tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Archive for the 'Music' Category

Not sure why I did this

Random recording I did using my iPhone

Swallowing notes all over the place, and both my right- and left-hand techniques are rusty as hell after not practising for months on end.

(Oh and that background noise? Episode of Scrubs I had playing at the same time I was recording this)

Still, it’s a start, I guess.

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PC maintenance is hard

I’d really like to kick the idiot at Intel who designed the Core 2 Duo heatsink/fan assembly. I had to use a screwdriver to force that thing into its locked position because my thumbs weren’t enough. Why can’t they just use a backplate and screws like just about every decent third-party heatsink out there?

As for why I was fiddling with my heatsink, well, today I added a fresh layer of thermal grease to my CPU. It’s been running way too hot for quite a while now (50 degrees Celsius at idle) so I decided to finally get to the root of the problem. And of course now it’s idling at a healthy 20 C, with the temperature under load being about ten degrees higher. Given that, since the 4GB of RAM I bought over Thanksgiving was causing my CPU to overheat at load when I installed it back then, I think I should probably give it another shot (although Windows XP won’t be able to use all of it, more RAM is always good). Hopefully it fares better this time.

I also did a reformat recently, and all I have to say is that the entire process has convinced me of the obsolescence of the DVD as a backup medium. I burned something like eight single-layer DVDs trying to back up all my files, which is pretty ridiculous. I’ve been pretty sloppy with my disk management, so I guess what I need is to either create a dedicated data partition or buy a new hard disk exclusively for data. Then again that raises concerns about what happens when that disk fails…

Maybe I should set up a RAID? Heh. As if I didn’t have enough trouble holding on to my money as it is…

On another note I got my hands on Maaya Sakamoto’s newest album かぜよみ (Kazeyomi) yesterday (and before you ask me where I downloaded it from, I paid for it with money, you goddamn pirate). So far, I like it more than 30minutes night flight and 夕凪ループ. It has a few singles on it that are anime-related, most notably Triangular, the first opening theme for Macross Frontier (which is a pretty great song in and of itself). The main reason I bought this album on release is because it was made with Youko Kanno’s involvement – a big plus for me since most of Maaya’s best songs were composed by Youko Kanno.

Tentative thumbs up – I’ll be listening to this a lot on my iPhone for the next few weeks to confirm that initial impression.

And now for no reason I’ll end this post with a Youtube video I capped off my laptop while I was playing Outrun 2006. No, I’m not normally this bad at the game…but I think the fact that Fraps was affecting my framerate might have had something to do with it. Not to mention the fact that I recently switched from using the keyboard to using an Xbox 360 controller to play (great controller, apart from the terrible d-pad).


What I’ve been playing lately

Time for a good old-fashioned gaming post!

Company of Heroes

I finally decided to put some RTS gaming on my backlog. This game is developed by Relic, who are also responsible for Homeworld and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (as well as the upcoming Dawn of War II) – so their catalogue is pretty strong. As one would expect, therefore, Company of Heroes is pretty good. It focuses less on base management and more on front-line battle tactics, unit placement and maintaining supply lines (by holding territory). I’ve played a few missions of the first single-player campaign and it’s pretty great so far. As far as balancing goes, it seems to take a similar tack to Starcraft in that your units all have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and you need to use them to compensate for one another.

Team Fortress 2

I’ve been trying to play more Soldier and Spy, but honestly, I’m terrible at both, so I almost always end up falling back on my ‘safe’ classes – Pyro, Medic, Heavy and Engineer. Soldier is tricky for me since I’m still trying to get used to aiming ahead of where my opponents are, which isn’t always easy to do when they’re running straight at you. On the other hand, once I do manage to juggle opponents, capitalising on it to finish them off is something that’s starting to come naturally to me. Spy, though…man, those Youtube videos make the class look so effortless, don’t they. I think the most backstabs I’ve gotten in one life is 3 or 4.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

I’m actually pretty close to putting this to bed. I’m at the final boss fight (which is annoyingly difficult because of the terrain and the associated time limit, not to mention the fact that outside of first-person aiming mode MGS3 has the same old clunky gun controls from the first game. I will say that the game as whole is pretty good, although I honestly think that the interface for selecting stuff like camouflage is pretty clunky (they did away with it in MGS4 which is good) and the entire hunting/food system serves no purpose other than to annoy the hell out of you. CQC I thought was kind of cool, although I don’t think I necessarily used it to its full potential.

Fallout 3

I decided to press on with the game inspite of my initial misgivings. The game is actually quite hard if you try to play it like a run-and-gun FPS. Which you can’t, really, unless you want to run out of ammo ten miles from any safe house with only a baseball bat to bludgeon Raiders to death with…not that I’ve ever done that *cough*. Half the time I end up wandering into some new town and getting eaten for lunch by some new enemy that seems to be at least ten levels higher than I am (most recently, giant fire ants). The weird uncanny valley people and spotty voice acting still bother me, but the game is at least reasonably challenging so I can’t complain too much, I guess. My first runthrough (as with Mass Effect) will be with a goody-two-shoes type character (although I did enjoy planting a live grenade on an unsuspecting Raider while I was invisible).

