Tuesday, September 05, 2017

YKLS Rocks: Highlights

Our director, Ian, always tells us to remember how we feel and treasure the memories of the moments during the production and there were definitely some good ones when we joined back this year:

The best memory we have? When both groups finally get to view what each has done in terms of choreography and arrangement for the Sing-Off songs. For Mr Brightside, Kathleen started flirting with all men, and the shocking reveal that Justin was her beau had our jaw dropping.

Other stuff...

During the twice weekly rehearsals, it was split to have the directors work with Rockabye Baby on Monday and Undecided on Wednesdays. Except due to time constraints, the other group usually heads upstairs to rehearse and figure choreography. Or in one case for Undecided, to sit down, chitchat and eat salted egg yolk fish skin snacks.

When Ui Li first joined in rehearsals to play the piano (after the second half group songs were nearly finalised), the Undecideds were sitting near the piano. Except we weren't really sitting, a bunch of us (especially Serene) were up and jumping and rocking to Viva La Vida and Mr Brightside.

Rachael's initial rock band name!

Dressing room burns by Tristan:
Simon Chong: Tristan, how do you say, "Welcome to the YKLS 15th Anniversary concert?"
Tristan: We say it in English.
Simon: NO. NOOOOO.

- and another time when Justin came in with a wet plastic bag -

Us: But why is the bag wet?
Justin: I washed it because it was sticky with banana sap earlier. The bag's still good, so...
Us: Ah, going to reuse the bag la.
Tristan: Why, Justin? Are you in financial trouble?

Hmmm again as in earlier productions, we take a fair bit of photos and videos early on in the year (although mainly to be used for promoting on social media), but come actual showtime to the end we sort of fatigue out and so don't really have much behind-the-scenes photos during bump-in/post-show or even cast party. While during these time we'll see loads by other members.

The rock songs chosen by Serene and Justin to be played pre-concert during the group rituals - just like how in prior productions the sound tech would play pop songs and Lex would even do choreography as it it was a Zumba class.

'Passing the energy' this year not as Morse code crazy as it was during Illuminations! Phew.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Pros and Cons

Talk about timing.

When iOS 11 public beta launched to the public, we thought, "Hey, why not try it on our iPad mini 3 since we don't really use it as a daily driver. Plus iOS 11 is meant for the iPad rather."

And so we did. Did it with eyes open that there may be crashes, battery drainage, etc.

And what with our timing, after installing the public beta, our iPad usage increased. Not because of the added productivity iOS 11 brings - drag and drop doesn't work with all apps yet and the iPad mini 3 doesn't have split screen - but because of universal apps and choir.

Yeah choir.

We decided to splurge on Notion to create midis of the songs we're learning (as reference to practise our parts), because being able to do it anywhere on the iPad rather than having to do it when we're in front of our PC had a certain appeal. While it took a bit of learning what we can do on Notion and its limitations, we're happy enough to be using it quite a fair bit.

So long as it didn't crash. And if it did, fingers crossed it saved most of our work.

And asides from midis, we've been helping out with photo editing as well. And for that, we have Pixelmator.

(Here we take a moment to really regret installing iOS 11, as we no longer can use Photoshop Touch - our go to app for photo editing on the iPad. Honestly the level of control we had when tracing the outlines of people with a stylus on the iPad was so much better than magnetic tracing using a mouse.)

For the most part, Pixelmator does a great job. Took a lot more figuring out where things were and how it works, but for simple edits it was great. iCloud syncing meant we can work on either iPad, iPhone or on the Mac (we bought the Mac version as well because it was so much more affordable compared to Photoshop!).

And then there's Pages for taking notes. Prettier than Google Docs.

But we're not sure if it's the processing power of the iPad mini 3, or the bugginess of iOS 11, or a combination of both but there were times when doing any sort of work would feel like our iPad isn't able to cope until it resets. And even when it doesn't feel like a memory issue, photo editing can sometimes be a tad...slow.

Such that it's got us itchy for the iPad Pro 10.5".

We've tried the Smart Keyboard and it feels comfortably spaced enough for us to touch type. And there's the Apple Pencil. Both which would be useful.

Overall this adds up to a bill of RM4k which makes us think more than twice actually. Considering we are also curious about the new iPhone 8/iPhone Pro/iPhone Edition which would prob be RM5k++.

