September 2007 Archives

links for 2007-10-01


Reverting iPhone to 1.0.2


Although I never really took advantage of all the third-party applications available on the iPhone, I did really enjoy having my own custom ringtones on my iPhone. If it were not for the fact that 1.1.1 completely trashed ringtones, I would have been fine with 1.1.1, and gone without the third party apps. In fact, even though I did manage to restore some of the ringtones, I was not able to restore all of them, and that annoyed me to no end.

Luckily for me, the iPhone Dev Team has put out instructions to revert your iPhone to a previous version, which will restore all the functionality that existed prior to 1.1.1 except unlocking it from AT&T. I am happy because once again I have all my ringtones back on my iPhone, and I have the option of adding useful third party utilities to my iPhone once again.

The loss of the iTunes Wi-Fi store is of little consequence to me, as I rarely use the iTunes store while I'm sitting at home at my computer, much less when I'm out and about where the connection may be spotty.

links for 2007-09-30


Are You A Nintendo Historian?

Are you a Nintendo historian?

Score: 80% (8 out of 10)
If I had guessed right on the last two, I would have gotten 10 our of 10 (those two games were the only games I had not played)

Pokemon re-imagined


... as kawaii chibi characters.

links for 2007-09-29


links for 2007-09-28


Battlestar Galactica Videomaker


Earlier this year, Sci-Fi channel released the Battlestar Galactica Videomaker Toolkit, full of clips and sound effects and invited fans to make their own films. Now some of these films are available for viewing on their website. Sadly, the majority of them aren't very good, most of them having problems with story, dialogue, and acting. While it's certainly one way to get your BSG fix in before the fourth season starts, these episodes feel more like painful fan fiction home movies than actually watchable content.

Apple iPhone Update 1.1.1 Kills Custom Ringtones


sigh. I probably should have read the release notes before updating it.

Update: managed to get a couple of the ringtones working by having both the .m4r and .m4a versions located in the Ringtones directory and using RogueAmoeba's MakeiPhoneRingtone program. It's only OS X, and doesn't work with iTunes 7.4.2. Some ringtones still won't play, but partially working rather than completely not working is better than having the terrible default iPhone ringtones.

links for 2007-09-27


links for 2007-09-26


links for 2007-09-24


How It Should Have Ended: Spider-Man 3


If you haven't seen Spider-Man 3 yet, don't click the button below to view the video.

I found these 6 minutes much more entertaining than the actual movie.

True Female Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters


A preview trailer for Mamoru Oshii's Shin-Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden (True Female Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters

Releases in Japan on 11/10, not sure about US release. This movie started off as a short that eventually became an anthology.

links for 2007-09-23


links for 2007-09-22


links for 2007-09-20


iPhone: Two Weeks Later


It's been two weeks since Apple dropped the price of the iPhone, and it's been about that long since I've been using mine. Most of the features I disliked are still there, but in addition to the screen, I've found some things to love about the iPhone as well.

Visual Voicemail

I hate voicemail. I've always hated the fact that there's a computer on the other end who seemingly is holding the messages hostage until you correctly press the right buttons in the right sequence. While some may find the game-like quality of traditional voicemail entertaining, I find it rather irritating.

One of the smartest features Apple came up with on the iPhone is Visual Voicemail. Instead of doing push button gymnastics, there's a separate voicemail button on the iPhone that takes you to the voicemail, where the messages are listed by Caller ID, allowing you to select the message you want played. There are buttons as you play the message allowing for callback and deletion.


I know, it's just a calendar, every cellphone has one these days, but keying in entries and setting reminders has never been easier.

Full-Screen Caller ID

This one took a little work to set up but instead of the postage stamp-sized photo, I actually have a full-sized photo set up to ID who is calling. It makes identifying who is calling much easier.


The web browser on the iPhone is actually very usable. Some of the major websites have actually reformatted their pages for iPhone use, which makes browsing much easier.

Zelda Phantom Hourglass E-Card



In celebration of the upcoming release of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, the good folks at
Nintendo have released an e-card with video footage of the game.

I must say, the game looks great, and I can't wait to play it.

Preordering Halo 3 has officially reached overrated


halo3preorder.jpg When CostCo starts sending me notices about "pre-ordering Halo 3", it tells me two things; that CostCo has caught onto the scam that is "pre-ordering" and that there's no need to pre-order Halo 3 because it's going to be available EVERYWHERE.

