Final Fantasy XIV – Suqare Enix’s Pay-to-Beta-Test Event!

I finally was able to install Final Fantasy XIV.  After 3 rounds of updates, it allowed me to actually startup the program.

Wait- go to the Square Enix website and enter your FF XIV key (why can’t they do this in-game?)


Oh- and a good deal of the Square Enix website doesn’t work with Google Chrome; no errors- it just doesn’t work.  Like if you try to enter your FF XIV key in chrome, it just drops you back to the main account screen with no indication of what happened…


Re-launch and blank screen; update ATI drivers to current and I now have a 50/50 chance of blank screen/menu screen.

image image

After this I get to get to the character screen.


Wait- go to back the Square Enix website and purchase a character option.  Square Enix must have a credit card on file (or the purchase of ‘Crysta’ points- what the Hell is ‘Cryata’?)

WTF?  $9.99/month for a FF XIV account- and add $3/month per additional character (up to 8) for a grand total of $34.99/month if I choose to have 8 characters?  Wow- these Square Enix guys are pretty fucking greedy!  Do they get their pricing ideas from a cell phone provider?

Character creation is pretty basic- and the game seems to be relying on CGI cut scenes to keep the storyline going (rather long and boring cut scenes- with long load times in-between).

Get used to seeing a LOT of these:


Even more interesting is the occasional freeze during a load between zones-  no indication other than a spinning ‘loading’ icon for 5+ mins.  If I close the windows (prompted by a ‘possible data loss notice’) I start back at the character screen where I get ‘13001 The lobby server has encountered an error.  Error code 3102. Status 0’…


all I appear able to do is delete my character and start over (after a mandatory 30 second delay to confirm delete)  -Very, very annoying. 


The delete ultimately fails and I must go back to the Square Enix site and add additional character slots…

I added one character (for $12.99/month) and I can already tell that I will be cancelling before the 30 day trial is up- and I just wasted $79 on a ‘collector edition’ that features an blank journal, a keyfob and a goofy DVD. 

It appears this game was designed solely for mining wealthy Final Fantasy fan boys and has no intention of appealing to the general public. 

I am anticipating that Square Enix will be going to the ‘Play for Free’ model in another year- or shutting down most of their servers!


Final Fantasy XI

I recently purchased Final Fantasy XIV and I have heard that previous players of Final Fantasy XI get extra in-game perks- so I decided to finally install Final Fantasy XI (that I have had in a binder for the past 2+ years).

As fate would have it, I have both the xBox 360 version and the PC version.  I (ignorantly) decided to try the xBox 360 version as console installs are generally much less involved than PC installs…

The install for Final Fantasy XI on the xBox 360 is absolutely tem most horrible experience I have ever endured; that’s right, you have to install the game on an xBox 360 hard drive.  Not only do you need to install Final Fantasy XI, you must also install an abomination of the program called ‘PlayOnline Loader’.  I still have not determined the need for PlayOnline- save to annoy the living fuck out of me with some goddamn horrible music that makes me want to gouge my eardrums out with a straightened paperclip.

Let me digress from the install nightmare to explain the music: It sounds like someone is trying to play a speed piano whist accompanied by a drunk bass player.  This lasts for a minute or so and then is overshadowed by a synthesizer and a drum line that sounds someone is having a bad acid trip.  They bring this all to a zenith with some horrible horns -and then bring it back to the start in a loop…

This fiasco plays as long as the PlayOnline application is running- including during eternity it takes to download the update to PlayOnline- and there is no fucking ‘turn this crap music off’ button to be seen.

That said, the update for PlayOnline takes about an hour.  After which, I am guided through 20+ different screens requesting name, address, email, dob, etc.  If I did not have a chatpad for my xBox controller, I would have given up after the first 5 minutes and just thrown the game away.  I also cannot choose a login ID- rather I am assigned a random 4 character + 4 number ID once the setup has completed.

After this, I am ready to play Final Fantasy XI!  No, wait- I now must copy Final Fantasy XI to the xBox 360 hard drive.  This takes another hour.

At this point, I have been installing Final Fantasy XI for 2 1/2 hours and I have yet to create a character (I am not exaggerating about this!).

