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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

6:17 PM - If you build it, they will come

Web filtering company N2H2 found 260 million porn pages on the Net after doing a study. Surfing for porn. That's got to be the single most fun job anyone's had to do online in a while. Try that elsewhere and you'll get fired.

But that doesn't tell the whole story.

The Censorware Project notes "Bess," the web filtering product hawked by N2H2, not only allows a great deal of porn to filter through but also blocks non-porn sites as well.

The latter is particularly damning since N2H2 claims:

Effective human review - like the processes employed by N2H2 - is the only way to ensure accurate categorization of Web content.

The Censorware Project also points out:

... the most interesting aspect of N2H2 is their plan for making money. They actually plan to offer their Bess censoring service for very little or even for free, in exchange for advertising on student workstations and making Searchopolis the default search engine for the school in question. In effect, they plan to create a censored intranet of public schools across the U.S., where the only access to the rest of the internet is to sites approved by N2H2 and funneled through their search engine, and charge advertisers for the privilege of reaching those students during classtime.

Link  | 

5:50 PM - More Masterpiece

There are a couple of nifty pix of a fully-painted Masterpiece Convoy/Prime out. Pay attention to this picture in particular as it shows where the front wheels are stowed away in robot mode. It's a clear indication of the complexity of the design and the sheer amount of thought put into it.

(Link obtained from the Allspark.)

And because I enjoy torturing myself with details of things I may never get, here are some items related to Binaltech BT-01 Smokescreen:

For what it's worth, I'm not the only one wondering whether I'll be able to get a Smokescreen from HLJ.

Ah well. It's just an action figure. It's just an action figure. It's just an action figure.

It's still not working.

Link  | 

5:49 PM - Dykes on TV

Football Focus is on ESPN today. Be sure to take one swig of your tea every time:

  • John Dykes exhales noisily

  • "Shebby" Singh goes, " ... really, John ..."

  • A pundit makes a statement then quickly looks to his fellow pundit as if seeking approval.

Link  | 

Monday, September 29, 2003

5:43 PM - Unfulfilled

I'm not a happy camper right now. I'm pretty far from being a happy camper. I'm not even in the same postal code as "a happy camper" actually.

It looks like I'm not getting Binaltech Smokescreen from HLJ. Its customer service department has not replied to my e-mail enquiry but I've already prepared myself to be bitterly disappointed.

It appears Smokescreen won't be winging his way from Gunma, Japan, due to a combination of HLJ's inscrutable shipping policies and my overanxiousness.

I pre-ordered Smokescreen in mid-July but I was alarmed when HLJ stopped taking pre-orders for the figure six weeks later. So alarmed that I immediately put in my pre-order for Masterpiece Convoy figuring HLJ would stop taking pre-orders for the highly-anticipated figure even sooner than in Smokescreen's case.

Mistake!

The problem is HLJ's ordering department automatically assumed I wanted to wait until Masterpiece Convoy was in stock before shipping both Smokescreen and Masterpiece Convoy together.

The real problem is HLJ fulfills its orders based on a "first shipped, first served" policy as well as a "first come, first served" policy. Translated, this means customers whose orders are immediately ready for shipment (i.e. all the items in the order are in stock) are served first.

Oh well. It's just an action figure. It's just an action figure. It's just an action figure.

Dammit, it's not working ...

Link  | 

Sunday, September 28, 2003

9:07 PM - Binaltech

I previously thought Takara had mistakenly named "Binartech" as "Binaltech" but as Mouse Pad points out, "binal" is actually an English word which means "twofold" or "double."

Binaltech: Two different technologies for two different modes. I like it.

Heh. I've just learned an English word from the packaging of a Japanese toy.

Link  | 

8:34 PM - Brownouts

The more I read, the more I'm convinced my PC problems are due to a problem with the electrical supply.

I've only heard of the term "brownout" in the past few years and being too lazy to look up the actual definition until now, I thought it was a politically correct term for "blackout."

(Laugh it up, fuzzball.)

It turns out brownouts are due to a dip in the voltage level. PC Guide notes:

Brownouts are extremely common, and can lead to mysterious problems you would never blame on the power system. You can sometimes detect a brownout by noticing the lights flickering or dimming; they occur often during heavy load periods such as in the late afternoon on a hot summer day, and also during storms, as the local grid is affected by mechanical failures in adjacent areas. As the world's electric grids become more and more taxed due to increased demand, the incidence of brownouts is increasing.

Brownouts can wreak havoc with computer systems. In many ways, they are worse than a blackout. In a blackout, the power just goes off, but with a brownout the device continues to get power but at a reduced level, and some devices will malfunction rather than failing totally.

This seems to be the best explanation for my PC woes this month.

Link  | 

1:01 AM - Ruud riposte

Ruud van Nistelrooy shrugged off controversy and did what he does so well: Score goals. The Dutch Master snatched a hat-trick at Walkers Stadium as United comfortably beat Leicester City 4-1.

Scholes returned to show just what United have been missing. His deft flicks, darting runs and quick thinking added another dimension to United's offense. He lofted a beautiful ball into the box in the 15th minute that Keane got on the end of and finished with aplomb. I think every United fan would have been delighted to see the United skipper get a goal.

Van Nistelrooy got the second a minute later after turning a poor Scholes shot into a goal and the Dutchman killed off the match before half-time after a superb take-down of a speculative Ferdinand long ball to make it 3-0.

It was effectively over as a contest but van Nistelrooy got the hat-trick after Djemba-Djemba (who replaced the rested Keane) picked him out from midfield six minutes after the restart.

Leicester got a consolation goal in the 73rd minute after some astonishingly slack United defending but I don't think anyone will read too much into it. United were coasting at that point and obviously conserving themselves for their midweek Champions League Group E match against Stuttgart in Germany.

Link  | 

Saturday, September 27, 2003

7:39 PM - The pain

September is PC Hell Month here on Fuyoh! where I recount my agonising experiences with PCs for your personal entertainment.

My latest bout with Bizarre Computer Behaviour occurred when I decided to re-install NWN and SoU yesterday. The new patch, 1.32, is out, and I thought I would do some MP RPing and try the SoU single-player campaign. So I spent about 50 minutes installing NWN and SoU then downloading and applying NWUpdate 1.19 file followed by the 1.30 to 1.32 patch.

(Surprisingly, I had no problems whatsoever copying the installation files from the SoU CD-ROM to the hard disk with my Sony CRX225E CD-RW drive.)

Done, I restarted Windows. The machine hung so I rolled my eyes and warm-booted it.

This was the start of five hours of pain and ultimately resulted in my migration to Windows XP.

The PC kept insisting there was no bootable disk. I used a Windows 98SE boot-up disk and was relieved to find the hard disk contents were still readable. But why wasn't the PC booting up? I removed the boot disk and tried again. Same thing. I booted up with the boot disk again and checked the Windows directory. Had NWN/SoU's SecuROM copy-protection feature screwed up my registry? I restored a back-up using "scanregw /restore" and warm-booted again. Same problem.

I took this as a sign God, for whatever ineffable purpose, wanted me to install Windows XP.

And so after backing up my data to another partition, I formatted my C: partition and installed Windows XP. The process was over quickly and I rebooted the machine before going online to download the patches, drivers and whatnot.

No bootable disk found.

What. The. Hell.

I checked the BIOS. The Abit NF7-S motherboard was auto-detecting the hard disk without problems. I rebooted the machine. Same damned thing.

