First wave of Black Friday purchases arrive

I just got the Logitech V450 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks (Black) and the Western Digital WDML5000TN My Passport Elite Portable 500 GB USB 2.0 Hard Disk Drive (Titanium) I ordered during Black Friday sales today.

I bought the Logitech V450 Nano to use when I travel with my notebook. I still prefer my corded Logitech MX518 for playing games (especially first-person shooters), but the V450 Nano will be much more convenient for browsing, e-mail, and other “every day” use when not at home.

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Customize your DS Lite or DSi with a cell phone charm or phone strap

While reading about Capcom’s upcoming Amaterasu phone strap, it struck me that most DS Lite and DSi owners in the US and Europe are probably unaware that the two small holes in the back of the DS near the cartridge slot can be used to attach cell phone charms or phone straps.

Click the thumbnail below for a full-sized photo of the back of an Onyx DS Lite with the two holes used for attaching cell phone charms and phone straps circled in red.

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Click below for a full-sized photo of my an Onyx DS Lite with maneki neko (fortune cat) cell phone charm attached:

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Very few brick and mortar stores in America sell cell phone charms or phone straps. I recommend the following stores for purchasing cell phone accessories online:

Strapya World specializes in cell phone accessories and has an extensive selection of cell phone charms and phone straps, including items based on popular anime and video game franchises like Hello Kitty, Final Fantasy, Death Note, My Neighbor Totoro, Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Sgt. Keroro.

Here are five example cell phone straps from Play-Asia:

  1. Gurren Lagann Mini Gurren Team Strap Figure: Simon with drill
  2. Gurren Lagann Mini Gurren Team Strap Figure: Simon on Gurren
  3. Gurren Lagann Mini Gurren Team Strap Figure: Little Gurren Brigade
  4. Gurren Lagann Mini Gurren Team Strap Figure: Kamina
  5. Gurren Lagann Mini Gurren Team Strap Figure: Yoko

For instructions on attaching a cell phone charm or strap to your DS Lite or DSi, click past the break.

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How to install a custom campaign on a Left 4 Dead dedicated server

Valve recently updated Left 4 Dead third-party support, providing players with more user-friendly methods of playing custom campaigns. Most people will be satisfied with hosting or joining local servers (i.e. games hosted on players’ home computers), but some players will be interested in playing custom campaigns on dedicated servers.

This brief guide will only cover campaigns packaged in the .VPK format. For technical information on .VPK files, read the VPK article on the Valve Developer Community wiki.

This tutorial is designed for server admins with remote access to their servers. Server admins with local access will need to make slight adjustments to the instructions.

Server-side Installation

  1. Download the campaign. For this tutorial, I’ll use Detour Ahead.
  2. Extract the downloaded archive file to any directory on your hard drive. In the case of Detour Ahead, the archive file name is 230609-bbls-detour.zip.
  3. Open a FTP client. I use and recommend FileZilla.
  4. Log in to your game server via FTP.
  5. Upload the custom campaign .VPK file from your computer to your dedicated server’s left4dead/addons directory. Click here for a screenshot of the FileZilla user interface for this step.
  6. Upload your addonlist.txt from your local Left 4 Dead install (default directory is C:Program FilesSteamsteamappscommonleft 4 deadleft4dead) to your dedicated server.
  7. Restart your server.

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Wii Fit, Day 7

My wife and I purchased a notebook computer from Best Buy in Feb. 2009. (No, the title of this post wasn’t a typo or an incorrect paste; this is relevant.) One year, 3 months, and 10 (yes, ten) phone calls to Reward Zone support later, I finally received the long overdue Reward Zone certificates last month (May). Since I am currently unemployed and since most items of interest at Best Buy cost significantly more than the total value of the certificates, I had decided to watch sale bills until something inexpensive struck my fancy.

I had also been eyeing Wii Fit for a few months, but the $90 price point delayed the purchase. (You can probably guess where this is going.) After confirming that Wii Fit was not on sale at any reseller, either online or B&M (brick and mortar), my wife and I decided to purchase the exergaming megahit.

