After spending a decade on Xbox, I swapped for a PlayStation. Here’s why

One afternoon, my Colombian friend from high school put me on a journey that would last some ten plus years. We booked it to his house afterschool. With his mother fixing up the house, we were left with ample time before dinner. He had just gotten an Xbox and was anxious to show off some incredible games. There were a few options on the table but he was hyping FIFA, so we started with that. Needless to say, the Colombian schooled me in ways which reinforce the nation’s ruthless stereotype. With soccer competition devoid of any meaningful rivalry, he most generously offered up a cooperative experience found within a futuristic shooter, Halo. Within five minutes, I was hooked. A few months later, shortly before Halo 2’s release, I traded in my PS2 & purchased an Xbox.

Halo 2 was fantastic. The multiplayer support extended 3 years after the game’s release with downloadable content made readily available for the masses, free of charge. In fact, to continue playing the multiplayer, it was required that you download said content. This model made the community whole in the way one feels when looking at a cake prior to it being sliced and doled out. Halo 3 dropped the requirement to download content. The company reasoned they would no longer offer new content free of charge. This optional content model has continued fragmenting the community in all ensuing releases.

I’ve slowly watched the series many have grown to love disrobed, prodded, bled, quartered, and now hung. For years, I’d hoped that the incumbent studio in charge of the franchise would get it together. These hopes were in vain however. The studio’s greedy executives, namely Bonnie Ross and Frank O’Connor, have done every unfriendly thing a large corporation would do to maximize profits. Furthermore, rather than just raising prices, they have pursued detrimental courses of action which detract from the positive experience once associated with the series. For this camel, the last straw has been their fundamentally flawed, publicly misrepresented, and fraudulently advertised release, the Master Chief Collection.

By this point, you’re likely wondering, “Besides Halo, what else does the current Xbox have over the current PlayStation? The Xbox controller is universally praised as best-in-class, and rightly so. Xbox Live has a more robust server offering. There are also some additional applications such as ESPN, Comedy Central, and HBO GO. But… the PlayStation contains better hardware and offers more and higher quality free games every month. Additionally, applications such as Netflix launch twice as quickly. The system software also feels fluid and operates more smoothly than the Xbox OS. Did I mention more free games?

In summation, the Halo series’ inability to change leadership coupled with Xbox Live’s anemic Games for Gold program forced my hand. Do I miss my Xbox? Sometimes. Will Halo 5 be great? Maybe. But I refuse to wait on a company whose track record shows a singular trend of increasingly greedy policies. If Microsoft were to remove the cancerous elements at 343, namely Bonnie Ross and Frank O’Connor, I’d strongly consider returning to Xbox One. This scenario is doubtful, given that Bonnie Ross was recently promoted to a VP position in August 2014. As the Colombian idiom goes, colgó los guayos, or ‘hang the shoes’. The footwear is no longer needed.

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Who to persecute in a post marijuana legalization society?

No Rodney King. We cannot get along.

To subscribers of the System Justification Theory, it is a cohesive requirement that the within groups, the dominant group justifies its presence by belittling, persecuting, or otherwise ridiculing other persons or opposing groups. The theory is that by doing so, the dominant group’s ideology, values, and belief system is bolstered, cementing the group’s authority.

African-Americans were long the focus of belittlement in white America, but after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, a huge void began diverging. Now that all peoples were “equal”, one group had to be admonished. But who, and under what pretext? In 1970, scandal-ridden president Richard Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act. This scheduling of drugs has since been used to systematically persecute youth sub-culture, many of who are users of psychotropic and performance-enhancing drugs. This act allowed law-enforcement to once again concentrate their tactful patriotism towards again ensuring that the majority is “right” and the minority “wrong”.

Aside from the psychological elements, there exists an economic component to this sociological conundrum. A huge industry is supported by the persecution of these sub-groups. Aside from police, other occupations are borne out of legitimizing the majority through oppression of minorities. Legal secretaries, lawyers, judges, clerks, bailiffs, stenographers, corrections officers, prison architects, administrators, and countless other jobs are made possible by this system. Eliminating these individuals and their positions is preposterous, but the US can and will need to change its focus once again on who to persecute.

Some proponents of marijuana legalization estimate that all states will have legalized the substance to some degree by the year 2023. This will once again leave a void, which policy makers and enforcers will need to fill. Without accounting for interruptions to other industries, here are a few suggestions.

  • Outlaw obesity. Imagine if we could rid the country of obesity. Sending morbidly obese people and children to camps where they could get into shape. Think more boot camp and less concentration camp.
  • Removing cars and trucks from the road, the ones with abhorrent fumes emanating from their exhausts, and ruining our fresh air. These fumes are more detrimental to the health of country’s children than second-hand smoke and drugs combined.
  • Increase emphasis on issuing fines for littering
  • Create and enforce stricter codes relating to municipality-facing property aesthetics.

The writer is not condoning the intake of numerous scheduled drugs outside defined medical, psychological, espionage, or executive applications. It’s simply worth acknowledging that, post-marijuana legalization, other groups will need to be criminalized in order to maintain the status quo.

