PCs. In other words, that would be a great day to crack out your gloves and skates for a nice day of winter-style fun in hell.


Malik (6/21/06)  

Hopefully yesterday will be the last weekday in a long time that I miss posting. It was my cousin's graduation yesterday (congrats, Vanessa!), so I had a few too many things to do. However, even days like that can teach me important lessons...namely dealing with family, wrong times to lose your temper/sanity, and backseat driving...blah!

Anyway, I don't have too much going on right now in the geek side of things, since I'm still trying to put as many minutes as possible into Suikoden V. Luckily, I have finally reached the point in which I can recruit members to my army/party. Unfortunately, I've been getting so little time with this game, that it's taken me about 2 weeks to get in less than 20 hours (on the game clock...which doesn't freeze when you enter the menu and has no pause, it's more like 12 hours of playing).

I've started to really see that the limitations of Suikoden 5 are not all that bad in the larger scheme of things. I still could use a pause feature for when a long dialogue scene begins (if it includes voice acting, the text moves automatically, so you cannot walk away). The load times are also not nearly as bad as I first thought. They are still quite long when compared to any earlier Suikoden game, but they are nowhere near as bad as about 50% of the games available for the PS2. Even the bland and lifeless visuals are not too bad when you have some really good plot developments to fill the void.

On a different note, I found this to be very funny. Basically, while Sony has been going crazy the last few years about how their game systems are actually "entertainment (super)computers", despite how they are freakin' GAME SYSTEMS, the UK has finalized their decision on the matter. The PS2 is officially not a computer. This matters in this instance since it determines the duty required for Sony to pay in importing their systems to the UK.

This isn't a big surprise. After all, Sony is the only company conceited enough to classify their game systems as computers. It's like they are trying a little too hard to stroke their own egos. It would be like Hot Wheels saying their toy cars are real cars, G.I. Joes being classified as military personnel, or a pad of paper being called a PC (since you can do computations on paper with all data being displayed). It's nothing more than a simple attempt to try to get some unusually silly PR and to get a little ego stroking out of the way.

Well, due to having not much exciting going on, no real important news floating out there, and how I've been spending a little too much time with the old family lately, I really must cut this post short. I hope I'll have more to talk about tomorrow...but today I'm suffering from overload of all things in my life that are non-geek. The funny thing is I took a day of vacation from my day job yesterday...and all I can think of is that I'd rather never take a vacation day again than have that same style of "vacation" anytime soon.


Malik (6/22/06)  

When the PSP was given a web browser with one of it's firmware upgrades, I was rather vocal about my disinterest. Mainly, the reasoning was rather sound...the PSP is a pain in the ass to connect to a WiFi network. In fact, the PSP has to be one of the single most annoying machines I've ever used for attaching to a wireless network. Between the convoluted setup screen and the large amount of tweaking required, it's about as much fun and as useful to do as self dentistry...with only a pair of rusty pliers and a old fashioned hand powered drill.

There was also the little matter of how the 2.0 PSP version that gave web browsing also removed the ability to handle homebrew apps. This may have been my largest complaint, even beyond setting up a wireless connection. After all, despite what many people (PSP owners, that is) would like to say, the PSP had, and still has, a complete lack of quality games. If I was given a choice, which I basically was, I would chose clunky and confusing homebrew rituals over the lack of games that comes with the web browser. After all, if you had the choice of playing emulators on the go, or playing GTA:LCS (more on that in a second), which would you pick? I know my answer.

So, I'm talking about this because the DS is getting an Opera browser in Japan. There's no clear US release date in mind yet...and the info on the language selections for the Japanese Opera DS browser are still completely unknown. However, I actually like the sounds of this. For one thing, the need of a mouse, which the PSP couldn't properly answer, is easily handled with the DS stylus. For another thing, have you tried to attach the DS to a wireless network? It is almost fun in comparison to doing the same on a PSP. The DS is a perfectly simple machine to go online with.

I am actually looking forward to this cart being released in the US. If it doesn't come to the US, since the DS has no region lockouts, I will have no problem importing a copy, assuming it has English language support. The DS seems like the most logical choice possible for a portable web browser. On top of that, this will not remove the ability to play the greatly growing and attractive library of quality games on the system. It's a win-win situation...assuming $35 is not out of your own price range for a useful portable web browser.

