Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reference guide for Halo 3 ODST Audiophile achievement

I'm not often a "completionist" when it comes to earning every achievement in a game, but sometimes a game is interesting enough, and the achievement tasks are realistic enough that it can be fun in itself to see if I can do it. To this point, I have earned all of the achievements in Halo 3 ODST except for the ones associated with the Firefight co-op mode. This "Audiophile" achievement was not difficult, but it was time-consuming, so I thought I'd post the references I used and the experience I had earning this one to hopefully save someone time if they want to do this.

To earn this achievement, one has to find all 29 of the Audio Log locations throughout the "Mombasa Streets" portion of the campaign and the final Audio Log within the Data Hive mission. You will only be able to find the Data Hive location after you have found the previous 29 locations. You can do this on any difficulty, so you might as well do it on "Easy" so you can quickly take care of any resistance you meet on the streets as you travel. There are a number of maps of the Mobmasa Streets available online, some with linked video clips showing each Audio Log, and there are also complete video walkthroughs showing the locations of all of the Audio Logs, but there is not one place that puts everything together, including what to do if you have difficulty actually "retrieving" the Audio Logs.

First, you will need a good map. I like this one because it shows the names of some of the "flashback" missions of the campaign (i.e., Kikowani Station) that make it easier to know where you are on the map. I will caution you that the video on that page showing the location of the 30th Audio Log in the "Data Hive" level contains a "spoiler" with regard to the story that is told by watching and listening to all of the Audio Logs. If you feel you must watch the video before doing it in the game, I would recommend you stop the video once you see where the 30th Audio Log is. However, you really don't need to watch the video at all as once you reach the Marine who accompanies you to Level 9 in Data Hive, you won't need any further guidance.

I found this video walkthrough to be extremely helpful. It quickly runs through every location and even traces the route you will need to walk on the overhead map to reach the next location. If all of the Audio Logs are "retrievable" (see "Other Considerations" below) it should take you about half an hour to confirm that you have them all using this walkthrough.

General Approach
Once you pick a map it is best to follow its Audio Log locations in sequence so you don't get lost. I had the map open on my laptop next to me while I played, but you can also print out the map and mark off each location as you find it. One initial thing to realize is that the Audio Logs do not need to be found in a specific order (but, see "Connection With Flashback Missions" below), though as you find them and listen to them, they will be sequential. This confused me at first since I needed to start looking for the 18th Audio Log after I went back to find all of the logs (I had found 17 while completing the campaign), and different maps labeled different locations as "18th."

Just remember that whatever audio log you find is the next one in terms of telling the story, so the numbering on the various maps showing all of the locations is really of no value except as reference within that map itself. Start with #1 on whatever map you choose, and go through to #29. Another thing to remember is that there is no connection between the "solo" and "co-op" campaigns as far as the Audio Logs go. If you find an Audio Log while going through the campaign on co-op, you will need to find the same one again if going through solo, and vice-versa. It's probably easiest to just do this solo, so you don't have to coordinate more than one person to all of these locations.

Other Considerations
The biggest problem I had going through the streets to find these Audio Logs is that not all of them appeared "retrievable" when I found the correct location. You will know an Audio Log is retrievable by two clues:
  1. Virgil, the city's computer, will use the environment to clue you in that you are close. Police car lights will flash, crosswalks will operate, phones will ring, etc.; and
  2. The location of the Audio Log itself will be outlined in bright yellow if you are using your VISR mode. The Audio Logs are found in such items as pay phones, health pack stations, recruiting stations (in-game advertisements to join the UNSC--you'll know them when you see them) and a few others.
If you are not seeing either of these clues when approaching an Audio Log location you know you have not yet retrieved, you will probably need to go back and complete some flashback missions.

Connection With Flashback Missions
It seems that the availability of the Audio Logs to be "retrieved" depends on the completion of a certain number of the "flashback" missions. I believe the reason that not all of the Audio Logs were "retrievable" for me is that I had gone back through to certain of the flashback missions within the campaign in order to earn particular achievements. When you do this, your previous campaign progress is lost. As such, the game believes you have not completed any of the flashback missions after you begin skipping around.

