Friday, July 27, 2007

Be an Open Source Guitar Hero!

Undoubtedly one of the best games that came on the PS2 and more recently on the 360 is Guitar Heros II. Ever since I got my hands on this came, I haven't as yet swapped the DVD to play another game on my PS2.

For those who haven't heard of this game, it basically lets you "rock on" to some popular and not so popular rock tunes as if playing a guitar. You could use the standard D Pad game controller or for the ultimate experience purchase a Guitar controller.

Unfortunately I don't have the guitar controller though, and would probably buy it if I can find it in a local store. I wanted this so bad, I almost picked it up from a shop that was situated in Dream Land. Unfortunately the alarm woke me up before I could pay using my credit card.

So whats better than Guitar Heros 2? No its not Guitar Heros 3, but rather a Free & Open Source clone called Frets on Fire!. Sure it doesn't look as good as GH2 but its got some feature that makes it better. But before I get to that, have a look at this dude "rock on" in Frets on Fire using the GH2 Guitar Controller

So what make Frets on Fire an awesome alternative:

  • You can use a full size keyboard and hold it similar to a guitar

  • You can import all GH2 sound tracks, if you've got the GH2

  • Its got the ability to import new songs unlike GH2 where your stuck with the tracks that came with it

  • There is an inline music editor within the game

  • Runs on GNU/Linux, Mac OSX and Windows

  • Free in every way

So check out Frets on Fire! Chances are you'll either burn the keyboard if not your fingers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will the real "Geek with an Attitude" please stand up, please stand up!

Ah just came across another Geek-with-an Attitude . Seems like an interesting Blog with "Technological advice you can actually use".

Now excuse me while I run off to perform a DoS.

Just kidding

PEacE out

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Mac Mini taken apart and put back together

mac_mini_dsc01310.jpg My Mac mini had been pretty much dead for the last couple of months. It just wouldn't boot and would give a gray screen (without the Apple logo), after the Apple chime. Following advice on Apples's Support site, I tried the weird key combinations that were supposed to clear the CMOS and other settings, but that didn't fix the problem.

I was thinking about taking this for repairs to either BTOptions or DMS but both will take a fair amount just to open it (and it may well be fair, because opening and servicing this thing is a pain) and possibly more to fix (warranty had lapsed). I felt adventurous and as if there was nothing to loose.

The fact it was a Friday night and after the end of a long week, I felt the need for a change from thinking about software to may be thinking of hardware. But before I could give much thought to the idea, I found myself tearing the Mac Mini apart.

I've seen a couple of videos on Youtube on opening up the mac and it looked easy enough :) One problem was that I didn't have a putty knife. What I did have was something that looked like a putty knife, if only slightly bent and was primarily built to flip eggs.

To make a long story short, I managed to open the mac mini, remove its memory and test that separately using my desktop, remove battery to manually clear the CMOS. I also got access to the hard drive and made a few mistakes along the way which came back to haunt me during the re-assembly.

For some weird reason all the partitions on the hard driver were gone, not even recoverable from testdisk. Finally I ended up repartitioning it from within the MacOSX beta (intel) boot CD I had. Then it occurred to me that this might actually explain the gray screen because on Macs, part of the firmware is on a special partition (EFI partition). But then again, I think the CMOS clearing also had something to do with it.

Finally, the Mac mini started to work after I had put everything back together. I was quite pleased that it was now booting to the boot loader and more astound to find that my data partition (which had all my downloads) still in tact. Hmmm, one of those X files things, I can't quite explain. Anyway, I re-installed MacOSX on the first partition and it works great now!

I'll install GNU/Linux on it later, but before I closed the casing I decided to upgrade the memory, since it risky reopening it and old memory types will run out. So I went to Unity Plaza and "got me self" a 1GB stick and put that sucker in. My mac mini seems a lot more happier now.

One good thing about using the Mac Mini (G4, in my case), is that it consumes a lot less energy than, say my AMD64 desktop. It essentially has notebook like hardware, and I've even seen a few hacks that convert it to a battery driven device.

Well the Mac mini is all setup and updating itself, and I'm just in time to watch the Earth Day Concert.

You can see photos and comments of the dissemble process on my photo blog.

Monday, July 02, 2007

myPhone - Waiting for my kinda iPhone

Photograph by: Eliya Selhub

The iPhone is a pretty good looking phone and functional phone by the looks of it and it might actually end up being a hit in the US, if it wasn't for the high price tag. While $500 - $600 seems like a good deal for us Asians and some of us are used to spending that much on a phone it seems to be uncommon in the US. They're still using crappy old cheap models over there :), which generally come for a real cheap price or for free as part of the plan. So I really don't think the iPhone as it is, is going to be anything like an iPod.

But it can be like an iPod, only if Apple did a few things more. Here are a list of things I want on myPhone:

  • 3G - Its great this thing has EDGE but I wouldn't dish out so much and not get anything that hasn't got 3G

  • User pluggable SIM card - What were they thinking! Oh wait physical security to please AT&T. Do we have to dissect just to change the SIM card? Give us a slot to insert/remove the SIM

  • Expandable Memory - 4GB and 8GB are plenty but having a removable, expandable SD slot is a must in any modern phone

  • Custom Apps - Steve Jobs sold the fact that developers can't develop native apps as a good thing at the recent WWDC. While its awesome its got a full fledged browser, Steve said him self, "But it’s happening fairly slowly and there’s still a lot you can do with a rich client environment.", that desktop apps are richer and can take back what was lost to the web. If Apple decided on every thing that was to run on the iPhone, its going to be a boring, under utilized device.

  • Voice recognition menus/Dialing - The touch pad is great but with such a powerful phone you would have expected some more natural ways of input. I hear the touch pad doesn't work well with gloves which can be a problem under freezing weather.

  • Skype - A great use with WiFi around. Oh wait AT&T wont like it.

  • IM - SMS chat is ok, if you want to burn money but how on earth can you ignore an IM client. True with Safari, you could use a service like Meebo, but then again you could just use google maps too

  • Flash, Java - Are these technologies so yesterday? Can we do it all with Ajax

  • TV out - Does this thing have Video out? I hope they didn't drop that. (iPod video has it)

  • Record Video - I can't believe this can't record video with the built in 2MB camera.

  • A Flash please - A Flash makes a BIG difference when taking photos. At least a fake Flash like some of the older SE phones

  • Video conferencing - Now I am getting a bit more demanding here. I'm thinking, with a 2 year plan your looking at being stuck with this till end of 2009 - 2010. I would think most people would find video conferencing a common thing by then.

  • Project it - Ok I may be asking for too much here :) But it would be cool and very Business like if I could some how just run a Presentation and project it to a big screen without taking out my notebook

Well thats my rant on the iPhone's missing features. I am sure there are more and the best way around this is to just make it easy for third party apps, even if Apple has to first examine and digitally sign them. If it can do half as much as what I mentioned then there is a good chance the iPhone will be a hit in Asia if & when it is released.

In the mine time, I am holding my breath for a truly Open Phone, the Open Moko and the great apps the FOSS community will build to run on it.