Thursday, December 6, 2007

Two Worlds: Challenging Oblivions Domination of the RPG World?

For a long time, Bethseda has held control of having the best single player RPG (role playing game) on xbox 360 as well as one of the best RPG's on computer. Finally a game has came along to at least put up a challenge.

Recently, I saw a game in best buy on the xbox 360 shelf. The case caught my eye so I looked into it a little further. The name was Two Worlds. Reading the back I come to find out this is a new game, very simillar to the Elder of the Scrolls: Oblivion. But wait...why would a company just make an identical game of Oblivion. Exactly. They wouldn't. So what sets Two Worlds apart? Aside from completely different storyline, Two Worlds has created an online multiplayer part of the game. Their multiplayer allows players to play in a room of 8 online to complete the storyline. It also has an online feature where you can duel other players.

Having played multiple RPGs, this pulls from my memory in two different places. The first place being Elder of the Scrolls for the vast majority of the gameplay and setup of the game. The second place being Diablo II for the multiplayer world of 8 players playing together in a free online game. Two Worlds perhaps is working to create a game combining the best "Two Worlds" of RPGs, Oblivion and Diablo II.

Pushing this type of gameplay, of course comes with some flaws in the beginning, such as online lag time. As well as, rough places in the game needing to be smoothed out. But given time, this game will become one of the greatest RPGs and will be on the same level of the Legendary games such as Diablo II and The Elder Scrolls Series.

Uncanny Valley

I was reading articles for my annotated bibliography, and I cam across one about androids. (Ishiguro, Hiroshi. "Interactive Humanoids and Androids as Ideal Interfaces for Humans." 2006 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (2006): 2-9.) I looked at some of the pictures, and my first thought: "That's creepy."

Appropriately, those pictures were in the section about the so-called "uncanny valley". The uncanny valley refers to the feeling of revulsion when you see something that's almost, but not quite, human.

The idea behind the uncanny valley is that when you look at something obviously inhuman, the slight human-like characteristics stand out, and so you empathize with it. But when it becomes sufficiently human-like, the non-human characteristics stand out, creating a feeling of revulsion.

Interestingly, I've heard people refer to the uncanny valley when talking about the movie Beowulf, which is done entirely with CGI. Personally, I think they did a really good job making the humans look human, and there are few scenes where it really sticks out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Oh the Memories

Over look at Tech Connections

and The Knowledge I Have Gained

So yea, I'll be honest, as fun as this weblogging has been for me, I have a strong feeling that I won't be keeping up my blog post after this semester has ended. I doubt I will be missed, but it was a lot of fun. I have learned a lot from this blogging experience, from learning how to write in html and how to make web pages and weblogs, to learning of all the new inventions and gadgets produced because of the exponential rate at which technology is growing and advancing.

Some of the things that I have learned as I read my fellow bloggers is the new advancements in games. I love how well video games systems have both created better versions of old games, showing some classic view of game making, while also coming out with new ideas and innovations with graphics and controls to create a new environment to play in. I love learning and revisiting old games that old bloggers have wrote about, such as Golden Sun or Super Smash Brothers.

I have also learned a great deal about computers and the Internet. I have read some good articles about piracy and music downloads, to the plethora of information that can be found through Wikipedia. I have found articles about cell phones and power that runs through them. There are articles I have come across that teach of AI advancements and robots of the future. There are articles out there about our every increasing need of new fuel sources and advancement with power efficiency. So many talk about the advancements of gadgets and everyday items.

Lastly I was able to see how far we have come in regards to how far along we were 100, 50, 20, and even 5 years ago. So many, including myself, have written about how far along technology has come and how fast the growth has come. From communication through phones and the internet to advancements in biology, chemistry, and science itself. What people envisioned the "future" to be 50 years ago is an understatement of what is here today.

Over all technology is a good thing. It challenges mankind to fix problems of the past and to solve problems that come about. It keeps people happy and makes lives for people easier. It helps the sick, the poor, the young, the old. Technology betters everyone. Does that mean everyone has to love technology? No, this is my bias opinion and I'm not preaching to the choir or anything. Just stating that without technology we would not be in such a great state if we didn't expand our knowledge and continue to push the limit.

Thanks everyone for reading, it has been a pleasure writing on this blog. I hope the best for all of you in the future and hope that technology continues to better your lives.

Peace out Michael!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

We're Living in the Future

We're living in the future.

On a message board I frequent, someone asked if we would be living in a science fiction future by 2050. But think about it, we're living in a science fiction future right now.

Yeah, we don't have flying cars, and probably never will. But look at all the 1950s predictions that we far surpassed. The black and white picture is the envisioning of a 2004 computer. My cell phone probably has more computer power than what they imagined would be possible.

Speaking of cell phones, now, they're smaller than the communicators used in the original Star Trek, and most even have voice features, so you can tell it who to call by saying their names, rather than dialing a number, like in Star Trek.

And then, the internet. A few authors came up with something vaguely like it. But I don't think any of them realized just how significant it would be. Because of the internet, I regularly interact with people on other continents, in real time. Without the internet, that would be unthinkable.

(The comic is from Questionable Content)

Unsung Technology: Paper

We use paper everyday, and yet hardly ever think about it.

Before paper was invented, papyrus and parchment were used to write things down. Papyrus can only be grown in tropical regions, and isn't durable. Parchment is expensive and takes a long time to make. That's why paper replaced those, but not why it's significant, as papyrus and parchment still work fine for writing on; the Great Library of Alexandria used only papyrus.

The true significance of paper is only realized when machinery starts becoming commonplace. A printing press works better with paper than with papyrus or parchment, and we all know the significance of the printing press.

Also, with the industrial revolution, paper manufacturing could be made to speed up the production of paper. This made paper cheap. Not just cheaper than parchment, but "an ordinary person can buy books" cheap. This improved the literacy rate and allowed for more uses of paper. For example, toilet paper. This cheapness, also allowed for paper money to be used.


I have a new addiction, and its name is Stronghold. I was introduced to the game by my brother over Thanksgiving break. It was made in 2001, and its graphics were probably state of the art at the time. Even by today's standards, they're still pretty good.

The game's concept is to build a medieval castle, and defeat your enemy. You have to make buildings to gather resources, construct walls and towers, and recruit troops. Unlike most RTS games, construction is immediate, which although not exactly realistic, it is very convenient. Most of the rest of the game however stresses realism. Unlike in games like Age of Empires, in which you spend food to get a unit, and then that unit never eats again, in Stronghold, your people need food at a constant rate. Also, the game shows just how powerful fortifications are. There is a significant for firing arrows from a height, so a small force of arches stationed on top of walls and towers can defend against a group of archers twice as large.

One of the most important aspects of the game is popularity. Your popularity determines whether civilians will want to stay and work at your castle. Civilians are necessary, because they're the one gathering resources, and they're who you recruit from if you need more soldiers. There are many factors that determine popularity. If you have a lot of food, you can give your peasants extra rations, which will make them happier. If you don't have much food, you can put them on half rations, which will make them unhappy, but will conserve what you have. Another is the tax rate, which can go from "Downright cruel taxes" to "Generous bribe". Yeah, if you're unpopular, and you have a lot of money, you can pay your peasants to work for you. I've never seen another game where tax rate can go negative. As can be expected, the higher the taxes, the more unhappy your peasants are, but the more money you get, which is necessary to recruit soldiers and build military buildings. Those are the two most important factors that affect popularity, though there are many more.

Although the game has multiplayer and scenarios, there is also a main campaign. Not unusually, but rather disappointingly, the campaign is very static. You have to win every mission, and what you do in a mission doesn't affect anything that happens later in the campaign. The plot is that a while ago, the king led a failed invasion and was captured. Then, several powerful lords rose up and divided the kingdom into their own domains. You work for a group of rebels still loyal to the king. As the game progresses, you attack and eventually defeat the various lords.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Possibly Maximizing Laptop Usage With One Cable

Recently, I have been in a search for a way to use my laptop, for it's screen, and hook up my xbox to it. For me this would save lots of space, and allow me to be less dependent when I am taking xbox. This would mean I wouldn't have to make sure I was taking a TV with me.

