Monday, August 29, 2011

Fuck You, DownloadHelper

YouTube recently changed some crap so that DownloadHelper wouldn't work correctly anymore.  First it lost the ability to find the different quality versions of videos, which meant that you had to first set the player to the quality you wanted.  There's a fix for that, but there's one lingering fatal issue.

YouTube now does some bullshit with third-party cookies, probably also in an effort to fuck with people downloading videos.  Honestly, why not just provide the fucking option legit?  Videos can get taken down by various means, why not let us save what we like so we never have to worry about not finding it ever again?

DownloadHelper was no help in traversing this third-party cookie issue.  It basically just popped up a dialog saying "you're going to have to enable third-party cookies for this to work".  Why not just enable them?  Because enabling them is a privacy hazard.  Essentially, you're letting one site set cookies for another, which lets the first site tell that other site things about you, your browsing habits, what you're currently wearing, etc.  If you don't think this is a big issue, you're ignorant.

So what did I do?  I browsed around for another extension that would actually perform its advertised function without added bullshit like search toolbars I don't want.  I'm mentioning that last bit specifically because the first alternative extension I found added a bing search bar.  Um, hello, Firefox doesn't need search toolbars, it's got a fucking search box.  Even though I have it removed and use bookmark keyword searches instead, it's still there.

So to anyone who hasn't already done so, the extension to use is Easy YouTube Video Downloader.  It makes a dropdown in video pages that looks like all the other buttons below each video, and you just drop it down, select what you want, and choose where to save it.  No added feature cruft like DownloadHelper's unnecessary conversion feature or any of the other useless things DownloadHelper had.  If you have CCCP installed and use Media Player Classic Homecinema, you can play FLVs directly without having to convert them, and if you still save FLVs instead of going for the MP4s instead, you're an idiot.

The only real downside that I can see is that it only works on YouTube.  Which isn't too much of a problem for me, as that's where I the majority of the videos I want to gank come from.  I did occasionally save the odd video from, but that's rare these days because pretty much anyone who produces anything you'll want to save uses YouTube.

As far as shortcomings go, it could use an options panel.  Specifically so I can re-order the dropdown to put all the HD MP4 options at the top.  That's the only thing I can think of.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Negima Final

The awaited movie comes out... tomorrow!

Chapter 335 contained some full-color promotional material for it.

Also, the Magic World arc is done.  Totally awesome from beginning to end, if you dropped before it, or early on, pick it back up and read it.  I'm looking at you, Honya.

Let's see, since I have the American release of the volume where the Magic World arc began...  Well, they go into the portal to the magic world in chapter 186, and the arc ends with chapter 335, so that makes this one story arc 150 chapters.  Easily the longest arc, and also easily the best.  It may be long, but there's plenty of action, character development, true identities and back stories revealed, plus a lot more twists, turns, and overall awesome.

I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil anything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Trying the Magicka Demo

I've been watching ArchmageMelek's Let's Play of Magicka for a while now, and it looked quite fun.  Then I looked on Steam and noticed it had a demo available.  One download and install later...

Playing through, it gives you the basic tutorial for each element and some basic ways to combine them, and sets you loose.  The meat of Magicka's spell system is experimentation.  You have eight different elements available, and can cast spells that use up to five of them.  What you use is up to you.  Certain elements will define certain characteristics of the spell you're going to get, and each has a priority level.  Learning those characteristics and priorities is a must.

For instance, Arcane by itself is a beam that causes an explosion when your target dies.  Combining Arcane with any other element makes a beam of that element.  Shield, as one might infer, makes a shield.  Combining it with another element makes a shield of that element.  Now what if you combine shield, arcane, and another element?

You get mines.  What those mines do depends on which element you conjure in along with it.  For instance, add fire, and they'll deal fire damage when they explode.  Add lightning, and they'll deal lightning damage.  You can actually add both, and go Shield-Arcane-Fire-Lightning, and get mines that deal both fire and lightning damage.

