Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I love the Apple Genius Bar!

The "N" key on my MacBook Pro was wearing down prematurely. I have no idea why its only the "N" key...every other key on the keyboard is holding up just fine. I tried to contact Apple support through their website, but it directed me to the Apple Store in Tysons Corner instead.

So yesterday on the way home from work, I decided to stop by the store and get it fixed.

How good was my customer service experience at Apple? In one word - FANTASTIC. It's a Monday, and the store was still buzzing with about 25 customers spread throughout the room. First thing upon arrival, I had to schedule an appointment with a Genius at the Genius Bar through Apple's Concierge. (you can also make an appointment ahead of time through Apple's website by the way).

While waiting - I checked e-mail in the "theater" at the back on what has to be the fastest WiFi connection I've ever stumbled across.

Within about 20 minutes, it was my appointment. Like a doctor's office, they call out your name and you shuffle up to the bar. I showed him the worn-down key....and without even looking at the serial number, he checked the rest of the keyboard for problems, walked into the back, and installed a new key...just like that. Granted, this wasn't a hard repair...but I didn't even have to fill out anything.

"Anything else I can help you with?"

This part I wasn't prepared for...now I wish I prepared a list of questions before I arrived. I just wasn't thinking ahead. So I rattled off anything that came into my head for the next 15 minutes. Things I wanted to know about Macs...but was too lazy to look up. He knew it all -- except for one question. (Can I upgrade from Beta BootCamp on Tiger to the BootCamp v2.1 update? The answer is NO -- I need to upgrade to Leopard first).

So here's two tips for first timers to the Genius Bar:

  • Schedule an appointment ahead of time on the web-site. Click here, to find the closest Apple Store location, then Reserve a time at the Genius Bar.

  • Make a list ahead of time with any questions you have about your Mac. Unlike other ordinary stores -- these guys actually know what they are talking about!

Also - back-up your hard-drive just in case you have to leave it overnight for repairs.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Video Games and Violence - There's a book!

In the WashingtonPost today, I stumbled on yet another article discussing the links between Video Games and Violence. The catalyst for this discussion was the upcoming release of Grand Theft Auto IV this week.

As it turns out, there was a Harvard study on this topic (it was federally funded!). And the authors of that study have now published a book on their findings. (published April 15, 2008)

Even if your kid does play the game ... well, it might not warp him or her for life. The study was conducted by a husband-and-wife team who are co-founders of the Center for Mental Health and Media and serve on the psychiatry faculty of Harvard Medical School. The findings are published in their new book, titled "Grand Theft Childhood."...Olson said, real-world statistics paint the picture as vividly as any research. "In some ways, it's common sense," she said. "Game playing has been going up and violence has been going down."

The authors also have a companion website to the book where they list and dispel some myths regarding the topic:

MYTH: The growth in violent video game sales is linked to the growth in youth violence — especially school violence — throughout the country.

FACT: Video game popularity and real-world youth violence have been moving in opposite directions. Violent juvenile crime in the United States reached a peak in 1993 and has been declining ever since. School violence has also gone down. Between 1994 and 2001, arrests for murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assaults fell 44 percent, resulting in the lowest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes since 1983. Murder arrests, which reached a high of 3,800 in 1993, plummeted to 1400 by 2001.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Maryland Tech Tax Repealed

For those that didn't know, Maryland had enacted legislation to place a 6% Tech Tax on the following computer services:

  • Computer facilities management and operation.

  • Custom programming.

  • Computer system planning and design that integrate computer hardware, software, and communication technologies.

  • Computer disaster recovery.

  • Data processing, storage and recovery.

  • Hardware or software installation, maintenance, and repair.

But on April 5th, Maryland repealed the tech tax. This region is so small and dense. Tech Labor, and small businesses can easily move to DC, Virginia, Delaware or Pennsylvania. Maryland was wise to repeal their doomed legislation. Hopefully this will be a lesson to any other states that are thinking of drafting new legislation that singles out the computer field.

Could Video Games Reduce Violence?

In a recent Reuters article, Stephen King (the horror writer) was criticizing a US State's plan to ban violent video games...

"What makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic," wrote King.

So can games cause violence? Or could games actually reduce violence? Some people are so sure that video games cause violence that they will take legal action. A family attempted to blame the Columbine massacre on the video game DOOM. Is there a link?

Let's look at some facts...the legendary sci-fi shooter DOOM was released in 1993. Ten million people played the game in a span of 2 years. Another game mentioned was Duke Nukem. There were multiple Duke Nukem games, but the violent shooter variation of this was released in 1996. What made games like these and the original classic Wolfenstein a concern was their 3-d animation and motion which simulates a first-person's perspective. Now if violent action games like DOOM and Duke Nukem cause violence, there should be an measurable increase. After some Googling, I landed at the site of the Bureau of Justice.

Nonfatal firearm crime rates have been declining since 1994

After peaking in 1993, the number of gun crimes reported to police declined and then stabilized at levels last seen in 1988.

Graph reproduced from the Bureau of Justice Site.
Click here to see it at the source.

Looks like violent crimes actually dropped after 1993. As a matter of fact, they not only dropped, but continued to drop.

What if a prison installed inexpensive PlayStation2 consoles everywhere, and let the prisoners play games. Would there be a measurable drop in violence? Does anyone know if this has ever been tried?

Imagine if it were true, we wouldn't have to ship troops over to Iraq, just Game Consoles.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spooge Error? Dawn Of War does work on a MacBook Pro

I recently ran into problems with Dawn of War on my MacBook Pro when Patch 140 was applied. The next time I launched Dawn of War after Patch 140 was applied, I was greeted with the following odd error:

"Spooge driver not found. Verify that DirectX is properly installed."

Chances are - you are fine, and there is no driver problem. If you Google the Net you'll see lots of people offering advice to run diagnostics, load drivers from unofficial locations, reload DirectX..... Don't do any of that...it's unnecessary. And it may also really mess up your system if you install a video driver that didn't come with Boot Camp.

Instead, continue applying Dawn of War patches manually until you reach the latest official patch release (v1.51). Now since Dawn of War is no longer working, you'll have to download them manually from here:

Dawn of War Patches

Once you've reached the highest patch level available (currently v1.51), then follow the instructions at this link. It's a small text file that tells Dawn of War to ignore the Spooge error.

Spooge error with VISTA and 8800 GTX

This blogger's patch was for Vista and an 8800 GTX card. But it also works for the 8600M board that's built into the MacBook Pro.

Now Dawn of War should run without problems. I hope this saves other people a lot of headaches. Dawn of War is an EXCELLENT game and it runs super-smooth at high resolutions on a MacBook Pro. Don't let that Spooge Error wreck your day!