Sims 2 Madness

I understand the concept of expansion packs. They can breathe new life into an old game, drawing more money out of the installed user base. A well written (and marketed) expansion can also serve to bring new customers into the franchise. But sometimes computer game franchises, as with movies, television shows and musical groups, can take this a bit far, and an expansion will come out that was definitely one expansion too many.

The Sims is a fairly long-running computer game franchise, that has been through 2 core versions of the PC game, along with several spin-off games on various platforms and many, many expansion packs. To be honest, I pretty much lost interest in The Sims after creating a household based on my friends and causing the tragic clown to send them all insane before burning them all alive.

Affordable Swedish Crap - for your Sims!

Anyway ... Many people probably already think that The Sims franchise has long past the point of too many expansions. I think that with The Sims 2 IKEA Home Stuff, there is now no doubt that it's time for this franchise to be put in a bathroom with no doors and a tragic clown.

Maybe things will be better with The Sims 3?

iPhone 3G ... or MMS - not for you!

Okay, this one's a little long, so perhaps grab yourself a drink and some popcorn before settling in. And as forewarned, there's a bit of background to this story ...

I'm (currently) an unapologetic Apple fanboi. This has escalated to the point where I am now actually working (IT Support) in an environment that is very heavily mac biased. I do all my home, travel and work computing on Apple hardware, even if I do occasionally boot it up into Windows to do specific tasks. This hasn't always been the case - I started my computing life on an 8086, progressed through 286 and 386, then used several flavours of Apple / Macintosh during primary school (Where on the Apple ][e is Carmen Sandiego?) and then around the System 7 vs Windows 95 days I shifted, fairly solidly to the Windows camp. I became one of those horrible Windows people, and ranted against macs for a good few years. At about OS X 10.2 I started looking at the mac again, now older, somewhat wiser and much more appreciative of things like UNIX (okay, BSD) core underpinnings and so on. And I was starting to see the flaws in the Windows world. Over the last few years, as XP has continued to be what it was 6 years ago, and Vista has not proved to be the magic pill someone, somewhere was probably hoping it would be, I've become a fairly solid believer in the OS X camp.

Still, I try not to be a zealot about it to other people, and I recognise the flaws in OS X and the positives in Win XP (and even Vista). But there's no doubt about my favoured choice, and there's little doubt that I'm willing to cut Apple a fair bit of leeway with products and try them out even if they might not be quite what the Reality Distortion Field might suggest.

With that in mind, I was front of the queue at my local Optus store for the iPhone 3G when it was released here in Australia. I knew what I was getting myself into. I was sacrificing tactile feedback, I was getting a fairly ordinary camera, and I was losing MMS. I have an iPod Touch, so I understood about the keyboard, and I knew that wasn't an issue. Assessing my usage of the camera and MMS on my Nokia E65, I was certain I could do without those 5-6 messages per year, especially since I could freely email things to people who were usually close enough to email access anyway.

Having now had the iPhone for a few weeks, I can safely say that although my typing has been far from perfect, the keyboard is a non-issue. It has reduced my walking emails and messages, which is not really the end of the world, but if I can spare my eyes, there's no problem with the typing. There is occasionally a bit of lag on the keyboard, and it's annoying, but it's not much different to my Blackberry, where I could sometimes type out a full message only to have the BB not recognise any of the (physical) keystrokes anyway.

The shitty camera quality does and doesn't annoy me. Photo-wise, don't care. I mean, it would be nice if I could get slightly better photos of my friends doing stupid things indoors to make contact photos, but it's hardly a big issue. I have a real camera for taking real photos. But on the flip side, who includes a 2MP camera these days? Other phones in this price bracket are pushing 5MP cameras with "brand name" lenses. Okay, sure, they have a sensor the size of a pinhead, but compared to the iPhone camera, they're pretty impressive. Apple has always cultivated a reputation as pushing technology and taking things that have typically been done badly and drastically improving functionality and marketability. So including a sub-par camera on their "Jesus phone" really seems out of place. Not including the (software) ability to record video seems odd as well, although battery life / processor power arguments can at least balance upright precariously, if not actually stand up to much scrutiny. The fact that jailbroken iPhones can do (crap quality) video without pain begs an answer to why it was left out.

So anyway ... shopping around for something to protect my precious shiny from scratches, and I find a silicon case that doesn't look too horrid. Normally I'm very much a fan of either "invisible" protectors, or a sleeve of some sort that protects in-pocket, but keeps the look of the device clean. But this case didn't look too bad, and looked very easy to slip on/off as vanity dictated. I like to have my impulses at least told to someone else before I act on them, and it would've been so great to shoot off an MMS to my other half, who was not in a position to check her email or wander down to the Apple Store. Fitting, that my first iPhone MMS frustration was in an Apple Store, shopping for my iPhone.

When you read the spec sheet, really, who cares about MMS? It's not that great, it's typically overpriced on the networks, and the email argument does actually hold a lot of water, at least in my situation. But then there are those few times when MMS is exactly what you want, and you start to think "Hang on, what reasoning is there for NOT including a standard mobile phone feature?"

Think of the programming involved ... there's already the functionality for SMS, and the functionality for email. MMS would seem to be a no-brainer. Okay, we've struck out programming. How about appeasing the mobile networks, something Apple would've had to do in some instances, since a mobile phone without network support isn't that useful. But networks, in a pure price-per-byte argument, are charging far, far more for an MMS message, since they are often capped at 100kb or thereabouts. So network-appeasement seems rather unlikely too.

It's incredibly implausible that this was an "accidental" omission, since I don't believe that any company developing a mobile could get to version 2.0 of their mobile OS and not have come across the feature. Which means it was deliberate. Which is frustrating. I am still an Apple fanboi, but this is totally an example of the decisions that they make that seem to serve no basis in consumer reality, but also, and this is the worst bit, don't seem to even have any "pushing the industry" reasoning driving it.

Working is expensive!

I'm sure I was saving more money when I was on a small retainer, working one day a week and basically being a man of leisure the rest of the time. Back then, I would make myself coffee at home, occasionally wander out after lunch and do some grocery shopping or just enjoy being outside. Okay, who am I kidding? I made coffee and played World of Warcraft. But still, it was cheaper than now.

See now, I'm working full time and being paid a satisfactory amount, but I'm still paying for all the regular things that I was paying for before. In addition, I'm now spending around $10 per day just on coffee. To break it down, that's one on the way in to work, one in the morning (yes, often straight after I get to work) with the team and then usually one after lunch or in the mid afternoon.

On top of that you have lunch, which can cheap out at $0 (brought from home), or can involve a further $8-$15 per day (far, far more frequent). And then there's getting home after work, not being bothered to cook, and so the "takeaway" (that quotation marks mean "delivered to the door").

So I've gone from spending between $0-$10 per day (on a splurge day) to now sitting at around $20-$25 most days, and occasionally $45. Ouch. Working is expensive!