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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2008 » April

April 2008


Star Wars April 29th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

My family and I went to New York City last week and all over town we saw signs for Spike TV. They were advertising the fact that they were showing a bunch of Star Wars movies all month long.

I'm a Star Wars fan myself and one thing that used to bother me was the fact that Vader was Luke's father.

I mean look at Vader in the first movie. He terrifies people! He can strangle people from ten feet away and has such great lines as, "If this is a counselor ship, than where is the ambassador?"

When Vader says that line he chokes a rebel! There was probably a big pile of dead rebels and the bad ass that Vader is was probably just bringing rebels out one at a time so he could do that over and over again!

Luke, on the other hand, is a total wimp. Uncle Owen tells him to go fix some moisture vaporators and what does Luke say? He whines about going to Taschi Station and power converters. Lucky for us we know nothing about Vader being Luke's father at this point.

We only find out about it after he cuts Luke's hand off.

It is only after seeing the horrible acting of that guy who played Anakin in parts 2 and 3 that we fully understand the Skywalker curse. Yes, the curse!

See, Anakin Skywalker was a good kid but when he grew into his teen years he became a very whiney bitch. He also acted like a piece of cardboard with marionette strings tied to his limbs but that is a different curse.

It is not until the second movie, when Anakin loses a hand to Count Douku that the whininess begins to fade.

Too bad for Anakin count Douku cut off the wrong hand because he gets super whiney in the third movie until Obi Wan takes matters into his own hands and cuts Anakin's legs off.

The point I'm trying to make is that we all make sacrifices in life. Some we do willingly while others are thrust upon us.

Lucky for Luke he learned quick and only had to lose one hand to grow a pair and become a man. He was obviously far luckier than his father before him.

What price would you pay to improve your life? Would you give up time with your family just so you can afford a new car? Would you forgo a new car to spend more time with your family?

Right now I'm working nights and it sucks. I have almost no time with my family during the week but I do have more money. At this stage of my life I would much rather have more time with my family. I'm willing to sacrifice the new car for that. Not my hand though, I'm not that whiney.

Home April 28th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

For the past two weeks I've been doing spring cleaning in the mornings before work. Six days ago we had a large dumpster dropped off in our yard to get rid of all sorts of junk and debris.

The junk consists of old wood, sinks, car parts, etc... This stuff as been hanging around in our yard for years and we finally decided it was time to get a dumpster and get rid of everything.

You might be wondering what this has to do with rakes.

In the course of cleaning up the yard I've also been cutting back vines and pricker bushes that run along the property line. A lot of this junk has been covered by this dense foliage so as I cut (and rake) I find more junk to throw in the dumpster.

I started using a red plastic rake from last year. This rake did not make it through the winter very well and the plastic was very brittle. Brittle to the point where the simple act of raking out a flower bed was causing the tines to break off of the rake. After about two days of use this rake looked more like a shovel as it had no more tines. So, I used it as a leaf shovel to move the leaves onto a big tarp that I then drag away to dump the organic debris into a special area for it to decompose.

Since I needed a new rake I went to the local Wal-Mart store and purchased one.

This rake was similar in appearance to the last one and that should have tipped me off. It didn't.

I thought I would get at least one season of use out of this $5 rake, I got five days.

On the fifth day the rake broke above the tines. A big 12" crack going from the left side to the middle.

On Sunday I planned to go out and spend extra to buy a rake that would last. Luck was not with me as the only hardware store open on Sunday near me was the Home Depot.

I was very careful this time. I knew what to look for and I found a rake in the Home Depot that has a very strong plastic part that was also very bendable. I thought for sure that this rake would last the whole season and it was under $10.

I brought it home and started raking. After four minutes of raking the shaft broke in half. Yes, the shaft broke.

I stood there dumbfounded for a few minutes (and laughing). I did find a rake with a higher quality plastic component but looking at where the wood broke it was very obvious that the manufacturer used old rotted wood to make their rakes.

I've worked with wood for a long time and it is easy to see if the wood was good or bad by looking at the break. This wood just looked bad. Good wood will splinter when it breaks, this wood did not splinter at all. It was almost a perfectly clean snap.

I took a moment to survey my three broken rakes. I thought to myself that if I took the plastic piece of the one I just purchased and used the shaft from one of my two other broken rakes I could have a good rake again.

I unscrewed the heads of the other two rakes but, no matter what I did, I could not get the old heads off! I tried all sorts of things to pull those broken heads off and not a single one budged.

