Jumping on the Bed!

The continuing blog on anime, games, movies, computers, college, and life in general

CyberCrystal and the Battle of the Credit Cards

Hello Credit Card Debt

That’s it. I’m done. Finito. Yay! A year and a half ago I had over $3,600 in credit card debt from three or four cards. It was a problem, and I can admit that now. Now that it’s finally over. Sabrina was kind and gracious enough to develop a plan for me. She picked up a Discover card with a large limit and no interest for balance transfers for a year. The catch was that if I missed any payments, the card would charge interest on everything. On top of that, I also had to save money for rent which I had never done before either so I was really scrimping when I could. Sabrina had to ride my ass a few times throughout the ordeal, but it has literally paid off. Thankfully I also have a job that allows me to cut out the unecessaries, pay off my bills, and eat as well. Fortunately, I didn’t have to offer any painful sacrifices. Do I really need a new video card? No. Do I really need to eat out every week? No. Did I need to buy that series of Anime titles? Not unless it was absurdly on sale. Do I need that new video game? …maybe.

Okay, so I splurged every now and again but when it was all over and done with, I felt something that I never knew was missing. Freedom. It was impossible to feel the drain on my life when I’d been living with it for well over a decade. I used to be extremely embarrassed with my financial situation, even when I knew things were getting better. There is a lot of stigma around personal finances in our society. I remember hearing a conversation on NPR a couple of months ago that more people know about their friend’s intimate lives than they do their financial bearing. And to me, in this country, is terrifying. So it goes “guns and violence” before “love and intimacy” and then finally “money”. You know, for being part of the “Civilized World”, I get the feeling that we’re completely screwed up.

At my parents’ a couple of weeks ago, while rebuilding their computer, I watched the movie “Maxed Out“. I was uncomfortably re-assured that what I had a feeling was going on, actually was. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. That banks aren’t looking people who know about banking, they want the sales people from the Mall. They want people to sell “add-ons” at the bank. Selling CDs and new accounts, and loans, and mortgages, etc. It is a really good watch if you’ve got 90 minutes here or there. They push credit cards to college students knowing full well that the students will never make the payments to stay ahead of the interest rates. And that those “Instant Cash” advance companies generally owned by the largest banks in America, just to make more money with grotesque interest rates they couldn’t get from their tellers at the regular establishments.

It really brought things home for me that I think needed to be. Kind of like the final nail in the coffin so to speak. Now, the only credit card that I’ll use is the one tied directly into my checking account. I really don’t want that over my head any more. No thank you. I very happily shred all of the credit card applications that come in the mail saying, “Sorry, you’re not going to get any of my money. I’ll pay cash, thank you very much.”

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Ubuntu Tip – Hiding Mounted Drives on the Desktop

Ubuntu Crystal

One of the things that Mancer was looking for a while ago was the ability to remove his mounted “Windows” drive from his Ubuntu desktop. Sadly, it wasn’t much of an issue for me so I didn’t really look into it that much. Now, I need to hide the mounted folders I have on my desktop at work so I did the digging and here’s how to do it!

Open up a terminal or press “<Alt> – F2″ to open the “Run Application” window and type in:


This will open the Gnome Configuration Editor. From there drill down to /apps/nautilus/desktop/volumes_visible and uncheck the box to the right. You can also toggle the “Computer”, “Home”, “Documents”, and “Trash” icons to your liking as well. Looks like there’s a whole slew of things you can mess around with in there. Have fun, but be careful!

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Nero Linux 3

Nero for Linux

I know I’ve been promoting open-source and legally free software for a while but I thought this might interest those on the fence of using linux as an operating system. Nero has recently released Nero Linux 3. Essentially take everything you like about the core Nero Burning Rom application (namely burning cd’s and images), remove all of the crap they stuff into the Windows release (nero home, nero recode, nero picture player, nero back scratcher, nero kitchen sink, nero label designer, et cetera…) and you’ve got Nero Linux 3.

Using a 64-bit OS? No problem, you can get 64-bit Nero or it’s 32-bit little brother. It comes in both RPM and DEB packages which most flavours of linux support so nobody should be left behind, the download is only 14Mb so it won’t tax too many internet connections. Oh, and it supports both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray if you have the means. All of that for $25.00.

Personally I’d say that’s a pretty damned good vote of confidence for linux coming from the Nero team. As a big proponent of open-source and free software I feel kind of odd having Nero on my Ubuntu box, but I also secretly feel a little more comfortable with it there. Kind of like a safety blanket if you will. Having used Nero for… well… since version 2.0(win), it has always been on every single windows machine I’ve had.

So to answer your question, Mancer, yes. I’ve found a way to erase re-writable discs in Ubuntu. Thank you, Ahead! er… wait. Whatever happened to their name?

