Saturday, August 19, 2006

Human Browser at Customs House

With nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, I was at the Customs House lobby area reading newspapers and using my laptop. A nice-looking girl with headphones came over and started talking to me. I tried to respond, but she's not making much sense. She's speaking in complete sentences, but I have no idea what she's talking about. Then I noticed a tiny webcam positioned on her right shoulder. She's also got a backpack on. Aha, must be a laptop inside doing playback and/or recording. I let her rant for a few more minutes, trying to figure out the source of her ramblings. Wondering when her stream-of-consciousness monologue will end, so I can go back to my laptop, I said to her, "I don't think you can hear me." It was then that she asked for my name. I answered, and she incorporated my name into her monologue. So she can hear me. Good thing I didn't say anything bad about her. After a while, she left me alone, and picked on other unsuspecting visitors.

It was only later that I found out that the girl is actually a Human Browser. It's part of the Esquisse Yourself art and design exhibition being held at the Customs House. According to SMH: "In the Human Browser by French artist Christophe Bruno, the viewer became the search engine query without touching a computer. This was possible through an actor who carried a microphone, headphones and webcam and was linked wirelessly to Bruno in France. As the visitor talked to the actor, Bruno watched the conversation, typed questions and comments into Google and a software program he developed vocalised the search results and transmitted them to the actor's headphone. She, in turn, blurted out the results in full, including URLs, numbers and punctuation."

One other exhibit that caught my attention was the circular ping pong table with a revolving net.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hack the Xbox

With the price of the Xbox hitting an all-time low, I went out and bought myself one last week. Got the Xbox system bundle which come with the unit, a controller, Halo2 and Forza Motorsport. Imagine, Halo2 and Forza. What more can you ask for? Now, an Xbox is no good if it's not modded. The stock Xbox comes with a DVD drive, but it can't even play DVD movies out-of-the box, unlike the PS2. For that, you have to buy a DVD movie playback kit consisting of an IR receiver module you plug into the USB port and a remote control. One more way for M$ to make extra money. Well, not from this guy.

There are two ways to hack an Xbox: one, go to the dodgy shops and have a modchip fitted in, or two, DIY via a software mod. Being the cheapo geek that I am, I decided to take the 2nd route. Took me about one week's worth of trawling the forums, sifting through the vague/obsolete/incomplete information, and visiting some little-known sites to download all the software I need to execute the hack. Basically, what you need is UXE, which contains the Xbox exploits, and xboxhdm, which reformats your Xbox hard disk and installs a hacked dashboard. Extract both packages, copy UXE to xboxhdm's linux directory, and burn the whole thing onto a CD-ROM. This is what we'll use to hack the Xbox.

The thing with Xboxes is that its hard disk is locked. Upon boot-time, a 32-bit password (generated from a 16-bit key hashed with the hard disk model and serial number) is needed to unlock the hard disk. If you don't have the password (as is probably the case), you need to hotswap it to your PC before xboxhdm can do its work. Not for the faint of heart because you could fry your hard disk if you don't do it right. (For those unfamiliar with the term, hotswap means you transfer your Xbox hard disk to your PC, while it is powered on.) And you have to know exactly when to take out the Xbox's IDE cable, or else you might be risking a hotswap only to find out that the hard disk is still locked. Most guys on the forums recommend unplugging the hard disk right before the white Microsoft text comes up. Once you manage to get the hard disk unlocked, it should be smooth sailing from there.

So shall we start, gentlemen? Turn on your PC with the xboxhdm disc in the CD-ROM drive. Press ESC when the BIOS starts scanning for the hard disks. At this point, your Xbox should already be undressed, and the hard disk ready to go. Power on the Xbox. At the right moment, quickly unplug the IDE cable (NOT the power cable), and connect the hard disk to the PC's IDE cable. On the PC, press any key to continue the hard disk scan. If the BIOS can't see the drive, that means hard disk is still locked. If all goes well, the xboxhdm main menu will show up after the PC has booted. Choose Option 1 to boot to VGA console with xbox-drive utilities. Enter "xboxhd" when asked to log in. Choose Option 1 again to "Build a new Xbox HD from scratch". After everything is done, power down both the PC and the Xbox. Return the hard disk to the Xbox and power it on. Welcome to your newly soft-modded Xbox!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hail, Sydney!

