Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Notes on Uncharted

I like to game, so it follows that I'm ridiculously good at it. Playing Uncharted for the first time, when I got my '100 Headshots' trophy I thought, "Great, but what am I going to do for the next 19 chapters?" I will admit it was hard work getting 100 headshots in the first three chapters. I shot heads that weren't even supposed to be in that level. I climbed towers and sprouted the heads of innocent people picnicking on adjourning islands.

If that weren't awesome enough, my headshots have headshots--translation--my bullets, on the way to some dude's head, pull out their own tiny guns and headshot some other dude with even tinier bullets before slamming into the original dude's head that they're aimed at. No shit. Just wait till I train my bullets to launch tiny grenades or better yet, wait for me to perfect the grenade headshot--it's not a myth.

When I beat Uncharted the first time I didn't even have a television. I plugged the audio from the PS3 into my headphones and beat the whole game blind. What's your excuse, Horatio Nelson? Oh, right, you're dead. Didn't stop John Paul Jones, and he was a TERRORIST!!!

I got so good at Uncharted that on my second playing, in the fourth chapter, in Crushing mode mind you, a dialog box popped up and gave me the option of playing the rest of the game with Nathan facing backwards, lining up my shots with a hand-mirror he holds. What do they think I am, a n00b? It'd be nice to have a challenge for once. In the last level, when you're supposed to beat Navarro in hand-to-hand combat, Navarro just laid down on his stomach and put his hands behind his head. I killed him anyway.

To be clear--my Uncharted is so strong it makes Kevin Pereira's ping pong look like Helen Keller's ping pong. Don't even get me started on how I make Helen Keller's Uncharted look. Shitty, that's how.

Just making sure everyone out there knows exactly how good of a gamer I am. Very.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick note (comment spam)

Okay, I just logged in to post something (that will wait until later), and got distracted by comments in the spam filter. I checked out these comments and most of them are suspect. A few were blocked and I can not for the life of me figure out why. No links anywhere in the comment, and the text was coherent and relevant. They did use fake email addresses, so that could be one reason.

These comments were caught by Akismet, and I wonder if they came from a spam-heavy address or something. Too bad they don't give the reason suspecting a comment as spam. Even though most of the comments were good ones I'm keeping them down while I figure out why they were blocked. I'll try to keep a closer watch in the future.


Hey PS3 developers...

You know what the two lamest devices nearly all PS3 developers use are?

Number 1: Quicktime events. You know how sometimes you think you're watching a cut scene, and out of nowhere a dialog comes up prompting you to quickly hit a key or else your character dies? Yeah, that doesn't get me more involved in the game, it doesn't make the cut scene any less of a cut scene, it just makes me really annoyed. Maybe I'd like to put the controller down every once and a while and have a drink, hmm?

Number 2: That BS where you are supposed to be turning a knob or something, or unscrewing a hatch, and you have to roll one of the joysticks in a circular motion, as if you're actually unscrewing the hatch. Am I supposed to be tricked into thinking I've just began a hyper-realistic VR hatch-opening simulation? Is the game supposed to be enriched by this maneuver? It isn't.

Resident Evil 4 and 5 are decent games, but stuffed full of quicktime events. I've read many reviews pointing these events out as annoying, but I've never read any review complimenting them. Who likes them? Anybody?

Uncharted is also guilty of such quicktime events, but they are very few and far between. (Does Playstation require their developers to include these gimmicks?) Uncharted is far more guilty of making the player rotate the joystick to open a hatch. It's only a slight blemish on a very good game, but I still have to wonder, what do they think it adds? For me, it adds nothing and just makes me roll my eyes as I wait for the door to finally open.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Can we talk about this (email shutdown)?

This and this.

A bank mis-typed an email address, sending a complete stranger a file with tons of personal information:

The attachment contained confidential information on 1,325 individual and business customers that included their names, addresses, tax identification or Social Security numbers and loan information.

