Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

I finally watched Transformers 2, on IMAX. ^_^ Well, it's not really a real IMAX, it's kinda like a fake IMAX/IMAX lite. The screen was bigger than a regular theater screen, but far from the real IMAX screen. Anyway, here are my impression of the movie.

***WARNING*** Spoilers ahead.

The good stuff:
-Optimus' fighting scenes are simply awesome. In the first movie, Optimus looked pretty weak for an Autobot leader, but on this movie, he kicks ass. One battle had him fighting 3 Decepticons all at once, including Megatron. He ripped some Decepticon heads/faces, literally, quite a few times.
-Soundwave is in the movie, complete with his familiar voice. Sure, he's just a satellite and didn't participate in any of the battles, but it's still cool to hear his signature voice again.
-Optimus and Jetfire "super-linking" is also awesome, albeit only temporary. I didn't expect this at all. Basically Jetfire sacrificed himself to combine with Optimus Prime, becoming a jet-pack/armor/big cannons. Powering up like this sounded more like something the Japanese would do, so I was completely surprised. Really awesome. Alas, the armors fell off at the end of the final battle, thus this is not a permanent feature.
-The first combiner appeared, Devastator. I always love the combiners in Transformers. Devastator is the first Decepticon combiner, and was featured in the movie. Sure, it's nothing like the cartoon version at all, but at least they did it. The downside is they didn't really show the individual smaller robots. It would've been more awesome if they have all the individual robots fighting first, and then combined mid-fight. Due to the more organic style the movie took, I thought they wouldn't be able to do combiners. Glad they did it.
-Most movies use fictional characters. In Transformers 2, they actually use Obama as the US president.

Things along the way that I guessed wrong:
-When I was shopping at Target, they have Superion, an Autobot combiner, as a Transfomers 2 movie toy lineup. It's a re-color of Superion from TF: Superlink, and did not match the organic style of the movie at all, but I was hoping he would show up. Alas, not the case. Only Devastator appeared.
-Although I did guess that Optimus is going to die, I thought he would be dead for good just like in the Transformers cartoon, thinking that they would bring Rodimus Prime in. But no, Optimus was revived.
-When Sam died, he met the ancient Primes. I thought Sam is going to be the actual Matrix of leadership himself, thus becoming a Transformers and combining with Optimus Prime, reviving him. Kinda like the Godmasters in TF: Masterforce where the Transformers have human partners. But no, he was revived and simply stab Optimus with the Matrix. Kinda wished he's dead for good though (more of that on my rant).

