Facing Off Sheylara At Symantec Gaming Tournament – Hands-on with Norton AV 2009 Gaming Edition

Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition

Previously, I teamed up with Sheylara on that blogger challenge of … erm … national significance.  This time, I had to team against her at the Symantec Gaming Tournament.  My first time playing a Counter-Strike lookalike network game.  Sheylara had planted so many bullets on my back that it was no longer funny.  And she was physically sitting one row behind me with her virtual gun point right at my real back.  So how did the tournament go?  Hang on for a moment.  Let’s talk about this new Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition first.  And I have more (surreal) photos to share later in this entry.  The one with the classic Sheylara post is probably my favorite.

Of Norton, AVG, McAfee, and … Norton

Coincidentally, just days before I received the invitation to this blogger event, I was curiously staring at this yellow box of “Gaming Edition” at one computer store one fine afternoon.  As an avid gamer, I am excited to see Norton from Symantec listens to the gamers’ needs.

The concept of computer virus always bugs me, though I am a computer scientist and engineer by training.  I wish I could visit the Norton lab one day and see how it works.  Norton has a business because of the virus makers.  Do they recruit virus makers to kill off the virus?  How do they get into these people’s heads?

My love affair with Norton as such.  Companies use Norton products so as a home user, I too bought Norton products to protect my computers.  That was quite a while ago.  Back then, Norton products were resource intensive, countless updates that required countless machine restarts.  So I ditched Norton and went for free products like AVG.  Didn’t work out so I went for McAfee.  McAfee seemed to work for me but it didn’t.  When a virus did strike (how often right?), it failed to quarantine.  And I have to keep signing on every few days or so to have my account verified.  Enough is enough, so I went back to Norton.

Last year, I was shocked by Norton 2008’s superb performance – both in terms of product installation and the on-going protection.  I was told that 2009 edition is even faster.  Wow!  And since I need to get my hands dirty for this blog entry, I uninstalled my Norton Internet Security 2008 that still has 2 months worth of subscription and give this Gaming Edition a try.

Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition

Norton AV Gaming Edition Skin

The box says that this Gaming Edition will install in less than a minute.  Are you for real?!  Surprisingly it does.  If you come from the dinosaur age like I do some people do, that is just hard to believe.  Even the update did not take long (note: if you notice the CPU usage meter, I was running a full system scan and Norton is transparent enough to let me know how much resource it was using).

Gamer Mode

So, what so special about the gaming edition?

When Norton AV Gaming Edition detects a game launched in full screen mode (or in my case because I run World of Warcraft in Windows mode, I can click onto the system tray and switch on gaming mode), certain protections are turned off, including the suspension of alerts and notifications (see picture on the left).  Underneath the hood, there are options for you to decide if you wish to turn off (1) AntiVirus, (2) Advance Protection, (3) Intrusion Prevention, and (4) Automatic LiveUpdate when the gaming mode is switched on.  Neat!  And if you own an online gaming account like I do, I was told that this product will safeguard you against intrusion too.

Symantec Gaming Tournament

That night was the first time I played what appeared like a 3-on-3 Counter-Strike network game.  All those years of World of Warcraft training seems to have help.  It is quite a fun game to play.  There is a terrorist team to pick and a counter-terrorist team too.  I find it is much easier to play the terrorist.  Go in, plant the bomb, and get out.

The professional gamers were in the house.  Gaming as a profession?!  I thought only gold farmers in MMORPG makes money.  Amazing.

In Closing

You know you need to protect your computers against virus.  The question is which product to use.  There are alternatives out there and it doesn’t take much research to realize that Norton is the way to go in terms of reliability, ease of installation and use, and performance.  The only consideration is pricing.  For the Gaming Edition, Norton from Symantec has taken one step further.  It requires less than 6MB of memory (8 times less compares to competitors), opens only 2 processes, and add less than 3 seconds to boot time.  If you are an avid gamer who is looking for a virus protection tool, you shouldn’t settle for less.

There are much to cover for the Norton 2009 products.  Perhaps another post when I get a hold onto the Internet Security 2009.  Stay tuned.

A big thank you to the Norton folks and Text100 folks in making this event fun. I am happy to have learned so much more and in depth about the Norton products.  Yes, our team has won the tournament and thanks for the prize!

