May 23 2016

Looking for a job. At my age.

Adel Gabot

12:19PM

I’m here at Starbucks ABS-CBN, killing time before my interiew with the HR Department guy.

Yes, I’m looking for a regular job. At ripe old age of 54. I finally decided that this freelancing thing is getting long in the tooth, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of waiting around and looking for jobs. Big and small gigs, spaced too far apart for my comfort. Five years of this can run anyone down.

And yes, I’m back in my old stomping grounds, good ol’ ABS-CBN. An opening offered itself last week, and I applied. It’s for Editor-in-Chief of an online part of the big conglomerate. Although I’m a bit miffed that I’ve had to suffer the indignity of an exam (an effing long one, I might add; two hours!) and an interview later today, giving that I left here as Copy Chief of the publishing division five years ago.

I have to admit, ABS is on the ball, for such a big company. Their notice came out last Thursday, and I applied then. They called me after lunch the same day to come in for an exam and interview the next day, but I couldn’t go and they rescheduled me for 10AM today. The other online job offers take weeks, sometimes a month before they reply.

This is the most promising one, actually. There are several openings for other (lesser) positions in the various publishing companies around, but at this point I’m willing to take anything. This one is good though, and pretty convenient for me as far as location is concerned—the pay certainly isn’t bad. But let’s not count the chickens until, well, you know.

Wish me luck.

 


May 17 2016

How to calibrate your MacBook battery

Adel Gabot

9:30AM

Do this once every few months.

a) Fully charge your MacBook.

b) Once fully charged, leave it plugged in for at least another 2 hours.

c) Remove the MagSafe power adapter, and use your computer until you get the battery level warning message.

d) Ignore that message and keep running your notebook.

e) Eventually the machine will go to sleep.

f) Do NOT plug it in. Instead, let it sleep for at least 5 hours.

g) After the time has passed, plug it back in, and let it fully charge.

h) Once fully charged, your battery has been properly calibrated.

*From Battery Health


May 16 2016

A short review of the single-player campaign of Uncharted 4

Adel Gabot

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08:04AM

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End / Naughty Dog / PS4 Exclusive

(This short review will avoid spoilers as much as humanly possible, because I realize it hasn’t even been a week since the game’s release and most people wouldn’t have finished it yet. Put this down as my good deed for the week.)

The standout set-piece in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for me was, and still is, the chase scene in Madagascar originally featured in an early preview of the game released by Naughty Dog some months ago at E3. Nate and Sully get attacked by Nadine’s goons in the capital, and a running gun battle and vehicular chase ensues. To spectacular results. You’ve probably seen that preview; it’s fantastic, to say the least. It made me more antsy to get the game, which was released just last Tuesday.

But playing it yourself in real life is something entirely different, and entirely more complicated and involved and wonderful. Uncharted 4 may be a linear game and you are prodded and poked to follow one basic path, but it certainly doesn’t seem that way.

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In a 15-minute sequence in Chapter 11, you are surrounded and shot at by endless waves of goons, hounded by an APC as you (variously) zoom around Madagascar’s winding streets in your stolen jeep; dragged through mud as you try to hang on a rope dragged by an enemy vehicle; hop, jump and skip among trucks, jeeps and bikes knocking and shooting goons down as you do; zip along on a motorcycle riding shotgun behind your brother Sam trying to avoid that deadly, pesky APC hell-bent on killing you… it’s like no other video game I’ve seen.

Uncharted 4 is like that in its entire 22 chapters, in differing degrees. The action is immersive and involving to the extent that you often forget you’re just playing a video game. The stunning thing is that all throughout, it is rendered beautifully, intricately and realistically in a manner afforded by the PS4’s advanced technology. Attention to detail is paramount in this, the last, and arguably the best chapter of the adventures of Nathan Drake.

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The game engine and graphical effects are phenomenal, from the shadow rendering and light manipulation to the water simulations, the realistic smoke and explosions, the inclement weather effects and the stunning tableaus and vistas of jungles, islands and mountains. The creators even modeled the fabric of the character’s clothes with seeming weight and texture, and when mud and grime get on them, or if they get wet, you can see the changes immediately, and the effects last for a realistic amount of time.

The animation and rendering of the characters are also so lifelike and realistic to a degree that it approaches photo-realism—you can see every wrinkle in Sully’s craggy face and count the hairs in Nate’s stubble, and these features respond to external stimuli—the hair ruffles in the breeze and the flesh contracts and bruises and bleeds when hit by a gun butt. It’s that realistic.