Did the PC have a virus?

I disconnected the CD-RW drive -- perhaps the hard disk just wasn't getting enough juice -- and sure enough the machine booted up without problems.

It's a good thing I was eventually going to upgrade to XP anyway so it wasn't that big an aggravation. Still, I really have to wonder if my PC has it in for me.

Or was it something to do with the mains?

I had the electrician come over on Friday but he found little wrong and I assumed my earlier problems were due to a power surge. The electrician did find one oddity: A check with the multimeter showed my Maxtor 650 AVR unit was pushing only 210V whereas it's supposed to be around 230V to 240V.

I'm putting a UPS unit on the shopping list.

Link  | 

7:57 AM - Face

Another quicky and not too dissimilar to an earlier effort.

Link  | 

7:39 AM - Binaltech unleashed

Transformers Binaltech BT-01 Smokescreen is finally out. Fan to Fan has a nice pictorial up as well as an attempt at translating the background story.

Prodimus has the very first BT Smokescreen review up at the SGCollect forums. Some interesting factoids:

  • The package is heavy -- 580g according to HLJ -- due to the figure's die-cast metal parts.

  • The vehicle mode features include folding seats and wheels that turn when the steering wheel is manipulated.

  • The robot mode -- quote: "more poseable than Air Attack Optimus Primal!" -- includes articulation for the fingers.

  • "The toy, despite his details, playability and overall collection value, is pretty fragile." The reviewer managed to break a piece off and scratch off some paint. And he's had it for less than a day. This is not a good sign.

Alarmingly, my HLJ order status for Smokescreen is currently "Back Order." I pre-ordered the figure in mid-July and HLJ was taking order several weeks after that so I should have my pre-order honoured purely on a first-come, first-served basis. I've fired off an e-mail asking for an explanation.

Link  | 

Thursday, September 25, 2003

7:51 PM - Two Smokescreens

Cosmic Rust reports "transformers_alternators" has pictures comparing a test-shot of Alternators/Binaltech Smokescreen with the G1 version.

Thrill at his size!

Admire the sleek curves of his alt mode!

Gasp at his interior detail!

Delight in the homage to the original head sculpt!

Groan as you realise the figure still isn't out yet!

HLJ ought to be receiving its stock of the figure this week. If all goes well, I should have Binaltech Smokescreen in my hands before the end of October.

Link  | 

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

9:47 PM - The Vortex

PC Magazine columnist, John C Dvorak, was in Malaysia recently for the launch of PC Magazine Malaysia. He was apparently shocked -- shocked! -- at how easy it was to get pirated software here.

Perhaps he'll express shock over the ease with which someone can download bootleg software over P2P networks in his next column.

Anyway, Dvorak has a theory about why software piracy is rampant in Malaysia:

The locals will tell you flat out that they cannot afford expensive software, and then they tend to go off on anti-Microsoft rants. I've thought about this and am totally convinced that the piracy is tolerated because it keeps users on the Microsoft teat even though the illegal copies generate no income for legitimate publishers. The approach is like fighting a forest fire with a backfire. In this case, the forest fire is Linux. As long as Southeast Asia and China can get Microsoft Office XP for $1, they are not about to switch to Linux anytime soon. Stop the bootlegging, and then economics alone will turn the whole area over to Linux in the blink of an eye.

What a load of crock.

If you'll indulge my huge overgeneralisation here, Malaysians are notorious software pirates because they happen to be hardcore bargain hunters.

When you grow up visiting pasar malam (night bazaars) and driving hard bargains to get something you want, you're pretty much unlikely to pay top dollar for software when you can get it cheaper from another source.

This bargain hunter mentality isn't solely a Malaysian thing either. I point to the rampant piracy online.

Linux is irrelevant in this argument simply because Malaysians have been pirating software well before the world learned how to spell "Linus Torvalds."

The most interesting portion of the article was Dvorak's description of Kuala Lumpur: "an intense rough-and-tumble metropolis", "a cross between Shanghai modern and New Orleans funky" and "an eye-opener for Americans."

Why do I get the feeling he was at Petaling Street?

Link  | 

6:15 PM - Angel

Link  | 

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

5:57 PM - Eh?

From Exa-Bytes pre-sales FAQ:

Can Exa-Bytes help me transfer my domain name?

No, for client's security and privacy reason we don't help our client transfer their domain name. But we do assist them in transferring their domain name.

Link  | 

5:46 PM - DeKnop

You may or may not have noticed I put up some buttons and banners on the site. It was a reaction to a rare piece of feedback from a visitor who pointed out, and I quote, "... it's rather boring/plain with just the text up there...".

So I needed a banner and I then decided to whip up some buttons for the navigation bar as well.

Pixia, my graphics program of choice, is capable of creating buttons and banners but I went looking for an app specifically designed for that task figuring it would be a whole lot faster.

The first stop on my quest for a freeware solution was -- as usual -- Pricelessware and my faith in the site paid off again when I found two possible solutions.

I first tried Buttonz but quickly uninstalled it when the app froze my PC on two separate occasions. To be fair, it's possible the app was merely taking a long time to render the buttons.

I then tried Sam Francke's DeKnop and I'm happy to report it was exactly what I was looking for. The latest version, 4.3, is a 873kb download and takes up only 1.1MB of hard disk space when installed.

There's not much of a learning curve involved and most folks should quickly figure out the various functions. The official site has examples of the app's capabilities.

It's worth pointing out DeKnop -- Dutch-speak for "the Button" -- is geared towards to quickly churning out simple buttons rather than intricate designs.

I wanted to create buttons with rounded corners -- kuhves ah een zis seezohn, dah-leenk -- but that doesn't seem to be possible.

There's also no way to create two lines of text in a single button or banner. To insert the "by Gobi" text on my front page banner, I had to insert one line of text, save the banner, load the banner in Pixia and then insert the second line of text.

It didn't take long to produce the buttons and banners I wanted. You can see the results on the site. Let me know what you think.

Link  | 

5:40 PM - The power

From a previous entry:

Things returned to normal after I replaced the AVR unit ...

Yeah, right.

I had the same problem today. I've pretty much eliminated the AVR unit and the multiplug adapter from the list of suspects. It's either the PSU or the mains supply itself. It's probably the latter because I had some PSU problems with the family PC as well.

I'll call an electrician tomorrow. If he doesn't fix it, I'm swearing off PCs and switching to stone tablets, hammers and chisels.

Link  | 

Monday, September 22, 2003

8:52 PM - Hurtware

Just when I thought it was safe to switch on my PC again, I had another piece of hardware turn problematic on me. The culprit this time was my Max 650 automatic voltage regulator.

The problems began when I booted up the machine this evening and heard a crackling sound emanating from the AVR. This was followed by the PC rebooting by itself.

I switched off the PC and the AVR, and upon switching both back on, I was horrified to find the CPU, an Athlon XP 2500+, was incorrectly detected by the BIOS. The BIOS was convinced the CPU was an Athlon 1100 and refused to continue booting up because the CPU settings didn't match the Athlon 1100's.

I fiddled with Abit's BIOS SoftMenu, saved the settings, booted up the machine was relieved to see the CPU correctly identified. That relief was short-lived because the same sequence of events -- crackle-crackle, reboot, CPU not being detected -- occurred.

