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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2009 » February

February 2009

Technology February 23rd, 2009 by HMTKSteve


SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced it is shipping Amazon Kindle 2. Already the No. 1 seller in Electronics on the Amazon.com Web site in just 15 days since it was introduced on Feb. 9, Kindle 2 offers revolutionary wireless delivery of content in a new slim design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over seven times more storage, sharper images and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2 began shipping today to customers who were in line for the original Kindle and customers who pre-ordered beginning Feb. 9. New orders placed today will be released for immediate shipping.

“The response from customers to Kindle 2 has been tremendous. In order to ensure we ship Kindle 2 by the original ship day of Feb. 24, we started shipping one day early,” said Ian Freed, vice president, Amazon Kindle. “We’re excited about the new design and features of Kindle 2, and we think our customers will be too.”

Kindle 2 builds on everything customers love about the original Kindle and extends the experience to a slimmer and sleeker design.

  • Pencil-thin and lighter than a typical paperback at just over 10 ounces and 0.36 inches
  • 25 percent longer battery life
  • Pages turn an average 20 percent faster
  • Holds more than 1,500 books with 2 GB of memory
  • Sharper images and crisp text with 16 shades of gray
  • “Text-to-Speech” read-to-me feature converts words on a page to spoken word
  • “Whispersync” technology saves and synchronizes reading location across Kindle devices

With more selection than ever before, the Kindle Store — Earth’s biggest e-bookstore — gives customers access to more than 240,000 books and top U.S. and international magazines and newspapers, plus more than 1,200 different blogs.

For more details or to purchase Kindle 2 for $359, visit Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation).

Games February 20th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Grail Quest Books is proud to announce that it has teamed with the game company, Decipher INC, to adapt its proprietary science fiction, WARS, into a comic book series and tie-in graphic novellas.

WARS is set in our Solar System during the late 24th century. The Earthers and Gongen are locked in a decade-old civil war, while the Mavericks engage both sides for their benefit. Then a rift in the fabric of the universe opens, allowing two more warring alien cultures to enter the system and increasing the stakes for control of the Solar System.

The comic series will take place in the months leading up to the appearance of The Mumon Rift. “There is a lot of interesting play-up between the three human factions before the celestial tear appears,” says Josh Radke, owner of Grail Quest Books and one of the main writers on the project. ” The Earthers and Gongen are two sides in a bitter war, and Sean and I plan to each focus on a side. The Mavericks–being mostly mercenaries and gangsters–will certainly play a role in the storytelling.”

Sean E Williams, who is also developing an animated series based on WARS‘ Gongen faction, will be writing the opening story arc for the comic book series. Sean will be using the comic title as an opportunity to lead-in to his animated series arc. “The Gongen struggle for independence against the Earthers immediately drew me to them; call it an underdog factor. And the fact they’ve managed to update sword technology and continue to use it in space is just plain cool. Decipher has created an amazing universe in WARS, with endless possibilities for storytelling.”

Collaborating with best-selling science fiction and Star Wars authour, Michael A Stackpole, the WARS story debuted as one of Decipher’s trading card games, the first set which released in October 2004. The property was also developed into a roleplaying game by Mongoose Publishing. Josh always felt that WARS was fertile ground for fictional development, and it was a property that he hoped he would have the opportunity to commercially nurture whenever his goal of owning a publishing company became a reality.

“I am very hard to pick up on science fiction,” Josh points out. “But WARS intrigued me right from the moment Decipher announced their card game five years ago. It has a strong space-fantasy element to it that I really think is the story’s essence. It’s a human conflict of survival through science and technology, sure, but to me the Earther-Gongen civil war is the larger story. Also the Gongen have allies which are certainly beyond science, and when The Rift appears it brings an ‘X factor’ that is nothing to do with physics or tech.”

Known worldwide since 1994 for its acclaimed, best-selling card games for Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek, Josh looks at this project as an opportunity to give something back to a company whose games have played a sizable role in his career success. “I have worked with Decipher’s games in a variety of volunteer capacities through the last decade or so, and I am thrilled to work with them to bring their WARS property to a broader audience of science fiction and fantasy fans. It is a real honour given all the amazing experiences, friends, opportunities, and memories Decipher has provided me through their games thus far. I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that we are all very excited.”

