Thursday, February 17, 2005

And Now For Something Different - Music

Currently listening to "Boulevard of Broken Songs", a neat mashup mainly of Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and Oasis' "Wonderwall". This and some other mashups here. (haven't listened to the others though...)

Another interesting mashup that came out quite a while back was "This Is How You Remind Me Someday", where Nickelback is caught basically reusing the same chords for two songs. Great stuff.

Other songs/bands I've been listening to lately:

Locally, Spongecola is hot. Their album has several good tracks (since I don't listen to radio, I'm not sure which of them are popular or not.) My favorites are "Jeepney", "Lunes", "22", "Partisan", "Dragonfly", "Jillian" and "KLSP", I'm pretty close to naming the whole album :p. They also have this great live rendition of Madonna's "Crazy For You" going around.

Sugarfree's last album is also heavy on my playlist - I think their "Hari ng Sablay" has been getting some serious airplay. My favorite Sugarfree track is from their first album though - it's "Burnout".

Of course there's Rivermaya's new single "You'll Be Safe Here". Pretty good, Rico Blanco is really good with the lyrics.

For live performances, I posted a link to the AlphaQuam Live Music Archive on delicious a while back. They have this great performance of "Careless Whisper" by Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright. If you want more rock-type sounds, try Vertical Horizon's live rendition of "You're A God", complete with Top Gun intro.

Oh, and one song that's been on LSS for me all day: "King of Pain" by Sting. Not sure why.

There's a little black spot on the sun today
That's my soul up there...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Games: Legend of Zelda - Minish Cap

The last Zelda game I played (as in, to the end) was Link To The Past, and I think it was on David's old SNES. Or it may have been on ZSNES, I'm not entirely sure anymore. Before that was the first Zelda, which I actually finished on its original console!

Seems that the years have been kind to the Zelda formula: Octoroks and Tektites on the world map, Bats, Skeletons and Wizrobes underground, Boomerangs and Arrows to throw about, Pieces of Heart to collect, Swords, Bottles, hidden passages, name it, it's all here. I miss Dodongo though. :p

One thing to note about the Zelda series...they're really good with level design, and the use of space. The overworld of Minish Cap is a good example. The land of Hyrule is relatively smaller this time around compared to Link To The Past, but the game mechanics of having the ability to occasionally shrink to insect-size and the ability to unlock new areas with kinstone fusions mean you'll be visiting most areas several times, making the most of the space. Of course, there's the usual Zelda mechanics of passageways hidden by bombs, secrets accessible only with the use of tools, etc. Maybe it's just that I haven't played a Zelda game for so long, but I'm just amazed at how much stuff they can pack into it.

The puzzles were ok, the usual block puzzles and stuff. Nothing too difficult, but not too easy either. I wish they had put some super-difficult puzzles for optional sidequests though. (The sidequests here mostly rely on collecting kinstones.) I think something along the lines of Lufia II's "World's Most Difficult Trick" would have been nice. I was particularly disappointed by the "walking" puzzles in the final dungeon, where you have to walk over a certain set of tiles continuously without repeating any tiles. The two such puzzles I encountered were straightforward. Why introduce that type of puzzle if it was going to be so easy?

Boss battles were ok, with some difficult ones being the Octorok in the Temple of Droplets, and any battle that needed me to split into four. I guess the clone battles would have been easier if I had gotten the "fast spirit bar charging" upgrade thingy. The final boss was moderately difficult, but then again I only had two bottles. With four bottles I might have started yawning. :p

When I was in college and had more free time, I would have surely completed everything there was in the game, but these days, I just finish it and be done with it. (Same with Star Ocean 3, I only managed to beat one optional dungeon and boss.)

Overall Minish Cap is a good game, as I'm pretty sure every Zelda is. The designers are still pretty good, not many boring parts in the game (the figurine thing was boring though...mainly because the interface was so tedious.) Made me wish I had had a chance to play the N64/GC outings.

