August 2007 Archives

links for 2007-08-31


Review: 3:10 to Yuma


I just came back from watching 3:10 to Yuma, originally written by Elmore Leonard, adapted into a screenplay, and then made into a movie in 1957, and then remade once again as a movie for wide release next week. If you love watching westerns, Christian Bale or Russell Crowe, go see this movie, otherwise save your $10 for a better movie. I've seen far worse westerns, and while I find the macho behavior in westerns doesn't require great acting skill, Crowe and Bale do what they do best -- Crowe is charming and charismatic, while Bale spends most of his time brooding and speaking in gravelly overtones.

As a western, they throw in every possible period reference possible; stagecoach robberies, a barn burning, an indian attack, railroads, marshalls, and of course, a no holds barred shoot out. There's plenty of action, and the pacing of the movie reflects a more modern audience's limited attention span a bit more.

Verdict: Good if you like Westerns, too contrived otherwise.

(Talk of plotlines and why the movie is bad in the extended -- might be spoilerish)

links for 2007-08-29


Lunar Eclipse: August 28, 2007

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Early this morning, there was a lunar eclipse. I awoke, went outside and took pictures.


Things that I learned from this little adventure. I need a better tripod and a nice high-powered telescope that I can slap my DSLR onto the next time I try this. A remote timer is likely going to be next on my list, as self-timer + mirror lockup is only a 2 second delay, which isn't nearly enough time to stop the vibration on the tripod.

Flickr: Lunar Eclipse

links for 2007-08-28


On Being a Gaming Geek


Wil Wheaton's awesome PAX 2007 speech

This feed came directly off the sound system at PAX2007, so the sound quality is awesome.

Wil talks about his experiences with video games. Except for the afterschool auditions, my own experience as a 80s kid in the suburbs of Los Angeles is eerily similar.

links for 2007-08-27


Grand Prix San Francisco, Day 1


So parakkum, dlf and I went to compete in the Grand Prix San Francisco, which was held in San Jose's Parkside Hall. My hopes of entering the Top 16 were quickly dashed as I saw the caliber of decks and players attending this event. My record? 1 win, 3 losses, followed by a withdrawal from the tournament to watch the Pro Players play their rounds. With an attendance of 671 players, coming from all around the world, it was quite the Magic gathering this weekend.

The highlight was watching Tomoharu Saito face off against Olivier Ruel in the Featured Player's area.

Saito is an amazingly fast card shuffler, as can be seen in this video that I took of him:

Game 3 of the matchup between Saito and Ruel:

Flickr: Grand Prix San Francisco


links for 2007-08-26


links for 2007-08-25


Nikon goes Full-Frame. For $5,000.


A year and a half ago, Nikon said "In making a full frame sensor camera, nothing can be considered as an obstacle. In the first place, the current situation is that the picture quality of the DX camera can already sufficiently produce a satisfying photograph. So, what's the meaning of such a big sensor? Of course, there is also a price problem. We cannot put out an outrageously priced camera simply because we want to have better function on the camera."

Of course, that's just what they've done. Nikon has just announced their 12.1 megapixel D3 fullframe camera. Capable of shooting from ISO 200 to 6400 at 9 frames per second with autofocus tracking (and 11 without). It has an amazing 51-point AF sensor, along with Live View on a massive 3 inch screen. At $5,000, it's a bit pricy, but probably worth every cent if you need the frames. The Nikon D3 is 3 times as fast as the Canon EOS 5D for twice the price, and as fast as the recently released Canon EOS 1D Mark III with the advantage of full frame and 2 more megapixels of resolution for about the same price. Nikon seems to have done a fabulous job positioning the D3 in the perfect niche.

I find it interesting that after all these years of scaling back their efforts on full-frame lenses focusing on DX-format lenses, they've decided to re-enter full-frame with a professional level SLR (I guess they got tired of losing all their pros to Canon) that is priced in between Canon's pro-level EOS-1-series and their amateur EOS 5D. Make no mistake, this is a pro camera that's built for speed, and should find its way into the hands of paparazzi and photographers who feel the need the speed this November.

links for 2007-08-23


links for 2007-08-22


links for 2007-08-20


links for 2007-08-18


Tearing Apart a PowerBook G4 Titanium


Many months ago, I purchased a Titanium PowerBook off of eBay in desperate need of repair. It had a few busted components, but nothing a little elbow grease couldn't fix. Ever since it arrived, it's been sitting in my closet. Today I cleaned it, and took it apart. I could put it together again, but it was in pretty poor shape to start with, so rather than cram it back into the titanium case, I decided that I should probably build something else out of it.

