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July 30, 2008

It’s Official: I’m a Microsoft Student Partner! | Posted at 1:54 PM

Joining the rest of the participating universities around the world and the other 1400 student partners, I was chosen to be a Microsoft Student Partner at the University of Minnesota! How absolutely exciting!

It has good pay for the hours and tons of benefits:

  • Training and information for new products, plus previews
  • My own MS-provided laptop
  • Supposedly an MSDN subscription
  • In-road to MS internships and full-time positions (Xbox Live, watch out)

I’ll find out all the benefits when I fill out all the papers and such.

That means that this blog and Facebook will become fairly important for me to send out updates. Sweetness!

There is a God! Morroblivion Converts Morrowind to Oblivion’s Engine! | Posted at 11:11 AM

OK, this is seriously freaking awesome. I hope some blogs out there start writing about this because this is one of the coolest mods ever.

For all of us who loved Morrowind but disliked Oblivion somewhat, this could be our salvation! Morroblivion takes on the daunting task of converting all Morrowind files to work with Oblivion...

You can already download the latest builds to try it out and since I'm at work I can't...

Even if we have to use Oblivion-type methods for the menus and alchemy, etc, it will still be awesome… since I do like the Oblivion combat system, alchemy system, magic system, etc.

The tool will convert Morrowind, but to actually play it you need the Morroblivion Expansion mod. This is the mod that will deliver us the true Morrowind game itself.

If you’re a modder or a programmer or whatever, I would offer your help to these guys… the potential for this is huge!

Done right this could be RPG nirvana.

[Welcome to Morroblivion via Morroblivion]

Update: Looks like me and my friend succeeded in getting this posted at Kotaku, FTW!

July 29, 2008

How To: Get Free Audiobooks Legally | Posted at 8:47 PM

I’ve gushed before about how I love Audible. I also calculated how much I saved.

But then it occurred to me… have I really saved much? Consider that your public library, University, or city library may well have that audiobook available to you completely free!

I wanted to know how many of my Audible books I could have gotten for free, even if I had used credits to buy them.

In Minneapolis, by checking the Minneapolis Public Library website and NetLibrary.com which you have access to if you have a library card, I found that only the following books weren’t available in either place:

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Diamond Age (unless you like phonotapes) by Neal Stephenson
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Wyrms by Orson Scott Card
  • Lamb by Christopher Moore

That’s 5 books out of 13 books. Definitely not bad! And then consider all the ones I could potentially get.

The Minneapolis Library has teamed with NetLibrary.com which lets you check out up to 10 audiobooks at a time, with the ability to play on a portable. They last for 21 days before you have to check them in or you can renew them once for another 21 days. That’s more than enough time to get through a book if you listen regularly.

Consider my girlfriend who works 8 hours a day at a computer with no interaction… she borrowed my audiobooks and we even rented some from the library (if you don’t want to rip the CDs, use that old CD player that’s been collecting dust sitting in the basement). She can get through Pillars of the Earth in a week and a couple days since it’s 44 hours. Imagine the amount of books you could “read? with access to all this free public material!

Does this mean Audible is useless? I don’t think so. I think that next time I will check if my library has the book before buying on Audible and I’ll only use credits from now on to buy books. $15/month is 1 book a month and you save: the book price - $15. It’s still not a bad deal… just be sure to check around before you decide to buy that audiobook.

July 27, 2008

Arr, That Be Me Booty! | Posted at 5:27 PM

I forgot to mention that when I went to North Dakota I bought a pirate flag at the state fair. Yes it is awesome.

Room 7-27-2008 4-40-47 PM

We haven’t yet gotten to the basement renovation, but it is pretty clean despite what’s pictured. My desk just has some stuff on it and my bed isn’t made.

One Sentence Review: Wall-E | Posted at 1:46 PM


Title: Wall-E
Blurb: A robot falls in love with another, that’s about it.
Review: A robot love story, but the best one ever told.
Grade: A-

July 26, 2008

How To: Scan and Store Many Pictures | Posted at 2:13 PM

Just today I was tasked with the job to scan in about 50 pictures so that we could store them online for our family members to see and for others to print out and add to my great grandma’s birthday photo album.

I thought it would take forever but in just one hour I was able to scan all of them in, edit them all for better picture, and upload them to a web album that my family could see.

What You Will Need

  • Photoshop CS or above
  • Scanner or printer with scanner
  • Google Picasa2 or equivalent photo editor/organizer
  • Google Picasa account
  • A lot of RAM

1. Scan in Photos

Here is where you can be creative. The idea is to scan in a batch of photos, as much as your scanner can fit, and keep doing it until you don’t have any left.

With Photoshop, this is real easy.

Click File –> Import –> Name of your scanner/printer

This should launch ScanGear CS. Here’s why ScanGear CS is amazing. It has a super quick preview feature to see what’s being scanned, it lets you crop the image to your liking, and it can scan with many additional features like DPI and photo enhancement.

For options I have everything set to “OFF? and “None? because I’d rather edit it directly. I use a 300dpi setting for friendly and sharp printing.

Set up the photos in the scanner and press Preview in ScanGear. You should see your photos show up. Crop it so that you get all the photos and click Scan.

Keep using Preview and Scan until you’ve scanned in all your photos into Photoshop. Depending on how much RAM you have, you may only get through 3-4 batches before your computer slows down. I have 2GB of RAM so I scanned in everything just fine.

2. Slice and Dice

Here’s where some magic happens. We will use the Slices tool to split each image into their separate photos.

Select the Slice tool, then drag a box around each photo. You may have slightly tilted photos… if that’s the case, you can use the Select tool and then transform it to be straighter. I didn’t care so I just sliced so that it cropped out any slanted edges.

Once you’ve done that, go to File –> Save for Web

It might warn you about slow response, ignore it. In the Save for Web dialog, use the Slice Select tool to double-click each slice and give it a descriptive name. These will be your filenames.

Now hold the Shift key and select each picture slice. Make sure you’re exporting using JPEG and 100% quality.

Click Save and in the Save dialog make sure “All selected slices? is chosen, not “All Slices.?

Pick a folder to save them in and voila, you’re done.

Now do the same thing to each of the other Photoshop documents.