We know, if we do consider seriously the iPad Pro, the moment we get it...the choir production will be over and there won't be much heavy use by then -_-"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Making the Switch

When Nintendo first announced the Nintendo Switch with a teaser, it ticked all the boxes of what we wanted to match our gaming style - portability. Given how we don't really sit in front of a telly (nor have one in our bedroom), we couldn't justify a PS4 even though there are some titles we were interested in: Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, Rise of the Tomb Raider, probably could start the Uncharted series...don't think we'll try out Dark Souls though. Even our games from Steam and Good Old Games have been rather dormant, sigh. Most of our gaming is done on the iPhone and 3DS because we can play anywhere (especially in bed), and the days of playing on a PS2 or a Wii are long gone...

So the Switch teaser got us excited as it not only connects to a telly for a bigger screen experience but you can bring it anywhere! Size-wise it looks between a 3DS and an iPad mini, which is great because we rarely use the iPad for consistent gaming (gosh we haven't continued Grim Fandango in ages...). We even had a rough idea of our setup - the dock can go to the Chief's pad, where there's less competition for the telly, and we can get another cable for the Switch to charge it wherever we are like with all our devices.

So we've gotten our Nintendo Switch and started playing Breath of the Wild, and...

...this game, coupled with the Switch, is sapping our life.

With the previous portables like the 3DS and iOS games, the games we play there are designed for short bouts of gaming (doing a quest in Monster Hunter, some rounds in Street Fighter IV, a quick game of Magic Puzzle Quest...) so the stops allow you to call it quits after a while.

Not so with the Breath of the Wild. The open world means explore wherever you like and however you like: that mountain looks interesting? Climb it. Suspicious looking rock formation in the distance? Let's go check it out. Probably get distracted by the Shiekah Sensor going off and end up trying to hunt for the hidden shrine instead.

And the next thing you know the sun is rising.

"OK, better not play tomor-, tonight. Need to catch up on lost sleep."

Come night time..."Hmm let's play a short while lah, we forgot all about that rock formation. Finish exploring that bit then tutup."

Oh look the sun is rising again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chores A-Side Effect

Given we have a long weekend, it was time to buck up and finish our Christmas decorating. This year we're missing the enthusiasm to decorate and have only made do with the main Christmas tree in the living room - no wreath in matching colours, no additional Christmas decor sprinkled all over the place.

So, today's plan was to at least have the Christmas wreath up on the front door grille.

Only...if it was as straightforward as that.

First up, remove the decoration currently on the door grille. This has been up for most of the year, so the grille's all dusty. And rusty too... So. Remove the plastic wrapped around the grille's (to prevent the decorations from scratching the grille). Wash the grille (Daiso's range of microfibre cloth with plastic handles make the job a bit easier), then spray some WD40 on.

Let it air, while cutting up new plastic sheets (we use book wrappers) to cover the grille (because the wreath has a wire base).

Next up, the main door and the door frame itself. A year of dust has been caught on the door and frame (since we get the wind blowing into the front of the house - the porch is littered with leaves every day ugh), so we've to wipe all that off.

OK now that the grille's dry, wrap up the grille bars that will be in contact with the wreath. Tape them up, and it's time to hang the wreath and decorate.

That part is pretty straightforward. We'd already set aside the ornaments meant for the wreath so it's just a matter of randomly hanging it about.

Now throughout all this we've been walking in and out of the house, and it's been very dusty so we'd to keep washing our feet every now and then because we do not plan to mop up today. Still, this meant the toilet's wet and we notice it's been a while since it's been washed.

Get the bleach, get the plastic broom, a quick scrub, and we're done.

Christmas decorating? 15 minutes.

Associated chores? 2 hours.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cumulative Upkeep

We have so many games to play, and a fair few of them have daily check-in rewards or timers (due to their nature of being free-to-play) that it's sometimes ridiculous how much time we've to check in the games now.

But then most of the games are entertaining, which is why we still play them.

At this moment we have:
  • Tiny Tower (started replaying since their 5th Anniversary Update)
  • Pokemon Go (now with the daily rewards)
  • Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest
  • Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World
Tiny Tower doesn't take much upkeep, so long as we check in once a day and tap to launch fireworks. Pokemon Go is a bit more challenging as we ought to get to a Pokestop at least once a day - we missed it once and now our Pokemon caught and Pokestop check-in streaks are 2 days apart.

