Sunday, December 22, 2013

Heavy Rain Piano Suite

Sorry for the background noise.  My wife was wrapping Christmas gifts while I was recording this.

found the sheet music here:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Toy Story 2 - When She Loved Me (Piano)

sheet music is here:

Monday, December 09, 2013

Lord Of The Rings - In Dreams (piano)

Chock full of hobbity goodness! (and a few mistakes).  Not quite as good as second breakfast.

Terminator - Love Theme (Piano)

This was a fun one to mess around with.

Tomb Raider - Main Theme (piano)

Such a simple tune but it sure did stick with me.
Tomb Raider and Last of Us are easily my favorite games of the year.

sheet music here:

The Last of Us - Main Theme (Piano)

This is probably my favorite game of the year next to Tomb Raider.  I make a few mistakes, and it's a tad slow.  Hope you enjoy it.

Sheet Music is found here:

Obihai Obi200 - Free or nearly free home phone line

- I picked this up on sale from amazon for $40 (it's currently $50).
- This is basically a unlocked completely open highly configurable voip box.  It works with up to 4 sips with a variety of voip providers.  The unique thing about this box is it also emulates google talk which lets you use the free google voice as your voip provider.
- You get all the benefits of google voice like screening, voice mail transcribe, blocking, conference calls, etc for completely FREE as of this writing (though google seems to renew the free deal every year so hopefully the trend continues).
- You don't get E911 though but it's easy to add that for $12-15 a year (and it takes up one of the 4 sip slots).  There are no other hidden fees or taxes like ooma's supposedly free tier of service.  Obi makes it easy to sign up for E911 using this company.
- Setup took like 10 min and was very easy to do.
- This model only has 1 physical phone jack that works with any regular land line phone.  If you plan to use the other sips then I guess you'll have to stick to soft phones like using a pc or the iPhone app.  You can jump up to the 202 model which has 2 physical phone jacks but it also has some useless router features (who doesn't have a much better router these days anyways).
- It has a usb port if you want to add wifi or usb storage (didn't test).
- It also supports T.38 fax (didn't test yet).
- The box is tiny and about the same size as an appleTV.
- Voice quality is excellent (as good as my current voip provider phonepower which I think I'll let my contract expire).  I've used it for several work teleconference calls without issue.
- I setup QoS on my asus router based on the obi200 mac address and gave it highest priority.
- The biggest drawback over a service like ooma is number porting.  Currently, google voice only lets you port from a cell number not a land line number (and that includes all voip numbers).  The cumbersome workaround is to port your land line to a pre pay cell and then from a cell to google voice and then drop the cell.  That sounds like way too much effort for me.
- The other risk is google changes something that breaks compatibility with the obi device but obi has sold a lot of them so I would expect a pretty quick response.  Still, we are only talking about a $40-60 initial investment which isn't all that much.
- Faq with lots more information including a tutorial on setting up google voice.

Highly recommended.  For a truly unlocked voip adapter you can't beat the obi.  You can deep dive into it's setting pages if you want (which gives peace of mind that this will support pretty much any voip provider) but basic google voice setup is a snap through the obitalk site.  

The free google voice train is going to end in 6 months:

Looks like they are partnering with somebody to offer $40/yr plans (that includes all fees and taxes)

That puts it pretty close to ooma which is is around $45 with a calculated $3.74/month in fees and taxes.

Friday, December 06, 2013

PageFlip Cicada Bluetooth Pedal Automatic Page Turner and forScore iPad App


- $90 from amazon.
- I use my iPad for a lot of things and one great use is for piano sheet music.  There is a great app called forScore that I highly recommend.  I've scanned in quite a bit of my music as pdf.  It has full dropbox support, cropping so you can remove all margins to make the notes as big as possible (if apple ever makes a 14" iPad I would so buy it just for forScore), you can duplicate and arrange individual pages (makes handling repeats, first ending, second ending easier to navigate by just having to flip pages forward), and a variety of annotation tools.  It's really a fantastic app.  I just wish the iPad was a bit bigger but if you have good eyes you should be ok.  The other issue is page turning and that is where the PageFlip comes in.
- It's basically a 2X AA battery powered (or any mini usb power adapter.  This is a good quality one by motorola but you'll need your own mini usb cable.) blue tooth keyboard emulator with 2 keys which are the 2 pedals.  You also have flexibility on what keys are sent (like page up/page down, arrow keys, etc) when you hit those pedals.  You can also hit a button to force the on screen keyboard so you can still type for like searching (though forscore has this feature built in too).
- Now, I just put this pedal to the left of the piano pedals and use my left foot big toe to flip pages forward.  It takes a little practice to time your left foot for page turns but once you get use to it, it really works great.
- The pedals aren't very loud to me at least but if you are going to do performances or studio work or something you might want to check out airturn.  The proprietary not user replaceable battery turned me off though.
- Pedal quality seems fine.  I don't have any worries it's going to break or anything.

