Monthly Archives: March 2008

A look back: Super Mario 64

Well I’m feeling nostalgic. I was reading some old reviews on the old N64.com site. Now IGN.com. I don’t want to commit to calling this a series yet, but I’d like to take some of my old games and revisit them. Share my experiences from a time when I spent WAAAY too much time playing games and a new perspective.

Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 were the first two games we got back on Christmas 1996. I was 14 then, and really not expecting the new Nintendo under our tree. I was still a fan of the old NES games, and still had our original second Nintendo hooked up, but I always just figured I’d be content to play the new Nintendo 64 over at a friend’s house whenever they got one.

All that changed pretty quickly. I remember getting excited looking at the box (not this excited) with a tinge of disbelief that my parents had splurged on such an expensive toy. $199 at the time of it’s release. My thoughts had quickly changed to: “I can’t wait until all my friends come over to see this.” As we hooked it up to our also new 27″ Magnavox TV there was a brief moment where I thought, “Which should I try first? Mario? Or Pilotwings?” But when you have a brand new Nintendo, and a brand new Mario game. You ALWAYS choose Mario!

I still remember quite vividly sitting on the floor amidst the empty boxes and trash bags full of wrapping paper, staring in awe of not only the Nintendo 64 starting up for the very first time, but also the big new TV. For 10 minutes we took turns running around the castle lawn climbing trees, doing handstands, diving in the water and swimming. Running through and interacting with a true 3D world was quite the experience at the time.

 

Little details were impressive like the birds that would fly from the trees, butterflies that would fly away when you approached, and schools of fish in the water. But as I played I was curious where all the enemies were. Every other Mario game plopped you right into the action, hopping on goombas and the like. I finally headed into the castle after exploring every square inch there was to explore outside. Still no bad guys, even inside the castle. But Bowser’s ominous laugh clues that there would plenty of confrontation to come. But to heck with that! There’s walls and balconies to jump off!

 

It actually took a bit of getting used to, adapting to a more open ended approach to the Mario levels. No longer was it weave your way though obstacles and enemies just to make it to the end of a stage. And you didn’t have to beat one level before you move on to the next. You often can do the levels in whatever order you prefer. But despite the differences it was still very familiar as a Mario game, very intuitive and VERY fun!

As a younger kid with the original NES, I had always enjoyed the Mario Bros. games and even beaten a couple of them, but not until after Mom had already beaten them once. Well I was a bit older now and my motor skills were a bit more refined (along with my patience). Maybe lame, but I still remember being a little proud being the first one in the house to make it to the end and beat the final match with Bowser. Quite an intimidating battle the way the new system was able to present the game in a more immersive package. Here you are, little Mario having to take down something 4 times your size that breaths fire, shakes the ground loose when he stomps! I still remember getting frustrated trying to wing Bowser only to miss one of the bombs and have him come right back. But somehow watching the final cinematic ending and the credits with highlights of all the levels, there was a sense of accomplishment there.

 

There’s all sorts of little moments that you just wish you could go back and experience for the first time all over again. Racing the penguin. Chasing the eel and the hidden underwater cave. Metal Mario. Big small world. The list goes on and on. A couple that stick out are some of the stars on the Tall Tall Mountian, where there were several blind jumps, that you either got the star, or fell clear to the bottom of the level, or just plain died! I still remember memorized exactly where to put the star in the cannon sights to hit it every time: Right at the bottom of the circle, where the edge just starts to blur. How do I remember that? Tick-Toc Clock was also one of those frustratingly fun levels, that really highlighted how refined the controls really are.

 

Even today, despite the dated graphics, Super Mario 64 is still a fantastically fun game. Getting all 120 stars is still a challenge and I’m sure it’d take a good memory jog to even remember where all of them are. It’s just a fun honest game that you don’t need to set aside an hour to play. 12 years later it’s worth keeping the N64 around, even if only for this one game.

Macs hacked first

Apparently at the latest hacker convention the new Macbook Air that everybody is wetting their pants about, was hacked in a grand total of 2 minutes.  Not so much a problem with Mac OS, but a flaw in the Safari browser that is standard on all Macs.  On the last day of the competition, Vista was finally hacked thanks to a flaw in Adobe’s Flash software which isn’t standard, but present on a majority of PCs.

Ubuntu, however remained unscathed after three days of attempted hacking.  Hey Ubuntu guys, make it a bit easier to play all my PC games and I’m 100% on board!

Once again, I’m late to the show.

Well I decided to take a look at some of the latest Firefox extensions since I’m pretty much running a bare bones Firefox.  (What a waste).  I was looking through and there’s a lot of gimmcky ones, or gaudy ones.  But there’s a few non intrusive and functional ones.  I added a G-Mail notifier that just parks in the bottom right of the screen and checks my e-mail every 10 minutes.  That’s pretty handy.

One extension I knew about for a long time, but just never used for some reason.  Adblock Plus.  Like the name implies, it blocks ads.  I guess I just always assumed it wasn’t very effective.  I’d monkeyed around back in the day with block lists for ad servers, but they always seemed to slow surfing by causing timeout errors from the ad servers.  But Adblock works amazingly well.  Lots of websites, especially overly commercialized sites load noticably faster.  I can imagine it’d be even more noticable on a dial up connection.

So check it out!  And if you know of any other sweet extensions, let me know!

