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June 18, 2010

Go to Gamestop and Get a Shiny New Xbox 360 for $150 [Deals] | Posted at 6:38 PM

My new Xbox 360!

Kotaku to the rescue. Here's my experience:

After reading the article, I called my local Gamestop and they said they had 1 new Xbox left. So I quickly backed up my profiles, themes, avatars, etc. on my 4GB flash, and only about 50MB worth of stuff was backed up. Didn't transfer videos, etc.

Stuffed my Xbox Elite 120GB (no wireless adapter) into my backpack with cables and grabbed about 10 games (X360, Wii) I've been wanting to get rid of.

I drove to the Gamestop and asked if they still had it in stock, they had, and I gave them my stuff. After going through everything, they took everything except the old Xbox originals.

"Where's your controller?" Uh… crap.

I forgot a controller! So I either had to trade in everything and NOT get to apply it to my new Xbox purchase (because the trade was incomplete) or gamble and come back (traffic was about 25 mins each way).

BUT WAIT. The nice woman said that she could sell me a used controller and that'd count, I'd just be paying that much more. So that's what I did... unfortunately, but I didn't want to come back later.

The moral of my story: REMEMBER TO BRING EVERYTHING. They need wires and controller but not an HDMI if you have one; the new Xbox doesn't come with an HDMI cable. I almost gave them that, too.

So, in the end, my receipt was:
Trade-in + Edge Savings: -$198
Used Wired controller: $27
New Xbox 360: $300
Edge + GameInformer 12mo: $15
Tax: $9

This brings my total to only $153. If I had remembered my controller, I could have had the bugger for $126! But now I have an extra wireless controller, letting me use my wired for my PC... so whatever I guess.

I am very happy not only because I have a new pimp Xbox but also because I no longer need my network switch all the way across my apartment just for the Xbox. Now my Wii, Xbox 360, and laptop use Wi-Fi. So will my PS3 once I buy one.

READ ON FOR IMPORTANT TRANSFER INFO

I found out too late that the USB transfer didn't go as smooth as it said it did. It didn't transfer about 4 gamer profiles (my girlfriend's and my friend who play A LOT) and it didn't transfer most (any?) of my save games (even though it did transfer a few saves from other profiles)!

So now I have 0% in Red Dead (although I beat it) and no savegames in all my other games. At least I have my achievements, which my girlfriend unfortunately can't say.

The reason I believe this happened is because of a stupid "feature" that when you transfer, it actually MOVES the information to the other device instead of copying. I had initiated a transfer before that I canceled about 25% of the way through, then deleted whatever was on there because I assumed it just copied. Nope. I deleted my own save games.

Double check your transfer to make sure everything transferred correctly and DO NOT just format your USB drive; transfer everything over first.

May 12, 2010

Goodbye, College! | Posted at 2:46 PM

I graduate next Monday with my degree in management information systems. I am pretty darn excited but there is one thing I will miss…

image

My university's internet backbone.

Goodbye sweet, sweet speed. I managed to order 12Mbps/5Mbps high speed DSL for my new apartment but it will never match the speed I've been accustomed to.

April 12, 2010

MinneWebCon 2010 – Informal User Testing | Posted at 5:33 PM

I just finished up with attending this year's MinneWebCon. I was excited because it was my first time being apart of a presentation at such a large event and I hope it's not the last. Our topic was about informal user testing and how that helps drive design and creating a usable application. The main speaker was my old supervisor, Zach Johnson, and then those of us who currently work at Student Unions & Activities: Ken Loomis, Ethan Poole, and me.

Presentation

December 15, 2009

What is wrong with my computer? [Help Me] | Posted at 9:30 AM

Dear reader,

I have been having some problems with my computer over the past few months. Let me try to describe what's happening:

Configuraton:

  • Windows 7 Ultimate RC1 64-bit
  • Intel Core2 Duo E8500, 3.16Ghz (socket 775, Wolfdale)
  • (x2) 2GB Crucial BallistiX DDRII PC2-6400 (400Mhz)
  • Gigabyte EP45-UD3R (BIOS rev. 03) motherboard
  • MSI GeForce 8800GTS 512MB video card
  • (x2) Maxtor 200GB drives
  • (x2) Samsung 750GB drives

A few months ago, maybe two or three, my computer started randomly crashing and closing programs due to page faults and strange occurrences. After logging into Windows I would try to start a program but then the desktop window manager (DWM) would crash, Visual Studio would crash, etc. until in about 5 minutes the whole computer would blue screen.

Chalking it up to faulty memory, I embarked on a series of configurations to find out if my memory was bad. First, I took out a stick. No problems. I took out the working stick, put in the other one. No problems. What the hell? I ran MemTest 86 on both sticks: no errors.

So, apparently, if I put in both of my 2GB DDRII sticks, Windows goes beserk. Note that it happened out of the blue.

What I noticed with only one stick, however, was that my computer was running pretty slowly. Sure, I could play games just fine, but it seemed like programs would take about five times longer to start-up than usual.

After a week, I decided to test both sticks again. I didn't run into any problems… and it has stayed that way, fast and all, until about last weekend. Then it all started back up again. I am currently using one stick right now.

This time, it is definitely noticeable how slow programs start up (running them seems to work alright, although big operations will be slow as hell). The thing is, I've run a few benchmarks with no indication of any slowdowns. The hard drives are accessing quickly, none of them show low access times on HD Tach. The CPU seems to work alright according to OpenMark. I have yet to really test the RAM though, which I still believe is the problem. The only thing that makes me think it's not is the fact that both sticks individually run just fine.

I was playing Dragon Age yesterday and I had to turn off my SQL server service and Windows Media Player network sharing service because they'd randomly use up like 30% of my CPU, slowing the game down. In fact, loading my save game took about 2 minutes which is unbelievable, usually it only takes 30 seconds. That makes me think something, somewhere is wrong.

So, what do you think could be wrong? Is it the OS itself? Over winter break I will be "upgrading" to Windows 7 Ultimate RTM. Is it the RAM? Then how come each stick doesn't seem to have any errors and works just fine? Is it the motherboard? How come it works fine with only one stick and worked fine with two sticks for awhile? Is it the CPU? Then how come benchmarks don't show any slowdowns or poor marks?

I am at a loss here, people. Help me out.

September 16, 2009

The Down Low on ZipCar [Nice Ride] | Posted at 8:54 PM

So, as previously mentioned, I promised to talk a little about my experience using ZipCar. Today I took the service for a spin and here's what I have to tell you.

First, I said that ZipCar sent my ZipCard to my apartment. At least, that is what the rep over email told me. Turns out he was wrong, something went awry and it was sent to the billing address (the default shipping address). While I waited two weeks for my ZipCard I found out that it was at home when my mom called and asked what this Zip thing was in the mail. ARGH.

