Aug 25 2016

Goodbye TAPS

Adel Gabot

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3:08PM

I don’t know how to feel about this. TAPS, or as they’re more widely known, the Ghost Hunters, is finally saying goodbye.

The paranormal investigative team is hanging up their EMF detectors, their EVP recorders and their digital cameras. After over 200 shows, 14 years and 11 seasons of investigating, Jason Hawes, lead investigator and producer, and Pilgrim Films are closing up shop on The Atlantic Paranormal Society, and taking the initiative of bowing out before the SyFy Network actually goes and cancels the show.

It’s about time, I guess.

Watching Ghost Hunters week after week has got to be my dumbest ingrained TV habit. I started watching on a lark, but somehow couldn’t get rid of them. I mock and I scoff at their antics every episode, yet I can’t stop watching them. After all this time, they still haven’t gotten a single indisputable shred of actual evidence, yet people still tune in.

Despite the seeming futility of their quest, people watch them, I think, because of their earnestness and the way they treat their chosen subject matter: dead-seriously. You just gotta love them for their honesty.

Week after week, they lay out their cameras, equip their EVP recorders and get their EMF detectors ready for a night of investigating purportedly terribly haunted locations. And they always come up empty-handed, but also, curiously, still optimistic. We’ll get ’em next time.

Grant Wilson, the other co-founder of TAPS, already left the show last year, and along the way Ghost Hunters has gone through many cast changes and developed spin-off shows, and gave SyFy their highest rated program of all time. Although in recent months, the show’s gone down the ratings—a lot. I guess people can only take so much pseudo-science after all.

Take today’s episode, for example, Children in The Attic.

The crew investigate a yacht club in Ohio, where the spirits of children are supposedly seen in the building (mostly by the kid of the current tenants), former deceased members order drinks at the bar, and helpful ghosts save overburdened people from falling down the stairs.

The show has long since settled into its rhythm, its predetermined pattern, and it’s like that this episode: first, an introduction of the week’s investigation on the drive up to the location, then a short situational video and interview with the client, then the setting up of their equipment.

Then the actual investigation, which takes up the bulk of the show’s time: wandering about the rooms in the dark with their EMF detectors, talking to the spirits and trying to catch their responses on their EVP recorders, and generally mucking about the place the whole night.

Then the next day they “analyze” their investigation, and then the lead investigators go to the location to “reveal” the results to the clients—usually garbled voices and random noise or… something like that—but hardly ever a video, and if there is, it’s vague and dubious. Then a short wrap-up on the ride away from the location, a lot of self-congratulations, and then “on to the next!”

Every friggin week.

This episode’s evidence? Very faint “sticky” footsteps rushing past the hall, electronic white noise that could be, with the help of a couple of stiff drinks, whispers of ghosts, and a low “metallic” noise coming from a corridor. That’s it. As usual.

Granted, Ghost Hunters hasn’t gone down to the level of the blown-out dramatics and outright hysterics of other shows like Ghost Adventures, but they haven’t added anything either, and the show’s become stagnant and dragging, and prone to blowing up and making the most out of the slightest noise or wishful imagining of electronic garbled “voices”.

Well, at least it lasted this long, I gotta give them that. Ghost Hunters will have its series finale at the end of the current season.

Goodbye, TAPS.


Aug 23 2016

VR!

Adel Gabot

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1:01PM

Having nothing much to do this morning (despite it being a bit rainy), I went to see if I could still catch the Playstation Virtual Reality demo they’re supposedly having at the Sony Showroom at SM Megamall. I only found out about it from a PS4 thread on the regular Mac users’ forum I moderate, PhilMUG.

I wanted to kick myself for not knowing sooner and getting a chance to try out the VR for myself, but I said, don’t get your panties caught in a bunch just yet, it might still be there.

So I went this morning, and it was.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting a blocky, pixellated demo with lousy head tracking. Instead what I got was a smooth, flowing, detailed, immersive experience you can actually get lost in. Bravo, Sony. Worth every centavo.

