Programs You HAVE To Have, Part II

Two more programs no computer owner should be without are Spybot Search and Destroy and AdAware.

Both of these programs remove spyware and adware and immunize your system against future attacks. Spybot adds a bunch of handy features for checking your registry to see what’s loading in startup and the Add Remove Programs list in Windows Control Panel.

Quite frankly, Spybot is one of the best protection programs I have ever used and I recommend it to everyone who has a computer that is connected to the Internet. AdAware is a nice companion program to Spybot, for those times when you have a nasty program that Spybot can’t seem to get rid of. (I had a PC that had 60 or so pieces of mal-ware from, and one just wouldn’t leave, though Spybot saw it and was trying to get rid of it. I finally loaded up AdAware and that took care of the problem.)

So hey, get these programs and…let’s be careful out there.

Programs You HAVE To Have

For those of you who have had problems with your web browsing experience, for instance pr0n pop-ups, spyware, or just general slowness, I want to get up on my soap box and recommend some programs that you should be using, instead of the Micro$oft apps you are probably currently using. In addition, I want to mention some other programs to help you clean up the mess you have in the first place.

Why am I doing this? Partially because computer problems like this piss me off. As a rule, I hate marketing because it’s a nasty predator that preys on the weak-minded of us and causes tons more problems than it solves. But when marketing becomes viral, when it infects your computer and prevents you from using it to have fun, when it means you’ll be calling someone like me, a geek, to help you, thus wasting hours and hours of valuable computer-gaming time, well, then it’s time to “drop a train on ’em!”

First off, dump Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook Express. They suck. They’re targets. Hackers hate them and like to exploit them. Instead try Firefox and Thunderbird. Both can be found at Mozilla.org. Both are free.

Firefox is an excellent web browser. It’s got features M$ is still trying to cram into its bloated browser, including tabbed browsing (you can have on window with many browser windows open in that window) and the ability to extend its functionality with small programs called extensions. Firefox is also safer than IE; you’ll get less spyware and other nasty things installed.

Thunderbird is an email program that just gets better and better. Built-in spam protection means junk you get will get forwarded to a folder or deleted so you never have to see pictures of the nasty things your neighbors down the street are doing with farm animals, and Thunderbird continually learns from what you mark as junk so the program gets better and better at detecting it. One of the things I really like about Thunderbird is the one-button support for blocking remote images. Remote images are the image files you find in HTML emails that spammers use to determine whether you read the email or not. Once that image loads, it doesn’t matter what you do, the spammer now knows he has a valid address. (Not that many spammers probably worry about that anymore.) Thunderbird has an option to block those images, and when you do, you get a button at the top of each email which allows you to load the images if the email is from a source you trust and it looks like something you would expect to get from them.

So get these two programs. They rock. They will save you all kinds of problems in the long run. And hey, they’re free, so it can’t hurt to try them.

More programs tomorrow.

Big Day!

Well, World of Warcraft launched today, so I rushed out and bought…Sid Meier’s Pirates! I know a lot of people who were going to be playing WoW, but I really wasn’t ready to delve into another MMO. I’m currently still playing Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided so I don’t really feel the need for another social game at present.

Not that SWG is really a social game, since players hardly ever seem to group in it.

My first impressions of Pirates! is that it’s a really fun, flashy strategy game. The Firaxis crew did a great job adding some flash and fun to an old style strategy game. Being an old fogey gamer, I kind of like these kinds of games. Why, back in my day we had to wait for the computer to think about it’s durned chess move. And we could eat, get some exercise, and learn piano while it did! Yeh!

And this game is open-ended like The Sims, or a tycoon-style game, which is always fun. Heck, half the fun of playing a computer game is making up some of the story in your head.

The best thing I can say about it after an hour or two of playing is that it really reminds me of reading a Patrick O’brian novel, historical accuracy and all….

Hong Kong Disneyland Opening Date

It’s been officially announced! Hong Kong Disneyland opens September 12, 2005! I’ve seen pictures of the park all through it’s construction and have had a few friends who have gone there to work on the park and they all say it’s really a great-looking location. They all commented on how friendly the people of Hong Kong were, and how it’s going to make a great location for another Disney theme park. (Well, except for the fact that it’s H-O-T, much like Florida.)

For more info, look here. Did you know they had a feng shui guy pick the date?

Live, Nude Blogger

Yes, there’s a new webcam window on the site. Hopefully I’ll remember to be wearing clothes when I sit down in front of the camera.

Interestingly enough, I’m using a Sony Playstation Eye Toy as a web cam. I ended up buying a second Eye-Toy because I really wanted to buy the AntiGrav game that just came out for it. (Review coming soon, but I already like it a lot, as a hint.) I was going to sell the Eye Toy on e-bay, but I discovered this link that showed how to turn it into a web cam. I decided it would be interesting to see if I could make the whole thing work and so BAM, here’s the webcam.

It’s not set to auto-refresh yet. I need to write some JavaScript for that, but it will be setup shortly. Till then, see you on the web!

