Sunday, September 18, 2005

Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children

A friend of mine said, "It's for die-hard fans only."

He's right. Luckily, there are roughly seventy trillion die-hard FF7 fans. And I doubt they will be disappointed.

Advent Children is a DVD-movie about the events that happen two years after the events of the game. Some of the story-related parts might get you a bit sleepy, especially if you weren't particularly fond of the whole Reunion/Jenova/planet thing from Final Fantasy VII, but that's okay because...

...the actions scenes are flat-out spectacular! Seriously, the fight scenes from the trailer were incredibly cool, but the ones that you see in the movie itself, wow. It's a good thing Square is really good at CGI, there's no way those scenes could have been done with live action.

Speaking of CGI, the quality of their work has definitely improved since Spirits Within. (Red XIII could use some work though.) I wish Spirits Within had had this level of awesomeness, but Advent Children has the advantage of a whole game of backstory with which the audience is already assumed to be familiar.

And for those skeptics who question how Cloud could possibly swing around that big-ass sword of his, better not watch this one as Cloud now fights with a big-ass sword in each hand!

If you are an FF7 fan of any sort, watch it. There are torrents all around, with subtitles.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Books - Neverwhere

I've never really read much Neil Gaiman before -- I'm not a particular fan of the Sandman series, for which he is most known. But I know some people who are big fans, so I respect his work at least. Neverwhere is only the second Gaiman book I've read (well, third maybe, I think I read that thing he co-wrote about the apocalypse), and I'm pretty much satisfied so far.

Neil Gaiman does fantasy. Not medieval fantasy or sci-fi or anything like that, but fantasy in modern-day settings. Neverwhere takes place in London, a place with which the author seems intimately familiar. Except that his fictional London is divided into two cities - London Above, which is the normal everyday London, and London Below, a temming network of underground locations where people fall through cracks and disappear. Something like that.

Our protagonist is an ordinary guy, who meets a resident of London Below, and is thereupon plunged into it's mad, mystical world, where the familiar laws of reality seldom seem to apply. The plot is nothing extraordinary, one you may have read in some form or other: Our intrepid hero meets an interesting cast of unlikely allies and they band together on a quest, ultimately saving the universe. Something like that. It's Gaiman's writing that stands out though; his flowery prose and florid descriptions brings the fantasy world of London Below to life, presenting a striking contrast to the protagonist's boring life in London Above.

All in all, a good read. Nothing extraordinarily deep, but enough to make me interested in reading more Gaiman.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Manny Pacquiao

I saw an interview with Manny Pacquiao on Rated K, apparently after his celebrated win last Sunday. Korina referred to him as a millionaire because of his share from the match, but Manny said he's going to be giving a lot of it away. People told him to donate to Katrina, but he says there are also a lot of needy people in his own country so he's giving to them first. He's giving away food and stuff to poor people in his hometown.

Man, that guy's got heart. No wonder he's a local hero.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Looking for a phone and finding bad webapps

Sorry about the title. I couldn't find any succinct way to put it.

Anyway, yeah. I'm supposed to be trying to get a phone. People have been harassing me for years about the fact that I don't have a phone. Since my vacation is already half-wasted already, I figure I'd go online and get some info on what phone I'd buy.

Now, bear with me a bit, I'm really stupid when it comes to phones, since I've practically never owned one. If there's any better way or better place to look for the info than the way I describe here, tell me about it. :D

First, to find out what are the available phones and their features, I check the website of one of the major providers to see what handsets they list, since supposedly this tells me what models are available locally. FYI, I chose to use Smart's website

Now, this helps me find phones which have features I like. But the Smart website only gives me prices offered by Smart when the phone is tied to one of their plans. Let's assume I want a bit more flexibility and don't want to be tied to the plan. I have no idea where to check the prices though, so I hit two auction sites instead: ebili and bidshot, so I can get some idea what people are willing to pay for these models.

