Pirates of the Burning Sea Flag Preview Tool

One of the cool features of the forthcoming MMORPG Pirates of the Burning Sea is the ability for players to create custom flags and sails to fly from their ships. Although the game is not yet available (except in closed beta), the flag sumbission and approval process is already in place. There’s a pretty active community around the game, and an active flag-creation sub-community full of great people.

I’ve been working on a set of personal flags for the game and getting lots of helpful advice from the forums. This past week I created a Flag Preview Tool that takes flags in from the forums and shows you what it will (sort of) look like flying from your ship.

I thought it was going to be pretty easy, but it was actually pretty complicated due to the combination of the waving method (load flag, duplicate, mask each dupe differently, rotate each duplicate) (thank you jbum.com) and the way Flash handles loadMovie and duplicateMovie. Anyhow, I got it going. Now I’m working on a couple enhancements like showing the flag raising and lowering, and flipping the flag so you can see what the reverse side will look like.

Another Cigar Box Guitar

Cigar Box Guitar with pickup installedA couple weeks ago I decided to make a second cigar box guitar. This time I followed the plans from CigarBoxGuitar.com. It was more complicated than the MAKE magazine version I made previously. The neck runs through the box rather than just being glued to the top. I also decided to use real strings and tuners, and make it electric.

Hooking up the pickup was ridiculously easy. I took a Radio Shack piezo buzzer, hooked it to a 1/4″ input jack, taped it together, and that was it! Before installing it into the guitar I plugged it into my amp to make sure it the connections were good, and everything worked fine the first time.

The biggest problem I hit was that I had shaved down the headstock too much. In trying to make it a little more guitar-looking, I planed down the headstock area. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until the very end (when I was stringing the finished guitar) that I had made the headstock too thin. The tuners stuck out high above the nut, and the action on the guitar would be unplayably high.

After I supressed the urge to smash the whole thing, I re-drilled the holes for the tuners where the nut was, and re-filed the groove for the nut further down the neck. That worked out fine, and the project was saved (whew).

The action is still high but it sounds good and is definitely playable. I’ll have to make a clip of Jack or Joe playing it and post it.

Completed Cigar Box Guitar

Microsoft Reneges On Free Repair for Defective 360s

Well, it finally happened: my launch-day Xbox 360 bit the dust last week. One second I was infiltrating Port Royal as the infamous Jack Sparrow, the next, frozen screen. I rebooted and there were the three flashing red lights. Damn.

I wasn’t too concerned because I remembered that back in September 2006, they admitted that there were problems with the first generation, and that they were going to repair any pre-January 1, 2006 360s free of charge. I called their support number, punched in my serial number, and then the friendly Microsoft rep delivered the groin kick. They told me it was going to be $140 to repair my box because it was “out of warranty”.

I asked her about the September announcement of free repairs for defective launch boxes, and she said she had never heard of that announcement. Pretty strange, since it was widely covered in the gaming press. Stranger still, I searched the Microsoft site while I was on the phone with her and I couldn’t find anything about it. Apparently Microsoft has removed the announcement from their site, and removed all traces of it. I tried going to the Wayback Machine, but the archive for Xbox.com stops the month before the announcement.

After holding for almost 1/2 hour through terrible hold music (they tried to shake me but I held on) I managed to talk to a supervisor. He admitted that there had been a “limited time offer” for launch owners to get free repairs, but it was now expired blah blah. I yelled and haggled and he agreed to do the repair for “half price”, $69 bucks.

I’m still waiting for the “special box” to send my 360 in. I have a feeling this story is not over…


I just realized I skipped Houses of the Holy in my Listen to Every Led Zeppelin Album In Order Project. Now I have to start over.

*Side note: Although this is not valid in Scrabble, AARGH, AARRGH, and AARRGHH are all OK.

What This Country Needs is a Good 5-cent Guitar

Last week Kathy gave me a really great gift: a subscription to MAKE magazine.

MAKE is an amazing magazine that really appeals to the tinkerer in me. It covers making everything under the sun from woodworking to electronics. Every issue is packed with tons of fantastic projects. So, a really awesome feature of the subscription is that you get access to the electronic archives of every issue so far.

I dug in immediately, jumping through a bunch of issues to see what caught my eye. There it was in issue 4: plans for a cigar box guitar. I thought it would be an excellent first MAKE project: simple, cheap, and musical! We went to Home Depot and got everything I would need (except the cigar box which came from a local cigar store). I decided that this guitar would be a practice one, so I skipped both the electronics and the frets.

