World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Is Out on November 13th

"World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack"

Blizzard has announced that the new expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, will be released on November 13th, 2008.

The new expansion allows players to increase their level to level 80, including new abilities, talents and skills. Players can also create a new class of character, the “Death Knight”, which starts at level 55 and is a tanking class with magical abilities. The expansion also includes new PvP options including siege engines. It also introduces a new “achievements” system, where you get points for achieving certain milestones, like exploring areas or being the first to reach a level on your server.

There are two versions of the new expansion. The normal version is just that. The “collector’s edition” includes a 208 page book, a key to unlock a special baby frost wyrm pet, a DVD with developer interviews, the official soundtrack CD, a mousepad and two starter decks of cards including two cards only available in the collector’s edition. Both versions work on Windows and Macintosh.

You can order the "World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack" for $3 under the normal price, or "World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Collector’s Edition" for full price, with a limit of one per household. Both have free shipping and a price guarantee – you’ll get the best price that Amazon offers the product at between the time you place the order and the time it ships.

Wrath of the Lich King requires that you already have a copy of the original "World of Warcraft" and the first expansion, "World Of Warcraft Expansion: Burning Crusade". If you need both, you can save $10 by getting the "World of Warcraft Battlechest" which has both.

I know where my productivity is going on November 13th.

David Foster Wallace Has Left the Building

I was imagining that my next post here would be about the new iPods Apple announced this week, or some software-related thing.

I hadn’t imagined I’d be writing a reminiscence of David Foster Wallace, who apparently hanged himself on September 12th.

I remember around the time that "Infinite Jest" came out, several of my friends were talking about it. ceciliatan was enraptured by it, read it cover to cover and then wrapped around and read it again. I wasn’t as caught up in it; in fact, the first time I tried to read it I got caught in the chapter where someone was looping seriously on smoking pot and masturbation, and I gave up on it.

I went on to read "The Broom of the System", though, and loved it. “Roughage” will always have a special meaning for me. And I read of his love for David Lynch, and tried “Infinite Jest” again and this time was thoroughly caught up in The Entertainment.

I had a wonderful moment while reading “Infinite Jest” where I was driving in Boston near Allston and realized I was in the area near the fictional Enfield Tennis Academy that figured in the book. I felt certain that if I just made the next left-hand turn I’d find Enfield and the school. Thankfully, in Boston you’re often unable to make the left-hand turn you want to make, and I was spared veering off into fiction.

He was able to take what would have been slapstick farce in the hands of others and give it a depth, complexity and reality that left it an ironic reflection of our increasingly twisted reality.

I have to imagine that he was in some kind of considerable pain to decide to hang himself. I hope we can find some comfort that he’s in no pain now.

Via: David Foster Wallace, Writer, Is Dead at 46

Apple’s iPod Event on September 9th

iPods

Apple loves Tuesdays. Tuesday is when new music and DVDs come out, so Tuesday is when music and movies show up in the iTunes Store. Apple also has a tendency to release new products on Tuesdays. And they often have “special events” on Tuesdays as well.

Tuesday September 9th 2008 (today as I finish this; I meant to get this out sooner) is a special Apple event called “Let’s Rock” – although they haven’t specified, it’s clearly related to the iPod/music side of their business. And it follows a pattern they’ve established over the last few years of announcing new iPods in the fall. This gets them out in time for the Christmas season.

What should you expect on Tuesday? I would expect refreshes across the line – new iPod Nanos, Classics and Touches. Leaked photos and case specs of the new Nano have already hit the net – expect it to be tall and thin again, turning it on its side to get a widescreen aspect ratio.

I wouldn’t expect the iPod Classic to get more than updated firmware and a bigger disk. Similarly for the Touch, it seems likely that it will get a storage bump or price drop or both, but unless Apple has something up its sleeve, it’s unlikely to change substantially. There are always fantasy rumors out there about what’s coming up – WiMax support, for instance, but there’s no indication that this is likely. Certainly it would be nice to someday have wireless connectivity available across the whole iPod family.

There are rumors about the Touch getting a camera and GPS to bring it in line with the iPhone, but I doubt the GPS at least. Apple uses a networked assist in computing the location, and the Touch is much less likely to have a network connection than the iPhone is. And you’re not going to be able to use the Touch to download Google Maps in your car. I doubt they’ll add GPS support.

