Monday, June 25, 2007


Just yesterday, my laptop got infected with some malware and trojans. Serves me right. That's what you get for downloading cracked S60v3 applications for your E65. Who would've thought that a self-extracting archive will also come with a batch file that auto-runs, executing all the trojans inside? The trojans are pretty sneaky, too. My PC started slowing down and disk activity started picking up. First thing I thought of is to disconnect from the Internet. Not easy when you're using Wi-Fi. I pressed the key combination to disable Wi-Fi. Nothing happens. Sneaky malware - I'm sure it's their doing. I had to manually walk over to the cable modem to turn it off. Hopefully, the spyware agent didn't have enough time to extract my passwords and bank details and send them off to its master.

Now, this is the first time I personally encountered trojans in my many years on the Internet. A quick look at the Task Manager showed some unfamiliar processes. Not surprising. Spybot - Search & Destroy came up with a few minor culprits, but not the ones I'm sure slowing are down my system. Symantec's real-time scanner popped up a few warnings, but wasn't able to do anything. At the risk of the trojan sending off more data, I re-connected to the Internet to get Kaspersky to scan my system. After downloading an ActiveX control, plus a 7MB signature database, the scan found 5 infected executables. (Kaspersky scans, but does not remove.) I immediately deleted them all after killing them via Task Manager. Of course, I cleaned up their entries in the registry, too. HijackThis identified a few rouge DLLs that are registered as BHOs (browser helper objects) and associated with critical services like explorer.exe and winlogon.exe. You can't simply delete those DLLs because they're in use. Deleting their registry entries and deleting them with FileASSASSIN and HijackThis' "delete on reboot" function didn't work. They just kept on coming back. Killing explorer and winlogon in order to delete the DLLs also didn't work because Windows would've frozen up by then. I also tried booting from a Linux live CD, hoping to delete the rouge DLLs while they're dormant. No such luck. Pointsec encryption is so good, my Linux can't find any NTFS partitions.

So finally, this is how I licked the problem. I figured that since the bad registry entries keep being re-generated after every reboot, then they must be being injected during logoff. Using FileASSASSIN, I flagged the bad DLLs for deletion upon next reboot. Then, I took out the battery pack of the laptop for an instant shutdown. No more proper logoff. Next time I booted up, the DLLs are gone. Problem solved.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

PLAY! at the Opera House

It's a good thing that after weeks of raining, it didn't tonight. Would be bad if I had to walk from Circular Quay all the way to the Opera House in the rain. Got to the concert hall with minutes to spare.First thing I noticed is the presence of three huge screens onstage. One in the middle, just below the organ, and a smaller one on each side. The concert hall is almost at full capacity. Interestingly, the concert website is still offering an online special offer of $44 for all tickets for today and tomorrow.

Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth walks on stage and the concert opens with a light fanfare composed by Nobuo Uematsu specially for the PLAY! concert. A few opening remarks from the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Chicagoland Pops, then the orchestra played the familiar and much-beloved Mario Brothers theme. A bit slower than LSO's version, but still very nice nonetheless. While the orchestra plays, visuals from different versions of Mario Bros. are projected on the big screens. See below for the programme (as I remembered it):

  • Mario Brothers - Gave me goosebumps when the orchestra played the opening bars.
  • Shenmue - Got the Xbox version. Played it a couple of times. Thought it (the game) was a bit dragging.
  • Lost Oddyssey - New game from Nobue?
  • Sonic the Hedgehog - Knew the character, never played the games. Great visuals, very very nice soundtrack.
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Blue Dragon
  • Kingdom Hearts - Arranged by Mr. Roth himself. The Cantillation choir provided the vocal backing.
  • Final Fantasy VI (Dancing Mad) - Another big number with the full orchestra, choir, and the pipe organ all playing at the same time.
  • Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
  • Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross
  • World of Warcraft
  • Silent Hill 2 (Theme of Laura) - Composer Akira Yamaoka flew in specially to play this piece on his electric guitar. Electrifying performance.
  • Halo - Another familiar score as I've been playing this for months on the Xbox. Still stuck at the last stage where my warthog is supposed to jump over a chasm.
  • Castlevania - And the pipe organ's back.
  • Zelda - Another classic.
  • Final Fantasy VII (One-Winged Angel) - As the encore piece. Seems to be very popular with the gamers in the audience. New to me.

Monday, June 18, 2007

We're Going to PLAY! W00T!

PLAY! A Video Game Symphony comes to Australia. Saw the announcement from one of the mailing lists I subscribe to. Went to the Opera House's website, and there it was. June 19-23 at the Concert Hall. I quote: "Performed by the Sydney Symphony, conducted by Arnie Roth and backed by choral sensation Cantillation, PLAY! brings to life the award-winning music of the biggest and best games around – while massive screens, suspended over the orchestra, capture stunning gameplay sequences."

Better still, the organizers are having a special weekend web offer. Instead of the regular ticket prices of $49, $59, or $69, you pay only $44 if you book your tickets during the weekend. I really wanted to buy the tickets, but the procrastinator in me forgot all about it till Monday morning. As I feared, the special offer is gone. Not one to give up easily, I searched around the Internet until I hit paydirt.

Acting on a tip I picked up from the Atomic forums, I found out that there's a special last-minute offer for the concert. 500 tickets at $45 each - good only from Tuesday till Thursday. Simply quote 'GAMER' and you're on. (Booking fee of $7.50 applies.) Called up the box office immediately, and got my tickets.

Friday, June 08, 2007

$99 Target Bike

On an ipluse, I bought a mountain bike at the Target store in Westfield Burwood 3 months ago. I don't really ride bikes, and the last time I rode on one was like decades ago. Yet, it's such a good deal I had to buy it - Northern Star, 65cm. (26"), 15-speed, dual suspension. Original price is $199; selling price is $99.

Hauled it back home. Spent a whole morning assembling it. Parked it in my room; has been sitting there ever since. Anyone wants to buy a fully-assembled, brand-new mountain bike for only $199?