Thursday, October 30, 2008

Playing games on the new computer

Was the new machine worth the $2000+? I.. well possibly yes! I've never been able to say "I have a top-of-the-line machine" and by golly, now I can. It is a joy to be able to move those detail sliders all the way to MAX and enjoy pure processor goodness.

So.. games! My first acquisition was Far Cry 2, that sexy beast straight from Montreal! Graphically, yes, dripping sweaty incredible detail yadda yadda. The original Far Cry (2004) placed the player on a series of islands but which were otherwise quite open for exploration. You could go anywhere and spend lots of time just creeping around the place. Much of that is gone now, with areas cut off from each other by impassable hills and many buildings requiring an extra load to enter and exit. I mean, yes technically you can go anywhere you want but it feels a lot less open. Perhaps it's because the missions keep you to populated areas and so I haven't given much time to just wandering around.

A huge difference is that now there are interactions with people, although in conversations this is limited to either you saying yes (by clicking the "Interact" key) or you saying no (by walking away). So yes, there are quests now. And money! You can purchase upgrades to weapons and get these restocked whenever, which is probably the silliest part of the game. I also don't like the easter egg aspect of finding diamonds during your travels. Instead of feeling like you're a virtual world, you rather get the sense that you're playing what could've been a fun game until they decided to cater to console gamers and other decidedly non-Far-Cry features.

But let me speak of my latest love, Fallout 3. It too had to live up to a fan-favored franchise, Fallout 2 (1998) being immensely popular by those who played it (including myself). And did they stray from that turn-based, darkly comedic, nerdly-referencing RPG? It might be too early to say but YES THEY DID. Fallout 3 feels pretty much like what you'd get if you took Oblivion and switched the magic and swords and elves with radiation, guns and mutants. The more I think about it, the closer this analogy holds since I just learned that Bethesda did both games. They also console-ified it greatly, making the interface annoying to us mouse users since we have to (most unnecessarily) scroll through EVERYTHING -- inventory, conversation options, skills etc. This is greatly tedious when, like me, there is plenty of screen real estate for more information (and less eye candy). Haven't come across any of the humor or cultural references that Fallout 2 managed to pack.

Having said that, it's still damn fun running around the Fallout world, avoiding roving bands of mutants and battling psychopaths. The VATS battle system, while kind of silly, is enjoyable to use. The graphics, like everyone says, is startlingly excellent -- everywhere I go I want to get close to things to see how far the texture detail goes. And the draw distance is far, so far I wish I had some binoculars to check everything out. They kept the PipBoy and RPG mechanics, which I consider one of the more fun systems out there.

So, a yay to Fallout 3 (fun but entirely different) and a tentative nay to Far Cry 2.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wrist injury, new computer specs

I injured my wrist again. Well, this time the left instead of the right, but it hurts just as much. Sparring it was that did it. Ok, YES I should've break-falled, but I didn't -- I was too busy worrying about smashing into the mirror somewhere behind me. Oh, and at the time my leg was held by my rushing opponent. Is this really news? For me, it's a pain certainly, and makes riding my bicycle unpleasant. I have to be careful handling cups and dishes, as I have no gripping strength. Oh, and I can't do pushups. I'm not sure which is better, keeping my wrist straight all the time and not using it or to exercise it and use it normally. I would think the former would result in faster healing, but the latter lets me maintain its strength.

The new computer is almost ready! Just have to install all my primary apps and chat and copy over files and program data and... well, ok, not so ready ready as to replace my current system, but it's at least getting on its feet and showing off some of its colours. For those keeping track, my current system is a Pentium IV 3.0 GHz/1.5 GB RAM/Radeon 9800 Pro 256 MB. Here's the new guy, with the prices I paid:
  • Motherboard: ASUS Rampage Formula Socket 775 Intel (Dual-channel DDR2). $338
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.83 GHz. $380
  • Memory: 2 GB (2x1 1024 MB) DDR2. $95
  • Video: ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2048 MB. $580
  • Storage: Seagate 1TB SATA 3 Gb/s. $136

So the core system is about $1529. Add onto that the case (Lian-LI PC-60B, $120), power supply (Antec TP3-650 TruePower $95), and DVD reader (LG GBC-H20L SATA OEM, $130). I also splurged and got a new monitor (Samsung SyncMaster 2253BW 22", $213) and a new mouse (Logitech MX518, $45). Pre-splurge total is $1874. Total with splurge: $2132. With taxes, grand total of $2409.16. Yup, it's a mid-life crisis! This should keep my gaming appetite sated for a while. At least, the non-XBox side of it.

This entry may be a long one since I'm at the same time installing things on the new machine.

Friday night was drinks with some karate people at a bar on College. I think I'm just about done with alcohol. Really I am. No desire, tired of not controlling my brain, inability to concentrate. Fun, sure but tiresome. Saturday I slept in, saw my Korean tutor for the last time before he returns to Korea, and then drove out to KW to see UFC 90. Oh what a sad thing it was! Far Cry 2 proved to be an accurate indicator of who would win each fight, even if it meant a freak accident. Do not doubt the power of Far Cry 2! Sunday was dragon form practice, then lunch with mom, then returning home to sleep.