The biggest culprits now are Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest and Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World - these two games seem to eat into a bulk of our time now. With Fantastic Beasts, while we are limited by the amount of energy available, the energy recharges fairly fast that we can play every hour or so if we wanted to. As as for MtG Puzzle Quest? It can be endlessly engrossing as the game model keeps giving you freebies. It doesn't really lock away any cards from you i.e. pay to obtain rare cards, although it is slower when getting them through the in-game events or challenges or daily rewards.

That means we actually do end up spending a few hours in a day playing these games. Looking at the games right now, we're likely to stop Tiny Tower once we've built all the floors, and Fantastic Beasts when we've finished all the cases.

Pokemon? Hah. Just heard there's going to be an update with more Pokemons.

MtG Puzzle Quest? Even worse. This is the most Magic we've played (Magic Duels is just hogging up space on our iPad), because the quick game time works for us (hey, match-3). The gameplay flavour does match the card game mechanic and flavour (like colourless mana being colourless gems and how the Eldrazi interact with them).

The only way we're going to wean off these two games is if we have no Internet access at all for a good period of time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

3DS System Transfers

In all our experience with Nintendo's handheld consoles, we've only ever started having issues with it starting from the 3DS. With the rise of the Nintendo eStore and downloadable games and content it was hard not to compare it with Apple's iOS devices and the App Store / iTunes Store.

Example: we buy an app from the App Store. This registers the 'license' for that app to our account. Then we can easily download that app on any of our devices - the iPhone and iPad basically. It doesn't seem to be that way with the Nintendo eStore? Then again, not everyone owns more than one 3DS really and we suppose it's supposed to work the same way as if buying a physical copy of the game (that is, you need two copies of the game for two devices). True that it doesn't make sense owning more than one console at a time...

Then there's transferring content from one 3DS to a newer 3DS (hey, sidegrade upgrade!).

With an Apple iOS device, just back up the entire thing via iTunes, plug in the new iOS device, Restore From Backup and done. We've done this a fair number of times when we upgraded from our iPod Touch to an iPhone and even to the iPad (this was before iCloud came and made cross-syncing so much easier). Syncing via iTunes had its own set of headaches but overall we understood the process.

Transferring data from one 3DS system to another? In this case, from the 1st-gen Nintendo 3DS onto the 'New' Nintendo 3DS XL?

To be honest it wasn't really difficult from a technical standpoint. No need to install special software and there's big friendly buttons telling you what to do. It was just a slightly more complicated 'cut-paste' from the SD card of the old 3DS onto the microSD card of the new 3DS, along with wireless transferring of data from console to console.

However, it still was no easy task.

First we had the choice of transferring data either wirelessly, or by using a PC to copy over data from SD card to microSD card.

Totally transferring data wirelessly would take goodness knows how many hours given we got the 3DS early on, with the Ambassador status and downloaded content. We could try leaving it overnight but we didn't really want to wait it out.

Transferring using a PC, that was a whole other level of stress as you need to prepare a few things. A few things are required, that in this day and age, isn't something really commonly found any more when we plan to transfer to the 'New' Nintendo 3DS XL.

1. The "New' 3DS XL requires a small Philips screwdriver. The kind one uses to tighten the screws in spectacles. Without that we can't open the back panel to remove the microSD card.

We'd dug about the house looking for the small Philips screwdriver. We knew there ought to be a set somewhere, we hazily recall seeing it before in a drawer somewhere. If everyone in the family had perfect eyesight that's it we'd have to do this another day, not at 11pm when all the shops are closed.

2. A computer with a SD card slot isn't enough. We needed an adapter for the microSD card as well.

If we had never used digital cameras, this would be another problem. Nowadays where most people make do with smartphone cameras, what's the likelihood of keeping around a microSD card reader / adapter? Thankfully we knew where we stashed all our accessories, and so we just needed to test them out to make sure that our Mac could read the microSD card.

Our Mac mini has a SD card slot so at least we could try reading both SD and microSD cards for data before finally beginning the transfer. It wouldn't do if we started the process only to find out that the SD cards couldn't be read by the Mac and we had to dig up a Windows PC! In fact, we actually did set up a laptop running Windows to do this, only to find out that the laptop didn't have a SD card slot (and we didn't have a working USB SD card reader).