More information on the tie-in graphic novellas is forthcoming. Meanwhile, Decipher is very close to releasing its revolutionary new card game, Fight Klub (and when you sign up be sure to mention that “GrailQuestBooks” sent you).

video games February 19th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Format: WiiWare™
Launch Date: 12/22/08
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Wii Points: 900
Game Type: Sports
Control Type: Wii Remote
Players: 1-4
Publisher: Shinen Multimedia
Website: www.shinen.com

Fun! Fun! Minigolf is a WiiWare game that allows you (and up to three friends) to play minigolf on your Wii. There are three different courses of nine holes each. Each course is more difficult than the previous one. A total of 27 holes exist in the game.

Players can either share one Wii Remote or each player can use their own. There is no permanent scoring system (such as Wii Sports has) though you can earn a coin rating at the end of each course.

There are four characters that you can pick from but none of them has any effect on the game. One character is as good as another except that some of them are a little goofier than others.

Fun! Fun! Minigolf


Like most golf games on the Wii you hold the Wii remote as you would a golf club with the front pointing towards the floor. A ghost image of where the ball will travel appears on screen as well as a picture of a golf ball with a moving white dot that indicates where you will hit the ball. Get your timing right and you can make a perfect shot. Make a mistake and the ball will curve off to the side, potentially ruining your shot.

The control pad is used for aiming the ball prior to taking your shot. You can also zoom in and out by using the up and down directions.

The amount of force you use when swinging the Wii Remote will correspond to how hard the ball is hit. Unlike traditional "play it where it lies" minigolf Fun! Fun! Minigolf has a very peculiar out of bounds rule that I will cover later in this review.

You can take a maximum of six strokes on a hole before you are declared to have failed the hole and move on to the next. When playing in multi-player mode you complete all of your strokes before the next player tees off.

Fun! Fun! Minigolf

Difficulty Levels

The game includes three difficulty levels: Easy, Medium and Hard. Each level is its own nine hole course.

The easy level is just that, easy. Don't be surprised if you land yourself some hole-in-one scores right from the first hole. In fact there are some holes where the only way you can not score a hole-in-one is if your ball goes out of bounds.

The medium level ratchets the difficulty up a few notches. There are some easy holes mixed in but there are also a few holes that will just piss you off with their difficulty. A difficulty that is all the more frustrating due to the game's out of bounds rules.

If you are feeling like a bit of a masochist go ahead and play the hard course. Yes, there are some easy ones thrown in but most of the holes are fiendishly difficult. Add in the stroke limit per hole and you may find yourself believing that some holes are impossible! If the game allowed you to practice a hole without counting strokes you might have an easier time figuring them out. Instead you just get angry.

Fun! Fun! Minigolf

Out Of bounds

Each hole has a white-lined area near the hole. Anything outside of this area is considered to be out of bounds. What this means in game terms is that most holes beyond the easy level are either a hole-in-one or a fail.

You read that right and I'm not exaggerating.

Picture if you will a hole with several 90 degree corners that you must bounce the ball through before getting to the hole. Now imagine the ball only making it halfway. In a normal game of minigolf you would play the ball from the middle of the course and try to make it all the way to the hole. In Fun! Fun! Minigolf that ball is out of bounds and you have to shoot from the tee again.

I don't know why they added this rule to the game but it takes the "Fun" out of the game.

I have had too many times where on the third stroke I finally got the ball past the obstacles only to have it bounce out of the white-lined area around the hole and marked as out of bounds. Back to the tee for me!

Fun! Fun! Minigolf


I hesitate to call this game a golf game. The easy level plays sort of like a golf game but in reality this is more of a puzzle game. There really is only one way to hit the ball on each hole, anything else will likely result in the ball being out of bounds requiring you to hit from the tee again.

The game can be fun in a group but if any of your friends (or kids) are easily frustrated you might want to avoid this one. At 900 Wii Points ($9) I consider the game to be a little bit over priced. With no customizations or score tracking I find the game lacking in long term play value. Once you've solved each hole there is almost no reason to play it again. Even in a group you know that the best player will end up going first and the others will just copy their shots.