It took me a while searching the Internet to find anything in the area of connecting a laptop and a xbox. Then in one of my searches, I came upon an eBay page selling a 4 Pin S-Video TV to 3 RCA AV Adapter, which makes me think my idea is possible. However, for now, I can't say for sure that connecting a laptop to an xbox would work, but I am still searching. If anyone knows if this can work, or if they have tried it and it didn't work, then please tell me what you tried.

Matlab Tutorial

Bubble Sorting

Welcome back to Matlab Tutorial, last week I didn't post an article but I am back this week to give some more fun tips and commands. For this week, I was going to do kind of a fun program that is useful to help organize and manipulate data points. It is what some call a bubble sort. This is where all the values that you are given can be sorted from increasing values to decreasing values or vise verse. It is a simple nested for loop that can help you when you want to find the median of a data set or the mode of the set of values.

So to write this program, you must start with loading your data. If you hard code the data in your program that's fine too. Basically however you have data load it or store it as a variable. After setting a variable to it find the number of data points you will be using for the sort using some kind of length/size command. You now write a nested for loop to rearrange the values so that they are in ascending order or descending order. For my example I will put them in order from least value to greatest value. The loops with be written to tell Matlab to compare each value to the one next to it. If the latter value is less than the former, then the values switch. The first loop's index should be from 1 to the number of values you are given. The second for loop's index will go from one to one less than the number the first index is in. This is prevent the loops from going over already compared numbers that were already sorted. The final nested function in this loop is an if statement. This is where it compares the second index term of the data set to the term right after the latter. It sees if the second term is less than the first. If that's a true statement, then it switches the values. It does this through assigning the first value to a random variable name. (Which I give as SwitchX) Then the first value because the second value and the second becomes the extra, or first, value. Let's show this with code:

X = [9 10 5 3 6 7 1 4 2 8]
Length = length(X);< X(B);
for A = 1 : Length
for B = 1 : Length - A
if X(B+1) < X(B)
SwitchX = X(B);
X(B) = X(B+1);
X(B+1) = SwitchX;

That's all I got now. Stay tune for the possible LAST entry next week! Don't miss the stunning conclusion of Matlab Tutorial!

Resources: While Loop Help with Cyclismo, HTML Tags at Web Source

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A Great Game Unheard of

Carcassonne is a great game that is out for the Xbox right now. If you have never heard of it I totally understand. Until my friend showed me it, I had never heard of such a game. At first it is a little difficult to get used to, but after you know how the game works it is amazing!

Carcassonne is a strategy type game. It is apparently a really old-school board game that is played in Europe. At least that's what my friend has told me. Anyways, the game is straight forward. The point to the game is to play with little square pieces of land that you and your opponents take turns putting down on a board. The goal is to earn the most points based on what pieces you get, where you place them on the board, and what areas of land you own.

There are a few different types of properties or territories that you can own on the potential pieces. One property that is on almost every piece is the farm land. It is any empty plot of grass that is on your piece and any plot of grass that touches your grass area. You earn points with this territory by having a lot of farmland connected and touching other types of property, such as cities. The second type of property is a city. It looks like dirt when the city is incomplete, but it eventually creates a small village looking thing once the property is bounded. You score points when your city is very large, It must be completed when all edges (indicated with a boarder) are connected. A third territory that is on the pieces is the roads. The roads you own add up as they are connected to other pieces. The roads end with little bush/forest markers. The last and most rare type of property is the monastery. It is the best territory to own because after 8 pieces surround the monastery you get a a butt load of points, the most the game offers. But they don't come up that much, so use them wisely.

On your turn, you will have options of where the piece you are given can be added to the board. The pieces must be fit in a certain fashion, so you can't just add anywhere. You have to pay attention how you play the pieces because you may restriction future placements that you desire. Some of these invalid moves are connecting road pieces to a non road, a city piece with no boarder to one with a boarder, etc.

You try and find ways to better yourself or even screw over the other opponents when it comes around to your turn. Sometimes you get a piece that you can't use to your advantage, so you can use it to cut off opponents territories or prevent them from playing a piece of their choice to help themselves.

The game ends when you run out of pieces to lay down on the board. After adding up the points, the one with the most wins. Again is very simple and easy to learn. But the game gets very addicting and competitive the more you play it. If you ever come across the game, don't let it out of your sights. You won't be disappointed with Carcassonne.

Sources: GameSpot

Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Friday: Is The Crowd Worth It?

As I mentioned, this is the first year I have had the chance to experience Black Friday. The only store on my agenda was Best Buy, seeing that they had deals on the things I was interesteed in. Such things included Christmas presents of movies for loved ones, and even TV series for myself. Not to mention a number of other things I wanted to take a look at.
Friday morning I got stuck around my house and couldn't leave until about 5:50. I was already 50 minutes late for the time the doors opened. But this didn't really matter, I wasn't interested in the same things people had camped out the night before to get. I simply wanted movies, and I wanted the movies cheap. So I was in the right place even though I was late. Being 50 minutes late made me realize I wanted to park about a half mile away in a restraunts parking lot, instead of sitting in a traffic jam for hours.

I walked to Best Buy, and quickly found my way to the movie section where they had what I was in search of. The Family Guy 4rth season for 15 dollars. A great deal. I then browsed around the rest of the store for a while looking to see if there were any other great deals present. I failed to find anything even worth considering, except a 500 GB external hardrive for 100 dollars. I passed this up for the simple reason I don't need one just yet, and I have seen deals like that on the internet.

With my movies in hand, I headed to the checkout line, which was just about the length of the store. This was a little disappointing, because I thought Best Buy could've done more to make the line move faster. I knew I had to have patience, so I just waited in line thinking of the few dollars I was saving.

Some people may not think the crowd is worth waiting in line and getting up early. Which in fact depending on what you are looking for, it might not be. But to me, I had nothing better to do, and I had patience, so I was willing to stand in line to save a few dollars. Black Friday is worth the wait and crowd only if you have the patience to stand in line for a while.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Out of Service

I never understand cell phone service. First of all, my cell phone, made back before the cool pictures phones and flipping action, can never seem to decide when it wants to have a connection. It always decides to have a few bars here or there on some occasions, yet those same places the next day may not have any bars. I get service in my basement but not on my front porch. What the heck!? I don't get it. I will be with my friends and they all will have full service on their cell phones but I won't have any. It never seems to work for me. What is it? is it my provider T-Mobile, or is it my my cell phone itself? I hope no one else has this problem using T-Mobile...

PS: I didn't turn this in by Saturday night, but I still got it in my the weekend. Sorry for the inconvenience, but this is my blog for the Thanksgiving break.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giant Bugs

Imagine a world where bugs rule the world. They are bigger than you, stronger than you and aren't afraid of you. There are no fly swatters big enough to smash these bugs.

Now I know that this sounds like a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids but at one point in history, bugs were much bigger than they are today and paleontologists have proof in the form of giant fossils.

Recently, paleontologists have found more exciting evidence of giant bugs. The fossil of a giant sea scorpion was found in Germany. It was eight feet and some change long and had claws that were 18 inches long. Before this discovery, they knew that bugs used to be very large but had no idea that they could be larger than humans. In fact, this bugger is a foot and a half larger than the largest previously known sea scorpion.

Paleontologists think this giant bug remained only in the water. It was very large and had legs, but they were too small to be useful for walking on land, as you can see from the picture. They believe that the legs were used for catching prey. The sea scorpion was at the top of the food chain when he was alive. He'd eat anything from small armored fish to smaller sea scorpions. The reason he was such a big head was because the fish he ate were still jawless. There wasn't much to provide competition to the giant bugs.

Today, the biggest bugs are lobsters and spider crabs.