Easy enough right? Check the features, cross-check the prices, choose a phone. Some notes on these websites:

Smart: Why the hell is the list of phones not sorted in any logical order? None that I can see anyway. When I see a cheap, er, reasonably-priced phone on the auction sites, I want to check the features of that phone on the Smart website but it takes me a while to find it. Some sort of search feature would have been nice. (Or maybe there is one and I missed it?)

Ebili/Bidshot: Why the hell is the search result list not sortable in any way? If you have a grid of search results, I don't see how difficult it is to implement sortable columns; every single webapp I've worked on has this feature! I was almost tempted to send them an email offering my services as a freelancer to implement reasonable searching features such as sorting and filtering. These are NOT difficult things to implement, I don't know why we don't see them in all websites; I can understand the performance concern if you're potentially returning millions of hits (i.e. Google), but these searches have hits ranging in dozens, sorting performance hit should be minimal.

That is all, just wanted to rant. And no, I have not chosen a phone yet.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Games - World of Warcraft

It may very well have been a mistake. Buying and installing World of Warcraft on the first day of my leave, that is. Now I spend some 3-4 hours daily on the addictive beast. It's hard to stop!

In case you haven't heard, World of Warcraft is Blizzard's MMORPG take on it's famous RTS series, and it's one helluva good game. It looks excellent, the gameplay is terrific, people don't seem to be assholes, etc. The only real downside is that it's hard to stop playing!

Blizzard seems to have hit the sweet spot of the mythical RPG spiral: you always have that urge to go for one more creep, one more quest, one more level, and it repeats ad infinitum.

It's very hard to get bored with the game, especially if you're a true-blue follower of the Warcraft series. You get to immerse yourself in famous locations and meet characters and heroes from the RTS games. You get to do quests, literally dozens of quests throwing themselves on you. You get to customize your character. You get to wander off to gather obscure ingredients. You get to interact with other players, challenge them, fight alongside them, raid whole cities with them.

I've tried a few other MMOs before, and none really struck me so hard as WoW...other games get you hopelessly stuck in the levelling "grind", but WoW throws so much stuff to do at you that it's very easy to forget about that level bar.

I recommend the game to any serious gamer, even to those who primarily like single-player RPGs. Because honestly, you can play WoW just like a single-player RPG with a vast multitude of quests (except that you occasionally get some other characters helping you out randomly). I'll play again in a short while :p

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

One of the things I've been wanting to do during this hiatus was to watch more movies -- we've got a ton of DVDs downstairs I haven't seen yet. Since I had just finished the fifth book of Stephen King's western fantasy, I started this task with Sergio Leone's western opus, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I haven't watched many westerns before. This is probably the first one I completed. And you know what it reminds me of? Dragonball. Ages of staring at each other, hands hovering over your guns, ending in two seconds of gunfire. I know they're a lot more speak-y in Dragonball, but it gave me the same feeling...the anticipative build-up and the big, explosive finish.

God, that was a long movie. I think it clocked in at 2:45 or so. It was mistake to watch this movie in late afternoon, as I started getting drowsy towards the end.

I've never seen Clint Eastwood this young before! But he reminds me of how I usually visualize Roland of Gilead. And the impossibly good shooting in the movie seems characteristic of Roland's gunslingers as well.

Good movie, though longish.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Books: Dark Tower V - Wolves of the Calla

"There will be water if ka wills it." - Roland of Gilead

I had a Powerbooks gift certificate the other week, and the Powerbooks at Megamall happened to have a sale, so I took a look around. And lo, I was lucky enough to find a copy of the fifth book of Stephen King's epic western fantasy, The Dark Tower. It was a huge book, larger than my copies of the first four, but with the same cover style and by the same publisher, so it was the copy I wanted. I spent less than a hundred pesos on it.

