Saturday, July 31, 2021

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Send them to Pete at: ReleaseNotes@
comicbase.com
 

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2005

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December 29, 2005

Shh! I’m Not Really Here...

Keeping up a long tradition, we shut down the company between Christmas Eve and New Year’s so folks can get some rest, enjoy the holidays, and check out that scary and unfamiliar “real world” we keep hearing so much about in the news.

After a small holiday get-together at the office on the 23rd, I bundled the family into the car for a long drive out to Las Vegas for a big holiday-at-the-grandparents, before they themselves leave town in April for the new house they’re retiring to in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

As always, Vegas was a blast, although I never did get a chance to do any gambling. The highlight was probably seeing Penn & Teller, who not only put on a terrific show, but also took the time to meet the audience afterward. Neil got a chance to meet both Penn and Teller, who took the time pose for pictures and sign autographs for him. The were really nice, and it was a great evening for all of us.

Of course, the downside to any vacation is that the work doesn’t really stop when you go away. To prevent things from getting completely out of hand, I’m trying to respond to urgent emails and handle a bit of year end tidying-up, but things won’t get really back to normal until we reopen on the 2nd. In the meantime, I hope everyone had a great Christmas or Hanukkah, and I hope we can all look forward to a fantastic new year!

December 17, 2005

Big Props for the Big Monkey Movie

Just got back from seeing Kong with a couple of friends, and all three of us agreed: Wow! The movie was a whole package: great acting, inventive writing, amazing special effects, and terrific action sequences. It’s a whole other class of movie from both the original and the 1980s-era remake, so if you’re used to thinking of King Kong as low banana of the classic movie monsters, expect to be quite surprised indeed.

One thing particularly struck me: not only was both the live and creature acting remarkably subtle and emotive, but this movie actually trusted the acting. Normally, in a movie like this, there’d be inevitable long sequences of monologue a la, “Gee, Kong, I know you can't understand what I’m saying, but let me talk about my feelings at great length so that the audience can follow along...” Instead, the scenes between one actor and Kong are generally wordless (because, after all, he wouldn’t be able to understand you anyway) but it’s easy to imagine your own dialog, since the facial expressions, body movements, and acting are so effective. It’s just like the old comic book principal of “show us, don’t tell us”, but it points out how rare it is to actually trust the actors to wordlessly communicate the emotions of a scene, and trust the audience to “get it” without effectively narrating all the context by having an actor monologue over it all.

Great movie! See it in theatres, but leave small children at home (it can get truly scary at times). Also: it’s Doctor-Zhivago-length, but without an intermission, so visit the bathroom beforehand and take it easy on the Big Gulp-sized beverages, or you’re going to miss something great while you run for the restroom mid-show.

 

December 10, 2005

Perennial ComicBase Marketing Problem #73

Ever since ComicBase 1.0, we’ve had the feature of showing not just the current values for all the comics in the database, but also four years of historical values for each issue. This allowed us to satisfy our analytical jones, as well as drawing lots of pretty graphs under the pretext of clarifying pricing trends. No matter how we’ve phrased the feature, however, we’ve always managed to confuse some folks into believing that ComicBase only goes back 4 years in its comic listings.

Nooooo!

For the record: ComicBase lists data and current pricing on comics as old as the late 1800s. We also list the 2002, 2003, 2004, (and now 2005) values for each one of those comics, so you can see how they changed over time.

But after having to answer yet another “What’s wrong with you guys that you only list the last four years worth of comics?!” queries, I swear I’m giving serious consideration to either dropping the feature, or at least never mentioning it in any marketing piece again...

 

ComicBase User Interface Quandary #7

Should we drop the “Find Comics” icon from the main window?

Far too many new users of ComicBase are using it as their primary means to move around the database. While I’m all for folks using the database however they like, it’s far faster to move between titles using the “Titles” command (a.k.a., the “choosing hand” icon, second from top-right).

Worse, I’ve handled about a half dozen letters this year from folks who complain that entering data in ComicBase is cumbersome, which I later traced to them using Find Comics as their main mode of navigation. This leaves me to worry: how many folks out there aren’t writing to complain, but are simply moving around the database in one of the least efficient ways (and therefore concluding that the program is clunky to use)? At least nobody’s pressing Next Title three or four thousand times to get to their next title, right...? Err.. Right???

Granted, the exact usage of each command has morphed a bit over the last decade, but I now wonder if we’re inadvertently leading new users astray by making the “Find Comics” button so prominent in the first place. Should we just nix it, and let folks find it later, if necessary, in the menus? What do you folks think?

 

Big Update This Week

We did our second-biggest ever weekly update this week, adding 612 new issues, 161 new titles, and changing (primarily adding title descriptions to) 186 others. You can check the ComicBase Info box on the main www.comicbase.com page for the details, but no particular field or genre seemed to dominate—we added everything from Lady Death variants to obscure 1950s Romance titles. It is getting awful hard to find older titles that we’ve missed however—please send them our way if you’ve stumbled across any!

Send email—ideally with scans—to support@comicbase.com to clue us into any missing issues or titles (but do check the Find command in ComicBase first to make sure it’s not already there, but under a slightly different title than you might have first thought. I just answered a tech support request from someone asking after 1997’s Supergirl #10. Believe me, that puppy’s been in ComicBase for a long, long time [albeit listed as Supergirl (3rd Series) #10]).

