Steamy pages of romance trash

27/08/2012

I am a reader, so I live the book visually. Every character has a face and the world is real. I am discussed at myself, for all the fantastic books available, I read gay steam romances.

I am in a bit of funk of late, normal when considered that my first relationship ended recently and I am still processing it. So in all fairness, be warned that what follows is soppy and should be taken with a pinch of reality and appropriate roll of the eyes…

As I was reading last night, way later than what is good for productivity on a weekday, crying for the characters it dawned on me why I can’t stop reading this romantic, unrealistic, almost always perfect trash. I FEEL. I want in my mind that irrational, weird and stupid feeling of the people in the book. So as they experience love and hardship, I root for them and I get emotionally invested in them and I want for them to find a happy ending. So I cry when they are sad and I laugh for their stupid antics but really, secretly I wish it was my tale…

So why the funk last and the loneliness feels thick and insurmountable I will stick with the hopeless romance trash, in the hope that one day there will be a happy ending…


Windows 8 – The story so far

07/04/2012

I have been deliberately stayed away from writing about Windows 8 for a reason. I had a fairly negative feeling about Windows 8 from the developer preview. I wanted to take the time and work with Windows 8 for a while to see if the much further develop operating system can won me over, just like Windows 7 did a couple of years ago.

Microsoft will let us believe that Windows 8 are a no compromise approach to the future of computing. The one thing I want to say upfront is that that is the biggest failure of Windows 8. After working with it for more than a month, one cannot but feel that Windows 8 is all about a compromise. Let me explain.

Getting around Windows 8 is not intuitive. It is not like an iPad after you have used an iPhone or iPod Touch. Someone has to show you how it works and they have to explain to you how things fit together. Unlike previous Windows versions, bring your existing knowledge of Windows into this is not much of a help.

There has been a lot of complaining about how Microsoft could release this as a consumer preview without explaining somehow how it works. Well, if you have taken the time to work through the preview site a bit, you would actually come across a video explaining how to navigate. Now chances are no one looked at the site and they will be lost without that introduction. If there is something to take from this is that Microsoft should build a first run tutorial unlike any other Windows version before it. Otherwise they are going to have a rocky launch.

Once you get going and you are use to it all a couple of things become very apparent. Firstly, Metro on desktop computers is just stupid. Sorry, but Windows 8 on the desktop with a keyboard and mouse are just feeling like a stupid unnecessary compromise. This new stuff is build geared to tablets and iPad like devices. After a month, I only see the start screen when I power up the computer, just before I click the desktop icon.

I have configured the desktop with all my icons lined up or pinned to the taskbar. Somewhere along the line however, Windows 8 decided to stop remembering my icon layout on the desktop. So now I have icons that no matter how many times I move it, it returns to the wrong spot upon reboot.

The desktop itself have had very little changed except the start button is gone. Now this in itself is not really an issue. I have found that I used it very seldom anyway. The start screen, when configured gives you access your programs anyway, but the way that it works is a little compromised as well. It used the old start menu structure to give you your program entries and we all know how application installers like to dump hundreds of useless shortcut in there. The old start menu gave you an option to explore and clean it up a bit and you will still need to do it with the new start screen.

Once you are through all of this you end up with a computer that looks and works for the most part like Windows 7. The only problem is that you have to learn stupid gestures to do with your mouse to access stuff that was normally just a click away. Microsoft has been shouting since Windows 95 the power of right click and how you need all the immediate commands right there where you are. Well this philosophy is dead in Metro. Right click does not work with touch.  For touch you need big areas and travel over the screen is never an issue. So right clicking in Metro will give you options, but instead, they are on the bottom on the screen in a big band, awesome for touch, terrible for mouse travel.

Another stupidity is the inability to close an application. To do that, drag the program down, wrestle with the right or left snap in Metro before it closes. Why not include a cross on the right click options? Why make this so complicated. The reason, Metro is build for touch devices, and not desktop computers. There is no appealing reason for Metro and if you think it is only because the big gun apps have not been released yet, then you are mistaken. Metro is for simple applications, applications that can run on a touch based tablet. That is not the stomping ground for serious productive applications and once you get that figured out, you starting to see the problems with Windows 8. It is great for touch devices, yet you are still saddled with the touch unfriendly desktop. The desktop pc is saddled with Metro that is just not designed for workhorse loads and multitasking. In the end, they would have been better off to build various versions of the same code base, with different user interfaces, but this is Microsoft, you think they do the obvious well? Come on.


Buying a computer like it is 1995

01/01/2012

Paul Thurrott from winsupersite.com posted last week an old document he wrote to a friend / family member to help them to buy a computer. The interesting part of all this is that it was written in January 1995 (or so the circumstantial evidence suggest).