Now, the bad, the annoyances, the ugly, the sucky parts, aka my rant about the movie:
-Humans, humans everywhere. I mean God, even Megatron only had very minimal screen time. Forget about Ironhide, Ratchet, etc. Even Bumblebee didn't get that much screen time. Most of the scenes are about the humans. The amount of screen time spent on the humans are a lot more than the first movie. I mean come on, this is supposed to be a Transformers movie, a movie about robots. None of main human characters are even dead (only the cannon fodders were).
-Too much un-needed scenes. The scenes about Sam going to college are a complete waste of screen time. Too much unnecessary scenes (he's getting ready to go to college, leaving the house, the parents, going to college, his mom got high, going to college party, etc). Yeah, there are few funny scenes, but all of them are hardly related to the actual plot. Instead of this, they should show more scenes about the Autobots hunting down Decepticons, or put more background about Starscream building up his army. Something more about the Transformers, not about a teenager getting anxiety attacks.
-Too many un-needed characters. First, Leo Spitz, a conspiracy theorist geek. His character is pretty much a comic relief, who is hardly even funny. His character is completely unnecessary. In fact, I could imagine the movie without his character at all, and it's still going to be the same. Then there are the 2 stupid Autobots, Mudflap and Skids, that are supposed to be another comic-relief, but served nothing other than 2 un-needed annoyances. Next, Sam's parents. It's not like they are not needed, but they have too many un-needed screen time. They have more screen time than any of the the Autobots. Again, without them, the movie would've not changed that much. Next, Alice, a Decepticon Pretender. She's basically a Decepticon transforming into a human. Wait, what? Another un-needed character, which are shown mostly in those un-needed college scenes, and also a plot hole. If the Transformers can transform into a human, then why don't they all do that? Why bother with vehicles if they can simply blend in looking like humans? I thought I was watching Terminator 3. (Note that the Pretenders are actually featured in Transformers: Masterforce, but that's a Japanese only series)
-Too-many un-funny stereotype jokes. There are so many of these that sometimes the movie felt really unbearable. Sam's over-protective mom, Sam's "anxiety" attacks, the college weed, Sam's sexual awkwardness with Alice, Mudflap and Skid's banters, Jetfire's "old-man" behaviors and farting, all scenes about Leo, the soldier encounter at the border (New York? I don't get it), etc.
-When Jazz died in the first movie, the Autobots are clearly saddened by it. When Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots died, it's like nobody really cared except Sam. None of the Autobots (Ironhide, Ratchet, Sideswipe) seemed to be bothered. I mean I would expect Ratchet to at least tried his hardest to revive/fix Optimus, but no, nothing.
-Sam Witwicky didn't die. Yeah, I really wish they killed this character. When Sam died, I was rejoicing. Finally! I was so happy that I can finally watch a Transformers movie without a story about some teenage angst issues. But no, suddenly he revived. What a waste. Hopefully they killed him in the 3rd movie.
-Too many obvious scenes selling Megan Fox. Yeah, Megan Fox is hot, but come on, please be a little bit more discreet about it. First scene, she was painting a small logo on her bike, wearing a super short shorts, and bending down. Yeah, right. the last quarter of the movie were the worst. They have a frantic battle scene between the military, Autobots, and Decepticons firing at each other, but then when Megan Fox was running, it's in slow mo. Not only once, but a few times. Megan Fox fell on the sand, slow-mo. Megan Fox doing something, slow-mo. I mean WTF? It's like Michael Bay gave up on the movie and simply using Megan Fox and bouncing tits to sell the movie.
-Simply not enough bots. Sure, Optimus did some superb fighting scenes, but other than those, none of the other Autobots do much. Ironhide, Ratchet, and Sideswipe have only a brief of screen time, and they're supposed to be the main Autobots. I barely saw Arcee. The Decepticons had better share, but still hardly enough screen time compared to the humans. I saw the annoying Leo a lot more than Megatron.

Transformers 2 is an eye popping CGI/explosion action fest. Although it's an okay movie, as a Trasformers movie, it's still disappointing. They could've done a lot more about the Transformers. Hopefully they would do better for the 3rd movie. I can't see any more reason to have Sam Witwicky character, other than to keep Megan Fox and use her as the movie's sex symbol.

What I want to see on the next movie: More combiners, Omega Supreme, Unicron, Fortress Maximus, more super-linking/power-up modes, and less/no humans. Oh well, they probably could've just had Megan Fox taking off her clothes as the 3rd movie and call it a day, and it will still sell.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Impression of the Genius Bar

So, if you're following my twitter, you know that my iMac's hard-drive is dead, and it's actually an opportunity to experience of going to the Genius bar at a local Apple store. Couple points that I would like to make:
1. Make a reservation online. Don't think that you can just walk into an Apple store and get help right away, especially for tech support. While I was waiting for my turn, I saw a couple of people being told to make a reservation for another day.

2. Do your homework. Just like any tech support situation, things can go faster/smoother if you do your homework. In my case, I already did my own diagnostics to confirm that the hard-drive in my iMac is truly dead. At the genius bar, the genius tried to do his own diagnostic by booting from his external hard-drive, which didn't work anyway. If I didn't tell him what I did, we would probably have spent more time trying to diagnose the problem. Also, write down your Mac's serial number and/or Apple care number. It would help the genius since Apple put the serial number of the iMac on the bottom of the stand(!).

