My First Week on Steemit, and My First Impressions

Aiyumi -

I've never had much patience, nor luck, with social networks.

  • I've tried to use twitter, but nothing came out of it. I didn't have the patience to read others' things and post constantly, and it was cumbersome to rephrase everything I wrote to fit the character limit. In the end, my Twitter was relegated to just informing people about blog and fanfic updates. I only have like 7 followers, and my tweets don't even show on searches, just because they contain links (to this blog or to my fan fictions). From what I understood, the fact that they contain links and have no retweets makes the Twitter search engine bots think my tweets are spam! So, no one outside of my 7 followers can even find my tweets...
  • I don't have Facebook because I don't like it.
  • Updates to my Youtube are few and far between because my visual impairment makes it hard for me to create visual content.
  • I'm not on Deviantart because of the same reason above.
  • Since I've found a few interesting blogs on Tumblr, I once tried to use it, but gave up because the interface is completely unusable with screen reader software, thus inaccessible to visually impaired users who depend on screen readers to use the computer.
  • Also, I'm more a reader than a poster (people who have seen this blog knows how infrequent my posts are). There's a community on Reddit, r/Persona5, which I've been following since 2016, before the Persona 5 game came out in Japan. But I don't even have a Reddit account, and just read what other people post. Surprisingly, I have enough patience for that, as said community tends to have insightful discussions about the plot, the characters, and the game in general. But so far, nothing gave me enough incentive to actually go out of my way to create a Reddit account and go write something there, and I've been content just by reading.

And Now, There's Steemit...

One day, one of my fanfic's readers, a talented artist that goes by the nickname Ayza, commented on my fanfic. I made a deal with her to request some artwork related to my fanfic, and she sent me links to the social networks where I could find her. Among these links was her profile page for a social network I had never heard before, called Steemit.

Around since 2016 and still in beta, Steemit is basically a social network that rewards people for posting content. Users that read and enjoy a post can upvote it (similar to the "likes" on Facebook or the "upvotes" on Reddit), comment on it (it's also possible to upvote comments), and repost it so that their followers see it, which gives more visibility to the post. One week after posting, the post's author earns some "points," which are actually cryptocurrencies (similar to the well-known Bitcoin) that can be used as power to make their votes be worth more "points" inside Steemit, or converted into normal money at a few cryptocurrency exchanges. This is an oversimplified explanation, and there's much more to Steemit, but this is the basic idea. The actual details are in the Steemit FAQ.

I found the concepts interesting. The posts I came across were of good quality, and had nice and insightful comments. Steemit seemed to be a welcoming place, and did something most social networks didn't. It made me want to sign up! :P

So, I signed up. The only things they ask are an username, an e-mail address, and a cellphone number (to get a text message with a code for account validation). As with most sites that are in beta, there's a wait list. While I waited for my account to be approved, I read a few posts to learn more about how things on Steemit work. Four days later, my account was approved. Although it's not mandatory, it's customary for new users to make a self-introduction post using the "introduceyourself" tag, and try to start engaging with the community. I made one, and surprisingly, some users took the time to welcome me and give me some tips on how to use the platform. Then, I learned that there's a growing community of Brazilian people, and which is quite friendly and helpful to newbies like me.

I've come across a lot of well-written and interesting posts. I also learned about the existence of a video streaming site similar to Youtube called DTube and an audio streaming site similar to Soundcloud called DSound that use the same rewards system as Steemit. Since I have problems to find images to use as background for my occasional game music covers to post on Youtube, and Soundcloud is another site that failed to convince me to sign up, DSound might be a good option for me (it has no sign up and uses the Steemit account for login). However, DSound still has some accessibility problems - basically, the buttons don't have any text saying what they do (their functionality is represented by icons only) and visually impaired users who depend on screen readers can't know what the buttons are for -, but it's a young project with a lot of potential, and I hope it'll improve in this regard in the future. You can read the post explaining how DTube works here, and the one explaining DSound here. The posts are a bit old and many things improved in both projects, but the basic idea about how they work remain the same.

Speaking of accessibility, Steemit itself is rather accessible, and my screen reader got along with it rather well. I've run into a few small problems, but nothing that really hinders my use of the service.

