Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Augmented Reality is almost here

Today’s buzzword is Augmented Reality.

The technical definition is, “a display in which simulated imagery, graphics, or symbology is superimposed on a view of the surrounding environment.”

In plain English, Augmented Reality allows you to view things in the real world with computer graphics and text added to it.

There are already a variety of AR applications in development. iPhone application developers are working on apps that can help you find friends, taxis, bathrooms, restaurants and dating prospects by overlaying information over the view captured by the phone’s camera.


Written by Michael B. Duff

November 13, 2009 at 19:46

Posted in Columns

Search engine oracle predicts UFO disclosure

The Obama administration is set to release secret UFO files to the public on Nov. 27.

It’s supposed to be a secret, so when the news comes out, please try and look surprised.


Written by Michael B. Duff

November 6, 2009 at 19:50

Posted in Columns

Fan takes on Mike Leach at Fatlittlegirlfriend.com

I just got back from visiting Fatlittlegirlfriend.com.

You have to be careful, visiting an address like that. I’ll admit that I winced a bit as I typed it in, like I was anticipating a punch to the face.

But it really is a site about Mike Leach and his infamous “fat little girlfriends” quote from last week.


Written by Michael B. Duff

October 30, 2009 at 19:53

Posted in Columns

Facebook won’t kill your marriage, but keeping secrets might

Last week I shared excerpts from comments I got on an old blog post called “Facebook offers faster ways to ruin your marriage.”

The comments on that article are an outpouring of misery from random people all over the country who blame Facebook, in whole or in part, for the dissolution of their marriages.

These folks might be able to trade e-mail addresses and start a support group online, but they won’t get much sympathy here in Lubbock.


Written by Michael B. Duff

October 23, 2009 at 20:16

Posted in Columns

Expensive perks suffer as the recession hits Google

In 2004, Google was the coolest place on Earth.

Google became famous for providing outlandish perks to its employees — free food, free haircuts, a wide-ranging shuttle bus service — even free massages for overworked programmers.

Originally, these perks were justified as a way to enhance productivity. If someone from the company is doing your dry cleaning for you, you’ve got one less reason to leave the office — one more reason to keep your butt glued to an ergonomic chair, whipping up the Next Big Thing at your workstation.

Google’s most famous perk was its food, an astounding variety of gourmet dishes served in cafes scattered all over the Mountain View campus, all made from fresh local ingredients.

Here’s a typical meal served in a Google cafe, photographed and cataloged by an employee on a Google food Flickr stream: quinoa pasta with arabacia sauce, mustard greens, mushrooms and topped with shredded cheese; tomato and pesto on toast; spinach salad with black ruce and nuts; yellow green beans; veggie gumbo — washed down with Calistoga mineral water and a wheat grass shot.

Just type “google food blog” into the search engine of your choice and be prepared to get hungry. Notice that this isn’t just good food, not just gourmet food, it is (ostensibly) healthy food, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

October 8, 2009 at 16:23

Posted in Columns, Google

The week everybody banned Twitter

This was the week that everybody banned Twitter.

Mike Leach made headlines Monday, instituting a no-Twitter policy after Brandon Carter and Marlon Williams used Twitter accounts to complain about the team.

Corporations and media organizations across the country are struggling with the issue as social media chips away at their power structures and threatens to compromise their public image.

ESPN has clamped down on its employees, allowing only “official” ESPN-sanctioned use of social media tools.

But Rob King, ESPN.com editor-in-chief, doesn’t want anyone to call it a ban. He told Sports Business Daily, “The word ‘ban’ suggests that we’re not letting employees engage on these platforms at all … and that could not be further from the truth. We want to uphold the same editorial standards for reporting something, regardless of the medium.”

The Washington Post has also cracked down on its reporters this week, implementing a policy that has New Media critics shaking their heads. The policy was implemented after Raju Narisetti, one of the Post’s managing editors, posted two (rather innocuous) political opinions on his Twitter account.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

October 2, 2009 at 10:39

Posted in Best Of, Columns, Twitter

‘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

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

Creative, complex web comics reach for audience beyond the funny pages

For most readers, comics come in two flavors: the venerable, kid-friendly stuff on the funny pages and the intermittently hilarious panels on the editorial page.

But the web has created a new kind of comic — a thousand new kinds of comics, as varied and eccentric as the people who read them. Just as blog publishing has turned everybody with an Internet connection into a political commentator, anyone who can draw stick figures can start a comic and build an audience online.

In fact, my favorite comic is nothing but stick figures. It’s called The Order of the Stick, available at www.giantitp.com. Creator Rich Burlew started OotS in 2003 as a kind of parody of/tribute to the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game. Early strips were full of story tropes and gamer in-jokes, but Rich has matured as an artist and a storyteller — crafting a brisk, engaging story full of nuanced characters and deeply satisfying plot twists.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

August 20, 2009 at 15:08

Posted in Columns, Games