But first, I needed to get the display working. I knew there was a problem with the backlight on this machine when I bought it, so in advance, I had gone ahead and purchased a functioning backlight. Because it's such a pain in the butt to strip the backlight from the LCD screen, they sent me the whole LCD screen, which was nice of them, but meant that I would have to strip and swap the LCD screen from one unit and put the backlight from the other onto the system.
While the LCD with the working backlight was mostly usable, it had several vertical stripes running across the screen. I opted to make the transplant.

It sounds easy, but it took me the better half of the day, and I have the bent bezels and the sore hands to show for it. Sadly, when I closed up the LCD, I must have clamped something too tightly, as there's a small dead pixel area in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. I'm thinking that the gutted machine might make a good wi-fi picture frame.


links for 2007-08-15


In Pursuit of Perseids


Last night, I drove down to Morgan Hill's Henry Coe State Park to view the Perseid Meteor Shower. Leaving Mountain View at 12:30, meant that I was at the parking lot by 1:30 (after a harrowing twisty 10 mile climb up the mountain). Getting there so late meant that I didn't quite feel safe wandering into the darkness of the mountainside alone, so instead I just parked my car and set up my camera in the mostly deserted parking lot. While not the perfect location, it was good enough, and it seemed on the drive over that the meteor shower was already underway, so I got comfortable and spent the next couple of hours staring up at the sky.

There was light pollution from the cities, and you'll notice the orange glow of the cities in a great many of the shots.


Despite this, I was able to see many (and photograph a couple) Perseid meteors as they streaked across the sky. They are remarkably fast, blink and they are gone, but that's okay, as there's another coming around soon. With almost a meteor a minute, time goes quickly, and I quickly lose count of the numbers.


My small set of stars and meteors: Flickr: Perseids Meteor Shower 2007

links for 2007-08-12


links for 2007-08-11


My Titanium PowerBook G4: I'm not dead.


In 2002, I bought my first Mac, a shiny new Titanium Powerbook with 800mhz G4 processor. I've toted it around the world in these past five years, and even after my purchase of the MacBook Pro, I still used it quite heavily as a web browser. The past couple of weeks have had me ready to declare it a loss; I could no longer reliably use it, as it would lock up and freeze intermittently. In suspend mode, the TiBook would occasionally wake up, but more often than not just stay in suspension, or lock up very quickly afterward. Sometimes when I powered it up, the TiBook would beep at me 3 times, which meant that it wasn't detecting any memory.

I've had this happen before, and because it was still under AppleCare, I sent it in, and they sent it back, replacing several fans and the main logic board. Since my AppleCare contract has long since expired, I removed the keyboard and poked around for a bit. I took out the memory and ran it for a bit, seeing if perhaps one of the DIMMs was bad. I was still getting freezes.

I was getting ready to write the obituary on my Powerbook, when I came upon a webpage with a similar problem while I was searching for alternative uses for dead laptops, and taking a closer look actually yielded a solution for me. There's a orange ribbon cable that runs the memory module socket to the board. There's a metal plate that covers part of the casing for the memory modules, and in my case part of the orange ribbon was under the metal plate. Wondering if making contact with the metal might result in a short/grounding interaction, I carefully nudged the orange ribbon to the right of the metal plate, and tested the TiBook out. Everything seems to be working now, with no more freezes. IMG_1293.jpg

I find it phenomenal that I've managed to keep this TiBook going on after all these years -- my laptop previous to the TiBook was a Sony VAIO, which managed to die after about two years or so, having a burnt-out motherboard that refused to power up. The Apple has lasted twice as long (and still looks relatively good, if not the chipped paint).

Bjork's Innocence


Bjork invited fans to create a music video for her song "Innocence", and of the 500 entries submitted, narrowed it down to her favorite 10. Of the ten, my own favorite is the videogame inspired entry which features Bjork in a Super Mario World:

Haruhi Dance: International


The Haruhi dance has become something of nerd pop culture, and now some intrepid person has sourced and cut together footage from around the world to showcase otaku from around the world doing the Haruhi dance:

There's also the study abroad student doing the Haruhi dance in various locations in Japan:

For comparison, here is the original animation upon which all other Haruhi dances have been based:

A New Gaming Movie


links for 2007-08-09


BlizzCon 2007: Never Underestimate Nerd Power


When I was at BlizzCon this weekend, a guildmate of mine related the following to me about why another guildmate was not able to attend:

    "Frankly, he underestimated the nerd power of WoW players. He thought he'd be able to wait on buying the ticket, and was surprised when they sold out so quickly".

