Portal is a Hell of a game, short, a tease at a concept, but a hell of a game that has the best end song ever (you also HAVE to see VG cats treatment of the song as well) and a wicked commentary running throughout. What is also amazing is this lego portal mockup that was created (using REAL lego pieces) that shows how wicked portal is (found on Kotaku):
Ya, so Sony updated the PS3 and PSP yesterday, big updates are divx support for the PS3 (so I can leave my TV Show AVI's on my server and stream them to my TV via the PS3...very cool for someone like me...) and the PSP now has Internet radio functionality...one other feature they failed to mention in ANY of their official update notes is this:

That's right...Final Fantasy on my PSP...in fact any PSOne game that is in your PS3 drive can now be played on the PSP via the remote play function...glee...I looked through my collection and I still have Xenosaga, FF7, 8 and 9, colony wars and brave fencer musashi!!

Tres cool!
So I am a Canuck and went across the border to the U.S. of A to pick up snow tires (because I am a Canuck) and wandered into the local Ogdensburg WalMart. neat thing about Walmart Canada, they have normalized all or most of their prices to match the US (games, electronics, movies, books, magazines, etc...) so it was a wasted stop, until I saw this:

Yes, a three ring of death X360 demo unit that Walmart kept on, this was truly hilarious as it really represents the hardware woes Microsoft has with it's console this generation. Don't confuse me for a Hater, I am getting a 360 (finally) so I can play Mass Effect and Bioshock. But seeing this made me smile...grainy video feed below as well.

I want this Steampunk Monitor more then I can describe...seriously it is cooler the school. Click here to see it in all it's glory and how to make it.
So Marvel had a Costume Contest recently, I have been a huge comic book fan since I was 8 or so, my alltime favorite comicbook crush over the years has been Jean Grey/Phoenix, so when I saw the winner...I have to say I thought...YUM!
I purchased Eye of Judgment, I have to say I love and dislike this game. Rather then write a review (as I tend to not write reviews) I figured I would list points and say why I feel the way I do about the game.

Why I like the game:
-Gameplay is innovative compared to other CCG's, normally you are trying to defeat the player by draining points, or defeat creatures, in this game you simply (hah simply) need to control 5 of the 9 squares. This defense is as important as offense.
-Multi Element playing field encourages diverse decks. You can easily buy boosters and look for a mix of elements in your deck as playing a wood creature on wood incurs bonuses. Also some creatures impart bonuses if they are played on non-aligned elements, some creatures cause discards, add mana, give draws, it very much adds to the strategic element.
-The geek factor is HUGE!! This is a geekfest of greatness, watching creatures come to life beautifully on your screen is something that has to be played to be believed. I know when I was playing magic I often wondered what a computer model of the creature would look like, what the attack would appear as...it is truly cool.
-The Online option while flawed due to matchmaking problems is amazing fun. I have participated in many matches and have to say being able to find a challenger any time I want is appreciated, my Magic deck used to collect dust for months at a time when I was playing.
-The ranking system is cool, it encourages you to play and try and climb the ladder by obtaining honor with wins, like most games you get titles as you advance, which increases your prestige.
-Fast recognition and a neat peripheral with the Playstation Eye. The camera is great, I have played with it in EyeCreate and while not studio quality (obviously) it takes decent video and pictures. When playing the game, cards read in less then a second (most times) with generally few issues (see dislikes).

Why I dislike it
-Blech, set up time sucks, here is a rundown:
1. pull out folding TV Tray
2. lay board on top of tray to give proper size to play on
3. place mat on table
4. Put camera on mat, make sure it is steady and in the right spot
5. Turn on PS3 and quickly start the game before the obnoxiously loud hair rock starts as the XMB is displayed (you have to own the game to understand what I am talking about)
6. If playing online, need to lay the deck out card by card beside me as the PS3 handles card draws and you have a short time to find the drawn card
7. go to online -> go to ranked games -> look for table a few times -> give up and host a table and wait for a player.
No word of a lie it is generally 5-10 minutes before I am ready to play a game, and I can say my wife came home and called me a dork to my face when she saw the setup...
-No campaign mode is an insult. There is a great cinematic to intro the elements, but no campaign, you can play pointless matches against the PC or online, the other modes are useless. A story based campaign a la the old magic the gathering game or Puzzle Quest should have been included in the game
-Online is frustrating at times. You can invite people (to play friends you have met) but can't lock the room, many times I have invited someone and someone else was auto assigned to my room...very stupid. Also if someone is having lag or connectivity issues it doesn't disconnect them, it actually allows their clock to run out...I have sat through some 20 round games where the opponents full 3 minutes clock times out almost every round...if I quit I lose honor and don't advance in rank...so I have to sit there and take it...very bad design
-Sony dropped the ball HUGE on cards and security, you can print out cards and use them in game (no security to verify legit cards) and you can't find cards...anywhere...period. Nobody in Canada has cards, because they were not shipped any, even PlayAsia has them on backorder. This means that people who want new cards cannot BUY them, instead they can steal them and use them easily.
-Flaky PSEye at times, water based cards have huge issues being read at times, causing crucial matches to be lost (in my own experience)when a card cannot be played.

