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Bond on Bluray

UPDATE - 11/11/08 - After some more searching this evening, I've managed to discover that there is in fact already a patch for PowerDVD 7.3 Ultra (build 4407) that resolves this issue. There doesn't seem to be a straight-forward way to find this update just by using Cyberlink's site navigation. But it's fixed, so I'm happy. I just wanted to include this link should anyone be having this same problem. And on a side note, I was amazed to find my MP3.com profile as the 5th result for the Google search "bond bluray powerdvd" (without the quotes!), which I included as tags for this post. It looks like CNet has some pretty impressive search-engine optimization going on under the hood, though it is odd that my profile for MP3.com shows up and not GameSpot, TV.com, or Movietome... It's either some sort of duplicate data culling by Google, or for some reason the site code for the various CNet media sites is entirely different despite looking almost exactly the same. =====END UPDATE==================================== I've always been a pretty big James Bond fan. So when I was browsing through Target's DVD section last night and I spotted Dr. No and From Russia with Love on Bluray (with vouchers for free admission to Quantum of Solace) for $19.99 each, it was pretty much a no-brainer. I was getting two Bluray movies for $20, and two tickets to see QoS in theatres. Very cool. A few months ago, I purchased an LG GGC-H20L hybrid Bluray/HD-DVD drive for my desktop for about $120 when Newegg had them on sale. But I haven't really bought many Bluray movies so far. I picked up a copy of Terminator 2 the day that the drive was delivered. And I bought Iron Man the day that it came out. But other than that, I haven't been too keen on paying $30 for movies. Aren't we glad that there's still no competition to make prices a bit more reasonable? But anyway, when I got home last night and popped Dr. No into my PC, all I got was a black screen in PowerDVD 7. Not very cool. So I did a little googling, and it looks like there are some issues with all of the James Bond movies that have been released on Bluray. Everyone has theories, whether MGM is to blame for manufacturing defective discs, or it's some sort of issue with the Bluray disc "standard" still not being an actual standard and players are incapable of playing new releases. Whatever the story may be, caveat emptor... If you want to see 007 judo chop some fools in HD, for the moment you're going to need a PS3. The Bluray consortium seriously needs to get their crap together...

Why So Serious?

If you haven't already, go see The Dark Knight on an IMAX screen.

It is absolutely worth it. There are actually a surprising number of scenes that were shot using IMAX cameras, and it is without a doubt the most immersive film I have ever seen.

Heath Ledger is pretty much a lock for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Academy Awards. Granted, there are still about 6 months until Oscar season, but if you look at what's come and gone, and what's in the pipe, there isn't exactly a lot of competition. Not to mention that his portrayal of the Joker is absolutely amazing... I honestly couldn't have imagined a better version of the character if I tried.

Go see it. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Doing It Programmatically...

always beats manual labor. So it's been a while since I've posted anything to the old GameSpot blog. But I thought now was a good of a time as any to try and jump back in with another mind-numbingly long soliloquy... When last we left our intrepid hero, he had started a new gig at an Internet marketing firm in the foothills of Appalachia. I'm happy to report that things have gone brilliantly these last 5 months - I've made some fast friends, and the job is a blast. I actually ran across a fairly interesting problem at work this afternoon. I needed to generate an XML sitemap for a site to be crawled by Google. Prior to today, I hadn't ever had a project that required this sort of thing. So I asked around, and basically I was told that people just recycled the same class over and over again, which required manually copying and pasting the urls into a function that would generate the xml. That just didn't seem like a great method to me. So I tried to come with something a little more flexible. Essentially, my thought was this - we already have this nice html sitemap on practically every site. So why couldn't I just use that file to generate the xml version? Well, unfortunately it isn't that straight-forward, because the html sitemap is actually using php to dynamically generate the links for data-driven content, and those links don't even exist until the page is loaded into a browser and the scripting is evaluated. After an hour or so of thought, I think I came up with a fairly elegant solution. Code now, description later...
ob_start();    $ch = curl_init(URL_BASE.'/'.$this->sitemapFile);  curl_exec($ch);  curl_close($ch);    $response = ob_get_contents();  ob_end_clean();    $begin = strpos($response, $this->sitemapBegin)
+ strlen($this->sitemapBegin);
$end = strpos($response, $this->sitemapEnd)
- strlen($this->sitemapEnd);
$response = substr($response, $begin, $end - $begin); preg_match_all('regexp for matching all html link tags',
$response,$links,PREG_PATTERN_ORDER); foreach ($links[1] as $link) {
test conditions for generating xml }
So... I remember now how much I dislike using this editor, it cripples usage of quite a few html tags and keywords... Anyway, my solution initializes php's output buffering, uses curl to execute the page and generate the dynamic sitemap links (which are written to the buffer instead of the browser), saves the output buffer's contents to a string, and then cleans and closes the buffer. Next, I define the beginning and ending point of the sitemap. I made this decision because I figured that 99% of the time, the sitemap links will be inside of a div defining their sty|e (beginning point) and immediately followed by some other div like the page footer (ending point). Using this convention, I could strip out just the html containing the sitemap links and throw away the rest. Eg,
...blah,blah,blah  [div id="sitemap"] (aka the beginning string)
STUFF I NEED [/div] [div id="something_else"] (aka the ending string) blah,blah,blah...
Finally, I find any matches to a regular expression defining the contents of href link tags and store them to an array. And the last step, and really the only one that should require modification in the future, is defining the cases that determine what sort of flags to use in the xml for each link. In this particular situation, there were 5 cases out of over 120 links. It might have taken a couple of hours of thought and coding time, but I think this algorithm will prove to be very reusable for subsequent xml sitemap generation, so long as the page conforms to the convention of surrounding the html/php sitemap links with unique html tags. At the very least, I know I am glad I spent my time trying to improve upon the status quo, and I hope it turns out that I've helped to save a lot of time in the future.