Things returned to normal after I replaced the AVR unit but the way it's going right now I wouldn't be surprised if the PC casing suddenly levitated in the air, screamed obscenities at me and then violently ejected a CD-ROM.

Link  | 

5:30 PM - "Form beer-belly gut ..."

I would have never thought the phrase "came together like a fat Voltron" would be published in my lifetime but it has happened.

Life is beautiful.

Link  | 

1:38 AM - A Ruud disappointment

United played out a goalless draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford. There were plenty of talking points but most of them won't involve the entertainment value of the match.

Arsenal seemed intent on not leaking goals (understandable given their mid-week spanking by Inter Milan) and United weren't that impressive.

The Red Devils once again struggled to pose an offensive threat through the centre. Keane and Phil Neville did well to counter Arsenal's offensive threat but were found wanting when it came to attacking the Arsenal back-line. United improved in the second-half when Keane started darting forward but all told, I have to say the Red Devils badly missed Scholes. Fortune didn't make that many runs down the left channel and the only threat Giggs posed was when his free-kick hit the upright.

So once again it was up to Cristiano Ronaldo, the 18-year-old Portuguese kid with the dancing feet. He played on the right flank this time but displayed his usual trickery and managed to whip in some decent crosses. He was so irrepressible that one point three Arsenal players quickly converged on him when he had the ball and yet the kid still managed to get a cross in.

It was a match van Nistelrooy will quickly want to forget. He missed one clear opportunity, fluffed another, got Vieira red-carded with an Oscar-worthy reaction, missed a penalty, got manhandled by the Arsenal players after the final whistle and was pretty much called a cheat by Wenger during a post-match interview.

Link  | 

Saturday, September 20, 2003

2:29 PM - "It's Not TV! It's Fuyoh!"

Try the Advertising Slogan Generator! ("This Is Not Your Father's Advertising Slogan Generator!") New and improved and now in delicious strawberry flavour! Offer valid while stocks last!

Suddenly, I'm Wreck-Gar. ("What would you do for a Wreck-Gar?")

The page also lists the last few terms entered into the generator and some of them are just as entertaining as the slogans themselves. F'rinstance, someone apparently needed a random slogan for "brendan's itchy balls."

Now, maybe it's just me, but "itchy balls" doesn't really seem like something you'd want to advertise.

Link  | 

2:15 PM - Smirk

Link  | 

Friday, September 19, 2003

11:32 PM - Sideswipe

There are some nifty pix of the second Alternators/Binaltech figure, Sideswipe/Lamboru, depicting the vehicle mode (1, 2), transformation (3, 4, 5, 6) and the robot mode (7, 8, 9, 10).

There have been some concerns over the articulation of the figure. Nobody is sure whether Sideswipe will have articulation at the hips. There seem to be swivel joints at the hips and it appears as if there are hinge joints below. The combination of those joints might give the legs the same range of motion as a ball joint at the hips. But it's hard to tell from the pictures. It doesn't help matters that just about every picture of the robot mode has the legs splayed wide and none of them depict his legs posed forward or backward.

I'm putting off ordering this figure until I find out for sure. Articulation is important to me and I'd have a hard time justifying getting Sideswipe/Lamboru if the figure had limited posability at the hips.

(Link obtained from the Allspark forum.)

Link  | 

11:25 PM - Another one bites the dust

I wish I wasn't so damned prescient.

It looks like the family PC's new hard disk is dead. I'll send the system back to the store and let them figure it out if they can. I suspect fixing it is going to involve an exorcism.

On the plus side, I had no problems backing up my data with the new CD-RW drive in my personal rig.

If all goes well -- and what are the chances of that happening? -- I'll upgrade to Windows XP next week.

Link  | 

7:32 PM - Easily suey-ed

I finally got the replacement hard disk from my local computer store. It only took 34 days.

I know I said I would never get any hardware from them again, but feeling rather magnanimous today, I got a Sony CRX225E CD-RW drive for RM155 from the same place. I wanted to back-up my data in case of snafus when I upgraded to Windows XP. If you read Fuyoh! regularly, you'll know snafus are pretty common here on Planet Gobi.

So I installed the replacement hard disk unit in the family PC and was relieved when it was auto-detected. However, the CD-ROM drive was not.

After cussing, praying and frantically fumbling about, I discovered somebody (*cough*) had attached the CD-ROM, which was configured as a master drive, on the same IDE channel as the hard disk.

Mea culpa and I hang my head in shame.

I rectifed the mistake and was relieved when everything was detected just fine. I was about to partition the new hard disk when the power cut out on me. I checked the mains. It was fine. I checked the AVR. No problem there either. I tried again. The machine just wasn't powering up. I gave up and sent the machine to the shop and it turned out the PSU had died on me. It cost me RM50 to replace the PSU since the warranty just happened to expire two weeks ago.

What are the chances of a piece of hardware dying a mere two weeks after the warranty expires?

But it gets worse.

I then installed the CD-RW drive on my personal rig. I wasn't surprised when the machine refused to get past the IDE drive auto-detection during boot-up.

It was rapidly becoming apparent this was turning into one of those days.

After the usual cursing, praying and frantic troubleshooting, I eventually found out the problem was due to a faulty IDE cable.

The IDE cable, which had been working just fine up until the moment I attached it to the new CD-RW drive, decided to die on me. On the same day the PSU on another machine decided to die on me.

I wasn't so upset over this that I felt like killing myself but I was sufficiently upset that I felt like killing someone who looked a lot like me.

The two machines aren't networked to each other so the IDE cable can't have planned this with the PSU but I'm not ruling anything out.

Anyway, I replaced the IDE cable and everything seems to be A-OK now.

But then, this day isn't over yet ...

Link  | 

Thursday, September 18, 2003

10:36 PM - GalCiv v 1.10

I installed GalCiv on my new machine early this morning. It was another game which I had to give up playing on my old Celeron 900-powered machine due to a post-DX9b performance hit.

I used the versatile Stardock Central to download the free expansion pack, the multimedia pack and the updated manual. I love this app but I think the more important features -- patching and downloading game-related files -- should be integrated into the game itself.

The good news is the movies play perfectly now without the stuttering I experienced with my old rig. Hell, everything about the game is so silky smooth now it just about makes me weep.

I really like the rally points feature included in the latest version of the game. It comes in handy during military campaigns and I expect it will be absolutely crucial when playing in the larger-sized maps. Another new feature, the hyperlinked tech tree, should've been in the game from the start but hey, better late than never.

On the downside, I have had a couple of crash-to-desktops with the new patch slash expansion. It turns out the Survey Ship is bugged. It should be fixed soon enough as Stardock plans to release another three patches before the end of the year.

The company is even considering another expansion titled Altarian Darkness. This one wouldn't be free but I don't mind paying for more, more, more GalCiv. This is a great 4x game and I've been very impressed with Stardock's post-sales support.

I guess when you're a smaller outfit, it pays to go out of your way to please your customers.

(At the other end of the spectrum, you've got a company like Atari which is still screwing its customers with SecuROM.)

There are some interesting revelations about the game in this recent #GalCiv chatlog:

  • Stardock removed a lot of features from GalCiv because they thought they would be wiped out by MOO3.

  • About 10 per cent of GalCiv sales came from direct sales with retail sales accounting for about 60,000 units.

  • Stardock would need at least 5,000 orders to justify making Altarian Darkness, the proposed US$20 direct-only expansion. There's currently a poll on the official site to determine if there's sufficient demand.

