Web Sites I Enjoy!

MySQL was completely down on our web-hosting on Sunday (31st August) night, and so I apologise for the delay in posts! I have no idea why it was down, but it was the only thing that was actually down – Apache and all the rest of it was working fine. Since WordPress runs off a MySQL database, it also meant that both freshbytes and Benny Ling’s Bling were both down. Not cool.

In the meantime, here are some websites I enjoy on a frequent basis – if you’re like me, I’m sure you will too.


Assembles Elucidation – The Daily WTF
Right, so The Daily WTF is one of the best websites out there – completely awesome. It’s strictly for nerds/geeks (what exactly is the difference?), so those not Vitamin-D challanged need not apply.
This particular story is awesome – it’s about the manual that came with a hard drive enclosure, sort of a “lost in translation” if you will.
Error’d is one of my favourite parts of The Daily WTF – showing how dumb smart tech can be!
Oh, and before you ask: WTF does not stand for what you think it stands for; it currently stands for Worse Than Failure – because, let’s face it, nothing is worse than failure.

Fan Death – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I kid you not. Following on as a side-story from The Daily WTF link above, this particular Wikipedia page apparently describes a South Korean urban legend that states if an electric fan is left on overnight in a room where you’re sleeping, it can cause death through suffocation, poisoning, or hypothermia.
It then goes on to list the reasons why this isn’t actually possible – some of my favourites are:

  • Vortex theory – in this scenario, the electric fan manages to create a vortex, thereby sucking out all the oxygen, and creating a partial vacuum inside.
  • The electric fan somehow “chops up” all the oxygen particles in the air – leaving none to breathe.
  • “That if the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing. This explanation ignores the fact that most people point a fan towards themselves when using one, which causes air to move past the face but does not change the amount of air present.”
  • The same electric fan somehow “uses up” all the oxygen in the room, leading to asphyxiation and death.

In light of these strange fan-related deaths, most fans sold in Korea now have an timer that automatically turns the fan off after an extended period os use. Apparently, this “automatic timer” is touted as a “life-saving” feature, go figure…

Opinion: How Apple can gain significant OS market share
Now, if only Apple listened to all the little people… This being one of the more recent Ars Technica articles (but quality as usual), it discusses how Apple could be even more awesome than they are now, especially in terms of OSX market share.
The product that started it all was, without a doubt, the iPod. The current popularity of Macs in today’s world is due partly to the massive hype of the iPhone – great work Apple Marketing – but much of it can only attributed to the initial success of the iPod. If people didn’t know about the iPod, they wouldn’t know about the iPhone.

Top 5 Gadgets That Could Get You Arrested
Wired is one of my favourite tech sites, apart from the legendary Ars Technica. I’m not a huge fan of Slashdot, Gizmodo, or any of those kinds of sites, and while I do enjoy Engadget every once in a while, Wired and Ars contribute more professional material, IMO.
Anyways, the top five gadgets that could get you arrested are completely awesome – I wish I had the Sonar II.
Like a commenter on that post said – why didn’t they include mobile jammers or the like? I’m sure they would get you arrested.

Hope you enjoyed the links.

What kind of guy are you?

Me? I’m the type of guy that can listen to a song for HOURS on end – take this, for instance; in a freak accident that happened this week, I managed to buy and listen to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” for well over 4 hours – that’s 3 hours of non-stop girl pop! Yeah!

I’m the type of guy that has a playlist of purely “chick music” – it contains stuff by Avril, Britney, Christina, Delta, Fergie, Hillary, Kylie, Rihanna, and last but not least, the Veronicas. Go on. Laugh it up. I know you want to.

I’m the type of guy who listens to the one of the widest varieties of music that I know – and sometimes, I even scare myself at how shockingly awesome my music library is! Sure, I don’t have classics like Soulja Boy’s “Crank That”, some hip-hop is alright, the rest is crap IMHO.

I’m the type of guy who isn’t one of the non-conformists, (extreme double negatives are messing with my head today), but at the same time I’m not afraid to be opinionated in my own way – I’m a strong believer in the fact that I shouldn’t speak my mind all the time. Some thoughts are meant to be left private, and for reasons which should also stay the same way 😀

So the reason I’m asking you what kind of guy you are is because, for one – I want you to know. I want you to know what kind of guy you are. If you know me, I already know what kind of guy you are, so no worries there 😛

Apart from that, here are some links for you to peruse over the weekend, or whatever. I’m feeling a little under as I’ve just been to Launceston for Youth Alive’s Expose08. Going to Launceston in and of itself is usually enough to get anyone down, but I haven’t got much sleep over the past few nights – getting back from said location at 2am will do that to you. Luckily, I’ve got free periods in the morning tomorrow, so a sleep-ing sounds like a good idea! 😀


So I was playing Diablo II today, and I came across something strange while shopping with my Level 31 Barbarian (click on the image to make it bigger):

That staff, just in case you’re too lazy to take a look, costs 1,122,304.