Reading it was like opening a time capsule…and a rather big contrast to computers today. The reason why this resonated so much with me is that we got a computer for the first time that year. It was a 486 DX2-66, just like Paul recommended. It did have a sound card, but a SoundBlaster 16 clone (which there was plenty of; this was before the days of EAX). It did have a CD Rom, can’t remember how it was connected. My self-building computer skills came later. It had 8 megabytes of RAM, which was by far the biggest cost of the system.

A couple of thoughts about the article:

Paul mentioned the Pentium and he rightfully pointed out that a 486 is sufficient since there is nothing taxing the Pentium, and looking at his prices he quoted, those systems were definitely premium. Well, turns out 1995 introduced a couple of things to tax the Pentium and it became the processor of choice. Windows 95 was a pain on a 486. Quake also screamed on a Pentium compared to the crawl on the 486. Two massive moments for the PC in one year. (Note to self, must write about my thoughts about Windows 8 and my hopes that Microsoft will again build a proper  consumer OS.)

The biggest thing however that I took away from the article is how much better computers are today. Standardisation being the key, from how hard dives connect to how peripherals attach. USB, SATA, PCI-express, you no longer care about these things. You just know that these things are there. It is just custom builders that are worried about these things these days and you can almost bet that most builders will end up with more slots and ports that they need.

I used to stress about how much PCI slots I need, I had a 3D accelerator, sound card and TV card, and those would be a tight fit on some motherboards. The need for those things have almost completely disappeared. All motherboards come with good on-board sound. The collapse of the PC gaming as the premier gaming platform has made things like EAX irrelevant. Nobody code for these things anymore. So what is the point of buying a dedicated add-in card?

What parts of the article are still relevant today? PC resellers are still crap at advertising and specifying what you buy at the “great” price that they advertise. This is even more painful these days, because buying anything high tech these days are problematic, from TV’s to tablets. They don’t specify model numbers which make it difficult to do an apples to apples comparison.

Head over to winsupersite.com and do enjoy a blast from a distant past.


Taking a stroll

29/12/2011

There is something to be said about walking at the sea. The endless sound of the waves, the long stretches of white sand and the debris the ocean has spit out.

What the walk does to your mind is also special. It is a time to think of nothing and everything at the same time. Sometimes you can walk for an hour and nothing comes to mind. Other times your mind is just racing as the wind clear your foot prints behind you or the ocean erase any trace you made in the sand.

I have other wandered if I would like to buy a place by the ocean, the one thing I do know is that it will be by the coast and there will have to be a long stretch of beach to walk…


Rage

18/11/2011

I have been meaning to write something about Rage. I have been putting it off because I partly wanted to replay it first or partly. You see I have very mixed feelings about Rage. On the one hand it was a great experience, one of the better ones I have had in a while. On the other hand, the ending and sudden stop have left me whiplashed, even two weeks later.

So let’s start with the obvious, how did it run? I knew going in that the game will be running great. Carmack made it clear that you will have a good experience on current hardware and the Geforce 570GTX is no slouch. I was also lucky in the sense that the game run really great on the drivers I had installed. Some time ago I got tired of downloading the latest drivers from nVidia, especially since most of their releases are beta. Since drivers do more than just power games, they power your browser as well these days, I am sticking to hardware qualified drivers only.

I will have to give credit to id for their choice of 60Hz gaming. The driving and racing was great from the get go. They really got this right. The vehicle don’t feel like they are on rails. The driving experience feels like a proper arcade racer  and the effect of speed is done better than most driving games I have played in a while. The problem with the driving is not the driving, it is the scope. The tracks are small. The wastelands are small. They are big enough to open the taps, but they are very limited. It is not wide open area to play around in. They are limited narrow canyons with limited options.

Exploring in general in this game is very limited. Initially, the game does not allow you to stroll very far, until the story progress and you are given a mission to open up the next section. After that you have free reign of the canyon. The missions are fairly predictable. Clear out this section, grab that from them. Slowly but surely the game sucks you in. You get into the driving and racing to get the parts for your car. The races are a bit of mayhem and I really did enjoy some of it. Some of the race types did not make sense to me, but there was enough to entertain and the driving is really good, until you flip the car over and you watch as it turns itself around. That really could have been done better. I understand why it is necessary; it is just that the execution blows the whole emergence at the spot.

I like run and gun FPS. I do appreciate the odd game that mixes it up, but given the option, I would approach it run and gun style. Rage does this really well, except that the amount of things to shoot is limited. One of the achievements you can unlock is the ability to kill three enemies with a single RC car. Great, except that I never got three together to do it. The power plant stage is one that truly comes to mind as modern shooter doing it old school. It is also the best example of how capable idTech 5 is, by far my favourite level in the game.

