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Saturday, July 31, 2004

9:28 PM - Piggybacking

Ladies and gentlemen, the Pork Chop Express.

(Photo obtained from a Japanese BBS.)

Link  | 

9:28 PM - When pigs fry

From Firingsquad's look at Rome: Total War units:

Incendiary pigs are 'one shot' weapons intended to spread panic and terror amongst enemies, particularly mounted troops. The pigs are coated in pitch, tar and oil, and herded towards the enemy. At the right moment, the pigs are ignited by their handlers and, not unnaturally, they run away in pain and terror - hopefully towards the enemy.

War is hell.

But The Flaming Pigs would make an excellent name for a rock band.

(Dave Barry for President!)

Link  | 

Friday, July 30, 2004

11:21 PM - Mega bucks

The New Straits Times reports:

Malaysia’s tourist arrivals are likely to hit an unprecedented high this year, making it the second most visited Asian destination after China.

This would also help maintain the industry’s position as the country’s second largest revenue earner and contributor to the GNP.

Events like the Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival are helping the country achieve this year's target of 15 million visitors but sadly, some unscrupulous retailers are going all out to fleece customers.

Link  | 

11:21 PM - Secure this

Gamers are being caught in the crossfire in the war between pirates and game publishers.

Game publishers are so paranoid these days they're releasing game demos with copy protection schemes.

This wouldn't be an issue but some of these copy protection schemes are equally paranoid. From SecuROM's web site:

SecuROM scans for active emulators with built-in cracking features and stops the application if one of them is found.

It's not merely preventing the program from being copied, the copy protection scheme is preemptively acting even if there's a possibility of the game being copied.

Gamers have been just as paranoid about the ill effects those copy protection schemes might have on their systems. From dlsreports's write-up of the StarForce copy protection scheme:

While stopping software piracy is the scheme's goal, the system instead causes system slowdowns, PC instability, device conflicts, is nearly impossible to remove manually, and remains long after you've uninstalled the software it came with.

There's a lot of suspicion but there doesn't seem to be any irrefutable proof StarForce does actually do all that. (That hasn't stopped gamers from taking action, though.)

It's not inconceivable that a copy protection scheme might cause problems, of course.

From the StarForce web site:

Some versions of StarForce Copy Protection will install dedicated drivers on your PC. Those drivers are necessary for the StarForce specific CD/DVD checking procedure, only.

...

In some cases, updating StarForce drivers can improve system performance or improve compatibility.

...

Sometimes the un-installation utility of the protected application does not uninstall all StarForce drivers.

You could infer from that StarForce might install buggy and incompatible copy protection drivers that won't be uninstalled when you uninstall the game.

And here's something that isn't mentioned in StarForce's support page: those copy protection drivers are hidden by default.

And lest folks think this is a brouhaha mainly because of ifs and maybes, it's worth pointing out that this isn't the first time gamers have had issues with copy protection schemes. BioWare was aware that some Hordes of the Underdark users had issues with SecuROM but did little more than shrug it off. There were also SecuROM issues with Knights of the Old Republic and gamers were told to get another game executable from the publisher.

(There are even older examples.)

I suppose I should count myself fortunate I haven't had major problems with copy protection schemes but that's just absurd. Why should I be thankful when I paid money for the game? Have I not earned the right to play the game without being treated like a prospective thief after I've purchased the game?

Link  | 

Thursday, July 29, 2004

8:18 PM - The Knowledge

Why do Italy play in blue if their flag is green, white and red? Disregarding free transfers, what was the cheapest transfer ever? Has anyone been sent off for fouling a team-mate?

All this footballing trivia and more in The Knowledge.

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8:18 PM - Dead again

Oh, Mario, let me count the ways I have killed thee ...

I have dropped you into chasms.

I have seen you slain by boomerangs.

I have caused you to be killed by an incredibly diverse menagerie of beasts.

I have seen you run over by uncommonly mobile carapaces.

I have you allowed you to be crushed by falling blocks of concrete.

And I am only on World 2.

Super Mario Brothers 3 is ostensibly a platform game but the way I play, it's Faces of Death, Nintendo-style.

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

9:26 PM - Butt heads for Tyneside

Nicky Butt is joining Newcastle after 13 years of service to Manchester United. I suppose it was no surprise he would move on considering the difficulties he had breaking into the first eleven last season and the signing of Liam Miller, another midfielder, could have been the final straw for him.

United fans will be sad to see him go. He wasn't the most spectacular of players and the importance of his spoiler role often went unappreciated but he could always be counted on to give his all for the club he joined as a 14-year-old.

In other news, Astro Super Sports will be screening matches from the Vodafone Cup. The pre-season tournament will see Urawa Reds and PSV Eindhoven take on United at Old Trafford and this is a great opportunity to check out United at full strength (or close to it) because the teams have been contractually obligated to field their best players.

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9:26 PM - And I quote

Gizmodo:

How much do the iPod mini's colors matter?