All in All I like the game, I like a point when I am playing so I don't play it every day, plus I need to wait in my backordered earth deck to arrive so I can build a proper deck...no bitterness here at all....Oh yeah and the eye is creepy:
Hmm, update time. So I went ahead and got my PSP slim and I have to say I love it. It is very lite(tm) and very slim(tm) and the color is great! I mentioned that I was getting the Star Wars one, I saw it and meh, instead I picked up the silver Daxter Bundle:

I chose this one because I wanted to sell my old scuffed up PSP for a decent price, so I took the Daxter game (I already had it), the Family Guy UMD (don't want it) and the 1GB memory stick (already have one) and bundled them together at 200 bucks on Kajiji. This way I basically paid for my new unscuffed, lighter, longer lasting PSP in a swag shiny and not as easily dirty color.

So one of the major new features of the PSP Slim and Lite is the TV out functionality. I tried it after buying the official Sony Cable (amazingly enough Best Buy, Future Shop and EB games did not have the cable, I found it at Zellers of all places) and while I am impressed I am puzzled as well. I have a 37" Sharp Aquos mini God 1080p television and when the output (over component of course) is displaying the XMB and home screen of the PSP the entire screen is in use, when a game loads it windows on the screen and I lose about 25% of the viewing space (I will posta picture later). I have no idea why it does this, why would the home screen be full screen and the game partial screen? I am hoping this will be addressed in a PSP firmware update soon, not a huge deal...but annoying. I shoudl mention that setup of this feature was seamless, I have even set a button on my Harmony remote to be the PSP mode and audio comes out through my speakers as well...very nice.

Next Geek Topic, I am an angry Geek, I pre-ordered The Eye of Judgement at the local EB Games, never received a call to pick it up as it was released on Tuesday the 23rd of November. Last night I prepared my game space so I could truly Geek out and then drove to EB Games to Pick it up. 'Sorry Man' I was told, 'We didn't receive any yet' What the F???? Why the Hell did I pre-order then? So you could laugh at the uber-geek when he is upset that his physical/virtual ccg PS3 game is not in stock??? Cripes...So I will be scouring the futures shops/Best Buys and EB games locally at lunch today...frick....I want this in my house now!!
So I am in the book store and I see a new William Gibson book called Spook Country, intrigued by his books as always I flip through it...at the back is his picture...I have always pictured William Gibson like this:

Instead I see this picture

When did he get so old? I don't know why but the image shocked the hell out of me...makes me realize how long I have been reading his books and the fact that I am actually 33....yeesh, mortality sucks...
How OLED is changing the face of portable technology.

In light of Sony’s recent announcement that they will ship the first commercial OLED television this December, now is a good time to look at the impact of this technology on Consumer electronics, particularly portable electronics. The big announcement may be about the new 11 inch viewable, 3mm thick television, but in reality the big news is that mass market OLED is coming soon and it will change the face of portable technology in immense ways.

Before we look at that, let’s look at OLED technology itself. OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, it is not a brand new technology having been developed by Eastman Kodak in the early 1980’s. OLED displays are basically a series of organic compounds that are between two conductors, when current is applied through the conductors a bright light is emitted. Eastman Kodak has developed films of the main primary colors, some are more efficient then others, the resulting matrix of colored compounds provides the colored lights as required. Kodak describes OLED thusly:
“OLED displays stack up several thin layers of materials. They operate on the attraction between positively and negatively charged particles. When voltage is applied, one layer becomes negatively charged relative to another transparent layer. As energy passes from the negatively charged (cathode) layer to the other (anode) layer, it stimulates organic material between the two, which emits light visible through an outermost layer of glass.”

That is a lot of technospeak but at its essence OLED displays are ultra-thin, incredibly high contrast ratio displays that require NO backlight as the organic compounds provide their own luminescence AND color when an electrical current is applied. Comparing this to LCD displays which require a backlight to display images (which requires an extra layer, which equals a thicker display) a current OLED display requires 40% less power then a conventional LCD display and the OLED panel will also deliver a much higher contrast ratio (the higher the better as a higher ratio gives you truer blacks). The announced Sony 11inch display features a 1000000:1 contrast ratio which blows their premiere LCD displays 52" BRAVIA XBR series LCD – 18000:1 dynamic contrast ratio/2000:1 on-contrast ratio) out of the water. The image and viewing angle on this display is phenomenal to say the least, and it brings to mind other more compelling reasons to adopt OLED.

Look around your home or think of portable electronics you see every day – cell phones, mps players, pocket PC’s, PSP, DS Lite, laptops, lcd displays, even electronic components like receivers, microwaves and coffee makers have LCD or LED displays. The common downfall of all LCD displays on portable electronics is that the display when backlit requires a great deal of battery power. Let’s look at the PSP as an example (since I just got a PSP Slim and Lite – YUM), with the new battery the manual says you can play games for 4-6 hours. If the PSP had a current gen OLED display (that uses 40% less power the LCD) not only would the PSP slim and lite be even slimmer and lighter (hey the new Sony 11” TV is just 3mm thick) you could be playing games for up to 8 ½ hours! Not impressive? Look at the new iPod Touch from Apple, it boasts a beautiful 3.5 inch touch LCD display and 22 hours of playtime on one charge. With an OLED display the iPod Touch would not only have a crisper, brighter image, it would have a playtime of nearly 31 hours. OLED Televisions will also be very cost effective for their owners as the draw of power will be substantially less then conventional CRT/Plasma/LCD displays. Currently there are many electronic devices that use OLED displays, but they are generally restricted to smaller screens and lower resolutions, but as time passes the penetration will increase. The oled-info.com site has a great list of products that currently use this innovative technology.

