Thursday: July 26, 2007
- The Rude Awakening of Optimus Prime.
I heart YouTube.
Wednesday: July 25, 2007
- My favorite celebrity trash blogs.
For some reason or another this has became a really bad habit for me. During my course of surfing for morning links these sites managed to become source material one way or another. Problem is that some of them are quite fun to read after the fact. Especially, WWTD (the writing is comedy gold nearly all of the time). Go on, take a look for yourself.
- What Would Tyler Durden Do? - http://www.wwtdd.com
- TMZ - http://www.tmz.com
- Best Week Ever - http://www.bestweekever.tv
- Pink is the New Blog - http://www.pinkisthenewblog.com
- Dlisted - http://www.dlisted.com
Don't look at me like that. I know you read these when no one is looking too.
Monday: July 23, 2007
- Drumming through YouTube.
It's always great when you can get nostalgic over an old lost video tape and then years later find most of its content on YouTube. Some years ago one of my favorite VHS tapes to watch was the 'Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert'. It got lost in the shuffle of college, moving, marriage, traveling years later and now it's probably buried somewhere in my parent's basement (along with my set of drums, other instructional drum videos, Slytherin's Locket, Hufflepuff's Cup, etc, etc) Basically, it's a great video that shows off some of my favorite drummers doing their thing. The last video entitled 'drum trio' is especially fun to watch (even if you're not a drummer). Enjoy.
Dave Weckl - Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Vinne Colaiuta - (title of song unknown)
Steve Gadd - Keep the Customer Satisifed
Dave Weckl, Vinne Colaiuta, Steve Gadd - Drum Trio
Monday: July 16, 2007
- Date Night: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Mad and I managed to get out and see the latest Potter flick over the weekend. We call this act of seeing movies every so often as 'date night'. As a preface I have to come to the sad reality that we're both big overgrown wizarding fans. However, I also have to say that I am not totally ashamed to admit this because I blame most of my Potter fandom solely on my other half. It all started right after we saw 'Chamber of Secrets' (which feels now like a very, very, very long time ago). I hadn't read any of the books but Mad was very much into the whole series at the time (the books were up Goblet of Fire at that point). Anyway, the conversation went something like this:
Me: 'What was with that tree that attacked the flying car?'
Mad: 'Oh, thats the Whomping Willow. It's where Harry's dad and his friends used to hang out because one of them was a werewolf and needed a place to hide.'
Four hours later I pretty much knew the entire plot of Prisoner of Azkaban without having read the book. This backstory got me all intrigued and I had to pick up the book and it read it for myself. Luckily, Mad saved some plot twists in the book as a surprise (I totally did not see the Moody thing coming when I read the book - another 'huh' moment). Now coming into book seven, I'm still hooked. Damn you J.K. Rowling and your addictive children's literature.
Anyway, back to date night. Truth be told, we kind of forgot the plot of Order of the Phoenix since it had been so long since either of us picked up the actual book. After the movie ended everything about the book came rushing back. We began to converse about how things were left off in the book and why they didn't get put into the movie.
What was left out of the movie:
- Kreacher being instrumental to Sirius Black's demise.
Sorry to spoil for anyone, but this kind of irked me. Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling told the producers of this movie to put Kreacher in because he plays a larger role in the final book. However, in this movie Kreacher (very well animated too, in my opinion) only had a whopping three lines - most of which were mumbled. In the book, this house elf might as well have been one of the main reasons Sirius got 'veiled.' Why go to the trouble of including this character then if it doesn't even play a role in the movie? Hmph.
- No visits to St. Mungos.
This was an interesting part of the book I was hoping to see put to film but never happened. It also would have served as a great cameo for the actor who played Gilderoy Lockehart to appear once more. Sadly, it was not to be.
- No sign of Regulus Black on the family tree.
Come on, we all know R.A.B. is Regulus Black - how hard would it have been to work this into that scene in some way. Bah.
- Voldemort's confrontation with Dumbledore as Harry was weak.
The last couple chapters of Order of the Phoenix are a great dramatic read. You essentially get Voldemort possessing Harry and then telling Dumbledore flat out 'go on, kill him then'. In the movie it was a wishy-washy 'let's look into Harry's memories again.' Blah.
Overall we did enjoy the movie though despite the above nitpickings. It was visually stunning and the acting was spot on. You really get the sense that these kids are more than just actors - their a gang (which would be weird if they weren't after doing five of these movies together). I also came to the realization that adding in these plot details would have made the movie six hours too long anyway. Go figure.