So I called up ZipCar, told them about it and they said they would send me a new one to my apartment. I also told my mom to send me the one at home (I called ZipCar before I knew the original ZipCard came to my billing address). The one at home arrived at my apartment before the new one sent by ZipCar did (by a few days). It wasn't a hassle to activate the "old" card, a quick phone call and I was all set (and now have an unusable ZipCard next to me). I was only frustrated for having to wait almost three weeks before I could use the service (killing some of my weekend plans).

With all that behind me and with ZipCard in hand I reserved a car today, about 15 minutes before I needed it (5:45pm) and for a whole 2.5 hours. There were six cars available from 6pm-8:30pm which is pretty impressive for such short notice, albeit a weeknight.

I picked the Honda Insight and took it for a ride. It was easy as pie to open the car, hold your ZipCard to the windshield and the locks come open. I used my University's parking pass to leave the ramp and was off to the wild blue yonder.

My overall experience was very good. The only thing I had some trouble with was gas and once you do it, you should be able to do it quickly afterward. On the Insight, you push down on the gas cover to open it. It took me about 10 minutes to figure that out, looking through the manual. I am used to pulling a lever/switch inside the car to open it.

You then swipe your ZipCard at the pump, then enter in the odometer mileage and your member ID. Once verified, pump away!

When I returned the car, it was a little confusing as to how to make sure ZipCar knew you returned the car on-time. They say you swipe the card and make sure the doors lock. I did that but there's no "special" indication that it knows you're done… but I don't know if ZipCars know when they're home. It's not a big deal and it might be nice to still get into the car once you return it before your time runs out, in order to get groceries or something. Maybe a txt at the end of your reservation that says, "Thanks for using us!" or something that isn't, "YOU WERE LATE!"

So, are ZipCars real? Yes. Do they work? Yes. Are they sweet? Yes.

August 19, 2009

Zippity Doo Da [ZipCar] | Posted at 1:56 PM

Join Zipcar and get $50 in free driving!

So, I am going to try this new ZipCar thing. I have a car at home but since parking fees are atrocious here at the U, it does not make a lot of sense to keep it around here. Worst case scenario has me taking the bus home and then I can get the car. With ZipCar, I hopefully will not have to do that… I think it will be useful for going to Target/Uptown/etc. for trips and then I can take my own car for longer trips.

I will record my experience with the cars here once I get approved. Since I turned 21 this last year, they needed information on my previous license. If you didn't write down your DL# previously, you'll need to either send in a Driver Record Request form or visit a DVS location. I had mine written down so I was in luck (though before I found it, I had already sent the $9 to DVS with the form by snail mail… oh well), otherwise it may have taken another week in addition to the time they usually take.

My logic in joining ZipCar was that: a) $30/year, how can you go wrong? and b) easy access to big stores for groceries, etc. I am in Yudof this year so food is my responsibility, that is one of the big reasons I chose to try this out. Plus, I can use it to go out on the town every once in a blue moon, maybe try some new restaurants around here (it takes like 1.5 hours to get to Jax Cafe by bus).

I am only worried about making the reservations and how many other people are using it around here. I can see myself reserving a week in advance. I'll let you know how it goes.

May 8, 2009

Microsoft Office Live Workspace Video [OLW] | Posted at 10:05 AM

Me and my roommate created a video for the MSP program showcasing the reasons why you really should be using Office Live Workspace.

Check it out:

May 6, 2009

The Problem With Blogs [Updates] | Posted at 9:39 AM

Is that when you become incredibly busy, it just falls by the wayside.

I don't want to get into all the work I've been doing this semester but you'll see it soon enough detailed on my company blog since I have three projects finishing up shortly (which is three more than I usually tackle during the school year).

Yesterday I installed Windows 7 RC1 three times. Once on Virtual PC 2007, once on VMWare Server, and once on my actual hard drive.

In terms of performance, I will guarantee you that VMWare is faster than Virtual PC. In fact, VMWare is almost as fast as installing it onto my partition. The nice thing is that installing it natively means I get to experience Aero so I am really enjoying the features (tab previews and window previews ftw!). Don't bother me with accusations like, "Show benchmarks or fancy charts with meaningless numbers." It was noticeably more responsive on VMWare than on VPC plus it was able to accommodate my 1680x1050 resolution.

If you're interested in using Windows 7 with VMWare, I went by this wonderful blog post and it worked like a charm.

On a side note, after having been using Windows Forms for the past month substantially, I have a new appreciation for the Windows Live Writer editor window… I have no idea how they did it. Is this a web browser? How did they get the title of the post to act so special? I really am amazed. One of the first things I did when I installed Windows 7 was installed Windows Live Essentials… actual bundled software that is awesome. Kudos to the Live team.

March 5, 2009

Harmonix: Your Quality Control is SHIT. [Rant] | Posted at 12:05 AM

Don't buy Rock Band 2 drums, they suck.

Update: Yes, I know that is not the RB drum set… but my rant still applies. By the way, my old RB drum set (that got replaced) and gave to my friend is now broken as well.

Dear Harmonix Quality Control,

Okay, I think I've had enough of this… and yes, I'm going to swear in this post, go cry to your mommy you little baby.

Since buying Rock Band 1 and subsequently Rock Band 2, I've seen or experienced these issues:

  • Replace my RB1 guitar (strummer)
  • Replace my RB1 drum set (sensitivity)
  • Throw away my broken pedal
  • The replacement guitar strum bar STILL sucks but I only have it because it looks sweet
  • Watched my friend's RB1 drum pedal break (and all the thousands of other people)
  • Watched my friend's RB1 drum pads break (yellow didn't work)
  • Watched another person's RB2 drum pads break

Oh and by the way, my girlfriend's 2 year old Guitar Hero III controller? It still is fully functional (battery sometimes gets loose). Yes, they have problems, but at least they last longer than 60 days.

On New Year's day I purchased stand-alone drums for Rock Band 2 off Amazon considering, "Hey, they must have fixed all the crap that plagued the Rock Band 1 sets, so who needs a warranty?!"

Guess what?

They're already broken. That means they're worse than RB1 drums.

First, the drum pedal wasn't working (Valentine's Day) and the pads were fine. Okay… Then my Xbox breaks (fine, not your fault) and when I get it back, the drums don't sync. They're still blinking right now, in fact. Such a simple little thing that EVERYONE ELSE GETS RIGHT.

Yes, I've tried everything the other hundreds of people have tried.

This is sickening. I paid $80 for these drums, they work for a few weeks, then 62 days later they break and I can't return them because I bought them off Amazon. That's $80 down the drain. Unbelievable.

Also, I'm not the only one. Plenty of people in these threads have said they've needed to return the sets twice until they got a good set. THREE TIMES until a good set?

It was tolerable when I could easily get them replaced without this stupid 60 day warranty bullshit. I could get them replaced within a week or two. Fine. And now because you know you have shoddy manufacturing you decide to put a limit because I bet so many people have returned faulty products.

You make good games, excellent games, but you make shitty instruments (or your manufacturer makes shitty instruments). Neversoft was correct when they said we'd buy their instruments when your shit breaks. I probably will go out and buy the GH drums when I have some money to throw away again.

GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, SON.

Love,

A Loyal Fan [to the game]

PS. I may forgive you of your transgressions if you can somehow manage to get Blind Guardian, Ensiferum, Heavenly, Helloween, better Iron Maiden (done!), W.A.S.P., Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, and A Night at the Opera by Queen onto the Rock Band music store.

In other words, I will maybe never forgive you.

February 24, 2009

Rewriting Comcast's Abuse Notifications [1-Up] | Posted at 9:32 PM

In my business communications class, which is actually quite fun, we had an assignment to rewrite a memo. We had to make it friendlier, easier to read, and more concise.

Continue reading "Rewriting Comcast's Abuse Notifications [1-Up]" »

February 17, 2009

How To: Track Your Xbox Repair Without Knowing the Tracking Number [Annoying] | Posted at 3:57 PM

I recently posted about how Microsoft did not provide my tracking number when it shipped my Xbox to me.

Here's how I managed to get my tracking information without calling anyone.

Microsoft sends packages using UPS and they use QuantumView. In the email they sent you where they tell you your Service Request Number, find it.

Then, go to UPS.com and use the Track by Reference feature. Paste your service request number into the Reference Number box. Then fill out where the package is supposed to go (your delivery address).

UPS will find either one or two shipments depending on how far along in the process you are.

Finally! Now I can attempt to change my delivery address.

February 16, 2009

Something is Missing… | Posted at 6:08 PM

something-is-missing

I'll give you a second.

Find it? How about, "Where's my tracking number?"

I need to change the shipping address but I have to wait until QuantumView decides to tell me my tracking number.

I miss my Xbox.

January 21, 2009

Getting What I Paid For [Is it so much to ask?] | Posted at 12:56 AM

I'm in college. Do you know why I am in college? Well first, because my parents made me. But second, it's because I want to learn. It's because when I walk down that aisle at graduation, with a fancy paper waiting in a fancy frame for me at the end that says, "You've made it," I want to say that I learned something here.

Continue reading "Getting What I Paid For [Is it so much to ask?]" »

October 31, 2008

Games to Play Before January [No Life] | Posted at 2:29 PM

It is a good time to be a gamer but a horrible time to be a student. Alas, school is more important. That is, until winter break.

Here's what I'm playing right now, in my limited time available:

New Games

  • Fable 2
  • Far Cry 2
  • Fallout 3
  • Rock Band 2
  • Red Alert 3
  • COD: World At War Beta
  • Dead Space

Old Games

  • Boom Blox
  • Okami
  • Mario Kart Wii

Here's what's coming out soon (by the end of November) that I'll be playing (eventually):

  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Tom Clancy's EndWar
  • Gears of War 2
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Starcraft II
  • Prince of Persia

Not to mention Saints Row 2 which was already released but I haven't even got to yet. I mean, it's crazy, especially if you own a PS3 as well. Everyone wants to get Game of the Year but one thing is for sure, 2008 will go down in gaming history as giving birth to such amazing games.

I will have more than enough to do this break, no boring days for me!

PS. Penny Arcade pretty much summed up my feelings.

Gears of War 2 LAN Party and XNA Game Studio Presentation | Posted at 2:02 PM

image

Whoo, I get to host a Gears of War 2 LAN party!

More details on Facebook!

I'm expecting a bunch of people to show up, I mean, we are giving away copies of the game. It should be a lot of fun.

October 16, 2008

Social Music Sharing Get-Together, Sponsored by Zune! [Microsoft] | Posted at 3:14 AM

Zune_hrz_4c_L_White

I'm hosting an event! My first event. Check it out!

RSVP at the Facebook Event

It's basically a music get-together. If you're reading this and you're from the U, definitely stop by… I hope to have people listening and sharing music with each other.

Maybe if it's popular I can host it again. We'll see.

October 15, 2008

Public Schools Might Be Alright [Books] | Posted at 2:35 PM

I was recently contacted by a young gentleman who is reading The Diamond Age (which, I've said before, I love) for his AP Lit class. I'm glad that this teacher has good taste. He asked me if I'd answer some questions about the book since he saw my review on the blog and of course I accepted and replied.

Anathem

I am currently reading Anathem by Stephenson right now and I'm really enjoying it. Like all his books, after you get past the first 150 pages you finally understand what is going on. I'm not sure what page I'm at since I have the audiobook but I am pretty aware of what's happening.

There was a review on Audible where the guy said he stopped because he couldn't get past the new words/language and stuff, and how he loved Snow Crash… I don't know, I haven't found it that difficult to follow at all. Sure, there are new words but they are pretty common to English words, you at least have an idea of what they mean and if you don't, Neal will eventually explain them. Plus, I got it "free" ($30 worth of membership) for 2 credits on Audible so I can't complain.

October 1, 2008

On The Issue of My Shortcut URL [I'm a Narcissist?] | Posted at 10:55 PM

I have to talk a little bit about why I use my own name as a domain name that forwards to this blog (i.e. kamranayub.com).

Contrary to what you may think… it wasn't because I wanted a domain named after me. I mean, that's kind of cool, but really my thought process worked like this:

  • My blog is named Divide By Zero, why not have "divide-by-zero.com" or something?
    • Because what if I change the name of the blog later? I'd have to pay another $10 to get it changed.
  • What if it was something weird?
    • Then it doesn't describe what it's about.
  • What if I just use my name?
    • People will think I'm full of myself. Oh well.
    • I can always change where the address forwards to, if I ever change blogs or the name of the blog.
    • In the long-run it will cost less because I won't have to buy another domain!
    • People will remember because they know who I am.
    • It's shorter than divide-by-zero.com and the real URL of this blog.

Let's be honest, I am a wired person (I am everywhere)… this blog acts like my central hub of who I am. I link to my Linked In, my company, my designs, my resume, my Google shared items, my favorite blogs, etc. It just makes more sense to use my name to get to somewhere that's… about me.

I had a blog before and I got rid of it, this one is probably here to stay awhile longer… but it may end up that I switch providers (i.e. not UThink) and I change the name of the blog, or whatever.

It's just convenient to tell people "go to my name .com" to get to the blog… if it was like divide-by-zero.com I'd have to say "Go to Divide By Zero .com with dashes between every word" or "Go to Divide By Zero Blog .com all one word," ad infinitum.

So there you have it, now feel free to judge me.

September 29, 2008

UMN MSP Blog [Wired] | Posted at 9:46 PM

I've created a separate blog using Windows Live Spaces. All it really means is that I will be posting exclusively on Microsoft stuff on that blog rather than filling this one up. I'd rather push people to a more official blog so they can check that for updates.

In other news I have an official email:

kamran.ayub [AT] student-partners [DOT] com

Content to look forward to:

  • Windows Live Writer review
  • Windows Live Mesh preview
  • Windows Live SkyDrive preview
  • Windows Live Workspaces preview
  • HP 2710p Tablet Review
  • Zune 8GB Review
  • Information about Zune Social/DDR Sweepstakes
  • Upcoming events I'll be hosting

Oh, I will have a busy October.