Here's an oddity of the games industry's pricing though: you can get Halo 3 for $60, Halo 3 Limited Edition for $70, or the Halo 3 Legendary Edition for $130. All the true fanboys are buying the Halo 3 Special Edition XBox360 ($400), which comes in Master Chief Green and doesn't even include a copy of the game. While I don't doubt that there are XBox360 fans who are eagerly awaiting this next installment, does it even make sense to pay full price for the game when a year from now, the same game can be had for half-price or less?

Good games don't go bad, folks. If you can enjoy the game next week, there's a good chance you'll enjoy it next year.

Thoughts on the iPhone in Europe


Steve Jobs is currently touring Europe as he goes from country to country promoting the iPhone and naming phone carriers for their device. Britain's O2 and Germany's T-Mobile has been named, with France's carrier to be named next week. So far, all announced carriers have been set to launch on November 9th, in the UK at a price of 269 pounds and in Germany at 399 euros for the 8GB iPhone. All carriers thus far have been GSM with EDGE, making the European iPhone identical to the American one.

Just as Americans had a month to let the price of the iPhone sink in (and debate the pros and cons of the pricing), so too will Europe, but instead, the iPhone launch day comes nearly a month after the release of the 8GB iPod Touch (199 pounds/ 299 euros) and the
16GB iPod Touch (269 pounds / 399 euros).

In the United States, we have the majority of the cost of our cellphones subsidized by service providers in exchange for getting locked into a 2-year service contract. Europe is much the same way, with free phones given away as a way to attract customers into longer term service plans. In addition, smartphones are heavily subsidized, making the iPhone a very expensive option. For instance, for the same contract as the iPhone, O2 will give you a Nokia N95 (Wi-Fi, GPS, 5 megapixel camera) just for signing up.

In Europe, I feel as though the iPhone will be facing tough competition; savvy buyers will opt for the free Nokia N95 and buy an 16GB iPod Touch for the same price as an iPhone.

Shiver Me Timbers, It's Talk Like a Pirate Day


It's time once again for us to don our eyepatches and pirate hats (or just a bad accent and a swagger), because Talk Like a Pirate Day is here once again.

This is the variety of pirate we see portrayed in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, not the
Silicon Valley variety.

Not really a fan of Johnny Depp and his Jack Sparrow? Other famous film and media pirates to draw your inspiration from:

Need more ideas? Check out the official website for Talk Like a Pirate Day.


links for 2007-09-19


links for 2007-09-18


The One Where Mike Shows His Otaku Roots


Way back in the day, I used to play with the voice synthesizer software that came with sound cards. This was not canned vocals, but vocals that were generated using frequency and delay. The result of these non-canned vocals was closer to what one might expect of a Speak'n'Spell than actual human speech. In the mid-80s, the anime Megazone 23 popularized the idea of a virtual singer, and in 1996, Japan created virtual idol singer Kyoko Date:

True to the idols of that era, Kyoko Date did not last long, and was quickly surpassed by real idol singers.

Now otaku everywhere have an opportunity to create their own virtual idol with Vocaloid 2, a Japanese software package that takes in lyrics and a melody, and generates the vocals. Many of the results have been posted on the internet, and in the Japan's Geek Mecca (otherwise known as Akihabara), the $100 software package is flying off the shelves. The first printing is already sold out, and it is tops on Amazon Japan's software charts as well.

Here are a sample of some of the more interesting things to come out:

The Leek Song:

Someone thought to combine the videogame Idolmaster and sync it with Vocalizer 2 (The result actually sounds really synthetic):

Here's another videogame mashup with the Konami classic Gradius:

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And a well done rendition of Princess Mononoke:

And a crazy duet with Solid Snake of Metal Gear Solid:

links for 2007-09-15


links for 2007-09-13


Wii Watch: Wii at $249


If you're still looking for a Wii (come on people, it's almost been a year now!), still has them at the normal retail price of $249.99. Unlike the earlier days, there is no bundle attached, so you don't need to buy accessories or games that you don't want. Wii

links for 2007-09-12


Hands Free Mario


Super Mario World on the Super NES was one of the games that took a little longer than normal for me to beat; part of this was because I had just started college at the time, and hadn't brought the SNES with me, but part of it was just because it was pretty long. Ah, my wasted youth.

