Archive for May, 2009

Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown

Ever since American Idiot came out in my freshman year of high school, I have been waiting for Green Day to release their latest album. Finally, toward the end of my freshman year in college, they came through. So the big question is, was it worth the wait?

That question is hard to answer. Yes, this album is incredible, but I think it could have been done in a shorter amount of time. I have some experience in production as well, so I can make that claim (sure I don’t have a lot of experience but I know some stuff). I’m sure the wait was due to the band, aging as they are, devoting more of their time to their families, and less of their time to the studio. That is respectable, but as a fan, I can’t help but be annoyed at the over four year turnaround.

I already said it, but I think this album is incredible. It is still Green Day, so if you’re not a fan, don’t expect to love it, but it is a more mature Green Day, both musically and lyrically. And that is saying something coming from their previous album.

For those who haven’t guessed, I really enjoyed American Idiot as well. I know a lot of Green Day fans didn’t, but I think it was one of their best (before you ask, no its NOT because of the singles, I sincerely like every song on that album. I’m tired of people disliking it because it was overplayed… But thats a post for another day).

21st Century Breakdown is another concept album, following in the style of American Idiot. This time, the story is a lot easier to follow, in my opinion (American Idiot almost reminded me of Fight Club with its weird character duplicities). Without giving away any of the story, it is basically a story of the romance between Christian and Gloria, and a whole slew of other events that get in the way. Its really good, if you take the time to listen to and understand the lyrics. It is definitely an album that should be listened to as a whole, although the individual songs are all good on their own.

Where the album really shines though is musically. Green Day covers a wide range of musical styles on the album without ever straying away from their distinct pop-punk vibe. The song ¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl) almost sounds like a Hebrew folksong at the beginning, while Horseshoes And Handgrenades sounds a lot like the Strokes. And of course, the first single, Know Your Enemy is one of the catchiest foot stomping songs on the radio right now. Every time I hear that song it gets stuck in my head for hours!

As much as I love this album, it does have its low points. The last two songs on the album have the same beginnings as the first two songs. This is a cool concept, but the first time I heard it, I actually turned it off because I thought the album was replaying. There are also a few songs that sound like they were groomed to be big radio hits. I know this is true for almost any commercial band out there, but I would have liked if they at least tried to hide it. I’m not saying they are bad songs because of it, but rather that they don’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the album. The songs in question are The Static Age and 21 Guns. I would put money on them being on the radio at some point. I think they are both really good songs, and deserve to be on the radio, but they are also a lot more formulaic than most of the other songs on the album.

So my verdict on the album: If you don’t totally hate Green Day, give it a shot. It really is a good album, and I will be listening to it for a long time to come. And with 17 full length songs (2 even reaching the 5 minute mark, impressive for a punk band) it has more bang for your buck than most albums out there. 8.5

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May 29, 2009 at 12:01 am 1 comment

My name is Mac, and I’m a PC (and a Linux?)

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Linux, Chicago, Pixar, and Anxiety, that I would be writing a review of my experience using Parallels 4.0. Well, that time has come. Bear in mind that I am using Parallels as a casual user, and I don’t know much about the deeper features, or how certain aspects work. I just know what does work, and what does not work the way it should.

This post will double as a call for help for the small issues I have been having, if there are any out there experienced in Parallels, let me know if you have the answers to any of my questions please!

To start off, I will just say that I love Parallels as a tool to allow me to run Windows on my MacBook Pro. It isn’t perfect, but it is definitely a lot better than Boot Camp, if only because I don’t have to reboot to start Windows. That alone was enough to warrant spending the money on it (I spent $80).

But there are also some cool features about Parallels that make it cooler than just running Windows in a window. My personal favorite is coherence mode, which integrates Windows’ windows and the start bar into Mac’s user interface seamlessly. It is kind of like running your Windows applications in Mac without having the Windows desktop around so you can access your Mac seamlessly. And the start bar appears at the bottom of your Mac screen. It was really confusing when it first happened, and I thought the program was broken. But once you use it once or twice, it really starts to make sense, and it allows you to navigate your Windows machine and your Mac machine together at the same time. I would not, however, recommend using coherence mode with any intensive programs, as it uses more of your resources than normal or full-screen mode. I was playing Unreal Tournament (the old one, not any of the 200x series, so not a hugely intensive game) in coherence mode, and my computer shut down to prevent heat damage. So don’t do that, if you like your computer the way it is.

I use parallels mostly to play games, so when I run it, I usually push it to the limit. I learned that you have to manually allocate any RAM to the virtual machine above 1GB. So I allocated about 2.35GB of RAM to my Windows machine to help speed up my gaming. Even with this, newer games run pretty sluggish. This might be because I am running the Release Candidate of Windows 7, which is sure to use a decent amount of emory on its own before even thinking about games. I’ll say a little about Windows 7 a little later in this post, so keep reading 😛

I also have been having a problem with the sound in Windows. It will work fine for a while, and then it will just stop working. It still works through my Mac, but any Windows sounds will stop. This is a minor annoyance for now, but something that I will be looking more into later to see if I can fix it. I’m sure the fix won’t be too hard, just something that I have to do.