With this in mind, if you have just beaten the campaign you should have no problem immediately going back to "Continue Solo Campaign" (though if your last save was within the Data Hive level this might not work) from the main menu and wandering Mombasa Streets to find the audio logs. If, however, you have skipped around after completing the campaign you will need to re-play the first three flashback missions in order to make all of the Audio Logs "retrievable."

I don't know the magic of the first three missions, but I found a post on the forums that confirms my experience. Apparently five or six Audio Logs are retrievable after having completed the first flashback mission. Then after completing the second flashback mission, another 20 or so are retrievable. Completing the third flashback mission makes the last five Audio Logs available (the last five on the Mombasa Streets level), and then the last Audio Log is located within the final Data Hive mission. This apparent requirement of completing flashback missions is another reason to work toward this achievement on "Easy" difficulty.

Audio Log Story
The story that is told through watching all 30 of the Audio Logs adds a cool element to the campaign. You learn about some of the events prior to your arrival in New Mombasa, what and who Virgil is, and meet some interesting characters who provide a backstory to the campaign. The "spoiler" mentioned above relates to how the Audio Log story is tied to the main campaign story that you are playing. It is not something critical, but if you approach it without knowing how the two tie together, it is more satisfying. Once you have found the last Audio Log in Data Hive, listen to and watch it, then remember to look around and explore the room. Also notice the "condition" of the room and the area outside the room. Remember the events of the last several Audio Logs and you will see the connection.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Retro gaming goodness

The classic gaming room is coming together. We are still working on cable and power management, but this is a great start, and everything works, all original hardware:

Classic gaming room

Be sure to click the picture to go to flickr as there are explanatory notes for all that you see here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Xbox 360 is back

Just a quick note that my Xbox has been returned, exactly two weeks after I sent it off. I briefly updated my previous post on the red-ring warranty service.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Circuit City brand back in business

When I received an email this morning from Circuit City promoting a new laptop deal, I scrutinized it for signs of phishing. When I then separately (without clicking on any links within the email) visited, the web site appeared very much as it did prior to Circuit City's bankruptcy.

Apparently another company, Systemax, Inc., has bought the Circuit City brand, trademarks and assets and has re-opened It appears they will be offering products for sale only online and not in brick and mortar stores.

According to Bloomberg:
Systemax Inc. is a direct marketer of private label and brand name personal computers and related supplies, as well as industrial products, through branded websites and direct mail catalogs. The Company offers its own brand of Systemax built-to-order personal computers, including desktops and servers. Systemax operates in North America and in Europe.
I guess this is a bit of old news as ZDNet blogged about it on June 12. Apparently Systemax also runs and also acquired CompUSA. It will take some time before I'd feel comfortable ordering from the new, mainly because I don't know much about Systemax and there are many more familiar alternatives, but I wish them luck.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

SiriusXM - The Loft

One of my newly-discovered favorites on SiriusXM is The Loft, channel 29. It plays a very interesting mix of music, which I like when I really want something different. On a recent drive into work, I heard the following artists:

  • Randy Newman
  • Duncan Sheik
  • The Temptations
  • Ben Harper and Relentless 7
  • Coldplay
  • Rolling Stones
  • Muddy Waters
  • Wilco
  • Bobbie Gentry
  • Jill Sobule (song: "Where is Bobbie Gentry?")

15 years and 168,743 miles...

and we're still going strong in 2009.

1994 Chevy S-10

Yep, this is me in 1994 with my newly-leased truck:

1994 Chevy S-10

My truck has probably provided the most utility of anything I've ever owned. Innumerable moves, both my own and others, a trip halfway across the country to Minneapolis and back, transport of a stranded motorcycle, commuting to work, and I believe my brother Brian used it to move an engine block once.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Xbox 360 RRoD #1

Xbox 360 RRoD
Originally uploaded by arukasa
[UPDATE - Xbox returned! See below]

I am now a member of the club, I guess.