If they do come out with a bigger Touch (64GB? the largest touch currently is 32GB) then I would expect a 32GB iPhone to be announced as well. Last year’s event saw the 16GB iPhone announced and it doesn’t seem like out of the question that they’d do the same thing this year. The unfortunate downside for all of us who already have iPhone 3Gs is that I can’t see us being able to buy a new, bigger phone at the normal price because AT&T is now subsidizing the phones up-front. Last year we could, because AT&T was giving Apple a cut of the money each month. But now there’s no reason AT&T would want to subsidize our phones twice for one contract.

What about the poor, lonely iPod Shuffle? It doesn’t seem likely for an update unless it sees a major redesign. The form factor is tremendous as it is. They currently top out at 2GB – do you really want a 4GB iPod Shuffle without a display? I think a display is the most likely feature to add to the Shuffle – somewhere down the road – but I’m not sure that this is the time.

Expect iTunes 8 to arrive. iTunes 7 has been with us for many minor version numbers now, and it’s about time we saw 8. Rumors hold out for a new ‘grid view’ in it, a new music suggestion feature (of course advising you to buy from the iTunes Store), HD TV and movie support (currently only available on the Apple TV).

Expect iPhone/iPod Touch software version 2.1. This should fix a lot of the bugs in the 2.0 – 2.0.2, and is rumored to introduce a new set of features which were held back from the developer test releases.

There’s a possibility of MacOS X 10.5.5 arriving. Based on test seeds of it, it appears near release, and the timing would be right, although rumor has it there are still known bugs in it.

There has been a rumor of ‘iTunes Ultimate’, a subscription-based service where you pay a certain amount per year to have access to all the music that the iTunes Store offers. When your subscription lapses, you can no longer play the music. I think it’s unlikely Apple will offer this at this time; they’ve been negative in the past about subscription-based services. If they do, expect that it will require software updates for the entire iPod/iPhone line, the Apple TV and iTunes. Possibly Quicktime and MacOS X as well. If they ever do offer a subscription service, it may also drive buyers to purchase new iPods; it’s possible Apple might not offer updated software to handle subscribed music for older models of iPods.

It seems possible that Apple TV might receive a software update. There has been little discussion of this, but I’d love to see the iTunes App Store offer applications for the Apple TV. The software running on it should be very similar to what’s running on the iPhone. The big issue with it would be input devices. If Apple were to offer Bluetooth support (built-in or via a USB stick) for the Apple TV, it could work with Bluetooth keyboards and mice. Sure, you wouldn’t be able to shake your Apple TV in order to control a game, but the availability of applications for it would help make it a much more compelling platform. The complete lack of rumors about this at this time makes me think it’s incredibly unlikely that they’ll release such support on September 9th. HD movie support might require a software update.

What I think we will not see is new or updated Macintosh computers. I doubt Apple would want to steal the thunder from iPod updates; they’re very good at focussing on one product (or product line) at a time. The long-rumored Apple tablet could be marketed as a Mac or as an iPod… if it’s marketed as an iPod it might be introduced at an event like today’s, but I doubt it as it’s clear the focus of the event is music.

Perhaps the Beatles catalog will finally hit the iTunes Store today? That’s one rumor that has finally died out.


Apple Online Store

Finally, Apple’s annual educational/iPod promotion is still going on for another week. The deal is that if you buy certain (new, not refurbished) Macintoshes with certain new (not refurbished) iPods (and not the iPhone), they’ll give you up to a $199 rebate. You have to buy form Apple directly and deal with an online rebate, but you end up with a free iPod Touch (or other iPod) from the deal. You can also get a $99 rebate on certain printers, as well. In the past, Apple has announced new iPods before this deal has ended and the deal has not been extended to the new iPods. So it’s a nice way for Apple to clear out some old inventory, but don’t expect to be able to get the new cool new gear with it.

So, in summary, I don’t expect anything major from today’s announcements. Possible lower prices and more storage, a few new iTunes and iTunes Store features, a new Nano, updated software. It doesn’t look likely that Apple’s going to release a shocking new product or feature. The iPhone set the bar so high that people are expecting a new iPhone-level product every announcement, and are doomed to disappointment.

Unconstrained by reality, what would you like to see Apple release or announce today?

