Thursday, June 28, 2012

Giant Brand Spicy Chicken Strips

Reviewing a store brand?  Yeah, it actually happened before.  Except this time, the directions aren't completely and utterly wrong.

One thing I've noticed with all of the Giant brand frozen food products is that there's a nice big box on the back that says at the top "How to get your party cookin'!" that then has a story or something that isn't the cooking directions in it.  The cooking directions are in a smaller box just below that one, printed in a smaller text size, and are occasionally completely wrong or omit things like "oh, there's a sauce packet you need to thaw".

If you've ever had chicken strips, you know pretty much what to expect, and they don't disappoint.  White meat chicken, breaded and fried.  The spicy part comes in with the assortment of spices they added to the breading, the most notable of which is your standard ground black pepper.  They're not too spicy, but they do have a bit of a kick.  They don't come with anything to dip them in, but they'd probably go pretty well with whatever you would think of dipping a fried chicken product in, like barbecue sauce or dijon/horseradish mustard.

If you've got a Giant near you, these are worth checking out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Don't Fucking Know

So, on Wednesday of last week, as we were leaving work, my boss said he'd call me regarding coming in to work on Monday (today).  Since it's a small company, he wants to give another guy more hours so they can get the business side of things done and get us some customers.

Monday has come and is nearly gone and I have yet to receive a phone call.

The only thing I can assume from this is that I don't need to go in.

But at the same time, I keep thinking that he wants me to come in and forgot to call.

It's incredibly confusing to me as an employee when I don't even know when the hell I'm going in to work the next time.  Is a regular work schedule really too much to ask?  I'm at the point where I'm considering taking on a second job, basically so I can have a job at all.

I feel like I'm back at square one on the job hunt.  I kind of got stuck with this job before I even knew what was going on, and I don't really feel qualified for it, to be honest.  However, if I quit, then they'll have to find someone else to be their network admin/sysadmin.  Maybe I shouldn't care, but part of me will still care, no matter how small that part actually is.

I think I'll just start asking for job applications everywhere I go.  If places even still do paper applications.  I've never trusted the online ones because I've never heard back from anywhere I've ever submitted an online application to.  They can basically just disregard any applicant at any time without contact, because there's been no real-life contact.

A friend of mine is in a similar situation.  Maybe I should apply to the same places he's applied to, just because it'd be nice to have someone I know at a job, someone I don't have to feel awkward around.

In before I end up working fast food or something.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quick Rant

Last Thursday, when I was getting food, I was one frozen item short of what I usually grab and out of ideas, so I grabbed a Stouffer's Salisbury Steak box to fill the void.  It wasn't bad (Stouffer's and bad can't be paired without a negative, at least, taste-wise), but reading the package I noticed something.

There's a box on the back, below the cooking directions, that says "Good to Remember: Stouffer's is supported by the Nestle Research Center, one of the world's leading centers for nutrition, health, and wellness."

Then I look over at the nutrition information.

The entire thing is one serving.  It has 34 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of which is trans fat.  It also has 64% of your daily recommended value of sodium.

Must be a pretty shitty research center if they think those numbers are good.

If I got a pasta machine and some reasonably lean ground beef, I could make exactly what comes in the box and it would be better for me.

So, moral of the story, I guess, is... read the nutrition facts on your frozen tasties and demand better nutrition choices from the companies that make the stuff you like.  Just because it's frozen convenience food doesn't mean it should be bad for your health.  In fact, with the proportion of the population that depends on pre-processed food for their meals, the companies making these products should have even more reason to make them as nutritious as possible.  Fast food isn't entirely to blame for America's obesity crisis, you know...

Also, as a side note, the first step of the directions says "DO NOT VENT.  DO NOT REMOVE FILM COVER.", which always makes me think "DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200."

Friday, June 22, 2012


So if you'd been reading my Twitter in the last week, you probably saw me talking about getting an Xbox 360 controller to use as a gamepad on my computer.  Microsoft has two options for exactly this: a wired USB controller, and a wireless one that comes with a receiver.  The beauty of it all is that these are full-fledged Xbox 360 controllers.  Microsoft controller + Microsoft OS = should work, right?  Well, right.

