Ik geef training in frontend tools en stacks als HTML, JavaScript, TypeScript, React, Angular en Vue. Ik schrijf boeken en artikelen over tal van (ICT-) onderwerpen. Ik was lead developer en directeur bij Yindo - Jouw digitale bibliotheek. Je kunt mij volgen op Twitter(@PeterKassenaar).

In dit blog vind je persoonlijke artikelen, die niet noodzakelijk tech-gerelateerd zijn.

Views and expressions are my own.

Terug naar de algemene site.


Top-3 YouTube Chess Channels

After a hiatus of around 25 years I recently picked up the habit of playing chess again. Much has changed!

The last time I played, you exchanged email addresses with fellow chess playing fanatics and send each other daily mails containing the moves you wanted to make in plain text format. You had to load that text into a chess program you picked up somewhere from a BBS (Bulletin Board System, remember those?) and analyzed the move. Then you made your move, exported the newly created file to your mailing program and emailed it back. However, back then we considered it blazingly fast, because the alternative was writing your move by hand on a postcard, post it somewhere in a mailbox to have it send to your opponent. When lucky, an exchange of one (1) move for black and white only took two or three days.

Anyway. Excuses me for telling tales from my rocking chair on the porch. Nowadays we have a plethora of online chess platforms. Recently I signed up for an account at chess.com. It is one of the biggest platforms and this article helped me decide which one to choose.

I enjoy playing people from all over the world (real time! My head sometimes still explodes when thinking about that), solve puzzles, and learn a thing or two from its extensive database with videos, articles and more.

However, when I’m not at the board I also enjoy watching YouTube videos. I’m always eager to learn more, or use the gazillion chess videos just for entertainment. Among the countless chess channels out there, I found these three most entertaining and valuable.

They are in no particular order. Sometimes I like to learn new things, and watch opening theories from Gotham Chess. Other times I watch historic games and have them explained by Agadmator. And sometimes I just want to listen to Eric Rosen. So I ordered my three favorite channels by the number of YouTube subscribers.

1. Agadmator – 1.08M Subscribers

“HELLO EVERYONE!” If you have ever only watched one chess video, chances are it was from Agadmator. It is the most popular chess channel on YouTube, serving over one million subscribers. It’s hosted by Antonio Radić from Croatia.


Agadmator is known for his frantic uploading schedule and his explanation of popular [historic] matches. He always discusses a match in great detail, explaining the thoughts of the players and alternative lines that could be played (but were not). When a critical or deciding move is made, he goes like “I now give you a couple of seconds to pause the video and try to find what XXX did here”. And after some seconds of awkwardly looking away from the camera he goes like “well, to those of you who found move YYY, congratulations!” and continues the game unfazed.

You can definitely learn a lot from the explanations. The matches and comments are most entertaining.

2. Gotham chess – 823K Subscribers

If you’re into some chess lessons, alternative opening theories or endgame tactics, look no further than Levy Rozman’s channel Gotham Chess. Rozman, an International Master himself with an ELO rating in the 2300-2400 range, tells you all about it in easy to digest 10-minute videos.


Well, the clips themselves are ten minutes long, but he fires the words and moves to you at such a rapid pace that it easily takes an hour or more to see for yourself what he actually did and how it can be of any benefit to your own games. You can buy more information via his chess lessons online, but he gives away an unprecedented amount of information for free. Go check this channel out if you want to improve your game.

3. Eric Rosen – 401K Subscribers

Almost the opposite of the frantic speed that Levy Rozman spews his words at you, is the channel of Eric Rosen, also an International Master. In a calm and soothing voice, he live plays dozens of random people/subscribers/bots/masters during his Twitch streaming sessions that he posts to YouTube afterwards.


Needless to say that he wins most of them, but always in a polite and respectful manner. Sometimes even blindfolded. Eric Rosen stunned my by playing 3 minute bullet games, meanwhile being able to explain all of his moves and possible alternatives. All this when still being comfortable on time while at the same time his opponents struggle with only a few seconds on the clock.

BTW, if you ever have the chance to play Rosen and he goes like “Oh no, my Queen!” (or: Rook, Knight, Bishop), accompanied by a vileine smile, most likely he set up a trap for you so you’re confronted with checkmate in one of the next few moves.


Of course there are many, many more, but these are my favorite ones. Can you recommend a particular chess channel? Let me know in the comments below!

BTW – if you want to play a game of chess, hit me up on chess.com! My username is pkas06.

-- Peter Kassenaar
5 April 2021


My comments on “Top 50 metal bands of all time”

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No technical stuff here, just a bit of fun.

