Camp Astro Boy — Kyampu Tetsuwan Atom

Oh the wonder of summer camp! My two oldest are away at camp until Friday, leaving us the two youngest and me with a little more time for gaming! Today I’m hoping to pick up Astro Boy Omega Factor for GBA. All of the reviews I’ve read on this have been good, and with my oldest son away in the woods, I might get a chance to play it through myself! Oh joy of joys!

Nintendo has a nice Quicktime movie of the action right here. And here’s a review on I haven’t seen the original Astro Boy anime or read the manga yet (saw a couple of eps of the new series), but I became quite enamored with Osamu Tezuka’s artistic style as reflected in Android Kikaider and Cyborg 009. So I’m adding Astro Boy to my growing list of manga and anime interests.

Will Windows XP SP2 Drive The Market?

As most tech interested people (i.e. geeks) already knows, Windows XP SP2 made its oft delayed debut last week. I resisted any urge to immediately deploy it at work and waited a couple of days before installing it on my home PC. The installation went without a flaw and I think I may have seen a speed increase. My hope was that installing it on my wife’s computer would result in  a similar speed increase.

Alas, it was not to be. My wife’s PC didn’t have enough disk space for the service pack to install. And since I’d already done the ol’ file shuffle, it furnished the perfect excuse to buy a new hard drive. Afterall, SP2 is essentially a must have upgrade for Windows XP users and my wife’s PC was definitely hobbled by a lack of disk space.

So the shopping began. A coworker pointed me to Circuit City which had a great rebate deal on what turned out to be a 120GB Western Digital HD. I had to go to two CCs before finding one in stock. So it occured to me that SP2 might actually be spurring some hardware sales (along with Doom 3 of course). So I guess one could say that the good folks in Redmond are doing their part to aid the alleged economic recovery! 🙂

Final word on this, I installed the 120GB drive in my computer and plan to move the old 40GB to my wife’s. The upgrade was not at all easy until I used the partition copy function of Partition Magic 8 instead of the Data Lifeguard 11 tools. So my advice is to use something like Partition Magic or DiskCopy if you need to move your XP installation to a new disk. If I’d thought of this earlier, it would have saved me a day of work!

Cheating On Kana!

Okay, I admit it! I’m a bit of a fan of what are often referred to as "Japanese dating sims". But simulation is really too strong a term. In English, at least, they might be best referred to as computerized trashy romance novels for young men. That said, I’ve been spending a lot of game time working through "Kana – little sister". In short, you take on the role of devoted big brother to frail sick little sister Kana. Perhaps too devoted!

Like most games of this genre, it features sex and adult situations. This one in particular also has a bit of taboo and forbidden love. Yadda, yadda, yadda. So how did this title catch my eye? Well actually it caught my ear first. There was a link to the opening theme song, Shiroi Kisetsu: White Season, on J-List where I usually buy these games. I downloaded the song and was totally blown away by how beautiful it was. So I bought the game and was pleased to find that it also featured two additional full length songs of comparable beauty to the first. Oh, and the game is pretty good too!

I managed to get the first 4 of 6 endings completely on my own. But after spending over a week trying to get endings 1 and 5, I finally decided to cheat. It isn’t too much of a spoiler to say that there is one ending in which Kana can be saved. I had seen everything but that and in playing over and over again, I’d also become rather fond of the characters and really wanted to see the happier ending. After reading a walk-through, I was pleased to find that on a couple of occasions I was really close to the best ending. So my guilt was lessoned, and yes, the ending was worth it! So you could say that in the end I paid my dues, mostly, and got my money’s worth. But more than anything else, the 3 beautiful songs I added to my iPod were well worth the effort!:-)

Obama Obama Obama!

Last night’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention by Barack Obama was something that many of us in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood have been waiting for for a long time. For a number of years now, we’ve known how good Barack is, and that he was someone who was going places, and we’ve wanted to share that. Well now the cat is out of the bag and there’s no going back!

The thing about Barack is that he’s the real deal. He didn’t just make up all of that stuff in last night’s address in order to turn a clever phrase or two. He believes in what he is saying and acts on it and inspires others to act as well. And now it’s fair to say that the whole world knows that there’s a new star rising on the horizon! Go Barack! Go!

