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Author: zach

SRPG #02: Excursion Pt. 2

[map: A place with many identical looking buildings entitled Magenta Town…. a real cheap-o name if you ask me]
Driving into town, your character decides to go get a snack at the Starbucks in Safeway. Pulling into a parking spot at the empty parking lot, he sees that the Safeway looks a bit different than he would have thought, with a big sign on it that says “MART”.

PLAYER ONE gets out of the CAR!

You now walk your character up to the entrance. Inside, the MART is really small, and there are two counters in the back. You talk to one of the shoppers there and they say to you…

WOMAN: Did you know that you can lower your chance of being randomly attacked in the streets by buying SUPER REPEL? It costs a bundle, but will protect you for 500 steps!
YOU: Random attacks in the streets? Did you get dropped on your head when you were a baby?
WOMAN: Did you know…
And the only thing the shopper did was repeat the same sentence over and over. Weird eh?
So you walk over to the Starbucks counter and talk to the guy there…
SHOPKEEPER: Welcome!
>Buy
SHOPKEEPER: What would you like to BUY?
>Venti Mocha
SHOPKEEPER: VENTI MOCHA? Of course! How many would you like?
YOU: duhhh let me think about that… 5 billion! jk jk I only want ONE..
SHOPKEEPER: And you would like 5,000,000,000? Certainly. That will be $4,829,397,144,921.. OK?
YOU: NO YOU IDIOT. I ONLY WANT ONE!
SHOPKEEPER: And you would like 1? Certainly. That will be $250. OK?
YOU: NO FREAKIN WAY I’M PAYING $250 BUCKS FOR A COFFEE.
SHOPKEEPER: You currently have 1,621 cash.
YOU: Oh, alrighty. Just gimme one.
SHOPKEEPER: Here ya go, thanx!
YOU: You little price gouging son of a…
SHOPKEEPER: Please come again soon!
And with that, you head back to the car, sipping your coffee.
Now heading back you suddenly realize that class has started again!
YOU: Aw man… how am I going to get out of this one? If the guards catch me I’m dead meat.

SRPG #01: Excursion

This is where the adventure really begins, folks!

[map: Front of generic looking school near Route 1; Beginning of lunch.]
You see before you a bunch of people sitting outside, talking about stuff. You approach one of them…

KID: Hi there, PLAYER 1! You’d better not try anything else campus security might come after you.

[Start > Bag > Key Items > BICYCLE ]

OAK: PLAYER 1, this isn’t the time to use that!
YOU: Who are you?! I’ll do what I want.

PLAYER 1 mounted the BICYCLE !
You head toward the road. Just before you reach it…

SECURITY GUARD: You aren’t going anywhere until school gets out.

Your character moves two spaces back.
You bicycle down the hallway towards the sports field. You are just about to step on the grass when…

SECURITY GUARD: You aren’t going anywhere until school gets out..
YOU: Where the **** are all these voices coming from? I see no security guard anywhere. I’ll prove it to ya. Here we go.

Your character moves two spaces back.

YOU: HOW DOES THAT WORK?! I try to go forward and I go back? I’ll show you…

You dismount your bicycle and walk to the fire trails. Here ya go, walking up the hill when… >smack<! you slam into an invisible wall.

YOU: >_> you gotta be kidding me. Who put this wall here? And why can’t I see it?

You spot an old man standing about 10 paces away from you. You walk right up to him and he doesn’t seem to notice you until you decide to talk to him…

OLD MAN: PLAYER ONE, do you want to know a secret? To get out of here, you need to obtain the item CAR KEYS and get in a CAR. Watch out for GUARDS though as they can send you back to class.
YOU: It’s lunchtime idiot. There are no classes right now. Why are u standing out here by yourself telling me secrets anyways? And can everyone stop calling me PLAYER ONE?
OLD MAN: Remember what I told you? Get the CAR KEYS and get in a CAR.
YOU: I get it. Now can you tell me why there is an invisible wall here?
OLD MAN: Remember what I told you? Get the CAR KEYS and get in a CAR.
YOU: … I give up.