I had that same reaction when it came to the costumes that the cosplayers wore at BlizzCon. For the most part women dominated the ability to create good costumes, while guys' costumes seemed to be on the more pathetic end of the spectrum. Of course, I also suspect that most WoW players who cosplay have a larger budget than anime cosplayers.

When I came back from BlizzCon on Friday evening, I uploaded my BlizzCon 2007 photos to Flickr. Photographs from BlizzCon 2007 have taken over my Top 10 views, with my number one photograph garnering over 5,000 views in a 72 hour period.

I guess I shouldn't underestimate nerd power either.

links for 2007-08-07


links for 2007-08-06


Guitar Hero III: Through the Fire and the Flames


One of the games I've been looking forward to is Guitar Hero III. This is a sneak peek video of GH3, using what looks like mad finger pressing skills:

BlizzCon Day 2: Saturday


After the events of last night at BlizzCon, Saturday seemed to pale in comparison, not as many people there, less interesting panels, shorter lines for everything; less people in costume, and the final event of the BlizzCon being a concert put on by a WoW-themed rock band in the Anaheim Arena. The concert was, by all measures, far too geeky for me to want to attend.

Blizzard is working with Legendary Pictures (the same folks who brought your cinema 300 and Batman Begins) to produce a World of Warcraft live action movie, due to release in 2009. Details were super vague, with very few things decided; script hasn't been finalized, director and cast haven't been chosen. They're trying to make it a war movie, not an quest/adventure movie, owing to the fact that the franchise is "World of Warcraft".

I walked the con floor, got better pictures of the things that appeared too blurry the first time around, sat in on a couple of presentations, and learned that because the Murloc Suit was only given out to BlizzCon attendees, that they go for about $250 on eBay. Consider the situation: there are 9 million WoW players out there, and only 4-6,000 BlizzCon attendees, which means there aren't very many of these suits available relative to the number of players in WoW. While it boggles my mind that anyone would pay the equivalent of an real-life iPod for a virtual item, people do go to extremes for WoW. I'll keep the suit for now; maybe by the time I sell it, it'll be worth as much as an iPhone.

I don't have much else to report from BlizzCon, it seems that the last six months away from Azeroth has greatly diminished my understanding of the WoW dialect, without guildmates to explain what certain things were and what relevance they had, I would have been as lost as newbie wandering through Elwynn Forest. For instance, in the past six months, Holy Priests, which were once the best healers in the game, have been re-specing to become Shadow Priests, while Holy Paladins, which were once marginal combat healers, have become the par-de-excellence at main tank healing. Retribution Paladins are still useless, and Warlocks have become the greatest dps-dealing class in the game, much to the Rogues' chagrin.


flickr: BlizzCon 2007

links for 2007-08-05


BlizzCon 2007 Day 1: Friday


The first day of the BlizzCon, and while registration lines were short, lines for all else was not; there were lines to play Starcraft 2, there were lines to play WoW, there were lines to buy things from the BlizzCon store. Being a Blizzard event meant that there was a lot less to buy than other conventions; besides the BlizzCon store, you had your choice of T-shirts or concession stand food to spend your dollars on. Sponsored by several other partners, Intel, Dell, Creative Labs and Nvidia, Upper Deck, and Brady Games all had booths which were mobbed with people.


There are a small number of panels and presentations, as well as championship tournaments to watch. There are games to play, and game concept art scattered about the exhibition hall. The exhibition hall feels cavernous because there's so few vendors there.

I'd guess that there's somewhere close to 6,000 people here at Blizzcon, (no numbers were officially stated, though Jay Mohr seemed to believe that Hall A held about 4,000 people). While a vast majority of people are Orange County and L.A. locals, people also came from places as far away as England, Australia, and Korea to be at BlizzCon.

Two big announcements were made at BlizzCon about World of Warcraft:

  • There's another expansion pack coming out called "Wrath of the Lich King" and the focus will be on the continent known as Northrend, the home of Arthas and his undead army. This expansion raises the level cap to 80 and should include a number of features that players have been requesting.
  • The Death Knight hero class will be introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, and it's the first of the Hero classes. The Death Knight Hero class will be an unlockable feature on your game's account available after completing a level 80 quest, which will allow you to start your Death Knight character at level 55.

Starcraft 2 and the Terran units were introduced at a panel on Friday; as I watched the presentation, I felt that I was watching an military contractor's demonstration of their latest catalog of weapons.