Monday, February 14, 2005


sometimes i just feel
so out of my world
an ordinary guy in love
with an extraordinary girl

i don't always know the right words to say,
i don't always know the right thing to do,
there's just one thing i'm sure of,
i only want to be with you

i'll be here waiting,
standing by you every day
hoping your heart will take notice
and send a smile my way

Bomb blasts rock Davao, General Santos, Makati -

Bomb blasts rock Davao, General Santos, Makati -

Makati City, three people were killed while at least 20 others were injured after an explosion rocked a bus plying EDSA as it passed underneath the Metro Rail Transit's Ayala Station, Metro Manila police chief Director Avelino Razon Jr. said.

What a way to celebrate Valentine's day. And here I was just blogging about security issues. (Although looks like this incident wasn't actually in the MRT.)

These are the sort of things they should be focusing on, not optical media piracy.

On a personal note, these things happen at weird times for me. Seems I always need a reminder that my own personal dramas are so irrelevant compared to such real-world issues.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Piracy, the MRT/LRT and Mall Security

Optical media and the MRT/LRT

I'm pretty sure what is described in the above blog post (confiscation of unlabelled optical media from LRT/MRT commuters) is obviously stupid, though probably not illegal. The rail authorities can probably refuse entry to anyone for any reason they consider valid.

It's probably legal, but I doubt it's enforceable though. Anyone who's ridden the MRT during rush hours knows what I'm talking about. Security inspections last roughly half a second for every three passengers; the security personnel will simply make a quick pass through your bags with their stick. Any containers inside the one inspected are let through easily. In fact, even though I ride the MRT nearly everyday [1], I've never encountered anyone being turned away because of what they were carrying.

I've lost count of the number of times I've premeditated how easy it would be to sneak some sort of undesirable element into an MRT station. I ride the MRT every day knowing full well that any half-hearted troublemaker could easily put my life in peril. Riding the MRT is probably only marginally safer than duking it out with the buses on EDSA.

Mall security is even worse, those inspections done by security guards at mall entrances are a waste of time. At least the MRT guys have the excuse that they have to deal with droves of people at a time; There are mall entrances where they barely glance at your stuff in a routine manner; you could be sneaking in a decapitated human head in a plastic bag and they wouldn't notice. The only criminals that would be stopped by these half-hearted measures are the stupid ones. The smart (hence dangerous) ones would easily breeze through.

Not that I want the hassle of through security checks mind you. It's just that the current practices seem pretty much a waste of time, when these inspections are just to show the public that MRTs/Malls are "safe."

Edit 14/Feb: BoingBoing has picked up on this.

[1] except when I'm lazy and decide to take a cab

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Games: Why Sony's PSP will suck

GearLive: Why Sony's PSP will suck

I'm not actually particularly interested in the PSP, but this article is interesting and has quickly convinced me that the PSP will in fact, suck.

As a handheld platform, I think it's pretty hard to beat the GBA. I'm already thinking of buying one, as it would give me access to all those great Nintendo franchises [1] in their pure 2D forms, without me having to buy a different console.

Because honestly, consoles suck, I wouldn't want to maintain one. Not that I don't like my PS2, the games are great and all. But think about how PC gaming will always be superior to console gaming because of compatibiliy. I mean, if I had a game from 10 years ago, I would probably still be able to play it on the PC [2], and that includes games from old consoles. This is why I like the idea of the GBA, even though I've never actually owned a gameboy. I see all these nice GBA titles around and I figure even if Nintendo releases a new GB-style handheld, it'll be backward compatible and I can play those suckers! And GBA titles don't seem to be affected by the price multiplication that happens to PS2 titles. [3]

Let me repeat: consoles suck. Not console games mind you, console games are great and I love playing them, I just wish I didn't have to play them on consoles. Thank god for emulation.

Disclaimer: Okay, I've overreacting, consoles don't really suck, but I really hate my PS2 right now.

[1] Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania...well ok, that last one was a Konami
[2] heaven knows my brother is still trying to finish Wizardry VII
[3] gee, is it because of piracy? Probably not, piracy ups prices from the game publishers themselves. What's happening here is that local PS2 titles are priced far beyond the actual release prices of the games. Maybe it's stupidity.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Some thoughts on piracy

I tried to play two PS2 games today: Spiderman 2 and Naruto - Narutimate Hero 2. I knew we had pirated copies of both.

