Sunday, August 31, 2008

An IT Technician's Plea

For the past five days, I've been doing some summer work for my college's IT department. I'm stationed in a small office in the library's foyer that we've dubbed the IT Triage Unit. It serves (in theory) to keep students with simple computer problems from rushing down to the basement office where the higher-ups are handling their heavy pre-semester load. In theory, this is a beautiful idea, and would be a great permanent addition to the IT services offered by the school.

In practice, however, it could be described as a clusterfuck. Le cluster de fuck, as the pseudo-French may say. From the never-ending line of freshmen with laptops (and even desktops!) in hand to the belligerent, overbearing parents, it's been a trial all the way. This, of course, is really no one person's fault. It's the first time we've tried this, and we've got a lot to learn about how to streamline it. Still, there are a lot of specific things I wish that students and faculty alike would keep in mind throughout the year, just to keep the deluge of people in our IT office to a minimum. They are as follow:

1. For the Sweet Love of Jesus, Try it Yourself FIRST
I know computers are scary. I know that. They're especially scary, I suppose, if you've been using AOL on your mum's computer for the past eighteen years, and have never had to actually do anything on one. Still, you're legally a grown-up now, and not as many people are going to gently cut you slack for not putting forth an effort to understand new things. Many harried IT techs are none too happy to delay the four other people behind you in line because you couldn't be arsed to investigate the problem yourself.

2. We Can Tell When You're Lying

Really, we're here to help, not pass judgment. Well, we will pass judgment. Just silently and privately. If we ask if you have a pirated OS, do not lie. It only makes it more difficult to figure out why the network hates you. We won't send you to the PoPo to be locked up. Similarly, just be honest when we ask if you use Napster or Limewire or some shit. Really, we don't care.

3. Hide Your Embarrassing Shit

There's nothing more awesome than when the tech opens up your laptop to discover that awesome picture your friends took of you doing shots topless. It's even better when you're not of drinking age. Hell, it's still great when you've got porn sites and FapChan set to open when you start your browser. That makes checking your internet connection really fun.

Yeah, this shit takes five minutes to do. Those five minutes will eliminate those knowing stares from the techs.

4. If It's Free, It Might Kill Your PC

You can do your part to keep your PC from violently bursting into flames by not downloading toolbars, free game packages, MySpace utilities, and WeatherBug. Remember: If you bought a PC two months ago and it's already slower than fuck, it's probably not the poor computer's fault that you've essentially opened it up and poured liquid shit into it. Figuratively speaking, of course.

5. Windows Vista Hates You
It just does. For all its touting of higher security and greater usability, it's still obtuse, and doesn't keep you from easily murdering your own computer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GaoGaiGar: Become Light, Bitch

Over my summer break from college, my younger brother introduced me to GaoGaiGar, a giant mecha anime with enough hot blood and toyetic design to choke even the most seasoned whore. Notably, the show is widely accepted to be an homage to classic giant robot series like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo.

The series stars (among others, who arguably matter far less) Shishiou Gai, a man with crazy hair and no body. Note that he is not a crazy man with no body hair, as that title is reserved for Hyuuma. Gai was an astronaut (at the age of 18, perplexingly) until his ship was smashed to niblets and an intergalactic robot lion saved him from certain death. The technology inside the giant mecha space lion enabled Gai's scientist father to build his son an awesome cyborg body that is so neat that I could flap on about it for several paragraphs. I won't. I will end the topic now.

The giant, transforming mecha that Gai pilots (fuses with, whatever) is excessively toyetic. For the unaware, the word 'toyetic' implies that the item or character described would make for excellent merch. GaiGar and its assorted forms and robot pals all have the level of flashy googaws and attention to detail to make fantastic toys and models. This doesn't change the fact that they're totally sweet to look at; in fact, that's kind of the point.