Walking over to a car, you try to get in it…
The CAR will not start without CAR KEYS!
So you search around school, talking to various people who are telling you random things like ‘Lunch is my favorite time of the day.’ One dude is nice enough to say…

DUDE: Hey, PLAYER ONE! Are you hungry?
>Yes
DUDE: That’s cool, I like your style. Maybe we can be friends. Here, take this SANDWICH. It restores 20 HP!
YOU: HP?!! >_<
DUDE: You know, if you can find my GIRLFRIEND, she might just give you the CAR KEYS your looking for. Tell her I sent you.
YOU: How do you know that I am looking for them? And why would she just give me the keys to her car? This is making no sense, pal.
DUDE: Did you find my GIRLFRIEND yet?

And so you go and look for the dude’s gf. Its a pretty easy thing to do since there are only 10 people in the entire lunchroom…

GIRL: Hi PLAYER ONE! I’m DUDE’s GIRLFRIEND. He told me to give you these CAR KEYS and since I have no use for them, here ya go!

PLAYER ONE obtained CAR KEYS! PLAYER ONE put the CAR KEYS in the items pocket of the BAG.

YOU: Wait his name is really DUDE? Also why would you be the gf of an idiot like him? Ya know he offered to be my friend and give me a sandwich just cuz I like to eat.. Ain’t that weird to you? And how did he communicate to you that I was coming anyways? You nor he have moved from your spots and neither of you have cell phones. God… this is really weird.
GIRL: My BOYFRIEND’s name is DUDE. Have you met him?
YOU: -_- nvm.
GIRL: My BOYFRIEND’s name is DUDE. Have you met him?

And with that you now have car keys and are going to get away from school.
You walk over to the car and try to get in again…
PLAYER ONE used the CAR KEYS!
The CAR’s engine is starting up!
And now ur in the car. You drive over to the road, and are able to get on it.
Driving down the street, you hear a school bell ring…
The SCHOOL BELL has rang. Everyone back to CLASSROOMS!

YOU: I don’t recall having the windows rolled down. How can I hear that from here?

Driving down the road, you see a sign…
YOUR HOME: 2 MILES.
MAGENTA TOWN: YOU ARE HERE.

YOU: Ooh… my house is 2 miles away? Who’s the stalker that painted this sign?!

Driving down the street, you pass the sign and the music you’ve been hearing the entire time you were at school changes, and your vision gets tinted blue. You are now in MAGENTA TOWN, heading to your next destination.

SRPG # 00: Pilot

OK. This is the beginning of a very long, very complicated story that’s in need of a plot, a good 10 hours of planning, and some basic proofreading. I’ve been writing it as I go (over 3 years now!) and it just gets worse. Some day when I have 10 hours to devote to it, I’ll revise everything, making it all better. Until then, enjoy the unfinished remains!

[dramatic battle music sounds]
[screen clears, revealing battle scene]

Wild HOMEWORK wants to fight!

Go BRAIN!
BRAIN uses READLESSON!
BRAIN‘s intelligence rose!
Foe HOMEWORK uses INTIMIDATE!
BRAIN‘s concentration sharply fell!
BRAIN uses TACKLE>_>!
It’s not very effective…
Foe HOMEWORK uses DUEDATE!
HOMEWORK is now due 2 days earlier!
[>MNSTRs >SHIFT]
Good, BRAIN. Now return!
Go, DOG!
Foe HOMEWORK attempts to flee!
Escaping is not allowed, due to DOG‘s ARENATRAP!
DOG uses EAT!
Its super effective! 
Foe HOMEWORK is eaten!
BRAIN gains 21 experience points!
DOG gains 1 tasty meal, 894 experience points

8 months with Windows 7

windows-7-logo

I’ve been meaning to do a Windows 7 review for quite some time, but have always been stopped by the fact that I hadn’t used it for long enough to say I’ve been through the good as well as the bad. Now that I’ve used it for a while, though, I’m ready to critique it, and for the most part, I’m impressed. Let’s begin this review from the beginning: the installer.

