media, movies comments edit

Went to see Cloverfield this weekend.

What I expected: A cool, maybe kinda scary, fun roller-coaster-ride monster movie.

What I got: A headache from too much shaky-cam following stupid people through New York.

Before I get a bunch of people telling me I missed the point, let me stem the tide: I got it. I mean, I get the whole “point of view” thing and how the interesting bit was that rather than tell the monster movie story from an omniscient perspective they drilled down and got it from a ‘new and different” perspective - that of victims. I get it.

That doesn’t make it good.

Really, I think the shaky-cam thing got old. Let’s ignore the “but that’s the point” argument. I’ve never seen home movies as ridiculously shaky as what they showed. Even the stuff at the beginning, when they weren’t being chased by the monster, was shakier than any home movie I’ve ever seen. By the end of the movie, Jenn couldn’t even watch it - she had to close her eyes and just listen because it was far, far more jarring than even Blair Witch (which also sucked).

Oh, and if you’re being chased by a giant monster and buildings are falling all around you and you happen to drop the camera, are you going to go back and pick it up? Further, are you going to run around with it at eye level the whole time? Hell, no. You’re going to throw the camera at the monster chasing you and you’re going to high-tail it out of there.

Did I mention the thing pretty much just ended, without any resolution to what happened to the monster? Did it die? Did it live? We don’t know.

There were really only three parts I dug about it (and, technically, these are spoilers, but you’re going to be smart and save your money, right?):

  1. The part where the stealth bombers show up to lay waste on the monster.
  2. The part where the girl explodes after getting bitten.
  3. The fact that little mini-creatures get dropped off the one big creature. That shit creeped me out.

Other than that, lame, lame, lame. I wanted less of the morons running around the city and more of the military getting medieval on the monster. I wanted less shaky cam and more ability to actually see what was going on.

Save your money. Or, better, go see Juno. That movie was great.

gaming, xbox comments edit

I realized that I hadn’t posted any update on my Xbox Live DRM problems or the dashboard update issues I was having, so here you go.

The DRM Issue:

Back in October, I got my third console replacement and ran into the same stupid DRM trouble I had the previous two times: Content I purchased could not be played unless I was logged into Xbox Live - not just signed in, but signed in and online. This isn’t as much a problem for a one-gamertag household, but when you have a two-or-more-gamertag household (like my wife and I have), it means that a game I bought for both of us to play is suddenly only accessible to my wife when I’m signed in, whether I’m actually physically there or not. Lame.

Unfortunately, they changed the process on how to fix this such that it was different from my previous two go-rounds. I was told it’d take two to four weeks to get a resolution.

The issue was still not resolved at the beginning of this month (January 2008), which is well beyond the two-to-four-weeks promised timeframe. Calling Xbox Live Support did no good - they must have a stock answer for situations like this: “I’m sorry, but I don’t have any additional information. Your case has been escalated to Microsoft and they will get back to you.” No one else you can contact, nothing else you can do.

I ended up contacting Major Nelson about it. I gave him the full details - times, dates, names, and status - and within three days a guy from Xbox Escalations called me. I provided some additional information that they were apparently missing (but never asked for) and got a direct phone number for him so if anything goes wrong, I can call him and he’ll personally take care of it.

Of course, the new “deadline” for getting a fix is Feburary 7, so I don’t actually have an answer yet, but I’m more hopeful than before.

An interesting side note: talking to the guy at Escalations, it turns out the Microsoft folk don’t get special treatment on this. He has a cubicle-mate that is in the same wait-it-out boat that I’m in. Apparently, Microsoft didn’t realize that changing the process for re-authorizing a console would be this much challenge. I, personally, am not surprised at all.

Xbox Dashboard Update
FailedThe Dashboard Update

In December, while waiting for my DRM problems to be solved, I found that I was suddenly unable to get onto Xbox Live at all because I couldn’t take the latest dashboard update. I blamed it on the DRM problem and, after calling support on this one, too, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one having issues.

That said, after doing some maintenance and troubleshooting, the problem ended up being with my hard drive.

When you get a console replacement, you send in your console, but you keep your hard drive, faceplate, and other peripherals. As such, my hard drive had been attached to four different consoles and had taken dashboard updates just fine for the first three, but when it came time to take an update for the fourth console, it’d had enough. Something got corrupted on the drive and it needed to be formatted.

I spent, literally, over ten hours on the phone with support for this one. I had to do all sorts of ridiculous troubleshooting (they’d tell me it was a problem with my network, which I damn well knew it wasn’t, then they’d say it was something else, like stabbing in the dark), I got lied to several times (they’d tell me I’d get calls back and I never did, they’d tell me they “escalated my call” and they never did), and generally got put through the wringer.

Once I got past the hoop jumping - which I firmly believe was caused in no small part by language barriers - I finally got to a supervisor who said he’d replace my hard drive. But the process for replacing a hard drive is that you send in your old hard drive, they send you a new one… and you lose all of your data. Unacceptable. After explaining how I’d been lied to and how much time I’d spent on the phone already, I convinced them to send me a hard drive without my having to send them mine in return - compensation for putting up with this crap.

Of course, after a week of not hearing anything, I had to call up and do the same convincing all over again with a different supervisor because the supervisor who promised me a new hard drive was in the Xbox Live division of support but the people who can actually grant that sort of thing are in the Hardware division of support.

Anyway, after fighting that out, I got a new hard drive in the mail, formatted it (it still had someone else’s content on it!), was able to take the dashboard update, and moved as much of my stuff as I could over to the new drive.

