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Sunday, August 31, 2008

EA Releases C&C: Red Alert as Free Download

Command and Conquer fans, rejoice! As part of the pre-release hype for Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3.
EA is making the ORIGINAL Red Alert 1 available for free! I don't know about you, but I'm not going to miss
this chance to get 13 years worth of nostalgia (RA1 dates to 1995/1996).

Link to the official EA News page with download instructions:


Apparently there are Vista issues (such an old game, after all) but EA says that several fansites have workarounds.
I'm still rocking XP, though, so that won't be a problem. If you've been living under a rock and still have Windows 95/98/ME,
no problems for you.

If you'll excuse me, I've got to download those two Soviet/Allied ISO files now...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Pair of ThinApp Portable Programs Now Available

Here come two new ThinApps, just in time for back-to-school!

Monday, August 25, 2008

HowTo: Make Firefox Remember Any/All Passwords

The Password Manager in Firefox is great for us lazy and forgetful types. But some websites (*cough* Yahoo* *cough*) make it hard for us and don't allow password saving by instructing Firefox to disable this feature on their login pages. The solution? Tweak Firefox itself. The following post from details the solution:

How to make Firefox remember *all* passwords (even when logging to PayPal & Yahoo Mail)

Confirmed to work with Firefox 3.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blackjack in Java - an AP Computer Science Project

Now, after the conclusion of my AP Computer Science A class/camp/summer program at Northwestern University's CTD, it's time to release the program my partner, Francis Chen, and I created as a final project - a simple text-based Blackjack game written in Java. Originally, we planned to go for a GUI version as well, but that turned out be a little complicated...

Blackjack v1.01 is licensed under the GPLv3. Features include:

  • classic casino-style Blackjack play
  • player chooses starting cash and bets
  • hit, stand or double down
  • dealer hits on soft 17 (Vegas-style)
  • insurance for dealer's ace
  • fully random card draws and deck shuffling
  • standard 3:2 natural and 1:1 blackjack payouts
  • source code included w/ comments




The download package contains source code, a Windows EXE, and a cross-platform JAR (ideal for Mac and Linux users).

On Windows: Run the EXE. Duh.

On other platforms: open a command-line and type:
java -jar blackjack-bin.jar


Monday, August 18, 2008

1337 Tip: Get Facebook Chat in Pidgin


Facebook, everyone's favorite social networking site, is packed with a smorgasbord of features, of which one of the more useful is Facebook Chat. In its vanilla form it appears as a little Ajax applet at the bottom of the screen, allowing communication with any friends of yours who are online. This works great but with one obvious limitation: you have to have Facebook active in your web browser, which can obviously be quite cumbersome when you're doing other things or have tons of other webpages open.

Well, it's actually possible to use Facebook Chat without Facebook, thanks to a nifty plugin for the IM client Pidgin. Thanks to the multi-protocol nature of Pidgin, I can have my Facebook Chat friends coexisting with my AIM buddies:

names + profile pics blurred for privacy purposes...


Profile pics, status messages, profile's all there. This appears to be a very polished plugin, and is great news for users of both Facebook + Pidgin.

Hit the link below for the plugin's project page and directions to download + install:

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Can it get any worse?

The Mummy franchise has reached its third installment, and for everyone's sake, it better be the last too. Let's make it nice and clear that this latest sequel is just plain terrible. We find our so-called heroes, the O'Connells, in China. The basic plot: they find the mummy of emperor Han; Han wakes up from his 2,000 year sleep and wreaks havoc; they manage to kill him; everyone lives happily ever after.

not nearly as good as the poster makes it out to be.

Since the events mainly take place in China, it would be appropriate to analyze and CRITIQUE the thematic elements. Firstly, the storyline is a blatant distortion of Chinese history. The "Dragon Emperor" is simply a ripoff of Qin Shi Huang, known as China's First Emperor. The presence of the Great Wall is greatly exaggerated; in the 20th century, there was very little of the Huang-era sections of the Great Wall still remaining. Needless to say, the so-called enemies buried under the wall serve only as a ridiculous action-fantasy element whose only legitimate purpose is to attract unknowing viewers. Clearly, Rob Cohen and his crew are interested only in action-rich, money-making plots, even if that calls for a complete sidestep of historical fact.