They then sent a second email to this stranger telling him or her to delete the previous email and contact them immediately. They heard no response, went to court, and the court ordered Gmail to close the account. I have to completely agree with this statement, from the second of the above links: (emphasis mine)

"It's outrageous that the bank asked for this, and it's outrageous that the court granted it," says John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "What right does the bank have and go suspend the email account of a completely innocent person?"

I get emails sent to my phone, so I tend to see every email within hours of it being sent. My dad uses email for work, so he checks his regularly. My sister, however, can go weeks without checking her email. It's very possible that the person who was sent this email hasn't even checked his or her account yet, and now it's shut down. I have Google Voice, Reader, and Calendar tied to one Gmail address. How would this court order affect all of those services?

I have to say that it's very possible both emails were read, but the attachment wasn't opened. If you got those two emails isn't there a huge chance you'd just assume they were a phishing scheme and ignore them? That makes me wonder why the court chose to start with the undiplomatic brute force method. Why not order Google to first see if the data has even been viewed yet? Why not have Google attempt to contact the person--then it might become apparent that these emails aren't in fact a scam.

And finally, the question of the day, why the hell wasn't that personal information encrypted? What kind of bank sends an attachment with the private information of 1,325 customers and doesn't encrypt it? Truecrypt is free, banks. This bank should be buried in fines, branded as a high security risk and left as an example to others.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Tonight I indulged in a time-honored tradition, ego-surfing--where you google your name. I didn't google my own name, but the name of this website, "Thriceberg". As it is this site mostly sits here, taking up space. In a few months it should start to take off content-wise. That said, I've been wondering if I should register a new domain. There is a reason for the name "Thriceberg" but that reason is all but extinct. It still has usefulness, however, when I want to sign up for some web service such as twitter and I don't want to spend a half an hour having all variants of my name and hobbies being rejected because they've already been taken by some other user. In addition, it's nice to be able to type in "thriceberg" and have 99% of the posts have some relation to me.

I'm shocked at how much is out there. 4,170 results (shut up, that's a big number to me), most of them, I'd wager, created by bots. It's amazing how many sites exist that just catalog other site's material. A great number of the sites I found made notes of things I'd tweeted in the past. Not a blog post commenting on it, just re-posting it in some category on their (I'm assuming) bot-driven site in order to increase their page ranking.

After the bot-sites, there are a few video-sites that linked to old videos I used to have online. Only 3 in total, those videos used to be on this site. I took them down for various reasons, though I'm sure someday I'll tighten them up a bit and throw them back online. Since most of these sites embedded these videos from Revver, and they're no longer on Revver, the result was Google linking me to a bunch of empty pages. Not Google's fault.

A few mentions my of Team Fortress 2 tweets, some apparently non-existent mentions on a Zune site (I own a Zune, thriceberg is my user name with them). A handful of blog comments, not too many. Actually, now that I think of it there are some comments I've made recently that I would have expected to top the search. It took a while before this site was the top result when searching the word 'thriceberg,' and Google still thinks it's a misspelling. Personal goal: become so popular Google suggests "Did you mean 'Thriceberg'?" when people search for 'the iceberg,' instead of the other way around.

I found two comments on two posts on a blog called "Paleo-Future," attributed to a "thriceberg," and for the life of me I can't remember if I posted them. I saw a lot of old message boards I have accounts with, but the reasons for those accounts all came back to me. I suppose I could have followed a link from Boing Boing or something to this site, and decided to comment. Both are comments I could have written, although there is a lack of proper capitalization that I don't think I was capable of at the time. They seem vaguely familiar, but I'm really not sure.

Well, those comments are from 2007, and I've had this domain for...going on three years now? 3 years at least, and I've been using the name thriceberg for longer. I didn't dig too far in the search results, only a dozen pages or so, but that's all I saw I couldn't discern as either something from me or referring to me. Where was I in 2007? I refuse to even try to remember. There's too much for me to do tonight as it is.

My primary concern with using the name "Thriceberg," is that people won't immediately see it for what it is--a play on the word 'iceberg'. People may think it's two words and mentally try to break it up. I don't really have a reason for it, so I'm sure people will keep asking me what it means and I won't have an answer. Okay, I've officially decided to come up with an interesting lie that explains the name.

