— aka.spvn

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Interesting developments

Windows Live Hotmail LogoHotmail is suddenly acting up really strangely for many people. Personally, I can’t even sign in to my hotmail account. When I enter my email and password and hit enter, it just seemingly refreshes the page and asks me for my password over again over again. It’s really strange, though I haven’t tried any POP3 or push email stuff yet.

My friend on the other hand states that he can log in to his account, but they something about him not having an inbox at all, when he’s been using hotmail for years.

However, strangely enough, everyone can still log in to MSN Messenger without problems, my contact list is as long as it usually is, meaning people aren’t having problems with it.

Let’s hope that this bug is just temporary and not everyone’s emails got deleted. If that were so, Microsoft just screwed up… big time.

Moral of the story? Use Gmail.

UPDATE: Seems like everything’s back to normal. One of those bugs as per usual I guess…

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So, I’ve recently started writing for DarkZero, a site about video games that covers news, reviews as well as articles. I stumbled upon it through N4G and really liked the setup, so after emailing them, I (surprisingly) got into the team over there. Really excited to be part of the staff. :)

Anyway, as my first piece over there, I decided to rant about how annoying gaming can get when you’re located in Asia. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time, but never really wanted to do so on a personal blog of mine since very few people would read it anyway. However, hopefully by writing about it over at DarkZero, it’ll gain a little more exposure.

Of course, the annoyances of being Asian in the online world hardly stops at gaming, there are a whole ton of other annoying things I’ve encountered throughout the years. But that’s a story for another time, for now, here’s a short excerpt from my post as well as a link to it.

Read more @ http://darkzero.co.uk/blog/what-its-like-to-be-an-asian-gamer-part-1/

Problems Playing Online

The biggest example? Game servers. Every single time I refresh my server browser in practically any game, I’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of USA servers available. Of course, living on the opposite side of the world means it’s impossible for me to play on those servers, seeing as how I’ll definitely have a ridiculously high ping. Of course, the same applies to UK servers as well, though there are probably slightly fewer servers available, but it’s still a substantial amount.

In contrast to Singapore, it’s a pain to search for game servers that give me a reasonable enough ping. And it’s not just small games that have insufficient Asian servers, I’m talking about the major, so called Triple-A titles that don’t have enough Asian servers as well. When Left 4 Dead was first released last year, I almost always had to host games locally just so that I could play without any latency. But then again, my computer itself then proceeds to lag because I’m hosting the game. It wasn’t until roughly a month later that a group of Singaporeans managed to sponsor a couple of servers for us to play properly. However, the demand for local servers was so high that they were almost always full as well and I had a hard time trying to play online.

For Team Fortress 2, I can count the number of servers available on 2 hands. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? I can count the number of servers available on just 1 hand.

This problem isn’t just present in Singapore. For example if you went over to Game Tracker and searched for Call Of Duty: World at War servers:

Country

Population

Number of Servers

USA 303 million 1375
UK 60 million 505

In comparison:

Country

Population

Number of Servers

China 1.3 BILLION 8
Japan 127 million 5
Korea 47 million 4
Malaysia 25 million 1

Not to mention Japan and Korea are probably the two Asian countries with the most active gaming communities. Oh and at the time of this writing, only 1 out of the 8 Chinese servers have 29/38 people playing, the other 7 are completely empty.

Thus, you can see how frustrating it is for us to come online and see people discussing about how great the multiplayer aspect of a certain game is, yet we’re simply unable to enjoy them in the same way.

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shuffle-silverSo my exams are finally over, (hurrah) but I come back to find Apple introducing a new iPod shuffle.

To me, this is Apple’s stupidest/dumbest/lousiest/crappiest/most idiotic product in its 32 years of existence.

No controls = only Apple’s earbuds

This, to me, is the epitome of stupidity. You don’t allow your consumers to use their own preferred earphones because you decide to take away ALL THE CONTROLS, COMPLETELY.

The very fact that the iPod Shuffle is lacking this “feature” makes it completely inferior to every single other MP3 player on the market, both past and present.

Do they really think customers will be attracted to buying something which has no controls and which you can only use with Apple’s earbuds? For people like me whose ears just won’t earbuds to stick to them without falling out every 5 seconds, it’s impossible for me to use the new iPod shuffle. The fact that they’re probably going to release an adapter that adds a remote doesn’t help things because

  • I hate using remotes, they’re just clumsy and gimmicky
  • I HAVE TO PAY FOR IT

Think about it, I have to pay to be able to control my MP3 player, and not to mention in a way which I detest.