Now, if you do the math – your stash, at level 31 can only carry 800,000 gold, and at you can carry 10,000 gold per level – which means 800,000 gold in stash, and 310,000 gold on my person.

If you’re not in Maths Applied, I wouldn’t expect you to do the math, so for those of you that can’t be bothered – I can carry a MAXIMUM of 1,110,000 gold. Maximum. No more. Nada.

How on earth was I supposed to buy that staff, then? I have no idea… Besides, I was already poor from fighting Diablo in the Act before – buying mana and health potions will do that to you, as well as resurrecting your companion.

Anyways, here is one other rediculously priced item from the same store – the Static War Staff of Sorcery at 405,604. Enjoy.

The staffs aren’t even that good – so I’m not sure why they’re that expensive in the first place!!

File this one under “WTF”, Jim.

Comments below.

X-Plane 9 is AWESOME!

There’s just something about flying that makes me want to post about it.

Sadly, I can’t because I don’t have the time nor the money – so the next best thing is flight sims. I’ve always said that I should get into flight sims, and as of two days ago, I have.

X-Plane, currently in it’s ninth iteration, can be an FAA-Approved flight simulator for training purposes – that’s how realistic it is.

It contains over 60GB of worldwide scenery, and you can pick and chose which scenery you want installed. I chose to install the base and Australian scenery, which worked out to be some 4.6GB – not too bad.

There are TONS of addons, plugins, and extra planes available on the net for you to download, and you can fly planes like Serenity from some movie, and a whole heap of others.

Now I didn’t have much faith in X-Plane working on my paltry MacBook with it’s integrated graphics, but surprisingly, it does – but only under Mac OSX. Under Bootcamp’ed Windows XP, it just dies a gory Blue-Screen-Of-Death. However, under Mac OSX, it works fine – reasonable frame rates (enough to get 25+fps, which is all humans need for us to depict constant, smooth motion).

In fact, X-Plane 9 is so good that I’m thinking of buying a joystick for it. I’ve been looking at the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro – but I’ve read reviews on the net that scream “Crap build quality” and “A complete lemon” so I might hold off for a while. If you’ve got any joystick recommendations, I’d love it if you could stick them in comments. Seriously, though, it’s nearly impossible to fly an F-22 Raptor with your mouse. It’s just too fast!

And landing – ugh. I tried in a Chinook V-22 Osprey, and even that was hard! I have no idea how people can land Raptors and X-15s, and X-30s, especially when the X-30 can go over 730 (insert arbitary units here, I don’t have any idea what the readout on the dash is!)

…Helicopters are a pain to fly as well, because apparently I don’t know the concept of lift. Same deal for VTOL aircraft, such as the Harrier.

Flight sims for the win. X-Plane 9 wins over Microsoft’s Flight Sim X any day of the week, no matter which way you look.

Load Cash. Play!

There are just two simple and easy steps to getting a CANVAS pre-paid credit card.

Load Cash. Play.

It really is as simple as that. After you’ve load some amount of cash onto your CANVAS pre-paid Visa card, you can do all sorts of funky things – from buying things using the “Credit” option (as opposed to Cheque and Savings), to buying things online.

Why did I get one? Well, one huge gripe I have with PayPal is that for some online transactions can only be done after you’ve added a credit card to your PayPal account. Now, PayPal is a great alternative to the traditional online way of doing things, which involves a real credit card (debit or otherwise).

I thought PayPal was supposed to circumvent the necessity of a credit card, especially when buying things online, but it doesn’t – what’s the point of having a PayPal account if you need a credit card linked to it? Similarly, if you already have a credit card, what is the point of a PayPal account? Its some wierd paradox, to be sure. To add insult to injury, you can’t use PayPal’s “Virtual Mastercard” service outside of the U.S. WHY!

Unlike most Apple products, it Just Doesn’t Work.

