Imagine it. Here’s a diamond stylus racing through a vinyl groove, somehow turning all those little bumps and ridges into beautiful, stunning music.
First, consider the vinyl. If the vinyl is virgin—never used before, not recycled—it’s a pure surface. If it is recycled, it will have impurities, little lumps of dirt and dust and maybe some bits of shredded label too, and that will show up as a granular surface in the groove which will slightly degrade the overall quality of the sound.
Now think about the stylus, a precisely shaped triangle of diamond mounted on a precision cantilever made of aluminum, boron, ruby, diamond, beryllium, or even carbon fiber for stiffness—each with its own physical characteristics that will influence the quality of the sound.
Obsidian's taking Fallout to the wild, untamed (or “tamed but then subsequently re-untamed thanks to a nuclear holocaust,” if we're being technical about it) west, so we're doing the same with our preview. Well, kind of. In the spirit of classic Sergio Leone spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” we're breaking down Fallout: New Vegas' opening hour – which we had the privilege of taking for a test run during QuakeCon – into thematically appropriate, self-explanatory categories.
Before we dive into the meat of things, though, let's set the scene. You're... a person. We can say that with a fair deal of certainty. You come to in a doctor's office, which – thanks to wasteland sanitation standards – is about as sterile as your average convenience store toilet, but you've got bigger things to worry about. Apparently, you nearly bit the big one at the hands of some pretty shady customers, but you don't know why. The doc, thankfully, patched up that pesky organ leak that tends to come as the result of bullet wounds, but unfortunately, he can't fill the gaping hole in your memory. He does know this, however: the bastards who did their darnedest to turn you into Swiss cheese were headed toward New Vegas. Well, there are certainly worse places to go for a vengeance-fueled vacation, eh?
Welcome to the first edition of my new column, Top of Mind, in which I’ll discuss a variety of issues percolating at the top of my brain. Some topics will be from the news, others will spring from my life as a tech geek, and many will be related to my day-to-day work as reviews editor here at Maximum PC.
One trend that’s been bugging me lately is the proliferation of products that come with subscription plans attached. I’ve recently encountered three examples where subscriptions are ostensibly optional, but where much of the product’s value and appeal vaporizes if you don’t pony up for the subscription.
Depending on who you ask, the percentage varies, but it’s always high. Way too high.
Allegedly, 90% of internet traffic is spam. Or maybe it’s 95%.
Personally, I don’t see as much spam as I used to. I use Gmail and its spam-filtering is pretty good. I haven’t heard from any Nigerians in a long time—which kind of disappoints me, because I always regarded the Nigerian swindle as an opportunity to have some fun.
I learned a long time ago that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So when someone sends me an email telling me that if I will send them my bank account number, they’ll send me ten percent of forty million dollars, my BS alarm goes off big time.
I used to reply to the Nigerians with: “All of us here at the International Outreach Effort of the Institute for Homosexual Research are thrilled at your generosity. Your continuing donations will allow us to do important work all over Africa, educating people everywhere on the importance of gay liberation…. Please tell us how to proceed, etc.”
Why this? Because homosexuality is criminalized in Nigeria. Extremely so. So if someone is monitoring emails in Nigeria, this might very well put a few swindlers out of business in a very nasty way. As far as I’m concerned, swindlers are fair game. And no, I’m not a nice man. Why do you even bother to ask?
Every now and then, I'm reminded of the Internet's power to really screw things up.
As I go about my normal day as a technology journalist, half of the stories I catch across the wire are usually something related to the unfolding social landscape of the Web 2.0. Google's catching Facebook; Facebook's catching Google; Someone is making a new way to interact with Twitter (oh joy!) I find this relatively disinteresting, save for the fact that each new announcement heralds in just one more way by which every action in our lives is transforming into an accessible, traceable record for all to see.
One of my friends unfortunately learned this lesson a little too well this past week. It cost him a pretty solid gig at the ol' Washington Post, and now has me forever wondering if my "Apple Rules, Woo" comments throughout Maximum PC's various articles might, too, have gone a step too far...