... it seems the Japanese (or at least those marketing to them) are taking it to the next level, describing the green iPod mini, for instance, as "not decorative, but assertive. Gentle, but with vitality. For those types of casual people." Or people that like green, I guess.

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9:25 PM - Heroic gesture

From Joystiq:

In a gesture of gratitude, NCsoft & Cryptic Studios are giving away 2,000 copies of the best-selling MMOG, City of Heroes, to Marines returning from duty in the Middle East. ... The Navy Exchange Service Command is also offering a 10 percent discount on 60-day game cards if purchased when the free copy is picked up. “We hope they can have fun playing City of Heroes with their family and friends, and know that their challenging work has not gone unappreciated” (Robert Garriott, president of NCsoft-North America).

City of Heroes is a MMORPG that charges players a monthly fee after the first month of free play so NCSoft is essentially showing their gratitude to the returning Marines by offering the soldiers an opportunity to give the game company money on a monthly basis.

How awfully nice of them.

Link  | 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

7:50 PM - RAR

I had some trouble extracting files from a RAR archive today. The freeware version of PowerArchiver usually works fine but oddly, it could only recognise and extract a single 764kb file from the 100-plus MB archive I had downloaded. I tried updating the unRAR.dll file but that didn't help.

I finally downloaded UnRAR for Windows, a freeware program to extract files from RAR archives. The tiny no-frills utility only has a command line interface -- type "unrar/?" to get a list of valid commands and switches -- but it did the trick.

Link  | 

7:50 PM - Lore

Lore Sjöberg's Lore Brand Comics doesn't have much in the way of art but it's funny and that's all that matters.

(Faves: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Link  | 

Monday, July 26, 2004

11:24 PM - Repetition and persistence

Stuart Walpole has a good article on Gamedev.net about designing games for folks with little gaming time. I agree wholeheartedly with his points. An excerpt:

I have better things to do than attempt the same mis-timed jump again and again: Why oh why have jumping "puzzles" not died the death they richly deserve? There's nothing that quite kills pacing like reloading the same quicksave (or better yet, being returned to your last save point) until you beat a tedious activity through sheer trial and error.

What, exactly, is my incentive for continuing to waste my precious time in this situation?

My own incentive is I refuse to be defeated by something a six-year-old could best e.g. Super Frickin' Mario Brothers 3.

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11:24 PM - The Bitmap Bros.

The Bitmap Brothers were the first team of game developers whose work I actively sought out in my early computer gaming years. Their oeuvre spanned shoot-'em-ups, platform games and even sports simulations (of sorts) and each of their games invariably became a classic of the genre. Their designs held up so well their games were converted for the GBA and the Pocket PC platform in 2002. (Speedball 2 ver. GBA is my new holy grail.)

The Chaos Regime pays homage to these Motorola 68000 processor gaming gods and the articles on the site brought back a flood of memories of a time when gaming goodness could be packed into a single disk.

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

9:38 PM - Small world

Small disaster: Suffering a power blackout when you've downloaded 97.8 per cent of a 234MB file.

Small victory: Getting past that ball-breaking World 2-4 level in Super Mario Brothers 3 after numerous attempts. (And in the Funny How It All Worked Out dept: I wouldn't have been playing if it wasn't for the blackout.)

Small acknowledgement: Gullible and simple-minded might also describe someone who was suckered into buying a bootleg SMB3 cartridge.

Small rant: eBay's inability to filter for US-based sellers who sell to overseas customers. You can filter for US sellers and you can filter for items which are available to Malaysian bidders but not for both. "Ships to: United States only" has dashed my hopes one too many times.

Link  | 

9:37 PM - Fight cool with burning hearts!

Two more reasons to watch Dekaranger:

1) A giant robot riding a giant motorcycle.

2) A magically babe-a-licious villainess.

(Images found on the Tanoyo board.)

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1:39 AM - Fake intell

Wire News reports:

A virus purporting to show images of Osama bin Laden's suicide popped up on the Internet on Friday, designed to entice recipients to open a file that unleashes malicious software code, security experts said.

...

The fake bin Laden suicide file, when opened, unleashes a program called a Trojan horse that makes it possible for attackers to take over infected personal computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system.

You have to wonder who would be so simple-minded and gullible enough to swallow that codswallop and actually click on that file.

Who indeed.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 24, 2004

9:44 PM - Megablast

Phrase of the day:

Super Nashwan Power

(Screenshots.)

Link  | 

9:42 PM - Fleep

Few would consider math problems to be an engrossing read but Jason Shiga's Fleep is riveting.

In the author's own words:

It's about a boy who wakes up in a telephone booth which has been mysteriously selaed in an envelope of concrete. Using only the contents of his pockets (two pens, a paperback novel, three coins and 20 ft of unwaxed dental floss) our hero must fashion and execute an escape plan before he runs out of oxygen.

The comic is 44 strips long and I dare you to stop reading after 22. It's impossible. Impossible, I tell you!

