September 2006 Archives

links for 2006-10-01


links for 2006-09-30


Beware the Dog Side of the Force


Ever have one of those days where you think to yourself "If I spent as much time levitating rocks with Yoda I do walking Rover, I could be the most powerful Jedi ever!" Of course, female dogs need not be left out -- you could turn your dog into an ambassador on a diplomatic mission. Of course, this is the scariest costume.

Movable Type v. 3.33


The good folks at Six Apart have updated Movable Type to version 3.33, fixing some cross-site security problems. They haven't yet revealed the full details of what those vulnerabilities are, but they'll be disclosing them in the next few days, so it's probably a good idea to update as soon as possible. The Movable Type 3.33 patches can be found here.

links for 2006-09-29


links for 2006-09-28


links for 2006-09-27


WoW + iPod = Terrorism


I played WoW, became a terrorist - the true story of a World of Warcraft player who goes to Canada to visit guildmates, accidently loses his iPod in the airplane lavoratory, and gets held for questioning on suspicion of terrorism.

Full story in extended, in case the WoW forums remove the post.

Media Manager Install for Win32


One of the most useful plugins I use on this site is Byrne Reese's Media Manager which integrates Amazon with Movable Type. To install MediaManager on Win32 with ActivePerl, there seem to be a couple of additional instructions to make the plugin work.

1. All the .cgi files for Media Manager in the /plugins/MediaManager directory need to be changed to point to the proper perl executable. The first line should look something like this:

#!c:/perl/bin/perl.exe -w

2. in /plugins/MediaManager/lib/MediaManager/, a line that reads:

$tmpl->param(script_url => File::Spec-> catdir($apppath, "mmanager.cgi"));

needs to be changed to:

$tmpl->param(script_url => $apppath . "mmanager.cgi");

links for 2006-09-26


Animal Crossing Update 1


The last time I mentioned Animal Crossing, I was in the midst of introducing foreign fruit into town because foreign fruit was being paid by Nook for a whopping 400 bells more than the native fruit species of peach. It took a long time to chop down and replace the peach trees with other fruits, but once it was done, the giant fruit orchard at full harvest would yield over a quarter million bells of revenue (and take about two hours to fully harvest all the fruit).

While I was harvesting the fruit trees, I noticed that I had haphazardly scattered these trees in place, making collection of the fruit and navigation through town rather inconvenient. I set about what any good citizen of the town would do; I bought a fresh axe and started chopping away at all the trees to create a more manicured look. I kept the coconut palms by the beach, but razed the forest of all trees, and started the replanting once again.

I'm still in debt to Nook by 798,000 bells, but a few more days of harvesting fruit or trading turnips ought to put me free and clear -- that is, unless he's got another addition to my house he wants to force upon me. And then, after that, I'll start in on actually decorating my house.

links for 2006-09-24


links for 2006-09-23


Game Sequels for the PS3


And the press asked him, saying, What are the games? And he said, Sequels: for they are easy to sell.

Half a world away in Tokyo, Japan, the TGS (Tokyo Game Show) is underway. Starting off with the premiere of the PlayStation 3 at Sony's booth (the last major showing before its official launch in November, Ken Kutaragi gave a speech and presented the next-generation console. Coverage of Kutaragi's speech at yielded a less than favorable opinion of the PS3, with many saying that Kutaragi nailed the coffin on the PS3 with the incredible price tag of the system. His speech at the opening of the TGS, isn't much better. Initial reports from the opening speech indicate that Kutaragi mentioned sequels saying that "We are more cautious about accepting new titles. I think that is the reputation of the gaming world. But we seek diversity and expression of creativity, so in light of that the current game industry relies too heavily on easy-to-sell sequels. I think we need to send a warning signal to the industry. Business reasons have been retreating to a certain extent, and users have become less aggressive, they wait for what we give them next, they-ve become passive. So, from myself and SCEE the basic thought is just innovation."

