Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review: Mahjong for Nintendo DS

What is up with the assumption that people outside Asia don't want to play real mahjong? Instead they give us this crap. This isn't mahjong. Its "Concentration" for people with brain damage. Its like buying a game called poker, but it turns out to be Indian poker, and all cards are visible, including your own.

Overall: 0/10

Saturday, June 28, 2008

stock photography sites reviewed

I decided to review the stock photography sites for my needs. I used the following keywords: computer servers, security, business, businessmen

The baseline I used was Its because its the site I'm the most familiar with and I have a subscription and bought single images with. Stockxpert has an excellent selection of images, the prices are reasonable, subscription is nice. The only thing I don't like about them is every now and then you run into an image you want but you realize its not covered under your subscription.
image and selection similar to stockxpert. Higher priced but you don't necessarily get more.
a site very much like stockxpert in selection, they don't offer subscriptions, but cheaper images if you want to download it in maximum resolutions.
a site very much like stockxpert in selection, cheaper subscriptions than stockxpert.
dirt cheap subscription up to a large (but not X-large) resolutions, but you mostly get what you pay for, but worth a look.
a site very much like stockxpert in selection, same subscription price, but cheaper highest quality single image price like
same selections as stockxpert, not limited to "subscription-only" photos,,,
I think these sites are for magazines where you need one image with a lot of x-factor that's going to leap off the page. Their pics with people have that about them, but they don't have much of a selection in the technology area. For other uses, its completely over priced. We're talking hundreds of dollars per image. And just because you're paying 1000x more, doesn't mean your images are necessarily any better. They got a lot of crappy looking photos too.

If I were to do it again, I would go with dreamstime. Their interface is not as nice, pricing and navigation is a bit confusing, but you get the same selections as stockxpert without the limitations for paying less for the subscription.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

TxEff Review: The Best Professional Flash Text Animation Effects Period

Yesterday, I spent a long long time doing manual text animations by hand. And after 3 hours, I thought it looked cheesy and not professional enough. For a minute, I thought, well, that's the limit to what I'm capable of. Then I realized, there is probably a tool out there that will do it for me, and it'll look a hell of a lot cooler than what I just spent 3 hours doing. So the first result I pull up is TxEff. And I'm blown away. Wow, I could tell immediately by adding this simple text animation, the professional look of the website will go up, instead of it going down with the animation that I did. Seeing what TxEff's competitors are, let me say now, don't even bother. The 2nd best I found to TxEff was still laughably bad. If I had to rate the similar products, I would give TxEff a whopping 10 out of 10, and the runner up a 5 out of 10. And 3rd place, probably 1 out of 10. And the rest, even worse.

Its not to say that TxEff doesn't have problems. It could use a lot of refinement if you want more than one color or formatting for a single block of text.

But for all the pain this component has caused me, it is totally worth it because its uber cool and powerful.

So here is where my troubles began. I did what everyone probably does in the beginning. Use the UI interface. Their tutorials worked great.

The first gotcha I ran into was that you couldn't apply a drop shadow or any other filter on the text unless it was encased in a movie object. Easy work around, and it probably is cleaner that way.

Then i realized I wanted different colors in my text. And unfortunately Dynamic Text (a requirement set on the text field) doesn't support more than one color. Surprise! Time for a work around.

The solution to that is to use Action Script (only 3.0 is supported for txeff) if you actually wanted to use the "render text as html" option. I found some code on the web where this guy was loading a text file, and a css file. Sounded simple, but it wasn't. The sentences were spaced too far apart. It took me a long time to figure out that you first had to A) put it in html format[p][/p], and B), you cannot ever use carriage returns. (make sure its set to multiline btw). So it worked, then I realized it didn't really work for firefox or IE7. So actually, I had gone to sleep thinking I got everything figured out, then I realized I didn't solve a damn thing when I woke up the next day. It had some strange bugs like it would not load the text until the 2nd time around in IE7. And it just would not work at all in firefox.

So I decided to work around that problem by just plugging the html text string within the Action Script. And guess what? Now the CSS styles no longer work. I lost the color, but at least it loads in both browsers.

By this time, I realize I gotta do everything via action script. No more messing around with the UI and the text boxes/drag and drop.

