Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I finally finished my new computer and I must say, it is certainly an upgrade. Many people are using equipment that was new four years ago, and not long ago I was one of them. I noticed an incredible difference with my new hardware. To sum things up...

There is something magical about being able to install Oblivion and Supreme Commander at the same time as listening to music, surfing the internet, and archiving files.


AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (3ghz dualcore, overclocked)
2 GB DDR2 RAM (dualchannel, PC6400)
2-320 GB SATAII Hard Drives, in Raid striped
1-250 GB SATA Hard Drive
DVD Burner (+/-, dual-layer, DVD-RAM support) (SATA)
DVD Reader (SATA)
X-Fi Sound Blaster audio card
XFX GeForce 8500 GT graphics card (overclocked)
22" Widescreen LCD Monitor
5.1 Surround Speakers

In summary... w00t!

Splendid-Tastic(R) Quote:

Doctor: She appears to have lost her will to live.
Husband: Isn't there anything you can do?
Doctor: I'm sorry. Will-to-live donors are few and far between.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Common sense for n00bs

I managed to miss my bus back home, so I got plenty of time to think about life in Chicago. Safety isn't really too much of an issue, but I swear there are like ten thousand homeless people that try to beg some money off of you. So, without further ado, a bit of advice (mostly common sense) to avoid the panhandlers.

1. Don't look like a tourist.

If you must carry stuff around with you, avoid luggage if at all possible. A single backpack or briefcase/messenger bag is no big deal. Also, look at a map before you get there if you have a specific destination in mind.

2. Don't be a total jackass.

If you are going to be travelling both alone and late at night, don't dress in exorbitant clothing or jewelry.

3. Always look in a hurry. Failing that, look pissed off.

If you cannot avoid looking like a target for the panhandlers, put on your most "I'm behind, don't mess with me" face. I have mastered what I will call the 'crazy-pissed white boy' look. It either says a)mess with me and die or b)I have nothing of value. I'm not sure, which, but it really doesn't matter.

--Just a few more words on the panhandlers (beggars)--

Some of them will ask for your money outright. Others will offer to hail a taxi for you (rofl) or give you directions in exchange for some money. Shoe cleaning services are also 'offered' in this way.

The most subtle and clever panhandler I met was still quite stupid. Here's the story...

I was coming out of Union Station to wait for my bus to arrive, and on my way out the door, some random guy (with a stuffed duffel bag and wallet/checkbook thingy/passport booklet in his hands) made a comment about 'getting the runaround in this place.' I said nothing, and sat down outside to wait. He proceeded to sit down next to me and tell me some sob story about how 'Amtrak screwed up and wants to give me a voucher and you know what vouchers are it means they are good at a later time but I gotta get there tomorrow but I don't have enought money because I already paid for the ticket once but they gave me a voucher...'[blah, blah, blah, etc. The lack of punctuation was me stressing the rambling nature of his speech.]

After this had gone on for a while, he eventually moved on to how 'I ain't even that much short of a ticket but I gotta get there tomorrow because my sister broke her leg.' Even if you are a total dumbass with absolutely no sense of intuition, at this point there should be no way you should think the guy is telling the truth. No one gives a shit if they show up a day late for a broken leg. I decided to humor him and see how gullible/stupid he thought I was. After I played along for a bit (this was the first time I responded to anything he had said) I convinced him to tell me how much he needed. This is what he said, verbatim: 'I ain't even that much short, just two hundred dollars.' So I made some comment to the effect of "Oh, that's too bad, but I just gave my last $200 to the beggar before you." He shot me a dirty look and got up. I heard him mutter under his breath 'How the fuck did he know?'

All in all, that situation was hil-freakin-arious.

Splendid-Tastic(R) Quote:

He wouldn't recognize subtlety if it hit him over the head.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Copy Protection

Wow... I don't know how to begin this one. Alrighty, how about an example?

On February 16, 2007 GasPoweredGames released Supreme Commander. Before you accuse me of being unfair, let me point out that SupCom is easily among the top 5 games I have ever played; absolutely amazing. Anyway... I believe the "high-quality" SecuROM piracy prevention system was a bit overzealous. Thousands of users were unable to play the game WITH THE ORIGINAL DISC because the copy protection detected their discs as copies (please make sure the official disc is in your disc drive). Eventually, in order to make the game playable, GPG released a "patch." I put that in quotes, because this has to be one of the rare occasions in history where the most critical patch to a game eliminated the copy protection software.

Wow. What a testament to the usefulness and efficiency of piracy prevention software. It is now clear why every user from around the world should support the efforts of developers in utilizing copy protection for their products.

Alcohol 120% has been ballyhooed as the "ultimate" way around copy protection; it makes "perfect" 1:1 copies of almost anything. However, the same effect can be achieved with legal, free, software.

Now, developers, let's be realistic. Between the *free* version of Alcohol 52% and Daemon Tools, I can play my games without the disc in the drive. Curiously enough, if I save the .iso to a disc as a file instead of an image, it can be mounted with Daemon Tools. Suddenly, the much-heralded 1:1 copy is no longer necessary. THe only disadvantage to this method is that the disc image (along with MDS and subchannel data) is slightly larger than the amount of space used on the original disc. Realistically, however, how many games have been released on a single DVD with more than 8.5 GB of space used up? Any game that I have seen can be saved in this manner on a single dual-layer DVD-R disk. Conceivably, larger games could also be distributed in this manner through the use of a archiver/file splitter such as 7-zip.

To put it quite simply, disk-based copy protection simply does not work. I applaud developers that recognize this and release their games without any; one notable example is Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

There are two kinds of copy-protection that DO work.
1. key-based (online play)
2. quality-based (offline)

To explain what I mean, let me give another example...

A friend of mine gave me a StarCraft disc he had copied from his own. I installed it, and began to play. I soon discovered that it was not his actual disc; it was one of those elusive 'warez' I had heard about. The game was great; the online play was nonexistent. An hour after installing it on my computer, I was in the checkout line at Best Buy purchasing my own copy of the game and the expansion; an hour later the illegal one was removed and I was online on the real deal.

This happened because Blizzard managed to make a game so good that I WANTED to pay them money for it. The same goes for Oblivion; this is quality-based protection.

If I had not thought it was high-quality enough to pay for it at this poing, however, I still would have bought it for the online play. This is key-based protection. For the uninitiated, under key-based protection, each copy of a given game has a product key. When playing online, there are 2 methods this is implemented. A) only one copy of the game per product key can be online at once OR B) Each product key is irrovacably linked to one and only one account. The idea behind key-based protection is the (correct) assumption that most people want to play the online version of the game rather than the offline.

Although this post got much longer than I intended, the message still stands. Developers, your job is to make your products so good the public wants to pay for them. Give them online play with a key; has anyone successfully pirated Guild Wars? (rofl.. this is offtopic, but on eBay, there are people that sell used CDKeys, usually for about $1. Of course, they claim that it was a "returned open-box product, and, as such, we cannot guarantee the purchaser's ability to play the game with the included CD-Key. Therefore, no refunds or exchanges are available on this product." [note: that was not a quote, it was paraphrased] If you don't believe me, check it for yourself.)

Splendid-Tastic Quote:

Friend: You're awfully skeptical today.
Me: Oh yeah? Prove it.