Dispatches From The Transient Programmer #3: Digital Dream Home?

I’ve been working for the past few days on a game to salute one of the “amenities” at the hotel here, namely the “Free Beer”. The game is named “Free Beer” and in it, you simply make an attempt to drink as much “free beer” as possible before you get too drunk to control the game. I’m not kidding. I should have it finished in the next couple days and then I’ll see if anyone has the “cajones” to sponsor it. If not, I’ll put it up here with a Game Jacket. I don’t think Mochi will accept it because it has mature content (sort of).

However, today I don’t want to write just about “free beer” again, but about the idea of a “Dream House”. While my family is currently biding their time until we can move into our next “dream home” we visited Disneyland today which purports to now have on display the ultimate “Dream Home“. Woe be to us if their idea of a “Dream Home” comes true though. Apparently to Disneyland (and their partners HP and Microsoft), a “Dream Home” is simply a bunch of nicely decorated rooms that consist of dozens upon dozens of HP branded LCD screens of every shape and size imaginable running various forms of Windows Vista. As well as being used for such mundane tasks and computing, watching TV and blogging on the internet, these these “screens” also take the place of photos, paintings, holiday decorations, board games, audio systems, security systems, climate control systems and any other task you can imagine an LCD screen attached to a Windows operating system might be able to perform. To some extent, the “Dream Home” elicited a faint “neato” from my brain as we walked through it. Especially the “story telling” room, which transformed into a showplace for the most amazing telling of Peter Pan my kids have ever been enthralled with. However, most of the rest of this “Dream Home” was simply exhausting.

Look, I’m no luddite when it comes to technology. I welcome plasma TVs and LCD displays for computers and lap-tops. They have crisp visuals,, take-up little space, and look really cool. However, the effect of dozens and dozens LCD screens in the Disneyland “Dream Home” showing family photos, famous art work (most likely rife with DRM), videos, etc. did not make us want to stay very long, but instead had us running for the exists. Some of the ideas in-fact, simply did not work as well as their real-world physical counter-parts. For instance, they tried to show how a camera and projection screen could replace a standard mirror. However, the effect was muddy and hard to see. A regular mirror would have been far better. On top of that, many of the LCDs were blue-screened with media errors and OS problems. It was a constant reminder that a virus or worm of significant threat would have this “Dream Home” rebooting and scanning more often than it was helping and entertaining. I’m not sure what final product the designers of this “Dream Home” were trying to create, but I’m pretty sure that the “Windows Kernel Error meets digital Cold-War bunker” loaf they pinched out was not what they intended. There is just so much virtual reality I can take before I feel like my head will implode.

Anyway, waiting to get into our own new “dream home” is excruciating. Even though it is certainly not on the scale of what Disney was trying to off-load, it is still a nice step-up from the veritable cave that had us crawling over each other just a couple weeks ago. The Disney Dream Home did teach me something though. We certainly don’t have to fill our new house with every gadget under the sun to be happy. If this experience has taught me one thing it’s that our family was “overly entertained” in our old house (something my wife has been trying to get through to me for many years). In the hotel we have one computer and about a dozen TV channels right now and everyone seems to be adjusting just fine. We certainly don’t need the “dream” of having an LCD screen of every imaginable configuration in every corner of our new house. While The Disneyland “Dream Home” did inspire me to buy a couple new digital picture frames, it will be long time before you’ll find an LCD screen in the backyard offering BBQ tips, or my family putting together a virtual jigsaw puzzle on on 50 x 50 LCD touch-screen. We’ll take the box of 500 pieces and try it on the floor, thank you very much.

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