After all is finally installed, I fire up PlayOnline, navigate through 3 levels of menus and hit ‘play’ for Final Fantasy XI- and I am told that I have ‘No Active Content IDs’.  Apparently, the first serial number I entered was for PlayOnline- but I can find no place to enter the 4 additional keys I have.

At some point, it appears I must also make a Square Enix account (separate from the PlayOnline) to be able to access Final Fantasy content…

I went online at PlayOnline.com to see if there is a place to enter the keys and hit a solid brick wall; NONE of the data is editable online.

At this point I have up in disgust and decided to try the PC version. 

Awesome- the same terrible fucking music and 1+ hour to download the update for PlayOnline (after I downloaded the updated PlayOnline setup as the version on the disc is ‘not compatible with this version of Windows’ 7- and after it allowed me to install all of the Final Fantasy XI content!)

I am now thinking that Square Enix has no fucking idea of how to design an online game; I have tried World of Warcraft, Star Trek Online, Lord of the Rings Online, D&D Online, Conan Online, Ultima Online and countless others that I have forgotten- and NONE of these were event remotely as annoying as this cluster-fuck known as Final Fantasy XI/PlayOnline!

I am seriously considering keeping the Final Fantasy XIV sealed and returning it to Gamestop; if the install is 1/2 as annoying as the prior online version I will likely go insane!



MAX AVR USBThe TI-84 Calculator works for homebrew apps on the PS3, but this is just a temporary method as it is kind of annoying to need to run the app on the TI every time I want to boot the PS3 into developer mode.

I ordered a Maximus AVR USB from a small site called Sick Gaming Site this morning (the only US vendor listed on the Max AVR USB site). The site doesn’t instill the greatest feeling of security and confidence as they only have three products for sale. However, the transaction for the AVR USB was handled very professionally with very prompt email updates. Their inventory count also updates in real-time, so that is another re-assuring feeling.

They only accept PayPal, so I feel I have a little more security (i.e. no credit card info stored on their servers). Now I only worry about having my name & address on an unknown server… (For paranoia, I may change the info on their site to alias information once the product has shipped).


My Maximus AVR USB has shipped via first class US Postal with delivery confirmation. A tracking number has been provided- but (of course) US Postal isn't the best at updating tracking information... :)

It is going from Brooklyn to Atlanta, so I am expecting it sometime early next week. I will update when I receive the package. So far I am personally very content with Sick Gaming Site's business process.

Final Update:

My Maximus AVR USB was delivered today.  Shipped on Sept 16th and received on September 20th.  Good job on the part of Sick Gaming Site in ordering, processing and delivery!

There is some good documentation for installing PSGroove on the Maximus AVRUSB over the Maxmius site and over at PSX-Scene.

A few personal notes:

  • The x64 drivers included with the FLIP 3.4.2 package are not signed and will not work properly with Windows 7 x64; you might want to try the x64 drivers over at Maximus AVRUSB or use an x86 system (which is what I did).

Setup and install took a few minutes and all is working as it should!  :)


PS3 Jailbreak with a TI-84 Plus Calculator

There are many posts going around on about the PS3 Jailbreak; there was an ‘official’ PS3Jailbreak package for $170  (banned for sale by Sony), followed by less expensive versions (PS3-Free, PS3 Liberator, etc)

More recently, PSGroove and PS Freedom options have popped up allowing install on USB Development kits, various phones (Android, Nokia N900, Palm Pre and older iPhones) and other devices (TI-84 Plus calculator) to be used.  These versions do not include the software needed to backup PS3 blu-ray discs to a hard drive and are intended solely for homebrew development on the PS3.

The basic premise is that the device has to act as a USB controller and send specific data to the PS3 on bootup, putting the system into a developer mode that can run unsigned code.

Note: The PS3 exploit must be run every time you boot the PS3; once you power off, you need to re-connect your jailbreak device to re-enable the exploit on next boot! 

  • The USB development kit was designed for this task and various version can cost $30-$50. 
  • The Android versions (different versions for each phone- check the PS Freedom compatibility list!) requires a custom system flash that will disable USB functionality while it is active.
  • The Nokia N900 and Palm Pre versions appear to use software running in a terminal (I do not have either of these devices so I cannot test)
  • The iPhone version requires an iPhone 2G/3G or a 1st gen iPod touch running iPhone Linux.
  • The final option is using a TI-84 Plus calculator to a program that you load and execute when needed. 