I'm not exactly sure what innovation Kutaragi is talking about here, because the only titles mentioned on the PS3 with any fervor at all are Devil May Cry 4, Virtua Fighter 5, Ridge Racer 7, Final Fantasy 13, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight. That Gundam title is a sequel too -- Bandai has just gotten clever and stopped naming them sequentially, for there are just too many produced during the last decade and a half. It's smart of Kutaragi to say something almost equivalent to "Make us new games. Please. While gamers won't get so upset about the sequels as they used to, we need new games so that people will upgrade and buy the PS3 instead of playing the old game on the old system."

PlayStation 3 Tackles Home Crowd [BBC]

links for 2006-09-22


San Francisco on Thursday

My sister and I ventured into San Francisco today, to attend Adobe's seminar on "optimizing and delivering video for the web using Flash Professional 8". I don't usually attend 4-hour seminars held in the city, but the title of the seminar seemed advanced enough that I wouldn't be rendered unconcious by newbie questions from the audience like what the difference between vector graphics and rendered graphics are, or how to create a layer in Flash. At least that was my hope, because otherwise I had just wasted a trip up to San Francisco and some amount of money for parking.

The first hour of so was a thinly veiled attempt at mind-numbing the audience into submission by marketing presentation. It was no so surprising to me that at the end of the marketing portion of the segment, and had just started the basics of technical information. When we had our break for refreshments, that a healthy portion of the audience did not return. Which is too bad for them, because the second half of the seminar was much more interesting and informative in regards to the tricks and tips of how to use Flash 8 to deliver video content.

You can do some interesting stuff with Flash 8, but the overall feel of the presentation was that Flash was just a step in the Adobe workflow process for video, and not a fully standalone product for video -- Premiere and AfterEffects seemed to be a vital part of the presentation -- Flash 8 was just the one product that pulls all the video content together.

No Spinach!

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I haven't read the news in a while, so I was surprised to hear that there was an e.coli outbreak on spinach recently. The outbreak can be traced back to Natural Selection Foods, in San Juan Bautista, California. Natural Selection Foods packages their produce to the following brands: Bellissima, Cheney Brothers, Coastline, Compliments, Cross Valley, D'Arrigo Brothers, Dole, Earthbound Farm, Emeril, Farmers Market, Fresh N' Easy, Fresh Point, Green Harvest, Hy-Vee, Jansal Valley, Mann, Mills Family Farm, Natural Selection Foods, Nature's Basket, O Organic, Premium Fresh, President's Choice, Pride of San Juan, Pro-Mark, Rave Spinach, Ready Pac, River Ranch, Riverside Farms, Snoboy, Superior, Sysco, Tanimura & Antle, The Farmer's Market and Trader Joe's.

The bacteria is inside the spinach, so a simple washing won't take care of e.coli.

links for 2006-09-21


Maya Lin - A Strong Clear Vision


Maya Lin - A Strong Clear Vision

I watched the documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, which won an Academy Award in 1995 for the biography of the architect. Using clips from archival footage, combined with interviews it paints an engaging portrait of Maya Lin, starting with her first and greatest battle: to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

links for 2006-09-20


Think of the Children!


In what I consider a waste of time and money, the U.S. Senate has decided to study the effects of gaming on children. Now, considering that videogames have been available to the general population for over twenty years, and that an entire generation has already grown up with them, they've become the scapegoat for all the problems of the United States by an older generation that didn't have them.

My own personal opinion is that the effects of media are many, and that while some of them are positive, some of them are negative too; the way it would be with any other "groupthink" device, such as a religion, a philosophy or a book.

Media has the ability to control the thoughts of people, and to educate (or mis-educate) the population. Is it any wonder why politicians are suddenly so concerned about media having an influence, given their current lack of control of the media?

links for 2006-09-19


links for 2006-09-18


links for 2006-09-17


links for 2006-09-16


Wasted Lawsuit


File this one is the "wasting our legal system's time and resources":

    A Starbucks customer in the US who was told her free drink voucher was worthless is launching a $114m (£60m) lawsuit against the coffee colossus.

So, correct me if I am wrong, but don't most coupons say "offer good while supplies last"?

