January 2005

01/31/2005

“Enjoy your iLife.”

by Matthew Hawkins

WARNING: The following is a very long winded account of very little happening this past weekend. If you want to read a far more concise version, check out MK’s LJ entry, otherwise, read on…

As much as I am into video games, I also consider myself a pretty diehard Mac person. I first started using a Macintosh in my high school’s graphic design class over ten years now (I still have fond memories of Photoshop 2 and Pagemaker) and have been following the platform, both the highs and the lows, ever since. At one point I even had a job fixing old Macs, and hence I’ve become the guy in my circle of friends who gives advice and can even help with upgrades and problems. If I can’t personally fix it, I can at least figure out what’s wrong and suggest a solution.

Basically, I’m a really big fan of the Mac and think it’s one of the best thins on earth (though I personally cannot stand a majority of its user-base… more on this later). So with that in mind, I was really looking forward to this past weekend. The plan was to drive into Brooklyn after work on Friday so MK and I could pick up an iMac DV that Jimmy, a coworker, was passing along to me. Then I would spend the rest of the weekend reformatting the computer and adding OS X (Panther), plus get MK’s PowerBook G4 updated to 10.3.7, effectively making the whole weekend one huge Mac-geek-love-fest.

I know I sound like a total Apple zombie when I say this (and trust me, I fucking hate the lot of them), but I have a real emotional attachment to the iMac DV (graphite Special Edition model) since it was the very first computer I ever purchased. Plus I still think it’s one of the finest machines Apple has ever produced (and one of the most beautiful looking machines, period). I had to part with mine last year due to a precarious financial status (more so than usual), and even with 512mb of ram, the 400mhz G3 processor just wasn’t cutting it for a primary machine. I ended up selling it to some eccentric photographer for a measly $350 (okay, maybe that’s a pretty fair sum, but the guy was loaded and could have paid more, even if he only wanted any old Mac for his autistic son to “beat the hell out of”). Even though I knew I was getting a newer, faster machine (an eMac), my coworker Steve did say “Dude, one day you’ll miss it and will pay double the price for it back!” And he was right about the missing part.

Anyway, I was originally going to take the no longer wanted iMac for myself, and viewed it as fate playing itself out. But I honestly don’t need another Mac in my tiny apartment, no matter how cute it is. So I decided to give it to MK because her mom keeps using her PowerBook, which might be the cause of a number of mysterious problems plaguing it. Plus MK’s totally worth it.

First off, the trip into Brooklyn was a real horror show. I may rag on Manhattan a lot, but I’ll give it this: everything is wonderfully organized. The roads in Brooklyn are a fucking nightmare. Making things worse was Mapquest; many people in the past have said that it’s woefully inaccurate and flat-out sucks, but I’ve never had a problem with it. Friday night was the first time it failed me, and it did so big time. I can’t blame Jimmy for not knowing the roads, cuz like most people who enjoy living in Brooklyn, he doesn’t drive and therefore is confronted with the bullshit numbering, the piss poor positioning of all the streets. The worst was when we were on 4th Avenue and knew we had to get on 3rd, but simply couldn’t and kept getting lost in a sea of endless side streets. I swear, it was worse than all the times I’ve been stuck in Queens where 30th Street, 30th Avenue, and 30th Boulevard all meets combined. But eventually, we made our destination and got the goods. MK & I then got the fuck out of Brooklyn, and NYC, as fast as we could and, once on the Jersey side of things, I had hot dogs for dinner at Callahan’s.

The night I began my work: since MK’s house only has dial up, I made sure to bring with me all the updates I might possibly need. And considering that the machine had never once been updated, I really needed them. On the Classic end, I brought the OS 9.1, 9.2.1, and 9.2.2 updaters, plus the 10.3.7 updater (MK already had a copy of the Panther installation discs I made for her), as well as assorted programs like multiples flavors of Photoshop and Office for both environments. In addition to the OS having never being upgraded, the hardware was also untouched, meaning there was only the original 128 mb or ram available, which only lengthened the install time (the process of wiping out the hard drive, which I did by zeroing all data, alone took close to three hours). I did manage to get 9.2.2 installed before getting distracted by TV and other stuff.