  • Stardock will spend the next two months seeking publishers for GalCiv II, which the company hopes to release in 2005. Plans for the sequel include a 3D graphics engine (dubbed "Pear3"), ship customisation, fleet battles with logistic limitations, and planet design. Check out the developers' blog.

  • The Stardock roadmap includes a proposal for a real-time version of GalCiv titled "Galactic Federations" as well as GalCiv III.

Note: "Frogboy" is Brad Wardell, the game designer, while "Cari_Elf_Girl_Geek" is Cari Begle, one of the game's programmers.

(Previous GalCiv entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Link  | 

7:48 PM - TM2 Monkey King

Transmetal 2 Optimus Minor, one of the most maligned figures from the Beast Wars line. (Nekotom has pictures of the toy.)

He strikes me as being a robotic version of the rebellious Monkey King from Journey to the West.

Link  | 

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

11:22 PM - Go get one

Transfandom.com reports HLJ is finally taking pre-orders for Masterpiece Convoy and Binaltech BT-02 Lamboru.

I've made my pre-order for Masterpiece Convoy. It's pricey at 9800 yen and the shipping cost could be quite high but it's not every day long-cherished dreams come true.

I'm going to wait until I've evaluated BT-01 Smokescreen before making a decision on Lamboru/Sideswipe. It's possible HLJ will stop taking pre-orders for Lamboru before I make up my mind (cf. the Smokescreen situation) but I suppose I can always get the Alternators version of the figure if worse comes to worst.

Link  | 

6:15 PM - And I quote

Bill Maher:

New Rule: Pinching Your Own Nipples is Free Speech

Headlines like that are why I ensure I never have a mouthful of Lipton Yellow Label when I click on one of my bookmarks.

Link  | 

5:52 PM - 5-0

United mauled Panathinaikos 5-0 at Old Trafford in their opening Group E Champions League match. (The Insider, as usual, has a good write-up of the match and the BBC has some pix.)

Some thoughts:

  • Forget the scoreline; United didn't play particularly well and Panathinaikos were spectacularly bad. The Greek side's manager, Itzhak Shum, came up with this incredible piece of spinning:

    No-one in our group will win here, so in a sense we have lost nothing.

    In a sense? In what sense? In a stupid sense? Dude, your side got slammed for five and looked like a bunch of incompetent yahoos on the pitch.

  • United looked far from convincing in the middle of the field. Phil Neville, replacing Captain Keane, partnered Butt and while the duo did do well defensively, they were not much of an offensive threat.

  • Giggs, who retained his place in the squad despite a poor showing over the weekend, did reasonably well today. But I just haven't been too convinced with Giggs's performances this season. He isn't beating opponents the way he used to and he often all but disappears in the course of the match. But players like him can often produce a piece of magic out of nowhere and that's why Ferguson keeps faith in him, I think.

  • Fortune impressed first at the left of midfield and then later at leftback when O'Shea was replaced by Fletcher. I think the South African's a shoo-in for a place in the side against the Gunners. It was great to see him score United's second with a thumping finish. He's had so much trouble breaking into the side and when he did get a decent run last season, he ended up breaking his leg.

  • The young Scotsman, Fletcher, did rather well on the right and will be featuring in more matches this season, I think. But not against Arsenal.

  • Solskjaer played on the right of midfield and scored a goal thanks to the incompetence of the Panathinaikos keeper. Unfortunately, in keeping with the current United theme of Let's-Get-Injured, the Baby-Faced Assassin picked up a knock. I expect Phil Neville will replace him on the right. Which would mean some interesting duels against the hot-headed Arsenal left-back, Ashley Cole. The two had a couple of run-ins in the Community Shield match and Cole was lucky to escape a sending-off.

  • Van Nistelrooy hustled and bustled, and will be disappointed he didn't get the goal he deserved. But his overall performance demonstrated just how much of a team player he is despite his single-mindedness in front of goal. It was nice to see the Ruudster run over to congratulate Djemba-Djemba when the Cameroonian got his first competitive goal for the Red Devils in the 83rd minute. A more self-absorbed striker would've been sulking over the fact he hadn't got a goal of his own.

  • Ferguson was laughing well before the end -- well, United were 4-up at the interval -- but he's got ample cause for worry. I just can't see United beating Arsenal this Sunday. The best the English Champions can hope for is a draw and I'm preparing myself for a loss.

Link  | 

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

11:25 PM - Optimus ver. Armada

Optimus is wielding Star Saber mainly because somebody got lazy and decided to avoid drawing the entire right arm.

The head's too large, some details are off, the whole figure looks a bit too 2D-ey and the pose is a little goofy but it's not too bad.

(Here's a picture of the action figure for comparison.)

Link  | 

9:58 PM - Dykes on football

I rather enjoy ESPN's Football Focus. Hosted by that chronic sigher, John Dykes, it's a fun talk show about All Things English Premier League.

Today's show had some great discussion about cheating in the EPL. There were loads of outrage about some of the refereeing decisions and player playacting in last weekend's matches.

Rightly or wrongly, Pires was singled out for his dive in Arsenal's match against Portsmouth. I suspect most neutrals were hoping Portsmouth would pull off an improbable victory and were incensed that Arsenal escaped defeat thanks to a dubious penalty decision.

I found it odd Phillips's dive against Wolves was downplayed even though it was one of the most outrageous penalty decisions I've ever seen.

There was a suggestion the cheating culture was mainly due to foreign players who were used to that sort of thing but once again, the most outrageous bit of playacting over the weekend came courtesy of an Englishman.

It just seems some players (and managers) are determined to win by any means possible and it's blatantly clear players aren't going to be bothered by pangs of conscience when they do cheat.

I'd go with Gavin Peacock's suggestion about studying post-match videos and handing out bans and fines if warranted. Perhaps players will be less likely to collapse theatrically if they were to get hit with three match bans and four-figure fines for cheating.

Buying the title

Another interesting discussion was about Chelsea attempting to buy the Premiership title.

Let's not forget the little fact Manchester United, the dominant force in the Premiership since its inception, have probably spent the most of any team. Yeah, the Red Devils have relied on home-grown talent but Ferguson has broken transfer records time after time to ensure United remain competitive both domestically and in Europe.

Shebby Singh -- I seem to recall a time when he was "Sergebeth" -- nails it when he pointed out if Chelsea do win the Premiership, it will be because they worked hard for it.

The Premiership involves slogging through 38 matches over nine months. You aren't going to win the title unless you have the passion, the will and determination to do it.

Link  | 

5:59 PM - "Flash! Ah-aah!"

A couple of notes about my spanking-new Abit NF7-S v 2.0 motherboard.

I've got two Mushkin 256MB PC2700 Basic Green DDR modules and was expecting to make use of nforce2's DualDDR memory channel feature.

Unfortunately, my motherboard doesn't seem to be enabling the feature. There are two possible reasons for this.

The first is incorrect placement of the memory modules. To enable DualDDR, you have to place the memory modules in specific slots. There's some confusion as to which specific slots, though. Abit states one thing and Adrian Wong (of "Adrian's Rojak Pot" fame) disagrees.

The second possible reason is the motherboard BIOS. I'm using the original BIOS (BIOS 10, fact fans) and I note BIOS 12 included a fix for the auto-detection of the DualDDR channel ability. The most recent BIOS is BIOS 18 and that fixes the CPU detection problem that sometimes occurs with the Athlon XP 2500+ Barton.

