Thursday, February 28, 2008

Maybe I should pick colors too

Once we make it though this extended February, March Madness will be just around the corner once again. It seems like the time between these things gets shorter every year.

Of course, March Madness will bring out all the brackets and all of the competitions that go with them.

I'll admit, I do not religiously follow college basketball. Yet, once I get my bracket for the NCAA tournament, I begin to act like a crazed fool.

I really wish I would have held onto my brackets from past years. Why? Because I guarantee you that looking back now I would be dumbfounded at my stupidity.

Even year I think I have a winner. And every year I walk away disappointed. Unfortunately for me, it always seems that one of my Elite Eight or Final Four teams loses in the first or second round.

Have you ever noticed how well women do on brackets? I swear, it never fails that a female is either top dog or runner-up in all of the pools I see.

I blame it on people who understand and know basketball over thinking everything. You know what I hear every women say about their bracket picks?

"I liked their colors better."

Seriously? Maybe I should pick colors too.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sometimes, only sometimes, does Apple make sense

I really do not mean to blast Apple all of the time, but to me they just rarely make sense.

One of their lastest "makes sense" moves is the release of an iPhone Software Developer Kit. The kit would enable third party software vendors to write applications to run on the iPhone.

Hooray Apple! Thank you for opening up your very secretive smart phone.

I have yet to understand the logic behind locking down every aspect of the iPhone. I do not understand why Apple locked in with AT&T or what took them so long to release an SDK. Though the Information Week article linked above states that Apple wanted developers to make AJAX applications for the Safari browser built into all iPhones, I cannot believe Apple thought that would be good enough.

If there is one thing I've learned from my years around computers, it is that someone somewhere is constantly trying to push the envelope. Developers want to push the iPhone to it's limits. Frankly, why not let them do it?

Cool things come from open platforms. Look at Linux. The kernel is completely free and it has led to amazing software like Ubuntu. Perhaps the opening of the iPhone will lead to something to really be impressed about.

Thank you again Apple. I only wish you were more open about your other products. Then maybe I would want to buy something other than an iPod.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Teens may by out of touch with past culture, but are adults out of touch with teens?

I'm often perturbed at the amount of studies that focus on the shortcomings of America's youth. As the studies will show, a good number of school aged children don't know things certain people deem to be important. For instance, the linked study suggests:

-Only 43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900
-Only 52% knew the theme of the book 1984

Ok, so the Civil War thing is a little sad. But, to be honest, I'm not exactly positive of when the Civil War took place, and I'm in an American history honors class. And I could definitely only give you a vague idea as to what the theme of 1984 was. Why? Because it wasn't required reading.

Who determines what is important for teenagers to know anyway? Obviously someone who is out of touch with teenage culture.

Yes, it is important that teenagers know certain things. But, what if a teenager constructed a survey testing adults about teen culture? How would an average adult do on these questions:

1. What is the significance of Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo?
2. What does this sentence say? 0M6! 15 17 p05518L3 70 533 l33+? (See this horrid news report on YouTube).
3. Who is Miley Cyrus?

As Nick is pointing out to me while I write this, these are "pop culture" references. However, it is my opinion that today's pop culture is just as important as any historical culture. After all, history is written because someone felt it was important. Why are these not as important as any other event in history? Most everything is important to someone.

My point is that measuring student performance based off cultural references is a bit absurd. Yes, those events and items played important roles in history, but teenagers care about different things. Just as an adult would not be expected to ace questions like those I posed above, teenagers should not be expected to ace historical references.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Digital downloads will not take over disks, yet

I was taken aback by CNET's declaration that Blu-ray will just be a stop gap before digital downloading takes over the movie delivery throne.

Digital downloading of movies will eventually become the norm. However, I believe it will be much further in the future than what those at CNET think.

Maybe I'm different, but I would rather keep my movies on a DVD (or Blu-ray DVD etc). Watching a movie on my computer is much less entertaining than popping a DVD in a player hooked to my television. Also, getting a media center computer to hook into a television seems like an unnecessary expense to me.

