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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two months later....

My Super Metroid 100% video walkthrough is finally done. It's been about two months since I first started working on it and far too much has happened in that time.

I started recording back in early December, before the FFIV Advance bosses project was done, and got an smv recording of the run finished. (An smv file is a Snes9x movie file that records controller input to play back a movie without having to capture any actual video.) I let that sit around for a while until I got the FFIV videos done, then I began the avi capture of the video. Which, as I ranted about in detail a couple posts back, is when it all went wrong. There went my recording.

About a weak later I had gotten back up and running and began playing Super Metroid again. After thinking about some difficulties I had during the previous recording, however, I decided to tweak my controller button mapping, swapping the dash and item select buttons. That turned out to be better but I wasn't used to it yet, which resulted in me doing an entire 100% run through the game just to warm up to the new controller setting and farther engrave the route I would take into my mind. Which sounds pretty grand but since I'm so awesome at the game it only actually took me about two hours.

The next day I started the second smv recording and got through it without much trouble. I only made one big mistake that led to me having to re-record a few minutes of game play, unlike the first time where I ended up having to re-record the entire second half of the game because of a stupid mistake I missed early on. And of course there were smaller mistakes here and there, on stuff that's a pain in the butt to pull off first try even for me, but not too many. In the end I had another smv recording and it was better than the first.

By that time I had gotten back a large majority of the files I had lost along with the first amv recording. So, taking a lesson from my previous attempt at doing an avi capture of the walkthrough, I decided to back up pretty much everythingincluding the new smv recordingonto DVDs. It paid off big time when the exact same thing happened upon my second attempt at an avi capture, as I mentioned in the post before this.

Feeling triumphant about saving my files and all the work I put into the smv recording, but still feeling annoyed that I couldn't get an avi capture of the walkthrough to put up on YouTube, I pondered what I could do. The 40 GB drive in my mom's desktop that I was now using wasn't large enough to store the entire avi capture. And, as I mentioned, my 250 GB hard drive was only being recognized as a 128 GB drive which made me think it was pretty much dead. But there an idea arose: Perhaps only some of the disks in the drive were bad (hard drives consist of a spindle of magnetic disks that data is stored on) and those 128 GBs that Windows could still recognize were the good ones. It was a long shot but I really had nothing to lose so I formatted the 128 GBs and began take three on the avi capture.

Miraculously, it worked. However, during my second attempt it was not in the capturing process that the hard drive failed but in the audio encoding. (Funnily enough, I had already done all the video encoding and the audio encoding was at 96% when it failed the second time. So close yet so far away.) So I began the video encoding process, transferring the compressed files onto the 40 GB drive where they would then be small enough to fit, and hoped. That, too, worked fine and then the audio encoding was done without problem on the 40 GB drive. The hardware gods had finally taken pity on me.

All of that has culminated in two hours, three minutes, and forty seconds of Super Metroid goodness:

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Laugh at Your Puny Bytes

I outsmarted the bastard this time. That's right, through the magic of my DVD burner I made backups of nearly everything I cared about before my hard drive corrupted itself again. So, while on one hand I'm annoyed that my hard drive has all but failed, I got to laugh at its corrupted ass knowing I avoided being screwed over by it again.

Right now it's sitting unformatted after eating itself. It's a 250 GB drive (which means it actually holds approximately 232 GB since hard drive manufacturers are scammers and use the strict SI definition of GB as 1,000 bytes instead of 1,024 bytes like computers use) but when I look at it in the disk management utility it shows up as being 128 GB. It seems to quite literally be half dead. I'm curious what would happen if I formatted those 128 GB and put files on the drive but I haven't cared to try since I wouldn't trust it even if it worked.

In other news, I bought Guitar Hero II recently. I've been rocking out and have managed to get five stars on all of the main game tracks on medium difficulty in only a few days of playing. I have eleven of the bonus tracks left to get five stars on but I haven't played those eleven at all yet. Moving up to hard seems like it's going to be a huge jump in difficulty compared to going from easy to medium but the awesomeness of the game (and wanting to impress people when I play together with friends) drives me to improve.

