This is my tech blog, here you’ll find my thoughts on emerging technologies, things I like or not! I’ll try where possible to include podcasts.
You’re welcome to agree or disagree with anything I write about – freedom of speech welcome – All I ask is that you keep the comments civil!
Have fun, and if you want click on the about me link for more information on my technical background.
I’m writing this review for my casual readers, but at the same time as feedback for any member of the production team of Star Trek Online.
My background: I’m a big fan of Star Trek, although I’m not a collector or a “Trekkie”, I do have enough knowledge of the Star Trek Universe to critic an MMO which encompasses this game universe. I’m also a gamer.
Overall experience so far with production process
I have to say, it has been a long time since I’ve felt this excited about any MMO. I picked up this game a month ago, and since then I really get the impression the product team are working around the clock to bring new features and content to the game. This is a communicative product team, they are transparent in the forums, they tweet and bring out web casts. They have a clear goal on what they want to achieve and they’re not kidding around.
I really can’t congratulate the team enough for what they managed to release in 2012. As a developer myself, anyone involved in software development will understand the massive undertaking it was to release all those new features in 1 year.
The progress in 2012 proves just how serious the product team is, and 2013 although just getting started, is already showing tremendous promise.
Star Trek online is what I would call a rapidly expanding MMORPG. The game has enough content to pick up and enjoy as it is, and besides this there is high quality player generated content. Initially I was completely focused on space combat, and having spoken to a few members in my fleet I found a few players who completely neglect ground combat, this is a big mistake. Ground combat offers some of the most rewarding game play in my experience so far.
Although there are a few minor bugs which are being ironed out, the team driven ground combat really offers a lot. Most of the time I’ve come across polite players who really try work as a team. I’ve had the pleasure of being teamed with experts who know exactly what they’re doing – and the whole mission is carried out professionally. I’ve also grouped with extreme noobs, where none of us know how to complete the mission, and then in this case we too need to communicate and formulate a strategy to overcome the mission. I’ll be clear – usually if you have a full team, even the biggest noobs who can communicate and work together with some patience can overcome great challenges. And a lot of these missions are challenging – which is great.
Map Design / Stage Design Quality
Outside of the story missions, the PVE group maps are heavily focused on team work. When I play these maps I feel like every member of the team is essential and has a part to play. Maps like Mine Trap are multi part, and although I’ve played this map dozens of times now, I would still gladly play it over and over again. It is without a doubt one of the best maps in the game, and deserves some general MMO award too for being the most fun mission.
There are some maps which are hard and challenging, and only a few I don’t care for much.
The product team is aware of this: More ways to earn Romulan marks.
The duty officer assignment system adds so much to the game. One of my long term objectives is to have a crew of just rare duty officers. This will take time, but it is possible – imagine finally getting there!
It would be awesome to have STF’s which award credits. I’ve seen these pop up from time to time as PVE events. My credits are running dangerously low because I’m investing a lot in Omega / Romulan upgrades.
A clear warning to new players who access mail from the mini map icon, and not a mail box, that attachments must be picked up in person from a mail box would be good.
Sometimes in ground combat when hitting specials nothing happens, an example would be a full auto fire. Would be great to have this cleaned up a bit.
Other than that – an outstanding game, love it and fully invested now….
As a kid Monopoly used to be one of my favorite board games. This was back in the days when games like Movie maker, Mad Magazine, Anti Monopoly, Scrabble and others were big titles.
Depending on which country you came from Monopoly came in various languages and had different streets and stations, but the basics of the game were always the same.
From a game design point of view Monopoly has its flaws, massive flaws as a kid you might not have been aware of but the game designers certainly were. The game was rejected, due to 52 important design errors in 1934. Yes that is right 1934, and the game lives on.
The best version of Monopoly you’ll find on the PC is Monopoly here and no edition by Hasbro. Also known as Monopoly 2008.
While this game captures the original spirit of Monopoly, the game does have its flaws.
What I found while playing this version is the AI could be improved on. Even on the most difficult game setting the AI is predictable and easy to beat. The cards are also not pulled sequentially but randomly, so it is possible (yet uncommon) to get the same card twice.
Why I’m writing this post is because I am pretty shocked that there aren’t any good Monopoly like games. I’ve searched for Monopoly version 2, and it simply doesn’t exist. It strikes me as strange that no one has had a shot at improving on the original 52 design flaws and bringing out a better game.
If you don’t believe me – I challenge you to try and find a Monopoly type game with more complexity and balance.
What I also find kinda strange is since Monopoly has such a cult like following, I would really have expected a version with the best AI opponents anyone could hope to program. Yet this too doesn’t exist, there simply is no single open source effort out there. You would think that maybe this would have been a cool project for some first year student, but not yet. The actual AI would be relatively easy to program, the game largely revolves around luck and even the trading isn’t that complicated.
The whole genre of board games on the PC is a rather neglected category, which is a shame, Monopoly might not be that captivating in it’s current form, but I think at heart it is a great game once you solve the balancing issues and add some more content.
Anyone working on a Clone?
In my previous 3 posts I’ve spoken out against Windows 8. I am no fan of the metro UI, and a tablet OS and tablet apps have no place on the desktop.
