Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

...does anybody see what I see? Goes the musical question of 1776. Well, in this case, I am going to grouse about my gaming experiences mostly, my recent health update, and not much else specifically. Most of it behind the cut for it is the usual blogorrhea that has no bearing on anything, anywhere in any way other than just ranting and whining.

So, before I do that - I'll mention that I did win tickets to the Fathom Events presentation of Shatner's World (link opens new window). It's on April 24 at 730pm your local time in most local theatres (Cinemark in my case). The link can help you find a local theatre listing and buy tickets. Bill is a very entertaining and multi-faceted man, so much so I'm surprised he's not been nicknamed "Diamond" Bill by now. Well, anyway, this is the good news and recommendation for fun I have for my readers.

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My Excellent Day with Chuck

Chuck (aka CMD) is one of my best friends. I've known him since High School, which began in umm 1973 or thereabouts. He and I became the computer geeks when a computer was a MITS Altair 8800 and programmable calculator bigger than an old manual typewriter (Selectric sized), that used punch cards that you had to punch out each individual "chad" by hand.

Suffice it to say our trip to the Wild Animal Park and supper at Black Angus was excellent, and you can skip my waxing enthusiastic later as gushing with nostalgia you may perhaps not need to spend time reading. Collapse )

PC Strange Love, or how I learned to stop worrying and love Windows 64

First of all, Thor_Leifson is right. I am a malcontent with computers, but Windows and PCs especially, probably because they give me such excellent opportunities to tinker. I tink. I tink a lot. I tink so much they can smell me a block away. I have a very powerful tink.

And, as Thor warned me, I tinker until I break things. As I have again and again with PCs, which is what makes me get so mad at Windows because I see how frustrating it makes it to upgrade and optimize in a certain direction, how extremely fragile the system and data become in certain situations, and why must they make it so gosh darn difficult to upgrade, convert, move, backup, restore, what have you in these situations? Like if they can put a man on the moon, why can't Microsoft manage to allow Windows to achieve this very simple task for its users?

I rankle at its inability to (for instance) take a backup from a normal system volume and put it back (in bootable state) onto a RAID volume. If I can put it in a sentence, why is it rocket science (or a PhD in computer science) to achieve? But there you have it - Windows Backup can't do it, Norton (Symantec) Ghost can't, Acronis can't. Basically, I learned you have to rebuild your volume and re-install your apps, and from the backup you MIGHT be able to recover data.

Which, after 3 days of trying to do the "easy" way, I gave up and did.

Which allowed me opportunity to elect for a change of Operating Systems. I installed Windows 7 SP1 64-bit instead, along with 64-bit versions of most apps I was using. Right now, I am also re-installing World of Warcraft, for it seems no easier method achieves an install of the 64-bit components of the game either, despite them being just 3 or 4 critical files that if you delete them, the patcher just ignores and thinks you're good to go, except that upon launch of 64 bit mode you crash.

Yay Blizzard, good one.

Yay a lot of devs on Windows is my problem. But I can give a lot of similar snide cheers to Mac developers (and a phalanx of devs who decided to not even try developing for Mac). What can you do? Computers are just a big pain to code for - believe me, I've done it. And the companies that pay you to do it, because they know you can't go on strike or unionize (federal law prohibits it), they abuse this privilege and make you work long hours, weekends, and give you unfair deadlines. No wonder software comes out crappy and needs all kinds of patches!

It's patches that keep customers in an ongoing service relationship with software companies anyway. Just look at Microsoft and their word processing and Operating System products. Both were full of kluges for almost a decade or more before they became really streamlined, useful and worry-free. RELATIVELY SPEAKING.

64-bit Windows is the latest of this trend, and it is where we're going to go with new laptops, new desktops, even new portable devices. It opens up a processor's (and especially a multi-core processor's) bus, capabilities, memory mapping architecture, memory capacity - the latter really good for huge media and server potentials - and in this era of systems coming standard with 16, 32, 64, 128 gb RAM built in, 64-bit Operating Systems are a must.

