The Thrill Kids by Vin Packer (8/10)

Posted on

Another yarn about corrupted youth from Vin Packer. This time it’s four disenfranchised teenage boys who become a vigilante squad looking to clean the bums and and degenerates out of the city. They’re lead by Bardo Raleigh, a smart and charming young man who is obsessed with discipline and order. The rest of the crew is made up of a jazz bebopping nut case, a love struck mope and a mentally unstable herpetologist wannabe. You kind of know where the story is going from the beginning and the end falls a little flat, but overall a good tale of hooliganism.

BioShock 2 on PC (9/10)

Posted on

The original BioShock was a great game with an interesting plot and a wonderfully unique setting. I never really understood the bizarre take on Ayn Rand though. It seemed to say that if objectivism is taken to its logical extreme that would mean people who believe in individualism and self-ownership would immediately start modifying and enslaving people against their will? That makes no sense at all, but it was enough to give you a bad guy to pursue. BioShock 2 takes place in a more deteriorated Rapture several years after the fall of Andrew Ryan. This time, however, the collectivists are in charge and, whad-do-ya-know, they suck too. I guess the theme here is it’s cool to be an indecisive, on-the-fence moderate.

This sequel plays about the same as the original but there have been a few improvements such as the removal of those annoying pipe-dream style puzzles that represented hacking. The combat, while fun, was pretty difficult for me and I often felt like I was dying without warning. I eventually got the hang of it once I had enough power-ups. This game felt like it moved along a little better than the first with less back tracking. The story comes to a decent finale and, in the end, I think I liked this game just as much as I did the first one.

DEFCON: The Documentary (8/10)

Posted on

I have enjoyed all of Jason Scott’s documentaries. His films tend to be about somewhat niche areas in computing and how those technologies affected the people who use(d) them. This one is about the DEFCON hacking convention. There’s a little bit of history about the convention, but mostly it is interviews with attendees and organizers about what it is they like so much about the gathering. To me, I felt like about quarter of the movie could be interchanged with any film about a group of people with similar interests meeting up in Las Vegas. I’m sure attendees at a shower curtain rod convention would tell you about how shower curtain people are the friendliest of people and how you can just strike a conversation with any other attendee… oh, and the parties are just awesome. No one parties like a shower curtain rod sales professional.

But this all can be forgiven because I think this film is directed more towards people who actually participated in the event. I am sure they will get a kick out of all the nostalgia and reminiscing. The other three-quarters document the various events that take place during the conference. These are the things that make DEFCON unique: stuff like cryptology contests, badge hacking, lock-picking, weird gizmos and, of course, the controversial speakers. A former co-worker of mine from when I was working as an office temp in Bloomington, Ill. makes an appearance. He goes by the name “V1ru5” here and he probably doesn’t remember me, but he was the guy who actually told me what DEFCON was back in 1999 and offered advice when I was contemplating going to the Game Developer’s Conference that year. Anyhow, I’d recommend this documentary to anyone who has a greater than normal interest in technology and wha-do-ya-know, you can watch it on Vimeo for free.

IIGS Memory Fail

Posted on

Apparently there is something wrong with my IIgs. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Briel Computers (a small company dedicated to making retro computer kits) put their 4 meg Apple IIgs RAM card on sale on eBay. My IIgs runs pretty well, but I that extra 2.8 megs of RAM would make things run a lot better (it would be nice to have more than 5 windows open in Finder without getting memory warnings). I clicked the “Buy it now” button and waited patiently for my card to arrive so I could supercharge my nerditude. Well, when the card came I carefully installed it and powered up the Apple II. At first everything seemed cool. The control panel indicated I was brimming with RAM and the CFFA3000 was not showing any problems. But when I attempted to boot into System 6, everything just froze.

Fortunately, Briel was about as helpful as could be and offered to send me a new card. Something must have broken in transit, right? Well, the second card came and I had the same problems. We were never able to figure out what was going on. We thought it may be that my motherboard is the issue. I wouldn’t doubt that, but, personally, I think my power supply is very suspect. That thing emits buzzing noises that only my daughter can hear. She refuses to come into my room when the GS is fired up.

In any event, I am back down to a whopping 1.2 meg ram and am now keeping my eye open for another GS. In the end I got my money back and, but if I ever get a new Apple IIgs, I will contact Briel again about buying RAM. So, if you live in the Chicago area and have an old Apple IIgs you want to unload for cheap, drop me a line.

The Galaxy Primes by E.E. Doc Smith (3/10)

Posted on

I don’t think I really like science fiction. Sure there have been a few stories I liked, Dune, The Ender series, and the novelization of The Wrath of Khan, but most of what I have attempted to read has been either overly technical, poorly written or just plain dull. This one is kinda a little of all three. The story is about four intergalactic space travelers, the first to ever leave Earth, who teleport to various planets around the universe and meet with (conveniently enough) humans who don’t seem at all surprised that aliens are visiting their planets. All of the characters have superhuman telepathic powers which they use to save the day on each planet. Unfortunately, that’s about it. The plot is stupid, the characters are boring and nothing interesting ever happens.