3. Organize and Upload

As far as we’re concerned, we’re done. However, chances are you want to organize these photos and upload them to the web. I use Picasa because I like its easy-to-use interface and it’s fairly evolved feature-set. I also chose Picasa Web Albums because they have 1GB of space and allow me to upload the original sizes. For reference, my 66 pictures only take up 31MB of space on the Picasa web album.

Start up Picasa and organize your photos. Add captions, rotate them, fix their color (the “I’m Feeling Lucky? option usually is all you need), fix Red Eye, etc. Then just select all the photos you want to upload and choose “Web Album? at the bottom.

4. Alternatives

If you don’t own Photoshop but still want to streamline your editing, try The GIMP editor. It’s free and duplicates many of the functions Photoshop offers. What you may not get is a nice scanning software like ScanGear CS. It’s fast which is more than you can say about software like HP or scanner manufacturer software.

All I’m doing is batch scanning photos and slicing them to make them easier to scan and upload.

July 25, 2008

Microsoft Student Partner Update – Considered! | Posted at 3:45 PM

So I got the call today. They interviewed me quick (6-7 minutes) over the phone and said they’ll be reviewing applications in the next couple of weeks. That means I’m considered! How exciting.

I wish I had time to prepare, they interviewed me out of the blue. I think I handled it well, but I wish I had the opportunity to think of more responses. They asked how I’d market an event on campus and some ideas eluded me:

  • Use my connections with student groups to advertise through them.
  • Host an event “in association? with a group I’m involved with.
  • Announce event before specific classes (this I did mention in my essay to them)
  • My blog? :P

I did say these ones, though:

  • Display cases in Coffman
  • Posters on the bridge
  • Event posters at Carlson
  • Posters in IT or CLA
  • Chalking
  • Facebook events
  • Word of mouth

Anyway, I did my best so that’s all I can do. I wonder if they Googled my name… if they did they probably read my blog, weird. Well, that is kind of the idea, isn’t it? So they can see how varied I am, I suppose.

I checked Analytics and since the beginning of May my blog has been viewed using the keyword “kamran ayub? 18 times. With some cross-referencing, 6 were from MN and 2 from NY and CA along with 4 visitors using T1 connection speeds. It doesn’t mean anything, it all depends on where that computer was located, but it could certainly be the case that they didn’t. Either way, using Analytics to drill down like that is pretty sweet, huh?

One Sentence Review: The Dark Knight | Posted at 11:36 AM


Title: The Dark Knight
Blurb: Why so serious?
Review: Awesome but not “the best movie ever,? I mean, c’mon.
Grade: A-

July 24, 2008

One Sentence Review: Dreamfall – TLJ | Posted at 9:13 PM


Title: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Type: PC Game
Blurb: An epic narrative told through the eyes of various characters.
Review: Average game play aside, the narrative is fantastic and I can’t wait to learn the conclusion.
Grade: B

GH:WT to be Compatible with Rock Band Instruments | Posted at 2:10 PM

At E3, Activition has said that Guitar Hero: World Tour will be compatible with non-GH instruments, meaning that the Xbox 360 version will be compatible with Rock Band 1 instruments.

If I can seriously buy GH: WT and use my existing instruments, it’s an instant buy!

[GH: World Tour Open to Rock Band Instruments via Kotaku]

My Visit to ND | Posted at 1:30 PM

My girlfriend lives in Minot, ND during the summer and since I just can’t get enough of her I decided to visit for a week. Since I am back now, safe and sound, I should probably talk about it!

I took the train from Minneapolis to Minot and boy, was it interesting. I think this is normal, but my train didn’t even arrive for departure until an hour later than it was scheduled. Then, it finally arrived in Minot about 3 hours later than its scheduled arrival time.

On the way back, the train was scheduled to depart Minot at 9:42pm and it came at… 12:30am. Luckily we only waited 45 mins because we knew in advance that it was late. I got back home 10:30am instead of 7:12am.

Amtrak: “We’re Never On Time.?

Anyway, traveling aside, I had a really fun time. Here are some of the highlights.

Matchbox 20 Concert

Matchbox 20 Concert

If Matchbox 20 came to town I wouldn’t go see them. However, since we had tickets for free, we decided why not? It was a good concert, it was a lot of fun.

Rob Thomas can actually sing so it was a pleasant surprise. I recognized many of the songs and it kind of rekindled my appreciation for them.

Minot Zoo

The zoo in Minot is small but it was still fun to visit. There were a lot of different animals but I enjoyed this snake:


The monkeys and the jaguars were fun as well.

Shot Gophers

A real redneck sport, shooting gophers was a lot of fun at the farm. See, gophers are like mice, there’s too many and they eat things that you need, like grass.

Thus, we went on a little excursion on my girlfriend’s grandparents’ land to exterminate some of the lil’ critters. We drove around in the pickup, aiming out the window at the varmints and blasting them to sweet oblivion.

Previous guns I’ve shot include a rifle, magnum pistol, and a Kalashnikov (AK-47). I wouldn’t say I’m amazing at shooting but I’m not bad either. I might have missed only 3 shots at the 5 or so gophers I killed.

Warning: These pictures aren’t for the faint of heart.

Take, for example, this beautifully gruesome sniper headshot of this poor creature:


I mauled him pretty good there. Took his head clean off pretty much. See also this neck kill of doom:

Neck shot

And… well, just see for yourself:

Bowel shot

Gruesome? Perhaps. But someone has to get rid of these things. There’s always some up there whenever my girlfriend and her dad go gopher hunting.

Mom’s Cooking

My girlfriend’s mom took it upon herself to create some of her signature dishes for little old me. It’s funny because neither my girlfriend nor her sister liked most of the things she cooked… but I did!

Because I said I’d review her cooking I will have to abide by my promise: 5 stars!


Ever heard of a Whirl-A-Whip? Apparently they were popular back in the 50s/60s. Now the only town that makes them is Stanley, ND. So naturally we drove 45 mins to go and try these wondrous creations.

Here’s at its core what a whirl-a-whip is: ice cream mixed with anything you like, where the mixed stuff is basically powder and flavors the cream. It’s like a sunday or a malt but it’s “whipped,? so it’s like a Blizzard meets Cold Stone flavoring-style.

It was really good but I feel that it wasn’t a whole new experience like everyone was saying. I like Cold Stone better, actually… I still haven’t tried anything better than Cold Stone.

Still it was a fun and unique experience and the whirls and while they weren’t an Earth-shattering experience they were yummy.

