Wednesday, August 05, 2009

MyNPL Round 4 - Melacca

Feva Division did not register to play Round 4 of the MyNPL League, which was held in the historic city Melacca. Luckily for me, The Infidelz (gotta love that name!) had a player spot available, so I had the opportunity to guest for them yet again.

It was great that Division 4 games only started in the afternoon, so I could actually travel down to Melacca on the Saturday morning itself. I was suppose to wake up at 7am, but in the excitement, was awake by 6am. Checked twitter, and found that @joshlim of Yakuza needed a ride. After some attempts at getting his number, I drove across town (pre ISA/FRU clampdown) to Tropicana area to pick him up, and then only got onto the North-South highway by 8am-ish.

The drive down was shorter than I anticipated, with some really heavy patches of rain. This was not good news, but fortunately the paintball field was not deluged when we arrived at about 10am. Had breakfast at the "Old Town Coffee" in Dataran Pahlawan. Ironic.

Waited around for teammates to arrived, and Shiham, Infidelz captain for the day joined us. Ideham couldn't make it for the first day, Saturday, because he had family duties to attend to. Got my tag, and we waited for the rest to arrive. Prem, Faiz and Wan turned up, and we had the opportunity to check out the other D2 and D3 teams playing on the three Fields.

Had lunch, which was some badly cooked maggie mee below the field facing the school/church. Don't go there. Although the limau ais was nice: they put in an asam boi in it.

The players paddock was luxurious in relative terms. Long tables, instead of the crummy square ones, ample chairs, but most importantly, an airy high ceilinged structure which housed over 40 teams very comfortably. The toilets were close by and although they didn't have tissue paper (always bring your own), it was clean. It is an excellent venue. Pity about the traffic though.

Field 2: For all the games, we started from the left working towards the right.

We setup our stuff, filled pods, and warmed up. For Field 2, my default position was to take the Mini-snake within the Carwashes (mid-top of this image). I had Prem to back me up. Shiham was in control at the center and ready to fill in whichever positions, while Faiz and Wan played the huge wavy snakeside.

Our first game was against the red Tshirted team called "Kerex Hunter." It was interesting, with Shiham managing to do a snakeside taperun to take the flag for the win.

The second game, also on Field 2 was against "Jerung" and it featured Faiz taking out three from the hard to handle snake. I was in the little dorito/"chip" and managed to take out the BabySpike right across the field. Then made my way to the carwash, suppressed the back corner and dove into the mini snake. However the carwash on the other end was not oriented properly, leaving less cover than it should, and the corner guy shot my shoulder. But Infidelz pulled it off and brought their flag back.

The third game was against DPMM 1, which was a bunch of newbies, who put up a brave fight. They were a bunch of 3 girls and 2 boys, and very young. I did the same as in the previous game, parking myself in the chip, taking out the opposite corner (backright), then I dove into the mini snake. By the time I reached the other end of the minisnake, my teammates already cleaned up shop. All of us survived.

Field 3: Again we were "fortunate" to start from left to right. The stalls behind us were blasting "Speedy Gonzales" on the PA system making it difficult to relay info.

Then we had two games on Field 3, where the default plan was to have Faiz at the 50Spike, myself at the mid carwash, and Prem, Shiham and Wan at the back.

For the fourth game, we were up against "Jari Jari Mentega" which is such a brilliant name, the BM version of "Butterfingers" (or more accurately it would be "Margerine Fingers", but who cares). It started well, I tried desperately to hit the back right guy who was battling with Wan who was already in the snake. All five of us were still in play.

I then heard the call, "Only one left! Go!" So Faiz who was infront, obeyed immediately and marched forward, and I tagged along. He was facing right so I flipped to the left. Shiham was running on the right of the carwash. Just when I noticed Faiz getting shot out, I switched hands to face right but it was too late and I was shot out too. I first thought it was because I was in Shiham's line of fire but the shots came from someone who was hiding in their carwash. Shiham got him out, but Shiham too was marked by the player on the right back.

Prem who was moving up on the left was taken out by another player in the centre back. So there were actually 3 players just before we made our move. Fortunately Wan was still in the snake, and he meticulously took out the remaining two back players, and hung the flag in time. That was a really close call.

The fifth game was against "Rookie Raiders". They held their ground well. Playing from the home side (on the plan, right to left), I was in the carwash battling with their backleft. I was joined by Shiham who had moved up from his command at center back. He told me to go into the snake, and because there was a convenient break in the snake, I slid in and composed myself at the center dorito. The back left dude was pelting the dorito, and I just timed it to snap shoot him out. I feel my left shooting is far better nowadays than before. With the left tape down, I shimmied further down the snake. I exchanged a few pellets with the center back, but unfortunately did not recoil in time as he shot my hopper.

