Archive for the 'Rants' Category

Sony Hates Users; PS3’s “Restore Default Settings” Eats Your Data

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I’m the first to embrace that much of this was written in anger and, though I might now word it differently, I’m not going to because it captures the depth of frustration and crappy experience I endured (a first world problem, assuredly).

But, hey, let’s make the vitriol useful– if there were a means that I could report bugs, I would. If there were a way to capture the state of my machine for validation, I’d do it. If there is some way that my crap user experience could be used to prevent future user abuse, that’d be awesome.

To be completely blunt: The team responsible for the PS3 non-gaming user experience — the menus, data management, user interface, and everything else that doesn’t happen in game — are either incompetent buffoons or have a management chain and/or product marketing/design/definition demands that are ridiculous, stupid, and an insult to the customer. (Personally, I’m betting it is the latter — the PS3 is an impressive piece of engineering, both software and hardware).

It is unfortunate that the PS3 is the only vehicle via which one can enjoy such great titles as Ratchet&Clank, WipeOut HD/Fury, and Uncharted. It is insult to their greatness to require the user to have to experience but a moment of the steaming pile of crap that is the Playstation 3 user experience.

I did something incredibly stupid this evening.

I assumed that Sony remotely cares about user experience, that Sony understands that their users care about saved game data, and that Sony — after more than a decade in the game console business — might have a clue about how to implement a system.

Boy, that was a stupid assumption.

I wanted to move the PS3 from TV A to TV B. No video; TV B doesn’t do 1080p. No problem; a google search or two later reveals that holding down the power button will reset the video and give you a menu where you can reset the video.

Nope — the closest is restore default settings. An internet search indicated this was the right thing to do. Wrong. The internet was wrong. Very very wrong. Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that. If you want to switch the resolution of a PS3 without losing data, do so on a TV that works with the PS3 in the current display mode first. If you don’t have one, you are screwed. Sony? Why do you hate your users?

In fact, what it does is worse than restoring the system to factory default. The first sign of trouble is when the PS3 says something like “Hey, I discovered there was user data I didn’t know about, I restored it”.

It lies.

It actually creates disconnected, unsigned, unblessed, shell accounts that have your data in an unusable form. They will have an asterisk in front; bbum became *bbum.

Uh oh.

Upon logging into the faux-*bbum account, many things are now broken. The worst — the single biggest insult — is that the original save game data is still there, but many games can’t use it.

Assasin Creeds II? Apparently, that saved game data will still work. Peggle? Nope, not so much. Oooh.. joy… looks like all data related to games purchased from the playstation network is trashed. WipeOut HD? Won’t even launch — key file missing, redownload dumbass user! But, Sony, All I wanted to do was make it work again? Why are you throwing rocks at me?

Better yet! When you redownload, the PS3 downloads all the bytes and then says “Hey, man, you already got the same crap installed. Do you really want to install it again?” The stupid. It burns!

Now, logging back into the Playstation Network let me sync my trophies. But there was also some warning that said that I might not be able to earn any more trophies, implying that online play was broken in some fashion. Of course, there isn’t anything that I can find to verify current status.

Wait. I played Peggle once and the challenge modes were locked. Now they aren’t. Huh… what? It appears that I didn’t lose Peggle data, but that something magically triggered the reconnection of the data. I’ll have to assume that it was the WipeOut HD “key” download as that seems to be the only “user authing data event” to have happened.

At this point, I renamed the account and have restored Playstation Network connectivity. I may or may not have a mostly working account. I have lost data — all Peggle data gone and deities knows what else. Even getting back to this point was a bunch of effort that I wouldn’t wish upon a non-admin user any day.

Of course, that I failed to maintain a backup was definitely a fault of mine. Then again, I didn’t actually lose any data, Sony just went to great lengths to make my data unusable without actually modifying it.

Or not. It might be that my data is now fully restored and usable. Or it might not be. There is no way to tell. Who knows? I might decide to fire up Uncharted One later this year only to discover that I can’t load the game save and have to start over.