Wow, this really blows my mind. I don't know about you, but I have nightmares about giant bugs attacking the house. It's really mind boggling to think about how these giant bugs actually existed and not all of them were water bugs. There were giant sized cockroaches and dragonflies too. I'm glad evolution led to them being smaller because it'd be a really harsh world if we had to deal with the giant dragonflies landing on the car while trying to get to work.

Thanks National Geographic for the picture and the content.

Technology Madness: Black Friday

One day in the year people go completely crazy for electraonics, appliances, make up, clothes, and just about anything you can think of, for a few hours in the earliest part of the morning. People call this day Black Friday. This is the day after thanksgiving. Practically every store possible discounts every possible item, in order to attract buyers in the kickoff of what is considered to be Christmas season shopping.

I have heard of this event before, but I have never wanted to participate in it. This year will be different though. This year me and some of my friends will be going to two of the major electronic stores in search for a xbox 360 and a laptop, mainly. I'm sure we will find a lot of other items to get while we are out. Find out later about a more detailed experience of Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Open Source Software

Suppose you were using a program you liked, and you found a bug in it, or thought of a useful feature to add to it.

If it's proprietary software, that made and sold by companies like Microsoft, you couldn't really do anything. Maybe write them an e-mail, but you couldn't really get anything done.

But if it were an open source program, you could download the source code (for free, the same way you got the program itself), modify it and then upload it so other can benefit from your work.

Open source software also promotes good programming technique. If you know no one else is going to look at your code, you might just not bother making it readable, making it hard to change in the future. But if you're releasing it to an open source project, people will complain and be less likely to use your code if it is unreadable.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Super Smash Bros. Melee: Fox vs. Link

This is not a review of Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is a short overview of two characters. Namely, Fox and Link.

First, Link. Link has about average weight, but has below average speed. His more powerful weapon is, of course, the master sword. All of his attacks have lots of knock-back and do a good deal of damage. But, since his attacks are slow, other characters can hit him before he can hit them. Due to this, Link's main advantage is in his ranged attacks. Link has the most diverse ranged weapons of any character in Super Smash Bros. He has a powerful arrow; the longer he pulls back, the more damage it does. A quick boomerang that he can throw at different angles, and the ever popular bomb, with which he can blow himself up. With these ranged weapons, Link can hit someone from far away, then rush in and hit them with the powerful sword. Add to this his extraordinary tornado spin attack, a very fast sword attack which damages everyone around him, and Link is a very good character to use.

Next is Fox. Despite being smaller, Fox is heavier than Link, but much, much faster, and that is his primary skill, and can also be his greatest weakness. Because Fox can run so fast, it is easy to run off the edge of the stage and die. This is even easier to do with his Fox Illusion attack, in which he moves horizontally at the speed of light. Doing it to close to the edge will send him right off. In such a case, he will need to use his Fox Fire attack to get back onto the stage. In contrast with Link, Fox's only ranged weapon is his blaster. It does only 1% damage, and has absolutely no knockback, but despite this, it is extremely powerful, and that's because Fox is so quick. He can fire the blaster very quickly, and so can do massive amounts of damage in a very short time, despite the low amount of damage it causes per hit. Fox also has a reflector shield which will reflect any ranged weapon back where it came from and stun any enemies near Fox.

Staph Reborn

Bacteria are living things and sometimes I think people forget that. They can make us sick or help us live. But they are living things that can evolve just like macroscopic things can. And, because we keep trying to kill them, they evolve faster.

Staph is a family of bacteria that are very common and isn't harmful until it gets in through an cut or open sore in the skin. There, it can wreck havok. It causes skin rashes and eats away at the flesh. Usually it can be killed with normal antibiotics but a new strain has been found that is resistant.

They call is MRSA, pronouced mersa. I'm sure you have heard about it on the news a lot lately. It has been in schools, day cares, prisons and locker rooms a lot recently. Once its in the body, it kills off the cell the body uses to fight it. Doctors have been hard pressed to stop it.

But, from hard times comes great discoveries. Doctors started studying the way the bacteria kill the white blood cells and found that they make and excrete a lot of a protein called phenol-soluble modulin, PSM. They then worked to isolate the gene that makes that protein and turned it off. After the scientists figured all that out, they grew two types of staph, ones that can excrete PSM and ones that can and injected it into rats. The rats that had the bacteria that lacked the PSM faired much better than those who had otherwise.

I think that its a great thing that scientists are figuring out how bacteria kill us, and I'm not being sarcastic, but part of the reason the reason that bacteria are becoming so resistant to antibiotics is our misuse of them. We get so paranoid and use it way too much. And, the more we use it, the more resistant bacteria that come from it. I think we need to rethink how we fight infection while we still can.

Thanks Science News for the content. Again, picture posted later.

The Best for the Environment

As I have mentioned before, I interned over the summer at the EPA, which was an amazing experience. For the largest part of my employment there, I worked in mobile sources of the air department. So it's only natural that I would have to make a presentation on the different types of alternative fuels.

So here's a chance for me to take all of that and make a post.

Let me start with the most well known, E85.

E85 is short for 85% ethanol. Other types of ethanol blends include E10, 10% ethanol, and E100, only ethanol. Most cars made in the nineties and later can run on E10 because of standards set then for the automotive industries. In truth, there isn't a big difference between a car engine that can run on ethanol and one that can run on only gasoline. The biggest difference is the fittings and the lubricants used because ethanol has different erosive properties. So, is it really as good as everyone says? Not so much. Yeah, it's an alternative fuel source, but it doesn't have the energy density that gasoline has so you need more to go as far. It also emits more than gasoline does when it comes to volatile organic compounds, VOCs, and nitrogen oxides, NOX. Those are both precursors to ozone, which we don't like.

The next I'll talk about is liquefied petroleum gas, or LP gas. You may know it better when it comes out of a propane tank you use to run your gas burning grill. When a car uses it rather than gasoline, it is a lot different. Instead of normal gas tanks, the car has to be fitted with pressurized tanks that can end up being very large for what they carry. But LP gas is very high octane and runs very smoothly in a car. It also reduces all emissions, so we don't have to worry about ozone and smog when these cars are running around. I give two thumbs up for this fuel source except that there is practically no place to go fill a car up. Most LP gas cars aren't used in the US, and when it is it's for private fleets that have their own fueling stations.

The last alternative fuel source is my favorite and is called compressed natural gas, CNG. This is my favorite because of it's convenience. Just like is sounds, it is the same gas that heats the house. This fuel source is very much like LP gas in its drawbacks of giant tanks that don't carry much and the lack of fueling stations. There are also not many cars that are made that run on this fuel in the US. But it's cool because you can fill your car up overnight in your own garage. It also runs very cleanly, cutting emissions more that LP gas.

Overall, I think that, in order to bring a real change around in the US, we need a cultural change as well. People just aren't into making a new infrastructure so they can gas up their cars. Maybe we'll have change some day, but it'll take some time.

Thanks HowStuffWorks for a little content, but most came from previous knowledge.

Again, I'll have a picture for this posted later.

Genetic Testing for the Masses

Biology class was never very fun except for the labs. We got to do things like grow plants to find certain traits and make bacteria glow. The best one was when we got to separate DNA.

Of course, nothing we did would quite compare with what these people are doing out in Iceland.

For a while now, it has been possible for people to get personal DNA but it has been very expensive and only focused on a few genes. Now, due to an Icelandic company, it is more affordable and more useful to get your DNA tested many different genes.

The Icelandic company is called DeCode, and the service you can subscribe to is called DeCodeMe. It is only $985 for a subscription. You swab the inside of your cheek and send it in. When the testing is done, you can navigate a website and look at your risk to develop common diseases and other things like baldness. The good thing about the service is that you get to choose what you look at. If you want to know about your risk of balding, then you can. If not, you don't have to.