Installation

windows-7-install-size

Unless you’ve bought a new computer lately, the first experience you’ll have with Windows 7 is the installer. Microsoft has made the installation process fairly painless this time around, handling all of the pre-installation tasks in one fell swoop. A major improvement over XP’s 3 interfaces (MS-DOS style prompts, wait a while, dinosaur GUI, more prompts, wait a while, OOBE, wait a while, etc)

One thing that annoys me about the installer, however, is that you are required to create a 100mb partition for the Windows Boot Manager, which messes up whatever you had previously. I find it difficult to install Windows 7 after installing Linux, as the Linux installer seems to know how to handle Windows, but not the other way around. I’ve also had some problems installing on Bootcamp on OS X 10.5, and while I realize 10.6 has a new Bootcamp update that fixes a lot of problems, I couldn’t even get the 64-bit DVD to boot on my 64-bit Mac. Oh well, I’m not ready for 64 bits anyways.

As far as clean installs go, the Windows 7 installer couldn’t be easier. Just wipe your drive, set your settings, and go (considering you can get the installer to boot.) For upgrading, I didn’t have a lot of compatibility problems, but it took considerably longer to do, and I really don’t recommend it. Always clean install, folks.

Hardware

Upon my first boot of Windows 7, I had all my CDs ready to go, expecting to install a lot of drivers before I could get on the net, display with hardware acceleration, print, or use the hotkeys on my keyboard. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my wireless card, a Linksys WUSB54GC, was detected right out of the box, and I was online downloading updated drivers for everything else before I knew it. Most of my devices, including my controllers, microphone, and graphics were detected as well, and I only needed drivers for my keyboard’s hotkeys and my mouse’s extra buttons. None of my hardware is incompatible with Windows 7 thus far, even old floppy drives are able to be detected and installed. Old device drivers seem to work with Windows 7 too. How’s that for “just works,” Mac fans?

Interface

desktop

Yeah, I’m one of those weird people who puts their taskbar on a different side of the screen. I also auto-hide it. Windows 7 makes it a lot more fashionable to do this, too, since with the hiding of app labels all the icons can just fit into a slot no matter which way the taskbar is oriented. Also, when auto-hide is on, there is no ugly bar on top of the taskbar like there was on XP.

As with Vista, you can choose any interface color you want for the stunning Aero theme. Unlike Vista, however, Aero frames don’t dim themselves when maximized, letting you have bright interface colors all the time if you choose. Aero feels a lot more polished in this release, and the dedicated “show desktop” button is something I use all the time.  Pinning icons to the taskbar is a lot more convenient than the Quick Launch ever was.

settings

controlpanel

The Windows 7 Control Panel isn’t all that different than Vista’s, and as long as they keep a “classic” view of some sort around, I won’t take much of an issue with them. Category view stinks when you know what you want to do, but the control panel search is amazingly accurate at finding the right settings.

Bundled Programs

This isn’t an all-inclusive list of programs, but instead ones that I’ve actually used or attempted to use in the last 8 months. Some programs like IE8 or Windows Media Center I simply haven’t ever used, and thus it would be of no value to anyone for me to review them.

Snipping tool

6-5-2010 2-06-55 AM

A nice little utility that can capture sections of your screen and annotate them, highlight important elements, and save / send the images to others. Surprisingly useful, but if you do a lot of capturing I recommend Snagit or Jing by Techsmith.

paint

paint

Call me old school, but I’m not a big fan of the ribbon. Microsoft obviously tried to make Paint better, but it’s good just the way it was. One cool improvement is that when you draw shapes, you can adjust them after drawing them to make sure they’re good before setting them in stone, but once you click away from the shape, you can’t go back and change it’s size without it getting all pixelated. Also, none of the shapes are anti-aliased, giving everything that look that only Paint gives. If they seriously wanted to improve Paint, they’d add anti-aliasing. The way it is is now, they’d have done better to leave it alone.

wordpad

wordpad

The poor man’s Microsoft Word never looked so good in Windows 7, but there’s one thing that keeps me from using it. In the past, Wordpad selected a whole word when you tried to select a tiny part of it, which was annoying, but it also let you turn that “feature” off. In Windows 7’s Wordpad, that option is no longer available, and now I’m unable to select parts of words, making working with code impossible in Wordpad. Why would I want to work with code in Wordpad, you might wonder? If you’re opening files formatted with a different line-break format, Wordpad picks up on this, while Notepad scratches its head. It was incredibly useful for configuration files, but now I need to boot up Comodo or Dreamweaver to change some simple thing. My recommendation: XP Wordpad had it right.

stic
ky notes

postits

A simple application with a simple purpose. The notes open again after a reboot, and live on the desktop instead of on a sidebar. Not much to say except that these are incredibly useful.

