Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ultimate Puzzle

I remember the first time I played Portal, I was a sophomore in high school and was having a LAN party with some friends. Before people showed up I decided to play the game that Zach had installed on my laptop last time he was over. I started the game with no idea what it was actually about, at the time not even the name hinted anything to me, I thought it was sort of generic. I had never played any of the Half Life games so not even Aperture Science meant anything to me.

Once the game booted, I choose new game and started the first level of the campaign. You start out in a glass cage with a no door, a strange pod and radio that is playing a speed up version of "Still Alive." I looked around and saw a timer on the wall counting down from a minute, I didn't know what was going on but I just sat there and waited for the timer to run out, and when it did I heard the voice of a robot that will surely go down in history as one of the evilest video game villains of all time, GLaDOS. She started giving her introduction speech and then started counting down from three. Once she reached zero my life would change forever as she opens my first Portal.

The concept was simple, walk through the orange portal, come out the blue portal and vice versa. However, slowly they start introducing new ways of thinking with portals, such as "how a portal affects forward momentum, or to be more precise, how it does not. " Most of the game sort of acts like a tutorial, in fact, if you play the game with commentary (which I recommend everybody does at least once) the developers state that Portal is a test to see if they can teach players how to think in portals, it's like a test within a test! As we all know their experiment was a huge success. Seriously though, have you ever played any other first person puzzle game even remotely similar to Portal?

The concept of Portal still blows my mind, in a mere twenty levels a robotic voice teaches you how to think in what I like to call Portal Logic, how to get from point A to point B in the most ridiculous way possible. By the end of the game, when you see a fifty foot wall, the first thing you look for is a way to launch yourself to the top. Once you really understand the game, you find yourself thinking in portals. I could walk up the stairs, but if I only had a portal gun I could just teleport to the second floor with portals, sadly I actually do think about these sorts of things.

Aside from portals themselves, there is one more element of the game that I love so much, Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System or GLaDOS. GLaDOS is to Portal what Hal was to 2001: A Space Odyssey. While at first she is your guide to the game, she quickly becomes the antagonist trying to murder you. The brilliant dialogue of the evil machine sends chills down your spine as you slowly realize she is just leading you to a fiery death. The evil bitch took my best friend away from me! It should have been me who died in the incinerator, you had so much to live for!
At this point you might be wondering why I am writing a video game review on a three and a half year old game. Well with the upcoming release of Portal 2, I want everyone to consider replaying the fascinating game. I want everyone to relive the excitement and frustration. To me Portal is one of those games I think everybody should play at least once, seriously, everybody. Because while it may just be a puzzle video game, it teaches us to think with a new perspective on how we get from point A to point B. Dad, if you are reading this, this suggestion applies to you too, I know video games are not your thing, but if I could ever ask you to try only one video game, my answer would be Portal in a heartbeat.

Lastly, as some of you may have already noticed, for the next 15 days in preparation for the release of Portal 2, I will be posting some of my favorite GLaDOS quotes on my Facebook wall, hopefully reminding people how great the original was and giving it one last go before it is replaced. If you haven't seen some of the awesome new things in Portal 2, check out the links below in which they introduce a few of the new concepts.

Propulsion Gel
Repulsion Gel
Pneumatic Diversity Vent
Aerial Faith Plate
Excursion Funnel
Thermal Discouragement Beam

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Local Area Network

Well hello everyone, it's been a while since my last entry. Not only have I been busy with school, but I also haven't been able to come up with a blog me, I've tried. Since my last post a lot has happened, safeBABI has taken off even more and was even featured at a summit by, hopefully one day something will come of this.

I have also really taken on Starcraft, in fact I even wrote a research paper last semester on how Starcraft can be beneficial in a classroom environment. I have been watching GSL for the last three months, which considering it takes place in Korea it has really screwed up my sleep schedule, luckily on April 11th the North American Star League will start and I can get my daily dose of Starcraft II without staying up past 4 AM every night.

This last weekend I attended MLG Dallas, where I watched the pro players work magic with a keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately the players experienced the one thing that can screw over any player no matter how good they are...LAG!!! While we were at a convention center, a place where you would assume the internet would be able to handle a lot of internet traffic, the Starcraft players were still interrupted the whole weekend with issues from lag spikes to dropped games. But who is to blame, the convention center that is being used to stream live Starcraft, Halo and Call of Duty games to hundreds of thousands of fellow gamers, or Blizzard and their lack of LAN options.