Other things

There were other things that we did that were also fun but aren’t really worth recording on this blog. I had a lot of fun and I hope to go up there again sometime… but maybe not by train, damn.

July 15, 2008

No Posts for a Week | Posted at 8:24 PM

Actually that might not be entirely true. I am visiting my girly in North Dakota for a week. I am bringing my laptop but it all depends on whether I’ll have time/feel like updating. I think I will be busy.

Like I said in an earlier post, my July is going to fly by and it is. It’s been a lot of fun, though.

And this time I will have pictures… if they aren’t mine then they will be my girlfriend’s. The latter is the most likely, honestly.

Cavities | Posted at 8:21 PM

I had to go to the dentist earlier today to fill a small cavity. I was unsure as to what to expect. Hearing reports from “it hurts? to “I didn’t feel anything.? Well now I present to you the answer:

I didn’t feel anything. They wiped a gel on my gums to numb the region, then they used the Novocain needle, which I didn’t feel. I could kinda feel it somewhere but not painful at all.

Then, after it was all numb, the entire procedure seriously took about 5 minutes. In and out.

What happens later is a different story. My right side of my face is still numb and I can’t eat my supper because I can’t feel it very well. It’s been 2 hours. I will wait another hour and see how it goes.

I took an Ibuprofen so it would kick in and it’s not sore yet but I’m sure that will change tonight. How fun because I want to fall asleep on the train tonight.

My dad made really good food and I want it, damn it!

E3: Fallout 3, RE 5, Mirror’s Edge, Fable 2, GoW 2, FF XIII, and more… | Posted at 12:41 PM

Wow, E3 has been revealing quite a few gems this year. I am excited for many of the games to come out…

Fallout 3

I mean, really, I think most people are looking forward to Fallout 3. It just looks cool. I’ve played the original Fallout but never got into it a lot… mostly because I am lazy. However, I really do like it and I am excited about F3. It’s interesting to see the VAT system where you can pause the game and target specific body parts. It looks like the cinematic angles only come into play when you use VAT.

I think the Bethesda team is having fun with this one. In Oblivion there wasn’t much gore but in Fallout 3 they are going … all out (sorry). I think they’ll be fixing issues that Oblivion had but it’s not an Elder Scrolls game so it’s not like we’ll have sword issues or something.

Resident Evil 5

I’m a huge fan of RE 4. I mean, seriously, that game is amazing. I don’t ever play horror games but something about Resident Evil 4 made it amazing and something I couldn’t pass up. I didn’t play Doom 3 because it freaked me out. RE 4 was scary too but not in the same way. RE 5 looks to be the same way and I’m glad. It looks so familiar that I’m sure it will be just as good if not better than 4.

Mirror’s Edge

There seems to be mixed feelings about this. Mirror’s Edge is basically a game heavily involving the discipline of parkour. Parkour is where you don’t let anything in your environment get in the way of where you want to go. Scale a wall, jump on rooftops, etc.

I think with Mirror’s Edge the developers are focused mainly on narrative rather than compelling gameplay. Still, the gameplay doesn’t look boring. I think as long as there are multiple paths then it won’t feel so linear.

Fable 2

I own Fable. That doesn’t mean I beat it… I didn’t. I’ve been meaning too, I really have. I got about 3 hours into it and left it for some other games. I like the game, though, it’s a solid one. Fable 2 looks to be a lot of the same but with more polish and adventure.

Gears of War 2

I have not played Gears of War solidly through to the end. I’ve played the beginning, middle, and end at different times either by myself or co-op. I know it’s a great game and I am excited about GoW 2.

Final Fantasy XIII

I’ve never really played anything beyond FF1. I realize that FF7 is like “the greatest thing ever? but I never got around to it. I don’t have a PS2 or PS3 and I don’t want to play it on PC. I’ve been offered to borrow the games from my friends to play and now since my girlfriend owns a PS2 maybe I will get around to playing it.

That said, since FFXIII is coming to 360, I will most definitely be picking it up.

July 14, 2008

Cabin + 9 people = Fun | Posted at 7:16 PM

So this past weekend I went up with about 9 people to my grandma’s cabin. This included my two brothers, cousin, and 6 friends.

Friday night was mostly spent playing Rock Band and Grand Theft Auto IV. We did watch Patriot Games, though. Not really a unique cabin-going experience, I know. People tried to play “Twin Cities? (a rip-off of Monopoly) but once I started playing GTA IV the ferocity of the board game dwindled until we started passing around the controller for epic, civilian-killing sprees.

Saturday was more “productive.? We went out on the pontoon on the lake and some of us went tubing while others hung out and swam on the beach. We also played a few innings of baseball which was fun.

After going to the beach we decided to go to the pool, since it was a bit chilly and windy out and some people decided that they didn’t want to swim in the lake (me being one of them). We played a healthy game of “throw the bouncy balls at each other from across the pool,? trying not to get in the way of everyone else there which I suspect failed miserably.

Later in the day we played some more Rock Band, GTA IV, and Scattergories. We were going to watch a movie but the rental store was closed and DSL just can’t transfer videos from my computer to my laptop over the internet very fast. We stayed up for awhile that night talking (us older folk, the young’uns slept downstairs) about things college-going types talk about: anything.

Sunday morning we went and played baseball and basketball. My feet were sore by the end since running in sandals hurts. We ate lunch and then played Charades until it was time to leave. Charades the board game is way too hard for young people who have no idea what any of the stuff on the cards is, so we made up our own game by writing “Songs and Bands? on pieces of paper and drawing them out of a bucket. It worked great even though some of us were cruel (try acting out “Daft Punk? or “Boston?).

It was a great time and we got Dairy Queen on the way back. I would have liked to stay a bit longer… but there were a lot of people.

I took my camera to take pictures but I didn’t. I just don’t take pictures, it takes too much effort.

Xbox 360: New Dashboard, NetFlix, and more… | Posted at 6:54 PM

The interwebs are abuzz with E3 information. Personally I don’t follow it much because I can’t keep up. However I did read about Microsoft’s presentation.

The Xbox 360 will be getting some cool new features come Fall, including a new dashboard, avatars, gameshows, NetFlix streaming, and some other neat things.

I am excited about NetFlix streaming. I know there’s a plug-in for Media Center from a 3rd party… but I don’t have Windows Media Center so having it built-in to the Xbox will be sweet.