And so it was that I once again journeyed into the world/s of the Dark Tower, following the path of Roland of Gilead and his ka-tet of gunslingers along the path of the Beam, heading inexporably towards the Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower series has always been a weird sort of hybrid. Primarily a western, set in a fantasy multiverse which intersects with multiple versions of our own reality, Roland and his posse find themselves facing robots, bears, wizards, psychotic trains, undead and such. This time they face "Wolves", an unknown new enemy who plague a farming community along the path of the Beam. Like any good RPG-party, the gunslingers decide to offer aid to the people of the Calla, though not all would accept their help. In exchange, they are granted the power to travel back to New York, the nexus of all New Yorks, where they must protect the Rose, an incarnation or manifestation of the Dark Tower.

The one thing I did not like about this copy: It had illustrations. Normally, that would be a good thing, but I find I did not really want to know what Roland of Gilead looked like, even to another person, as it spoiled my own vision of what the book tells me. That's how good the series is -- it's the type of series where you form your own version of it in your head and you are completely drawn into its saga.

As always, the book is dark and compelling. Despite the hectic work schedule last week, I finish the thick book in less than four days, and the volume ends in cliffhanger, as the ka-tet is broken. Two more books to go before the end of their quest; I can only hope the last two come out in my preferred format soon.

The A-Team!

My hiatus involves quite a bit of TV of course, especially since I get some idle time while waiting for installations/formatting/downloads to finish. Today, for the first time in maybe twenty years, I saw an exciting action-packed episode of the A-Team!

For those not in the know, the A-Team was a bunch of rogue ex-commandos who usually acted as mercs, fighting for good, beating bad guys and saving the day. In the parlance of Roland of Gilead, gunslingers.

The A-Team TV series was most famous for having as one of its cast the now-popular-on-the-internet tough-talking, fool-pitying Mr. T. I also particularly like the antics of their resident screwball flyball, "Crazy Man" Murdock.

I remember that Marvel even had an A-Team comic book out when I was a kid; I had an issue or two. I'm tempted to go out and look for copies of those now. :D

It was a good episode too, but ended with a cliffhanger. It's a good thing I'm free to watch the next episode tomorrow. :D

Total Hard Drive Space: Tripled!

Bought a brand-spankin' new 160GB hard drive yesterday. Seagate Barracuda 7200. Yessir, ups the total hard drive capacity at home to 240 gigs, I hope we don't fill it up too fast.

Moved the 40GB hard drive on the primary computer to the secondary (for a total of 80 on the secondary), and installed the new one on the primary. My brother Alvin was working with me on this, and it took us a better part of three hours to get the connection right (one of the casings wasn't very agreeable)

Installed a fresh XP on the primary, that took a while. Almost immediately after setting up the network/internet the first time, got smacked by a couple of trojans and a virus, seemed to have lost some important system files as everything went wonky. Lesson learned, I reinstalled XP clean and this time, I installed my free antivirus package of choice before starting the internet connection.

I learned something new today. It seems the OS has some sort of limit on the partition size? It wouldn't let me install it as a single 160Gb partition, so I had to settle for a 128 gig main partition and a 21 gig secondary (the unfortunately uneven division due to my not knowing how to handle the situation correctly during the initial install). Ten gigabytes lost, bummer.

Everything seems fine now. Took me most of the night (up to 2AM) to transfer the files from the old hard drive (across the network cable). On hindsight, next time I should try to see if some disk-imaging utility would be better.

Notes for next time:

  • Make sure all the installers are handy before starting. We were pretty lucky this time. :D

  • Apparently, the order in which the hard drives are connected on the IDE cable does matter

  • Divide the partitions neatly

  • Install antivirus before opening internet connection.

  • See if a disk-imaging utility can be used to transfer the files/OS/settings

That is all.

Two Weeks 'a Freedom

Freedom from work at least. I've been meaning to take a two-week leave since late last year, but never found a chance. Now is the perfect time, just before I jump full-swing into the next large project (which may or may not be confidential in nature)

So, no thinking about work for two weeks, unless they call me in for an emergency :(

What stuff do I have planned? I'm not skipping town or anything. As I keep telling people, if I plan it, it's not free time! But I do have some stuff I want to get around to, I'll let you in if anything's interesting :p