Its obvious OLED will have a great impact on current mainstream electronics once it is a mass market technology, but there is another relatively unknown niche that OLED could fill that could potentially change the entire perspective on print media. Flexible OLED displays are as the name implies a flexible display that can be rolled up or laid flat to read or watch media on its display. There are many Flexible OLED Prototypes at trade shows to wet peoples appetites and to me this is truly the most exciting and groundbreaking application for the technology. Picture a small 4mm tube that you slip in your jacket pocket or bag that you can take out, unroll and either wirelessly or wired hook up to a station (at your home or kiosk/store)and download your daily newspaper or magazine subscriptions. You can then read the paper or magazine on this .3 mm thick display (it clicks into a flat display) on the train/bus/cab or while drinking your coffee. It always keeps your place; you can highlight text with a click, or e-mail an article to a friend with a few steps. Books, online articles, dictionaries, the possibilities of these flexible displays are endless. It may sound like science fiction, but the technology is here now, we just need to wait for the production methods to catch up with the technology and soon all of us will be enjoying OLED clarity and flexible displays in every facet of our daily life.
Kay - Heavenly Sword thoughts and reactions...not a review, but sort of a review.

There has been a huge amount of hype, which seems to be justified by the blink and you miss it demo that appeared on the PSN a few months ago. I rented the game, hearing that the length of it was very short and I have to say, it blew me away. The graphics were sick and the combat mechanics were incredibly deep, the problem is you never get a chance to explore all of the mechanics.

Ninja Theory should have looked at the game that many people compared it to - God of War - for a progression lesson. Heavenly Sword continually gives you new combos as you progress through the many, very short, stages. This would be great if there were new enemies that are vulnerable to air combos, or heavy combos, or had any other restrictions, but this game just shoots waves of enemies with really no need to do anything but intelligently button mash. Yes intelligently button mash, because the blocking system requires you to not be attacking to block a move automatically you have to moderate the attacks into a give and take pattern. If they would have made challenges specifically designed to use new combos/abilities they could have stretched the gameplay out and had much more variety. The other stages that feature Nariko on a canon or Kai with her bow are fun as you can guide the arrow/explosive in slow motion with pinpoint control, but in some cases go on far too long.

Oh yeah I said the game blew me away, but have only complained? yes the game is repetitive, yes it has some wasted potential, but damn is it a blast to watch!! This game is what they promised, a summer blockbuster in game form, the animation, graphics, effects, cut scenes, action, acting is all top notch. I have never enjoyed not playing a game so much in my life. While the story is hardly innovative it is superbly played out, acted and visualized on screen, look at this for Jeebus sake:

All the cutscenes look this good and the ingame action is breathtaking as well, Andy Serkis of Lord of The Rings Fame and WETA did the motion capture and cutscenes and the effort shows. The only issue I had with them was that the music was too loud and drowned out the voices and there were some frame rate issues at the beginning of some of the scenes. I also have to say that Kai is one of the funkiest characters I have ever seen, picture Bjork as an agile crossbow carrying medieval character...that is Kai

All in All the game was VERY good, a little too short, a little too repetitive, but the sheer spectacle of the game was enough to keep me playing (for all 6 hours) and want much, much more. Ninja Theory states this will be a trilogy and now that the tech is developed the can build more gameplay...I predict, right now, that heavenly sword 2 will be one of the best games of 2009...just my opinion...
This Geek moment brought to you by Tampax, Time to upgrade!

In orgasmic Geek news Sony is launching the worlds first OLED Display in December...OLED is:
An organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is any light-emitting diode (LED) whose emissive electroluminescent layer comprises a film of organic compounds. The layer usually contains a polymer substance that allows suitable organic compounds to be deposited. They are deposited in rows and columns onto a flat carrier by a simple "printing" process. The resulting matrix of pixels can emit light of different colors.

What is REALLY cool about OLED is the fact that it generates it's own luminescence so battery life is greatly increased as most of the power needed in LED displays is to light them. Think of a PSP that would last 20 days on a single charge, cell phones that last 30 days, TVs or monitors that use 70% less power....exciting stuff

This = Sexy:
This is a title I have been worried about, but it looks like Final Fantasy Tactics is Bigger, and Better on the PSP! Even tho' it looks awesome, I am not sure if even this can get me to eject the freaking phenomenal Jeanne D'arc from my PSP as I only have about a month to play it before Disgaea comes out...sheesh, traffic lights need to be longer so I can get more PSP playtime, or I need more of those long useless conference calls to play during....

On another PSP note, stoopid Walmart had this add:

Keen observers will notice that the picture shows the PSP Slim and Lite core pack, so I went to a Walmart very early (8AM) on the opening day of the sale and lo and behold a disclaimer saying they posted the wrong image in the flyer...they meant to post this image:

Since I already have the PSP 1001 model the sale was usless, they were also out of the discounted Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters game...sigh...Walmart sucks...

Guess I still have 7 days to wait for my Star Wars silk screened PSP Slim...
Arrgh, first I get excited about the newly announced DualShock 3/Sixaxis controller and the fact that it will support most of the existing games via software update and all new games. Then I see that it is launching in Japan this November and North America Spring 2008???? WTF? This is a controller, there is no localization, no region codes, no nothing...is this just a supply decision??? Arrggh!

Oh and Playstation Home is delayed till Spring 2008 as well? Crap on a stick, Home was one of the reasons I bought a PS3...cripeys, at least I still have Eye of Judgment on pre-order at EB games and a StarWars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron PSP bundle reserved for launch day...