I've also decided to keep this domain as my primary one for now. That's official, too. People have done better with worse names, and at least this name is unique. I think, anyway.

Would you guess that I have a tendency to over-think things? Oh, you're too kind.


Friday, September 18, 2009

How about that N900

What you see before you is the Nokia N900 portable internet device and phone. Looks similar to the Nokia N810 internet tablet, but pictures are deceiving. The N900 is much smaller, about the size of my HTC Touch Pro.

The N900 has the same processor as the iPhone, a comparable graphics processor (slightly less powerful, I think), more RAM, 32GB internal memory and a microSDHC slot (expandable up to 16GB). It has a full 3.5" jack for audio and video, it has an accelerometer, and it has a ridiculous capacity for multitasking. By "ridiculous," I mean you have 4 separate desktops, you can have a handful of apps running, have multiple web pages open, be streaming music, etc. It also has Flash 9.4 support. Yeah, get ready for a lot more Flash capable phones in the future, it's a deal-maker.

It's battery life is rated for a 'full day' of of streaming music, surfing the net, watching movies, etc--what they call 'full use'. The term 'full day' can be misleading, it usually means a full work day. People are reporting 12-13 hours with 'full use'--using internet, GPS, and watching movies. Hey, with laptops 'full day' only means 8 hours.

A bigger selling point for the N900 is Maemo, Nokia's open source mobile OS. Android is a cell-phone (and tablet?) OS based on Linux that may some day be expanded to work on netbooks and desktop PCs. Maemo is a tablet/cell phone OS built on Linux, and it's essentially desktop Linux scaled down to work with lower resolutions and less powerful hardware. Both are open source, but Maemo is the more open of the two, and I'm told much easier to port to. I've never tried Android, though I'm anxious to. I have used Maemo (not version 5), and found it very satisfying. Here is a demo video of Maemo 5:

(PSST--The device used to demo Maemo 5 in that video is the N900) There's a video of the N900 actually in use way down at the bottom of this post.

A lot of people have been complaining about the resistive touch screen. I'm constantly shocked that that's actually a big deal to people. There are benefits to a resistive screen--you can use your phone while wearing gloves, you can use a stylus, and the stylus makes handwriting an input option--big deal for Asian markets, they have way more characters than our 26. Drawbacks? I don't think resistive screens can have multi-touch functionality, and people claim they're less accurate and harder to use. I feel like that can be due to the build quality and OS' handling of the touchscreen as much as the type. I would gladly take the N900's functionality with a resistive touchscreen.

No, the real beef with the N900 as I see it is with it's frequencies. Nokia's N97 was GSM. I got excited about the N900 because it's being called a "world phone," which I took to mean that it would work on any network, as the Touch Pro 2 can. Really, a "world phone" means you can take it across continents and it should work on some carrier no matter where you are. The N900 looks like it'll really only work on T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, compatible with voice and 3G data on T-Mobile but only basic voice connectivity with AT&T. I'm with Sprint, which is a CDMA network, and not compatible with GSM. Nevertheless, I am drooling over the N900.

The problem is, I had to look all over to try and figure out what cellular companies the N900 would work on, and I'm still not sure T-Mobile and AT&T are the only two US companies you could use it with. Nokia has the largest share of the smartphone market world wide, and it's been suggested that the US is a PITA when it compared to the rest of the world concerning cell phones. Perhaps we don't have the profitability for Nokia that other countries do. Quick side note: I just read a message board post that said the N900's successor, the N910 would be coming out next year with a wider frequency range, better touch screen, etc. I couldn't find anything esle about this online, I wonder if that person wasn't just making a reference to how it worked with the N800 and it's successor, the N810.

I like Sprint. They have good coverage, they have good customer service (despite what I've heard), they have a good price. I would have no problems staying loyal to Sprint, if they had the N900. You see that? Sprint is a perfectly good company. I did a lot of research before moving to them. I checked coverage, pricing, phone availability, etc. I called a lot of people, asked them who their carrier was and got a lot of word of mouth reviews. Sprint came out ahead. I would throw that all away and jump to T-Mobile without a second thought, if I had the money. I have no problem saying that. That's how much better the N900 is than any other phone I've considered.