There was a small crowd when I got there, and there was a wildly expressive, demonstrative teenager trying the VR out. You’d think he was on the moon, from his crazy, albeit unconscious antics there on the show floor. I’m sure he felt embarrassed and sheepish the minute he took the headset off.

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I had worked my way to the front of the crowd, and immediately asked if I could try it as soon as the teenager stepped off. The demo guy obliged and asked me to sit down. I took off my baseball cap and was about to remove my glasses when he told me I could keep those on if I wanted. (It was great of Sony to make allowances for us glasses people.) Aside from the visual headset, he made me put on a big pair of cans to complete the picture.

I saw a five-minute shark VR demo, and boy it was fantastic! I was supposedly in a shark tank being lowered into the water, and I saw the various flora and fauna of the deep on my way down. I looked to my right and left, and up and down and around to the back—it was seamless and fluid. The headset tracked my every move. I saw fish, coral, turtles, jellyfish, everything. I really felt like I was there.

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It was like that until I reached the dark deep where the sharks were. Then it became scary. A great white shark loomed out of the depths and proceeded to stalk me, then attack. It bit at the cage and proceeded to tear it apart until I was out there and exposed. The great white prepared to lunge at the now-bare me and then, all of a sudden, it was over, and I had to take the headgear off.

I’m sure I looked as stupid as that teenager.

But I was pretty impressed by the demo. I’m sure in retrospect there were a lot of things lacking, like it wasn’t really that realistically rendered, and the whole tableaux was a bit dark, but I was caught up in the heat of the moment. I was sure the much cheaper and decidedly less advanced PS VR certainly couldn’t match the superior technology of that other major VR gear, the Oculus Rift, but it seemed to me today that PSVR held its own. It was just fine.

And here I was, thinking Sony was releasing the newer 4K PS4 as a way to patch the technological hole left by VR, that the older units couldn’t really handle it reliably and they needed the extra oomph to really make it shine. Yet here it was, running off a first-generation PS4, and it was doing great.

I was sold.

The problem was, Sony was only releasing 100 units in the country this year, and they’ve been sold out for weeks already. Even at the slightly higher price. I could buy it abroad, but it’s also sold out there. I can always get from the gray market, but at exorbitant prices for sure. I left my card with the demo guy just to be sure, but it’s a very long shot.

Hmm. How to do this?

 

 


Aug 23 2016

What? Beta 1? What?

Adel Gabot

8:32AM

Huh.

Apparently, the macOS Sierra beta I installed was Version 1.

I know this because when I woke up this morning, the App Store told me that Version 6 was waiting to download.

Erp.

The fact that Version 1 installed flawlessly this time and worked just… well, fine apparently was just a welcome, er, anomaly.

So I installed 6, and wasn’t really surprised to find nothing had apparently changed. Sometimes these under-the-hood changes and improvements are just plain creepy.

And while this changeover was going on, I stumble across the news that Version 7 was just released to developers and public beta testers today, just a week after 6 was released.

So after the installation, I hurried fired up the App Store, and wouldn’t you know it? “No Updates Available.

Not yet, anyway.

Guess I’ll have to wait.

But really? Version 1?

 


Aug 21 2016

Finally, Sierra

Adel Gabot

 

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11:25AM

I finally took the plunge and installed the latest beta of macOS 10.12 Sierra on my main machine.

About time, I figured. Apple just released the 6th version, and they’re getting pretty close to the Golden Master and the official release date, so I guess it’s as free from major bugs as it’s going to get. I’ve been (uncharacteristically) holding off installing since they began the beta program because I had the feeling they hadn’t really gotten their act together yet.

Trial installs of the earliest versions on other systems (my MacBook Pro, for one) have proven catastrophic. Creating a partition on my main system and installing Sierra there has also led me to a not-very-good experience. But now the time seems right. Besides, I’ve been itching to upgrade and fix my iTunes setup.

Since the disastrous screw-up and reinstall of 10.11 a few days ago, I’ve oddly lost the ability to update my iDevices on iTunes because the damn thing won’t log on to my account. I’ve had to resort to updating them to iCloud, and everybody knows how antsy that makes me. Also, I had lost my Photo library and have had to reconstitute it from the existing files. (You can see why this present setup made me uneasy.)

