Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another One Of These Posts

It's time for another "random stuff" post.

I've had Failblog in my Google Reader for a while now, but various things they put up are starting to annoy me.  Most of it is fine, but a decent percentage of their images are either taken wildly out of context or look like they were set up by whoever took the picture.  The videos are fun when they're not people critically injuring themselves.  Some of them I skip just based on the name alone.  "Oh, that one's going to be someone almost breaking their neck, I'll pass."

So the channel retard in #magfest found my MAGFest 9 blog post and decided to inform the head chef about my rant on the food delays.  I don't fault the chefs, I'm sure there were reasons for the delays, but still... when you're forced to wait two hours past a scheduled mealtime for a meal with undercooked/raw potatoes, you begin to wonder what exactly happened.  As for the bread pudding, which I described as something along the lines of "failed pancakes", I honestly had forgotten what it was supposed to be and was just going off of the appearance.  It really did look like pancakes that had been shredded or scrambled.  I do like to rant about food, I dunno.  Maybe I got a little carried away, but I felt that if the meal took longer to prepare that there should be something more to it than a small styrofoam bowl with food in it and some condiments.  You can trivialize my argument any number of ways, but...

I think my computer is once again trying to commit suicide.  One of my case fans has stopped spinning, and every now and then my screen blanks briefly.  Even without actually running a game.

Minecraft's 1.3 update came out recently and added some more stuff, the better of which are a new save format that takes way less time to load, a smooth lighting engine that I turned off, craftable beds that you can sleep in at night to set the time to the morning, and more half-steps made from various different blocks like wood, cobblestone, and sandstone.  Also inevitable are the bugs.  There's one that happens unpredictably where the Minecraft window goes black and it stops responding.  I'm hoping that Notch will fix that in 1.3_02 or something.

Lately friends and I have been getting McGangbangs from McDonald's.  It's not an actual menu item, and most stores probably won't know it by name, but it's pretty simple.  Get a McDouble and a McChicken ($2 total, before tax).  Separate the patties of the McDouble (will be difficult, if it's made correctly there's cheese melted between them), and place the entire McChicken, including the bun, between the patties of the McDouble.  Then eat.

Now if you'll excuse me, all this talk about food has gotten me hungry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Giant Foods: Seriously, what the hell?

I honestly believe that somebody at Giant is paid to stalk me, figure out what I like, and discontinue it.  Here's a list of everything I can remember that has disappeared soon after I began regularly buying it.
  • Individually-packaged ramen - now you can only get the Souper 6-packs of only three different flavors.  They used to have a lot more variety.  I've since stopped eating ramen since it's about 90% salt.
  • Their salad bar - It used to open at 8 AM, then suddenly one day there was a sign that said something to the effect of "To serve you better, our salad bar now opens at 10 AM."  So, when I show up at the store at 8 AM, I can be better served by not being able to get a salad?
  • Sargento Limited Edition cheeses - these were all amazing, and they just disappeared with no warning.
  • Fanta Zero - One Giant stopped carrying it entirely.  Thankfully the other one still carries it.
  • California Pizza Kitchen flatbread melts - completely gone, yet they still have the DiGiorno trash.
  • California Pizza Kitchen personal pizzas - all except for the thin crust margherita variety, which I don't care for.
  • White Castle Cheeseburgers - It's been three weeks in a row now that there have been zero of these on the shelf.  They still have the hamburgers, so maybe it's just some weird stock issue, but the least they could do is put out a sign saying "Temporarily out of stock, will return soon!"
The absolutely horrible thing about all of these is that there was zero warning.  Normally when a store discontinues a product, they put out a sign saying "Discontinued!" and maybe have that item on sale just to clear it off the shelf faster.  But here, there was nothing.

You know, I think Giant has some weird policy of not putting out notices that they randomly enforce.  Because during the national Eggo waffle shortage, all the other stores in the area had signs informing people about it, but not Giant.  They just had two empty freezer cases for a few months.  But when I was there today, I saw several hastily printed signs on shelves for various things (helpfully telling me that my TracFone card was going to cost 50 cents more because apparently prepaid phones need to be taxed to benefit 911 service?  I dunno).

Giant, I hate you right now.  If this habit of yours continues, I'm shopping at Kroger instead.  They carry the only unsalted chips available in the region, anyway. (warning, site has bad web designer and therefore requires Flash)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Invasion Continues

So, yeah.  It's been all over the internet by now, but Shinryaku! Ika Musume is getting a much-deserved second season.