Photoshop now available as a web application.

Well I can’t try it out right now, because none of the computers at work have the latest version of Flash installed… >_<  But Photoshop Express has been released for public beta at http://www.photoshop.com/express

It’s not as full featured as a traditional Photoshop installation, but should be more than adequate for touching up photos, cropping and mild editing.  The best news is you don’t have to install it on every computer.  It’s available anywhere you can get to the web.  All you have to do is register for a free account, and you get 2 gigs for storage.

It’s exciting to see more software like this become available on the web.  The ability to not only access, but use your files from anywhere, share them with others, kinda amazing really.

XM and Sirius soon to be one.

This has been on the rumor mill for quite some time.  But it’s finally been approved.  Sirius will be buying XM.  There’s actually talk that subscribers could be paying less than they are now.  Supposedly the programming is going to be offered in “tiers”.  Music – Sports – Talk – Comedy, etc.  You pay for the content you want.  We’ll see what happens.

New shocks!

Well with decent days back, I have a list of things I want to do to the car this year. One of the main things is new shocks and springs in the rear. As you can see, the rear is kinda saggin’. It’s not too bad, but if anybody gets in the back seat it drops real low.

It needs new springs too, but for today, I’m just putting new air shocks on. It should be a pretty painless swap. But if you frequent my blog at all, you know that when I do something to the car, it usually turns out to be more than I bargained for! So wish me luck. Updates, later.

UPDATED:

Got it done. Took about 3 hours while drinking beer and listening to the K-State game (sucks they lost, at least it’s just basketball). As far as I can tell…problem solved. It rides a whole lot better, and the rear doesn’t sag anymore. When pulling the old air lines out I noticed that one of them was plugged. So the right shock was actually still holding air, but the left one wasn’t. I still think it needs new springs, because the left side still droops slightly, probably from having that leaky shock there so long. But that’s for another day.

Here’s the old junk that was in there.

Here’s the old, compared to the new.

Installed!

Holy crap! It’s level!

Unlike most of my projects, this one didn’t take much longer than planned.  I figured 2-2.5 hours if everything went right.  I was pretty close.  Only issue was I blew a fuse when I plugged in my air pump to air up the shocks.  Knocked out the radio and the dash gauges.  Good thing I keep an assortment on hand!  I just have to remember now not to use the cigarette lighter until I find out where the short is.

Yup, it’s always something.  Gotta love old cars.  =)

Drama, drama, drama!

I wonder how in the world soap operas stay on t.v.  Isn’t there enough drama in life?  Do people really have to tune in and watch the soaps?  Today has been crazy…And it’s not even MY drama!

I just got to thinking, there are people who tune in every day and watch afternoon soap operas, there are magazines dedicated to these soaps…how do people watch it?   Isn’t it possible to O.D. on drama?  I am emotionally drained after watching people deal with the stress in their world today.  I can’t imagine tuning in just to get the drama fix every day.

I don’t know, maybe soap fans need to shut off the t.v. and deal with real life!  Hell, maybe I’m wrong.  That happens a lot!

Wow, I slept like crap…

I dunno what it was, but I slept terrible last night. I usually wake up several times through out the night. 3 or 4 on average probably. But I just toss and turn a little bit, maybe make a trip to the bathroom. But then it’s back to sleep. Last night, I honestly don’t think I got more than 30 minutes of sleep at a time. I had several weird dreams, about beans & bbq sauce, helping my friend Chris get his old 82 Chevy started (ended up being a problem with the mirrors..wtf?), the grim reaper being a cat, and all my old high school classmates getting together. Seriously I saw old classmates in my dreams last night that I had completely forgotten about.

I woke up exhausted. Not rested at all. It felt like I’d just pulled an all nighter and caught a 20 minute nap before I woke up. I feel like crap. I hope tomorrow night I can hit the reset button and get back to normal. Maybe I should call in sick to work today. Although going to work is just about as easy as sittin’ at home all day. Meh. I’ll go I guess.

Things you hear people say.

As I’m going about my business, I like to take in what’s going on around me. I used to walk on the campus at K-State and hear people talking on their cell phones and to each other. Just random stuff. Some people call that eavesdropping, I just call it entertaining.

Today I heard a group of people talking and one of them said, “Go to the FBI website. They have a list of all the sexual predators and your daddy is on there.”

Did I hear this at?

a) Work
b) Grocery Store
c) Wal-Mart

If you said (c) you are CORRECT!

I tell you the more I observe all the weirdness in the world, the more I think “normal” is pretty rare.

‘Bout time for a time change!

Well, I dunno if we’re on standard or daylight savings time now, but whatever it is, it should stay this way.  I know that the days get shorter in the winter and everything.  But everytime there’s the time change in the fall, EVERYBODY talks about how much it blows that it gets dark so much earlier.  And then come spring, everyone (including myself) sings praises of the return of the longer afternoons.

So if everybody hates the fall time change, but loves the spring time change?  Why the hell change it at all?  Nobody needs light in the morning, because nobody does anything they actually WANT to do in the morning anyway.  You get up, you dread work, you work, then you savor the sweet salvation that is the evening.  THAT’S where I want my sunshine.  Who cares if the sun doesn’t come up until 10:00am in the winter time?  It’s cold, we’d rather be sleeping anyway.