Each element also has an opposite, that it will cancel out.  For example, Arcane's opposite is Life, and oddly enough Shield's opposite is Shield.  There are also two advanced elements you can create by conjuring their component elements.  Steam is Fire and Water, and Ice is Cold and Water.  Since Lightning and Water are opposites, Steam is your way to douse enemies in the same spell that you use Lightning to damage them, giving you a nice damage boost.  If you get hit by Water or Steam, you'll become wet, and trying to conjure lightning will damage you.

Also, as you go through the game, you'll find books (some are hidden) that teach you special Magicks that you can cast.  In the demo, you can find Haste, Rain, and Nullify.  You're also flat-out given Revive even though multiplayer is locked in the demo.  The neat thing with these is you can use your scroll wheel to scroll through them, and the necessary elements for the Magick will appear below you, so if you forget one you can scroll through, find it, and then now you know what it is.  These are also cast with a separate button, so you can cast that combination of elements as a regular spell if you want to.

Haste makes you run faster, Rain makes it rain, which makes you and enemies wet, and Nullify cancels pretty much all active spell effects, like shields and mines.  There are plenty more in the full game.

I could go on, but you can already see that the spell system has a lot of depth to it.  So now I'll conclude this post by listing some of my favorite spells.  Note that you can conjure the elements in any order.

Steam-Steam-Lightning-Lightning-Arcane, staff cast - the highest damage beam in the game.  The Steam gets enemies wet, and then the Lightning can get its damage vs. wet foes bonus.

Steam-Steam-Shield-Lightning-Lightning, weapon cast - Creates a straight line of Steam that shocks enemies.  Enemies will be stunned, so it'll get a chance to do lots of damage.  Has a minimum range and can be used from behind a shield.

the above spell, staff cast - Same effect, but in an arc in front of you.  Great for using from behind a shield.  This spell is also decent when area cast, but it doesn't give you much room to move around in, so I'd advise not area casting it.

Shield-Water-Water-Ice-Ice, staff cast - Freezes enemies in an arc in front of you.  Great for getting a bit of space or buying time to conjure up something else.

Shield-Life, staff cast - Heal mines!  Lay some of these in an area, then advance forwards and get the attention of some enemies.  If you take a bit much damage in your fight, retreat to them and walk over them to get healed.  Also handy later in the game when undead show up...

Stone-Ice-Ice-Ice-Ice, charged staff cast - the most single hit damage in the game, can make bosses easy so long as you connect with it.  Kills pretty much any regular enemy in one hit.

Interesting ways to exploit game mechanics:

Ice-Lightning-Lightning-Lightning-Lightning-Fire, staff cast - This exploits how conjuring the elements for spells works to allow Water and Lightning in the same spell.  You basically "hide" the Water inside Ice, conjure up the Lightning, then "melt" the Ice with Fire to get the Water back.  The Water won't go away if you don't conjure any more elements.  You can also do this with Steam, by adding Cold later on in the spell.

Shield, area cast (so that it surrounds you), then repeatedly area cast Shield-Life - Not only does this boost the strength of your shield faster than mashing spacebar, but it also boosts the strength past the maximum.  Using this, you can leisurely deal with the foes that accumulate outside your shield.  If you notice the shield strength bar going down, spam the Shield-Life area cast some more.  To get rid of the shield, either use the Nullify magick if you have it (Arcane-Shield, spacebar), or simply cast another shield that intersects with it and both will disappear.

Random gameplay tips:

If you're wet and need to cast Lightning, normally you need to use Fire on yourself.  But that damages you...  So, combine some Life in there.  When you're wet, use Fire-Life and you'll dry yourself off and heal the damage in the same spell.

You can conjure elements and then walk to where you want to use the spell, but you'll walk really slowly.  Unless of course you Haste yourself (Lightning-Arcane-Fire, spacebar) before conjuring the elements.  Doing this lets you do hit and run with spells.