This company may have competition in the future for this unique service, which I think is only natural. And, of course, it's only natural that we have gone here as humans. I think that DNA testing is a bit extreme though. I, for one, don't want to know about how likely it is that I will develop Alzheimer's because I'd rather live the years that I have left in ignorant bliss. I don't want to know that my hair my thin either. I'll wait till it happens. But there are people out there that want to know these things. And what other markets can the economy take advantage of? With this service being this inexpensive, there will be a lot of people out there with heavy hearts, know that they may get Huntington's in the future.

Thanks MSNBC for the content. I'll add a picture later.

Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age

SPOILER ALERT! Please PLEASE do not read this post unless you've played through the first game or you don't care that much about a few spoilers. Its really hard to talk about this one without giving a bit away. Thanks ^_^

So this game picks up right where the last one left off... but you're not Issac, Garret, Ivan, and Mia anymore... Instead you play as Felix, Jenna, Sheba, and later in the game you meet the water adept Piers. As you know, Jenna is a fire adept and Sheba is a wind adept, and since I told you Piers is water you probably guessed that Felix is the Earth adept.

The game mechanics in this game are almost identical to the last except they added a bunch of really cool stuff. First off, you get instructions on how to transfer data from your old game to the new one. This is really important if you want everything the game has to offer. I won't ruin the surprise, but once you get about 75% into the game this data becomes important ^_~. Anyways, they've of course added new spells and items. In this game Jenna acts as your group healer instead of Mia, and thus gets some cool fire-based group heals. Following that, Piers becomes a main damage character, kinda like Garret, and a new one target, ice-based attack is introduced that acts just like Issac's Ragnarok attack. Felix and Sheba however maintain the same functions as their first game counterparts. About those single target attacks though... They get a really kickass boost in this game. Once Felix and/or Piers equips enough Djinn of their attribute, their attack is upgraded. Not only does it do a lot more damage, it just plain looks cool. Finally, and the biggest thing, is the addition of multi-element summons. These must be found in the world as tablets and all but the most basic are extremely difficult to get. In fact, to get the final two you have to have found EVERY Djinn in the game, traverse one of the most difficult dungeons in the game, and for the final, fight the most epic boss you've ever seen in the world of Golden Sun. The image on the right is Iris, the final summon.

The game expands to the whole world and you even get a ship after a while. The dungeons have been upgraded to make the puzzles more challenging as the game goes on, which is good news and bad. While the challenge is nice, often times the puzzles force you to walk long distances through a dungeon passage just do do one thing then walk all the way back.

As a final note, the developers added the most kickass weapon to the game I've ever seen. Its called the Sol Blade. This thing has the special attack which summons a freaking meteor from the sky, which does I think 600-700 damage if i remember right. Couple this with as much crit hit gear on the character you give it to and holy shit the results are amazing ^_^

If you liked the first game, play the second. You will not be let down.

Golden Sun

Dunno how I forgot about good ol' Golden Sun.

Golden Sun is an RPG for the GBA. The story is set in a land where people called Adepts can use the power of their minds to cast magic-like abilities called Psynergy. You also meet little creatures called Djinn which can boost or change your characters' stats and Psynergy.

The story pairs together four kids, all Adepts and follows their adventure all around the continent. The first two you meet, Issac and Garret, are long childhood friends. The opening content of the game shows them living through a disaster in their hometown and setting out on a journey to rescue their friend and mentor. Issac is an earth adept and Garret is a fire adept. This means that the Psynergy they specialize in is earth and fire respectively. Along their journey they meet a wind adept named Ivan. Ivan is a few years younger than the other two and was adopted by a high ranking merchant from a nearby town. He ends up setting off with Issac and Garret to fulfill a prophesy and hopefully figure out the mystery of who he really is. The final member of your party is met a little later as the three wander throughout the land trying to find what they're looking for. She is a water adept named Mia, and she is one of the last of an old tribe of water adepts who watches over the town she lives in.

The gameplay is really pretty easy. Battles are all turn based and you have multiple choices for each character. You can attack with a weapon, defend, use Psynergy, use a Djinn's power, use an item, or use Djinn to use a summon. Summons work with Djinn which are no longer equipped. Djinn of the same element can be stacked with each other up to 4 to summon different and more powerful creatures. Outside of battle you can use certain psynergy to solve puzzles and get around. Other than that you just run around between towns and the world map meeting people, defeating monsters, helping people out, and getting stronger. Keep in mind though, Golden Sun is only half the story, so don't be too disappointed with the ending (which seems abrupt the first time but really takes a long ass time to reach). Just be happy if you pick it up now that the sequal is already out, because I had to wait =P

Issac, the Earth adept using his sword to and unleashing it's critical hit in the form of a special attack. The characters from left to right are Issac, Garret, Ivan, Mia.

A player casting frost on a puddle of water. This will freeze the puddle into a pillar of ice that can be used as a platform to reach new areas.

The summon Thor, which can be used when you have 4 wind Djinn that you can use. Summons like Thor do more damage than any other attack in the game.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unsung Technology: The Vacuum Pump

Where would we be without vacuum pumps?

The most obvious thing is that research into how pressure and fluids work would be severely retarded. Of course, this connects directly back to vacuum pumps, as such knowledge was used to make better and more efficient pumps. But that wasn't the only thing that could be applied to. Light was known to be a wave, but it could travel through a vacuum. How light could do that was eventually explained by the theory of relativity, which is used by GPS systems.

Vacuums are also used in light bulbs. If air were in the bulb, the filament could burn, which would rapidly extinguish the light. But more than that, vacuums are necessary for vacuum tubes (quite appropriately) which were vital in early computer systems, and vacuums are required to make parts of modern computers.

Understandably, things that will be exposed to vacuum (such as parts on the space shuttle) need to be tested to make sure they won't fail in those conditions. Also understandably, it's much cheaper to test those things on Earth. That means making a vacuum by means of a pump. Without the vacuum pump, no space program, as if the lack of computers wasn't a big enough hurdle.

Lasers work by exciting the electrons of a specific, very pure, gas (what gas is used depends on what frequency the laser needs to be). Vacuum pumps ensure normal air doesn't get in. Lasers have many uses, not least of all medicine, such as radiotherapy, which is used for treating cancer.

The Wiki Challenge roomate, a friend, and I were sitting around my room this week and were looking for something to do. It was after midnight, so we couldn't do anything to active or loud, which surprisingly limited our options. After sitting there for 10 minutes or so, we decided to make up a game that we could play. We call this game The Wiki Challenge.
This game is relatively easy to play. There isn't a set number of people you have to have to play, but we had three. This meant one person had to think of a topic, a unique page on Wikipedia, and the other to had to get there. Whoever got to the page the fastest wins.

You may be thinking, ok, so what, this is boring. This isn't it though. The two people have to start out from the same completely random page, by using the link to go to a random page. Then the two must race to be the first on to arrive at the choosen page using only the blue links or the categories at the bottom.

If this isn't enough, you can make it even more interesting by wagering bets on who can get there the quickest. For example, you could make a bet that whoever loses has to wear a suit and tie the next day.

It doesn't matter how you play this game, as long as you are having fun while you play it. It is a great way to socialize with friends and maybe even learn something in the process.

Gears of War

The Quest to Survive Human Extinction

I hate being killed. That's right, I hate being shot into a million pieces. All Raam has to do is send his little kryll out and devour me into dust. For all you Gears of War fans out there, I come to you with hope of sympathy and advice. I love Gears, don't get me wrong. Killing an alien race that sat dormant underground and now you have to save the world from complete annihilation, how can you not get hooked? I have tried and tried again to defeat the final boss, Raam, on the medium setting. (I believe that is Hardcore) I had beaten him before on easy, but well let's face it, it's meant to be just that: easy. I didn't think it should be as hard as it is on medium, but I can't seem to win....