Highly Recommended.  If the idea of carrying around with you your entire sheet music collection in a iPad sounds appealing to you then get this thing.  I bet you could even pair this up with a pc and use it for push to talk on ventrilo but I haven't tried that yet.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Foscam FI8910W Pan & Tilt IP/Network Camera with Two-Way Audio and Night Vision

- I picked up one of these around black friday for $55.  They usually run for around $75.
- I always wanted to mess with a wireless IP camera but really didn't want to spend that much.  It's really more for fun and to keep an eye on our finches than for serious security.  We have a fully monitored security system for that.
- This model isn't the latest one. This is a older mpeg model that is still very full featured and cheaper but video quality suffers a bit.  Framerate is a bit low too.  This model is suppose to be the most reliable though.
- Pan and tilt a wide range of motion.
- No optical zoom but you can digital zoom with the iphone app I use.  Foscam has a free one that is very basic but I recommend this one:
- Set it up by connecting through ethernet and point your browser to the camera IP.  It's mostly pretty straight forward: setup pw, wifi settings and if you want email smpt (gmail supported) and ftp to send pictures when it detects motion.  I tested both and it works pretty well.  You can adjust how sensitive motion detection is or just turn it off.
- You can setup a custom port.  It has it's built in dynamic dns that you can use printed on the label.  You'll need to setup port forwarding for the single port you specify.
- Once it's all setup you really don't need a computer on.
- The night vision IR LED that turns on/off automatically depending on the amount of lighting works very well except if you put it in the same room as a security system PIR motion sensor it's going to trip it and you will get false alarms.  At this point I just disabled the IR LED which is too bad.
- Not the most secure device.  It's not even https.
- Supports audio both ways.
- For more serious surveillance software you'll have to buy Blue Iris for another $50.

Recommended.  If you are interested in a relatively cheap IP camera.

Belkin WeMo Switches

- These are basically iphone app over the internet controlled power switches.  These won't integrate with Harmony remotes since it's not IR but that's not what they are designed for.
- To setup you just install the iphone app, change your wifi network to the actual wemo device (creating a little adhoc network), enter wifi settings to get it onto your local network through your router, switch your iphone back to your standard ssid and you are good to go.  Now you can basically turn something on/off from anywhere in the world.  Make sure you do all the firmware updates.
- You can setup a schedule too and use it like a fancy timer.  You can set specific times for on/off as many as you want for each day of the week.  You can also pick sunrise or sunset and it knows automatically when that is once you set your zip code.
- They seem pretty reliable so far.  I had to reboot one to get it on the first time I moved it but so far they work well.  The first one I bought I used with a 120mm fan that sits on top of my ps4 (yes, I'm obsessed about keeping electronics cool).  I use the wemo to remotely turn on that fan when I'm using my Vita to remote play.  This setup works great.  I recently picked up 2 more which are controlling the outside Christmas lights.
- They are a little price at around $50 each but I picked up a pair for around $55 during black friday.  There is also a fancier newer version that has a built in kilowatt to monitor power usage.

Recommended.  If you find a need for one of these devices it sure comes in handy.

XBox One (and some comparisons to PS4)

