News Archive Q1 '00
March 26, 2000 - Booyeah!

The black belt test was just too incredible to put into words. I'm confident I passed, but I won't know for sure for another week or two. The highlight was definitely when I broke a brick. It was quite daunting to look at, but didn't turn out to be too difficult. Here's a pic of the brick. I put a ruler next to it and highlighted the 1 and 2-inch marks to give you an idea how thick it was. Click to see a larger version.

The test was very long. It started Friday evening with the written test. This was basically rote memorization of some "life skills". The rest of the evening was spent having fun getting to know some of the instructors and just getting our energy level up for the following day.

Saturday morning was the actual test. The adults tested at 7:30am while the kids were at 9:30am. There were no surprises during the test - it was basically everything we've learned up until that point. At the end we attempted to break three boards with three different kicks (front, round, and back). We only had one chance at each and I'm happy to say I broke all three. My foot paid the price though as the ball of my foot became swolen. Even now I limp around because of it.

After the test was the show at 5pm (well, it didn't really start until quarter to 6 which kind of pissed me off). This was open to anyone willing to buy a ticket and was the main event for parents and friends to watch. That was a lot of fun as the energy level from all the candidates was so high. The end of the show was the brick breaking I mentioned above.

After the show at 10pm we changed into sweats and went to the track for some conditioning. Lots of running, situps, pushups, and whatever else they wanted to make us do. They were just trying to get us to quit. It was tough as hell (I'll be sore for a couple days), but it was over before I knew it. Remember my foot I hurt earlier in the day? I didn't even feel it during the conditioning. The energy level was again very high. The test officially ended around midnight.

That's it. I think I passed but, again, I won't get my actual results for a bit. It is possible to pass and yet need to retest in certain areas. I'm hoping that won't be necessary for me. Either way though it was an incredible experience and I look forward to the test for my 2nd degree in a couple years.

March 21, 2000 - Black belt testing

I haven't mentioned this before, but I've been taking Tae Kwon Do for almost 3 1/2 years now. Well, this Friday & Saturday it all comes to a head when I test for my black belt. Training has been pretty rigorous these past couple weeks, but I think I'm ready for it. Or rather, as ready as I can be. Naturally just because I get my black belt doesn't mean I'll stop training, but at least I can slack off for a while until I test for my second degree.

That is partially why life has been so hectic lately. Combined with a busy work schedule I haven't had time for much else. What little free time I do have is spent playing the games I have. Incidentally I finally did finish the Crazy Box mode in Crazy Taxi. It opens up a secret vehicle - a bike. It's kinda neat to play, but if I thought the normal taxis were too touchy, the bicycle is even more so.

With Crazy Taxi "complete" I finally went back and played some others that were on the back burner. I finished Um Jammer Lammy finally. Of course, finishing it with Lammy just opens up the Parappa levels so there's still more to do. Also, I'm finishing up Rocket Robot on Wheels. I'll probably sell that one back once it's done.

March 14, 2000 - Some Crazy Taxi schooling

I need to retract one of my gripes about Crazy Taxi which I posted last time. Once I learned how to do the Crazy Dash correctly (thanks Bob!) that whole fishtailing thing became a moot point. In fact, it turned from a bad to a good since it's sometimes useful to get your cab in the drop-off zone when you just missed it. I've completed all the Crazy Box minigames except the last one. I would have gotten that one done, but it was late and I went to bed.

Game Developers Conference was in some ways better than last year, and in some ways worse. Aside from t-shirts there wasn't too much in the way of cool freebies. Two notable exceptions were the Intel extenable phone cord and the free game when you signed up at EA's employment booth (got Alpha Centauri woo!). By far the best freebie was snagged by Bob Shand, who I met up with on Saturday. He scored a free copy of Windows 2000 Professional from the Microsoft booth. Bugger :)

March 9, 2000 - Work suc...er...is pretty cool

It's been crazy at work lately. The cool thing is I really like what I'm doing. Plus I finally got myself hooked up to work at home. The modem was just terrible for this, but with the DSL it's smooth as can be.

Okay, I've been playing too much Crazy Taxi lately. Despite it's indisputable goodness, I do have a few beefs with the game that keep it from being perfect:

The controls are too sensitive when trying to weave in and out of traffic. It's great to make those hairpin turns, but when just cruising along the freeway, trying to split lanes can be downright frustrating. Nothing like accidentally smacking into the end of a truck to stop a good run.

Spinning out when gunning it and turning from a standstill. Is it just me or does this serve no purpose other than to piss you off? It wouldn't be so bad except it can take quite a few seconds to get yourself out of the fishtail.