My first frustration came when my partner, Dom, would die off so quickly. I used him on easy mode as a distraction to keep Raam from attacking me with his shield of Kryll. But everytime we go into battle, he has the urge to run as fast as he can to just get mowed by Raam and his arsinal of attacks. So that leaves just me and Raam. That's never too easy. The second frustration was as to what guns I should take into battle with me. I first thought that the (sorry for my lack of gun terminology) chainsaw gun and shotgun would be best, but I never seemed to take off a lot of damage. I am aware of his Kryll shield and the fact that he is invincible to damage while his little friends circle him. But even when I get a clear shot I can't seem to take him down. Then I tried to use the sniper and shotgun, keeping with the long and short range weapon combo. But that didn't work either, the sniper rifle took too long to reload. I then tried the bow and bomb arrow with the chainsaw gun, finding that to be a popular solution online. But still no good. My third problem was the fact that he would rush me constantly, giving me no time to shoot him, I would have to run away and hide behind another barrier, avoiding death on all angles. My question is how to win. I have been patient but I still can't win. Who has the experience and wisdom to defeat such a unfair boss?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Suppose you had a product that people liked to buy, but that some people just stole from you? Would your solution to the theft be to restrict how people who legitimately bought your product could do with it?

That's what the music industry is doing with DRM (Digital Rights Management). See, with the advent of CDs and digital music to be copied and shared, and the music industry doesn't like that. So, what do they do? They put DRM technology in all the music they sell legally. Well, I suppose it's theoretically a good idea, but...

DRM is annoying. Because of DRM, I can only listen to the album Spectators by Wolfsheim on iTunes. Which is all fine and well, as long as you're not running Linux. Oh, right, I am. Why should I buy music if I can't listen to it? I might as well just download it illegally.

Another problem with DRM is that it has no time limit. Copyrights don't last forever, but DRM (in theory) does. Which means, I still won't be able to listen to those files, even after the copyright on the music expires.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Needs Mailboxes

Email: Its Good and Bad

Emails have now been familiar in the technological society for quite some time now. Starting back in the 1980's companies used Email to send data and info to one another electronically for faster and more reliable transportation. It has spread quite quickly to everyone, with so many different Email providers now, many of which are on the Internet, such as Yahoo Gmail and AIM Mail. But how great is this new medium of stationery? I will go through some of my good and bad experiences of using Email and how it affects my life.

First with the bad. The obvious nuisance to Emails is spam. With all the spam blockers and filters out there, you think that the problem of unnecessary advertisements and badgering money hounds would be solved. Overall, yes, I can say the problem is generally gone. But sometimes, it blocks too much. I remember numerous occasions where I have had Emails from family and friends that get blocked because it met some criteria for spam, and that person or persons wonder why I wasn't getting any of their Emails. I never truly lost any of their Emails, but it was hard to go through all the crap I was giving as "spam" and find what I was suppose to get. Another problem is receiving too many chain letters, either in the form of support for God or the soldiers fighting wars, to the "If you don't send this to 100 people in three seconds your family is going to be murdered by little demon children!!!!" I like the effort but it really gets old fast. Another thing that puts Email at a disadvantage to the postal service is packaging items or gifts. No matter how advanced our computers get, they will never be able to send matter through the airwaves....Sorry.

Now for the happy good things! One thing I love about Email is you don't have to remember anything about anyone you know again! You simply put down ANY information about the person in question (AIM screen name, phone numbers, addresses, schedule for school, likes/dislikes, when they sleep and wake....just kidding, etc)when you first put them into your Email's convenient address book and away you go! Another thing I like is getting funny chain letters. I get jokes from long chains of Emails from friends and family and they are quick and easy to look at and send. Having the Email system helps to at least send pictures. Those are either cute or hilarious to get sent to you, like the baby pictures or some picture of a redneck bike made of shoes. The process itself is definitely better than having to buy stamps and lick the back of some envelope.

Overall, the Email system has helped keep people informed and connected with each other longer and faster, and the system will continue to improve as technology advantages. I mean they already have Email accessible on phones now....think of where they'll be in 20 years!

Diablo: Live or Die

A few years ago, a friend of mine got me to start playing Diablo. It started out with a bit of tough love. In that, I mean my friend showed me how to play the game, but didn't give me too much advice.

Over time, I played through the game, and my friend started telling me how to perfect my characters. I had started playing the non ladder section of the game. Basically to summarize the sections of the online game, there is 4 different options, which are ladder, non ladder, hardcore ladder, and hardcore non ladder. Ladder basically gives a sense of a competition, which resets whenever Blizzard decides they want to reset it. Once ladder gets reset, the characters get moved to non ladder, which contains the accounts and characters since the game was created.

The other side of the online game is hardcore. This is where the challenge lives. This is for people who think they have mastered the game or for people who play Diablo for the game it really is. You may be saying, OK, well what is hardcore. Why is it any better than just playing the game. Hardcore means, if you die, then your character is dead, and you can no longer play on the character. Hence, it provides you with a challenge, to live or die.

Hardcore has no question of who is the best. It is a question of who is alive. Hardcore is the only part of the game where the one person on the top of the rankings, is the strongest player. For if he isn't, someone may come along and take his top spot. Hardcore makes Diablo a game of champions and a game of past champions. It is meant as the side of Diablo reserved for dueling, no matter if you are a level 9 or a level 99. Because with this dueling, in the end, one person will be dead and one will be the victor. If the players are fair duelers, they will allow the winner to loot their body, which means they have the right to take the losers gear and items. So, if you think you are a champion of Diablo, play hardcore. Live or Die.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WoW: Cont'd

Back to World of Warcraft I suppose:

WoW has always been a game that stresses individuality. To start, it provides the player with 10 different races to choose from, each with different strengths and abilities and looks. From there the player gets to choose from countless body and facial traits to make their character look unique. After looks though, the player also gets to choose from 9 different classes, and within these classes a player can choose their own unique style of play.

The 8 races are human, dwarf, night elf, gnome, draenei, undead, orc, troll, tauren, and blood elf. In addition the 9 classes include warrior, paladin, mage, warlock, priest, shaman, rogue, hunter, and druid. Within each class is a series of talent trees, each with different abilities and stat boosts that players can use talent points in. A talent point is aquired for every level gained starting with level 10. So a level 70 player has 61 talent points at their disposal. Each of these talent trees represents a different class of moves and stats that the class can have. For example, the mage has the fire, frost, and arcane trees, each tree representing the fire, frost, and arcane spells that he/she can cast. These talents often boost the effectiveness of a players favorite spells and attacks or sometimes even give the player a new ability. However, since the talents are set up in the "tree" form, the more powerful talents cannot be attained until higher levels when a player can put a certain number of talent points into the tiers below.

Wow, I just threw a lot at you didn't I? Um, sorry. I get carried away sometimes. Basically what that all means is that you pick a race, pick a class, and within that class you get to choose talents that boost your favorite moves and make you more powerful.

Class balance has always been important to Blizzard as well. Despite all the complaints posted in chats and forums around the web, the game does a fairly good job in making each class valuable and equally powerful in their own respect. The different traits of each class are also built very well around each other, and combined in the right ways, make for very very formidable teams against even the most insanely powerful bosses.

Overall the game is huge, fun as hell, and ever changing. If you have any questions about it feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to answer since out of all the games I've talked about, I probably know this one the best. I encourage you to at least dip your toe into this game. It really is a gem and a real joy to play.


Continuing with my Blizzard theme this week, I shall tackle the ever infamous World of Warcraft (WoW). I know one of my colleagues on this blog already wrote about WoW, but I'd like to give you a little more of an insider's look.

From personal experience I'd first like to say that WoW lives up to its name of "Warcrack." This game is the only thing that I will openly admit has drawn me away from homework and school enough to make my grades drop. I'll also admit that I willingly quit the game one week before coming here to Purdue out of fear that I'd flunk everything and waste thousands of dollars.

Besides all of that though, WoW is probably the greatest gaming experience I've ever encountered. Granted you have to pay montly to play, but in my opinion the money is well worth it. Blizzard provides many, many servers, to play on, and each one has its own slight difference. For example, each server can either be PVP or PVE. In PVP servers, there are certain areas where players of the opposite faction can always fight with other players. In PVE (Player vs. Environment), however, less emphasis is put on PVP and areas that would be contested or hostile in PVP are often safe and friendly as long as you don't attack the wrong NPC. Also the game itself looks stunning for a world of its size.