New Facebook Page [Being More Social] | Posted at 10:33 AM

image

I've created a new Facebook Page for Microsoft Student Partners at my University. I'll be using it to promote events, contests, reviews, etc.

Later this week I'll be creating profiles on MySpace and YouTube as well, so look out for that.

If you're reading this, make sure to become a fan!

September 26, 2008

Academia: Reloaded [More Busy] | Posted at 12:25 AM

Well, between my 3 jobs and class, I am a fairly busy person. Right now it's 12:10am and I felt like I should write a blog post.

Although I am busy setting up events and completing homework, I am doing pretty good. I still find time to just relax for a little bit but often times that doesn't include writing blog posts.

That said, I do have some posts lined up for this week.

In other news, I have plenty of Microsoft work. I'll be announcing some new things I'll be doing like a Facebook Page, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter account.

I'll also be posting some essays I've done for class… just for fun.

September 10, 2008

Classes in Review [Too Soon?] | Posted at 3:52 PM

In the vein of posting first impressions, I will list the classes I am taking and my humble opinions about what they will soon hold for me.

  1. MGMT 3010: Introduction to Entrepreneurship. At first, this class seemed like it would be a lot of work and tedious. However, things have really brightened up. We have to create an actual microventure and sell it for at least 4 weeks near the end of class. My team and I think we've come up with a good idea and if we choose it, I will post more about it. Grade: A
  2. IDSC 3103: Data Modeling. This will be an interesting class. We're being taught by a Korean graduate student but she knows what she's doing. Sometimes it can be hard to understand but it's definitely not a big deal. She's nice and the class seems to be fun. I enjoyed doing the Entity-Relationship Diagram exercises, simply because it's interesting to try and reverse engineer a form into its database component parts. Grade: A
  3. HSEM 3067H: Digital Literacies. This class will prove to be some amount of work, with weekly readings and several large assignments. It will be fun, though, considering we get to create a podcast for our last assignment. Grade: A-
  4. FINA 3001: Finance Fundamentals. I already like this class which is something I didn't expect. I think it's because my instructor, John Molloy, is fantastic… he doesn't teach solely from a PowerPoint and puts things in an easy to understand scenario. Thank God! Grade: A

I have two other classes that don't start until B-Term, so I can't review them yet. Overall it looks to be a fun semester but extremely busy. Lots of reading, on top of working on my Microsoft projects, on top of working at SUA.

There was a sweet research project on video games and entrepreneurship, but I just don't have the time to do it. It would have been an excellent research topic though.

September 1, 2008

RIP D-Link Gamer Lounge [Just My Luck] | Posted at 10:35 PM

Isn't it fitting for my router to die the day before classes? I mean, it's not a HUGE deal but we can only use two computers, so no Xbox Live, wired printer, or development box until maybe Friday.

I just ordered a WRT54GL considering I can just install Tomato or DD-WRT on it to get extra features.

I'm just sad because my D-Link was awesome, a D-Link DGL-4300, for the last two years and now it just suddenly died.

It basically will keep restarting and never stop, it's pretty stupid. It works fine otherwise, between restarts it won't have any problems. It won't even reset when I try to press the Reset button.

August 31, 2008

Moving In [Busy] | Posted at 6:55 PM

Wow, I've been pretty busy and haven't had time to add new stuff to the blog.

I will have pictures soon, after my roommate gets his desk in here. It's pretty packed. Everything else is set up, though.

August 22, 2008

Money Well Spent [Mmm, TV!] | Posted at 8:24 PM

So I got the TV delivered today and I broke it in, playing some Soul Calibur IV and watching some HD Olympics. As with the Toshiba 42RV530U TV I already reviewed, it is awesome.

Here it is in action!

My Toshiba 8-22-2008 5-54-00 PM

My Toshiba 8-22-2008 5-54-24 PM 

Oh. Yah.

I will report any problems but so far it’s been great! I guess buying refurbished TVs isn’t so bad.

In my room it looks huge, it will look humongous in the dorm, heh.

August 19, 2008

Replacing Your Comcast Box With a Newer One [Surprised] | Posted at 9:10 PM

I'm not going to lie. When I sat down and waited about 25 minutes to get on Live Chat with Comcast Support to ask them whether we can replace our old cable box with a newer one with HDMI output, I was expecting a laundry list of things to complete. Imagine my surprise, when the support person just said I can bring it to my local office and get it swapped for a new one. I asked the inevitable, "How much does it cost?" and he said nothing, it's free.

Wow. Comcast, you have surprised me.

We had an old DCT6208 and we couldn't watch another program if we were recording one.

DCT3412At first, they gave us a DCT3412. Why the later versions go down in number I'm not sure. Anyway, that one had a dual tuner, 120GB hard drive, HDMI output, and a SATA connector for an external drive.

The unfortunate thing is that it had trouble displaying HD channels. There are artifacts and corruption galore making them unwatchable. We thought it just might be one channel but it happened to all the HD channels.

DCH3416 We exchanged it the next day and we got the DCH3416! Awesome. This has a 160GB hard drive instead and looks a lot nicer.

HD even looks a bit better, smoother, I think.

5 New Posters… Plus 7 More [Lots of Pix] | Posted at 1:40 PM

Allposters had a 25% off sale… like they do every month or so, so I decided to get some new posters. Mind you, I already own like 5 or something. Somewhat sadly, Allposters is having a deal right now where a crap ton of posters are $5 and you get free shipping on orders above $9.99. That's 3 posters at $4.98. Clever bastards. I paid the shipping the first sale AND the posters that I got were all on sale today, so I basically lost $15.

I got these three the first time ($28) and the last two today ($10), since I wanted at least one vintage poster and some other kind of non-funny ones. You may be thinking 3+2 = 5 not the required 6 I had to get. The last one is a secret because it's for my girlfriend.

poster-starrynight

Starry Night by Van Gogh

I love this painting, so I decided to get it in poster form.

poster-lunchatopaskyscraper 

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper by Charles Ebbets

I have the LEGO rendition of this scene spread across both of my monitors… I love it. There’s something about this photo that just hits the spot and I’m glad I can see it everyday in my room now.

image

Big Brother

I loved 1984 so obviously it made sense to buy this. It’s not a full poster which makes me sad, but it it’s 11 x 14in which isn’t so bad.

image

The Great Wave at Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Man, what’s not awesome about this painting?

image

Star Wars: 30th Anniversary

This poster is almost a requirement since I should be true to my inner nerd. Besides being about Star Wars, it’s just a sweet poster.

As far as our walls go, they will definitely be filled. My roomie bought SEVEN new posters. These 5 in addition to my already largish collection will definitely give our room some personality.

August 18, 2008

Alright, I Bit the Bullet [Ouch] | Posted at 2:07 PM

I bought my new TV for my dorm. I was going to wait until next week, when I get my paycheck to add some extra breathing room but today’s deal just couldn’t be passed up. I definitely have enough left over money to keep me until next week.