3. Speaking of time, just because you have a reservation, don't expect that you'll be helped right at the appointed time. It seems that there are only a few geniuses in the store, and depending on how long they are working on each customer's case, things could be pretty backed up. I had to wait for a bit over my appointed time because the genius wasn't done with the customer in front of me.

4. Waiting can be awkward in an Apple store (I assume it depends on the store). The one I went into doesn't really have a set "counter/line" like a traditional B&M store (except for the line for the iPhone 3GS). When I arrived, naturally I went to the genius bar. Then one of the guys said to check in on the counter, which is just a small table in the middle with 2 iMacs and a girl with orange T-shirt. Good thing one of the guys obviously saw I was confused, asked my for my name, and quickly went to one the iMacs on that table and "checked" me in. Then It's a waiting time. There was not a set "waiting" area. I was standing like a doofus, then I just sit down on an empty chair near the "bar." I'm guessing Apple wants to make the experience more casual, but at the same time it could be confusing without proper signs/directions.

5. Somebody need to clarify/make a guide for the color-coded T-shirts of the Apple store employees. There are employees in cyan, orange, and dark-blue T-shirts. At first I thought the cyan are the geniuses, but I think they're sales. Orange is probably concierge? The gal that is checking people in wears orange T-shirt. The geniuses are in dark-blue.

One big point that I want to make, is how GLAD I am that I bought Apple care (Apple's extended warranty) for my iMac. I bought my iMac in May 2008. Guess what, the hard-drive failed on June 2009, 1 month after the default warranty would've ended. Without Apple care, it would'be been $100 just for the diagnostic. Now, if this is a regular tower PC, I wouldn't worry about extended warranties. In fact, I replace broken hard-drives pretty often on my other PCs. They're regular PCs so it's easy to just buy a hard-drive, open up the case, and replace it. However on the iMac, it's a different story. I looked at tech websites, and to get to the hard-drive in an iMac, you would have to dismantle the whole thing, remove the glass display AND the LCD. That's too hardcore for me.

Another great thing about Apple is the presence of the Apple stores. If it's an HP/Dell PC, and it needs something fixed that I couldn't do myself, I would've to call a tech support in India, setup a shipment, ship the computer, wait for days/weeks (excluding ship time), etc etc. Or, HP/Dell would send a spare part and I would've to do the repairing myself. Or go to Bestbuy's Geek squad and spent a fortune. Compare that to setting up an appointment with the Genius online, coming in on a weekend to a local store, and being told that things will be fixed in a couple days. It's definitely a much better experience. The only downside is if there are no Apple stores around your area.

So, there you go, my first experience with Apple's Genius bar. We'll see how long it would take for Apple to fix my iMac. The genius said it's a day or two. Hopefully my iMac is well taken care of.

Note to self: consider SSD when buying a new computer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

iMac going back into its box :'(

iMac going back into its box :'(

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dead iMac :'(

Dead iMac :'(, originally uploaded by patashinka.

The hard-drive in my iMac went toast. :-(

2G iPod Touch Bluetooth

3.0 firmware unlocks the Bluetooth capability of the 2G Touch. I tried pairing it with a Sony Bluetooth dongle, and it works fine for the most part. Pairing works, albeit a bit slow vs a cellphone. The Sony Bluetooth dongle has playback controls. Play, pause, and volume controls work, but next/prev track controls do not. The mic on the Bluetooth dongle is not recognized by the Touch nor apps like Skype. :( oh well. Turning on wifi while streaming audio via Bluetooth caused audio dropouts and weird slowdowns. Other than that, it's a nice perk but not terribly useful.

iPod Touch 3.0 firmware

I decided to cough up yet another $10 to update the firmware of my iPod Touch to 3.0. This trend of Apple charging money for firmware updates for the iPod Touch is truly annoying. I mean come on, they are going to sell Snow Leopard, an OS upgrade, for only $29, yet $10 for a firmware update for an iPod? I have yet to see other companies charging money for firmware updates. Even Sony gives free firmware updates for the PSP and PS3.