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Virtual Box


It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have spent most of the day happily moving my development machine away from the Dell Optiplex 320 (Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Gz, 2Gb PC4200 DDR2) to a new Dell Optiplex 740 (AMD 64 X2 Dual Core 4600+, 2Gb PC5300 DDR2) because all of last week while I was programming an RMA database / interface for work the damn thing kept crashing on me about five times a day. Needless to say quite frustrating! Basically I jammed Ubuntu into it with a LILO shoehorn and it had been kind of quirky running 64bit apps. It’s actually a known problem that Ubuntu (or parts of Ubuntu) don’t play well with the 320’s at all.

We received a replacement 740 in today and I said screw it! I need a system that’s not going to crash on me. So I took a spare SATA drive, replaced the pre-installed Windows drive with it, installed Ubuntu with the smexy Ubuntu 7.04 AMD 64 Desktop ISO I burned a couple of weeks earlier and loaded it up. Installation was nearly flawless. The only thing I had to do after installing the restricted nVidia drivers for my GeForce 7300 LE was to add “1440×900″ to my available resolutions and set the monitor refresh rates to play nice with the sleek HP w1907 Sabrina helped me pick out. So now I’ve got a perfectly working Ubuntu box up and running with Beryl and an Audigy kicking out the tunes. No crashes yet!

Right now I’m in the process of copying the data from my old computer to the new one and I wanted to pass along a great new find. I’d been using VMWare’s Virtual Server and Virtual Machine software for a while now, either running linux on Windows or Windows on Linux and thought that I would try something else. VMWare charges money for most of there stuff, and it’s huge (100+Mb or so). Innotek has just released VirtualBox 1.4.0 for not only Windows, and various Linux distributions, but for Mac OS X as well. On top of that they have compiled both 32bit and 64bit versions of it! Even better. It’s free, it’s open-source, and it’s only 15Mb. So now I can test out virtual networks and servers for my fun little projects without the possibility of crashing the entire current domain. A concept the current database “administrator” has yet to grasp. The kind of person who will allow duplicate records in the database because she’s too lazy to clean them up. <twitch>

More tomorrow!

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ACen 2007 – Rocky Beginnings


So far, so bad. Sabrina and I paid $41.50 for our “early registration” weekend badges back in the middle of March. That’s almost two months ago. We paid an extra $1.50 to have them mailed to us before the convention so we wouldn’t have to wait in hours of lines to get our badges. Great idea, but in true ACen fashion, they completely fuck it up.

Sabrina was lucky and got her badge yesterday. Me? No such luck. We waited to leave town until the mail showed up today thinking that my badge would be here. Not at all. So we’ve waisted time in town for essentially nothing.

What is ACen’s solution? Raping us for another $5.00 when we get there to wait in line with all of the other people who didn’t get their badges in time. Wait. So we get to pay extra for something they screwed up? Glee! ;( “Oh, but the $5.00 is refundable when you return the envelope with your badge in it if it ever shows up.”

One question. How the FUCK does that make ANY FUCKING SENSE?!! So they’re charging us extra money just to refund it later? Doesn’t that seem like an ass-load of extra work? What The Fuck?!

Since the website (www.acen.org) Has veritably NO useful contact information, I did some research for anybody who wants to try and get a hold of them.

Midwest Anime Promotion Society: 1-847-268-4589

I sent an email to regsupport@acen.org three days ago, but did not receive any sort of response.

There is a line specifically for people who didn’t get their badge in time. Problem is it’s only open until 9:00 tonight, and we’re not going to make it to Chicago by then. So I have to get there at 7 fucking 30 in the morning to fight it out.

I get the sinking feeling that there are going to be hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are going to get screwed from this deal. I don’t know what they had in mind, but they are losing people.

This person at least. ;(


Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

Fear of a Blank Planet

Pretty simply, I really like this album and nearly as much as I liked In Abstentia. IGN has a much more eloquently written review of it than I could. My brain is still a bit fried after the drive from Kalamazoo back home.

Sabrina gifted me the DTS version of Deadwing and I loved the 5.1 surround mix. Fear of a Blank Planet was also released in two versions, the normal CD, and a Special edition that has the CD, a DVD with 5.1 and enhanced 24bit Stereo recordings, and a booklet. It’s times like these I wish I could plunk myself on the couch, turn up the receiver and zone out for a couple of hours without bothering the people living below me.

I think there are three basic PT camps. Pre-In Abstentia fans, Post-In Abstentia fans, and the one where I set my tent up, All-of-the-above. I love damn near everything PT has released. I enjoy the psychedelic rock segments and find them absolutely grand to program to, rockin’ with my headphones on, coding away. And I really enjoy their more modern progressive rock tracks that sneak into the mix as well.