If you self-cast Shield, you won't be able to heal your actual health.  Self-casting Shield again will turn it off and let you heal yourself.  Combining a self-cast Shield with another element also lets you give yourself elemental resistances, which can come in handy when used strategically.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Defeating U3 with Linux

A friend of mine lent me a USB drive to copy some stuff to that he needed.  I bring it home, plug it in, and... "Initializing Launchpad..."?  WTF is this shit?  Unplugged, and End Task'd.

Basically, this SanDisk drive has some asinine setup where it's got multiple partitions and tricks your computer into thinking the first one is a CD drive, with an autorun on it.  This trick even gets Linux, as that partition showed up as /dev/sr1.

I didn't want to deal with this Launchpad bullshit, I just wanted to copy files.  So, as I've unorganizedly mentioned and hinted at, I plugged the fucker into my server, running Arch Linux.  The two partitions showed up, /dev/sr1 (the CD partition), and /dev/sdb1, being the place where all the data goes.  If you know anything about Unix-based OSes, the solution should have popped into your head already, but for the lesser-informed, this blog post exists.

This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, since U3 isn't designed to work on Linux at all.  Also, I'm not sure how portable these instructions are, they may need to be modified for your preferred flavor of Unix-like operating system and the number of storage devices you have.

Basically, all you need to do is figure out which device name it's using for the data partition.  As previously stated, on my server, it was /dev/sdb, with the partition itself being /dev/sdb1.

Now, simply mount that partition.  If you've got your /etc/fstab set up right, you won't even need to be root (or use sudo) to do it.  I made a mountpoint for USB devices on my server a long time ago at /mnt/usb, so I just used that.  The final command should be mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/usb or something similar (it can be shortened to just the device if you've got things set up correctly).

Do a cd /mnt/usb, and then ls.

Bam, all the files show up.  To get the amount of free space, run df -h /mnt/usb.  Do whatever you need to do, then unmount it (umount /dev/sdb1) and go about your business.

Yeah, this isn't one of those typical "how to remove U3" posts.  There are plenty of posts covering that, so if I wrote one it'd only be redundant.  This is because the drive isn't mine and I didn't want to mess with it in any way that might cause data loss.

This file copying is going to take forever, not because it's the device's fault, but because my server's built with old hardware and thus only has USB1.1.  I'll check on it in a few hours and see how it's doing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

JavaScript's window.getComputedStyle() method is safe, right?


Its output can and will differ from browser to browser.

I encountered this because I was trying to fix my image script's in-page popups so that they appear in the correct area of the screen.  I have code that's supposed to center them both horizontally and vertically, but they have padding around the edges that throws this calculation off.  So the fix would be to get the size of the padding on each side in pixels (to account for browser rendering differences), add those values to the width and height (respectively), then position the box with my already existing code and the new width and height values.

As it turns out, the values returned by the window.getComputedStyle() method are mostly similar in standards-compliant browsers, so long as the element exists within the DOM.  But what if, like me, you're trying to position it correctly before inserting it, and thus need the padding value before the element is visible?

You get all kinds of crazy shit.  Ideally the same value should be returned in both cases, but unfortunately this is far from the truth.

I could mention some sample output here, but an example test you can run in multiple browsers is better.  Fortunately for you, I've made such a test.

Now of course an easy workaround is to temporarily apply display: none; to the element, insert it into the DOM, correct its position, and then set it back to display: block; or whatever, but I shouldn't have to do that.

By the way, if anyone from the W3C so happens to be reading this, CSS really needs a box-align selector, to let you align element boxes themselves relative to the browser viewport.  It would be shorthand for box-align-vertical and box-align-horizontal, which would accept percentages as well as "center" as a value, and user-agents would try their best to align the center of each side according to the specified style.  That way, we wouldn't be dependent on buggy and inconsistent implementations of getComputedStyle() to position something relative to the viewport and keep it there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Terraria Sucks Now

I fired Terraria up a few days ago, and was involuntarily moved to the 1.0.6 update.  After playing for a while I realized how crap the game has become.