River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony – A Media Coverage

A sample of photos taken during the River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony

I am honored to be invited as part of the media crew to cover the River Hongbao Opening Ceremony.  Having no prior experience to cover event of such scale and significance, I followed closely to EastCoastLife, the president of our Association of Bloggers (Singapore), listening to her advice on who is who, what to anticipate, and the general tips to cover events and etc.

In this blog entry, I am going to share two photo albums with you. 

  1. Click here (or onto the image above) to view my personal favorite collection created using Nikon Capture NX2
  2. Scroll down to view the event collection created using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2

On the Event

From now till Feb 1, there are many reasons to visit the Floating Platform just off Marina Square.  First, you get to walk around the platform built originally as a temporary location for the National Day Parade.  The last time I visited the same location was during the National Day Parade Preview back in 2007.  One fine piece of work built by the Singapore Armed Force, MINDEF, and DSTA.

Second, there are lots of photography opportunities.  Beautiful light with lots of color.  At the center of the Floating Platform is a performance stage.  Check out the show schedule here.  Lots of talents.  EastCoastLife and I enjoyed the cultural performance thoroughly.

Third, admission is free.  The venue is well organized and secured.  Tripods are allowed so bring your family and friends and take some memorable shots!  If you drop a link of your photo album here, I will gladly take a look.  Let’s learn from each other.

A Media Crew’s Journal

It was the first time I stepped into a Press Conference.  We were side by side with the traditional media.  And I am happy that my camera is of an industrial standard as compares to what the pros are using.  We are all Nikonians, we are friends immediately without the need to exchange words.

Peggy Chen, our friendly media point of contact, walked us through the program in Mandarin.  I tried very hard to understand what she said (I am a Cantonese) because she did give out useful information on what to expect, where to take your best photo shots.  I think I understood about 70% of what she said.  When she repeated the information a second time in English, I was in tears of joy.

The professional photographers move very fast.  We were dashing ahead, turning around to take some killer shots, and dashed out again – as our VVIP (very-very important people) walked amongst the crowd.  Over 800 shots were made on that evening and I am amazed on how Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Wong Kan Seng managed to smile in almost every photo I took throughout the entire event.

I was told that firecrackers were banned in Singapore and now recently lifted.  When EastCoastLife asked the security guards if we could get up close to the firecrackers and they were shocked, politely said no.  After seeing how explosive those firecrackers were, I personally am glad that I was nowhere close.

As you can see in the photos here, the performance was beautiful, professionally done.  Apparently, EastCoastLife has seen the preview and was tipping me on what shots to take.  Neat!  My personal favorite of the entire collection – besides the picture of a very pretty Chinese girl on stage – is the 6 men stacking up in the form of a totem

Sharing of Photography Experience

I have many photography mentors to help me with this learning journey.  So, I wish to thank Ken for the wonderful tip on: bring more than one lens for the event and change on the spot.  Because of this tip, I brought along my telephoto zoom lens as well.  I am so glad that I did.  I would have missed quite a number of shots that turn out to contain some of my favorites.

I also wish to thank Mathew to convince me that there are industrial strength battery chargers out there and with the right batteries, my camera can perform as though it is on steroid.  And just the day before, I invested S$200 for a charger and countless batteries (12 high capacity ones and 8 free not too high capacity batteries that come with the charger).  That makes my already heavy camera even heavier.  But that is no big deal, just need to do more weightlifting.  With all the quality batteries, my camera was shooting at 8 frames per second with the flash gun to match.

Two awesome tips!

Besides the two lenses – wide angle and telephoto – I brought my tripod and shutter release cable as well.  That night was also the first evening I tried the MUP (mirror up) function to minimize the mechanical vibration caused by the movement of the mirror inside the camera.  MUP only makes sense if you have a shutter release cable.

I have nearly underestimated the number of photos I would shoot especially with high speed shooting mode.  My 8GB Extreme IV memory card was barely enough (for over 800 shots taken).  I have completely depleted the 8 AA rechargeable batteries on the grip.  And I reckon my flash gun would need new batteries really soon.  Hence, lessons learned are:

  • Always anticipate where the VVIP will be heading.  And keep dashing forward (without knocking anyone down!).
  • Observe where the professional photographers stand (great tip from EastCoastLife).
  • If you can’t afford an extra camera body (like me), bring extra lenses for the event.
  • And if you are using one of the entry level dSLR cameras, do yourself a favor and get the 18-200mm lens (for my D700, I use the 24-70mm and 70-200mm, both at f/2.8).  It costs S$1,000 but you can almost shoot anything from any distance especially with the flash gun mounted.  Not large enough aperture is seldom an issue with flash.
  • Bring extra memory cards and batteries.  Even if you may not need to use them, they offer a good peace of mind.
  • Bring along an assistance to help you with your gears.  Better still, bring a pretty one so that he or she can be your subject if need to too.