This video from Super Mario World shows a level that is completely automated. You start the level, and the game does the rest. No touching required! Watch as Mario is propelled through the level from a series of blocks like some crazy amusement park ride on rails.

The Only Mario Level That Plays Itself - Watch more free videos

How to Attach a Photo to a Contact on the iPhone


One of the things I've been doing today is attaching photos to my contacts. While some people have suggested that I search facebook for photos, in most cases, I've already taken pictures of the people that I have phone numbers for, so it's just a matter of finding a good photo, resizing it to (320 x 480) and then sticking it on the iPhone.

I created a photo album on iPhoto called "Contacts" where I put all the resized images of my contacts. This makes it easier for the iPhone to sync up the photos, and for me to add new contacts in.

  1. Once you've synced your Contacts onto your iPhone, you can go to "Photos" and select the photo that you want to use for the Contact.
  2. Touch the box with the arrow in the lower left hand corner of the screen. That should bring up a menu.
  3. Select "Assign to Contact".
  4. Scroll and select the name you wish to assign it to.
  5. Press "Set Photo".

If you use the arrows to the left and right, you can quickly go through the remaining photos and assign them to your contacts quicker than doing it through the Address Book.

Free NBC Shows on Amazon Unbox


While I'm not a fan of DRM or buying non-physical media, I am a big fan of free, and Amazon is offering on their Unbox the NBC premieres for free before they are broadcast on television.NBC, if you recall, was recently ended negotiations with Apple about pricing for their shows (A leaked story at Variety seems to indicate that Apple was considering dropping TV shows to just 99 cents. While Apple won't be offering the complete season (unless things are renegotiated), it seems as if Amazon will be offering the complete season pass for download.

Amazon Unbox uses 1-click after your first download, so make sure you click on the one that says "Buy episodes with 1-click", and NOT "Subscribe to season with 1-click".

My own favorite of the shows being offered is Chuck, about an IT guy drawn into a world of epsionage. Just don't take it too seriously and you'll have a good time.

The science fiction time travelling show "Journeyman", apparently features someone using an upside iPhone.

Tadao Ando's Collezione



A year ago, kwc and I wandered around Omotesando Hills looking for Tadao Ando's Collezione. It's far past the glamour and lights of the area, and were it not for kwc's insistence that the Collezione was in the area, we might have turned back without finding it.

We walked past Omotesando Hills, passing by the more glitzy architecture such as Comme de Garcons (Future Systems) and the Prada Aoyama Epicenter (Herzog & de Meuron) before finding the Collezione on the same street. Upon arriving at the Collezione, I recognized Ando's use of concrete and curves to create a somewhat solitary experience. Though it was often that kwc was just a few feet away from me, the circular corridors could obscure him from my view completely.

Built in 1989, Collezione uses one of Ando's favorite primary materials: concrete. There is none of the natural elements that is typically associated with Ando's work in this building. Having Collezione and Omotesando Hills so close to each other also gave me insight on how 15 years of change had influence on Ando and the area. Omotesando Hills was built in 2005, replacing an apartment complex, and uses water, light and stone to create a much more naturally accented area. In the Collezione, the lighting is recessed, and while some areas are open, some corridors give the feel of a modern man-made concrete tunnel. Where Omotesando Hills feels very open, Collezione feels very confined and closed.

We shot at night, which only seemed to add to the isolation of the building; retail shops while lit, were closed, and the employees of the offices of the upper floors had long left the building.

Flickr Photoset: Collezione


Things iHate about the iPhone


The iPhone is a modern marvel of technology.As a convergence device, it did what many PDAs and cellphones failed to do: excite me enough to buy it. That being said, the iPhone is not the end all of phones, and there are a number of things to improve upon besides just the technology. Apple's iPod spawned a little family of its own, and I believe the iPhone will have its variations as well. Here is a short list of things that I hate about the iPhone:

Smudges and Fingerprints

The iPhone brings out all my obsessive compulsive tendencies. The need to keep the surface clean and free of dirt and grime consists of a ritualistic wipe down after every use.