So instead of loading a CSS file, I figure out how to write in the css styles using the Action Script css syntax. Use commas instead of semi colons, and even though the style doesn't need to be in quotes, all values need to be in quotes. Also the style names...instead of using dashes like "font-family" or "text-decoration", you have to remove the dash and capitalize the second word. How did I figure this out? Fortunately, I googled "fontFamily" (quotes required) and I found 1 hit. A Romanian flash discussion forum. And I knew of the "font-family" -> "fontFamily" thing because I had found a page that talked about this, but unfortunately it was just unrelated information that I didn't care for at the time, and that page could not be found again. Like it never existed.

Could I have done without CSS? Probably, but I'm such a css nazi now I figured it would be worth the investment sometime down the line. Even though my guess is that txeff won't support the style I would have liked to use it for.

Next gotcha was the embedding of text. The easy embedding of letters option was no longer there (no longer using the GUI textbox) so I needed to embed the font/weight/decoration as a symbol. The sizes of the text doesn't really matter, but the family, weight and decoration matters. If you don't have that embeded, nothing shows up. After you add the font style to your Library, right click on the font, and select "Linkage". Make sure each font style has a unique Class or you'll be wondering all day why different styles like bold or italic isn't working. Make sure the "Export for actionscript" is checked. By default it isn't, and you'll be wondering why nothing appears on screen.

Another gotcha was that the css needs to be applied to the textfield, while the actual htmltext string needs to be set on the txeff object. That doesn't sound intuitive to me.

Another annoyance is that the centering is off. So for example, if I drop a movie into my timeline, the textbox would be 300 pixels to the right and 100 pixels down. You can correct this by setting the textfield x and y to -300 and -100 respectively.

Next up, there was a problem with only 2 lines of text showing up. For this, unlike what the documentation was stating, you should set the htmlText of both the textfield and the txeff object to match. Why? Apparently, you need some kind of text in there that gives it the estimate of how many lines of text there will be. And you need to do it using html syntax. So if you have 4 paragraphs in the txEff.htmlText, then you need 4 paragraphs or 3 linebreaks in the txtField.htmlText.

Next, there was a centering issue. I wanted to center my text, and the autoSize = TextFieldAutoSize.LEFT didn't do squat. To center, you must set the textfield width, height, set multiline, and lastly set wordWrap to be true. Even though there is no word wrapping that needs to go on, you still need to set it to center the text. To center the text, you have to set it in the css (textAlign).

And very last, there was a 3 second delay. When you set text on both the txtField and the txtEff objects, the 3 second delay happens before the animation started even though the textChangeDelay was set to 0. So what fixed it is to change the transitionType to "hide" instead of "show". This is a real work around. If you don't set the htmlText in the txtField, you run into the bug where the "show" transitionType only displays 2 lines. It would be nice to see them fix this bug, although, it would break all of my scripts. :)

Long story short, I got everything working, but it was a long way there. It seemed like a downward spiral one work around after another, but now I have a good reference code I could work with. If you want to use different colors and the underline, you probably should figure out how to do everything by Action Script 3.0 from start to finish. If you don't mind keeping everything in one color, then the UI works great.

A few more additions... (I keep adding to the issues list every few days)

So after doing everything listed, I realized I only had figured out how the text would fade in, but not scripted on how it would fade out. in addition to that, I'm telling it to "hide" the text when I need to "show" it to get around the only to lines being displayed bug when the htmlText property is set on the text field. So what I did was download some refrence code in their FAQ that showed how to change styles after a fade in so that it would fade out with a different style. I had to tweak it so that it would not redo the fade in, and only do a fade out, but still kept the delay. Before the fade out, you can apply the different effects for maximum coolness.

It looks like you can still run into the only 2 lines "show"ing if your paragraphs are specified a css class. So what I did was I defined the default p tag in css, and for any special stylings, I use a span (and specify a class for that) inside the [p][/p] tag. If you don't have more than 2 lines, you can specify a class for paragraph tags. Otherwise, don't assign a class to the p tag. And lastly (once again) you can still run into blocks of text where your text gets chopped off if your text box is not big enough. But you can't fault the TxEff people on this one. Although the text only gets chopped off when its showing text, and not hiding it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Software Review: MagicISO vs PowerISO

MagicISO & PowerISO are pretty much identical products, probably by the same people.

People need these products because it looks like they hired some people (more likely them selves) to upload torrents of popular software using their propietary format (so people will need their software unpackage it). Where is the proof? Well, lets see. We have had compression methods like zip and rar, and iso formats like iso and bin/cue for the lat 10+ years. Yet people posting these torrents use some format no one has heard of for what reason? It looks like people distributing warez has finally figured out how to make some money.