Yay, five stars on all tracks at medium difficulty. The song Six, by All That Remains, was coincidentally both the last song I played and the hardest one for me to get five stars on. It required a fair bit of time to build muscle memory.

Next time I play will be on hard and I have a feeling it's going to break my streak of never having failed a song yet.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Disk is not formatted

I'm doing pretty well for myself right now. I have not sworn as much as usual, let out any cries of anguish, or in fact thrown my monitor through the window. It's a bit surprising, actually, how calm I manage to be in these situations. Each time something happens I think that the next time will be the straw that finally breaks the camel's backyou know, the time where I finally release that tightly bound ball of rage insidebut so far I've greeted each with mostly silent, despairing acceptance.

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm talking about computer trouble. Yes, more computer trouble, as if I hadn't had enough yet. Yesterday I was making an avi recording of the Super Metroid walkthrough I talked about a couple posts back and everything was going smoothly until about half way through when the computer froze for a few seconds and then Windows crashed. And then it gave me a disk read error upon trying to reboot.

To make a long story short, I mucked around in the recovery console, looked up information on the blue screen error message I got, and eventually found that my WINNT folder was no longer there. In fact, about the only thing that was still visible on my C drive was the Documents and Settings folder, oddly enough. Presumably something in the file system had gotten screwed upagainmaking the system unable to find Windows when trying to boot up.

I went to bed at that point, the knowledge that I'd have to reinstall Windows when I got up putting a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Ironically, I slept incredibly well and was even cheerful when I awoke, right up to the point where I remembered the state that my computer was in. That kind of killed all feelings of happiness on the spot.

I resigned myself to the task of reinstalling Windows, as I've done far too many times before, and began doing so. Everything was going smoothly (does this line sound familiar? it should) until I tried to install service pack 4. "d:\ntldr is being used by another program," it said in an error, telling me to close any programs using it. Only after logging out of Windows and back in again, and trying once more to install SP4, did I notice the real significance of that error: Windows was installed on C drive, not D drive; it should've read, "c:\ntldr". There should not have ever been an ntldr file on D drive, but I looked and there it was. Apparently SP4 was trying to install onto D drive or something, despite both Windows and its install file being located on C drive. I have no idea why, but obviously that wasn't going to work.

I rebooted the PC, thinking I would reformat C drive and re-install Windows once more (just that in itself doesn't take very long) if need be. Just to make sure, I let it try to boot up Windows and it unsurprisingly failed. Installing a service pack replaces critical operating system files, and if the new ones are being put on the wrong partition it's not going to work. Not to mention the installation failed part way through.

This was still simply an inconvenience and nothing too horrendous, though. As I've said before, I've had to re-install Windows plenty of times and I've gotten pretty good at getting things back up to speed within a day. But of course it wouldn't be that easy.

Popping the Windows 2000 install CD back into my disc drive, I started going through the process again. But this time it didn't even try to fool me by going smoothly for a while, it just screwed me right from the start. It turned out that whatever SP4 did to my D drive partition, it damaged the file system in the process and the setup program wouldn't let me install Windows, not even on a newly created C drive partition, without reformatting D drive. And that would mean losing all of my files yet again.

I kind of figured it was pointless, as it usually is, but I couldn't let that happen without a fight. The thought of losing all of my files for the second time in only a few months, not long after I'd finally gotten everything back again, was almost enough to cause that little ball of pent up rage to explode. Almost, but I held onto a glimmer of hope.

A plan hatched in my mind. A plan to transplant both my hard drive and DVD burner into my mom's PC and see if I could salvage files and burn them onto DVDs before reformatting. However, my mom's desktop PC is out in an unheated room partitioned off from the garage, it was half past midnight, and I did not feel like sitting in the cold of night while hooking up my drives and possibly burning DVDs. The plan would wait until morning and in the mean time I spent about five hours reading a Discworld book I had borrowed from my brother.

