Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kanomi Plays: Blue Mars

Mars iz 4 boiz!The Login Screen Review

Dear Blue Martians,

A while back I signed up for the Blue Mars beta.

I admit, initially had some misgivings. I mean Blue Mars is a strange choice for a name. First, you have Mars, who is the God of War, and who is so damned masculine that his symbol is literally also the symbol for Male-ness. Thoughtfully, you have incorporated that symbol right into your logo.

In case the point wasn't clear enough, you painted your masculinity Blue, 'cuz you know, blue is for boys, and pink is for girls and those who like Elton John's song, "Tiny Dancer."

Blue Mars, you might as well call yourself Blue Penis and tack up a hilariously-misspelled "No Girls Alowed!" sign on your virtual treehouse while you're at it.

Sure, calling yourself Blue Venus or Pink Mars might be too ambiguous. Pink Venus isn't even up for consideration, I know. I mean, it sounds like a porn site (and is actually is a cell phone marketed at teenage girls, natch).

But you know what Blue Mars? I think there are some girls on the Internets now. It's not just DOOM ][ levels and porn anymore. I can prove it. Listen: According to Wikipedia, the song "Tiny Dancer" was "initially a non-starter as a single -- reaching only #41 on the U.S. pop chart and not even released in the UK... [Now] a fixture on adult contemporary and rock radio stations, the song grew in popularity."

Please take notice of that. Over time, it grew in its popularity. Like my blog, Blue Mars, and unlike you, who will never be popular if you do not send out passwords to those of us who signed up for your beta. And I assure you, you will never be popular if you only allow males and male avatars -- no doubt having their maleness verified in voice chat by male podcasters -- into your all-male, masculine world.

So maybe a name like Purple Hermes, would've been more, I don't know, inclusive? Or just go for the full on Rainbow Jesus. I mean, you allow open expression of religious faith in your world, right? I guess I'll never know, since you won't send me my password.

Mars iz 4 boiz!Despite all this, I am still willing to give your game world a shot. After all, you promise a new virtual world, a bigger, better, bolder Second Life:

"Our high end graphics, massive concurrent user support, system wide participation based rewards program, support for industry standard content creation tools, next generation NPC intelligence, simple LUA scripting support, and breathtakingly realistic Avatars."

When I read that, I signed up immediately. I don't even know what LUA scripting is, Blue Mars, but I want it supported. Oh, do I want it supported.

I want to be a breathtakingly realistic Avatar, Blue Mars. Even if I have to use a male avatar in your all-male world, I want people to gasp when I walk into the room. When "Ken-nomi" walks into Blue Mars' "Nude But Totally Not Gay Graeco-Roman Wrestling Arena" -- which I imagine is the primary form of entertainment in your hyper-male world, but I'll never know, since you won't send me a password -- I want your users to drop their computer mice, smack their collective foreheads with the September issue of For Him Magazine, take a deep breath, and say in voice chat:

"Damn Travis, check out that Ken-nomi dude! I reckon that is the most breathtakingly realistic, hyper-masculine avatar in da house!! I am feeling a great attraction to its beauty, in a totally normative, heterosexual way, of course. Hey, how 'bout dem New Yawk football Giants!"

Mars iz 4 boiz!Blue Mars, you told me I would be sent a login and password. It was a promise I believed in, Blue Mars. I tend to believe in promises made by software; I do not read the Terms & Conditions, for I do not speak Softwarese, and software has lied less often to me than have human beings.

And when software has lied to me, it is because it was programmed to lie by the maliciousness of devious creators, who are human beings. And that makes me think, Blue Mars, that the human beings who lied to me were maliciously programmed that way by other, more devious beings -- something like demons. And yet demons are not supposed to be real, except as software processes. Yet Ray Kurzweil says intelligent machines are almost here. It's a conundrum, really.

So here we are. I hear your beta is now available. Yet here I sit, without a password and login, despite your promises. This relationship is not getting off to a good start, Blue Mars. I feel like I'm getting stood up on a blind date.