- Kreacher being instrumental to Sirius Black's demise.
Thursday: July 12, 2007
- God Street Wine and the Post of Terminal Fandom.
While aimlessly surfing the web this evening I came across this fantastic writeup about my favorite band, God Street Wine. Anyone who knows me outside of a nutshell knows that this is my favorite band. The irony, at least from what I can tell, is that its nobody else's favorite band outside of maybe one or two people (and the rest of the Winos). I was shocked tat one day I actually had to convince a fellow co-worker (and fellow jamband fan) that God Street Wine was not in fact, a Christian rock band (read that again, Inverso). That aside, I probably saw this band over fifty times throughout their career and loved each and every show. The music of the band struck a big chord with me and it still does years after the band stopped playing. So basically I'd like to share this article with all of you along with some YouTube vids that are making me even more nostalgic. Enjoy and happy GSWing.
- God Street Wine - The Best American Band of the 90's
- God Street Wine on Wikipedia - several contributions by your truly
- Archive.org Full Length Shows - listen to this show if any
God Street Wine on Conan O'Brien - tight performance of 'RU4 Real'
Live at The Wetlands - look closely I'm somewhere in that sea of people.
Borderline from 3/1/1998 - no idea where
Live at the Wetlands - The Ballroom
Tuesday: July 10, 2007
- My personal prediction for how Harry Potter will end.
The end is drawing near for the Harry Potter series and with ten days left until the release of the final book I thought I'd throw my hat into the 'what happens' ring.
Let's examine the legendary prophecy:
- 'THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD APPROACHES...BORN TO THOSE WHO HAVE THRICE DEFIED HIM, BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES... AND THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL, BUT HE WILL HAVE POWER THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT... AND EITHER MUST DIE AT THE HAND OF THE OTHER FOR NEITHER CAN LIVE WHILE THE OTHER SURVIVES... THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD WILL BE BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES...'
Many people on the Internet have analyzed this paragraph over and over. Most of them end up with the conclusion that Harry and Voldemort are the only participants in the aforementioned text. This is where my theory comes into play:
'The Hand of the Other' in the referenced prophecy is in fact, Wormtail. So there it is. That's my theory. My prediction is that Peter Pettigrew's life debt will somehow come into play and will be a defining factor in helping Harry defeat his arch nemesis. He after all, has a silver hand, a very distinctive way to separate him in the prophecy (hand of the other - given to him by Voldemort in Book 4). Whether Harry lives or kicks the bucket is still up for grabs. I have a feeling that this will come into some play somehow to greatly effect the outcome of the story. This theory seems like a clever trick and play on words that is on par with J.K. Rowling's writing style. Feel free to debunk me if you feel otherwise, that's why we have comments here.
Edit: this same theory is apparently popular amongst many Harry Potter fan sites. So there you go, we shall see in ten days time.
Monday: July 9, 2007
- How to hack Sesame Street's website for fullscreen Elmo.
Here is a handy trick for my fellow geek parents who read this site regularly. Granted, I haven't posted to this section in quite a while (last post was 3 months ago), but I'll be getting back into the groove shortly.
Anyway, back to what this article is about: the Sesame Street web site (http://www.sesameworkshop.org). Let me start off by admitting that my kid is an Elmo addict. Everything Elmo, all the time. She loves that furry red bastard. Needless to say, the Elmo-based games on the Sesame Street website come as a great resource for keeping an active (or cranky in some cases) baby happy and able to learn at the same time. And ya know, it's Elmo, so it's kind of safe - even though he's a freakin' monster.
The problem: All of the games on this website are stuck in a very small 600 x 300 framed window within the Sesame Street template. If you have a fairly large newer monitor you will find this awkward to look at. Especially when viewed on a monitor capable of resolutions of 1280 x 1024 or greater (see screenshot to the left for example of what I mean - look at all that unused space). In some cases I have to squint to see what's going in the game, and in most cases my kid really couldn't get the big picture period.
The solution: Find the source path of the game's flash files to run it in glorious fullscreen. This is one of the rare cases that I am happy to see Adobe Flash deployed on a major website like this. It applies itself really well to the nature of the problem. Since everything is vector based, the desired game/application/plaything will look beautiful even when blown up to full screen - no real important details are lost. You can ignore the rest of the site and just play in peace with Elmo and the rest of the gang.
Here are a couple more example links to get you started. Again, this method works for pretty much all of the games on the website - not just Elmo (so if your kid is a Bert and Ernie fan you can go nuts too - eh eh eh eh eh eh).