Windows Journal

notes

I don’t have a tablet PC, but this app makes me want one. The handwriting recognition is surprisingly accurate, and would be ideal for scribbling down notes during lectures, but the program doesn’t simultaneously record audio as Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen does. It’s free, however, so what can you expect. It’s a cool app, and I’d like to try it on a real tablet.

games

games

Same stuff as Vista, though I think the Mahjong game is new, and I know Inkball is gone. My recommendation is to add all the default games to Steam instead of using the Game Manager if you have an account with them, as the information they give on the right pane isn’t all that useful.

media player 12

Girl Talk is an awesome artist... I got all of his albums the other day, and I'd recommend you check 'em out!

Microsoft has really outdone itself with the latest WMP. The interface pictured above isn’t the one you’ll see when you open a file, instead you’ll simply see the cover art in a tiny window and some basic controls. Everything feels lightweight, and lightweight in this case is good. iTunes takes forever to do the most basic of tasks (for my old comp, at least) and WMP does everything in a snap. I still prefer iTunes for organization, however.

DVD maker

dvdmaker

After using Windows DVD maker one time, I was ready to throw iDVD to the fire and flames. It’s dead simple to create DVDs with this tool, and it even creates chapter select menus with thumbnails automatically! Not to mention there’s no stupid Apple watermarks all over the finished product. Seriously something everyone who needs to burn DVDs should look at.

Backwards Compatibility

taed

Ay, here’s the rub: for in this new Windows what old programs may come across when we have shuffled into the past must give us pause, or in the case of some apps, a complete system failure. A lot of old games such as Starcraft and Worms have messed up colors when Explorer is running, and the only way to fix it is to close Explorer if you want to run anything at all.

cmd

Running full-screen MS-DOS apps is a no-go, just like in Vista, and once again this is annoying. In 64-bit Windows 7, 16-bit apps can’t run, and a lot of apps designed for older systems just don’t work or cause the system to lock up. Now, how about XP mode? Not for graphic intensive stuff, no way. Besides, home premium users don’t even get to use XP mode, and since I’m on home premium I can’t test it, but it’s clearly designed for business use.

Conclusion

After using Windows 7 since release day in October, I really like it. Some of the bundled applications are worth the upgrade, others make me yearn for XP back. The interface is nice and polished, and hardware detection / compatibility is excellent, but program compatibility has some serious issues at times. I’ve ran a netbook with XP home for about the same time I’ve had Windows 7, and I haven’t particularly felt like I need any of the features Windows 7 offers over XP, and if I was forced to use XP I’d have no problem with it. I couldn’t, however, live with Windows 2000 or earlier on a day-to-day basis, as it is just not advanced enough to keep up with today’s tech. Once XP gets to that point, I would recommend an upgrade more strongly, but for now, 7 is basically Vista the way Vista should have been from the beginning.

Injustice

flag

In some countries people are punished for exercising the free expression of ideas, but over here in America we’ve always prided ourselves on the fact that we are able to say whatever we want. It is sickening, but people with very extreme ideas can in fact get their message out without going to jail. What happened a few days ago, however, makes me wonder if there’s any hope for us to progress as a nation. On el cinco de mayo, a group of students at Live Oak High School, in Morgan Hill, California were celebrating the day by wearing shirts with Mexican flags. Good for them! What a fine expression of free speech. Some other students decided to wear their own shirts that had American flags on them, once again an excellent display of patriotism (this is America, you know) and of their right to free speech. The school was concerned when it saw these two opposing groups, and made the American flag-wearing students an offer they couldn’t refuse: turn the shirts inside out, or go home with an unexcused absence. Well, the brave young students refused, and were sent home.