3. Then, knowing how tricky file systems can get with NTFS and FAT (because we're using a Mac), we were worried about the SD and microSD file systems - what if we can copy from the SD card but not copy TO the microSD card? Checking the properties of the cards, it's stated that they're in a MS-DOS file format. Okay, we're not sure but we guess it's possible (since the Nintendo webpage guide mentioned using Finder on Mac).

We'd already watched the tutorial video and read through the guide, but it was still slightly stressful making sure we had everything on hand before we began - we didn't want to be stuck halfway!

Beginning the process and the 3DS consoles tried to calm us down by showing Pikmin 'carrying' data from one system to another. It worked.

Then came the tricky bit, once all the necessary data was initially transferred wirelessly. Now's the bit where we have to remove the SD card from the old 3DS and copy them over to the new 3DS. The instructions kept cycling through on the new 3DS on what we needed to do, until we gave up tapping through the pages and pressed the Power button to turn the console off.

The old 3DS, on the other hand, showed the screen as if setting up the 3DS for the first time! Should we continue? Would that wipe the SD card contents? We decided to leave the setup screen as it is without continuing, and ejected out the SD card (so much easier on the old 3DS, no unscrewing required).

Inserted both cards into the Mac...deleted the contents of the microSD...drag and drop contents from SD card to microSD card...eject...yes! Success!

And so, after all that stress, we've finally migrated all data from the old 3DS onto a New Nintendo 3DS XL Monster Hunter Generations Edition!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Affording A New Automobile

Aidan's been in the family for eight years now. Unfortunately with autos, one can't (or rather, shouldn't) really hold on to them for too long whatwith depreciation, servicing and possible replacement of parts that break down...

Then the Chief got a new car last year. And so, we thought we might as well start 'scouting' around to see what we may want to consider when we ourself would change cars.To be honest we weren't really interested in cars. The only cars that caught our attention were those that had flashy techy stuff inside - like the first time we sat in a Citroen and there was a digital tachometer on the dashboard, or the Prius with all it's buttons.

Not being savvy about cars, the things we're looking for in a new car?
- the infotainment system, which definitely has to have Bluetooth connectivity with our iPhone, and better yet if it comes with CarPlay so we can futureproof against having to upgrade the infotainment system anytime soon. Bonus if it comes with GPS!
- something that can go faster with less engine, road and wind noise!
- the techy bells and whistles such as keyless entry and push-to-start, auto lights and rain sensors etc

Our biggest mistake? Test driving the Ford Focus first.

The moment we got onto an empty stretch of road and the sales agent got us to floor the accelerator...we were brought back to them Daytona days where you just wanted to rev up and go fast. That pretty much ruined the driving experience for all our other test drives where a slower smooth drive was the main idea. Got in the car, stepped on the accelerator, and...meh. We know, we know, it ain't as if we're driving a racing car or summat but still...

Tried the much-advertised self-parking feature too. In an empty basement car park, the Focus ignored most empty bays until it detected a pillar, and then began parking there...and ended up taking up two bays. Well perhaps it would perform better with other cars around. Just as well we're quite capable with parallel and reverse parking. heh.

Of course, what we were looking for in a car wasn't really based on practical reasons...whenever we went, "Ooh this is nice," we had the Chief telling us, "How much is the car?" In getting a new ride the Chief had set the budget first and then picked the car. In our case, it's more of having certain specifications and then picking a car that fits that within acceptable budget. So keeping 'acceptable budget' in mind, we test drove the Ford Fiesta as well. And it was also fun!

To be honest if we didn't test drive the Ford at all, we might have just gone with a Honda Jazz. Or City. Or the new Mazda2 (except that we didn't test out the Mazda2 until quite late, as the rest of the family's driving Mazdas and we wanted something different). Decently priced with satisfactory infotainment system. Somehow not the Toyotas, they've not appealed to us somehow.

But we did, and that pretty much coloured our experience for all the other test drives: "It wasn't as fun." To be honest we didn't try out much...the Honda Jazz, the Renault Captur...the Mazda2 did give a good impression too, it had a more premium and modern feel compared to the Fiesta. Didn't try out the VWs too. Even when comparing specifications as listed on the car companies' webpages, it boiled down to "comparing it against the Fiesta".

With that kind of mindset, yep, we got ourself the Fiesta.