The gameshow idea is interesting. Apparently it will be social games that you can compete in to win prizes. Crazy.

As for avatars, I guess that’s cool but I’m not really sure what purpose they’ll serve. They look better than Miis but still.

What I am really excited about is Rock Band 2 in September. They released the official track list and it looks awesome. Judas Priest, Motorhead, Megadeth, Metallica, Dream Theater, Dylan, Journey, I mean… damn, it’s all there. Some tracks are questionable as to why they chose them… I assume it’s because of better band playability not popularity. Painkiller is definitely an awesome track, but Battery by Metallica? I guess I would have chosen differently. Still, it’s a good track list. I will end up getting the newer drum set because mine are too loud and I want the new ones. I’ll also be getting another guitar, the new RB2 one. It was good that I held out buying a second guitar!

Harmonix said that you will be able to port most RB 1 tracks over to RB 2, which means you don’t have to carry around an extra CD, good news. But really, how hard is it to put both game CDs into one case?

The $300 premium Ion drum kit looks fantastic. If only I had that much money to spend on an instrument I would get it. The fact is, I’m not even to Expert drums yet. I don’t think I would be using them to the full extent unless I was good enough to warrant it.

Amazon Daily Deal: The Doors | Posted at 9:41 AM

Are you a Doors fan? I have a couple albums thanks to my girlfriend but I couldn’t pass this up.


$4 The Doors – The Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors Hits

[via Amazon MP3]

July 11, 2008

I will be on hiatus this weekend | Posted at 10:27 AM

I’ll be gone to the cabin this weekend, so I won’t be updating the blog nor able to check my email. I am going with about 8 people so my grandma will have her work cut out for her, heh. We’ll be playing some Rock Band, GTA, and maybe Halo. We’ll also probably go swimming and out on the lake. It’ll be fun.

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Nvidia Dual View and Secondary Monitor trouble | Posted at 10:24 AM

First, let me say I am extremely happy with my new 8800GTS card. I can finally play all my games max settings at 1680x1050. Yes, even Crysis with all settings High.

I had a little issue yesterday and I still can’t tell you what’s causing it as I’ve only had time to play two games since I got the card.

When I installed the newest drivers, 175.19, I turned on Dual View. Everything seemed fine but I immediately went to play Crysis.

After I was done, if there was any window on my secondary monitor, it would flicker. It would go black for a second then come back and it would do this indefinitely unless I moved all the windows off of it.

I figured it was a driver problem or Crysis. I rolled back to the official MSI drivers for my card which were at 175.16, not bad. I played COD 4 and when I exited I tested a bit. It didn’t happen.

I would test some more by playing Crysis but I have to pack and get ready. It’s either the new drivers or Crysis that was causing the screen flicker, I’m not sure. It might have also been some weird program malfunction, I really have no idea! I didn’t bother restarting to test that theory.

July 9, 2008

Bands I’m Watching | Posted at 11:23 PM

I wish Amazon had a wishlist or a “Save for later? feature with its MP3 albums. I am one of those people who browse a lot, listening, then later buy something.

Here’s who I am watching right now:

Epica – The Divine Conspiracy


Another female-fronted metal band. Apparently one of the band member’s brother is head of After Forever which makes sense. Epica sounds similar, but I like it.

Ride the Sky – New Protection


Never heard of these guys but I am really digging the sound of this album. It’s like power metal but it’s also progressive, too. The drummer has been in Gamma Ray and Helloween.

Testament – The Formation of Damnation


This is pretty heavy and I don’t own any Testament. I like the sound, though, it’s very headbang-worthy.

Spellblast – Horns of Silence


I’ve never heard of these guys but I really like their sound. It has some elements of folk and power metal, it’s fun. I actually found them accidentally searching for one of my favorite bands, Dark Moor.

Amorphis – Tales from the Thousand Lakes


I’ve heard of Amorphis but never checked them out. They are a bit heavier and darker than Ensiferum, but I like their songs. Ensiferum did a cover of Into Hiding that I really like.

I don’t know when or if I’ll buy these albums, but these ones have caught my attention.

Today I bought “The Scarecrow? by Avantasia. I own “The Metal Opera? and I really liked it. I listened to the previews for this album and I also really liked it. The Scarecrow title track is fantastic.

Yesterday I bought “Sagas? by Equilibrium and I love it. I’ve listened to it three times already.

One Sentence Review: Sagas | Posted at 10:26 PM


Title: Sagas
Artist: Equilibrium
Genre: Epic Black Metal
Review: I was not disappointed by this album, I am really enjoying it a lot.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Amazon

How Not To Design a Website | Posted at 1:35 PM

Was this made in 1997? I hope so because otherwise I will personally find and murder the designer of this website:


God help us all.

4 Tips on Saving Lots of Money on Textbooks | Posted at 1:08 PM

Since I ordered my books already today, I don’t see why I can’t share some of my tips with you fellow college students.

Tip 1: Don’t Buy From Your Bookstore. Ever.

There’s no reason you need to ever buy from your college bookstore, as long as its more expensive than anything you find online.

99% of the time your college bookstore exorbitantly raises its price. Once in awhile a book will cost less there just because it’s old. I maybe have bought 2 books at the bookstore during my 2 years of college.

Tip 2: Search Online Using ISBN, NOT Title

I’ve seen it happen. You find this great deal on your textbook and you order it. When you get it, it says “Study Guide.? I made that mistake. Always search via ISBN number because it usually guarantees you’ll find the exact book. That brings me to my next point…

Tip 3: LOOK OUT for International Editions

When searching by ISBN you will come across International Editions. Here’s a pro tip: even though they are cheaper, don’t buy them. Because when you want to sell it, they’ll be worth about $5. Plus, even though the contents of the books are usually the same, the problems are almost always different. Case in point: I bought my Accounting book as an International edition. Guess what? ALL the problems in the back of the book used different monetary values than the US edition. I had to go and write in all the proper numbers from the problems on my syllabus. Now I can’t really even sell the damn book.

My girlfriend bought a textbook as an international edition and she can’t sell it on Amazon for more than $3 or so. Plus no one will see it on Amazon because it has to the the same ISBN… and guess what, people search for the US edition ISBN, not the international! You may have better luck listing your book on AbeBooks, people seem to sell it under the US ISBN anyway.