Excuse me?

As they were leaving campus, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the students had looked out the back window to make sure that there was an American flag on the school’s flagpole. What is this madness? American citizens not being able to wear the American flag? What happened to our first amendment rights? I worry about our country if it’s gotten to the point where simply showing patriotism for our homeland is a punishable offence.

buy

In my English class, we’re studying 1984 and they’re making some interesting tie-ins to how the telescreens and the Ministry of Truth (ahem… minitrue) are characteristic of the advertising that big corporations are throwing our way night and day, and the massive amounts of data that corporations have on each and every one of us. If any of you are surprised that stuff that you post on the Internet is publically available for the entire world to archive and use, you should lose your internet privileges. Seriously, what do you expect? All those social networking profiles and online surveys you’ve filled out aren’t asking so much about you for nothing. Corporations want to make a profit, and will target those who are most likely to buy said product. If I’m selling stuffed animals, I don’t want to send advertisements to those with zoophobia! You know what’ll happen if I do send them ads, though? I won’t manipulate their mind through some unorthodox back-alley method, instead they’ll probably just say “no” and refuse to buy the product I am trying to purvey.

buy2 When corporations are involved, you never need to buy from them. Heck, you can even live without electricity, gas, water, or shelter. Living in America doesn’t guarantee you success, it guarantees you the opportunity of success. There is no ceiling on how successful you can be, but there’s no floor either. Tread carefully, friends.

When the government is involved, however, things can get dicey. While all the corporations can do is whine if you don’t buy from them, the government controls the army, the navy, the air force, and all the other institutions that can cause trouble for you if you don’t do what they say, so when the government sells you something (or more specifically, when the government requires you to own something), you’re much more likely to buy it whether you think you need it or not.

control

How much does the government already control in our day-to-day lives? They have significant influence over a car manufacturer and many banks, and are looking to provide power and even internet access for us in the future. If they provide it, they can control it even more so than they do today. The government is a money losing operation at present, with ridiculous national debt and a seeming passion to waste as much money as possible as quickly as possible. If the government was a corporation itself, it would never survive, but more and more the government is trying to provide services that corporations currently supply. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust Washington enough to spend taxpayer money to efficiently pay for all these “free” services. Just take a look at what’s happening in Greece. Their socialist government makes promises it can’t keep, and then when it can’t keep them the people are all upset. With nearly $12 trillion debt, the United States is in no position to spend any more money, and other countries are noticing. If the US government’s credit rating goes down, there is a chance that we will be utterly screwed. The government should stick to keeping us safe.

Something to consider…

2-14-2010 11-13-34 PM

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of Facebook names and faces pop up on the news feed. Now, tell me… what does the word “profile picture” mean to you? Wouldn’t you agree that someone’s profile picture should probably be of a recognizable picture of themselves? A picture that, scaled to pretty much any practical resolution, will make people go “oh yeah! I know them!”

It would appear that a lot of the people on Facebook forget this fact. Take a look at the picture above. Our friend Arthur here is the one making the other two look like rabbits, and he’s pretty easy to spot since you have a decent sized thumbnail. However, if you scale the resolution back a bit, say, to newsfeed size, things get a bit ambiguous:

2-14-2010 11-48-57 PM 

At this point, unless you’ve seen the full-size picture or the thumbnail, it’s hard to tell who’s in the picture at all. But wait! All of my best pictures contain my friends! you say? Facebook understands this, and that’s why they have a second step when choosing a profile picture that crops the image and prepares a thumbnail image that will contain only your face.

2-15-2010 12-16-42 AM

In other words, there’s no excuse for using bad quality thumbnails as your profile picture.