The assembly was straightforward, and once I had everything laid out and sanded it came together pretty well in just a couple hours. I had a few issues which I want to resolve my next time around:

  • I didn’t read the instructions closely enough and drilled the wrong size holes in the tail, thinking they were the same size as the holes at the other end. Duh. That was the end of that piece of wood. Which brings me to…
  • The second-choice piece of wood I used for the neck was a bit warped from being piled up at Home Depot, resulting in a very high action. So high that I can’t really hit the first half-step on the neck.

It sounds OK, nothing great. I played it through my amp using the SoundChecker I sometimes use with my ukes. I think the sound would be better if I used a bigger cigar box, and ran the neck through it rather than resting on top as the MAKE plans have it.

Next time around I may use the plans at CigarBoxGuitars.com, or CigarBoxGuitar.com, or the Yahoo Cigar Box Guitars Group. Maybe something with real guitar strings and tuning pegs. I’m kind of torn, though. I sort of like the crappy, thrown-together look of the MAKE one.

April 8, 2007 | Posted in: Music, Wood | Comments Closed

More Moon Pix

Here are two more moon pictures taken during a very brief moment last week when it was both clear and not too cold.

Each picture is actually a composite of 2 photos, which themselves were made by averaging several hundred frames of video. Some time I’d like to do a composite of the enitre moon. I wonder how many images that would require.

The first one shows Mare Crisium on the moon’s eastern limb. The second is centered on Mare Serenitas, which is more toward the north-east-center of the moon. If you want to put these features in context and see much more detailed pictures (or perhaps find out the names of those Mister-Bill looking craters), check out the Full Moon Atlas.

Mare Crisium
Mare Crisium

Mare Serenitas
Mare Serenitas


Friday night, I finally got a band I’ve waited a long time to see: Black Sabbath. Well, they weren’t calling themselves Black Sabbath, they were calling themselves Heaven and Hell (why do I think Sharon Osbourne is somewhere behind that?) but it was Black Sabbath. I had tried to see them last year or the year before at Ozzfest, but they cancelled at the last minute.

I met up with Sean and some guys from nerdnyc.com and we headed in. The security lines were looooong and policies were randomly enforced – one of the nerds had a wallet chain that the security dudes insisted was. not. allowed., but they couldn’t say why or whether the policy was stated anywhere. Of course, once inside we saw people with wallet chains. Whatever.

There was no opening act, which is fine with me – on with the main event! The stage set was just what you’d think it should be – sort of half cemetary and half church.

Dio was on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Vinny Appice on drums. Dio was entertaining as always, a little heavy metal elf in a puffy shirt. He had tons of energy, talked to the crowd in between almost every song, and threw many a devil horn. The rest of the band played it cool. No one else said anything even when egged on by Dio. I don’t think they even really moved around.

The band sounded great and Dio’s vocals hit every note. I don’t think they even changed the keys of the songs, which is impressive considering the songs were recorded over 25 years ago. It was a little disappointing that they didn’t do any Ozzy stuff (which they did on Live Evil) but the show was great. Computer God, The Mob Rules, and Heaven and Hell were all standouts for me.

The show was being recorded for a future DVD release. More details, setlist, and photos on Blabbermouth.

Terry Tate, Office Linebacker

This weekend I finished my latest project, a compilation of greatest hits by Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Man, we could really use an office linebacker at work. (Note to co-workers: just kidding![?])

February 26, 2007 | Posted in: Random | Comments Closed

Toy Fair 2007

Yesterday, thanks to my friends at Puppet Heap, I went to the Toy Fair. It’s the 18th anniversary of my sneaking in there in college with fake business cards. Foolishly I wore myself out on the boring stuff, so I was super tired by the time I got to the cool stuff. But here are some highlights:

- There’s going to be tons of Golden Compass toys this year, from toy alethiometers (which look pretty cool) to many stuffed Pantalaimon forms (and evil golden monkey), to Iorek Byrnison In Battle Armor With Slashing Claw Action

- Stikfas has scored their first product license: Neon Genesis Evangelion! Can’t wait to see those.

- I met Bob from Sesame Street! He’s really really nice!

- Apparently they still make Electric Football.

- Award for most disappointing: the Lego booth was completely enclosed, and entry by appointment only.

February 14, 2007 | Posted in: Random | Comments Closed