X-Box One Conflict

I love video games, I have since I was a little kid. I still have fond memories of playing Super Mario Brothers with my mom on Saturday mornings, beating Count Dracula in Castlevania, and being Link. I still have my old Nintendo Entertainment System, and 26 years later I can still play games on it, and occasionally do. 

Fast forward 26 years. I love my Xbox 360, I love the games. HALO 4, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Fable 2, Batman Arkham Asylum/City all favorites of mine. I don’t use X-Box Live much but when I do use it I use the hell out of it, and can ALMOST justify the money I spend on a gold account, almost. I don’t buy brand new games much, I either buy used or I wait a year or two for them to radically drop in price. I take my 360 with me when I go on Government travel, usually because I am stuck in a shitty Navy Lodge somewhere and I want to save my per diem to pay bills. 

I was excited when the news of the X-Box One came out, I thought an all in one gaming and entertainment system was a bit overkill for my needs, but still a really cool concept. I didn’t plan on purchasing one right away. I figured I would wait a while to make sure all the bugs were worked out, maybe a year or so. Then came all the news…..about always on internet (not quite true), always on Kinect (also not true), Can’t loan out games, can’t buy used, etc. After some digging, some of my concerns are alleviated, some are not. I don’t think I will buy  an X-Box One, but I could change my mind. Here are my concerns:

First is the 24 hour mandatory Internet check. Here is what Microsoft states: “With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies.” They have a host of reasons for this, part of it is Digital Rights Media. They want to make sure the games on your system are games you have license for and that you are not pirating media, and another part is the cloud system (I’m not a tech guy, but what little I have read sounds pretty neat). 

Second is the recommended 1.5 Mb/s internet speed. Again, Microsoft states, “For an optimal experience, we recommend a broadband connection of 1.5 Mb/s. (For reference, the average global internet connection speed as measured recently by Akamai was 2.9 Mbps). In areas where an Ethernet connection is not available, you can connect using mobile broadband.” I can see why they recommend this, and only have a small problem with it. 

Third is the Kinect Sensor. However, this is partly due to my conspiracy theorist nature and the whole PRISM Scandal and Microsoft maybe being part of it

Fourth is the 500 dollar price tag.

Fifth is Microsofts lack of caring for its customers. 

My problem with the 24 hour check in thing is that at the end of 24 hours if you do not have internet you can’t play games. Yes I know, if you live in a big city and you are reading this you are wondering “Why doesn’t have internet?” Actually quite a few people don’t, including gamers. One of my best friends was gifted a 360, but can’t afford internet. He playes borrowed and used games, and if he needs internet he goes to starbucks or an Internet cafe. I live in a town where their are basically two internet providers: Verizon and Mediacom. Verizon only offers basic DSL at less than the 1.5 Mb/s required, Mediacom has the worst customer service I have ever come across, and I know many people who complain that it is always going down, sometimes for days on end. My grandparents live 60 miles away, and the only internet service they can get is either America Online Dialup (yes, it still exists), or satellite internet. 

I personally have the uber slow Verizon .5 Mb/s internet plan because it is all that is offered here. It has gone down for more than one day at a time before, and I was still able to play my games on the 360. With the X-Box One I would be hosed. Plus, even if my internet never ever goes down, the One wouldn’t work right anyway because my connection is slow. 

What about military stationed in the sandbox or other remote areas? Huge gamers, usually shitty to no internet connection. Just cut out a huge chunk of customers. 

To me it just seems stupid not to at least play 1 player games without the internet check, or some other sort of verification system.

The Kinect Sensor is always partially on, and you can’t unplug it. Here are the bullet points that Microsoft said about Kinect:

You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear: By design, you will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded. 

- You are in control of when Kinect sensing is On, Off or Paused: If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say “Xbox Off.” When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command — “Xbox On,” and you can even turn that feature off too. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you’ll need to turn it back on for these experiences.

- You are in control of your personal data: You can play games or enjoy applications that use data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate and more, but this data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission. Here are a few examples of potential future scenarios:

– A fitness game could measure heart rate data to provide you with improved feedback on your workout, allow you to track your progress, or even measure calories burned.


– A card game could allow you to bluff your virtual opponent using your facial expressions.

You can use other inputs to control your games, TV and entertainment experiences: While it’s faster to find what you’re looking for using your voice and gesture commands with Kinect, you can use a controller, your remote controls or your smart devices instead. And you can use all of these devices when Kinect is paused.

Now is seems to me they are taking in to account some privacy concerns. However, the thing can measure my heart rate (scary), is connected to the internet if it isn’t paused, and reports back to the Microsoft mother ship. So you have an “always-on” Xbox tracking you with the Kinect “eye,” beaming info back to the aformentioned mother ship which, as we now know, is probably tapped by the government.Even if you do pause it, who is to say someone can’t hack the network and watch you through your supposed paused camera? I concede that this could just be all paranoid speculation, but we know the NSA is already watching us. 

I do know we live in a society that no longer values privacy as it used to, so this is probably not an issue to many younger gamers. 