The greatest games rarely played #1

chip-south Instead of doing a technology rant today, I’m going to present one of my favorite games to you: Chip’s Challenge. This fun, challenging, and extremely long puzzle game was originally developed by Chuck Sommerville in the late 1980’s, originally released on the Atari Lynx, but later ported to Windows and bundled as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows, or WEP.

chip00In Chip’s Challenge, you play as a guy named Chip who wants nothing more than to be let into Melinda the Mental Marvel’s Computer Club. She will let Chip become a member only if he can ascend 150 floors to the top of her clubhouse, which is a place I just couldn’t see anyone living in. This clubhouse has so many obstacles! There are fire traps, water traps, moving walkways, monsters that will eat your brains out, bouncing balls that will crush you, tanks, living blobs, and invisible walls, just to name a few. Chip doesn’t mind, though, and like Mario, Chip never quits. He’s always ready for an adventure!

chip01 The main object of many of the levels is to collect enough computer chips to advance through the socket (the object that looks like a filmstrip) and get to the goal (the blue swirly square). For the most part this is easier said than done. I’ve played Chip’s Challenge for over 10 years (though not continuously) and I’ve still never finished it. To make things even longer, a group of Chips fans has used the Chip’s Challenge Level Editor to make new stages, including a second level pack for the game.

While most of the levels are puzzle oriented, there are some that require no chips to be collected and are either a mad rush to get to the finish, or involve pushing blocks of dirt through narrow hallways to get them to a waterway, in which you must build a land bridge to cross a moat (level 18, for example.)

Chip has eight power-ups at his disposal, although he must find them first.

key-blue key-green key-red key-yellow The first four power-ups are simply keys that open doors in the level. Nothing too special, except one key: the green key. This key is the god of all keys. One green key can unlock a thousand green doors without breaking a sweat.

chip02 

Mario upgrades his power by eating poisonous mushrooms, dainty flowers, and maple leaves. Mega Man gets power-ups in the forms of various weapons that can be equipped. For Chip, however, power is all about the shoes you’re wearing.

shoes-fire Fire boots, which would be really nice in level 10, allow you to fall into a burnin’ ring of fire… and walk away safely.

shoes-flippersFlippers allow you to swim through the water, and without them Chip can’t even float. He’ll sink like a rock and drown himself in even a kiddie pool.

shoes-iceWalking on ice isn’t incredibly deadly to Chip, but without skates he finds it incredibly difficult to walk in any other direction than the way he stepped onto the ice.

shoes-suction Chip will have a lot easier time navigating his way through a maze of force floor tiles (they’re like ice, but you can sidestep off of them) if he gets suction-cup shoes.

chip03

To conclude, Chip’s Challenge is a wonderful and simple puzzle game. Some of you may already know about it and love it, but I’m guessing the majority of you haven’t. The music gets a little an
noying since there are only two midi files that run through every level, but a little-known fact is that if you have canyon.mid or a different midi file named canyon.mid in your \Windows\ directory, the game will include it as well as CHIP01 and CHIP02. You can replace the two CHIP midis with whatever you want too.

Where can you get Chip’s Challenge? You can buy it from Amazon as part of Microsoft’s “Best of Entertainment Pack,” (if you have $200 to burn) you can get a clone of the original game, you can even find it on the best mobile gaming system ever as a free ROM. The copyrighted Microsoft version I’ve featured in this post is available as well, and while I actually own the Windows Entertainment Pack, you can download it for free from my favorite old games site, right here.

Anyone else played this game and like it? If so, I’d like to hear from you in the comments!

Until next time, friends.

Has anyone seen my tooth?

msi0

First off, I love my MSI Wind U100. It was easily one of the best purchases I made last year, because even though it isn’t a do-it-all mobile powerhouse, it plays back HD video stunningly, it runs ZSNES, it boots in under a minute, it runs Windows XP, what more could you ask for? Well, Bluetooth for one thing.

