Monday, November 27, 2006

wii review

So Beckley asked me if I actually liked the Wii or not - and though I think the issue has been covered a little, I thought I might mention my feelings about the issue. It rocks. It's a nice little box - very attractive - it loads quickly, launches games quickly, and the controllers are very innovative and fun. My wife and I tired our shoulders out playing Wii Sports (tennis), and enjoyed a few holes of golf as well (I made par!). Zelda is a great game - not so controller-oriented, but very fun, and when it does use the controller, it's pretty cool. For instance - shooting with projectile weapons is controlled with the pointer. Attacks are done by shaking the controller. But most of all, it's a standard Zelda game with puzzles and stuff. Pretty cool. The graphics aren't spectacular, but if you don't have an HD TV, I don't think it's that big of a deal. if you do, well, I dunno. The XBox360 has nice HD graphics, and so does the PS3. But they're pricey. Nintendo's whole deal is that it's all about the gameplay. At this point, I agree. Edit: It also has this virtual console thing that lets you play a whole bunch of 'classic' nintendo (and other) games. It can do N-64 games (Mario 64 for example), so I'm waiting for Goldeneye to become available (I hope it will, it's a classic).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Red Steel (Wii)

So I waited in line at Toys R Us, and was right behind the cut-off to get a Wii. So the next day I went to the Nintendo Store and waited in line for about an hour and a half - only to find out my good friend Mike was able to snag me one - because he got in line with his wife Beth, and so he got me a system. Whew! The game I personally was most excited about was Red Steel. And it seems to really have gotten savaged in reviews. Quite frankly, it's not that bad. It's a fun, average shooter, with some interesting little bits built in around the controller. Reloading is a shake of the nunchuk to the left, and you can toss grenades by holding the down button and either rolling them (nunchuk up motion) or tossing them (nunchuk down motion). The little swordfights can be pretty fun, too - block by shaking the nunchuk left or right, dodge by holding a button and moving the joystick, some special moves you learn along the way. As you make your way through the game, you learn cool little features about how the gunplay works with a 'focus' system, and there's probably more stuff like that - I'm maybe a half to 3/4 of the way through. The controls aren't perfect, but I think I like them better than the standard dual-analog-stick controls. You wave the Wii remote around on the screen to point at stuff. You can aim by holding the A button and sliding the remote forward and back to zoom in and out. The left thumbstick on the nunchuk strafes left and right and walks forward and backwards. The only thing I feel could be better is the rotate left and rotate right controls - you do it by moving the remote left and right till the aim-point is off screen. Then the screen rotates until you move the remote back to point on screen. It's not terrible - it's just too Boolean for my tastes. I would think you would want something where if you get near the edge it rotates a little, and if you go way past the edge it rotates a lot. So you can do some pretty decent pinpoint shooting with this setup, if all the baddies are on the same screen. If they aren't, you may scroll past them, or if you're in the middle of a hairy firefight, you might have a little trouble. Other than the single-speed of rotation issue, the other slight nuisance is that when you are watching a cutscene or waiting for a load, so you put down the Wii remote, and then the screen starts scrolling around randomly and you don't know which way you're facing. Bothersome. But avoidable, if you just make sure to rest your hand with the pointer pointing on the screen. Unless the beam from the remote hits the coffee table or your beer or something. Then the pointer goes weird. So, graphics? Eh. Nothing to write home about. Not so attrocious as to be really unpleasant, but not working up the best of the system. The menuing system is really really stupid - requiring you to drag, with the pointer, items onto boxes. What a silly waste. The story - is okay. You're some dude who's dating some Japanese chick and she gets kidnapped and you go run around and shoot people and sword them. No giant twists or turns come up in the story, but it's fine. But all in all, I don't think the reviews I've read are fair. Perhaps everyone built it up in their heads as much as I did, and were let down. I was, but I can read between the differences of what I had hoped for, and what's actually there to say it's not a bad game.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Considered Harmful", Spam, and SPF