Tip 4: Use Trusted Websites

This is so you won’t get jipped. Use a site like the ones I mention below so that if something goes wrong you can easily return it. Always look at people’s return policy, condition, and description of the book.

How I Bought My Books

So today, I went onto my U account and looked at the books I needed for my classes. Since I’ve had experience with this, it didn’t take me long to find my books online and order them within about 15 minutes.

If you don’t like scouring the interwebz for the best deal (like me), you can use a site like CampusBooks.com to find what you’re looking for.

Personally, I use two websites because I’ve never had problems with them. AbeBooks and Amazon Marketplace.

About half the time, AbeBooks has much better deals than Amazon does. Once in awhile, you’ll see a better deal on Amazon. I bought two books today, let’s see how much I saved.

Book Bookstore I paid
Finance $129.50 $68 (Amazon)
Entrepreneurship $100.75 $15 (Abe)
Totals: $230.25 $83

So, let’s see, I saved $147.25. Not bad, eh? And all US editions, too.

July 8, 2008

Orson Scott Card says, “Make a Wyrms Movie!” | Posted at 10:16 PM

So today on the bus ride home I finished Wyrms by Orson Scott Card. It was recommended on TWiT, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

It was awesome. At the end of the audiobook, Card has a monologue… I can’t tell if it’s part of the actual print edition or not, because at one point he moves into colloquial conversational talk.

Anyway, I like the guy. He was talking about how he came up with the idea for the book and it was because of some sort of game a company was trying to create. Except he thought that they basically just stole everything from Tolkien, there was no originality. So he decided to make a sci-fi meets fantasy story without recycling ideas that Tolkien created. He thought that it was one of his best stories and I’d have to agree. Even though I really enjoyed Ender’s Game, Wyrms felt a lot more epic and reflective.

Orson goes on to say, nay, plea that someone go out there and make a movie. He believes that Wyrms would make a great movie unlike a series like Ender’s Game. He mentions that everyone talks about how Ender’s Game would make a good movie but he dismisses that idea. I agree with him. I think Wyrms would make an amazing movie if done right. It’s totally filmable. In fact, a comic has been released and he remarks that filmmakers could actually pay attention to it because it’s so much like a storyboard. I think I’m going to go find it and buy it, I want to visualize it so much.

Comic Book Cover

If any filmmaker or filmmaker-to-be comes across this post, fame is staring you right in the face. Peter Jackson, I’m looking at you!

Fix: ATI CCC 8.6 Infinite Loop Bug | Posted at 9:50 PM

I wasn’t the only one to have this problem. Apparently, when I installed the new ATI drivers for my temporary video card, the Catalyst Control Center (CCC) will keep disappearing and reappearing if you try to open it. Others have the same problem. As pointed out in the aforelinked thread, you can just get around it by installing only the 8.6 driver and then the 8.5 CCC:

  1. If you haven’t already installed it, grab the new ATI 8.6 Display Driver Only package. Install it.
  2. If you have it installed already, uninstall the new ATI CCC from Add/Remove Programs. Note: Only the CCC, not the driver or software uninstall.
  3. Now, download and install the 8.5 CCC and then restart.

Now once you’ve restarted, you can use the Catalyst Control Center without it acting up.

Dear Creative, why did my speakers die? | Posted at 6:17 PM

So that’s not entirely accurate. See, my external decoder box that comes with the Creative Inspire 5.1 Digital 5500 speaker system died. That means I pretty much can’t use the speakers even though the speakers themselves are just fine.

I emailed Creative to see what I could do, but I fear that I will have to buy a new system… which is too bad considering all I need is a new decoder box.

I am glad I bought these quality headphones… gaming without sound is like… like… going to Baker’s Square and not ordering French silk pie!

One Sentence Review: Wyrms | Posted at 6:13 PM


Title: Wyrms
Type: Audiobook
Author: Orson Scott Card
Blurb: A teenager saves the world from a giant writhing dong.
Review: I loved it, it’s not a rehash of Tolkien, a vapid love story, or a 3 book “epic? bore and it’s sci-fi meets fantasy which is, like, double-awesome!
Grade: A+

Buy it on Audible

SUA Design Update [7/8/08] | Posted at 1:00 PM

So today I decided I disliked our contact forms that we had on the bottom of some pages. Here’s what they looked like before I updated them:


As you can probably tell, I was not fond of them. First, they were tables so that wasn’t cool. Second they were fairly ugly. So I decided to convert them to CSS-only and to beautify them a bit to match our template better.

Here is what I ended up at:


Better, I hope? We thought so.

You can take a look at this page which uses one, if you’d like to see it in person.

July 7, 2008

Guitar Hero DS and Dreamfall: TLJ | Posted at 10:35 PM

Guitar Hero: On Tour [DS]


My littlest brother got Guitar Hero: DS for his birthday. I was skeptical of such a game being made for portable... preferring my Rock Band or Guitar Hero plastic controller.

The game has 25 songs of no real "awesome" value. There are some nice songs that I forget but they are there, including one by Ozzy. It has a career, quick play, and multiplayer mode and the standard Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. It also comes with a plastic pick that acts as stylus, it's great!

I started on Expert. Now, it should follow that if I can play GH on a console on Expert, I should be able to handle the 4 buttons instead of 5 offered on DS. I was happy to see I could. Here's the problem though: with someone like me who has large hands, doing fairly quick button presses is a chore. When I got to Ozzy's song on the last tier, I couldn't do the solo. It has a lot of arpeggio motions, going yellow, red, green, a three-finger quick hammer-on-pull-off. My fingers in the DS grip can't move that fast easily. If I try to move real fast, the screen shakes making it hard to see anything. That and for doing fast note sequences, I am used to moving my hand a bit above the neck of the guitar to make sure my fingers can have breathing room. Not possible with the DS since I'm all strapped in.

In addition, after only a handful of songs, about 8, my hand starts to hurt and I'll have to put it down. I can't play too long.

With all of that said, however, I still find it fairly fun to play. I think that if you're on the go a lot and need that GH fix, GH: DS is a great game. I mean, the lineup isn't Rock Band but it's not bad either. I think with enough practice, you could probably get through the solos on Expert. I only played 3 times and I got to the last tier in no time. My little brother has finished Easy, Medium, and is working on finishing Hard tours.