Anyway, aside form the rant, here are a quick impression of the 3.0 firmware installed on a 2G Touch.
-The download size of the firmware is a hefty 257.8MB.
-Installing and upgrading the firmware on my 2G Touch went without any issues. It seems pretty quick too, quicker than I expected.
-Couple new options in iTunes for the Touch. First is the option to encrypt the backup (iTunes will ask for a password). 2nd is the option to sync notes (not sure if this had existed before or not).

Now on the 2G iPod Touch itself:
-A lot of the features have been previewed twice by Apple, on the sneak peek in March, and on WWDC 09.
-Calculator seems to load faster
-There's an option to turn on Bluetooth in the Settings. Yup, Bluetooth on the 2G Touch is unlocked with the 3.0 firmware. Have not played with it though.
-Shake to shuffle. It is a gimmick on the 4G nano, and imo still a gimmick.
-In Settings, there's an option to manage your iTunes account.
-Autofill for Safari. Could be a security/privacy concern for some. I leave it off.
-Spotlight search: Quite amazing. You can set on what it will search in Settings. You can set to invoke Spotlight with double click of the Home button.
-Speaking of search, almost all of the built-in app like Music, Video, Contacts, Mail, etc have Search on the top if you scroll up through the top of the list.
-Voice Memos. Voice recording, obviously the 2G Touch would need an external mic as it doesn't have a built-in one. I use the Apple in-ear bud with mic, and it works fine. You can also trim the recording afterwards. Other than that, pretty basic. I expect more 3rd parties will make good external mics for the Touch/iPhone.
-Maps have some GUI changes. Nothing significant, but seems a bit prettier with some new dots and icons.
-Now you can log-in to your Youtube/google account in the Youtube app. The app will list your fav videos, and you can rate & put comments on videos.
-Stocks got quite a bit of facelift. It will show a larger graph on landscape. It also list some news related to the particular stock.
-Copy-n-Paste. Well, it works, across apps too (tried copy-n-pasting from Safari to Notes). The Shake to undo is pretty neat. A lot of people are making fun of Apple's cut-n-paste, yet I don't really see a lot of devices implement copy-n-paste across apps nor undo.
-When you invoke the iPod controls on the stand-by screen, it will show the track title, album, and artist.
-Chinese character input. Now you can use your finger to write down a Chinese character. Not that great though as a finger is not as thin as a stylus. The iPod will try to guess what you're writing, and it seems to work okay. I don't think it will be efficient though compared to stylus-based input.
-Now you can pay audio podcasts at double the speed or half the speed. Useful for lectures I guess.
-Still no shuffle-by-album feature. >:( Lame, just lame, considering this feature have existed on the regular iPods and nanos forever, and the fact that Apple is touting the iPhone/Touch as "the best iPod."
-Movies are now available on the iTunes store. Dunno how useful this will be though as it would take forever downloading movies on the device, even via wifi. Then there's the capacity issue.
-TONS of language options and keyboards. This is quite amazing actually. I have not seen an electronic device being localized extensively into so many languages in 1 firmware.

In the end, is it worth $10 for 2G Touch users? I'm afraid I have to say yes, as the 3.0 firmware will unlock Bluetooth on the 2G Touch. 1G Touch, however, don't have Bluetooth nor mic support for voice recording, so the value of the 3.0 firmware is not that great. Thing is, sooner or later I can see that most apps in the app store would require the 3.0 firmware.

I still think for Apple charging money for firmware updates is lame. You don't see this behavior with any other companies. The lack of shuffle-by-album feature is also super lame, considering this is a standard feature on regular iPods. Some of the features like cut-n-paste are way overdue. The 3.0 firmware is the natural progression of the iPhone/Touch platform. While companies like Sony are still confused on what they're selling, Apple is definitely turning into the definitive portable media player maker. With the iPhone 3GS getting better camera and video recording, we'll see if those feature will trickle down to the iPod Touch.

