Jumping on the Bed!

The continuing blog on anime, games, movies, computers, college, and life in general

Archive for the 'PC' Category


Raidmax Smilodon Extreme Black

I’ve essentially been using the same computer for the past seven years. For those who care to know, her name is Skuld. I built it using an elegant Antec Sonata II case that I got from Staples on clearance for $90. It is very sturdy, sleek, and made for quiet operation. It originally started with an AMD Athlon XP 1900+ which was later upgraded to an Athlon XP 2600+ and a new motherboard because the original one decided to cook itself. With the occasional upgrade in hard drive and video card (an AGP ATI 9600XT with 128Mb) it has stayed the same computer for the better part of a decade which in the computer world makes it nearly an antique. It still runs Guildwars alright, and any game that came out before two years ago.

A couple of years ago I toyed with the idea of upgrading it again, or building an entirely new computer. At that time though I was still trying to pay down my substantial credit card debts and while there were faster processors available they were still quite expensive compared to the small performance boost I would receive so I postponed my typical upgrade spree a little longer.

Now that I have my debt under control and I’m finally on top of my bills without worrying about whether or not I’m going to eat until the next paycheck, I once again played with the idea of building a new computer. After Sabrina and I built her a new computer a few months ago to replace her aging (yet still newer than my machine!), I offered her a friendly challenge. “When you’ve got time, could you find me a new computer case?” I figured she would be busy and wouldn’t have the time or inclination to do that for at least another couple of months. The results?

I now have a Raidmax Smilodon Extreme Black ATX-612WEB case waiting under my computer desk. Patiently crouched for innards. Either an unsuspecting passers’by, or the motherboard/psu/gpu/cpu/ram that I’ll have to order soon. I have a feeling it would happily feed on either. It was delivered late last night so I haven’t had much time with it yet. My initial impression of it is that it is a very solid case. It’s also big. I thought my Antec was rather large, but this is about another 3/4″ taller and at least an inch and a half wider. And while the Antec had a quiet subtle beauty to it, this Smilodon looks like it craves action. I can’t wait until I order a power supply and plug the thing in and listen to it purr! I’m also afraid that if I don’t feed it soon, it’s going to carve its dinner out of my calves which are unpleasantly close to it when I sit at my desk.

(“parabola” tool – lateralus)

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Ubuntu Tip – Hiding Mounted Drives on the Desktop

Ubuntu Crystal

One of the things that Mancer was looking for a while ago was the ability to remove his mounted “Windows” drive from his Ubuntu desktop. Sadly, it wasn’t much of an issue for me so I didn’t really look into it that much. Now, I need to hide the mounted folders I have on my desktop at work so I did the digging and here’s how to do it!

Open up a terminal or press “<Alt> – F2″ to open the “Run Application” window and type in:


This will open the Gnome Configuration Editor. From there drill down to /apps/nautilus/desktop/volumes_visible and uncheck the box to the right. You can also toggle the “Computer”, “Home”, “Documents”, and “Trash” icons to your liking as well. Looks like there’s a whole slew of things you can mess around with in there. Have fun, but be careful!

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Nero Linux 3

Nero for Linux

I know I’ve been promoting open-source and legally free software for a while but I thought this might interest those on the fence of using linux as an operating system. Nero has recently released Nero Linux 3. Essentially take everything you like about the core Nero Burning Rom application (namely burning cd’s and images), remove all of the crap they stuff into the Windows release (nero home, nero recode, nero picture player, nero back scratcher, nero kitchen sink, nero label designer, et cetera…) and you’ve got Nero Linux 3.

Using a 64-bit OS? No problem, you can get 64-bit Nero or it’s 32-bit little brother. It comes in both RPM and DEB packages which most flavours of linux support so nobody should be left behind, the download is only 14Mb so it won’t tax too many internet connections. Oh, and it supports both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray if you have the means. All of that for $25.00.

Personally I’d say that’s a pretty damned good vote of confidence for linux coming from the Nero team. As a big proponent of open-source and free software I feel kind of odd having Nero on my Ubuntu box, but I also secretly feel a little more comfortable with it there. Kind of like a safety blanket if you will. Having used Nero for… well… since version 2.0(win), it has always been on every single windows machine I’ve had.