Hence, pre-paid Visa card. Link it to my PayPal account, and voila! I can now use PayPal for most transactions. However, if I’m selling something on eBay or similar, I get charged exorbitant fees whenever I use my PayPal account! The alternative is to use my pre-paid Visa card – which only charges me to put money on the card. Again, WHY!

Anyway, my CANVAS pre-paid Visa card has arrived. It’s cool and black in colour, and will now accompany me until August 2011. Plenty of time for me to get a “real” credit card, be it Visa Debit or otherwise 😀

If you’re thinking of signing up (there are fees to do so), please fire me a quick email, and I’ve give you a referral email. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll get $5 every time someone signs up to CANVAS and loads money onto their CANVAS card, but hey, you’ll be contributing to the “Support Benny Ling” fund…

Update: Well, I just tried to add the CANVAS pre-paid Visa card to my PayPal account – no go. Not happy Jan. Oh well, at least I’ll now be able to purchase things online, without PayPal fees and so on 😀

Speaking of RPG…

…here’s my character from WoW (click to see full-size):

Say what you want, but it’s a female Mage if you hadn’t already noticed – name of Iridissis. Where did that come from? I have no idea.

I’m a huge fan of RPGs, but just haven’t got the time to get into them properly.

Online based games such as Dofus, Runescape, WoW, and the soon-to-be Diablo III – they’re just awesome. Online RPGs give you the chance to interact with other people from all around the globe – but there are some horrible people out there, which just isn’t cool 🙁

Classics like Diablo II I am now getting into a heap – but what really draws me to RPGs is that they’re so flexible – you don’t have to follow a predetermined path, or do anything. Sure, there’s still a storyline, and some things you have to do, but apart from that, you play the game your way. Don’t want to kill Diablo cos he’s too hard? Well, tough. You have to kill Diablo to move on to Act V.

Maybe I should just forfeit my life and get into some real online stuff – like SecondLife. I don’t have to apply for lots of good Uni’s there, nor do I have to get a TER or 90 or above to get into the course I want.

Still, I’d like to think I have a good grip on reality, so I’ll continue to play Diablo – and try NOT to die when I fight Diablo.

Comments below.

I Love WINE!

Well, as some of you may already know, I’m one of those people that game on a Mac. One of the select few, who, despite crappy integrated graphics, try their best to game (CS: Source being the FPS of choice) on what hardware they have.

Now for some strange reason I can get Source to run under Steam (the gaming portal of choice) under Windows, under Apple’s way of Bootcamp – which is pretty much an emulated BIOS, since Mac’s use EFI nowadays.

However, under native Windows it runs great – as a slideshow. I get maybe 5-10fps – totally unplayable.

I even took the step to borrow and upgrade a computer that was just lying around to be able to run Source – something it now does a LITTLE better than it did. Only thing I did was up the graphics card from a Nvidia MX440 to a FX5500 – however, the mobo’s audio is screwed as a direct result of me giving the board a good shock a couple of years back – luckily, the processor, ram, HDD, and all the other parts are still fine. We replaced the case, PSU, and the board now works – albeit loudly as the fan for the PSU is attached to the heatsink by 4 different screws, none of which quite fit properly. Result? Massive vibrations and noise.

Luckily, I’m an advocate (glorified beta-tester) for this great app called CrossOver, by CodeWeavers. It’s basically a cross-platform app that emulates a VERY BASIC Windows environment so that your Windows apps like Office, Internet Explorer *shudder*, and other productivity-based apps. I use their derivative product called CrossOver Games, their Windows emulator designed purely for games (and Mac/Linux gamers!) in mind. From their website:

Based on the latest Wine Games development work, CrossOver Games allows Mac and Linux users to run their favorite Windows games in the environment of their choice. No rebooting, no switching to a virtual machine, and no Windows Operating System license required; CrossOver gives you the best performance possible if you’re not running on Windows.

For those of you that don’t know, it’s based on the WINE package – one of those recursive acronyms for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”. Basically it uses X11 under OSX for GUI stuff, and then wineloader is the process that makes the magic happen in the background.

Again, those of you that are in the know would have heard that WINE 1.0 was released not too long ago – CrossOver games was updated as a result of this. Now before the update to WINE 1.0, I had a couple of strange issues – things that I put down to WINE incompatibilities.

However, one particular issue frustrated the heck out of me – in Source under CX Games, I couldn’t play on Internode servers.because of their “server start screen”, that screen when you join a server, and says things like “Don’t Cheat!”, and “The player of the week is NOT YOU!” Now for some strange reason, I couldn’t click on the “OK” button underneath that screen on any Internode server. Bizzarely, GameArena (BigPond’s gaming portal) servers didn’t load the “Don’t Cheat!” screen either, but I could just hit OK and then all would be, okay.