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

Link  | 

Friday, July 23, 2004

11:32 PM - T|E

I've been keen on getting a PDA for some time. As is typical of most of my gadget-pining, I don't actually have an overpowering need for one but it would be superniftycool to have.

I'm currently eyeing the palmOne Tungsten E (reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4). It's one of Palm's budget-friendly offerings but the feature-set covers what I would like to have in a PDA.

The T|E includes 32MB of RAM with 28.3MB of that available to the user. It may not sound like much but bear in mind Palm OS applications are very compact. And I like the fact that there are a lot of freeware applications available. If I should ever need to find an apartment in South Carolina or chart my ovulation, I know where to look.

The T|E is capable of playing MP3s but the MP3s have to be stored on an SD card. You can get a third-party application that will enable MP3s to be stored on a RAM disk but you'd only have enough space for a handful of songs.

The model has a well-documented problem but I don't think it affects every unit. At least I hope not. It is possible to fix it but it requires more technical wizardry than I have.

The T|E is retailing locally for RM788 (with one guy offering it for RM720) and it's being bundled with an aluminium hard case until 30 September. I'll probably get one in the next few weeks.

Link  | 

11:32 PM - Piggybacking for justice

Life trumps fiction yet again. The Star reports:

Being big sized was certainly an advantage for a salesgirl here when she overpowered a thief and sat on him until police arrived.

In the noon incident yesterday, a youth entered a cell phone outlet in Jalan Tun Dr Ismail here where Wong Pei Fan was manning the counter.

On the pretext of buying a new phone, the suspect asked the 22-year-old salesgirl to show him the latest model with built-in camera.

While Wong was busy entertaining another customer, the suspect fled with the phone and ran towards the central market where he had parked his motorcycle.

His luck ran out when Wong, who shouted and gave chase, caught up with him at a traffic light junction about 20m from the outlet.

Book salesman M. Jagesdwaran, 44, who was at the scene, said he saw Wong grabbing the thief's T-shirt and pounced on him before shoving the latter on the ground.

The thief fought back but the gutsy Wong gave him a kick in the groin.

While he was grimacing in pain, Wong sat on him and shouted for help.

Jagesdwaran said Wong gave the thief another blow in the face when he tried to resist.

At one stage, the thief tried to crawl away with Wong riding “piggyback.”

I apologise for the extensive quoting but the mental imagery of the plus-sized salesgirl piggybacking on the hapless thief must be bequeathed to future generations.

Link  | 

11:32 PM - Shirty

The Spanish football season has yet to begin but there's already been tremendous controversy and a violent demonstration. What's all the fuss about?

Would you believe a football jersey?

Athetic Bilbao's new jersey has been described as "horrible," "an ugly, unpleasant thing," a "monstrosity" and "an insult" with one Bilbao player diplomatically saying it was "different, even challenging." The club president, the man who probably approved the jersey, was left hoping it would somehow intimidate their opponents.

Let's hope the artist who designed it stays clear of Manchester United. (Pride of Manchester has pictures of Red Devil jerseys through the years.)

Link  | 

Thursday, July 22, 2004

11:45 PM - In the Shadows

Behold my player character from the Shadows of Undrentide campaign. As you can tell from his bright red leather armour, he's a stealth specialist who likes to keeps a low profile. And nothing says "low profile" like an eyepatch in matching red, eh?

(And while I'm on the subject of questionable fashion sense, what's with that Half-Orc henchman? Has he not been told disco outfits are no longer in vogue?)

It's a bit tough playing as a Rogue. I like the tactical options available to a master of shadows -- is there anything more satisfying than luring a large group of foes to several traps laid in succession? -- but close-quartered battles with multiple foes tend to preclude the use of subtle tactics and my poor Rogue is usually left flailing ineffectually away with his short sword before his inevitable demise.

And there are few crutches in SoU compared to the original NWN campaign. The teleport-to-safety option in SoU was removed at the end of the first chapter and there were enough limitations that players were discouraged from abusing it even when it was available.

In addition to that, you can't rest wherever and whenever you like. You have to find yourself a secure resting area away from enemies and those secure areas take a while to locate. Plan on spending a lot of time walking around with festering wounds while playing this game.

Fortunately, the Rogue's ability to use scrolls and magical items is a great equaliser. My level 7 Rogue initially had a lot of problems facing a Manticore in a straight fight even with a Dwarven cleric by his side. After several failed attempts, I dug through my stash of scrolls, gave Bigby's Interposing Hand a go and was grateful when the spell pretty much won the battle for me.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

11:04 PM - Random images

Yet more reasons why I'm glad I don't play Ragnarok Online.

Another reason why drinking yourself into a drunken stupor is bad.

Consider this frightening thought: in some Internet cultures, this comic might be venerated for being wickedly funny.

Another moment of high drama in multiplayer Neverwinter Nights. Eat your heart out, J.R.R.

(Images found via UploadYourImages.com's random photo browser.)

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11:04 PM - Skin

Connie Rice has a checklist for a colour-blind America. She displays some hypersensitivity -- why does it have to be a racial issue when someone compliments her for being articulate? -- but I found her comments sobering for the most part.

