Saturday, April 19, 2008

Floppy Disk CDs!

A funny concept...

For those who miss old-school computing, here's some cool CDs designed to look like 3.5" Floppy Disks.

It's good to pay tribute to those times when you used to carry a case full of these 1.44 MB storage devices, all stuffed with homework and downloaded pictures.


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Escalator Hair Ad

This for me is a very cool ad that effectively takes advantage of the environment. Genius design...
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Last Movie I Watched: Cloverfield

That was one heck of a rollercoaster ride.

Despite negative criticism from my peers, the movie actually was enjoyable for me. It gave me a thrill I haven't experienced in a long time! The acting was great too, despite the cast being made of unheard-of's. And the effects and film editing... All fantastic. Everything in the movie seemed very genuine! J.J. Abrams (also director of my fave TV series, Lost) did not disappoint me.

I absolutely recommend the film, even when people say it's a waste of time...
Just bring a barf-bag with you... I'm in fact still dizzy from the whole experience.
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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Moving, Living Art

Wonderful things are created when engineering and art collide.

Theo Jansen, a Dutch engineer and kinetic sculptor, has created works of art that are able to walk on legs using only the wind.
He calls them strandbeests, or "beach creatures", because he lets them walk freely on the beaches of Netherlands. The "creatures" are made of light electrical tubing, and resemble giant bug-like skeletons. The legs of these things are driven by flaps and wings that harness the wind. Jansen has even given them a form of basic intelligence; the creatures have 2-liter bottles that store wind energy for use during less windy days, and some models are able to avoid going into the water through the use of pressurized tubes and a simple binary step counter. These moving art-forms do not have computers in them, nor are they powered by electricity in any way.

See them for yourself:

Here is a video of Theo Jansen giving a live demonstration of his inventions:

His art looks so alive that he likes to call them "animals." He regularly upgrades these creatures through a "genetic algorithm" that simulates evolution.

I must admit, the things look creepy... But he's certainly a genius at his craft.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

XU Cheer Team: Open Qualifier for National Cheerleading Championship Finals

Xavier University's very own Crusader Cheerforce League came 4th place in the Elimination round for the 2008 National Cheerleading Championships, making the team one of 10 open qualifiers for the grand finals. This is a great achievement, being their debut in a prestigious national competition. They're also the only entry to come from Mindanao.

Here's the video of their performance:

And here's the list of the 10 college division qualifiers, and their respective scores:

1) University of Perpetual Help - 282
2) Central Colleges of the Philippines - 267
3) Palawan State University - 253.5
4) Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan)- 246.5
5) Ateneo De Manila University - 238.5
6) Mapua Institute of Technology - 238.5
7) Polytechnic University of the Philippines Taguig - 228
8) Lyceum Institute of Technology - Laguna - 213
9) Colegio De San Juan De Letran - 209
10) Mariano Marcos State University - 201

Those who did not make the cut were:

Rizal Technological University - 199.5
Technological University of the Philippines - 198.5
Adamson University - 193.5
San Sebastian College - 175
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila - 139.5
San Beda College Alabang - 124
Lyceum of the Philippines University - 121
University of Makati (exhibition)- 247

The performances will be aired on Studio 23, 6:30pm, college division pre-finals on March 9 and finals on March 30.
Congratulations, and good luck! Go XU! Go Mindanao!
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Amazing 3D Street Art!

The artworks you see in the images below are all chalk drawings on the street, made to look like they're 3D from a certain angle. It's so amazing! Artworks by Julian Beever:
Here's how one of the drawings would look like from a different angle:

... And here's what it'd look like from the correct angle:

Amazing, isn't it?

Check out the artist's other artworks here.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