I Stumbled upon this blogpost, it appeared in my Google Discovery feed I believe. Being a metalhead kid from the 1980’s, I was curious what a 2020 list would look like. I haven’t followed metal closely from – let’s say – 1991, when Kurt Kobain single handedly killed metal with his Nevermind album and the invention of Grunge music, until about 2010.


In the meantime, I listened to a lot of music to broaden my horizons. From Alison Krauss to J.S. Bach and from David Bowie to Madness. But I find myself coming back to metal nowadays and I’m excited by the new subgenres that have come across and all the new bands that arrived.

I feel, with 35+ years of experience under my belt that I am actually entitled to say something about the metal subculture and lists like this.

I did not read the list in advance to see who holds the top spot. I just started with number #50, Killswitch Engage and went on. Page by page, video by video. I noted my remarks as I went along. Again, I swear I didn’t scroll to see the top-10 before I got there :-).

I decided to watch the proposed video clip of every band in this list that I actually knew (whether I knew the song in the video or not). This is the list that I had to watch:


Band, song




Killswitch Engage

My curse

Saw them as a support act for – I think – Metallica in Gelredome, Arnhem in 2004 or 2006. I can only remember the double drum riser. Was quite underwhelmed at the time. In the end this song, My curse, is not a bad song at all, but it won’t end up in my playlist.



I want out

Expected this band to be higher in the list, but that could be due to the fact that it’s a personal favorite of mine. Never saw the original video of this song (from 1988), only live performances. Very, very nice song. One of the first speed/powermetal bands.


Nine Inch Nails

Know the name but can’t remember that I ever listened to a single song of them. So not watching the video.



Never heard of them.


Faith no more

See #48


In Flames

See #47


Five Finger Death Punch

See #47



Roots bloody Roots

Can’t say that I know a lot of them, but I have definitely listened to them back in the eighties. So I had to watch this video. Not bad at all, though it won’t end up on my record player.



It’s a mad house

Saw them as support act for – I think – Iron Maiden, back somewhere in the eighties. The song title and video didn’t ring a bell at first sight, but I remembered the madhouse setting once I saw it. Watched it on headbangers ball on MTV, back in the day. I could even sing along after a chorus or two. Absolutely not as extreme as I remembered Anthrax. Nice and catchy song.


Within Temptation

What about us

Good song, already some 6 years old now. It’s from WT a bit later in their career. Not as bombastic and symphonic as their earlier work, but more the pure metal sound. They should have put in a song/video without Tarja, however. What about us is not representative for their catalog, I believe.


Motley Crue

Kickstart my heart

One of their defining songs. I own a record or two from the Crue, including the 1989 Dr. Feelgood, which sports this song. Nice one. When you are picked up for dead (literally) from the streets after OD’ing, being brought back to life with some shots of adrenalin by a medical nurse who happened to be a fan, and later on write a song about it. So, so Crue.


Marilyn Manson

See #48



See #47



See #47


Amon Amarth

The way of Vikings

Well, I know them, so I had to watch the video, as defined in the rules of this quest. I like the instrumentation, the melodics and the rhythms by this band. But as soon as the singer opens his mouth, I leave. Simply terrible. Don’t like it. No, let me rephrase that. I hate it. The overkill of violence in the clip doesn’t help. But I watched the complete video. Goddammit, it lasted forever. Send me kudos.


Paradise Lost

See #47




At #34. ONLY at #34? My goodness, what follows in the rest of the list? Bismarck, a 2019 song but already a classic in my opinion. Such a strong song from one of the most influential and important bands in the metal scene at this moment. At #34. Sigh.



See #47


Type O Negative

See #47


King Diamond

See #48


Rage against the Machine

See #48


Linkin Park

See also #48. Really can’t remember to have heard a song from them.




Really? #28? Twenty-fucking-eight? See Sabaton. This list is becoming a joke, more or less. Nightwish is around for over two decades (!) now, it is so influential and important that it should have been in the top-15 at a minimum. Is this for real? It is more and more looking like an American List to me. Definitely not European. Anyway, Elan. Beautiful song from one of their best albums, with Floor Janssen, one of the best singers in metal history.



Well, after Nightwish I expected to know about every band in the rest of the list, but really haven’t heard of this group. So, see #47.


Alice in Chains

See #48. I know the name, but not one single song. Sorry.



Also, #48. Death or trash metal, right? Not my cup of tea, though I can appreciate a good melody and interesting chord progression in a song. But I really haven’t heard a single song of Mastodon.


Avenged Sevenfold

See #47. Who are they? Why are they higher in the list than Nightwish?