Spiderman 2 - failed. The PS2 wouldn't even play the disc. Instead it made a wonderful churning noise that made me quickly hit the eject button. This is Sony's best form of copy protection: In my experience, our PS2 can only play somewhere between 30% - 50% of all pirated discs out there. I don't may just be our PS2 model. Sometimes if I particularly like a game, I will buy 2-3 pirated copies until I find one that agrees with our PS2. This is why I have 3 copies of Star Ocean: Til The End Of Time.

Naruto 2 - failed. I couldn't find the disc. I tried searching through all the PS2 DVD cases we have, but I was unsuccessful. In the average pinoy techie's house, there would be hundreds of audio CDs, VCDs, data CDs and DVDs, many of them pirated. Finding one specific disc outside of its case is a nigh-impossible task. Going out and buying a new (pirated) copy would be far easier [1]

If piracy is so problematic, why use pirated discs? Because frankly, the alternatives are roughly 10 times more expensive. At least. This is especially true for PS2 games; last I checked PS2 games retail for around 4000 pesos around here (more than 80 dollars) By comparison, PC games retail for roughly the correct dollar-equivalent prices. [2]

It should be noted that I have NEVER bought original PS2 games [3], while I have bought several original PC games. Not only that, but if things continue as-is, I will NEVER buy original PS2 or PS1 games, even though there are some games I would like to own originals of [4]. The astute Pinoy gamer would note that the price of even PS1 titles is still roughly around 3000-4000 pesos, which makes no sense at all.

I wonder what compels store owners to sell PS2 originals at these prices? Are there so many piracy-conscious console owners that they are able to fuel such a high demand for PS2 originals that result in high prices? Who buys at these stores?

I don't know why games (and digital media in general) have to be the same cost or more expensive in a third world country where people obviously have less money than developed nations. Of course, I am not saying we are entitled to lower prices because we are poor. But don't companies who sell these consider that selling to citizens of developing nations at lower prices would be better than the zero sales caused by high prices/piracy combination?

In the future, I may be more compelled to buy console originals online, especially if I can find good deals on used copies. Well, at least as soon as I become more confident about buying things online.

[1] and probably cheaper if you consider time a cost
[2] I got both Warcraft III and the Frozen Throne expansion for around 1500 pesos each.
[3] although Star Ocean made me come close to buying one online or something, even a used copy
[4] Final Fantasy Tactics and Street Fighter Alpha 3 comes to mind.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Xbox Millennium Falcon

eBay - Xbox Millennium Falcon

X-box Millenium Falcon

It's a heavily modified X-box made to look like the Millenium Falcon! I'd buy it, but it's a PAL version =p

via BoingBoing via izreloaded

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Comics: Ctrl Alt Del - Tragically l337

Ctrl Alt Del - Tragically l337

Never actually read Ctrl-Alt-Del before, although I have heard of it. The webcomic is somewhat Penny-Arcade like, except with more continuity and only one of the two guys on the couch is insane.

The comic linked to above is my favorite so far. =)

Books: ABNKKBSKNPLAko? by Bob Ong

Picked it up as an impulse buy from National Bookstore a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will appreciate Bob Ong's trip back to his elementary/high school/college days. His tales of school will ring true to anyone from around the same era; younger folk may not appreciate it so much. (My younger brother seems to haveno idea what Spin-a-win is/was, although he is aware of SOS, Flames, etc.)

The earlier parts of the book are mostly funny and/or amusing, detailing those silly little things that school kids tend to obsess with. The latter parts start to get serious once the author gets to his college years; he goes into serious stories of dropping out of college, taking a vocational course and eventually becoming a teacher, where the book comes full circle (and a bit preachy as well).

The book is hard to classify; it's not exactly comedy, it's not exactly serious. It's more like the author kept a running blog since he was in grade school and published it all. Also, there doesn't seem to be much information about the author himself; apparently "Bob Ong" is a pseudonym of some sort. A very satisfying read all in all, I know this because I felt compelled to buy his next two books because of it. His books are cheaper than the usual book prices anyway =)