Sadly, this abusive user experience is not unique to the PS3. I had a similar experience with the Wii, though — to be fair — Nintendo has apparently addressed that exact issue in the interim couple of years.

Canon T1i

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
Red Stapler
Canon EF-S 18-55m IS – 1/40 f/4.5 – ISO1600

After 4 years, Canon has released an upgraded camera in the Digital Rebel series that has compelled me to replace my Digital Rebel Xt.

The Digital Rebel T1i, which started shipping in North America this month, is quite an extraordinary camera and a huge upgrade over the Xt. Excellent low light performance (high ISO performance), extreme versatility with the ability to shoot entirely automatic through to fully manual, and lots of usability upgrades.

I won’t be positing a detailed review. That has been covered far more effectively than I ever could by the folks at DPReview.

At above-left is the first image I shot with the T1i. Nothing terribly special, but I couldn’t have taken the same with the Xt without a tripod or switching to the relatively special purpose Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens (but that would have yielded a very narrow depth of field). Since someone asked, I added a link to the Amazon product page, too.

Eddie Scorching Scallop Nigiri
Canon 50mm f/1.4 – 1/125 f/1.6 – ISO 500

While there are many features and refinements of the T1i that I’m looking forward to leveraging, the high-ISO / low light performance is the one that yields an immediate benefit to me.

I like shooting photos in restaurants and the like, but I hate using a flash. Beyond making the food look artificial and destroying whatever natural ambiance the restaurant has tried to achieve, the flash is a huge annoyance to everyone — staff, customers, chefs, etc..

The photo at right is another shot that I could have done with the Xt without the flash or disruptive use of a tripod and posing.

Certainly, I will also leverage the upgrade from an 8MP to 15.1MP sensor, too. While the whole megapixel wars thing was overhyped and appears to now largely be over, there are some serious advantages to having a lot more pixels.

On the interactive front, it means that you can zoom into a photo and see some interesting details that wouldn’t be apparent with a lower resolution image. Looking at the full sized version of Eddie searing scallops reveals the slight haze caused by the scallops scorching under the flame.

But the biggest advantage of lots and lots of pixels is that it stretches the value of your lenses. In particular, I can shoot a shot with the Canon 100mm macro lens, crop nearly half the picture, and still end up with an image that is of the same resolution as a full framed image from the Xt. That would have been very handy for pictures like this, this, and this.

While the camera is brilliant, the software is not. At least, not so much when you want to work with an all RAW workflow.

Whenever a new camera is released, there is a lag between the release of the camera and when Apple or Adobe releases updates that include RAW support for the camera. Thus, I can’t currently shoot in RAW and import directly into Aperture (or Lightroom).

As I had shot a bunch of the initial images in RAW, I decided to install and use Canon’s RAW processing software to convert the images to usable form.

I summarized the experience with this tweet:

Canon’s camera software is a gigantic turd in the box containing an awesome camera.

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1-31-2007 Never Forget!

Saturday, January 31st, 2009
2009-01-31 Never Forget

On January 31st, 2007, the Boston authorities completely lost their minds in a highly visible and ultimately humiliating way.

I am, of course, referring to the Mooninite Invasion.

For the first time in 8 years, we have the potential to live in a nation governed by the sane with policies grounded in reasoned thought.

But it is only potential.

We must remain vigilant and must never fail to ridicule figures of authority when they act like complete unreasoning jackasses!

Appliance Hell: GE Refrigerator & Samsung Microwave

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Recently, we have been experiencing a bit of appliance stupidity in our house.

Replacement parts for our refrigerator seem to be a major profit center for GE and our microwave was clearly designed by jackasses.

Read on for many too many details.

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Cannon Multimedia PC: Design Over Usability

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

From the press release, this device contains features such as “a 28-in-1 media card reader, front IO, USB and fire wire connections, dual NTSC and HDTV tuners (with CableCARD shipping soon), 8 channel HD audio”, etc.etc.etc…

Sounds neat enough. Especially with the six terabytes of potential storage. Put some decent multimedia control software on it and… well.. not bad!