A guess it could be a worse time to be a gamer...
Kay, so I wrote a long and boring post on what I do last month. Well Backbone Magazine thinks I am cool! Sort of:

Article about my assistance with the Canadian Curling Association

Backbone is distributed six times a year within The Globe and Mail to business and metropolitan subscribers within select city centres. Backbone is also distributed through corporate alliances, sent to, among others, Bell Canada’s SMB customers, Industry Canada’s leaders in e-business development, KPMG, within Air Canada Lounges, Industry leading HR companies, numerous technology industry associations, universities, select retailers and subscribers.

Sometimes everyone needs to pat themselves on the back =P
A belated but heartfelt Rest in Peace goes to Robert Jordan, writer of a few (very good) Conan books (where I first discovered him) and more notably the Wheel of Time series. He passed away on September 16th 2007 and as I read the fan community writing about their thoughts of him and his books it made me look back at his works and how they affected me. I started reading the Wheel of Time series when I was in High School (15 years ago), I purposely waited until book three assuming it would be a trilogy, nope, it stretched to 12 books (and was rumored to be ending with the 13th book, which was a number of significance in the series). While the series had some major missteps around books 8 and 9 in my opinion (deceased characters returning from the dead even though there where too many foils/bad guys already, books focusing on annoying characters with no advancement and actions by the lead character that had me yelling at the pages) I still remember them very fondly and regard the series as a milestone in fantasy literature.

I approached the early books very much like younger people today approached the Harry Potter books; I would wait countless months till the next book was released and then read all 800+ pages in a weekend and want more immediately.  The world was so raw and fresh and was such a departure from the LOTR imitation worlds of Forgotten Realms and DragonLance, there were no elves, orcs or magic instead there was Ogiers, Trollocs, Myrddraal (coolest bad guys ever) and the One Power. I loved the fact that even the most powerful users of the One Power are never as powerful as say an Elminster, Rasitlin or an Allanon. They are humans, who can do exceptional things, but they fail, they miss or they are flawed.  His books introduced me to a broader scope of writing, one that wasn't defined by the safe fantasy worlds that most authors use. While reading his books I delved into other authors work, some I loved like George RR Martin and Raymond E Feist, and some I hated like Terry Goodkind. Regardless of my feelings for these other authors, I may not have strayed from standard mass market novels to these new realms without Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time universe opening my eyes to different ways of writing Epic fantasy.

Over my years with the Wheel of Time I had the World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time Encyclopedia, the D20 Role playing Source book, the D20 main adventure guide (Prohecies of the Dragon), played the FPS based on the universe and created my own sprawling campaign that had a tortured male Aiel character who could channel (and survived his suicide mission into the Blight that all male Aiel channelers have to face) who had a premonition that he would help the Car'a'carn (Rand Al'thor the main protagonist in the WoT series) in the final battle and would finally die that day. It had the Player Characters (PC's) following Rand's journey through the world. It was a very good campaign if I do say so myself, featuring dramatic and comedic moments, one of which introduced a recurring villain character (the Widdler) a soldier who was relieving himself against a tree when a battle was occurring and the PC's could not hit him to save their life. He escaped and to this day in other campaigns the Widdler appears out of nowhere...

So here's to Robert Jordan, an author with a vision that became a little too big to manage, but his words and ideas inspired me and millions of others and will continue to as long as the written word is still worshiped.
Gaming - Epilogue

Weesh, man I like to talk...err...write don't I? Ok, last article on Gaming (aside from spooging or reviews on games I get going forward). PC gaming, ah how I love thee...sort of. Back in, oh, 1995 I got a student loan, they gave me 6000 dollars, and since I went to college (in Canada) my tuition was only about 2500 (books included) so I used to remaining 3000 dollars or so to buy my own first computer. As a rambled on (and on and on) about, consoles were my big gaming platform, so at the age of 21 my only experience with PC gaming was playing the Wing Commander games (oh so awesome) at a friends house. My first PC was a powerhouse back then, it was a Pentium 90 with 32Mb of RAM and a 400Mb hard drive. I also got Windows 95 with it and boy was it a powerhouse. The first year or so I played a few games, mostly the AWESOME LucasArts adventure games (Sam and Max, Curse of Monkey Island, Full Throttle), Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger and the X-Wing series of space flight games. That first while I was all about space flight sims, it was like a sickness...but the new horrible sickness was around the corner. Quake was announced and launched, I didn't really care too much as I had never got on the Doom Bandwagon, but the 3dfx announced their 3d accelerator cards and the programming God John Carmack announced GL Quake and the geek in me HAD to have both of them. A 3d accelerator card was now a must buy proposition for me, so to wet my appetite for the genre I got the shareware copy of Quake (downloaded via my bleeding fast 36.6k modem), all I can say is WOW. The gameplay, controls, even un-accelerated graphics killed me with their sheer awesomesness. I started playing multiplayer very early and threewave capture the flag with it's grappling hook became my muse to wreck havok on my enemies. See in Quake capture the flag I was the chief capturer, on every map I had at least 5-6 techniques that allowed me to enter, kill multiples, grab the flag and literally fly out. My clan mates (yes I was in a clan), would cover my retreat if they could or I would quickly zip in and out avoiding fire. Life was good, very good.

