Monday, September 18, 2006

Feeling Geeky

A lot of geek/gaming/toy stuff has been happening lately and it's becoming too hard to ignore.. here are some that I am personally interested in..

1) Final Fantasy VI on the Game Boy Advance

What is it?: The SNES game that put Squaresoft (now Square Enix) on the map. This started the whole Final Fantasy frenzy, and what now has become a multi-million franchise of games and movies bearing the same title. Back then (1994ish), graphics wasn't so much an issue, as long as you have 60 hours of intense gameplay and immersive storyline.

Oookay, so what unfortunate event got you into this? Me and my two neighbor friends were into Dungeons and Dragons back then. You know, that game that requires you to have a monsters compendium book and x-sided dice, and playing it actually requires you to *imagine* you're all slaying some monsters in some imaginary land, and everything in that world is dicated by a dungeon master? (he has the highest geek factor of course, and is highly respected by the *community* lol). These were called role-playing games (hmm, it does sound geeky doesn't it). Anyway, since about that time I have an SNES console, my friends and I decided to go buy the much talked about Final Fantasy game, an RPG game, but this time we could do away with the expensive books, dice, and we don't have to bug our neighbor anymore to be our dungeon master. It turned out to be a life-changing purchase for me, and was hooked with the game ever since.

So what's the hullabaloo all about: The re-release of this game on a portable console was originally intended for the Nintendo DS, a beefed up version of the GBA. Unfortunately, I can only go as far as the GBA because I've realized that I'm not really a hardcore gaming fan. I rarely buy games nowadays, and as successful as Nintendo DS is, I don't think it would be a worthy buy for me. So I settled with the GBA and was quite content, with a hanging disappointment of the DS release announcement lurking at the back of my head. But NOW, it will be released on the GBA bwAHAHAHAH!!! Imagine the look on those DS-fanatics' faces when this was announced ahHHAHAH ha ha ha! :D

2) Lego Mindstorms NXT

What is it? It's LEGO on steroids. The third generation of Lego Technic. The first generation Lego Technic featured gears, pneumatic systems, tubes, and almost every lego block conceivable that would allow you to build a "decent" piece of machinery, usable of course in the real world. The second generation Lego Technic was called Mindstorms. It included programmable blocks that allowed you to do some.. uhh programming, essentially giving the blocks some "thinking" capabilities, plus some sensor blocks using ultrasonic and infrared. The new incarnation of Mindstorms is now called NXT, basically an upgraded version of Mindstorms, with USB and Bluetooth capabilities.

What got you into this? Ok, being an only child does have its perks. Before you say anything else, I suggest you DON'T. Hehe, with that out of the way, yeah I asked a Lego Technic (1st generation) one day on a toy department store. Not many kids would have asked their parents for such a complicated-looking and looks-barely-fun toy, if it was even considered a toy haha. The Gundam battallion lined up beside it looked much cooler with all its machine guns and armor in full glory. But the Lego proved to be too mysterious to pass up. I've lived through two basic Lego sets anyway, so I figured I could use a few more blocks to the add to my previous ones. When I got home it turned out that the Lego Technic blocks don't snap easily to my existing basic blocks. But my disappointment was easily erased when I saw the instruction booklet describing steps on how to build a forklift, using the pneumatic block that came with it. I soon found myself constructing and deconstructing a robotic hand, a racing car with steering capabilities, and even a small catapult that fires when a wire is tripped. This was way cooler than Gundam! (which I also happen to have by the way after two more trips to the toy store). Then, fast forward to college (sorry this is taking too long.. this is a geek blog entry after all, you shouldn't have lasted this far if you're a cool kid lol). Thesis. I was paired with three very brilliant Filipino-Chinese classmates to do the thesis. It was now certain that I WILL graduate haha. All we need now is a thesis project. At that time I was into *some* small time hacking. So, I was particularly interested in computer networks more than anything else. But my three thesis mates voted robotics. I was destroyed, I mean, how many computer engineers have actually succeeded in their careers creating robots?! Hackers we're a cool breed! I could probably make millions robbing bank accounts and stuff! Haha! Anyway, I stuck with the group decision and we proceeded on drafting the robot essentials. We decided to create a fire fighting autonomous robot that will find a candle in a maze and put it out. This will be a 12x12 robot of course, and the rooms will be a scaled down replica of an actual house with four rooms. So what has this to do with LEGO?? I'm getting there. We needed a mechanism that will put the candle fire out, and no a strong fan will not do it. Besides, it looks low tech with the fan. One of our options was to use a heavy C02 canister (the one used in gas guns) and control the trigger with an electrically controlled switch that would require a considerable amount of current to make it toggle. It was suicidal approach. Then I recommended a Lego solution to our thesis adviser and to my thesis mates. They laughed it off like "What do you mean Lego?? It would break under pressure if you use it as lever for the C02 canister!". Obviously no one trusted Lego as much as I did. And who said I was gonna use that damn heavy canister. That night I built a lever mechanism out of Lego and at the center inserted a contact cleaner, the one that blows high pressure air when pressed, but not as heavy and as complicated as the CO2 canister. The next morning everyone was impressed. We went on to win the Silver Thesis award. Thanks to Lego.

So what's the hullabaloo all about: Now I'm thinking if it's about time I buy myself a Mindstorm. If it weren't for the hefty price tag, I would've bought it a long time ago. But now it makes even more sense since I know programming, and the main reason for getting a Mindstorm NXT: to build my own Roomba. My room here in SG, as small as it is, gets overwhelmed with floor dust. And I can't determine where it's comin' from! My clothes probably, but there's no way I'm stripping myself naked before I get inside my room (which is the whole point of having a room). So might as well make myself a Roomba, and let it run while I'm away. It would have dusted the floor a hundred times before it runs out of battery and til I get back from work. I will call it... RAMBO.


there's three more, I'll post them later :)

[edited: terms linked to wikipedia]

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