I did indeed order the wireless controller, as well as the play and charge pack that comes with a cable and rechargeable battery.  Rather than ordering from Microsoft, I ordered from Amazon and saved some money.  Go me.  The controller arrived yesterday.

Initially I had an issue, being that none of the games I had that preferred Xinput controllers would actually see it.  I googled around for a while looking for solutions, but it wasn't until about an hour ago I happened on a forum post that said that the Xbox 360 Controller Emulator would conflict with it and prevent the controller from being properly recognized.  Well, a while before the whole OS reinstall thing, I had indeed used Xbox 360 Controller Emulator to make Xinput games recognize my DirectInput-only PS2 controller as an Xinput controller.  So I went through and deleted the x360ce Xinput DLL files and restored the backups of the originals that I made should I ever need them (yay forethought).  Now I can use it properly in Beat Hazard, The Maw, and anything else I should ever own that looks for an Xinput controller.

If you have an older DirectInput controller and don't want to buy an Xinput one, I do recommend Xbox 360 Controller Emulator.  Download link at a Google search result near you.  You'll need a copy of x360ce.exe in the directory of every game you want to configure, and given the above story I do recommend making backups of the original Xinput DLLs from the game, if any, just in case.  It's pretty simple how it works.  You configure your controller so everything maps correctly, then it generates modified Xinput DLLs that wrap the relevant DirectInput calls inside each Xinput call.  So the game calls an Xinput function, ends up with results adapted from DirectInput, and everything works.


One of the nice things about getting the wireless receiver is that now if I need another controller (for some local multiplayer action!) I can just go buy an Xbox 360 controller from wherever and it'll work.  The reverse is also true, should I ever get an Xbox 360, I'll have another controller for it.

The weird thing I noticed is that the Xbox guide button doesn't register as an actual input.  If I plug in the receiver for one of my GH5 guitar controllers, the PS button registers as an input...

Also, there's no way to turn the wireless controller off, short of disconnecting and reconnecting the battery.  Given that the software that comes with it will pop up an indicator showing the battery level if you press the guide button, it should be relatively easy to make it turn the controller off if it's held, just like on the Xbox 360.

Another issue is that JoyToKey won't work with it.  I searched around and grabbed the last free version of Xpadder (because fuck paying for a tool to do this), which fits the bill and works with my PS2 controllers as well.

I know there are alternate drivers that support things like dead zones on the analog sticks and whatnot, I'll have to look into those.  For now, everything's working and I'm happy.

Edit (2014-02-10): So apparently JoyToKey will work with a 360 controller.  I don't know what I was doing before, but it works, with the caveat of not being able to use both triggers simultaneously since they're two halves of the same analog axis.  I still recommend using Xpadder, as it will properly split that axis and let you use both triggers simultaneously, and it's far more intuitive to set up.

Here's a link to the test config I made for the 360 controller in JoyToKey.  To use it, drop it in your JoyToKey directory, run JoyToKey and select it, then run Notepad and press things on the controller to see what's what.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Magicka: The Other Side of the Coin

So, we'd been waiting for this for a while.  This new DLC for Magicka stars the vampire Alucart, in his fight against Vlad.

Difficulty-wise, it's about average.  Not the hardest thing to beat in Magicka, but not the easiest either.  The final boss strategy is actually pretty simple this time around, unlike in The Stars Are Left.  You don't have very many magicks to aid you, so for the most part it's you and your elements.

The weapon set you have makes you vulnerable to Life, meaning you can't just self-cast it to heal yourself.  Instead, you have to use your "staff" active ability, which refills your health by sucking on the blood of your target.  There are no other staves available.  There are two other swords available, should you desire to switch.  The first one is the Broken Sword, and isn't all that useful (it's the sword you start out with when using the Vanilla Robes).  The second one is the Blade of Surt, which is fairly useful since it sets things on fire.  I just stuck with the default sword and I was all right.

Since you're vulnerable to Life, having a Life shield can help in a few parts.  There are these elves that guard barriers who can cast a healing rain (and Nullify...) that will heal their allies and damage you, so being immune to it is handy.  Also, Vlad uses Life on his sword periodically (as well as Nullify...).