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo, and Online Games

I just read an article on in which the Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata basically says that most gamers don’t want online games. He provides what he considers to be proof of this and so on. He may be right, the majority of gamers may not think online is important, but I don’t know. I can’t help but be reminded of what happened as Nintendo steadfastly stuck to the expensive cartridge format as the rest of the games industry moved to the much cheaper CDs. If the relative success of various Playstation 2 titles and Xbox Live are any indication, Nintendo is again in danger of leaving money on the table.

I think the key for Nintendo is Game Design God, Shigeru Miyamoto (you know Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, most of the good stuff…) and whether or not he is ready for online games. In an interview a couple of years back, he did not have much use for online games. He made valid points about the ease of use for the gamer and the added expense. But with two years behind us and a vibrant console based online gaming community on not one but two consoles, has he rethought online games yet? My guess is yes, but he doesn’t have a game design ready yet. And that is what is holding Nintendo back. When Miyamoto-san is ready, so will Nintendo.

And gamers can rest assured that an online game from Shigeru Miyamoto will be something different. So don’t expect anything like Mario meets Halo, meets Final Fantasy XI. This can only be a good thing for gamers everywhere and of course Nintendo, which is in many ways the house that Miyamoto built.

Open Wheel XBox Racing On A Budget

While perusing the Virgin Megastore on Friday, I ran across the recently released IndyCar Series 2005 for XBox by CodeMasters. I’m primarily a NASCAR fan, but I appreciate open wheel too. And the IndyCar Series is arguably the more competitive of the major open wheel series. I mean really, I love the courses and glamour of F1, but the same guy wins every week, which for me takes the fun out of it.

Anyway, what caught my eye was the $19.99 price tag. A price tag like that is usually reserved by either best sellers, or cellar dwellers. So I resisted the urge to buy until I could read some reviews. The reviews are mixed to just okay. The most frequent criticism concerned the quality and variety of the graphics. Despite that, I’ll probably add this one to my collection eventually because I love racing titles, especially those with online support.

Many wonder what’s the excitement of driving fast and turning left for hundreds of laps?  Racing is so much more than that though. The best racing titles recreate the chess game that is auto racing by giving the player control over everything from car setup to team and sponsor management. And when you can take all of that and go up against real live humans online, that’s racing Nirvana!

When Games Become Spam

Well maybe that title is a little harsh, but that’s what came to mind when I saw on that Atari had shipped 2.5 million copies of Driv3r to retailers. Pressing CDs and DVDs is cheap these days, but that’s still a lot of disks for a game that is so far getting lack luster reviews. Also keep in mind that only the most successful titles actually sell anything near 1 million copies, let alone 2! So why is Atari shipping so many?

The most obvious answer is, they need the money. Atari is counting on Driv3r to take them out of the red as the second quarter comes to an end. A little less obvious is that they sort of got away with this sort of thing when they released Enter the Matrix. They flooded the retail channel riding a wave of movie premiere hype and managed to sell over 500000 copies. Many of those copies were probably sold before the really bad reviews of both the movie and the game got around. Doesn’t matter though, it’s still money in the bank. So Atari is going to have another go at it with Driv3r. But without a movie to hype it up and the bad reviews getting around, Atari may have made one trip too many to the well. At least I hope that spamming the retail channel like this won’t prove to be a winning strategy for lackluster games.

Just Say No To NTFS

In this unintentional continuing series of complaints about Windows, today I vent a little bit about NTFS. I’ve spent most of the last couple of days recovering a system from a hard drive crash. Fortunately I had already made backups of everything important and I actually had confidence that I could get the system back up in the usual manner. Boot the Windows set up CD then open the Recovery console, etc…

As you can guess, this did not transpire. Instead the machine froze on every attemp to get to the Recovery console. And, btw, Disk Doctor from emergency floppies doesn’t do NTFS. Lovely, so when an NTFS formatted disk bites the big one, that’s just it for all practical purposes. At least I haven’t yet found an alternate utility to fix an NTFS disk from the command prompt. Now there are things to like about NTFS, like smaller cluster sizes on large disks and user permissions, but for most users, being able to fix it when it breaks may take precedence. Right now, I’m definitely thinking about some alternatives. But alas, I fear I have no practical alternatives, at least professionally…

Enough venting, back to work!

Just Say NO To IE

More flaws have been found in the Internet Explorer web browser! That’s not really news, now is it? A new twist on this old story is that now there is an adware company that has been exploiting this flaw in order to install a toolbar in IE to facilitate pop up ads, often pornographic. Click here for the CNet story.