I remember the first time that I played Warcraft III. I was a freshman in High School when one of my friends gave me a cracked version of the game and told me about DoTA. Like I said it was a cracked version so we couldn't play on, instead we used Hamachi to simulate a LAN connection over the internet. I remember lan parties in which we all wired up to the router that was all the way down in my parents room and play DoTA all night. It was also the highlight of many school trips for a while. Unfortunately that means, I am one of the reasons LAN doesn't exist in Starcraft II. Blizzard is afraid to offer LAN because as soon as they do, Starcraft II will become a viable candidate for torrenting, so what do you do?

I understand Blizzard, you run the risk of losing a lot of money if you open up LAN, but there are multiple ways to do it. My proposal is to use an authentication method before you start a LAN connection. Just login to and then allow players to connect to each other. I don't feel like it's that complicated. Either that or just make a private distribution copy to tournament runners that enables LAN.

Like I said Blizzard, I know it's not an easy decision to make but this is the second tournament I have been to where has significantly delayed the events. The first time went down and the second time there was just so much latency issues that players were forced to almost 10 second delays. Hopefully Blizzard gets the message and does something to fix this growing issues, we don't have the luxury of Korea's internet.

I hope to start writing on a consistent basis again. I have been watching the showtime series Californication, the show about a messed up writer, and it has inspired me to start writing again. I do already have my next entry sort of planned out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Printer Issues

Before I start this blog I want to make one thing clear, I don't usually point out specific brands as bad, at least in technology. I will never tell you that Macs are bad computers, because they aren't, they just have a different audience, and if you are not in there targeted audience, then don't worry about it. I will never tell anyone that a brand is straight up bad and should not be bought...except for this one product.

A few years ago, I purchased my first laptop. I paid for it completely, it was a low end Toshiba laptop however since I paid for it, I felt it was the best thing money could buy, or at least my money. Included with it was an Epson printer, another reason I thought my laptop was awesome. This thing was sleek, it had a scanner and copier as well as a USB port and memory card slot. But don't be fooled by this great exterior, while the printer was able to produce decent quality prints, its no wonder they were able to give them away for free.

You see Epson has this genius business model, sell printers cheap, sell ink cheap, make ink last for a month. Epson printers low ink indicator typically starts when the cartridge is at half ink. Then by time you are at a third of ink it says no ink and its impossible to force it to print.

I have now been in college for a little over three months and so far I have gone through two full cartridges of ink. Now at a total cost of $110, I am pretty frustrated with Epson. The first time I ran out of ink, I thought to myself, I'll just take it to the Office Depot down the street and have them refill it, however for some reason they can't refill it. Wouldn't surprise me if its some sort of legal issue that Epson prevents others from refilling the cartridges. So I am forced to buy ink again and this time it lasts for a little over a month and a half. Well I bought new ink over the weekend and hopefully it will last me till the end of the semester.

I want one more thing to be clear though, I hate printers. I feel that its a task that we have been doing for so long now that we should have been able to perfect it. I think we all hate printers though. Sometimes I feel a team building activity in the workplace would be to grab a few buddies, take your office printer and a bat to a nearby grassy valley, and just beat the shit out of it. I think that a lot of people would feel a lot better about, because it let's the printer know who's boss. This way, when you are at the office, trying to print an important report, five minutes before a meeting and the printer is being resilient, you can think to yourself, "Stupid printer has it coming, just two weeks till beat the printer day." This solution would also keep companies up to date with the never changing world of printers.

Okay, I'm done ranting. I would like to offer some light to this story. The next time that you are looking for a printer, consider a laser printer. Laser printers are becoming cheaper, and I think the technology is better than traditional ink printers. Its going to cost you to get started but I think in the long run, its going to save a lot of money. I have always had a better experience with laser printers, while still not great its still better than with ink printers. First of all, the toner seems to last a lot longer, and when it finally says low towner, just take the cartridge hit it on your palm a few times (CAUTION: HOT) and you should be able to pump out a few more sheets.

Well that about sums up my whole life of printers. If there is anything I want you to take away from this its:
1. Avoid Epson printers, while it may seem cheap, the printers have been known to steal your ink.
2. If one of my parental units happens to read this, I want a laser printer for Christmas and a year supply of toner for Hanukkah. My birthday is still up for grabs, have fun!

I should be releasing a second entry later this week about a very special robotics team at the Texas BEST Robotics competition in Denton this weekend. Go Krakens!

