Monday, September 28, 2009

Kudos, this time, to AT&T

I inadvertently left the international calling plan on my account from my last trip to Germany - last year. I had previously seen the item on my bill, but since it had "iphone" in it I assumed that it was just the iPhone charge. With my recent upgrade to the new iPhone the data plan is now is a different amount. Hmm, so what was this $25?

Yup, this was the international calling plan for the iPhone, Brook confirmed. After researching when it was added and that it was not being used she went ahead and credited 10 months of charges for me. Nice - they didn't have to do that. Normally, she informed, they only go back 3 months. She was polite, she was quick, and she gave me money. Sound perfect to me!

Kudos (this time) go to AT&T.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Velvet Assassin - meh

I just finished playing through Velvet Assassin. Some games I go through again after completing it, either in a harder setting or to just make sure I've achieved all the "dings". Not this one - once through is quite enough. In fact, I'd recommend skipping it all together. It seriously was not worth the full retail price, and I doubt I'd recommend picking it up for 29.99. The game play is shallow and redundant. There are simply too few variations. It's all sneak and kill interspersed with an ample dose of try, die, retry cycles. The stealth mode is inconsistent with the soldiers often walking right by you without detecting you, while other times they see you from far off. There's very little that Velvet can do if she is detected in most situations except run, try to blast away, or simply lay down and die.

If there was a redeeming aspect to the game it is the reminder that war sucks and the insanity that was Hitler's Nazi's was a blemish on history that, like the blood that was spilled, will not soon wash out. Visually the game is dark and sinister at times - oh, and Velvet running around in next to nada is ok, for about the first millisecond.

Probably better than this game is to rent Schindler's List and Defiance to be reminded of the history a bit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Your game doesn't own my PC

I just bought Velvet Assassin. It didn't get particularly high marks by the pundits, but it's supposed to be similar to another game I enjoyed, Splinter Cell. What drives me crazy is that no where does it say that this is a "steam" game. OMG I absolutely hate games that use Steam. It installs a client that wants to run all the time, and they expect you to activate and try games through their online connection. The installer forced me to create a Steam account before I could continue. I tried to cancel, but it simply cancels the who installation. Really funny thing is that "abcd1234", "abcde12345" were already taken. Guess there are others who aren't too keen about this stupid roadblock to game-play.

I've always hated these types of "services" because they are so transparent in their attempt to suck you into their online world and sell you more crap. We'll see how this one works out and how easily I can disable it. What I hate is that even though I exit Steam, launching the game relaunches it.

Update: So far I'm underwhelmed by this game. Very limited attack moves, very repetitive "levels" and my left pinky is sore from having to sneak by holding down the Ctrl button. There's not even a toggle for "crouch" like some games - you have to hold the Ctrl button down to sneak while using your other fingers to control movement. There is a configuration to enable toggle. The engine is not as good as what the "Clancy" games use, especially not like Splinter Cell. There are no frontal attacks that I can find. If she gets seen she's usually dead.

So far I give this a 4/10. The scenery is good, though mostly dark. It's basically a grayscale game, but some of it looks cool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

iPhone Revolution; why I endure AT&T a bit longer

There's a great write-up analyzing both the iPhone/Apple haters and what Apple has done with the iPhone to cause a revolution in the cell phone space. We've all seen the haters - "Yay me, I'm da man cause I chucked my iPhone out and am doing something radical - going against the current. I'm a non-conformist... I'm a... (moron?)." Many of the public haters have a vested interest; something to gain by being the contrarian.

I've had my issues with my iPhone. My last one had a bum touchscreen that finally stopped responding to my loving touches about 75% up the screen. There was this dead band. Thing was, it was sort of a fun challenge to still get things done. I also hated how long it took to sync it, and the earphone jack got stuck again. I also think there was simply a hardware issue with my first generation Intel based iMac. (I've had no issues that I can see paired with my MacBook Pro.)

Mostly I had issues with AT&T - OMG they were so brain-dead as a corporate structure it still boggles my mind. They were a petri dish for a MBA class on what not to do. I was so turned off after ordering my new iPhone (and never getting it) that I was motivated to go back and reevaluate what I'd do phone-wise. I looked at several of the new phones including the new Pre. (It didn't look bad, but my Palm OS horror stories are even longer than iPhone ones). In the end I note that many of the newer phones are much better now that the iPhone has kicked sand on everyone. The presence of the iPhone has been force in the market that has so disrupted the landscape that it has scared everyone into looking at this space differently.

This has been great for customers - for us. As this entry from 2006 suggested, Apple has "the ability has the ability to disrupt the entire distribution channel, which is currently controlled by cellular service providers." I think it has, and I think it will continue.

In the meantime, I simply could not find an iPhone replacement that did as well as the iPhone. I'm not thrilled about AT&T; as disorganized as they are, they treated me much better than Verizon did when I had issues with my Trio. (Verizon never solved the problem of dropped inbound calls, and persisted in suggesting that I was making up the issue to get a new phone. My Trio was new. I left. A tin can and string would be preferable.)