It's no better in Malaysia, of course. Scroll down this thread to see how one local blamed a bad shopping experience on the colour of the salesman's skin. I'm not so much disheartened by the racist comments as the complete lack of admonishment from the other members of the forum.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

7:09 PM - Fontastic

Typoposter

This is the coolest generator ever I've seen this week. Input some text and the typogenerator grabs a random image from Google's cache of that search term and adds random effects and fonts to create a JPG file. The results can be striking despite what some critics say. (Granted, the results are probably an acquired taste.)

(Link obtained from MeFi.)

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12:17 AM - Hordes defeated

I finished the Hordes of the Underdark campaign earlier today and I enjoyed the ending as much as the rest of it. The only strike against HotU is that the story and characters were built on the uninspiring Neverwinter Nights campaign. If it weren't for the fact HotU makes a lot of references to the original campaign, I would recommend bypassing the NWN campaign altogether.

I'm still on a CRPG kick right now as I've moved on to the Shadows of Undrentide expansion. I started the game as a Rogue with the intention of picking up the Shadowdancer prestige class later on. I'm hoping the Shadowdancer's stealth abilities will offer a markedly different style of play.

I'm having some trouble adjusting, though. As a level 26 Druid/Shifter in HotU, I could call down the fury of the heavens and make the earth itself tremble as I battled ancient dragons and demiliches. As a level 3 Rogue in SoU, I can barely hit Kobolds with a short sword. It's very humbling.

It doesn't help matters that I'm having issues with my SoU henchman. I've currently hooked up with a half-orc sorcerer who seems singularly averse to casting spells in combat. You can get him to buff you up before a battle but he seems unwilling to cast any offensive spells during combat. He's handy with the heavy crossbow but I'm ditching him as soon as I've hooked up with the bard.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

11:29 PM - Further down

I've completed the second chapter of Hordes of the Underdark and I dare say HotU is (thus far) equal to -- if not better than -- anything in Baldur's Gate II.

I had a low opinion of NWN's Aurora engine but it appears Bioware didn't take full advantage of its capabilities until HotU. I was particularly impressed with the final setpieces of the chapter which featured some outstanding large battles. I don't think there has been anything like it in CRPGs prior to this one. And some of the quests had some delightful (and often wicked!) twists.

Could the chapter have been any better? Well, sure. The writing wasn't bad -- I actually enjoyed some of the conversations with the NPCs -- but it wasn't particularly memorable either. (To be fair to Bioware, though, I can't think of any other recent game that had me raving about the text.)

Furthermore, the difficulty could have been scaled better. Most battles were a breeze for my character (a Druid 20/Shifter 4 at the end of the chapter) with one battle of infuriating difficulty early in the chapter.

I also wish Bioware had taken inspiration from fan-written programming scripts which increase player immersion. For instance, Vendalus's Personal Reputation and Reaction (PRR) system keeps tab on player actions and NPC reactions. Do something deplorable like rifle through an NPC's belongings and he will take offence.

But on the whole, this game is enjoyable and I'm looking forward to Chapter Three.

Link  | 

11:18 PM - "Jigoku no Banken!"

Favourite tokusatsu sequence of the week: Dekamaster's debut in Dekaranger episode 13.

Dekamaster

The world's sternest Muppet, Doggie Kruger, transforms into Dekamaster and has to take on 100 foot soldiers (the director thoughtfully provided an on-screen counter which carefully keeps tab on the number of foes left) yet he still manages to find time to pose with his blade and spout lines like, "The burning flame of my heart ... perhaps it is hell for evil-doers. Be burnt out for the sake of peace!"

I can't remember the last time I've giggled this much.

(Check out my main site for more screencaps.)

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Friday, July 16, 2004

9:23 PM - "Mathletes"

Let's see a show of hands. How many consider math to be a riveting spectator sport? It may come as a shock but there are televised math competitions and Jordan Ellenberg wonders if perhaps "mathletes" might some day feature in the Olympics. My favourite paragraph from his article:

Honesty compels me to confess that my high-school math team was called the "Hell's Angles"; that we wore matching black T-shirts advertising this fact; and that we entered each match in file behind our captain, who carried on his shoulder a boombox playing "Hip To Be Square."

Is there trash-talking in math competitions? How does it go? Would it involve cosines and differentials?

Link  | 

9:23 PM - Shirty

From the BBC:

Female politicians in Germany have tabled a motion calling for footballers to escape punishment when they take their tops off.

Evelin Schoenhut-Keil and Margareta Wolf want to see more flesh on display and have the backing of women across the land.

The current rule dictates any player removing his shirt to celebrate a goal will automatically receive a yellow card.

But after seeing Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo being penalised for that very offence at Euro 2004, the Green MPs want that rule rescinded.

Compare and contrast it with Sepp Blatter's comments earlier this year:

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has urged women footballers to wear skimpier kits to increase the popularity of the women's game.

But Blatter's comments have outraged leading European women players, who have said his remarks could further undermine their sport.