P.S. Bubby, I am still trying to get them to change the mascot from a Kraken to a Bubby. Nothing says fear my robot like a talking pink bear with no fingers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Search Engine to World Ruler

It started like every great idea, in college and eventually a garage. Google was just a search engine then that determined relevance based on the importance of a page was based on what it linked to and was linked to it, while previous search engines based results on how many times your search terms appeared on the page.

However, today Google is an international business with a giant headquarters in Mountain View, California. As we all know Google is no longer just a search engine. From Youtube to Android to this very blogging service that I am using now. The only thing it seems Google isn't behind is Facebook, however if that were the case I think the Internet would just be renamed the Google.

While Google is great I must admit, its almost scary. Like I said before, they own everything, and even some of there April fools jokes have seemed real because they are Google. I honestly thought that I might be switching to a toilet based router for a while. The fact that I am using Google Chrome to type a blog on a Google service, linked to my Google email, seems a little over the top. Hell Google Chrome knows my credit card number by heart, while convenient its still is questionable.

It won't be long before Google takes over the world. We all joke about it, but we know that its entirely possible because of how much power they have accumulated over the years. Yes I do sound paranoid and the chances that Google would actually do this is like .00000001%, but its totally possible. Did you know that Google is currently working on its own social networking website. What if that catches on, it's possible with all of the recent security upsets with Facebook that people might just up and leave, I mean look what happened to Friendster, Xanga and Myspace. Before you know it Google could have control over much of our online social life.

Google definitely is an amazing service Internet Empire. It is responsible for the way that most of us navigate the internet, watch video's and check our email. I am not against Google at all, but if people get the time, comment on how many Google services you would say you use everyday, including email, searching, android, Youtube, etc. I would really be interested to see the numbers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Video Life

I must admit, as much as I know about technology, one of the major things that still baffles me is video chat. I am sure if you had asked anyone ten years ago if video chat would be widely accessible, they would have looked at you crazily. Hell the fact that webcams are now a standard on most new laptops still blows my mind, however it has opened up a whole new world to what we now know as video blogs that everyday people are taking advantage of. Whether the subject be fashion, video games or just a movie review, the learning curve is so minimal, that anyone with a webcam can just make a video.

I think what really amazes me is the hosting ability. For those who don't know memory ain't cheap, and video ain't small. As of April 2008, YouTube was hosting 83.2 million videos, obviously that number has climbed substantially since then, but for a free service to have that much server space is amazing, though considering its owned by Google I wouldn't have expected anything less(future post idea: Google: From Search Engine to World Domination). None the less its another part of technology that makes me want to be an Electrical Engineer.

But back to video chat, last week I had the pleasure of getting to talk to both of my sisters via ooVoo and Skype (ooVoo supports conference video chat). This was the first time any of us had "seen" each other since at least September, I haven't seen Julia since June. I just can't believe that technology is at the point where for zero dollars and zero cents a minute I can create a free account and simply video chat with people across the country. My hats off to you Skype for making it possible.

I think this is just the beginning, as everyone knows with Apples release of the iPhone 4, they added video chat. Well everyone wants to be like Apple...face it Microsoft even wants to be more like Apple, apple sells, so it won't be long until people are making video chat phones. I mean look what apple did to the touch screen phone know it to be true.

Well I have class in about four minutes, so I must go. I hope that I am not the only one who feels this way, and that while reading this I might inspire a few to actually look into the wonders of streaming video.

P.S. While chatting with my sister's I did get to check up on Bubby, sounds like she is keeping everyone sane without me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sherman Squared

Welcome everyone to my new blog.  I am starting this blog out of sheer enjoyment of both writing and technology, which will be a common topic on this blog.  I can't promise that I will be an extremely constant writer but I will try to make all of my posts meaningful.

Some of you may be wondering what Sherman squared means and I want to give you a little background on it.  My name is Michael Sherman, however I more commonly respond to Sherman.  As far back as 7th grade my classmates have called me Sherman and even some of my teachers and my boss at TI refers to me as Sherman.  The only problem is meeting new people, commonly, in a casual setting, I am introduced as Sherman and from that point people only know me as Sherman.  However what they don't realize is that Sherman is not my first name, so when they find out that my last name is Sherman they get confused.  I have a really good friend who after a year of knowing me didn't realize that my first name was Michael, I couldn't blame him, nobody ever calls me by Michael, except maybe family.  I once had a lab partner who actually thought my full name was Sherman Sherman and wrote it that way on a few of our Lab Reports...however I blame someone else for that incident.

I am currently a freshman at the University of Texas in Dallas and am also a Co-Op at Texas Instruments.  I have two awesome sisters and am the proud uncle of a pink teddy bear bubby, also a common topic on here.