How I Conquered a Virus

Today, I've outwitted one of the most formidable computer viruses that I've ever encountered.
I turned on my PC this morning when all of a sudden, my NOD32 Antivirus software detected a potentially dangerous malware called Adware.SecToolbar just a few minutes after the desktop loaded. It actually appeared twice, but the prompts noted that the file had been moved to quarantine, so I went on with my business as usual, confident with Mr. NOD32. However, I noticed that my PC was running unusually slow (unusual even for Windows Vista). Alas, I opened a My Computer window and out came a suspicious pop-up window which said something like:
NOTICE: If your computer has errors in the registry database or file system, it could cause unpredictable or erratic behavior, freezes and crashes. Fixing these errors can increase your computer's performance and prevent data loss.
Would you like to install SysProtect for free? (Recommended)
I knew right then and there that my PC had caught a bug, the nasty adware/spyware sort. I clicked on 'Cancel' on the pop-up. Regardless, my browser automatically opened a site for an apparently bogus PC-fixer software. To those who can't tell between legitimate and illegitimate software: you can always look up the name of the suspicious software on Google. Nevertheless it's always inadvisable to follow a strange pop-up's advice.
Later on, I noticed that whenever I opened My Computer, the window closes after a few seconds, and when I opened My Documents the Windows Explorer crashes and refreshes.
I resorted to scan my PC with NOD32, but it found no threats. I then tried System Restore and reset the system to an older time. But it did not disable the virus, and the pop-up thing started again.
I searched the net for some tips by typing in keywords related to the symptoms of the virus infection and found a forum dedicated to removing spyware called Spyware Warrior. There, I learned about an application that could log all running process on your computer and output it as a text file, for diagnostic purposes. It's called HijackThis, and it allows one to detect and stop running processes on your PC. However, it doesn't distinguish between good and bad processes, and so there's the risk that my PC could go into a worse situation if I mistakenly disabled the good ones.
I checked my startup files through MZ StartUp Manager, and saw a lot of entries with weird names. I disabled them immediately. I also checked the log output of HijackThis and saw some dll files with similarly weird names, so I disabled them also.
I then thought of seeking the help of AntiVir (a.k.a Avira), one of the more reputably effective anti-malware programs available. I downloaded the free version called AntiVir Personal Edition Classic from its developers' website, and installed it, despite my knowledge of a theory that one should not have more than 2 anti-viruses in one PC. To be safe though, I disabled my NOD32 while I started scanning with my new Avira.
However after installation the AntiVir On-Access Guard started to prompt about infections ceaselessly, and although I chose "Delete" in every prompt, another prompt would follow. The prompts got so many, I had no other choice but to disable the Guard. However, I was able to find out my foe's identity. It was labeled a Trojan variant called "Vundo", and it seemed to run on a system file called nnnno.dll. I checked the net and found out that the Vundo virus creates several bogus dll's in C:/Windows/system32. I tried to delete them, but they all produced an Access Denied error.
I stopped some more suspicious processes via ProcessExplorer, and disabled some more entries from the HijackThis log. I searched the net for Vundo-removal tips, and found a program specialized in removing this sort of virus called VundoFix. I downloaded and ran the application, and it searched for the fake dlls and other rootkits, and seemed like it crashed my system. But my PC just rebooted and afterwards, the pop-ups were all gone! My PC was back to normal and rid of the dreaded Vundo, save for some left-over system files (but were easily detected and deleted by Avira).
Whew, what a workout! It took me all afternoon to get rid of the damn thing.

So after all that, it seems necessary that I impart some of my updated knowledge about destroying malware and viruses in PCs:
  1. Some of the symptoms of virus infections include reduced PC performance, unwanted pop-ups, unusual behavior, and frequent crashes. If you notice any of these symptoms, search on the net for possible solutions using keyword related to the symptom, e.g. "my documents folder closes unexpectedly"
  2. Try first some of the local applications like System Restore and Disk Cleanup. If they won't work, download useful tools such as HijackThis, ProcessExplorer, and MZ StartUp Manager to detect suspicious or unwanted processes and stop them before they wreak more havoc.
  3. Although having two antiviruses running at the same time on your PC can cause instability and crashes, it's ok if one of them is disabled while the other one scans. Each antivirus software has its strengths and weaknesses, so it might be useful to test more than one software on a possible virus infection. In my case, it seems that NOD32 was powerless compared to Avira, but the latter was also limited by file permission restrictions created by the virus. However, once the virus was disabled by the specialized VundoFix, Avira was efficient in cleaning up the leftovers.
  4. Always backup your files in case of a virus infection such as this.
  5. Do NOT download software before researching its reputation in other websites.
  6. Do NOT mess with system registry files if you don't know what you're doing, else your PC could crash. If unsure, you can post your HijackThis log file on a forum dedicated to removing malware, such as SpywareWarriors, and let the experts help you.
  7. Be very careful when surfing sites you don't know. Although I'm not sure exactly where I got the Vundo, I kind of suspected it to come from a site that provided keygens and cracks. Talk about bad karma.

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