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Wedge Elite

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-01-12 08:41:28

MP3 Players

This mini-storyline was inspired by the Microsoft Zune bricking itself due to a leap year internal clock glitch. The Zune was the target of boundless scorn even before this failure, and it's not ALL warranted. I wouldn't buy one, but I wanted to point out that it does provide high quality playback, FM radio, and a wireless song sharing feature that has potential...all things that the iPod doesn't.

The iPod has achieved industry dominance and infiltrated the greater social mindshare, and as an audiophile, I wanted to knock it down a few pegs today. It's a beautiful piece of hardware, but I never bought one for the following reasons:

1) It's fucking expensive. As per most Apple products, you pay well over premium, even considering how slick their products are.

2) Sound quality is middling. This is the most unforgivable sin, considering how much Apple charges for these media players. You can get superior audio fidelity from some $40 MP3 players. It's like how Bose has a strong reputation among audio newbies - they got it by overcharging and perpetuating the misconception that high sticker price equals quality.

3) It's featureless. Where's the radio? Where's the recording functionality? These are standard features across the industry for players that are a fraction of the cost.

4) iTunes is mandatory. If you're a full on Apple proselyte Mac devotee, this isn't an issue. But for the bulk of us Windows users, this interface is a freaking resource hog, and can be a real pain to deal with.

5) Criticism number five actually isn't an issue anymore. I used to rail against Apple's DRM protection, but this is rightfully no more.

I recently had to replace my portable player, and I went with the flash-based 4GB SanDisk Sansa Clip. The buttons are responsive and convenient, and it provides recording functionality (including voice which I absolutely need for note taking), FM radio, and a very solid battery life that beats out the iPod's uptime. In addition to handling a wider array of sound formats, the sound quality noticeably outstrips that of the iPod. My only minor gripes are about its performance in the midbass and highs. I typically use this while running or hook it up to the car sound system, where ambient noise interferes anyway, so this isn't an issue. I could only sense these slight imperfections when I hooked it up to my home audio system, playing high bitrate samples. I think you'd need >$200 headphones for it to be an issue.

It's also conveniently small and light (I can even clip it to the arm of my eyeglasses if necessary)...

Admittedly, I find 4GB to be barely sufficient for my storage needs, but I strongly recommend this product for its versatile overall performance, especially in light of its price. That's the silver one. If you can get away with 2GB, it comes in number of alternate colors, but I think the silver is the slickest anyway. I'll talk up larger, more robust media players in a future blog.

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-01-11 02:47:58

Diplomacy - Spring 1905

Play the home version by following these forum threads!

This wasn't an overtly exciting turn, but various maneuvers are sure to result in open conflict in the coming one.

England will finally reclaim the whole of its island in the coming turn. The bizarre and schizophrenic behavior of the French has resulted in unconventional responses. England has slipped one of their two precious fleets into the Mid-Atlantic, even as a French fleet sits anchored off England in the Irish Sea. This move appears to be a stab at Spain, the last meaningful French stronghold, or at least a means of creating a choke point at this critical corner of the map. This move, along with Germany's maneuvers, indicates a peaceful coexistence between the two nations. (They recently declared a cessation of hostilities.)

France was leading the game with seven supply centers when it suddenly surrendered its primary centers without a fight. Since then, France has been vacillating between surrendering and not surrendering. The record of moves indicate that they had an agreement with Italy to hand Spain over, only to defend it instead. Analyzing their moves is like deconstructing the iambic pentameter of a poet with hardcore dyslexia.

Italy failed to secure Spain, due to the sudden French defense. Italy could have seized it with a full assault, but instead sent a fleet back eastward in case of Turkish aggression. They were right, but too late anyway; a Turkish army landed in Naples and will seize it in the coming turn. Instead of growing to six supply centers, Italy is in danger of shrinking down to four or less, including the loss of one of its vital home centers. Italy gambled on France's constancy, and is currently paying dearly for it.

Austria finally showed its hand. They were acting to appease Turkey, but understood that once they delivered Moscow, Turkey would have no reason not to steamroll them. They will likely lose Greece and Serbia to the Ottomans, and need Moscow for themselves in order to mount any meaningful counteroffensive. With a seeming ceasefire with both Germany and Italy, Austria could provide stiff resistance against Turkish aggression.

Turkey responded quickly to the betrayal at Moscow. They promptly shifted westward, landing an amphibious assault in Naples and maneuvering to seize a number of territories. Blessed with a corner position (no need to garrison those centers), and soon to be growing forces, they continue to be in a strong position. Interestingly, this shift has one amusing result. They vacated Sevastopol, greatly increases the chances of Russia surviving for another turn.

Russia is down to their last unit in Moscow. However, Turkey's shift gives them the option of retreating to Sevastopol if dislodged from Moscow, or to simply push into the vacant territory.

Germany used its spring turn to contain the Italian presence in France. This places them in assault/support position on Spain and Marseilles. Its fleets moved back westward after completing the St. Petersburg offensive. With their significant growth last fall, the remaining forces are spread to do any number of actions, including taking Belgium from the French, or supporting (or undermining) the Austrians as they face the coming Turkish offensive.

The image below is the current state of the map. A larger version is available for viewing by clicking on it.

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