Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Interesting Observation #05629

Every now and then, but not lately, I have time to enjoy a good video game. Personally, I enjoy so-called fantasy role-playing games such as Neverwinter Nights or EverQuest. I occassionally play what is typically referred to as a first-person shooter, meaning it is pretty much a mindless romp through gratuitous mayhem and bloodshed from a first-person perspective.

In case you didn't know, the U.S. Army is a game developer and their Americas Army series is the most downloaded game on almost every game site that tracks such things. However, this graphic of weekly downloads doesn't tell the whole story, so permit me to put the popularity of the US Army game into perspective. The America's Army game has been downloaded from PC Gameworld 420,736 times. That's almost ten times more than the next closest game, which is the Star Wars title at 45,627 downloads. Virtual Pool (44,528), Virtual RC Racing (34,275), and Sniper Elite (27,853) round out the top five most downloaded games, at least at PC Gameworld.

Jim McDermott's Illegal Wiretapping of Americans

It seems Democrat Congressman Jim McDermott has his own Culture of CorruptionĀ® to deal with before helping clean up the corruption on the Republican side of the aisle (hat tip: RealClearPolitics). The news article reads:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott violated federal law by turning over an illegally taped telephone call to reporters nearly a decade ago.
In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that McDermott violated the rights of House Majority Leader John Boehner, who was heard on the 1996 call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The court ordered McDermott to pay Boehner more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in legal costs.

Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics goes on to cite a fund-raising letter sent out by McDermott to raise money for his self-inflicted legal fees.

At the same time, Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly got his hands on a fundraising plea being circulated by Mr. McDermott to help fill the coffers of his legal defense fund. The letter cited Tom DeLay - who has nothing whatsoever to do with the case - and accused the GOP House leadership of "using the courts" to "pursue" him. "We cannot allow Republican leaders to financially destroy a member of Congress who has a proven track record of standing up for endangered democratic values," the McDermott letter said.

I love that quote from Mr. McDermott, "standing up for endangered democratic values". What are endangered Democratic values? Would that be like bill H.R. 163, co-sponsored by McDermott and 13 other Democrats, that would reinstitute mandatory military service with the usual exemptions for their constituents in academia and conscientious objectors? It's not surprising that only one of the co-sponsors, California's Pete Stark, and Rep. John Murtha actually voted for the bill. It would seem those endangered Democrat values became extinct pretty quickly.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Burning Tivo-to-DVD

The Indigent Girlfriend purchased two Tivo Series II units on the Friday after Thanksgiving. One she gave to her son for Christmas and one she used as a gift for us. Of course, I have all the Tivo units working wirelessly throughout the house and can download recorded shows to my computer.

Well, it is now time to burn one of those recorded shows to DVD and this is proving to be no simple task. The method recommended by Tivo is to purchase the Roxio MyDVD Studio. I use the free version of DeepBurner to simply write backup files to DVD and would probably upgrade to DeepBurner Pro if I ever had a need to burn a video DVD. Having said that, since Roxio offers a 300 MB, 15-Day trial version, I figure I'll give it a try.

In just a few minutes, my download is complete and I begin installing the software... and immediately hit my first snag. Like most software these days, it wants a a serial number before proceeding with the installation. I must've missed where it told me that my trial serial number would be emailed to me, but I know the drill. I check my gmail account and sure enough, there is my trial serial number. Once I entered the serial number, the installation proceeded without further trouble.

The (Roxio) Sonic MyDVD Studio requires a reboot and then it's ready to go. I select the "Get Recorded TV Shows" option, select the episode of Desperate Housewives I want to send to the Indigent Girlfriend's mother, and click the big red "Burn" button. For the next hour, I got to watch a little progress bar tick across the screen while "Transcoding Video", another minute for "Importing Video", then the "Transcoding Audio" began. Fortunately, that only took about a minute as well.

These were followed by a bunch of short tasks that flashed by so quickly that I could not read them. Now it is finally trying to write the files to DVD. So, from the click of the Burn button to when the completed DVD was ejected from the drive was just under 90 minutes for an hour long TV show at the highest quality.

The DVD I burned worked fine on my PC and in all house DVD players, except for the cheapy $30 DVD player in the Indigent Daughter's room. I thought that was an interesting thing to note.

By the way, I think Tivo is pretty cool, but things that should be easy are hard. Things like burning shows to DVD and connecting the Tivo to the home network. It seems to me like the Tivo product is basically old technology using any hack and kludge it can to cling to relevance. My advice would be to get yourself a Media Center PC where all the things that should be easy and automatic, are easy and automatic.

Journalistic Standards

One thing that caught my eye last week was a follow-up on the CBS cameraman that was detained by our soldiers in Iraq on suspicion of rebel activity. Apparently, his trial in Iraq has been delayed until next month.

Hussein was taken into custody after being wounded by American forces as he videotaped clashes in Mosul in northern Iraq in April 2005. Doyle said he received an e-mail from the U.S. task force at Abu Ghraib saying Hussein "appeared to be instigating a crowd" in Mosul.

At the time of Hussein's arrest, CBS News reported that the U.S. military said the tape in the journalist's camera led them to suspect he had prior knowledge of attacks on American troops, Doyle said. But more details from the military have been hard to come by, the bureau chief said.

"We've been trying for a year to get information," Doyle said.

CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said Hussein has been held in Abu Ghraib prison just outside Baghdad and faces life in prison if convicted.

"All we are seeking is due process for Mr. Hussein," Genelius said.

I last mentioned this CBS cameraman almost a year ago. I share Mr. Doyle's frustration on the lack of information and Ms. Genelius' desire for due process. As I pondered back in April of 2005, I wonder just how much of this camaeraman's previous footage was obtained by CBS? Where is that footage (if any)? Who has seen that footage? And what did that footage show us? Since clarification of these issues is not yet forthcoming from CBS, perhaps the due process that Ms. Genelius spoke of can draw these answers out.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

For the Government

In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln made his address at Gettysburg, he spoke of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people that shall not perish from the earth. Well, perhaps it has not perished, but the government of the State of Oregon is on life support. The State of Oregon is studying a tax-by-the-mile strategy to recapture revenues threatened by new fuel-efficient technology. That's right. We have another example of a government inventing new ways to impose taxes on the people for no other reason than to defend their own revenues.

Eighty percent of Oregon's highway money comes from its 24-cents-per-gallon gas tax. If the state promotes reducing gasoline consumption and consumers tend to buy the fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, highway revenues would take a hit, The New York Times reported. (hat tip: Drudge)

So, while the people continue to labor and innovate in solving problems facing society and the world, our reactionary governments' first thought is only to limit the impact of those solutions on their own power. Let's be honest here. Just like a tax on alcohol or tobacco, this is a "sin" tax; a tax on the sin of manufacturing, purchasing, and driving a fuel-efficient vehicle.