Plus it's pretty cheap considering all you get.

There's one other thing about the DS that I like. A touch strum. Some people might find the touch screen a bit awkward at first, but I think a translation of touch to a real GH/RB controller would be amazing. I much prefer strumming on a touch screen than a friggin' lever. It's so much easier to do fast riffs on a touch screen, which is better. Just because it's easier doesn't mean it's easier, know what I mean? I feel like on the DS version I am actually strumming to the music because I can use a natural picking style versus grabbing on to the lever on my Rock Band controller. I noticed I can hit a lot more fast strum notes than I can on a plastic guitar.

Someone should mod their RB controller to use a touch screen, then post a How To so I can do it too.

The Good

  • Fun to play
  • On the go Guitar Hero
  • Multiplayer!

The Ugly

  • Fast note sequences might be too hard
  • Large hands get cramped
  • Only 25 songs

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey


Dreamfall: TLJ is a very overlooked game. I saw it on a shelf one day at Target and looked at the box. "Adventure game." Whoopee? After that I forgot about it. Not until I saw a demo offered on Steam that I decided to check it out.

I liked what I saw. It's a very story-driven game. In fact, I would say that if you don't like the story, you won't bother finishing it because the gameplay itself is pretty sub-standard. I mean, a few of the puzzles are challenging but overall it's fairly straightforward. I stopped playing for awhile due to a puzzle awhile ago but just yesterday I picked it up again. I figured out the puzzle and have played it for about 4 hours today.

That's another thing, the game isn't short. I think I must be up to about 15-20 hours by now and I feel like it's getting near finished but not quite.

Back to the story though. I enjoy it a lot. Some of the voice acting is bad but a lot of it is fairly good. Good enough to be enjoyable. In fact, Krow, who becomes the main character's sidekick later is my favorite personality. The other thing I like about the game is the variety of narratives. It isn't a one person story. It's about a lot of people and you get to play them to advance the story, very much like episodes of a TV show. It's like playing a book because you do get to see some scenes that are revealed solely to you rather than the cast of characters and they eventually link up at some point. I think what I enjoy most about the story is its originality and actual enjoyableness. It's set a bit in the future (year 2219) and deals with a parallel world scenario where "dreams" act as the transport between them, but there's more to it than that. Technically, you start out by playing an unknown character who is living in a monastery. There you lead him to some sort of ritual where he gets transported into a different dimension and weird stuff happens. Then, the game moves to the future where you start playing Zoe, a girl with an Australian accent who lives in Casablanca. The story is too convoluted to get into but suffice it to say there's something wrong with "The Wire" (like the Internet only it transports all communication) and it has to do with Dreams and a girl named April Ryan. It blows up into this immense narrative about a corporate conspiracy, a lost orphan, two dimensions, a drugged plant, politics, and the search for meaning. Trust me, it's cool when you play it. Here's the official plot introduction:

Zoë Castillo is about to get involved in a conspiracy that spans parallel worlds and hundreds of years.

Something is affecting our world: static interference disrupts technology, and it seems to be linked to a ghostly presence seen only by a few – a presence inhabiting a black house in a wintry landscape. As Zoë begins her search for a lost friend, she discovers that there is a magical world behind our own – and the search is now on for the one person who may help Zoë unravel the dangerous web she has become entangled in:

April Ryan.

Like I said, the story is where this game shines. It's an adventure game in the vein of classic graphic adventure games I seem to be playing a lot of lately ala Grim Fandango or Secret of Monkey Island. It's simpler in that you have an inventory but don't constantly keep things in it instead using them fairly soon to solve puzzles. It's mostly driven by conversations you have with other characters instead of using various verb commands to solve riddles. They did implement some fighting but they are horrible and I am so glad they happen only once in a blue moon. They should have just left out fighting, it's useless in this game.

There are many characters involved in the story and all have unique personalities (albeit one or two with poor voice actors). What I like about the characters you play is that they have depth. They aren't some vapid piles of skin and bone who just drop in and can do everything. They have feelings, guilts, uncertainties, backgrounds, and a history. For example, one of them is a member of the religious and military civilization that has occupied one of the cities in the alternate universe and one of them is a rebel fighting against said occupational forces. It is a different story for both of them but they run into each other and while you are witness to the narratives that tie them, at first they are unaware of each other's fates and how they are tied together. I still am not certain how it works out because I haven't finished.

I tend to enjoy stories that are mixes of fantasy and sci-fi so I really enjoy the story a lot. However, it's not for everyone and if after the demo you feel no real desire to answer the questions it poses, you should probably move on. If, though, you were like me and enjoyed the story you saw in the demo, I think you should give it a chance. My girlfriend even enjoyed watching the story progress way back when I started playing it.

I am one of those people that will play a game to the end if the story is compelling enough. Devil May Cry 4? No. Eternal Sonata? Eh. Thief III? Hell yes. Beyond Good and Evil? Loved it. It's the same idea here. While gameplay is lacking but still not horrible, the story makes up for it all, in my humble opinion.

If you want to try it, you can get the demo off Steam or buy it off Steam with its prequel. System requirements are small, the graphics look fairly good, and it runs quick.

I didn't realize that there was a game before Dreamfall, confusingly titled "The Longest Journey," and apparently it's done well for itself, garnering 91 on Metacritic. I bought it just now. Why Dreamfall's subtitle is the same as its prequel, I'm not sure, but whatever I guess.

The Good

  • Amazing narrative, characters, and cinematic storyline
  • Fun puzzles and adventuring
  • Nice graphics and colorful scenes
  • Easy interface
  • Nice and long

The Ugly

  • Fighting sucks but there's not a lot of it
  • A couple bad voices but not dealbreakers
  • Linear, but that comes with the territory
  • Average "actual" gameplay experience

A Yahoo Bot Conversation | Posted at 8:35 PM

I met this really cool guy named Matt Santana, who I can only assume was born in 1971. He's neat because he sent me a few links that, if clicked, would probably infect my computer with spyware!