I went to Best Buy on a cloudy Saturday morning near the end of last January, intent on buying a netbook. I went straight over to the Asus EEE PC display, expecting to buy one on the spot, no questions asked, however, of the three EEE display units, the first one wouldn’t turn on, the second was extremely slow (probably because it was loaded down with Best Buy’s demoware), and the third shut off a few minutes after I unplugged it from AC power. I asked one of the employees if there was anything better, and they showed me an HP with a solid state drive, but way back in January of 09 SSD’s were expensive and extremely low capacity (8gb? Good for an iPod I guess, but not for a computer.) So finally the store employee showed me the MSI Wind U100, with a whopping 160GB HDD, 3 hours of battery life, B and G Wi-Fi, and what appeared to be Bluetooth capabilities. For only $249, it was a better deal than anything else on the shelf, so I ended up getting it. When I unboxed it, I smiled as I looked it over, there were all the lights on the side… Power, the three locks (cap, num, scroll), power indicators, wireless, and Bluetooth.

msi1

So after a while of messing around with all that this great machine could do, I decided to see if I could hook it up to my Samsung SGH-D807 and transfer some tunes. The manual said to press the wireless button a few times in rapid succession to turn on Bluetooth, but all it seemed to do was flash the wireless light. At that time there weren’t any posts in the forum that could help me, so I was pretty confused. My Documents folder on the Wind had a “Bluetooth Transfers” folder in it, the device manager found a Bluetooth device on the system even, but I couldn’t activate it. I kept getting weird errors, and things were just not working.

msi2

Do you not see Bluetooth clearly listed here? It’s in the device manager, and it states that it is “working properly.” But oh no, what’s this? Where is it working? We’ve got an unknown location, here! This is certainly suspicious. I was stumped… that is until I recommended this very same model of netbook to my friend Kevin. He bought it and was extremely impressed, and one day he brought it into school with him and I took a look. His U100 had a 9-hour battery, a case, and if you pressed the wireless button twice, the Bluetooth lit up like no big deal. He bought his at Best Buy as well! Why is my machine so less capable? I tried to figure it out, and realized in the end that he had paid $50 more for his netbook than I had for mine. I hadn’t known of the existence of another model, but I guess MSI made two versions, one that was underpowered like mine, and the other which was the full U100 at the time, but used the exact same case, software, and manual in both versions. Here I was lead to believe that the machine I was buying had Bluetooth, but instead I find out my machine just had an empty LED spot that will never light up, and software for a Bluetooth device which isn’t actually present in my system. It’s false advertising! Imagine if Microsoft did this in the different Windows editions, making all the options screens the same as in Windows 7 Ultimate. Take the Starter edition, for example, which doesn’t have Aero. Suppose when you went into display properties, the Aero option was available, but when you tried to enable it it just gave you weird unexplained errors. Or you tried to launch Bit Locker or configure Home Premium as an RDP server and you got a blue screen or it unexpectedly quit. Microsoft could never get away with that.

In the end, I went to the forums a month or so later and found out that Bluetooth is an optional feature, and that if you didn’t see a Bluetooth MAC address on the box you didn’t have it. Best Buy advertised Bluetooth on the sticker, though, and you don’t really see the box until you ask an employee to go grab one out of the back room, and by that point unless you’ve done some prior research and know to look for a Bluetooth sticker, who’s going to know to check the box for a MAC sticker?

It’s frustrating, but it’s life.

The elusive audio controls

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If you’re like me and you’re into recording sound, you’re probably well-aware of the king of all inputs on your computer’s internal mixer, the all mighty “What U Hear” (no joke) mixer. True to it’s name, the What U Hear mixer records everything on your computer, including your voice, whatever music you have playing in the background, audio from a game, annoying popup sounds alerting you of new emails, and as many microphones as you can plug into the computer. It can save you hundreds of dollars, as instead of buying a mixer you can just get a few cheap USB mics and still be able to have your speaker audio heard through all the chaos. Only problem with this wonderful mixer? It doesn’t appear anymore in Windows 7.

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Why is this? I mean, look… there it is in Windows 2000! It was always there.

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Here it is in Windows XP! How about Vista… is it there?

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WHOOP! There it is! Why is this NOT in Windows 7? I know that I have a sound card capable of handling this mixer, and it baffles me why it isn’t here. Don’t even start with drivers, as I’ve gone back and found the original Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE disc and installed the original drivers. No luck. I updated them to the ones on Creative’s website, no luck. I’ve installed a separate community driver pack that is supposed to include this mixer, no luck. I’ve tried third party programs, but they aren’t the same, and I don’t want to pay $30 for the same functionality I bought this sound card for in the first place. Besides, virtual drivers are a pain.

