Battlebots

Went to see Battlebots live at Treasure Island (halfway between Oakland and San Francisco, at the nexus of the Bay Bridge – a former naval station) with . This was just the prelims, so they didn’t use the hammers or saws or pistons coming out of the floor, which deadened the excitement level a bit. Only about half an hour of really exciting stuff out of a five hour event. Amazing how fragile a lot of the bots are – non-starters, quick-quitters, radio control problems, wheels out of alignment… but the strong survive.

It didn’t get really good until the end, when the best of the heavyweights competed. Then we really started to see shit fly. The best offense is heavy stuff that spins fast, like hammers on armatures or chains. The best defense is still the wedge. But plain wedge designs are such cop-outs – just a “try to survive” strategy, which works as far as far as it goes, but isn’t really in the spirit of the game.

How many years before we’re watching human-piloted bots, or cyborgs doing battle? How long before we’re taking our kids to android soccer matches?

Ate too much kettle corn. I have no self control where popcorn is concerned.

Feet to the Fire

Something that’s coming out of my discussion with Aunt Geri, regarding me being so critical of our country.

As a technology journalist, one of my most important jobs is not to let companies get away with crap. When a company releases a product with bugs, I make it known in the press. When they have unfair licensing agreements, I let the world know about it. That is the value of the media. That’s what Consumer Reports is based on. Keeping people informed about their options, about who is being fair and who isn’t.

I think that being critical of one’s government (no matter what country you’re in) is not just a right, but an *obligation* of the citizenry. If people accept what their governments and media machines spoon-feed them, they’re sunk. Without being critical, the greedy and power-hungry will get away with murder. I applaud anyone who is critical of corporations and critical of their governemt. In fact, I’m *proud* (yes, there’s something I’m proud of ;) to be critical of my government. I feel that it is my civic duty.

Hold the bastards’ feet to the fire!

The Failure of Tech Journalism

Thanks to for pointing out this excellent piece: The Failure of Tech Journalism. It addressess so much of what I have come to see as bogus about the field in which I’ve placed myself, but doesn’t mention the one thing that’s bothered me the most over the years: The fact that tech pubs disavow any responsibility for their hand in the manufacturing of reality. Not to harp on the BeOS thing, but using that as an example… if you ask any tech pub why they didn’t do more BeOS coverage, they would answer “We report on what’s popular and in use.” But they will not acknowledge that what’s popular and in use is partially so because of the role tech pubs play in making that thing or product popular to begin with.

It’s the same with the non-tech news as well of course. People think about and talk about what’s in the headlines. Is yet another little girl stuck in a well, or this week’s homerun hero, really as important as the Chinese occupation of Tibet? Nobody would say that it is. But surprisingly few Americans even know what goes on in Tibet because we’re too obsessed with Gary Condit et al. And we’re obsessed with Condit because that’s the diet we’re currently being fed.

Not being able to cover the things that I felt were most interesting, not just most popular, is the factor that drove me away from ZD to begin with. I think this whole phenomenon is central – that media does as much to create the popular mindset as it does to reflect it. But the tech media almost never acknowledges this role.

Note from Future – Pruning

In January 2006, I went back and did some massive pruning, and unpublished a ton of old entries on this site, removing content that was not of general interest. So if you see massive gaps in this old content, that’s why.