The next day I got the Classic programs up and running and then went onto Panther, plus I also started work on the PowerBook. Even MK noted how happy I was, running from one Mac in one room to another. But as soon as I booted from the Panther disc and choose the language to start installation, the Mac went totally nuts, to a degree I had never seen. So… and I know this is pretty stupid coming from a self-confessed Mac tech-know-it-all, but I killed the juice by pulling the plug (hey, I’ve done it a million times, and so have you). I plugged it back in, rebooted, and the Mac started up again… but the screen was totally dead. I had never seen this before and was totally taken aback. I restarted again (by pulling the plug), and again, no picture. This is where I started to panic.

To be a computer geek and to not know what happened, and to be possibly responsible for the death of a computer, is total shame. But for that machine to not only be the spiritual reincarnation of the first machine you ever truly love made it mortifying. Add in how the computer was supposed to be for your girlfriend, one which you forced to drive out into Brooklyn despite saying many times beforehand that “driving in Brooklyn sucks” was pure torture.

I assumed that I had blown out the video board of something, which MK though was okay since it could be replaced, which is true but only after a possibly costly repair bill, and the whole point of a free computer is not spend any dough on it. One of the main reasons why I like going out to Jersey is to get away from it all, i.e. not waste on message boards, but it was an emergency, so I reluctantly went online for possible answers. And now onto the part where I bash Apple users…

… Like I said, I love the Mac and all, but I simply cannot stand most Apple users. They get a lot of hate from PC, and it totally justified. Most of them really are uptight, self-absorbed, arty-farty, trendoid techno snobs who’s life is totally dominated by the pursuit of spreading the Apple gospel by explaining how stupid “Windoze” or “Pee-Cee” users are and actually have the gall to call them drones and the such, even though they all acts like total corporate tools themselves by buying everything fucking thing that Apple produces. Hey, I like the iPod too, but I’m on the fence about getting one. Why? Cause of the price? Well sorta, but I just don’t want to end up like that guy on the subway who want’s the whole world how cool he is by acting like an oblivious smarmy asshole (cause that’s what Apple calls “being different!”). But I digress….

I went on several message boards for help: two Apple specific ones, Yay Hooray since it has tons of artist and designers, who are the types who mostly use Macs, and of course, the GAF. Not surprisingly, the Mac boards didn’t produce shit (well at least at first). The usual responses, no matter what the problem, generally goes like, “Gee, I never heard of that problem before, I think your Mac is broken, too bad, hey just get a new one, they’re totally awesome, Macs rule, I <3 Apple!” which of course is extremely unhelpful (and totally fucking annoying, especially in a moment of crisis). Meanwhile on the GAF, one poster pretty much put summed how I felt best with one simple comment: “Enjoy your iLife.”

But then someone asked if the firmware was updated and I only then realized it more than likely wasn’t! Apparently, with no firmware in place, the Panther disc will totally screw up the Mac’s video out. So I had the reason, but still no workable solution. I then became extremely depressed and even started asking around for resources to convert the iMac into a fish tank, but then GAF member fart (yes, his name was fart, this is the internet, remember?) passed along a fix. As detailed here, I used the video mirroring function of the iMac (most don’t realize that there’s a VGA out hidden on the bottom-back) to see the computer via MK’s really old and crusty PC monitor, and was then able to apply the firmware which I downloaded via the PowerBook to get it back to normal. Once that was done, OS X installation was a total breeze! Again, fart, I thank thee! And thanks to the GAF, MK had a new computer and my manhood was restored.

As for the rest of that Saturday night, Robin stopped by later than night and we all had diner food. Plus he passed along a neat poster that came with the import version of Last Bronx plus the Phantasy Star 2 hint book that originally came packed with the game. For a small little 6 meg RPG, its crazy-ass long, so one really needs it. I have the game, but I got it from eBay sans hint book, so now I can actually play the game! And after dinner we all watched Revenge of the Nerds on DVD. MK discovered first hand how much the film upsets me. Not because I don’t like the movie or anything, it’s just that the jocks and what they do to the nerds, really upsets me. I’m not joking when I say that the events portrayed, and my genuine fear of being in the nerd’s position, factored heavily into my decision to attend art school.