If you get a chance to sample them at all (not just 30sec clips, but whole albums), I would really recommend giving them a shot. They could be the greatest band you never knew about. I’d never heard about them until I picked up a demo for In Abstentia from work, and I was immediately hooked. Imagine my surprise when I found out they’ve been releasing music since for the past 20 years. So if you like what you hear, there’s quite the library to dig into.

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Welcome Ubuntu 7.04 Sexy Software

Ubuntu 7.04

Ubuntu released 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) on the 19th of April, and after waiting hours in queue to download the installation disc I gave up and went with my usual practice of obtaining it through various sources. After installing it fresh on my development machine at work (a 2.8Ghz P4 with 512mb ram), an HP Compaq NX9010, and upgraded by Edgy at home on my home built Athlon 2600+, I have to say that I am very impressed.

Of the more important features that were added I am geeked most about quad-core cpu support, built in 3D Desktop which in most cases just works but I prefer the Beryl Project myself, a much improved codec support, and all of the fun bells and whistles you would expect such as no viruses, no spyware, Firefox, OpenOffice 2.2, media players, etc.

Now for the kicker. Dell has announced they will soon be offering Ubuntu 7.04 on a select line of its Desktop and Laptop machines. So you have the world’s fastest growing Linux community, and the world’s largest PC hardware retailer joining forces. There is a news post here, and the official Dell statement with video interview with Mark Shuttleworth himself here.

My two cents… I am optimistic that this could be huge. When more people have Ubuntu on their machines, it is much more likely that the hardware manufacturers (Ati, nVidia, Creative, etc) will release linux drivers for their products. The best scenario would be those manufacturers releasing their source code and allowing open-source drivers to be created. That aside, when more hardware is supported, the software is not far behind. I am, of course, referring to games.

Transgaming is doing an alright job of enabling Windows based games to run on Linux with varying degrees of success, but it just isn’t quite right. Valve, iD, Bethesda, etc will need to start making games to install natively on Windows and Linux. I personally can’t wait to be running Elder Scrolls V and Guildwars 2 on my dual 16-core xeon rig in five years.

Until then, I will very gladly share my hard drive with my two operating systems. My gaming OS (WindowsXP), and my do everything else under the sun OS (Ubuntu).

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Ubuntu – RIP Breezy Badger


On April 13th, 2007, Canonical ended official support and security patches for Ubuntu 5.10 codenamed “Breezy Badger”. I can’t believe it’s already been 18 months since I first tried Ubuntu.

I wish I could say that once it was on my system, I never looked back. The truth is that after I dropped Mandrake (now Mandriva) for it being a pain in the arse, I have waffled between Ubuntu and Windows XP. I even dated Suse for a few days, but was not impressed. I really enjoyed Breezy, and I even picked up a few of the free installation discs from Shipit. I appreciate the Gnome desktop much more than I do KDE, but that’s all a matter of preference.

I think the biggest draw to Ubuntu is it’s user base. They’re competent, they’re growing, and most importantly they’re friendly. Whenever I have a problem, I simply google “ubuntu” + whatever it is I need help with. 99% of the time, the answer was graciously offered by some other Ubuntu user. I also tried to play with Compiz, but spent most of the time reinstalling corrupted installations than using the 3d desktop, so I gave up on it for a while.

These days, I have Ubuntu 6.04 (Dapper Drake) running the FTP Server at work, and installed it on a separate computer we’re going to stick on the edge of the firewall as an Intrusion Detection System. I have 6.10 (Edgy Eft) and Beryl on my 2nd machine at work for most of my coding tasks, and I have Edgy running as the primary partition at home. I even got Mancer to agree to use Edgy for his internet use and to boot into Windows only for gaming. Near as I can tell, he’s been pretty happy with it. I know I have.

So for now, I bid a fond adieu to the gateway OS that has offered millions of people the vision of what the world could be like. Think of it as Open Source with Open Hearts. ^_^


Yay for programming work!


Busy ass week. Wow. First, my raise will take effect for this week’s worth of work. I’m getting a whole dollar an hour more! It’s still about $5 less than I should be making an hour, but that’s still another $120 a month I can use to pay off bills, save up for sparklies and computers, and you know… food.

Secondly, I have been approved essentially “Unlimited Overtime” to bury myself in PHP code to make a quoting module residing on a separate server to tie into our FileMaker solution. Yay! Plus, if I can get this done by the end of the month, I’ll get some “Serious change” as a reward. Kick ass! Bigger shinies! Faster computers! XD

So yeah, I’ll be a little worse for the wear the next couple of weeks working from 9:00am until probably 11:00pm or later. What’s even better is that I get to tell all the helpdesk requests to back off while I’m working on the project! So very, very happy! XD

This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Time to show these guys what I can do.

<rolls up sleeves> Yosh!