You know, people throw the phrase "iPhone killer" around the way they threw around "iPod killer" a few years ago. Any company claiming to release either's killer will probably be ritually mocked. The iPhone is hip and cool, for now. Windows Mobile isn't hip or cool, it's old. What's worse, you get no real stability or extra benefits over the iPhone out of that age, except for multitasking. The Palm Pre is nice, a formidable phone, and at a great price, but it's no iPhone killer. The Nokia N900 could be an iPhone killer, if it were more accessible. I mean, if I didn't have to muck around all sorts of message boards just to find out what carriers I could use it with. I mean, if a good enough carrier "adopted" and subsidized it. I mean, if the above demo were cut to 30 seconds and plastered all over our televisions. I don't know if you noticed, but I really like this phone. Fuck it, I like Nokia, and I'm a N900 fanboy. What of it?

I had a N800. I loved it. I really liked the interface, the browsing, the availability of apps. Really wish I could get a phone that size. For now, I'd settle for the N900. Really, I'll settle for the Touch Pro I currently have, because $650 + Sprint's early termination fee is a little more than I can manage right now, and the Touch Pro does do the bare minimum of what I want a phone to do.

Until any long-lost great aunts or uncles twice removed die, leaving me a massive inheritance, I'll just have to make do with watching videos on youtube:


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yes, Please (EEE Reader)

So I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. I have a few ebooks, mostly from Project Gutenberg, as well as an ancient 18-volume set I'm slowly scanning/converting to ebook form so I can take it on the road (and not damage it by reading). I've considered buying an ebook reader, but have never really needed one. I used to have a Tapwave Zodiac (PDA) which I used as an ebook reader. The screen broke though, and I eventually replaced it with a Nokia N800, an internet tablet, which has gotten the most use from me as an ebook reader so far. I stopped using that a year or so ago. Since my cell phone can pretty much do all the same things, it's impractical to the N800 around anymore, even if it did have a bigger screen (and better web browsing).

So here's the deal: I eventually discarded the idea of using a dedicated ebook reader. Something like the Kindle, that really only reads ebooks seems impractical. I can use my phone for that, however it's screen is almost too small for that purpose. I'm currently using my eeePC 901 for ebook reading more than anything else, but it can't fit in ,y pocket, so it's not as practical as my N800 was, or as my cell phone would be. I'm really just waiting until someone comes out with a HUGE cell phone that combines the best features of the N800 and my current cell phone. Perhaps the N900? We'll see.

Asus has kind of angered me with their abandonment and mistreatment of their 9" netbook line (saying they wouldn't make any more 9" netbooks, then releasing the 9" T91 without many of the advertised features, and refusing to release the more advanced versions unless the crappier model sells). However, they've actually managed to capture my interest with a dedicated ebook reader. I give you, the EEE Reader. A dual-screened, foldable (like a book), touchscreen ebook reader, probably available in 7" and 9" models.

[caption id="attachment_587" align="aligncenter" width="385" caption="EEE Reader"]The EEE Reader[/caption]

Now, there's some discrepancies in online reports. Some sites are saying the EEE Reader's two screens will be full color, some people are saying they'll be grayscale. Some people are saying two touchscreen panels, some are saying just one. It's supposed to have wifi support, a web browser, and a microphone for Skype. It's also supposed to be $165, however keep in mind that the eeePC 701 was released at twice it's announced price.

If this does have a touchscreen that can act as a keyboard, and it's super-responsive, I could actually see this replacing my netbook on the road.

You know what, I'll say it. This is the first dedicated ebook reader that's actually given me pause. The first I've ever actually considered buying. No one is more shocked than me at this. I'd always figured that ebook readers would slowly die at the hands of smart phones and tablets. What Asus has done, is given us a (potentially) cheap ebook reader that could stave off netbook and tablet cravings. Fascinating.