Of course not all is roses on Steemit. Not every post has good quality. There is crappy content, there's people that abuse the system with spam (this is inevitable everywhere, especially when rewards with monetary value are involved), and the platform still lacks some features that would provide a better user experience. Steemit is still in beta, far from perfect, and may be complicated to learn in the beginning. But one thing that made me identify with Steemit is that the community is very helpful and writes various posts to guide new users, or to recommend ways and tools to work around the platform's shortcomings. There are various recommendations of helpful posts by users on Steemit's welcome page. Inspired by this, I also tried to do my part by writing a post about filtering posts by authors and tags (hopefully it'll be of use to someone).

So far, I'm enjoying the stay. One week in, and I got 14 followers. From their posts, I think three of them or so might be bots, but the others are real people (most of them are the ones who welcomed me in my introductory post) and are quite active in the Brazilian community. Avid social network users may laugh at this, but 14, or even 11 followers is a huge achievement to me.

Will I make money on Steemit? Honestly, considering my lack of patience with social networks and my lack of ability to promote content, I doubt it. But I'm enjoying the content, and for now, I only wish I could get a bit more STEEM POWER so that my votes would be worth more and help give more visibility to the content I like.

Will I have enough patience to continue frequenting Steemit? This, only time will tell, but I hope so!

A link to my Steemit profile is already on the sidebar, and is also below:

https://steemit.com/@aiyumi

As much as I'd like to repost some things from this blog on there, I can't post the whole text because that would cause search engines to penalize either this blog or my Steemit blog for duplicate content. So, I'll do some experiments, alternate between posting here and linking from there, and vice versa. Let's see what happens...

Edit (13:35): wow, looks like Steemit brought in a few Twitter followers as well! The number went from 7 to 11 (11 here too? XD ) I only noticed this when I went to Twitter to publish a link to this blog post. :D

New Year, New Disk

Aiyumi -

2018 arrived, and I kicked off the year with... a hard drive failure in my main PC. In the morning of January 4th, I had just started doing some job-related stuff (I'm working at home) when, suddenly, without any symptom or prior warning, the computer began emitting clicks, everything crashed, the machine stopped responding, and the only way to turn it off was by holding the power button for a few seconds. When I turned it back on, I got a hard disk failure message. I used a Linux live USB to try to see what was going on, and everything worked fine except for the HD. The disk wasn't even recognized, and kept emitting clicks. We opened the machine and replaced the SATA cables, but nothing changed (the cables weren't the problem). Conclusion: the HD died for good.

Assessing the Losses

I usually make a backup once every week. Emphasis on "usually." Ironically, I hadn't made a backup the previous week, and thanks to this, I lost two weeks worth of changes (the previous week + the ongoing week when the HD died). Thankfully, I didn't lose progress on most of my work-related scripts because I had uploaded them to the office's servers. But I lost a whole chapter of one of the fanfics I'm writing which had taken me my free time of those last two weeks to put together, and I'm still trying to recover the motivation to write all of that again. I also lost the Windows partition, which I actually never bothered to back up thinking nothing important was inside... until, after I lost the drive, I remembered all my VOCALOID and UTAU project files were in there, including the USTs for the "Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There" UTAU cover that took me a month to finish. I had copied the generated audio files to my Linux partition, but not the USTs... :(

Choosing a New Drive

After much consideration, I decided to get an SSD instead of another HD. SSD ("Solid State Drive") is a different kind of disk that has its memory on a chip (like the memory in SD cards or USB sticks), data is accessed straight from the chip and the disk doesn't need to spin like the HDs do, which makes it faster (I had heard the operating system boots up in a matter of seconds once the machine is turned on, and heavy programs open quickly). It's more durable, quieter and consumes less power than HDs. I've heard that after living with an SSD, it's hard to go back to the traditional HDs. I had been curious about SSDs for a few months, and decided I might as well turn the lemons into lemonade, take this "opportunity" to try it out and see what all the fuzz was about. The problem is that this technology is still a bit expensive, and I paid $375 BRL (roughly $120 USD) on an SSD that only has 240GB, and for that price I could have bought a normal 1TB HD... but it's fine. It may seem like too little space, but my old HD was 1TB and never came close to filling (at most it used 30GB from the root partition with Slackware Linux, 70GB from the separate home partition, and 50GB from the Windows partition, totaling around 150GB), so, I believe 240GB should be enough.