One of the achievements is called "Friendship is Magicka".  You get it by killing all 11 ponies.  Yes.  YES.  Killing ponies!  Yay!  Apparently a good portion of the Magicka Steam forums think it's broken, but I got it first try, no glitches or anything, it just worked.  I'm proud to be part of 0% of the population!

Screenshot or it didn't happen.
The DLC comes with a few extra challenge arenas and a robe for regular play (the robe you use in the DLC itself isn't selectable).

Overall, it's fun, and it's slightly challenging, but it's not worth the $4.99 price on Steam.  Wait for a sale.

Boss strategy after the break.

Space Pirates And Zombies Demo Impressions

I've been watching ArchmageMelek's Let's Play of SPAZ and just last night got around to playing the demo on Steam.

Rather than providing some long-winded explanation of the game, I'm just going to list what I did and didn't like.

The Good:
  • Graphics - everything looks beautiful.  As far as graphical functionality goes, everything that needs to stand out so that you'll notice it stands out so that you'll notice it.
  • Idle radio chatter - absolutely hilarious, and a nice touch on an already good game.  "In space, nobody can hear you scream, unless you're chatting on the right frequency."
  • Gameplay - relatively straightforward.  Make ships, fly around, shoot stuff, try not to die.  Make friends with people and they won't attack you, but if you piss them off, they'll start attacking you again.  It works pretty well.
  • Narration - story narrated by TotalBiscuit.
  • Variety - The galaxy you play in is randomly generated when you start, and you have options.  Once you're playing, you have options for how you want to outfit your ships.  As you progress you'll get more and more ship parts, and the ability to research them to make them better.  Choose a setup that works well for you.
The Bad:
  • Controls - It uses WASD for ship movement, which is fine, but it's relative to the direction your ship is facing.  I keep trying to use the movement controls as if they work more like the movement stick in a twin-stick shooter, that is, W would make me go to the top of the screen, D to the right, S to the bottom, and A to the left.  Instead, W is forward, and you head towards the mouse pointer.  Also, this might just be a demo thing, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to drop off goons at my warp beacon.  They just kind of stay on my ship until I jump somewhere else.
The Overall:
  • Well, normally when one thinks of a phrase beginning with "the good, the bad", it ends with "the ugly".  Fortunately, here there is no ugly.  The game is good overall.  I have issues with its controls, but they only sometimes affect me and I was able to play for a few hours and get a fair amount of action out of the two solar systems you're limited to in the demo.  There are many more ways you could use your money, but this is one of the better ones.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rogue Galaxy session 10

Ever since becoming employed I've had difficulty setting aside time for Rogue Galaxy with my old method, where I'd just randomly start playing.  It wasn't until I really sat down and scheduled things out that I found time to do it, and I have all day today, so let's go.

On Juraika, I worked my way through the ruins of the Leo King's castle to find the last key piece.  The guy we'd fought at each of the other key pieces was there again, this time referred to as "the masked man" even though previous cutscenes have called him "Seed".  After a terribly simple but annoying battle where I kept having to heal every two seconds, I defeated the Mad Witch and got the key piece from the Leo King... who so happened to be an infant.  Ooooookay.

Anyway, with my newfound psychic ability to determine where unopened chests reside, I worked my way back through the jungle getting what I'd missed.

Once that was done, I teleported back to the Dorgenark and saved.  Which ended up being a good thing.  Foreshadowing through cutscenes basically told me that Zegram was going to betray us, and he did.  Jaster pursues and fights him on the ship's deck, but after a short battle Zegram hops on a smaller ship and gets away.

Next, there was a cutscene with Zegram about to hand over the key pieces to Daytron.  He has a condition though, Daytron is currently "revivifying" his girlfriend, Jane.  This and that get discussed, he basically says that the experiments in Zerard prison are for turning humans into monsters, and then Seed shows up.

Next fight is Zegram vs. Seed.  Seed is annoying enough when I have a full party, but one on one?  I got a game over.  Keep in mind there was no save point between the two battles, so now I had to fight Zegram with Jaster all over again.