So, to celebrate, all the Ika Musume images I have on my hard drive.  Including the wallpapers, just because.

Well, I lied, partially.  Everything but the wallpapers actually resides on my server (and is technically internet-accessible if you know the URL...).  It just so happens that they're in a samba share that I have mounted on Z: so I can browse it remotely...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Google Maps directions fail: Fixed!

Since it's almost that time of the year again, I was thinking of the previous fail of directions to the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU metro station.  So I pull them up, and lo and behold, they actually direct you into the metro station's parking lot now.

Getting that fix in only took forever.  Though checking for a fix once per year isn't really often enough, who knows when it was actually fixed between last year and now.

The stupid part is... I don't need these directions anymore.  I know to get off of I-66 East at exit 62.  Oh well, they were so horrifically inaccurate before that I'm glad they're fixed now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trackball Software

So apparently I've been incorrect about this for a while now.  Kensington has indeed released proper configuration software for their trackballs for Windows 7, to allow remapping the buttons and so forth.  The only problem: Nowhere in the list of features do I see the ability to define program-specific settings, something I use the hell out of with X-Mouse Button Control.

In my setup, I have a left/middle/right click, and the fourth button is double click.  However, in Steam, it's set to send my push-to-talk keystroke (which I put out of the way so it couldn't possibly conflict with any game's default controls: 9 on the number pad) while held.

As it looks like there isn't a way to do this with the newer software (it's no longer called MouseWorks, it's now more accurately called TrackballWorks), I'll stick with X-Mouse.

I am thinking of getting a new trackball though.  It's nowhere near urgent as my current one is still perfectly functional, but the rubber ridges on the scroll ring have completely worn off over the years.  I'd just buy the same model again anyway, because it's a fucking awesome trackball.

If anyone who's reading this is looking for a trackball, this one comes with my personal recommendation as I've used it for many years now.  Just one thing: Don't bother with installing Kensington's software.  Just use X-Mouse Button Control instead.

Also, I updated X-Mouse Button Control to version 1.53, and the much-awaited scrolling config stuff is in, along with axis-locking, which I know I'll get some use out of in Photoshop.  Sadly, it doesn't seem like I can use the scrolling config stuff to force mousewheel support in Windows 3.1 (not that it's really crucial).  Also added is update notification, which I left enabled because I keep missing updates since I don't periodically scout the internet for them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Serious Sam HD Demo Secrets

So I finally found all nine of them.  I know I'm a few years late to the party, but whatever.  Here's how to get each one.
  1. When the level is done loading, but before you click Continue, hold S and keep holding it after you click Continue.  You'll back up through the door that closes at the beginning of the level.  You'll get the message "Generous Yard has been found!".  Run around and collect the weapons and ammo.  There are enemies in here.
  2. In the large hall with all the pillars, one of them on each side will have a button.  Press both buttons, then get on the platform next to where you entered the room.  Explore the ledge to get the secret.
  3. On difficulties under Serious, shoot the enemy in the middle of the room that has the rocket launcher on the far side, with your pistols, before entering the room.  On Serious, be in the room with the door closed and kill that same enemy without the rocket launcher.
  4. In the area with the large pool of water, jump in the water right away.  Look at the bottom, you'll see some shotgun shells.  Go down to the bottom near the shotgun shells and the door to a secret room full of ammo and armor will open.
  5. Immediately after leaving that, go towards the monument.  Turn right, and swim down to the middle of the far wall.  There will be a discolored portion of the wall (may be difficult to see).  Touch it and a door will open.  You'll get a message from Croteam (the devs), and an armor pickup.
  6. After that, go through the underwater passage into the next area.  On the walls on either side of the door that won't open are two buttons, press them.  Go back through the underwater passage and over to the monument, which has now moved to uncover a secret underwater passage.  Swim down to get a large heart and an ammo pack.
  7. In the room with all the ammo just before Netricsa says "Be careful, I smell a lot of bastards.", one of the pools has a discolored wall that will open when you touch it.  Swim down to find an air-filled chamber with a bunch of armor powerups.  Enemies will spawn as you pick these up.
  8. In the final area where you're being rushed, partway through the fight you will see the message "Secret Health has been activated!"  Look at the middle of the side walls, you'll see the heart in one of them.  Go get.
  9. On the opposite side of the area from that, there's a discolored wall that you can walk through to get Secret Ammo.
Now you know.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Steam Indie Beat Pack Mini-reviews

This post is five reviews in one.  Except that instead of them being really long and accompanied by screenshots, they're short and imageless.  Enjoy.