I opted for the later version and purchased a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition.  The TI-84 Plus Silver runs between $90 (Wal-Mart and Target) to $120 (Fry’s).  It is a pretty nice graphing calculator to have even without the PS3 exploit.  The TI-84 Plus and the Silver edition are about the same, but the Silver edition has 3x more RAM, a removable faceplate and some extra bundled apps- it was about $2 more at Target ($88.99 vs. $90.99), so it was a no-brainer for me.

What you will need to run PS3 Jailbreak with a TI-84 Plus calculator:

  • A PS3 system running 3.41 firmware.  If you have updated to 3.42 you will not be able to use this exploit (and you cannot downgrade once upgraded). 
    • It is also important to note that 3.41 is currently unable to connect to PS3 network; this was done by Sony to force users to upgrade to 3.42. (Although I hear rumor of using a PS3 proxy to bypass this requirement?)
  • A TI-84 Plus (regular or silver edition) running the latest firmware (currently 2.53MP)
  • The TI-84 PS3 Jailbreak software
  • TI Connect on your PC (included on CD with calculator).
  • A USB cable (USB A to Mini-USB B)

Steps to run the PS3JB on the TI-84 Plus

  1. Install the PS3JB code on the calculator
    • Open the ZIP file
    • Open TI Connect
    • Connect to your TI-84 Plus with ‘TI Device Explorer’ (located in the TI Connect suite) 
    • Drag the ‘PS3JB.8xk’ file to the TI Device Explorer window
    • There may be a few confirmations and the installation may take a minute or two
    • Once complete, disconnect the TI-84 from the PC
  2. Run the software on the TI-84 Plus
    • Press the ‘Apps’ button on the TI-84 Plus
    • Scroll down until you find the ‘PS3JB’ entry and press ‘enter’ when it is highlighted
    • Press enter to close the title screen
    • Press ‘1’ to execute the program
    • A screen will appear with instructions on the calculator
  3. Connect the TI-84 Plus to the PS3
    • Eject any discs in the PS3 and power the system down normally
    • Remove all power from the PS3; ie unplug the PS3 slim or use the power switch on the PS3 classic
    • Remove all USB connections from the PS3
    • Return power to the PS3 (but do not turn on yet).
    • Plug a USB cable between the PS3 and the TI-84 Plus (USB A to MiniUSB B cable)
  4. Power up and wait a few minutes
    • Power on the PS3 and quickly press the Eject button after pressing power (you should get three quick beeps indicating that the drive is empty)
    • You should see ‘working…’ and eventually a ‘done’ on the TI-84 Plus screen
    • Once complete you will have ‘* /app_home/PS3_GAME/’ and ‘* Install Package Files’ options under your game menu
  5. If the above does not work, verify firmware versions on the PS3 and the TI-84 Plus, and go back and start over at step 3.

You can now plug in a USB device and install a PKG file (as they become available) by using the ‘Install Package Files’ option under the menu. 

Developers are working on homebrew and various emulators for the PS3- such as a PSP emulator for the PS3- but there isn’t a whole lot of custom software out for the PS3 at the time of this writing.

The PS3 Backup Manager (manager.pkg) is an obvious package one you will want to search for (use ‘The Google’) as it will allow you to backup your purchased PS3 game disks to a USB hard drive.

Note: The PS3 Backup Manger package may be considered the line that separates ‘homebrew’ from ‘piracy’ on the PS3 as it allows you to copy commercial game discs to your hard drive.  While this is acceptable use for legitimate archival purposes of games you have purchased, it should not be used on games that you do not personally own!

Notes on the USB hard drive backup:

  • PS3 games can be pretty big (5GB – 40GB) and could take some time to backup to hard disk (1h 20m for God of War III)
  • You will need an original PS3 game disc in the drive to play a game as the PS3 checks for a disk (any disc will do) during game startup (similar to the UMD/ISO method on the PSP)
  • If you need to reboot the PS3, you will need to re-run the exploit to allow you to run unsigned code on the PS3 again (i.e. Backup Manager is unsigned code).