On a side note, Games for Windows Live (which Fallout 3 makes you install if you want to download patches) is decent enough but it feels rather pointless. There are a few games that you can play online using it, two of which are widely regarded as terrible ports of console games (Gears of War and Grand Theft Auto IV) and the remaining two of which aren’t particularly remarkable (Universe at War and Lost Planet: Colonies Edition). Other than playing online, the only thing it’s really good for is tracking achievements, which is kind of cute but an ultimately pointless feature. Hopefully the PC version of Street Fighter IV lets you play online with 360 players or something, because they are in serious need of some killer apps.

Also, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida is stuck in my head ever since I bought the album of the same name and the associated EP Prospekts March off Amazon MP3 this past weekend. Not that I’m complaining…


A followup

I mentioned in my review of Sonic Chronicles last week that the music was rather terrible. Well, the folks over at Sonic Stadium have managed to get their hands on a complete rip of the game’s soundtrack. I’ve taken a listen to the tracks I didn’t get a chance to listen to (since I didn’t get that far in the game) and all they do is reinforce my opinion.

You can download the tracks here.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that the music appears to have indeed been composed by Richard Jacques. If this is true, then how did he go from composing the cheesy-yet-awesome Sonic R soundtrack and the awesome Euro remixes for the console/PC versions of Outrun 2 to making terrible synthesizer beeps and bloops? I mean, some of the tracks are remixes of tracks that he originally composed for games like the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, and even those are terrible.

Some samples for those not willing to do the legwork:

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Genesis version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Jun Senoue)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Central City)

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Saturn version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Richard Jacques)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Blue Ridge Zone)

Original (Sonic CD JP version, Collision Chaos Bad Future)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Angel Island)

Original (Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Final Boss) – yes I know Doomsday Zone is technically the final boss but whatever
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Nocturne)

Why did they phone it in so badly? God knows.

There may be legitimate reasons to buy this game (depending on your perspective), but the music is most certainly not one of them.

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Odds and Ends

Not much in particular I want to talk about…just dealing with various things that have been happening recently.

I got a new video card recently – a GeForce 8800GTS 512MB from EVGA. It was a bit of a pain getting it into my case…it’s pretty much the same length as my motherboard, so it was a pretty snug fit (it’s nestled right up against my SATA connectors). Performance-wise, though, it’s a dream. I get anti-aliasing in Mass Effect now (as well as a much better frame rate), and games like Half-Life 2 Episode Two that would chug a bit on my old card now run smooth as butter.

Of course, as luck would have it, the same week I decide to upgrade, nVidia drops the 9800GTX to $200, and ATI comes out with brand new cards that keep up pretty well with nVidia’s current offerings. Such are the travails of the PC gamer :p

In the meantime, work has been…not really as interesting as it could be. After the problems we had on the site a few weeks ago, my team has dropped what we were working on before and has been working full steam on mitigation measures. This is kind of annoying for me since I was just getting my first taste of real software engineering(requirements gathering, writing technical specs, getting them reviewed, the whole lot) when this happened. I can’t complain too much though – the site is what keeps us running, and we’re beholden to the customers to make sure it stays up.

(And if you’re still waiting for me to tell you what actually happened…forget it. I like my job too much to risk it like that. If you must know something, get our official position from Jeff Bezos’ radio interview on KUOW this past week)

Speaking of work, in a couple of weeks, I’ll have spent a year at Amazon.com. I might have been in India by this point had it not been for the interim regulation that lets me stay here until my work visa starts on October 1st. Still, one year…what a year it’s been. There have been low points, but the good has outweighed the bad by a significant margin.

I really should do a proper retrospective before I forget.

In the shorter term, though, I was thinking of watching a movie this weekend since I don’t really have anything better to do, and the release of a Pixar movie is always reason to celebrate. Both Wall-E and Get Smart are looking like good candidates for my dollar…any recommendations?

A big news story I’ve been following recently is Bill Gates’ departure from Microsoft. I can’t help but wonder what will become of the company after his departure…Microsoft is hardly the powerhouse it used to be back in the 90s, and has ceded a lot of ground this decade. I found a vitriolic blog post from a (now former) stockholder, who has used the occasion of Gates’ departure to dump all his Microsoft stock. It makes for very interesting reading.

Given the occasion, I’m wondering if I should pick up Microsoft 2.0 by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. I’m in the mood for some insight on where the world’s largest software company is going, and where it might be going wrong.

Speaking of Microsoft, I’m actually writing this blog post in Microsoft Windows Live Writer. Aside from the cumbersome name, it’s a really nice blog client that works with a wide variety of blog sites and services. Very cool, and easily the most impressive thing I’ve seen out of Windows Live so far.

On a final note, the Jun Senoue remix of Lee Brotherton’s Dreams of an Absolution is currently stuck in my head. Yes, I know it’s from the horrendous next-gen Sonic the Hedgehog – but this is one of the (very) few good things about that game. The others being the instrumental version of His World and this cutscene from Shadow’s story.

I sense my last.fm profile looks pretty messed up right now…

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Rock Band: Weeaboo edition

Q Entertainment is localising Rock Band for Japan

Rock Band is one of those games I’ve had my eye on for a while – one of those games that could spur me into getting a HD-enabled current-generation console, high cost notwithstanding. The biggest obstacle for me is the soundtrack, and how I don’t know any of the songs featured in the game, but a Japanese edition of the game might very well address that problem. Hopefully Q Entertainment (founded by Sega/UGA alumnus Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Rez, Lumines and Meteos, among other things) will do their due diligence and pick deserving songs for the soundtrack.

As for me, it looks like I have another reason to consider getting a PS3 now – yay for easy imports.

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