Anyone want to beta test for OnLive?

OnLiveAny gamers out there want to test the latest cutting-edge gaming hardware? OnLive beta testing is about to begin and they're recruiting testers.

What is OnLive, you ask? Cloud gaming. All you need is a browser plugin or a mini-console, your own controller, keyboard or mouse, and you have on-demand access to a huge library of games. OnLive sends the signals from your controller over the web back to their custom-built gaming servers, it plays the game there (with more processing power than you'd ever have at home), and sends you back a video stream of what's going on in-game.

Plus, since they're bending video streams like crazy, they let you eaves drop and watch other people playing their games - live. Want to check out that new Star Wars: The Force Unleashed game, but don't know anyone who owns it? Just click into the game and pick from dozens of people who are playing it to watch over their shoulder. Or, while you're playing, click a button to record "brag clips" to post on your blog or twitter feed.

"But wait!" you say. "It'll never work! It would take years to develop the tech to get video streaming to the point where you could push that much video over the web seamlessly." And you'd be right. It'd take about seven years, actually. Luckily, Steve Perlman (of WebTV fame) has always been about a decade ahead of the curve. He and his crew have been working on this since 2002 and are finally ready to lift the veil this winter. Should be exciting!

Lets just hope he doesn't sell this company to Microsoft like he did WebTV. Apple, TiVo and YouTube are still struggling to catch up with Perlman's business plan from a decade ago, that Microsoft didn't understand and let fall by the wayside. I'll still never forgive them for the epic marketing fumble that lead to Dishplayer's obscurity and TiVo's ubiquity.

Season Premiere: This Monday

As of this coming Monday, I work for George.

More specifically, I'll be the product manager for the upcoming redesign of the website, which is part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. It's going to be a pretty challenging project, but a hell of a fun ride! At least for the one year length of the contract. But by then it will hopefully lead to something else for the longer term.

And I'll be working at Big Rock Ranch (see below), which is right next door to Skywalker Ranch (where the cafeteria is). It's going to be an hour and a half commute each way, but I think you'll agree it'll be well worth it.

On the down side, that means I have five days to get as much of my moving done as possible before I lose my life to work for the next few months. Zoooom!

Palm is back in the game with the Pre!

Palm PreThe ads that accompanies the original iPhone drove me crazy. They were talking about it like it was something new, when I'd had the same basic functionality I've had on my Treo since 2002 (before the iPod even had USB or color). Sure, it wasn't as pretty as the iPhone, but it was functional as all hell and much, much easier to use (physical keyboard, customizable buttons, copy/paste, etc).

But over the past two years I had been getting nervous. While Apple and Blackberry were continuing to innovate on their phones, and application developers bent over backwards to make snazzy toys for the iPhone, the Palm OS and accompanying hardware just stagnated. You'd get a slightly faster connection in a new model, and some buttons moved around, but nothing worth writing home about.

I was beginning to fear that I would eventually have to break down and get an iPhone in another year or two when my Treo gave up the ghost. Which wouldn't be that bad if they came out with an iPhone with a slide-out physical keyboard. And copy/paste. But the chances of that, I think, are pretty slim as long as Steve Jobs is running the show.

But this week, my faith in Palm has been restored. At CES, they gave a preview of their new phone, called the Palm Pre, and their new Linux-based operating system, called Web OS. It's a damned sexy phone, both physically and beneath the hood.

It does all the basics, plus integrating calendars/contacts from multiple sources, allowing you to run multiple apps at the same time, wireless charger, and has what looks like the ideal balance between touch-screen goodness and slide-out physical keyboard.

For the first time in ages, I'm actually looking forward to upgrading my phone. Yay!

Introducing My Better Half

Ray & Rae at PolyCon 2008While I did hint at the possibility of not being single for long, it occurs to me that I have not yet made a wide-spread announcement that I am indeed head over heals in love.

I met Rae (also known as stride) at BayCon last month. Cindy introduced her to me along with Darne, Chris, Jen, Snoopy and that whole awesome gang. I instantly knew I was going to keep the whole lot of them, but I particularly had a crush on Rae. And that was before I saw her in the Illyria costume. Yowza!

Of course, since this is me we're talking about, she wasn't single. Big surprise, right? But lucky for me, she was in the process of breaking it off, and that process got accelerated when drama hit the fan the following weekend at Valhalla. And after a few weeks of drama, long soul-searching conversations, mad flirting and far more patience and self-control than I thought possible, here we are.