I ordered a Western Digital SSD (WD Green 240GB) through Mercado Livre (a Latin-American online marketplace like Ebay). I bought it on Thursday night, it shipped on Friday morning, and arrived on Monday (I believe local postal services here don't work on weekends). While I waited for the SSD to arrive, I had to work using my netbook (a weaker machine where each page in Firefox takes like 20 seconds to load and Orca takes some more time to start reading it), and also where I downloaded the Linux ISOs to install once the SSD arrived. Then I connected an external DVD drive to the netbook, burned the ISO to a DVD RW, and that was it. Preparing the Linux ISOs was easy-peasy. On the other hand...

Trying to Download Windows

My main operating system is Linux. The few Windows programs I sometimes use (mainly VOCALOID and UTAU) can run on Wine, but the problem is that Wine isn't accessible to visually impaired users because it doesn't implement accessibility interfaces, and no screen readers are able to run on it. But since Windows 7 came with my machine and I have the license, I decided I might as well use it. I had backed up Windows as soon as I bought the computer and had used up all my DVD RWs plus two more DVD Rs because I didn't have enough RWs. But that was a backup of a newly installed Windows with no security updates or anything, and worse, the backup could only be restored from inside a running Windows! Conclusion: that backup was as good as nothing. I'd have to reinstall everything from scratch. The problem is that Dell doesn't provide a Windows installation media, and the installer is located (guess where...) in a partition in the HD! Of course, the HD died, so the installer went down with it.

It turns out that there is a Microsoft page where it should be possible to download the installer. Theoretically, I'd just need to enter my Windows serial code. It's what I did. However, the page returned an error saying that this code wouldn't do because it is from a version of Windows supplied by a computer manufacturer, and that I should contact the manufacturer (Dell in my case) to get their custom image (the version that comes with Dell utilities which I was unable to uninstall, and a lot of other crap that only wastes resources and disk space).

On the Dell page, I'd have to enter the "service tag" that's glued to the computer case, so that it displays content and downloads related to the product I purchased from them (my computer). I informed the code, but the downloads area for my machine's model only has drivers and nothing else. I browsed the help topics, and found out that there are three ways to get an installation media:

  1. The way they recommend is to use a program to generate and download a custom image. Of course, the program only runs on Windows (so, it's useless to me because I'm without Windows. No idea whether it'd run on Wine). I wanted to know if there was another way and, after much searching, I found the second way below.

  2. There's a page to download the Windows installation media, for those who need to download the image from a machine without Windows (my case! Yay!)... but when I entered the service tag, the page said there are no downloads available for my machine's model.

  3. The other way is to contact support and request a physical copy of the media, and if the computer isn't under the warranty period (it isn't anymore), I have to pay around $60 USD! No thanks...

In a last attempt, I found a blog post (in Portuguese) by someone with a similar problem, where I learned of a workaround to download Windows 7 directly from Microsoft's servers without the need to inform the serial code. Basically it's a page to download Windows 10 (which doesn't ask for a serial code to provide the download link), except that if you change a parameter in the URL that corresponds to the product Windows 10 for the one corresponding to Windows 7, the page would generate a Windows 7 download link. It's based on the API that manufacturers use to download the Windows installation media, and some people found out the IDs of all the possible ISOs. I Tried. And... it didn't work! I tried with the Windows 10 ID and it worked*, but for Windows 7, no luck. Apparently, this method isn't working for Windows 7 and Office. It seems that the workaround either doesn't work anymore, or there's a temporary problem with the API.

* I got a Windows 10 download link, but I can't use it because I don't have a Windows 10 serial code to activate it if I install it. I don't even know whether Windows 10 would run on this machine...

Wow... dealing with proprietary software is so complicated! For now, I gave up. If the workaround resumes working, I may consider trying again another time. Meanwhile, I guess I'll have to resort to Wine and sighted assistance. Oh well...

Installing the SSD

On Monday, January 8th, the SSD arrived. I had known it was smaller than a desktop PC HD, but I hadn't expected it to be so small and thin... it's as thin as a CD case, and looks like a glorified memory card (which it probably is :P ).