But I don't blame me; I blame our growing culture of online social oversharing. And with new products and linked networks coming in on a near-weekly basis, at what point do we stand up and wrest our digital lives back from everyone else's radars? Is it already too late?
Even before Steve Jobs made the bold prediction that new formfactors such as tablets would eventually replace the PC, there’s been ample evidence that the landscape of personal computing is radically changing—and mobility is a driving force. Just look around at all the folks carrying smartphones, the massive growth of the netbook sector, and yes, the phenomenon that is the iPad. Even your most hardcore PC power-user is finding a need for these smaller, more portable computing devices in his or her life. Whether the growing proliferation of these gadgets spells the end of the desktop workhorse PC is arguable, but change is definitely afoot. But hardware is only half of the story. Applications are evolving, as well. They have to. Smaller, slimmer, more lightweight devices necessarily entail more modest resources, e.g., less processing power, less storage. Enter the cloud, aka the Internet.
I was going to open my inaugural column on personal computing by replacing the word “rifle” in the Rifleman's Creed (think Full Metal Jacket[NSFW language]) with “computer.” In doing so, I realized a few things. First, it turns out an artist named 9000 already did that, with his piece Turing Creed. Second, the metaphor only extends so far. And then it gets kinda weird.
This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My computer is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it. I must master my life. Without me, my computer is useless. Without my computer, I am useless. I must use my computer true. I must use my computer faster than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must outcomputer him before he outcomputers me.
—9000, “Turing Creed”
This is my computer.
Okay, most of you have computers. Or you like computers. Or you have a friend who faxes you articles from our website to convince you to get a computer, except it doesn't help because it's like a foreign language to you, which your friend doesn't get because he thinks everyone should instinctively know what the heck a hard drive is and why it matters how fast it goes around in a circle. No? Anyway, let's assume you have a computer. And, because you're reading this on Maximumpc.com, we're gonna assume that your computer is not just a tool to you.
I have a confession to make: I'm just not that into you. You seemed sorta cool at first, with your shiny multi-touch screen capabilities and slick Apple marketing capturing the attention of geeks and fanbois, but really you’re less like the One Tablet To Rule Them All and more like an iPhone suffering from gigantism. You don’t play nice with Flash, you can’t multitask, you’ve only got 64Gb, you’re lacking an HDMI port and you require a Micro SIM. Plus, you’re expensive. Like rent in San Francisco expensive. And although you’ve reportedly sold over 2 million units, I don’t really see you carried around much. With ASUS officially announcing its Eee Pad this week, and tablet announcements from Motorola, Sony, MSI, NVIDIA and VIA, I think you might want to watch your back.
Lordy. It's hard to spend but a week surfing the Internet without seeing a group of people getting caught up in a situation that they've volunteered themselves into. And it would be remiss of me to go a single sentence further without mentioning the latest elephant in the room--Facebook.
I can't log into Facebook without seeing a growing number of my friends joining those silly little, "Facebook is opening up my entire life and I wish it was like it was back in 2005" groups/fan pages/whatever we're calling them now. But Dave's Comrades aren't the only ones joining in on the fun--tech pundits Jason Calacanis and Peter Rojas, amongst others, are nuking their accounts in protest as well! It's a Facebook meltdown!
Unlike the open-source world, where the concept of "something for nothing" is pretty widely understood and accepted--even by those that just download away and never contribute a single iota of code or absent thought to an application's development--the general Internet populace seems pretty peeved at an otherwise free service's attempts to branch out its offerings. This, in turn, leads to a stronger advertising platform and/or additional service expansions, but mainly the former. Facebook ain't charity, after all--the company has human overhead and server costs, to name a few, and it's not as if every status update magically conjures up a shiny nickel for Mark Zuckerberg.
There’s a lot to like in Windows 7. I like the new taskbar best, I like the jump lists, I like that I can set up my own theme with changing wallpapers. I like the Devices and Printers page for its ease of use. I like the Readyboost cache. I like the Monitor Calibration utility. And I really like Microsoft Security Essentials.
But no operating system is perfect. There are things that I would like to see included in the next iteration of Windows. Most of them are easy. Some of them are obvious and it’s puzzling to me why they aren’t already a part of Windows. (And one is probably an impossible pipe dream.)