With the WINE 1.0 update, and the corresponding CX Games update to 7.1, I am pleased to report that Internode servers on Source, under CX Games on OSX, now work.

Here blogs a happy, integrated-graphics card, Mac OSX gamer, all thanks to CodeWeavers and Crossover Games. And, of course, the WINE dev crew. Kudos to you, guys!

Comments below.

Etax is Ecrap.

Seriously, WTF.

If Microsoft, Apple, or any other software company can make decent pieces of software, why can’t the Australian Government?!

Etax is _the_ most horrible piece of software I have ever had the pleasure of using – no wonder I decided to lodge my tax return over the phone last year!

If you’re like me and have a job, you’ll be wondering how to lodge your tax return. A word of advice – don’t use Etax. The ATO said they were going to support Macs – they don’t. Even so, it’s still a totally crap piece of software, even under it’s native platform! Just generally buggy, and far too complicated.

If it were to be improved, it would have to have a massive UI facelift – currently it looks like we’re still in the old Win95 days – and we’re not, really. Vista is crap, but that’s another topic for another day 😛
Besides a major UI redesign, it would also need to be improved code wise. How about you make it cross platform, by BUILDING it in a cross platform language. I’m hesitant to say Java at this point in time because I know how good (and BAD! very, very BAD) Java programs can turn out – but programming languages such as Realbasic, a BASIC variant, are truly cross platform. Of course, this was the very first time I have ever heard of Realbasic, but hey – if it’s cross platform, it’s cross platform. Obviously.

Another thing they should add to Etax 2009 is the ability to have two modes: “Simple” and “Advanced”. Just like the Short Tax Return for those of us with less complicated monetary status’, it’d be just as easy as the online form. Advanced, however, would just be the current iteration of Etax – all the bells and whistles, all the questions, all the forms. I shudder to think of people that actually have to think about, and fill in, al that stuff. Don’t even talk to me about me filling it out in ten or so years time – I’m not looking forward to it at all! But hey, that’s what accountants are for 😛

Apologies for the totally non-inventive heading for this post – if you can think of something else (that is more creative), leave it in comments.

Dear Cupertino…

I’ve just been invited to contribute to an Apple-related blog, Dear Cupertino.

It’s a massively awesome idea – articles addressed to 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino CA (that’s the Apple headquarters, if you didn’t know) that outline how Apple products should be changed/revamped to make them “supercool”.

If you want, you can email me ideas for changes to Apple products, and they’ll eventually make it up there (but no guarantees).

I’ll also include your name and provide a link back to your website/blog if you so desire.

For all those who have clicked through to here from my Blogger profile on Dear Cupertino, welcome!

Diablo 2 is AWESOME!!

Really, it is.

I hadn’t got into this game back when it was actually popular, but after purchasing the Battle Chest from game.com.au, it’s fantastic. Really is the best old-school RPG ever made.

The thing about Blizzard (the publishers of Diablo 2 and it’s expansion, Lord of Destruction), is that they manage to include both Mac and PC versions of their games on the same disc. This includes their whole product catalog, including greats such as Starcraft (I own the Battle Chest), Warcaft 3 (I also own the Battle Chest), and Diablo 2 (Indeed, I own the Battle Chest). Even some of the more recent games like World of Warcraft – sadly, I don’t own the Battle Chest, but it’s far too time-consuming an RPG for my liking. No single-player offline mode either.

No other software company, as far as I know, manages to include both Mac and PC versions of their apps on the same disc. Shame on you. If Blizzard can do it, why can’t you?!

Anyway. The weekend was fully hectic y’all, two 18ths in the one weekend is just enough for one person. Congrats to Ash P, Paul C, and Felicity J. ON the down side, my clothes now smell very smoky – but on the plus, I got to play Wii Sports and Super Smash Bros. Brawl!

However, I did manage to open a bottle with my fairly-old, bottle-opener-equipped, Billabong belt… I have to say, I did feel tough. I’ve owned that belt for a good 4 or so years, and this was the first time ever that I had used the bottle-opener feature. On a belt. It begs the question: what was I thinking when I bought it?!

There’s a weekend wrap-up from Chris on freshbytes if you’re interested – if not, take a look at some of the fireworks at Paul’s (thanks to Emily L for the camera footage, apologies for the utter crap quality):