I have been a fan of the good stuff in Windows 8, noticeably the vastly improved 2d rendering performance and the visibly less routine IO, makes your system feel snappier and your SSD’s last longer or your traditional HDDs quieter. Built in Hyper-V is also a bonus. But the metro stuff, err excuse me so called “Modern UI” was up until now a show stopper.
This is until I came across an interesting way of obliterating the Metro UI. You can do this by installing the Windows 7 explorer.exe shell – completely replacing Windows 8 shell, and at the same time get all the performance benefits. There are some minor drawbacks but it is possible: http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/157302-windows-7-explorer-for-windows-8/
Another excellent alternative is just to use Classic Shell : http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/. This means you still have metro lurking around, but you’re in control of when you want to enter “Metro land” – more or less. And you demote Metro from being King of the realm on your PC, to being the lowly peasant it deserves to be.
Once you’ve done this, Windows 8 starts looking like a real operating system, and actually a better operating system than Windows 7, but there are some problems still.
If you’re into skinning your OS, Windows 8 hasn’t caught on to skinning. You get one default look and that is it – this will change as more people adopt Windows 8, but right now not even Stardock have a working product. Windowblinds isn’t yet compatible with Windows 8.
I’ve blogged in earlier posts about my experience so far with Windows 8, starting from the developer preview, going onto the consumer preview, and now finally the RTM.
The RTM (release to manufacturer) release is basically the final product. No big changes go into an operating system once it hits RTM, so this will most likely be my final review on Windows 8 as it stands.
As I write this I have the install process going on in the background on a virtual machine, for this reason I won’t be talking much about performance, simply because we all know Windows 8 is designed for a tablet environment and because of this we already know it will run quicker than Windows 7.
This review only focuses on the end user experience from a desktop computing perspective.
At this point in time my feeling are mixed, I really hated what they had done with the consumer preview and I’m not a fan of Metro, a lot of you guys commented and gave feedback, and so I believe that most of us power users don’t like the direction Microsoft are taking, some have called Windows 8 a bad joke, others scoff at it in disbelief.
I’ll tell you right now I don’t have high hopes for the way Windows 8 is out of the box, so I am going to cheat a bit and try and use 3rd party start menu apps and attempt to bypass metro as much as possible and hopefully end up with a faster operating system that is still relevant in a desktop power user setting.
I might succeed or not. This post will explain my best attempt to like this new operating system – how it will end I honestly don’t know yet.
1. The setup process. It is the best setup process in the history of MS operating systems. It did ask me for my phone number – very bad idea! Otherwise the setup was pain free. Setup is the type of thing you don’t do everyday, but it seems it is geared towards performance.
2. Ok I’m in, it didn’t ask me for a login screen instead booted me straight into Metro. Now let me see if I can install Chrome and some other vitals – brb.
Managed to get Chrome and Start 8 installed. It isn’t exactly what I expected, but it did offer me the option to boot straight to desktop after login. So let’s test that out. There has been a lot of posts on Reddit, saying Microsoft blocked this ability, let’s see – rebooting now!
I’m also going to say at time of writing start8 is simply not well polished for regular use – I think they will release an update based on the RTM code which clearly has changed since consumer preview.
Ok , another thing worth mentioning – drag up to sign in is gone – a single click works! That’s a good start!
3. Alright time to install viStart – the installer is filled with tons of adware and crapware – not a good sign, but this is a virtual machine, not sure if I would trust installing it in a real environment. Honestly doubt it, unless someone stripped down the installer.
viStart looks a bit better, lets see how it handles a reboot -
While we’re rebooting, it’s worth mentioning you’re logging into your Windows Live Account – I’m not entirely against this, but I would suspect in a work environment suddenly you’ll be required to have a Windows Live Account.
viStart doesn’t take you to desktop mode after a reboot, and I am now in Metro mode, and can’t figure out how to get back to desktop mode. Fuck! Give me a few minutes 6:48PM….
6:51. Well viStart might be the way forward. Let me check for some other options. ….
Alright there is classic shell, but it seems a bit too XP like – very old school, I’m not sure if I want to go back in time.
So here is the thing… Start8 needs time to mature and other start menu applications need to make their way onto the scene to make Windows 8 usable again.
For now let’s forget about the start menu. It is a bit of an epic failure, and indeed a show stopper – but now I need to find some value in using Windows 8.
Skydrive: I kinda expected a new drive to be available in my computer – because I am logged into my Windows Live Account, it seems strange – no drive is mapped! No OS level integration to Skydrive – I guess the best they could do was that Metro app? Mmmm ok that sucks.
The rest actually looks very similar to Windows 8 without Aero. It looks like a very simplistic skin. And now nearly identical to Windows 7.
I’m honestly not sure at this point in time Windows 8 can offer me very much. I think it is an OS trying very hard to be new and fresh, but it is an OS which is clearly not designed with passion and love for my type of computing usage.
I’m sorry I did try to like it, now I’m a bit depressed because it is fairly terrible in it’s current state.
Maybe once some 3rd party apps launch that fix the usability issues – who knows!