Should I upgrade the BIOS?

On the one hand, if it ain't broken, don't fix it. I've never flashed a motherboard BIOS before and I've read enough horror stories (1, 2, 3, 4) to know that a mistake will prove costly.

On the other hand, I'm such a fussy bastard and I anticipate a slight performance boost with the latest BIOS.

And if I do decide to flash the BIOS, how should I do it? I'm tempted to use the Flashmenu as it's easier than the usual method. I've heard both good and bad things about the Flashmenu, though.

Decisions, decisions.

Link  | 

Monday, September 15, 2003

5:34 PM - Morrowind: The puzzling box

I hate dungeon crawls.

I hate them.

I was mucking around in a dungeon while playing Morrowind because I was looking for a puzzle box. It ended up being one of those frustrating gaming experiences that might cause a less-obstinate gamer to swear off CRPGs for good.

There was a locked door with no key. A box I couldn't open. But the biggest annoyance by far was a broken bridge I had trouble jumping across. It wouldn't have been so bad except a failed attempt meant a deadly swim in hot lava. I must've died 10 times in that place. And when I did finally manage to jump over it -- praise the gods for Adrenaline Rush -- I found to my exasperation there was nothing of note on the other side.

I had pain.

And no puzzle box.

Frustrated, I gave up and decided to look for the solution on comp.sys.ibm-pc.games.rpg. It turns out the puzzle box was exactly where I didn't expect it to be.

I feel like a monkey.

An especially stupid monkey.

Link  | 

Sunday, September 14, 2003

8:25 PM - And I quote

Conan O'Brien:

Today the Department of Homeland Security made the air space over Disneyland and Disney World no-fly zones. The news came too late for Tinkerbell, who was shot down by an F-16.

Link  | 

8:23 PM - Fiat lux

From the packaging of the Optimus Prime flashlight:

When freedom is threatened, OPTIMUS PRIME is prepared to defend it. Take the OPTIMUS PRIME flashlight keychain with you on your next intergalactic mission and its beam of light will guide you through battle.

Given the choice between an Optimus Prime laser rifle and the Optimus Prime flashlight, I'd rather go with the laser rifle when going on intergalactic missions to maintain freedom. But that's just me.

Dave Van Domelen has a review. Yes, of the flashlight. Yes, things are getting surreal in Transfandom.

Link  | 

12:30 PM - Blah but Ruud brace gets three

United beat Charlton thanks to two goals from that fox-in-the-box, Ruud van Nistelrooy, last night.

It would have been an extraordinarily dull match but for that trickster Ronaldo. The kid from Madeira -- who will end up the most-fouled player in the Premiership this season judging from the Charlton match -- provided most of United's attacking thrust as the Red Devils badly missed Scholes. It says a lot that the two goals came from set-pieces. It didn't help matters the other United players looked badly out of sorts. The passes, flicks and one-twos just weren't being pulled off and the United players were left looking at each other in exasperation more often than not.

Ferguson needs to make changes for the upcoming Champions League match against Panathinaikos.

(This is assuming his injury list doesn't grow and he's forced into making a change. Keane has picked up an ankle injury but let's assume -- and hope -- he's okay for Wednesday.)

I'd replace Giggs -- the Welsh Wizard apparently ran out of spells in the last match -- with Solskjaer, move O'Shea to left-back, bring in Silvestre at centreback, move Fortune to the left of midfield and switch Ronaldo over to the right flank.

And start hoping Scholes recovers quickly.

United look bereft of inspiration in the centre of midfield at the moment.

Link  | 

12:29 PM - And I quote

Ian Holloway:

To put it in gentleman's terms, if you've been out for a night and you're looking for a young lady and you pull one, you've done what you set out to do. We didn't look our best today but we've pulled.

Some weeks the lady is good looking and some weeks they're not. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi.

She may not have been the best looking lady we ended up taking home but it was still very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much and let's have coffee

The Queens Park Rangers boss was describing his team's performance against Chesterfield. Yes, he was talking about a football match. What did you think he was going on about?

(Via BBC's Quotes of the Week.)

Link  | 

11:21 AM - Morrowind

From the official forums:

Things that are not in Morrowind

Nudity, climbing rope, mounts, werebeasts, multiplayer, asparagus, N'Sync, calculus, and the Loch Ness monster.

From the top 10 list of downloaded Morrowind mods:

"The Best of Naked Morrowind"

I didn't realise the Quest for Jiggling Fleshy Bits was that important to many RPGers.

Anyway, I've been enjoying the game.

(Yes, even without "The Best of Naked Morrowind.")

I played the previous game in the Elder Scrolls series, Daggerfall, but didn't manage to get too far into that game thanks to a combination of bugs (the game had broken quests even after the final official patch), exhausting dungeon crawls and the baffling 3D maps.

Morrowind is much less buggier than Daggerfall as of the 1.2.0722 patch -- I've only had one crash-to-desktop -- and the maps are much easier to read.

The dungeon crawls? Well, I've started my first one in an abandoned Dwarven crib called Arkngthand. (I'm assuming it was abandoned when the dwarves ran out of vowels.) I'm expected to retrieve a puzzle box which I'm sure is hidden away in the lowest level guarded by fell beasts and dastardly men. Just for once I'd like to find the Precious Item Which Must Be Retrieved at the entrance of the dungeon.

Wah!

I know I've raved about the visuals of the outdoors before but the eye-candy really is something else. I've watched the ripples in the Odai river as rain fell in Balmora. I've had to turn away as the sun glared into my eyes. I've felt uneasiness as the midnight fog obscured my view as I walked on the road to Caldera.

But realism isn't always great. Taking time to move from building to building, room to room, person to person at a walking pace is realistic but it's not necessarily fun. You can run about but fatigue will eventually set in and you'll be forced to walk again.

While there are shortcuts for travelling between towns which save both game time and real time, you'll still spend most of your play time just plodding from person to person, room to room, building to building. The game's said to have up to 200 hours of gameplay and I just wonder how much of that time just involves walking.

Melee combat isn't particularly enjoyable right now. I'm playing a Knight who's relying mainly on his sabre so it's a click-fest with limited tactical options. I suppose magic users will have more tactical options available to them.

I do derive a great deal of pleasure from using the long bow, though. Nothing like standing on top of a stairway and sending arrow after arrow against a foe on a lower level. Heh.

Anything goes

The open-ended nature of the game can be a boon. Do what you want, when you want. At least until you hit one of the central story events.

But personally, I prefer to be given some motivation to continue at the outset. Right now, the only thing that's keeping me playing is the level treadmill -- whether it's ability-related or position-related -- and the promise of new and spectacular alien imagery.

The performance has been pretty good but I wasn't expected it to be otherwise with my new system. I'm currently playing in 1024x768 and getting 30 frames at least.

My only annoyance -- and it's a minor one -- is the occasional pausing as new area levels are loaded. I've got 512MB of RAM so I'm hoping I can reduce the delays by tweaking something.

And speaking of which, Kouroush Ghazi has a Morrowind tweak guide with some good Windows tips thrown in for good measure.