It’s smaller… WTF?

Seriously, did they think the previous iPod Shuffle was not small enough? To me the previous iPod Shuffle was pretty darn good, it was just the right size, felt solid enough, and had a clip. All you could ask for was more capacity, which Apple could add over time.

But come on, was there really a need to make it smaller? What’s the point, are people really going to get all excited over it because it’s like 1 or 2 cm smaller? I certainly don’t need it.

I don’t want someone talking in my ear

Basically, Apple came up with this “brilliant” idea that a robotic voice would read to you the title of your song. I used to own a shuffle and l-o-v-e-d it, and it never had this feature, because it’s completely unnecessary. The original tagline for the iPod Shuffle was “Life is Random”, which was perfect. The whole point was that you didn’t know/bother about what the title of the song was, you just enjoyed whatever music that started randomly playing.

There was never the thought going through my head that “damn, I wish I knew what this song was”, more often than not I already did because the songs I put in my Shuffle were all my top-rated songs which I listened to constantly.

All in all, I really don’t see the point in this new “VoiceOver” feature.

Imagine this conversation…

Customer: Oh this is interesting, what’s this?

Apple guy: This is our new iPod Shuffle! :)

Customer: Oh I see… wait there aren’t any buttons?

Apple guy: Yup, that’s right! :)

Customer: So it has a touch screen or something?

Apple guy: Nope! :)

Customer: Then how do you control it?

Apple guy: Using Apple’s earphones! :)

Customer: Oh, then what if I want to use it with my own headphones? How do I control it then?

Apple guy: You can’t! :)

Customer: You’re joking right?

Apple guy: No! What’s wrong?! Look! It’s SMALLER! :)

All in all…

Apple’s going down the drain if they continue to produce products like this. Honestly, when I first saw the story about how the new iPod Shuffle has no buttons, I thought it was an Onion article.

Oh the horror when I found out it wasn’t…

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Quake Live Open Beta TeaserIt is kinda of exciting, even for me. Even though I’ve been in the closed beta for awhile now, not to mention there won’t be any Asian servers even when the Open Beta is released, it’s still pretty exciting that the game which I loved to play since years ago is finally being revived and the masses can now enjoy it. It’s really really sad that I won’t be able to play online at all when the new people come in.

I don’t want to mess up my stats, so I won’t bother playing on any servers since I’ll get 300+ ping on all of them. I used to do that just for fun so that I can talk smack with other people, since it’s boring to play with bots like 100% of the time. However, I won’t be doing that when Open Beta starts, since stats are never going to be wiped again, I don’t want ending up with shitty stats and being matched with noobs all the time when Asian servers actually DO come (assuming they ARE going to). Not that I hate that, just that it won’t be fun for them. I’m no pro by any standard, but beating anyone new to the game is pretty darn easy for someone who’s been around the game for years.

Still, it will be fun to see how the community grows, how Quake Live grows, how the in-game advertising works out, etc.

Unfortunately, when Quake Live actually goes open beta, it’ll be 8am my time and I’ll be stuck in school, though I’ll still be checking things out during my Computing lesson :) Provided the servers haven’t actually crashed by then of course :P

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psp-rumour-picture

Seriously, Sony really doesn’t seem to get it. They recently released more colours for the PSP, and now there are rumours that they’ve got a PSP-4000 in the works, this time with a sliding screen in front. From the rumoured pictures, it seems like they’re heading in a completely new direction for the PSP. This isn’t PSP 2, just a “complete aesthetic overhaul” apparently, meaning old PSP games will still work on it.

Seriously, does Sony not get it that the PSP isn’t doing well simply because most of the games SUCK. Maybe they need this guideline below:

  • PSP games suck
  • No one buys PSP games
  • No one buys PSPs, everyone flocks to DSes
  • Developers see the trend
  • Top developers stop developing for the PSP
  • PSP continues to get shitty games
  • therefore, redesigning the PSP won’t help things.

Just Make a PSP 2 Already

In my opinion, if Sony really wanted to make such a move and revamp the PSP, they should have done the same to its insides as well. They might as well have designed a brand new PSP 2 from the ground up, with a faster processor and better graphics and whatnot, and admit the PSP is going nowhere. But no, instead Sony decides to just do an aesthetic overhaul.