So to answer your question, Mancer, yes. I’ve found a way to erase re-writable discs in Ubuntu. Thank you, Ahead! er… wait. Whatever happened to their name?

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Virtual Box


It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have spent most of the day happily moving my development machine away from the Dell Optiplex 320 (Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6Gz, 2Gb PC4200 DDR2) to a new Dell Optiplex 740 (AMD 64 X2 Dual Core 4600+, 2Gb PC5300 DDR2) because all of last week while I was programming an RMA database / interface for work the damn thing kept crashing on me about five times a day. Needless to say quite frustrating! Basically I jammed Ubuntu into it with a LILO shoehorn and it had been kind of quirky running 64bit apps. It’s actually a known problem that Ubuntu (or parts of Ubuntu) don’t play well with the 320’s at all.

We received a replacement 740 in today and I said screw it! I need a system that’s not going to crash on me. So I took a spare SATA drive, replaced the pre-installed Windows drive with it, installed Ubuntu with the smexy Ubuntu 7.04 AMD 64 Desktop ISO I burned a couple of weeks earlier and loaded it up. Installation was nearly flawless. The only thing I had to do after installing the restricted nVidia drivers for my GeForce 7300 LE was to add “1440×900″ to my available resolutions and set the monitor refresh rates to play nice with the sleek HP w1907 Sabrina helped me pick out. So now I’ve got a perfectly working Ubuntu box up and running with Beryl and an Audigy kicking out the tunes. No crashes yet!

Right now I’m in the process of copying the data from my old computer to the new one and I wanted to pass along a great new find. I’d been using VMWare’s Virtual Server and Virtual Machine software for a while now, either running linux on Windows or Windows on Linux and thought that I would try something else. VMWare charges money for most of there stuff, and it’s huge (100+Mb or so). Innotek has just released VirtualBox 1.4.0 for not only Windows, and various Linux distributions, but for Mac OS X as well. On top of that they have compiled both 32bit and 64bit versions of it! Even better. It’s free, it’s open-source, and it’s only 15Mb. So now I can test out virtual networks and servers for my fun little projects without the possibility of crashing the entire current domain. A concept the current database “administrator” has yet to grasp. The kind of person who will allow duplicate records in the database because she’s too lazy to clean them up. <twitch>

More tomorrow!

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Ubuntu – RIP Breezy Badger


On April 13th, 2007, Canonical ended official support and security patches for Ubuntu 5.10 codenamed “Breezy Badger”. I can’t believe it’s already been 18 months since I first tried Ubuntu.

I wish I could say that once it was on my system, I never looked back. The truth is that after I dropped Mandrake (now Mandriva) for it being a pain in the arse, I have waffled between Ubuntu and Windows XP. I even dated Suse for a few days, but was not impressed. I really enjoyed Breezy, and I even picked up a few of the free installation discs from Shipit. I appreciate the Gnome desktop much more than I do KDE, but that’s all a matter of preference.

I think the biggest draw to Ubuntu is it’s user base. They’re competent, they’re growing, and most importantly they’re friendly. Whenever I have a problem, I simply google “ubuntu” + whatever it is I need help with. 99% of the time, the answer was graciously offered by some other Ubuntu user. I also tried to play with Compiz, but spent most of the time reinstalling corrupted installations than using the 3d desktop, so I gave up on it for a while.

These days, I have Ubuntu 6.04 (Dapper Drake) running the FTP Server at work, and installed it on a separate computer we’re going to stick on the edge of the firewall as an Intrusion Detection System. I have 6.10 (Edgy Eft) and Beryl on my 2nd machine at work for most of my coding tasks, and I have Edgy running as the primary partition at home. I even got Mancer to agree to use Edgy for his internet use and to boot into Windows only for gaming. Near as I can tell, he’s been pretty happy with it. I know I have.

So for now, I bid a fond adieu to the gateway OS that has offered millions of people the vision of what the world could be like. Think of it as Open Source with Open Hearts. ^_^


Puzzle Quest

Puzzle Quest: Undead

I love simple games. What’s more, I love when the simple games we used to play as children grow up with us. Sometimes it doesn’t work very well, and sometimes the results are down-right brilliance.