My Xbox 360 finally gave in yesterday. It had been freezing more and more frequently with distortion and pixellation on the screen, and finally after taking the hard drive off and turning the unit on, I saw the three quadrants lit up and blinking indicating ... death.

Unfortunately last night's support page was virtually inaccessible it was so slow, so I have been doubly frustrated at not even being able to print out a shipping label to send my box back. It is still loading like molasses tonight...

Well, it lasted one year, nine months (I bought it just prior to the Halo 3 launch). That's pretty sad considering my original Xbox, PS2 and GameCube still work fine. At least it's still under the 3 year RRoD warranty.

Don't get me wrong, I love my 360 and think it offers the best online console gaming experience currently. I'll have it repaired and play again, it's just frustrating.

FYI, my box was manufactured 7/19/2007, has a Zephyr mobo and chipset (with supposedly improved heatsink) and HDMI port.

UPDATE: My Xbox arrived on July 6, 2009, exactly two weeks from the day I shipped it off. Not a bad turnaround time. This new box is a replacement and not a repair of my old box. It shows a "service date" of June 28, 2009. From some searches online, this appears to mean it is a repaired/refurbished machine, just not my original box. I set it up and everything seems to be working ok, so it looks like I'm back in business.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stern on Letterman next Monday, June 8, 2009

Howard announced on the show this morning that he will be on Letterman next Monday, so be sure to set your VCRs or DVRs. He's always entertaining.

One insider bit of info if you don't listen to the Stern show -- watch for Howard to ask Dave whether Dave will have Jay Leno on the show now that Leno is not really a competitor anymore.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The new Star Trek

What a terrific movie! I went to see it with a couple of friends, one was a Trek fan like me, the other more of a general sci-fi fan, and we all loved it. Knowing the characters from watching several of the tv series and the movies added some subtlety to learning about the genesis of the main characters and their relationships, but one certainly would not have to be a hard core Trek fan to enjoy the movie.

I am still digesting what may be my favorite part of the movie, but I loved learning about Captain Pike and how he came to appear as he did in the original Star Trek series on tv.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

When the Germans attacked Pearl Harbor

Tonight was all about relaxing and taking in a few of the gospels of comedy movies. The first was "Life of Brian" by Monty Python, which, all by itself is enough to feed a large portion of modern comedy culture. 1979? Is it really that old? If you haven't seen this one, get yourself a sense of humor, especially about Chrisitianity, and take a look. The lighter side of stonings and crucifixions has never been funnier.

And whatever you do, if approached, join the People's Front of Judea, not the Judean People's Front or the Judean Popular People's Front -- don't be a splitter!

The second gospel tonight was "Animal House." Good lord, 1978, really? The mother of all college/fraternity/misadventure movies, this one never gets old. Besides Mr. John Belushi in his breakout role, and John Vernon as Dean Wormer, this movie can't be beaten. Simply classic in all respects. If you don't know what it means to be on "double secret probation," you have missed something and need to see this movie.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

One of the coolest product loyalty promotions ever

I am now a lifetime leaseholder of a plot of land near the Laphroaig distillery:

Laphroaig lifetime lease

As a "friend of Laphroaig" and lifetime leaseholder, I am entitled to payment of an annual ground rent of one dram of Laphroaig, payable in person at the distillery. I've had long-term plans to visit Scotland as it is part of my family's heritage, and this is one more incentive and a great reason to include Laphroaig in my planned distillery tour.

All I did to become entitled to this great benefit and handsome certificate is register on Laphroaig's web site using the code I received along with a bottle of Scotch I recently bought. It did not cost me a single cent to have Laphroaig send me, via airmail from Great Britain (really, Scotland!) the above personalized certificate.

I'm looking forward to my trip.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rock Band 2 triple cymbal expansion kit

This might be the greatest gaming accessory ever invented. I liked playing the drums on the Rock Band games before, but this takes it to the next level. It's still not exactly like actually playing drums (which I cannot, by the way), but the position and different levels of these cymbals contributes greatly to the illusion.

