Wednesday
Mar202013

Vacations, Videos, Vegetarians, and... Formatting

I haven’t had time to play video games lately because of school and YouTube. Other than their redesigns late last year, DJHicks.net and Gnarkiller.com have been neglected too. Hopefully I can catch up on some stuff when my final semester is complete in May. Then of course, I’ll have to restart my career. But that will be a welcome change. I would love to edit video for a living. This would likely require a relocation. The west coast could open up fantastic opportunities. If we stay in this town however, the job will probably be some form of IT management. I’m quite eager to do either at this point.

Since I last wrote a blog… Wow. It has been almost one year and one month to the day. Anyway, my YouTube channel has grown a lot. So much so that I had to upgrade the hardware and software I use to edit. The additional power and features have significantly sped up the overall process allowing me to create a higher quality product with less hassle.

I studied abroad in Peru a few weeks ago and it was truly an enlightening experience. A blog about the trip is forthcoming in the form of a bulleted journal, which was a requirement of the class. Between my DSLR and phone I took around 4500 pictures over the 10 day expedition. I’m a little over halfway through the filtering process because school has kept me super busy since I got back. When the collection is complete I’ll upload them here.

Jennifer and I spent Christmas in New York City. That was awesome too. It was the longest vacation we’ve been able to take since our honeymoon four years ago. We ate a lot and basically just explored Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty was closed because of hurricane Sandy's damage, but I was able to get some quality shots from Battery Park. I’m going to try to upload those pictures today if I can finish editing one of the videos from Peru.

Speaking of eating, I quit eating meat and fast food on the first of January. This was partially due to a corny yet depressing documentary called Vegucated. I also need to eliminate some excess weight. After losing 70 pounds in 2011, my best friend opened a restaurant in 2012. I ate multiple meals there almost every day he was open. The result was me re-fatting 38 or so pounds. By adopting only a change in diet and little to no exercise, I have lost 16 pounds as of right now. That’s a pretty easy weight loss plan. Sometimes finding food is inconvenient because meat is so culturally dominant, but I honestly do not miss eating that delicious life shortening food.

In closing, the formatting of my websites, mainly blogs and reviews, is kind off. This was caused by the redesigns late last year. Everything is simpler and less cluttered, but image placements and font sizes look crazy on some articles. Since hundreds of pages were affected and I have limited free time at the moment, I am not going to track down and reformat each individual item. Starting with this entry and yesterday’s blog on Gnarkiller.com things should look normal.

Tuesday
Feb212012

Mom & Dad, I present to you the primordial god of darkness.

My parents bought their PC maybe 7 years ago. Stock, the eMachines desktop ran Windows XP, came with a 5400 RPM 80GB hard drive, 512MB (2x256MB) of DDR memory, Intel integrated graphics w/VGA port, and an AMD 3800+ single-core CPU. Over the years I have had to fix it several times because of either hardware failure or stupid user software mistakes. I reinstalled Windows twice, upgraded the video card to a crappy discrete graphics card, quadrupled the memory to 2GB of performance RAM, replaced the optical drive twice, replaced the storage with a 7200 RPM 500GB HDD, replaced the 15” 1024x768 eMachines VGA monitor with a 20” 1440x900 Asus DVI display, and replaced the PS/2 trackball mouse with a wireless USB optical mouse.

A few weeks ago while visiting my parents I attempted to use their computer to show them a YouTube video at a resolution of 720p. The piece of crap couldn’t even play the video at one frame per second. I was saddened and curious if my gaming PC from 2002 would have the same problem. I went home, started it up and had the same issue. This thing has an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and it still couldn’t stably play the video. That night I decided they needed a new computer, because no human should be deprived of YouTube.

Both of my parents have birthdays this week; one on the 23rd and the other on the 25th. I never remember whose is on which day. Since my folks needed a functional computer and I had a couple of aging gaming PCs, I figured I’d give them one and replace it with something more current. I chose to sacrifice Erebus and ordered the parts for Shepard last week. My personal computer naming scheme has traditionally pulled from Greek and Roman mythology. After recently completing Mass Effect 1 and 2 I was inspired to name this one after the main protagonist, John Shepard. This was due mostly to the case I picked out. NZXT’s Phantom 410 mid-tower case looks like something straight out of the Mass Effect universe. I kept the WiFi card and Radeon 6850 from Erebus to use in Shepard. After delivering their birthday present around 10:30 PM last Saturday night I tutored them on Windows 7 until almost 2:00 AM.