Link  | 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

8:35 PM - Random photos

Cute.

Trying a bit too hard to be cute.

Definitely trying way too hard to be cute.

Stomach-churningly cute.

(Photos found via UploadYourImages.com's random photo browser.)

Link  | 

8:23 PM - Down in the dark

I've just completed the first chapter of the Neverwinter Nights expansion, Hordes of the Underdark, and I'm delighted to report the expansion is thus far much better than the canned campaign included with the original game.

I had no problems importing my level 15 Druid from the original campaign but the character was perhaps too powerful for the first chapter. The final battle at the end of the chapter did provide a challenge but most combat encounters were too simple for the mighty godling my character had become.

The second chapter seems much tougher, though. I've only just begun it but I had a deuce of a time with one of the early battles and had to replay it a dozen times before discovering a winning tactic.

(Hint: Running in circles around your henchman as your opponent chases after you is not a winning tactic. It also has the unpleasant side effect of making even the mightiest of godlings look like a sissy.)

Side kick

You're allowed to have up to two henchmen in the expansion and thankfully, the henchmen are much more interactive this time around. You can issue all sorts of useful commands to them and Bioware has even added the ability to tweak their inventory.

But the best part about the HoTU henchmen is that they add immeasurably to the atmosphere. They'll cheerfully add their two cents' worth to any conversation you're having and they'll even converse amongst themselves. And some of their comments are downright hilarious. (I'd recommend picking a certain halfling rogue/shadowdancer if you want to be entertained.)

However, not all their comments and observations are impressive. Does a level 18 Druid really need to be told that knowing when to cast a spell is just as important as which spell to cast?

Well, okay, considering he was running in circles around his henchmen during battle, perhaps he did need to be told that.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

7:37 PM - Deka, deka, deka

Dekaranger

A typically absurd moment from the latest sentai series, Dekaranger.

I'm enjoying the series despite my general apathy towards Power Rangers-ish shows. (I don't think I've managed to sit through one of Haim Saban's reimaginings for more than 10 minutes.)

Dekaranger, while unrepentantly formulaic, is irresistible cheesy fun. There are some pedestrian attempts at drama but the series is definitely at its best when it's being tongue-in-cheek.

Special mention has to be made of Doggie Kruger, the blue-furred alien with the dog-like head, whose stylish Dekamaster incarnation is an outstanding character design.

Dekalinks:

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Monday, July 12, 2004

9:06 PM - WiFi wuh-oh

An anecdote by an IRC user highlights the danger of WiFi jacking.

(More funny stuff from IRC: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

Link  | 

Sunday, July 11, 2004

9:00 PM - Extend and expand

It may be called the Game Boy Advance but don't let that fool you into thinking it only plays games. You could also use the GBA as a videoconferencing device, a GPS/mapping system, a movie player, e-book reader, an instant messenger, a digicam and a real-time display for Le Mans racing information and results.

Oh, and here's some good news for quadriplegics and really kinky gamers: it's also capable of being operated with only the tongue.

All that in a really tough shell.

Link  | 

Saturday, July 10, 2004

8:57 PM - Word of the day

Emasculate

1. Deprive of strength or vigour.

2. Remove the testicles of a male animal

e.g. "Being humbled by villains named 'Goombas' and 'Koopa Troopa' is really emasculating."

I'm currently playing Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 on the GBA SP and as you might gather, it hasn't been the smoothest of experiences.

I'm pretty damned sure I'd still be stuck on the initial levels if it weren't for the save game option. The FAQs and guides on GameFAQs helped, too. Still, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get past the dastardly Larry Koopa at the end of World 1.

Having done so, though, I now feel confident I can beat this game. So bring on World 2. Give me your best shots, Micro-Goombas, I can tak- ...

"Oh, mamma mia!"

Sigh.

Tomorrow's word of the day: Chagrin.

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Friday, July 09, 2004

9:54 PM - Live a life of danger

Alpha Ranger

A photo of the Xevoz Alpha Ranger I got recently. It's another nice figure from the surprisingly good Xevoz line but it does appear the best of Xevoz is yet to come (2).

Link  | 

9:54 PM - Firefox fixed fast

The Windows version of Firefox has been upgraded. The new version, 0.9.2, contains a single fix and users of version 0.9.1 can download a tiny patch instead of the whole thing. Regardless of the method you choose, you will need to get this fix if you're using Windows since it addresses a critical bug.

How bad is it? It's bad enough to be used as propaganda both by Mozilla's fans and its detractors. The detractors will erroneously declare this bug has been around since 2002 while the champions of Mozilla will point out the bug was fixed promptly.

Link  | 

9:53 PM - Christ

The local censors and the Home Ministry are as determined as ever to make Malaysians look idiots.

Their latest edict is that only Christians will be allowed to view The Passion of the Christ and only at designated cinemas. Furthermore, the film is not allowed to be promoted through posters and movie trailers.

According to the Malay Mail, 1,582 out of 63,381 movies reviewed by the National Censorship Board between 2000 and May 2004 have been banned in Malaysia.