Link  | 

Saturday, September 13, 2003

8:00 PM - The greatest Autobot of them all

Toy News International has great pictures of the upcoming Masterpiece Convoy/Optimus Prime figure. Some thoughts:

  • The engineers who worked on this did an amazing job. Check out the way the parts in the lower abdomen switch to ensure the figure is more 'toon-accurate in both robot and vehicle modes. The Powermaster Optimus Prime/God Ginrai toy was the only previous transforming version of the character that came close but unlike the Masterpiece version, the older toy didn't have a transformation sequence that was reasonably faithful to the 'toon.

  • The neck joint seem awfully thin. Indeed, the head almost seems to be levitating over the body in a somewhat disturbing fashion. Here's hoping there aren't going to be many decapitated Masterpiece Primes in the future.

  • I'm not terribly impressed with the "battle damage" and would have much preferred a flat-shaded 'toon-accurate paint job. Hey, if you're going to pay homage to a character, you have to be as faithful to the source as possible. How many episodes/issues has Prime/Convoy sported that type of battle damage anyway?

(Link obtained from Transfandom.com.)

Link  | 

7:54 PM - Bravest of the brave

"We are the fighting force, but wherever we go there will be peace."

Their allies describe them as silent, reliable and loyal. Their enemies describe them as silent, ruthless and dangerous. Discover the history of the Gurkhas, one of the most famous fighting forces around.

How brave were they?

In the 185 years they have served in the British Army, the Gurkhas have won 26 Victoria Crosses, more than any other single group in the army.

Havildar Lachhiman Gurung won his VC by preventing the escape of Japanese forces in Burma in 1945, literally single-handedly.

He threw back three hand-grenades thrown into his trench - the third of which blew off his right hand.

In spite of his wounds, he carried on fighting, firing and re-loading his rifle with his left hand for four hours.

How loyal an ally were they?

The spirit of this friendship can best be illustrated by the reply made to the Prime Minister of Nepal to the British Minister in Kathmandu after the fall of France in 1940. When Britain stood alone. Permission was sought to recruit an additional twenty battalions for the Gurkha Brigade and for Gurkha troops to be allowed to serve in any part of the world. This was readily granted by the Prime Minister who remarked, "Does a friend desert a friend in time of need? If you win, we win with you. If you lose we lose with you".

The late Sir Ralph Turner paid tribute to them:

"As I write these words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your camp fires, on forced marches or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you".

Link  | 

Friday, September 12, 2003

5:41 PM - Kick

NinjaMicroman.

Again.

Just because.

Link  | 

Thursday, September 11, 2003

6:40 PM - On fire

More Firestorm.

Link  | 

6:39 PM - The crazy brave

Rebecca Liss writes about Dave Karnes, one of the lesser heralded heroes of 9/11:

Columnist Stewart Alsop once famously identified two rare types of soldiers, the "crazy brave" and the "phony tough." The professionals at Ground Zero—I interviewed dozens in my work as a producer for CBS—were in no way phony toughs. But Karnes does seem a bit "crazy brave." You'd have to be slightly abnormal—abnormally selfless, abnormally patriotic—to do what he did. And some of the same qualities that led Karnes to make himself a hero when it counted may make him less perfect as the image of a hero today.

Yah, the "staff sergeant" seems a bit ... odd. God told him to, uh, buy a Porsche 911? Okay-y.

(I guess it's the best way to overcome any potential spousal objections. "Mid-life crisis? No, dear, it's a mission from God!")

Still, it's reassuring to know when the chips are down, the fan gets hit, when it's the darkest of dark hours, there are still folks like Dave Karnes who'll step forward.

Link  | 

6:39 PM - And I quote

Jay Leno:

Today the music industry filed 261 lawsuits against individuals who’ve illegally downloaded music off the Internet. If you have downloaded songs in this past year, you could end up losing your computer, your life savings, your home. And if you downloaded country music, you could lose your dog, your girl, your truck.

Link  | 

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

6:37 PM - 2 become 1

Coloured version of a previous digi-doodle.

Link  | 

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

8:05 PM - Nukular fashion

DC Comics superhero Firestorm the Nuclear Man.

Apparently nuclear power has a preference for puffy sleeves.

Link  | 

6:20 PM - On the bright side

When things get really bad, I rely on something quite similar to this. (Click fast, the free archives only last 30 days.)

Link  | 

6:16 PM - Reds to Blues

United chief executive Peter Kenyon has scarpered off to join Chelsea's Russian revolution. Phil Harlow notes the biggest short-term danger to United:

Kenyon's detailed knowledge of Old Trafford's inner dealings - wage structures, plans for commercial expansion, possible future transfer targets - is now in the hands of one of their strongest competitors.

It's probably not going to matter over the long-term, though. But it does raise some interesting questions. Why did Kenyon turn blue? Was the offer that good or was Kenyon perhaps anticipating a change in United's future?

There have been rumours Ferguson's horse-racing buddies, JP McManus and John Magnier, have been contemplating a take-over bid.

Link  | 

6:16 PM - And I quote

Letterman:

Last week down there in Crawford, Texas, President Bush dropped his dog Barney on his head. Today al-Qaeda took full responsibility.

Astronomers say that an asteroid is heading for earth and could strike on March, 24th, 2014. The asteroid will have the power of 20 million atomic bombs – or one Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck movie.

Link  | 

Monday, September 08, 2003

5:24 PM - Werewolf, too

A coloured version of a previous digi-doodle. This lycanthrope loves his bling-bling.

Link  | 

5:14 PM - "... just human like you ..."

From Roger Ebert's review of "September 11," a collection of 11 films -- each 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame long -- about 9/11:

The third powerful film is by Mira Nair of India, who tells the true story of a Pakistani mother in New York whose son got on the subway to go to medical school and never returned. She was questioned by the FBI, her son was named as a suspected terrorist, and only six months later was his body found in the rubble, where, as a trained medic, he had gone to help. At his funeral, his hero's coffin was draped in the American flag.

The story was about Talaat Hamdani and her son, the late Mohammed Salman Hamdani.

Ebert ends the review thusly:

... I could not help wondering: Would it have killed one of these 11 directors to make a clear-cut attack on the terrorists themselves? 9/11 was a savage and heartless crime, and after the symbolism and the history and the imagery and the analysis, that is a point that must be made.

I don't think it was necessary for the film to make a pointed attack on the terrorists.

Doesn't irrational hatred feed on vitriol and anger?

And it was irrational hatred that caused Talaat Hamdani's neighbours to suspect her son of being a terrorist and turn against her when they found out Salman was missing in the aftermath of 9/11.

It's more important that we remember the sadness, the pain, the loss, the utter senselessness of it all.

It's more important that we resolve tragedies like 9/11 should never come to pass again.

Link  | 

Sunday, September 07, 2003

11:09 PM - Prime proto out

A prototype of Masterpiece Optimus Prime/Convoy has popped-up on eBay. Some thoughts:

  • He's 12-inches tall. A G1 Bluestreak doesn't even reach his knees.

  • The figure weighs 1.3kg thanks to the die-cast chest and lower legs. The shipping cost is going to be much more than I had anticipated. The package for GX-13 Dancougar weighed 1.8kg and had an estimated SAL shipping cost of 5000 yen. I'm looking at a total cost of RM460 or thereabouts here. Ow.

  • The Matrix apparently lights up.

The more I see, the more I crave. When oh when will HLJ start accepting pre-orders? The company was taking pre-orders for Binaltech Smokescreen in mid-July and that figure is only due to be released at the end of the month. Will I have to wait until mid-October to make my pre-order for Masterpiece Convoy?

(Link obtained from the ToyboxDX BBS.)