See #48.


Guns ‘n Roses

Sweet Child o’ mine

Exciting at the time, a bit of a tragical band right now after the reunion. With Axl Rose keeping up appearances and Slash being a caricature of himself with his top hat and bottle of Jack Daniels. This is a relevant song, though. Never saw them live.



Holy Diver

Of course. One of the best, if not the best metal singers of all time, out of the top-20. Ronnie Dio could have been the father of all the bands in this list that I don’t know. This list is composed by idiots, or people who are too young to know on which shoulder of giants the current bands stand. Listen to the intensity of Holy Diver. Not the fastest, not the heaviest sound, but my god, what vocals. Joakim of Sabaton played a bit of Holy Diver on his keyboard at concerts, during their last tour. As a homage, I assume.


Lamb of God

See #47. Who the fuck is Lamb of God? Have I missed that much during my absence?


Dream Theater

Another Day

Well, this is actually where I would expect a band like Dream Theater. Very influential, quite important on their own. I didn’t know the song Another Day, don’t especially like the saxophone in it. It just doesn’t fit, even in a ballad. I understand the song is about cancer. Very sad, but that doesn’t make this song any better. Not bad, but definitely not their best, I think.


System of a Down

See #48. Have heard of them, but never heard them.



Sorry. See #47. Never heard of them.



Ace of Spades

What can you say. If you haven’t heard of Motorhead, you’ve been living under a rock. Good song, decent position in my opinion. Lemmy is the only bass player I know who doesn’t care for playing it as a bass guitar. He plays it just like a guitar, with chords and solos and all. Love the classic line-up with Eddy Clark and Philthy Taylor.



Du Hast

I don’t particularly like Rammstein, I don’t particularly hate them. They just passed me by, somehow. It’s OK. I like it when a band sings German though. It’s a good language for metal.



Burgerkill. Who? Burgergkill? at #14? See #47.



Holy wars…the punishment due

Classic story of Dave Mustaine, being kicked out of Metallica and forming his own band as a revenge. And what a band. You may not like Megadeth much (personally I don’t own a single record or cd from them), but you can’t deny their importance.




I know Opeth but am not really into their style. I can appreciate their music though. But…higher on the list, much higer than Dio? Come on!



Fear Inoculum

I have to admit I only know Tool from the Guitar Hero franchise. I have the critically acclaimed 2019 album Fear Inoculum in my Spotify playlist, but rarely listen to it.



Gimme Chocolate

Oh pease, gimme a break. This can’t be serious right? Babymetal is admittedly entertaining, but most important metal bands of all time? People who voted for this Japanese formula franchise have clearly lost their minds. However, I know them, so I had to watch the Gimme Chocolate video. The whole 4:03 minutes.


Judas Priest


Well, at least the Priest is in the top-10 and they are higher than Babymetal. I expect all the bands in the top-10 to be equally important (with the exception of #10) and it is hard to order them. I ranked Priest a bit higher though, than at #9. They are arguably the most metal of all metal bands. I consider Judas Priest the best band that I never saw live. Yeah, shame on me. Painkiller is a good and heavy song. Not as good as the ones from the British Steel – Defenders of the faith – Screaming for Vengeance era, but not as bad as the Jugulator ones. Rob Halfords vocals are breathtaking here. Together with Dio he is in the top 5 of metal vocalists of all time. Classical double guitar Priest solos. “Breaking the what? Breaking the what?”



Fucking WHAT? See #47. Am I that dumb? Have I missed so much? Literally never ever even heard the name of this band.



Raining Blood

Ah, good old Slayer. Not my alltime favorite, but at least I don’t feel completely stupid now that I discover them on #7. A position where they belong, in my opinion. Of course in the lineup with the late guitarist Jeff Hanneman




I didn’t know this song, but I of course knew Pantera, with the regretted Dimebag Darrel, who was shot on stage by a ‘fan’. Quite influential, though not exceptional, IMO. Just not great songwriting, no surprising chord progressions, not very original, not the best singer. Pantera is well… OK, I guess. Would rank them outside the top-10.




I know the band is quite popular and has a huge, huge amount of fans. I just didn’t listen to it much. What is that gimmick with the masks? Again, I think this one went popular when I wasn’t into metal that much. Hmmm, can’t say that I missed much. Should not rank this band on #5, though. Then again, I’m an old fart.




