Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Big Office Internet Upgrade is Coming!

We moved Human Computing’s offices from a non-descript office park to a cool historic building in downtown San Jose a few years back. We love our current offices–especially once we spent a very long weekend pulling down a square mile of floral wallpaper and replacing it with the brightly colored walls which to this day I’m amazed our landlord let us get away with. We also have very cool neighbors including about a hundred lawyers (who throw very nice cocktail parties!) and the offices of Drum magazine.

The only real sore spot is that the internet situation at the office has been less than ideal. We tried both T1 and Wireless T1 at first, before settling into the current DSL offered by AT&T, who luckily has a switching station relatively close to the office so the speeds aren’t as terrible as they might have been. Unfortunately, although our “downstream” speeds are reasonable, the “upstream” speeds that we can put out are just shy of horrific. To give you an idea, whenever we push an update out to our production servers located in another part of town, it becomes impossible to use the phones in the office for ten minutes as there’s so little bandwidth left. Pushing pictures and other bulky data to our production servers also takes hours when it should take minutes.

So it was with great relief that I read this week that Comcast will be wiring up the building at last, and offering state-of-the-art speeds (up to 120 MB/s down/30 MB/s up!) to residents of the building. It all starts mid-week this week, and there may be a little disruption during that time, but I can’t wait to give the new speeds a try. Since we upgraded our production servers last month, they’re already lightning fast, but this new upgrade holds the promise of making a lot of the day-to-day life of our own staffers much more pleasant.

Mind you, there’s some heavy lifting on our part to get there: we’ll have to reconfigure a few thousand firewall rules for the new networking, propagate new DNS settings to the internet, and few other measly upgrade tasks. After that, we should be able to sit back and enjoy our non-crackly phones and faster network!

Review: The Walking Dead Game Collector’s Edition

Walking Dead

The PS3 Pre-Order bundle from GameStop

One of the coolest presents I got for Christmas was GameStop’s pre-order exclusive collector’s edition of the Walking Dead adventure game. The game includes all five “episodes” originally released as downloadable games, and comes with a massive compendium of the first 48 issues of the comic series, making it a real deal at the combined price of $69.95. Since this was released as a GameStop pre-order exclusive, you may need to track down your copy on eBay, but it’s well worth doing.

The game itself focuses on a cast of survivors of the zombie apocalypse that is different from the group appearing in the comic series and TV show. The game’s group is centered around Lee, a convicted murderer who was on his way to prison for murdering his wife’s lover, when the dead began walking the earth. While scavenging in the ruins of a zombie-infested neighborhood, Lee discovers a small girl, Clementine, who has been hiding out in a treehouse since her parents were away on a business trip, and the babysitter turned into one of the undead. Lee becomes Clementine’s defacto guardian, and his attempts to keep her safe through the unspeakable dangers which follow form the emotional center of the series.

You control Lee’s actions as meets up with other survivors and tries to survive in a world filled with flesh-eating undead and society in collapse. Using both action sequences and action/conversation choices, you get to choose your path in the world. What’s truly fascinating is the way the story and characters react to your choices, all of which is convincingly reflected in the attitudes and actions of those around you. In some cases, a snap decision can result in a character living or dying–or set up a story conflict which will only become evident many episodes later in the series.

The writing and voice-acting is absolutely first-rate, and stands head and shoulders over such wooden affairs as Heavy Rain and Alan Wake. Although the gameplay elements are executed well enough, it’s the emotionally gripping story that sets this one apart and makes it a must-play.

Separately, the comic book compendium is a terrific read and worth a look even if you’ve been following the comic book or TV series closely through their respective runs. As someone who’s been a Walking Dead fan from issue #2, it was eye-opening to read the two published compendiums of the series and realize how well the story plays out when read in condensed format (My biggest gripe with the comic series is that too little seems to happen in a give issue, since most of the series focuses on character development; this isn’t a problem when reading 48 issues at a clip in the compendiums).

It’s also a little startling to see how well writer Robert Kirkman handles the character arcs over the long haul. As opposed to traditional comic book characters who aim for what Stan Lee famously called “The illusion of change”, Kirkman’s characters are slowly, but relentlessly altered in permanent ways by the world they live in and the horrific situations they face. The change is especially heartbreaking when you look at characters such as Carl (the young son of lawman Rick Grimes–the series’ lead). It’s heartbreaking to re-read early issues where Carl is very much a young boy and to see how he slowly changes over the course of the series in response to the awful decisions that life throws at him.


In all its forms (except, perhaps, the goofy-looking shooter game which also brands itself “Walking Dead”), it’s the characters and their development which make Walking Dead a remarkable creation which rises above the expected in the world of genre fiction.

Happy New Year!

At the start of 2012, I proclaimed that it was the be “the Year of Awesome” and for the most part, it feels like that’s the way it came out for me. (I say “for the most part” almost entirely based on an incident involving my gall bladder–an organ I barely realized I had–deciding this summer that it wanted to quit Team Pete, and letting me know in a very painful manner).

Other than that little incident, it was a fantastic year for me and the family. I can even report that Human Computing had its best year ever, far above my own best expectations, thanks in no small part to an amazing Holiday Sale at which will be keeping the shipping folks awfully busy when they return to work tomorrow.

This year, I’m stealing an idea from my friend Tony Garot and am making it a goal to do 10,001 push-ups over the course of the year. Having done my first set this morning after rolling out of bed, I can attest already that (a) It’s going to be tough, but probably achievable, (b) I am really going to focus on vacuuming more if my face is going to be that close to the carpet on a regular basis, and (c) push-ups are really weird with a mild hangover. I’ll try to post to let folks know how it’s going.

Beyond, that, there’s the usual goals to lose weight and exercise more. I’m holding off calling  them actual resolutions, since in all honesty, I don’t know how I’ll do once the full chaos of the new year kicks in. I’m going to give it a real shot, however, and will likely go with a calorie-controlled approach combined with a preference for protein over carbs whenever possible. I did some experimenting with the low-carb/however-much-protein/fat-I-felt-like-eating approach this summer, and I can report that while I didn’t really lose much weight, I felt pretty good, wasn’t hungry, and didn’t put any weight on. If I can keep my focus together (always a dicey bet) we’ll see if adding some caloric control to the mix can actually take some pounds off. Wish me luck on this one.

Finally, I’m going to try to blog more. Blogging has been tough here for a while for a few reasons: First off, much of what has me wanting to vent in the last few years has been one outrage or another in the political arena–but I have a self-imposed restriction against political blogging. I live inside the bubble here in California, and I get enough of the rants of others to keep me informed how nothing makes you cool to a person like having them go off on a political tirade. I’ve also acquired a near-universal distrust of politicians in general over the years, which makes me a terrible political advocate. So no, unless I lose my mind, you won’t see political blogs from me, other than to report on how one policy or another is affecting my life.

The second reason that blogging has been tough is that on a professional level, I move in a couple of different circles, and the folks who know me as a comic software creator aren’t often the ones who know me as a user experience consultant, etc. Even if you cared, much of what I work on is “NDA’d” in nature, so I can’t talk about it in any case–even when I have a great story like the design meeting I had to sit in once where someone insisted that a “fiasco” was a Mexican party where you hit a pinata and get candy. (And yes, although I’m not giving it away here, I’m likely to use that one in a screenplay at a future date).

Despite all this, I am going to make an effort to say something interesting as often as I can. And I hope you’ll be here to read it, and won’t hesitate to comment.

Happy New Year!