mattsantana71: U there? lmuyb
Kamran:  yes?
mattsantana71: ywngcHey subkamrandascg
Kamran:  afkhasfHeyasfasf
mattsantana71: qcnrhHey subkamranpragm
Kamran:  893nasfsaHeyHeya;sfaf33
mattsantana71: fdvfzhow ya been cutie?sjpysmtyjt
Kamran:  asfkafk3352goooood3532kgags
mattsantana71: seiylit's, Shannon!jcgzowanhm
Kamran:  89124ffffOMGRLY-0352fffff
mattsantana71: sdbhgu wanna get together some time this week, with me a girl friendsvrjzxwe can meet somewhere close by for some fun! ;)kabhrymbsc
Kamran:  1dadsaa333yah i really want to that'd352352gggd be cool33fafoef
mattsantana71: qyhcghere is my pic http://www.h%6f%6f%6b-up%73-%72%2d%75%73.%63%6fm do u think i'm cute?podnm
Kamran:  3fjfokay i'll just click a link that will probably infect my computer with lots of malware!sfhasf333
mattsantana71: lrzeetake a look @ our profile http://www.a%64u%6ct%68%6f%6fk%2d%75%70s.n%65%74 rqoah
Kamran:  sha22awesome352d
mattsantana71: wfwdbhere is my pic http://www.%61d%75%6c%74hoo%6b%2d%75p%73%2ene%74 do u think i'm cute?erbeo
Kamran:  38fhfoh yah real cute too bad i cant see it because my computer is all fucked up from the previous links!kasfa333
mattsantana71: kphhktake a look @ our profile http://www.h%6f%6fk-%75p%73%2dr%2dus%2e%63%6f%6d hzljl
Kamran:  883wait you sent me this! i thought this was your pic!fasl333
mattsantana71: hcjottake a look @ our profile http://www.%68%6f%6f%6b-ups%2dr%2du%73%2e%63o%6d zyxdr
Kamran:  ksfhI dont understand why is it two different URLs and why are they URL encoded so that an unassuming horny teenager cant see past your facade?!lksf933
mattsantana71: natfwtake a look @ our profile http://www.%68%6f%6f%6b%2du%70s-r-u%73%2ec%6f%6d zfsrz

There was nothing important after that. It was too bad, I was hoping for a great branching conversation involving the exchange of pictures and email or MySpace pages!

July 6, 2008

Amazon Daily Deal: Van Halen, 36 songs for $7 | Posted at 6:42 PM


Today’s deal is a $7 album worth over $35. 36 songs for $7!

And I don’t have any Van Halen, so this was an instant buy.

July 4th Weekend | Posted at 11:22 AM

Wow, it’s been crazy over here. Hope everyone had a good 4th! My girlfriend came over from ND and we hung out with all my friends. We went to a beach up north, swam and had fun. Then we went up to my friend’s house to have food and a bonfire. Played some volleyball, badminton, and played Truth or Dare around the fire, which was a lot of fun and maybe sometimes embarrassing (some things should be best left unsaid).

Saturday we helped clean the house and we went to another beach to swim and grill hot dogs. Today we are having a family get together so we are cleaning like crazy. I am probably going to be yelled at if someone sees me on my computer.

All in all I am suffering from sleep deprivation, waking up too damn early and going to bed too damn late.

It’s nice to finally see this basement clean.

July 3, 2008

How To: Use Remote Desktop With Dynamic IP | Posted at 1:52 PM

If you’re like me, your computer at home or work constantly changes its IP address. You have to either email yourself your new IP address or sign up for something like DynDNS.org. There’s an easier, free way!

I’ve talked a bit about Hamachi before and while it was primarily conceived for games it works well for work environments, too. Hamachi is a free VPN network tool that allows users to join a network and create a VPN.

The idea here is to create your own little VPN so that you can remote desktop to your Hamachi address instead of your own IP that changes frequently.

Home Computer / Server / Always-On Computer

  1. Go and download LogMeIn Hamachi
  2. Install Hamachi, you may need to restart.
  3. Close the wizard by clicking the little X in the corner.
  4. Power On Hamachi by clicking the Power button.

  5. You may need to enter a “nickname? which is just an ID for this computer.

  6. Click the Network button and click “Create a new network?

  7. Enter a network name you’ll remember like “MyHomeNetwork?
  8. Enter a secure password, don’t forget it!

  9. Hamachi will assign you its own IP address

  10. Your home computer is done.

Work Computer / Clients

  1. Repeat steps 1-5 above.
  2. Click the Network button and click “Join an existing network?

  3. Enter the appropriate details.

  4. Hamachi should successfully establish a connection to the server
  5. Start up the Remote Desktop Client

  6. Open Hamachi and right-click your server computer, choose Copy Address

  7. Paste the address into the RDC address input.

  8. Connect and enjoy!

Now whenever both computers are running Hamachi you can Remote Desktop to either of them, assuming you have Remote Desktop set-up correctly. If you’re behind a firewall or router, make sure to forward port 3389 to the proper computer.

How To: Remote Desktop to a University Computer | Posted at 12:03 PM

Last year, I had my desktop PC in my dorm here at the U of MN. When I went home, I needed a way to check my computer for email and do various other things like work remotely.

The University blocks the remote desktop port (3389) from outside, so how did I get it working?

I emailed 1-HELP and they said that if you use this VPN connection utility, you can remote desktop to your University computer.

  1. Download and install the Cisco VPN utility
  2. Restart your computer and run the “VPN Client?
  3. Connect to the U of MN VPN network
  4. Start Remote Desktop and type in your UMN computer’s IP
  5. Voila! You should be good to go

If you are trying to remote desktop to your own university computer that’s NOT the University of Minnesota, consider searching for a VPN utility provided by your university.

Keep in mind: the VPN utility is encrypted so it works well for securing your wireless connection in public places. They also keep an eye on traffic, so don’t do anything suspicious while you’re on it.

How to Have Fun With Telemarketers | Posted at 10:25 AM

Oh, the hilarity.

Dear Blizzard: RE: Diablo 3 Art Style | Posted at 9:47 AM

Dear Blizzard,

I think I’ve finally figured out my stance on the Diablo 3 art. When I first saw the Diablo 3 movies, I was totally fine with the art style. However, upon actually looking at the edited screenshots, I have to say that the edited art direction really feels more like Diablo than the current one.

I know that you will never redo the entire art asset base just because a portion of the Diablo-playing fans want a grittier look. That said, the petition has many good points, namely that Diablo is not Warcraft and needs an even more independent art style. I’ve said in the past that it doesn’t really matter or that we shouldn’t be complaining since Diablo III is actually coming out but upon further reflection I can see why this is significant. For those that are diehard fans of Diablo, the art style is one of the signature components of the franchise, so in honor of previous Diablo games, the third installment should stay true to the art style.