Except who the hell designed it? Clearly not someone who actually thought through how to use it!

Anything that sticks out at all from any of those “front IO” ports is going to obscure the screen! Can you imagine trying to download photos or video with your video camera balanced somewhere — because, most likely, this behemoth will be inside a big old media center cabinet — while trying to deal with a touchy/feely UI with cables constantly flopping on the screen?

And, of course, you’ll probably want to plug in a keyboard and/or mouse to be abel to properly annotate and edit whatever media you capture into said unit. That’ll be convenient.

I wonder if it is even smart enough to know not to open the DVD drawer when the screen is in the retracted position (assuming, of course, the screen retracts).

American Express Blue

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Update: Embedded the BoingBoing TV segment on reading AmEx blue cards.

American Express decided to “automatically upgrade” my plebeian green card to an American Express Blue card.

Beyond giving me the “privilege” of paying AmEx a monthly exorbitant interest rate if I don’t pay the full balance, the card has an embedded RFID chip that is used to “wave and pay” at a bunch of locations.

Hell, AmEx is so proud of the RFID feature that the card is transparent such that the chip and antenna are clearly visible.

How incredibly stupid.


Because this is the exact same chip that can be read and decrypted with about $8 in hardware and a some freely available software.

Without touching the card.

From a distance, even.

Better yet, AmEx embeds a bunch of personal information in the card.

Now I have to call American Express and demand a replacement non-RFID card. Others have done this and been stymied. Or, alternatively, I think I’ll just take a drill to this one and apply some rotational entropy to the RFID chip.

Sadly, I’ll have to renew my passport in the next couple of years and US passports now also embed equally as insecure RFID accessible chunks of personal information.

Aqua Teen Day — January 31st, 2007: Never Forget.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


Evil Mad Scientists Laboratory has made the foundation of this build available as The Peggy for $80.

In typical EMSL fashion, that link includes tons and tons of information, including full details, board design, source, and loads of implementation notes.

So, apparently, it is being called Aqua Teen Day. Good enough.

Better yet, though, is that the fine folks of boston — the level headed public that makes the city such a great place — are celebrating the first annual “Aqua Teen Day” by decorating the city with LED art.

Mooninites & Lemur

On January 31st, 2007, the authorities in Boston completely lost their minds. It wasn’t the first time, but this particular date was heavily reported and even the most head-in-the-sand die-hard “OMGWTFBINLADENFTChildren!!!one!!!” fear mongers found it ridiculous.

I am, of course, referring to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force “Hoax Device” bomb scare.

I could go on a political rant about fear based leadership and the general stupidity of the security theater played out in our cities and airports.

But that is boring.

Lemur in Blue

I’d rather remind people of the jackassery that has happened and, once again, laugh at it. Then vote appropriately.

To that end, I purchased memorial kits from the fine folks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and put them together over the last few days.

The results are just stunning. And effective. I brought the boards into work on Monday and, on the way home, stopped for a beer with boards in hand. Several folks asked about them and, upon explaining the history of the boards, they became just a touch more enlightened as to the stupidity of certain leadership and just a slight bit more inclined to learn more and vote accordingly.


Mission accomplished. With laughter included.

(The kits were a special edition from EMSL — you’ll have to contact them for availability. The LED “peg board” is generic; you can lay out the LEDs anyway you want to make any kind of similar display, including a “charlieplexed” mode that allows simple animations. I believe EMSL will be offering the generic form of the kit sometime soon.)

City of San Jose; Intertubes? What are them? Sounds ‘xpensive.

Monday, January 28th, 2008
San Jose Museum of Art 17

We visited the San Jose Museum of Art over the weekend. Roger totally dug it; sketching various scenes that he found inspiring.