During this time I was researching (of course) my soon to be acquired video card. I eventually settled on the 3dFX (the only real name at the time) Diamond Monster 3d video card. This lasted a short while (year and a half) and I eventually upgraded my processor to a 200Mhz, my RAM to 64Mb and my video card to a Riva TNT, this card was blazing fast and my computer was like a mini-god. Quake become my online passion, Quake 2 came and I played it like mad and then Half-Life/Counterstrike dominated my world. My last big foray into online PC gaming was Quake 3 Arena. this game and all it's mods was my online life. I never reached the high level of play I had with Quake, but I loved it. In between my fits and shocks of FPS games I played mostly PC Roleplaying Games (Baldurs Gate 1 & 2, Fallout 1& 2, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment, Neverwinter Knights, have I mentioned I love Bioware?) and RTS games (Starcraft, Warcraft 1-3, Command and Conquer series, etc...). Over the years my PC was overhauled and upgraded over and over again, and therein lies the problem. Before consoles in the very recent time frame started scoring all the major (formerly exclusive) PC games like BioShock, Unreal Tournament, Fallout 3 I never knew if a must have game would work. What started me really moving away from PC gaming was Half Life 2 and Quake 4. I have a decent PC - Athlon 2400+, 1.25 GB of PC3200 RAM, and a Nvidia 9600 pro video card. It is a good system, but Half Life 2 runs OK, and Quake 4 runs OK, don't get me started about load times. But on my PS3, PS2, Xbox, PSP, I drop in a game, it runs, loads decently well and looks GREAT. Also Bioware except for the upcoming Dragon Age (which I am hoping becomes their PS3 exclusive game) has basically abandoned the PC. Consoles are so powerful and so connected (hell, Unreal Tournament 3 will support USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so I can play with the controller or old school) that they are the focus for the majority of triple A developers for the next foreseeable future.

Having said that, there is still something intimate about sitting 12 inches from your monitor fragging anonymous players online or playing a deep RPG that (at this time) has not exactly been accomplished on the PC. But times are-a-changin' NCSoft just recently announced that they will be making MMO games exclusively for the PS3, this is HUGE, this could open the door for World of Warcraft on the consoles, and millions of console players can be addicted as well. The one thing a console can't do easily is replicate the LAN party feel. Over the years I have been to many LAN parties, some huge (30+ players) some small (5 players) and every one of them have been a blast. 5+ friends in a big room, all with PC's and Monitors yelling and hooting playing the hell out of the FPS or RTS flavour of the month is something that can't be described. It would be kind of hard to lug my 37inch TV, receiver and PS3 to a friends house =-)

I swear this is the last Gaming post for a bit...maybe...tomorrow analog vs digital signaling! Woot!

Now playing: Prince - She's Always In My Hair (12' Version)
via FoxyTunes
Gaming Part 3

So the PS2 was a huge gaming venture for me, but gaming became difficult in 2001 when I had my first child. It's funny, at the time I was 27, a professional in my career, but loved video games as a release and still roleplayed with friends once a week (more on that in another post) yet felt completely unprepared to add this child to my life. The first year we had our son gaming didn't change much, I was still able to play quite a bit, in fact I remember that my best friend used to come over every Saturday and we would play through Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance in co-op until we finished it three times (hey we had to unlock Drizzt Do'Urden!). It wasn't until year 2 of his life, when he wasn't content to just sit in a chair (facing away from the TV!) and watch daddy as he plays games that my time available decreased. Hey, don't get it in your head that I sat in front of my TV (ignoring my son)and played games for 6 hours a day after work...I probably averaged 1-2 hours a night and 4-5 hours each day on the weekend. This was slightly less then before kids, but better then I could have hoped. By year 2 I was lucky to play for an hour every few days and 1-2 hours on the weekend. year 3 of his life things got better and I snagged an Xbox (finally), specifically I got it just to play Knights of the Old Republic and the forthcoming Jade Empire (love the Bioware). I swiftly had it modded so I could play DivX movies on the console (divx dvd players weren't everywhere yet!), I quickly built up a big catalogue of XBOX games and as much as I am a Sony fanboy it was quickly obvious that crossplatform games looked better on the XBOX and generally had surround sound enabled in most games. This was a tough gaming time for me (in a good way) I had very little time and way too many games, I was also turning my back on a beloved gaming platform - the PC (more on the PC in the next post, PC gaming was ingrained in me for so long it needs its own entry). Regardless I pushed on and played/finished many, many games.

Things began to change again about 2 years ago I started to get really excited about the PS3 and next generation gaming, but I had a huge problem, My old faithful TV set, a 27 inch Sanyo CRT, really would not cut it anymore. I had never experienced surround sound at home (relied on the 'stereo speakers' on the TV), had no idea what high definition video looked like and had no clue. So I researched and researched, and finally settled on a plan:
-For speakers I would start of by buying a home theatre in a box, specifically the Sony Dream System, this would give me starter speakers and surround sound till I could afford a proper receiver.
-For the receiver Sony again, I know I sound like the fanboy of the month, but the Sony STRDG800 is on of the highest rated midrange receivers and features 2 hdmi, 2 component, oodles of composite, 4 optical, and 2 digital coaxial inputs. It will also upconvert composite signals so they can all output on a single component cable. VERY cool. I needed this overkill of inputs as I had a PS2, Xbox, DVD player and digital TV receiver to connect.
-For the television...at the time (2 years ago) it was a tossup between the Panasonic TH-42PD50U and the Hitachi 42HDS69, these decisions were based on my very limited knowledge of audio visual technology...what I did know was that anything would be a quantum leap over the current 27inch CRT I had. Things changed...drastically!