If the out of bounds rules could be turned off the game would truly deserve the double fun in the title. I feel the game should be named for what it is: Fun! Firk! Arghhh!!!! Minigolf Puzzles.

Technology February 14th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

I recently purchased a new server from Dell and settled on the PowerEdge T105. I didn't max it out when I ordered it because I know most things can be purchased later for a much lower cost. What I did settle on is listed below:

  • Opteron 1212 CPU
  • 2GB of DDR 800Mhz RAM
  • 250GB SATA Drive

I could have purchased a second drive from Dell but they wanted close to $200 for another 250GB drive. I ended up picking up a 500GB drive from Seagate for under $100. I also chose not to get the keyboard and mouse because I planned to run the server remotely.

My first foray into setting the machine up was to install the current version of 64-bit FreeBSD. The machine did very well with FreeBSD 7.1 64-Bit but all of the software I needed did not perform so well in 64-bit. Yes, it is true that many system administrators end up running 32-bit on their 64-bit machines because of software compatibility issues.

In the end I settled on FreeBSD 6.3 32-bit. Although I have used this version of FreeBSD on other machines in the past I encountered a problem. The chipset on the integrated Gigabit NIC is too new for FreeBSD6.3. I had a spare NIC card kicking around my shop so I ended up using that to install my software until I was able to find a solution that would allow me to use the built-in NIC.

In the end I narrowed it down to some code that needed to be edited in the source code for the bge driver:

--- 169,175 ----


--- 2011,2017 ----
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5715S 0x1679
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5720 0x1658
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5721 0x1659
+ #define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5722 0x165a
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5750 0x1676
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5750M 0x167C
#define BCOM_DEVICEID_BCM5751 0x1677

The Dell PowerEdge T105 has a built-in NIC that uses the Broadcom 5722 chipset. By adding the two bold lines above to the source of the bge driver files and recompiling the kernel I was now able to use the NIC and pull out my spare card.

I am still having an issue with the machine powering itself off at odd times but all of my diagnostics have come up clean. I have turned off all power management in the system BIOS just in case something is in conflict there. I also purchased a UPS with auto voltage regulation in case I have some dirty power issues on the circuit.

video games February 12th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

A few weeks ago I asked if you were ready to rumble. Are you?

What was that? You would like to rumble but you don't have a Wii?

Well now, I can't fault you for that so here is what I am going to do. See the image of the boxing glove over there (and in the sidebar)? HMTK and a few other blogs are taking part in a promotion to draw some attention to the upcoming Wii-exclusive release of Ready 2 Rumble Revolution. What sort of promotion you say? It's a promotion that I know will interest you, my faithful readers.

Before I tell you more about the promotion let me recap what I told you before about the game:


  • A roster of 18 wildly caricatured cartoony boxers, all parodies of celebrities from the worlds of sports, music and movies who enter the ring as larger-than-life "Rumble-ized" versions of themselves. Players will step right up and see if they can knock these super-sized egos down a peg or two!
  • Hosted by "The Voice of the Champions" Michael Buffer, famous for his "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" trademark call.
  • Characters are brought to life with hilarious moves, detailed facial animations, damage textures and fighting techniques including special moves, combos, extreme knockdowns and special "Rumble" combos.
  • An all new Championship Mode lets gamers create their own unique boxer and nurture his skills through mini-games, developing him as a fighter and creating a completely personalized Ready 2 Rumble Revolution experience.
  • Delivers a fun and intuitive experience in either single player or multiplayer mode.
  • The Wii controllers provide would-be pugilists with an intuitive and realistic feel. Using the Nunchuk controller as one glove and the Wii Remote controller as the other, players dodge, weave and throw the big punches to KO their opponents.

Yep, we're talking about a real good fighting game with just enough comedy thrown in to have you and your buds squirting Red Bull out of your noses! So where does the Wii and the promotion come in?

Here's the deal. You click on the boxing glove image and it will open up a new browser tab/window with details on the game straight from IGN. You take a few minutes to read about the game and then you come back here and leave a comment about the game.