HBO can now be accessed via the Xbox One

Woody Allen once said, “I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.”

This Saturday marks 365 days of Xbox One retail availability. When the console was announced at E3 2013, Microsoft promised HBO GO by the holiday season. Assumption got the better of us silly Xbox owners, thinking such statements implied Holiday 2013. Surely, the announcement, existential in nature, was referring to a full year after the console launched.
One of the most highly sought video-on-demand solutions, Netflix aside, is HBO Go. It is now on Xbox One, but after several delays and blatantly misleading PR, the release seems tainted. Rather than a grateful reception of the service, the sentiment is akin to that disgruntled thanks your incompetent coworker receives as they complete a report which they promised to turn in 18 months ago.

WHY THE DELAYS

In March 2012, an app was made available for the Xbox 360. It took two years for Sony’s PlayStation 3 to receive the service. And when it did, one major cable operator refused to participate, blocking its PS3 customers from using the service through that platform. That carrier, who also blocks Roku devices from accessing HBO GO, is Comcast Xfinity. As America’s largest cable provider, it would be fair to assume they’ve played a large role in the long delays.

Any negotiator will acknowledge that having leverage is to your advantage. In this situation, the only company wielding any power in those talks was the cable provider. In fact, it would seem that relations between HBO and Comcast had become very one-sided, with HBO feeling they needed to offer their catalog directly to consumers. If HBO can be successful with their upcoming streaming package, they will have another fight on their hands as Comcast is also America’s largest internet provider (in subscriptions).

It can further be surmised that Comcast is strong arming Microsoft for stuff, be it discounted licensing, user information, new technology, and vastly greater things beyond the scope of public knowledge.

What were they going to extort Roku or Sony for? Bankruptcy & Walkmans?

Cricket rebates in CT, RI, and Miami-Dade County are indeed valid

If you’ve been shopping around for inexpensive phone service, one name sure to come up is Cricket. The prices they offer on phones and phone service are amazing when factoring in their rebates. But, when you’re shopping on their website and click to open the rebate terms, a nice blip pops up reading:

cricket

It’s taken awhile, but I’ve gotten to the bottom of the meaning behind the fine print.
To clarify, Cricket rebates are valid everywhere in the US, BUT the way the phone is advertised as FREE isn’t.

In CT, RI, and Miami-Dade County, if a device costs $75 with a $75 rebate, it still has to be advertised as costing $75. So when Cricket advertises FREE PHONE on their website, technically, that promotion isn’t valid. The valid promotion is “$75 phone with $75 rebate”, but who the fcuk wants to write that?

In the off chance, you are one of the 6 or 7 million Americans confounded by this wording, rest assured, you’ll still get your rebates!

Verizon Lumia ICON to Cricket Moto G

With Verizon’s increasingly aggressive ETF policies, now is a good a time as ever to test which network is good for the exit strategy when the contracts are up in late January. I signed up 5 lines of service on Cricket for $100 per month (including tax). Cricket now has several budget phones available. The Lumia 635 is free after rebate, but why settle for subpar? The Moto G LTE goes right now for a $25 a piece.

SPECS
Both devices share identical processors, LTE radios, and basic 5 MP rear cameras. But the Moto G demolishes the Lumia in other categories. 720p vs 480p screen, 1.0 vs. 0.5 GB RAM, a notification light, a front facing camera, & expedient OS updates from Motorola make $26 an easy difference to spend. Even with the Snapdragon 400 processor on Android, I’m able to perform some tasks more quickly and efficiently than my current device, the high class Lumia ICON running the far-from-optimized Windows Phone 8.1 Preview. The ICON’s 20 MP with mechanical stabilization will be sorely missed.

NETWORK
Cricket’s network sucks like the depressurized vacuum of space. Good speeds register at 2 Mbps down and .5 Mbps up. Those are facts. Still, I am not the guy huddled in the corner, watching YouTube. 2/.5 Mbps is enough to pull emails. My house pulls 120 down, and about 30 up and that’s where I need the speed.

UNLOCKING & SWITCHING AGAIN
Another huge plus, factory unlock service for Motorola devices is fairly inexpensive at about $6 per phone. However, Cricket will unlock the phones for free after three months, about the time needed to maintain active lines in order for the $400 in rebates to clear. If the speed is still too slow, than switching carriers is simple as swapping a SIM card. Good analogy?