I could continue to go on about the characters, the mechs, who's awesome, why Hyuuma is the Incredible Hulk, and so on, but I shan't. As far as I'm concerned, the main issue is the nature of the show itself. It's an unflinchingly cliche giant robot series, which is not surprising in and of itself. What is surprising, however, is that it was created in 1997, only a year after the deep ripple of angst and edgy whininess that Neon Genesis Evagelion brought to the genre first started its trip to the edges of the pond. GaoGaiGar was a cheesy, hot blood-fueled orgy of yelling and giant hammers conceived and released in an era when that just wasn't the cool thing to do. Further, the series is so extreme in its regression to happier times that it comes off as a six story-tall middle finger to all the posturing emo bollocks that Eva and its ilk stand for. There's nothing even remotely psychological or deep about it, and that's great. Even better, it makes no apologies for this.

One of the charming features of the series is that, while it may not apologize for the crazy shit it does, it often has a stunning degree of self awareness. Instances of characters taking a little breather in the middle of their shouting are a good example of the kind of lampshade hanging done. One episode featured alarmingly equal-rights fanservice culminating in a short scene of an enormously muscled naked man going to town on an unfortunately placed joystick.

It's refreshing to see 90s mecha that isn't riddled with angst and dramatic 'fuck you's to the audience. There's just so much (for me, at least) to enjoy in this series. I think that, for some, a lot of the entertainment value may be lost if you don't 'get' the jokes and references. One character, for instance, becomes ten times as tolerable and interesting when you realize that he's basically Cyborg 002/Jet from Cyborg 009.

The best part, for me, is that the series is fun. It's got great robot design, it has consistently upbeat and cool music, the fights are numerous and entertaining, and it doesn't fuck with you. Gai is not the demons, the characters don't walk around with signs on their chests reading, "I will die or turn evil," and none of the fights end in an elaborate 'fuck you' in order to keep viewers so nervous and depressed that they continue to tune in in lieu of leaving the house and finding a girlfriend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

3D Custom Shoujo Review

Last week, I was browsing an imageboard, as I am wont to do when not enriching my life by riding motorbikes and eating good cheese. I found a thread mentioning a game called 3D Custom Shoujo, which allows you to create female characters to populate your creepy romantic fantasies. Intrigued, I got myself a copy and fired it up. After a few minutes of tinkering with the disturbingly deep character generator, I started to feel like I might be giving Hitler competition for the title of "History's Greatest Monster."

The level of customization that you can go into is frankly astounding. In fact, it's amazing to the point of being out and out creepy. The entire concept of god-type games that allow you to create and control AI-driven things for your own sick amusement is a little creepy. There is, of course, always a natural progression from 'loving god' to 'bored god.' When you go from raising Sims, to burning Sims, to making Sims that look like people that you hate just so you can burn them, the transition is complete. This game, however, really gives you no option not to take the indulgent, hedonistic path of using your creations for your own twisted fancies. You're more or less expected to ogle and molest your creations. I'd feel like a hypocrite if I didn't express some relief over the game's frankness, since I loathe media that would otherwise be purely entertaining if it didn't try to apologize for the fact that all it has to offer is its entertainment value. So, yes, I'm relieved that the game is at least honest in its intent.

It's unfortunate that the game suffers from some very obvious clipping errors, even with items that are hard-coded into the game. I can forgive the lack of separate voice options and the oft-times wacky camera control, but the clipping is painful. It can't be that hard to fiddle with the physics long enough to keep shoes and arms from phasing through clothing and tits.

Koharu here took me three minutes from start to finish to create, from opening the program to closing Photoshop after resizing the screenshot. In about two minutes, I made a fair representation of a vague idea in my mind, and was satisfied with it. Furthermore, I needed no mods to do it.

Oh, about the mods. They're plentiful and largely screwed up. They range from understandable things like packs that allow you to create male characters and familiar characters, to mods dedicated to making amputees. I've asked a friend to challenge me to build a girl to his wild speculations. Hoping to vex me, he requested a girl with drills for hands.

I sure showed him.