Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

A Treatise in Which I Examine the Finer Points of Computer Hardware, or Summoning the Beast: The Arcane Magic of Gaming Rig Resurrection and Improvement

After reading some reviews for the newly-released ATI Radeon HD 4770, I find myself thinking long and hard about my planned tech purchases. I’m often fond of referring to such spending as investments, but realistically that’s a misnomer. Regardless of what motherboard, or processor, or graphics card I buy, none of them will gain value the longer I own them. In reality, the value of computer hardware drops almost as quickly as that of cars, and in some cases even worse, given the six-month to one-year life of each generation of hardware. Before I go any further, that needs to be clear and ever-present in my mind and that of readers – any money dropped on hardware should basically be written off at a loss.

That being said, the logical thing to do is examine my reasons for upgrading my hardware. It’s pretty easy for me Continue reading

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May 2, 2009 Posted by | Personal, 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

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