Take the simple premise of tic-tac-toe and expand it. The 3×3 playing field now becomes seven times larger at 8×8 which gives the opportunity to do a whole lot of fun strategy back into the game. Then instead of the same old connect three, wipe them away, repeat. Connect four for some sort of cool bonus. Give an awesome reward for connecting five to hook the player with a little mini goal. Now you’ve taken a great simple game and expanded its world.

Sabrina introduced me to a game called Bejeweled 2 a couple of summers ago. They not only melded all of those wonderful game play mechanics, but they did the one thing that I can never resist. They made that fucker shiny. There are 64 glowing, swirling, chiming gems on the screen that beckon you to play with them in their happy little extra-terrestrial world. Not only that, but when you start a string of “combos” as gems line up and trigger other connections, the screen is awash in an orgasm of exploding gems.

The best part of the game is the “Endless Mode” that just keeps going and going, rewarding you with a wheel of gems to fill in with each level requiring more and more points to continue to the next. It’s a great way to just blow of steam at the end of the day devote 10 minutes in order to get just one more gem. Well, that level didn’t seem too long, perhaps another gem. Oooh, only two more and I get another meta-gem. I wonder what colour it will be. Next thing you know either one of two things happens. Dawn creeps up at you and you curse yourself for not getting any sleep, or your computer crashes which is the sure-fire way to know that you’ve been on the damned thing for too long again.

Infinite Interactive takes the Bejeweled concepts and wraps them all up in an RPG element. Go download the PC Demo now while you finish reading this entry. (you can thank me later)

Four coloured “mana” orbs for Water, Earth, Fire, Air, piles of gold, purple experience stars, and attack skulls are at your disposal to wage battles against your enemies. There are bonuses when you line up more than three of any one kind of item, and of course you can pull off combos which seem like utter chaos.

The PC demo allows you to build a character up to level 7. Eventually I2 will officially announce a PC version of the game, but until then it is available exclusively to the Nintendo DS, and the Sony PSP. Sabrina was very considerate and let me borrow her DS while she’s away kicking ass in college (straight A student). After playing the demo for about fifteen minutes, I knew that both Sabrina and myself would love this game, so I picked a copy up from FYE. They actually had two copies left, so I didn’t feel too bad about whorking one for us to share.

The DS game is almost identical to the PC version. The screen layout is a little different (characters are on the top screen with the battle grid and spells on the bottom) and the animations aren’t quite a smooth. Considering I had gone from a 3.2Ghz Dual-core Intel with 2Gb of ram and an ATI x600 video card to a little hand-held system, I wasn’t going to begrudge the title fewer animations. The music is quite loud, and I’ve found that I have to put it to the 2nd to lowest setting in order to hear the characters say anything, otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. Also, the music seems to be choppy. I’m not sure if it’s trying to do too much at once, or if the audio rendering engine of the DS can’t handle whatever synthesis Puzzle Quest is trying to make it do.

Otherwise the game is the same. The stylus works very well as an interface tool. I can’t even imagine how clunky it would be to use a D-pad on a PSP. I’ll stick with mouse or stylus any day. I have noticed that the game seems to be about 65% skill, 30% luck, with a 5% wtf factor mixed together when fighting enemies. There really isn’t any consistency. After getting trounced by a vampire bat five times, the planets align correctly and the sixth try has the magic and I’m able to progress in the game. That reason alone will likely deter anyone with bad luck in games, like Mancer.

There is a fun little plot to follow while you’re gaining xp’s and adjusting your skill levels throughout the game. The game isn’t linear, so if you want to go patrolling to wipe out that skeleton over and over again, feel free. Just remember that the enemies level up with you. Kind of like the worst Final Fantasy (VIII), you can be a level 50 Warrior with the best magic, weapons, and armor but be careful, that slime over has a fair chance of whooping your ass.