A friend of mine who knew more about speakers and receivers cautioned me to look at the OHM rating on the speakers and receivers, if I bought the theater in a box and it's OHM rating was off from the receiver, I would be in trouble, the receiver could get blitzed by the inexpensive speakers...sure enough I checked and the Dream System ran at 3 OHM and the Receiver at 8 OHM, YIKES, going with my plan (which by the way was designed to give me high definition audio first, high definition video second as the TV would take longer to save for) would have tanked my new receiver. Time to re-evaluate, the receiver is still great, speakers need to be reconsidered...I ended up buying Polk Audio RM 6005 speakers on Ebay. They are great little speakers, had some issues with speaker wire and eventually tore it all out and went with a large spool of 16 gauge and all seems well with them. Just getting the receiver and speakers was expensive enough, but I had to (of course I had to) get 3 optical audio cables (Ps2, Xbox and Digital Cable), 1 digital coaxial cable (DVD Player) and an audio HD adaptor for my Xbox. Yeesh, but after it was all setup and I ran the snazzy auto calibration and BAM I had surround 5.0 audio (no subwoofer yet). I loved it, movies sounded great, XBOX and some PS2 games took advantage of it, I was in love.

About 9 months went by and I was steadily paying off debts to afford the TV and the most bootiful thing happened, the new generation Sharp Aquos, specifically the Sharp LC 37D62U was launched and priced to kill! This was one of the better LCD 1080p sets on the market, it has a killer image and amazing options, blacks and is drool worthy. The boss (my wife) approved the purchase and it became mine. Of course as was the case with the receiver the TV wasn't the end, I had to (of course I had to) get a high definition cable terminal, an HDMI to DVI cable (for the HD cable), an Xbox HD adapter (with component), a PS2 HD adapter (with component), 4 component cables (DVD player, Xbox, PS2, component out). But it was awesome, I was playing PS2 games where available in 480p, Xbox in 480p and 720p, movies in 480p. I was happy. But as you can probably tell I never stop. A month ago (as you know from an earlier post) I got a PS3, and I had to (of course I had to) get 2 HDMI cables (PS2, HDMI out), blu-ray movie (Superman Returns) and a Game (Resistance: Fall of Man).

Sheesh...so now that I am NEXT GENERATION, what do I play most? Rogue galaxy and Final fantasy XII of course. But that will change soon with the launch over the next few months of Heavenly Sword, Lair, Warhawk, Playstation Home, Folklore, Eye of Judgement and Assassin's Creed, let's not forget PSP games like Jeanne D'arc, Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue Squadron, D&D Tactics, Disgaea. I won't even talk about the only two games that I want an Xbox 360 for - BioShock and (drool) Mass Effect...God I love/hate bioware.

Now playing: Prince - Don't Play Me
via FoxyTunes
Gaming Part 2

Around this time I was also HUGE into Mortal Kombat 2 in the arcardes, my friend and I were masters at this game, I had a 100% combo for Liu Kang
and Mileena. It was always funny, we would go to the arcade with 8 quarters (yes games cost only a quarter back then) and play for hours, the game was so popular that people were lining up to play. I would start and play 5-6 people (and win) the my buddy would play and beat me (sometimes not) then he would play 5-6 people, then I would play him and win (sometimes) and so on. We were hated in some ways, we were true Kombat masters.

Back to consoles, so the SNES and Genesis days were great, my brother and I played the hell out of so many games:
Breath of Fire 2
Star Fox
Shining Force 1 & 2
Chrono Trigger
FF3 (6)
Streets of Rage 2
And many more, but I was still a 'kid' and relied on presents or buying myself a game once a year...but that was about to change, around 1993/1994 I had a job, disposable income and I heard about the Sega 32X addon for the Genesis, this was the start of the next generation and I wanted it badly, thank God around that time I started a habit I still have 14 years later, I researched the hell out of the 32X and discovered it was crap, it had nothing and I managed to hold off buying it. That was when the immortal Playstation term started to creep about the world...WHAT...Sony, the makers of walkman and betamax making a console, it will never work. So I researched the hell out of it and found out that this was an incredibly powerful and well thought out console, that it could do 3d games like we have never seen before and that it would be here and change the world. I didn't buy it, it was too good to be true, the screens for Battle Arena Toshinden were too good to be true, and boy was it expensive. I couldn't afford it and there was nothing on it yet to interest me, besides there were tons of snes and genesis RPG's coming out that were keeping me busy, one game changed all of that Final Fantasy 7. It may not be apparent, but I am a Square fanboy, I devoured every Square game I could get and back then Japan would have a game 1-2 years ahead of us, it killed me, then when I found out that Square would not support the N64 due to their insistence on cartridges (I was strongly considering an N64 for RPG reasons) but instead were globally relaunching their Final Fantasy brand on playstation the decision was made for me. I bought my Playstation (one) in September 1997 with a shiny copy of FF7, I played this game like the world was ending, to this day the thought of Aeris sinking below the water or Sephiroth's theme music sends chills down my spine. for the next three years I bought, played, traded dozens of games for that system. But that wasn't the height of my obsession, that came in the form of the Playstation 2. In June of 2000 I placed my pre-order for my PS2, I had no DVD player and that was a huge draw of the machine for me, not only could I keep playing my unfinished PS1 games (with better load times and smoothed textures) but I could play new PS2 games and watch DVD's!? Sold! So on a cold morning of October 26, 2000 I woke up insanely early and got to EB Games at 6AM (3rd in line) and got my PS2 + memory card + 3 games all for about 650 bucks. I went home and geeked out for days, out of the launch games I bought (Summoner, SSX and DOA 2: Hardcore) only SSX and DOA 2 had a long life on my shelf. A few days later I bought the Matrix on DVD and saw why people where crazy about this newish format. Many people have said that the PS2 was the greatest console of all time and I have to agree, 7 years later it is still churning out great games (God of War 2, Rogue Galaxy, Persona 3). It was the perfect mix of hardware, amazing software, phenomenal 3rd party support and amazing marketing.