The events of the evening were the sound-alike contest, a dance contest and a costume contest, which were all hosted by Jay Mohr, actor/comedian (who also plugged his new sports column at Fox Sports. The sound-alike contest was interesting, with a lot of very good Murlocs and sound bites from NPCs, including some from the soundtests: "Your sound card works perfectly".

The dance competition was dominated by the Blood Elf contingent, which included two female blood elves dancing to Britney Spear's Toxic, and one male Blood Elf doing the Napoleon Dynamite dance.


There were an amazing 98 entrants for the costume contest; there were no skits, which allowed the contest to progress quickly (otherwise the contest would have taken all night). The prize for the costume contest was ridiculous: a fully loaded, top of the line laptop, along with a two year subscription to WoW, which puts the prize package somewhere north of $3,000. The runners up received sounds cards and other goodies, making the BlizzCon costume contest one of the more lucrative ones to enter.


Flickr: BlizzCon 2007

links for 2007-08-03


BlizzCon 2007: Day 0


I drove down to Anaheim to pick up my badge today, rather than attempting to pick it up tomorrow (the memories of the ridiculous lines at AX2007 were still fresh in my mind). When I got there at 530pm, I saw a huge crowd of people outside the convention center, some had their badges and goodie bags, some didn't. Lines were long; I counted most lines averaging about 30 people, meaning there were quite a few lines with no more than 5, and a couple of lines with 50 or more.

The way they set up the lines was different than any other convention I've been at -- they actually split the registration lines up by last name, and they didn't really set them apart wide enough such that it became impossible to tell which line went to which last name (nor did they have those lovely velvet or pleather barrier things to keep the lines neat). If the registration line is still the mess it is tomorrow, I will get some photographs of the chaos. There were multiple Michael Huang's registered for BlizzCon, and this caused some confusion. In fact, when they gave me my badge, they had given me the wrong badge (this I would not have noticed, save for the fact that one of the other Michael Huangs had put their lame player name (Frewtea) on their badge.

The goody bag was, as I expected, chock-full-o-goodness, including the Murloc outfit and the Beta Key, as well as the T-shirt, and a couple of CCG items. Everything else in the bag is a discount coupon for "show specials" at Blizzcon or some other minor tchotchke.


Tales from Earthsea


I enjoy Studio Ghibli's animated movies, and while Tales from Earthsea won't hit the United States until 2009 (thanks to Earthsea exclusivity rights in releases being given to Sci-Fi channel), the film has already been dubbed into English and has been released overseas in many countries.

Ursula Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea books, had the following to say about her private viewing of the animated Tales from Earthsea:

    Much of it was beautiful. Many corners were cut, however, in the animation of this quickly made film. It does not have the delicate accuracy of "Totoro" or the powerful and splendid richness of detail of "Spirited Away." The imagery is effective but often conventional.

    Much of it was exciting. The excitement was maintained by violence, to a degree that I find deeply untrue to the spirit of the books.

    Much of it was, I thought, incoherent. This may be because I kept trying to find and follow the story of my books while watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story, but with entirely different temperaments, histories, and destinies.

In looking at the trailers, the hardest part for me to accept as Earthsea is the color of the people; Earthsea is a series in which the majority of the people have a red-brown complexion, and the whites are a minority. Sci-Fi channel's adaptation of Earthsea was publicly blasted by LeGuin a few years ago, because Sci-Fi Channel's adaptation whitewashed the characters. I don't think Studio Ghibli did any better, and gave most characters a fairly light complexion, and the English voice cast of course is made up of mostly white actors.

links for 2007-08-02


BlizzCon 2007


I depart again for what will likely be my last convention of the season -- BlizzCon 2007. Blizzard hosts these BlizzCons every couple of years in Anaheim, admission is always expensive, and the goody bag is full of things that provide a decent return on eBay. BlizzCon is a two-day convention, taking place on Friday and Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center.

One of the things that I had forgotten about Blizzard was their constant fear of leaked demos, and their FAQ about BlizzCon reflects this, particularly the rule about laptops at Blizzcon:

    Can I bring my computer/laptop to BlizzCon?

    Desktop computers, laptops, and electronic storage devices are not allowed in the BlizzCon exhibit halls. Please leave these devices in your car, at home, or at your hotel.

There's really no need to be quite that restrictive, except that Blizzard's pretty darn paranoid about their pre-release stuff winding up on a server somewhere.

BlizzCon 2007 Schedule of Events is filled with panels and competitions, and my focus will be on attending the panels and writing them up.