 




December 7, 2005

A Few of my Favorite Things, Part 1

A quick rundown on some cool new gadgets…

LED Christmas Lights

Like any self-respecting techno-geek, I’m a sucker for anything with a lot of lights, so it’s probably not a huge surprise that the old Bickford Christmas Display has been looking increasingly like it came off the Vegas strip, complete with thousands of lights, animated reindeer, and other sparkly things to light up the season.

At the same time, I live in California, home of some of the highest electrical rates in the country. In an effort to keep the Christmas tree lit without going broke in the process, I decided to convert a substantial part of my lighting rig to LED lights this year.

Although they’re initially more expensive than regular Christmas lights, LED-based lights are far more efficient than conventional incandescent lights in converting electrical energy to light, instead of heat. (California converted all their traffic lights to LED arrays some years back during one of our semi-annual power crises, saving some monstrous number of Megawatts in the process).

LED lights run entirely cool, last for tens of thousands of hours, and, like The Tick, are nigh-indestructible. The best part, however, is that they run on a tiny fraction of the power of conventional lights. For my roofline display, I switched from my old incandescent icicle lights to the LED versions, and went from about a 180 watt draw down to 23 watts total. My Christmas Tree lights were even more impressive: our usual three strings of C7 conventional lights used 408 watts of power; the LED equivalents now use just 2 watts for the entire tree! (and they run cool as well, so I fret less about about drying out/incinerating my tree through overuse).

I got my lights from an outfit up in Oregon called Christmas Treasures. It’s probably worth mentioning that I did see some Phillips lights in a local Target store which cost less, but which seemed sort of dim. If anyone tried them out in person, please let me know what you thought of them. Color purists should also note that the color temperature of LED lighting is more toward the blue end of the spectrum vs. incandescents, which tend toward the yellow end. As a result, LED lights may seem a little "cool".

 

The Buffalo Terastation

Terrastation

For years, we’ve used DAT tapes to back up the computers on our internal network, but the amount of data we need to back up has grown so large that it requires 40 or 50 DDS4 tapes just to do an initial backup—let alone the day-to-day stuff. Just switching each tape as it fills up means that an initial backup can take over a week to complete, so we’ve had an unfortunate tendency to let the sets grow far too large over time—sometimes as much as 90 tapes!. Not only is this unwieldy, but it means that restoring a folder might take a hour or more, since so many tape switches are involved.

I finally got sick of the situation and decided to try out one of the Buffalo Terastations I’ve been ogling at the local Fry’s Electronics. This is a cute little device (3U high for rack-mounting folks) which uses 4 250GB drives and acts as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device--basically, a self-contained file server.

Setting it up could not have possibly been easier. You just take it out of the box, plug it in, turn it on, and control it over the network from your Windows PC. It comes with a web-style interface for controlling the unit, formatting the drives, setting up shared areas, etc. In a little over 15 minutes, I had it set up and running. Now, our backup system uses it as one humongous (928GB formatted capacity) disk drive and can back up everything to it without any fuss or trouble. (I suspect it’d also make a dandy file server, although we’d have to duplicate our current Windows Users and Groups on it, as it does not make use of Windows’ Active Directory Users and Groups.)

Finally: one unexpected bonus: it’s quiet! Compared to my current file server, it’s nearly silent. We’ve had it in use now for just a couple of days, but during that time, it’s been exactly what you want in a network appliance: something which just does its job without any fuss, bother, or noise.

 


December 3, 2005

The Fixin’ to Die Cell Phone Blues

I spent a couple of hours last night looking at cell phone plans—Carolyn’s phone had suffered a fatal accident with a pool of Diet Coke in her car (long story), and I was starting to hope there’d be some way to upgrade my Treo 600 to the far sexier Treo 650.

OfficeMax got my hopes up in the latter regard with a recent post-Thanksgiving day special on that phone. Unfortunately, there were two catches: (1) We'd have to switch our service over to Earthlink (who knew they sold cell phone service?), and (2) Every OfficeMax in Northern California was sold out of the phone.

But heck, I’m not the sort to let trifles like those get in my way, so I started Googling, trying to locate a cell phone plan which would let Carolyn get a new phone, get me my coveted Treo 650, and possibly let me browse the odd web page or send an email from said Treo for less than the cost of, say, the stable and groom fees for a thoroughbred race horse. Hours later, I blearily headed to bed, having concluded that the sexy Treo 650 was going to have to wait. Fiscal responsibility was going to triumph over any upgrade plans for the foreseeable future, and me and my current phone were going to have to spend another couple years in each other’s company.

But it was not to be. No doubt tortured by my indiscreet ogling of another cell phone, my Treo 600 came to the conclusion that today was a good day to die. I went to take it out of my pocket today, and found the screen had cracked, effectively destroying the phone. Two hours later, we were down at the Cingular store, signing up for another two years of servitude. Carolyn walked out with a sleek new Motorola Razr, I got my Treo 650, and the U.S. economy got another big bump of Q4 consumer spending.

Ho. Ho. Ho.