Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

A (Liberal) Dose of Sarcasm

From the comment section of DailyTech‘s article, “Obama, Congress Pack Net Neutrality, Broadband Into Stimulus.”

MrBungle123: The recession Bush inherited from Clinton was shortened by the Bush tax cut.
(several comments later, in reply to MrBungle123)
sgw2n5: Bwahahaaaahaahaaa
Cool, DT has their own revisionist historian!

If you bother actually reading the original article, it’s pretty standard stuff, just reporting on the inclusion of a $6 billion portion of the stimulus package intended for increased broadband penetration and the protection of net neutrality.

Unfortunately, any time that Obama and/or Bush are mentioned, the comment section quickly devolves into a partisan hate-fest. Normally intelligent people turn the worst kind of either populist or capitalist imaginable, depending on their views. Language gets a bit nasty, and right when you’re about to move on in your websurfage, a gem pops up in the comments.

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January 29, 2009 Posted by | Humor, Tech | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft: A Study in Disaster

At the end of the day, or perhaps more appropriately at the close of business, what are a company’s top executives responsible for? The most obvious answer is that they work to make a company profitable, and if it already is, either increase profit or at the very least, maintain it. In the pursuit of that, I would argue that executives must come up with a cohesive business plan/model, something that applies to every product or service they develop. That plan is then passed on to upper-level management, who ensure that their respective divisions are working toward achieving a particular part of said plan.

That’s how it works. In theory, anyway.

Microsoft has apparently chosen an alternate method to business. All of their products are related, more or less, but creating something that is actually desired by the public seems to be optional.

“What on earth are you talking about?” you ask. “I thought Microsoft was doing pretty well, with the exception of that horrific bloatware they call Vista, and besides, didn’t they learn their lesson from that? My beta of Windows 7 is pretty good!”

Yeah, Windows 7 is a distinct improvement, and their productivity software is good, too. Even the Xbox 360 is doing pretty well, and the newest die shrink for the chipset seems to have solved the overheating that gave gamers that spectacular gift known as RROD. Believe it or not, Microsoft makes products other than operating systems, productivity software, and gaming consoles.

First, there’s Games for Windows Live. You don’t know about it? Don’t feel bad, most people have  no idea it exists. Even among PC gamers, those that are aware of the existence of Games for Windows Live are in the minority.

Let’s make a distinction here. There’s Games for Windows, which is an unnecessary initiative by Microsoft to ensure that games are compatible with Windows, as if that were necessary. Honestly, it’s nothing more than a bit of free advertising that gets slapped on the boxes of most major releases. Beyond that is a separate entity known as Games for Windows Live. Theoretically, it’s the PC gaming counterpart to Xbox Live. In reality? It’s useless, so far. There’s almost none of the functionality you get with Xbox Live. Most games don’t use it; the most recent exception to that is Fallout 3, which has admittedly given it more exposure than anything beforehand (there was Universe at War, but that’s about it). You start the game, and a little icon appears on your screen letting you know that you’ve been logged in.

Let’s say you’ve seen this. You probably thought something along the lines of sweet, what can I do with it? Does it allow multiplayer with Xbox Live gamers? Because that would be awesome. I’ve always wanted to do that.

The short answer is no, it doesn’t. (Update: CoolingGibbon has informed me in his comment that the games Shadowrun, Universe at War: Earth Assault, and Lost Planet Colonies are supported for inter-platform multiplayer. I apologize if this was misleading). Continue reading

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Tech | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Portraiture

Kind of a cryptic title, right? Give or take, that’s what I was going for. The subject matter is equally unclear, yet incredibly fitting for my blog, perhaps more so than any of my past writing here. Mostly I write about tech and PC gaming, with the occasional music review, political rant, or automotive coverage. Overall, I’ve got the Tech side of things pretty well covered. What about the + Lifestyle stuff? It’s my goal to create an ongoing discussion and analysis how how technology increasingly becomes part of everyday life – not just for the nerds out there, the fan-boys and the early adopters and the computer geeks, but for everyone else. How does technology affect the luddites – people who have largely avoided technological advances? Some even go out of their way to remain “offline,” as it were.

Despite their best efforts, technology is an intrinsic part of our world. It advances inexorably, permeating every part of life until eventually you cannot have one without the other. Technology is, at times, invasive; it is dispassionate, it doesn’t care if it helps or hurts you, whether it has given you a job or taken one away. It just is. The closest biological approximation to technology might be a virus – its sole purpose is propagation (from a certain, anthropomorphized point of view). It advances slowly in some areas, and with blinding speed in others; regardless, it continues to spread and evolve.

One of the more recent examples of technology’s pervasiveness is Google Street View. Continue reading

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Tech | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tech + Lifestyle’s Confession

If I were Catholic, I suppose that I would go to confession on occasion. Who am I kidding, I do tons of bad stuff. My (theoretical) priest would probably set aside half an hour each week just for me. Consider this my nerd-blog variant of confession. Forgive me, gentle reader, for I have sinned. No, that’s not a reference to all the recent Sins of a Solar Empire content.

Prior to this post, only three of the ten posts visible on the front page of my blog could truly be considered original content (and one of those was a guest post from my friend Zach). The rest was reposted video, news, and articles from tech sites. Sure, I throw my opinion onto the end of it, which I consider to be my saving grace in this matter, but most of it didn’t come from me. Sharing content is fine, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for my own work.