Can't wait for it to come out, and see how it holds up.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where is my progress? (Flash Mp3 Players)

I think most people who follow technology have operated under the assumption that solid-state flash drives (SSD) will eventually replace hard drives (HDD). SSDs have many benefits over HDDs. They're more energy efficient, they tend to be faster, and there are no moving parts, so they're much more forgiving of drops and kinetic energy in general. I've been waiting for years for flash drives to increase their capacities and drop in price so I could finally get a nice SSD-based 60GB-120GB mp3 player.

I have a 120GB Zune right now, using 87 GB of it, yet I'm willing to downgrade to 60 GB to get a flash-based player. I'll be honest, I want to change for many reasons not related to SSD vs HDD--the Zune doesn't play nice with other OSs, it's a pain to update, and I hate the interface including the fact that I have to browse by id3 tag. Since I will be changing mp3 players soon, and because flash drives are at the point they should be showing up in larger capacity mp3 players, I really want my next player to have an SSD.

There actually is a 64 GB flash-based player in the US. It's an iPod. What the fuck?

I'm not surprised that Apple came out with a 64GB flash mp3 player. I'm shocked that they got there first, and that their player is also, more or less, a video game system, web browser, a PDA, etc. Seems nice, but I don't want the extra features, and I don't want to pay $400 for it. Why hasn't Cowon, or Sandisk, or any other company that primarily makes flash mp3 players gotten there first?

Look here. I can buy a 64GB flash drive for $170. This is about 1"x3" (give or take), built to put in a eeePC 901 (netbook). I, as a consumer, can buy this for $170. What's the markup? What could a wholesaler get this for? And how much would it cost to build a mp3 player around this?

This SSD was actually built for My Digital Discount to cater to the current swarm of netbooks in the market today. If an online retailer has the ability to have SSDs made to order at this price, couldn't many current manufacturers of mp3 players do the same?

I won't be buying the iPod touch, and I'm sure the Zune HD will be coming in 64GB soon enough, and I won't be buying that, either. I don't want to have to jump through hoops to put mp3s on my player--meaning I don't want to be required to use your software, I don't want to be forced to browse by tag, I don't want to be limited by your poor range of codecs, etc.

Archos and Cowon have it as close to right as I've seen. Their players both act as a hard drive, you can just drag files over. You have the option of navigating by id3 tag or by directory structure. My Archos 504 was pretty cool. It had a few bugs and you had to pay extra for more certain codec support, but I liked it for the most part. After my Zune though, I don't think I could go for anything as large as what they're making now. Ironically, I would love a huge cell phone, larger screen, etc. Something that could almost completely replace my netbook. There were rumors Archos was going to make a large cell phone, but looks like it was a misunderstanding. Too bad, I would have loved it.

(For the record, take a Nokia n810, give it a better keyboard, increase the screen size until it is covering the whole front, and that's the perfect size for a cell phone for me. GIANT for some, but it still fits in a pocket and could shame all other phones in web surfing.)

My iAudio (Cowon) X5 is still the best mp3 player I've ever owned, with or without Rockbox, though Rockbox is preferred. I liked the d-pad functionality of the joystick--I had my directories mostly memorized, and I had precise control so I could select an album without looking. The Zune pad and iPod's wheel, while nice for some things, don't get close to that level of usability for me. Cowon also has amazing codec support--the S9 (which is gorgeous, like all their players) supports mp3, wma, ogg, flac, wav, and ape--and while that's above and beyond most players, it's par for the course at Cowon. It kills me that Cowon never replaced the X5 with a device of similar size but with more storage space. I haven't bought any of their newer players, so I can't speak to their current interface, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until I hear otherwise. I'll be keeping my eye on them, hoping they release a 64GB flash player soon.

I'll also point out very quickly that Sony has a 64GB flash mp3 player, but it's not available in the US yet, and may never be. It's also priced at the equivalent of $439 US.

I still have to wonder, why is Apple the first? Why hasn't some generic company, or some primarily flash-based manufacturer done it first and cheaper? Why can't I find a giant cell phone? I'm sure in two years time I'll have a flash-based mp3 player I really like, as well as a phone that blows anything on the market now completely out of the water. It's just the waiting is the worst part.