So, Parallels is a good program for those who want, or need, to run Windows, but would prefer to run a Mac on a day-to-day basis. Its not perfect, but it gets the job done, and looks good while doing so.

It also runs Linux, which I just recently installed on it. I haven’t messed with it at all because I have been in Chicago all weekend, but it installed great and worked flawlessly for the half hour I spent configuring my settings.

So now, I’m sure at least someone has wondered what I think about the Windows 7 RC. In short, I think that it is Vista 2. It is better than Vista 1, but still feels just like Vista. And it still has those annoying security pop-ups that they said they would get rid of. In fact, I feel like I am getting them more often. Maybe it is because I am in parallels and it is linked to the Mac security somehow, or maybe it is because that is the way they changed it. But now, every time I  open up a program I downloaded from the internet I get a pop-up asking if I really want to open this, because programs downloaded from the internet can be dangerous. I would have been fine with that the first time it popped up, or even if it had a ‘never show me this again’ check box. But for now, it is just plain annoying.

Some of the new features are cool though. I haven’t delved too deep, but the ones that stick out to me are mostly centered around the GUI. There is now an option to select background themes, which is cool. You can right click the background and select change background image, and it will randomly select an image out of the theme you selected. It is a cool way to randomize your background while staying with a theme you like. I have mine set to architecture, so I can cycle between images of awesome buildings as my background. The other cool feature I have noticed, and I’m not 100% sure this wasn’t in Vista, is that you can hit the Windows button on your keyboard (or the Command/Apple button for me :)) to bring up the start bar, even if you are running a full screen application, such as a game. This is cool because it will let you navigate your computer without exiting out of the game, much like Mac OS X. They also kept the ‘show desktop’ button, but moved it to the bottom right corner. I like that button, and the new location doesn’t bother me at all.

The best thing about 7 is that it supports multi-touch. This is great because I am so used to using it on my Mac, and also because it will allow other PC companies to create multi-touch devices for their laptops.

So overall, Windows 7 isn’t bad, but its not a huge improvement for me either. Maybe by the time they release the final version it will be better, but for now, it is just Vista 2. Sorry Microsoft!

Thats all for today, check back this Friday for a review of Green Day’s latest, “21st Century Breakdown” on the 2 week anniversary of its release. It probably won’t be as in depth as the review of Queensryche’s “American Soldier” was, but who knows, maybe I’ll get carried away.

May 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm 4 comments

Links from Chicago

My roommate and I drove to Chicago this weekend to visit some of his friends at Northwestern University. I have been here for a few hours and so far I have liked what I have seen. Of course, the University of Cincinnati will always be my favorite, but I digress… 🙂

Right now, there is nothing better to do, so I am going to post a few links that I have stumbledupon over the last week or two. It seems as though my readers enjoy these posts, as they are often the highest rated when I check my stats.

So first, this Craigslist apology letter. I find this to be hilarious, and kind of ballsy. I mean, I would have never done this, what if she really did call back?

Next, college Tetris. This is really cool, and something that I would want to attempt to do sometime during my college career. I feel like if I wait any longer than that, it would just be stupid, but if I do it in college it will be awesome. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t know what to think about this next one. This is the rumored ZuneX, Microsoft’s souped up version on an iPhone. Supposedly. They don’t know if they will have a phone in it, but it is supposed to play XBox Live Arcade games. Even cooler, it can link to your XBox so if you buy a game on one system, you can play it on the other. So, I will have to wait and see on this one, but for now, I am a little bit excited for it.

And last, but definitely not least, the transforming USB drive. It is a little pricey, but it would be worth it just as a conversation starter. “Woah, what is that thing? / Its a flash drive, and it transforms / Wtf? lol!”. I know that my pen/USB drive/laser pointer is a good conversation starter, so this would have to be an amazing one. The only thing I wish it would do is automatically transform when plugged in… That would make me buy it. As for now, I already have 12GB worth of flash storage, I don’t need another, overpriced drive.

So thats about all I have for today, stay tuned as I have another review in mind, and I will be posting about my experience using Parallels to run Windows 7 and Linux on my Mac.

May 23, 2009 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

Not the happiest of news

Today, I got what I consider to be my first rejection letter.

I was placed into the eligibility pool for the RA position, rather than being accepted outright as I had hoped I would be. So, no, its not a rejection letter, but its not an acceptance letter either. I am now faced with a difficult decision: should I stay or should I go? If I stay in the pool, I still have the chance of getting a position, and the scholarship that goes with it. However, it would also effectively prevent me from signing any sort of a lease or a house or apartment next year, leaning me in the overly expensive dorms with random roommates again for the second year. My other option is to choose the “No, I no longer wish to be considered for the RA position” option and to go ahead with some sort of off-campus lease. Which is honestly what I would prefer, but still not the obvious choice.