My mother and I opened the machine and swapped the dead HD out for the SSD. Unlike traditional HDs which have different sizes (3.5 inches for desktop PCs, and 2.5 inches for laptops), apparently there's only one SSD size, which is 2.5 inches. So, ideal for laptops, but a bit small for desktops (fortunately the SATA connections are the same). We plugged the SATA cable and attached the SSD to the case with a screw the way it should be done, but it wasn't as firm as we'd have liked. Ideally, I should've gotten a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter to fit the SSD easier, but the seller I bought the SSD from didn't have that, plus I was in a hurry because I needed my machine for work.

Some people just plug the SSD and leave it hanging from the SATA cables inside the machine without much worry, since SSDs don't have moving parts like HDs, which means less risk of corrupting data from impact. But we got a bit worried. It didn't feel right to leave the SSD loose inside the machine. So, we cut an old and unused USB cable we had lying around, tied it to the "walls" of the compartment inside the case, to act like a "net" to help keep the SSD in place and prevent it from falling. It's ugly inside, but it works! :P Though I'm still wondering whether I should get one of those adapters to have a less "hackish" solution...

Partitioning the Disk

The first thing I did once I turned the machine on was insert the Slint (talking) installer DVD, and checked the disk with Fdisk. The system recognized the SSD just fine, and the size was reported as 223 GiB, which translates to the advertised 240GB. Then I partitioned the disk, and ended with roughly:

  • 84GB for Windows, in case I ever manage to reinstall it on this machine. If not, I'll use the precious space for something else.
  • 84GB for the home partition, meant to be used by two Linuxes.
  • 4GB for swap. I don't recall this machine ever having resorted to swap, but who knows when the need may arise...
  • 34GB for my main system, Linux. Instead of installing Slackware, this time I decided to go with Slint, a Slackware-based distro with accessibility out of the box (including a talking installer), though it's pretty much Slackware at its core.
  • And the last 34GB for the other Linux. I picked Arch Linux mostly because it also has a talking installer (in the form of the Talking Arch ISO), and because I found out it's able to run the (closed-source proprietary and hard to troubleshoot) online banking software many of the banks in my country decided to adopt (I couldn't make it work on Slackware no matter what, and being unable to access the online banking was becoming a big problem. But the software worked nicely in the test Arch Linux install on my netbook, so...).

I installed Slint at night, and I was already able to use the machine for work the following day. That weekend, I installed Arch Linux and the Internet banking software into the other partition. After that, I've been slowly adjusting settings and installing extra things as the needs arise, in both Slint and Arch to make them behave the way I want.

And this is the status at the time of this writing. Things are getting back to normal, better and faster, thanks to the SSD. The machine responds quicker than before and feels like new. And now we have access to the online banking as well. Having the HD break was quite the scare, but things seem to have changed for better. Maybe I've kicked off the year in a good note, after all.

Not to say that I had no issues while configuring the two Linux distros to make them my own, though. I had a few issues (mainly with Arch, and mostly thanks to my unfamiliarity with it), though most of them are solved by now. But that's a subject for another post.

In the next post, I intend to talk about Slint, the Slackware-based, multi-language distro with accessibility out of the box and a talking installer!

Persona 5 Opening - UTAU Cover

Aiyumi -

I mentioned how I was excited about the release of the game Persona 5. I had been so excited that I began writing fanfictions about it months before the game had even come out in Japan and we had nearly no information about the characters or the setting. On September 15, 2016, the game was released in Japan (I'm writing this on September 15, 2017. So, it was exactly one year ago! :D ). And on April 4, 2017, the western version finally came out (and even had a Japanese audio option as free DLC, like I had wanted).

I usually don't preorder games, but with Persona 5, I couldn't resist. I got it from an online games store from my country. I traded in two old GBA games I had lying around which I had barely touched (they came with the second-hand GBA I had bought at the end of 2008), and the store gave me an additional discount for paying in full (in the end, the total discount amounted to around R$91 BRL, roughly $30 USD). The store shipped the product quickly, and the game was in my hands on release day (April 7th here in Brazil, unlike North America and Europe that got it on April 4th).

I wouldn't say that the game has no flaws, but it was as great and fun as I had expected. I've already beaten it twice (with Japanese audio) and gotten the Platinum trophy in my second playthrough. I'm currently on my third playthrough (trying out the English audio). There are many small details that can easily go unnoticed in the first, or even the second playthrough. Persona 5 continues entertaining me even now, even though it's my third time going through it (and giving me even more fanfic ideas :P ). I'm very satisfied, and glad that it lived up to all the excitement I had since last year. The game is worth every cent, plus the work I went through to trade in the used GBA cartridges :D .