The next day, MK and I took her brother’s TV table downstairs from his bedroom to be the new computer desk and it was so filthy that I had to scrub it down hard to get it looking somewhat respectable. The thing is, the house where MK grew up and currently resides in is rather dirty. Actually it’s pretty filthy, and much of it has to do with her mom who’s a total pack rat. MK has always been frustrated with the piles of useless junk all over the place (which are plentiful and very high), but given the mind-boggling degree, she’s had to basically live with it. Well I’m a compulsive neat freak and told her that I would kill myself if I had to deal with such conditions and offered to clean the house if given the chance. So she took me up on it to help clean just one room, and that’s what we did. In a short amount of time, almost tens years of junk went in one garbage bag, and MK finally felt the cathartic sensation that comes with getting rid of useless shit. At one point, MK even noted, as I was just chucking things in the bag, and with a tinge of excitement in her voice “Wow, you’re cold-blooded!”. Well to be clean, you sorta have to be. And I was positively elated to find out that last night, after I had left and MK’s mom had come back home, that she was so shocked by the new found cleanliness that it compelled her to continue on with the cleaning with her daughter!

Also, I got to meet MK’s dad for the first time yesterday, and I was pretty nervous for that (for obvious reasons), but everything went well. All in all, a very productive weekend….

… Okay, that’s not really true since we didn’t get a chance to work on our comics. Oh well, next weekend I guess. And two last Mac related things: here’s a “lost” video from the Mac’s public unveiling in 1984 and another Steve Jobs video, this one featuring him showing off NeXTSTEP, which is the precursor to OS X.

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01/26/2005

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

by Matthew Hawkins

- Apparently there’s a problem with a small number of PSP’s in Japan, specifically with one of its buttons. You can read the full story here (sorry, but I’m just too lazy to do my own right up), but basically…

About 4,800 Japanese PSPs have been returned to Sony due to problems with the handheld’s square button, according to a recent interview with Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi in Nikkei Business magazine.

Kutaragi acknowledged that the button is less responsive than the others, in part because it’s so close to the PSP’s 480×272 screen. Because there isn’t enough room to put the square button’s detection switch directly underneath, it’s off to the right, making it less responsive–and sometimes causing it to stick.

Nikkei Business reported that, to date, .6 percent of the 800,000 shipped units have been returned to Sony for repair. Kutaragi was unapologetic about the issue: “This is the design that we came up with. There may be people that complain about its usability, but that’s something which users and game software developers will have to adapt to. I didn’t want the PSP’s LCD screen to become any smaller than this, nor did I want its machine body to become any larger.

“The button’s location is [architectured] on purpose,” Kutaragi added. “It’s according to specifications. This is something that we’ve created, and this is our specification. There was a clear purpose to it, and it wasn’t a mistake.”

Offering additional testimony praising the handheld, Kutaragi said, “I believe we made the most beautiful thing in the world. Nobody would criticize a renowned architect’s blueprint that the position of a gate is wrong. It’s the same as that.”

Jesus Christ, what a fucking arrogant asshole. Considering that the square button is a major one… like many action oriented games specifically, in which it’s often the “shoot” button, or in driving games, where it’s often the gas button… plus it’s the one I always rest my thumb on, this is nothing but horrible news.

I’m sure this problem will be fixed, but still, Sony’s attitude is pretty disconcerting.

- There’s been a noticeable increase in “word on the street” kind of stuff floating around the usual places these days, at least the real juicy kind. For example, a trust worthy source at the GAF when it comes to all things Nintendo has said about Mario 128 (I really don’t hear too many people use 1,000 Marios too much these days) that the game, which has been in development for several years now, will see big changes in the camera system. Plus its been inferred that Nintendo is set to really pimp both the new Mario and Zelda games hard, with a “back to basics” spin on both. Seems like they want to win back the folks who were scared away by Mario Sunshine and Wind Waker.