Starbucks sued for 114 million



When I was in Taiwan staying at my grandfather's house, we would go and walk around the town visiting the markets and buying fresh fruit to take home. One of the fruits that I had almost daily was the longan (dragon-eye). You don't find them very often in the United States (only in Asian Supermarkets had I ever seen them), but today when I went to Trader Joe's, I saw in their fruit section longans from (where else?) Taiwan.

When I was there a month ago, at the time of our departure we could get 6kg of Longans for 100NT$ ($3 USD). I was pretty sick of eating them when I came back, but it was great because it they were so cheap and so sweet. I went into Ranch 99 a few days after I came back, and 2kg of longans would have cost about $5. Of course at Trader's Joes, it's even cheaper, because Taiwan overproduced longans this year which is why we (along with Trader Joe's) could get them so cheaply.

Rurouni Kenshin


I just finished reading the last volumes of the manga Rurouni Kenshin. It's a good conclusion to the series (and makes me even more upset that the third OVA screws up the characters so much).

There are two follow-up pieces of RK that were published after Vol. 28 was released: Hana ni Sakura and Yahiko no Sakabatou. As far as I can tell, these haven't been published officially in English, although scanslations of these two works exist.

One of the big differences I've found with American Comics vs. Japanese Manga is that in many series, Japanese creators are willing to step away from their creations and not run their creative properties into the ground. (This is likely why I respect Western writers who won't sequelize their works into eternity).

Flying the Truthful Skies

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Sometimes the truth can be so funny. A recent article in the Economist deconstructs the typical airplane announcements and lays them out honestly.

    Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

I've always thought those "floatation devices" on the plane seats seemed rather un-seaworthy. I guess it's because the passengers are screwed if they make an emergency landing over water. It makes sense if you think about it -- a plane is several tons of metal and passengers -- under what kind of condition would such a heavy object float?

    Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft's navigation systems. At least, that's what you've always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn't sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

When I first started flying between Long Beach and Oakland for school, I remember seeing AirPhones on planes. I even saw people using them once in a while, but I remember they were quite expensive -- about two dollars for the first five minutes, and .25 cents thereafter. As cellphones got more popular, these AirPhones started disappearing, and the public service announcements about turning off cellphones and pagers started becoming part of the norm. I've forgotten to turn off my cellphone before flying and as far as I can tell, any interference that the cellphone makes on the instruments onboard is minimal at best.

Nintendo Wii Price and Release Date


I haven't bought an XBox360 (and it is quite likely I won't ever), and the Sony PS3 is on the "will probably not buy unless they release a Final Fantasy exclusive on the PS3" category. What I am looking forward to to is of course, the Nintendo Wii, which will be arriving in North America on November 19th, with a price of $250. Perusing Amazon's site for Nintendo Wii section yielded the following titles:

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Blazing Angels
  • Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2
  • Excite Truck
  • Far Cry
  • GT
  • Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Madden NFL 07
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  • Monster Truck
  • Open Season
  • Rapala Trophies
  • Red Steel
  • Spongebob Squarepants Creature from the Krusty Krab
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids
  • WarioWare: Smooth Moves
  • Wii Music Orchestra
  • Wii Sports

According to Japanese Magazine Famitsu, there are 16 titles available at launch from 10 publishers. One of the launch titles is Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and is priced at $6800 yen (about $60).

If Nintendo follows the same strategies here as it is planning for Japan, we'll be able to see game titles for around $50, and downloadable titles for $5-$10, and the availability of game cards (like the iTunes cards you see everywhere) which will allow purchases of downloadable games without a credit card.

Apple Sept 12 Special Event


Right now, there's a special event going on at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. According to Engadget, it's a fairly small event consisting of about two to three hundred media personnel, and the big thing that I've been predicting for a while has come true:

Games for the iPod

I had been talking about the iPod as a game development platfom ever since the release of the color-screen iPod with my colleagues -- most scoffed at me, saying that Steve Jobs hates videogames (I still have no idea where this comes from). As a casual game platform, I find it to be serviceable -- you have a scroll wheel, you have 5 buttons that can take input. While I doubt anyone will be playing complex button mashers like Super Street Fighter anytime soon, casual games like Tetris and Solitaire should be pretty easily available. The price for the games? $4.99, downloadable through the Apple Store. Hopefully we'll see a renaissance in game development as more indie developers go through Apple as content publishers instead of the big ones, who likely will avoid this market or attempt to compete with their own services.

