Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


The HD format war is lost by existing

[I've posted this as a comment on a few HD DVD vs. Blu-ray blog posts elsewhere, so I thought I'd put it up here as well.]

An HD format war is simply the height of stupidity, given the nice example of how quickly DVD was adopted by… everybody.

This happened for a few reasons, none of which are being replicated by the HD formats/players:

1) One alternative with no difficult competing choices.

2) Fit into existing home theater setups easily.

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, even if you set it up incorrectly.

4) Significant convenience advantages – pause with no quality loss (anyone here remember VHS tracking?!), random access, extra features, multiple languages, etc…

5) More convenient and durable physical medium.

So – let’s look at what HD formats offer over DVD in these areas:

1) Multiple competing incompatible choices. Not just between HD DVD and Blu-ray, but also between different HD formats. 720p/1080i vs. 1080p, HDMI/HDCP vs. component. People aren’t adopting HD formats because they’re confusing.

2) Does not fit into existing home theater setups easily. If you had a DVD home theater, chances are you’re replacing most, if not all of your components to get to HD – you need a new TV/projector, you probably need some new switches, you need all new cabling, and you need at least three new players to do it right (HD DVD, Blu-ray, and an upscaling DVD player so your old DVDs look good). Not to mention a new programmable remote to control the now 7 or more components in your new setup (receiver, projector/tv, 3 players, HDMI switch, audio/component switch).

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, but only if properly tuned and all of them work properly together. I can easily tell the difference between even HD movies and upscaled DVD movies. Upscaled DVD movies look fantastic, but HD movies really pop off the screen. But if things aren’t properly configured or you’re using the wrong cabling, these advantages disappear.

4) No significant convenience advantages, with some disadvantages. Pretty much the same extras, but most discs now won’t let you resume playback from the same place if you press stop in the middle, and they make you watch the warnings and splash screens again.

5) Indistinguishable physical medium. Maybe the Blu-ray coating helps, but we’ll see about that.

I’ve gone the HD route, because I really care about very high video quality, and I love tinkering with this stuff. Most people don’t, and find it incredibly confusing and expensive.

Is it really any wonder that people are holding off?

The HD format war is already lost, by existing at all, and every day that both formats are available for sale just makes things worse. The only good way out of it is to erase the distinction between the two formats – dual format players that reach the killer price point and aren’t filled with bugs.

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Newer PS3s apparently use software emulation for PS2 games

Apparently, Sony dropped including the PS2 hardware in the 80GB model, and the last version that includes it is the now discontinued, recently price-cut $499 60GB model. If you care about playing older PS2 games and are thinking about getting a PS3, you probably want to get that one, before it disappears. It should also be noted that the HD is user-replaceable, so there’s actually very little tradeoff there.

The new model includes a software emulator, but a fairly large number of the older games have at least some problems.

I’ve really been pretty blown away by how much fun the PS3 is, both for the newer games (which are huge and gorgeous) and for how much better it makes the PS2 experience – all games that support it can play in widescreen, everything’s faster, using the hard drive instead of memory cards is both more convenient and MUCH faster, and the analog sticks are more precise. I think dropping the hardware emulator is an unfortunate cost-saving move that will probably diminish the experience, if you care about that.

Also interesting – I found this list of current and upcoming PS3 exclusives, including PSN (downloadable) games:–a1079-p0.php

I think the PS3 has only shown a mere fraction of its power, and Sony didn’t do even a passable job of promoting it properly at launch, but the slate of games on the list for the next six months and beyond has me very excited.

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Does your old PS2 play dual-layer DVD games?

Filed under: — adam @ 5:21 pm

I have an old Playstation 2 (30001 series). It has never played dual-layer DVD movies – it plays the first layer, and then freezes. Everyone I know with this model has the same issue with it. It was never a problem, because all of the games on DVD that I had were single layer. But now they’ve started releasing games on dual-layer DVD, notably God of War 2. And, of course, it won’t play on my old player. The official word from Sony is that this is a problem isolated to my machine (which also, incidentally, has stopped playing the purple CD-ROM games too), and they want me to pay $45 for a refurbished machine of the same old model. Before I do that, I’d like to locate some corroborating opinions.