So I did precisely that.  Beat Zegram faster this time around, then beat Seed.  Seed wounded Zegram in a cutscene (and we all know that in RPGs the only wounds that matter are ones that happen in cutscenes), and the Dorgengoa arrived.  Zegram switched sides again and it was up to him, Jaster, and Kisala to fight Seed.  Partway through the fight the tablet started reacting to the key pieces.  At this point, Seed stopped taking damage and the only thing I could do was place the key pieces.  What followed would be a lengthy cutscene explaining Seed's past and showing him utterly failing at solving the puzzle put forth by the tablet.

After having been told all his life that he was better than everyone else, Seed was unable to cope with both his failure and his creator's disgust for his failure.  Apparently some cells from those experiments in Zerard prison were implanted in him, and he turned into a beast.  Partway through the battle with Beast Seed, Jaster gets pwnt in the face and becomes surrounded with this red glow.  The battle continues with just Jaster available... and Beast Seed pwnt him.  Sigh, reload (STILL no opportunity to save, so I had to do the whole sequence of fights all over again).

This time I beat Beast Seed with just Jaster.  It was a rhythm of "hit him a bunch, get knocked down, use heal potion, repeat" for quite a while.  There were a few times he ran to the other side of the area, so I used my sub-weapon then while I waited for him to come back.  After the fight, Daytron GTFOed the area thanks to cone-tit-lady.

Jaster, in red-glow-state, is somehow able to solve the puzzle.  The rest of the crew somehow now knows of the existence of a fourth king, the Star King, from a long time ago, and infers that Jaster could be his descendant, and having inherited the Star King's powers was able to solve the puzzle.

Finally, after all that, I was able to save.  These words have never been used in a better situation: FUKKEN SAVED.

Progressing on into the ruins that the tablet revealed, shit happens with Kisala, and then we find a robot that seems to know her, but needs repairing so it can communicate with us.  The party decides to press on further and see if they can find anything to repair the robot with.  After a while, I killed a sand kraken boss and it dropped the piece of equipment the robot needed.  Headed back to the robot and...  long cutscene time.

Apparently Kisala is a princess.  Of the very planet that we're trying to get to, that we call Eden.  Its real name is fairly long but shortens to Mariglenn.  The robot we found was designed to protect Kisala.  At the end of the conversation it gave us a key that we need to open the doors to Eden.

We're just about to use the key when apparently Daytron decided to attack the main city on Rosa.  We went to see what was going on, ended up getting saved by Raul, the priest at the church where Jaster grew up, and then Daytron killed Raul.  Just before dying (you know, one of those typical "I'm dying but have all the time I need to tell you this" moments) he gave Jaster the Star Pendant, which points out a location in the desert on Rosa.  So, now we're headed there to see what's up.

After working our way into the desert and finding several people who we helped and then they promptly faded from view right in front of us, the sandstorm intensified.  Kisala then noticed something off in the distance, so we headed towards it and all of a sudden we were in a village.  With grass, trees, and windmills.  In the middle of the desert.  Yes.  It's name is Johannasburg.

After walking around a bit getting chests and noticing I didn't have the item necessary for the quarry in the middle of the city, we found the village elder, who so happened to be the very first guy I helped in the desert.  Apparently all of that was a test or something and only people who pass the test can find the village.  I dunno, I see a choice in the middle of a cutscene and I immediately think, entirely gamer sense, "this choice matters later on" and choose the things that generally will make the best impression.  Well, it seems to have paid off here.

The old man spoke of a woman who had the same birthmark as Jaster does, but said she left the village a long time ago.  He suggested we ask some of the villagers, so we did exactly that, and found that she used to live in the house up on the hill.  Went up there, and she's there (in ghost form) and challenges Jaster to a battle to fully unlock his Star King powers.  You know, where he glowed red about five miles up the page.

You know, one thing I really hate about this game is the game overs.  Any time you die, you have to see that screen that says "GAME OVER" and then you can't just immediately reload from your last save, you have to go all the way back through the logos and the main menu before you can finally get back into the game.  It doesn't add anything worthwhile to the game at all, forcing this large amount of downtime after a death.

Yeah, I died partway through the fight and had to do the whole thing over again.  Bosses don't take enough damage, and sometimes I'll hit the button for the sword and Jaster will just charge right past my target before swinging.  It makes no sense.