Jobs also announced new improvements to the iPod (new headphones, 6.5 hours of battery life) at a lowered price $249 for a 30GB iPod, $349 for an 80GB iPod. The iPod nano is being revised in aluminum and colors: with the 2GB available in aluminum only for $149,
4GB nano in blue, pink, green silver for $199, and the 8GB in black only for $249.

There's a second generation iPod shuffle only $79, having a capacity of 1GB, and includes headphones and dock.

The iTunes video store will now be distributing video at 640x480 resolution, and movies will now also be available -- $9.99 for older movies, and $12.99 for new movies. They'll be available on the same day as the DVD release.

And the last little item being introduced is the iTV, a flat mini looking device designed to be the interface between your TV and your computer. It's not being officially announced until 1st quarter 2007 (and likely under another name). There's no power brick attached to it, with the following spec list: 802.11 wireless, USB2.0, Ethernet, HDMI connector, component video, analog audio RCA, Optical Audio, and comes with the little white Apple remote. Can be hooked into receiver or directly into the TV. It's very FrontRow like in its features and will be available for $299 in 2007.

The iPod got a tiny refresh in capabilities but no change in design, which leads me to believe that they'll likely reveal a new design in January at MacWorld. The nano and the shuffle both underwent extreme changes in look and feel, which I suspect will do well for those products. The only question that remains now is when a full screen video iPod will make its debut.

The BMW Hydrogen 7


According to a recent press release by BMW, they've announced the sale of the BMW Hydrogen 7, a hybrid capable of switch which fuel it is running on: either traditional gasoline or hydrogen. While figures for miles per gallon were not announced, the Hydrogen 7 is powered by a 260 hp 12 cylinder engine, and emits nothing but vapor when in hydrogen mode.

Having the capability to switch fuel sources is a great and very practical idea, as the hydrogen infrastructure hasn't been fully developed yet (and likely won't be for some time). BMW has always been a leader in automotive technology integration, but my experience with them has taught me that their tech is always introduced on their higher end models first, before making it down to the lower-end consumer (at which point I feel the technology is proven and ready to use). When they release a hydrogen-powered 3-series, I'll be first in line.

The full BMW press release about the Hydrogen 7 in the extended.

links for 2006-09-10


The Great White Shark of Monterey


"There he is!"
"What, behind that little shark?"
"It is the shark."
"You got us all worked up!"
"Well, that's no ordinary shark! It's a Great White Shark."
"But it's so small..."
"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered shark you ever set eyes on!"
"Look, that shark's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!"

We made an excursion to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see the Great White Shark that they currently have in captivity. It has only been there a week (and they're expecting to keep it for another month or so). The one they have is still quite young, estimated to be a year old, with a length of 5 feet, 8 inches, and a weight of 104 pounds. Great Whites can grow up to be 20 feet long, and weigh up to 4,000 pounds.

The Great White is largely a victim of bad PR however -- Spielberg and Benchly created the image of it being a man-eater, but in reality, it appears that Great Whites do not enjoy the taste of humans, as the number of human deaths attributed to great whites is quite small -- more dogs kill humans in a year than great whites killing humans over the last 100 years.

The GWS is quite fast, and one can tell when it's coming by the large amount of fish suddenly swimming away anxiously. Even though it's still quite young, it's amazing to view such a magnificent beast. The crowds were bad (as could be expected on a Saturday), and people need to learn how to turn off the flashes on their cameras (the shark apparently doesn't like the flash and will swim away from the glass).

Flickr: Great White Shark

SHM International Digital Extravaganza!



Today I watched some animations from SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH is one of those computer industry events where those of us in the entertainment industry go to find our new best artists, so on the whole, the quality of things that one views has already been filtered by industry professionals and selected as being particularly noteworthy.