CNET's article fails to consider that many people don't have enough bandwidth to make movie downloading practical. I live less than 15 minutes away from a major metropolitan area, but there is no such thing as true high speed internet. CNET throws all these numbers out talking about how fast downloading is with Verizon's Fios, but as of right now, Fios isn't widespread.

Unfortunately for proponents of digital downloads, the United States ranks a measly 25th in broadband penetration in the world. Until this number improves greatly, digital downloading may never be as big of a business as some think it might.

Digital downloads will become more prevalent. However, with Blu-ray's victory over HD DVD, players will become standardized and cheaper. Movies will become cheaper. People will buy movies and players. It took time for a VHS to DVD switch, and now it will take time to switch from DVD to Blu-ray.

Until something like Verizon's Fios becomes standard across the country, digital downloads will never overtake real disks. For everyone's sake, hopefully broadband becomes more available and cheaper in the near future, and then CNET's prediction might ring true.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Total privacy impossible in post 9/11 United States

Today I had the pleasure to listen to a presentation by Kevin Bowyer, chair of Notre Dame's Computer Science and Engineering department. Professor Bowyer's presentation was entitled "Porn on the Dean's PC" and covered the idea behind privacy on corporate computers.

In 1998 a Harvard school computer technician found pornography on divinity school dean Ronald Theimann's home computer while conducting a hard drive upgrade.

The technician reported the findings to a supervisor, and Theimann was eventually relieved of his dean-ship.

Keep in mind this was LEGAL pornography in Theimann's possession.

However, here's the kicker: the computer was supplied by Harvard and the house Theimann was living in was also owned by the university.

The major question of the presentation was if the technician was right in reporting the questionable files to his supervisor, and if it was right that Theimann was stripped of his title. And, after everything I heard, I believe the answer to both questions is yes.

Originally, I was opposed to the ideas. However, after being reminded that Harvard owned both the house and the computer I switched my opinion.

Much like a company can monitor e-mails and phone calls made by their employees, Harvard should have the right to monitor Theimann's internet usage. After all, there is really no difference between a company computer and a university computer, especially considering in both cases the providers can be liable for what the hardware is used to do. Not to mention that Theimann was the dean of the DIVINITY school.

In the grander scheme of things, I think the lessons learned from this case can be applied to an issue that is prevalent in America today: personal privacy.

Following September 11, the government passed many laws allowing for the monitoring of several things - including e-mail, phone calls etc. These laws have drawn heavy criticism from groups that oppose the government's encroachment into personal privacy.

I am a firm believer that the government should not have as much influence as they do. However, I also believe one of the responsibilities of the government is to protect their citizens.

Let's re-write the Harvard case to something a little more relevant in world politics:

Library ABC is a small library in a quiet American town. Little do they know, but the government is keeping tabs on all e-mail and web activites conducted at the library.

Violation of privacy? I'll leave that to you to decide.

But, what happens if terrorist ABC decides to use Library ABC to communicate with other members of his terrorist group. The government intercepts this message, stops the communication, and arrests both parties.

Is it worth sacrificing a little of our privacy for that? Yes, I think it is.

Simply put, each United States citizen is like a corporate-owned computer. The government is responsible for their actions, and they are liable for the things that their citizens do. The government must act for the greater good of it's people.

If that means sacrificing a little privacy (or, in the case of Harvard, firing a dean) I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jump on HD DVD sales

HD DVD may have lost the hi-definition DVD format war against Blu-ray, but now consumers can pick the remnants of the technology up for a fraction of its original cost.

At there is a forum post discussing where to find the best deals on the now obsolete technology (kudos to this Information Week article for the forum link).

Though HD DVD is essentially dead, I'm thinking I might jump on and buy a player and a nice little stack of DVDs. Worst case, I have an extra upconverting DVD player lying around that can play a select number of hi-definition disks.