I believe (and others believe) that there is a common middle ground that can be reached. Why not add an option to use a simple saturation/contrast/brightness filter to give the game the same look that the photoshopped images represent?

I think that that would be the easiest way to address this “problem.? You will continue working on your art and though some people may not care those that do and for those that want a darker feel, the option is there. It would be a simple addition and since many games have graphical modifiers, I don’t think it would be too much work.

Here you can find the petition, at the time of writing with 24,000 signatures.

For your consideration,

Kamran Ayub











July 2, 2008

ScribeFire Firefox Plug-in | Posted at 10:43 AM

I am posting right now using the ScribeFire Firefox plug-in. I use Windows Live Writer when I am at home because it's fantastic for what I need. The one feature I can't live without is the automatic resizing and generation of thumbnail or resized images.

Unfortunately, ScribeFire doesn't have much image capabilities, but it does work well for quickly posting something away from home.

I would use Ecto for OS X, but it does cost money. I could always install the 21-day trial and use it...

It's too bad there isn't a free solution for what I need for OS X.

[Fixed] 10.5.4 OS X Update Breaks Parallels 3 Networking? | Posted at 10:07 AM

I don't know if it's just my system, but since I installed the 10.5.4 OSX update this morning, I can't get networking to work in Parallels 3 build 5608 (latest) for Windows XP.

This is unfortunate.

Update: I got it working. Here’s how to fix it:

  1. Stop your virtual machine.

  2. Click Edit –> Virtual Machine

  3. Click Shared Networking

  4. Choose “Bridged Ethernet? and then Apply

  5. Quit Parallels
  6. Download and re-install the latest Parallels build (5608 for me).
  7. Start your Parallels again.
  8. Once in Windows, click Devices –> Network Adapter 1 and clicked “Shared Networking,? in your Parallels toolbar or right-click Parallels icon.

  9. Now you should get an IP address from your Mac.

Updated 6/3: Added pictures for better understanding.

July 1, 2008

Selling Two eVGA 7900GS Video Cards | Posted at 9:12 PM

SLI Config

I am not waiting anymore. I’m selling my two 7900GS video cards even without Buy It Now. eBay can go die. I have a low reserve, the base at which I’d consider selling these. Usually they go for about $80-100 so I hope I can sell it at that price (the reserve is lower).

If you’re interested, start watching it!

TWO eVGA GeForce 7900GS KO 256MB SLi-Ready LR *USED*

One Sentence Review: B13 / Borough 13 | Posted at 8:47 PM


Title: B13 (Banlieue / Borough 13)
Blurb: David Belle, who invented parkour, stars as the kick ass dude who kicks ass.
Review: This movie is frickin’ awesome, action is better than most American movies since all or most of it is real.
Grade: A

How To: Get iSight Working With Windows XP Using Parallels 3 | Posted at 2:59 PM

At work I use an iMac which I actually do like even though I am primarily a Windows user.

I have Parallels at work so that I can test different OS browsers during development and I sometimes use Skype. I wanted to see if I can get iSight working with Windows XP under Parallels and you indeed can, originally found via StevieNova. I’ve added screenshots and a walkthrough!

  1. Right-click Parallels
  2. Go to Devices –> USB –> Built in iSight
  3. Make sure it’s checked
  4. Windows XP should detect it but just hold on
  5. Download these XP iSight drivers
  6. Extract them to a folder you’ll remember, probably your desktop is best.
  7. Click the option saying you don’t want to check Windows Update and click Next in the XP Hardware wizard (these screens might appear a bit differently on your computer because I installed the drivers already). 

  8. Click “Install from a list or specific location? and click Next.

  9. Click “Don’t search. I will choose the driver to install.? Click Next.

  10. Click “Have Disk? then “Browse…? and then go to the folder you extracted the iSight drivers to.

  11. Click the iSight INF file and click Open then OK. Click Next to install the drivers.


Voila, you should now have it working! To make sure, go to My Computer and click the Apple iSight icon.


Now you should see yourself!


Happy iSighting!

P.S. You can delete those driver folders now.

Blogging for the Long Tail | Posted at 2:09 PM

If anyone has taken a business management class or a supply-chain logistics class, they’ve heard of, if not examined, the idea of the “long tail.?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the long tail, it is when companies provide products that have low demand individually but add up to a lot cumulatively. It’s complicated enough to warrant a whole book but that’s the idea.

As an example, digital distribution caters to the long tail because long-tail items don’t cost much different to keep in inventory than popular hits (i.e. pop albums vs. classical albums). That’s why a platform like Steam does so well, it’s able to keep old games for a long time.

So what do I mean when I say “blogging for the long tail.? I am sure many bloggers have realized this but I’ve found it is better to blog about topics not many people blog about than to blog about topics lots of people blog about. More specifically, in my case I write how to articles for seemingly mundane things like LAN’ing someone’s favorite video game.

Here’s the thing, though. People like to find answers to problems. While many people can perhaps eventually find a solution to these problems by lots of Googling, if I write articles with a walkthrough and screenshots, I get more visits and readers. I do it, because as a user myself I search for problems with Google and it takes me awhile to find a straight answer. Now, I find an answer and then I blog the answer with an easy to follow list. Let’s take, for example, some of my recent popular articles.

Before I wrote the article on how to LAN Red Alert 2, I was maybe getting between 10-20 visits a day. Since that article came out (a month ago), I’ve gotten about 235 visits by people using keywords containing “red alert.? That article is one of my top hits (362 page views). Since I released the Age of Empires III Hamachi article (a week and a half ago), I’ve gotten about 100 visits from people searching (178 views).

There are a few other examples of traffic increasing by writing some other articles (e.g. IPX on Vista). My point is that catering to the “small? demographic with many articles can turn out to be your biggest traffic generator. I went from an average of 15-20 visits per day to now over 100 in less than a month. I have plans to write many more how to articles, since they seem to be very popular searches.

Even though it’s not on the economic side I think there is still a “long tail? idea to blogging. Since a blog can keep posts indefinitely if you choose to, there’s really no limit to how varied you can make your articles. I choose to cater to the computer problems crowd because it’s a heavy hitter but there are many other small niche topics that you could blog on.