Timesharing, or I should say multi-tasking, is much easier for a 64-bit environment to work with. It's a matter of swapping workspaces, some which can swap to disk, or virtual storage. There's quite a number of bytes possible with 64-bit addressing. I forget exactly how big, but it's ginormous.

With the OS upgrade, running a RAID0 array on SSD drives, and 64-bit apps and drivers, WoW is looking fantastic and running 60 fps easily (I sync to frame rate just to not cook my GPU in the name of FPS I can't honestly see). Sounds are slick; special effects are vivid. I'll even be getting one of the wireless headsets, so can use in-game chat, or of course Skype or Vent.

I'll be on Unktehila#1421 if I remember correctly. --BP

El Díablo Trés

Well I am actually surprised at how well I'm liking Blizzard's new time waster, Diablo 3. I've even played it on public servers and found it fun. You are allowed to be shocked.

I never really was in the thick of things during the script kiddies and domination of the Diablo servers where items were hacked, and even bought and sold/trafficked illegally. I've only heard of this -- and have an old copy of the Diablo II Warchest somewhere that I haven't honestly played with very much. Installed a bit, played a bit, died a lot, WoW distracted me from it, I needed disk space, away it went.

So color me a Diablo 3 newb. I do have a bit of guidance and informational background regarding the previous games histories and goings-on, thanks to guides and walkthroughs (e.g., the Warchest includes a Brady guide). I like that there is character, ahem, CHARACTER in the game for all the classes - including voice acting which is right up there with decent production-value animation voice acting. The Monk (whom I'm playing currently e.g.) is a heavy slavic/Russian accent; the Witch Doctor (my 1st character) is an African/Vodoun Priest accent; and so on. Each have their own points of view on what's happening, and what motivations they have for what they're doing, which colors what they say when interacting with NPCs during scripted parts of the story, as well as the general trade or converse banter.

Oh, and they are impatient with you - especially NPCs you hire on to assist with quests. They all have their own set of phrases to basically nag, "Are we there yet?" over and over. Some of them you do want to kick in the teeth…!

But as long as you don't sit idle at the keyboard for long, the nagging is minimal, and the action is pretty maximal.

The auction house in the game is going to be separated into 2 parts: REAL money, and in-game currency. You have to register your financial information with Blizzard for paying and receiving real money on auctions - this part is down; I can't comment on the function, but I believe it is really simple, you ask real money (dollars and cents) for an item that exists only as bits and bytes in Diablo 3, and transfers from your possession on your account, from a storage vault known as the "stash" (a common bank shared by all characters you own), to escrow on Blizzard. They broker the sale, taking their commission, and if all is well, sending the seller the cash, and making available to the buyer the item removed from the stash held in trust for their pickup in Blizzard's auction vault. At the buyer's convenience, they can pick up the item, but sales would be final except for fraud or EULA violations. In those cases, chargebacks and other measures would be taken.

The current auction house requires you log out (only stable way to get at the stash) and then run the auction house, which is a standalone app from the main character select menu. This has 4 functions: one a search engine with an ability to tailor the search to a character you own, so results are relevant items for them; one a sell tab which is very under-featured at the moment (enables/encourages ignorant bids); one a status tab for bids and sales (with less options on it than the WoW equivalent); One is a log/buy tab (shows sales you've completed and is where you perform the actual "pick up" of merchandise you received - clunky, but there you have it).

My suggestion would to have an auctioneer class and a little room (or set of rooms) he works in that maybe builds up as he does things. Maybe with transactions, he can list more, buy more, etc. Or you can pay to expand his little world. And he'd have some control over the stash as well. It'd be a blast if he had access to the crafters in game and level up the crafters and just play the market - getting materials, making goods, selling stuff - pure noncombat character. He'd be the ultimate if he could craft items for all your other "real" characters and put the goods directly on their bodies, with access to their paper doll and inventory.

