Return of the Kid

Sometimes, I think I've never really grown up. Sure, there are plenty of times that I feel like an adult, like
when I'm in meetings or enjoying time with my family. But there are other times that I feel like I never got past
age 10. Today was one of those days. Nintendo has a new console coming out called the Wii which has a revolutionary
new controller. Rather than load up the controller with more buttons than you have finger, the controller looks
like a television remote with a couple of buttons on the face and a trigger on the bottom. The innovation in the
controller is that the game console knows where the controller is in the room, and it knows how the controller is
oriented. So if you run from the right side of the room to the left, the console knows. If you tilt the controller
up or down, or right to left, the console knows. It presents a new and exciting way to interact with games. For
instance, in a baseball game you can swing the remote like a bat, or "throw" (don't let go) the remote like the ball.
For golfing you could simply take a swing, or swing your arm for bowling. In fact, these are games that come with
the console.

I'm really excited about this new system. I'm excited about enjoying games in a new way. I mean, I love video
games already, but something that allows me an entirely new way to enjoy my hobby really piques my interest. Not only
that, but Nintendo has come to the press with the message that the Wii isn't meant for the "hardcore" gaming set.
No, instead they are looking to introduce video gaming to the masses. They are interested in the casual gamers:
the folks that play a couple of games of solitaire or mine sweeper each day, the folks that enjoy crosswords and
word searches. Certainly there will be blockbuster games for this system like any other, but you are also going
to find an entirely new set of games that are aimed at folks you wouldn't typically consider gamers. If this works,
there is a chance that I might be able to truly enjoy playing video games with Jennifer!! This is so exciting.
Jenn really doesn't care for video games. Firstly, she is totally correct in her position that most video games are
just too complicated. One of my favorite games is the SSX series of snowboarding games. These games require such
a strange contortion of the hands to master that it can be vexxing for a new player to pickup and try to do well.
Not only are the controls hard to understand, but most games are aimed at the gamer who has hours and hours to
invest in exploring and playing. Someone who only wants to play for 30 minutes or less isn't going to be interested
in the kind of time investment. Games for the Nintendo Wii are going to break that mold. These games will allow
for casual gamers to pick them up, enjoy them for a short period of time, and put them back down again. No
long-term committment necessary.

So the reason I'm going on and on about this is that today EB Games / Gamestop offered pre-orders for the Wii
system. The Wii is scheduled to release on Nov. 19th, and today is the first day that you can pre-order a system
in the U.S. Yesterday I saw an article in one of my favorite gaming news blogs that mentioned the pre-order, and
it was quite clear that pre-orders would be in limited supply. Games stores were seriously burned when they took
more pre-orders for the XBox 360 than they could supply before Christmas '05, so they cut way back on the number
of pre-orders they would take for the new PS3 and Wii systems. On Wednesday customers were able to pre-order
the PS3, and folks were camping out all night just to get a pre-order slot. In many cases, only a couple of units
were available for pre-order. I made up my mind that I would drive by my local EB Games on my way to work to see
if there was a line to pre-order the Wii. I really want one, and I don't want to wait until next year to play one.
Yeah, I'm a spoiled, greedy kid that way.

I drove through the parking lot of the EB at 8:15am, and saw that several people were already in line. Yesterday
I called ahead and was told that they would have much fewer than 30 units for pre-order. I also cleared it with
my boss that I might be in late for standing in line. He kind of chuckled, but said it would be okay. So I hopped
out of the car, donned by jacket and gloves, and got in line. I was #11 at the time. The folks in the first few
slots looked worn and ragged from too much time out in the cold. The store opened at 10am, so I figured I'd be out
here for at most a couple hours. I learned later that the first folks in line had arrived at 5am, and were looking
to take their pre-ordered system and sell it on eBay at a significant markup.