XBox One

- Downloads are a lot slower on Xbox one compared to ps4. On the ps4 overnight I had ghosts, bf4,Resogun, Killzone, contrast, dc online, blacklight, warframe, and a bunch of apps all done by morning. In contrast I really couldn't play anything the first night things were downloading so slowly. I got enough of crimson dragon to try out the first level and then it was too late and I was too tired and went to bed. By morning ryse was done but Fortza was only half done and dead rising was still in the queue. Hopefully when I get home tonight everything will be downloaded. What happened to those 300,000 servers they bragged about?
- Xbox one really needs a reboot option.  Sometimes things get laggy coming out of sleep.  The only way I know how to do that through the menus is going into settings and turning on power saving mode, power cycle, then put it back on suspend.
- You can't stream your own custom music in the background during games currently unless you snap the music app but then you aren't full screen anymore.
- Tried getting subsonic to work through IE but couldn't.  I even tried mini mode.
- Party chat was a bit fidgety to get working but once it did voice quality was quite good.
- There needs to be a way to sort/order your pinned apps.
- There needs to be a way to manage storage space or at least mark apps you want to always keep.  500GB is way to small.  I hope they add external drive support soon.
- Dead rising 3 looks and plays fine.  There were no framerate issues that impacted my play or enjoyment.
- Kinect sports rivals does show off how sensitive the new kinect is but your arms just get tired after awhile.  I miss wave race 64.
- Scanning the QR Code for the launch day edition achievement with the Kinect was worth $100!!!!  (ok maybe not but it's still way cool).
- Kinect isn't really used in any meaningful way in the major games currently.  Voice command works ok I guess.  The face recognition for sign in works pretty well in a kind of scary freaky way.
- Both new systems are very quiet but still push out quite a bit of heat.  Make sure the area you keep it in is well ventilated.  As always I drop extra 120mm fans into the cabinet to keep airflow going with a minimum amount of added noise (in fact you can't hear them at all with the doors closed).
- I don't think I've gotten far enough into Dead Rising 3 for the second screen stuff to kick in yet.
- Xbox glass app is still great for typing.
- I still much prefer the use of standard 2XAA batteries for the xbox one controllers.  Just drop in a couple of low discharge NiMH rechargeables (like sanyo eneloop) and you are good to go.  Keep a few sets always charged up so you can quickly swap whenever you want so there is never any downtime.  Contrast this to DS4 where I have to remember to always plug in the controllers when I'm done for the day (I have drained a DS4 completely in a single day before, good thing I have 2 of them).  Also, if they are anything like DS3 even voiding the warranty replacing the batteries yourself once they no longer hold a charge is not that easy.
- The new Kinect has a fan (though I can't really hear it).
- Ryse, forza 5, and even dead rising 3 really show off what the system can do.  They really are some graphically impressive games.
- No twitch live streaming yet.  Recording clips are too short at 5 min (vs 15min on ps4).  There is NO background uploading (which ps4 has).  You are stuck just watching the upload progress.  Sky drive support is nice and I was able to watch the few clips of Ryse I put together and uploaded on the iPhone app.  They also play nicely in a browser and the quality is quite a bit better than ps4 facebook.  It has a few more editing features than ps4.  Here is a sample:
- Load times for games seem quite a bit longer than PS4.
- USB Keyboards only work if plugged in before a cold boot.  You can't hot plug a keyboard.

For the hour I played ryse I really like it. I liked it quite a bit more than I expected looking at the reviews. I like the timing and counters and chaining. The graphics are great. It kind of feels a little like assassins creed combat wise. The clip saving and uploading to sky drive worked ok but WTF no background uploading like ps4. Just sit there and watch an upload bar. I then used the sky drive app and watched it on my iphone. Clip is limited to 5 min compared to 15 min on ps4. 1:48 clip was around 55 mb.

So after some significant time with xbox one (ryse, dead rising 3, forza, kinect sports rivals, crimson dragon) I'm pretty evenly split between the two systems. I really don't care about the media stuff since I have far superior dedicated streaming boxes for that.

Forza 5: This is probably the first more realistic driving game I've played since the first forza games and a tiny bit of dabbling in early Gran Turismo games. I'm loving all the risk reward trade offs you can make with all the assist toggles and drivatar AI settings. I'm trying on veteran now (figure I should learn things the correct way from the start) except with damage on cosmetic b/c if my Drivatar is accurate I'm the opposite of Xemu and tend to run into lots of things on accident and on purpose. The Drivatar thing really is a game changer and makes this game so much more addicting. I might have to check out the trueno because I did watch pretty much everything Initial D. Instead I picked the Acura Integra Type R because the Integra (stick, non type R, was poor) was the first car I drove out of college. Mine was an earlier model than the one in the game (the one with the rectangular headlights) but I loved that car. The rewind feature really does take a lot of the frustration out of the game but the penalty does stack up pretty high if you use it a lot.

PS4 - More horsepower, vita remote play which is all kinds of awesome, drastically improved controllers but still not great. With all the hype and praise around the new DS4 I was expecting something that would at least be as good as xbox 360. That just goes to show you controller preference is pretty personal.
xbox one - games look and play pretty much as well as ps4 though I'm playing different titles on each, xbox downloads take forever, great controllers (the new bumpers don't bother me all that much, and didn't take long to get use to).

Something about DS4 still bugs me. It feels too small and cramped in my hands. After a few hours I get claw hands and odd pain points where pressure is applied to my right hand middle finger. It's a combination of the triggers feeling a bit too close and a bit too small (would want a slightly taller controller), the wings need to flare out a bit more and be a bit longer, the lower positioned left analog stick doesn't feel as natural, L3 and R3 are a bit too hard to engage (think lots of running in cod). My hands aren't all that big but the DS4 really doesn't fit all that well. Maybe I can get use to it or adjust my grip but it doesn't seem likely. It's not horrible but the XBOX One is just so much better at least for me. I was going to make the ps4 my primary platform for cross platform titles but now I'm not so sure. Vita + better framerate/graphics/resolution vs a better controller. It's a really tough call, and I'm not sure what to do yet.