You may have noticed I mentioned GTA:LCS...well, I just want to say one thing on this matter. When it was released on the PSP, I found the visuals to be lacking (despite how much we all knew the PSP could handle), the controls were brutal, and the missions were completely devoid of and creativity or fun. In fact, as a review I recently saw for the PS2 version of the game said (I'd link here, but I honestly can't remember which review it was), there were a good number of missions that you'd finish and think, "I'm glad I'll never do that again!"

So, the PSP fanboys were immediately happy to call the PSP version of GTA:LCS a masterpiece. It was called the first great game for the PSP. I believe I called it the first tolerable PSP game in my review. I also went on to point out the major flaws in the controls, the plot, and the overall frustration-level you'd face from the game. I did like the visuals, but that was mainly since the PSP had so little at the time that I had no choice but to call these the best PSP visuals available. However, the final thought on this game was that it was garbage...

So, why is it that when the game came to the PS2, in a value priced edition, it was finally called the crap that I knew the game was? Why did the game get such love until it hit the PS2? I think it's only because PSP owners were wanting to grasp at straws. The game was always garbage, but reviewers were required to see the thing, with better controls, on the big screen to finally notice how bad the game was. I'm sorry, but if the visuals are only PSP quality, that's no reason for calling the PS2 version crap, despite the better controls, while the PSP version was loved.

We have entered a time in which portable games are no longer required to be mediocre versions of what we love on big consoles. We have entered a time in which the DS and the PSP should be giving us quality games that may have slightly worse visuals, but the same quality of other elements of what we define as games. There is no excuse anymore for calling a portable version gold and then calling the console version of the exact same game (with a value price, especially) a steaming pile of shit.

I just wanted to get my little Bitching about this out in the open. We cannot have it both ways and not be called hypocrites! Either the PSP (and DS) are supposed to give us full quality games, or they are not. However, we have gotten into this weird place in which we can call the PSP a wonderful machine (I wouldn't say this, since I was one of the first to find this damned thing so useless as to sell a lower than required price...for trade-in credit at Gamestop, no less) that is a fully functional "console" but we cannot accept that a PSP game on a console would be crap. Which is it? Is the PSP the perfect portable with awesome games, or is it still the pathetic bastard child with no good games, and only a slightly high level of potential? I think I know the answer.

You'll notice my lack of mentioning the DS, which Sony (and their PSP fanboys) would call an inferior system. Well, the reason is simple; where the PSP keeps trying and failing, the DS succeeds. The DS has a game library that's finally looking rather fun, the DS has variety, the DS has innovation, and the DS is truly a "unique and special snowflake"...while the PSP is rehashed crap with slightly higher end technology...and a higher end price to match.


Malik (6/23/06)  

Another week is drawing to a close. It's been a weird and chaotic week for me, and I am a bit disappointed that I couldn't post more fun stuff than what I did...but then again, I'm not responsible for a lack of news and a lack of newsworthy events. It's just been another week of what will soon become very regular to our geek lives; the summer lull.

I did get in some good time with Suikoden 5 this week, but that's not really worth posting about. I've already said a dozen times what I think of the game (good plot saves a mediocre game engine with mediocre visuals and squeaky anime voices...and the lack of a pause button brings things down a bit). So, I guess you could say there's nothing really say further on this score until I do a review. That won't happen until a week or so from now (if not longer), since I'm nowhere near as far in the game as I'd like to be before I start a review.

Since there is so little to talk about right now, I am going to go waaaaaaay off topic as I bitch about something that's been on my mind for a while. If you're not in the mood for non-geek Bitchings, then feel free to walk on, and I'll be back in my usual mood and thought pattern on Monday.

I work in the biomedical industry when I'm not playing games, watching movies, going to concerts, watching Lost, or just posting on this site. It is a fine industry...and it once was.

That all changed, like so many other things did, in September of 2001. Like many industries, it didn't happen on the 11th, but it came about from the events of that day. Where the biomedical field was once strong, healthy, and steadily growing, it is now like a house plant that has been ignored for a week. It has started to wither.

The main cause of this is two fold. The first part of it is the usual nature of big business. Pharmaceuticals, who make up the major money earners in this field, are all about profits. Many of these pharma-giants came about because they stumbled across a major medical break-through (which can be anything from a new anti-cancer drug to something as completely pointless in the bigger scheme of things as a f#@%ing anti-impotence pill). Once their new drugs caught on, things changed...