So lately we're getting tons of spam. Any sense of the word 'we' you can come up with, we are getting it. The stuff that seems to keep making it through everything tends to be image spam (can't do bayesian stuff to it, no text) for stock scams (no need to put a URL in the content of the email, which we would catch and block). So at first I was considering running OCR on all email that came in and had images on it - but that's really scary. It would mean having the computer figure out that there's text in every image and scanning it out and then running SpamAssassin or whatever on that image. There seems to be one plugin for this and it seems crappy - it has to filter your image through an image converter, then into an ocr package, then the text that comes out gets checked against a static list. Lame. I would prefer the text be fed into SpamAssassin or something, so we get a little more flexibility out of the setup. But even then - you just start making swirlyer text, more obfuscated, and your OCR plug-in won't be able to read it. But I decided to look into some other options - and one I decided to implement is called SPF. Sender Policy Framework, it's been extended by Microsoft into some sender-ID proposal. You check DNS to see if someone who's sending you mail is listed in a TXT record to be 'authorized' to send mail for that domain. If they aren't, you can bounce it. Now, ultimately, the spam problem is a legal problem, that is impossible to enforce because of all the forging that goes on. Pump-and-dump stock schemes are an FTC issue, for example. But we can't tell who's spamming us because they're sending through zombie networks with forged 'from' addresses. If we knew who they were, we could refer the FTC to them, and they could attack them from that direction. SPF _may_ end up helping with that kind of thing. Maybe. But today I had to wade through a ton of articles begging me not to implement SPF because of the horror and tragedy that would ensue. Oh no! But, as before, "X Considered Harmful" is just another way to cause a knee-jerk reaction. If some domain out there in the world chooses to publish SPF records for their domain, and you choose to obey those SPF records, it's not a big deal. If you don't like SPF records, don't publish any, or publish a "+all" record if you want to be a dick about it. Why go on a tirade? If some guy publishes a record and fucks up his email, isn't that his problem, not yours? Now, that being said, there are problems with this SPF thing, among which are handling for forwarders. But the bulk of the technical disagreements here don't seem valid. In the modern era, there are no open relays anymore. If you relay mail, you relay it for someone. Whoever 'someone' is, if they want, they can publish an SPF record that says so. If you're trying to do some tricky thing with moving around and sending mail from dynamic addresses, you're likely getting marked as spam anyway because of your address dynamicness. But forwarders seems to be a legit problem. Domain A sends mail to Domain B. foo@b.com forwards to bar@c.com. So now we have the mail server at b.com sending mail from somebody at a.com to c.com. Wait, that's not a problem, is it? No, it is - imagine c.com checks the SPF record - mail is coming from Domain A, so it will be checking A's SPF record. A's SPF record says that A will only send mail from A's server. So that's the infamous Forward problem. Eh, not good. But still, it's A's problem, not my problem (being Mr. C). Shit. Basically, the actions of the recipient on server B will affect whether or not his email will forward properly. He goes into his account settings, says 'forward to server C', and mysteriously finds that some messages (from servers other than A, who don't use SPF) get through, whereas others (from servers like A, who _do_ use SPF with some kind of restrictive setting), will get mysteriously bounced or marked as spam. Well...I dunno. The user at C who changed his forward on server B is going to find his mail kinda does get delivered, kinda doesn't. Depends on who it comes from. And that's because I (owner of server C) turned on SPF checks. It is only in the case of a 'forward', and it can be fixed by mangling the envelope sender so it appears to be from the B server's domain...but...ugh. In any case, it's a setting on A's server that seems to cause the problem. If the user on C isn't getting mail from A that's going through his forward at B, well, don't do the forward, or use a new-style forwarder thingee. Shit, maybe I do have to do some kind of OCR thing after all. Ugh. I hate this crap. And after I _manually_ went and applied patches onto qmail. I need a new mailserver, too.