With prices so cheap, I see no reason not to. Plenty of movies have already been released in HD DVD format, and the prices of these movies are going to drop extremely fast in the coming weeks.

For the consumer, buying HD DVD may be the cheaper, very short term answer to expensive Blu-ray players and disks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The steroid post to end all posts

Ok, it seems sports cannot survive one day without talk about steroids. Yesterday it was Andy Pettitte, today it was Miguel Tejada.

Frankly, I'm sick of hearing about steroids. I'm sure you as a reader are probably sick of me talking about them. So tonight I vow this will be the end of their discussion on SpeakGood (though I do reserve the right to cover a huge breaking story). It will be for the better.

Let me start by saying steroids and other performance enhancing drugs exist in ALL sports. Baseball is only a small slice of the pie. The Olympics are riddled with them. The Tour de France, the NFL, etc all have problems with these drugs.

Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and a ton more players took steroids. Roger, it's time to admit it. Pettitte seems to have come off fairly cleanly in my eyes, but now Clemens can't go back on his word.

It is time for Bud Selig to do something to step up and curb this problem. The Mitchell Report was a good start, but it doesn't go far enough.

The Mitchell Report is a joke. Though it gives a lot of good information the investigation was poor to say the least. It relies heavily on only a couple questionable sources and is actually a pain to read. Try reading it, I dare you.

Perhaps the biggest question that needs answering is what do we do to those who took performance enhances. My solution: Let it go. It is in the past and we cannot go back in time. When comparing hitters and pitchers of this time period, compare them with the fact in mind that it was the juiced era. There is no need to prosecute any of the people involved.

That concludes my little finishing rant on steroids. Hopefully I do not need to bring it up again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Van Horn is prime example of working the system

Do you ever wish you could make $4.3 million for doing next to nothing?

Ask Keith Van Horn, he might be able to help you.

Van Horn, the semi-retired forward whose rights are still retained by the Dallas Mavericks, may be the key to completing a trade that would send Jason Kidd to Dallas from the New Jersey Nets.

The trade, which nearly was dead because of Devean George's refusal to be traded and then Jerry Stackhouse's mouth, is alive again according to ESPN.

Props go to Van Horn. At the most, he will probably have to fly to New Jersey, take a physical, and maybe show up at practice. And for his troubles, New Jersey will pay him approximately $4.3 million.

Earlier this month, Aaron McKie was dealt in a much similar fashion. The Lakers traded McKie, who was then a volunteer assistant on the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff, to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the package that brought Pau Gasol to Los Angeles. Reportedly, McKie will make up to $750,000 more than the $7 million he was already being paid through an old contract.

Though McKie has decided to stay with the Grizzlies as a player/coach, it is possible that Van Horn could be released immediately after joining the Nets. He would then be paid for the rest of the year.

I sure wish I could find someone to pay me $4.3 million to take a physical. I spend enough time around the dorm tossing out ideas to make a little cash here and there, and yet none of those ideas seem feasible. I guess I just need to learn how to work the system.

Thanks to this awesome loophole, players like Van Horn and McKie get to increase their already large wealths. And I say, who can blame them?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

First look: MLB 08 The Show for PS3

Today I had the opportunity to play a demo of MLB 08: The Show for the Playstation 3. Though it was only a 4 inning game featuring the Red Sox and Rockies, I was very impressed with the game play and graphics. Mind you, my favorite baseball game of all time is MVP 2005 for the PS2, and that means MLB 08 has some pretty big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, EA Sports no longer has the rights to produce MLB games.

Anyways, here are some quick thoughts on the game:

Gameplay: Easily the truest feeling gameplay I've ever experienced with a baseball game. The swings, pitching motions, stances etc. are well done (at least the Red Sox's are) and the game speed feels about right. Controls are pretty easy to master, with square being power swing, X being normal, just like a lot of older games. My only complaint here is that line shots seem almost too fast to react to, but I guess that makes it a lot like real baseball. (Trust me, third base is not a fun position...)