This all makes perfect (business) sense, though there are still many questions. Despite Miyamoto on a few occasions saying so, there’s still no concrete word on whether Mario 128 will appear on GameCube or Revolution (code name for the new console in development). I’m willing to wager GameCube, to make a strong double last hurrah for the system, though many are skeptical and are asking why Nintendo would “throw away” such heavy hitters on a sinking ship. I just see shades of the SNES at work here, since that system got Super Mario World 2, perhaps the best in the entire series, in its twilight as well.

- Plus there’s word that a new GameCube Sonic game at the end of the year. Like many (former) fans of the series, I’ve pretty much had my fill of the series. If Yuji Naka had any clue, he’d go full-blown 2D experience like everyone’s been screaming at him to do for years now (something like Klonoa would be nice). But instead, it’s almost guaranteed to be yet another mediocre 3D title that won’t let you just control Sonic, but force one to utilize his large cast of loser friends.

- Then just the other day was some rumor that EA was going to buy Capcom. This was supposedly said in the latest issue of Famitsu, and was later proven false, but it’s still worth mentioning since, in my eyes, was totally plausible, and still sorta is. As it had been noted just a few days prior, EA had openly expressed in “partnering up with” (translation: buying) a Japanese firm, with a focus on both Konami and Capcom. And Capcom has not been doing so hot for some time now: many of their high profile games have been total bombs… some justified like the abysmal Devil May Cry 2, and some not so, like Onimusha 3. Their catalogue was once something to be envied by all others, but now most of their properties are pretty much worthless. The fact they sold off the rights to Street Fighter… at one point the most popular game on the planet… is evidence enough. Just shows that too many sequels will only hurt. Hell, look at Resident Evil 4; its technically the fourth in the series, but how many Resident Evil games have been released thus far? Almost 20?

Speaking of, Capcom is also reeling from some very poor business decision, with RE4 being another prime example. It’s easily the best in the series, but will many folks be playing it? Not nearly as many if they had released if for the PS2. Granted, that system is getting a version, but that’s next year and by that point no one will really care. Nice to know that the famed Capcom 5 for the GameCube was a total bust. And Killer 7 still isn’t out yet. And I might be the last one on earth who’s still looking towards it.

Anyway, given all the woes that Capcom is experiencing, with maybes more on the way, I’m not counting a possible EA take-over just yet.

- Back in my home state of Washington comes news that a planned Halo 2 tournament that was to raise money of tsunami victims had the plug pulled due to the game’s content. Unfortunate news of course, but I really can’t blame the school.

I have a friend who’s a schoolteacher back home and she tells me that such die hard political correctness has made her job a living hell.

- Here’s a collection of old Metroid comics from Nintendo Power from years back (circa 1994, since it’s based upon Super Metroid and that’s when it came out).

The same person who pointed to these on the GAF also showed off a few select pages from another, perhaps much older, Metroid comic. The Mother Brain featured in this particular comic is based upon the design from the Captain N cartoon, which ran 1989-92ish. There was a Captain N comic around 91-92, so that’s where I’m assuming it’s from. Note that Samus was never in the show…

… Personally, I really like how she looked, even when compared to today (though I always go nuts for her “classic” suit design). Since I’m a nice guy and I don’t want to feel bad for leeching from some personal website, you can check out some of the best pages here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Also on that page of old Nintendo Power comics is a few scans from an old Metroid manga, also produced around the time of Super Metroid. I gotta admit, Chibi Samus is hella cute…

- Tokyopia (a great site that unfortunately doesn’t update nearly enough) just posted a new interview with Mizuguchi. Nothing groundbreaking was revealed, but its a fun read nonetheless. Nice to see the lost Underworld/Fatboy Slim/others version of Rez brought up once again (and I get the distinct feeling that he loves it as well).

- Remember the special edition Resident Evil 4 chainsaw controller? Well it seems that the controller’s manufacturer is well aware of possible problems with getting it on store shelves and possible (more like guaranteed) negative feedback from concerned parents. Their solution? Create their own ratings system for controllers.

- One Nintendo franchise everyone (including myself) would love to see revived is Kid Icarus. Well if they ever do, it should stick to its roots by being a 2D platformer for the GBA, and they need to get this guy to do the art…

- I know this is really old news, but like a lot of things, I was out of town when the news first hit: here’s a top ten list of 2004′s best independent games. I really haven’t gotten a chance to play most of these, since I’m a Mac guy, and to be totally frank, some of these just aren’t my cup of tea if you get my drift.