I can't wait for you all to meet her. She's amazing. She's one the sweetest, most kind-hearted people I've ever met, she's geeky as hell (she does graphic design and web development for IGN/GameSpy, cosplays, and is an RPG & video gamer), she works faire, she knows how to handle a sword, she's just as much of a cuddle slut as I am, she's wicked smart, pleasantly amused by sarcasm, and just all around made of awesome. Oh yeah, and did I mention she's smoking hot? There are soooo many guys pissed off at me right now for "cutting in line." Lucky me! :-)

It's weird. We've only known one another for a little over a month, but it feels like we've known one another for years. I always say the one thing I'm looking for more than anything else is resonance. And I think this could very well be it.

And if not, we'll have one hell of a breakup party in November!
(After which her sister will slice me open and feed me to the fishes.) :-)

Dr Horrible Release Plan

Joss has posted information on the release plans for Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. For those of you who don't have time to read the full post:

  • 15 July - Act One will be released on the web

  • 17 July - Act Two will be released on the web

  • 19 July - Act Three will be released on the web

  • 20 July - All three will be removed from the web.

  • Soon after, they will be made available for download for a nominal fee (no details yet).

  • Somewhat after that, it will be released on DVD with "the finest and bravest extras in all the land." Details will be shared at ComicCon, but no word on whether or not the DVDs will be ready by then.

For those of you in the Napster/YouTube crowd, I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are on this.

  • Will you honor the content owner's wishes and download the legally purchasable copy after the 20th?

  • Or will you instead go to the illegally copied versions that will no doubt be available on YouTube, etc?

  • Does it make a difference to you that this is a self-financed project rather than a studio project? Would your answer be different if episodes of Dollhouse were released in the same manner?

Update: In his follow-up post, Joss points out that there will indeed be a soundtrack, t-shirts and other schwag.

The Fate of the Cow Palace

To many of us, the Cow Palace represents one thing: the Dickens Christmas Fair, where so many of us enjoy spending a good portion of the winter months, reveling in Dickensian England, surrounded by dozens of our closest friends and entertaining the public.

But Dickens Fair only takes up a small side-building of the Cow Palace, for just two months out of the year. The rest of the year, the Cow Palace remains a hollow shell of the grand gathering place it was in decades past. Chainlink fences separate it from the surrounding community, the gigantic parking lot is typically a desolate stretch of asphalt, and when niche events do use the venue, they give very limited contribution to the surrounding community.

Even the Dickens Fair doesn't really bring anything to the neighborhood as a whole. A few actors may pop over to McDonalds or KFC for a snack occasionally, but predominantly the money that the event generates stays within the chain link fence.

Now that the city is planning to buy the Cow Palace, level the existing venue and replace it with housing, shopping centers and a school. Things that the community desperately needs all twelve months of the year. They want to destroy the venue in which we've spent the past many years celebrating the holidays in an unparalleled manner. So our instinct is to resist, to fight back, to petition the city to keep the venue as it is, so we may continue out revels.

But please, take a step back. Look at the Cow Palace as a whole, instead of just our small portion of it. Look at the community that the Cow Palace is in the center of. Is it really the best possible use for such a huge plot of land? Should we really be fighting to save a venue that is out of code, out of its time, and out of sync with the neighborhood in which it resides?

The Dickens Fair didn't start at the Cow Palace. We can move our little slice of England to another venue and it will continue to live for decades to come. I urge you all to keep this in mind over the coming months. Instead of pouring your energy into "saving" something that's already showing signs of decay, why not instead pour it into finding a new venue for the event that we all love so much.

Don't fight to keep hold of the past. Look forward to rebuilding fresh for the next chapter of the Dickens Fair's history.

Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition

Scott just pointed out that there's going to be a new Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD coming out in November, just in time for Shopping Day. No, it doesn't have two different covers. That's the same cover, cleverly designed to make "princess bride" read the same backward and forward. And the artwork is gorgeous!

Even if it didn't have any additional special features, I'd still buy it just for that cover. Art is worth spending on, right? But it does have a few new features (nothing earth shaking, but interesting enough). And it's only $14. So that's pretty much a no-brainer. Now I just need to decide who to pass my Dread Pirate edition on to.

Princess Bride - 20th Anniversary Edition

Amazon won’t let me buy Firefly

I haven't bought a copy of Firefly from Amazon in over a year, although I've bought about 40 copies total from Amazon since its release (24 of which were for the 2005 ComicCon fan table).

Now I want to buy a new copy, since I got rid of all my loaner copies in the recent DVD blowout. And Amazon has it on sale for $19.99, so I thought it'd be simple to just add it to my Heros: Season 1 purchase. Wrong.