Sweet merciful crap! Hopefully coming to Steam... [video=JyczlzT85bwJuTTa] You can download the 720p version of this trailer from GameTrailers.

Nothing endures but change

Today was my last day at work. The financial holding company I worked for has been purchased (pending stockholder approval) by a significantly larger regional bank, i.e. $175B > $2B. And with the probability that I would be laid-off in the all too near future being roughly greater than or equal to 100%, I thought it would be wise that I take my leave while it's still my decision. So starting January 14th I will be moving on to hopefully greater things as a software engineer for a small web development / internet marketing startup in northeast Georgia. They provide consulting to companies in the Atlanta area interested in a comprehensive internet marketing strategy, through identity development and (re?)branding, data-driven web applications, and search engine optimization. Who knew that there were awesome tech companies to work for in the boondocks? And even though I'm excited about this change in my life, I can't help but look back on this past year and feel a bit melancholy about the fact that I'm leaving some good friends behind. Despite the occasional nonsense of working in a corporate Information Technology department, 2007 was a great year. Random and unrelated thoughts -- Bioshock is one of the finest games ever made, and I can't believe I'm playing it on a 360 controller. Geometry Wars is still (!?!) devouring my life. Blade Runner: The Final Cut is fantastic in HD! Bluray is not a superior format to HDDVD. Neither is superior to IPHD content, if only the bandwidth were there for most of the US. But anyone that would suggest market competition is harmful to the consumer is an idiot. Happy New Year. Cheers!


Has a pretty scathing satire of this situation with Gerstmann getting canned from GameSpot. Pretty harsh, but still. Changing the locks to a dude's office in the middle of the week. That's clas(s)y.

I can't say that Jeff is my favorite critic, and I can see how his personality could rub management the wrong way. But I've always respected his opinion. There have been times that I disagreed, and others where I thought he just came across as jaded. But he has always been intellectually honest. I can only imagine what it must be like for his former co-workers and friends that are left behind. They'll have some tough decisions to make. And right here at Christmas time... Nice.

I've actually had a similar shock these last few weeks, as I learned that my employer is about to be purchased by a much larger corporation. We've been told that it's just business as usual and our jobs are safe for at least the next 6 months. Basically, I'm just looking forward to my interview with the Bobs. I'm actually already looking for another job, hopefully something in software. IT has been everything I thought it would be and so much more.

HL2 Episode 2 Review

I just finished up my review for Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Your feedback would be appreciated. What a great game... The story is incredible. I was actually torn between scoring it a bit higher or even a bit lower. Some of the gameplay seems a bit forced to me, as if John Peters was telling someone at Valve that they'd missed some action beats and they needed a robot dog wrasslin' a giant spider. An Evening with Kevin Smith. It never gets old. Episode 2 really is an amazing story though. I look at it sort of like the Empire of the Half-Life Episodes trilogy. Which just happens to be my favorite movie from a galaxy far, far away. And the graphics in Episode 2 are excellent. But really, pretty much everything looks bad now that Crysis has landed. Even the UT3 demo which was out about 3 weeks beforehand. Ridiculous. I think my reviews can be a bit wordy, bordering on pretentious. This one weighs in at a pretty healthy ~800, but I glossed over a lot of things I imagine your average videogame fan would want to know - what's the car like, what new weapons are in the game, etc. I also cut out a paragraph comparing the two Resistance fighters to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern... I am not kidding.

Turning a Frown Upside-Down

Holy crap, what a terrible freakin' day. I wonder if I at least got any decent spam? We can't be using company bandwidth for personal......... What the...? :shock: ...Kick ass.

This Is No Longer A Vacation...

It's a quest! It's a quest for fun! My paid vacation is just around the corner, and I have to say that I'm at a bit of a loss. I've never (A) had a job that actually offered me paid vacation, or for that matter (2) had enough money that I could even consider taking one had said time been offered to me to begin with. Being the nerd that I am, I'm actually leaning towards attending this year's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Also, having never had (and never will have :() the opportunity to attend an E3, PAX seems like a pretty fair substitute. Games aside, I dig Jonathan Coulton (site's apparently down at the moment) and the Minibosses, so it should be pretty cool to check them out in person. I've also never visited Washington state before, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm pretty sure GameSpot will be covering the event as well, so maybe I'll get to meet some of the folks while I'm there... Which would also be pretty cool. I haven't had much free time lately. I usually end my days just staring at the TV for a couple hours every evening and then going to sleep. But whenever I get a chance (usually two or three hours on the weekends) I'm working my way through Command & Conquer 3. Fantastic game! The gameplay feels exactly like the gold-standards of the C&C games from the 90s, and the graphics are really impressive. The FMV sequences are bad, borderline awful really. Maybe that's what they were going for? But I don't remember C&C and Red Alert being this bad. Billy Dee seems like he was just phoning it in, and the rest are either really good at acting campy or were in dire need of a real director. I actually bought the game a couple of weeks back, fully intending to play in the recent C&C3 tournament here on GameSpot. But then I completely forgot about it...