There were two from both teams remaining when the marshalls called "Time out". So it was a draw, but a very interesting fight.

We didn't have a sixth game, because Team "Legio-X Frentensis" was a no-show, so we got a walk over.

Tally after the prelims. Infidelz at 5th Place, tho' the spread was thin.

So at the end of the first day, we had 489 points and were ranked 5th of a field of 30, which wasn't too bad at all! This means we proceed to Day 2 for the knockout stage, starting with the Sweet16. Being fifth, we would play the fifth last team which was Team "JS".

Later that day, Ideham turned up, checked into Baba Hotel and walked down Jonkers Street:

A lady crooning down Jonkers Street. Must be part of the "Moral Uplifting" programmes. For her, not us.

Shiham was parked in Dataran Pahlawan, so we walked all the way there to meetup for dinner. It was getting late, and we were hungry, so we chose an easy option of Burger King. crums.

The next day, the competition started at 8am. D4 players were assigned Field 3 again. Because Wan could not attend Day2, we changed our breakouts accordingly.

The first game against JS for the best of 3, I was suppose to fill the snake while Faiz the 50Spike. Unfortunately I got laned: as I dove on the ground, sliding, a pellet exploded on my hopper splattering paint on my mask. How embarrassing, getting laned by mech markers. So as I watched helplessly from the deadbox, I could see teammate after teammate dwindle down, to a 2 vs 2 fight. Shiham took out their Right Back and they got a penalty for playing on, so their other teammate got pulled. So somehow Infidelz pulled it off again, and we got the flag.

The second game against JS, I was in the carwash and suppressing the doritos. Felt a graze on my right finger, looked at it, but there was no burst. But the marshalls pointed at me and called me out, only to see Faiz and Prem in the deadbox already.

Shiham and Ideham were still in play, up against 4 JS guys. Shiham slid out to the doritos side, while Eddy was in the snakes. Eddy burst out, running down the snake tape, and bunkered JS's captain Buyo at Snake50, then slid into the Snake1 knuckle. He got a bounce off his hand, and the marshall cleared him. He then took out the man in the carwash, and moved up the end of the snake.

Eddy put pressure on a guy across the field on Dorito1, who wrapped around, hiding from the pellets. Shiham saw him and was just about to take him out when the marshalls called the JS guy out, because in his haste he stepped out of bounds. Shiham then moved up and did some gymnastics and managed to get mini-dorito guy out. They both got the flag, and helped us through to the Quarter finals (top 8).

Next, we were up against Team Karma, a Singaporean based team, who had great results whenever they played in previous MyNPL rounds. Fortunately the official photographer The Resident Evil Chef Foo was on the field to take pictures of this game (more here).

The first game we started at Home, breaking out with Eddy and I in the carwash.

Faiz made it to the 50Spike, but had problems with his marker. Eddy did a brave run down the snake, but was shot out, and while I was suppressing the dorito side, a Karma dude ran down the snake side and took me out.
At the same time, Shiham ran up, got the Dorito guy,
and captured their flag while their man also got our flag. It was a 1-on-1 situation but unfortunately Shiham got shot out first.

So we lost for the first time in the tournament.

In game 2, there was some confusion in the breakout, which meant that Faiz did not make it to the 50Spike. When he tried to go down, he was shot out. Eddy was taken out by a wicked bounce off another bunker while he was safely behind the carwash. I was covering the doritos as usual, and exchanged fire with D1 for quite a while. Fortunately I managed to mark him out, but almost immediately, their back left filled in the same dorito. So while I was raining pellets on him, a player from their spike slid into the mini coke right in front of me. I called for Prem, which I then realized was already taken out.

By the time I tried to suppress the mini-coke guy, the player from Dorito-1 moved into D2 which had a better angle than before and took me out. All that was left for the remaining 4 of them was to do was to clean up Shiham who was in the back corner.

We lost only for the second time in the tournament, and it was devastating. So we got knocked out of the tournament, not progressing further than the Quarter Finals. It was a pity. A small consolation was that Team Karma progressed from the Semifinals beating the Jackals to be in the Finals against Team "Shoot in Rage" (SiR).

Not over yet...

Karma however lost to Shoot in Rage in the finals. Yin Yang who was extremely strong in the prelims played Jackals for the 3rd/4th placing, and we managed to see them draw after three games. However the 1-on-1 decider was extremely anti-climactic as the Jackal player got laned on the breakout by the Yin Yang player at the start.