I mentioned Microsoft’s lack of caring for its customers. Microsoft had a chance to hit the PR ball out of the park by addressing customer concerns on this stuff, many people have the same concerns that I do, or at least similar concerns. Microsoft could have better explained why they are doing things, used the chance to alleviate fears better, or even say that they are listening to customers and are considering their complaints. Instead many news articles (like this one from CNET) reported this:

“In an interview with Spike TV at the E3 show Tuesday, Xbox executive Don Mattrick responded to the complaints about the Xbox One’s demand for an Internet connection. Mattrick described the $499 Xbox One, coming in November, as “a future-proof choice,” saying that a console designed to be used online offers certain advantages, such as the ability to link games and entertainment.” 

And for those people without Internet access?

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity,” Mattrick said. “It’s called Xbox 360.”

The interviewer then chimed in, saying “So stick with 360, that’s your message…?” To which Mattrick responded, “Well, if you have zero access to the Internet, that [360] is an offline device.” Citing one unusual example, the Xbox exec said he read a blog comment from someone who serves on a nuclear sub.

“I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub,” Mattrick said. “But I’ve got to imagine that it’s not easy to get an Internet connection.”

Dude…not all of us with poor to no internet connections live in a sub. I find this response to be snarky, rude, and just plain dickish. He may not have meant it that way, and a might as well be brother of mine said he didn’t see it as rude. However, plenty of people did. Bad PR move. 

As for the price complaint…well hell, I am just cheap. 

I can see why Microsoft has gone this direction, I really can. They are in the business to make money,and they want to push boundaries. I think the cloud tech does that well. I just have issues with how they are doing things. DO I still want one? Yes. Will I get one? Probably not. I would have to either move to a city (I hate cities) with a good internet connection, or a provider would have to upgrade existing infrastructure in this area, not likely to happen. But if it did happen, and I could get great internet speed (even with my shitty wifi modem/router), and I could spare 500 of my tax return, I may just do it. If I did, I would probably unplug it or turn it off at the power strip though…………..I don’t want that Kinect eye watching me…..we already live too close to Orwell’s 1984 as it is. 

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I’m back

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Random creepy knowledge

It takes approximately 33 pounds of pressure to crush/break the trachea and approximately 11 pounds to collapse it-which is what it takes to collapse the arteries behind it.

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Unimpressed with you, WordPress

On more than one occasion I have written blogs on wordpress, hit the  “Publish Post” button, and then watched my post vanish in to the internet either….

My posts used to automatically publish to Twitter and Facebook. That magically stopped out of no where. 

I am unimpressed. 

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Addicted

Hello everyone, my name is Travis, and I am a book-a-holic.

That’s right, I am addicted to books. As I pack my books to move, I realize just how many I have. I have three large bookcases dedicated to just horror, sci fi, mystery..and any other good fiction. I have another medium sized book case that is overflowing with history and biography books. The fifth bookcase is full of Trade Paper Back comic books (TPB) and graphic novels. 

Speaking of comics and my addiction, I have 9 long boxes, two foot lockers, one short box, and thirteen, 3″ three ring binders that are full of comic books. Plus three more and one TPB sitting on my coffee table that are unread. 

Yup, I’m an addict of the written word. I am loathe to get rid of any book I have purchased and read, even the bad ones. 

I need help. :P

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Money Stress

So I was trucking along just fine after the holidays were over. Credit card was about to be payed off (and is payed off), tax return was going to be used to attend my friends Bachelor Party and help me stand up with him as a Groomsman when he gets married, I had a plan to save money and all my bills were being easily met. 

Now the furloughs are going to hit in about a month, and I will be losing 300.00 to 350.00 per paycheck. On top of this I am having to move in to a new place that is 70.00 more a month in rent, plus I now have another utility fee. Water is included in the apartment I am vacating, but it is not included in the new place, so a 60.00 deposit and a 20.00 hook up fee is needed. 

Bachelor party for me is a no go obviously, the wedding will still happen, I made a promise that I intend to keep. 

So it’s time to start shaking other bills. No more comic book collecting, no more Sirius Radio, the smart phone will turn in to an old flip phone without a data plan, and sadly….I will have to park the Challenger and walk/ride a bike to work. Eating out of course will become non existent unless someone else is paying, and I will be buying groceries as cheap as possible. I’ll  find other ways to cut back too.

Now some of you may say, well welcome to the rest of the country, we have all been hurting for a while. Indeed this is true, but government jobs on average make half as much as their private sector counterparts do, and that includes the benefits.

Plus, why do I have to hurt just because you have? Why can’t we all succeed? 

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Direct TV

Getting ready to move sucks, transferring bills to a new place, turning on utilities, etc., all a hassle that no one ever wants to go through. I started the process today by calling Direct TV Movers Department to schedule a date for someone to come to the new place after I move in and hook up my receivers.