Reading was a good choice, I have to say. Amidst everything else, the book (Going Postal) managed to cheer me up and make me laugh. I'm pretty good at pushing aside unwanted thoughts and instead focusing on the activity at hand but the book made it a lot easier.

Finally the moment of truth arrived, after much swearing at the idiotic case design of my mom's PC (that was the most trouble I've ever had in hooking up a CD or DVD drive and a hard drive), where I'd get to see if any files were salvageable. Now, I had even thought to myself as I was hooking up the drives that all this effort was most likely futile. Still, the hope! The hope that maybe they would be drove me on. But of course they weren't and Windows simply told me that neither C nor D drive were formatted and asked, in what I imagined for some reason to be an overly cheery voice even though it was text, if I wanted to format them.

Funnily enough (no, not ironicallyeven though many people misuse it this way, it would not be the proper word in this situation), that very subject of hope driving people to do things they know are most likely futile was featured quite prominently in Going Postal. I'm going to say the fact that I didn't notice the parallel to my own situation until just now is a testament to how well the book distracted me rather than me being unobservant.

So now I'm sitting here, in silent, despairing acceptance that I will have to reinstall and redownload everything yet again, having nearly finished another rant about my ongoing computer troubles. I don't write these expecting to be cheered up or to be pitied, though. I just didn't want to take my DVD drive and hard drive back out of my mom's PC right away without a break first, so I guess I'm writing this out of laziness.

At least I can be thankful that I made sure to finish my Final Fantasy IV Advance videos before starting work on the Super Metroid walkthrough. If I had lost my save files right before the end there's no way I would've played through FFIVA again to finish the videos, yet leaving the project unfinished would've annoyed me to no end.

I do plan on replaying Super Metroid for another walkthrough once I order parts and put together a new PC though. That I can do in a scant three hours. And if the same thing happens to my new PC (I plan on buying a new hard drive now as well) while recording an avi of the walkthrough, I might actually throw my monitor through the window this time.

The window still needs replacing, by the way. Every time a big storm comes through, as they've been doing the past few days, I'm afraid it's going to finally shatter.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

One born of a Desbreko, bearing darkness and light...

As I look forward to Final Fantasy IV's DS remake, I've just played Final Fantasy IV Advance for a second time. Today I finished up my long overdue project of posting videos for FFIVA's hardest bosses. Thus, I give you the playlist:

Even though I'm playing with the ATB system set to active and on the fastest battle speed, I make it look easy as always. That's because, while FFIV is one of the harder Final Fantasy games, there are almost always strategies you can use to pull through against seemingly overpowering enemies. In that way the game really rewards resourcefulness and forethought.

Also, now that the FFIVA project is done, I'm finally going to start turning that Super Metroid recording into videos. I just wonder if I'll have enough hard drive space to capture raw video of the entire thing and then split it up into segments all at once, or if I'll have to alternate between recording, splitting, and encoding to free up space.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your Speedrun!

I got bored and played through Super Metroid again recently. It's a great game for doing that with because when you're good and have it memorized you can beat it in only three hours or less. Yet it's still fun because it's such an awesome game. I ended up beating it with 100% item collection and 2:06 on the in game clock this time, which is a personal best. I'm a little disappointed that I came so close to being under two hours but didn't manage it, but whatever.

I'm not really one for speedruns. I enjoy watching them but I rarely care to do them myself. In my book, "perfect" has more to do with avoiding damage than doing things as fast as possible, and those two often don't go together. So, like with many other things, I prefer to play games at my natural pace and worry more about avoiding that next attack even though I can easily afford the hit rather than about how much time I'm taking.

Maybe it's because of this, or maybe it's for some completely unrelated reason, but my brother will often say, "Your speedrun!" in an almost agonized voice whenever I go out of my way in games like that. He makes it sound like I was going for the world record and then totally botched it or something. I can't help but laugh every time he does it.