Do you have an older PS2? Can it play God of War 2?

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Bosses generally suck

Filed under: — adam @ 4:19 pm

Hah, fooled you. This is a gaming post, not a business post. Wired article on the greatness of boss battles:,70832-0.html

I disagree. I often find the boss battles to be the most tedious parts of the game. Instead of another interesting level, you’re treated to a 10-30 minute repetetive motion fest until you can find the one pattern that works against the increasingly overpowered enemy.

Sometimes, this is well done, but often not. I’d feel better about them if the boss battles required a little strategy or intelligence beyond “Find the four switches/weak spots/colors, hit them in order, then the boss will reveal the little extra boss inside the other boss and you can kill that too. And once you figure out the trick, the next three are all exactly the same as the first one, and between doing these tasks, you have to run in circles to avoid the predictable fireballs/rocks/energy blasts.”

The Vizier in Prince of Persia 3? Nope, I don’t think so. That battle almost killed me with its tedium alone. I could almost hear Hank Azaria’s character narrating along between hits … “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!” And to add insult to injury, after a fantastic game about sand powers and time travel, you get to use almost none of those interesting powers, because there’s no refill sand during the battle. Bleh.

God of War was refreshing in this instance, by accident. They had to leave some of the bosses out due to time pressure, and I’ve never been so relieved as I was when progressing from one really interesting level to another really interesting level without another button masher in the middle.

The boss battles should be woven into the pace of the game, not grind it to a halt. Integrate the boss battles into everything else. Have other stuff going on at the same time. Punctuate it. Don’t make me start all over unless I do every single keypress right. If the way to kill the boss is to find the pattern and do something specific more than once, you’ve done something wrong. When done well, boss battles can be interesting. But they rarely are anything more than a placeholder for a lack of gameplay imagination.

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Update on DOJ/Google

This is a fascinating deconstruction of the court documents and letters available so far:


Prince of Persia – The Two Thrones

Filed under: — adam @ 8:55 pm

Once again, the folks from Ubisoft have delivered an amazing game experience. The Prince of Persia games have been consistently top-notch in terms of beautiful graphics, fluid action, and the best acrobatic combat engine around, and The Two Thrones continues the trend.

Just a heads up – the PS2 version seems to have a minor glitch. In the Hanging Gardens of Babylon after the elevator, there’s a dagger hole on the center column after a narrow shimmy crevice. There’s another dagger hole clearly visible off to the left, but pushing left and pressing R1 causes the Prince to jump to the right instead, off the pole and to his death. There’s nowhere else to go, and pushing right and pressing R1 does nothing. I discovered through trial and error that pushing UP and pressing R1 sends him left, as needed.

Hope that helps, if you have the same problem.

Print your own monopoly money

Filed under: — adam @ 10:16 am

Hasbro has PDFs you can download to print your own monopoly money. Via boingboing:


Nintendo announces new Revolution Controller

Filed under: — adam @ 10:47 pm

It looks pretty interesting. It’s a one-handed, modular, expandable (to two hands in various configurations), wireless, motion sensing, rotatable kind of stick thing.

That’s good. I like console games, but I really hate the standard console controller, and have pretty much since I ever picked it up. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still find it very clunky and unnatural for many kinds of games. My gut says this is a good move.


Design your own lego bricks

Filed under: — adam @ 10:29 am


“LEGO is starting a new program called LEGO Factory where you can download a desktop application that allows you to create a custom brick design. You can take the designs you create using the LEGO Digital Designer software, upload them to the LEGO website, and actually order a kit of LEGO bricks that will make the design you spec’d out.”


Canon announces 5D 12mp dSLR for $3300 (retail)

Filed under: — adam @ 2:24 pm

Canon is, quite frankly, kicking the shit out of Nikon. At this rate, I’m guessing that they’ll hit the $1000 price point for full-frame dSLRs in 4-5 years, possibly less.


