Unless you haven't touched any mainstream news in the last two days, you've heard about the tragedy at Virginia Tech. While the tragedy is a great one, the largest ever perpetrated by a single person in the US, it makes me a little sick at all the people that are already jumping up onto their bandwagons to push their cause. The Gun control people didn't even wait until details of the shooter were released, before they started hammering on the VA gun control laws (You only need to be 12 years old to purchase a rifle in Virgina, BTW). The other side of the debate jumped right back saying that banning guns at all is the reason that the victims weren't able to defend themselves by being armed at the time. Jack Thompson had his statement out, within 12 hours, that video games were the cause (The gamers are screwed if they find an XBox at his place with GTA in the disk tray). The US State Department is already blowing it's horn about the fact that he was an immigrant, and that tighter screening is required.

I feel even more sorry for the families of the victims whose loved ones are being used as leverage for people's agendas. Nobody denies that it was a senseless tragedy, but very few seem to be willing to truly examine the cause of why that young man spent weeks planning out a mass murder. Everyone has an opinion, I know I have my share of mine, and I hope we can all keep them to ourselves as families and friends are healing their emotional wounds.

Where is the love?


Google vs Yahoo

New Year Narangs

Recently I've found myself comparing a lot of features and application from the two giant search companies. Each has an incredible lineup of stuff, so much in fact that it's near impossible to compare both on an even playing field.

The skew, I think, leans towards the side of Google, where they have Earth, my Outlook saving Desktop, and YouTubeVideo. Each being very cool applications that I find myself using regularly. Although Yahoo is the owner of Flickr which is my single most used web application, and probably will be as long as I dabble in photography, and they maintain the Widget Engine which is another useful peice of information software.

Staying away from the fringe, I'm going to compare the three core applications that both companies have done for a while, which I and a few other people use regularly; namely: Mail, Calendar and to a lesser degree finance and a customizable web page.

For mail, I think Google has it in the bag. Both e-mail applications are rather slick and easy to use. Both providers offer a silly amount of space for the typical user, but Yahoo makes it a little tricky to figure out where you are sitting. I really like Yahoo's RSS integration, but with google's reader being out in the wild, I don't think this is much of an edge. G-mail wins with a cleaner interface, and a couple very easy to implement features like forwarding all your mail to another address, secure RSS of your mail and POP access if you really want it. Yahoo may implement these features, but their interface is too clumsy to figure out how to do it, and if I can't find it, I'm sure there is others out there who can't either.

For the Calendar battle, I used to be solidly in Google's corner, but recent uncoverings have me on the fence. Once again I find Google's interface to be cleaner, and easier to use. I love being able to share my calendar online with my friends (Yahoo does this too, but all my friends use Google), as well as all of the public calendars (like the Rugby World Cup and Calgary Flames schedules). Google was my clear leader, until I found out how well Yahoo integrates it's calendar into it's other applications, namely finance.

This is really where my comparison started. Until recently I have been keeping tabs on my portfolio at E-northern with Globe Investor. The Globe and Mail has been pulling more and more of it's services into it's gold package, and the site has become much less useful. I decided to set up my portfolio tracking on both Yahoo Finance and Google Finance. Both sites have a plethora of news, and pretty graphs, as well as streaming quotes and portfolio management. The problem is that Google's portfolio management is useless. Sure you can create a portfolio and track it, but you can't add all of the real world equities that you have. Take Big Rock (Yahoo's page: here), a fully registered income trust with a six year track record. Sure enough you can get a quote from Google's site, but you can't add it to your portfolio. As a matter of fact: it doesn't look like anything on the TSX can be added to your portfolio. This makes tracking gain/loss on 80% of my portfolio impossible, which in turn makes google's finance page useless for my needs. Yahoo takes a clear, and definite lead in this category, and their win spills out to other areas as well.

With my portfolio entered correctly, I can display it correctly on my custom homepage that Yahoo provides, which I can not do with Google's version. This means that my Yahoo home page is again way more useful than my equivalent version on Google. Both homepages have a stupid amount of addable content from weather, news and integration with their other applications, but Yahoo doesn't stop just bringing everything to the homepage, their applications can talk to each other. Take the Calendar and Finance for example, looking in my Yahoo Calendar I can see the dividend payouts from stocks in my portfolio. Google doesn't offer that, and with the state of their finance page, I don't think it's high on their priorities.

Now that I'm done the wordy part, I can say that you can't just pick one of the two giants for everything. I've picked up Yahoo for finance, but still maintain Google for my Mail and Calendar needs. Although Yahoo did wrestle my homepage away from Google. For the time being.


Funny Comparison


Last night I was visiting a friend, and we had good old CNN news up while we chatted. There was a good deal of stories regarding recent security crackdowns for travellers, and also some beefing up of security around shopping centers for the holidays. Then came a nice little dose of what we all should buy for our loved ones, finishing up with some closure to the Britney Spears fiasco.

It wasn't long and the channel was flipped over to the CBC to take in some more local news. The contrast was quite funny. On one side of the 49th, we had security fear mongering, and celebrity catch ups. On our side of the boarder we had a piece on volunteers at a food bank, and a half hour special on CFB Edmonton.