I will post more impression on the Bluetooth feature later.

Monday, June 15, 2009

test posting from twhirl to everything. =)
test message from

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Random pic

Random pic, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


CPR?, originally uploaded by patashinka.

CPR? Looks more like suffocation.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nissan Cube

Nissan Cube, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Saw a Nissan Cube. Looks pretty cute

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Juicy surprise! Lol

Juicy surprise! Lol, originally uploaded by patashinka.


Bentley, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Bentley in front of me. Economic crisis? Lol

Black cod. Kinda small

Black cod. Kinda small, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Godzilla roll

Godzilla roll, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Damn it's hot!

Damn it's hot!, originally uploaded by patashinka.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

E3: The Big 3 Press Conference impression

Just finished watching the press conferences of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony at E3. You can watch them at Gamespot.
Anyway, here's my impression. Note that I don't think I'm a hardcore gamer anymore. Although I still love gaming, I feel that I cannot keep up with games that are too time consuming. Maybe I'm getting too old. T_T. Also, even though there are some announcements made on specific press conferences, nowadays game developers cannot afford to be console exclusive anymore, and many games being announced are multi-platform.

-Their press conference started with a bang, The Beatles Rockband. It started with a very nice animation of a cartoony version of the Beatles. And, Microsoft really showed everybody that they have money, by having Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appeared on stage, including Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. They didn't say much or anything significant, but it felt like MS showing Sony/Nintendo that they have the $$$., Netflix and facebook on 360. I don't know, but who cares? Plus, is only for XBL gold members. I can get for free on my iPod Touch. Besides, who wants to listen to music with the noisy 360 around? I can get Netflix streaming without additional cost on Vista Media Center.
-Monkey Island! Yay, they are remaking the original Secret of Monkey Island adventure game. I hope this will bring back adventure games on the map. I grew up and love adventure games.
-Squenix showing a playable demo of FF13 on the 360. Looks great. It's like they're giving a finger at Sony. LOL. Alas, it's dubbed in English, and it's already confirmed that US FF13 won't have Japanese voice. :(
-Hideo Kojima, announcing Metal Gear Solid: Rising for the 360, starring Raiden. He spoke in English. Why did I mention this? We'll find out later.
-Project natal. It's Microsoft's attempt to counter the Wii motion control. Their approach is not with motion control, but with motion capture, no controllers at all. Instead, they have a camera capturing all your movements. The video showed some promises, but the live demo fell flat. It's no way as responsive as the concept video. Sure, it's still in development, but I don't think MS can pull an effective motion capture at consumer grade hardware/prices. But that's not the surprise. The surprise is Steven Spielberg showing up on stage. Yup, Microsoft brought Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and now Spielberg. Even Sony didn't bring any celebrity on-stage.
-Overall, MS' press conference is so so. Not a fans of the Beatles, so couldn't care less about their game (Now if they make DJ Hero Eurobeat, I'm buying ^_^). I'm hardly impressed anymore with yet-another FPS game, let alone more Halo. Love to see more traditional adventure games. Project natal looks promising, but I don't think it will deliver.

-If you're a Mario fan, you're in for a treat. New Super Mario and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii, and Mario & Luigi RPG for the DS. Yeah, Nintendo is squeezing more $$$ out of their mascot.
-If you have been reading any tech blogs, the Wii motion plus is nothing new. It will track how you hold the Wii remote, and create a lot more possibility of motion control on the Wii. Imo it's also the most plausible tech that will actually work as advertised, compared to MS' project natal and Sony's motion control. Wii Sports Resorts gameplay is shown. Unlike MS and Sony, Nintendo is ready to ship this.
-Wii Vitality sensor. It's just like those heart rate sensor on treadmills. Dunno how it's going to be useful in gaming though, other than Wii sports and the likes.
-Team Ninja + Nintendo making a new Metroid game. Looks cool, but I'm not really familiar with Metroid in the first place. I might get the bundle of older Metroid games first.
-Misc other games: More RPGs from Squenix, a new Resident Evil game for the Wii (looks like a rail-shooter, RE officially becomes a shooter game, not a horror adventure game anymore), Dead Space for Wii, some games for the DSi, and more Nintendo bragging how they make games for everyone (read: more shovelware).
-Not terribly exciting either. I might get the Wii fit plus and Sports Resorts. Other than that, meh.