- Elmo's Keyboard-O-Rama
Path in Source Code: /uploaded-images/9495524/additional/main_game-6\
- Limbo Elmo
Path in Source Code: /uploaded-images/11013038/additional/main_game-41\
- Explore Elmo's Classroom
Path in Source Code: /uploaded-images/12529198/additional/main_game-9\
Happy geek parenting to all.
- Elmo's Keyboard-O-Rama
Sunday: March 4, 2007
- Ten Point Review of SSX Blur for the Nintendo Wii.
I recently picked up a copy of SSX Blur for my beloved Nintendo Wii. I should preface to say that one of my favorite games is SSX Tricky. I'm not a sports video gamer by any means. Something about the SSX series just screams fun to me and Tricky was and still is a blast to play. I figured I would take a crack at SSX Blur to see if EA could recreate the magic I first had with this title.
Below is my first ever ten point review. Rather than dive into a long article about every aspect of the game, I figured I'd just point out ten likes and ten gripes I have with this game.
My biggest gripe with this game is the learning curve. The controls take a lot of getting used to before you can actually dig into the slopes and have fun. This is probably what turned off so many reviewers. SSX Blur is not something you can just pick up and be good at. It seriously requires some practice to get things right. Once this is overcome, it's really not that bad. However, impatient gamers will probably want to throw this game out the window.
Lack of Character Voicing
There is no character voice acting. If you liked this aspect of the game on SSX Tricky, you're not going to find it in this game. What happened to the smart-alecky Mac voice overs? What happened to Mac talking smack to other riders mid-race? And when did Mac become Mackenzie? Weak sauce.
Lack of Rahzel
I gotta tell you, what really made SSX Tricky fun the first time around was Rahzel's narrations. In Tricky, you had this urban feel with everything you did, and it also kind of egged you on to do better in the game. You'd hear Rahzel say 'the crowd wants to see a new trick' or in the case that you pulled the same trick twice he'd chastise you. That to me, was funny. A memorable quote: 'Again with the same trick? Spin the other way!' There was also something about hearing 'Call your momma in the room and show her how great you are' that still makes me chuckle. Bring back Rahzel, EA.
This has to be the most frustrating part of the game. Basically, you have to ski around flags. Here's the problem: the controls. The controls are not sensitive enough to make the right turns at the right time. The only way to do this is to try and take these challenges at turtle-like speed. It's flat-out annoying. The nunchuk controls simply do not cut it for this kind of event. And yes, I tried changing the sensitivity of the remote under the Options menu.
Ubertricking in this game is a great concept. While in mid-air, you draw certain shapes with the Wiimote to pull off complicated tricks. However, these shapes can be hard to pull of the right way without some major practice. It's a very cute and fun aspect to the game but annoying at the same time. Also, you may find yourself focusing on drawing the shape rather than watching that crazy trick your rider is trying to pull off. Wasn't that the whole point of Ubertricks? To watch your rider do something unexpected and crazy on a snowboard? Nevermind that, I just drew a heart.
The manual is a joke. It's seriously only 3 pages long and has no real information about the game. Basically, there is no manual. All of the basic gameplay advice and tutorials require you to actually play the game. Is it really that hard to make a decent manual these days? Before I pop in a game, give me a manual I can read so I know what I'm in for. Seems like either EA had to cut a corner somewhere or they just got lazy.
No Online Gaming
Online gaming would have made SSX Blur such a winner. But alas, there is none. Although I suppose this isn't really EA's fault. Many people have noted it is Nintendo who hasn't opened the gates to developers for online play.
The in-game text in some cases is EXTREMELY difficult to read. Who chose this font (or its size)? Or was this done on purpose to camouflage the idiotic yeti factoids? I found myself having to get right up close to the television to read these 'fun' little DID YOU KNOW's. This really bugs me. Did none of the testers notice this? Reading (useless) factoids shouldn't give me eye strain.
While the loading times are quite marginal, sometimes when completing or restarting a track there's a slight pause that can throw off the pace of your gaming experience. It's a slight annoyance but this could have been ironed out in a smoother fashion to continue the SSX experience.
I'm not sure if this happened to other people but every now and then my game freezes up causing me to have to restart the Wii all together. This has happened to me three times so far (all of which after completing a tournament). As of this writing, it hasn't happened again in other tournaments I've played in the game (knock on wood).