Well, as much as I love AC/DC, I thought this was a metal list. And AC/DC is a lot. Like important, one of the biggest live bands on earth, one of the longest lasting bands, and what not. I own their complete catalogue on LP and cd. But it’s not metal I should say. It’s just kick-ass bluesy rock ‘n roll, notched a few bars up. Then again, Motorhead is also on this list. So yeah. AC/DC should be here also. A position of #4 does them justice. I don’t rank Thunderstruck one of their best songs, but it has definitely become a signature song of the Australian behemoth.


Black Sabbath


Yeah, well. Again, maybe not really metal, but at least metal before it even existed. This band of course defined metal. Especially with the classic Ozzy-lineup. The #3 spot makes up for the absence of Ozzy as a standalone artist in this list. What other song than Paranoid could be picked from Sabbath? Quick reminder: it is from 1970, so it is a mind blowing 50 years old this year. Half a century!


Iron Maiden

The Wicker Man

Completely agree here. Maiden is one of the bands I saw live the most I think. For the last time in the summer of 2018, with their Legacy of the Beast tour. Inexhaustible they tour the world. For a staggering 40 years now. Saw them for the first time on the legendary Live after Death tour in 1984. Iron Maiden is definitely one of the most influential bands around. What can I say. Well, allright. The Wicker Man might not be their most defining song, but admittedly it’s a good one. Brilliant bass play by Steve Harris. I think it’s from the Brave new World era, when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned, only to rise to new heights. So, so good.



Nothing else matters

The moment I saw this list pop up, I thought “well, I’ll eat my boots if Metallica isn’t in the #1 spot.” And rightfully they are. I was literally blown away when I first heard the Kill em All album, at the age of 14, in the room of a friend of mine. The black, red and white album cover more or less defined my life at that point. A few years later, in middle school we formed a band and won a playback contest at the school dance, doing Whiplash. I was James Hetfield. I was actually the singer in a metal band at that time, though I faked the guitar parts – couldn’t play a note in real life, haha. I’m not that much into trash or death metal as you may have guessed by now, but Metallica is a part of my life. Saw them live a lot of times. Metallica is the biggest metal band of all time. Period.


Having read the whole list now and watched all the videos of the bands I knew (even if I didn’t know the song), I went back to the first page of the original blog. It states Here's, officially, the 50 best metal bands in the world. As voted by you.” But I think the “you” here is very, very American. I feel the visitors of this website, and hence the voters are mostly coming from the North American continent and therefore it is a very American List.


Missing bands

Composed by American voters. Otherwise I can’t explain the inclusion of bands like Killswitch Engage, Korn, System of a Down and, god forgive, Babymetal. At the same time, I can’t explain the absence of bands like Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions (selling 110 million records worldwide! More than Iron Maiden, just a couple of millions less than Metallica), Def Leppard, Michael Schenker, Accept and more European bands that definitely shaped and defined metal.

Sure, the list also doesn’t include Kiss, Whitesnake, WASP, and Van Halen (which are also American bands) but maybe the voters are to young to know them. Although they do vote for Paranoid, strangely.


Remember, metal didn’t arrive in the US untill the birth of Metallica – a band that is formed mainly by James Hetfield and Lars Ullrich, a Dane, for Christ sake. Thus, even the roots of Metallica are 50% European! Sure, it took of then, but not to the extent that this list pretends, I feel.

Also, a lot more – regarding to metal – is happening in Europe right now than in the US. And I feel the ‘modern’ European [powermetal] bands aren’t given enough credits in this list. Think Sabaton, Beast in Black, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Amaranthe, Stratovarius, Hammerfall, Dragonforce, Powerwolf, to name just a few.


I will now continue to watch and listen to the bands that I didn’t know. But a report on that will be for another time…

Peter Kassenaar – 29 March 2020


New online course: Productive Coding with WebStorm

I’m happy to announce that as of today, my new course “Productive Coding with WebStorm” is available on the online training platform Udemy.

Order now with a 30% discount!

JetBrains WebStorm is the perfect editor for web developers. It is a full featured IDE that provides all the tools and features for developers in JavaScript, Typescript, NodeJS and of course HTML and CSS.

This brief training will show you how to best use WebStorm to be as productive as possible. You will learn many useful tricks to work faster. You'll see all the possibilities to customize the user interface, using keyboard shortcuts and write your code superfast by creating and using Live Templates. Also you'll learn how WebStorm supports your workflow and lets you use tools like Gulp, NPM or Github, all without leaving your editor!

The course is specifically intended for WebStorm, but is also extremely valuable for users of other JetBrains editors like IntelliJ, PHPStorm, PyCharm and others.