Link  | 

10:04 AM - The best things in life

Did you know that some of the best software out there do not cost a cent? (Pretend you don't know that. Otherwise I would be without my primary reason to write this entry.)

Here are my favourites:

  • Keynote - Notes in nodes, treatises in trees.

  • WordWeb - What's synonymous with "indispensable"?

  • ZoneAlarm - Don't get online without it.

  • The Proxomitron - The Proxomitron vs. web annoyances ... the Proxomitron wins.

  • Mozilla Firebird - With tabs and a pop-up blocker, you'll never go IE/Aaieee again.

  • Pixia - Digi-doodle dandy.

  • AVG - Virus, shmirus.

  • Ad-aware - Spyware beware.

  • Spybot S&D - Plugs up holes, tracks down spies.

  • Calypso - I got mail!

  • Blog - This site wouldn't exist without it.

Head on over to Pricelessware for more links to great freeware. (Absolutely no spyware or adware.) If you're interested in freeware-related discussion, check out alt.comp.freeware.

Link  | 

8:47 AM - Serial number? What serial number?

I tested out CM4 on the new system and was pleased with the dramatic improvement in performance. The increase in CPU power made a huge difference. The UI is no longer sluggish and playing CM4 is now as fun as playing previous versions.

The 512MB RAM I have now would allow me to run more leagues simultaneously but I'm only interested in the English Premier League so there's little incentive to try the others.

Another noticeable and welcome improvement with the new system: the ADSL modem, a D-Link DSL-200I, has no problems sync-ing upon boot-up now. With the old rig, I might sometimes have to reboot several times before the modem could get in sync with the CO.

The graphics card I got, a MSI GeForce4 Ti4200-TD8X, comes with an amazing software bundle. I was gratified to find it included some games which I had been meaning to play but missed out on including Morrowind, Serious Sam 2 Lite, Ghost Recon and IL-2 Sturmovik. Kudos to MSI for providing an outstanding package for RM430.

I installed Morrowind earlier and was blown away by the visuals. I barely played for 10 minutes but even in that brief time I saw some stunning imagery. The outdoors are downright spectacular. Screendumps from this game should be printed out and displayed in art galleries.

AIY0H

The software bundle also includes WinDVD 4, InterVideo's DVD software player. Being prescient, I predict here's what's going to happen when you try to install the software ...

You launch the setup, get to the registration screen and then realise you don't have a serial number.

Is it in the MSI manual?

No-o.

Is it on a text file on the disc?

No-o.

Is it printed on the CD-ROM cover?

No-o but you're getting warmer.

Is it printed on the CD-ROM itself?

Bingo!

You then exit the setup program, eject the CD-ROM, write down the serial number, insert the CD-ROM back into the drive, launch the setup program, input the serial number, get an "invalid serial number" error message, eject the CD-ROM again, check the serial number again, insert the CD-ROM again, launch the setup program, input the serial number again, get an "invalid serial number" error message again, eject the CD-ROM again, realise the pranksters at MSI decided to print their "0"s to look like "O"s, curse passionately for some time, insert the CD-ROM again, launch the setup, input the serial number then fall to your knees and praise God because the software has been finally been installed.

Not that the above necessarily happened to me.

*cough*

(My only consolation is that I wasn't the only one who had this problem.)

Link  | 

Saturday, September 06, 2003

3:46 PM - Again with the Ninja!

NinjaMicroman.

Yes, again.

Instead of reducing the actual image, I've limited the in-browser display width of the image. It looks less icky if you hover the mouse pointer over the image, right-click and select "View image" (or your browser equivalent) to the see full-sized version.

Link  | 

2:18 PM - Sounds good

I transferred my hard disk and DVD-ROM drive to the new system and installed Windows 98SE earlier.

I did purchase Windows XP Home Edition for this system but I was leery of installing it immediately because I haven't had any experience with XP. At all. I didn't really need a software wild card while I was testing the hardware so I'm sticking with Windows 98SE until I'm satisfied there aren't any hardware issues with this system. But it has been relatively well-behaved.

I was warned the Abit NF7-S motherboard sometimes mistakes the Athlon XP 2500+ Barton for an Athlon XP 3200+, which might lead to the CPU getting all hot and bothered. The latest BIOS update does fix that but the dudes at Robyn Computer were adamant I shouldn't update the BIOS unless I had a problem. Better safe than sorry, I guess. Undoing a BIOS update isn't as simple as hitting CTRL+Z, is it?

I did face one niggling problem with the audio. For some reason, MP3s were playing too fast and/or skipping. Fortunately, thanks to Google, I found someone else with the same problem who pointed out the fix. Two downloads later, the problem was gone.

(It's amusing, though, how so many seem inclined to suggest adding a heatsink to the southbridge as if it was a magic cure-all for every NF7-S problem.)

I haven't done any testing with games or DVDs yet but thus far, I've been very impressed with SoundStorm.

Link  | 

Friday, September 05, 2003

11:36 AM - So busy

The local computer store where I usually get my PC hardware has apparently expanded its list of services to include jerking off its customers.

I had been planning to upgrade my system for some time now. My current rig has a Celeron 900 CPU with 256MB of SDRAM and a 64MB GeForce2 MX graphics card.

Stop giggling.

Aside from gaming, it does well. And gaming wasn't too bad either. Most games I play -- and I favour strategy games -- were playable if I turned off the eye-candy.

Unfortunately, frame rates went south on me after I upgraded to DirectX 9b a couple of weeks back because of security concerns. There was a noticeable performance hit even with a turn-based game like GalCiv, which wasn't frisky to begin with.

Playing CM4 was downright painful. Entire civilizations could rise and fall in the time it would take for me to switch to the Tactics screen during a match. (But to be fair, CM4 performed poorly on my system even before I upgraded to DirectX 9.)

Anyway, I asked for a quotation for several PC components from my local computer retailer when I returned my hard disk last month.

I asked for the following items:

  • AMD Athlon XP 2600+ (Thoroughbred) CPU

  • Abit NF7-S v 2.0 motherboard

  • 256MB DDR RAM

I opted for the Athlon because of the solid bang-for-the-buck. The CPU should be good enough for my needs for the next two years (at least) even without overclocking.

The nForce2-based NF7-S was chosen primarily for the onboard audio chipset, SoundStorm, which offers good audio quality with low CPU overheads.

(I'm currently using a C-Media 8738 audio chipset which came on an ECS P6BAP-Me motherboard and the best thing you can say about the C-Media 8738 is that it's cheap.)

There are cheaper SoundStorm-equipped motherboards but the NF7-S is the one of the few that's been certified by nVidia. Plus, Abit has a good rep and has been releasing drivers on a regular basis.

Anyway, I insisted on those particular parts and the store personnel nodded and assured me they could get it.

I didn't hear anything from the computer store for over two weeks. Nothing about the hard disk. Nothing about the quotation.

So I called to enquire about the hard disk two days ago. I was unsuprised to hear it would take another week. I then calmly asked about the quotation I asked for. Over two weeks ago. I was told they'd call me back in five minutes. I waited two hours and called them again. I was told they didn't have the quotation but they'd have it for me the next day (which was yesterday). They did call me yesterday and I listened patiently as they explained they couldn't get the exact parts I asked for but had alternatives to offer.

I told them I'd call them when I was ready to order. I was ready to order but I had absolutely no intention of ordering from these folks.