Healing potions, in the tier they're obtainable in at the beginning of the game, are absolutely useless now.  They halved the healing amount and increased the delay for using any other healing item to 60 seconds.  It was already really hard to stay alive in some areas of the game before with the short delay and potions healing 100 health.  I haven't yet managed to find one of these glowing mushroom things underground that lets you craft the next step of healing potion (which I also believe was nerfed in healing capacity).

60 seconds between health items?  That spells death.  I don't care how good your weapons or armor are.  I had finally worked up my health, weapons, and armor to the point where normal enemies were easy, and the corruption enemies were annoying because the never ever stop spawning ever, making it hard to go anywhere solo.  I was fighting the Eye of Cthulu, had a good rhythm going, and got it down under 1000 health, but the healing potion delay got me killed.

Tell me, how am I supposed to progress to the next tier of items if I can't get them?  Demonite does spawn in very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very small veins extremely rarely, but the primary source of it is killing bosses.

Terraria was once a nice, fun casual game that I could just start up and have a good time with, running around killing stuff and mining ores.  After this update, playing it is more of a chore than anything else.

The game already had balance issues, and 1.0.6 made them worse.  How is making the early to mid game phase harder supposed to keep the game fun?  It's like the devs listened to all the hardcore faggots with all their endgame gear whining about how the game is too easy, and decided to make the early game harder so all the hardcore faggots could go jerk off to the suffering it's caused people who are trying to get out of that phase.

I've got an idea.  The potion tiering as it is now in 1.0.6 is fine, but make glowing mushrooms easier to find, so that at about the time players are progressing to silver/gold gear and have over 200 health (where I am now), they can actually obtain the healing potions that they need to support the amount of health they have.  Lower the delay to 15 seconds, and make the delay per health item, so drinking a potion for 50 health doesn't prevent me from eating a goldfish for 20.  Unless it already exists, add a third tier of health potion that heals 200 health.

I realize that tons of potions were added recently.  I still haven't found all the materials required to make the ones that the hardcore faggots are suggesting those of us with lives should use instead of rightly bitching.  Plus, one specific hardcore faggot seems to be a broken record saying "oh once you get the harpoon you can solo any boss no problem".  That's a pointless statement.  I'll just generalize it to make it clear.  "Once you get a weapon that's far above your current tier of weapons, the stuff you previously thought was difficult will now be easy".  See what I mean?  I don't even know how to make (or find) the harpoon.

I haven't been wiki-fagging this game.  I'm trying to play it without external documentation, so I can experience the game's natural learning curve.  And that curve was just turned into a brick wall leading up into outer space.

I'm glad a friend gifted me this game on Steam, because if I'd purchased it with my own money, I'd want it back.  Oh, wait, Steam doesn't do refunds.  Your money is theirs forever.  This is why I'm stuck with Real Myst, which is so buggy I wonder how it even got past the testing stage of development.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Configuring Surround over S/PDIF in FFDShow

Normally I'd put some sort of hypothetical story here, but I'm going to skip that and get straight to the good stuff.

This guide assumes the following:
  • You're using the Combined Community Codec Pack, which includes FFDShow.  If you have some other setup using FFDShow, modify step 1 accordingly.  Also, I use Windows XP, so step 1 might change in the newer Windows OSes.
  • You want a 5.1 surround setup.  If your sound card and sound system are both capable of more channels, modify step 5 accordingly.
Stuff you'll need:
  • A computer
  • A sound card capable of outputting S/PDIF
  • A receiver with S/PDIF input, and of course an S/PDIF cable.
  • Some form of entertainment with surround audio, for testing.  When in doubt, grab a DVD with 5.1 audio.
  • A few minutes of spare time.
Now, without further ado, the instructions:
  1. Go to Start->All Programs->Combined Community Codec Pack->Filters->FFDShow Audio Decoder Configuration
  2. Click Output, all the way down at the bottom of the list on the left.  You may need to scroll to find it.
  3. Check AC3 (S/PDIF encode mode).
  4. Click Mixer, and check the checkbox next to it.
  5. In the Output speakers configuration dropdown, choose 3/0/2 - 5 channels.
  6. Check the LFE checkbox, the Expand stereo to center checkbox, and the Expand stereo to surround checkbox.  LFE will enable your subwoofer, and the other two are for compatibility with stereo audio streams.
  7. Click LFE Crossover, and check the checkbox next to it.  Configure this page to suit your needs/tastes.  When in doubt, the defaults work.
  8. Click Apply.
The actual setup process is done, but of course you want to test it, right?  Fire up Media Player Classic Homecinema and load something that you know has 5.1 audio.  If you aren't sure, right click in MPCHC and get the properties on it.  The Audio line on the Details tab should tell you, among other things, the number of sound channels.  Set your receiver to use the S/PDIF input, and start playing.  If you set everything up correctly, your receiver should show that it's getting a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround signal, and you should hear audio from the center and back speakers (and the subwoofer if it has low enough frequencies to trigger it).