But I digress. So far, bosses have been difficult, almost always making me sit and strategize, "Now how is it possible to beat him without needing a group?" And sometimes I have to wait until the next day before I have the answer. Sometimes the answer is just don't be too tired to play any longer. :-p The game is NOT forgiving of being a little slow with reacting to situations. This is what may eventually turn me off the game after the first 2 newbie acts…

And - here's something I've been mentioning as an ultimate danger in MMOs for a while now - they have a HARDCORE mode. Die once - your character gets DELETED. You have no second chance, no rez, nothing. You play for keeps in this game. The loot is terrific, probably so you can armor yourself to the teeth and arm yourself commensurately too. But bite it - healer falls asleep in your raid - YOU'RE TOAST.

So this is either the ultimate in solo'ers narcissistic paradise, the trial by fire that tempers the hardest core player, or it's just the newest farming ground for the auction house rare items to real cash moochers. (Which from what I've seen lately, I'd recommend a Monk class for soloers… they self heal, debuff enemy damage as they hit, can teleport to their enemy past or through barricades of nuisance mobs, and do AEs that scatter mobs that crowd you on all sides, subjecting them to fire damage. And I've only played one to L10.)

Diablo ALWAYS needs an internet connection, even when you're playing solo with no other people present. I think this is how the copy protection is enforced - and as well how the game keeps patched, and AH/stash keeps sync'd. At least you have the safety of knowing nobody can hack themselves a lot of ultimate weapons and ruin the market and so on. Items will be legitimately earned and farmed from the pseudo-randomly laid-out terrain and features of the various maps and dungeons.

Controlling the game is mostly mouse, very little keyboard except as advanced skills are learned of which a maximum of 4 are displayed as hotkeys. Then there's Q for health potions if you want to Quaff one, T if you want to Teleport back to Tristram, S if you wish to decide what Skills map to the hotkeys and mouse, L to review the Logs of adventure quests and creature Lore, and I to examine your Inventory. All these have thin iconic buttons on the game's control panel.

My screen is extra wide, so even those huge mana and health globes either side of the interface don't touch the sides of my display. I see quite a lot of real estate in game, and with good detail. The atmospheric effects - smoke, reflective water with ripples, directional, multi-source, flickering lighting, fog, dark, poorly-lit scenes without "banding" of colors, all these technical achievements (after gamma-adjusting my screen according to their directions) were done on my factory standard iMac 17" with Intel Inside graphics and i5 Core Processor.

I do not have my exact FPS, but I was playing full screen to the full resolution, locked to refresh, so I'm guessing 30. It looked crisp, stutter-free, and I was not stressing about wanting some PC to run it on. I'm good.

(no subject)

As someone past half a century old, it's come upon me to apply the mantle of wisdom and attempt to speak as if I am wise -- being that, if you set the calendar back a millennium or two, I'd be ancient and indeed one of the most sage and wise people around for that time and age.

This seems to be the problem with most young people trying to get into business and relationships, relate to friends and even strangers over the Internet. Everything is Me, Me, Me, Me, Me. You need to break out of this habit of thinking about yourself first in everything you say and do, and think about the other person first. The better you become at thinking about how someone else would react to how you'd /verb/ them.

Prerequisites: DEVELOP A SELF
There's a difference between being a personality and being a robot. If all your actions are based on needs and desires, your personality is taking a back seat. Somewhere inside are expressions of something truer than hunger. These will help identify your true self.

OK, enough of the guru act... ttfn!
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Writer's Block: Superbowl madness or sadness?

If you're in the U.S., will you watch all or part of the Superbowl? Do you have a favorite team? If you're not American, what do you think about Superbowl Sunday?
I didn't. Didn't last year, didn't this year, don't expect to next year. I'm not a slave to big business sports, or the multi-million-dollar ad campaigns that come with them. I thumb my scaly snout in their general direction!