But I think it seems they’ve hit a surface with Windows 7, and cannot innovate beyond that.
The end! Oh fuck how to shut this thing down now! Ended up just killing the power of the virtual machine.
Google Chrome is without a doubt my favorite browser. I’m not alone it is fast becoming the most widely used browser on the planet.
I use the page translation feature a lot, mainly translating pages from Czech to English. Prior to Chrome 22 (which is in beta, not offical yet) there was a fairly serious bug which would stop pages translating if you clicked the back button. From this point on, not even a page refresh would correct this.
I was surprised to find the bug listed on the Chromium bug tracker site, and I thought the issue had perhaps gotten stale, so I decided to leave a ping and get a status update. I must admit I wasn’t expecting a useful response.
To my amazement I received an update saying the bug was fixed, someone had actually bothered to cross reference another issue and xref them! Wow. I immediately downloaded Canary and tested it, and it worked!
A day later the developer who fixed the bug emailed me with an explanation – again, I’m in awe at the hardworking, professional effort demonstrated by the members I’ve dealt with on the Chromium project. A massive thank you to Gavin P.
You guys are the best!
I haven’t used a stock Android ROM, well since I got my first ZTE Blade. During this time I’ve had no problems sending SMS messages (Text messages), but recently this changed.
I installed yet another custom ROM like any other and one day noticed I couldn’t send an SMS. I thought it might be something related to the ROM which was experimental, so I wiped the phone and cache and installed something I knew worked before – only this time around it didn’t work.
For about 2 weeks I thought my phone was broken but I found the solution.
If you’re using ICS and have the same problem this should sort you out.
Why this happens?
The custom rom keeps the original SMSC setting sometimes (SMS Message Center number) – this is basically a phone number and it will differ depending on your phone network provider.
1. Enter the Testing menu by dialing the following: *#*#4636#*#*
2. Scroll down till you find the SMSC setting – it will be blank, so press REFRESH, this will retrieve the existing setting. Mine ended up being “+447785016005″
3. Delete the number but keep the quotation marks, and full in your correct SMSC number – you can find this on the website typically of your network provider. If it isn’t there or hard to find, phone tech support and get the number, or else visit a branch in person. Fill in this number inside the quotation marks. If you get 145 suffixed to the end, just delete that too, it will recreate it for you.
4. Update the setting
5. Test send an sms it should work.
Not too long ago I bought an Android phone with the intention of turning it into the “perfect cycling GPS device”.
I now know that realistically this is a pipe dream and that instead of buying a phone for this purpose my money would have been better spent buying a dedicated cycling GPS unit, such as a Dakota 20.
This is what I found:
- Theoretically it should be highly possible to turn a phone into a very good cycling GPS. There are many bike mounts on offer; many companies offer reasonably priced offline GPS software directly from the Android market (or Apple store), and since you need a phone anyway – you might as well combine the 2 right?
Theoretical bullshit aside and marketing hype, and accounts from those overly optimistic types, here are the real show stoppers which prevent this great idea from actually working in practice.
You might also be wondering if I am a professional cyclist after all the bells and whistles? Actually I’m not what I found was the cellphone isn’t really useful as a Cycle GPS navigation unit even for the most casual cyclist.
- Battery life on a smart phone isn’t great – and especially with the display always lit. Some people will tell you that you can always get an external portable USB charger – but good luck with that while you are on a ride. It is also possible to buy at least 3 batteries, but remember to factor in these costs when you’re comparing against a dedicated Cycling GPS device. You need to be asking yourself, do you really want the constant nag of having to replace batteries. Phones like the Razr Maxx might solve this problem (somewhat) but again – all at a price.
- Screen glare. Most mobile phones are not designed to be viewed in strong sunlight – PERIOD! Besides all the flashy marketing hype, you’re not really going to have great visibility on your ride, in my experience you’ll be lucky to see anything at all. On certain phones you can get around this by turning the brightness all the way up – but this is going to chew though your battery life. There are some new phones coming out with Super AMOLED screens which claim to have better readability in direct sunlight. Again, by all means fork out – but weigh in the price.
- The Android OS doesn’t play nicely with GPS apps. The Android OS is a lazy power saver. It seems to always want to be in standby mode, and when not – expect a lock screen. Now add a cycle gps and you’re sure to know that you’re using the phone for a purpose it wasn’t originally designed for – frustrating as hell.
- The accelerometer useful for day to day stuff, on some phones can be too sensitive. Go over a small bump, or just while cycling on a path and your phone changes orientation (with delays) – another annoying and unwanted feature.
- Most dedicated bike GPS units are robust, designed to take a fall. Have a tumble on your bike – You might be kissing that smartphone of yours Goodbye – and no warranty I know of covers personal damages in this way.
In the end I am sure that sooner or later someone is going to release a smart phone that is primarily a cycle GPS, that can handle all the great GPS navigation software out there for Android and iOS, but until that day, I can’t help but feel that the whole experience was extremely awkward personally, and not usable until phone battery life improves considerably (5x current capacity) and screen tech gets better for direct sunlight viewing. And the actual software knows how to put the OS in it’s place and operate as a GPS device.
Right now nothing like this on the horizon – so beware!