But I digress. Back to Super Metroid.

As you all should know, I have a hobby of making game videos and putting them up on YouTube to show and explain strategies and whatnot. I already have videos for all the major Super Metroid bosses, as well as other games' bosses, but I've been thinking of expanding into full blown video walkthroughs. And if I can beat Super Metroid that fast with 100% item collection, I bet I could make a good 100% walkthrough for the game without having to break it up into too many segments. (Since YouTube only allows videos to be ten minutes long.) So that's what I've been planning as my next project after I finish the last two FFIV Advance boss videos that I have left.

Now, there are already full playthroughs of Super Metroid uploaded on YouTubeI think there's even videos of the world record 100% speedrunbut, just like I noticed with most boss videos, they don't actually explain how to do the things shown in the videos. So while they're good for going, "Whoa," at, they don't really help people much in getting through the game.

What I'm planning to do with my videos is play through at my normal pace (which is still pretty fast and easily manages to get the best ending), focusing on collecting items early to make the game easier and damage avoidance strategies rather than focusing on the most time efficient route. I'm going to write time-stamped notes to go with each video segment so people will be able to watch something, look at when it happened in the video, then read an explanation of how to do it. I've not seen anything like this on YouTube before so, like my detailed boss strategies to go along with their videos, I'm hoping it will be helpful and popular.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Oh, man, I just watched Bamboo Blade ep9. I saw the character and knew immediately that I had to do this.


It's kind of scary that all I had to add was the lazer.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Everybody's Doing It

So what am I watching this season? I bet you're all just dying to know. Okay, so probably not, but can you at least let me have my little fantasy?

Since I'm a quality whore I'm only watching the widescreen versions, and as such have only seen ep1 so far. Not a lot to say since, well, I've only seen ep1. But I can tell I'm going to like it already. Heck, Dango Daikazokuthe ED themehas already found a permanent home within my head. Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazoku. . . .

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Yeah, I know this is from last season. Blame a.f.k., not me. I love this show's style of humor, though, so I'll wait as long as it takes for them to finish subbing the series. I just hope they pick up the second season as well when it starts.

Shugo Chara!
Ah, magical girl anime; drawing the line between men who are secure in their sexuality and those who are not. Yes, I am a 19-year-old male who enjoys watching a show for little girls. I love the cutesy everything, Amu is adorable with her personality conflicts, and the cheesy transformation and battle scenes crack me up. I think I may be the only one who isn't crazy about cat-boy, though, even as amazingly well done as the character is.

Kimikiss pure rouge
Yay for high school romantic comedies. Apparently I can't get enough of them since I've watched quite a few over the last few months. Kimikiss doesn't look terribly original from what I've seen so far but it's been enjoyable nonetheless. Things are just starting to heat up as of ep4 and I'm interested in seeing how things play out.

Bamboo Blade
It's girls with swords (okay, technically shinai) and it provides lulz. Not the greatest so far but it's looking like the cast will prove to be fun. As of ep3, Miya-Miya scares me. Why do the pretty ones always have to be crazy?

Shakugan no Shana Second
I watched the first season and the same group that's subbing Clannad is doing the second season, so why not? It's right there in the RSS feed and watching the love triangle between Yuuji, Shana, and Kazumi is fun. And, yes, I have a thing for the tsundere types so I can't help but like Shana herself. I don't really care about the story, I just like watching the characters bounce off one another

Sketchbook ~full color'S~
I'm not sure how to explain my liking of this one. But it has a mellow, wide-eyed, shy girl as the main character. It makes me want to poke her just to see what would happen; I have a feeling it would be incredibly cute. To fit the character, it's a very slow-paced and relaxing show, at least for the two episodes I've seen so far. I have a feeling a lot of people would replace "relaxing" with "boring," but I like it.

I wonder if this one is ever going to end. Seriously, it's up to ep146; if it doesn't stop after the current story arc I'll probably drop it unless it does something amazing to hold my interest in that time. The last few episodes have been better, though, so I keep watching for now. It's only one more episode per week. . . .