COOL! for like 5 seconds…

I have to admit that if the final product is anything like the pictures, it will be pretty cool. Unfortunately, this will excite people for about a few weeks, then they’ll remember the real reason why they stopped touching their PSPs (like me): the games just aren’t fun. Making us play a shitty game on a larger screen (and hence at a lower resolution) just isn’t going to cut it Sony.

The Simple Solution

So what can they do to help? I’ve already said time and again in this really really long rant of mine about the PSP. They need to attract more top developers to develop high quality games for the PSP that people will actually bother to play. And cut the bullshit about it being a “portable media device”. I use my iPod for photos, videos and music and my PSP solely for gaming.

That is… when I still bothered about my PSP. Seriously, it’s probably collecting dust somewhere in my house. Not sure where exactly though…

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Quake Live LogoI’m not sure if I’m supposed to release this on my blog considering how I’m still under the NDA (Non-Discolsure Agreement), but who cares. It’s only a few days away:

Quake Live is going Open Beta on the 24th of February.

Honestly, I can’t wait for more people to see what it’s like. Gamers nowadays have been spoiled by auto-regenerating health and stuff like that, they’re used to games of epic proportions, stuff like Killzone 2, GTA IV, etc. It’s probably largely the fault of consoles that those are the “mainstream” games nowadays.

For those of you who are used to these games, be warned when trying Quake Live: it’s hard.

Sure you might not find it hard initially, considering how the system will pair you up with people of the same skill level as you so that you don’t get butt raped by 10-year veterans of the game, but just watch the QuakeCon 2008 Quake Live finals here and you’ll see how the game is actually supposed to be played. If you think “oh those 2 are pros, the average player couldn’t possibly be that good”. You’re dead wrong. The average veteran of Quake won’t exactly beat Zero4 or cypher, but they’re still able to pull of some pretty sick shots that’ll make you think they’re actually cheating.

No Love for Asians

Unfortunately, there’s one big problem, there are still ZERO Asian servers. For my entire CONTINENT, we have NO servers. I was fine with it being that way during the closed beta stages, but I never expected them to keep it this way when they went live. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case, which is a really bad idea in my opinion. This game is going to be free, meaning us Asians are going to pounce on it the moment we hear “free, browser based game”. However, id is going to lose plenty of prospective gamers when all Asians realise they’re going to have 300+ ping on every single server, since with Quake Live it’s only possible to play it competitivetly with 30 or 40 ping at most.

Alas, us Asians are going to have to wait awhile more as per usual. :(

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facebook-logoA few weeks or so ago, Facebook suddenly decided to update, or rather revise, their Terms of Service. I won’t bother to copy what they added here, since it’s written in lengthy, complicated, and downright anal terms-of-use-language (ie. they use 3 sentences to reiterate the same thing and 10 different “synonyms” of sorts to make sure they cover every single aspect they want to). Basically, they added a few paragraphs which explicitly stated that Facebook owned whatever content you uploaded (pictures, videos, etc.) and could do whatever they wanted to do with it (which was where they had to use 10+ words to describe what they could do with it), even if you deleted your account!!!

*Panic and chaos ensues*

Seriously people, since when has social networking sites like Facebook/Friendster NOT owned your photos. You upload them to their server so that your friends can view them, hasn’t it ever occured to you that you’re granting them the license to display these images to the public in the first place? Even if they decided to sell your media to other companies or whatsoever, do you really think you would have heard about it? Besides, a majority of the media uploaded on Facebook is usually personal pictures and videos of friends and family, who would gain much from your 10th grade picture of you crying or whatever?

Nevertheless, there was a huge outcry all over the internet. Fueled by the annoymity of internet usernames, people with nicknames along the lines of DeathSlayer28 and PwettyGurl82 were busy growing balls of steel and telling Facebook to go “burn and die”. Everyone started thinking Facebook would really want to steal their unglam pictures and videos to sell to marketting companies or something. It seems like everyone never realised that things have been like that all along, since by uploading the pictures to Facebook and letting all your friends view them you’re basically granting them the license to do a hell lot with your media anyway.

