Thursday, November 29, 2007

Megazone 23 - Lullaby of the Wind (piano)

This is from Megazone 23 OVA part 1 sung by the character Eve Tokimatsuri (Kumi Miyasato). Also known as
Kaze no Lullaby ("The Wind's Lullaby"). Ok time for some lame excuses for all the mistakes. I did this while I was a bit sick. Oh well I just wanted to get it out there. I hope you enjoy it. This is a piano arrangement an old friend of mine did a LONG time ago that I decided to re-learn. Sorry, no sheet music is available.

UPDATE: 10/22/08
Somebody on youtube requested this in mp3 format. So here it is encoded in 192kbps stereo mp3 direct from the wmv I captured to.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rock Band (XBOX 360)

- nice faq:
- Pre-ordered way in advance from gamestop. Picked it up launch day for $170. Includes game, drums, guitar, and microphone.
- Solo play takes kind of a back seat to multiplayer especially the world tour mode.
- Online works fine but the omission of world tour over live is just stupid.
- Having characters tied to a gamertag, which are tied to an instrument, and bands having band leaders that must always be present (and you can't change leaders) is just again really stupid and inflexible.
- If you want to play over live, everybody local MUST have a live gold account, again stupid.
UPDATE: Thanks to Corby for the tip. The way it works is that non gold members should NOT sign in with their gamer tag instead need to be guests under the gold gamer tag. Once you do it that way then all local players can play over live under a single gold live account.
- The guitar is pretty much crap: flaky tilt sensor (I tried two different ones that had the exact same issue), mushy strum, down strum breaks easily (had this happen on one of the guitars after about 4 hrs of use) though here is a fix:
- Guitar difficulty is overall easier and ramps up better than Guitar Hero 3. I think I like circles more than rectangles for the notes. Also I thought the shorter rectangle indicator for hammer downs/pull offs are a bit harder to spot.
- GH 3 and 2 guitars work with rock band but the rock band guitar doesn't work with guitar hero.
- Earn while you burn star power is nice. Ability to save band members is great.
- Microphone is nice and made by logitech. Plays pretty much like karaoke revolution.
- The drums are the best and work great. This is by far my favorite instrument. There is quite a steep learning curve. It took me 6 hrs before I got comfortable with medium. Once you feel and "get" it, it's loads of fun.
- Set list is better than GH3.
- Graphics are better too. I really like the character creation with tons of options to customize.
- Very extensive calibration options for those who have hdtv lag.
- Getting a full band together is a blast. This is the best party game ever. We had lots of friends and family over thanksgiving and everybody loved it. You need at minimum 2 players to create a band and do the main world tour mode.

Highly recommended if you can get at least 2 players. If you are buying this for single player then maybe wait until they sell the drums individually.

eVGA 8800GT KO

Top: 8600GTS, Bottom: 8800GT

It clears the hard drive cage just fine except you can't actually put a hard drive directly behind the 8800GT.

- I picked this up from and got it for $303 shipped. I was lucky to even find one in stock. Of course now it's out of stock and they jacked up the price up to $313. The price gouging on the 8800GT is really getting out of hand.
- Factory oc from stock 600/1800 to 675/1950.
- Came with Quake Wars for free which is nice. It was a game I was planning to get anyways.
- 9 inches long. Still, it was longer than my previous 8600gts so I had to move some hard drives around. It fit fine in my case: THERMALTAKE Tsunami VA3000BWA Black Aluminum.
- 65nm means a lot less power (110w max), single slot solution, takes only one PCIE 6 pin power connector, has the same HD video decoding processor like the 8600 series, and is faster and cheaper on most benchmarks than the 8800gts.
- Beats ati HD 3870 in most benchmarks, only takes a bit more power than the 3870, same exact length (9 inches). 8800gt should be only slightly more expensive than the 3870 once supply catches up to demand. I've seen 8800gt for as low as $207 now.
- on my ancient motherboard: DFI Lanparty nf4 ultra d I ran into an issue where the video card now blocks 2 out of the 4 sata ports. I was using 3 so this caused an issue. The solution is head out to fry's and pick up one of these sata cables for $6:
It has a 90 degree connector on one end.
- 3dmark06 under vista 32bit, latest nvidia beta drivers 169.09:
9116 3dmarks
sm2.0 4154
hdr/sm3 4753
cpu 1799

gt1 34.510
gt2 34.720
hdr1 50.994
hdr2 44.061
cpu1 .562
cpu2 .922
- I ran into performance issues in Crysis (see this post for detail benchmarks) with the 169.09 drivers. Framerate would half for no reason at all after about 10-15 min of play. Dropping back down to 169.04 fixed everything.
- Heat under load is around 86c (idle in the 60's). If you install ntune and just crank up the fan to full speed you can keep the temps down in the low 70's even under full load.