This course covers the following topics:

  • Welcome and introduction
  • Downloading and installing WebStorm
  • Touring the IDE and setting up your working environment
  • Adapting the UI to meet your personal needs
  • Coding faster in JavaScript, TypeScript, HTML and CSS
  • Using build- and workflow tools right from the IDE
  • Git- and Github integration
  • Testing your RESTful Services with the REST Client
  • Adding and deleting plugins
  • Other tips and tricks

If you have any questions on this course, feel free to contact me.

Order now with a 30% discount!

Peter Kassenaar
-- 12 July 2016


Tomb Raider Wallpapers

OK, so this is one of the (I hope rare) fanboy-ish blogposts I do. You see, I’ve been a long time Lara Croft/Tomb Raider fan. This February my wife gave me a (home made) Tomb Raider-coupon for my birthday, enabling me to buy or pre-order the new game the day it comes available.

Well, we’re not there yet, but at least now we’ve got a trailer. And it is a stunning one!

Yes, I know it is a GC-generated trailer (aren’t they all?), but if the quality of the final game is only half as great as it is in this trailer, it will still be fine with me. I played the trailer from YouTube on 1080p HD-quality and made some screenshots that I’ve turned into wallpapers. I thought I’d share them with you (is that OK, @CrystalDKarl?)

At the moment they’re only 1920x1200 (a bit distorted from the original video dimensions, therefore), but you can cut, crop and resize them yourself to suit your monitor size. Below is a link to the original trailer on YouTube.

The only letdown is now that the game is only scheduled for a fall 2012 release. Still more than a year in the waiting… <sigh>.










Trailer on YouTube

Tomb Raider "Turning Point" Debut Trailer [US Version] in HD quality


Peter Kassenaar
--03 juni 2011


Midnight Club: Los Angeles - True Dedication

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Logo screen

I recently got into gaming on an Xbox 360. Maybe you have read my newbie blog post on the racing game Midnight Club: Los Angeles. Compared to that post, I can tell you that I've just reached 100% career progression on the game. It took me an insane amount of time (70+ hrs. of gameplay), but this of course was due to the lack of racing skills on my side :-).

So basically, this is 'game over' for me. Sure, you can race for fun, or just do the missions again that you've already completed, but without the pressure of real game progression, this is far less fun.


But wait - I don't have all the Xbox Live achievements yet! I was on 790/1000 points when I decided to go for one of the hardest achievements in the game, the True Dedication achievement, worth 100 points.

In short: you have to complete different kind of goals for every race in the game (currently 100) and do so in a single race. This means you have to do every race in the game, win it, finish the race with less than 25% damage on your vehicle and beat a given time for that race.


Yes, this is a hard achievement!


True Dedication Progression Application

Within the game there is little indication of how far you've progressed when going for this achievement. So I decided to write my own progression tracking application. I put in a small registration/login system, so it's a multi user application.

The application enables you to show all MCLA-races completed by course, by time, by area, etc. Also the app will let the user filter or sort the complete Goal Attack list by area, by race type etc.

If you are after the True Dedication achievement yourself, give it a look. You're welcome to register.

Check it out at http://www.kassenaar.com/td/.

Best of all (if I may say so myself :-), you can leave your comments on a race by race base. This might be very helpful to others when they are trying to achieve the goals for the same race you have already completed.

Let me know what you think by leaving a message below, or drop me a note at info@kassenaar.com.

Thanks for reading,
-- Peter Kassenaar, 3 april 2009.

Achievement Unlocked Logo


Absolute beginners guide to Midnight Club Los Angeles

Cover of MCLAWith the initial purchase of my Xbox 360 last week I also  got myself a copy of the Rockstar San Diego racing game Midnight Club Los Angeles (MCLA). The Xbox version is functional identical to the Playstation 3 version I believe, so read on if you play MCLA on Playstation.

Besides a brief manual there is a nice inlay in the box with a full color map of LA in the game and all the vehicles that can be purchased during the game. But there is surprisingly little information on how to actually play the game itself.

So there I was.

A) An Xbox beginner (mind you, I just got my feet wet with the Xbox. The only experience I had before loading MCLA were the demo's that are preinstalled on the console),

B) a racing beginner (the last racing game I played was Outrun 2006 on pc) and

C) a console newbie (the last 'console' I had was an Atari 2600!, back in the mid-eighties).

I searched the internet and there are lots of tips, cheats and gameplay videos. But not a beginners guide on MCLA.

That's why I tried to write one myself.

I hope you find the information in the following steps useful. Instead of just summing up functions, I try to describe how to actually use and reach them (i.e., which buttons to press). Please bear in mind that this was written with only 6-8 hrs of gameplay under my belt, with – as mentioned before – very little to none experience in racing games on consoles to rely on. Learning by doing in Real Life! But then again, this way you might get the most 'fresh' opinion on the matter.