What would normally have taken a couple of hours; I spent all day Friday building Shepard. The reason for the time inflation is because I filmed every step to make a tutorial video for my YouTube channel. I have always wanted to create helpful instructional projects and share my random knowledge with the world. After several failed attempts at writing tutorials (because of distractions and forgetting to finish them) this seemed like a prime opportunity to complete one. The videos still have to be edited so they haven’t been posted yet, but I will inform everyone as soon as they are done.

Follow up: The video for Shepard is embedded above.

Sunday
Jan292012

Meta-meta-Catching Up

Catching up on life has been a top priority since my departure from Azeroth in May 2011. It is because of WoW that the games list and quite a few of the other sections of DJHicks.net were totally out of date by about two years. This problem has, for the most part been remedied. I just finished the January 2012 video game inventory update. My backlog of blogs will be trickled out over the next couple of months beginning now. The following was written over New Year’s weekend about a month ago.

We’re still at the cabin in Cosby, Tennessee. My second goal for the New Years escape was to catch up on my backlog of blogs. Since early last year I have been accumulating notes for possible blog topics. I wrote the following on my phone sometime around May of 2011. I arrived 30 or so minutes early for class and decided to stay in the car to write (or I guess, thumb type) while listening to Opie & Anthony on SiriusXM. While old, it was completed, so why would I not post it? Here you go:

So, I was doing some research while driving to school and came upon the 2011 Grammy nominees for best score. Can you tell what's missing from this list?

Best Score Soundtrack

Toy Story 3 – Randy Newman (winner)

Alice in Wonderland – Danny Elfman

Avatar – James Horner

Inception – Hans Zimmer

Sherlock Holmes – Hans Zimmer

... You're going to sit there and tell me that effin' Randy Newman's recycled Toy Story album takes home the big W while Daft Punk's completely fresh & original Tron Legacy score isn't even nominated? The Grammys are worthless and their nominators are either out of touch, or too old and lame to decipher innovation from effing Randy the ef Newman.

The only redemption would be if Tron Legacy fell outside the timeframe for the 2011 nominations. The list did contain Avatar, which came out in 2009. If this is the case I expect a Daft Punk nomination and/or win for 2012 unless something mind-blowing comes out between now and then.

January 29th, 2012 update: Nothing has trounced the Tron Legacy soundtrack to date.

Thursday
Jan052012

Same old ...crap, just a different year.

To celebrate the New Year Jennifer and I traveled to a cabin in north Tennessee with no internet, television service, or cell phone reception. I figured I could use this time off the grid to complete random things without the distractions of Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield 3. The first item on my docket was organizing the months of pictures that have built up over the past few months from various devices. This proved to be more difficult than it ever should have been.

I took my MacBook Air to accomplish the various digital things on the aforementioned list. On this laptop I dual boot with OSX Lion and Windows 7 Home Premium. This is necessary because I am not a fan of OSX, but I do like the compact form factor of the Air. Unfortunately Asus announced the Zenbook a couple of weeks after I ordered the MacBook. Oh well, that’s how it goes. Anyway, for Apple products to be marketed so heavily toward artsy individuals, they sure make it difficult to quickly manage and edit large quantities of photos. Perhaps I am missing something. All I need is the ability to navigate through a folder of pictures using the left and right arrow keys. Convenient options of rotation and deletion being one easy tap or click away would be nice too. This is the default method of browsing pictures in Windows using File Explorer and Photo Viewer. On the Mac side of the notebook I have had to customize the “Preview” program to sort of do this with awesome results like:

Since I can blaze through the picture sorting process using Windows, I switched over and began to work. I ran into another issue concerning the pictures I have taken, specifically with the iPhone 4S. To get pictures off my phones in the past I have plugged them into a PC, dragged, and dropped. I do this now with the 4S and the pictures are turned crazy ways like upside down. When I rotate and save them in Windows using the picture viewer I receive a message stating something like, “You do not have permission to edit the photo.” I respond with, “(insert various vulgar retorts).” I figured out how to bypass this nonsense by opening a folder of pictures in bulk with Microsoft Office 2010 Picture Manager, then rotating and saving them en masse. After doing this to a few hundred pictures I rebooted to OSX because that’s where my Dropbox photos folder is sync’d. When I attempted to edit the Dropbox pictures across partitions I was denied. So yeah, another inconvenience most likely thanks to Apple. Perhaps I could share the folder and solve the problem. I’ll try that later. For now I have had to keep the pictures on my flash drive.