Overall the 8800GT is an incredible price/performance card. Now, supply needs to catch up so prices will normalize.
Highly recommended. There hasn't been a value like this since I bought my ti4200.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sandisk Sansa e250 MP3 Player

rio forge 512mb, Sandisk Sansa e250, iPod Nano 2nd gen
- Picked it up from for $35 shipped. It's a refurb but it is in great condition and works just fine. New e280 8gb models run around $120 which still isn't a bad deal.
- 2gb flash based mp3 player but has a micro sd slot. Supports microsdhc (currently largest size is 6gb which is confirmed to work but 8gb is coming soon) when using rockbox. Has built in fm tuner, can record from fm or built in mic in wav or mp3 format, uses a proprietary usb cable for charging and syncing, lock button, and aproprietary but user replaceable battery (after removing 4 regular screws).
- About the same size as an ipod nano 2nd gen but about double the thickness.
- Navigation works pretty well. There is a white ring (glows blue when in use) that spins around. It clicks and feels like a gear when you move it. There is a button in the middle of the ring and then 4 additional buttons surrounding the ring. There is also a dedicated record button on the side.
- Battery life should be around 12hrs using rockbox.
- Supports MPT and UMS/MSC. I just use it in mass storage mode of course so no need for any software. You get two drive letters in file explorer (one for the internal memory and one for the microsd slot). Just drag and drop your media onto the player.
- With rockbox you can browse your media by folder or database (id3 tags). So it's great whether you like to organize all your music with folders or you properly tag everything.
- Fully supports rockbox open source firmware. (faq) (manual)
- I did a Manual Installation. It took only a few minutes and I had rockbox dual booting between the original firmware and rockbox up and running. The only thing currently not supported is the usb port. It's easy enough to boot back to the original firmware for usb duties (hold left while powering on). Also, it conveniently auto boots into original firmware if you plug in the usb cable while the player is off so you can easily charge it up.
- With rockbox you get THE BEST mp3 player software out there. I've been a user of rockbox on the archos jukebox recorder 20 for years so I'm glad to finally have the same rich and robust feature set(I can't live without their bookmarks implementation) in a smaller flash based player. With rockbox on more modern hardware they were able to add quite a few new features. There are a lot more plugin games now and b&w gameboy rom support
- mpeg 1/2 video playback at 220X177 @ 30fps
I used mediacoder. I couldn't get the mediacoder extension to work so I just used my own settings: mpeg 2 video, 300kbps, resize to 220X177, 16:9; Audio: mp3 lame, 128kbps cbr, 44.1. I encoded the freeway scene from Matrix Reloaded and it played back just fine: nice and smooth with audio in sync. I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to watch anything for an extended period of time on a 1.8" screen but it still looked pretty darn good for what it is.
- jpeg slideshow looked fine.
- Lots and lots of neat themes:
I'm currently using iPod Vision:

What can I say. For $35 it's an incredible bargain. I only briefly played with the original firmware. Once you go rockbox you can't go back. This is by far my favorite flash based mp3 player and just blows away my wife's 2nd gen nano in every way (IMO, well ok the nano is thinner). Even at $120 for the 8gb I think it's a good value.

Highly Recommended!

So I just tried doom on the sansa:

Rotate the screen 90 degrees and then remap the direction keys. Turn on sound. I'm really impressed. It actually runs at an ok speed, and it looks pretty impressive on the tiny screen.

UPDATE: 11/27/07
Refurb is the way to go since it seems the new e280's are now v2 with completely new and incompatible hardware:

UPDATE: 1/23/08
So I've now bought a few more: another e250,e270, and an e280. They were all refurbs and made great Christmas Gifts. I just love this mp3 player. It's my favorite by far. I kept the e280 for myself :-)

UPDATE: 2/5/08
I picked up a sandisk 8 gb microsdhc card for $95. It works just fine in the e280 so now I have 16gb of total memory. The only caveat is you have to use the included reader to transfer files to the microsdhc card since the original firmware can't handle mircosdhc but rockbox recognizes it just fine.