Here are some of the better videos I found that go through the jailbreak and backup process (one for TI-84 Plus, the other for Palm Pre):

New iPod Nano

apple ipod nano 6gI purchased a 5th gen iPod Nano about three months ago- 88 days ago, actually.  Luckily, Target has a 90 day return policy…. :)

I returned my 5th gen iPod Nano to Target and went to the Apple store and purchased a 6th gen iPod Nano.  Return at target was $175, new Nano at Apple was $179.

Departing from Apple’s frugality on buttons, the new iPod Nano features three buttons; a power toggle, volume up and volume down.  The multi-touch screen can be rotated with a two finger twist.  Menus are accessed by clicking the menu item and finger swipes to navigate up/down menu selections.  All said, it is fairly intuitive to use.

One fairly interesting feature of the iPod Nano is that the screens are customable- much like on an iPod touch; touch and hold an icon and you can drag it to another screen (or make a new screen).  There is no option to delete icons, but that is the way it is for the stock icons on the iPhone/iPod touch.  The multiple screens and ability to customize make me think that Apple may have left space for additional apps… 

I find it odd that there is a total lack of games on this version of the iPod Nano- where is my solitaire that I could play while waiting for a machine at the gym?  (or is that designed to be a future purchased application?)

IMG_0105rThe new Nano has a ‘standard’ Apple dock connector on the bottom, so it should work with any prior iPod accessories that used this dock (sound bar, car cradles, etc).

Missing from the new Nano is the camera and the ability to play back video.  That is Ok by me as I will probably get a band and use it as a watch as well… :)

One welcome benefit is that the new iPod Nano supports the Nike+ accessories- including the heart rate sensor.  I plugged in my Nike+ dongle that I had used with my former 5th gen iPod Nano and it was still paired to the Nike+ heart rate strap I purchased a few weeks ago (the strap also works with my Polar FT40, so i was planning to use it in any case).

The new Nano is very impressive; it is uber-tiny, very responsive and has very decent sound (bass seems a little over-powered, but I am using mediocre ear buds).  It is small and light enough to clip on a shirt sleeve and not require an arm band.  It is the perfect device to load up several audio books, a good chunk of my newer podcasts and still have a good chunk of space for music and photos. 

It would also be a very cool lapel pin if I could find some way of alternating various QR barcodes while wearing (I guess I could just change some album artwork and create a playlist…)

Below is a quick video I did of the menu items on the 6th gen Nano:


Android Desktop Notifier

Just found a neat little application for my PC and Android device that allows for notifications of SMS messages, calls, emails, battery alerts, etc. from my phone to be displayed on my PC.

Setup Instructions

Android application market link:

Desktop Client Download 

Pretty easy install; enjoy!

Unfortunately, you will need to install Java (argh!) to get this to work…


Updated DragonCon 2010 Schedules

More schedule updates from Fan Rants:

Main Programming Track   (iCal)

Alternate History Track   (iCal)
American SF Media Track   (iCal)
Animation Track   (iCal)
Anime Video Track   (iCal)
Anime/Manga Track   (iCal)
Anne McCaffrey’s Worlds Track   (iCal)
Apocalypse Rising Track   (iCal)
Armory Programming Track   (iCal)
Art Show Track   (iCal)
Autograph sessions   (iCal)
CosPlay Photo Ops   (iCal)
Costuming Track   (iCal)
Dark Fantasy Track   (iCal)
Electronic Frontiers Track   (iCal)
Filk Track   (iCal)
Independent Film Festival   (iCal)
Main Video Track   (iCal)
MMO Track   (iCal)
Parties   (iCal)
Podcast Track   (iCal)
Robotics Track   (iCal)
Science Track   (iCal)
Skeptics Track   (iCal)
Space Track   (iCal)
Star Wars Track   (iCal)
Stargate Track   (iCal) *OFFICIAL*
Tolkien Track   (iCal)
Whedon Universe Track   (iCal)
Wheel of Time Track   (iCal)
Young Adult Lit Track   (iCal)

They also indicate that DragonCon is planning to release official iCal schedules of the pocket program guide, but on the eve of the con they are not available as of yet…

For now I have subscribed to the tracks I want to attend (bottom right corner when you open the Google calendar) and I am copying the specific events over to my calendar (click the event and it will give a ‘copy’ option)- this allows it to sync with my Android device.

For my iPhone, I have imported all the calendars into Outlook where they appear as separate calendars; I configured iTunes to sync these over to my phone.