*After twenty minutes of losing myself in Wikipedia while reading about confession, mortal sin, venial sin, catholicism, eastern orthodoxy, greek orthodoxy, the first council of Nicaea, and Nicaragua (absolutely no relation to the rest of it).*

Consider this the apology of a penitent blogger, because if blogging had sins, I’m pretty sure that a dearth of original content would count as a mortal blogging sin. I hereby resolve, now and forever, to make every effort to consistently produce original content for my blog, and to add meaningful commentary to any reposted content. I feel like there should be some variation on, “til death do us part” in there somewhere. Oh well. Load off my chest, kinda.

This is the part where you say, “You are absolved, Brian of Tech + Lifestyle. Go forth and sin no more.”

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Tech | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wrath of Khan: The Opera

Special thanks to Nate from Smashing The Gnat for posting this (ironically, it was on Facebook, not his blog), and extra-special thanks to Robot Chicken for making it in the first place. I love it.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Humor | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sinning it Up

This post was written by Zach, who runs the anime blog Akinotsuki. He and I have decided to write guest posts for each others blogs. For better or for worse, for kicks, for the differing perspectives of interests that we share… or something like that. Here’s his take on Sins of a Solar Empire.

Judging a book by its cover is wrong. Don’t let anyone, especially me, tell you otherwise. Judging a game by its title, though? Absolutely fine, at least in the case of “Sins of a Solar Empire” by Ironclad Games.

Although it shames me, the title of this game was what drew me in. Described as a RT4X on the game’s back cover, Sins of a Solar Empire somehow lives up to that puzzling genre description. Call me a cynic, but both the RTS and 4X genres have become tired. Sure: there are a few diamonds in the rough, but even those are tarnished by years of the same product over and over again. SRPGs can end up being the same, but at least they have a story line to pick up where the gameplay leaves off whereas RTSes and 4Xes leave it up to the player to find his own raison d’être.

As much as I like being treated like a grown-up, the fuel for the fire of imagination required for that existential quandary is nowhere to be found in these games. Maybe I could plot it out or play a re-enactment campaign in “Generic 4X (read: Civilization) IV”, but isn’t that just delaying the inevitable—my moving on to newer and better games?

Just as 4Xes have jumped the shark and are showing few signs of innovation, RTSes have fallen into the same trap: that of rewrapping a package and hoping that the person you’re giving it to doesn’t realize that you’re just handing them the same gift year after year (editor’s note: like Madden! I hate Madden). RTS fans seem to like it, and game sales are solid, but its a niche market, and even though the game devs have done a stellar job of changing my laser-cannon equipped tanks into catapults, they’re the exact same unit at the end of the day.

So what happens when these two stagnant gene pools come together and decide to make a child?

Continue reading

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Gaming | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamachi: How To Set Up a VPN

My friend Zach over at Akinotsuki recently convinced me to pick up a copy of Sins of a Solar Empire, arguably one of the best real-time strategy games released last year. Presumably, he did this for the very specific purpose of destroying my self esteem on a regular basis. That’s what I think, anyway. It’s an incredibly complex game, and the learning curve can be a bit steep at times.

Let’s say you pick up SoaSE, and you want to play against your friend like me and Zach do. How does one go about it? There’s always the SoaSE servers via Ironclad Online, admittedly most players’ default if they’re looking to do multiplayer. ICO is a bit troublesome, though – other players are annoying at times, features don’t work quite the way you’d like, etc. What’s a gamer to do? Use Hamachi.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Hamachi is a zero-configuration VPN (Virtual Private Network) application made by LogMeIn. It’s compatible with Windows, with betas available for OS X and Linux. Essentially, using a VPN connection is like setting up a LAN, only without any of the hard wiring. Here’s how you do it:

January 24, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Tech, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

F.E.A.R. 2: Screenshots

I played through the F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin demo this evening. Suffice to say that I was thoroughly impressed. The demo takes around twenty or twenty-five minutes to complete, and manages to give you a pretty complete sense of what the game will be like.

There are a decent variety of weapons made available to you, including the assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, laser, grenades, and everyone’s favorite, powered armor (essentially a mech). Enemies are also varied, and scale nicely as you proceed through the level. I was particularly impressed by the visual effects used for the paranormal side of things – developer Monolith Productions used things like motion blur, flickering/strobing light, and cut-scenes to an alternate reality/dimension/whatever.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m not even that into survival horror. For those of you who like the genre already, it’ll leave you chomping at the bit.

Check out the below screenshots for a taste of the game. Continue reading

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Gaming | , , | 1 Comment

Green Dawn 2: Leafy Redemption

One of my friends over at Zestful Contemplation put together a fun machinima video using Fallout 3. It’s called Green Dawn 2: Leafy Redemption, and it made me laugh – the humor is especially relevant if you’ve played through the game. Here’s what he had to say about it (in the original post):

It tells the tale of a hero’s journey, based on the steps of the hero’s journey by one Mr. Joseph Campbell.  It is a fictional story set in the world of Fallout 3.  Our protagonist, however, might not be what you’d consider a typical hero….

Let’s just say we turned the steps of the journey on their head just a bit and had fun with them in a way much more fitting to the world of Fallout 3 than the myths of old told to us by Campbell.  The protagonist is a man who is a hero… in his own mind.  He follows the voices in his head that tell him how best to serve the world and spread purity to its people.

Well, purity or mini-nukes.  What’s the difference, really?

Anyway, here it is. Watch it, comment, tell your friends.  🙂

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Humor | , , , , | 2 Comments

Left 4 Dead, Wiimote Style

These guys hooked up two wiimotes to a gaming PC for some Left 4 Dead fun. Here’s the link to their guide if you want to replicate it.

Writing the script to use wiimotes in Left 4 Dead? Boring.

Actually getting to motion control while fighting off zombie hordes? Freakin’ awesome.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Tech | , , | 2 Comments