-Sony is still selling PS2, and telling people to buy it. That means no PS2 backward compatibility in PS3 anytime soon. First fail.
-How many times Hannah Montana is mentioned? Pink PSP? Instead of releasing the various colors of PSP like in Japan, Sony is focused on Hannah Montana. Second fail. I mean is Sony really that desperate that they have to rely on Hannah Montana?
-PSP Go is official. 16GB, awkward analog thumb-stick, Memory Stick M2 so you have to spend more money instead of using your current Memory Stick duo/pro duo, not released till October, and $250. $250? Sony is just out of touch with today's economy. For that amount of money, people would rather buy the iPod Touch/iPhone, which is highly more usable device with a really big potential as a gaming platform. Oh, and guess what, knowing Apple, they would release the 3G Touch in September, BEFORE the PSP Go is out. Oh, and what if you already have UMD-based PSP games? Well, you have to re-buy the downloadable versions. 3rd fail. I think developers and users would start avoiding UMD altogether. Oh well, at least a nail in UMD's coffin.
-Squenix showing a video, yup only a video, not a playable demo, of FF13, unlike MS' press conference. 4th fail. Oh, and the video showed the game dubbed in English. I think it's official that US ver of FF13 will not have Japanese audio, even though PS3 uses blu-ray. F U Squenix.
-FF14 announced to be exclusive on the PS3. This is actually a surprise. However, FF14 is an online MMO, just like FF11, not a traditional JRPG. 5th fail. Why? Sony said it's PS3 exclusive. Squenix, later on the same day, announced that FF14 will be released simultaneously on the PS3 AND the PC. Yup, that "exclusivity" didn't even last a day. It's obvious that this cannot be PS3 exclusive since an MMO needs a large user base, and the PS3 doesn't really have that many user base to begin with.
-Hideo Kojima announcing a Metal Gear game for the PSP, speaking Japanese with a translator. Now, didn't he just speak English at Microsoft's press conference? LOL. The trailer is funny though, especially at the end, typical Konami.
-PS3 motion control. Looked like a black dildo with a lighted tip. LOL. Now, with Sony's, you have to have 2 of the motion controllers to simulate a bow & arrow, while Nintendo could do it with just 1 motion controller (Wii remote + Nunchuck). Still, the tech demo showed some promises and it utilized the PS3 Eye camera, looked more plausible than Microsoft's project natal. It's still prototype though, while Nintendo is ready to ship the Wii motion plus.
-More hype around Playstation Home. It looks great, until you realize Sony nickel-and-diming every small things, and it's just a glorified IRC chat room with long load times.
-Gran Turismo, finally for the PSP. How long have we waited for this?
-There is an exciting news at Sony's press conference. God of War 3. Its gameplay looked awesome, and so brutal. I'll be looking forward to this one. Other than that, it's just another meh. No mini PS3, no price drops, nothing super exciting.

So, there you go. There are a lot of other games announcements. Overall, the main them of the big 3's press conferences are next-gen game controls. Nintendo with its Wii motion plus, MS with its motion capture project natal, and Sony with its own motion controller. Nice concepts, but we'll see how plausible they are in real life, with Nintendo being the most plausible and ready to ship.

I do hope classic point-n-click adventure game genre to be back on the map. With the focus of non-hardcore-gamers, I hope we will see more games in this genre. A new Gabriel Knight game would be awesome. :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer is here!

Summer is here!, originally uploaded by patashinka.