More tomorrow...links hurt...=-)

Now playing: Prince - Last Heart
via FoxyTunes
Gaming Part 1
So...I have a passion for videogames. I have been an avid gamer since the very early days, I remember moments up to about 26 years ago when I was playing frogger on our wood paneled Atari 2600, I remember loving going to my cousins place because he had the newfangled ColecoVision, I would play Zaxxon and Mr. Do! for hours on end. As I got a little older (10 or so), the Videogame Crash of 1983 was in full swing (the ET game had a lot to do with it, I had the game, it was AWFUL) and my attention turned to sports (baseball and track), reading like mad (discussed this in an earlier post) and watching TV. Games did not become a huge part of my life again until a few years later when my brother got a Super NES and I got a Sega Genesis, I was about 15 and man was I hooked. This was the first major console war and my brother and I would often switch consoles for weeks on end so we could play each others games. I have to say that overall I preferred the Super NES (who didn't) because of my deep love of RPG's (and Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan)) in particular. I had played the heck out of other games, Shadowrun for the genesis was awesome and a huge timesink for me, but FF3 was the shiznitz! This game had a huge story, great cast of characters, phenomenal graphics and enough extras and sidequests to choke a llama. It's funny, back then I used to play games in my bedroom, back against the wall facing the TV with music playing, to this day when I hear The Odds - Good Weird Feeling album I can recall parts of the Shadowrun game, I must have listened to that CD a hundred times while playing that game. Isn't funny how you associate sights and sounds together if they are paired enough?

More on gaming tomorrow.

Now playing: Garbage - Silence Is Golden
via FoxyTunes
Fell behind a bit, made a pact with myself to blog every couple of days if not daily, wife was sick, one kid was sick, I became sick and before I knew it days and days passed...

Hobbies, well you know some, but one I can't practice enough is Chito-Ryu Karate, this is a very traditional form of karate that has this distinguished history:
Karate, a Japanese martial art which translates as 'empty hand', is a devastating form of unarmed combat. Chito-Ryu karate is a traditional Okinawan karate style founded by Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose a medical doctor and Karate master. Characterized by blocks, punches, kicks and strikes, Chito-Ryu karate is an ergonomically correct form of karate. It is designed to instill confidence and self-discipline while preparing the mind and body to defend against aggressive behaviour or assault.

Chito-Ryu is one of the oldest styles of karate in Canada. Chito-Ryu karate offers participants excellent physical conditioning and strong mental discipline, as well as a proven method of self-defense. Instruction at all Chito-Ryu clubs is given by experienced Black Belt instructors, registered in Japan with the All Japan Karatedo Chito-Kai and with the National Karate Association in Canada.

This Karate style can be practiced by all ages. No special athletic abilities or flexibility is required.

Chito-Ryu karate, as a martial art, is designed for people of both sexes and of all walks of life. With its well designed calisthenics to protect the body from injury and painstaking attention given to the mastery of technique, Chito-Ryu karate develops healthy bodies and sharply focused minds.


To provide the best possible karate training, recognizing that each individual has different physical abilities. To help dedicated students progress in the knowledge and skills of karate, thus maximizing their physical and mental potential. The aim of karate is the perfection of the character of its participants. Karate begins and ends with courtesy.

Chito-Ryu traditional karate focuses on good manners, self-discipline, physical fitness and self-defense.

Sounds very standard, but trust me it isn't, I started Karate at Douvris Martial Arts in Orleans and advanced to a green belt over 2-3 years...I enjoyed it immensely, the katas and sparring drills were fun and I was good at it, I was also in very good shape. I stopped when I was about 22 and last year (at the tender age of 32)joined Ottawa Chito-Kai, I routinely practiced what I had spent 4 hours, 4-5 days a week for 3 years learning at Douvris and rejoined as a Green belt. Wow, was it a shock, while Douvris was a good club in my mind, it was very much Sport karate, they focused on sparring and kumite drills, Chito-Ryu focuses on style, respect, focus and maintaining your inner-eye at all times. I basically had to re-learn everything, it wasn't easy, but after a year I attained my Blue Belt, and while I haven't gone in some time I practice at home every few days and maintain my skill level. Only two of the basically 15 katas/kihons from Douvris carried over to Chito-Ryu, sho-hai and seisan, all the other movements were new, where Douvris had a Kata and some strikes per belt, Chito-Ryu gnerally has 3 kihomn/katas, 10-15 new strikes, 3 bunkais (portions of katas analyzed and performed move by move against opponents to demonstrate practicality) and wrist locks. The depth of this martial art is staggering, this is karate as it was meant to be taught. We are mentored by Hagashi Sensai - 8th Dan based in Toronto, he was trained by O'Sensai Chitose and is the canadian head of the organization. I have attended two clinics run by Hagashi Sensai, and both times he has inspired me as few others have.

It is an art I respect, that I enjoy and hope to master one day.

