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  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:51 pm on January 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Claw, Claw crane, Claw-free permutation, , commanding officer, , , , , iPod, MIA CTO, , , , Video game arcade cabinet, , Waka Waka   

    The Claw or Playing Not So Hard 

    When I began my career hiring managers still said things like “we work hard, and we play hard”. The “playing hard” usually consisted of drinking tequila shots after work and having either a ping-pong table or an arcade machine or two in the office.

    Free tequila shots were always a crowd pleaser. Not so much with the games. The worst offender was the Packman machine. The silly little tune and “WAKA-WAKA WAKA-WAKA WAKA-WAKA” got old really fast. The ping-pong table was even worse: it’s hard to write code late in the evening in the middle of a death march project while system adminstrators click-clack the celluloid ball for hours. Both were gone quickly.

    The lone “play hard” straggler was the awesome APB arcade machine that was placed near restrooms. “Help, help”, “yeah, yeah” and the awesome mumbling of the commanding officer deeply etched in our collective brains.

    Besides insidious noise pollution, arcade machines make coders burn out even faster: staring into blinking phosphorus is not good after a long and hard day.

    So, how can a startup stay true to the Silicon Alley/Valley cliche? I think I figured out an answer. A claw machine otherwise known as a “skill crane”.

    My co-worker recently got obsessed with an obscure iphone game called Clawzilla. The original purchase price is a bit steep, but it includes free game tokens. The graphics suck big time, but the remote control functionality and responsiveness is top notch. In theory you can even claim toys caught by you by using a claim code and providing a few bucks for shipping, but that part did not really work for me.

    In any case, me an my co-workers somehow rediscovered that claw machines are awesome. I spotted a toy claw machine at a drugstore and could not resist buying it. I cut the wire to the speaker that blasted circus music, but it’s still a bit noisy (but not as bad as the video makes it sound) because of poor gear alignment. We filled it with memory sticks, a titanium spork, minifigs and other geek items, culminating in a business card of our MIA CTO.

    It’s still kind of lame. Unfortunately there are no affordable “real” mid-size claw machines on eBay: they were only created recently for prizes like the iPod. It’s kind of interesting: there’s a claw machine for iphone, and an iphone for a claw machine. In any case, these small machines can only be found brand new and cost several thousand dollars. Meanwhile, eBay is full of fully functional $500 claw machines.

    Those are great. Load it with old phones, unwanted swag for conferences, etc. Use the proceeds from the quarter slots for charity (be it beer for developers or a real charity), and watch your employees and friends unwind trying to grab that lobster harmonica. It’s a dumping ground for swag accumulating in the drawers as well as a way to refocus and rest your eyes.

    The best part? Have your designer make decal featuring local headcounts and localized title card and decorate your machine with them.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:56 am on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Akio Morita, , Betamax, brand electronics, , famous brand-name electronics, iPod, Masaru Ibuka, , MiniDisc, , PlayStation, , Sony Canada, Sony Trinitron, , technology cooler, , Trinitron, , Walkman   

    Sorny 

    [3F11] Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield

    Homer: [gasps] Look at these low, low prices on famous brand-name electronics!
    Bart: Don’t be a sap, Dad. These are just crappy knock-offs.
    Homer: Pfft. I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see it. And look, there’s Magnetbox and Sorny.

    People often ask me why I refuse to buy Sony products. Indeed, I boycott Sony, and I am not the one to hold a grudge against evil multinational corporations. The level of incompetence on the high levels of Sony’s management disgusts me.

    I used to be inspired by the story of Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita starting a company in bombed Tokyo, and growing it from a radio repair shop into a giant corporation. I loved my Walkman, and thoroughly enjoyed the Playstation. I used to buy Sony Trinitron monitors which were brighter and sharper than the competition, but had visible horisontal lines formed by support wires made out of tungsten.

    Over they years I felt that the quality of Sony products declined, while the company stopped to innovate and instead began to rely on brute force. They mostly missed the MP3 revolution. Instead they started to figh format wars.

    The MiniDisk, the Memory Stick, Blu Ray: Sony would stop at nothing to control the format. They won with the CD and Blu Ray, lost with Betamax and just about everything else. None of these formats made me want to buy Sony products, and I’m very grateful that I don’t have to.

    Sony would not stop at what’s legal – they even resorted to hacking their users’ computers – some Sony CDs installed rootkits on Windows machines in the name of copy protection! This is equivalent to breaking into your apartment just to make sure that you haven’t stole anything.

    Normaly Hanlon’s Law is in effect, but I highly doubdt that things like these are benign byproducts of Sony being a large corporation. It seems like lawyers are doing a lot of thinking at Sony, and they aren’t thinking about winning people over.

    Instead of trying to make their technology cooler, Sony through its lawyers started sending cease and desist letters to people who did things like making handmade iPod cases or toy racing cars out of outmoded Walkmen (I can’t find the original article mentioning the lawsuit about the racecars, but I remember reading it).

    Then came the last drop. My wife runs a website about pipe organ event that she coded herself. She included an Amazon store that randomly showed different music-related items – it was a proprietory piece of software over which she had a rather limited control.

    Sony employs a company called Net Enforcer that sends out DMCA takedown notices whenever they think they see any unauthorized “retailers” selling Sony products. My wife’s store’s algorithm used to include some Sony products sold by Amazon. Rather than dealing with the offending items, Dreamhost simply took down the whole store and notified me.

    NetEnforcers would have you believe that they are protecting Sony’s brand, not letting various riffraff sell Sony products. I had to spend a good deal of time trying to figure out how to fix my wife’s store and not include any Sony products. As a result I refuse to buy any Sony brand electronics. I’m pretty sure this is not what Akio Morita would approve of.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 7:28 am on February 19, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Hava Nagila, iPod, Katyusha, , pretty good didgeridoo player, terrible steel drum rendition, Think Music   

    More Subway Music 

    I am considering buying a minidisc recorder or one of those iPod add-ons in order to be able to post little snippets of unusual sounds that I encounter, especially snippets of subway performer music.

    From what I can tell, this guy is a pretty good didgeridoo player. Also, it’s one of the few instruments that allows the performer to say “thank you” through the instrument. Well, that must have been the funniest “thank you” that I ever got from a subway performer for my buck.

    Now, this guy is probably the worst pan (pronounced “pon”, like “man” is pronounced “mon”) player. I don’t usually give money to sub-par players, but this guy was the worst of the worst. He did get my dollar for what must be the most terrible steel drum rendition of “Hava Nagila” I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard a few.

    As a side now, in the subway “Hava Ngila” is one of the main money makers for hacks. Also you get to hear a lot of Pink Panther Theme, Jeopardy! Theme aka “Think Music” and Katyusha. It’s kind of fun to hear these on exotic instruments like “musical saw”, but more often then not it’s a nuisance.

     
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