Far be it for me to distract them from their busy schedules with my money.

Long story shorter, I called Robyn Computer in Low Yat Plaza and got a quotation within five minutes.

Anyway, I ended buying the following parts:

  • Athlon XP 2500+ (Barton) for RM360

  • 2 sticks of 256MB Mushkin PC2700 DDR RAM for RM360

  • Abit NF7-S v 2.0 for RM380

  • MSI GeForce4 Ti4200 128MB RAM for RM430

  • 1.44MB FDD for RM25

  • PL0211-SS casing (with 400W PSU) for RM90

  • Windows XP Home Edition OEM for RM320

Total damage: RM1965

I opted for the 2500+ Barton instead of the 2600+ Thoroughbred. The 2500+ runs slower (1.8GHz compared to the 2600+ Thoroughbred's 2.1GHz) but has double the L2 cache and runs cooler as well.

I haven't found any benchmarks and reviews specifically comparing the two CPUs but judging from these Direct3D and OpenGL benchmarks, the Barton can hold its own against the Thoroughbred when it comes to games.

And the Barton's cheaper.

Anyway, the guys at Robyn Computer were very easy to deal with. (But the acid test will be post-sales support when/if I require it.)

Bottom line, I look forward to patronising their establishment in the future.

Link  | 

Thursday, September 04, 2003

5:51 PM - All mussed up

Based on Microforce's CommanderMicroman.

I need to come up with some new poses. They're all starting to look alike.

Link  | 

5:19 PM - "Dia ... Clone"

Ginrai has uploaded a 5MB MPEG of a Takara Diaclone Powered Convoy ad. It may have been produced almost two decades ago but it's the coolest toy ad I've ever seen by far. They put quite a bit of effort into it and you just have to love the sound effects.

(Link obtained from Toybox DX.)

Link  | 

5:12 PM - Archer again

Transfandom has another interview with Aaron Archer, the primary TF designer in the US. Some notes:

  • The Alternators line was the result of a brainstorming session between Archer and one "Andrew." Would that be Andrew Frankel? He was described in this BotCon 2002 report as the Exclusives Director for Transformers.

    What's interesting is Frankel is a TransFan who used to frequent alt.toys.transformers before joining Hasbro. (Check out this link for a smile.) What's especially interesting is Frankel used to go by the monicker "Swiper/Sideswipe" ... which just happens to be the second figure to be released in the Alternators/Binaltech line.

    (Incidentally, Frankel had a GI Joe figure named after him and in his likeness to boot. Lucky bast- ... chap.)

  • Hasbro and Takara are working on getting Alternators/Binaltech car licenses that will appeal to their respective markets. We've got one each from Japanese (Subaru) and American (Dodge) car manufacturers thus far.

  • The Masterpiece Optimus Prime/Convoy figure -- genuflect before him and sing his praises, fanperson -- will not come with a trailer. Or at least "Right now there are no plans." I don't mind one bit. I'm a little uncomfortable about the price tag as it is and a trailer would only add to the cost. If the figure sells well -- and I fully expect it to -- perhaps Takara will be tempted to release a special edition -- New Year's Masterpiece Convoy, anyone? -- that will include the combat deck and Prime modules.

Link  | 

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

6:23 PM - TF:TM v 2.0

I'm sure every Transformers fan knows Tom DeSanto is producing a G1-based live-action/CGI Transformers movie.

DeSanto's a smart man. I'm sure he didn't pick the Transformers franchise because he thought giant transforming robots were cool; he did it because, like the X-Men, Transformers has a large worldwide fanbase with some impressive numbers in key summer movie demographics.

I'm keeping my expectations low, though. I'm sure I'll be incredibly irritated with a lot of aspects of the movie (when/if it's eventually released). That goes with the territory when it comes to these types of homages/reimagining/blatant exploitation of fans.

Aware of how fans can rip a movie to shreds even before it's opened, DeSanto's made a lot of fan-friendly comments in a recent magazine interview.

I know he's spinning and marketing here but I'm heartened by this DeSanto quote:

There's no better mythology to bring to the big screen than Transformers. Transformers has got great characters and created an iconic world, and the mythology still resonates with people 20 years after it was launched. Even though they're robots the characters have a lot of personality and a lot of heart and people still care about them. That's a great thing.

If you're not a Transformers fan, you're probably snickering at "mythology," "great characters" and "personality." Transformers fans get that a lot from folks who look at the toy-based line and wonder about the appeal of it all. But it is mainly about the characters for me and a lot of other Transformers fans.

True, the writers came up with the broadest of broad strokes to describe the Transformers (see the G1 series bible) and it's funny how most of the original crew of the Ark could be accurately summarised in two words (or less!). Brawn is the "macho van," Jazz is the "swinger," Gears is the "complainer," etc.

But perhaps this simplicity is the very key to the characters' enduring appeal worldwide.

Characterisation aside, I'm looking forward to seeing what magic DeSanto and Co can come up with to convince us a Freightliner COE can transform into a "kind and compassionate" giant robot.

(Link obtained from Transfandom.com)

Link  | 

6:17 PM - Hero

You want a Real Malaysian Hero? You want an inspirational story of achievement despite overwhelming odds that will move you? Read Danapakiyam Arumugam's story.

At age 28 and seven months pregnant, she was abandoned by her husband. Homeless and destitute, and with three young children to care for, she ended up in a home and had to eventually give up her newborn daughter for adoption.

Six years later, she runs a shelter for the homeless and mentally disabled where she makes a real difference in some Malaysians' lives.

It's sad we didn't hear about her heartwarming story until Reader's Digest -- a foreign publication, mind you -- selected her as one of their "Everyday Heroes." (She's the first Malaysian to be thus honoured.)

Meanwhile, we are making such a fuss over some guy who woke up one morning and decided to swim across the English Channel.

What does this say about Malaysia?

Link  | 

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

6:07 PM - What's missing here?

Lost: One pair of elbows.

Link  | 

Monday, September 01, 2003

12:19 PM - Naive and gullible

Another writer has decided to lecture and admonish his fellow Malaysians in a letter to the NST:

Perhaps we Malaysians are naive and gullible.

Whatever is dumped on us in the form of art and entertainment we devour with gusto — oblivious to the possibility that they may subvert our intellect. All it needs is for someone to say, "Hey, this is good for you" — and we scramble for it.

...

Many of the movies and TV programmes flooding the international market - Malaysia not excluded - in the name of art and entertainment are calculated to undermine human morality. Our homegrown productions imitate them.

Isn't it naive and gullible of the writer to assume his fellow Malaysians are so morally weak and so incapable of baloney detection they'll be subverted by everything they see and hear?

Have some faith in your fellow Malaysians. Perhaps we're smarter than you might think.

Then again, maybe not:

The Prime Minister said he was disappointed that there had been doubts over the ability of national mariner Datuk Azhar Mansor, with allegations that he had used “black magic” to complete his record-breaking feat of sailing solo around the globe.

“They want to know about it so that they too could overcome challenges and be as successful.

“There is no ilmu kebal (invincibility), no ilmu ghaib (unseen powers) that can guarantee success,” Dr Mahathir said ...

It's amazing the Prime Minister of Malaysia felt it necessary to point that out. (And it's not the first time he has done so.)

What would that NST letter writer make of it, I wonder? He certainly can't blame the belief in ilmu kebal and ilmu ghaib on foreign movies and television programmes, can he?

Link  | 

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