Also consider the film's glamorous portrayal of Shanghai in 1946. I appreciate your attempt to glorify Chinese life back then, but this depiction couldn't be farther from the truth. Firstly, WWII had just ended, and much of China was in the midst of a Communist-Nationalist power struggle. Nowhere to be found were foreigners and foreign businesses, such as the glitzy, neon-bling bar owned by Jonathan O'Connell. Honestly, dirt-lined streets and ramshackle slums would have been more telling of Shanghai back in the day. Obviously, some Western filmmakers don't know shit about life and culture in the East.

no neon signs here...

A major plot element is the "Eye of Shangri-La", which contains the water of immortality and is used to resurrect the Dragon Emperor. The Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) later uses it to point the way to Shangri-La, where he bathes in the water and supposedly becomes immortal. Shangri-La, though, exists only in fiction; the Eye in the movie looks nothing more than a cheap replica of a Fabergé egg. The whole thing seems to be nothing more than a stopgap solution to the plot gap created when the producers needed a way to resurrect the mummy. Again, there exists no historical basis.

looks awfully like a Fabergé egg...

Even worse are the three Yeti/abominable snowmen/whatever you want to call them. Mr. Cohen is really pulling our leg here. During the mountain battle scene these furry guys pop out of nowhere and save the day. Well, at least I can't complain about not being warned - the trailer prominently features these guys. But come ON - I'm not sure whether to be appalled or amazed that the filmmakers could stoop to such lows. When you need to use CGI'ed Yeti to get some action going, you must be really, REALLY desperate.

they must have been pretty high to even think of including Yeti...

Speaking of CGI, that in The Mummy 3 is just plain shoddy. The trailer provides some interesting eye candy, but the same cannot be said for the film. The Great Wall battle scene seems proportionally distorted; all we see is a bunch of dead guys crawling out of the dirt and fighting. And if you look closely, it is evident that all of the CGI soldiers are synchronized, doing the exact same motion at the exact same time. More evidence of this film's sloppiness...

And what's up with the shape-shifting Emperor? Like, where the HELL did the ability to magically turn into a dragon and bat planes out of the sky come from? Hey, I knew he was supposed to be immortal - but this whole morphing thing is really pushing the limits of disbelief.

The plot of Mummy 3 is simply too shallow and straightforward. Protagonists find mummy, mummy awakens and wreaks havoc, fight mummy, mummy dies, everyone lives happily ever after. It is such a mundane and predictable sequence. There is no sense of emotion, no connection to the viewers - simply a cut-and-dry, hollow action movie.

The movie's lackluster quality is evident especially to anyone who understands Chinese. As a movie that takes place in China, it is inevitable that there is Chinese spoken in Mummy 3. With the exception of the actual Chinese/Asian actors in the film, all the others (I'm thinking of you, Alex O'Connell/Luke Ford!) The Western actors' Chinese accents are very noticeable, chipping away further at what little dignity the movie still has.

Rating: ★

Mummy 3 on Rotten Tomatoes
Mummy 3 on IMDB

In short, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is relegated to only a lowly, excessively cheesy action flick. Watch it if you like that; otherwise, it's something to be passed, especially if you're big on plot (there is none.) I think it's time to wrap up this dead franchise...

Patching the tcpip.sys half-open connection limit on Windows XP SP3

P2P (especially BitTorrent) on Windows XP often find their connections throttled due to the fact that Windows XP SP2 and up impose an aritificial limit of 10 half-open connections. Filesharing and other such decentralized applications need a good amount of half-open connections in order to maintain good peer communication; 10 simply doesn't suffice in these cases.

The tcipip.sys issue has been widely discussed around the Internet, mainly because "Event 4226" Event Log warnings are generated when the connection limit is exceeded.

For users of XP Service Pack 2, several patches for raising the connection limit exist, of which the most popular is probably the patcher. That program was last updated in 2006, but it also works with the recently-released Service Pack 3 and the post-SP3 Windows updates (one of which updates the tcpip.sys to a newer version 5.1.2600.5625. I just reformatted my computer with a fresh new SP3 slipstreamed install, and I can confirm that the LvlLord patcher still works great:


Hope you find this tip useful!

Waterboarding now an amusment park attraction

Waterboarding an attraction at amusement park | Oddly Enough | Reuters

LoL - waterboarding has been made notorious by the public as a cruel and harsh
interrogation technique. Now, at New York's Coney Island, waterboarding is the new
American pastime. Simply put in a dollar and watch some robots waterboard each other!
Is this the culmination of some secret government plot to increase public awareness of the
virtues of waterboarding? As the article quotes SpongeBob, ""It don't Gitmo better!"