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Recently, I picked up a copy of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for PS3 on advice from a friend. He had played that and the new Uncharted sequel recently and had great things to say about both.

I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with this first installment. Having had the game for less than a week now, I’m just about finished with my first play-through. It’s an enthralling and highly entertaining game.

Essentially Indiana Jones in video game form, the game takes you through a treasure hunt of a storyline with some interesting twists. The gameplay is especially well refined, and gives you a lot of freedom to move around. I also really appreciate the linear travel path: there’s always just one way to continue through a level. That’s something I actually appreciate in an adventure game like this that’s otherwise so free-form.

I have to say that the gunfights can get a bit tedious at times. I’ve probably killed hundreds of enemies by this point, and it just gets a little too unbeleivable. I do like the way the gun system was designed, requiring constant planning of what weapons to carry and how to best conserve ammunition.

Anyway, that’s my initial impression. Once I finish it, I’ll have more to say. And I’ll certainly be picking up a copy of the latest installment soon too.

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You’ve probably noticed a lack of updates in the last few days.  I’ve been down with the flu.  Blech.  I’m actually now (mostly) recovered, except for the ear-infection side-effect, which has unfortunately made me feel like I’m completely underwater.  So, aside from not being able to hear well, I’m doing better.  So expect more updates soon.

One little note: my B&N Nook just shipped today.  Honestly, I have reservations about this.  More later.

After all that anticipation, shopping, and angst, it’s finally Christmas!  Of course, it will all be over far too quickly, but at least it’s here now.

The plan is for the girlfriend and I to head over to my parent’s house for brunch and to exchange gifts, then to drive out to my girlfriend’s house for dinner (and more gifts).  My parents are fairly close (about 15 minutes away), while it’s about an hour’s drive to see her parents.  We’ll be staying over night there and coming back tomorrow.

The whole family is here this year: one brother in from London, the other from New Jersey, and my dad up from Baltimore (he and my mom are still together – I’ll have to explain that sometime).

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

The design for this blog (in my opinion) looks great, though I’d like to make it a bit more personal.  Right now, it’s just an off-the-shelf template that came from WordPress.  The only problem is that I’m not much of a graphic designer, and I’d hate to put a lot of time into it.

I’m thinking I’ll wait until there’s some good snow on the ground, borrow a good camera, and take some pictures.  The whiteness of the snow should mix well with the white background of the pages.  I’d use that photo for the top of the page, and pretty much leave everything else as-is.

I’m excited: it’s almost Christmas!  This year, I’ve probably spent more on presents for people than I ever have, including one really big gift to be shared by me and my girlfriend.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I won’t say what just yet, but it’s going to be great.  It’s something we’ve talked about wanting for quite a while.

This year I did almost all of my shopping online (and Amazon got just about all of my purchases).  Talk about a great position to be in for an online business: for one day out of the year, everyone has to buy hundreds of dollars of items, and everyone hates long lines and shopping.

Since I’m in the mood for sharing, I thought I’d post a little about my two guilty pleasures on TV.  And believe me, I’m definitely feeling guilty about this, as they seem so out of character for me.  But here goes:

Two shows I like watching on TV are SWAT and DEA.

There, I said it.

Haven’t seen them?  Don’t worry: not many people do.  They pop up in my TiVo Suggestions from time to time, and I always like watching.  I’m really not sure why, to be honest.  I guess I’m a law-and-order type of guy, and I’m more about reality (I often read more nonfiction than fiction).

But still, they seem so much like … Cops.  I’m not into that show (it’s even further down the ladder, I think), but still.  Should I feel guilty?

There’s an interesting review of Chrome for the Mac up at Ars Technica, which is approached from the point of view of a devoted Safari 4 user (as I myself am).  As I’ve seen, there are a number of points in Chrome’s favor, including speed.

My favorite part about Chrome, however, is what Google calls the “Omnibox.” Instead of offering an address bar and a search bar across the top of the window, there’s just one box for both searching and entering URLs. I love this for two reasons. First, it’s no secret that “older” Internet users seem to have a habit of entering full URLs into a search box just to bring up a Google search pointing to that exact URL, and then clicking on it. This helps mitigate that behavior by sending the user directly to the site he or she is searching for if a full address is entered. Two, it helps reduce the number of steps taken by any user (old or not) who wants to search from the browser.