Control Scheme Mastery
Once the control scheme is mastered, tricking is actually quite fun and enjoyable. Assuming of course that you figure out how to land properly. Make sure you keep your Wiimote's strap firmly around your wrist. This game was the first case of accidental Wiimote flinging that I encountered.
The levels are great this time around (not that it really was a problem in SSX Tricky or SSX 3). Most of the slopes have plenty of jumps, hidden twists and turns, and giant half-pipes. There's a lot to do and a hell of a lot of fun to be had. The remixed tracks from SSX3 aren't too shabby either although I would have liked some new track concepts all together (Tokyo Megaplex anyone?).
SSX Blur is easy on the eyes during actual gameplay (except of course some on-screen text as mentioned before). The menus and navigations are very creative and colorful. Graphically this game is a step up although that was kind of expected being that this game was made for a brand new console that has slightly better graphics capabilities.
Holy schnikes, is there a lot to unlock in this game. You can get anything from reward-type items like concept art to rider-specific stuff like boards and skis. Most of these unlockables can be attained using 'Free Ride' which makes replaying existing tracks quite entertaining and enjoyable.
Despite what other reviews have said - split screen multiplayer isn't all that bad. I would have liked to see more variance in the event types. The 4 player 'hot-seat' party mode is something I have not tried at this point. Why? Because I don't have four friends to play with.
This is a clever aspect to the game that I really enjoy. Free Ride essentially lets you go off and explore the different peaks looking for items and hitting up different challenges that game throws at you. It can be relaxing simply exploring the different nooks and crannies of the slopes in the game.
This game doesn't pull punches - it can be pretty tough. Even on the very first tournament you choose to compete in the act of getting first place is no picnic. This is a welcome change, but sometimes the difficulty level is almost unreal. It might turn off the casual video gamer, or just plain frustrate normal ones.
The music is fun and enjoyable. As you progress in a given event, assuming you do well, the music will get more intense and complex. It would have been a giant plus if you were able to play your own tracks using the Wii's SD card slot. That aside, the sound quality (music-wise) gets the job done.
Grooving, Boosting, Blurring, Whatever
Boosting (or grooving as it was renamed in this version of SSX) is neat. As you build up speed the in-game graphics 'blur' around you - hence the title of the game. The other really neat effect of this is that you can go really, really fast using this feature. You'll think your Neo at the end of Matrix Reloaded (especially with the blurring in full effect).
Laughing at Other People
You'll probably get a kick out of watching other people try to pull off Ubertricks. Wiimotes will flail in every direction trying to pull off a certain shape pattern. Explaining how to draw a particular shape to someone can be comedy gold as well. My favorite quote from my other half whilst mid-game - 'I think I know how to draw a freakin' Z , thank you very much'.
Bottom Line: This game is fun and enjoyable once you get over the giant learning curve, but even with the controls mastered some aspects of the game are still quite difficult.
Thursday: December 28, 2006
- A quick look at Mac Dashboard Widget creation; the soon to be old fashioned way.
With Leopard looming, the world of dashboard widgets on the Apple desktop are about to change. Soon any user will be able to create a widget in just few clicks using Safari's built-in integrated clipping tool. According to Apple's preview site for Leopard, a user can just select any portion of any web page and magically create a widget. This presents an infinite number of opportunities and I'm very curious to see how this new technology pans out. Will this cause an explosion in the widget world? How easy will it be to share these clipped widgets with the rest of the Internet? How far can you take customization of these clipped widgets? The answers are sure to come when Mac OS X Leopard arrives next year.
I'm kind of looking forward to this new clipping tool. I've always wanted to create a dashboard widget (and I finally did - see this post) but I initially felt it was a bit of a daunting process. The few times I tried to delve into the process I got frustrated and gave up rather quickly. Bearing that frustration in mind it's easy to see why Apple is making web clipping to widget creation readily available with Leopard. Intermediate web developers comfortable with the PC environment (such as myself) may sometime have a hard time getting into the Mac widget scene for the first time.
My initial trouble was that I took a very programmatic stance towards creating a widget. Again, this is due to the fact that I am mainly a PC programmer and a just casual Mac user on the side.
Does one have to compile a widget to make it run on the Dashboard? No.
Once it's running on the Dashboard, can it be modified? Yes.
Can I utilize that neat 3D page flip instance that every widget seems to use? Yes.
What about those slick Apple scrollbars? Yes.
These are just a handful of questions that as it turns out now, were quite unnecessary to ask.
Now to those who have made widgets in the past the rest of this article will probably seem about two years old. That's because it is. I should have gotten into this a long time ago. But hey, better late than never.