So that is my food for thought for the weekend. But enough about me, how about you, my faithful readers? Whats on your minds right now? Leave me a comment with whats up and it will make me feel better 🙂

May 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm 1 comment

Linux, Chicago, Pixar, and Anxiety

Today turned out to be an interesting day. A busy day, but an interesting one.

It began with a moment of coincidence in my first class. My partner in the class (a German exchange student), mentioned how she would not be getting much work done on her project this weekend because she was going to Chicago. That is funny to me because my roommate and I are going to Chicago this weekend as well. Not a huge deal, but funny that we would both be going in the same weekend.

Quick side note: My roommate just started a blog: Piece of My Mind. He only has one post up right now (but is currently working on his second, so by the time this posts he will probably have two).

Anyways, I got back to my room and brought up the online portion of my Psychology exam that I needed to do before taking the written part after lunch. I got a little over half way done with it when it booted me off, and wouldn’t allow me to continue. After a few minutes of pointless troubleshooting, I emailed my professor who allowed me to take the test fully in class. Whew, I would not have been happy if I would have failed that test due to a technical glitch!

After taking the test, I went to the Engineering department and participated in what was called Installfest. Which basically was a room with a bunch of computer nerds (no offense meant here, I almost am one myself!) who helped people to install Linux on their laptops. So I now have Ubuntu Linux running through Parallels on my Mac, alongside with Windows 7. More on that in a later post.

Then, I was fortunate enough to get to meet (kind of) the director and producer of the new Pixar film, Up, which debuts in theaters next Friday (May 29th). I only kind of got to meet them because it was a Q&A session with roughly 100 people present, but it was still much more personal than I have ever met a director or producer before, so it excited me. The session was held at DAAP (the College of Design, Art, Architechture, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati) and was open primarily to DAAP students and E-Media students. This was really cool, and I learned a lot about the process of creating the movie, moving through the ranks of a company like Pixar, and a few other tidbits that were just cool to know (they are re-releasing Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D!).

Tomorrow is an exciting day as well, as it is the day that I find out if I get the RA position for next year. I am excited to find out, but really nervous, because it has been a long, hard, and competitive process. I will announce the results when I get them sometime tomorrow, along with a post about my thoughts on the future as it relates to my career.

Until tomorrow then, have a nice night and wish me luck!!

May 21, 2009 at 11:03 pm 1 comment

Help me to reach 1,000 views!

A while ago I posted a video on YouTube of my friend and me jumping a curb in a dumptruck. It has since become my most popular video, with 435 views at the time I wrote this. I think it is a funny video, and I put some time and effort into editing it, so it would be really cool if it hit 1,000 views. You can help me do this! Below is the video, embedded in my post. Watch it, share it, and encourage your friends to watch it… please!

I’m not actually getting anything for the hits that my video gets, but it would make me feel better about myself if I could get at least one video to break 1,000. I will do the same for anyone else who has a video they want to promote, just send me a link and I’ll check it out. If I get enough videos sent to me, I might even dedicate an entry to them.

Enjoy the video, let me know what you think of it either through comments here or on YouTube, or on Facebook or Twitter (follow me @toledo8904). Also, if you have a video you want to appear on my blog, send me a link through any of the aforementioned internet services I have.

May 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

A week in the life

Looking back over my traffic for the past week, I realized its been over a week since my last post. I would like to claim school work as the reason for my absense, but really its just been a lack of anything to blog about.

Until now.

This morning (er, when I woke up, around 1:30), I purchased a domain name and hosting from dreamhost.com. There is nothing there right now, but the domain is: http://ahecker.com.  I had to buy some server space for a class, in which I am making a website. For now, I am working on moving this blog to my new domain, but I have to wait a long time for the server requests to process, and some other stuff I don’t fully understand (yet). When the move is complete, I will update via Facebook and Twitter (follow me: @toledo8904). I’m not sure if this url will still work or not. The tentative url for my new blog will be: http://rockinthestream.ahecker.com. The link will also be in my Facebook and Twitter updates when the transfer is complete.

In the meantime, here are some links I have found over the past week that I think you might find interesting.

First, for those Mac users out there, I found an article listing 11 great toolbar apps that don’t take up much space. I used five of these, and my two favorites are Caffeine and iStat Menues. Have fun with these, and let me know which are your favorites!

Second, for those who are just plain bored and want something cool and flashy to kill a few minutes with, Imagination. This is just a cool animation that spreads outward from your cursor. Its trippy, its awesome, it aids procrastination. What more can you ask for?

Third, for those who like HomeStar RunnerAn Experimental Film. The song is by They Might Be Giants, and is pretty good. As is the video, if maybe a little random and weird. But its HomeStar Runner… what did we expect? Another great way to kill a few minutes and enjoy some good music.

Fourth, and finally, for those who like Green technologies and/or cool gadgets. USBcell is a very interesting idea I StumbledUpon earlier this week. They are rechargable batteries that can recharge in a USB port. Maybe not revolutionary, but it is definately cool.

That is all for now, let me know what you think of my explorations! Until next time!

Aaron

May 3, 2009 at 8:23 pm Leave a comment


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