Welcome to dot-dot-romkey

At times I lament the fact that I don’t write quick hacks the way I did years ago. Of course, my brain and mind aren’t the same as they were twenty (or more) years ago, and that contributes to the problem. And the environment that I work in has changed and become much more complex… where two decades ago a piece of software most likely ran from the command-line, now it may need to live in a networked environment and work with a web server and talk to other pieces of software in order to do anything remotely interesting. Which is fascinating but means that software is a lot more complicated than it used to be.

But the biggest problem for me has clearly been that there’s just too much going on – too many things pulling on my attention. I have too many other concerns. That’s natural as you age from twenty to forty, I think. Your perspectives widen, your involvement in the world (hopefully) deepens. You develop deeper relationships, possibly you gain family.

My mind has often been overwhelmed by being involved in too many things and simply having too much stuff to take care of. For a while it was two homes, which was both good and bad. The convenience and sense of being involved in two places was very nice. But the effort of caring for them, making them both a home, worrying about them when we weren’t there, and the lack of depth of engagement were all frustrating.

So, one of the main themes in my life the past couple of years has been “simplify”.

For many years I offered access to ‘apocalypse.org’ to friends, friends of friends, and worthwhile projects. Sharing access to computer resources with people who needed them was an old MIT traditional and, I felt, a noble thing. When I started sharing apocalypse.org it, getting Internet access was still difficult. The web was nascent, and the only ways individuals connected to the Internet were dialup and T1 lines. Things obviously changed and now it’s easy to find high quality free email access and cheap web hosting. Having other people using the system and worse, being responsible for it as they came to depend on it, was a much bigger brain-drain than I think anyone was aware of. Not to mention the occasional scuffles with one or two people with an outrageous sense of entitlement. Finally it was clear that it was time to stop, which I’ve done in two stages. At this point apocalypse.org is home only to me and my partner and one remaining web site. It’s a huge relief not to be responsible to, or for, other people in that way.

I’ve run three blogs for a while – The Apocalypse Blog, because I find the subject the ‘apocalypse’ rather fascinating; Shiny Things, which I started because friends would ask me for computer and gadget recommendations; and Blue Forest Blog, which I intended as a development blog for my software company, Blue Forest Research.

As conditions have worsened in the US and the world at large, the Apocalypse Blog has lost some of the charm it held for me. I also found it difficult to put the level of effort into that I think it really needed in order to grow. It was also too much a link blog with too little original content. I may continue to post in it though I’ve let it go for quite a while now. I may just retire it.

I lost my way in Shiny Things and became a bit too concerned with posting articles on how to save money buying gadgets. I’m interesting in continuing some of what I was trying to do there, but not the way I was going towards the end.

And I never really managed to do the level of writing for the Blue Forest Blog that I’d hoped to do.

Why did I have three blogs? I felt like it was a good idea to keep each one focussed on its particular area.

And there’s a fourth – my LiveJournal, which I’ve used more for keeping in touch with friends and personal things.

I feel too spread out, and I haven’t felt much like continuing in this vein. So, in the interest of simplifying, I’m retiring Shiny Things, Blue Forest Blog and partially retiring my LiveJournal. Having three blogs also dilutes my presence on the web when I would be better served by concentrating it. Instead of these blogs, I’m launching this new blog: dot-dot-romkey. I wanted to call it “dot-romkey” but that didn’t really work, so “dot-dot-romkey” it is.

I’ll be cross-posting articles on dot-dot-romkey to my LiveJournal in order to make it easier for friends to follow it if they want. I may once in a while post something a little less professional only to LJ. And I’ll use dot-dot-romkey for whatever topic is on my mind. It’ll most likely be computer or food related, but I’m sure I’ll stray from those topics.

Finally, in the spirit of simplification I’m trying to streamline the design of the new blog. No more print or email buttons, no more social networking buttons… does having a digg button on your blog ever actually encourage anyone to digg it? Doesn’t everyone who regularly uses digg already have a digg toolbar or Javascript applet that they have ready for things they want to digg?

I am bowing to practicality and will still have a sidebar which will only provide some assistance with navigating this blog, and pointers to my activity on a few other sites that are a part of my regular online life and may be of some interest or use to you, my reader.

My goal is for this blog to be a tool and not a huge project unto itself – I’m aiming for simpler, not more complex. I will tweak it from time to time and I will update the theme occasionally.

I am providing OpenID support to make it easier for people to comment. OpenID should allow people with accounts on OpenID providers (like LiveJournal) to comment without having to create an account for themselves. Comments are still screened, if only to stop spam, which is still an overwhelming problem for many blogs.

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