So, waking up extremely early and with nothing really to do today, I decided on taking a chance on beta version 6.

The install went well, if a little slow. After taking some time to download version 6 (I wasn’t even quite sure I’d be able to install 6 right away—I thought I might have go through 1 to 5, but thankfully it downloaded 6 right away), I was ready to go.

I installed Sierra right on top of my existing El Capitan system. Damn thing took nearly two hours, would you believe that? I actually thought the install had hanged a couple of times, but I’ve long learned to be patient with Macs, and finally the thing booted up.

The usual problems cropped up, like various apps and things asking for permission to connect (you can thank Little Snitch for that) and there was that previous version of Java asking to be installed for some of the older programs, but nothing out of the ordinary, and the install generally went well. A couple of programs went belly-up, but that’s to be expected with a new operating system, and we just have to wait for the updated versions.

The new version of iTunes took in my account without any problem, and I was able to restore the old backup settings of the iDevices again. I haven’t fully given in to Sierra and I haven’t connected my backup drive to the system yet, because once Time Machine backs the system up, there’ll be no going back to the old one. Maybe I’ll hold off attaching the drive until tomorrow, just to be sure. You can never tell.

But everything’s fine, and once again, I’m struck by how much the same everything is. Everything’s just as it was yesterday. Outwardly, only Siri and the Feedback Assistant icons are new on the desktop. Everything’s the same.

Brave new world? More like same old same old.


Aug 19 2016

Solving that pesky problem

Adel Gabot

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8:09AM

More on this current “video game” streak of mine on the blog:

I finally solved that damn pesky PS4 problem of mine that’s been plaguing me for over a year now: the odd, sudden and (sometimes) frequent ejection of my game discs apropos of nothing, even in the middle of play.

This glitch shockes me out of my immersive gameplay, and more often than not makes me lose my progress from the last save point. The worse thing is, the PS4 now refuses to allow any discs back inside, and I have to turn if off and on again first before it will. It’s friggin’ irritating!

Some days it will never happen, and I can play in peace for a week or so. But there are days when it will do it incessantly, and not let me play at all. It always gives that danged beep when it’s ejecting a disc, and sometimes it will beep continously even while it’s on rest mode. That when I know to stay away from the PS4 for a while.

I couldn’t very well take the PS4 in for service, for two reasons: one, it’s way out of warranty, and two, Sony wouldn’t take it in anyway even if was under warranty—it was a North American unit, not Asian. I had bought it from a guy who gets his supply from the States. Serves me right buying from the gray market.

I tried every solution on the net: removing the rubber foot from underneath the disk eject button (on the off-chance that it triggers the button when it supposedly expands from the operating heat); unplugging and restarting the PS4 cold; turning the PS4 off by continually pressing on the power button until it beeps twice and turns off, then unplugging it for three minutes before restarting it; taking off the hard drive cover and adjusting the disc screw tighter or looser, depending on the problem; or, leaving it unplugged and unconnected to the internet for a whole day.

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Nothing worked.

After a particularly frustrating moment the other day when it kicked me out of the ending portion of a level in Fallout 4, I sat down again to ponder my persistent problem.

It was then I finally realized that this problem started around the time I connected my PS4 to the new transformer all those months ago. I needed extra outlets and hooked up a small transformer I had bought at a hardware store, and as an afterthought connected the PS4 and the DS4 charger to it for convenience, and to spread the load around a bit.

Along the way I also connected a desk fan to the same setup, a fan which I later noticed sped up and slowed down periodically, owing to the electrical fluctuations from the transformer (it wasn’t a terribly expensive device).

I never made the connection. Apparently the PS4 was also being affected by fluctuations all this time, and the disc it was using was being kicked out everytime the voltage hit a high, which was an erratic but reasonably frequent occurrence. So I connected the PS4 back to the main line, and it hasn’t acted up since. It’s been two days, and everything’s just fine and dandy again.

Sheesh. I’ve half a mind to chuck that transformer in the trash.