To celebrate platinuming the game, as well as finishing one of my long fanfictions (that I began writing before the games Japanese release last year), I did an UTAU cover of the game's opening song, "Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There." UTAU? Yes, a singing sinthesis software. I've already talked about it here, where I had come to the conclusion that it was unusable without a mouse and I wouldn't be able to use it ever. I was wrong! I suddenly decided to tamper with the program again a few months back, and what was my surprise when I managed to connect a few syllables smoothly! So, I decided to do a cover, and here it is.

The link to the video is below, featuring... the Brasilian version of the game's cover art! (there's stuff written in Portuguese, but the game is in English) ... And a (probably very inaccurate) instrumental made by me, using the accompaniment generator software MMA (Musical MIDI Accompaniment) and my Motif XF keyboard.

Credits and more details are in the video description, here.

To get the audio only:

Download/listen: wake-up_0.1.ogg (OpenDrive) | wake-up_0.1.mp3 (4shared)

Installing Orca on Slackware 14.2

Aiyumi -

These are instructions for installing the Orca screen reader on Slackware 14.2 without the Gnome desktop environment. It's not the latest Orca version, but rather, it's the one compatible with the library versions that come in Slackware by default (to install the latest Orca, we'd need to recompile newer versions of many of the Slackware-provided programs, which would be much more difficult).

From Slackware 14.1 to 14.2, the number of dependencies reduced a lot, which is a good thing. Most of the Gnome-specific libraries are gone, there's no longer the need to recompile programs that came with Slackware, and now everything that uses Python depends on Python 3 instead of Python 2. If more of these changes keep coming and making things easier, soon it might be possible for Orca to enter Slackbuilds.org, then we will no longer have to do all this juggling with my scripts. Let's hope!

For those who used my instructions and installed Orca on 14.0 or 14.1 and is upgrading to 14.2, you need to remove obsolete dependencies with the command below (those who still don't have Orca installed don't need to use this command, but just look how many dependencies are gone :D ):

# removepkg gnome-mime-data gnome-vfs gnome-python libgnome libbonobo ORBit2 pyorbit

Now, the instructions themselves. First of all, you need Sbopkg to be installed.

Actually, the process to download and install Orca remains mostly the same as it was before. You can read the previous instructions for more in depth explanations if you want, but basically:

  • Download my repository and configure Sbopkg to use my scripts:

    # git clone https://github.com/aiyumi/slackware-scripts.git
    # cd slackware-scripts
    # cp -R slackbuilds /var/lib/sbopkg/aiyumisb
    # cp slackbuilds/100-aiyumi.repo /etc/sbopkg/repos.d
    # cp sbopkg-queuefiles/aiyumisb/accessibility/*.sqf /var/lib/sbopkg/queues
    
  • Run Sbopkg and use my repository:

    # sbopkg -V aiyumisb/local
    
  • If you still don't have Espeak (which Orca uses by default), go to "Queue" -> "Load," load the "espeakup" queuefile and install everything. Espeak will be installed along with Espeakup, which adds support for speech via software to Speakupp (a screen reader for the console, which is always good to have).

  • Go to "Queue" -> "Load," load the "orca" queuefile, install everything, and wait for the process to finish.

  • Edit the Speech-Dispatcher settings in "/etc/speech-dispatcher/speechd.conf." Make sure the Espeak module is set to load and to use your preferred language as default (in my case, Portuguese). The relevant lines are below:

    # ----- VOICE PARAMETERS -----
    DefaultLanguage "en"
    
    # -----OUTPUT MODULES CONFIGURATION-----
    AddModule "espeak"       "sd_espeak"   "espeak.conf"
    
    DefaultModule espeak
    
    LanguageDefaultModule "en"  "espeak"
    

    To test it, use the command "spd-say something." If you hear sound, then it's working!

  • Lastly, copy the file "/usr/doc/orca-*/orca.atspi2.xinitrc" to "~/.xinitrc" (it's the file that sets the accessibility-related variables for the graphical interface), and change the last line to start your favorite window manager or desktop (for example, "startfluxbox" for Fluxbox, or "startxfce4" for XFCE).