I assume you are familiar with the objective of the game, which is earning reputation points ('rep' for short) and collecting and tuning new vehicles. There are various types of modes: career mode (which progresses you through the game), arcade mode, online mode and all kinds of races.

The following is a list of tips for absolute beginners on MCLA. Read them in random order, feel free to leave a message to comment on the issues listed.

1. Get yourself a racing wheel

I tried a couple of demo games pre-installed on the Xbox prior to moving to MCLA: Pixar/Disney's Cars and a demo version of Test Drive Unlimited. I found they were almost impossible to play with the standard controller. All right, accelerating and braking isn't that hard, but steering with the little joysticks on the controller is a PITA. You always get too far to the left or the right and when correcting, you always overcorrect, finding yourself in the dirt of the opposite side of the road. Dreadful.

Microsoft wireless racing wheel

So I went to an auction site and (marktplaats.nl for that matter) and got myself for fifty bucks the Microsoft wireless racing wheel for the Xbox 360. With force feedback once plugged in to a power outlet. Great. Now this is racing. Steering with both hands, accelerating and braking with your feet. Now I felt I was ready to enter the world of MCLA.

Bottom line: don't hurt yourself with the standard Xbox controller if you are a MCLA newbie. Get a steering wheel.

2. Your first race; Welcome to Hollywood

The opening sequence of the game is quite straightforward. The opening cinematic tells it all. You can pick a car (I choose the Volkwagen Scirocco 1988) and are told by some guys to race a guy named Henry. You can watch a video of the first startup and gameplay on YouTube:




This first race is titled Welcome to Hollywood. It is one of the more easy courses, as I have discovered. It doesn't return often in your missions later on (at least, not in the missions I've done so far), but you can always select it in Arcade mode at any time.

I strongly suggest you do so while learning MCLA.

It is a perfect course for learning the basics of the game. The yellow flares (checkpoints) you have to pass are well visible. There a not so many turns, you can test various techniques for steering, accelerating and braking. And because there are long straight lines in the track, you can also practice using the mini map in the lower lefthand corner of the screen (see tip #6 also). By racing this track several times in a row you also learn how to anticipate 90 degree turns at various speeds and how to approach them.

  • You select the Arcade mode by pressing the Start button > on the controller. This opens the Pause menu.
  • Press right on the D-pad of the controller (or use the right flipper behind the steering wheel) to access the Modes menu.
  • Press A to accept the default option, which is Arcade mode.
  • Then press A to select Orderd Race
  • Press Down on the D-pad of the controller several times to select Welcome to Hollywood. There are four or five courses unlocked when you've just started to build up a career, Welcome to Hollywood is always one of them.

Other courses

Other courses that are suitable for learning the racing basics in MCLA are Sunset and Vine and Willshire Sprint, in ascending degree of difficulty, IMO. Race them five or six times each, if you really want to master your vehicle in the game. Best of all: you even earn rep points while practicing. Heck, you can even earn money, just by racing and finishing in the top three.

After a couple of runs of the Welcome to Hollywood course I was able to finish from 5th place for the first attempts to a couple of 2nd places and even a win!

3. Going to the garage

Prior to playing MCLA I had already read a lot about the garage. Here you can repair your vehicle, tune it, buy other parts, etc. But how do you get there!?

After racing a handful of courses as described above, I decided it was time to go the garage to have a look around. After all, I damaged out a couple of times because of a crash into a wall or an approaching car.

I pressed the Back button < on the steering wheel to access the GPS map and plotted myself a path to the location of Hollywood Auto, the garage. But I didn't find a way to enter it! I drove around the block for about fifteen minutes to discover a fence, an entrance, or a door to enter. I even smashed into walls to enter the garage. But no luck. WTF?

Well, it appears you first have to complete the mission that tells you to go to Hollywood auto and talk to Karol, the owner. This mission is called Hollywood Auto and appeared in my mission log (access the mission log by pressing < and then the Y button to enter the Mission Log) but evidently I didn't pay attention to it, busy as I was earning rep on the Strip (the second mission you have to complete).

The mission itself is a piece of cake (just turn 180 degrees at the start of the mission, drive 100 yards and there you are), but you have to complete it in order to unlock the garage. If only I should have known that in advance…

After that, the option Go To Garage appears every time when you access the pause-menu (do so by pressing the > button on the controller).

4. Multiple missions at one time. And how to access them

Every now and then a small window pops up, telling you the basics of a new mission. They are written out, but I find them hard to read (I play MCLA on an old CRT tv, it might be better legible on an LCD tv). I found you don't have to complete a mission before unlocking another one. You can have multiple missions at a time, but only one is the active mission.