These major corporations started with the spirit of invention driving them. They would count on taking some risks with their R&D departments in order to find a new drug that would, originally, both help line their pockets AND help those who are in need of new treatment options for a variety of life's woes. However, once a major drug discovery is turning a profit, these companies can change their tactics. Most noticeably, they will cut their R&D teams in half, and them milk their trademarked products for all their worth. If things go especially well, they will look for a smaller company with a good name and a good product, and they will devour this little fish for all it's worth...and then they will remove the R&D staff at this new company, keep on only the production related people and the QA/QC (quality assurance and quality control) staff. In other words, they will cut potentially hundreds of jobs in order to turn a once innovative company into a manufacturing plant.

This is not even a rare occurrence. Where we once had hundreds of pharmaceuticals, we now have a handful of giant mega-corporations that will devour any new start-up, as soon as the newb is worthy of their attention.

That, has not been tied to directly to the aftermath of September 11th, but as companies started to suffer in these days and years, this style of business was nurtured.

No, the big effect of that tragic day was the government changing priorities. Namely, a once enlightened government decided the best route ahead of them would be what should always be seen as an avenue of last resort; WAR!

Wars do not finance themselves, as a rule. In fact, war is very bad business (with no profit margin...hell, no profits!). So, while the government prepared to spend billions of dollars in what has now become the Iraq Quagmire, they had to find the money from their budget. They tried to cut the fat (off of one place and staple it onto the war budget). They had to look pretty hard. But one of the places in which they cut back funding was the National Institute of Health. Actually, they cut from everywhere, but the NIH is important in this particular case.

The massive majority of American academic and non-profit biomedical research establishments obtain money from NIH grants. However, as funding was scaled back, and as fear of anthrax (not to mention not-yet-named potential biological weapons) grew, the little remaining money was put into a relatively new (or at least far less heard of until post-September 11th events) field known as bio-defense. In other words, as people were frightened, the little money left was put towards something that, in all honesty, is not a priority. While it may be good to fund bio-defense, it is also good, at the same damned time, to fund other areas of biomedical research.

It also doesn't help that many of the world's worst biological woes are actually those that effect children more than adults. This is mainly due to how the human immune system improves with time (until the later years, at which time is decreases in quality again). Well, these children and people in the developing world are faced with one major issue in getting their diseases looked at; they don't vote for the US president, congress, etc. This is part of the reason measles was so well studied in the past (if you get it as a kid, it's usually not a big deal, but it will more readily kill adult...voters).

In a nut shell, this means something very important to all of us. In our lifetime, we may see a complete stagnation of medical research. Why? Greed and poor planning. Here's some info to chew on;

With the growing threat of multi-drug resistant "super bugs", we have a great need for new classifications of antibiotics. We have only seen a couple of new antibiotics received FDA approval in the last 15 or so years. This is versus the dozens of antibiotics approved in the 1950's, when biological knowledge was far less. Also, there is only one major pharmaceutical company in the world that is actively researching new antibiotics.

Think that's bad, well it gets worse. It is now being seen that multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming quite common in the environment. This is as opposed to how they were once rarely found outside of hospitals.

Since knowledge is power and all of that, check this out for more on the need for new antibiotics. This is a great article and is something I think we all owe ourselves to know.

Anyway, as a worker in the biomedical field, I hate seeing that major labs, with decades of important research, are getting ready to close shop since there is simply no grant money coming in. I work in a lab that has been around for about 40 years under the exact same principal investigator (fancy title for head scientist) for that entire time. During his career, he has helped in making a vaccine that has saved tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of children since it's creation (as a note, this vaccine only stopped one type of the bacteria I work with...there are 6 more very dangerous varieties that have no current treatment outside of antibiotics and hope). It also was a vaccine that helped to reinvent how vaccines can be made. However, despite this strong backbone, and despite how he is still cranking out data like a madman, this principal investigator, like way too many others, is facing the possible closure of his lab since the government won't step in and fund research like they should.

So, before I go, I just want to add one final thing; for all of you who talk about the greed of Bill Gates (since we geeks like to associate the man with greed for some sick reason), I just want to say "shut up". I also want to say we all owe a debt to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is one of the few sources of funding for many research labs in these weird days. This foundation is doing what the government has failed to do, and it is definitely a great thing to see from such a "greedy" man.

Last of all, the government needs to change it's direction. So do the pharmaceutical giants. It's not too late, but with each passing day, a new lab is closing up for good. If things keep up, we better start hoping that if any of us ever get horribly ill that Viagra will cure what ails us...since anti-impotence drugs are one of the few drugs profitable enough to not be removed from the pharmaceutical pipeline.


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