Sunday I also finally watched Donnie Darko. I must admit that I was very impressed, am very impressed. I'm not much of one for horror or thrillers, but this one is just too damn smart I can't help but enjoy the way everything was laid out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The charity question

It's that time of the year again, time to spend spend spend! I've already spent lots on myself (in the form of a new computer), but now I shift my aim to charities. Namely, I ask you, what's a good charity? Last year I gave to the Daily Bread Food Bank (and plan to again this year), and in the past I've given to hospitals and my university, but I suspect that I might be missing some real obvious, needful organizations. It's kind of hard to judge these things via the internet. I'm wary of giving to mega-corps like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way. Perhaps someone can point out some good options?

Hmm, no, I'm not using my new machine yet -- I still have to install an OS on it. The point of all this? GAMES. I also got a BluRay player, but it was kind of an impulse buy which I vaguely regret since my new monitor can only go 1680x1050, somewhat less than 1920x1080. I really let my knowledge of these things slip behind. I kind of turned a blind eye to the whole HD-DVD vs BluRay war (outside of hoping that Sony would lose), and now HD is all in my face and such.

Monday, October 20, 2008

iOS apps rant, helping a friend do renovations

Apparently you're not supposed to sit on your iPhone for long periods of time because if you do the Home button stops working. Thankfully, you can kind of squeeze it back into shape.

Just a few random thoughts before I get to today's lunch at the Wellington. Uhm, I'm going to look into what it takes to develop apps for the iPhone because I hate HATE the thought of paying for these garbage apps that you can't even try before buying. Plus, I am of the "software should be free" mindset. However, it looks like I need to first get OS X before I can use the SDK, but Leopard isn't free? I suppose $130 is not much. AND I will (hopefully) have a new system up and running, a shiny, "luxurious" (as the Canada Computers tech described it) system with all the latest dongles and cards and cogs. In time for the pre-Christmas load of new releases.

Saturday I helped a friend smash up the main floor of his house, dust and debris and plaster, dressed up in my funny flight suit, sweaty work.

Saturday night I learned that my Korean tutor is going back to Korea! Poor guy, he's had a hard time making life work here. I was also a little dismayed to hear of all the discrimination he faced. Discouraging!

Oh wait, I need a PowerPC to run OSX? Blurgh. This entry was written under the influence of coffee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Disappointed by Harper's second win

Oh man when did Canada become so very Conservative? I mean really, I am so out of touch with the political pulse of this country. Shocked, shocked! And more than a little upset. Who are these people? I don't think I know them. Part of my surprise is due to the fact that my riding (Parkdale/High Park) voted Liberal. Disappointed, really. I sincerely believed that Peggy Nash would win safely. How.. how... how did this come about? Oh Canada, I thought I knew you well and here you go, breaking my heart. You've spoken your mind, and your words are sheering hot death.

Monday, October 13, 2008

iPhone guilty pleasure

Much of my guilt of having and using an iPhone has dissipated by now, I think. I mean, I don't feel great about it, but there is certainly a pleasure in using it. A new toy, sure. Obviously not perfect. One of my top griefs is its lack of iPod interface -- no dial for skipping or advancing or adjusting the volume without having to fish the thing out of one's pocket and look at it. The ringtones are customizable, but the other sounds (such as SMSes arriving) are not. The battery life is not very good. The App Store is polluted with garbage, spam applications that are just a waste of everyone's time. I believe in the freedom of choice, sure, but I'd like to not have to weed the wheat from the chaff. I am really upset that I can't upload some files from my computer at home and some from another -- it can only accept files from ONE machine at a time. If I try to put some from another machine on, it has to first erase everything already on it. Blurgh!

Also, I find myself playing with it at the wee hours of the morning....

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nuit Blanche was busy

Nuit Blanche this year was just.. well, it was just too busy. WAY too busy -- drunken, riot-minded swarms of entertainment-starved streetlings, bustling here and there, yammering away bubbly nothings. It was more than a little upsetting when I think about their wanton destruction of art and latent disregard for the works. But mostly, just too too many people every which way. Make the TTC free for the night! Close the streets! Bah... next year I won't start until after 3 AM.

iPhone? Yes, I got one. Guilty? Very much feeling so. Paying more for a toy, a shiny technophilic toy, money going from me to them, voting finanically in the wrong way. And ringtones! Why can I not simply make my songs ringtones! Damn you APPLE, will you not free us from these scalywags who would have me pay for the air I breath and the sounds I hear?

It's not all bad, of course. The mapping and GPS-like ability is neat. Visual voicemail is dreamy. Email and SMS in my hand is.. handy? Camera is responsive, fairly true.

There's a US version of Life On Mars? Huh.. and it seems to take quite a bit from the UK version. First episode was.. alright. I do hope they change it enough so that it really is more of a US version, rather than just the UK version with US songs and accents.

Speaking of spending frivolously, I'm thinking of upgrading my computer! Well, just buying a new one. I likely will at least get a new computer chair.