The game is almost never lacking in new content either. Every few months or so a new major patch comes out that releases new dungeons, quests, bosses, and items. With this constant patching of major material and not just bug fixes, even the most hardcore gamers can usually keep themselves entertained with new challenges.

Another feature of the game that is one of my favorites is the emphasis on teamwork. A player can go it alone all they want, but they will never experience any of the most rewarding and challenging areas of the game. The first step up from solo leveling and questing is dungeons. Each normal dungeon requires 5 people to team up and work together to defeat enemies and more importantly the bosses. Up from normal dungeons are raid dungeons. These are areas that can require either a team of 10 or in many cases a full group of 25. Even with a well-equipped team of 25, these dungeons can not be successfully overcome unless the group communicates well and gets along. Often times a well organized group can do better with lesser gear than the most powerful players with no organization at all.

Anyway, I think I've rambled enough for now, look for more about WoW in my next post.

Diablo II

So I've been avoiding Blizzard for a while but I can ignore them no longer, and I think I'll start with Diablo II.

Diablo II was, to be honest, my first real PC gaming experience. Nowadays its a fairly cheap game, about $20 for the main game and another $20 if you want the expansion too. Its a 3D, angled top view down dungeon crawler RPG. Wow, that's a lot to swallow. Anyway, basically you pick a class like many other RPGs. You start out at lvl 1 with very basic weapons and armor. From there you run around and kill things such as goblins, orcs, bears, harpies, zombies, bats, and other assorted evil things you'd expect. The game plays very easily too. You point and click where you would like your character to move. Also, the right and left mouse buttons are each assigned a specific spell or attack and using said attack is as easy as pointing and clicking on the enemy you want to use it on on the screen.

The real kicker about this game is the ability to play online with others. This only play along with trade amounted to a massive economy. However, items can freely become traded between people after they have been used, which after a while made too many items too widely available and ruined this system of trade. Today most people place value in runes and certain sets which are on the rare side. These runes (along with jewels) can be used on items that have sockets to give them added attributes. In addition certain combinations of runes can make "runewords" which add even more attributes than just those runes alone.

Online play also brought about the popularity of powerleveling or "rushing." This is accomplished by having a player of much higher level defeat key bosses for you which "rushes" you through the storyline. (There are 3 levels of difficulty Normal, Nightmare, and Hell.) Once you've gained access to the final areas of the storyline, you team up with as many other players and run through the final minibosses before the final boss, Baal. These minibosses along with the extra people give you crazy amounts of experience and allow you to powerlevel your way through the game. Since there are 3 difficulty levels, people most often will do this untill it becomes inefficient in one difficulty, then rush through the next untill they reach the high 80s and 90s. The level cap in the game is 99. Also you have to have the expansion to be able to experience this form of rushing, along with the final area and many new items.

Another fun thing to do once you've become good at the game is try the level on its hard mode. In this mode your character becomes a little more... life like... Basically if you die even once, all of your items and progress is lost. You only have one life. Pretty hard core if you ask me.

Despite all the corruption and cheap tricks in the game, the storyline is fairly well done and the game is rewarding, especially if you play through the game at least once legitimately before you stoop to buying items online and powerleveling. I also highly encourage you play it with friends. People you can trust and who treat you with respect make the game a lot more fun.

Life Saving Helmets

I am a klutz, I won't deny it. I have broken 12 bones, sprained my neck and had two concussions, all of which were not involved with any car accidents or anything that was fully out of my control. So reading this article scares me a little bit.

There is new evidence that football players, who literally use their head to win games, might suffer from a disease related to boxer's dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. It seems to be caused by repeated concussions, which was the scary part for me. CTE is characterized by confusions, memory loss, slurred speach and mood disorders, like an elderly person who has dementia.

There was thought that this condition existed long before scientists got more concrete proof. To me, its seems like more than a coincidence that many football players that had many concussions would die early and usually from something they had caused. Proof came in the form of an autopsy. The medical examiner found that the player that had died has suffered brain damage.

The problem now is that people, namely the NFL, aren't exactly convinced that this is a risk they should worry about. To give their side a chance, the symptoms aren't fully consistent with boxer's dementia and there isn't a lot of proof for separate cases. But different injuries will lead to different parts of the brain being damaged and that will lead to different symptoms.

There is a helmet out now that can prevent this whole problem. It is full of sensors that relay real time information to the sports medicine people on the sidelines about everything that's hitting the head of the player wearing it. This bit of technology can be used to gage how severe a brain trauma is and can help the people on the sidelines know when to bench a player. It can also help a lot with research in this condition. So far seven universities and five high schools use the helmets to protect their players. The NFL is still dragging its feet, but at least they are considering the technology.

In my opinion, it is much better to play it safe than sorry. I would rather my star player live a long happy life that kill himself at 40 after having severe depression. I would also like one for myself, just in case.(I'm sure you know I'm kidding.)

Thanks again Popular Science for the content and the picture. Go ahead and read more on the subject at their website.

Sky Diving Taken to New Heights

And by that I mean literally. There have been dreams from people who write for Popular Science about sky diving from space. I think they should rename that extreme sport space diving.

Two senarios were set up for the reason that you would have for space diving. One was sport and the other was for survival for those who had malfunctions in the space craft they were traveling in. I don't know about you, but I couldn't jump out of a plane, let alone a space ship, but the other application for the future technology seems to actually be useful.

The suit was the main focus of the article though. When falling from space, objects (including humans) experience lots of heat and lots of force. The suit that these space divers would wear would be specially designed to regulate heat, not burn up, and keep the helmet pressure just right. Other features that would be absolutely necessary is the parachute system. There would be two chutes that the diver would use, one in the upper atmosphere to keep from thrashing around and getting torn apart and the other would be used at the more traditional time too keep from hitting the ground too fast and dying.

The concept drawings make the suit look more like a superhero suit with a jetpack and other gadgets at the ready, but that may have been the goal of the artist who drew them. Its the superhero look that makes the suit look really cool and futuristic though.

Oh and one last thing; this whole idea is actually plausible. That's the icing on the cake, especially because it reminds me just how far we have come. The sky isn't the limit anymore.

Thanks Popular Science again for all the content and the picture. I suggest you all take a look at the full article at the link.

Musical Instruments

In the fifth grade, my mother wouldn't let me take up an instrument. I think that that was a good choice but still, it would be nice to be able to make music with my hands and not just my voice. So, when we got a piano, I taught myself how to play some. I'm not a concert pianist, but I can play parts and things like Canon and Auld Lang Syne. Of course, I'll never be as good as these people playing a new instrument that was developed in Japan called Tenori-On.

The name means "sound in your hand" in Japanese, for a good reason. The instrument looks a little bit like a Light Bright with the face of it covered in led lights. Each light is a button, which makes a sound. The longer you press the button, the longer the note plays. Its a bit like a reformatted key board.

The instrument appeals specifically to techno musicians and has lots of features. Songs, stored in blocks, can be composed on the instrument itself or can be transferred to it from a computer using an SD card. Up to 16 blocks can be stored on the Tenori-on, each block having 16 layers to play with.

I think this is a really cool idea and plays a lot on how musicians can be. My choir friends and I used to get together with our pianist and just read through lots of random music, making some of it up as we went a long. The instrument has an option so that many can be played together so that lots of people can jam together. It's a really cool instrument. And it glows, so of course it gets extra points in my book.

Thanks to Popular Science and Tenori-on for the content and Tenori-on for the picture of it's own product.

Matlab VIII

If You Were to Read This Article...

Hello everyone, how are we all doing this evening? If you answer good, then I would have to output a "I'm glad" statement. Else if you were to answer bad, then I would probably output a "That's really too bad" statement. My else would just be "Try again". Yes yes, I did just write that opening with poor, incomprehensible English. But I was speaking in terms of Matlab language. This week on Matlab Tutorial, I was going to focus on talking about If, Elseif, and Else commands while working on Matlab programs.