We had lunch at a tiny peranakan restaurant called "Banya" which was very close by, thanks to the recommendation by localboy @cerventus. The Assam Fish and Chendol was good, the rest OK only:

Overall, it was a great outing, managed to reach the Quarterfinals, but like in every tournament, it would have been better to proceed further. The disadvantage of having a relatively easy prelims is that we dont get a feel of the quality of opponents in the future rounds, and whether our tactics would stand up against good opponents.

But we live and learn, and again it was great to play alongside Team Infidelz.

The official results were:
Division 4: (32 teams)
2nd = KARMA


Some other links:
Uncle Zee of Yakuza.
Eu Veng "Evo" Ooi of Yakuza
Resident Evil Chef Foo with his Malacca Gallery Day 1 and Day 2

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Poken apart and back again.

Thanks to @mikefoong, I managed to see first hand what this Poken device is all about. We met at D'lish at Bangsar Village for a tweetup and we got to choose our poken devices. I arrived kinda late, but got the RockStar Poken - only because he had a guitar.

I also brought my Ubuntu netbook to see if it worked well as advertised. I plugged it in, but nothing happened. So I kept an eye on dmesg and found it rather alarming:
I double checked with @davidlian's device, and the I/O errors persisted with his device too. So its not particularly well setup. However it mounts as a read-only device and displays 3 files.

Because Ubuntu doesnt recognise "autorun.inf", you'd have to manually click on the Start_Poken.html file. This is where the magic lies. In the html file, it has a URL which is automatically generated everytime you plug your Poken in.

Its a simple META refresh to a website with a really long URL and looks something like this:
The URL autogenerated by the Poken device. Some information blocked to protect the innocent.

It certainly looks like it was a relatively straight forward encoding, with fields delimited or padded with the 'AAA's. So the first few parts tended not to change, but I could detect the byte field which increments by four bits every time its plugged in. What is also interesting is that the trailing groups of data corresponds to the number of people I Pokened. So in this case, was 6 people.

The remaining series of '+-+-+' obviously is "free space", and at 1434 bytes remaining, with approximately 23 bytes per Poken contact, it should be able to fill another 62 contacts in addition to my 6, so a total of 68 pokes.

So don't go to a Poken party with more than 68 new people, or you'd lose information. I'm not too sure what happens when it gets full, but it seems you can erase the information on your Poken by holding the button down for more than 3 seconds.

I also pried open my Poken, and it split apart quite easily. There was no glue holding it together, as its held together with just simple plastic catches, so a small screwdriver will do the trick. Underneath the circuit board, they melted the plastic pins to flatten out like rivets, so you'd have to push those up for the board to slide through.

Argh! Put that Poken back in one piece, darn it!

As you can see, the circuitry itself is small and thin with the possibility of being incorporated in a slim card form factor. However the bulk comes from the battery, and the antenna, which is wrapped up as a spool.

It also works just by touching the battery onto the contacts, and the red LED lights up. I noticed 3 other LEDs, inside the spool: Another Red, the Green, and Orange to signify the different modes of the Poken.
No worries, it still works, see? flashing lights!

I then snapped it back, not wanting to damage this device further.

So its a relatively simple device, with not much information exchanged during the Pokening process. Just the ID of your friend, and the status of their Poken (discrete or normal). All the actual "Social Network" information is actually in the website. So there is no need to "download" information into your Poken.

What this also means is that this Poken device may not be necessary in the future. All we need could be just software which runs on your phone, which can do almost the same thing via Bluetooth, Infrared or even the Bump.

I guess why this is interesting is that we have some relatively cheap tech which does data transmission, reception and storage in a really bizarre form factor. I look forward to people hacking this to make other interesting applications.

Noticing that the website allows customisation of the Poken Calling Cards, here is my Poken Card template which I created using GIMP (the layered .xcf file available on demand):
Which when populated with the Poken information, looks like this:
Things which Poken needs to fix:
  1. I/O error as reported by dmesg
  2. Making the device writable - what is the use of a 1GB capacity when I cant use it? [Update: it seems the 1GB is simulated, as the device has only 14KB of memory]
  3. Linux friendly - plug and launch
  4. It seems Facebook Connect only works with Internet Explorer 7+. Being a Firefox on Linux user, I don't see how I can make use of this.
  5. Make the device cheaper - something which people wont even think twice about buying. RM20?
  6. Make it thinner
  7. More Pokenistas abound.
Other good Poken reviews:
Carolyn Chan - "If it ain't Poken, go fix it"
Nicki Choong - "Let's start Poken"
Suanie - "do you poken? come poken with me"


[Update: 12 Aug 2009, added Suanie's blog which mentions this, and the 1GB simulated info]