MICROSOFT’s HARDWARE WOES
Bashing on Verizon is fun, but I’m still a Microsoft fan. Despite many crap decisions over the years, I’m confident they’ll be able to pull through. I still use Windows & Xbox One. My favorite game remains Halo multiplayer regardless of the idiot VP recently put in charge of 343 and the Halo franchise at large. Ultimately, Halo MCC’s unforgivable launch made me realize the detriments of supporting a company through the lens of childhood nostalgia. Windows is a great OS. Xbox is lots of fun. Office is par none. Yet the inability of the software giant to competently deliver modern hardware at a reasonable price point should not be supported, whether their AI is named Mickey Mouse, Cortana, or the White Ranger. It’s been nearly six years, and the standard resolution on laptops remains a sickening 768p.
Microsoft needs to get their HW partners on board or stop licensing Windows, and do it themselves. They took the wrong approach entirely. Phone market is replete with competitors including LG and Samsung. MS should have left this market alone and let the Korean screen tech giants compete. Traditional Windows devices are not the Korean’s bread and butter. MS needed and still needs to spin those turbines towards ensuring Full HD devices running Windows OS are released and reasonably priced. I’m unaware of how to mend the relationships with OEMs but they need to think of something and fast because 768p didn’t suffice in 2009, and it certainly doesn’t cut it now. Windows OS is where Windows thrives.*

*Acceptable hardware required.

Count of Monte Cristo: The Game?

Dumas’ Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, is one of history’s greatest fictional accounts of vengeance ever told. That is a fact. Volumes could be filled with critical acclaim the literary masterpiece has had the good fortune of amassing through nearly two centuries, but readers familiar with the tale are already well aware. The text has been translated many times over, enacted on stage to satiate the thespians, abridged for various age groups, auditorially spoken for the blind, transcribed to braille for the deaf, & adapted for motion picture on screens big and small. These reimaginings have all had varying degrees of success for different reasons.

Gankutsuoo, literally The King of the Cave, was a Japanese anime miniseries which put a futuristic and mystical spin on the fiction, appealing to animation fans in ways which reading the original text’s thousands of pages never would. Kevin Reynold’s 2002 film starring Jim Caviezel condensed the story and altered some fairly large arcs, making the 2-hour experience more palatable for the movie going public at large. History shows that a story worth remembering is one not only worthy of preservation but restoration. As creative art evolves, it is difficult to imagine a scenario whereby some of these classics would not. And after 30+ years of video games, the sole adaption of this story in game happens to be a hidden-object genre template with a title attached, a mortifying testament of homage.

Cash-grabs like such are terrible, but would it be possible to create something good?

Conveying the intricate emotions which several days of reading invokes would be an immeasurably difficult task. Yet, if the game aimed to do something else, it would be successful. Recreating some of the action would be splendidly entertaining. Fighting pirates on the beach, diving for treasure, rescuing the princess, dueling with Morcerf. Alternatively, focus could be placed on other characters. Play as Albert, chasing tail through the streets of Paris. Or slaughter a kingdom by Mondego’s lead. Include resource management or a societal class rank. Hell, mix up the endings. Play as Villefort, beat the game, and conclude with a bonus round of “How many peasants can France guillotine?” sponsored by Emperor Napoleon.

The wealth of material which can be manipulated or spun off, even episodically is immense. The story remains ripe for the plucking.

Anyone want to exchange ideas? Leave a comment or contact me by email:

montecristoideas@caramail.com

Alternate solutions to bypass terrible ‘customer service’

Surreptitious policies that provoke customer ire are frequently associated with large scale telecommunications providers. A recurring complaint relates to the quality of customer service. Now I’ll be the first to admit the damning incompetence of some phone representatives. Whether it pertains to their base knowledge, lack of experience, or hostile demeanor, sometimes it’s downright painful in the violently aggressive type of way. There’s got be a better method to elude the madness, right? Actually, there are several.

GO TO A PHYSICAL LOCATION

For instance, having owned a cable modem for three years on an active account, Comcast sent a letter explaining that they will begin billing a modem rental fee. Several calls and much aggravation later, nobody over the phone would assist in rightfully reclassifying the modem as owned. One trip to the local Comcast store & briefly flattering the female representative led to the issue being remedied.

While sometimes impractical, it is likely your best option. Face to face communication prevents some of the silly stunts afforded by anonymity.

FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE FCC

If you are encountering a pervasive issue that goes beyond the scope of the front-end customer service agents, a governmental regulatory agency exists to intervene on your behalf. The Federal Communications Commission, otherwise known as the FCC, fields complaints regarding telecommunications providers. Their regulating text, Title 47, is about 3,000 pages in length. Reading that text would be a poor use of energy, but filing a complaint is still quite easy by filling in an online form.

Assuming your complaint is valid and devoid of superfluous rambling, the FCC will contact a special department of your provider. That special department will then contact you and attempt to resolve the issue. These departments are replete with representatives and technicians who are knowledgeable in several ways more than standard customer service. The resulting effect is a more pleasant service or troubleshooting experience. Even the automated system is friendlier, clearer, and easier to navigate.

Complaints can be filed at:

http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

CONTACT THE “SPECIAL DEPARTMENT”

Deemed the “Customer Security Assurance” by Comcast, the agents within are better spoken, experienced, and overwhelmingly more equipped to address other educated peoples’ needs.

Sidenote: If you’re still reading, I’m assuming, perhaps mistakenly, that you’re fairly educated.

Comcast Customer Security Assurance (888) 565-3429