So why can't PowerISO/MagicISO be distributed like warez? They are, but what is funny is that whenever PowerISO/MagicISO gets uploaded, the same guys probably trying to sell the software post on the comments section and tells people not to download because it has a virus.

These guys are hilarious. I wonder when Microsoft and Adobe are gonna catch onto what is going on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

T60 wireless radio constantly switching off after vista upgrade

Within a minute, my wireless would disconnect, and switch off. What was happening was that my wireless router would be seen twice by my laptop. One with and the other one without the SSID. And once it flipped to the one with no SSID, it would obviously drop off. So after I changed the router so that it would broadcast the SSID, the problem was gone. I suspect the problem is not with my router but with the ThinkVantage Access Connections software. There is another problem with the ThinkVantage Access Connections software. It would momentarily disconnect the wireless for a split second. Which some people might not notice, but it disrupted some of my connections, most notably Synergy. So I had to change the Global Settings in my Access Connections so that it doesn't control the wireless radio.

Followup: It turned out to be my Belkin router not vista or thinkpad related. I restored the factory defaults, and then put the security settings back in, and that did the trick. What made the problem so hard to solve is that the 2 likely culprits (Vista known for "not-ready-for-primetime-ness" and thinkvantage software "buggy-as-hell-ness") weren't the causes of the problem afterall. And it didn't make sense that it only did this with my laptop. Another funny symptom was that my laptop and my desktop would crash the router whenever i uploaded anything in port 80. A bizarre problem. But that got fixed as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vista...take two

XP is officially hosed on my laptop. How did it happen? Long story short, I thought it was IRQ sharing that was causing my VGA output to a third of the screen would vertically shift a pixel for a split second. So I disabled ACPI in Device Manager, and my laptop did not like it at all. I thought I hosed the machine for good. Until I got a recovery image to actually work. everything came back, except the start menu. It would just delete any new shortcuts to new applications installed if they were not in their own folders. After that, the copy of xp has been on a slow trek to total failure. After I upgraded my Dell at my old job to Vista when it first came out, it was a miserable experience. 2 months later I quit my job there, and one of the benefits of quitting the job was not having to ever see that machine again. Needless to say, after that experience, I wss convinced Vista was the new Windows ME. The blacksheep of operating systems. Since then, I haven't touched Vista. I've been hearing how they smoothed out the rough edges, and after having scored a free copy of Vista (only pay shipping to Lenovo), I decided it was finally time.

I first tried the upgrade from XP....and after 2-3 hours, it said it couldn't find drivers for some hardware, and it took another hour and half to roll back to XP. The rollback to XP actually worked. The 4 hours of my life, I'll never get back.

So I cleared out my USB drive, dumped all my data, then did a clean format and install. No big problems yet. I don't know it like the back of my hand like I do XP. I had to disable User Account Control because Synergy (awesome keyboard and mouse sharing program) just stops working anything User Account Control intervenes. It feels as though it takes a while to startup and shut down. I actually like all the ThinkVantage stuff as it needs to be used to get the most out of Power Management, finger print, and wireless options. And to my surprise, that wasn't too hard. Its mostly automated. The first major pain was getting the fingerprint reader to work with the TPM nonsense below, which is good because its not a show stopper, but its stupid because its such a stupid problem Lenovo should have fixed years ago. Things are running smooth. It seems to eat up all of my 3 gigs of ram instantly. At least I know buying that ram didn't go to waste... We'll see how she flies.

One word of advice for MS. Improve Windows Media Player 11. Does anyone really use that crap? Undoubtably they've spent an enormous amount of money developing something that is hurt by wrong priorities. Here is what is important:

-Support for Divx and Xvid and other popular codecs. License it already. Can it even do H.264? I don't even know because I don't even bother with Windows Media Player. The automatic codec detection failure just tells me your software doesn't work.

-Keyboard navigation controls. I would like 5 second skips and 1 minute skips with the keyboard minimally. More options would be better. Don't bother trying to mimic FF and RR on the VCR. Its useless, and doesn't work for most codecs.

-Aspect ratio correction and cropping options. I hate watching videos that are stretched in one way or another. Another thing I hate is watching videos with thick black borders from top to bottom (this is where cropping comes into play).

