Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for September 2009

‘Fallout 3’ will take you to an art deco nuclear wasteland, if the Super Mutants don’t get you first

It’s 3 a.m. outside Megaton. I’m wearing sunglasses and a dirty business suit. I’m carrying a Chinese Assault Rifle and a blaster I retrieved from an alien spacecraft.

I haven’t eaten any corpses yet, but my failed attempt at peacemaking led to the mass murder of a dozen angry rich people. I’ve killed a hundred mutants, a thousand raiders and one uppity robot, but am still considered a good person.

I have a dog. He tries to run off and get killed every 10 minutes, so I’m thinking about trading him in for a giant yellow-skinned mutant who likes to quote Zen Philosophy.

I have recently become a homeowner, after disarming a nuclear bomb in the center of town. I am mildly radioactive and I have recently broken two of my own limbs for money.

Yesterday I accidentally drank radioactive water from a toilet. Then the lady at the general store offered me money, so I went back and did it again on purpose.

I’m sitting on the hood of a ’77 Corvega, a 2077 Corvega, eating Iguana Bits and listening to the radio. Danny Kaye and The Andrews Sisters are singing a song from 1948.

The DJ is a friend of mine. He’s helping me find my dad. I left a life of comfort and safety to venture across a radioactive wasteland in search of my father. Dad likes to do science and quote Bible verses. It may seem strange to quote the Book of Revelations to a toddler, but shoddy parenting is the least of Dad’s problems.

I tried to go back to the Vault after the ghouls murdered all those rich people, but nobody was particularly glad to see me. My grade-school girlfriend lured me back there and tried to enlist me into some kind of revolution.

I helped the rebels and everybody said I was a great hero. Then my girlfriend said I was a bad influence and kicked me out forever.

I would have tried to argue with her, but I had just put six bullets in her father’s head and she wasn’t really in the mood.

I tried to flirt with this blond chick in powered armor last week but she’s not really the type you settle down with. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. I’m pretty sure that the toilet water made me sterile, and the Capital Wasteland isn’t really a place to raise kids.

The DJ says I should find my Dad and fix this machine that can save the wasteland, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be killed and eaten by Super Mutants before that.

I saved a kid from some giant ants last week, but then I stuffed him in a personal fallout shelter and kind of forgot about him. I didn’t give him any food and he’s been in there for a really long time. I’m kind of afraid to go back.

There’s a shack in the wasteland where you can cut the fingers off bad guys and trade them for money. I killed 30 guys yesterday and I’m hoping that shack is still there. I’m trying to save up money for a jukebox.

IGN and GameSpot both picked “Fallout 3” as one of the Best Games of 2008. Bethesda has a special “Game of the Year” edition coming out on Oct. 13 that will include all the expansions. I should have saved the wasteland by then, if the Super Mutants don’t get me first.

Written by Michael B. Duff

September 17, 2009 at 15:16

Posted in Columns, Games

iTunes 9 offers exciting new ways to browse, and ignore, your music

Apple has just released iTunes 9.0 and it’s definitely worth the upgrade.

The focus seems to be on ease of use this time – improvements designed to make it easier for users to share music, manage iPhone applications and choose which songs should be transferred to their iPods.

The new Home Sharing feature makes it easier to share libraries between computers. The application manager lets you arrange Home screens from your desktop and the sync functions now allow you to transfer music based on artist and genre without having to make explicit playlists for each one.

There’s also a host of small interface improvements that make iTunes seem brighter, faster and easier to use. Of all the fancy features included in this release, I’m embarrassed to say I got the most use out of the new column browser. It’s the same browser iTunes has always had, but now you can display it vertically to the left of your music.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

September 11, 2009 at 14:03

Posted in Apple, Columns

New on DVD: 'Parks and Recreation' is sly, subtle fun

Amy Poehler is the star of "Parks and Recreation" but she's not the best part of the show. Poehler turns her character, Leslie Knope, into the straight man and lets the plot swirl around her. The best jokes come in reaction to her, and often, at her expense. (Provided by NBC)

One of the best running jokes in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is based on a true story.

The show is set in the fictional town of Pawnee, Ind. – a place that will feel familiar to anyone who grew up in an American small town. The city offices feature an elaborate wall mural that shows settlers slaughtering natives in a variety of hideous ways.

Parts of this wall are so graphic they have to paper it over with memos to hide it from schoolchildren. In the episode commentary we learn that after the show aired, the producers got e-mail from a viewer who saw a similar mural at a real town hall and had to cover up scenes of settler vs. native brutality for his wedding photos. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael B. Duff

September 11, 2009 at 13:22

Posted in DVD, TV

Power users rejoice as Apple, Microsoft release leaner, faster systems

windows-7-box-artLeft to their own devices, developers will inevitably focus on things that don’t matter to end users. Filling your office desktop with moving widgets and transparent windows may look cool, but it doesn’t necessarily improve the experience for the average user.

The past 20 years of software development have been all about adding more functionality to the desktop – more features, prettier interfaces and dubious “enhancements” that eat up memory and hard drive space while adding little to the user experience.

Consider the applications that you use every day. Has writing a letter really changed that much since they released Microsoft Word 95?

What percentage of Windows users are using Active Desktop widgets today? What percentage of users even know what they are?

Windows Vista is a perfect example of this principle in action – a bloated, restrictive operating system – bogged down by graphical eye candy and features that most people don’t need.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

September 4, 2009 at 17:08

Posted in Apple, Columns, Microsoft