Graphics: The PS3 continues to amaze me in this area. Hands down, this is the best looking baseball sim I have ever played. Players movements are fluid, the "small" things like uniform wrinkles are right, and the general player figures and stadiums are spot on.

Audio: What really impressed me was the fluidity of the audio. There was no pause or tone change when players names were being said and the crack of the wooden bat sounds amazing.

Overall: MLB 08 seems like it will be a great game. Hopefully I get a chance to go out and get it. Based on the demo I would give it a 9/10.

If you have access to the Playstation Network you can currently download this game as a free demo. Try it out!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Observations on the Roger Clemens hearing

Roger Clemens: "I never took steroids."

Brian McNamee: "I injected Roger."

Clemens: "No he didn't."

Though those are not actual quotes from today's Congressional hearing, they pretty much sum up what happened.

Absolutely nothing.

Ever since the Mitchell Report came out, this entire Roger Clemens thing has been a joke. Basically, it's McNamee's word against Clemens', and there is very little evidence whatsoever. McNamee claims to have used syringes and bloody gauze with Clemens' DNA on them, but I highly doubt that.

Today's hearing was more about public perception than anything. Honestly, Clemens looked innocent. Do I think he took steroids? Perhaps, but he sure can lie tremendously well under oath if he did.

McNamee on the other hand looked suspicious to say the least. While being berated by multiple congress members, he showed very little emotion and he seemed to backtrack on earlier statements he made.

Maybe McNamee is telling the truth. Regardless, who is America going to believe? A seven-time Cy Young winning superstar pitcher, or a former cop turned steroid distributor?

The second option does not seem like the right one to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Officials are humans too

A clock stoppage at the end of a women's NCAA basketball game and a foul with only .1 seconds left in a men's NCAA basketball game have brought out the referee haters once again.

These events were questionable, no doubt about it. However, they also bring up the fact that officials are human and can make mistakes.

With the invention of highly sophisticated technology for controlling clocks and reviewing plays, everybody is about getting calls right. In my opinion, a good official is one that you do not notice.

Regardless, human error does happen and as it the case with basketball fouls, it is a judgement call. Hopefully the official makes the right call, but be prepared that they might not.

It is unfortunate that these small mistakes/issues happened. But cut the officials some slack. After all, they are human too, though it is sometimes easy to forget.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A couple of thoughts about Apple

Apple's release of security patches for OS X is another reminder that Macs are not perfect.

ALERT: Macs are not perfect!!!

Sorry, I just had to do that. I'm surrounded by Apple lovers here, and this is one of my only ways to vent. Not only did I have to go to a high school that was Apple based, now a good majority of my peers carry around their little MacBooks and MacBook Pros. From that I've come to a couple of conclusions based on these observations:

1) Most people who use Macs use them only to do basic computing tasks (i.e. word processing, internet, e-mail). This begs the question of why pay for overpriced hardware if all you plan on doing is basic computing? Any $600 laptop running Vista Basic or XP Home (or even Linux) can do those tasks extremely well for almost half the price of an Apple.

2) With the introduction of Boot Camp, more people are running XP and Vista than OS X. One of my friends even went so far to say he likes Vista more than Leopard. Why pay a ton for Apple hardware just to run Windows?

3) People with Leopard fail to use its "cool" features. This goes back to point numero uno. Most people just use OS X to perform simple tasks.

Let me be clear, I am not bashing Macs (or at least not too much). I just continually ponder these observations and have never gotten a good reason from Mac users.

I want more than "It just works".

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oh Microsoft: Can't thou stop piracy?

Piracy - the bane of Microsoft and the savior for those too cheap to pay for software.

Apparently Vista Service Pack 1 is now available on torrents, only days after it was released to OEMs. Surprise, surprise. Though I don't think SP1 requires a software key, it's as close to piracy as you can get.

Microsoft is constantly developing new strategies to prevent this illegal copying from happening. Yet, they are always one step behind those who can crack such schemes.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, it's own Windows Genuine Advantage cannot detect a valid copy of Microsoft. A Ubuntu user found that while running IE4Linux he could pass validation on the Microsoft web site.