Other things I liked are the fact that you can buy your ammo. This to me made perfect sense and I hope more fps can incorporate this in future. It adds something to the game as opposed as taking something away like limiting your guns to just two at a time. So that is cool. The construction portion of the game, well it felt unnecessary. I never made anything else than bandages, pop-rockets (which is awesome) and lock grinders. The RC cars works best in the one stage, for the rest of it I simply ignored it, never once used a turret or spider turret. I must also say that health was done really well in this game. The instant of the bandages as well as the regeneration worked well.

The side missions (job board) was really a waste in the first section of the game, they are basically, sniper missions and felt out of place, especially as I have played them, all back to back.  They would have been more worthwhile if they incorporated them into a high octane moment into the main story. The job board in the second wasteland had only three jobs and they felt better, since they entail replaying a section you already played, but this time to achieve different objectives. They made more sense to me, even though you are supposed to have killed everything the first time around…

What else? I really did like the game, the problem is just as you starting to get going and the story started to feel like it is coming together, you play the next mission and then it is it, nothing more. I was so shocked at the abrupt end I sat and stared at the screen and thinking where is the rest. I have just getting into it.

That is Rage biggest problem. You almost feel like there should be more, the progress was so slow and the build-up as well that you cannot but feel like you have been cheated. They made this game, six years have pass, they took 3 months to polish and they ship what they had. That is literally how I felt. As I was sitting there and staring at the screen you start to put things into perspective. You notice the blurry textures.  Doom 3 (six years old) looks better today texture wise than Rage. That is a fact. You also miss the great detail on computer screens and the interactivity of them. The details in Rage stages are believable, but fake. You think about the shooter experience and the fact that levels were fairly small and the AI pretty monotone. You think of the very pathetic sewers stages, which I just could not fathom why they are even there. They add noting, just endless cannon fodder for you…

But this is not all bad. You also remember the amount of fun you had and the fact that you want to play this again. Only problem is that you cannot go back and finish races. You will have to load a savegame prior to the departing for the last mission if you want to go back, which is just stupid.

Rage for what it is, is a vision of the shooter of the future, a game that can be more than just level after level or scripted event after the other. Farcry 2 however got the scale right, pity I got bored with that game. Rage got the fun right but lacked the overall scale to really pull this off. I was reminded of Wolfenstein again, where your town is your link between stages, but it does not add really anything. Rage did that better. They got the ammo buying better, but the whole manufacturing of stuff and weapons upgrade is rather pointless. Wolfenstein got the weapon upgrades much better. There you could feel and see the impact. In Rage the upgrades to weapons and vehicles felt cosmetic, not actual.

What I hope id do next is take this technology, and just build a game that can do it justice, less engineering, more game play please!

My final verdict: If you like run and gun and want to play the best driving experience in FPS, Rage is a blast. You think you are playing a First person RPG, forget it. Loved it and will play it again.


Why open source software is not better

12/11/2011

I have been thinking to write something about Firefox and open software for some time. Let me begin by saying I have no problem with open source as a concept. I think it is great and there are some very powerful programs out there. My problem is really with the open source community and their mind set that closed software is bad and open source is better. Please get over yourself already, seriously.

Open source is not better and not worst by design. In the end it depends on the program that you create. Let take my most exposed open source program as an example, Firefox.

I have been using Firefox since version 1 was release all the way back in 2004. What has drawn me to Firefox was the fact that it was small, fast and so much better than IE at the time. In fact it is still is, but not for the reasons that you think. I think it underlying technology is better supporting that that of IE. It supports more web features and it works great with most to all my websites that I use. So where does it get undone?

Well, there is not a lack of engineers working to advance to technology. There is also not a lack of beta testers and even nightly testers. So where have they gone wrong. For that you have to look at IE and how it was designed. You see when Microsoft designs something, they have not only programmers in the room, they have designers, user experience experts, power users. And while they build this experience, they use their workers to beta best and give then feedback.

What do we get from Mozilla? We get half-baked ideas that take several versions and multiple bugs to get it to work properly. Apptabs in Firefox 4 is a great example of this. They have finally managed to get AppTabs to work properly in Firefox 8. That is 4 releases later. Is this rapid release really better? Let’s just frustrate users for 23 weeks with a half-baked idea until we get it working. Meanwhile, look at all these shiny new things we added but no one cares about…

That to me is why I open source fail. There are too many engineers involved and the focus is features. Where the closed source people know they have to sell a working program, so they focus on user experience throughout the design process and it is not just an afterthought…

So please all open source advocates, your software is not better because it has more features, it needs to be as easy to use as the programs it wants to replace to be truly better.


AMD APU: A little processor with a lot of bang

18/05/2011

I have always detested netbooks. Yes the size was cool, but as soon as you started using it you could not but feel cheated. At the source of this was the processor powering it, Atom. Now I fully understand what Intel set out to do with the Atom, and in a way you have to be impressed with their efforts. It is remarkable little CPU and little is the appropriate word here. Low power consumption does come at a price. It was severely underpowered against the desktop processors of the day.