So I'm off to the home Depot to trade in my rake for a new one.

Internet April 24th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

I have been a long time reader of Ms. Q's writing over at QMusings and in that time I have gotten to know Ms. Q fairly well. As well as you can get to know anyone on the Internet one would suppose.

While checking my email this morning I found a message from Ms. Q wherein she asks me what to do with her blog. She's not looking at stopping but she does want to fix the place up a bit. She wants to update her version of WordPress and possibly change her theme. she also wants to move the blog directory from the subdirectory (/blog) where it currently resides to the root of her domain.

She told me that she went back and read my posts on this topic from when I moved to WordPress from Serendipity and also moved from the /blog subdirectory to my root. After reading those posts she felt a bit intimidated by the idea of constructing the htaccess file full of redirects. I don't blame her! She has about 382 posts on her blog right now and that's a lot of typing!

In an attempt at humor (I hope) she mentioned just deleting everything and starting fresh! Please don't go there.

In this post I'm going to tackle the question of moving the blog from the subdirectory to the root.

Step 1: Backup

That's right. The first thing that should be done is a complete backup of the site. Not just the databases but make a local copy of your entire WordPress installation.

If possible you should be running backups nightly with a minimum of a seven day rotating schedule. You can go longer but I do not recommend going any shorter.

Once all of your backups are complete we move on to...

Step 2: Create the Redirects

The best form of redirect is to create them and post them in an .htaccess file in the root directory of your domain. We use what are known as 301 redirects.

When you are only redirecting a few pages you need to create a new line in your /htaccess file for each page but, in this case we are moving all of the contents of the /blog directory to the root domain.

www.qmusings.com/blog/awesome-article.html -> www.qmusings.com/awesome-article.html

That is the redirect we want and this can easily be done by putting this in your .htaccess file:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^qmusings.com/blog [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.qmusings.com/$1 [r=301,nc]

That should correctly send all requests to pages that were in her /blog directory to her root directory. I have not tested this code out myself but I see no reason why it should not work. The code snippet is based on the code used to redirect all traffic from example.com to www.example.com.

When I moved my blog the problem I had was that my pages looked like this:

www.hmtk.com/blog/index.php?awesome-article.html

Everything after index.php? was ignored and all pages redirected to my root. Ms. Q should not have this problem.

If this fails she can simply dump a listing of all of her URLs and import the data into a spreadsheet program (to maintain the format). Make a duplicate column of data and use a find/replace command to quickly remove the /blog from each URL. She can then add some extra columns to facilitate mass writing of the per URL redirects.

Or she can just write up some quick PHP to go into the database, pull all of the URLs and spit out a proper .htaccess file.

Step 3: Upload

Now that we have everything backed-up and our redirects are ready we can safely upload our /blog directory into our root directory. Once everything is uploaded we have to go in and change the settings in WordPress so that it knows to use the root directory from here on out. This is also the time when we add all the redirect information to the .htaccess file in the root directory.

If everything works (it should) the move will be complete.

Before deleting the old /blog directory you want to rename it and see if anything breaks. If something breaks than there is a mistake somewhere.

Step 4: Write a Post

The last thing you do is write a long post telling your readers how you just spent hours reconfiguring your blog and that it now lies at the root of the domain.

I hope this helps!

Games April 24th, 2008 by Stephen

Nintendo Co., Ltd., has announced record revenues and profits for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008. Nintendo posted sales of more than 1.67 trillion yen, an increase of 73 percent over the prior year. Nintendo also reported FY08 operating profits of more than 487 billion yen, a year-over-year increase of 115.6 percent.

The company also increased projected shipments of the popular Wiiâ„¢ home video game console for the current fiscal year. During the 12 months ending March 31, 2008, Nintendo shipped 18.61 million Wii console to its distributors and retail customers globally, bringing the worldwide total to 24.45 million since its debut in November 2006. For the fiscal year that began April 1, 2008, Nintendo forecasts global Wii console shipments increasing to 25 million.

Nintendo also forecasts shipment of 177 million Wii software units for FY09, while the FY08 shipment was 119.6 million units. Through March 31, 2008, Wii enjoys a life-to-date tie ratio of 6.07 games per system worldwide.