Basically, the TV we bought for our home which was $1300+ with the warranty I just got off NewEgg, again, for $950 as “Recertified.?

I realize there isn’t a warranty with it and I can’t even return it… but I can at least not accept it if I see there’s any damage during shipping.

I just feel relieved I don’t have to search anymore. There were a few other options, but for a TV I know to be perfect for what I need and that I’ve seen in action, I don’t think it was a bad purchase. Plus, $100 less for this TV compared to other ones and only $30 more than the 37? I originally planned to get.

I will definitely write about my experience once I get the TV, hopefully, this week or next.

August 12, 2008

Braid, Flogging Molly, Football, and so on… [Fun Weekends] | Posted at 12:03 AM

Braid

I was introduced to Braid through a friend of mine, who said it was “an amazing concept for a game.? I had heard mention of this beast in Penny Arcade’s news post, but only fleetingly.

So Saturday I sat down and played the Trial Demo. I instantly liked it. I bought it and I’m still working on it. I’m on World 5 now, and damn it’s getting tough.

Basically the whole mechanic Braid relies on is time manipulation. At first, it’s pretty simple… you can rewind time and you use it to get to the puzzle pieces. However, each world gets increasingly more complicated. By World 4, I was scratching my head and wondering what the hell. First, there are objects that are sparkly green which are not affected by time. Second, at some points you have to rewind time very fast before a door closes or a platform returns to its position. Then, you have to use enemies as allies, to get keys in hard to reach spaces. Now I am at the point where there is a shadow dimension, and when you rewind time, your shadow does what you did in the future. It makes it way more complicated.

The price for the game is $15. To some people, this is the end of the world. While they are fine paying for their fast food and their carbonated soda, they shun the notion of paying $15 for a quality game. Here’s the thing: Braid is a good game. Some have mentioned that it’s just a Flash-game lookalike. So… because a game is 2D, it must mean that it’s a Flash rip-off? Last time I checked there were a few consoles way back in the day that did something akin to 2D games. But wait, silly me, I forgot that Flash invented the 2D platformer! Besides the fact that most flash games are stupid and poorly designed, what does it matter? It wasn’t created by a teenager in his mom’s basement. It was created by an independent developer who paid money and spent time to make the game.

My point is that $15 isn’t a whole lot to pay. It’s one dinner at a restaurant. It’s one and a half albums. It’s two outings to Arby’s. It’s a new movie. However you want to view it, it’s not that much. Don’t you have a job or something? That’s 1.5-2 hours of work or less! If you spent 2 hours making the money to buy it and you get 6+ hours of entertainment out of it, doesn’t that pay for itself?

Irish Fest

The other thing I did this weekend was go to Irish Fest and see Flogging Molly. I’ve seen them before when they came to the U but this was a different beast.

It was a lot of fun. I got a keychain with my Irish family name on it, Gallagher.

Keychain

I also went with my girlfriend, her mom, and my other two friends so I was surrounded by pretty women.

Irish Fest 075

That tall guy in the upper right with the white shirt was pretty high the whole time.

Needless to say, Flogging Molly was awesome. Here follow some photos of the event:

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-18 PM

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-38 PM

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-44 PM

My camera can’t take the best pictures… my friend had the nice camera:

Irish Fest 8-11-2008 11-27-32 PM

It was a lot of fun and I was just glad I got to go this year. Parking over on Harriet Island was tough but we found a good place that had a lot of spaces open and wasn’t too far away.

The crowd during the show was crazy. We weren’t super close but we were in that zone of people who want to get closer, so we were continuously pushing people around. My girlfriend went back earlier to get water and had a tough time finding us, but she did and after a short while moved back to a more relaxed portion of the crowd to properly enjoy the show. Since you can’t get out of there without shoving people aside, some guy took offense to me trying to burrow my way through, but he let me through anyway even though he tried to shove me back a bit. I’m sorry I had to push you, sir, but suck it, I had my girlfriend in tow.

Football

I went to the Vikings pre-season game last, when was it, Friday? Yes, that’s it. My friend’s family had extra tickets so I went with her. I had never been to a football game before so I decided I’d try something new. It was interesting, to say the least. I know the mechanics of the game so I understood what was happening but I still enjoy watching basketball more. The football crowd, however, is more entertaining. Lots of drunk people saying nonsense.

There were some guys to the upper left of us who were hilarious, though. They were smashed but they were funny, not unfunny obnoxious-like. The guys behind us were obnoxious and only slightly funny. One of them asked me who I thought would make it to play-offs: Vikings or Dallas. Not really caring or knowing much about such matters, I just said Vikings, to which one guy nodded his head in enigmatic agreement and the other saying that I was “smoking? and “high on shit,? but in a joking sort of way. I wasn’t about to argue.

Of course, if you followed the game, you know what we lost… which wasn’t a massive surprise. We left close to the end, though about half the stadium beat us to it.

Aquatennial

Earlier in the month we went to the Aquatennial fireworks display, reportedly the fifth best in the nation, according to my buddy. They were fantastic, that’s for sure! I didn’t get to see any fireworks on the 4th, so this substituted very well instead.

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-50 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-54 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-25-57 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-01 PM Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-07 PM

Aquatennial 8-11-2008 11-25-47 PM 8-11-2008 11-26-12 PM

Besides the big tree in the way, it was superb.

August 7, 2008

I Guess I Am Now a BAM Board Member [More Work] | Posted at 11:10 PM

I met with the president, VP of operations, and the now retired webmaster of BAM, the student group who’s website I recently subjected to Extreme Makeover. They asked if I wanted to be the new webmaster since it really only made sense… not only is BAM a group I can be a part of, I already know a lot of members in it and I created the tools to administer the site.

So I accepted, another duty added to my growing list of academic responsibilities. It should be a lot of fun, though! And this means I can skin the blog and forum now…

August 6, 2008

A Tale of Backup Woes and Redemption [Crappy Software] | Posted at 10:05 AM

Yesterday, it crossed my mind that I should try and restore a very old website, one of my first, to showcase on my new redesign of Intrepid Studios. The plan was to make it work at the least and then offer it up for people to look at and download. There are a few reasons of doing this.

I made the site News by Teens International back in 2001, it was my first experience in programming for the web. I was a budding ASP developer (oh how things might have been different if I’d chosen PHP) and NBTi was my first real project. At first it was a team but then all the developers left because they didn’t think it’d work. I took it on myself, with another guy as my “boss.? I made it work and the site saw average success for its lifetime. At some point, it became apparent that the site philosophy, letting teens write, submit and discuss news articles was not very popular among our demographic, so I shut it down.

However, at one point, an upgrade had been planned. This upgrade was actually very near completion. It was dubbed "NBTi .NET" my not so subtle way of saying I was using .NET to program it. This was when .NET was coming out... but I learned VB and got very far on the site. This is what I wanted to resurrect yesterday. I thought about it beforehand for awhile. I spent many hours working on it, for it to amount to naught. However, I feel like I should at least just let people download and look at it because I developed many custom components for it.