Some things I really want my next console to do

Filed under: — adam @ 9:29 am

I’ve been reading over the specs and thoughts for the new consoles, and I haven’t seen any discussion of some things I REALLY want out of the next generation of console games:

  1. NO LOAD SCREENS ONCE THE GAME STARTS. Just stop that right now.
  2. Profiles! Multiple people in my house play games. There’s no reason for single-player games to make it difficult to figure out who saved which game. Also, don’t make me sit through a load screen before making my choice. Different cards for each person aren’t a good answer for this.
  3. Varied controllers. The gamepad is okay for many kinds of games, but hands down, one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had was playing Tie Fighter two handed with an F-16 Combatstick and a separate throttle. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get this kind of experience in my living room. Similarly, you can’t play RTS games with a gamepad. The controls just don’t work. Give me some innovation here.


Psychonauts is fun

Filed under: — adam @ 10:24 am

I’ve just started playing Psychonauts, and it’s tremendous fun. I’ve been a fan of Tim Schafer games for a long time – I’ve played all of them except Day of the Tentacle.

It’s rare to find kid friendly games that aren’t boring for adults.

I’ll be posting a review to Buy Adam when I’m done with it, but there’s one piece of dialogue I just have to share (possibly slightly inaccurately quoted from memory):

Raz: They’ll be looking for Raz, the boy, but they’ll find Raz… the Psychonaut!
Dogen: And then you’ll make their heads explode?
Raz: What? No! You do that?
Dogen: No…
Dogen: Except that one time. But now I wear this special hat. Do you want to try on my hat?
Raz: No, no, that’s okay.


Ur-Quan Masters

Filed under: — adam @ 10:18 am

The open source Star Control 2 project released a new version recently.


This homemade Prozac needs more ice cream

Filed under: — adam @ 12:22 pm

“Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after duelling with lightsabres made by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.”


Scooba mopping robot

Filed under: — adam @ 11:49 pm

Now this, I might actually want.

iRobot announces a companion to the Roomba. It’s Scooba, the amazing mopping robot.


Filed under: — adam @ 10:27 am

Underwear that moisturizes your skin while you wear it.


Rent a Dildo


(Given their rental model, I’d have gone with something like “NetPrix” instead of the name they chose.)


Prince of Persia in Flash!

Filed under: — adam @ 3:48 pm


Mini keychain plants

Filed under: — adam @ 1:42 pm

Apparently, the latest Japanese fad is little keychain plants. Marvels of miniaturization!


Do the ipod shuffle.

Filed under: — adam @ 10:53 am

Apple announced a few new products today.

Some of them are interesting.

The Mac mini is a $500 sub-mac, no monitor, mouse, or keyboard. This, actually, is sort of exactly what I’ve been waiting for to tempt someone like me who has absolutely no use for a Mac as a general computer, but would like some of the benefits that the Mac has for dealing with, say, digital pictures. I think these will sell astonishingly well. This seems like a really smart thing in providing a gradual upgrade path from the iPod (or nothing) to this, to eventually one or more Macs.

Finally, I think they’re starting to get the producer/consumer nature of digital products and services.

The iPod Shuffle is a small (512MB or 1GB), low-cost iPod with no screen. You plug it in, and iTunes autofills it with a random assortment of songs (from your Mac mini, maybe). Then you can skip back and forth. That’s it. No choice. Simple. It’s tiny, it’s easy, it’s brainless. It’s missing something – you should be able to rate songs on it (even just a yes/no), so it learns (actually, so iTunes learns) over time what you want and don’t want on it. If you want to keep this really simple, have it register a “no” if you immediately skip past the song once it starts playing, or in the middle. That could even be rolled out with a firmware upgrade. I have a LOT of random crap on my music server. In its favor, it does include a warning right on the product page not to eat it.


“Hey Ballmer, why don’t you suck my tiny yellow balls?”

Filed under: — adam @ 1:21 pm

Er, yes.