Widgets are just as Apple describes in their support docs; little web pages. There is no compiling necessary to bring your widget to life. Essentially, widgets just regular old file folders but with a 'wdgt' extension tacked on. This took me by surprise - I wasn't expecting it to be that easy. The whole connotation of a widget doubling as a 'mini-application' caused a stir in my newbie brain. As you might have guessed by now, I'm new to developing code on a Mac so cut me some slack. Anyway, this extension allows Mac OS X to distinguish that your folder is in fact, a runnable widget and not just your average file folder. Basically you can start localizing your widget in your own developmental fashion and create a widget just like you would if it was any ordinary web page.
Once that was fixed, I moved on to the look and feel of the widget itself. Now what's interesting about the dashboard environment is that some things are already done for you but some other things are not. Worried about where to size up your widget in terms of height and width? Don't be. Just make a PNG file of your design and name it 'default.png' in your widget folder. Mac OS X will assume that this file contains the default width and height of your widget and will run with it. However, you can also set your own custom height and width via the 'Info.plist' file that must be contained within your .wdgt folder. While we are on the subject of the 'Info.plist' file; one thing that may slow you down is enabling web access if your widget happens to need to talk to the Internet (like grabbing a feed from the world wide web). To enable this you will need to open up your widgets 'Info.plist' file and add the following bit of code:
AllowNetworkAccessOnce you have that in place your widget is free to talk to the web in peace.
What about adding that signature widget scrollbar that everyone seems to use? Apple has a very nice little script you can plugin to your code to make that work correctly as well. You basically just have to make sure that you target the name of your DIV tag that contains your widget's content. And again, this script can be easily found and appropriated to your own code by taking a look through Apple's sample widget examples.
www.geeklikeme.netThis method will make all of your HREF calls open up outside of your widget.
Debugging can be a little bit of a pain. I found myself debugging my widget while it was running in Dashboard 95% of the time. In the Apple developer documents they suggest using Safari to test out your widget. But from what I could tell, you can't really harness all of the Dashboard technologies unless you actually run your widget in Dashboard (ie testing out how the page flip actually looks). But still it's just a minor annoyance as working on the actual dashboard itself is not that big a deal. Besides, I really want to see that cool liquid effect when I see my widget pop open for the first time. It still makes me giddy, I don't know why.
There are a couple things to be mindful of if you debug your widget using Dashboard though. Mac OS X has a weird habit of moving your widget files (and not leaving copies of them) at a moment's notice. For instance, if you are working on your widget on your desktop and you decide to install it to Dashboard your files will be magically whisked away to your ~Library/Widgets folder. Just something you want to keep in mind if you want to know where you widget happened to run off to. And as always with coding, it is generally good practice to keep active backups of your work just in case any other unexpected shenanigans come into play (accidental deletion). On the subject of widget removal management, deleting your widget from the Dashboard will simply send all of your files to the trash bin. So be careful before emptying the trash if you have some recent changes to your widget that you don't want to lose.
Basically thats a very generalized view of widget creation on the Mac and some things to look out for during the actual programming process. It should be noted that I made my widget in a very ass-backwards style. I developed everything on my PC using HomeSite 5.0 and then ported the code over to my Mac's widget folder with every change. Not the quickest and easiest methodology but sometimes you've got to go with what works.
I have attached the source folder of the GeekLikeMe feed widget if one is so inclined to play around and make a widget themselves. A careful eye will probably notice that a lot of the code is heavily sampled from Apple's RSS widget. Sometimes the best way to learn is by example.
Tuesday: December 12, 2006
- GeekLikeMe Dashboard Widget for your Mac.
If you've been reading my daily logs you might have noticed that I've been messing around with creating dashboard widgets for Mac OS X over the past couple of days. What exactly is a dashboard widget you ask? In a nutshell, its a mini-application that you can run on your Mac's dashboard section. In this case, the mini-application I put together displays the last three days of links that grace the front page of GeekLikeMe.net.
I tried to keep the layout and design of the widget to be compact as to not disrupt anything else that might already be running on a user's dashboard. This is my first attempt at making a widget but I have a feeling I'll be making more as time goes on. Of course, with the next version of Mac OS X Leopard right around the corner I think everybody will making a lot more widgets. More on that coming in a verbose post later this week.
To use this widget you must be using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Download the file located in this post and double click it to unarchive it to your desktop. Then click on the black widget icon to install to your dashboard. If there are any questions or comments regarding this widget feel free to leave a comment.