Five will get you ten those 1,582 titles are the most coveted pirated movies.

Link  | 

9:53 PM - Up, up and away

I first saw this insane motocross trick (2, 3) performed on ESPN and it still amazes me. It's called the One-Handed Superman and it's performed with BMX bikes as well.

You just have to wonder the injuries these riders suffered while perfecting this spectacular trick.

Link  | 

Thursday, July 08, 2004

9:35 PM - GBA SP

I'm mentioned before about wanting a Game Boy Advance SP but I didn't run through the reasons why.

The portability is a big plus, of course. The machine itself is easily pocketable and the game paks (that's how Nintendo spells "cartridges") are small enough that you can keep a number of them in another pocket.

Unlike PC games, I don't have to bother checking the minimum and recommended systems requirements for a GBA game. Simply plug and play.

I don't have to uninstall other software due to insufficient hard disk space.

There aren't any patches to download and I'm not left feeling like I'm paying developers for the dubious honour of beta testing their buggy games.

There aren't any infuriating software security schemes that interfere with other software on my PC.

Unlike consoles, the GBA SP doesn't have a regional coding scheme so I don't have to worry about compatibility with my unit.

Granted, there are some things you have to get past before you can enjoy gaming on the GBA SP.

The tiny low resolution screen and the anime-inspired graphics with bright, colourful kiddy-friendly palettes take some getting use to and the sound and music can be a little grating. (I'm grateful the machine comes with a volume control.) It seems very much an 80s gaming platform.

But on the whole, I think it's an excellent hassle-free gaming platform.

In theory.

"Arr!" "Grr!"

Anyway, I got a silver-coloured GBA SP and the clunkily-named Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Brothers 3 for RM450 yesterday.

I thought it was a good deal until I discovered a short while later the cartridge was a bootleg. This led me to confront the salespeople and the owner of the place where I had purchased it from and a high decibel frank exchange of views ensued.

The sheer amount of lies they came up with to explain away their transgression was astonishing. They kept insisting the bootleg cartridge was the real deal and when asked for a refund they said they would have to recalculate the price of the GBA SP. Why? Well, they had the gall to claim the AC adapter and the rechargeable battery were sold separately. I'm completely amazed they weren't struck by a lightning bolt there and then.

(Although considering I was in the immediate vicinity, this was perhaps a good thing.)

Exasperated and exhausted by arguing with these unscrupulous lowlifes, I gave up. I'm glad my venting at the very least made the sleazeballs squirm like the worms they are. If this teaches them not to treat future customers like prospective marks then this would have been worth it. I'm not too optimistic about that happening, though.

I don't intend them to let them get away scot free but I think it's best to fight smart instead of fighting hard. I think a post on one of our local gaming forums would do nicely to spread the word about these guys. I may have been burnt but I could do my part to ensure others aren't conned as well.

The attack of the clones

But that's the main problem I have with GBA games -- the availability. It's tough to get originals locally. Local retailers will tell you it's flat out impossible but I suppose that's mainly because they want you to purchase their bootlegs.

And as I discovered myself, local retailers are not averse to slapping on price tags with original prices on the bootleg versions and passing them off as originals.

This wouldn't be an issue if it was easy to tell the originals and the bootlegs apart. Unfortunately, it's not. The bootleg packages are convincing and they even include colour manuals. (However, a close check of the text on the packaging and manual would show enough typos to set alarm bells ringing.)

Nintendo suggests opening the cartridge to make sure but I can't see retailers acquiescing to that. You could try checking the visible part of PCB board at the bottom of the cartridge for the Nintendo copyright but again, it's not especially easy.

I had thought of getting games from eBay but it would appear that most GBA games sold there are bootlegs as well.

I'm sure I'll eventually find a source for original GBA games and I'm determined to do so because there are a couple of titles I'm really keen on.

Title contenders

I usually pass on the type of arcade (a.k.a action) games the GBA SP excels in because I can't help feeling like a lab rat when I play them. The developers are essentially training you to press the right button at the right moment.

It doesn't help matters that my reflexes are a bit lacking. I was embarrassed at how easily those frickin' cutesy creatures and plants in SMA4:SMB3 were kicking my ass. I'm hearing "Oh, mamma mia!" a lot as Mario expires time and time again. It's a steep learning curve for me but I like the challenge.

(Action games may not be my favourite gaming genre but I've had my favourites. Xenon II: Megablast on the Atari ST comes to mind as do Mortal Kombat II on the PC and Soul Blade on the PlayStation.)

The nice thing about GBA arcade games is it's possible to have a quick game in a brief amount time. I can pretty much complete a level in SMA4:SMB3 in the same time it takes my Windows XP-powered PC to boot-up.

(Well, I could if I wasn't "Oh, mamma mia!"-ing a lot.)

But strategy gamers need not feel left out because there are some highly rated GBA SP games available. Advance Wars and its sequel, Advance Wars II: Black Hole Rising, have received rave reviews with some even favourably comparing the games with (gasp!) the legendary Panzer General.