I can say for sure that my top 3 requirements for a good video players is top 3 for a lot of people. What is surprising is that these top 3 things are Windows Media Player's top weaknesses. Microsoft just doesn't get it.

Vista Upgrade Pains: How to clear your TPM in the BIOS.


1) Activate a disabled TPM / Clear the TPM ownership:

- Power down the laptop if necessary; a reboot will not be sufficient
- Power on the laptop
- Enter the BIOS setup menu:
- Press the blue ThinkVantage button to bring up boot menu
- Press F1 when the boot menu appears
- The BIOS setup menu appears:
- Enter the "Security" section, then "Security Chip";
- Set the state of the "Security Chip" setting to "Active"
- Choose "Clear Security Chip" to revoke the current ownership
ATTENTION: This will delete all keys the TPM; Any data that has been
encrypted using the TPM beforehand will become inaccessible!
- Leave the BIOS setup menu, choose to save all the changes you made

2) Power off the laptop

3) Power on the laptop; the TPM should now be active and ready for take

If you ever upgrade from Windows XP to Vista, this will happen. You'll get some message saying when you run Client Security Solution that you cannot enroll any users for fingerprint authentication because the TPM data is from another operating system than Vista. And it instructs you to go to the BIOS to reset it. The above instructions actually worked, but this article itself was pretty hard to find. So I'm double posting it on here. Its hard to find because Lenovo's Client Security Solution seems like it gives you specific directions, but when you make it to the bios, there is no "Clear TPM" option. There is a "Clear Fingerprint Data" which when toggled to clear fingerprint data, it actually doesn't even clear fingerprint data. And it doesn't clear the TPM either. How you clear it is to set the state of the security chip to Active. Even though it is probably already set to Active. Once again, speechless on how ridiculously stupid this is. Its just text. Change it Lenovo.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Roland Garros 2008

Sharapova is out. The tournament suddenly got a little less pretty to watch. Ivanovic is still in. I've always had a preference for brunettes. Although Sharapova is incredibly tall, she has a pleasant and a bit of a mousyness look about her which makes her very endearing. Ivanovic on the other hand is beautiful but has a sharpness about her. It may be her sharp teeth that makes her look voracious like a vampire. May not be a bad thing for some people. As for other female players? No one else seems to come to mind. I have nicknamed one female player "dog face", but I'll be nice and keep those thoughts to myself.

The semi-finals for the men is a star-studded cast. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and some other guy. What happened to Tsonga? Doing a quick search on google, it looks like he's out with a knee injury. It is interesting to point out that when Tsonga beat Nadal, Nadal commented that Tsonga can't be doing what he's doing for too long. It could have been that Nadal was pointing out the way that Tsonga was pushing himself and going against the flow. Everyone is contantly talking about Federer and Nadal for the finals. Which is very possible. But lets not forget about Djokovic. He has been on a meteoric plow to the top, and he hasn't lost any momentum yet. Can he beat Nadal? Now there is a match no one has even talked about for some reason, but it will happen tomorrow.

I made an entry a while back during the Australian Open about how Nadal wears a thong to a tennis match. And some how, I get a few hundred visitors a day to my blog when people google "tennis thong" (yes I am #1 in google for tennis thongs). It seems like people (hopefully women) are either looking to wear thongs to a tennis match, or people are just looking for pictures of people wearing thongs while playing tennis. Someone take this idea and run with it. You can probably make some money.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

EliteXC is a disgrace to MMA

Get better commentators.
Believe it or not, the quality of commentators make a big difference. EliteXC didn't really have a good expert/teacher/announcer in the commentator box. Watch and listen to what the announcers were actually saying. All they do is try to talk big about something we're already seeing. And they are more interested in starting and finishing their rehearsed lines than actually talking about what is going on. It would be great if we were blind, but we are not. What Joe Rogan does is talk about:
-Something Joe spots that a lot of people might have missed. Is someone not throwing that left anymore because his hand might be broken? Is he throwing more fakes than what normal fighters do? Did a fighter do something that looked easy, but it is actually really hard to do? This makes the audience that they are watching something bigger than what is happening at face value.
-He'll talk about how much grueling training the fighters have done to up their game by joining this camp, that so-and-so also trains at. We know the fighters are tough, but hearing that they got tougher and better will tell us that we are watching a better fighter than we have saw in the past. Already liking the fighter, this just makes the money and time I'm investing watching the event more valuable.
-He'll talk about something that a fighter is trying to do (that hasn't happened yet.) Of course, having watched years of MMA, I don't need him to explain to me what is going to happen. But Joe is just validating our own expertise that we have of the sport. Since most people do agree Joe knows a good amount of MMA, it's just something he does to make us feel better about ourselves.