Check out the review and feel free to give Chrome for Mac a try for yourself.  I was pleasantly (and begrudgingly) surprised.

There’s more rumor going on about Apple’s plans to launch a tablet, though this one has a new twist.  Apparently, according to an analyst in an article at Ars Technica, Apple will be targetting the device to be a souped up eReader rather than just a general purpose tablet computer.  I have to say I’m intrigued.

The article goes on to say that Apple is courting content providers (such as newspaper and magazine in addition to book publishers) with attractive deals to get content onto its new device.  The analyst also “believes that Apple is poised to give Amazon’s Kindle a serious run for its money by offering a better revenue split for publishers.”

Especially intriguing is the extent that publishers could go with a high-powered tablet that doesn’t rely on the eInk technology.  For instance, publishers could embed video, sound, or flash animations and have it appear on the tablet.  Imagine an immersive, well-designed version of a magazine on a tablet.  That could be very compelling, and might get publishers excited about the prospects of moving beyond the paper world.

I like the idea of an Apple-branded eReader device, primarily based on the good experiences I’ve had with my various Apple products (iPhone, MacBook, etc).  If they can make a great tablet device that offers excellent content, then it will be a homerun.

When I saw the headline for this article, my eyes almost popped out of my head.  What?? How is this even possible.  After reading the article, I’m still at a loss.

First, here’s what the WSJ is reporting: insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have used off-the-shelf software to intercept video feeds from military drones.  The US acknowledges that the video isn’t encrypted and says that the problem has been known since Bosnia in the 1990s:

The U.S. government has known about the flaw since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it, the officials said.

Wow.

You realize what this means: any ecommerce shopping site on the Internet is better protected than our military’s own drone system.

I still can’t believe it’s been this long and the problem still hasn’t been solved.  I know it adds additional processing requirements to encrypt live video data, but surely the military (with their vast budget) could come up with something.  We’re not even talking 256-bit encryption here: it could be minimal.  But something!

I’m still at a loss as to how this could have happened.  The only plausible explanation (outside of complete oversight, which I doubt) is that it was more difficult to install the kind of processing necessary to encrypt the video feeds.

My problems with Google are complex, but primarily revolve around their business model.  It’s frustrating to see a company constantly move into different sectors of the web industry, gain a ton of press and users, and put out a mediocre (at best) product.  For instance, the whole Chrome OS bothers me: their business logic is sound (and I applaud them for that), but I don’t trust them to make a half-way decent operating system that I would want to use.

Many of Google’s “distinctive” interface designs are just unpleasant.  They got it right with Google Search: simplicity is key.  But their overly simplistic interface for other products make it just painful.  If you have to use Google AdSense or AdWords for any length of time, you start to see the silliness of their interface.  Google Code is just ugly to look at.  And so many other products.

I understand that Google is an engineer-driven company, and that’s fine.  But there are plenty of engineers out there that can admit when they don’t know much about interface design or usability.  Google, it seems, can’t.  I don’t know if its arrogance or fear: fear that they’ll spoil their “secret sauce” that made them so successful in search.  Whatever it is, it’s not working.

At the other extreme is Microsoft, which spends so much time on their interfaces that they become equally painful to use.  They’re overly flashy, cluttered, and look like they were designed for children (with bright flashing things).  Apple is the only consumer-oriented mainstream tech company that I know of that consistently has good design that’s pleasant to use.

The other reason why I despise Google?  They don’t have a single innovative new-product person in their organization.  Take a look at every single product Google has put out: they’re all products another company has pioneered.  Even their much touted Google Wave is just a poor-man’s version of EtherPad (which, incidentally, they acquired recently).  Dozens of other products which have been unashamedly held up as being innovative have already been pioneered before.  Apple is a new-product innovative powerhouse, and even Microsoft has come up with a few new items (like the Surface).  But not Google.

As I said earlier, I’ve been giving Chrome from Google a try, and I have to begrudgingly say that I am enjoying it.  Perhaps it’s just comes from a desire to mix things up a bit in my web browsing.  Whatever it is, I don’t hate it, and I’ll keep using it until I do.

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