Boy, did we ever have a good laugh. On one side of the border you can't get the plans for your own car, just in case you may be hiding a bomb in it, and on the other we detailed the layout of the biggest base in Western Canada. They left no rock unturned: Arial flybys showing you the layout, how the troops use the training facilities, how many troops are there and on which rotation.

I think it's wonderful that we just put that information out there.


Because It’s Fun

Up and Down

For about the last month, I've been swamped with various undertakings ranging from improving my home through removing vermin and landscaping to trying to push my alternate sources of income. As is usual when I get into that frame of mind, I find that my stress level goes way up, time flies by way too fast, and before I know it: It's Christmas and I'm sick. Being pro-active, I've been scheduling time to relax.

Since I'm a geek at heart, and once aspired to get into electronic entertainment, I find that most of my scheduled down time has been indulging in video games.

It came about when I heard that Heroes of Might and Magic V was on store shelves, and since I was a huge fan of the franchise, I got myself a copy. I played it a few times and was really frustrated when the computer, as Glen put it, played the I'm going to win card. It always happened when I went from the surface to the subterranian world or vice versa. Although, I did come close to victory as the Necromancers, I never managed to get past that point with any of the other races. I wasn't having much fun getting my ass handed to me by the unfair AI.

Since HOMMV was about as fun as getting your drunken ass kicked by a bouncer, I stopped playing it. In fact, I may not touch another game in the franchise unless someone glowingly refers me back to it. For the time being I went back to playing the immensly fun Rise of Legends.

I was a fan of RoL's predecesor Rise of Nations, so trying it out was natural. I love how the game plays, and it can be set up so that you can very quickly and easily walk through the AI in order to relieve some aggression, or you can crank the AI up for the challenge of a lifetime. The best part is the variety and the control. I was very happy and content with RoL, that was, until I got my hands on Hitman: Blood Money.

I knew that the newest of the Hitman games were out, but had yet to get around to playing it, instead betting (incorrectly) on my favored genre of strategy (ala HOMMV). A co-worker picked the game up one day, and as he's prone to do, started talking about it. Suddenly my time sitting in my University dorm run, sneaking around wiring people in Hitman 2 came flooding back to me. As is true to the franchise, the game is fun. It's a unique roll together of a first person shooter and an opened ended puzzle. So far I've enjoyed the first few missions, and plan on enjoying a few more.

More and more I've been thinking about how much fun is within a game. My old room mates would climb onto my system with the latest and greatest first person shooters, real time strategy and city simulators and play games distributed free by PopCap. This has recently led me to spending a lot of time thinking about game design with the bulk of the console wars rearing it's head as we come closer and closer to the Christmas season. My bet is on Nintendo, because they make fun games. They have Mario in their corner, and buildings full of people worrying about how much fun a game is going to be to play. They've bet the future of the company that people will take fun over the next iteration of cool graphics, and antialiasing. Sure the other two consoles will have some fun games, but Nintendo makes games with lasting appeal. This is important, because in the end it's only the Fun that matters.


Social Engineering?

Ice Cream

We had a nice, thought provoking conversation at lunch today, regarding world news, and the views that people hold based on the information they recieve.

Ever since I saw the Gulf War coverage from Houston, TX while reading a copy of 1984 , I've had a distinct distaste for modern news outlets. In fact, that was the summer I got rid of cable, and stopped watching the news.

I'm not saying that I'm living in a world of ignorant bliss. I keep up with current events, from some international sources, which is the same crap, just covering up different social issues. But, since that day, I look at every story, wondering how true it is, and how much can be believed.

The problem, I've realized, is one of trust. I don't trust the North American news agencies to give me unbiased views of current events. Currently, I don't trust any single news agency to give me the whole picture, but instead, if a story intests me, I try to see how it is covered from several angles. Sometimes, even what people have blogged about the subject can reveil something that is otherwise overlooked, or will provide a different point of view.

Reflecting upon this, I've come to the conclusion that this is the direction that media is going. Already we have companies worth billions of dollars that were built upon giving people what they want, and selling advertisements to capture the attention of their audience. The internet is disolving borders, and making information (including mis-information) incredibly easy to get. Which brings us back to trust.

Let us say you have an entity on the internet that you trust to give you the no nonsense view of things (even if it is their view). I'm thinking that you would begin to use them as a regular outlet for information. Be they a journalist on the ground in a hotspot, a hockey fan that attends every game, or your grandmother commenting on local happenings, the trust would be the key factor in you coming back, and believing what was given to you.

It would be the new age of information. There are already success stories of people being able to walk away from a full time 9 to 5, and make a very decent living talking about stuff they love. Podcasting is another catalyst that is making this transformation from mainstream to anystream happen at a breakneck pace. Already there is a few of these authors (audiotors?) that make their podcast exclusively to support their lifestyle.

The transformation isn't going to happen as fast as I would like. There is too much interest in our current government to keep Industry alive (and making money) over the interests of the common man. I'm confident, however; that change is coming.