Now playing: Prince - Cream (NPG Mix)
via FoxyTunes
Work - hmm, this is a tough one to talk about. I am what is called a Sales Engineer, while I make decent money I don't nearly meet the mid to high range figures on that website, but it is a great description of the job. I am also third level support for the company I work at and an Enterprise Project Manager. What does that mean? Well unlike what my wife says when people ask what I do, the answer is not 'he works with computers'. =-)

Say you are a North American gold mining company, a major Travel Agency or a National employment sourcing company as examples(no names on a public blog) and you need to have a company host your web, mail, shared data, product/people databases in a secure Data Centre as well as manage your IT security and access to these devices you would come to my company. The sales rep would introduce me and I would work with the company to discover their needs and come up with a solution. This generally takes into account:
-Firewall needs
-Remote access requirements
-How many servers required? Do you want us to source them?
-Do you need cage space in our Data Centre?
-How will you access the servers? VPN? Trigabit encryption?
-What level of redundancy? Any Disaster Recovery plans?
-How much do you want us to manage server and network related?
-What are your applications and needs?

Once I work through everything I need, the solution is designed, priced and generally a plan for deployment is made. If the client signs I Shepard the process to completion and watch them during their time with us. On top of this as mentioned I support the entire company from a high level perspective as well as train and work on documentation and assorted projects.

It is a challenging job, just like any other company there is the occasionally political crap to deal with and people I will butt heads with, but it is rewarding, more money is always nice so we will see how that goes. ;-)

To get to this role I had to battle in the trenches as a residential support tech (are you using dial up or dsl ma'am?), then corporate support, then high speed install and provisioning, then provisioning manager, then Sales Engineer. I am Cisco certified took a technical business course at a local college and am generally an inquisitive, hard working, determined and fairly intelligent self trained person.

That's about it...goals you ask? Well I would like to move up the chain, become a national technical integrator for an organization or working for a company that supports fortune 100's at a director/VP level...we'll see.

Promise the next post will not be as boring...=-)
Should start actually blogging regularly since I am a techno Geek....Funny thing is I do blog, but it is on my groups blog The Geek Nighter Weblog read it if you dare, we have 7 years of archives and you will see everything from movie deets, game reviews, jokes, flames and everything under the sun.

On to other schtuff, my interests, this is my blog, so I will talk about me sometimes, other times other people or things.

-PS3, hmm, just bought one, LOVE it, but no games, thankfully I have a dozen PS2 games in the to be played or finished pile (FF12, RE4, Okami, Rogue Galaxy, Devil May Cry 3, Kingdom Hearts 2, etc...) and Oblivion is on it's way from a kindly ebay seller. What I love about my PS3? Blu-ray - ROCKS, Superman Returns is psycho on that thing, Super Stardust HD - Awesome, Upsampling of PS2, DVD's and audio is just icing on the cake. Aside from that pickins are slim on the PS3, this year I have Home, Heavenly Sword, UT3, Uncharted, Lair and Folklore to look forward to.
Things I don't like about my PS3? Hmmm, the lack of exclusives and new games suck. The fact that the PSN is empty of demos, skinpacks, graphics, extras, etc, is incredibly annoying since they are aware Microsoft has these things and aside from demos the other items are easy to add. Crpipes, even themepacks would kick butt, graphics from all the games, online magazines, music, movies, etc...all of this should be here.

-Music...hmm, just bought the new Prince cd - Planet Earth and aside from 2 songs and the remarkably Fey cover and inside picture I really like this album. It doesn't have as many standout tracks as 3121 (his last CD) but Guitar, The One U Wanna C and Mr. Goodnight stuck out with me...still pissed that no Canadian or NorthEastern US dates have been announced on his tour, but I guess beggers can't be choosers.
--Saw The Police in concert last week, I am a huge Police and major Sting fan and it was surreal to see them live considering I was 10 when they broke up originally. The concert was...good...I can't say it was phenomenal, I did see Prince in concert after all, but it was good. The performance was solid, but I never had that feeling of euphoria you get in a really magically concert, I had it for Prince, I had it for an Aerosmith concert years ago, Holly McNarland killed me when I saw her (I am in love there as well), hell in high school it was there for a Bryan Adams concert. They simply toned down the songs too much, it wasn't a party, it was like a memorial....yeah, now that I think on it, it seems like Sting and crew were singing for themselves and how they want to remember and envision the songs and we were just there, take it or leave it...

-Books, just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, like the book immensely once the first half was done, it starts REAL slow and builds up well. The ending was satisfying and it made me smile and want more, exactly what you could hope for. I am also reading (yes all at the same time) - Altered Carbon, Wee Free Men, Honor among Enemies, Ilium and Agents of Chaos: Jedi Eclipse. All of them are very good reads except Ilium drags a bit which is a shame...love the Troy/greek mythology, love futuristic societies, love alien based crap, it just doesn't flow. Why am I reading 5-6 books at a time...cause I get bored, have a great memory and love different styles of writing.

What else? well tons more, but will save those thoughts for tomorrow!
Bad Mood!

Isn't it funny when things build and build until you are just so frustrated with everything? Work, family, people, even inanimate objects are annoying to me right now. The funniest part is that none of the things I am pissed off about are major issues...just dozens and dozens of small things piled on on top of the other. Just enough to make me ready to blow my top.

What doesn't help is being fracking tired, all week people in my family have been keeping me awake in one form or another, whether it be kids getting up, wife staying up and being noisy or a combination of the two...heck one of the nights we were in bed and I just couldn't sleep. Wasn't stressed about anything...wasmn't worrying, thinking, planning or otherwise plotting...just couldn't sleep. arrrrggghhhhhhhhh

sigh...funny to post something like this after not posting for so long...
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