As Warren Ellis says, “WIRED’s interview with Nintendo’s Hiroshi Yamauchi is one of the greatest interviews in the history of interviews ever”:


Katamari Damacy 2 screenshots

Filed under: — adam @ 8:48 pm

Mmmm… Katamari


Wallet-sized essentials

Filed under: — adam @ 12:30 pm

Slim stainless steel “emergency” and wallet stuff.


Games Knoppix

Filed under: — adam @ 12:55 am

It’s a bootable linux CD packed with games. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds quite cool.

Use the torrent if you can.


Top 100 toys of “yesteryear”

Filed under: — adam @ 5:52 pm


Moldable plastic

Filed under: — adam @ 2:09 pm

“You get a bag of plastic pellets, put them in 160F water, and they phase change, becoming soft and moldable. If you don’t let the water get too hot, when you take the plastic out, it’s cool enough to shape with your hands.

When it cools down, it hardens into a strong, durable, paintable, machine-able white plastic. If you don’t like what you made, you just put it in 160F water again and reshape it.”


There had to have been a better choice of words

Filed under: — adam @ 4:13 pm

Gillette is getting ready to release a vibrating version of their Venus razor for women.

This is probably very cool – as I’ve mentioned before, the M3 Power is much better than the non-vibrating Mach 3.

The Gillette “President for blades and razors” had this to say about the product launch:

‘Our testing indicated that there is an upside potential to penetrate more razors at a slightly reduced price.’

I’ll resist the tempation, but there are just so many places to go with this one.

A Star Wars game retrospective

Filed under: — adam @ 3:23 pm

I think Shadows of the Empire remains one of the best games I’ve ever played. Tie Fighter is a close second in this batch.


Funky touch-activated LED flashlights

Filed under: — adam @ 1:51 pm


Beautiful Go boards

Filed under: — adam @ 11:32 am


Send your TV back 30 years

Filed under: — adam @ 1:20 am


Motorola may be preparing StarTac 2004

Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

Although, at this point, it ought to be StarTac 2005.

But anyway, yay! I remember when the StarTac was the only cellphone to have. Mototola owned pretty much the entire market, and they pissed it away. The Razr and now this seem to be getting back to where they shine – SMALL AND FUNCTIONAL.


Flash based virtual sketch artist

Filed under: — adam @ 11:19 am



Anime mousepads (with ergonomic breasts!)

"This quality mousepad features a uh, CLEVER ergonomic wrist rest on a pair of gel boobs."

That’s just too funny.


How to choose a computer from parts

This is adapted from a response I wrote to someone on a mailing list asking for help in picking components for a home-built machine. I’m a big fan of this – you can tune the parts to your liking, you get an intimate sense of how things fit together, and it’s substantially cheaper than buying the same machine from a vendor.



New Logitech speakers actually go to 11

Filed under: — adam @ 10:10 am

Wow, took them long enough.,1412,65686,00.html


Engergizer 15-minute charger works will all NiMH AA(A) batteries

Filed under: — adam @ 8:08 pm

I love the Rayovac 15-minute charger. 15 minute charging crossed the threshold that if I didn’t remember to charge batteries the night before, I still have time to do so before I leave the house. But it only works with Rayovac (or radio shack) special batteries. They’re actually really good, but not particularly cheap. This new charger works with any NiMH rechargeable:

Konfabulator is cool

Filed under: — adam @ 11:39 am

It’s an extensible desktop widget manager, now available for Windows and Mac.

A "widget" is a little free-floating thingee that does something. Weather reports, internet health, clock, calendar, web search, battery meter, that sort of thing. You can write your own.




Filed under: — adam @ 5:27 pm

The world’s first portable satellite radio. We have an XM radio in the car and a PC receiver. I really like XM Radio, for no reason I can articulate other than "I can always find a station I’d rather stay on than turn off". There you go.


I am crushink your… er, coins

Filed under: — adam @ 3:12 pm

Using incredibly strong magnets to crush coins. Via boingboing.



I don’t know if this actually qualifies as art…

Filed under: — adam @ 6:02 pm

Framed pictures of original 1979 Star Wars pictures next to the 1997 versions.


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