Puzzle Quest

Puzzle Quest: Undead

I love simple games. What’s more, I love when the simple games we used to play as children grow up with us. Sometimes it doesn’t work very well, and sometimes the results are down-right brilliance.

Take the simple premise of tic-tac-toe and expand it. The 3×3 playing field now becomes seven times larger at 8×8 which gives the opportunity to do a whole lot of fun strategy back into the game. Then instead of the same old connect three, wipe them away, repeat. Connect four for some sort of cool bonus. Give an awesome reward for connecting five to hook the player with a little mini goal. Now you’ve taken a great simple game and expanded its world.

Sabrina introduced me to a game called Bejeweled 2 a couple of summers ago. They not only melded all of those wonderful game play mechanics, but they did the one thing that I can never resist. They made that fucker shiny. There are 64 glowing, swirling, chiming gems on the screen that beckon you to play with them in their happy little extra-terrestrial world. Not only that, but when you start a string of “combos” as gems line up and trigger other connections, the screen is awash in an orgasm of exploding gems.

The best part of the game is the “Endless Mode” that just keeps going and going, rewarding you with a wheel of gems to fill in with each level requiring more and more points to continue to the next. It’s a great way to just blow of steam at the end of the day devote 10 minutes in order to get just one more gem. Well, that level didn’t seem too long, perhaps another gem. Oooh, only two more and I get another meta-gem. I wonder what colour it will be. Next thing you know either one of two things happens. Dawn creeps up at you and you curse yourself for not getting any sleep, or your computer crashes which is the sure-fire way to know that you’ve been on the damned thing for too long again.

Infinite Interactive takes the Bejeweled concepts and wraps them all up in an RPG element. Go download the PC Demo now while you finish reading this entry. (you can thank me later)

Four coloured “mana” orbs for Water, Earth, Fire, Air, piles of gold, purple experience stars, and attack skulls are at your disposal to wage battles against your enemies. There are bonuses when you line up more than three of any one kind of item, and of course you can pull off combos which seem like utter chaos.

The PC demo allows you to build a character up to level 7. Eventually I2 will officially announce a PC version of the game, but until then it is available exclusively to the Nintendo DS, and the Sony PSP. Sabrina was very considerate and let me borrow her DS while she’s away kicking ass in college (straight A student). After playing the demo for about fifteen minutes, I knew that both Sabrina and myself would love this game, so I picked a copy up from FYE. They actually had two copies left, so I didn’t feel too bad about whorking one for us to share.

The DS game is almost identical to the PC version. The screen layout is a little different (characters are on the top screen with the battle grid and spells on the bottom) and the animations aren’t quite a smooth. Considering I had gone from a 3.2Ghz Dual-core Intel with 2Gb of ram and an ATI x600 video card to a little hand-held system, I wasn’t going to begrudge the title fewer animations. The music is quite loud, and I’ve found that I have to put it to the 2nd to lowest setting in order to hear the characters say anything, otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. Also, the music seems to be choppy. I’m not sure if it’s trying to do too much at once, or if the audio rendering engine of the DS can’t handle whatever synthesis Puzzle Quest is trying to make it do.

Otherwise the game is the same. The stylus works very well as an interface tool. I can’t even imagine how clunky it would be to use a D-pad on a PSP. I’ll stick with mouse or stylus any day. I have noticed that the game seems to be about 65% skill, 30% luck, with a 5% wtf factor mixed together when fighting enemies. There really isn’t any consistency. After getting trounced by a vampire bat five times, the planets align correctly and the sixth try has the magic and I’m able to progress in the game. That reason alone will likely deter anyone with bad luck in games, like Mancer.

There is a fun little plot to follow while you’re gaining xp’s and adjusting your skill levels throughout the game. The game isn’t linear, so if you want to go patrolling to wipe out that skeleton over and over again, feel free. Just remember that the enemies level up with you. Kind of like the worst Final Fantasy (VIII), you can be a level 50 Warrior with the best magic, weapons, and armor but be careful, that slime over has a fair chance of whooping your ass.

For people like me who may get pissed, but persevere, the game is pretty much crack in a shiny little hand-held. If you don’t have a DS, just be patient, and the full game will come out eventually. There should be some sort of “Official” announcement soon, but who knows. Judging by the scarcity of the game now it should be a surprise hit. Of course, when Penny-Arcade heartily recommends the game not once, but twice… well, lets just say that I have a feeling that it certainly won’t hurt the game’s sales.

Wherever the game gets its props, it deserves them. It’s a lot of fun, and battles can be over in minutes so you can fit a couple in during lunch, or in transit to work, or in the middle of class, or when you should be sleeping. Just remember that when you’re staring at the clock wondering how the hell it could be 3:47am, you have no one else to blame but yourself. Or perhaps the person who sent you the demo which should be installed by now, right?


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