Hey All You Procrastinators!

It’s that time of year again—the leaves of non-native maples have fallen, high winds of disturbing warmth are flying, and the inspiration (and for some, the duty) to give gifts to our loved ones begins to overwhelm us. After all, isn’t Christmas, like, tomorrow or something? If you’re anything like me, thinking up presents for the younger generation is one of the harder tasks of this special time. Don’t get me wrong–obviously there are many, many (too many!) options to choose from. What’s tough are the myriad considerations you’ve got to take into account: is it useful? Is it fun? What is its physical volume-to-average rate of attention engagement ratio, and is it sufficiently inappreciable to merit serious consideration?

But perhaps more importantly—is it something they want? Is it something that reflects my character and values (so I won’t feel guilty about giving it to them)? Am I becoming the sort of aunt from whom you really don’t want to receive presents?

“Thank goodness for the government in times like this!” I always say. Because in this, my time of need, the federal frickin’ government has stepped in to save the day. And as a bonus I won’t even have to spend a penny.

The DOE has gotten a whole gang of miscellaneous state and federal energy groups, the Ad Council, and a host of corporate sponsors partners to come together in the name of necessary virtue in order to spread the gospel of energy conservation to the next generation of American consumers. “Sounds remarkably…boring,” I can imagine you thinking right now. “How can they possibly be effective?” Why, if there’s one thing this administration knows, it’s how to make the medicine go down. And for this season’s gift-giving-made-easy, it comes in the form of the cleverly packaged guise of a specially-designed, mega-fun, completely free online video game: Energy Hog!

An Undelible Classic
Zork: An Indelible Classic

Energy Hog starts off as all good video games do: by completely immersing the player in a new, fantastical world. It takes the tried and true mechanism for entering a new environment via a crack in the window from the illustrious video game forefather Zork and *turns it on its head*. Instead of entering a building unawares through a crack, your video game persona tries to *prevent* the villainous, stupendously mohawked Energy Hog from using the crack to waste precious energy.

But let’s get to the good stuff; what kind of weapons are we talking about, here? Hold your horses—Energy Hog will *not* disappoint. But first, let’s have a look at what’s come before.

The Pixel Shooter of
Space Invaders (1978)

A classic—influencing ballistics from Centipede to Gauntlet to The Legend of Zelda.

The Vector Gun of
Asteroids (1979)

An innovation in slightly more versatile missile-projection.

The Fireballs of
Super Mario Bros (1985)

Ricocheting projectiles with Bowser’s name written all over them.

The Crowbar of
Half-Life (1998)

After an onslaught of FPS guns, a refreshing return to low-tech weaponry.

The Redeemer of
Unreal Tournament 2004

A return to ridiculous weaponry.

Energy Hog adds new technology to this arsenal of storied video game weapons. Behold:

The Caulk Gun
of Energy Hog (2005)

Don't be on the receiving end of this baby!
You don’t want to be on the receiving end of this baby!

As the press release states:

At [energyhog.org], where the game is available, a player, whether young or old, has to work fast to electronically caulk a window to keep the Energy Hog out.

But that’s not the extent of it. There are five different nefarious Hogs who are trying to waste your energy, doing everything from using non-Energy Star-certified appliances to refusing to substitute compact fluorescents for standard incandescents (dastardly, dastardly Hogs!). These bad boys are aching to be taken down, and the little budding conservationist of your acquaintance is just the one to do it.

In the spirit of general conservation, consider making your own gift certificates (complete with Energy Hog URL) for the kiddies this year and bask in the fervent esteem with which they repay you. Because it’s only a matter of time before Energy Hog is installed in the Pantheon of Greatest Video Games of All Time, and the lucky scamps who know you will cherish the opportunity you gave ’em to be ahead of the game.