The people around me were in pretty
much the same state in life: 20 and 30 somethings with technical careers and a penchant for gaming. Some folks
were reading books, others were playing games on their cell phones. It looked like three people were engaged in a
heated multiplayer game on their Nintendo DS. About every ten minutes a couple more folks would assemble. These
folks were high schoolers on Fall Break who had driven from Anderson. Apparently the Anderson store wasn't committing
to doing their pre-order sale today, so they drove down here to a store that definitely was. Next was a customer
I mentally named "Loud Guy". He was a clerk at the Blockbuster next door, and had this overpowering loud voice and
laugh. Apparently this guy missed his dose of brains, because he started some of the most moronic conversations I had
heard, at one point getting into a debate over whether monkeys had thumbs or not. At the conclusion of the debate,
he was quite sure that he would be willing to trade his own thumbs for a pet monkey. This started a conversation about
what other folks might trade their thumbs for.... which revolved around all of the things that teenage guys would
consider worth their thumbs. I was a little surprised to hear one say he would like to be involved in a bank heist.

As nine o'clock rolled around, about 20 people were in line. At the tail of the line were a couple of moms who
were looking to get a system for their kids. The store manager had arrived and was going through the opening
checklist, which got everyone excited for a while. The guy from Anderson had a buddy with him. His buddy wasn't
getting a system, but was there to drive since his friend couldn't. He was gracious enough to purchase some of the
folks in line coffee. I had already talked with Jenn, and she was going to drop by with some hot mocha and a camera
to capture the hilarity of it all. Apparently I wasn't the only one with a caring significant other, as around 9:30
some other ladies joined the line with coffee and breakfast. One brought some Egg McMuffins.... man they smelled

The EB Games store is in a strip mall along with a QDoba, a nail and hair salon, a "I sold it on eBay" store,
and a Hallmark shop. We got quite the looks from folks coming in to either open their stores or go shopping. They
must have thought there was a nerd mob forming for some bizarre ritual. In truth, I guess we were.

At 20 minutes to ten, the store manager came out and handed everyone in line a sheet of paper. The sheet had the
list of games that were available for pre-order, their release date, and price. It also had a number, which was
your number in line. He had 18 sheets of paper, and this is when the folks after #18 learned their unfortunate
fate. I think about 5 people had to leave. The manager went back inside to open the store while the crowd let
the excitement build. Some optimistic folks were just arriving to get in line, and it took a bit of courage for
the folks at the end to give them the bad news.

At precisely ten the doors opened and everyone filed inside. As the first folks were going through their paperwork
I noticed a DS download poster, and downloaded the demo of the new Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. It's a
Lemmings type game, and filled the time to place my order. I put in an order for the Wii console, two extra remotes,
and the new Zelda game. I left at 10:30am and headed back to work. Now I get to wait like a little boy for the
next month to pass so I can play with my new toy!!!

The Silver Lining

The upside of being without my satellite radio is that, now I can wistfully peruse new music gadgets. Apple just
release a new set of iPods, and XM makes some interesting equipment for their satellite radio service. If you are
looking at getting a portable music device, here is how I see the cost comparisons:

Music ServiceEquipmentMonthly Subscription Cost
XM Radio$200$12.95

As you can see, it's going to be about the same cost either way you go. My equipment cost was based on a
docking receiver with a home and car kit. Both companies offer very similar equipment. Sure, cheaper equipment
is available, but for what I'm looking for, I would expect to pay no less than $200.

Now that covers a satellite radio subscription, but what about the MP3 player route. Our local Fry's currently
has a deal on the old model iPod Nano 4GB model for $150. That's enough to store 1,000 songs, which is probably
the limit of my current CD collection. Apple isn't the only company to make MP3 players either. Creative, Rio,
HP, RCA.... they all have competitive products, and usually at lower prices. Of course, the equipment is only half
the battle here. You would then need to purchase your own music (ostensibly through the iTuned music store, or
some other music server... you don't pirate your music do you?). The one thing I really like about my satellite
radio service is that I didn't have to think about the playlist. There were a couple of streams that played music
styles that I new I liked, and about every other week they updated their set with the latest in that genre. I heard
some music that I loved that I probably wouldn't know about if I had to find it on my own. So let's try to make it
a true apples to apples (no pun intended) comparison of satellite radio to a MP3 player. Let's say you choose the
new 4GB iPod Nano, or some comparable MP3 player. That's $200 for your equipment. Now let's load it with music.
To do that, let's say that each month you purchase 10-15 songs to freshen up your playlist. At 99 cents a song,
that's $10-15 per month. That's really close to a $12.95 / month average.