The eneny AI has improved dramatically too. The Shoreline goons don’t normally see you when you’re hiding from them (particularly nice is how you can now hide in the long tall grass, sometimes directly under their noses) but when they see you, they don’t ever forget you’re there. You have to keep moving and shooting, lest the destructible covers you try to find protection behind is shot up and you’re suddenly exposed. And they’d equally stomp on your fingers if they catch you clinging to a ledge beneath them as just plain shoot you.

The physics of gameplay in the game are realistic and as true to life as they could make it—save for Nathan’s climbing and rope hijinks. You can make Nate climb a tall, sheer cliff face and make it seem like a piece of cake, or jump high precipices and abysses with his rope and grappling hook; no way you can really do that, man! My fingers would break and my arms scream with agony on the second ledge I’d jump up and cling to. This is one of the few times you’re reminded that this is, after all, just a video game.

It doesn’t hurt that Uncharted 4 is a Who’s Who of talented voice actors doing the roles. It features Nolan North as Nathan, Troy Baker as his brother Sam, Richard McGonagle as Sully, Emily Rose as wife Elena, and as the heavies, Warren Kole as Rafe and Laura Bailey as Nadine. They all do a wonderful, nuanced job that gives the game a natural, realistic dimension.

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Something has to be said about working lengthy, complicated exposition into the story: Uncharted 4 thoughtfully does away with pre-rendered cut scenes and instead creates them in-game, on the fly, and in so doing removes loading times, resulting in a seamless, fluid, continuous experience. There is no waiting in this game (at least in the first run-through).

And in its downtime—the fallow, usually boring moments like when you’re just driving around the countryside or walking in the jungle or climbing up a mountain—the characters’ conversations sometimes continue in the background and manage to work in some related material you’d like to know about, the light banter interspersed with humor. It’s pretty entertaining. And if the patter is interrupted by some event, the conversation continues when the event is over—as it would in real life.

But more importantly, Uncharted 4 has a wonderful, human story, and that story is told beautifully by the writers. It’s about family, relationships, loyalty and betrayal. It’s about how you want to be remembered, what’s worth keeping and what’s worth letting go, and how to live your life when all this is over. The storytelling sets the game apart from any others, and I daresay it would just be as effective if the game was made in 8-bit mode for the original Playstation 1.

Speaking of which, there is an interesting Easter Egg—well, you can’t really miss it—in Chapter 4 and the Epilogue where the developers worked in a playable version of the old PS1 game Crash Bandicoot. You can actually play a portion of the old game, if only for a short while. It’s amazing to realize you can actually incorporate an old 8-bit game in a fancy new 64-bit one!

I have to admire the game’s rhythm and pacing though, doling out the action set-pieces at just the right time, and interspersing these encounters with flashbacks to Nate and Sam’s orphaned childhood, their time as young adults in a Panamian prison, or Nate and Elena’s domestic life in the present. All the moments are well-timed, and dealt out when they’re precisely needed.

I’ve played all the previous Uncharteds, including the Golden Abyss one for the PS Vita—so, that makes this new one technically the fifth in the series—and I’ve noticed that it’s a bit… relaxed and laid back for a modern Triple A game. Don’t get me wrong, the game is as action-packed and tense as the previous ones, but somehow the pace isn’t as forced, and there is an unhurried vibe to the game, as if Nate knows it’s his last adventure and is taking things nice and slow.

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The Naughty Dog people also advises players to also take it easy and not hurry, that you should stop and smell the roses, and not rush to get to the end to find out what ultimately happens as gamers normally do. The end will come when it comes. Meanwhile there’s the scenery to take in, moments to savor, surroundings to poke and prod, mountains to climb and islands to explore.

I tried to take their advice but honestly, try as I might, I couldn’t stop playing. I finished Uncharted 4 early Saturday night. I checked the stats after I finished, and saw that I played for a total of 20 hours, spread out over four and a half days. Such restraint.

And it looks as if the Uncharted 4 Hype Machine is finally winding down and being turned off. I haven’t seen much new UC4 pieces on any of the usual websites in a couple of days, and that’s usually a sign that max hype has been reached and is slowly receding back to normal pre-hype levels. It used to be you couldn’t avoid an Uncharted 4 review, walkthrough, best-of, or additional or new features item online.

As the game wrapped for me last Saturday night, I saw a nice, lengthy and satisfying Epilogue set years later, which, for a change, featured Nate and Elena’s pre-teen daughter Cassie (voiced by Kaitlyn Dever) as the main character (yes, yes, it’s basically a happy ending, sheesh). As the Nathan Drake theme music swells and the picture fades, you realize you’re watching the end of an era, and you won’t be seeing these guys you’ve grown to care for over the years ever again.