Apparently, there's a limit to the number of copies you can buy of Firefly through Amazon. And since I haven't bought a copy since March 2006, it's looks like it's a lifetime limit. It lets you add it to your cart, but when you go through the checkout process it gives you an error message and bumps your quantity down to zero.

Am I the only one this is happening to?

Amazon limits Firefly sales

I guess I'm off to Target to buy a copy there.

Palm comes to its senses and kills Foleo

Palm Foleo DiscontinuesIn case you missed it in the news a while back, Palm announced that they were going to be releasing the Foleo smartphone companion, which would be a small $500 laptop that syncs directly to the Treo in real time. They thought it would be the ideal companion to the Treo, since it is relatively small, starts instantly (no booting up) and doesn't take any time to sync with the Treo.

But instead of saying "wow, that's awesome, when can I get one," the vast majority of spectators either laughed or cringed. It's a phone accessory that costs more than the phone? It's a laptop that doesn't run 90% of the applications people want to run on their laptop, but costs the same as an entry level Dell? It doesn't give you any functionality that the old fold-out keyboards and is five times as expensive and five times as bulky? And you're spending all that money on this instead of investing in raising the bar on the Treo to blow that upstart "revolutionary" iPhone out of the water? These are just a few of the questions that were asked. Also, not uncommonly, "have you lost your frikkin' minds?"

Well, Palm may have had a brief bout of temporary insanity, but they have not completely lost their minds. They're admitting that it would take a huge chunk of change to make the Foleo into something to be proud of, and have the good sense to realize that they'd be much better served investing that money into the existing Treo platform. So they're giving the Foleo the axe.

This means that they've blown $10 million that could have been spent on a next-generation Treo, and fallen a few months behind in reclaiming their "coolest smartphone ever" title from Apple. But at least they're admitting their mistake and changing course before it's too late.


StardustStardust isn't just an amazing movie. It's this generation's Princess Bride.

True love, sword fights, chases, steampunk-ish flying pirates, witches, magic, kidnapped princesses, unlikely heroes, humor, excitement, and a delightful quest. This movie has it all, and if the kind of movie you're going to watch over and over again on DVD.

I've been hearing good things about the book by Neil Gaiman for quite some time, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. And I'd heard tons of great reviews, including from people who loved the book, so I was expecting a great movie. But Stardust still managed to blow away my expectations. I loved it!

Noble Collection or our friends at QMX had damned well be paying attention to this one. There are so many props from this movie that I'd love to be able to buy.

Adam’s Early Birthday Present

[I'll post a full report on ComicCon (which was awesome) later. But I wanted to get this bit up as soon as possible, for the obvious reasons.]

Adam, Joan and I were on our way to a panel, when we noticed that Adam was no longer with us. We hadn't lost him in the crowd. He was right there, two booths behind us, staring - transfixed - at a painting. I couldn't see the painting from where I was, but I have never seen Adam look at anything (besides Karla and the kids) with that much sheer adoration.

Later, Adam was talking about how much he would love to have that painting on his office wall, as inspiration. And how he wished he could actually afford something that expensive. So I suggested that instead of Adam waiting until he could save up $500 for the thing, we should just get 20 people to pitch in $25 each to get it for him as an early Birthday/Hanukkah present. Half a dozen people who were there with us at the moment said they'd be more than happy to pitch in, and I figured it would be easy to scrounge up the remainder, so I bought the painting and it is now hanging on Adam's wall.

Of course, now it's time to do what would normally have happened first. If you'd like to join us in getting this gorgeous painting for Adam for his early birthday present, send me your $25 (or however much you can comfortably afford) through PayPal, and we'll get a nice card for him later with everyone's signature on it.

After everything Adam has done for our fandom, it's the least we can do.

Serenity Travel Posters

Continuing in the vein of my incredibly creative friends, check this out. After getting noticed for all the amazing artwork he's done for the fan community and various browncoat charity fundraisers, Adam has been tapped to do some licensed work for QMX.

His first piece is a set of gorgeous Serenity Travel Posters, which will be available before their official release date exclusively at the browncoat table at ComicCon, for $35/set (tax included). This is a set of 5 17x22″ prints, on 100lb satin-finish paper, highlighting a few places in the 'verse you might like to visit.

Here's a review from one of Adam's biggest fans:

"Wow. Those are extremely cool.
Masterfully designed."

- Joss Whedon

If any of you who are not going to be at ComicCon would like me to pick you up a set, email me off-list and we'll arrange the PayPal details.

Update: Things From Another World now has the corrected "Lundinium" version available for pre-order.