You access missions by pressing < on the controller and then choosing Y to see the mission log. This took me a while :-).

A mission that is completed goes to the (you guessed it) Completed Mission tab. You switch between tabs with either Left or Right on the D-pad, the left or right bumper button or – in my case – the flippers behind the steering wheel. Missions that you don't complete simply stay in the Active Missions tab. You can reenter a mission at any time. For example after a couple of more test runs on the active courses.

[update, dec. 30] Missions are also monitored automatically in the background. For example, I tuned my car in the garage (which makes it 'a tuner') and after that I raced some more races in Arcade mode. Each win automatically adds to the mission Get Tuned Up. So without knowing, after six wins, I inadvertently completed this mission!

5. Learn the basics by drafting

It is tempting to try the outrun all your opponents right from the start. But this is not the best approach, as I've discovered.

I think it is smarter driving when you draft behind your opponents – especially if you are on a course you are not yet familiar with – to learn from the way they are driving. You learn how to approach turns, when to hit the brakes, when to accelerate and when to swerve or switch lanes. The AI in MCLA is quite good, and this way you don't have to reinvent the wheel for every course. Just relax a bit and lean back. And try to keep track of your opponents.

Sure, when you inadvertently hit a wall or get into a head-on collision with a car, you're out on your own (and miles behind the rest of the pack), but overall I think it is wise to just follow them on a new course. Try to memorize the checkpoints and special issues like sharp turns or shortcuts through a mall, over the pavement or through a park in the course.

And if you see the red flare in front of you, marking the finish line of the course, you can always use your nitrous (left flipper behind the steering wheel) for an enormous amount of boost. It can take you from fifth to second or even first place in only a couple of hundred yards.

Also, once you are a bit familiar with drafting (while drafting, it is not necessary to hit the accelerate pedal to the max all the time), extend your skills by looking in front of your opponents car and try to predict what he is going to do. Anticipate on this. This will greatly enhance your anticipation skills and driving techniques. Highly recommended.

6. Learn to use the mini map

The mini map in the lower left hand corner of the screen is important. Practice using it while driving familiar courses (for example in Arcade mode. See #2 on how to pick a course in arcade mode).

For a good result in the more difficult courses or for locating race opponents in the various modes you must be able to switch your eyeballs (very fast!) between the view on the road and the view on the map. Once you master this skill, you can better anticipate upcoming junctions, turns and checkpoints.

The mini map is dynamic.

It zooms in when you drive at low speeds, it zooms out when driving at high speed (at the time of writing this blog post, driving 120 mph in a crowded city is a very high speed for me :-).

You can also display a full screen HUD (Head Up Display) of the entire city with the Up arrow of the D-pad on your controller while driving, but I find this very distracting. Press the Up key again to switch it off.

7. Race at night

In the beginning I thought it would be easier to race by daylight, as you can see more of the course, other cars and the road.

It is not.

I found it a lot easier to drive at night. In the darkness you can better see the headlights of oncoming cars and you can better see the taillights and breaking lights of the cars that are in front of you, driving in the same lane. Also you're less distracted by buildings, people on the pavement, etc.

In broad daylight the sun illuminates the surface of the road, there are a lot of reflections on cars, buildings, etc. This makes it harder for the MCLA-beginner to navigate and drive without damaging your vehicle.

In Arcade mode you can set the time of day while racing. The default setting is Dynamic, but you can switch it to Night by pressing … and then ….

I believe the time of day in career mode is always set dynamic, so live with it.

8. Exit the game

I believe in every other game I have played so far there is a menu option that says Quit, or Exit or similar. I cannot find it in MCLA. The game wants you to play it forever! Or is this common behavior on Xbox games?

However, I was only able to return to the Xbox dashboard by pressing the center X-button on the controller or on the steering wheel and then pressing Y to return to the dashboard.

9. Conclusion

There definitely are a lot of other tips for beginning drivers in MCLA, if I have time I'll post them on this blog. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment, or maybe you have tips of your own that you want to share, so we can all benefit.

Thanks for reading,

Peter Kassenaar
-- 26-29 december 2008

P.S. I definitely need a way to make screenshots from my Xbox console, to better illustrate some of the points mentioned above. Any tips? Thanks!


Counting selected items in a List Control using Linq

In my previous blog post I wrote about a method I found on clearing all items in a List Control using the (apparently) built-in method ClearSelection().