Despite the founder of Facebook himself (Mark SZuckerberg) clarifying things in this blog post dated Febrary 17th, stating about how Facebook requires such a license to be allowed to publicise your media, Facebook has ultimately decided to revert to it’s old ToS for now… which doesn’t really make much of a difference really. According to this other blog post that Zuckerberg posted roughly 24 hours before the previous one, he stated that Facebook is reverting back to the original ToS while they craft out a new one that will explain more clearly what they meant by having control over people’s media. They only updated the ToS in the first place to make it clearer as to what control they had over the media.

The thing is, all Facebook users (like myself) can do is to trust them. I mean we’re giving away all our personal information to a completely foreign website, there’s really no guarentee that they’re not selling off our information under the table without anyone knowing. When it comes to the internet, one really has no choice but to trust whatever site you’re giving away your information to. All in all, there’s really no point in whining about it.

At least Facebook is willing to do something about it and are listening to what its users have to say.

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Windows Live Hotmail LogoBack in the day even before Gmail came along, (then) Hotmail was probably the most popular email solution for home users and basically anyone who wanted a free email account. Then Gmail came along and messed everything up for them. Thus, since 2005, Microsoft has been busy trying to revamp Hotmail, for example through things like more disk space. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Hotmail users had 25mb while Gmail users had 1GB, but that was the case when Gmail was first introduced.

Sure Hotmail managed to revamp it’s interface recently, but honestly, it’s nowhere near what Gmail has. The top quarter of the screen is filled up with huge banner advertisements and links no one cares about to other areas of Windows Live. Even the interface itself just doesn’t feel as snappy or as clean as Gmail’s interface. No doubt though, it was a step in the right direction.

Still, for some strange reason, Hotmail never provided free POP3 access. For the uninitiated, it means that Hotmail users couldn’t view their email through external 3rd-party email clients like Thunderbird or Outlook or whatnot. The ONLY way to view your email was to navigate through the site’s horrible online interface. In comparison, Gmail provided such access from the get go in 2004.

However, only this year, in 2009, is Microsoft finally playing the catch-up game. They just announced POP3 access for Brazil and US users, along with access for Europe and UK users which they’ve been working on since January. Honestly, Microsoft needed 5 years (after Gmail was introduced) to introduce such a fundamental feature? Sure it was present in the past, but one had to pay just to be able to read his/her email wherever they wanted to. Even after Gmail came along in 2004 and made free POP3 access an “industry standard” so to speak, Microsoft never took the hint to introduce that same feature, hence they’ve watched their users steadily switch over to Gmail one by one.

It seems like I’ll be sticking with Gmail as well, seeing as how they haven’t even provided POP3 access for Asian users. In fact, this lack of POP3 access is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t use Hotmail anymore. At the time of this writing, I have exactly 146 unread email messages in my inbox. Though I’ve got to check it from time to time because some people still email me at my Hotmail account, it goes to show how little I bother about it anymore.

Not to mention Microsoft might be doing too little, too late. If they took 5 years to introduce POP3 access, one can only wonder when they’ll finally be able to introduce an interface I’d actually bother to use, because half the time it doesn’t even work properly with Mozilla Firefox, which is my (as well as many other people’s) primary browser.

In my opinion, we could probably see Microsoft closing down Hotmail eventually.

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New PSP-3000 Colours Announced

PSP ColoursAwhile back, I posted this post about the PSP, in which I discussed about the PSP’s floundering performance in the market as well as what I thought Sony could do to save the system. Essentially, in my opinion, the way Sony should go about things is that they have to focus on the software side of things. They’ve been busy updating the system itself non-stop without pausing to realise the actual reason why people aren’t playing their games is because most of them just aren’t fun (especially on the PSP). Hence, instead of continuing to obsess themselves with the hardware, they need to start attracting more developers to develop triple-A titles for the PSP, as many developers don’t see the point in investing resources into developing a PSP game because of it’s low market share. If Sony can just capture high quality developers to develop high quality games for the system, the PSP just might see a resurgence.

Alas, it seems as if Sony has chosen to go in the completely opposite direction. They just recently announced another 4 new colours for the PSP-3000, their latest iteration of the device. Not only did they decide to continue along the path of refreshing their hardware, but they actually went and did the lamest thing possible: superficial “enhancements” ie. making them more colourful.

SERIOUSLY?! This is what the Sony marketting team thinks is the thing that’s hindering the sale of the PSP?