Harry Potter Theme Park – Coming 2009

Harry Potter theme parkYes kids, they're building a Harry Potter theme park. It's going to be a $265 million park in Florida, attached to the Universal Studios park. From what little has been made available so far, it sounds like an awesome idea! Check out the artist renditions posted on MuggleNet:

The only lame thing about this whole thing (other than Florida's weather being not quite right for Scotland) is the name. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a mouthful. Nowhere near as catchy as its mousy counterpart.

Anyway, be sure to check out the official site for more details and to sign up for their mailing list.

RIP Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles

Chronicles of PrydainThe literary world has lost one of its greats this week. Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles and a host of other children's books, passed away this Thursday in his home in Drexel Hill, PA. The New York Times has a lovely article about him.

Before there was Harry Potter, there was an assistant pig keeper called Taran. Before there was Hermoine, there was a feisty red headed princess called Eilonwy. I didn't discover the Prydain series until my twenties, but considering that it is just as enchanting as the Narnia series I loved as a kid, but with a heavy dose of Welsh instead of Christian mythology, I can only imagine the wonder it would have brought me (and will one day bring my children, should they decide to exist) to be exposed to it at that age.

Some of you who haven't (yet) read the series might also recognize Prydain as the first web domain I owned, and my original email address. For the story behind that, I give you the letter that I once wrote to Lloyd Alexander, and his response back to me. The man was a prince, and will be missed.

My letter to Lloyd Alexander...

Birthday Present #1 – I bought a house!!

My House!!I've been dreaming of buying my mom a house for over five years now. And as of yesterday, it's finally a reality! I am the proud new owner of a lovely 3/2 house on a quarter acre lot in Orangevale. And my mom is finally moving out of her trailer and into a real house for the first time in half a decade. Needless to say, she, Dale, the grandkids and the dog are all thrilled!

I'm going up this weekend to help my mom move in. If anyone wants to drop by and see the place, let me know. And if you want to come and help move, even better! :-)

Obviously, I'll be posting more photos later, after mom has finished painting, moving in and redecorating.

The good folks at Lego have outdone themselves.

Lego Millennium Falcon Ultimate Collector Series (10179)I was impressed a few years ago, when they came out with the three foot long Star Destroyer that was - at the time - the biggest Lego set ever created, weighing in at 3104 pieces. But once I bought and assembled it, I was a little disappointed at how flimsily constructed it was. I eventually sold it and replaced it with the smaller smaller Star Destroyer that is much more sturdy.

Later, they raised the bar again with the two foot diameter Death Star set, which took over the title of biggest Lego set ever, at 3447 pieces. The Death Star was only slightly more stable than the big Star Destroyer, but it was just so damned impressive on the shelf that no one noticed. I have this at my desk at work, and man is it a conversation starter.

Well, now they've done it again. And this time, they're doing it in style. The new Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon is nearly three feet long, built to the scale of the Lego minifigs, and weighs in at a hefty 5195 pieces! Yes, it's has an equally impressive $500 price tag, but that's the same price point as the QMX Serenity model is going to be, and this is the Millennium Fucking Falcon, and it's made of Legos! It is also made of awesome.

This goes above the QMX model on my fanboy wish list, although still slightly below the custom-made Serenity Lego model that I desperately wish they would mass produce.

eBay Giving Works Welcomes Its 10,000th Nonprofit

eBay Giving WorksToday, eBay Giving Works, the eBay program that lets you post auctions where a percentage of the winning bid is automatically donated to participating charities, announced that they have 10,000th Non-Profit Group in the program.

Since it was my Serenity screening ticket auctions that got Equality Now to sign up for the program last year, I'd like to think I made a small contribution to helping this along. (In this case, "small" is defined as 1/10,000th, I suppose.)

So here's to all 10,000 charities that signed up, the guesstimated tens of thousands of sellers who have taken part in the program, the additional tens of thousands who bid on all those auctions, and the likely millions of people who have benefited from the money raised, in one form or another. With double cheers going to the probably dozens of eBay and Mission Fish folks who made it all possible. Good works, indeed.

Fuck this shit, I’m going home.

Ray's Broken ChairI have to have these two documents merged together, proof-read, and send off to the developers by Sunday afternoon, so I'm pulling an all-nighter to get it all done without having to cancel my weekend plans. At 1:30am, I'm tired, starving, grumpy, and oh so close to finishing. I lean back in my chair to relax for a second... and the whole fucking back of the chair breaks off!!

Fuck that noise. I'll finish this tomorrow. I'm going home.

[To truly appreciate this post, you need to picture the look on my face when I leaned back, heard a big SNAP, and just kept going.]