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September 25, 2007

Seattle Area HALO 3 Launch Event With Bill Gates

Starting Sunday, September 23rd around 4:00 PM in the afternoon the first few hardcore HALO fans lined up at the Best Buy store in Bellevue - site of one of the four official launch events in the US. By the evening the number had grown but only a handful stayed throughout the night. Then on Monday, September 24th, the line grew and by 10:00 PM Monday night, the line was around 800 - 900 people long, snaking around the Best Buy, along the parking lot almost all the way to Home Depot.

Line started in fron of the building... ...and went around and then down the parking lot! And so do we!!! Whipping the crowd into a frenzy Fill 'er up! Master Chief with date :)

Master ChiefSwaaaaag!

The Best Buy and Bungie/Microsoft folks kept the crowd entertained with tons of swag: t-shirts, caps, posters, Clix-models, inflatible HALO chairs, squishies and tons more! Master Chief made the rounds for photo opportunities, the Mountain Dew crew replenished the thirsty crowd with "Game Fuel", there was pizza and Bungie/Microsoft employees signed pretty much everything that was asked of them.

Action CLIX Bungie folks signing stuff Bungie folks signing stuff

Mountain Dew not only had folks refill the cups with Game Fuel but they also had "Respawning Stations" with portable arm and hand massage which was very popular! Some RedBull Minis also made a quick run past the line.

RedBull Mountain Dew Respawning Station Mountain Dew Respawning Station

Then at around 11:00 the first celebrities started to show up: Warren Moon, former QB of the Seattle Seahawks (1997 - 1998) and today a radio broadcaster for Seahawks radio. Mr. Moon went around, shook hands and signed tons of posters and stayed for the official store opening.

Mr. Hoadley and Warren Moon Warren Moon signing a t-shirt Warren Moon

Next was the man himself: Bill Gates made the rounds past the first part of the line, shook hands and was ambushed by tons of photographers. He stayed for quite a while and was enthusiastically celebrated by the crowd - he seemed to genuinly enjoy his celebrity status and mingling with the crowds.

Bill Gates Bill Gates Bill Gates

There were a few other folks, Laura Foy (formerly G4tv, but Microsoft these days), also Jeff Bell (Corp VP Global Marketing), Don Mattrick (Senior VP Interactive Entertainment, formerly EA), Marty O'Donnell (HALO music composer) and others. Then a few busses with Bungie folks arrived and the crowd got showered with swag items and went totally nuts. People shouted "Bungie, Bungie" and at some point one half of the line shouted "HALO" while the other half shouted back "3" which went on for quite a while.

Laura Foy of Microsoft (formerly G4tv) Master Chief in the crowd Swag frenzy!

Finally a few minutes before midnight the Best Buy folks cleared the entrance and made room for the buyers to enter the store and at midnight exactly the first few lucky folks were allowed into the store. In there was a group of photographers and cameramen interviewing buyers and getting the first reactions. Soon the deliriously happy buyers emerged from the store, shouting to the waiting crowd and holding their treasures up in the air. The Legendary Edition seemed to be quite popular! Best Buy continued to let small groups enter the store and the line was still pretty long by the time I left.

Store opens!!! Happy HALO 3 fan! Happy HALO 3 fan! Happy HALO 3 fan!

All in all a great event, the fans kept it going all night long and the Microsoft and Bungie folks as well as the people from Best Buy, Mountain Dew and Clix fueled the frenzy.

September 19, 2007

Classic Videogame Show in Portland, Oregon

If you have never heard about NWCGE but know your Nintendo and Atari and live in the Pacific Northwest you owe it to yourself to check out the NWCGE 2K7 Show!

Held at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center, 8439 NE Columbia Blvd in Portland, OR on September 29 and 30, 2007, this is the biggest and best in the Northwest! Last year saw some great contests and phenomenal deals on rare items!

Head on over to the NWCGE website and check it out!

September 15, 2007

Original Pong Arcade, Going Once...

"Deposit quarter, ball will serve automatically, avoid missing ball for high score". These instructions started the history of arcade video games when the original Atari Pong was released late in 1972(*).

Now Ken a fellow at Microsoft is selling his Pong machine on Ebay. As a kid Ken spent some time at a resort in Eastern Washington where he encountered his first video game: Pong. Years later Ken had an itching for this first love and started asking around about Pong machines and eventually found one in Kansas 1997. After some negotiations he ended up sending a cashier's cheque sight unseen to the seller and soon was the proud new owner of a classic Pong.

This machine is in great condition with just a few dings in the cabinet. The face plate is great, all the lettering on the control panels is pristine and everything is original. It even has the original Syzygy service manual!

The counter inside states that 12029 games have been played on this unit, not bad! Game board and coin mechanism are also on great shape, so is the original Hitachi TV with its tie down strap. And yes, it does come with the original back board.

Ken wanted to raise some money for the resoration of a 1936 Ford Convertible so the Pong machine has to go. Well, I'll be bidding on it and so will every other classic game nut out there :)

(* Yes, I know Computer Space was first but that one was a flop! Cool game and cabinet though!)

September 05, 2007

Lunar Eclipse August 28th 2007

For once we had a crystal-clear night in Seattle and boy was the Lunar Eclipse beautiful! It started at 1:51 am PDT and ended at 5:24 am PDT with the total eclipse beginning at 2:52 am PDT. Needless to say I was in bed 5 minutes later :)

Just like the last eclipse I was amazed by the speed with which the moon zooms through the night sky. Shooting with a Russian MTO 1000A 1100mm f10.5 M42 tele lens (manual focus) I had to reposition the camera every minute or two as the moon moved out of view.

Here are some tips for decent pictures of lunar eclipses (or night skies in general):

  • Use a sturdy tripod! Especially if you're using a heavy lens (mount the lens on tripod).
  • Use the longest focal length lens you have, also check for rentals at camera stores if you are serious about getting the best pictures. For example Glazer's in Seattle has the fantastic Canon 600mm f4.0 L IS lens for a fair $80 per day/night! Or search EBay for "MTO 1000A" and buy yourself a 1100mm lens for $200 or less plus shipping from Russia. Oh and don't forget the M42 adapter to whatever system you're using and make sure the lens fits to the body. It's huge and may bump into the flash (some Canon models and others), you may have to use a very short M42 extension tube!
  • If using a manual focus lens a view finder magnifier may be useful to check exact focus.
  • Do a mirror lock up on your camera to prevent mirror-induced shaking.
  • Either delay with the timer or better use a remote to take shots to reduce shaking.
  • Shoot a series of exposures ranging from normal exposure to minus two stops. Experiment and take plenty of shots, memory is cheap :)
  • For better exposure adjust the metering points to the center instead of weighted average. Experiment.
  • Go for short exposure times, the moon is moving surprisingly fast! At the same time try to avoid the highest ISO settings on your camera as noise may ruin the picture. Experiment with 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 seconds while the moon is still fully lit and check the results - is it crisp or streaking?

The pictures above are the full frames with a 1100mm lens. With a 500 - 600mm lens the moon would be around one half in diameter.