Amazon blows for video games

I’ve bought a handful of video games this year and my local Gamestop seems to have trouble getting new games on release day (“sorry, UPS didn’t show up yet, maybe tomorrow”) and for the popular games, they insist on pre-ordering with a deposit. Since Gamestop was a hassle, I started ordering stuff on Amazon instead, usually a month or so before big games came out.

For the most part, it’s worked well except items ship on their release date instead of arrive. I know a lot of games are done and in boxes, ready to ship weeks ahead of release dates and it sure would be nice if Amazon could ship them a day or two before release date so they show up on time. I know that’s a minor problem, but it’s tough waiting 24 hours when everyone online is talking about a game that’s available down the street at a store.

Lately though, Amazon has been a big problem with popular games. I’ve had a couple games delayed by 1 week and 2 weeks respectively and Amazon doesn’t inform you until the actual release date of the game. So if you pre-order a month or so early and you’re thinking you are going to get the game shipped on day 1, you don’t find out until that day arrives that they ran out. It’s really unfortunate, since I guess Amazon has no idea what their supplies will be like when they start taking pre-orders. Today I got this message about Guitar Hero III (PS3), which got released today:

We wanted to let you know that there is an unexpected delay with your video game order you placed on September 11 2007 17:47 PDT. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship the product(s) as soon as we expected and need to provide you with a new estimate of when they may be delivered:

“Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Bundle” [Video Game]
Estimated arrival date: 12/31/2007

I pre-ordered a month and a half early and they estimated it would take anywhere from 1 to 2 additional months to get a copy of the game sent to me. That’s pretty ridiculous and why I won’t be buying video games from Amazon anymore.

The five minute Leopard review

After installing Leopard on three machines and using it for the past four days I figure I might as well write down my first impressions. Here are the high and low points for me:

  • The installer is a bit buggy in that it doesn’t seem to recognize hard drives with any sorts of special partitions made for previous versions of Boot Camp (made by Apple themselves!). One Mac required wiping out the Boot Camp partition completely before I could proceed, the other asked me to open disk utility and do some sort of GFI Journaling thing or something that I can’t remember and could barely decipher. It took quite a bit of noodling with the installer to figure out where Disk Utility was and in a buried advanced menu was the option I needed. Why didn’t the installer just do it for me with a quick one-button click? I’ve had Microsoft Windows installs go smoother than my macbook install of Leopard.
  • Spotlight is super speedy now, to the point where it works as fast as Quicksilver used to for application launching. I say “used to” because Quicksilver lost its index of my system after upgrading and couldn’t seem to launch very basic apps I use dozens of times each day. I ended up breaking down and uninstalling it today, converting over to Spotlight instead.
  • Things seem a little faster and a little more stable (less beachballs, for sure).
  • Time Machine is a godsend. I’ve been waiting for a transparent backup system with easy retrieval for the past ten years, ever since I worked in a place with nightly full backups saved for months on end (but even then, retrieval was a pain). I rarely have hard drives crash, but I accidentally trash or tweak Photoshop, Textmate, Excel, and Word files all the time. Getting a copy from a day, a week, or a month previous has already saved me once since I installed Leopard and I suspect it’ll be the kind of thing I use for fetching previous versions of mockups and writing drafts often. I really hope they return the network storage feature, since I could easily hook a usb drive to my airport extreme and just have my computers backup to that.
  • The downside of Time Machine is that I have noticed a couple beachballs and my second hard drive spin up around the top of the hour. I figure it’s probably Time Machine since my second hard drive is entirely dedicated to that, and it’s only about 20 seconds of unexplained lock-up, but it’s still annoying when you’re in the middle of something and you have to wait for it to finish whatever it is doing.
  • Firefox is my browser of choice and seems to take forever to launch. I usually leave it open all day, but it seems to take about a minute to launch on my 4-processor machine. Safari pops up in just a couple seconds, so I’ll either prune my extensions and hope for a quicker firefox, or move over to Safari when I’m in a hurry and just want to look something up real quick.
  • Screen sharing in iChat is freaking awesome. I’d finally have no qualms about buying my dad a mac now, since I could give him tech support whenever he needed by just popping in and fixing things over iChat. I also like the new Keynote iChat sharing as that might be a great way to practice my talks for upcoming conferences.

Overall, Leopard looks like a welcome upgrade and I can’t wait to see what application authors do with the new animation capabilities.

The Future of the Music Business

In the age of the mp3, label musicians and the labels themselves are fighting for survival. As the cost of music is driven down to near zero, they’re doing everything they can to reverse that trend — and yet, the trend continues. I’ve been thinking about music costing effectively nothing and the future of the business and my musician friends for the past few weeks, and some half-assed ideas popped into my head.

Classical Music. Classical music is our future so take some time to consider it.

1. People rarely spend money on classical music itself. I bought a Bach or Mozart CD once when I was 19 when I needed background sound while studying. For the last few years, whenever I want to hear some classical, I just put on the one radio station that plays it or I pick any random classical listing in iTunes’ streaming music area and let it play. It’s basically free and plentiful.

2. Old classical music has no copyright, anyone can cover anything by Beethoven and not owe anyone a cut. You can remix sheetmusic from the 1700s all you want and call it your own. If you’ve got access to an orchestra and a recording device you can go nuts making music and never need a lawyer for any of it. Everything before 1923 is in the public domain: it’s like a Creative Commons wet dream.

3. Classical music fans are tech savvy and embrace the internet. The majority of them rip music, and a sizable chunk own iPods and pay for downloads.

Despite these doomsday notions, classical music remains an industry and there are tens of thousands of professional classical musicians worldwide that make a living from it. It’s not all glitz and glamor, but there are classical music labels that are doing alright and plenty of live events generate a decent amount of revenue even in modest-sized cities. There may not be crazy millionaire Kanye West platinum sellers (aside from maybe Yo Yo Ma?) in the classical set, but they’re not all starving artists.

The popular music industry of the future isn’t going to be anything like it is today, but if you’re an indie rocker in 2007 worried about what the future might bring, don’t listen to what the labels are saying, think more about the 2nd chair clarinet in the Berlin orchestra.

update: Andy was kind enough to send more evidence along: NYTimes, NPR, and The New Yorker all on how despite being plentiful and free like I mentioned, classical was the fastest growing segment of music sales last year, thanks in part to the tech savvy listeners paying for downloaded music.