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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Commentary

Initial Thoughts on the iPad

by Ken Newquist / April 27, 2010

I've had some time to play around with my friends' Apple iPads since it was released. My initial impression? It's gorgeous ... but limited. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend on what you want it for.

Apple built the iPad as a consumption device, and it excels at that role. While some dismiss the iPad as little more than an oversized iPad touch, this misses its primary appeal: it's huge, glossy screen. Yes, I can look at PDFs and comic books on an iPod touch, but what I see is a tiny fraction of what appears on the iPad. On a tablet, comic books loaded using the Marvel app display full-screen and are easily readable. You can zoom in if you like, but it's not essential.

The same goes for PDFs -- while there are several different ways to get PDFs onto your iPad, once they're loaded they're far easier to read than on a phone or a smaller device, like the Kindle or Nook. It surprises me that the iPad doesn’t do this natively – PDF support has always been strong in OS X – but perhaps the Adobe Flash spat is carrying over to this as well.

Web sites look great ... unless they're dependent on Flash, but honestly I dislike Flash sites and I already knew it would do that. My favorite sites tend to be blogs and text-heavy sites, and all displayed beautifully on the iPad. I see it as a great platform for casual reading with one caveat: weight.

Why I want an Apple iPad

by Ken Newquist / January 27, 2010

I want an iPad. It’s not because I’m a raving Apple fan boy or obsessed with the latest gadget – it’s because it fits the way I want to use technology, and addresses frustrations I’ve had with contemporary form factors. There are three specific products that I want to use with a tablet:

6 Things Heroes Must Do to Save Itself

by Ken Newquist / September 23, 2009

Forget the cheerleader; Heroes needs to save itself. Defying all logic, the television series about everyday people with superpowers has succeeded in getting second chance after second chance, winning back audiences with each new season only to lose them again by season's end. Here's what Heroes needs to do to save itself.

The Secret of Game Night for Kids

by Ken Newquist / March 19, 2009

My six-year-old daughter is a gamer. She's had a Nintendo DS in her hands since she was three, and she's been playing the Xbox 360 with me almost as long. She loves video games, and would play them every night (and every day) if she could, but we knew early on we'd need to set limits.

Since Stargirl was about four and a half, we've had Game Night twice a week. Game Night is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and lasts for one hour. She can play any game she wants -- on the Xbox 360, on the DS, on my Mac, or even a good ol'board game (which she has occasionally chosen) -- but she's only got an hour.

Over the summer, we added a new wrinkle to Game Night: we take away minutes for bad behavior. Whining? Refusing to clean up your room? Yelling at your brother? Not putting your dirty laundry in the hamper? All these will cost her minutes on Game Night. She can earn these minutes back through good behavior.

Game Night's worked out well. For one thing, it's established clear limits on her gaming. She gets to play for two hours a week. She might get bonus game time on a Saturday night if the family decides to play the Wii, but that's it. Game Night's also gotten rid of the "when can I play my game?" whining that we had when she was four, and Game Night hadn't been established yet. And it's also helped with discipline.

The GM Has Had It

by Ken Newquist / October 26, 2008

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This is brilliant. And yes, I have occasionally felt this way. I have no idea who came up with this poster (and unfortunately can't remember the blog where I first saw it) but I think it's a sentiment that just about every GM has felt at one point or another, especially when a particularly bad intra-party fight breaks out.

Tim O'Reilly on Science Fiction

by Ken Newquist / October 5, 2008

In this old article (as in 1998) Tim O'Reilly provides a rundown of his favorite science fiction novels, including Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Snowcrash, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Stars are Ours.

He prefaces this list by discussing the book The Meaning of Culture by John Cowper Powys and draws the conclusion "a truly cultured person appreciates what has really shaped his world view, and uses literature and the arts as a tool to get more out of life." He then provides the list as examples of science fiction literature that shaped his world view.

What's missing from this article is the critical other half that explains how these books informed his world view. It's all well and good to say that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but how did a novel about libertarian lunar revolution inform his world view? Was it an appreciation for the merits of a free market economy? The insidious effectiveness of revolutionary cells working in isolation from one another? Group marriages? We don't know because he doesn't say.

Rolling Stone: Ethanol Scam

by Ken Newquist / August 3, 2007

I'm glad to see that some of the more mainstream publications are coming to the realization that ethanol is a boondoggle that's going to end up costing us billions, both at the gas pump and at the dinner table, without making a significant impact on global warming emissions. The latest of these articles is by Jeff Goodell at Rolling Stone , and here's the point that I think everyone needs to understand:

Reason: Bucks for Brains

by Ken Newquist / July 24, 2007

Reason has posted a good article discussing the merits of New York City Department of Education Ronald G. Fryer's plan to give kids monetary bonuses for both taking and scoring well on academic tests. Some have praised the plan as providing much needed incentives to poor students; others slam it as corrupting the noble nature of learning for the sake of learning.

I'll leave aside the debate over the merits of the program; what bothers me is that we don't do enough to foster this kind of creativity, and that the knee-jerk reaction isn't "let's see what happens!" but rather "this is wrong, let's kill it!".

Do Shadowrun Review Numbers Lie?

by Ken Newquist / June 29, 2007

Gamers with Jobs reports on Shadowrun developer Mitch Gitelman's disappointment with the 7.0 reviews that his game has been getting. He laments that reviewers are being too harsh, have unreal expectations, and don't appreciate the game for being innovative. Having reviewed the game for SCI-FI (and giving it a C+) I figured I'd offer my two cents on this.

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