Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dream: Paul Miller at E3

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

This dream started out with some nonsense where my mother and I were driving around trying to find a mechanic to fix my car's lug nut problem (see Eight Bit #36). We found a guy who said that it was perfectly fine to drive it around as it was.

Suddenly we were at a convention that just so happened to be E3. I was having the time of my life, when suddenly I got a phone call (apparently I have a cell phone).

"Hey Ian! How are you liking E3?"
"Uh, who is this?"
"It's your buddy +Paul Miller!"
"Oh, hi! Wait, how do you know I'm at E3? Are you here?"

I started scanning the crowd for him; somehow I knew that he was carrying a huge box. After seeing two other people with huge boxes I spotted him going around a corner.
"I have some free stuff for you if you can keep up with me," I heard him say on the phone. And the chase was on.
The rules (which of course I knew immediately) worked like this: Paul was running on a predetermined route, and he would pass by three stations. When he passed them, they would reveal several items that I could choose from. The longer it took me to get to the station, however, the worse the items available got. I was pretty far behind in the beginning, and by the time I got to the first station the only thing left was a laptop. I didn't even look twice at it. At the second station I found some headphones that I took for some reason (they were pretty terrible headphones). At the third station I had several choices that included several controllers and mice. I asked if any of them were wired controllers for my desktop, but the only one looked really uncomfortable to hold, so I took the mouse instead.

Paul and I went and hung out in what appeared to be a youth group lounge in the basement of some small-town church. +Sam Roth (a friend of mine in real life) was there as well, and we hung out and talked about whatever it is buddies talk about. Eventually Paul and Sam had to leave, and I sat there and looked around for a while. I realized that they had both left their bags behind. I took them both, opened the window, and left through it.

I woke up before I could find either of them. So Paul and Sam, my dream self has your stuff. Come claim it if you want it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google Music: All Access

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

With Google I/O going on right now we've been hearing lots of exciting announcements from Google (we cover all of the important ones in a Nexus Special.) Most of the news wasn't too surprising, or it doesn't affect me. However, there was one really important announcement that I think might change my life: Google Music's All Access program.

Google Music has been around for a while, and up until now it has been a strictly "you have access to the music you uploaded or purchased from the Google Music store" business model. I love listening to music, and I have built up a modest collection of songs ripped from CDs my family owns and songs I bought from Google and Amazon.

In order to get your music from your computer into Google Music you have to download the Music Manager program. It can take music from iTunes, Windows Media Player (and you can choose specific playlists to upload), or from a specific folder.

Google Music is definitely the best way to get music onto an Android device; it is also pretty convenient that I can walk up to any computer with an internet connection, plug my headphones in, and listen to my music.

Now you might ask me at this point why I don't just use Pandora or Grooveshark or Spotify. The problem with those services is that they either have ads (which I absolutely despise) or you have a limited number of skips, or you aren't in complete control of the playlist you are listening to. I'm also pretty sure that they do not let you download MP3 versions of your songs. Google Music lets you download each song you own up to two times from the web interface, and you can download your entire music library any number of times through the Music Manager.

Enter the All Access program. It is a subscription-based service that costs $10 a month (but if you start a trial before July it will only be $8 a month, so you should get on that quick). The music player, your library, and playlists are all left intact, with the only difference being that every single song in the Google Music store is now available to be added to your library and playlists. For someone like me who still has tons of music that I intended to purchase but haven't had the spare change, this is a perfect service. This will cap the amount of money I spend on music to $8 a month (barring those few songs that do not get released on Google Music) and I now have the freedom to check out artists I would previously not have had the money to discover. And since the playlists and library work the same way, I still have complete control over what music I listen to, in what order. Google calls it "radio without rules."

They have also changed the UI of the Android app

The only downside that I can find is that even once a song is in my library there is no option to download it. Don't worry, you can still download the songs you uploaded or purchased before making the switch to All Access. It makes sense that you cannot download the songs you did not buy, but it sucks for things like Audiosurf or Beat Hazard which are both games that take an audio file and vary their gameplay according to the mood of the song.

So I started looking for a way around this limitation.

The best way I have found is actually through the Music Manager.

There is a Big Friendly Button there labeled "Download My Library". I used it when I built my desktop to get all of my songs at once. As I added my new free music to my library, I noticed that the number listed in the Music Manager was also going up. I have not actually tested it yet, but I think that my new songs will be downloaded along with the rest of my library. This is obviously not ideal, since I don't want to have to download everything every time I discover a new awesome album.
The alternative would be to play a song and record it in Audacity. Please note that I am not condoning piracy and there are easier ways to pirate music anyway.