Oh, but what a ride its been, hasn’t it?

Sigh.

Well, there’s always replaying the game at harder levels, and there’s still multiplayer to explore and enjoy. There’s that. And you can always go back to the old games and re-experience them again.

All I can say is, its going to be hard to dethrone my candidate for Game of The Year.


May 14 2016

Finished

Adel Gabot

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9:35PM

Alright.

I just finished it.

Uncharted 4.

Despite me making a big deal about taking it slow and smelling the roses, I finished it tonight, just four days after I bought it.

I like the ending. Although a very small part of me went, is that it? It’s just that I didn’t want it to end, is what I’m saying.

The critics and reviewers were right, it was fantastic. Probably the best game ever.

Ah, well.

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(Some minor spoilers follow.)

I played it at the easiest setting you could without giving up the gunplay, because I wanted the experience of it more than the challenge. Time enough for that in the future. (There is also an Explorer mode that dispenses with all the shooting; I didn’t want that, that would be boring.)

I didn’t bother much with the treasure loot (again, that would come later), nor the other achievements in the game. I just casually got them if they were there, and I didn’t really go around looking for them.

I like the fact that they included a lengthy Epilogue in addition to the 22 chapters, showing the life Nate and Elena led years after the events of UC4. Nice that they had their pre-teen daughter, Cassie, as the main character there (voiced by actress Kaitlyn Dever, who I recognized as soon as she spoke—that and the fact that the Cassie looked like her didn’t hurt).

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And it’s also nice of them to include Crash Bandicoot a second time at the end (after that instance in Chapter 4). I can’t really get over the fact that today you can actually put a playable PS1 game within a PS4 one.

Ok.

Now on to the harder re-plays, those and the addition of game modifiers. I think I’ll start with Cel-Shading.

Full review coming in a few days.

Abangan.

 


May 13 2016

Rethinking selling the MacBook Pro

Adel Gabot

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7:47PM

Ever since I got an iPad (again), I’ve been halfheartedly trying to sell my old MacBook Pro online—to no success. All I’ve been getting are dozens of lowball inquiries and many scammers trying their level best to scam me out of my notebook. The few serious buyers have all panned out for one reason or another, and as such, the MacBook is still with me.

It’s not that it isn’t being used. Well, not as much, anyway. The iPad took much of the MacBook’s usefulness away, so it just sits in its bag, being charged up every couple of weeks just in case I actually needed it, and regularly getting updated and backed up even if it’s not being used (because that’s how I roll, man).

I do most of my work on the big-ass iMac at home, and in the event that I have to take the work outdoors, I bring the iPad mini, which is much more convenient than lugging around a heavy MacBook Pro with a short (relatively) battery life; much shorter than the iPad’s anyway.

But it’s not a bad unit, really.

It’s a mid-2010 13-inch model, and I’ve upgraded the old hard disk it came with to a 256GB SSD, which makes it work wicked-fast. I wish the big-ass iMac was more like it, actually. But SSDs are damned expensive (especially large ones), and getting the iMac’s drive replaced is an involved process involving a huge amount of disassembly and reassembly best left to someone with more experience than me. I thought about replacing the MacBook’s ancient battery, but it was still servicable if a bit limited in longevity, so I let it be for now.

So for a long time, the MacBook just wallowed in my room, a white elephant that I didn’t really need to use.

Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago, when we set up some outdoor patio furniture in the open-air garage outside in our yard, and began spending a lot of time there because it was cooler in this summer heat than my stuffy old room. At least I thought so, anyway.

Thing is, what do you do in an outdoor situation like that? How do you spend the time?

Knowing me and knowing I don’t like to be offline a lot, the best solution was: get the MacBook Pro out of mothballs and bring it down with you and work and surf at leisure!

Of course!

So the MacBook is enjoying a second life now as my secondary (my iPad mini is demoted to tertiary). I’ve set it up to mirror the big iMac as much as possible, so that my computing experience is the same no matter where I work, and it’s fine! I’ve actually done a couple of articles outdoors in my new “office.” And on days where I don’t have work, I run the old battery down surfing, Googling, checking my Twitter and Facebook feeds and writing blog entries like I’m doing now.

So I’m seriously rethinking whether or not I should really sell this notebook. The old coot finally found its second wind, and I don’t know if I should take down the ads on TPC and OLX.

What do you think? Sell or not?