Oh, did I mention this was in late December when they were having Xbox Live problems? Think about that in context with my DRM issues - I can’t get to my content (which includes moving it) without signing in, but I can’t sign in because Xbox Live is having problems…

It was painful. After a lot of hassle, I got all but my Zuma and Bejeweled 2 save games moved over (for some reason you can’t move or copy them, so I lost all of my progress in both of those games) and formatted my old drive. Now I have one drive for game content and one drive for video content or archiving stuff.

Now, if only they’d remedy this DRM issue…

GeekSpeak comments edit

I just recently stepped into the now and got a phone with a camera on it. I’m not really a big cell phone user for the media capabilities, but every once in a while I’ve felt that a camera would have been nice. (“Hey, honey, which of these two things do you want at the store?” *snap* *snap* send…)

I also do a lot of mailing to myself - reminder notes and such - and all of my stuff is organized in Outlook. When I got my camera phone, I immediately took a picture and sent it to myself. But I noticed that Outlook displays the message like this:

Each piece of the MMS message is an

Each piece of the MMS message appears as an attachment. (I tried sending a mixed text/picture message and got two attachments - one for the image, one for the text.) The trick, then, is to know what type of file each attachment piece is. Here are a couple of basic tips for viewing each piece:

  • If it’s smaller than 1KB, it’s probably text. Try opening the file in Notepad or some other text editor. If it looks garbled, well, it’s not text. Just don’t save it and you’ll be OK.
  • If it’s larger than 1KB or doesn’t display right in Notepad, open the file in your favorite image editor. You can even use MS Paint - open the editor and drag the attachment in there. You can then save it as a particular file type.

The trick really is in guessing the content based on file size.

I looked around for MMS message reading plugins for Outlook but really didn’t find anything. There seems to be a lot out there for sending these messages, but nothing much on receiving or reading them. If you have a way to get Outlook to do this automatically, please leave it in the comments - I’d love to check it out.

In an effort to save some money and get some faster net service, Jenn and I signed up to switch to Verizon FIOS. A couple of friends of mine have switched and like what they’re getting, so we’re hoping we like it, too.

That said, one of the primary reasons a lot of folks I’ve talked to have switched is that they don’t like Comcast for one reason or another. I’ve only ever had good customer service with them, so the company affinity thing isn’t really an issue. The converse is actually true - we’ve had horrible customer service experiences with Verizon, so switching, for us, is really taking a risk customer-service-wise.

Unfortunately, thus far, I’ve not been proven wrong. Even signing up was a tiring, painful experience.

(Note: Responsibility in our house is structured such that Jenn is in charge of phone, TV, and internet service, so the experience explained here was primarily hers. I was sitting right there, but it was Jenn the whole thing actually happened to, not me. I can’t imagine that it’d have been any different had it been me except there might have been more cussing.)

We started on the Verizon web site, trying to sign up for their phone/TV/internet combo deal. We’d have called, but there’s an internet-only special that they say you can only get if you sign up online. We got all the way to the confirmation stage when the phone portion of things blocked us - we couldn’t keep our phone number if we signed up online. Unacceptable. When we signed up for Comcast Digital Voice, it was a seamless experience - they took care of everything.

Jenn got into an online chat with a service rep who was absolutely no help. He reiterated that you have to sign up online or you won’t get the discount. He also maintained that they had no way to transfer phone numbers that weren’t already under Verizon control, so we’d be forced to choose a new number. Local number portability tells me otherwise.

As part of the rep’s helpful “chat,” he sent Jenn various links that, when you follow them, actually get you to run through the entire sign-up process again. She must have filled out the online form like five times and no true help (beyond the copy/paste form letter sort of chat from the online rep) was forthcoming.

Time for a phone call. We called Verizon to find out what was going on and let them know about the number portability thing. The phone rep insisted that you have to sign up online to get the discount but that one thing you could do is cancel your current phone service, get a confirmation number of some sort, and when the Verizon phone service started up, you could provide this confirmation number and keep your original phone number. That, of course, means that between the time you cancel your original phone service and the time they start the Verizon service (which could be a couple of weeks out), you don’t have a phone. Again, unacceptable. The other option we had was to register online for just internet and TV service and add the phone service later - part of the “cutover window” problem was, apparently, that they would have to run lines to our house and for some reason couldn’t run lines and cut our phone over on the same day. (Yeah, it sounded like a line of crap to me, too.)

By this time we were getting pretty frustrated with the whole thing. We wanted the bundle discount that you “only get when signing up online” but the online form wasn’t flexible enough to allow us the options we needed. There was also absolutely no help forthcoming for us on how to keep our original phone number. Jenn decided to take the route the phone rep suggested and just get net and TV service through the online form and sign up for phone later.

She filled out the form again and got to the payment screen. She filled out the payment info… and it wouldn’t accept the credit card. In fact, it wouldn’t accept any credit cards - not mine, not hers. We tried like five different (working) cards.

In a moment of last minute desperation, we placed one more phone call to Verizon. Make it or break it time - they either solve everything right now, or we’re sticking with Comcast.

This time we actually got a representative who knew what she was talking about. You don’t actually need to sign up online to get the discount. After a little conversation, we got exactly what we were hoping for to begin with - a full service conversion to Verizon services and we get to keep our phone number. No cutover window where we’ll be without service. The way it should have been to start with.

All of this took between two and three hours to get through. Two phone calls and two online chat sessions. Navigation around a nearly-impossible-to-use site with not enough options. It reminded me a lot of my recent chats with Xbox Support.

We’re signed up and we should be getting converted over on February 9. I really hope this wasn’t a sign of things to come. The reason we didn’t have Verizon phone in the first place was the poor customer service and they haven’t proven us wrong yet during this attempt to sign up. You would think the signup process - the process where a customer is literally waving money at you, asking you to take it - would be absolutely seamless. I mean, if they can’t get the signup process right, what happens when I actually have a problem?