Tonight's event was hosted by Shrunkenheadman is SJSU's Animation/Illustration club, so we had the luxury of having them pre-screened even further from the 3-DVD "Best of" compilation (which definitely reduced my time sitting in agony viewing bad animations). While there were definitely demo reels from students, there were also rather interesting animations being submitted by researchers. One of the more interesting ones was this one about Flight Patterns. Of course, as long as we are talking about planes, we might as well talk about Snakes, a computer animated version of M.C. Escher's last woodcut.

The classic "Foster's Big Ad" was shown:

Guiness' "noitulove" ad also:

And to round out the beer ad triumverate, we have Johnnie Walker's "Painting":

The biggest difference I find these days between professional portfolios and those from students/amateurs trying to get into doing computer animation is this: pros realize that a reel isn't just a showcase of what you are capable of doing -- the most effective works are also going to be the ones that entertain.

links for 2006-09-07


Server Update


The server is slowly being restored after starting over, as I look through error logs to find frequently accessed broken links and the like. Some interesting things I've discovered:

  • Lots of people use peer-to-peer filesharing over port 80 -- these requests make up a large majority of my 404s.I was puzzled why so many people kept trying to access uri-res/N2R.
  • When running an install of Movable Type, make sure that Javascript is enabled on your web browser. If you don't enable Javascript, Movable Type will just hang on mt-upgrade.cgi in the "Initializing Movable Type" step indefinitely.
  • mt-static/user_styles.css is a css file to allow for further customization of the Movable Type interface. It is missing from the installation package, but if you just place an empty file titled user_styles.css in your mt-static folder, all those 404s showing up in the log everytime Movable Type runs goes away.
  • MSNBot is a quite the busy web crawler. In a little less than 2 days, 75 MB of files have been downloaded by this spider. Yahoo Slurp comes in second place with 9MB, and Google takes third at 6MB.
  • People still use Amigas.


I find it pretty amazing that Amiga OS shows up on there -- I wonder what browser it uses? Firefox, Mozilla and Opera are up there too, with a thin margin between the three.

UPDATE:Good news! I've managed to locate an old backup of my blog from November of '05. I'm still short 10 months, but this will speed up the restoration greatly!

New 24 inch iMac


Apple today announced the release of the new 24-inch iMac for $1999 and updated all their iMac processors to the new Intel Core Duo 2 processor. In addition, Apple dropped the entry-level price from $1,299 to $999 for the 17-inch iMac. This drop in price comes just in time for students going back to school.

Apple: iMac

A New Beginning


Some of you may be wondering why I appear to have dropped off the face of the online world with my blog inaccessible (it's back, sort of) and e-mail being bounced back (please send again), it's like overnight I became a virtual hermit.

About a week ago, my web hosting company (WebHostPlus/Netbunch/ got hacked to such a degree that servers were wiped, and backups were unavailable. The web hosting company seemed to be doing some firefighting and giving me some support within the first 24 hours, and then they just dropped off the face of the earth and gave up. Since then, I've been on my own, independently recovering and rebuilding the site. Within the first 48 hours I managed to recover 90% of the files that comprised the entries of by pulling files manually off the google cache. Time was of the essence, as files do not stay in the google cache for long. (I also learned that google has a limit of 1000 entries displayed for a query, and how to manipulate the search string to pull specific files from the cache). Mainly what I was interested in recovering were the blog entries. Since I've been blogging almost daily for almost 4 years, this blog constitutes my largest written work.

About an hour after I've completed manually recovering 1,400 files from the google cache, kwc informs me of an automated tool called Warrick which will pull files from the caches of MSN, Yahoo, Google and the Wayback Machine. Warrick works wonderfully, allowing me to get some hours of sleep instead of tediously pulling files off the cache one by one, and also because Warrick manages to find files I've forgotten about. Because of the 1000 query limit by the Google API, Warrick is slow -- after two days of pulling files off, there are just a little over 2,000 files recovered, with many thousands more to go.

The plan for the moment is that I will re-add the entries as time allows, re-adding the old entries back to the current blog until the blog has been fully restored. It gives me a chance to revise the website and the blog, which I'll be looking forward to, once I have time.