But I have played Break Quest and it’s super fun.

- Want to know what a game based on the Shining would look like? According to Solid Sharkey…

- And this here is the world’s smallest game of Pac Man.

- Speaking of Namco, and going back to Capcom real quick, they’re teaming up with Namco to produce a game called, oddly enough, Namco X Capcom. The title will mix characters from both companies in one title. And believe it or not, it’s not going to be a fighter but a strategy/RPG.

You can check out screenshots from the latest Famitsu here, here, and here. Special thanks goes to GAF member neo2046 for the scans.

As jaded as I’ve become with these cross over titles from Capcom, this one does have my attention. Pretty interesting choice of characters from the Namco side; nice to see Klonoa, but where’s Heihachi? And pretty boring standard fare from Capcom; Ryu & Chun Li? Boring. Though seeing Regina (from Dino Crisis) after all these years is great.

- One final Namco bit: they just got the rights to Gumby. Can’t wait to play him in Soul Calibur 3!

- Speaking of cross-overs, and onto everyone’s favorite video game punching bag, EA. They’re in the news again (of course) and with Nintendo yet again. Remember how Mario & company are going to be in the Cube version of NBA Street vol.3? Well the Cube edition of the new EA boxing game Fight Night Round 2 will feature the SNES game Super Punch Out as a bonus. I had Super Punch Out back in the day, but I barely spent much time on it. It’s something I still regret to this day (since it’s tied into my decision to sell my SNES collection, but I don’t want to get into that again).

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Also included as a special bonus is Little Mac, the character from Punch Out…

And if that doesn’t creep you the fuck out, just watch him in action.

- Just for the record, I really don’t like talking about EA too much since they’re dominating the news so much these days. We all know they’re taking over the world and I don’t need to be the 8,000,000th person or thing to remind anybody of this. But I will post about something if it’s particularly insane (see above).

Though check out the latest Penny Arcade strip for their most recent jab. I so fucking want that shirt.

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- Continuing on from the prior pissy post… this year’s Oscar nominations were announced today. Each year’s list manages to make me go “What the fuck?!”, but this year’s takes the cake. After all…

… Both Bill Murray and Paul Giamatti weren’t nominated for best actor? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me….

… And how in the hell was David Carradine passed up as well? His performance in Kill Bill v.2 was easily the comeback role of the year. At least Thomas Haden Church got a nod I guess…

… I haven’t seen in it, so perhaps I can’t comment, but I have a strong feeling that the only reason the Aviator was nominated is cuz this will probably be the year Scorsese finally gets an award for being passed up so many times. Sorta like how like Return of the King won last year even though it really should have been Lost in Translation….

… Regarding the best documentary nomination, why wasn’t Some Kind of Monster nominated? And how in the hell did the Tupac get a nod? It was made in 2003, was released in 2003, and even ended its theatrical run in 2003…

… I bet you anything, that piece of crap Super Size Me will win. Hey, good idea, but the whole thing was an annoying exercise in elitism and ego….

… Speaking off, since he didn’t get a best picture nod, I have to assume Michael Moore really regrets not submitting Fahrenheit 9/11 in the best documentary category…

- But in much more brighter news, word is that the Venture Brothers has been okayed for a second season! Go team Venture!

Now, how about a DVD?

- Earlier this evening I got a forwarded email from MK. It was from David Frankel, one of the guys behind both Basil Warriors and Rock Fighter! He apparently caught what I wrote about the film and wanted to pass word that he was quite pleased. Plus he wanted to let it be known that he’s not from Syracuse. Okay.

His site has a bunch of interesting stuff, including his work in video games. Shortly before my trip back home, MK made me a copy of Townies, an RPG David made for OS 9 which I wasn’t able to play due to my iBook dying on me, but I have gotten to dabble with it a bit and its cool. Check it out.

- Steve wrote about this in his blog, so I may as well mention it here: I too have received the following piece of spam. And it’s the only one which I haven’t tossed out.

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