As I said earlier, the only problem is finding a source for the originals.

In the meantime, it's back to Mario.

Ah, a mushroom. Now feel my wrat- ...

"Oh, mamma mia!"

Christ.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

6:57 PM - Neverwinter saved (again)

I finally finished the NWN official campaign.

Surprisingly, my Druid was only a lowly level 15 at the end of the campaign. That's probably due to my having quite a retinue by my side as I played the game. The larger the group, the lower the XP earned and I usually travelled with a henchman, an animal companion and a summoned creature so that explains my slow advancement.

The fact I had a relatively low-level character meant the final battle was a bit of a pain. This was compounded by the fact the designers removed the cheatsy teleport and rest repeatedly option for the battle against the boss of bosses. I only realised this after I had exhausted most of my Druid's offensive spells but fortunately, I had saved most of the scrolls and potions I had found and this hoard helped turned the tide of the battle.

My overall impressions of the official campaign? The first two chapters were bland and although the campaign did pick up steam in the third chapter, I still found it lacking.

For one thing, there weren't any memorable characters. Aribeth could have been a contender but she wasn't given much opportunity to make an impression on players characterisation-wise aside from a few exposition-heavy conversations.

There was a mildly touchy-feely moment towards the end when Tomi, my sidekick of choice, expressed nervousness about the prospect of dying but whatever sympathy I had for the character was lost the moment he said, "Woot!" Death is too good for people who say "woot!" Don't get me started on people who spell it "w00t."

On the whole, I was indifferent to the characters in the game. In contrast, the Baldur's Gate II characters were so vivid and engaging, I would always feel bad whenever one of them died.

Talk the talk

Wererats

A screencap of the final conversation from the game. (Certain details have been blurred to avoid spoilers being revealed because life as we know it would not be worth living if anyone should suss out minor story details about a two-year-old game they haven't played yet.)

The differences between the various reply choices in NWN conversations when juxtaposed always cracked me up and these conversation nodes were no different.

Reply 1 would suit the unassuming hero.

Reply 2 just screams 12-year-old "w00t"-ing h@XX0r.

And reply 3? Halliburton executives!

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6:56 PM - Dorcus maximus

Whenever people tell me I'm unfashionable, I thank them profusely because when I think of fashion, I think of this guy.

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6:56 PM - Wikipedia

Why Wikipedia rules: anyone can add to its articles. Case in point: This nice article about the Playstation 2. I doubt conventional encyclopedias would go into this much detail about a video game console.

Why Wikipedia sucks: anyone can add to its articles. Case in point: this particular portion of that aforementioned Playstation 2 article (screencap):

** IEEE 1394 removed in SCPH-50000 and later hardware versions, and Infrared buttplug remote port and a king-size dildo adaptor added.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

8:49 PM - Greece triumphant

Underdogs Greece, a team that had never even won a match in a major tournament prior to this one, won Euro 2004 (Guardian, pix) after beating hosts Portugal. The only goal of the match came from a header from a corner and although Greece were a little more adventurous in the final, it was once again their tenacious defending which earned them victory over more talented rivals.

Greek captain Theodoros Zagorakis (voted player of the tournament) says it best:

What we have done here in Portugal is a great achievement like those of our ancestors. I have no words to describe what's going on in the dressing room, all the joy.

We dedicate this cup to all the Greeks around the world. We hope we have given them something of our joy and something to carry with them in the future.

The BBC has its own Euro 2004 awards with some irreverent categories. Edgar Davids rightly wins for best dive but I take exception to Antonis Nikopolidis winning the "Best Lookalikey" category. Clearly, the award should go to Jan Koller for looking uncannily like a supersized bald Nicholas Cage.

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Sunday, July 04, 2004

11:17 PM - The Secret Diaries

I first found the Secret Diary of Legolas, Son of Weenus on a Singaporean site where the original article was reproduced in whole with the mysterious exception of the original author's name. Check out Cassie Claire's LiveJournal for more funny diaries of members of the Fellowship.

I bet Tolkien would've laughed so loud he would've spat his pipe out.

If he wasn't dead, that is.

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11:11 PM - Glory beckons

Portugal take on Greece in the final of Euro 2004 in a few hours.

I'm hoping the Portuguese win it. They're capable of stylish football when players like Figo, Deco and Ronaldo turn it on.

And in Scolari, they have the best coach in the world right now. Portugal did lose their opening match against Greece but Scolari had the guts to make wholesale and chancy changes to his team. He brought in playmaker Deco despite Figo's misgivings and defenders Miguel and Carvalho both shored up the Portuguese defence.

And some of the Brazilian's tactical moves were quite subtle. I had initially thought Ronaldo had a poor match against England and that he was well-shackled by Ashley Cole but who was shackling whom? It wasn't until someone pointed it out that I realised Ronaldo's main duty might very well have been to prevent Cole from making offensive runs on the left side. If memory serves, Ronaldo was quick to track back whenever Cole tried to bolster England's offensive attempts and as a result England were left quite toothless on the left flank.