The basic function of an If, Elseif, or Else statement chain of commands is to give the program some options of what exactly it will be computing. Based on what is inputted and what certain variable values are, the if statements help filter and sort these values based on parameters that you set within the code so that the program runs through different choices of computations. Basically if you want the program to do a certain calculation when an arbitrary variable has a certain value, then you write an if statement there along with what the program does when it meets those needs specified.

For example: Lets say you have the user input (back from Matlab II) a value for the variable X. You then have a line of code squaring the value of X. Now you want to have two separate chain of commands depending on what the new value Y (X^2) is. Write the "if" command on the first line followed by a condition. For this example, the condition will be when Y = 4. You must use double equal signs when writing conditional arguments. So now if Y does indeed fit the statement it will do whatever follows that code. So this example will then have Y be divided by 2 to equal the variable Z. Now that is one option. If you finish the if statement with an "end", then you have a simply if statement. But you usually want an if statement to have outputs for every possibility. So you can either write the "else" syntax after your first computation followed by a line telling it to simply make Y = Z, or I will take it one step further and add the "elseif" statement in this example program. After the if statement and the equation for Z, a line of code should start with an "elseif", telling Matlab, "if Y didn't equal 4, see if it equals this". Let's just say if Y = 5. If this is true then our next line with ask the program to multiply Y by 2 to get Z. If Y doesn't equal either, then Y will just equal Z. End your if statements with the end command and output Z. Whew, that was a little rough. Lets see this example in the correct syntax:

X = input('Value for X= ')
Y = X^2
if Y == 4
Z = Y/2
elseif Y == 5
Z = Y * 2
Z = Y

As you can see, the syntax and the process of the if statement is simpler to that of a loop. the only difference is that an if statement won't loop around multiple times. It will only go through the statements once. Unless of course it is nested in a for loop! Not only does it go through once, but understand that it goes through in sequential order. So make sure that the more important arguments and decisions you want the program to make be the first if statements in your chain of commands. Slowly but surely we are putting all the pieces together.....Good luck and stay tune for more exciting adventures of BATMAN AND -...oops, I mean MATLAB TUTORIAL!

Ok, I'm done.....

Resources: While Loop Help with Cyclismo, HTML Tags at Web Source


Have you ever needed a programming language that's incredibly difficult to understand, has an extremely small compiler, and is still Turing complete? That's brainfuck.

Brainfuck has only 8 commands.
<> Move pointer right
+ Increment the number the pointer points to
- Decrement the number the point points to
, Store input in where the pointer points
. Print the ASCII representation of the number the pointer points to
[ ] Repeat the commands in the loop while the number the pointer points to is not zero
Any other character is considered a comment.

For the non-programmers, here's an analogy. Imagine, you have a very, very long line of boxes, arranged left to right. Each box holds a number, and you can only look at one box at a time. When you begin, all boxes hold zero.
<> Means you look in the box to the immediate right of the box you're at now.
+ Means you add one to the number in the box you're at.
- Means you subtract one from the number in the box you're at now.
, Means someone else tells you what number to put in the box you're at.
. Means you tell that other person what number is in the box you're at.
(Note that input and output use ASCII, so if the input is A, the number stored is 65, and if the number stored is 49, the character output is 1.)
[ ] Do everything within these until the box you're at is zero.

Here's an example of the "Hello, world!" program in brainfuck:

Here's a program that takes two numbers from the user, adds them and gives the answer.
Here's what happens:
, Stores user input in the first box
> Moves to the second box
, Stores user input in the second box
[-<+>] while the second box is not zero, subtract one from the second box, move to the first box, add one to the first box, move back to the second box.
< Move to the first box
. Output result.

Obviously, complicated programs quickly become extremely difficult to understand. Brainfuck really doesn't have any point, except for its very small compiler. But it's fun anyway.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I'll say it right upfront: I am far from the best person to be reviewing a Zelda game. I'd only played Ocarina of Time before yesterday, and I never even finished it. Nonetheless, I got the chance to play Twilight Princess last night, and I have some opinions.

I was only able to play for a couple hours, so I didn't get very far, but here's the plot as far as I got. Link is a young man in a small village, where he works on Ordon ranch, herding goats, and in his free time plays with the village children and, being an adventurer to be, helps fellow villagers with their problems. At the beginning of the game, another villager gets summoned to go to Hyrule. There's a reference to a delivery, but I didn't get far enough to find out what it is. Link gets a day off work, which he spends solving problems in the village. He finds a lost cradle, gives a cat a fish, and knocks down a bothersome bee's nest. Over the course of the day, he collects traditional Link accoutrements, such as a fishing rod, a slingshot and a (wooden) sword. After he gets his sword, he teaches some children sword fighting techniques. Just as he finishes, a monkey appears, and the kids chase it, oh so eagerly, to practice what Link taught them. Link chases after them, and it quickly becomes apparent something is amiss. He kills various enemies, and frees them from a cage. And that was as far as I got.

The unique interface of the Wii makes the game interesting. Sword fighting with the wiimote is much more satisfying than hitting A. But as cool as that is, I think they should have done more with that. Without pushing buttons, the only attack you can make is the basic horizontal slash. If you try to move the wiimote to slash vertically, or stab, it just does the horizontal slash. I think it would be even better if Link held the sword however you held the wiimote.

Some other small things: Link is right-handed. I imagine this is because most people using the Wii would be right-handed, but Link is left-handed. It's just not right for Link to be right-handed. Also, as far as I got, Link never had his trademark green tunic and floppy hat. I've seen pictures of him with them, so presumably he gets them later in the game.

Unsung Technology: The Lens

Without the lens, there would be no Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. Without the lens, your car wouldn't be able to give you live directions. Without the lens, millions of people would die yearly from smallpox. Without the lens, I couldn't be writing this.

Although lenses have been used for more than 2500 years, they took a while to take off. The were first used to start fires, though it's not known if they used them to burn ants. Some emperors used them for sight correction.

It wasn't until the 17th century that the lens got its day in the sun. That was when telescopes and microscopes were invented. Telescopes aided in astronomy, allowing astronomers to verify the heliocentric theory and defined astronomy as we now know it. Accurate knowledge of astronomy was necessary for the space program, which led to commercial satellites and GPS. Microscopes allowed the first glimpses at microbiology and led to cell theory and germ theory. These form the foundation of modern medicine, and allowed the development of antibiotics and vaccines.

Of course, just because lenses gained all these new roles, doesn't mean it ever gave up its original uses. Without lenses, I wouldn't be able to see two feet in front of my face.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Guitar Hero III

Bringing Back the Old and Mixing in the New

So I know someone has already posted about Guitar Hero III, but I am not here to ask who wants to go head-to-head with Slash or anything. I am not here to give you a review of the game. I am simply here to discuss, if you will, the publicity that the artists get from having there music on such a popular game. Not only does it let old school rockers reminisce on some old school tunes, but it broadens their horizons to the new and up coming bands. All three of the Guitar Hero installments have new songs from the garage bands and indy bands alike, trying to get a name for themselves. Having their song come after Bark at the Moon or More Than a Feeling really makes them look good. I know when I played Guitar Hero I and saw Freezepop for the first time, I was like, "WTF, who are they?" After you hear them, you can't help but love them. My friends actually went and saw them in concert just after Guitar Hero came out. Now who saws that Guitar Hero doesn't sell? It helps all bands just like Freezepop gain popularity and some name recognition goes a long way.

Who can't forget some of the best classics that they brought into the 3 Guitar Hero games. Some of my favorites are Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group, Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, School's Out by Alice Cooper, and Cities on Flame and Rock and Roll by Blue Oyster Cult.

Overall, I love the games. I'm not that great on them just yet, still have to play on a Medium and Hard difficulty, but it is fun and exciting and the music is the best picked. Rock on!