The comment need not be a four page essay but it also should not be something lame like:

"Cool game!" or "Awesome!" Leave a comment that lets me know you actually looked over the IGN article enough to form some sort of an opinion. Even if that opinion is, "oh man, this game looks horrible!" Though if you do think the game looks horrible please explain why. Developers are people too you know and hearing something sucks without being told why is just a waste of time. So if you are going to criticize the game please do it in a constructive manner so that the developers can learn from their mistake.

So, let me recap:
1. Click on the glove.
2. Read about the game.
3. Post a comment here on the blog.

The contest is due to end in March and if we get enough clicks on the glove to win one of the Wii systems (5 will be given away in total) I will in turn pass it along to someone who left a comment on the blog.

What's that? Why would I give away a Wii? Two reasons:

1. I already have one.
2. I think this game is going to be good and I consider it penance for posting those articles a while back that said Alone in the Dark for the Wii was going to be great (it wasn't).

Games February 8th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Depleted Uranium Dice

I was Stumbling around the web today when I ran into this amazing piece of gaming history; depleted uranium dice!

No one knows when these dice were made though it is likely they are from the 1950's era. The dice are nickel coated and are just under an inch across.

These dice are heavy. Depleted uranium is heavier than lead so that little fact should give you an idea on just how heavy these little bad boys are!

video games February 6th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Do you know who's going to the Olympic games in 2010? Sega is!

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SEGA® Corporation today announced a worldwide agreement with International Sports Multimedia (ISM), exclusive licensee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to once again become the sole approved video game publisher of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. After an extremely successful series of video games from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, this exclusive license will allow SEGA to once more publish the only official interactive entertainment software titles of the world’s most famous sporting event.

Through this agreement, SEGA secures the sole rights to publish console, PC/Macintosh, handheld, arcade, and mobile games worldwide. Under this exclusive license, SEGA will publish a wide variety of games with winter sports and events including skiing, skating, and snowboard bearing the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games emblem.

“Working with SEGA has resulted in Olympic Entertainment Software achieving unparalleled success and we are delighted to support SEGA once again for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games,” says Raymond Goldsmith, Chairman & CEO of ISM.

“SEGA is extremely excited to once again work with ISM on a series of multi-platform games celebrating the Olympic Games,” says Okitane Usui, Chief Operating Officer, SEGA Corporation. “The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games offers gamers a collection of exciting sports to master, as well as a stunning location for players to take advantage of. We aim to bring fans around the world an exhilarating experience whenever they play any Olympic title.”

Mario and Sonic at the olympics

After the success of their 2008 Olympic video games it's no wonder that Sega managed to grab the license to do it again.

So, does this mean we can expect to see some serious use of the Wii Balance Board in some of these new Sega titles?

Technology February 6th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you want to know what your server is doing but you can't get to a secure terminal to SSH in. What do you do? You look to cron.

Cron is a daemon that can be found in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. What it allows you to do is execute commands at any hour of the day and you can even use it to run commands multiple times a day. Cron may be a daemon but it's an angel to most sysadmins.

There are two main ways to use cron. You can either put a script into a cron subdirectory or you can edit the crontab file.

Using the subdirectories is very simple. You can find them in /etc and they are: cron.hourly, cron.daily, cron.weekly and cron.monthly. As I am sure you can figure out the scripts inside these subdirectories are executed based on the name of the subdirectory. Sometimes you need a little more control over when your script is to execute, this is where crontab comes in.

When using crontab you edit the /etc/crontab and insert a line of code that tells cron when you want your command to run. You can customize the time frame down to the minute. You can have it run every 15 minutes or even have it run every 15 minutes but only between the hours of 9:00 and 17:00.

My favorite Unix command has to be top. You can get a wealth of information from this simple command but you need to be at a terminal to run it, or do you?

By using crontab you can set top to run at preset intervals throughout the day and have the results emailed to you.

*/15 * * * * root /usr/bin/top | mail -s "top results" admin@domain.com

That little bit of code above will have the top command run every 15 minutes (as root) and the output will be sent in an email to admin@domain.com with the subject "top results". Not bad, eh?

You could also use this to email yourself error logs, netstat information, anything really. Cron is a sysadmin's best friend.

Further Reading:

Configuring the cron Utility

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