Net-Tune: Detarded

I’ve been using Net-Tune on my Onkyo receiver for some time now. Net-Tune is a conceptually rad deal that lets you stream all of your haX0red MP3s from your PC to your stereo using a normal ethernet connection (which, if you’re cool like me, is likely wireless), which is rad because I hate having to lug all my 8-tracks from one room to the other every time I want to listen to Journey.

Net-Tune actually works pretty well once everything is set up correctly (a tip for people having trouble setting up Net-Tune initially: the secret is to disable your firewall and indiscriminately restart your computer and your stereo 27 times each. Congratulations: your Net-Tune is now working). You basically tell the PC software to find all your MP3s, and then they will automagickally be available in your stereo, for browsing by Artist or Album or what have you. It’s super sexy.

The main failing of Net-Tune is that the PC software is completely insane. Typically you can pretty much ignore this since it just kind of runs in the background and you will typically interact with the system only from the stereo side. However, of late I have wanted to explore the tantalizing world of creating a playlist of all my songs (so that I don’t have to listen to a specific artist or album if I don’t want to), which should be entirely straightforward (in Winamp, this same operation takes about 2 seconds). Unfortunately, Net-Tune requires you to use their insane editor to drag individual tracks to build your playlist, and regularly crashes if you try to drag more than six at a time. Making matters worse, Net-Tune stores its playlists as tantalizingly normal .m3u files in its Net-Tune directory, but if you try to manually update the .m3u files outside of Net-Tune (using, for instance, a sane program like Winamp), Net-Tune will go out of its way to change the file back to its previous retarded state. GARRRRRRRRRRRR!!

The trick that I finally figured out for making this work is that every single process used by Net-Tune must be murdelated before you can successfully start fiddling with the .m3u files. Thus, here’s a step by step guide for creating a Net-Tune playlist outside of the Net-Tune application.

  1. Create a new playlist using the NetCentral library manager. Give the playlist a descriptive name in the library manager, like “Road Mixx” or some such. This is what will appear on your stereo screen when you’re browsing for junk to listen to. Make sure that the new name has been accepted by Net-Tune (ie. that textbox thing that you type the name into has gone away.
  2. Go to the Windows Task Manager. With extreme prejudice, kill all of the following processes: NCentral.exe, NTSPservMng.exe, WinLibMgrTsvV.exe and WinNTSPDV.exe.
  3. Now you can go into Winamp and create a new playlist. What I do is just have Winamp recursively add everything in my base MP3 directory to the playlist.
  4. Go into your Net-Tune path, which is probably C:\Program Files\ONKYO\Net-Tune Central or something similar, and find the .m3u file you created using Net-Central. Net-Tune applies its own nutty naming scheme to the .m3u files, so you may have to cross-reference the name of the .m3u file with the name you gave the playlist (“Road Mixx”) in the m3ulist.tsv file in the same directory.
  5. Once you know which playlist you’re dealing with, go ahead and save Winamp’s playlist over the appropriate Net-Tune .m3u file
  6. Start NetCentral again by double clicking the NCentral.exe file. Ignore the popup that asks if you want to build your database or something.
  7. Double check that the playlist you just messed with in NetCentral contains your new tracks. If so you’re set. If not, then something probably didn’t quit completely or something when you killed Net-Tune.
  8. Finally, go to your stereo and indiscriminately start and stop it a couple of times. This should load up your new playlist.
  9. Enjoy.

My playlist contains over 3000 songs now, but I plan in to go in sometime and winnow out the silly ones. I don’t really have the energy now, though since I’ve been fighting my stereo for the past 2 hours. Egad.

And, BTW…

I don’t know if the streets in Rome are so very different than those in the Belgian countryside, or if the nuns have a particular *technique*, or if they have special Pope-sanctioned, Sinless Euphoria WonderBikes with patented Vibrorama Adjust-a-Shocks® (“Just the Right Bounce!”™), or what, but in my very recent experience,

cobblestones + bicycle == yowch!

I mean, it’s charming and all, but painful. Yow.