This is the second time (in my whole life) I've seen hail. First time was in Kellyville. We were playing badminton in a warehouse with a tin roof. You should've listened to the racket it made! This time, I was in the safety of the office when hail the size of marbles started falling. Most of us rushed out to the sidewalks to see the hailstorm up close. Being employees of a mobile phone company, we took out our cameraphones and started taking pictures and videos of the event. Too bad none of the parked cars got smashed. :-) By the time I drove home at 7pm, the streets are still covered with white ice.

City2Surf 2006 Results

The official results for last weekend's City2Surf 2006 is out today. Putting in my bib number into the website, this is what I got:

"Congratulations! Well done Albert on completing The 2006 Sun-Herald City2Surf, you were 27588th over the line with a time of 116:58."

What's more, based on your time, they can show you video footages (three viewpoints) taken at the finish line area. Yup, that's me limping through the finish line. They also have a personalized wallpaper featuring a satellite image of the race taken at 10:13am, and a marker indicating your approximate location at that time. Cool, huh?

Monday, August 14, 2006

First freedb Submission

Yay! My first freedb submission since I started using it a few years back in conjunction with EAC. I got these two The CompanY CDs, and they're not yet in freedb. I entered the track titles, clicked a button, and voila! Both CDs' information are now with freedb.

The Anthology 20th Anniv. Celebration

  1. Didn't We
  2. Minsan Pa
  3. Everlasting Love
  4. Now That I Have You
  5. Muntik Na Kitang Minahal
  6. Pakisabi Na Lang
  7. Nescafe Frappe
  8. Pag Nagkataon
  9. Kung Kailan Pa
  10. A Different World For You And Me
  11. The Look Of Love
  12. Jambalaya
  13. Mahal Kong Radyo
  14. Hindi Na
  15. Forevermore
  16. Bulaklak
  17. Company Theme
  18. Gusto Ko Ng A Cappella
  19. GMA Kapuso Jingle
  20. Vocalise
Legends - Greatest Hits
  1. Harmony
  2. Sana Nga (Ikaw Na)
  3. Special Memory
  4. Now That I Have You
  5. Kung Nagmamahal Ka...Ako Rin
  6. Minsan Pa
  7. Back Together
  8. Muntik Na Kitang Minahal
  9. Pakisabi Na Lang
  10. Hulog Ng Langit
  11. Everlasting Love
  12. Didn't We
  13. For The Long Run
  14. Hanggang Sa Muli
If you haven't heard of The CompanY before, you should give them a try. Best mushy OPM love songs I've ever heard.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

City2Surf 2006

It was a good day to run. Not as cold as last year. Sun Herald is giving away red caps to all registered participants of City2Surf. Pray tell how come I didn't get mine. I was told they ran out of caps already. How can that be when I registered early and got to the registration booths on time? Doesn't matter, as I was wearing our corporate light blue cap.

Definitely getting older. While my legs started to buckle at the 11-km. mark last year, this time it's starting to hurt at 5 kms. I didn't even try to slow-jog uphill anymore. By my own reckoning, I finished the 14-km. run in 1 hour and 40 minutes. My knees was so sore, I rested at McDonald's for one full hour. The place is quite busy, especially after the race, so I shared tables with this old lady. She was telling me that she had been here since early morning. Her 88-year old husband joined City2Surf again this year, much to her exasperation. She said she's definitely not letting him join next year. Every few minutes, she would look at the entrance, or go out to check. I tried my best to cheer her up, as she's clearly worried. Told her that if something really happened or if he got lost, he (or somebody) will call her on the mobile anyway. By the time I left, she's still there waiting. Now, that's true love.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bargain Xbox

Not able to restrain myself any longer, I dropped of my stuff at home after work, and drove straight to Chatswood to buy myself an Xbox. I've visited Myer, Kmart, EBGames in the city and the nearby suburbs before, and they're all out of stock. I reckon Microsoft pulled back the remaining stock, so people will be forced to buy the new Xbox 360. Well, not this geek.

Toys R Us has some funny deals going on. An Xbox unit with single controller is selling for A$250. They have an Xbox Console Bundle that comes with two games. That one costs A$200. You read that right. Just for the bundled Halo2 and Forza Motorsport, I should've grabbed the deal right then and there. Good thing I didn't because Myer is selling the same system for even less. Ah, thank heavens for capitalism!