Have a plan after Kimbo Slice.
When/if Kimbo loses, I can't imagine a bigger abandoing ship of the bandwagon than this one. I like watching Kimbo, and hope he stays exciting, but I would never bet on Kimbo just yet. UFC has mastered the art of hyping up a fighter. And more importantly hyping up the fight. Haven't you noticed that all fights make it look like they are all making the fight personal, then after the fight, they hug each other like they just squashed all the terrible things they said about eachother? They do this because UFC tells them to. It makes the fight more exciting, and yes, there is a lot of value in watching two fighters settle the dispute. When we see two guys repsecting eachother after the fight, it makes us feel like we're watching a respectable sport. So again, create some hype by creating friction between the fighters, and tell the fighters to make it look like they have taken the insult personally. After the fight, show more than a handshake. Hug, bow multiple times, show respect, talk about how much you respect the fighter and how good of a fighter your opponent that you just beat up is. Make it mandatory, give them bonuses. All components of the hyping up to and the resolve are important. If you have one, without the other, than its worse than having no hype at all. Another thing they can do is try to sign Fedor (and match him up with Cro Cop), and let him fight his damn Sambo matches as long as he fights in EliteXC.

No women fighters.
The fight that aired tonight was not a bad fight. Guys fighting is all about dominance and respect. Guys think, "You are tough, but guess what? I am tougher and more of a superior man than you." Any guy can understand that, whether you are are a MMA fighter, or you cook for a living. Dominance and respect is the essense of all sports. Girls on the other hand, girls usually fight to scratch up eachother's faces with, pull their hair, and disfure them in any way possible. In other words, girls will fight to make the other one ugly. Beauty is a girl's most precious resource. Girls who have the will to fight like guys do exist. But they are an anomaly. It makes as much sense as female body building. What is the point when they dominate their opponent in the octagon, then they get willingly dominated at night? People watch women in MMA for the wrong reasons. People watch it because its a spectacle, not something they are going to walk away thinking, "she is the best pound for pound woman there is." Making a spectacle out of a sport you are trying to promote is never a good idea.

Put procedures in place so that Lawler/Smith fights don't end the way they do.
I was watching an awesome fight between Lawler and Smith. It could have been the fight of the year. Unfortunately, it became a mockery of MMA. Scott Smith looked fresh and apparently had no visual problems pretty much a split second afterwards. He was told he had 5 minutes, and apparently more than one person did not read the rules. It made me wonder if Gary Shaw, the commissioner that sounded like he was out of The Sopranos (yes they are in NJ), have some bets going with the mob, and since he didn't like how the fight was going, he decided to stop the fight early. It is more likely that it could be that Scott Smith wanted to take the full 5 minutes, so he was exaggerating his eye injury. A step that can be taken in the future would be to say "if you can't see, I gotta stop the fight." Then the fighter can simply say "I'm going to take my full 5 minutes, and I'll let you know because its rapidly improving." If this step was in place, things would have been very different.

Fighters should not dance into the arena.
It made me think that I was watching a show like WWE rather than a sport. Do not make MMA into a spectacle. The UFC would never let a fighter do that, let alone encourage that kind of behavior. Keep the sport respectable. Only Baroni really knows how much of a clown he felt like stumbling back into the locker room walking on the same runway he was just dancing on 2 minutes before. A lot of people hate Dana White, but what White does well is put procedures in place to really sell the idea to people who would otherwise think MMA is just a bunch of dumb people slugging it out for money, into believing that MMA is a respectable sport that involves technique, talent, and dicipline. And that the fighters are respectable humble athletes who have tons of sportsmanship and have nothing but respect for their fellow fighters. People respecting MMA is what made MMA into what it is today. By making MMA a spectacle (what's next, stage props?) we are going backwards in time. Thompson hitting the ref.....yikes. I would say this event hurt EliteXC (and definitely MMA) more than it helped.

What was the best part of the EliteXC? The Street Fighter IV commercial. I can only hope there are online tournaments and world rankings.