Kodomo no Jikan
Waiting for uncensored DVD releases for this one. Blatant fanservice just makes me lol; obtrusive censorship is annoying as hell.

Eight series currently, plus whatever backlogged show I happen to be watching in between new releases. I probably spend more time on anime than I should.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

A Cracked Window

This has been an interesting week. And by interesting I mean utterly crappy. So crappy that it warrants a rant, so here I am. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007: A 512 MB stick of RAM that I had ordered arrived on my doorstep and I was happy. I now had a total of 1 GB of RAM for my system! Programs would run faster, better, harder, stronger. I had the technology. So I shut down my PC, opened up the side panel, and plugged that sucker into one of the two open RAM slots on my motherboard.

Now, being the paranoid person I am after having a power supply literally blow up on me (not big, but a transistor did blow up inside it), I always keep my finger on the hard power switch while powering on after changing any hardware in my PC. So, with my finger on the switch, I powered up andnothing happened and my PC booted up as usual. Of course nothing would happen, it's just a stick of RAM. Installing more RAM is the absolute easiest way to upgrade a PC and there's no way I would screw that up.

So I watched as Windows booted up nice and fast thanks to the extra RAM. I geeked out, opening up programs just to see how much faster they'd start. Then I started up Guild Wars to see how much smoother it would run. Loading into the outpost where I had previously logged out was no longer a thirty second affair and starting up Firefox while GW was running was so very much faster. I was in heaven. I opened up my quest log to see what I could have Amelia, my cute elementalist, burn and plunder.

And then the shit hit the fan. But I didn't yet know that the shit had hit the fan. Sure, GW crashed and I was a bit worried, but everything else was running nice and smooth. I started GW back up with no problems, picked a quest, and began a swathe of destruction across the land. All seemed well until about ten minutes later when GW crashed again. It was time to check out this new RAM and see what was up.

I downloaded and burned a Memtest iso to a CD, rebooted, and began running it to check for memory errors. I was still trying to be optimistic at that point. Unfortunately, "that point" was when I smelled something burning and saw a whiff of smoke drifting out of my PC case. A mad scramble for the hard power switch ensued.

After letting the PC sit for a bit, power off and the cable unplugged, I cautiously peered inside. I didn't see any damage. . . . Maybe some dust had just gotten onto my CPU's heat sink while I was installing the RAM? There was that optimism, clinging desperately to life. I pulled out the new stick of RAM and looked it over. There, towards one end, one of the pins was scorched and blackened.

"Fuck." I'm usually a well-mannered person who rarely uses obscenities. But my PC is one of the few things that can really make me swear, and there was just no other word for the occasion. I looked back into the case, examining the slot that the RAM had been init was melted around the burned pin's contact. More obscenities as the fact that permanent damage had been done to my motherboard sunk in.

I took comfort in the fact that I still had two RAM slots left that didn't appear to be damaged, and I didn't really need a third. Seriously, I don't how the optimism had survived that long. But it died a horrible, horrible death when, my finger once more on the hard power switch, I turned the PC on and watched as it froze during the initial memory test.

Now, as you should know from my previous post, I had planned a Lucky Star marathon for that coming Saturday, only two days away on the 13th. I was looking forward to it immensely and would not think of missing it. It wasn't optimism that drove me to hours of testing, trying in vain to get my PC to start back up, it was denial. But eventually reality reared its ugly head and I had no choice but to accept that either my motherboard, my RAM, or both were fried.

As it happened, we had another motherboard sitting around which we were going to use in building my mother a PC, and she had also ordered a stick of RAM to be used in said PC. My eyes turned hungrily towards them and I even considered using them without permission. After all, it was me and my brother going to all the trouble of getting parts, and I was already letting her use my PC for things. But, being the awesome guy I am, I decided that I should ask anyway. And she said yes!