Done! Now you can just use the "startx" command to enter the graphical interface and hear Orca "run it's mouth" :D .

A note about Firefox: In the instructions for 14.0 and 14.1, I had said that Slackware's Firefox came with disabled accessibility and needed to be recompiled, which took hours. The bad news is that Slackware's Firefox still comes with no accessibility. But the good news is that I found out that we don't need to recompile it! Thanks to this post by Frankiej, I learned that there's this script that downloads the Firefox binary provided by Mozilla (where accessibility works) and creates a ".txz" Slackware package that can be installed with installpkg as normal.

Despite the name "latest-firefox," this script isn't limited to downloading only the latest version of Firefox. You can actually use it to download any version you want. Just pass the "VERSION" variable to the command that executes the script. For example, at the time of this writing, the Java plugin doesn't work in the latest version of Firefox because they removed support for the API that the Java plugin uses. For those who need the Java plugin, while a compatible version of the plugin doesn't come out, the workaround is to use an earlier version of Firefox where the Java plugin still works. The latest version of Firefox where the obsolete API works is 51.0. In this case, the command to get the Firefox 51.0 package for Slack would be:

# VERSION=51.0 ./latest-firefox.sh

Or, for Firefox 51.0 with the interface in Brazilian Portuguese:

# VERSION=51.0 FFLANG=pt-BR ./latest-firefox.sh

And the program will leave the package in "/tmp." Enough of having to wait three hours to compile Firefox at each version :P .

Slackware 14.2, Screen Readers and PulseAudio

Aiyumi -

After a very long while, I'm finally on Slackware 14.2. It's been almost one year since 14.2 came out, but I wasn't brave enough to upgrade, mainly because when I had tried to upgrade the installation on my netbook (which served as my test subject as usual), it hadn't worked (it's the first time I have problems trying to update Slackware). The system became mute in the middle of the upgrade and I lost access to my screen reader programs that I depend on to do anything on the computer (good thing it was on the netbook and not on my main machine!). I was unable to fix the problem, lost the patience to investigate, and ended up leaving it aside for a long time. Now that I'm on vacation from work and have a little more time, I finally gathered the patience and the courage to try again.

more…

Bach/Gounod Ave Maria on Violin (F Major)

Aiyumi -

The "Ave Maria" by Charles Gounod, based on Bach's "Prelude in C Major." This is one of the songs I've been wanting to play since even before I started learning the violin. To my pleasant surprise, it is in Shinozaki Violin Method book 2, although it's in F major instead of C major like the original (the C version is on a more advanced level, and is on book 3 if I'm not mistaken).

When I recorded the violin, I still didn't have the accompaniment ready, so I had to use a metronome click track to try to record at the right tempo. Sadly, I recorded the violin countless times and the result wasn't as good as I'd have liked, but it's the best I could do at the current level. When I arrive at the C major version in the next book, hopefully I can finally make it the way I've always wanted...

The accompaniment MIDI file was created on Linux using a command line program called MMA (Musical Midi Accompaniment). It was typed in C major and transposed to F major (yes, I admit, I cheated:P . At least I'll already have the accompaniment ready when I get to the C major version). Then the audio was rendered with the harp sound from my Motif XF keyboard.

Edit: I only realized this much later... it looks like I mixed up the audio files and ended up not using the audio generated by the Motif XF. This harp sound is actually from the Fluid R3 Soundfont... whoops.

Download/listen to the audio: bg-ave-maria_f01.ogg (OpenDrive) | bg-ave-maria_f01.mp3 (4shared)

Download the accompaniment: MIDI (C major) | MIDI (transposed to F major) | MMA source file (which is actually just a text file)

I got a New PS4 Slim! A Few Impressions and Quick Tips

Aiyumi -

The main reason why I had never been interested in the PS3, and why it took me so long to get interested in the PS4 was because they had no games that appealed to me. The PS3 and the PS4's main strengths seem to be games for hardcore gamers, action-packed games with stunning graphics. Mainly shooting, war, and football games, which aren't my cup of tea (I prefer quieter games like turn-based RPGs). However, some JRPGs (Japanese RPGs) of my interest are coming to the PS4, especially Persona 5, RED ASH, and Final Fantasy VII Remake. So, I finally decided that I'd buy a PS4.

