Amazon’s new Kindles look like rising stars

I’m a couple of days late and for that I apologize (I’ve been on the road), but this week Amazon released its anticipated Kindle tablet and snuck out a couple of new e-readers.

The tablet–7 inches, a faster-than-rumored 1 GHz dual-core CPU, priced at $199, and dubbed the Kindle Fire–seems to be an immediate hit, with 95,000 pre-orders in its first day. Amazon is selling each tablet at about a $10 loss, which it should easily make up by selling digital content.

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Lessons of the HP Touchpad

At full price ($499 for the 16 GB model and $599 for the 32 GB model) the HP Touchpad was a colossal flop. Like AT&T’s first PC clones of the mid 1980s, it was a me-too product at a me-too price that wasn’t quite as good as the product it was imitating. So, basically, there was no reason to buy it.

At closeout prices, it became an Internet sensation. The few web sites that have it in stock can’t handle the traffic they’re getting. At $99 and $149, it’s selling like the Nintendo Wii in its glory days.

And I think there’s a significant parallel there that highlights the missed opportunity.
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Review: GT Max Playstation-USB converter

After my disappointing experience with an inexpensive–perhaps I should just say cheapX-Kim USB gamepad, I decided to give the GT Max Playstation-USB converter a try. This inexpensive (under $5) adapter lets you use Playstation and Playstation 2 (PS2) controllers with a PC.

I’m just interested in being able to use it with emulators for older systems, so I can’t comment on its suitability for using Playstation dance pads with PC games, or using inexpensive PS2 controllers with PS3s. Other users report some degree of success for that.

I’m happy to report that I can now play five or six levels of Jumpman or 9 innings of Baseball Stars without my hands hurting.

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Review: X-Kim GPTL-00A

I think the last time I saw a halfway original idea for a game was around 1992. Everything I’ve seen since then has just been a re-hash of something old, with incrementally better graphics to make it prettier to look at, better AI to make the game harder to beat, and perhaps a new setting.

So I don’t play a lot of games. And when I do, I’d rather play an old game for an old system, which of convenience’s sake usually means running an emulator. But video games on a keyboard–even a really good keyboard–isn’t much fun, so I bought myself a cheap USB game controller.

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Ye Olde Nintendo 64

I fixed up a Nintendo 64 this past weekend. People of a certain age affectionately refer to it just as “the 64,” though to me, “the 64” refers to a computer with 64K of memory introduced in 1982. I have an inherent bias against almost anything that reminds me of 1997, but in spite of my biases, I found a number of things to like about the system after spending a few hours with it.

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How to connect an Amiga to a TV

Amiga monitors aren’t always the easiest thing to come by. Of course just about every Amiga sold was also sold with a monitor. But sadly, many of the monitors weren’t as reliable as the computer. So being able to connect an Amiga to a TV helps.

There are several options, and while some are far from ideal, most of them are suitable for playing video games. And these days I’m sure you’re a lot more interested in Shadow of the Beast than you are in Amiga Word Perfect 4.1. Read more

Buffer overflows explained

Buffer overflows are a common topic on a Security+ exam. The textbook explanation of them is confusing, perhaps even wrong. I’ve never seen buffer overflows explained well.

So I’m going to give a simplified example and explanation of a buffer overflow, similar to the one I gave to the instructor, and then to the class.

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Beware of scammers on Craigslist

In honor of the three-day weekend being over, here’s some of the negativity I promised last week.

I’ve been on a buying spree lately. I’ve been using Craigslist a lot. But I had one recent experience that was extremely bitter.I bought some Playstation games on Craigslist recently. The price was good and there were several titles I really wanted. The seller was way up in Brighton, Illinois. I didn’t know exactly where that was but I figured I could make the deal work.

It was all downhill from there.

First, the seller insisted I come to her. All the way to her. No meeting halfway or even on the edge of town. When I asked what a good time would be, she said 2 PM on Friday. That should have told me something right there. What kind of person assumes anyone else is free to drive halfway to Springfield in the middle of Friday afternoon?

I said no and suggested she come up with a time on Saturday or Sunday. Saturday at 1, she said. That cramped my style too (that’s estate sale time), but in my deal-lust I took leave of my senses and agreed.

So I drove to Brighton. Google was wrong–it’s more than an hour away from where I live. Making matters worse, I got lost when I got there. That’s not as bad as it sounds, though. I don’t think it’s possible to go more than two miles out of your way in Brighton.

But then when I finally found the road, I couldn’t find the house. I went to the end of the road. I would have called, but my cell phone lost its signal a good 10 miles south of there. For lack of anything other option, I started knocking on doors. There were only three houses on the street, so how far wrong could I be?

One of the people pointed across a grassy lot. That’s right. The road ends abruptly, there’s a long grassy stretch, and then the road picks back up again, and there’s one house on it.

I’ll never understand small towns.

So I got to the door and knocked. A rough-looking guy answered. "I’m Heather’s boyfriend," he said. "She asked me to do this deal." He was holding a plastic bag. He motioned toward the bag. "Thirty dollars."

Lesson #1: Never, ever, ever hand over cash without examining the merchandise first. I always check, but everyone I’ve bought something from on Craigslist up to this point has been very honest and their stuff has generally been exactly what I expected. Or better.

So Deal-Lust Dave handed over the cash without even thinking. I took the bag, he closed the door abruptly, and I turned and walked along the grassy road (bet you never thought you’d see that particular word pair) back to my car.

As I put the key in the ignition, a light bulb went off. I’d better check this stuff over before I drive an hour to get back home.

I opened the bag. Nothing was better than I expected, that was immediately obvious. I pulled out the three games that were the key to the deal and opened the cases. Two of them were multi-disc games, and both were missing disc 1.

At first I didn’t think anything of it. Probably one was still in the Playstation and the other was sitting on top of it. It happens sometimes.

I walked back along the grassy road, up the driveway, and to the front door. I knocked.

Nothing.

A couple of minutes later, I knocked again.

Nothing.

I knew they hadn’t gone anywhere because I’d been no further than 300 feet from the house since he closed the door. I was starting to get mad. This time I didn’t wait two minutes, and I didn’t exactly knock on the door gently, either.

The rough-looking guy answered the door with his equally rough-looking girlfriend in tow.

I held up the two game cases. "These two games are missing discs."

She got a defensive look on her face. "They didn’t come with them."

So much for it being an easy mistake to correct. So much for it being an honest mistake, for that matter.

"It would have been nice if you would have mentioned that earlier," I said. They gave me a how-dare-you look and started to close the door. "You ripped me off!" I managed to blurt out before the door closed.

So I’d wasted $30, two hours of my Saturday, and three or four gallons of gas. The two semi-literate, inbred rednecks got the better of me on that one.

I’ve done a couple of deals since then. They turned out fine. I guess those people had jobs, since they all suggested times well outside of working hours, and neither of them objected to me checking out the item thoroughly before handing over the cash.

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