UPDATE: 12/19/08
I picked up a sandisk 16 gb microsdhc for around $60 from this seller on amazon. It works great in the e280 so now I have 24gb of total memory.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Last Starfighter (PC freeware)

- Written in Dark Basic
- That cabinet/control is all kinds of awesome.
- They basically tried to duplicate the actual Last Starfighter arcade machine from the movie and did a pretty good job. This would be the video game footage in the movie NOT the cray rendered graphics that represented the "real world".
- Graphics are pretty low rez but hey they seem to match pretty closely to the game footage in the film. The sound effects are spot on. I really like all the nice little touches like the voice samples and the midi music.
- Since you are the gunner you don't really have any control over where your Gunstar goes. You basically have one joystick to control the direction you chair faces and the mouse for moving the aiming reticle and shooting. What is weird is it seems you can't turn the chair/turret a full 360 up/down but you can left/right. I kind of remember from the movie that the chair could spin freely 360 endlessly (as seen during Death Blossom).
- I enabled Death Blossom in the options but I couldn't figure out how to get it to work. Maybe I need to read the readme more carefully.
- The controls are the worst part about this game. It could really use dual analog stick support.
- You have all 3 weapon types but the missiles have to be fired pretty close to the enemy for it to track and hit.
- Ships seem to zoom in and out of view too quickly. They need to scale in/out more smoothly and more gradually.
- I made it to the command ship but all I could do was shoot the missiles and those asteroid bombs it kept shooting at me. I went through several more waves of enemies after that. Maybe eventually you get to actually fly around the command ship and destroy it but I didn't make it that far. I did get a high enough score to join the star league (you get to see rows of Gunstars at the end while the theme plays in midi) and made the league of heroes high score list.
- They also have a version of Space Paranoids on that site. I'll have to give that a try next.

Overall it's a pretty impressive fan made game with some great attention to detail especially in the sound and art/model/hud assets. Just imagine what this game would be like ported to XNA and running on a xbox 360. This is the game I always wanted to write in XNA if I had the time. It's nice to see somebody who actually did it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guild Wars Eye of the North (GWEN PC)

Warning! Potential minor spoilers in the following screenshots:

- Finished GWEN main storyline with the elem.
- Pretty short if you skip all the optional dungeons (I've only done 5 so far).
- Easier than any of the other games. You can pretty easily hench the entire game if you want. I found the last boss incredibly easy. I just grabbed some random henches and beat him in 5 min. I believe the bulk of the challenge is in the dungeons which I found overall longer and more challenging.
- Every place is an explorable area so you can always rez so no need to worry about full party wipes.
- I like the new consumables you can craft (which require 1 skill point). Finally a use for my 100+ skill points. Perfect Salvage kit FTW!
- Fun mini games like the norn arena and kilroy punchout. I still need to try polymock.
- I like the new PvE only skills and getting them for free as quest rewards. Overall there are some worthwhile new skills in GWEN.
- Henches have updated (and much improved I might add) skill bars.
- Some quests tend to spawn multiple sub quests and it's hard to tell when is the next stopping point. You might be doing 3 chained quests before you get to another town/outpost.
- Dungeons entrances are not always that close to a warp point. It usually requires you to fight your way there.
- Still need to decide what to spend my green key on.
- Still need to populate my hall of monuments.

XBOX 360 Arcade

XBOX 360 Arcade
- This is basically what is replacing the "core" (aka tard) sku at the same $280 price point.
- There are a few nice upgrades like a 256MB MU, wireless controller, HDMI, and 5 free FULL arcade games that comes on a disc.
- I picked it up at best buy a week or so ago. Here are the build details:
team: CSON
lot: 0735
mfg date: 09-05-2007
hitachi optical drive
Looking at this I'm pretty sure I don't have a falcon (65nm). Oh well. At least it does have the new heat sink and HDMI which is what I really wanted.
- I stuck another 120mm fan on the right side of the 360 forcing air into the console.
- This is my second xbox 360 which I will leave connected to my new home theater. I have an older 360 (no hdmi) upstairs hooked up to a samsung 40" LCD over vga that I use mostly for gaming. This way the new 360 becomes more or less my dedicated HD-DVD player (and some games on the side). Now I just leave my profile and save games on the MU so I can easily move between the two 360's.
- I had upgraded my older 360 to a 120gb hard drive earlier this year so I have a 20gb 360 hard drive just sitting around which I promptly slapped onto this new 360. That way both of my 360's have hard drives.
- I've been playing some Halo 3 and HL2 Orange Box and all is good so far.