Of course, we ended up with a $28 parking ticket. No surprises there. I mean, we parked in a marked parking space that had no parking limitation signs on Saturday near a meter that had no documented weekend rates are anything.

Obviously, a city that is trying to attract more tourists and more nearby residents would make accessibility to the downtown as easy and painless as possible. And a complete lack of posted parking policy is a BIG help. So is the total lack of grocery stores or other services that are necessary to support residents.

But I digress (and fully admit that it was my fault for not assuming that the city wouldn’t maximize revenue opportunities).

So, I went to pay the parking ticket online. Clearly, a city at the heart of silicon valley in the proactively environmental state of California will have an online payment system!

Sure does! And the fine City of San Jose will charge you $3 for the privilege of paying via their web site. Let’s see — $3 surcharge for a transaction that involves no paper, no illegible handwriting, no check processing, and less bookkeeping? Makes perfect sense.


So, I’ll just pay that damned ticket via online banking.

Uh, no. The Fine City of San Jose effectively requires that you submit your Parking Violation payment with the Parking Violation Ticket itself.

No online banking for you!

Clearly, the City of San Jose hates them pesky trees.

HD DVD is stupid.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

So, it appears to boot to the stupid loading screen whenever this disc is inserted. The extended web enabled content looks kinda cool, though I didn’t bother with it.

The movie, itself, is just flat out gorgeous. But, wow, what a stupid user experience to play the damned disc.

Tonight, we dropped Transformers (HD DVD) into the HD DVD player to check out the amazing awesomeness supposedly contained within.

No such luck.

The stupid disc booted to a stupid “updating advanced web content” screen.

And then it sat there.

Only indication that someone was going on was the silly horizontal rule would occasionally have a rolling highlight.

But nothing happened. Not after 2 minutes, not after 20.

But, hey! There is a [CANCEL] button.

Except that there is no cancel button on the remote, nor does the UI respond to any random key-presses on the remote, nor does it do anything when you hit OK.

Or, maybe it does? Eventually, the “loading” UI went away and the movie started.

Looks really really good, too.

But, wow, what an incredibly broken, stupid, and horribly designed user experience.

This generation of media will hopefully die a quick death. I can’t imagine Blu-ray is worse, but it doesn’t sound like a party either.

I’m very much looking forward to the Apple TV software update. Depending on the experience, Netflix will either be downgraded by a disc or eliminated entirely.

HD DVD: End of Week 1

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

It has now been nearly a week since we added an HD DVD player to the home entertainment system.

Some impressions.

We watched Serenity this evening. It is visually stunning. I’m sure the audio is pretty amazing, too, but I don’t currently have the 5.1 pre-amp / speakers hooked up.

By “visually stunning”, I mean: It looks better than it did in the theater. As an added bonus, I make better popcorn, have vastly superior beverages for far less money, and can watch a visually stunning movie while sitting in front of a fire.

No wonder the theaters are running scared. Hell — we paid $19 for Serenity on HD DVD which, accounting for the evening’s expense, is about 1/3rd to 1/5th the cost of actually going to a theater (depending on babysitting expenses).

Anyway — HD DVD really delivers in terms of the visuals when paired with a decent TV; 46″ 1080p Sony LCD, in my case.

The Planet Earth really drives it home. I have watched it on DVD, via Satellite, and on HD DVD. At 1080p, The Planet Earth is an awesome — a moving — tour of the awesome breadth of life on this planet.

As well, we watched the remastered HD DVD version of Blazing Saddles. The difference between it and the DVD is quite noticeable, but mostly in that HD DVD so clearly displays the noise and imperfections found in the original production process.

And, of course, if the discs do so, the extras on HD DVD can be considerably richer and more deeply integrated with the primary content than regular DVDs. Speaking of regular DVDs, the player does an awesome job of upscaling legacy content (though, honestly, I have no idea how it compares to the various $30 to $70 upscaling DVD players that are commonplace these days).

And that is pretty much where the happiness ends. Click on through for a bit of a rant on the vasty stupidity that is next generation media….
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