Another thing… why did Microsoft gimp the volume control so much in Windows Vista/7? Having a full array of volume controls was such a great thing in previous versions of Windows. Also, to add insult to injury, what in the name of love did they do to sound recorder?! Look at the sound recorder of old… just take it in for a second:

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So many features, so much to do. This program is so great! How could Microsoft possibly go wrong with such an old and time tested program? What could they possibly remove?

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Everything. Look at how crippled this new sound recorder is. I even expanded it for you to see. You’re looking at every function this new program can do. It can start recording. It can stop, it can save, and it can view help. How did this happen? What went wrong? I guess they wanted to make it simple, well at least you can’t get any more simple than that. Apple, you may have won the world record for the shortest instruction manual (for the original iMac), but along comes Microsoft making something even shorter and simpler.

You can make some amazing stuff with the old sound recorder and the old volume control and the freaking What U Hear mixer. It’s not only for recording from YouTube and recording copyrighted radio mixes. Give us a break.

And yes, I know there are ways of enabling What U Hear on Windows 7. I just don’t think it’s going to be possible with my hardware. This is an age-old computer, and if I really want to record a stereo mix I can always use my netbook running XP. Remind me to talk all about the manufacturer of my netbook and Bluetooth sometime, but for now, that’s it.

A classmate in my Government class thought I should have a blog if I didn’t have one already in which I just rant about things, and it’s going pretty well thus far!

War of the Files

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I’ve made a lot of progress in Earthbound over the past few weeks, but I have one problem: I keep forgetting to save. Actually, I do save quite often, but every time I boot up the game I’m back outside the Cave where I need to beat Diamond Dog again. Strangely, although I can’t save, save states work just fine, so what is going on? Is ZSNES broken? Not exactly. I figured it out just this morning when trying to rename an old folder:

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Hmm… Administrator permissions, eh? Am I not the owner of my own files?

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No. I’m not. In a quest to find out who owns my files, I decided to go back in time a year, and found out the shocking truth:

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Turns out, my XP account was the owner of all the old files on my data drive, and Windows 7 wasn’t allowed to write my save game data to disk because of this fact. Ugh >_> this is exactly like when I forget to deauthorize my “5th” computer on iTunes, reinstall, and find out that 5 non-existent machines are authorized and I can’t play any music until my “Deauthorize All” resets in half a year from now!

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(Ok, It’s never gotten to that point, but you understand what I’m saying.) What if Microsoft did this type of thing with Windows, in which you must de-activate Windows to activate it somewhere else instead of tying it to the BIOS? People with a copy of Windows they couldn’t boot would need to buy a whole new copy since they couldn’t run the de-activator!

Luckily, I discovered Grooveshark just a few weeks ago, and it solves all my music problems.

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It’s like Lala, in that you can search for and play individual songs, but there’s no limit on how many times you can play a song. It’s also like Pandora, in that you can turn on a “Radio” feature that automatically queues up new songs based on the ones you are currently listening to. Another Lala type feature it has is uploading your own music to be played on the Grooveshark site. They do all of this for free, but also have VIP services I haven’t yet tried that are extremely cheap ($3 / month).

The final program I have to share with you today is Windows Live Writer, which writes blog posts exactly as they will look when they are published.

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Needless to say, it does this very well. I’ve always been a bit untrusting of Windows Live due to the fact that I never much liked Internet Exploder. Many of the people I do computer work for use IE 6, and many of these same people end up buying programs like “Virus Heat 3” ._. The Windows Live programs, however, are amazingly better than expected. I used to use Thunderbird, but after I switched to the Windows Live Mail desktop app, I’ve found it does everything I need to have done just fine. I’ve never been a fan of Outlook, but since I use IMAP and store all my mail on the server anyway I have nothing to worry about when changing mail programs.

Let’s end with a news story… anyone hear about this sad story in the news yesterday? Turns out it was all a big lie.

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This girl wasted over 50 police and detective hours with a LIE. I thought the story seemed just a bit strange when she was completely unharmed.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Probably won’t be so many things to share next time, whenever next time happens.