"New" monitor = resolution down

So a few days ago the monitor I was using (a black Dell CRT) bit the dust.  As in, the screen went blank and it continually made clicking noises like it was changing video modes.  Nothing I tried (I'm not a hardware guy) could fix it, so I tapped our reserve of spare monitors, which actually only contained one monitor.

It seemed like it was going to work, but then came the smell.  The smell and the sizzling noise.  That monitor wasn't going to remain functional for much longer.  So, to prevent setting the house on fire, I turned it off and unplugged it.

For a couple days I used our plasma TV as a monitor.  It's actually just a monitor and not a TV, it has no tuner.  This is the way to go for buying an HDTV, as monitors have better built-in controls than TVs do, and these days odds are you've got some variety of set-top box to do your channel tuning for you.  Anyway, that was awesome.  Given that our sound system is 7.1 surround, I ganked the S/PDIF cable from the DVD player and tweaked some things to get my computer to output 5.1 surround (the best my sound card can do).  I really liked using it as a monitor, because games, anime, and YouTube videos looked great on it.

Unfortunately, that couldn't be a permanent solution, so my dad and I went out to my granddad's house (he now lives in a retirement home) and grabbed a couple of the monitors he had lying around.  I played with them to see if they worked and what video modes they could run, and decided which monitor to use.  Unfortunately, neither monitor can run 1280x960 at higher than 60Hz, so tl;dr I'm back on 1152x864.

I'll probably get a 1920x1200 LCD whenever I get around to building a new computer, and that'll be that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Maw

I saw this on sale on Steam, and after reading the description, I thought it might be fun.  I downloaded the demo, and that confirmed to me that it was fun.  So, I plunked down the sale price of $4.08 for The Mawesome Pack, which includes the game and its three DLC levels that it refers to as "deleted scenes" that you'll play through as you go through the game (rather than at the end, or as a separate selection).

The premise is simple.  You're some weird alien thing named Frank, and you have a purple blob with an insatiable appetite named Maw for a friend.  As you progress through the game, you'll need to feed various things to Maw so he'll gain the powers you need to complete each level.  The game is fairly straightforward in its layout, so generally when you can feed Maw something that will give him a power or change his power, it's time to do so.

The graphics are cartoony, and the game has the sense of humor to match it.  There isn't any real dialogue to be had.  The music is pretty good and changes when you use Maw's abilities.

As for length, it's fairly short.  I beat it in less than 8 hours.  I played for a bit over 8 hours going around doing things that I'd missed for achievements, though.

The control is pretty good.  Mouse and keyboard are pretty proficient, but it plays better with a gamepad.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't recognize my gamepad (a PS2 controller plugged in via a USB adapter), but thankfully, I solved that with JoyToKey.  The game's page on the Steam store specifically mentions being compatible with Xbox 360 controllers, so if you've got one of those, you should be good to go.

This game isn't very complex, so there's not really much more I can say about it.  If you can, go buy it before the 66% off sale ends on Steam (a bit over 4 hours as of... NOW!).