After many months of waiting and comparing prices, and then learning that the PS4 Slim would be released, thus having to wait even longer, I finally got my PS4! (as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait :P ) Actually, I was going to wait a bit more, but the US elections results made the US Dollar rates against the Brazilian Real rise like crazy, and because games are mostly imported here in Brazil, prices only tend to go up. So, I decided it was now or... well, I wouldn't say, "never," but who knows when prices would return to acceptable values ​​if I were to wait more.

I opted for the PS4 Slim because, according to my researches, it is quieter and consumes less power, and the battery of the (wireless) controller's new revision that comes with it also lasts longer.

Here are some tips and observations that I gathered during my researches and tests, as well as my impressions on the console.

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Watch the Persona 5 Special Anime Episode Online

Aiyumi -

In my previous post, I talked about the Persona series, and how I'm excited about Persona 5's release.

On September 3rd, 2016, a special Persona 5 anime episode aired in Japan to promote the game. It is titled, "Persona 5 the Animation - the Day Breakers," and is about the main gang doing a random sidequest (it's an optional mission that doesn't interfere with the main plot of the game. So, no worries about spoilers).

Crunchyroll is a site that licenses and legally streams anime with English subtitles. It shares the money earned from its subscribers with the anime creators, and has also a selection of anime available to watch for free (although with ads interrupting the video from time to time :P ). The site made the Persona 5 special episode available for its subscribers on September 3rd, simultaneously as the anime's airing in Japan. One week later (on September 10th), the episode also became available for non-subscribers, and can be watched for free here (no account or anything needed. Just enter the page and watch!).

Getting Ready for Persona 5

Aiyumi -

Last year (2015) I cleared the game Persona 3 FES (for Playstation 2), and in the beginning of this year (2016) I beat Persona 4 (also for PS2). An extremely brief introduction for those who don't know about these games: the Persona games are JRPGs (japanese RPGs) about high school students that need to balance studies, outings with friends, and fights against supernatural phenomena where they summon a kind of "inner self" in the form of creatures called "Persona." Both the Personas and the enemies are based on mythological beings, angels, demons and such. The games contain charismatic and well-developed characters, engaging storylines, and humorous scenes typical of anime. From Persona 3 onwards, the games have a calendar system where we follow the protagonists during the course of one year, where we can observe several aspects of Japanese culture such as typical foods (these games even made me try my hand at preparing ramen! :P ), some locations, and even what days are holidays on Japan's calendar!

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[Violin] "Young Wing" - Duets with the Teachers

Aiyumi -

I got to the last song on the Shinozaki Violin Method Vol.1. It's called "Wakai Tsubasa" (lit. "Young Wing"), by a Japanese composer named Taijiro Go (1907-1971). It's a duet (for two violins) and, basically, it's quite cheerful, fast-paced, and has sequences of successive repeated notes that quickly get confusing and is easy to mess up :P .

I learned the first violin part and performed a duet with my teacher Fabiane Suzuki (before anyone asks, no, despite her surname and the fact that she's a violinist, she has nothing to do with the Suzuki from the violin method :P ). Here goes the recording.

Download/listen: wakai-tsubasa-duet-f01.ogg (OpenDrive) | wakai-tsubasa-duet-f01.mp3 (4shared)

Soon after that, I also had the opportunity to perform along with Juan Rossi, also a violinist and a teacher - he even studied in Austria and performs at OSESP (São Paulo State Symphony), a great reference). It was an honor to perform with him!

Download/listen: wakai-tsubasa-duet-j01.ogg (OpenDrive) | wakai-tsubasa-duet-j01.mp3 (4shared)

It was a lot of pressure. Performing along with the superb teachers, while knowing it was being recorded! (well, I had been the one to suggest recording, actually...) While I performed, I did my best not to think about anything else, and focused completely on my violin part so that I wouldn't get lost in the mess of notes. The music is fast, and I hurried to follow the accompaniment (rather than it accompanying me :P ) to not get left behind. At least I didn't get paralyzed and managed to be in sync with the second violin until the end. Despite going out of tune some times and a few little mistakes, the results came out rather nice (pressure and stuff considered), and I felt very accomplished. Doing the duets was quite the experience! Now, on to learning the second violin part...