Right now I'm going of leaning to getting cross platform titles on PS4 as I continue to adjust to dual shock 4.  Out of the current launch games I think XBox one has better exclusives lineup: Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse are all very different and IMO good solid games worth playing.  I'm sorry PS4 but as beautiful as Killzone is it's not really a system seller.  Meanwhile I'm surprised how deep Forza 5 has it's hooks into me these past few days.

Both PS4 and Xbox One are Highly Recommended!  I'm really enjoying all next gen has to offer and have no regrets buying either system.

Finished Ryse:
- I have no idea why this game is scoring so low with the reviewers (62%) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Graphics are really great.  It's nice seeing crytek engine being used in something other than a shooter.  The environments and characters are gorgeous.  Some faces are still a bit odd looking though.  I think the only thing that looks slightly better would be frostbite 3.
- This game is gory.  I mean really violent and bloody.  I love it.
- Combat felt good to me.  There is a nice rhythm and timing to it.  Sure, you could button mash but you'll do a lot better timing your rolls, blocks, attacks, and bashes.  Things get a bit more challenging later on when you have more difficult enemies that vary up their attack.
- Difficulty and pacing felt just right.  I never got bored.  There was just enough variety in gameplay to keep things interesting.  I especially liked the formation segments which were at least something new I haven't seen before.  The turret stuff was less so.  Length felt about right at around 6 hrs.  It could have probably used another couple of hours.  I didn't feel like there was any padding though.
- It could use some more enemy types.  It can be seen as either cutting corners and reducing assets needed or as a gameplay feature.  It's sort of like final fight.  You can quickly recognize the enemy you are fighting by how they look and know what attack patterns they will use and how to counter them.  If they all looked different it would probably make the game a lot harder and frustrating.  So I'm ok with the land of a 1000 clones.
- Sound effects are great too especially all the slicing and dicing.  You really feel the impact of your hits.
- Music was appropriate if a bit forgettable.
- Story wasn't that bad if very predictable.  I thought it serviced the game just fine.
- The last bit of gameplay on the last level is a bit weak.  Think farcry 3 boss battles and I'll leave it at that.
- The character progression and upgrading in single player was a bit meaningless.  None of it had that big of an impact on gameplay.
- Tried some multiplayer which is basically gladiator arena co-op combat.  There is the whole leveling thing too.  It's actually pretty fun.

Highly recommended.  This is a very competent and stunning game though not all that original.  Sure, it's not masterpiece like Last of Us or Tomb Raider but I still found it very worth playing.  It's like a big summer blockbuster with the production values to match that is easy to digest.  This is one case where it seems most reviewers had their mind made up even before playing it (probably based on the E3 showing).

Here are some observations from finishing the game (default middle difficulty):
- A is a priority button and overrides every other action and animation. As soon as you hit it, it will interrupt whatever attack animation you are in and block/deflect and open the enemy up for counter attack.
- The timing for hitting A is pretty lenient especially if you aren't going for perfect blocks (timing a block right before it hits). You can hit it very early in the enemy attack animation and you will still block. In fact if you aren't too sure on the timing you can kind of mash A to ensure you get a block and is also handy when 3 or more guys are all chain attacking you.
- So typically if you get mobbed you wait for somebody to attack and hit A. Then I lead into a counter shield bash, attach, bash, attack, etc. Usually while I'm doing this attack sequence another enemy will attack, and I'll have to hit A to block, sometimes twice in a row b/c they are chaining attacks on me. After blocking everything you can start a counter and attack on the last person you blocked or use the analog sticks to go back and attack the first dude to try and finish him off quickly. This is very similar to how I play Assassin's Creed. Basically every attack begins with a block so you always (well most of the time, I do make some exceptions) wait for the enemy to make the first move.
- I left execution bonus on health gain for 90% of the game. It just makes things easier and the character upgrades aren't all that helpful. So you really want to get in as many executions as possible to keep regaining health.
- For the bigger warrior guys after a block I usually open up with a charged strong shield bash into a couple of strong attacks.
- I suck at blocking arrows with A so I usually roll dodge instead after I fire an arrow. That seemed to work better for me.

Overall, I found this game quite a bit easier than say god of war with it's rapid fire button mashing QTE that got old really fast. Most of the timing is very forgiving IMO. Even the colored execution QTE is optional except to keep your chain bonus multiplier going. As long as you get the execution started, that target is going to die with or without your continued input.