The best things you can say about Portugal's opponents in the final is that they're organised and disciplined. Those are hardly traits which excite a football fan's passion. By all means let's give Rehhagel and company credit for what their achieved but I'll be cheering Portugal on.

Regardless of the outcome, I hope we'll witness a match worth staying up for.

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

8:50 PM - Ah, Japan

Auto enthusiasts often like to peek under the hood of a hot new model at auto shows but it's slightly different in Japan.

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8:49 PM - The Ultras' day out

After a hard week of monster-bashing, the Ultramen like to kick back and take in a concert.

(Image obtained from the Tanoyo BBS.)

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8:49 PM - The "ouch" in "slouch"

From QualityBooks.com:

Proper posture is essential to healthy computer use. Poor posture has been shown to increase fatigue levels and place unneeded strain on the back.

Somebody needs to point that out to this woman.

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12:21 AM - The Booth Babes dialogues

Erin Bell writes about the Booth Babes of E3. We generally see loads of photos of them but what do they think of it all?

My favourite quote:

"American men seem to like totally fake people. Big boobs and mouths. I don't understand it."

Bear in mind this indictment was coming from a woman dressed as a news reporter character (complete with "skin-tight futuristic garb with ridged, spiky shoulders pads and a wig of straight white hair") promoting a virtual world.

(Link obtained from the Quarter to Three forum.)

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

9:13 PM - Taste of India

I believe the phrase "riot of colours" describes this Steven Caudill photo perfectly. Be sure to browse his gallery for more fascinating photos taken in India.

(Oh look, they celebrate Funky Hat Day over there as well.)

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9:06 PM - Trials and rogues

My NWN O.C. run is progressing nicely. I completed the trial quest in Chapter Three today and it was such a welcome change from the usual explore-every-area, open-every-chest, find-the-doohickey, kill-the-boss quest template. I rate it higher than the often lauded Charwood quest.

The trial quest involves defending someone accused of murder and the outcome hinges on the right statements being said and the right questions being asked during the trial. As a twist, players weren't allowed to repeat the conversation to find the optimum node and thus, in another welcome change, you have to think when selecting your statements and questions.

I especially liked the fact there were various degrees of success for the quest. My first attempt resulted in the defendant being acquitted but with lingering doubts about his innocence and it encouraged me to replay the quest to get the optimal outcome.

Here's hoping there are more creative quests in the game because I'm planning on replaying the O.C. as a Rogue after reading Ross Glenn's well-written Rogue primer. An excerpt:

You are the Rogue. You don't have to wield spells or mighty weapons. You can wield PEOPLE instead.

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8:52 PM - Final countdown

Portugal reached the final of a major tournament for the first time after beating Holland 2-1 (pix).

Ronaldo gave the host nation the lead in the 26th minute with another fine header. He may very well be better at being on the receiving end than providing crosses. The young winger took his jersey off to celebrate and earned himself a yellow card for that. Some would say he got what he deserved but Barry Glendenning's dry comment nails it:

"What kind of an idiot is Ronaldo with the shirt act? I hope he winds up missing the final," writes Brendan from Philadelphia, who'd probably settle for firm handshakes all around if he was 19 years of age and had just scored in front of his own fans in the semi-final of a European Championship.

Maniche doubled the Portuguese lead in the 56th minute with a brilliant shot from just outside of the box following a short corner taken by Ronaldo. Unfortunately, television audiences didn't get to see the goal live since the director thought it was important to show a replay of how the corner had been conceded.

It looked like a Dutch fight back was on when Andrade put the ball in his own net while attempting to clear a cross but the Portuguese hung on for victory.

The end result was the right one. Some of Portugal's attacking play was delightful to watch whereas Advocaat's Holland side were as dreary and uninventive as they were throughout Euro 2004.

You sometimes wonder about players' commitment to the national cause because some tend to reserve their best performances for their paymasters rather than their country but I don't think there could be any question of Figo's passion for his nation. Both he and Rui Costa were hugging each other for the longest time after the match and you could see how much this win and the chance to play in the final meant to them. Both are of Portugal's so-called Golden Generation and great things were expected of them. Now in the last years of their careers, they have one last shot of delivering glory for their country.

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8:38 PM - fuyoh.net

fuyoh.net

Click on the picture to head to the new site.

It mostly mirrors the content on this site but the WordPress-powered fuyoh.net blog has some nifty reader-friendly features. I like two in particular.

If you've got a RSS reader (I'm using Yahoo's), you can add the fuyoh.net RSS feed to it. It beats checking the site daily to see if I've gotten off my ass to update it.

(And allow me to just reiterate how fantastic WordPress is. I didn't have to do a damned thing to create the RSS feed; it was just there and ready to be used.)

The other nice feature is categories. (Blog has this feature as well but I hadn't bothered implementing it.) It's great if you're only interested in a particular Fuyoh! topic and would rather not sit through my blathering about stuff you care little about.

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