“We don’t have enough colours, no wonder people aren’t buying the PSP. We have to introduce MORE colours, I bet people will be more attracted to our product after that!!! Nevermind that we already got multi-coloured PSPs, let’s just introduce more colours! That’s the only thing people care about!”

For crying out loud, even back in the days when the iPod only came in one or two colours it still sold like hotcakes, and even today only the iPod Nano comes in multiple colours. Do you see Apple having any problem with sales? But that’s besides the point, I’m amazed that the Sony marketting team actually thinks introducing more colours will boost sales significantly. Nintendo hasn’t made any updates to their DS hardware for quite some time now, be it the internals or superficially, yet they still hold twice the marketshare of Sony’s PSP.

Sony really needs to wake up. I love my PSP, more so than my DS, but I haven’t touched it for ages, considering how the only games that come out for it nowadays aren’t worth my time at all. Sony really needs to wake up and do something quickly, or else it seems the PSP might really die out to the DS.

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There’s been news recently about the victimless plane crash in the Hudson River. First of all let me say kudos to the pilot for somehow managing to land the plane safely on water. All 155 passengers on board were certainly lucky to have him as their pilot for that day.

The Hero of the Day

And as a sidenote and for the record, the pilot was 57-year-old Chesley Suleenberger III. It’s funny how news reports are talking about him over and over again about how he managed to save 155 people with his insane landing skills, and yet most reports merely refers to him as “the pilot”. Honestly, a man like this ought to deserve more recognition, he fricking saved 155 people from dying. HELLO?!

Annoying Reporters

Yes anyway, after landing the plane on water, the boats nearby came to help and eventually all passengers and crew were evacuated. And so the passengers finally get on to land, and who’s there to greet them? Nothing like a warm bunch of reporters to harrass you with questions:

Stupid Questions

This guy just went through a near death experience and the moment he gets back on to dry land you have to go and BOMBARD him with questions?! I mean he’s obviously still shaken from the whole experience and was shivering throughout the “interview” (I put interview in quotes because it was more of a let’s-annoy-the-heck-out-of-the-guy-who-almost-died-session) but yet reporters stuck to their mantra of annoying people as much as possible. Not only do they not give the guy a break, they ask completely pointless questions, like something along the lines of:

Annoying Reporter: How did you all get out?
Shaken Survivor: I don’t know man… I don’t know, by the luck of God I guess…
Annoying Reporter: No, how did you get out, the front, the back, the middle? (Yeah she asked if they got out through the middle)
Shaken Survivor: … Through the front

and

Another Annoying Reporter: How strong was it when you hit the water?
Shaken Survivor: It was pretty bad…

Simply WTF.

What in the world is the point of asking whether they got out through the front, the back, or (for crying out loud) the middle? Oh and what kind of question is “how strong was it?” How strong do you think it was when an effing aeroplane crashes into water? What’d you expect him to say?

“Oh it was a nice, soft landing, kudos to the pilot once again”

or

“Well we hit the water at a velocity of 4738495m/s, which in turn meant that the plane exerted a force of 47532N on the water, which in turn exerted 28473N upwards on the plane, so yeah, with a resultant force of 19059N (taking downards as positive), I’d say the landing was pretty bad.”

Why do these people persist on making life miserable for people like him, they don’t even let him finish his answers before cutting in with 5 of them asking different questions all at once while he’s in mid-sentence. Does it really matter whether they got out through the middle of the plane or not? Am I going to go:

“Oooh this article/news station is really good because they found out that the passengers got out through the front of the plane. How silly of me to think they might have gotten out through the middle or something *face palm*”

or

“Wow, I never knew that a plane crashing down into water would be a “pretty bad” impact. Thank you Oh-So-Brilliant reporter for asking such an insightful question”

Still…

Hudson Plane CrashDon’t get me wrong, I don’t exactly despise reporters for asking pointless questions all the time (after all most of them make a living out of asking pointless questions), but couldn’t they have the courtesy of asking their stupid questions AFTER the survivor has settled down, recovered from the shock, gotten extra layers of clothing on (seeing as how it was freezing cold), etc. Oh and while you’re at it, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t bombard the single survivor with like 10 questions at a time, let him actually finish his answers and sentences, and possibly not ask stupid questions (like if you got out of the plane through its middle).

Wait what am I saying, they’re reporters…

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