For people like me who may get pissed, but persevere, the game is pretty much crack in a shiny little hand-held. If you don’t have a DS, just be patient, and the full game will come out eventually. There should be some sort of “Official” announcement soon, but who knows. Judging by the scarcity of the game now it should be a surprise hit. Of course, when Penny-Arcade heartily recommends the game not once, but twice… well, lets just say that I have a feeling that it certainly won’t hurt the game’s sales.

Wherever the game gets its props, it deserves them. It’s a lot of fun, and battles can be over in minutes so you can fit a couple in during lunch, or in transit to work, or in the middle of class, or when you should be sleeping. Just remember that when you’re staring at the clock wondering how the hell it could be 3:47am, you have no one else to blame but yourself. Or perhaps the person who sent you the demo which should be installed by now, right?


Titan Quest

Titan Quest

Do Titans always have this many problems? There are a slew of games I’ve gone through that just aren’t… polished. Perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by Blizzard and Squaresoft (FF VIII the exception), but today’s games seem to lack luster.

Titan Quest, for example, is a fun game for the most part. Take three parts Diablo II, add in every story you should have learned in Greek Mythology class, the writer of Braveheart, and Age of Empires co-creator; mix it all together in a 3D engine and you pretty much have Titan Quest.

While the game is in an isolated isometric 3D world, it is still kind of clunky, and the textures are quite bland. Even with all the graphics shaders cranked up, it’s just not that pretty. “Well, if it isn’t that pretty, they probably just spent their time optimizing the code for smoothness. Right?” No. Here is where Age of Empires rears it’s ugly head. The game isn’t smooth either. Even after removing that god-awful SecurRom copy protection, the game is still very sluggish and choppy.

The sound is enjoyable, when it plays, although there are often many times in the game when the audio simply cuts out. It is most noticeable when speaking to NPC’s. One moment their begging you to save their wayward child from the Maenads, and the next moment you’re wondering when the last time you cleaned the heat sink on your video card because that’s all you can hear… whirrrrrrrrrr… On the other hand, the NPC’s are probably the most fleshed out characters I’ve ever come across with the exception of the populace of Morrowind and Oblivion. It is a treat to listen to them… when you can actually hear them.

What really detracts from this game is the horrid multi-player implementation. To start with, when you select a secured server to join the password prompt displays. Fine. That’s expected. What isn’t expected is that you have to drag your mouse over the text box to start typing. It’s the only friggin place to start typing, why doesn’t the cursor just go there? Okay, you type your password in and hit enter. …nothing. Enter? Nothing… oh, wait. Tab then enter… nope. Once again, you have to move the mouse over the accept button and click.

Now, once you get into the game proper chatting with anyone is a pain in the arse. Seriously. T to talk, okay. you type, you hit enter. you click elsewhere and the chat menu is still up. You type a reply back. “Really?” Did your correspondent see the text? Nope. You just guzzled down your biggest Health and Energy potions and sprang a couple other character statics windows up. You have to click back into the chat window to type again. Oh, and the Esc key closes every single window that’s open. Not just the top-most. So, trading and chatting can be a very trying time.

If chatting via text in the game is such a trial, why don’t you just use Skype, TeamSpeak, etc.? That’s because the instant you get back into TitanQuest you loose your connection in Skype or whatever. I don’t know how they did it, but it just doesn’t work. Most of Ironlore’s forums are filled with players asking ‘WTF?’ And there just isn’t any support for it. It’s a “known issue” which as been around for quite a while. Here we are at version 1.3 and still no hope of having VOIP work with the game. Nothing quite like being bound and gagged to try and enjoy a game.

Other than those oversights, the game is fun and damned addictive. It is pretty much Diablo II.5 And if you are the kind of person who enjoys Loot ‘n Level games like Diablo or Champions of Norrath, etc, then you really ought to take this game out for a stroll. Just don’t expect a polished gem like Diablo II, you’re more likely to find a slab of rock. Whoops, I mean “Essence of (Name of Greek, Egyption, Asian God Here)”.

Perhaps the upcoming expansion pack will fix some of these problems. Or maybe they’ll just leave me stuck in a cave that I can’t friggin’ leave. Which is great. Because I’m the damned server, and once I close the program, every one gets booted. Like Mancer said… “It sure ain’t Battle.net” Amen, brother.

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