We brought the Wii Fit bundle, complete with Balance Board, home last Friday. I read the manual and set up the Balance Board later the same night; my wife and I started our Wii Fit journey the next day.

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Wii Homebrew Browser “Unable to initialize network” error solution

If you are receiving the “Unable to initialize network” error when launching the Homebrew Browser application from the Homebrew Channel, press the Home key to return to the Homebrew Channel, wait for the globe icon in the lower-right corner of the screen to stop blinking and remain solid, and launch the Homebrew Browser again.

The globe icon in the Homebrew Channel indicates the network connection status. If the icon is blinking, the Wii is still trying to establish a network connection. If the icon is lit and solid, the Wii has established a network connection.

If the globe icon continues blinking after 30 seconds or if it is grayed out, check your Wii’s network connection settings.

Purchased video capture hardware

A friend of mine is selling some of his old hardware. Among the phat l00t available were two video capture devices: the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-350 and the WinTV-PVR-USB2. Since both allow for recording from RCA inputs (read: video game consoles), I decided to purchase both.

After I pick up the items and install the WinTV-PVR-350 in my desktop computer, I plan to record videos of rare and import console games, including Puyo Puyo Box for the Playstation, Super Puzzle Fighter II X for the Dreamcast, undub versions of Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 for the Playstation 2, and Tatsunoko v. Capcom for the Wii. When I record the videos, I plan to upload them to my YouTube channel.

I don’t know when I’ll be traveling to pick up the items, but it will likely be around late May or early June. Watch this site for further updates.

Port forwarding configuration for Unreal Tournament 3 co-op campaign play

Unreal Tournament 3 shipped with a campaign mode that was pretty meh if played alone, but much more fun if played with friends. Unfortunately, configuring one’s router to allow hosting of online co-op campaign games can be frustratingly complex. Epic has provided no official documentation on the subject, so UT3 owners have been left to figure out which ports to forward for themselves.

There are already several great guides with instructions on discovering your computer’s IP address, changing your router’s configuration, and forwarding ports, so I won’t cover that in this article.

You could place your computer in your router’s DMZ, but that opens all ports on the computer to the Internet and presents a serious security risk.

Instead, here’s a list of UDP ports (not TCP) you’ll need to forward to get online co-op campaign play working:

  • 6500
  • 7777
  • 8767
  • 9989
  • 13000
  • 49152-65535

I need to conduct further tests to determine whether all ports listed need to be forwarded to allow for online co-op campaign play, but I have personally tested these settings and they work for me when no other configurations I found during my long search worked.

Games appear overly bright, washed out on Dell Studio notebook computer

If you recently purchased a Dell Studio notebook, you may have noticed that games like Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Unreal Tournament 3, and other graphics-intensive games appear overly bright, faded, and washed out on default brightness settings.

DON’T PANIC!

There are steps you can take to alleviate, if not entirely eliminate, poor in-game image quality issues produced by the Studio’s default settings:

  1. Turn down in-game brightness settings. Brightness controls differ for each game, but are usually located under an Options or Settings menu.
  2. Set your monitor’s brightness to two-thirds power (10 steps up from the lowest brightness settings). Use the Fn+Up and Fn+Down key combinations to adjust your brightness.
  3. If your computer features an ATI video card:
  • Download the latest drivers for the desktop equivalent of your card directly from the ATI web site. For example, if your notebook features an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650, download the drivers for the ATI Radeon HD 3650.
  • Download and run the Mobility Modder tool from DriverHeaven on the downloaded drivers.
  • Install the modified drivers.

I hope these steps help alleviate confusion for new Dell Studio owners. Dell provides no documentation on image quality issues, ships Studio notebooks with screens set to full brightness, and hosts outdated drivers for video cards on their support web site.

Thanks to my friends who recommended Mobility Modder.

No thanks to Dell, who last updated their drivers for the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 on Jan. 14, 2009. ATI released version 9.3 of their Catalyst Suite, which includes drivers for many ATI video cards, on March 18, 2009. Upgrading from stock drivers provided by Dell to drivers modified using Mobility Modder made a visibly significant difference in game image quality.