At the ripe old age of 15 or so, this is what I had developed for the site:

  • Member Profiles with profile information, avatars, and custom fields.
  • Messaging system ala private messaging.
  • Custom forum to integrate with member system.
  • News submission system.
  • Commenting system.
  • Polling system.
  • Who's Online functionality.
  • Planned to do a Journal component.

Do those features sound familiar? They should, they include the basic components of a social networking site. Unbeknownst to me, I had really developed a decent social networking site before the bigwigs like Friendster, Facebook, and MySpace had come along. There may have been social networking sites back then, but they were not so prominent and these features came to me because they made sense for the site's purpose. While primarily the news portion of the site was the focus, all the social interactions were just as important in my eyes... one of the reasons I decided to release this is because it showcases my ability to create social networking features, even if it was 5 years ago.

In the original NBTi, it had member profiles, a phpBB forum, control panel, polling, and commenting. That was written in ASP by myself. I had even attempted to integrate PHP with the ASP member system but that didn't work quite so well. It did kind of work, it added members when they registered on NBTi.

I rewrote the site from the ground up, giving it a new look and everything. I feel that for a 15 year old it was quite an achievement... so I wanted to release it for free. I thought about how I could do such a thing and I decided that I'd convert the site to .NET 2.0 and offer it up.

However, way back when my server was having problems so I had to back up my development on the computer. The back up software I used must have been poorly written because what it did was convert the first file in a folder to a folder. Yes, that's right, it effectively erased everything in the file and made it unusable. Suffice it to say, when I found out the software did this, I stopped using it. (If you are interested, SyncBack SE is an excellent backup software).

When I went back yesterday to try and convert the project, I had some errors in Visual Studio. It didn't get farther than one file and it said that it couldn't open it. I went and checked and to my horror found out that this project was one of the ones that got hosed.

Awesome, so now I can't release the site unless I go back and recreate the lost files, a time-consuming ordeal. I was frustrated and decided to just forget about it and delete everything as it wasn't usable anymore. So I did, from my server and from my own computer.

Then today, as I was riding the bus to work, I reflected on it a bit longer. It was an impressive project... and it wouldn't be insanely difficult to redo one file per folder, would it? I figured I could probably do it.

So, just a few minutes ago, I went onto my computer and tried to see if I could restore the files I deleted. One probem, I emptied the Recycle Bin. Awesome! I tried to use TuneUp Undelete which did find most of the files, but many of them were in "Bad" condition. Now almost all hope had vanished. I was ready to give up, when I remembered that I scheduled backups of my development folders on my server. I went onto the server and into the backups. Lo and behold, there was a backup of my development folder, old, but the NBTi .NET folder hadn't been changed in aeons. I restored it to my computer successfully and jumped for joy!

So now, the real work begins. I have to use all the errors to try and figure out what the original file looked like and I'll have to write "new" functions that will do whatever it is they are supposed to do. Luckily, if I remember correctly I comment my code a lot, and I name my functions appropriately so I hope I can restore them.

It's kind of exciting... once I release the new Intrepid Studios site soon, I can add this to my projects portfolio for people new to .NET or interested parties to dissect and borrow code. It's probably not the greatest since it was written way back when, but who knows, maybe I'll redo some of the components properly...

August 4, 2008

New Website Release – Business Association for Multicultural Students [Web Design] | Posted at 7:24 PM

bam-screencap

As I just posted on my company blog, I’ve just finished another website. The site is for the Business Association of Multicultural Students, of which I will be a member of soon.

I met with some officers of the group last Tuesday. That was when I started developing the site and in less than a week and 30 hours later I was finished and met the budget. How’s that for turnover?

Here are some of the features I implemented:

  • Google Calendar for managing events.
  • Google Picasa for managing photos, along with a barebones custom PHP photo gallery script for the website itself.
  • Google Analytics for site stats and tracking.
  • Poll script and administration using SimPoll.
  • Integrated WordPress blog.
  • Integrated phpBB3 forum.
  • JohnDesign’s SmoothGallery for homepage “animations.?
  • SimplePie RSS reader for showing upcoming events and blog posts. I use RegEx to parse the date an event occurs from their Google Calendar RSS feed.
  • Custom admin control panel for uploading member resumes, along with a password-protected section for recruiters to view them.
  • Fully degradable design for accessibility, functions without JavaScript or CSS, like always!

Wow, that’s a lot of features, and all of the scripts were free! Unfortunately due to time constraints I was not able to skin their blog and forum, but perhaps at a later date they will want me to.

I know some people will be interested in my PHP + Picasa Photo Gallery integration and my parsing of Google’s Calendar RSS feed, so I will post those soon and update this post!

Updated (8/4/08 7:52PM): PHP code for the RegEx is posted.

Updated (8/6/08 11:03PM): You can view the old site as well, if you wanted to see a before/after.

Updated (8/12/08 8:31PM): I posted a how to on integrating Picasa using PHP.

August 3, 2008

Bands To Watch For [Reminder] | Posted at 1:04 AM

Note to self: Watch these bands for potential album/song buying.

image

Firewind

Heard these guys off the Century Media Summer Sampler. I liked “Head Up High? from The Premonition.

image

Bullet for My Valentine

Usually I’d kind of pass this off as metalcore, and maybe it is, but it’s really metalcore. It has lots of elements of good metal… with maybe the exception of the singer’s voice, but it’s passable and I find myself humming these tunes a lot. Many of the songs are catchy and neat sounding.

image

Nachtmystium

This is a weird album but sort of draws me in… I enjoyed the track “Assassins? because it has a catchy chorus. The other things are mixes of different genre and sounds but still incorporate a blend of black metal elements. Weird but kind of cool.

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!

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.

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?

July 24, 2008

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:

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:

Headshot 

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!

Whirl-A-Whips

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!

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.

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 8, 2008

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!

July 6, 2008

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.

June 30, 2008

Microsoft Student Partner | Posted at 10:08 PM

I applied to be a Microsoft Student Partner for my university a few months ago. I am excited because they’ll start calling people for phone interviews soon. It was supposed to be by June 30 but I guess they got a lot of applications.

I would be happy to get the “job? (it is about 5 hours a week paid) since there are some great perks. First, it will open a lot of doors after graduation. If I could work in the Xbox division at Microsoft, that would be sweet. Second, it comes with a free MSDN subscription. How awesome is that? I need Windows Server 2008 for my server now.

I applied for the Marketing position. If their advertisement was serious and I get to plan a Halo 3 Gaming Tournament, that would be amazing. They asked a lot of questions on that application. I feel like it was a bit subjective because new ideas for marketing an event would come up when I talked with people about it. I mean, advertising on Facebook is a given. Anyone should do that, I’ve seen how well that works. And then putting up flyers in high traffic zones around campus is a great way to advertise. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen ads just walking on the bridge or through campus.

Since I have some people who’d be interested in helping me with these events, leveraging them for word-of-mouth or just chalkin’ up the paths works wonders.