On my old Nokia, I would use my headphones occasionally if I knew I was going to be on the phone for an extended period. I feel that with the iPhone, it encourages headphone use far more than that. One, because you don't want your face oils smudging the screen, and two, all the cool functions of the iPhone during the call require use of the screen. The little click switch isn't enough. That being said, there seems to be quite a difference in sound output of the headphones versus earpiece -- the earpiece volume seems much louder than the headphones. Since the iPhone's roots are iPod based, it makes sense that I would be carrying around the headphones, but it's slightly annoying that after I make a phone call, I need to adjust the volume down for the music so I don't blow my ears out.

iPod roots

The great thing about the iPhone is that it's an iPod and a phone combined, but it's also the iPod-ness of the iPhone that presents issue. The iPhone, by nature of iPod is a closed system; official applications on the devices exist either through Apple or official third parties. There is no SDK (Software Development Kit) to write your own applications, Apple instead has asked developers to simply write them for the web.


The default Ringtones that the iPhone includes are terrible. They don't sound like a cellphone ring -- they are mostly sound effects (similar to those you would find at a novelty store or inside one of those 10,000 SFX! CDs) or musical melodies played on a piano or xylophone. You would think that given Apple's taste in music for their advertising, they could at least have some taste in ringtones, but apparently such things lie in other departments. While Apple will soon allow Ringtones to be made from downloaded music, it will do so by charging an additional 99 cents for the privilege, which I feel is dumb, provided that many other cellphones allow the use of any mp3 clip to be used as a ringtone.


There are none. Without Flash support on the iPhone, we're left listening to music, watching movies or surfing the web. I think with the touch screen and the beautiful display, you could definitely have games on it. The regular timeless classics (Solitaire, Bejeweled, Tetris) could well work with the iPhone.

links for 2007-09-09


i has a iPhone!1111!



I've had pretty bad luck with first-generation Apple devices; my iPod mini had the feedback from the location of the headphone jack, and my MacBook Pro had a high-pitched whine that took several tries to fix. So when the iPhone was released, I resolved to stay my ground and not purchase one. Problems with Apple devices are usually discovered fairly quickly, within the first couple days of release.

After seeing how quickly kwc could surf the web at SDCC this year, I decided that although EDGE was slow, and 3G would be much faster, EDGE seemed to work just fine for pulling up Google and the like. Faster internet, while nice, wasn't necessary.

When Apple dropped the price of the iPhone by $200, I decided that I should snatch up one of the discontinued 4gb iPhones. At $299, it feels like a steal to me, since it's the same price as the 8GB iPod Touch, and includes the phone, camera and bluetooth capabilities, which aren't present on the iPod Touch, for the cost of an additonal 4gb of storage space, which according to Apple is worth $100 more.

Will there be a bigger and faster iPhone? Definitely. The existence of the 16GB iPod Touch means that a 16GB iPhone is on the way, and with phone networks more sophisticated in Europe and Japan, it is also very likely that the next iPhone will also include 3G for faster web surfing. However, the problem with the iPhone in the U.S. is not the iPhone, but the phone network that it runs on: AT&T's EDGE network.

The screen on the iPhone is wonderful. YouTube videos and movies look very nice on it. The screen however, triggers all my OCD tendencies, as I am constantly wiping it down fingerprints and smudges. The iPhone is very thin, a little thinner than my previous phone, but just as tall. I haven't had any trouble connecting to WiFi networks other than trying to type in passwords correctly, but my fingers appear to be the almost perfect size for typing on the keyboard.

When I was testing out the iPhone after activation, I noticed some defects in the screen, so I returned to the Apple Store this morning and exchanged it for a new iPhone. While I was there, the clerk asked me if I wanted to change up to a 8GB iPhone. Didn't really feel like it, as I'm sure that when this iPhone expires, there will likely be a new and better iPhone available, and 4GB is plenty for me, when I'm mostly just using it as a portable web browser.

links for 2007-09-08


Steve Jobs' Open Letter to iPhone owners

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Steve Jobs written a letter to iPhone owners regarding the recent $200 price cut of the iPhone.

In the letter, he notes that yes, dropping the iPhone by $200 is the right decision, and two, technology moving forward and prices drops are a way of life, and finally, that if you aren't getting a refund, rebate or some other consideration, they'll be handing out $100 in store credit as a way of saying thanks for being an early adopter and believing in the iPhone.