Beat Hazard

I've posted about it twice before, and there's not much else to say.  So instead I'll summarize.  Select a song from your music collection to be BGM for the game, and the game generates enemy waves and boss attacks based off of the music.  Got a new album?  Congratulations!  More levels!  Simple, yet challenging and fun at the same time.  Plus, Beat Hazard Ultra is coming soon, with more enemies, bosses, powerups, and the ability to play online in both co-op and head to head modes.  It'll be $5 DLC for owners of Beat Hazard, no clue how much it'll cost standalone or if it's just going to be DLC.

Rhythm Zone

It looks kinda like Guitar Hero would if Guitar Hero only had four buttons (i.e. the DS games).  I was expecting it to be pretty fun, but unfortunately, this isn't the case.  First problem: You have to import each and every track you want to play into your library.  What this entails behind the scenes is that the game transcodes the track from whatever format it's in to OGG Vorbis, and stores it in its data directory, along with files it generates based on the audio that basically become the chart you have to play.  So basically every track you import gets duplicated on your hard drive.  Second problem: The automatically generated charts.  They're completely arbitrary.  Sometimes a sequence of notes will make sense, but most of the time they don't.  Third problem: If you couldn't infer it from the first problem, the transcoding and analyzation process takes a long time.  And one of the achievements is adding 10000 songs to your library?  No thanks.  This game really just makes me wish I was playing Guitar Hero instead.


This is supposed to be a puzzle game where the gameplay depends on the music you select as BGM, but it mostly fails at that.  Its beat detection is essentially random and hardly ever finds the BPM of the song.  Given that you're trying to keep the space from filling up by eliminating blocks, naturally, you're trying to work as fast as possible.  This makes the bonuses for eliminating blocks "on the beat" either unrealistically difficult to get, or so easy you don't even realize you're doing it.


So to even get this game to run, I had to modify its startup options in Steam to add -novideo.  It bitched on startup about not being able to find a decoder for video.  What kind of exotic codec are they using that isn't in ffdshow?  And if it's needed by the game, why isn't it installed with the game?  The support boards suggested installing Windows Media Player 11, but fuck that, I don't use that piece of shit.  It's still whatever version it is that comes with Windows XP.  Media Player Classic Homecinema all the way.

Anyway, the gameplay reminds me a little of Lumines on the PSP, except it's way easier.  In Lumines I never got much past the first or second level because of the difficulty, but here you can just move the mouse around to put the piece where you want it.  Your objective is to create 3x3 blocks (or larger), which it calls "quads".  There's a line that sweeps over the field and turns finished quads into covered areas, and you need to get 50% coverage to beat a level and progress to the next.  There's a catch to that though: when you make a quad, it begins to fill up.  Adding more pieces onto the sides of it will expand it and reset the fill progress.  Being that larger quads give more points, this is entirely desirable.  The sweeper line won't do anything to it until it fills all the way up.

Level-wise the game is pretty short and doesn't allow for using your own music.  Instead you get a selection of six tracks, most of which are random techno, and the last of which is some weird version of Still Alive from Portal where the lyrics are randomly spaced out and is impossible to sing along to while playing the level.


First strike: the game defaults to 1280x1024, a fringe resolution for old LCD monitors made by like two manufacturers that nobody bothers with anymore because you can get full HD LCD monitors now.

Second strike: it forces my monitor into a 60Hz refresh rate, which I can see refreshing and which also nauseates me.

Okay, so I finally get into the game after having to configure it to run in a 1280x720 window.  The graphics have been deliciously retro the entire time and continue to be so during gameplay.  The entire thing looks like Atari 2600 graphics.  The sounds go beyond what the 2600 could handle, but whatever.  So it's basically a really long game of pong to the beat of the music.  You move your paddle up and down and block the balls that come your way.  At first it's fairly simple, but the patterns get more complex as gameplay goes on.  If you beat the first level, the second unlocks.  Beating the second unlocks the third, and even on Easy the third gets really crazy and I failed.  It's... an interesting game to say the least.

Overall: Beat Hazard is the best of the pack by far.  However, because during the Steam holiday sale the pack was as much as Beat Hazard was outside of the pack, I can't really complain.

The grand inequality: Beat Hazard > Chime > BIT.TRIP BEAT > ( Rhythm Zone = Turba )