How this all will work with my current job and classes, I am not sure, but I tend to have at least 5 hours of free time a week minimum so it shouldn’t be an issue.

Hats off to thee.

Nightly Update [6-30-08] | Posted at 8:15 PM

ebay

eBay still won’t let me (and other people) use Buy It Now. What’s with this? I talked to a support person again today and they said it’s still not resolved but they’re working on it.

I am --[ ]-- that close to murder (not really). Still, it’s been 2 weeks, not counting how long before then it didn’t work.

In other news I had a dentist appointment today so I stayed home. I made good use of my time by finishing Day of the Tentacle and getting to Part 3 on Secret of Monkey Island 1.

Seriously, I missed out on some awesome games. This summer I will finish all the Monkey Islands, Grim Fandango, and Psychonauts (I am almost done with ‘nauts) because I am addicted to puzzles.

Worms arrived for my DS and I still haven’t beat No More Heroes. SO MANY GAMES.

Later this week, my girlfriend is coming from North Dakota for the 4th and staying the weekend, how exciting! This will be a very busy week. Tomorrow my friend is supposed to come over and we’re supposed to watch B13, the french action movie. Thursday have to pick up the girlfriend at the airport, Friday is the 4th so busy all day, and Saturday we’re supposed to go to a waterpark. The weekend of the 12th I am going up to the cabin with like 8 people, so that should be a blast, too. Then the night of the 15th I am going to go visit my girlfriend for a week. So yah, July is pretty much non-existent in my calendar.

How do people usually handle telemarketers? One just called and asked for my dad, except he butchered the name. I just said he was busy (he’s napping) and “Goodbye.? Usually if they start sales-pitching I just hang up. I figure it just makes their life easier because they don’t have to hear someone straining trying not to stab them through the phone.

June 23, 2008

User Experience Design | Posted at 10:49 PM

At work (SUA), we’re revamping the entire Events & Conferences sub-site because it’s nigh unusable for our users.

We conducted a handful of usability tests and while it wasn’t horrendous, there was definitely stuff we could improve on. Audio and video package rates were hard to find, policies were hard to find, the whole finding a room process was convoluted. A bunch of things.

One of my favorite parts about my job is revamping a sub-site. I’ve done two revamps (well, three if you count the entire site-wide template design) so far, one for the Student Groups site and one for the Events Calendar.

The E&C site is real exciting because we’ll probably be doing an AJAX JavaScript application to easily browse rooms. We’re also revamping the room-specific pages, probably doing PHP arrays. I suppose if it becomes unwieldy, we might do MySQL instead.

I don’t know why, but I really enjoy making designs better. You saw what I did to the Facebook Application, GamePie. I think it’s fun to see if you can make things more usable. I should consider doing fun mock-ups of big name sites with better usability and accessibility design.

I mean, have you seen Amazon without CSS and JavaScript?

amazon_no_css

That’s not even close to usable or accessible. Granted, they do have an accessible text-only site, but it’s much less toned down than the “Amazon PC? homepage.

amazon_accessible

Did I mention I didn’t see a link to the accessible page on the Amazon homepage? Maybe it’s buried somewhere but I couldn’t see it.

Plus, I’ve heard that not all products are on the text only site. Yah, way to think of the disabled population Amazon. There’s no excuse to not have a good, usable and accessible website. They make billions of dollars, it’d take a month to just redo everything (alright, not really, but to actually make a usable design and code a static page, seriously…).

I know that there’s bureaucracy and maybe the site designers do want to make their site better, but it has to happen at some point. I don’t understand why the “greater web? (i.e. corporate big wigs) don’t listen to reason. Hasn’t anyone told them that accessible design will make their business increase, SEO rank increase, and generate buzz? Disabled users can’t shop effectively at Amazon… that’s pretty lame.

SUA is a top Google ranker because of how well we’ve done on the usability aspect. It’s compatible with screen readers, text-only browsers, and all major (and minor) web browsers except MSIE 4 (test it out with BrowserShots.org). If you search for “SUA? we’re no. 3. Cross-site linking and lots of content will do that for you.

Anyway, I’m thinking doing some small mockup projects for sites like these just for fun. See if I can make their pages better and more usable. It would be fun!

More eBay Delays | Posted at 10:01 PM

So I got my fifth positive feedback today from the item I bought. Thinking, “Alright, now I can finally list my item with Buy It Now,? I go to finish listing my item.

I still can’t and it’s 9pm, I got my feedback in the morning. Does it take that long for eBay to update my seller account? I talked with a support person and they said it might be delayed and I should send an email to their Trust team, which I did.

I suppose I’ll have to list it tomorrow.

Update: A support representative emailed me back:

Kamran, I would like to inform you that, there is a problem going on from our side and that is the reason you are not able to find the option of "Buy it now".

Thank you for your message. I've forwarded the information you provided to our Tech team and they're working to correct this.

Thanks again for taking the time to alert us to the problem. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Well I am glad I told them… some people seem to be having the same problem because I’ve gotten Googled with similar search phrases.

June 22, 2008

eBay’s ID Verify Broken | Posted at 10:43 AM

I was on eBay yesterday trying to sell my two video cards, and of course for Buy It Now you have to have more than 5 feedback. I have 4. So, I looked at eBay’s help pages and there’s a little known application called ID Verify, you pay $5 at the end and you can get all the seller perks. So naturally I wanted to because I wanted to sell my stuff tonight (Sundays at 7pm PST seem to work the best).

Naturally, it didn’t work. I fill out the information, most of which is pre-filled, and try to submit it. It says I have to fill in my address information. Great except you know what? It’s already filled in. Big help, eBay.

I emailed support because why would they have a Seller Support Line like Amazon, that’d make too much sense (which is, by the way, available 24/7). So now they won’t get back to me ‘til tomorrow, after the best time to sell passes.

I did buy something to get the extra feedback but I don’t think they’ll leave it until Monday. Grrr.

I guess I’ll have to make due selling Monday night.

Update: For future reference, it isn’t necessarily the address you registered with eBay, rather more like the USPS address. Since I live in a suburb, I had to use “Minneapolis? as the city instead and then it worked. By that time I had my 5 feedback, though.

June 20, 2008

What I’m Reading and Playing | Posted at 12:02 AM

Right now I am reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash from Audible. I listen to it on the way to and from work so I get a good hour and a half or so every day. I’m about an hour and a half close to finishing it.

snowcrash

Despite the book being crazy and humorous, it has some interesting ideas. The detail that Stephenson goes into about biological vs. technical viruses is very intriguing. It’s only fully explained at the end and I won’t ruin it for you. There are certain portions of the book that are about 20-30 minutes of straight “history.? I don’t know anything about Sumarian society or culture, so I can’t say whether or not it’s all true. Although when I was listening to it in the van, my mom was talking about some of the deities and cults that the book was mentioning.

What’s even more interesting is the Metaverse idea. It was Stephenson’s idea to a successor of the Internet. It’s basically Second Life with better avatars, graphics, and millions of people, and more like a real life mirror.