So that is Google Music's All Access program! Definitely worth a try.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dream: Gibberish

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

A few weeks ago I had a weird dream, and I jotted down some notes so I would remember and write a blog post later. Now that I have time, I looked at what I had written down:

"Crappy road going to Dairy Queen.
Dairy Queen didn't have anything interesting.
Making cakes?
Suddenly in a canal, lots of people there with floating things like the big pink chair.
Sharks or something in the water, had to stay on top of floating things to avoid being eaten.
A bunch of people I know were there, including my dad."

I have absolutely no recollection of what my dream was about, so your guess is as good as mine. Apparently I am not very coherent in the first few minutes after I wake up.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Assassin's Creed III The Redemption Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the finale of this little trilogy. It did a lot of things right that the first two missed out on. Right off the bat they started you off on the Aquila doing the most fun thing from Assassin's Creed III: naval battles. They even threw in a nice connection to Assassin's Creed IV, with Connor telling Faulkner a little about his grandfather. I kind of wish that the naval battle had lasted longer, but we have a plot to move along.

Speaking of plot, I liked it alot more than the first two DLCs. We finally get to see King George for an extended period of time, experience the direct effects he is having on the American people. Before now I had to trust that other characters were telling me the truth about how bad Washington was. Now I get to hear him make a stirring speech and see starving people in the streets.
You also get to explore the King's new pyramid, which gave the game a feel much more similar to Assassin's Creed II.

I really liked that door, in case you couldn't tell.

They also managed to find a way to make the little side-quests found throughout the city worthwhile. In order for there to be enough civil unrest in the city for the rebellion to succeed I had to do things like beat up heralds, assassinate officers, and break cannons.

As with the previous two entries in the trilogy, you get a new spirit animal power. This time it is the power of the bear, which allows you to smash the ground and deal tons of damage to those around you. Of course, it takes away a good chunk of your own health as well, so use wisely. They also got clever and created situations that could only be solved by combining the different spirit powers in order to progress.

Time for some pet peeves.
I didn't really think about it until now, but it was very lazy of them to just reverse the bluecoats/redcoats roles. Once they gained independence you'd think that the American Army would get nicer uniforms, and the people rebelling against King Washington wouldn't just have a bunch of British uniforms. In fact I can't think of a worse thing for them to war. But hey, the developers couldn't be bothered to make new character models.
There was a scene where Connor's voice sounded weird, as if the mic they were using to record the lines was having issues. Seriously, this is a AAA game, don't they have nice equipment?
Ubisoft's credits strike again! I spent a couple of hours actually playing the DLC, and then I sat through over 20 minutes of credits. Ridiculous.
They ended with a long cutscene that connected the story to the real world, and it looked worse than the in-game footage. Seriously, I think they made this in 480p or something.

This DLC is definitely worth its $8 price tag. If you haven't played the other two, that is fine, they have a nice cutscene at the beginning telling you what is going on (and honestly you didn't miss much.) I wish that the other two had been similarly priced, but oh well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

I think the movie industry intentionally releases awesome movies at the end of semesters. The Avengers, The Hobbit, and now Iron Man 3. I can already tell you that at the end of fall semester I'll be watching the second Hobbit movie.

The Iron Man series is my favorite of the Marvel heroes' individual series, and I am happy to say that Iron Man 3 is the best of them.
In my opinion the snappy dialogue is what sets Iron Man apart, and the first two movies suffered because the lines were kind of hard to understand, but the third one was crystal-clear. There was also the problem that none of the other characters could keep up with Tony Stark's snarkiness, but this time there was one. And the kicker was that he was just some kid that Stark ran into. It got so good that I started referring to the kid as "Stark's Muse."
There was a really good piece of meta-humor where they make a deprecating remark about theater actors that I found hilarious.
I was laughing so much during this movie that there were quite a few times that I was the only one in the theater laughing. Yeah, I was that guy.

As for action and explosions, there was plenty of that, but you can go see any old action movie for that. Speaking of which, all of the previews that I saw before the movie looked exactly the same, and I had to wonder what kind of culture we've created. Then I got over it and enjoyed the movie.

I don't want to talk about more because there are tons of things I could spoil.

Everyone should go see this movie as soon as they can, it is great!