Since 1996

November 27, 2001

Notes from the web crawl

Salon has posted some letters responding to “Xbox squared”, the article I mentioned in the previous entry. Most of the letters disagree with the author, pointing out that no platform has a big library of innovative games immediately upon release (even those whose authors don’t plan to buy the Xbox, anyway). As for the “poorly-defined” main character in Halo, I’m not alone in my opinion that well-defined characters are not required for a good game. (Tetris, anyone?)

James Wagner Au has some pretty strong opinions about video games, but his emphasis on character and storytelling to the exclusion of all else makes me wonder if he wouldn’t just be happier watching movies or reading books. A strong story can make a good game into a great one, but the purest games are those where no story could fit. (I mean, who wants to hear the tale of the Black Queen in chess? Or the brave units of Go?)

A recent posting from Doc Searls mentions an article that manages to trace Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger back to the Greek goddesses while discussing the plight of Afghanistan’s women. That one looks completely normal next to the paper investigating variable-length interjectives. That is, it examines how words like “whee”, which can be arbitrarily lengthened by replicating the vowel (eg. “wheeee”), are distributed on the web. Surprisingly, the answer involves statistics.

I love the web. Have I mentioned that lately?

Of course, loving the web is easier when layout designers make an effort to keep things readable. The fact that people need to write articles reminding designers that text is intended to be read indicates a problem somewhere.

The SSSCA is still out there, promising to put government-approved copy protection in all “digital devices” (a term the act does not define). David Weinberger reminds us that the worst-case scenarios (banning open-source operating systems) would never be held up by the courts, but we must fight it anyway. Even if Congress or the courts add protection for home-brewed computers and software, we’ll still end up with copy-protection monitors in all or most of our hardware.

A quick survey of advanced human-computer interface suggests some directions that computers may move towards in the future, but notes that the windows–icons–menus–pointing device paradigm is fairly well entrenched. I’m hoping to compile some of my own thoughts on the subject in the near future, but I lean towards more seamless interaction between applications and better ways of organizing data (hierarchical filing systems are so old-fashioned).

On a less all-encompassing note, I’m also giving some thought to what I would want in my ideal e-mail client. One such feature is effortless encryption, which is discussed in this article I found at Hack the Planet. The idea is that your e-mail system would add some security information to your outgoing mail and look for similar notes in incoming mail. Using the information in the incoming mail, it can encrypt your reply and any future mail to that person so that only he or she can read it.

People occasionally wonder why encrypting e-mail is worth thinking about, but an unencrypted e-mail message is about as secure as a postcard. Yeah, many messages could probably be send in the clear without any qualms, but all of them? I doubt it.