Piracy is a big deal. However, Microsoft is not helping themselves. Charging outrageous amounts for software is bound to cause the problems that it has caused. Until prices drop, piracy will live on.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shaq traded to Suns

If I had the honor to be a reporter covering the Phoenix Suns I would have one question to ask.

Why fix something that isn't broken?

Trading Shawn Marion to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal makes no sense whatsoever. What on earth makes GM Steve Kerr think that Shaq will work in their offense?

Not only is Shaq on the decline, his physical fitness doesn't exactly fit into the run-and-gun offense that the Suns run. I can't remember a game where he wasn't sweating profusely less than a minute into the game, and that was only after plodding up and down the court. What's going to happen when he's expected to run?

Marion is an explosive player who is in the prime of his career. Shaq is a shadow of his former self. Advantage Miami Heat.

Though Phoenix does automatically get bigger upfront, it won't help. Shaq is the true center that the really doesn't fit their offense. Speed and outside shooting is how the Suns win, and the last time I checked, Shaq can't run or shoot.

I loved Kerr when he played for the Bulls, but I just don't understand his logic.

On the plus side, as a Pistons fan I no longer have to look at Shaq in the Eastern Conference again. That means I don't have to watch Shaq get babied by the referees.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

National signing days looms

ESPN's front page reads "Who needs Super Tuesday, anyway?"

This is the truth. Tomorrow is the national signing day for college football and to some, the futures of Terrelle Pryor and other top recruits are more important than who will become the next president of the United States of America.

Pryor, the highest-ranked quarterback in this year's class, has yet to decide between Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, and Penn State.

Like OSU and Michigan fans needed any more reason to hate each other. If Pryor signs with either team, it's only going to bring out more bad blood between the two programs. An already intense rivalry will become even more heated for the years that Pryor plays college ball.

Of course, Pryor could choose to not announce tomorrow, but here's to Pryor being the newest Wolverine.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tigers sign Granderson to long-term deal

It's amazing what a couple years of success can do for a baseball team.

The once cellar-dwelling Detroit Tigers have re-signed star center fielder Curtis Granderson to a long-term deal through 2012, with a club option for 2013. The deal could be worth $43.25 million according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

At one time, I would have been surprised to see such a high figure spent on a Tiger. But now that they are winning, money seems to be of little object. And that is a good thing.

Signing Granderson further solidifies the future of the star studded team. His extension may be of equal importance to the aquisitions of Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Edgar Renteria. After all, last year Granderson became only the third player in major league history to join the 20-20-20-20 club.

Good job Dave Dombrowski. Matt Millen, please take note.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The cowards that we fight

In Baghdad early this morning two bombs went off and killed over 70 people. Since the surge, security measures in the capital had increased drastically. In fact, August was the last time an attack of this magnitude occured. The attacks, which occurred in two animal markets, were carried out by two women.

The story is not the fact that attacks, specifically large scale ones, have drastically reduced. These two women were mentally disabled. The bombs they wore were remotely detonated. This means that someone else used a remote control to blow up these women. When I read this story on BBC it sickened me. These cowards, and stronger language enters my mind, not only kill civilians as their battle strategy, but use mentally handicapped persons to do so. They cannot even strap on the bombs to themselves, but must use those who do not have the mental capabilities to make the decision.

I have a hard time seeing their side of story, when they commit such heinous acts as these. Some argue that these terrorists are Iraqis who want us to leave their country. However, when the terrorists we fight are found to be foreign and then they use mentally disabled women to do their fighting causes one to question any speck of integrity they might contain within their hearts. Also, they attack Iraqis on their visit to the market, not a unit of U.S. soldiers.

Needless to say this story prompted me to begin my side of this website again. As I am not a journalism major, I am not as motivated to write more than my classes demand of me. Nevertheless, this horrendous act needs to be heard.