Update:

The web cam is now updating! =)

World of Warcraft Review

I could go on for a long time about the things I like and don’t like about Massively Multiplayer Role-playing games like EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, and maybe someday in a post I will. They really are hard games to play and horrible time sinks, and personally, for me, the return on investment in terms of actual fun (and I’m talking fun here, not achievement) is pretty low.

All that said, I just got to play in the World of Warcraft open beta. I think I had more fun in a single night of playing that game then I had in a week of playing one of the others. That’s not to say it’s a reinvention of the genre. It’s pretty much the same old create a character, bash monsters, collect phat lewt, lather rinse, repeat gameplay. But, what sets it apart has a lot to do with the fact that it was made by Blizzard.

Blizzard are the folks that made Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft. These games were all addictive, and all big hits. They have really never had a failure, I think. (Did Starcraft: Ghost ever get released for the consoles? Can’t remember.) They are, quite simply, excellent game designers. Yes, many of the people who founded the company left during the Vivendi nastiness, but the company is still pretty sound as far as I’m concerned. And I think many other gamers agree, since 500,000 people signed up for the open beta of WoW. That’s more subscribers than EverQuest currently has.

Thing about the game is, it’s simple to play. You don’t have to think about creating a character, you just pick a race and class and you’re on your way. You grab some quests from a helpful townsperson and then you’re on your way. As you level up, the game adds more choices about abilities and skills you can get, eventually leading to the Talent system, which is a lot like the skill system in Diablo II — it’s a sequence of skill trees that determine what kind of warrior, cleric, or other class you are playing. So you might be a defensive specialist warrior, or a bashing-focused cleric, depending on how you spent your talent points.

The game is also not very graphically intensive, so it doesn’t drag down your system to play it. SOE made some very conscious decisions to make SWG and EQ2 truly next generation games in that there is not a system in existance today that can run them with their graphic options turned way up. While they can both be played otherwise, my experience with SWG is that it feels sort of bloated and clunky to play because of that. It’s perfectly playable, but it doesn’t feel fast. And if you mess with the graphics options you can easily slow the game down to a chunk.

Ultimately, I think WoW is going to crush the competition. If you’re into MMOs, I recommend this game highly. It’s got a lot going for it. I won’t be playing it on day one (my reasons are fodder for another post sometime), but I might play sometime in the future. But I do highly recommend it.

Incredible!

So I saw The Incredibles on Friday and it lives up to its title. It’s not typical Pixar, other than the fact that it’s digitally animated, an incredible story, and what you really want to go to the movies to see. It’s a little more violent (hence a PG rating), maybe just a little darker, but still tremendously funny and a celebration of the human spirit.

Just recently I spent some time reading The Essential Spider-Man comic books, and marvelled (if you’ll excuse the pun) at how brilliant Stan Lee was at creating these stories that drew you into the human side of the story, and also provided the slam bang action that you probably originally bought the comic book to see. I was constantly amazed at how often I was drawn into the soap opera side of the plot. Would Aunt May forgive Peter when his girlfriend told her off for coddling him? Would Peter remain with Gwen Stacy, or run off with the totally hot Mary Jane?

Well that’s what The Incredibles most reminds me of — one of the classic super-hero yarns of the best Marvel Comics days. Where the heroes are constantly torn between the life of the god they find themself to be, and the life of the human that they still are. And Pixar leaps the tall building of movie magic in a single bound of the drawing pad.
I think one of my favorite lines from the movies goes something along the lines of “Remember, your secret identity is the most important thing you have.” The film does this wonderful job of creating a metaphor for real life in the lives of superheroes. Your identity is the most important thing you have; best you recognize who you really are, and live your life that way.

Go see this movie now! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll believe you can fly. In a metaphoric sense at least.

Stitch’s Great Escape Preview at the Magic Kingdom

I got to go to a sneak preview of Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom today. If you’ve ever wanted to meet Stitch, this is the attraction for you. The basic premise is that Experiment 626 (Stitch, before Lilo renames him) has been captured by the Galactic Federation and the guests in the attraction are new recruits who have been assigned the task of guarding him. Of course, mayhem ensues.

If you’ve ever ridden the Extraterrestrial Alien Encounter attraction that was there previous to the Stitch attraction, you’ll recognize a lot of the show elements, although there are a couple of smelly enhancements. (You’ll have to experience the show yourself to see what I mean.) Stepping into the Stitch world is a truly kewl moment for me, since Natasha worked on the movie and her name is in the credits, not to mention the fact that Stitch is my favorite Disney character. The new ride is a lot more kid-friendly than Alien Encounter, though some very young kids might be put off by the complete darkness and loud noises. If I were to get really picky, there are a few things about the attraction I would change, but nothing that isn’t me being kind of nitpicky about the details.

So grab your plasma rifle and see if you can keep Stitch from escaping!

Exterior View of Stitch's Great Escape at the WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort