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Thursday, July 31, 2003

11:03 PM - Firebird gets new wings

Mozilla Firebird has been updated.

I had few problems with the 0.6 release with the most notable one being an occasional memory leak that would force me to shut the browser down and start a new session.

The new version, 0.6.1 (a 6.8MB download), has minor bug fixes (but the release notes does not mention the memory leak) as well as frivolous additions (e.g. new icons and throbber).

I wish the developers would hurry up and incorporate profile and preferences migration. It takes a lot of time to configure the advanced preferences manually to suit my personal tastes each time I install a new version of the browser.

The next major milestone, 0.7, is expected towards the end of the summer with version 1.0 expected before the end of the year. Take that with a pinch of salt, though. The Mozilla Firebird team has been slipping and sliding a bit. Considering some of the behind-the-scenes developments, I suppose it's understandable.

Link  | 

9:02 PM - For God's sake!

The Malaysian authorities are being asked to ban the Jim Carrey movie, Bruce Almighty.

The reason?

Is it because it threatens the stability of our nation? No.

Is it because it's a poor comedy? No.

It's because -- and I quote -- "We cannot equate ourselves with God -- even as a joke."

Sigh.

On the plus side, contrary to my earlier entry, pigs are getting some screen time on Malaysian television. Ranma 1/2's P-Chan is appearing regularly on Astro.

Ah, Malaysia. One country, two different standards.

One for the urban liberals and another for those ding-dongs who haven't accepted the fact we're actually living in the 21st century.

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

3:15 AM - Unleash the beast

I've had this fascination for werewolves -- a mythical transformer -- ever since I was 13. I suppose I find something intriguing about the man-beast duality.

In two decades of watching and reading werewolf-related material, I've never come across a better treatment of werewolves than White Wolf's, which the company did for its pen and paper RPG, Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

Werewolves: guardians of humanity and servants of Gaia, the earth mother.

Phwoar.

Anyway, that explains this digi-doodle.

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

12:31 AM - Red Devils conquer America

United defeated Club America in a pre-season friendly without too much drama. A typically explosive finish from Ruud van Nistelrooy followed by that rarest of rare sights, a Forlan brace, saw off the valiant Mexican side. Club America did get one back towards the end of the game after some sloppy defending by United youngster Mark Lynch but the Red Devils hung on for a deserved 3-1 victory.

I'm glad NTV7 is screening these pre-season friendlies as it gives me a chance to check out the new signings.

However, the only who played in this game was the new DB, David Bellion. Ferguson played the young Frenchman in the spot vacated by Beckham but unfortunately, Bellion completely failed to impress. He was timid, tentative and hesitant and his vaunted speed didn't cause the Club America defenders too many problems as they were easily able to read his game. Ferguson needs someone more convincing on the right of midfield and the clock is ticking.

I was a little surprised to see Veron hustling like he had a point to prove. The enigmatic Argentinian, who did rather well with Nicky Butt in the centre of the field, generally doesn't display this much determination unless he's playing in the Champions League.

There have been some rumours Brujita (the little witch) is Chelsea-bound but the player himself has been adamant he doesn't want to leave.

An assured performance by Ferdinand and O'Shea ensured that the Club America strikers didn't get much opportunity in the box. Ferguson must be pleased to have several reliable centreback pairings to call upon in case of injuries.

Quinton Fortune demonstrated his versatility again with a commendable performance at left-back. The South African's overlaps -- he provided the assist for United's second goal -- provided great back-up for young Kieran Richardson.

I had expected Ferguson to sign a left-back as back-up for O'Shea and Silvestre but Fortune's performance means that isn't necessary. Phil Neville, who played right-back, can also play on the left so United have ample cover for that position.

United take on Juventus next and we should see another new signing, American 'keeper Tim Howard, make his debut.

Link  | 

Monday, July 28, 2003

2:27 AM - "... it's a lost art"

The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention is on this weekend. Hasbro had a panel yesterday as well as a booth there and the company revealed some of its offerings for the next few months.

The big news, of course, was the unveiling of a fully-painted 20th anniversary Optimus Prime. The figure is expected to be a TRU exclusive in the US and Hasbro guesstimates the retail price to be about US$75. The figure won't include a trailer but I don't mind. A trailer would just increase the price tag even further and I'm uncomfortable about the price as it is. Oh sure, I'm going to get it, regardless, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be thrilled to pay an exorbitant price to get it.

Alternators

The Hasbro panel also revealed some additional details about the Alternators line. The line is based on 1/24 scale real-world vehicles licensed from car manufacturers.

Figures in the the Alternators will retail for US$20 compared to the Japanese price of 4980 yen. The reason for the discrepancy? The Japanese versions will have more die-cast content. This offers older TransFans a choice. Want more die-cast? Get the Takara version. Strapped for cash and unimpressed by die-cast metal? Get the Hasbro version.

Aside from Smokescreen, Hasbro also revealed a second figure, a red Dodge Viper named Sideswipe that's expected out in January or February.

I've pre-ordered the Takara version of Smokescreen but I'm not a big fan of die-cast per se. I like the heft and something about the material just feels right when it's used for robot action figures. Still, there are more important things I look for in my toys namely articulation, playability, durability and looks. I'm not sure which version of Sideswipe to get. I'll make my decision after I've evaluated Smokescreen.

Link  | 

2:01 AM - United take on America

United take on Mexican outfit Club America in a pre-season friendly in a few hours. The match will be screened live by NTV7, which much to my exasperation had also screened the United-Celtic match. I missed the earlier match but it serves me right for not paying attention to NTV7's schedule.

Despite being a pre-season friendly, the United-Club America match should be "a right corker" because everyone wants to scalp United.

Anyone remember the 2000 FIFA World Club Championships held in Brazil?

Expect the tackles to go flying in.

Expect lots of overacting from the Mexican club. (Forget yellow cards, the ref should hand out Oscars.)

Link  | 

Sunday, July 27, 2003

2:29 AM - Buy all means possible

Chelsea made an audacious bid for Bobby Moore that was rejected on the grounds the player had been dead for ten years now.

Chelsea withdrew its transfer bid for Dexter Jackson when the London side discovered Jackson plays the wrong type of football.

Chelsea had a £71.4m transfer bid for Real Madrid's talismanic forward Raul rebuffed by the player.

One of the outrageous stories listed above is actually true.

The Blues, flush with Russkie roubles, have been going on a buying spree. The club's biggest buy thus far has been Damien Duff at £17m but the buying spree looks far from over.

And what about United?

Ferguson and company have been laying low for the past few days. The rumour mill has not stopped, however. Kieron Dyer is the latest player to be linked with the Red Devils.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 26, 2003

7:01 AM - Battousai

Yet another Himura Kenshin digi-doodle.

Because god forbid that I should let one month pass without doing another dodgy digi-doodle of the character.

Link  | 

Friday, July 25, 2003

4:54 AM - CommanderMicroman

CommanderMicroman from the Takara Microman Microforce line. Version 0.1.

Link  | 

4:25 AM - More Masterpiece Convoy

Botcollector has a few more pictures of the stunning Masterpiece Convoy figure.

I was particularly glad to see the articulation is every bit as good as I had hoped for. Botcollector claims the figure is going to be die-cast and will have a working suspension(!) in vehicle mode. It sounds very ambitious but Takara's action figure department has been quite ambitious of late (e.g. Microman Microforce).

I'm a little worried about the quality of the figure, though. I just hope there aren't any show-stopping QC issues.

Botcollector's taking pre-orders for US$95. Assuming there's a 20 per cent mark-up and bearing in mind the SRP for Japanese toys is higher than for the US versions, the figure should retail in Japan for about, I dunno, 9800 yen or thereabouts?

If it's die-cast, I fully expect the package to weigh over 1kg which means I'm looking at a SAL shipping fee of at least 1500 yen. I'll put aside RM380 just to be safe. I sure hope I get the chance to pre-order from HLJ soon. I would be devastated to miss out on this one.

This figure is going to sell out fast.

(Link obtained from Transfandom.com.)

Link  | 

Thursday, July 24, 2003

6:48 AM - Aiteyuwan, dis wan ah vely good oh

In everyday conversation, most Malaysians tend to speak an, ah, interesting form of English dubbed Manglish. It's like English but almost-but-not-quite-comprehensible to those used to the Queen's English.

It's the result of living in a multiracial and multilingual country. Most Malaysians speak at least two languages with a significant number of Malaysians being trilingual. We sometimes interject elements from other languages when speaking in English.

The Singaporean equivalent, which is largely identical, is dubbed Singlish. You might say Malaysians and Singaporeans are two peoples who share a common language and are only divided by a small body of water.

And, er, the price of water.

My opinion about the water spat? I'm just plain sick of it. I don't see any real reason to comment further as it boils down to a seller haggling with a buyer. The seller want as much profit as possible while the buyer wants the cheapest possible price. No reason for pundits and demagogues to stick their noses in -- would you butt in when you see two parties haggling at a pasar malam (night market)? -- but they will anyway.

Er, where was I? Right, Manglish.

I'm not sure who the original author of this text was but it's an excellent introduction to Manglish/Singlish.

The Manglish version of Red Riding Hood (with a twist!) is particularly hilarious and oh-so-spot-on. An excerpt:

Once upon a time hor, got one girl Little Led Liding Hoot. She want to go to Ah Mah's house. Morning alleady she go out one, she got take come one basket to put flower. She "doe-want" to walk long-long so go take shot cut. Wah!!! She dono got one animal follow her one hor! She happy-happy walk until she come to Ah Mah house.

The reason this resonates so much with me is I tutor some kids who actually speak like that.

Only less fluently.

They're having their exams next week.

Aivelyskedwanlah.

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

10:54 PM - MP NWN fun 'n' games

I hereby present excerpts from my multiplayer session of Neverwinter Nights on the Bubble today. The names of the other player and his character have been changed but the quotes are taken verbatim from the chat log.

Take note that [Talk] denotes text in the player chat channel while [Tell] denotes a private text message. "Out of character" text in the player chat channel is frowned upon but if necessary it is usually prefaced with "ooc".

Anyway.

Here my character, Lucius, a meretricious businessman, is sitting in camp waiting for a hunting companion and sure enough someone comes up to him.

Lucius: [Talk] *smiles*

Lucius: [Talk] Greetings, master dwarf.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] he... no one called me "master" for a lnog time

Lucius: [Talk] *smiles*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] hail you lad

Lucius: [Talk] I will desist, if it bothers you.

Dwarven cleric: [Tell] desist?

Lucius : [Tell] stop.

Dwarven cleric: [Tell] what? i just asked you what is it

Lucius : [Tell] It means stop.

Dwarven cleric: [Tell] oh.. stop what?

Lucius : [Tell] I will stop calling you master if it bothers you.

Dwarven cleric: [Tell] oh.. now i understand.. kets prosid that talk like it never stoped?

"kets prosid" ... All these dwarvish terms. But I digress. We introduce ourselves to each other and then set forth seeking some coin. We decide to hunt some deer for the lucrative pelts and the venison.

Lucius: [Talk] Well shot.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] NICE ONE..

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] THANKS

Lucius: [Talk] *nods*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] OOC - SORRY CAPS

Well, mistakes will happen. Repeatedly. We then tire of stalking deer and decide to find some other sport.

Lucius: [Talk] See anything?

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] well we can try hunt wolves.. althow their pelts are cheeper

Lucius: [Talk] And the risk is greater.

Lucius: [Talk] *smiles*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] im not afraid from the wolves

Lucius: [Talk] I'll allow you to lead then.

Lucius: [Talk] *smiles*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] but if you are.. i can call a friend of mine

Lucius: [Talk] *raises eyebrows*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] ooc - what is this??

Lucius : [Tell] Some bug. I guess.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] ooc -its a bag!!!

The dwarf casts a spell to summon an ally. Unfortunately, there's a computer bug (or "bag!!!" as it's known in some dwarvish dialects) that summons forth a half-naked dwarf with 1 hit point.

But moving on, we find ourselves attacked by a vicious wolf. The battle is brief as the dwarf makes short work (HAR!) of the beast. He then proceeds to skin it.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] you have uses for the meet? i have a lot of food

Lucius: [Talk] Waste not ... *smiles*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] YOU NEED TO COOK IT FIRST

Lucius: [Talk] *nods*

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] caps again ooc

Like I said, mistakes will happen. Repeatedly.

Finally, we return to camp after a hard day's work and share the spoils. He pays me my fair share but I return some coins to him.

Lucius: [Talk] I gained knowledge worth 10 coins.

Lucius: [Talk] *smiles*

Lucius: [Talk] I always pay a fair price.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] oh.. but with this know ladge you cant buy a skinning knife to skin your hunt :)

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] *knoladge

Lucius: [Talk] I do have one.

Dwarven cleric: [Talk] *knowladge

Like I said, repeatedly.

On a related note, Slashdot has an interesting thread about the death of role-playing in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or as they're known in elvish, "MMORPGs").

I think it's been a little exaggerated. I have no doubt there are a lot of players out there who play RPGs (and MMORPGs) with a preference for gaming rather than role-playing. There certainly are quite a number of them on the Bubble during time-block I'm logged on.

But I usually find there are enough creative and quick-witted players on the Bubble. As I said before, as long as there's one entertaining RPer logged on, I'll stick around. The trick, of course, is identifying them.

There are also players who try really hard but still have some ways to go. I sympathise with them -- this doesn't mean I'm going to stop mocking them, however -- but c'mon, I don't really want to spend my leisure time being exasperated and irritated.

Plus, if I keep rolling my eyes so much there are bound to be long-term side-effects.

Link  | 

8:53 PM - SoU problems revisited

It looks like another Singaporean has had trouble installing the Neverwinter Nights expansion, Shadows of Undrendtide.

The game has worked pretty faultlessly for me after the problematic installation. But I intend to format my hard disk in the not too distant future which means I'll have to reinstall the damn game again. I still have a hard disk back up of the CD-ROM contents so I'll probably back up that and re-install the game from there.

I'll be a lot happier if I could get a replacement CD-ROM, though. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to go about getting one. Eidos Asia, the game's local distributor, has a nincompoop answering tech support questions so no help is forthcoming from there.

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

9:43 PM - ZoneAlarm pah-waa ap-puu!

ZoneAlarm, my firewall of choice, has been updated again. The new version, 3.7.202, is available on the official site. Oddly, using the upgrade feature within the old version, 3.7.193, will take you to a link for ... 3.7.193. D'oh!

Link  | 

8:59 PM - Hurt disk

It turns out the problems with my 30GB Maxtor Fireball hard disk might not have been caused by a dual-boot OS environment after all. I'm starting to suspect it's caused by a faulty hard disk. I'm developing bad sectors and data write problems faster than I can come up with a suitable metaphor. The hard disk is still under warranty so hopefully I'll have minimum problems getting it replaced.

The problem is I don't want to wait for weeks for the replacement hard disk drive and I can't afford to get a new one. I'm saving up for a hardware upgrade at the moment. I hope to get an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ CPU, an Abit NF7-S motherboard and 256MB DDR RAM at the end of the month.

Here's hoping my hard disk can hold out for six more weeks. Anyway, I've taken the precaution of backing up my essential data on my other hard disk, my old 3.2GB Quantum Fireball.

Link  | 

8:59 PM - Real 'spensive

For RM11 million, you can have a friendly match against Real Madrid.

For RM5 million, the Spanish champions will make an appearance at your kid's birthday party.

For RM2 million, Roberto Carlos will kick a ball straight into your groin.

For RM1 milllion, David Beckham will send you a spam e-mail.

Okay, I made the last three up but the first one is actually true. Real Madrid had apparently asked for a friendly match in Malaysia but the New Straits Times reported today organisers were put off by the team's excessive demands. Aside from the RM11 million appearance fee, organisers estimated it would cost an additional RM7 million to stage that one match.

Link  | 

8:58 PM - Satire's OK!

The Malay Mail reports the ridiculous ban on a satirical play by the Instant Cafe Theatre was lifted by the Kuala Lumpur mayor.

Datuk Bandar Datuk Mohmad Shaid Mohd Taufik said:

We, KLites, must be broad-minded and liberal enough to accept such shows.

Broad-minded and liberal. When was the last time you heard a Malaysian public figure using those words? Bravo, Datuk Bandar, bravo.

Link  | 

5:03 AM - GalCiv: Commander conquer

I've just submitted my third GalCiv game to the Metaverse. I was rather chuffed to win an Alliance Victory on a Small map at the Challenging level.

It was the first time I had played at that difficulty level and it was rather tough in the beginning. I was stymied because I couldn't expand my empire quickly at the start. All the promising planets in nearby systems were taken and my Colony Ships didn't have sufficient reach to get to other systems. Thus, I had to spend most of the early game kowtowing to the other factions by paying them tribute and giving them technology. However, the Terrans asserted themselves soon enough and ended up dominating the galaxy with their trade partners and eventual allies, the Drengin.

According to the Metaverse, I'm the 423rd greatest GalCiv player in the entire Universe and currently ranked Commander.

Commander Gobi.

I like the sound of that.

Link  | 

2:45 AM - Operation Thunderball

I sometimes forget that no matter how much writers try they can never ever top real life for sheer drama.

I've heard of the Entebbe rescue before and was somewhat astonished by what little I had read but upon reading a better account on the Israeli Defense Forces web site, I had both goosebumps and wetness in my eyes. Oh, I'm sure there was some spinning in that account but it's still a gripping tale featuring one evil SOB, dastardly terrorists and unstinting heroism.

On a side note, that evil SOB who figured in that tale is apparently on his deathbed.

It looks like the world is about to get a little better.

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

Link  | 

Sunday, July 20, 2003

3:17 AM - Making the move

It's not unusual for players and their agents to drop United's name when contract negotiations are underway. It's a cheap way of forcing the other side's hand. ("Don't want to give in to our demands? Oh, by the bye, Manchester United are interested in the player as well. Ready to give in now?")

Going by rumours, the official site has estimated over 320 million pounds of talent were expected to be signed this summer. Soccernet linked United with over a dozen transfer targets but only one player on that list has actually signed for the club.

For those keeping score, United have made three signings thus far: Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion and Tim Howard.

Sadly, United look set to miss out on Ronaldinho. It appears the Brazilian ace is destined for Barcelona. United sorely need some Cantona-style unpredictable creativity and Ronaldinho would have fit the bill.

Alas and alack.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 19, 2003

3:28 PM - Beyond the Smokescreen

I pre-ordered the Transformers Smokescreen figure from HLJ today. It's a little pricey at 4980 yen and I have no idea how large (or small) it's going to be so I have no idea how much I'm going to pay for shipping.

But resistance is futile!

Just take a look at that Diaclone Car Robot-inspired robot mode. The transformation appears identical to that of the G1 Bluestreak mould (which was used for Prowl and the original Smokescreen as well).

And the vehicle mode is superb. (Here's another look at it.) Like the Diaclone Car Robot vehicle modes, this looks like a die-cast model in disguise.

Apparently, the figure is being put out under the "Binartech" sub-line. (That explains the BT in "BT-01 Smokescreen.")

Some have suggested Binartech is the Japanese equivalent of the Alternators line. I was under the impression the Alternators line was meant to be a tween-oriented line. But if you take a long, hard look at Smokescreen, it seems to be a strange marketing decision. Like the Masterpiece Convoy figure, Smokescreen just screams G1 fanboy bait. I get the feeling someone clever at Hasbro/Takara decided to claim it was a tween-oriented line to overcome any potential management objections to an entire line of Transformers specifically geared to adult TransFans.

But at the end of the day (when we all start to use cliches like "at the end of the day"), the marketing demographics don't really matter, do they? Regardless of whether it was marketed to tweens or crotchety old men with prostate problems, Smokescreen is a fantastic Transformer and I will have him.

Link  | 

1:36 AM - CommanderMicroman

Digi-doodle of CommanderMicroman from Takara's terrific Microman Microforce series of action figures.

Link  | 

Friday, July 18, 2003

3:32 AM - SecuROM: Atari responds

To follow-up the SoU SecuROM issue, someone from Atari -- one Michael Vetsch, Manager of Technical Support, to be exact -- has commented on the situation:

Just an FYI copy protection is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. The copy protection only wraps the executable, once the game is launched it's no longer present. If your game won't install or crashes during play it is NOT A COPY PROTECTION ISSUE. If it won't launch AFTER installation, it COULD be related to copy protection, but truth be told, we've only had 1 confirmed copy protection issue out of over 2000 contacts and that customer had a very strange off brand combo-drive.

The copy protection bashing band-wagon is a little tiring. You need to educate yourselves a bit, it's pretty clear that most users have no idea what an actual copy protection issue is, as apposed to something else. 99% of all problems are caused by 2 things:

1) Third party applications in the background

2) Outdated or poorly written device drivers

Judging from the the follow-up comments, SoU owners were not impressed with that explanation.

And it turns out at least two other Malaysian SoU owners had trouble installing the game. However, to be fair, these installation problems aren't SecuROM-related; they're due to faulty media.

Link  | 

Thursday, July 17, 2003

11:26 PM - The return of Optimus Prime!

I was sitting here wondering what to blog about when lo and behold, I find out today that one of my long-cherished dreams is about to come true.

If you're an adult Transformers fan and started out as a fan of the original series (which featured Diaclone and Microchange designs), you're probably dreaming of a new G1 Optimus Prime figure that's:

  • Highly-articulated

  • Superbly sculpted

  • Faithful to the animated version

  • Transformable

Dream no more.

The articulation looks very good. Just take a look at the pose the robot mode is in. And the best part is that it appears to transform show-accurately into the familiar prime mover mode.

But that's not all!

Take a look at the accessories:

  • A gun mode G1 Megatron.

  • Optimus's laser rifle.

  • The Matrix of Leadership.

Someone suggested this wasn't the 20th anniversary figure Hasbro and Takara are putting out and is instead a figure from a tween-oriented Transformers line dubbed Alternators. But I doubt that's the case.

Take a look at the sculpt and the accessories. That's G1 fanboy bait, right there. Plus, the card in the picture reads "Transformers Masterpiece Convoy" and I'm betting that's "Masterpiece" as in "highly-priced figure that will be coveted by adult TransFans."

Anyway, it looks like the figure's being released in December. Time to save up. I put off getting the numerous Optimus Prime reissues and I passed on the Medicom/Timehouse Metalforce Convoy. There's no way in hell I'm missing out on this one. ("No matter the cost!")

Takara's also putting out another G1-inspired figure. This one looks a modern update of a Diaclone design. The card reads "Smokescreen" but the alt mode appears to be a Subaru Impreza with World Rally Championship 2003 details. The figure is due in September but HLJ is already taking pre-orders for 4980 yen.

(Link obtained from the Toybox DX forum.)

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

11:51 PM - "Foot of fuleeous angah!"

For some reason, the Bubble's a little laggy of late. I know it's not due to anything on my side as others have complained about it as well.

Anyway, after getting Giob to a massive level ... 5, I decided it was time for a change and decided to create a monk character.

And so it passed that Kongyew Sepmaiporogee set foot in the Forest of Shadows.

He's a Lawful Neutral ascetic (he's running around in his loincloth) who has some language problems. Lines I have on the quickbar include:

    "Thund-aa punch!"

    "Foot of fuleeous angah!"

    "Free! The pelir is too glate!"

    "Pelir is crose!"

    "This one begs herp!"

There weren't that many other Level 1 characters on the Bubble when I logged on with Kongyew so I wandered off alone.

And promptly got killed three times in quick succession.

Damned wolves.

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

10:23 PM - Pearls Before Swine

Okay, so they aren't all pearls. These (1, 2) are particularly poor strips.

Link  | 

10:22 PM - The spin

Phillip K. Dick:

... today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. We are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.

Link  | 

Sunday, July 13, 2003

11:08 PM - Kewell jibe

Harry Kewell has joined Liverpool in a 5 million pound transfer deal from Leeds United. It's too bad United missed out on the opportunity to get this exciting (if inconsistent) talent especially considering the low cost involved.

Harry Kewell's agent, Bernie Mandic, explains why Kewell chose Liverpool instead of United:

I think United, if you look at cycles, are destined to go into a downturn whether this year, next year, whenever.

Heh. This year, next year or whenever. It's good to see Mandic's being specific about it.

Soccernet also reports:

Mandic dismissed the notion that Kewell may not have held down a regular place in the United side.

He said: 'I think Harry, considering the money being offered, would have been guaranteed a first team place. You don't pay that sort of money to an individual or a club to sit on the bench. That wasn't an issue.'

It bears pointing out that Ferguson paid more for Diego Forlan and the Uruguayan made only seven starts in the 2002/2003 season.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 12, 2003

1:34 AM - Gotta love tech support

Eidos Asia replied to the enquiry made by the retailer. The ad verbatim reply:

"All CD's are shipped out with security."

I'm not sure what the exact wording of the enquiry was but I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "some SoU owners have reported problems with SecuROM." In which case, the reply from the tech person at Eidos Asia was, well, stupid.

Hello, Mr Eidos Asia tech person. How do you do? I'm fine, thank you. How is the wife? The kids? Good, good. Please read the following carefully, if you will.

We know Shadows of Undrentide has a security feature.

We're saying there's a problem with that security feature.

Do you understand, Mr Eidos Asia tech person?

Must we use less syllables? Do you know what syllables are?

No, Mr Eidos Asia tech person, they are not "a type of Dungeons and Dragons monster."

Link  | 

Friday, July 11, 2003

6:55 PM - So SoU

Much to my astonishment, Mr Postman handed SoU to me today.

It took 6 days for my letter (containing confimation of payment) to go from Banting to Petaling Jaya and it took a little over 24 hours for SoU to go from Petaling Jaya to Banting.

Pos Malaysia: Consistency is not its forte.

As it turns out, total turnaround time from payment to delivery was exactly a week. (Write that down. There'll be a quiz later.)

So, impatient sod that I am, I ripped open the packaging (which turned to be a Diablo II: Lords of Destruction poster as well as several pages from a Chinese newspaper) and perused the contents of the box.

There's a 50+ page manual, a sheet of red paper containing the CD-key and a CD-ROM in a paper-sleeve.

Y'know, I was under the distinct impression Bioware was very annoyed with Atari for packaging the NWN CD-ROMs in paper sleeves but it looks like Atari doesn't give a hoot.

Anyway, I immediately installed the game. The setup process managed to copy NWN files to the hard disk and then managed to copy the expansion disk files to the hard disk and then ... hung.

An CTRL-ALT-DEL showed the setup program was not responding so I had to reboot. I tried the 1.29 critical rebuild file which Bioware included in the the SoU CD-ROM and tried to install again.

Same thing.

I tried the workaround suggested by Atari Australia: copy the contents of the CD-ROM to the hard disk and install SoU from the hard disk.

I couldn't do that.

I was getting an error message when reading the SoU CD-ROM. Something about being unable to read from source or words to that effect. I tried copying the files on the SoU individually.

After several crashes (including Explorer crashes), I managed to copy all but one file: Language_data.zip. It took me three damned tries before I could manage to copy the file to the hard disk. Big deal, you say?

It's a 200MB file.

You can imagine my frustration when the copy process would stop with an error mesage after 80 per cent of that 200MB file file had been copied.

After about two damned hours, I finally managed to get the expansion completely installed. Elated, I immediately went online. I clicked on Multiplayer and Join Internet Game and ... nothing happened. The game apparently hung and was not responding.

Why me? Seriously, why?

Being bloodyminded and seeing red at this point, I rebooted and tried again.

This time it worked!

I actually managed to get on the Bubble without further problems. There were two others players on the server and *cough* I accidentally sent an invite to one.

Hey, cut me some slack. I was all excited about finally being able to play the damned game again.

By coincidence, the other player turned out to be Uri24 a.k.a "Pok the Burrow Dwarf". In another coincidence, it turns out he just got SoU as well. And while we're on a roll here, it turns out he was chatting with Crow (a.k.a "Lliel") on mIRC.

After sending Crow my regards and bidding my farewells, I logged out, relieved at finally having this damned game installed.

At this point, I'm reasonably certain the SoU installation problem is caused by faulty media. The sheer trouble I had copying that language_data.zip convinces me of that. It's probably a bad batch of CD-ROMs from a manufacturing plant.

Does this mean a problem-free MP NWN experience for me? Probably not. I still need the SoU CD-ROM whenever I play the game and I'll probably have problems launching the game if my assumption about the CD-ROM being faulty is correct.

I'm still annoyed that Eidos Asia, which is distributing SoU locally, has not responded to an enquiry about the issue. It's been four days. And that was an enquiry from a retailer.

Pop quiz, Hottentot:

1) How long was the total turnaround time?

2) How many times did Gobi use the word "damned"?

Link  | 

12:25 PM - The write stuff

Moshe Koppel and his posse have discovered men and women write differently:

For example, Koppel's group found that the single biggest difference is that women are far more likely than men to use personal pronouns-''I'', ''you'', ''she'', ''myself'', or ''yourself'' and the like. Men, in contrast, are more likely to use determiners-''a,'' ''the,'' ''that,'' and ''these''-as well as cardinal numbers and quantifiers like ''more'' or ''some.'' As one of the papers published by Koppel's group notes, men are also more likely to use ''post-head noun modification with an of phrase''-phrases like ''garden of roses.''

"post-head noun modification with an of phrase" ... Don't you love it when grammarians talk dirty?

But the study has had its doubters:

Critics charge that experiments in gender-prediction don't discover inalienable male/female differences; rather, they help to create and exaggerate such differences. ''You find what you're looking for. And that leads to this sneaking suspicion that it's all hardwired, instead of cultural,'' argues Janet Bing, a linguist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. She adds: ''This whole rush to categorization usually works against women.'' Bing further notes that gays, lesbians, or transgendered people don't fit neatly into simple social definitions of male or female gender. Would Koppel's algorithm work as well if it analyzed a collection of books written mainly by them?

(Link obtained from Arts & Letters Daily.)

Link  | 

Thursday, July 10, 2003

4:50 PM - All posts lead to SecuROM

Yes, it's SecuROM all week long here at Fuyoh! where your humble scribe attempts to provide an impartial and unbiased look at why SecuROM and Atari are complete ding-dongs.

Kidding!

About the impartial and unbiased part. I maintain SecuROM and Atari are ding-dongs.

In case you work for SecuROM or Atari, you can e-mail your legal threats to biteme@myass.com.

Why, yes, I am in a foul mood.

I just found out Pos Laju -- literally translated: "speed post" -- took 6 days to deliver a letter to a location that's less than two hours away by car.

What.

The.

Hell.

Anyway.

Where was I? Ah, yes, of course.

SecuROM.

Australian Resellers Net, a weekly news publication, has a report with quotes from an Atari Australia rep. An excerpt:

Rob Beaumont, from Adelaide retailer Berlin Wall Software Supermarket, was inundated with complaints from customers after ordering in and selling around 100 copies of the extension. Testing the software on their own PCs, the retailer’s staff found that many if not most drives would not accept the extension.

The response from one "Mark Gilbert, group marketing manager for Atari":

“The game uses Securom copy protection which has some compatibility problems with a small number of CD-Rom drives and CD-Rom Writers,” he told ARN.

Compare and contrast those two excerpts if you will.

In the left corner: "the retailer's staff found that many if most drives would not accept the extension"

In the right corner: "compatibility problems with a small number of CD-ROM drives and CD-ROM writers."

Somebody's exaggerating here. No prizes for guessing who I think is doing it.

One disgruntled SoU owner has been in contact with Atari Australia representatives and has posted details of the resulting discussion. An excerpt:

* Atari admitted to the fact that a faulty batch of SOU cds was received and released in Australia

* Atari informed me that the AU version was manufactured in USA, so was the faulty batch.

* Atari admitted that they are investigating the matter and will be making an official press release in Australia

* Attari informed me that they are organizing a repleacement cds of SOU, (complete repleacement not just an install) and that they will be re-releasing it in AU and sending to the parties experiencing problems.

* We came to a mutual understanding after which Atari DID NOT blame my cdrom drive nor my cdrom burning software for the issue, however I acknowledged that others may experience problems associated with that

* I suggested for the above ifo to be posted on Bioware Forums (here) Atari person declined to the fact that it is an international forum (not Australian)

* Atari person was unaware of any retiler's site posting complain articles on their webiste (three were reported)

* Atari stated tha they have never blamed the issue to be cdrom related (two official reports of them doing so were submitted)

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

10:01 PM - Sic 'em, SecuROM

SoU isn't the only recent Atari title with SecuROM woes. Master of Orion 3 had problems as well.

And to correct my last entry, Atari has acknowledged the SoU SecuROM problem. Well, sorta. Atari has a SecuROM Troubleshooting questionnaire on the SoU support page.

Link  | 

6:22 PM - Secure this

Adam at Sierra shares his view of game copy-protection. I take issue with this comment he makes:

Game development is extraordinarlly complex and you have to come to accept that fact that some people will never get your game to run on their system.

There's a big difference between the game not running because your system is too weak to handle it and the game not running because the copy-protection scheme is "incompatible" with your system.

The system requirements of games are clearly printed on the game's packaging. Yeah, they aren't always accurate. But they're there.

In contrast, the game's packaging never lists incompatible hardware or software. If there's a list, it's usually buried in a readme.txt on the CD-ROM. This means you'll have to buy and install the game to find out if your system is compatible.

As of writing, Bioware and Atari have still not made any acknowledgement of the problems with Shadows of Undrentide. And apparently Eidos Asia, SoU's local distributor, has not replied to an enquiry about the issue.

Meanwhile, the beta for the SoU 1.31 patch was released briefly and then pulled for some reason. As expected, the fix list doesn't mention anything about SecuROM.

Link  | 

6:17 PM - Strip for me

Three more reasons (1, 2, 3) why Pearls Before Swine made my bookmark list. (Click fast because the archives only last 30 days.)

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

9:11 PM - Ragnarok: 6am to 10pm only

From The Straits Times:

Thailand is to impose a night curfew on online gaming to curb rising rates of addiction by young players, Information and Communications Technology Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said on Tuesday.

Game servers, both local and overseas, will be blocked from 10.00pm to 6.00am daily from July 15 to Sept 30, while Internet cafes will also have their hours curbed to those times, Mr Surapong told reporters.

Under particular attack is Korean role-playing game Ragnarok, which was introduced to Thailand seven months ago and reportedly now has more than 600,000 registered players here. Of particular concern is that children are becoming addicted to the game.

There's no arguing MMORPG addiction is A Very Bad Thing. While it's true MMORPGs are designed to be addictive, I'm guessing it's not a real problem for gamers capable of exercising self-restraint. Unfortunately, there are always going to be some sad cautionary tales.

That said, you really have to wonder if a server block cum curfew is the right way to solve the Thai situation. Those server blocks can be overcome, I'm sure. And then what? Those kids will still be playing except now they'll be doing it clandestinely.

(Link obtained from Slashdot.)

Link  | 

8:03 PM - Words don't come easy

Kurtosis.

Fichu.

Rhipidate.

If you know how those words should be spelt, well, you ought to be in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

I only caught the last hour of the 11th round (at least I think it was the 11th round) on ESPN this evening and was surprised to find myself hooked on the competition.

It's suspenseful and the emotions on display are no less raw than anything seen in professional sports. The tension is as great as a last minute do or die penalty kick in football. Watching the kids hem and haw and try to stall for time is painful. It's even more painful to see the disappointment on the kids' faces when they get it wrong. It really means so much to them.

A part of me thinks these kids shouldn't be put in such a stressful situation. I mean, jeez, even the parents can't take the tension.

Link  | 

7:33 PM - Terrans über alles!

I submitted my second GalCiv score to the Metaverse ladder today. I scored about 7000+plus points with a Military victory on Normal difficulty after wiping out every other major civilization in the game.

(If what I just wrote is as indecipherable as Klingon to you, just smile and nod your head.)

I pretty much followed my standard game strategy:

  • Frantically pump out Colony Ships in the beginning.

  • Periodically trade tech.

  • Start pumping out Constructors.

  • Set up trade routes.

  • Milk the trade routes with Starbases equipped with trade posts.

  • Upgrade the starbases with Cultural modules to dominate my neighbours culturally.

I didn't have much of a starfleet until fairly late in the game when I got the plans for Battle Hammers and Battleships. I actually left my planets undefended for most of the game and resorted to diplomacy and trade to ensure no aliens would get any funny ideas.

By late game, I was so advanced in technology that my superior starships could wipe out all opposition with minimal loss. The endgame battles were horribly one-sided. Also, tremendously fun. Heh.

I'm currently at number 338 on the player ladder with a total of 9000+ points. I'm still a Lieutenant, though.

I'll increase the difficulty level of the AI opponents for my next game. I'm eager to see how the much-vaunted AI routines fare when they're not being held back. Apparently, the Incredible difficulty level has the AI and the Natural Intelligence on a level playing field.

(You can stop smiling and nodding now.)

Link  | 

Monday, July 07, 2003

5:11 PM - More SoU

I posted about the SoU problem on the Gamers.com.my forum. Apparently, SoU is being distributed by Eidos Asia. Gamers Dotcom has e-mailed the distributor so the word now is "wait."

In other news, Bioware sent the 1.31 patch to Atari for -- heh heh -- QA testing on June 27. If all goes well, the patch should be downloadable next week. No word if the patch will contain any fixes to SecuROM but I doubt it. We'll probably see something in the 1.32 patch.

Link  | 

4:54 PM - You're kidding, right?

From the New Straits Times's description of the Dungeons & Dragons movie:

This is an action-packed, effects-laden, sword-and-sorcery flick much in the vein of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

Much in the vein ... except the D&D movie is really painful to sit through and will leave you curled up in a fetal position whimpering and pleading for it to stop. In this regard, it is somewhat similar to every scene in Attack of the Clones featuring Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman.

Movie trivia: If you listen really carefully during the D&D movie, you can almost hear the sound of Jeremy Irons's career screeching to a halt.

Link  | 

Sunday, July 06, 2003

2:02 PM - Baa

Me am sheepish. There already is a SecuROM editorial on Neverwinter Vault.

(Note to myself: Stop hitting my head on the desk repeatedly.)

Link  | 

1:35 PM - Bubble upgraded

The good news: The Magic Bubble has been updated to version 8.

The bad news: You need the Shadows of Undrentide expansion to play it.

So let's see ... in order to play on the Bubble, I have to install the expansion pack which might thrash my DVD-ROM drive thanks to its faulty copy-protection scheme.

That sound you're hearing? Just me hitting my head repeatedly on the desk.

I don't know if it will actually accomplish anything but I've fired off an e-mail to the Neverwinter Vault about the SecuROM situation. I'm hoping that by announcing the problem on the high-profile fan site Atari and Bioware will be embarrassed into being a little more proactive about the problem.

Right now, they're either blaming the end-users (your CD-ROM is faulty, your drivers are outdated, your hardware is incompatible, your karma is bad, etc.) or doing the what-can-I-do shrug?

Link  | 

Saturday, July 05, 2003

1:34 PM - Destroy SecuROM, kill the grand poobah ...

There's a workaround for the Shadows of Undrentide SecuROM snafu. But I'd feel a whole lot better if Bioware would hurry up with a SecuROM-killing patch.

In Bubble-related news, the server seems to be down. It's not showing up on the GameSpy NWN server list.

Link  | 

Friday, July 04, 2003

6:41 PM - GalCiv x-pack beta out

Stardock has just released the first beta of the GalCiv expansion pack to customers of the Drengin.net service. I'm not about to pay US$30 for the privilege of play-testing a beta so I guess I'll have to wait for the release of the final version in "late summer."

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6:34 PM - Encounter

Two generations of Microman figures meet. A work in progress.

Link  | 

Thursday, July 03, 2003

9:45 PM - Fascinating fact

If you're old enough to drive, you're legally allowed to drive a tank(!) on English streets.

I learned that today from an episode of Extreme Machines on the Discovery Channel. To illustrate that point, they showed a guy driving around London in a bright yellow Abbot tank.

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

8:37 PM - Giob lives!

I've just finished a two hour session on the Bubble. Amazingly, my player character, the hapless Giob, didn't expire this time.

(Note to myself: Buy lottery tickets tomorrow.)

It was close, though. At the 20 minute mark, I was felled by a wolf.

But by Helm's grace, I still hung on grimly to life and eventually felt sufficiently strong to get up.

Translation? My HP was down to -9/26 before I finally succeeded at a die roll whereupon my HP shot up to a massive ... 1/26.

I spent the next 20 minutes just shuffling from the transition area to the fountain of healing while desperately avoiding that one wolf on the periphery of my vision. Talk about suspense.

It was awfully quiet on the server, though. I think there were about 8 other players on and they were off and about in other areas. I did manage to have an entertaining conversation with another player before I logged off.

The main thing is I had another problem-free session.

Link  | 

2:32 PM - Big difference

Well, I'm proud to report Giob didn't get killed after 20 minutes the last session.

It was 25 minutes.

Damned wolves.

Link  | 

1:35 PM - NWN-ing again

Now that I'm free of ISP-caused frequent disconnections, I've been testing multiplayer Neverwinter Nights after reinstalling the game for the umpteenth time last week. I've installed the game so many times I've got the CD-key partially memorised. How sad is that?

I was heartened by the ping rates I got with my ADSL connection. A lot of the servers had playable rates between 300 to 500.

I quickly logged on to the Bubble again. and within half an hour of playing, I was getting 4 second lags and was soon disconnected.

A check with the GameSpy client showed 4 digit (!) ping rates for the Bubble. More astonishingly, I was also getting 4 digit ping rates for Google. It turns out it was my ISP mucking up again.

Things seem to be back to normal right now. Ping rates for Google are around the 300 mark, which is what I normally get. I logged on to the Bubble yesterday and earlier today, and was encouraged by trouble-free sessions.

However, I managed to get my player character killed within 20 minutes on both occasions. Par for the course when playing Giob, the world's most inept bladesman. I swear, my next character is going to be a cowardly guy who runs away every time danger rears its ugly head.

If my MP experience continues to be peachy-keen, I'll order the Shadows of Undrentide expansion disk. (Gamers Dotcom is taking preorders for RM99.) I doubt I'll be spending much time on the single-player campaign but I'm keen on trying out the new Prestige Classes. The Arcane Archer looks especially appealing.

But SoU isn't without its problems ...

SoU suey

Remember the NWN v1.21 SecuROM fiasco?

Bioware was initially adamant SecuROM had not changed but later had to sheepishly admit there was a "miscommunication."

I actually put off buying the game until the problem was fixed with the 1.23 patch.

But SecuROM is apparently back with a vengeance.

I'm confident Bioware will eventually fix this with an upcoming patch but you really have to wonder about the levels of incompetence at Bioware, Atari and SecuROM.

The irony here is the poor implementation of copy-protection is encouraging affected end-users to seek out cracks and hacks.

Anyway, I'm off to playtest on the Bubble before my next class. Will Giob survive for more than 20 minutes? Ah, the suspense.

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

8:24 PM - GalCiv: Chapter IV

I earlier dismissed the Metaverse as a mere high-score board but it's much more than that. The official web site notes:

Galactic Civilizations is also sending additional information about the game that you played. Such as victory conditions, difficulty levels, technologies researched and more. Some of this data can be viewed when looking at another player's profile. Viewing this data may help you gain some insight on how other player's play the game. As the game evolves we will continue to collect more data on the game. As we see fit we will allow this data for public viewing, so you can try to understand other player's strategies.

Well, that's the spin. Unfortunately, the reality is there's no way of determining a player's strategy from the current version of the Metaverse.

But the Metaverse does have a grand purpose:

1) It lets you compete indirectly with other players in the GalCiv universe. And 2) We can update the AI based on the top players. So as time goes on, when you play a computer player you’ll be really playing against the strategies employed by the top players.

It gets more ambitious. The user manual claims:

Eventually, Stardock hopes to allow players to literally choose a player from the Metaverse to play and simulate that player (roughly speaking) in a game. The only thing missing would be the time waiting for others to move and disconnects!

The key word in that would be "eventually". There's nothing like that available right now and the preview for the upcoming free expansion pack doesn't mention anything about it. Did Stardock drop its ambitious plans for the Metaverse? Or will Stardock continue to tweak the Metaverse like the company has continually tweaked the game itself?

The one thing that could use tweaking is the process of submitting the scores to the Metaverse. It's a bit complicated the first time and it might put off newbies.

I also dislike the fact you have to be online when you finish the game to be able to submit the final score. Oh sure, I understand why you need to be online to submit the score. (How else would the score be submitted? Carrier pigeon?) Thing is, you have to be online when you win the game.

Fortunately, there's a workaround. The latest version of the game automatically saves when you achieve a victory condition. So even if you aren't online when you win, you can always reload that endgame save after you get connected.

Anyway, I submitted my first game to the Metaverse last night. I won an Allied Victory on a Medium-sized map at Normal difficulty and ended up scoring 5504 points.

(There are some notes about the scoring system on the message forum.)

I'm currently ranked 453 on the Metaverse player ladder. That's right, I'm 453rd greatest GalCiv player in the entire Universe.

Fear me.

And according to the game's ranking system, I'm apparently a Lieutenant.

Salute me.

(Not with the middle finger!)

While I'm on GalCiv, I caught the X-Play review of the game today. I wasn't too impressed. I wish Adam and Morgan had spent more time describing the game's strengths and weaknesses than on the baffling "clicky-click" running gag.

(Don't you have to "clicky click" when playing every PC game? Those guns in FPSes don't fire themselves, do they? Those units in RTS games don't move out on their own, do they?)

Despite all the condescension (they seemed appalled to be reviewing a turn-based game), they did give it a 4 out of 5.

Finally, for Star Wars fans whose love for the movies did not completely wither and die with the release of the prequels, there's a Star Wars mod available for the game. Get it before the lawyers get wind of it.

(Previous GalCiv entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Link  | 

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