The first person I get is a woman named Shaniqua, and she sounds like she is talking through a mouth full of marbles and bubble gum, and every other word is “awesome.” Three words in, and I am already less than impressed with her CSR skills, and her obvious lack of mastery of the English language. Shaniqua proceeds to tell me that I qualify for a movers discount, and I will only have to pay Direct TV 184.00 to have my receivers hooked up at the new place. I was floored…184 dollars for maybe 30 minutes worth of work? And that is a discount?! I asked Shaniqua what it would cost me to cancel my Direct TV service, and she informed me that it would be 240.00. I told her I would have to think about it, because the 240 isn’t that much more than the 184, and it would save me a lot of cash in the long run. 

A while later I called the Movers Department back, just to see if they could do anything for me, this time I get April. April sounds like her girlfriend used too big of a strap on the night before, and she won’t be shitting right for a week. April bitchely tells me that 184.00 is a valid fee, and I can pay it or cancel; she can not give me any kind of deal or incentive. April can kiss my ass. I hung up in a very angry fashion. 

A bit later I call customer service/sales after that and tell Janet that I have no incentive to not pay the cancellation fee because it will save me money in the long run. Janet is just as frustrated as me because she had to pay her own damn company over 200.00 when she moved. Janet calls me honey and dear, and transfers me over to Tasheka in the Retention Department.

Tasheka asks me to explain my problem with Direct TV and why I may want to cancel. I tell Tasheka that I am about to receive a 20% pay cut, I have to move because my current landlord is a dumb ass and I don’t want to live in mold, and my new place is more expensive. I’m seeing a lot of money go out the window, and at this point paying the 240.00 will save me a lot of money in the long run. I describe every conversation I have had with the Direct TV movers people up to this point also. Tasheka throws in a lot of “Mmmmhmmm” while I am telling her all this, with that last few sounding irritated as I tell her about the Movers Dept. She askes me a few questions, spends a lot of time typing, and then asks me if 20.00 sounds better than 184.00. I of course exclaim “YES!” and then ask her how she can give me a 160.00 discount. She says “Honey, I work in retention, we have powers.” I could almost hear her head bob around as she said it. 

Direct TV sucks. The option to cancel is still sitting in my head, and I may do so after my 2 year contract (only 1 more year to go) is up. I rather not give my money to such a shitty company.

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Apartment update

So after spending only a couple days looking at a few apartments I found a pretty decent condo for only 70.00 a month more than I am paying now. My current place is no where near up to code, has old carpet, single pane windows that are loose, doors that don’t quite fit right, and a and a really shitty little 1970′s “eficiency kitchen.” However, I will say it has a decent sized back yard, a lot of closet space, and I made it mine.

The new place is totally remodeled; double pane’d windows, doors that fit and seal, over sized and high efficiency A/C and heater. Tt has a regular kitchen, small…but still regular, I’m excited it has a regular stove and fridge..and a dishwasher! The bottom floor is all tile, with a nice half bath. The stairs and top floor has all new carpet. Two bedrooms, with a nice sized master bedroom and a nice master bath. It has a garage, which my current place does not. However, the garage is so small my Challenger will barely fit in it. I’m just going to use it for storage and a space to work out in (punching bag/stand, weights, etc.) Sadly the new place has a lot less closet space, and basically no back yard. However, it is still a nicer place overall and well worth the 70.00 hike in rent, even with the impending 20% pay cut. 

Best of all..NO MOLD!

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Apartment

Yesterday morning, still in a bit of a sleepy stupor, I went to put on a pair of workboots I hadn’t worn in quite a while and discovered that the laces were very very wet. I did a little investigation and found that the wall between my closet and water heater was wet. Also wet, was the carpet right underneat an old pine armour.

Long story short, a fitting on the supply line of the water heater had a slow small leak that had gone undiscovered for a long time.

My landlord fixed the leak quite promptly. He then pulled up the corner of the carpet that was affected by the leak, found the carpet and padding was soaked and moldy, a sis the wall in the closet that is behind the baseboard. He of course said everything just needs to be dryed out, and would be fine, and promptly left. Would not listen to my concerns about the mold, carpet replacement, wall fixing, etc.

Today I’m looking for a new
apartment. Nothing decent in town for what I am paying now, and not sure how I can afford a hike in rent with the 20% pay cut coming, but I don’t want to sleep in a moldy bedroom.

I’m looking at a place tomorrow :-)

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Morning

The sun was up in the clear and bright blue sky, hanging over the Eastern hills and warming the morning. What was probably the last of the sporadic cold winter storms had moved through the day before, and and a mist hung above the desert floor. It enveloped the base of the hills and stretched across the dry lake bed, giving everything a dreamy quality, almost like something you would see in a movie or read in a book.

He looked at the road out of town. Normally it seemed like it stretched endlessly across the empty desert, but now it disappeared in to the haze. He looked back at his car, his only possession. and new it was just a matter of time. 

Okay dear reader, I’m not sure where this came from, but it came. It popped in my head this morning as I was driving home from my girlfriends and saw the mist that was caused from yesterdays rain evaporating. I kinda like it, seems to be the opening of a story. Maybe more will come later. 

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