Resources: Wikipedia

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pandora: A Closer Look At Genius

I have previously mentioned the website pandora. At the time I had mentioned it, it was very new to me, and I was just discovering the amount of genius put into this website.

Once again, pandora is a website where you create your own radio station to your preference of music. You can register for pandora with an email address, and then you can either listen for free, or subscribe to pandora. I registered as a free listener two day s ago and I haven't stopped listening to 5 different radio stations I have created yet. With Pandora, you either enter an artist or a song, and it generates a radio station for you to listen to playing music similar to what you selected. I have found this to be a great way to listen to the music you like, plus more music like your music.

With something this great, you may be wondering how it is even legal, and if there are any limitations. The only limitation I have came across so far, is that you can't skip too many songs on the same radio station because of the song copyright agreement. But the way to get around this is to simply create a new radio station.

With this station you get to listen to all the music you enjoy for free. Someone could perhaps argue that this isn't as good because pandora generates the radio station for you. However, if anyone says that, they are very picky, and most likely listen to the trends of whats popular, instead of the actual music. So if you life music, for the art it is, you will like pandora.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Mario World 2

So you think you may know Super Mario Bros 2. Its that game that let you choose between Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad right? It seemed a little off from the first one but it was still fun right? Well the Super Mario Bros 2 we all know and love in America is actually not Super Mario Bros 2 at all...

The real sequel was only released in Japan. It was actually a remake of the original Super Mario Bros, but the levels were remade to make the game much much harder, so hard in fact that Nintendo was afraid it wouldn't sell well in America. Instead, they took another popular Japanese game, Dream Factory: Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic and substituted its characters with the Mario characters, along with a few added items such as POW blocks, bomb fuses, cherries, and vegetables, and other features like mushrooms instead of hearts, and shrinking characters when life was down to 1. Despite the game not really being truly Mario, it sold very well, and holds the record for 3rd highest selling game on the NES, falling short only to the other two Mario games.

The original Super Mario Bros 2 was not lost forever, however. Americans finally got their hands on it as the "Lost Chapters" on the Super NES game Super Mario All-Stars.

On the Left: A screenshot from Dream Factory: Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic.
On the Right: The same situation and place in Super Mario Bros 2.

Another screenshot from Dream Factory: Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. This time it it of the boss fight that later changes to one of the Birdo fights in Super Mario Bros 2.


When I was in high school, we had to use Palm pilots. They were cool for about five minutes but then they got to be annoying. They had that electronic hum and my eyes hurt when trying to read the tiny screen. So when I heard about possibly the coolest thing ever to happen to digital displays, I was excited.

It's called E-Paper and I'm sure you have heard of it. It mimics paper like no other digital display that came before it could. It's flexible, not backlit and doesn't need sustained electricity to display. You can even read it at an angle. What more could you want?

E-Paper is made from sheets of plastic rather than glass. Pixels are made from tiny plastic microspheres full of black oil and titanium dioxide. The microspheres are suspended in a layer of liquid polymer. Because of the titanium dioxide, which is white, the microspheres have a slight dipole which allows the diplay to change. by changing the polarity of the current in that spot, the color (black or white) changes as well. To make color paper, each pixel is divided into triads of each color magenta, cyan and yellow. It makes colors by using different combinations of those primary colors.

I think that this technology is really awesome, especially for those of us who are going blind from staring at computer screens all day while we do our homework. If it wasn't so expensive, I would go out and buy a book on e-Paper.

Thanks Wikipedia for the content and Bookeen for the picture.

Fable: Cont'd

Soooo last time I talked about the game Fable itself. Well now I'd like to touch upon the hours upon hours I have spent hating either Microsoft or my laptop manufacturer.

Fable is a game that debuted on the computer near the end of Windows XP, and is very much suited for that operating system. However when I brought the game over to my newer Vista-running laptop, I was met with the strangest problem. At a certain point in the game, the screen would go black. However the game didn't freeze because I can hear the audio in the backround. I even messed with a few buttons and figured out the controls worked just fine, its just that none of it was displaying, at all...

So I delved through forum after forum. I wasn't alone. Many people just blamed it on Vista, saying there was some bug that prevented Fable from running. However after updating my drivers several times over and pouring through more posts, one poster pointed out that it was likely the built in graphics card. You see the card I have isn't supported by the manufacturer, and thus it is up to my laptop manufacturer to provide me with all my video card drivers.... =(

My solution thus far has been to run the game whenever I get to go home on my old PC that my family uses. There it works fine and I've enjoyed much of the game that way. However I'm still working on this damned problem and hopefully installing a modded driver or something of that sort will fix it.

If you have any suggestions I'd love you forever, otherwise thanks for listening to my bitching about a video game related headache.

Fable: The Lost Chapters

The choices we make influence us and those around us. They shape us and make us who we are. It is very rare however for a game to play upon a person's moral choices like Fable does.

On the surface Fable is your typical real time RPG. You have your generic hero that sets off in the world to find out about himself, meeting many people and adventures along the way. Also, like many RPGs, you can customize how your character looks and plays by choosing different stats. However, Fable takes it a step further. The game takes into account the morals behind your decisions. It keeps tab of each thing you do that is considered either good or evil. This tally affects things such as your appearance, a few of the spells you have at your disposal, and the way other people in the game react to you.

For example, you can rack up "scariness." The higher this is for your character, the more people will cower and run away from you when you come by. "Attractiveness" also plays a part if you ever want to woo a lady into becoming your wife.

Then there's the core idea of good and evil. Choosing evil deeds will make your face pale, your eyes darker and more threatening, and if you do enough evil, horns will even appear on your forehead. On the other end of the spectrum, good makes you look cleaner and more heroic.

The gameplay itself it quite fun. You run around the world free to pillage, break, kill, save, steal, and flirt as you please. If you follow the storyline strictly, the game is said to be short, only 6-8 hours long. However if you let yourself become immersed in the side quests and little nuances of the game (such as trading between traders for profit), the game can easily eat up many many more hours than that.

Overall the game is solid and the freedom makes for great re-playability. I myself have just touched the surface of the game, but hope to delve deeper into its many hidden treasures.

Deep Brain Stimulation

It's almost like science fiction when I think about it. Scientists have been exploring the brain for a long time now and it seems they've made a big breakthrough. A new-ish treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation is being researched in many universities.

The procedure involves taking two electric probes and inserting them deep within the brain to the place that needs the most electric stimulation. The probes are connected to a control pack that is implanted in the chest. The electricity is adjusted by a doctor until it is just right and the patient feels the most relief.

The procedure is complicated though, and very risky. A surgeon jabs big metal probes into someone's brain! The surgeon could slip and cause major brain damage. The probes could also run too much electricity and fry part of the brain. But it seems the benefits outweigh the risks.

Now, so far, I haven't mentioned what this treatment it for and I have done so for a reason. The doctors working on this treatment don't really know yet all the applications it can be used for. In the beginning, it was used to help Parkinson's patients control their tremors but now studies are being done on its applications in treating depression and Tourette's.

From the Popular Science article Happiness is a Warm Electrode, a woman with severe depression finally regains her life back because of this radical treament. It took her months just to work up the motivation to even call her psychiatrist about the new treatment she heard about. When she finally did, he helped plug her into the program as soon as possible. After many brain scans using an MRI, doctor use a titanium halo pinned to her skull, the scans and special software to map her brain so that the surgeon can safely place the electrodes. When they implanted them and got the electricity adjusted, the result was almost immediate. She was happy.

From another Popular Science article Shock to the System, doctors use Deep Brain Stimulation to awaken a man that was in an effective coma after a severe brain trama. After the probes were in place, he was able to move and talk again, whereas before he barely moved.

I think that this is one of the good things that are coming out of science lately. A lot of research has been done on the less ethically sound and its nice to know that at least some things are still easily black and white as to whether or not we, as humans, should be poking around where we're poking around.

Thanks again to Popular Science for the content and the picture.