During the 12 months ending March 31, 2008, Nintendo shipped 30.31 million Nintendo DSâ„¢ systems worldwide, bringing the total worldwide shipment to 70.6 million. By March 31, 2009, Nintendo forecasts shipments of an additional 28 million Nintendo DS systems. Nintendo also forecasts shipment of 187 million Nintendo DS software units for FY09, while the actual FY08 software shipment was 185.62 million. Through March 31, 2008, Nintendo DS enjoys a life-to-date tie ratio of 5.24 games per system worldwide.

The company announced a full-year dividend for Nintendo shareholders of 1,260 yen per share (including the interim dividend of 140 yen already paid), 570 yen higher than the annual dividend of 690 yen paid one year ago.

All FY09 financial projections are based on an anticipated ratio of 100 yen to the U.S. dollar, and 155 yen to the euro. For complete details, please review the attached financial statement and forecast*.

Games April 22nd, 2008 by Stephen

Nintendo is giving Seattle Mariners fans a gift at every home game this year: free access to the Nintendo® Fan Network. Fans who bring a Nintendo DS™ to Safeco Field can log on wirelessly to the Nintendo Fan Network to access a wide variety of baseball-related content. Some of the many features include access to player statistics, scores from other MLB games in progress, current team standings, chat with other fans and the ability to compete in trivia and other mini games. Additionally, fans can watch the in-stadium live broadcast video and use the Nintendo DS touch screen to order ballpark food and beverages delivered right to their seats.

The Nintendo Fan Network made its debut at Safeco Field during the 2007 season. Thousands of fans tried the Nintendo Fan Network for a minimal fee during the 2007 season trial, but fans attending Mariners home games during the 2008 season can access an even wider variety of features for free, just by bringing a Nintendo DS to Safeco Field. Fans can download the Nintendo Fan Network at one of the two kiosks located near sections 127 and 143 or at one of the 15 download stations throughout the stadium.

The Nintendo Fan Network will get an additional workout this week, when the Mariners begin a six-game home stand. Nintendo is always adding new features, so every time fans download the service, they might see something new and experience a whole new way to enjoy the game.

For more information about the Nintendo Fan Network, please visit the Nintendo Fan Network kiosks at Safeco Field.

Games April 18th, 2008 by Stephen

When Rock Band came out the hardest system to find it for was the Xbox360. PS3 copies were everywhere. The Wii? It was left out in the cold, until now.

On June 22, 2008 The Wii version of Rock Band will hit stores. Expect it to sell out just as quickly as Guitar Hero did back in December!

Before you get your hopes up about rocking against people all around the world I need to break the news to you. There is NO online play for the Wii version of Rock Band. There is some good news. Well sort of.

Shipping at the same time as the game will be the following:

  • Wii Software
  • Wii Special Edition (Includes software, guitar, drum kit, USB hub, & mic peripherals)
  • Wii Wireless Guitar
  • Wii Drums

The Wii version also ships with 5 "bonus" songs and white drums.

Yeah, let's not all rush the store at once.

Rock Band for Wii

Games April 18th, 2008 by Stephen
Ubisoft - My Weight Loss Coach

Not to be outdone by Nintendo and its forthcoming Wii Fit title Ubisoft is preparing to release a title for the Nintendo DS to help you loss weight while outside of the house.

While Wii Fit can give you a short regimen to use in the house what do you do when you go out? You can't exactly take your Wii with you but you can take your Nintendo DS. Now that Nintendo has established itself as the system for non-gamers it makes perfect sense for developers to start catering to that market.

Who would have though when the DS was released it would become a sort of personal assistant device?

Ubisoft - My Weight Loss Coach

video games April 15th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Cranium Kabookii for the Nintendo Wii

This week is school vacation week for us. This means my daughter is off all week long. Being the good father that I am I also took the week off from work so I could be sure to spend some quality time fighting with my daughter.

Because I work nights I don't get a lot of time to fight with my kid during the week. As Italians we need a certain amount of fighting and yelling to keep our relationship intact. Yelling in Italian families is second only to talking with our hands in regards to communicating.

Today we invited a friend and her three daughters over. I knew they would eventually tire of playing outside so I picked up a copy of the Ubisoft Wii family party game Cranium Kabookii.

Our family has many of the games in the Cranium family of board game form and this one looked like a Wii version of those great games. With no board to knock around or pieces to lose I figured it would be a good match-up for our group.

Unlike many Wii games this game requires a minimum of four players (two teams of two). The game can support as many as four teams per game. This is because some of the games require one team member to do something (draw, paint, etc...) while the other members of the team guess what that member is trying to get across.