What you can't put a price tag on is
putting together the playlist for yourself. Some would view the chance to decide which songs to play and when as
a major advantage of an MP3 player. Others see it as a drawback, and like the ID of a professional DJ introducing
them to new music in the genres they already like. I think I belong in the latter. I'm not into the music scene
enough to know what's new, nor do I really care which order my songs are in, just so long as it is in the style
I like. For me, I think the satellite radio route is probably the better fit.

The Day the Music Died

Oh I'm in pain. My poor Sirius Satellite Radio finally bit the dust. It lived a good life. For the past three
years it has been my constant buddy. My Audiovox SIRPNP2 plug & play unit travelled with me from my car to my desk
at work and back again, dutifully providing me with tunes to help the day / drive go by. Unfortunately, three years
of constant (and I mean CONSTANT) use finally caught up with it. I got in my car the other morning to come to
work, and as is my habit, snapped the radio into my car dock. It glowed the friendly orange Sirius Dog icon back at
me as I backed out of the driveway and hit the road. When I got to the main street, I felt that it was strangely
quiet in my car. I glanced at the radio and noticed it was still on that same screen. Usually, the dog icon is up
for a second as the radio boot, and a moment later the music kicks in along with the display of the title, artist,
and stream information. This time it just stayed on the icon. Hmmmm.... I powered down the unit and powered again.
Same thing. I hit the menu button and found it displayed the settings menu, but nothing seemed to be wrong there.
That's when I hit the Sirius ID menu which displays the unit's unique ID (and acts as my account). Rather than
displaying my ESN, it was blank! My device had amnesia of the worst kind. Without the ID, it couldn't decode
the music stream, which meant my little beat box was done.

The warranty had long since expired, so when I got to work I decided to pry it open and see if I could get
some more life out of it. Maybe a cable was loose, or a solder joint had broken. I couldn't find anything wrong
though, so I pieced it back together and docked it. Woohoo, after power on it started playing again. I must have
bumped something back into the right position. That afternoon I brought some lunch home to the family. Unfortunately,
the radio didn't survive the trip from my desk to the car this time. Upon docking it in my car, the same behavior
as I had seen that morning. Still, I held out hope. Perhaps it was just an issue with the dock. When I got back to
work I was disappointed that even in the home docking kit, the unit was still taking a dirt nap. I tried the
open heart surgery approach again, but it failed this time. :-(

I took a look at the current Sirius equipment available that can go from car to home. Unfortunately, none of the
newer equipment can use my same docking stations. That means that if I want to replace my radio, I have to replace
the two docks as well. Usually a radio will come with a car kit, but the home kit is extra. If I wanted to replace
my unit with the modern equivalent, it would be $150 for the car kit and radio, plus another $50 for the home kit.
That's $200 we don't have right now. We just got hit with a shocker from our medical insurance (we've exhausted our
wellness benefit for the year, which is what covers our innoculations for Samantha) and we want to have a nice
Christmas, so we're pinching pennies as is. Not that we're hurting, we're just trying to keep expenses to a minimum,
and this is a fairly big unplanned expense. There's a new Sirius radio out called the Stilletto 100 which acts as
both an MP3 player and a Sirius Tuner. It's being called wearable, as it's about the size of an iPod with the
antenna built right in. That would be an awesome upgrade, but the cost is frightening: $350. Maybe it will go
on my Christmas list.

So I was left with a tough decision. Eat the expense to replace my radio, or cancel my account. I decided to
cancel my account. It wasn't an easy decision either, as I LOVE my Sirius radio. I called the customer service line
and let them know what was going on. They offered to give me a different radio for free. There is a "Sirius ONE"
radio which is a car only unit. It's pretty vanilla, offering a single line of text, and it is meant for the car
only. If I get a new radio, I want one that goes from the car to my desk. Even if the new one is free (which is
a really great offer) it didn't really pique my interest. The free tuner offer still stands for the next 30 days,
so I might change my mind, but as of today I am no longer a Sirius subscriber.

Jade Mason