I'm sure there was a third item, but I can't remember right now.
February 22, 2000 - Let's make some craaazy money

Is this game great or what? Crazy Taxi has occupied most of my free time since I got it. I haven't even had a chance to play the umteen million PC games I have.

I was bummed to hear that OPSM will no longer feature Yaroze games on their cover discs. That really takes the wind out of my sails (not like I was programming that much anyway).

On the other hand, while making the drive back from LA to the bay area (well okay my fiancee was driving) I had a revelation about a game idea. I think this one will be really good, and not too difficult to implement either. It's a puzzle game, which is usually not hard to program. It has tremendous multi-player potential too.

I'm leaning towards making it for NUON since I have access to a developer's kit at work. I'll let you know how it goes.

More staff changes as I remembered to include my compact flash card reader, webcam, and DSL line to my PC setup. Plus, I broke down and bought a Montego II for my home PC, just to make sure my PC at work isn't better.

Happy birthday to me! I turned 27 yesterday.

February 3, 2000 - Staff update

I made some changes to the staff section to bring both Dave's and my own sections up to date.

Not much else to report at the moment.

January 31, 2000 - Up and running

I received the new Soyo motherboard on Friday and got my computer up soon thereafter. My Voodoo2 was giving me problems (even so much as to need to reinstall Windows). I figured out my problems went away if I used the 3dfx reference drivers rather than ones from my manufacturer.

I'm still having little quirks like if I try to do too much while Windows is in that booted-but-not-quite-done-booting state it sometimes lock up. Hopefully I can sort that out.

Right now I'm running at 700MHz. I got a corrupted registry when running at 750MHz, but I'm not sure if it's due to the clock speed or just general Windows crapiness. After things are stable for a while (and after I've backed up everything) I'll try slowly increasing the clock to see if the problem resurfaces.

Last week I also bought a sound card and speakers for my PC at work (why it didn't come with them is beyond me). I got the Turtle Beach Montego II for $60 and let me tell you this card rocks! I had always imagined 3d audio to be some gimmick that didn't work well enough to make a difference. I am a changed man after running through their A3D demos! It's simply amazing how they can make the sound appear all around you. The up/down placement isn't as great, but that's okay. For $60 I'm tempted to replace my old Soundblaster 64 ISA card at home.

I've been playing Rocket: Robot on Wheels for N64 pretty consistently. I'd label it as an "average" platformer. It's fun and all, but I would prefer to have spent my money elsewhere. I can still sell it after I'm done with it.

I could have sworn there was more to write, but I can't think of anything at the moment...

January 21, 2000 - Well fooey

It seems my jubilation was a bit premature. My new motherboard has been giving me no end of problems. It won't even install Windows 98SE without an error! On a freshly formatted hard drive even! After reading discussions on the web I've come to understand that others are having the same problems. It sounds like a design flaw in the VA6.

So I'm probably going to say bye-bye to the Abit VA6 and try out a Soyo motherboard (I forget the model number). This delays things a bit, but I should have the replacement by next week. One nice thing is the Soyo has a higher maximum FSB setting (155MHz vs. 150 for the Abit). So I could theoretically get my processor up to 775MHz.

Before that, however, I'm going to try applying a BIOS update to the Abit. If that works I guess I'll keep it. It's a shame since Abit has always meant high quality to me. They've tarnished their image...

January 17, 2000 - 750MHz Baby!

Ooooh yeah! I received the last item for my new system on Friday. Unfortunately I didn't have much free time this weekend to put it together. I got my finacee set up with my old system since she's more critical than I, being in school and all.

While I didn't put it all together, I did get my new system set up in a bare-bones environment - meaning, only the video card and hard disk. I first tried it at the rated spec of 500MHz to make sure it worked. Then I decided to go for the gusto and cranked it up to 750MHz. And what do you know it works! I may encounter problems once I start adding components back in, but at least I know my CPU and RAM are capable of going at 150MHz FSB. I was worried about the RAM since I only got generic PC133 SDRAM.

I'll post again once I get the whole thing working. It makes me wonder, however, how far I could actually push this thing. Right now I'm limited by the motherboard. The highest FSB setting it allows is 150MHz. Who knows if it could go higher? I'm sure the RAM couldn't go much faster than 150MHz though.

A funny thing happened while setting up my finacee with my old PII-300 system. After transfering her stuff to the new motherboard, Windows 98 found the driver for the video card just fine. Since the card is from my Pentium 100, I was concerned that it would be too outdated to function in the new setup. I was happy that Windows 98 had a driver for it, but was dismayed because there were numerous visual artifacts - the icons were messed up, scroll bars looked weird, etc. So I went to STB's web site and looked for their latest drivers. The ones I found were dated from 1996 so I didn't have much confidence that they'd be better than the Windows 98 ones, which were dated 1999. I'll be darned, though, they worked like a charm! It's funny how drivers from '96 can be better than ones from '99.