Apple's Special Announcements


Apple announced a bunch of new goodies today:

  • iPod shuffles get new colors, $79
  • iPod nano gets more colorful, wider and video - $149 for the 4GB version, $199 for the 8GB version. iPod nano also comes with 3 games.
  • iPod Classic gets bigger. $249 for the 80GB, $349 for the 160GB.
  • iPod Touch -- does everything the iPhone can do except take pictures, make calls and connect to AT&T's EDGE network. Yes, WiFi. Yes, websurfable. Yes, touchscreen. 8GB $299, 16GB - $399. Available at the end of the month.
  • iTunes Music Stores in Starbucks.
  • iPhone Ringtones - 99 cents to buy the song from iTunes, 99 cents to change it into a ringtone.
  • iPhone price drop. 8GB iPhone $399, no more 4GB iPhone. (There's still some 4GB iPhones in their clearance inventory -- also discounted $200 down to $299)

When the iPod was announced in 2001 at $399 for a 5GB and $499 for a 10GB, I thought Apple was insane. The mp3 player market was 3 years old at that point, and many vendors were selling mp3 players for less money, and with far less capacity. The first iPod used a small form factor hard drive as its storage medium, which made it a brick compared to the mp3 players of the time, most of which utilized compact flash memory. It was also Mac only, which made the audience rather limited. While some companies would have given up, Apple did not, and here we are, 6 years later, into the sixth generation of iPods.

While the mini and shuffle were designed to lower the barrier for entry into the world of iPod, their latest release, the iPod Touch blurs the line between iPod and iPhone. When the cashiers at McDonald's offer to supersize your meal, they are doing what is known as an upsell. Apple has conveniently priced their iPods to make upsells easier.

At almost every fifty dollars, there's a new choice available:

  • $79 iPod Shuffle
  • $149 4GB iPod Nano
  • $199 8GB iPod Nano
  • $249 80GB iPod Classic
  • $299 8GB iPod Touch
  • $349 160GB iPod Classic
  • $399 16GB iPod Touch OR 8GB iPhone

I've always thought of $300 +/- $50 being about what the average person is willing to spend on an iPod. More than that, and you're creeping into laptop/portable territory, and the justifications for a $400+ gadget becomes harder. The $399-499 iPods have never sold as well as the $249-$299 iPods that seem to be hitting the consumer sweet spot of perceived value. I feel there may be too many choices now -- too many sizes, too many colors, too many styles.

The iPod touch is what people have been asking for since the announcement of the iPhone: an touchscreen iPod with WiFi. While there were fears that the release of such a device would canabalize sales of the iPhone, Apple has brought down the price of the iPhone in line with the iPod touch. While the iPod touch features greater capacity at the expense of phone and camera functionality, I can see the iPod touch appealing to a lot of people who want to carry music and video with them, but not necessarily have need of the phone and camera capability of the iPhone. WiFi, I'm sure will prove useful for other things besides downloading music from Starbucks.

I find the look of the new iPod nano strange, resembling a mutant iPod shuffle that managed to evolve a click wheel and a screen. Something about it just doesn't look right.

The iPod Classic is relatively unexciting -- now with even more space that you won't be able to fill up. No WiFi, just more space.

It's even hotter today



I remember only a few times in my life growing up in Southern California where temperatures reached the mid-triple digits. It didn't happen all that often, but it was always a big deal when it did. This one is a big deal only because people have managed to blackout part of Southern California with their air conditioners.

And my parents wonder why I don't want to live down here.

links for 2007-09-03




Early this year, Professor Joel Adams and student Tim Bron of Calvin College decided to build a Beowulf cluster. Not just any Beowulf cluster, but one that would be small enough and portable enough to take on-board an airplane. With just a budget of $2500, they managed to build a cluster capable of 26.24 GFLOPS that met their requirements.

Their writeup on Clustermonkey details the nitty-gritty, and also reveals that the same cluster could now be built for about half the price, due to the declining costs of the components used.



Yep, something just hit Southern California. Not really strong enough to knock anything down, but enough to get us all to stop mid-conversation and say "Oh, it's an earthquake."

Here's the Shakemap for the Earthquake. Epicenter was 9 miles west-northwest of Lake Elsinore, and measured about a magnitude 4.7.

It's going to be a hot day today



Wow, 99 degrees.

links for 2007-09-02