Blue Mars, is this the first in a long line of bloated, Phillip Linden-esque promises that you will make and fail to deliver on? "We will send logins to everyone!" you said. Will your promises of "breathtakingly realistic avatars" and "next generation NPC intelligence" also go unfulfilled?

Mars iz 4 boiz!I even checked my spam folder. I don't do that for everyone, Blue Mars. I don't like to go there. The spam folder is full of Nigerian princes, V1agr4 pills, lies, machines, and despair. It's a frightful place, Blue Mars, but I went there. For you.

Are you a scary place too? Do your azure-tinted sand dunes ripple and whisper with the ghosts of long-dead civilizations, does starlight trip across the crumbling ruins of the elder race of Mars? I do not know, for I cannot log in.

So instead I must turn to literature about Mars, to help me imagine the world beyond your login screen.

I turned to Philip K. Dick's Martian Time-Slip. You are probably a big fan of his already, since he wrote science fiction and his surname is synonymous with penises, which as we have already established is what you are all about.

But just in case you are not familiar with Dick's work: written in 1964, Martian Time-Slip is a bleakly dystopian novel set on Mars (see?! see?! I knew you'd like it), with discourses on autism, ontology, time, and despair -- familiar themes to those of us denied our Blue Mars passwords:

"He lay there for a hundred and twenty-three years and then his artificial liver gave out and he fainted and died. By that time they had removed both his arms and legs up to the pelvis because those parts of him had decayed."

Questions about Blue Mars I may never have answered, before I too, am dying in an old folks' home waiting for my password:

  • Is the in-world staff all forced to use the surname Martian? Like Philip Linden except you have to be named Philip Martian?
  • Are the female avatars featured so prominently in your promotional material actual females or are they "next generation NPC intelligence"?
  • Have any podcasters verified that they are next generation NPC intelligences?
  • Is there a separate world for them called Pink Venus?
  • Can I have sex with them? The venuses I mean, not the podcasters.

Blue Mars, do you deserve your own directory in G:\files\pix directory? Or shall you forever be an unfulfilled subfolder in my Second Life directory? The answers to these questions may never be known, so let us turn once again to more Dick:

"In the darkness of the Martian night [they] searched... their light flashed here and there, and their voices could be heard, businesslike and competent and patient."

That's me and you, Blue Mars beta. That's me and you: businesslike, competent and patient.

I can keep this up all year. Let's see who finds who first.

Strengths: Website is fast and responsive, particularly to failed Logins; nice use of the all-caps, red font in the LOGIN FAILED message
Weaknesses: Blue Mars is missing a crucial factor necessary for online games: the ability to actually login
Helpful Hints: While waiting for your Blue Mars password to never appear in your inbox, try writing satirical blog posts and see if that helps
Final Score: F

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ask a Windows Vista Programmer

Dear Windows Vista Programmer

Hey now sugar! Ah'm having some problems with mah desktop icons. Mah Windows won't keep muh icons at'all, it sez dey corrupt! Think y'all can help a "Rogue" out? Thanks in 'vance, sugah!

-- Sexy in Biloxi!

A Windows Vista Programmer (artist's interpretation)
Where am I? This world is unfamiliar to me. I see things, like little images of other things. They swim before my eyes, enraging me. I crush them between my fingers.

Damn the little pictures, these colors in my pure black spirit realm. These things, these "icons" ... on this field, this "desktop" ... I must destroy them. Elf-work, this.

Void is pleasing to the dark. Pleasing to the hole where my soul should be.

Dear Windows Vista Programmer

My son Dakota likes to play games LOL! He likes to play all kinds of games, with the Pokeymons and the Guitar heros! LOL! But they dont work on our new Hewlet Packer computer! Help! What shoudl we do! LOL!

-- LOLly in Miami!

Windows Visa in action (artist's interpretation)May the Unblinking Eye damn you and your shitting bairn. I would grind you both with my battleaxe if I could. Learn the Lesson of the Cavern of Pain and be silent!