January 10, 2000 - "New Computer" Time

I'm finally diving in and upgrading my system. I've been on the fence about this for some time, but a couple things pushed me over. One was that I installed Win98 on my fiancee's computer in an effort to get our home network working (so we could share our DSL line). The ethernet card just wasn't configuring properly on her system so I decided to do a clean install of Windows. In the process I upgraded her from Win95 to Win98SE. While using her system, I got frustrated with it at times since it is so horribly slow. She has my old Pentium 100MHz.

So instead of her getting a new system, I'm upgrading mine and giving her my current one. She doesn't need that much power after all. Also, it's good for her since she gets my old one for free rather than paying for a new system. Granted once we're married that whole money division thing will be a moot point, but she's in school now and every bit helps.

Of course, another thing that prompted me to getting a new system was that I'm starting to feel the pinch of obselesence. My PII-300 is a bit sluggish with new games and will only get worse.

My new system will be a PIII 500E which I intend to overclock the hell out of. I'm hoping to be able to hit 700MHz, but I'll be happy with 600-650. All I'm buying right now are the CPU, main board, and SDRAM. I'll save the graphics card upgrade for later until the whole GeForce/Voodoo4&5 thing shakes out. If I can find a second Voodoo2 I might SLI my current setup, but only if it's cheap. It *will* be nice to get an AGP all-in-one video card, though, since I currently have a Matrox Mystique for 2D and the Voodoo2 for 3D. They eat up a PCI slot each.

I need to bitch about something now. What the hell is wrong with companies selling SDRAM for cheap and then charging $20 for shipping. Come on! The memory module itself is puny and shouldn't take much packaging. The actual shipping cost should be small since most of the companies are based in California like me. Talk about a major rip off. And it seems they *all* do the same thing! Luckily I found this site called Mushkin Computer Memory. Their base price was more than other sites, but they gave me FREE SHIPPING. And BONUS, they're based in Colorado so I didn't have to pay California sales tax either. I just want to give a big middle finger to 1st Choice Memory, AccessMicro, Computer Craft, Accubyte, and all the other sites that tried to screw me on the shipping cost.

On the Decaying Orbit front I've done some more work on my TimPak compression utility. It is very usable right now, although I haven't done extensive testing. My main goal was to compress that required OPSM title screen down (in the event we're fortunate enough to get on another cover disc). That single screen by itself is 225kb which is a lot of RAM to sacrifice for a screen you see only once. I was already hitting RAM limitations and that just compounded the problem. After running it through TimPak, the same screen is only 110kb - over 50% savings. By comparison, WinZip can compress the image down to 60kb which bums me out a bit. I can spend more time optimizing my compression later if I need to.

Once I get this integrated in the code, my next order of business will be to create a memory manager so I can reuse as much RAM as possible. You see, after loading the sound samples from main RAM to the SPU, the copy that's in RAM is essentially wasted space. I plan to reclaim that space for my program's variables and structures.

January 3, 2000 - Hangs head in shame

Okay, I'm a loser. Let's get that out in the open. It was just a couple months ago when I stated my virtues of updating the page on a regular basis. And here it has been over a month since the last update. Infinite apologies.

Of course I have no progress to report. I get constant urges to work on Decaying Orbit, but have so far not done so. Someday soon hopefully.

On the game playing front, I beat Wipeout 3 pretty quickly. I don't know what some of the reviews were saying about it being difficult. I found it much easier than Wipeout 64. Other games I've gotten recently include Um Jammer Lammy (got it cheap!), and a couple retro arcade packs. Time Pilot is one of my all time faves so the Konami pack was scooped up quick. The disc has like 8-10 games too. Not like those crummy 5 game Namco discs.

On the Nintendo front, Rocket: Robot on Wheels is rather fun. There aren't any other N64 games coming out soon that I desire (unless I can find DK64 cheap without having to pay for the RAM expansion a second time). Of course the Zelda expansion will be top of the list when it arrives. My fiancee wouldn't let me live if I didn't get that one - she's on her 3rd go at Z:OOT having beaten it twice already.

On the PC I got Ultima, but am waiting for a new computer before I dive in. For Christmas I got Halflife Opposing Force and Sim Theme Park.

The *really* cool thing is that we just got DSL installed at our apartment. Downloads happen even faster than at work. Hope I don't get swept up in some online gaming thing :)


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