In this post I discuss a small technique some of you might also find useful. Besides clearing the items in a list control it was also necessary for the before mentioned application to count the number of selected items in a List Control (mosty a <asp:CheckBoxList>). In some lists users where restricted to selecting a maximum of 5 items out of 10, or similar. If a user selects a sixth item, an error message is shown.

Traditional approach using foreach()

The traditional approach would be something like the code below.

First, declare the CheckBoxList on the page like this

<asp:CheckBoxList runat="server" ID="chkList" RepeatColumns="2" RepeatDirection="Vertical"

AutoPostBack="true" OnSelectedIndexChanged="chkListChanged" />
asp:Label ID="lblNoItems" runat="server" />

For the sake of the example I use the Page_Load() event in code behind to fill the list with 20 items:

 protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)


        if (!Page.IsPostBack)


            // fill items in CheckBoxList

            for (int i = 1; i <= 20; i++)


                ListItem li = new ListItem();

                li.Text = string.Format("Item {0}", i);

                li.Value = i.ToString();





Then, write the method chkListChanged() to handle the selection of the items.

protected void chkListChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)

int selectedItems = 0;

       foreach (ListItem li in chkList.Items)


            if (li.Selected)



        if (selectedItems > 5)


            // throw some error message

            lblNoItems.Text = " Too many items selected...";


An approach using Linq

Since the project I'm working on is a full .NET 3.5 Linq-based solution, I figured it would be elegant to use Linq also to retrieve the number of selected items in the List. This way it is like "querying a List Control". This is (IMHO) quite an exciting concept, if you were used to only build queries for SQL-databases. After some googling I composed the following method

var total = from i in chkList.Items.Cast<ListItem>()

                    where i.Selected == true

                    select i;

now the variable total is available. It holds all the selected items in the list. We can use the Linq method Count() to test how many items have been selected and show an appropriate message in lblNoItems.

int allowedItems = 5;       

        lblNoItems.Text = total.Count() <= allowedItems

            ? string.Format("No. of selected items: {0}. You're OK!", total.Count())

            : string.Format("To many items selected ({0}), please deselect {1} item(s)!",

                total.Count(), (total.Count() - allowedItems));

Two things to notice here:

  • In the Linq query you must explicitly cast the items in the List to a <ListItem> object using the Cast() method, otherwise the query won't work.
  • I use the ? : operator to decide wich message is shown instead of an if-else compound statement.

As I've discovered, there are more advantages using Linq this way. For example, the variable total not only holds the number of selected items in the list (as the variable selectedItems does in the traditional approach), but is a complete array of all selected ListItem objects. You could further manipulate this, for example serialize them and store in a users profile or in a database, and so on (again, using a foreach-loop).

This is what the page looks like when 5 items or less are selected

And here's the UI once you select a sixth item

The files are available for download,

Thanks for reading,

-- Peter Kassenaar,
2 juli 2008.

countCheckBoxList.zip (1,56 kb)


Clearing all items in a List Control

I am currently working on an ASP.NET project where the client needs to have a web form with about ten lists, each list containing anywhere from three or four to a couple of dozen options.

These lists are composed as a CheckBoxList, RadioButtonList or DropDownList, all based on the standard <asp:xxxList> control.

The selected items in the lists are used to build a Linq statement to query and filter a large database table. The (concept) UI of these lists are like the image below.

Clearing the list

In order to begin a new query, we figured it would be handy to have a button below each list to clear the selection of all items instead of manually deselecting every option. So I added a Clear button ('Leegmaken' in Dutch) and wrote the following code for the button. Sure, I looked through the Intellisense list for something like 'empty', or, 'deselect', but couldn't find anything.

So I assumed this was the easiest way to set the Selected state of every ListItem to false. Have a foreach() loop and loop through every ListItem in the control, setting the Selected property to false. (The bindConditionalGrid() method below the loop is for binding the GridView in the page again, to reflect the new criteria.)

Until yesterday.


By accident I was looking at the Intellisense list for a CheckBoxList control, when I stumbled upon the ClearSelection() method, which apparently had the exact same function as the little method I wrote above!

So now instead of four lines of code, I need only one. And this times ten, for the number of Clear-buttons in the page (I know, I think it is possible to write a generic method to clear a list and pass the button name or list name as a parameter, but this quick and dirty approach is suitable for now. If you have such a method, feel free to share it via a comment below :-).

Here is the MSDN page with the documentation for the ClearSelection method:



Intellisense is your friend.

There might be prewritten methods for a task that you wish to accomplish. They might have other names than you expect :-), especially when English is not your mother tongue.

Peter Kassenaar
-- 27 juni 2008