If the history bores you the characters are what get to you. The rebellious YT and the hilariously geeky yet bad ass Hiro are pretty lovable. It’s even more fun listening to the book because the narrator, Jonathan Davis, does an amazing job (I mentioned how awesome he was in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). He nails the accents and makes the whole book fun to listen to.

When I can, I am playing Devil May Cry 4, No More Heroes, and GTA IV (still).

I’m not sure what I think about DMC 4. It’s cheesy… but the fighting is pretty decent. Still, I’m not a real combo-Ninja-Gaiden-button-masher type person. I think it warrants about a B- or C+… I plan to finish it but some parts really piss me off so I stop playing. I stopped trying the secret missions altogether. It’s one of those games that I just want to finish to get through it.

I’ve only played about an hour of No More Heroes. Very interesting game, I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand the style is old-school and on the other I have to shake the Wiimote a LOT.

I’m still trying to beat GTA IV. I am only at 60.74% right now. It says I’ve played about 40 hours. It would have been more if I didn’t have to avoid my siblings to play it… as it is, I can only play when they’re not around. All that swearing and such, you know.

I was playing it yesterday when they were gone and my mom was in the background, fiddling around on her computer. She’s hearing some of the vulgarity-laden dialogue with Jimmy Pegorino and she goes:

“You didn’t buy this, did you??

Haha. Poor mom.

June 15, 2008

Grad Party and Baby Rabbits | Posted at 11:26 PM

I went to my friends' grad party today. That's two friends, both of them held their party together because they will be related soon since one of them is marrying the other's sister.

Anyway, we played some volleyball, ate food, and had an all-around grand 'ol time. The highlight though has to be the baby rabbits in the yard.

Rabbit 6-15-2008 6-21-56 PM

It's a tale of life and death, since one rabbit had died before we came upon them, and one died in our arms as we tried to nurse it. Sad...

Rabbit 6-15-2008 6-22-06 PM

The good news is that they are taking care of the other ones even though they technically can be by themselves. Hopefully that will go over well!

One of the male members of our party decided it would be humorous to put a little critter in a, more tasteful, environment:

Rabbit 6-15-2008 6-47-42 PM

As you can probably guess, female members of the party were decidedly angry about said show of male humor.

Rabbit 6-15-2008 6-47-50 PM 

What? I thought it was funny.

June 12, 2008

My Custom Rock Band Guitar | Posted at 11:14 AM

If you want to see the epitome of nerdy, I bought a decal for my Rock Band guitar because I wanted it to stand out… and if someone stole it, I’d know it was mine.

Behold, the Inked Out Guitar:

Rock Band Guitar Body

Nice, eh?

Guitar Neck

Another guitar body picture

I have to be honest though, I think that I will take the decals off the fingered frets because it makes it hard to slide my finger over, plus it catches on the edge of the vinyl. Not fun!

You can buy yours at Digital Camo, but it took a long time to come. I think about 3-4 weeks. Shipping was fast, but to actually make the order took awhile. Still, it’s really sweet!

My Generation and Video Games | Posted at 12:49 AM

I think that many of my fellow generation Y can relate to the following scenario:

You’re playing Warcraft III, you’re in a clan match. Everything is going according to plan, your fellow mates are getting ready to push center and get rid of the enemy’s defenses.

Suddenly, you hear from upstairs, “Kamran!? Oh, great. “Yah?!? you yell, only slightly turning your attention away from the chaos. “Come up here.? Oh no. If you leave, it’ll most certainly spell the death of the match or at least cause severe casualties, and you can’t just leave your character unattended, you’ll be a feeder. But what can you do? “Just a second!? Quickly you type out your intentions to your teammates, getting sarcastic and sometimes unfriendly feedback.

“Kamran!?

“I’m coming!?

You head upstairs.

This is a scenario I see being played out with my brother all the time. He’s more into multiplayer games than I am; Warcraft III and CS:S mostly. Often times he’ll be in the middle of a match and will get called up to go to bed or come eat.

From experience, I know its hard to let go of a match. Especially if it’s a clan match or a ranked match. It might seem banal to non-gamers. “So what?? they might say. Sure, in the game of life it’s not such a big deal to lose some points and go down a rank in the ladder but I suppose in that moment it’s important to you because that’s what you’re working towards. I can’t imagine what it’s like to leave a Warcraft Raid in the middle of it, I bet some guilds are so strict you get kicked out. I wouldn’t be surprised.

This makes me wonder how I will handle my kids’ gaming habits. Luckily I will get a few years before they reach that stage and who knows, online gaming might evolve to cope with such scenarios (with FPS, the whole “click to spawn? usually works and you can stay un-spawned until you get back). You can vote pause a game in some titles already. Handy for LAN games, I’ll tell you that.

I think as a gamer myself, I might be more empathetic to my child’s plight.

“How much longer??

“The round ends in 5 minutes, dad!?

“Oh, alright. Hurry it up!?

Of course, that translates to 15 minutes, right? So on one hand, I can see how parents can get mad but on the other, I can understand why its hard to quit.

If it’s multiplayer, I can handle some leeway unless its really urgent (“TORNADO!?) but I expect them to pause it right away if it’s just single player. There’s not much excuse there unless you’re in a fight or in a solo on Rock Band.

What a conundrum. I think I should subject my kids to the same upbringing I had. No computers and video games until 8: send them to grandma’s to put together puzzles, LEGOs, and watch Sesame Street.

It did me good.

PS. I still can be proud of my youngest brother who played Oblivion (and read the dialog) when he was 7 and hooked up his computer by himself now as an 8 year old. Right now he plays Assassin’s Creed, Oblivion, Pokemon, Rock Band, Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, and Devil May Cry 4. He has as much taste in different genres as me!

May 19, 2008

Selling Textbooks | Posted at 7:04 PM

I just finished listing all my textbooks on Amazon (over 20). They keep it up for 60 days and after that they are taken down. My plan is to do textbook buy back with the books that don't get sold through Amazon. That way, I am getting the best price on the books I do sell and I can get rid of the ones I don't sell for some specified price closer to the time when students buy their books.

BookBytes had the best price, but they only took 6 books out of my 20. AbeBooks took the most, leaving only 4 or 5 left, but it was the same price as BookBytes' 6 books.

Oh, the Irony | Posted at 4:19 PM

xbox-360-elite.jpg

This last Saturday marked the end of my academic year. Of course, this was the most opportune time for my Xbox to lay down and die. Couldn't it have waited til mid-summer? Or perhaps just not died at all?

The worst part is, it has not succumbed to the dreaded Red Rings of Death. Instead, it just freezes. That means that I have to actually pay for my repair... I wish it had RRoD'd. The nice thing is, Microsoft sends you a shipping container that's prepaid, so I will only be spending money on the repair, not the shipping as well.

GTA IV will have to wait, I guess. Maybe I can put some time into Pokemon Diamond and Mario Kart Wii.