The four main characters from the board game return and we have:

Creative Cat

Creative Cat: CREATE works of art and imagination with spray paint, chalk and disappearing ink.

For these games you will have one team member draw something on the screen while the other members of the team must try and guess what it is. There is a special set of red glasses you wear that allows you to read the word on screen while the rest of the players see only a mismatch of colors.

The spray paint game allows you to change colors. The chalk game is similar to the standard method in the board game of drawing with a pencil. The disappearing ink is like the chalk game but the ink slowly disappears as you draw with it.

Data Head

Data Head: DISCOVER fascinating new things in true-false and world trivia puzzles.

This grouping of games is mostly a test of knowledge. Can you find Bolivia on a globe? What about Luxembourg?

The Data Head grouping of games are all about testing your knowledge of facts from the world outside your home. Some of the games are multiple choice while others are not.

Star Performer

Star Performer: PERFORM hilarious feats by acting, playing songs and mastering the art of memorization.

Everyone's favorite from the board game has to be this one.

Can you act out the word so your teammates can guess it? Can you memorize a musical pattern and repeat it? All of these (and more) fall into this category of games.

Word Worm

Word Worm: CRACK CODES and remix phrases.
The games in Word Worm all require the players have a decent vocabulary (and a little bit of trivia knowledge).

Some of the puzzles are as simple as unscrambling a word (or phrase) while others have you spinning an object that looks like the puzzle tube from the Davinci Code! Another mini game has you moving lines to form the letters the answer the question. That last one requires a good bit of hand-eye coordination.

Now that you know a little bit about the games involved let me take a moment to introduce you to the one extra item included with the game; the glasses.

The Glasses

Cranium Kabookii Glasses
Click to Enlarge

If you were creating a game and wanted to share information with only some players how would you go about doing it? One way would be to utilize the Nintendo DS as a controller but that would be very expensive for the consumer. The folks at Ubisoft took a page from Cranium's playbook and included a pair of red decoder glasses in the box with the game. By looking through the red-tinted lens you can easily read the hidden word on the screen.

This system works very well but there were a few times when I was able to decipher the hidden word without the use of the glasses. Part of the problem is that the hidden word is often only hidden in a box of text as long as the word. Four letter word equals four letter scramble box. Eight letter word equals eight letter scramble box. It's a minor thing and most of the kids will not figure it out. Not sure how this will affect those who are color blind.

The Games

Cranium Kabookii

Remember when I mentioned the Davinci Code above? Well here is the code cylinder. To do this game you hold the Wii-mote sideways like a code wheel. You tilt it left or right to change which wheel you want to spin. You then tile it forwards or backwards to spin the wheels.

On short words you will typically have one letter locked to aid you in guessing the answer. Longer words have more letters locked. The clues tend to be somewhat generic and we had some problems on some of the games because of this.

Yes, the Zeus puzzle did come up when we played.

Difficulty

When you start the game you are shown an introduction screen which allows you set the region you want to play in. Aside form selecting a foreign language this page also has several options for English speakers. Realizing that the English-speaking people of America are sometimes linguistically different that their Canadian and British counterparts Ubisoft lists several English-speaking options to choose from. We picked the American option.

The problem we encountered is that a number of the word games involved words that our kids would not know. On one puzzle (the answer was 'Mary') two of the clues were 'Bloody' and 'Hail'. even though I'm running at 480P (upscalled to 1080P) I thought the second word was 'Hall'. Yeah we got that one wrong. After we saw the answer my wife and I looked at each other and wondered why that one was in the game.

There was also a trivia question asking which of four people were not on the Sgt Pepper album cover. I don't know about your kids but my kids don't even know who the Beatles are, let alone who the people listed were. My wife and I did not even know half the names offered. Yes, we got that one wrong. Turned out to be Ghandi who was removed by EMI.

The point is that this is marketed as a family game but some of the questions are above the heads of the kids who will be playing it. I don't know about your kids but my daughter does not like to lose, even more so when she loses because she encounters a question about something she has never been exposed to.

Conclusion

We won the game. It was a blowout. I think the final score was 24 to 4.

The game is good and worth the $30 price tag if you have kids that are over the age of ten. Heck, bring this game to the next kegger you attend at the frat house. After a few beers those drawing games will get mighty hard. Not too mention the memory games!

If you have a Wii and like the Cranium games you will like this. Just be sure to include some older family members when you play.

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