Rock Band 2 triple cymbal kit
Rock Band 2 triple cymbal kit

This adds a high-hat, ride and crash cymbal to the kit which not only make it more fun to play, it's actually easier and more intuitive. They are connected in such a way that each cymbal corresponds to one of the drum pads, so you effectively have two ways to successfully hit a beat during play. In addition, hitting the cymbal will produce the corresponding sound of a cymbal as opposed to the sound of a tom, so you also have a bit more control and can choose the sound produced for a particular beat. I understand there is a double cymbal expansion kit also, but you don't want that one -- you need the triple, trust me.

The build quality is solid, and I have not noticed any dropped "hits" during gameplay. I played my first virtual gig a few nights ago as the drummer and held my own on medium difficulty, so I am quite pleased.

Everything is alright

I went to the "Songs for Presidents" show last night here in Sacramento. It was quite an event, with a collection of four or five Sacramento bands and a number of musicians from several other bands sharing the stage to play 27 songs from the "Of Great And Mortal Men" album.

I had seen a previous show at the "Of Great And Mortal Men" album release party last September, but it was at a smaller venue. Last night the band was in its full glory, with accordion, violin, saxophone, clarinet and flute filling the large stage at Marilyn's on K.

It was a great show, with passionate (and sometimes humorous) performances by all. The emcee for the night was David Watts Barton, Managing Editor of He provided a bit of background on each President before that President's song for those of us who were less than familiar with their Presidential history. He kept it funny and interesting, and even sang a few songs, too.

The night ended with the group's song for Obama, "Someone to Wake," composed after the release of the album and available as a free download at the link to NPR above. It was a rousing and hopeful rendition, with most of the musicians onstage, extending the final chorus of "Everything is alright" to an appreciative crowd.

The band played at Obama's inauguration, and I understand will be performing at the South-by-Southwest event in Austin, Texas this March.

I don't think there are further Sacramento dates in the near future, but keep your eyes open and if you can catch this band, do it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rock Band 2 Endless Setlist completed

My other achievement over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, in a literal and Xbox 360 sense, was completing the Rock Band 2 "Endless Setlist." This is fairly insane, as it involves playing all 84 songs contained in the game in one gigantic set with no breaks. It took my friend Shawn and I over six hours to complete. Admittedly, we completed it on "medium" difficulty (and five-starred every song, thankyouverymuch), but given the difficulty of many of the later songs in the setlist and the exhaustion point approached at the 6 hour mark, we could not have done it any other way.

We earned two achievements for completing this task:

1) The Bladder of Steel Award (no pausing and no fails on any song); and
2) Vinyl Artist (completion on "medium" difficulty as opposed to earning "Gold" for completing it on "hard" or "Platinum" on "expert" difficulty)

So, I present to you, proof:
Endless Setlist completed!

Scalzi and Kowal in San Francisco

I'm late to the party with this post, but I had a great time over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in San Francisco. I kicked it off Friday night by attending a reading by John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal at Borderlands Books. The place was packed:
Scalzi and Kowal, January 2009
It was an orderly crowd, but everyone was enthusiastic and the laughs flowed freely. Each author read short fiction pieces that were good, but it was when they interacted with each other that the magic happened. It was obvious they were having fun, and consequently all of us had fun. The final "science fiction comedy improv" topped off the evening to great applause.

If you're interested, a fan recorded the entire event and it is available online.

A few more pics:
Scalzi and Kowal, January 2009
Scalzi and Kowal, January 2009
Scalzi and Kowal, January 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nice Monster EP release party

I saw a great show last night at one of my favorite spots here in town, the Fox & Goose. My friend Chad's band, Nice Monster, had an EP release party there. From the band's page on Grayscale Records, the music is described as "Melodic Math Rock." I'm not quite sure what that means, but I like the music. It's a nice mix of acoustic guitar, bass, drums and keyboards with just the right amount of Stratocaster.