This is just ridiculous, if there were any other product with the kind of defect rate the IE has, it would be pulled from the market and its creator sued and/or fined. Still IE continues to walk the streets free and clear!

The CNet story makes bare mention of the existence of other browsers that do not have the flaws of IE. And while it does have links to Microsoft for IE work around instructions, it doesn’t have links to Mozilla, Firefox, or Opera. For my time and money, it’s a lot easier to install a better browser, than wade through yet another work around. When are people going to wake up and stop using IE? When someone finally dies because of IE flaws, will they put Gates on trial?


Talk Nerdy To Me

Over lunch today I was thinking about a story that aired on the news last night about how some antidepressants were causing suicidal tendencies in some teens. They did an interview at length with a girl who was wearing a black t-shirt that said "Talk Nerdy To Me" across the chest. I was a little surprised that they didn’t blur it as is usually the case these days with logos and provocative statements on clothing.

The thing that left the greatest impression though was the fact that there really wasn’t anything wrong with the girl. She came off as intelligent with all of the sort of nerd girl quirkiness. She had had some problems with drugs, but aside from that, she didn’t seem to have any real need for medication. (She kinda reminded me of the nerd girl from Real Genius, plays drums too!) Indeed, she indicated that the prescribed drugs put her in a worse state than the illegal drugs.

I wonder, have we reached a state when everything and anything is to be medicated, especially people who don’t comform to what mainstream society expects? It sure seems that way. While companies ship thousands of IT jobs overseas and complain about how they can’t find good people here in the U.S., we drug up the quirky people who come up with most of the innovations that have built our technological society. This cannot end well.

Is XBox Dead?

Over the past few months a number of shocking stories have come out of Microsoft that may have some bearing on the future of the XBox. Major games have been cancelled such as Mythica, most recently True Fantasy Online, and the XSN sports line up for 2004. There have also been rumors that the next XBox won’t have a hard drive or may be some PC/Console hybrid. And Microsoft has been releasing tools that will make it possible to use XBox Live in PC games.

There certainly hasn’t been any announcement about the demise of the XBox as yet. But these developments do speak of a move away from single mindedly backing the XBox as the major gaming platform from Microsoft. It almost looks like a retreat into supporting the PC as a gaming platform. If so, it would be true to form for Microsoft to promote that which moves copies of Windows and Office, their two biggest money makers and the source of their power.

PC gaming has been on the decline in terms of sales for a while now. Though there has been a growing popularity of high end gaming PCs, enough that Dell is even offering gamer oriented PCs at a premium of course. Still, I don’t see this profitable niche segment reversing the growth of console gaming. I hope I’m wrong, but it may well be that Microsoft now sees PC games as a way move more copies of Windows and perhaps pull XBox gamers back to the PC.

Firefox Da Bomb

For that last couple of weeks I’ve been using the beta of Mozilla Firefox as my default browser and I must say that I am impressed. Now this isn’t like earth shaking stuff going on, but just the little things.

Its a little quicker on my box to start up and I really like the image scaling along with Mozilla staples like popup blocking and such. And compared to IE, the relative security it leaves me one less thing to worry about. It also seems more compatible with IE leaning sites than Mozilla. In all it just has a few minor rough spots that should be ironed out by the 1.0 release. So if you haven’t already, give it a try, you won’t regret it!

Big Help!

Today’s Big Help award goes to my dad! In my rush to get my new portal theme out the door, I made a mistake that resulted in unreadable news stories. The fix was quick, avoiding potential embarassment. Well not too much embarassement, but at least minor irritation.

Way to go Dad!8)

Lens Flare and Fireworks MX

There’s no soccer today so I’m hoping to get more work done on the portal theme makeover. I finished up the main work on my Amazon shop module and now I want to get visual! Last night I must have spent 4 or 5 hours in the code on the module before I realized it! I guess I was having too much fun.

Anyway, I got inspired and decide to go in a different direction for the new theme than I had originally thought. I’ve got an image in my head involving lens flare. Unfortunately, Fireworks MX (my graphics weapon of choice) doesn’t have this built in. But I did find a tutorial on Lens Flares in Fireworks MX that looks pretty good.

Click here to see the Lens Flare Tutorial.

blueshifted rantings