A new hope filled me, and with renewed vigor I set about removing my motherboard and replacing it with the other. Now, for everyone who hasn't put together a PC, this takes a while. You have to detach all the cables connected to the board, remove the graphics card, the RAM and the CPUand you have to be careful with themthen unscrew the board from the side of the case. And then do it all in reverse to hook up the new board, which takes even longer than taking things apart. At any rate, it was about 1:30 AM when everything was finally put together, and I had been scrambling to get my PC working again since about 4:00 PM when my board and RAM fried themselves.

I had already resigned myself to the possibility that I might have to re-install Windows if I couldn't boot into safe mode to remove the old board's drivers, since it was unlikely that I'd be able to boot up normally using them with the new board. I'm no stranger to re-installing Windows, and I still had all of Friday to do it before the Lucky Star marathon. What I hadn't considered, though, was that the new board wouldn't output any video signal to the monitor.

That's right; no video signal whatsoever. The board had on-board video, a slot for an AGP 8x graphics card, and a slot for a PCI-Express graphics card. I spent most of Friday screwing with the thing and none of them would get video to the monitor. I went to bed very angry that night after using my brother's PC to let people know I wouldn't be able to do the marathon after all, and I woke up rather depressed the next morning.

Thankfully one of my friends came through later that day with a spare motherboard he had sitting around, for which I'm extremely thankful. Its specs weren't as good as either of the others but it would be better by far if it actually worked. We had more fun Saturday night unhooking the second board and replacing it with the spare, only to find that Windows wouldn't even boot into safe mode. It was a step up from no video at all, but it still didn't work. We spent yet more time trying to strip out the old board's drivers through the recovery console to no avail and finally gave up, once more around 2:00 AM.

The next day I set about reformatting my C drive and reinstalling Windows. And it worked! I had a bootable PC again! For a brief moment I was happy again, despite it being two days late for the marathon. I started updating Windows, simply content to have a working PC at all. And then I found that, somehow, a large number of files on my D drivewhich should not have been touched during the reformatting and reinstallation on C drivehad become corrupted due to errors in the partition's file system.

The worst part was that I couldn't even tell which files were corrupted without viewing them entirely. It felt like I was being screwed by everything that could possibly go wrong and this was one last slap in the face. I wanted to kick the crap out of something but I calmed myself and began salvaging what files I could and making a list of things I would need to replace. The next day I backed up what I could, reformatted D drive, and started again nearly from scratch.

So now here I am, eight days after the initial meltdown, with most of my oft-used programs reinstalled, Lucky Star redownloaded, and uTorrent running full-bore to replace the other files I lost. I'm planning to do the Lucky Star marathon on the 27th now, same plan as before, and would love for anyone interested to join in. And if my computer dies right beforehand again I might just throw it through my window.

No, seriously. That window has needed replacing for years.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Epic Lucky Star Marathon

I'm going to come right out and plug the latest announcement I made over on OtakuBoards. If you need convincing to follow the link, continue reading below.

A while back I mentioned on OB that I was going to do a Lucky Star marathon and watch all 24 episodes in one day, and a couple people expressed interest in doing the same. Well, more people have jumped on board and it's turned into an open invitation for anyone who wants to watch along and chat on AIM with us. I'm trying to get together as many people as I can to make this an event to remember, and hopefully to repeat with other series. Everyone on theOtaku/myOtaku is also welcome to join in the fun.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dessy Has Cookies

Rachmaninoff was right, I am indeed the recipient of the fabled cookies. So what's the verdict? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

As you can see, I like them very much. They're soft and rich but still a little crumbly, just the way I like chocolate chip cookies. So rich that, even though I was drinking coffee with them, I had to stop eating them after the fourth one for fear of death by cookie. But the best part is that I was still contemplating a fifth despite the risk. Even now, as I type this, I crave more and must restrain myself.

Thank you very much to both SunfallE and Aaryanna. I haven't been this happy to receive a gift in a long time. <3 you two. ^_^

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