This however did not stop OEM’s from being creative. They stuck these little processors into everything from NAS’s to all-in-one computers, even created a new segment, the Nettop. These were off coarse initially against Intel’s wishes. These computers did offer some appeal, especially for size, but the overall experience from using it was just lacking.

Now I am a fine one to say the experience was lacking, considering that I was using a Pentium 3 833MHz as my internet download machine. So sometimes you need to put things into perspective. I have looked several times into building a Nettop myself to replace the old HP workhorse. Every time however I stopped halfway through the costing of the project. Why, because the Atom solutions available was just severely underwhelming.

The initial desktop boards used out-dated chipsets, lacking key features. This was primarily self-induced by Intel, they did not want a cheaper than chips CPU to cannibalise their medium and lower spec markets powered by Pentium and Celeron processors.

Atom over time has evolved as all products do. The desktop processors have opened a substantial lead with performance and price and power efficiency, leaving Atom a niche market. Intel has embraced this market by offering support for desktops, NAS and embedded solutions. Their manufacturing advantage has allowed them to add a second core and to ramp up the clock speed. Netbooks today is a far better experience than what they were when they were introduced.

AMD traditionally have been weak in the mobile market. Their notebook processors were dismal compare to that of Intel. So when they announce their first APU was designed for netbooks I was rather sceptical, but after reading about the specifications and design, I was intrigue. AMD has a bit of a hit and miss track record and I was hoping that this one was a hit.

The AMD E-350 CPU is a dual core design at 1.6 Ghz, with a Radeon HD 6310 Graphics core on-die (DirectX 11 class) at 500Mhz with a maximum thermal output of 18W. This is a serious combination, with serious potential, so I have been looking at the local price list for some time to see when these machines arrive and more importantly at what price.

What is clear is that AMD embraced this design whole heartily. The board I have bought (Sapphire PURE Fusion Mini E350) offer SATA III, USB3.0, gigabit LAN, PCI Express 16X, UEFI BIOS, e-SATA, HDMI out, Bluetooth, maximum of 8 GB DDR3 800/1066 in a mini-ITX form factor to name just some of its specifications. That is a whole lot of machine.

The goal with this build was to replace my internet machine. So I bolted the components in a CFI A6719 case. The case is best described as the size of a standard DVD / Blu-ray player with the height of two of those. The black gloss design with smoked plastic port covers is rather stylish.  It does have down sides, it only support a slim optical drive and the case does not come with a spacer to fill the gap if you decided not to fit a optical drive like myself. A further point to consider is that although this board does have expansion slots, the case does not allow for them at the back. This for me is not an issue as size was my primary driver in selecting this case.

The build was straight forward but extremely tight. I had to reconfigure several cables multiple times to get them to my liking. The case is very compact, I opted for the 150W internal power supply, but the case does come with a 60W external power supply option as well, so make the right choice.

Installing Windows 7 was a breeze, although different. I installed it from a USB flash drive, which was a first. I would seriously recommend it, especially if you have a fast flash drive available. I used one of my older 360Gb Western digital drives that came out of my main desktop machine a couple of weeks ago when I upgraded the storage system.

The resulted build was perfect for my primary goal, to replace the old Pentium 3. However, this is where things took a turn. Once the machine was completely assembled and functional, I was simply blown away. It is fast, it is capable, it was quiet but, it was underutilised. This got me thinking, reading and experimenting. I hooked up the machine to my HDTV via the HDMI and tested a few things. First of all, high definition media was not a problem, neither was the sound pass-through to my amplifier. It worked also great for playing the music downstairs in the living room.

It was never my intention to build a multimedia pc. I have looked into them over time and have always dismissed them as unnecessary, considering devices like modern TV’s, Blu-ray players and dedicated multimedia players like the excellent Western Digital HD Live which I used to own offer great support for playing multimedia files at a fraction of the price. In fact, my current Sony Blu-ray player was so good at playing media that I sold my Western Digital player.

After completing my successful tests I was rather intrigue by the whole computer in the living room concept. The idea was appealing, but there was a nagging problem, controlling the pc from the couch. I needed to be able to remote desktop into the machine, which meant the account had to be password protected. So some form of keyboard / mouse was needed. Well, to cut a long story short, I ordered a Lenovo mini keyboard with build-in trackball online and it works fantastic.

This was a rather long write-up for a rather simple change in my current setup. What I wanted to say is that AMD APU’s are fantastic and offer a lot for rather little money. Yes you can build more powerful machines at the same price, but not at this power consumption or size. It is truly a great platform and should be your first choice if you want to buy a netbook / light internet machine. (I have failed to mention that the GPU is powerful enough for most casual games, even some not so casual games…do check it out.)