Monday, September 14, 2009

PS3 Uncharted freeze workaround

There seems to be a workaround for playing Uncharted on PS3 firmware 3.0 relatively freeze-free. If your problem is like mine, then you're freezing every few hours, and restarting the system or deleting game data isn't helping. Play another game--a completely different PS3 game, not another Uncharted saved game. I don't know how long you have to play another game for, or if it matters if it's a disc-based game or what, but it completely explains for me why it unfroze after days of being stuck in the same place, because after it 's frozen the past few days I've just been playing MGS4 instead. Playing another game unfreezes whatever spot you're stuck on, and I was able to get a few more hours of play in before it froze again (which you can get past by playing different game, get it?).

I haven't had the time to test it properly, I just just froze for me again but I was going to quit to do some more work anyways. When I get a chance later, I'll see if just starting the Little Big Planet demo is enough to un-freeze it for a while, so I don't have to switch discs.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Hey Sony...

Hey Sony, I have the internet again, so you can release that PS3 firmware fix to un-freeze Uncharted. Cool? Cool.

I can has the internets?

Guess what peoples? I've got DSL.

Finally, I'm a full-fledged member of the internet. Okay, I've had the internet since the late 90s, and I actually had DSL in 2001, and I had cable directly after. The important thing is I HAVE IT NOW. And okay, I have broadband-quality internet on my phone, but NOW I CAN PLAY MORE GAMES ONLINE!!! NOW I CAN DOWNLOAD GAMES FROM STEAM IN A MATTER OF HOURS, NOT DAYS!!!

When I first moved to this town, I was under the impression that the only place you could get broadband internet from was the cable company. Then a city-wide wireless company started which, unlike the cable company, didn't have transfer caps. I've been using the wireless thinking it was my only option. It's better than nothing, but could get slow, it has bad latency, and even though it is technically broadband I've always considered it a step between dial-up and something like cable internet or DSL. They are improving that network, and it has been faster lately, but still not great.

Anyway, I live on the far end of town, away from most businesses--where all the money seems to be, though I have none. I've kept checking my address on various broadband provider's coverage charts, but no dice. All of the sudden I hear AT&T U-verse is available a mile or so away. I can't get U-verse yet, but I can get DSL. I was going to wait, even though it's almost the same price, but I spent most of the weekend at my brother's. He has AT&T, and going back to my slow old wireless made me decide to switch immediately. Looking up reviews of AT&T's service I found that DSL has been in this town for some time, years even, just not around my address.

Well, I have DSL. It won't make me post more, but my posts will show up seconds faster. Good you you, good for me, good for America.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Now I really feel like an asshole.

A few hours ago I posted the following on twitter: "Uncharted--no, unfreeze!! Please?!? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Curese you, PS3 firmware 3.0. CURSE YOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!"

I thought it was funny at the time, and no, the misspelling was not intentional. I just bought a PS3 Slim, with Resistance and Uncharted. Well, the game ran fine, until I right before the end of Ch. 8, where's you're shooting other vehicles from the back of a jeep (spoiler alert?), when the game would freeze up. This was a few days ago, and I couldn't get past it. At first I didn't think the freeze was PS3 firmware 3.0 related, as a lot of people have had freezes at that part long before firmware 3.0. Regardless, the more I read about it, and the more things I tried to fix it, the more I started to believe that was in fact related to the recent upgrade.

Every message board mentioned the thing to do was erase game data and start over. I did not want to do this, as I wanted to keep my saves. I knew at this point trophy date is synced online, it should be with you forever. Then I saw a post that said game data and save data are two different things and even have their own icons in the menu. Deleting game data will not affect your save games. So I deleted the game data, re-downloaded update 1.10 (I think) for Uncharted, and resumed my saved game. I got past the freeze. I played a few hours. I'm happy.

For now.

So if you're have that specific freeze, and not the freezes that occur every two to five minutes, try erasing the game data. Well, try it anyways, really. Not like you have anything to lose, and you might not have to wait for the patch Sony has said they're working on.