Afterthoughts

As a blogger who participate in the New Media movement, I can certainly see the benefit of being part of a legal entity that complies to the Singapore Societies Act.  Much like how bloggers – myself included – get into company events through the PR companies, an association for the bloggers get us in touch with the events of national significance. 

Being bounded by the Societies Act does have its restriction, especially in the areas that touch onto Singapore politics.  But the upside is that not only the government, but also other established associations acknowledge our existence.  More doors will be open for us to “promote, protect, and educate” our members.  And inevitably, our key stakeholder list will expand beyond the Blogosphere – for the better I reckon.

At times I wonder how many active societies are there in Singapore.  I think in time to come, there will be more and more associations for the different groups of bloggers to cater for different special needs.  Is there a one size fits all?  Probably not, in my personal humble opinion.

Related Link: Personal Photo Collection – River Hongboa Opening Ceremony (A Highlight)

Love Matters, But Does Jack Neo?

Photo taken right before the show started ... Love Matters

Apparently it does, Jack Neo is still one of the most celebrated film directors in Singapore.

So we are invited for the Gala Premium of “Love Matters”.  It is good that our team from the Association of Bloggers (Singapore) that is still at its infancy stage have the opportunity to meet up in a causal non-work related setting.  As I looked across the theatre, taking mental pictures of our team members, I felt as though we have worked together much longer than just a few months – from media kit to logistics, from membership to sponsorship to partnership and more.  We’ve just put up a FAQ section in our temporary website.  10 of us, working voluntarily, with a day job to do in a challenging economic environment whereby, all of us should focus on what earns us a living instead.

A comedy like “Love Matters” is good, to lighten up the mood.  I remember 2008 started with bloodshed conflicts (remember Pakistan?) one after another.  2009 too started with one (read about Israel lately?) topped with a global financial meltdown that not only affects the investors, but now the aftermath is felt by the common people on the ground.  Like me and perhaps, you.

I don’t assign stars to my reviews.  Take “Love Matters” as an example.  You can’t really compare it side by side with an International film like, say, “Love Actually” (my friend Ed and I were just talking about “Love Actually” at a café while waiting for the Red Carpet event to take place).  To be able to see something closer to our local culture on a big screen, local talent Jack Neo’s films are as close as it gets.  Three love stories intertwined into a single plot, there is this young boy having a crush with his schoolmate who is attached, there is this flamboyant young man who doesn’t know what love is beyond physical intimacy, and there is an old married couple whose well of passion has dried up long time ago.  As Jack Neo wrote in his blog, the following translated paragraph summarized what he envisages the film to be.

Those who are not in love yearn for love; those who are loved don’t know how to love; and those who are in love for too long no longer feel the love.

There are pockets of quality jokes that even for Cynthia who doesn’t know a single word of Chinese, she laughed hard.  Beyond bits and pieces of comedy (my favorite one is the gigolo scene) is a bit of horror (“Hard Candy” anyone?) and a bit of tragedy with tons of tears.  It is relevant to our current environment on what sex in the fifties is like (think Viagra in Chinese potion) and what teen sex is like (sex videos getting uploaded into the Internet sounds familiar?).  Perhaps the topic of sex has earned the disappointing NC-16 rating, at least to Jack Neo.  I would think that the younger crowd may have some to learn from the story.

Yes, I wish “Love Matters” has the cinematography quality of “Dance of the Dragon”.  The backdrops are a bit too ordinary to me.  And yes, I wish the story is tighter and less irregular in terms of scripting quality.  At some parts of the story, Cynthia and I would turn and look to each other and have the “huh?!” look.  Having said that, I am happy to support the local industry and “Love Matters” is Jack Neo’s 13th production that will certainly give you a good laugh and a tiny bit of something to ponder about no matter how old you are.

Photos shared here are those that I have taken during the Red Carpet event.  Yes, I just have to throw in pictures of Cynthia taken at the rooftop of Vivocity because I have always wanted to take some pictures of her there.  This set of photos is also the first time Nikon’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 for Capture NX 2 is being featured in my website, as a good alternative to Adobe Photoshop products.  Stay tuned for further write-ups on what software is for you if you are a Nikon digital photographer.