Now with this axe, this wedge of steel forged in the pits of Isengard with the blood of slaves and the kindling of Ents, I shall destroy everything I can touch inside this diabolical machine you have trapped me in.

It is a world I don't understand, but which I will gladly destroy. What is a D: drive? I care not. It must die in the name of the White Hand of Saruman!

Dear Windows Vista Programmer

I'm your average white suburbanite slob. I like football and podcasts and Second Life. But sometimes that's enough to keep a man like me interested. Sometimes I got to go out and have fun at somebody else's expense. Am I asshole or what?

-- An Asshole

Usability by Microsoft (artist's interpretation)Human! I remember humans. I remember how we hunted you down. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I can still smell the wheat fields burning, the carcasses piled upon the pyres, upwind of me and my warriors. The reek of burning huts filling the wind tickles my hunter's nostrils still. How you cried out! How you cried out to your weak and feeble gods!

One morning I remember, yes. I was a warrior then, a war-leader. I led a lurg of fifty orcs through the highlands of Rohan.

We came upon a miserable, lone farmhouse, nothing but logs and thatch. We surrounded it, flinging torches on the roof, chanting in the Black Speech as our masters taught us, in the manner of our god, Sauron:

Gu kibum kelkum-ishi, burzum-ishi! / No life in coldness, in darkness!

Then we did orc-work.

We cut the throats of the barking dogs. Then we slaughtered the lolling cattle, severed heads from bodies. How heavy their meat fell, and some of my goblins fell upon their raw flesh at once. Those starving ones could not help themselves.

Then the human family came running out, terrorstruck and keening, their throats gurgling like their own stricken animals. So stupid they looked, faces fat with fear.

They knew they could not flee us. Where would they run to? How could they outrun us, who run like the black Nazg├╗l?

Instead they threw themselves on their knees, praying to gods who did not come. But we had no mercy, for we are the fighting Uruk-Hai.

We killed them all where they lay and what we did not eat was left for the Storm-Crows of Saruman.

Now I am in your devil box, killing and destroying. And the War of the Ring goes on.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Experts Warn of New Computer Virus

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Computer security experts today warned of a powerful new computer virus that is infecting millions of computers worldwide.

The new virus, named "Windows Vista", is infuriating users, slowing productivity, and defacing desktops on a global scale.

According to the experts, once the Vista virus infects a host computer, the user will lose control over the majority of their computer's activities.

"Every time a user tries to launch a new program, the virus will taunt them about their own helplessness with its trademark, useless nag screen," said Steve MacAfee, a security expert with CyberGuard Systems. "No matter how many times the same program is run, the virus will waste their time and infuriate them with its cruel prank.

"The Vista Virus also hates other programs," MacAfee said. "It will freeze them, warn users not to run them without permission, and quite often, won't let them run at all.

"It flat out refuses to run a vast array of Windows compatible software, some no older than 2003," he warned. "It's angry, and it likes to kill."

The virus will also corrupt and befoul a user's desktop, marring attractive icons with useless overlays and defacing them with its own graffiti, an ugly four-colored shield, MacAfee said.

"This is the kind of desktop or website defacement that the warez community likes to call 'ownage.' It's typical juvenile delinquents behavior."

Unlike traditional viruses, Vista is not downloaded from email or the Internet, but has been surreptitiously pre-installed on new machines all over the world.

The virus replaces a traditional, functional operating system such as Windows XP SP 2.0 with what one victim described as a broken, bloated, tyrannical state of never-ending corruption and despair.

"It's the kind of thing they'd design under Stalinism -- or in Hell," said Vista victim Kanomi Pikajuna. "I can't imagine what the creators were like. They must have a callous disregard for humanity, or some kind of deep-seated, misanthropy, a psychotic need to inflict pain.

"This is the kind of user experience you would design if you were immersed for eternity in a lake of burning fire, and were damn certain to make sure others shared in your eternal torment."