In OSX, when opening the iPhone 4S pictures that I just fixed in Windows 7, they are all crazy ways again. The opposite crazy of the crazy before the rotation. (If you’re new to the Blog or to me in general, I phrase things weirdly for comedic affect. I know that sentence was horrible and it’s also kind of a metaphor for how ridiculous this whole process has been.) Somehow Apple has, as far as I can tell, unreasonably made photos taken with their devices retain separate properties/characteristics when viewing them on Apple products. This is extremely frustrating and I cannot fathom a valid reason for such an idea. I shall sort this out when I get home to an internet connection and a real PC. First goal: incomplete.

Follow up: The weird rotation thing is due to the photo's orientation data which was read by OSX but not by Windows 7. It is utilized in Windows 8 and all is well with the world.

Wednesday
Dec142011

Fanboys

“I have a Radeon HD 6990, 6850, and 4850 running in three different PCs and they give me no problems. The Radeon 6990 replaced a GeForce GTX295 which replaced a Radeon 4870X2 which replaced a GeForce 9800GX2 and so on. Having no bias, I get the best card at the time. Hating on one company is dumb.” – DJ Hicks

That was my response to some fools on the Tested forums who were blindly bashing AMD and their Catalyst Control Center. It gets on my nerves when idiots spread misinformation because of some juvenile brand loyalty. There is a derogatory (at least how I would use it) word for these types: fanboys. I think this mental disability should have a proper name though. Oh yeah, it does…

Stockholm Syndrome, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” Wikipedia defines it as “an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them.” DJ Hicks likes the Wiki version and adds, “Individuals plagued with this disorder tend to possess the characteristics of; close-mindedness and blind obedience. Usually unrespected by society, they are fearful of the truth, incapable of self-thought, and have a pathetically desperate need to belong."

Fanboys come in various forms, but all share the previously noted handicaps. Nintendo fanboys show their support of the video game corporation by purchasing every system, game, and novelty associated with said company and their intellectual properties. They are day one customers with regard to not only software releases, but even Nintendo’s traditionally biannual hardware refreshes. These gamers preorder upcoming games at GameStop even though there is no chance of anything ever selling out. This is also true of Sony's and Microsoft’s loyal gaming fan base, just not quite as oddly man-child like. An overwhelming majority of video game fanboys read and put their misplaced trust into sites like IGN and magazines like Game Informer. I say read, but they really only look at the review scores and ironically accuse the reviewers of being biased. Some go so far as trying to educate the uninformed or argue meaningless points on message boards using unsubstantiated statistics in an attempt to validate their unreasonable obsession with a corporation.

Company-wise, the most appropriate example of Stockholm Syndrome when referring to fanboys is Apple. I have yet to see a more dedicated and consistently abused corporate fanbase. Apple is a master in the art of self-obsolescence with minor periodical tweaks to hardware and software. These product refreshes also further the expandability limitations of users’ current hardware and software eventually forcing their customers to invest in the next version of the product. Despite everything the company produces being obnoxiously overpriced and annually iterated upon, Apple fanboys swarm retailers and websites so they can be the first to have the shiny new thing that serves the same purpose as last year’s model which they already own. Taking people who are actually creative out of the equation, most Apple supporters subscribe to the “Look everybody, I’m special because I have this new Apple product!” mentality. You can easily spot them in the wild because fanboys like to provide free advertising to multi-billion dollar corporations. Apple includes a sticker of their logo with everything they sell making it super convenient for these losers to label their vehicles and other goods. To me, these stickers scream “I aspire to be an elitist douche bag.”

Full disclosure: I own almost every video game systems in existence including everything from Nintendo except the 3DS. The computers I have owned in my life thus far have ran every version of Windows, a couple dual-booting with some form of Linux, and most recently an Apple MacBook Air running OSX Lion. Using a variety of technologies has strengthened my objectiveness when forming opinions and making decisions. Having an informed opinion is right below honesty and integrity in my hierarchy of proper living principles. I conclude this sermon with three questions you should ask yourself before snapping at someone with your passionate opinions on whatever: Am I being reasonable? Do I have an open mind? Am I thinking logically?