I did eventually win the fight.  The next bit of cutscene would see both of Jaster's parents identified.  His mother was Johanna, the woman I just fought, and the person that the village is named after.  His father, Desert Claw.  To be honest, I called Desert Claw being his father long before I reached the village, and as soon as I found out that the person with the birth mark that looked the same as Jaster's was female, I figured she was his mother.

On my way back to the tablet I picked up the quarry in the middle of the desert, which wasn't that hard.  With it in the bag I jumped up to 5th overall in the hunter rankings.  There's still a few of them that I either haven't found the place where you trigger the fight or haven't figured out which item triggers the fight yet, but you're pretty much dependent on them for point boosts when you're trying to make it through the top 10 ranks.

It was at this point that I remembered I'd gotten the Sun Key in Johannasburg, and I went around to all of the locations where I'd previously encountered Sun Key chests and grabbed my loot.

After that, I went through and cleaned out a bunch more quarries, getting myself up to Hunter rank 2 in the process.  It's worth noting for anyone who's trying to hunt these things down that they tend to be slightly mislabelled.  The one on Juraika in Path to Burkaqua stands out, go to the Creekside transporter and explore from there to find it.

With all available quarries either complete or requiring an item I don't have to trigger the fight, I decided to continue the story.  Remember when I said "long cutscene time" up there?  This next one clocked in at around half an hour.  Used the key, opened the gate to Eden.  Kisala had asked me to keep the fact that she was the princess of Mariglenn a secret, this secret predictably eroded quickly once we set foot on the planet.  Apparently, the source of all beasts in the galaxy, Rune, comes from a being called "Mother" on this planet, and only the Star King can stop Mother.  So, I ran around the area looting chests and buying stuff at merchants and generally upgrading everyone.  Next session, I tackle this area, and ultimately, Mother.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Ever since reinstalling Windows, I haven't been back at 100% (despite my post titled "Back at 100%"...).  The computer is back into a day-to-day operational state, meaning all the stuff I use on a regular basis is installed, configured, and working to my satisfaction, but I don't have everything fully back to the way it was.

One of those outstanding issues is that the line in on my motherboard's integrated sound card has mysteriously stopped working correctly.

My first thought is to attribute this to the rather old drivers I installed, that are on the disc that came with the motherboard when I bought it, eight years ago.  Going to Realtek's site yields drivers, but with the notice that I'd probably be better off with drivers from my motherboard manufacturer.  Getting those is rather tricky as my motherboard manufacturer (Abit) no longer makes motherboards and their site seems to be down.  There are plenty of mirrors, including Softpedia, but it's difficult to sort out which drivers are going to be the latest version available.  The thing is, I don't recall ever updating the drivers to begin with, and it worked prior to the reformat/reinstall.

Allow me to more fully describe the issue.  Initially, it worked just fine, but was almost inaudible in the right channel.  After doing a connector sense in the Abit Sound Effect Manager control panel, the left channel became just as quiet as the right channel.  Okay, so all I need to do is crank the volume, right?  Wrong.  Taking the volume above about two and a half in the Windows mixer causes audio from line in to drop out entirely, as if it were muted.  Dragging the slider makes weird scratchy noises come out of my speakers while the slider is between zero and the aforementioned two and a half area.  It's probably worth noting that in my operational setup prior to reinstalling I kept the line in volume at about two and a half to keep it reasonably balanced with the rest of the sounds on my computer.

Checking and unchecking the Mute checkbox in the Windows mixer causes an audible popping noise from my speakers, that never used to happen before.

Also, with line in unmuted, my computer's regular sounds are severely distorted.  This never used to happen either.

I'd really like to get this working, so I don't have to move my speakers back and forth between my PS2 and my computer.

I know you can get driver updates for Windows via Windows Update, and I've seen updates for my graphics card drivers on there before, but never my sound card.

So, if any of the maybe three people who are reading this have an idea, comment or something.  I've been in the sea of zero (0) comments for too long anyway.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Uno Deep Dish Pizza followup

Of course, as soon as I make that post where I say "Giant only has these three varieties, dunno if there's more", the next time I go to Giant I see two more.

They're the small "personal pizza" size, which is I guess why I didn't notice them.

One is simply the Cheese variety.  The other, however, is called Pizza Skins.  Basically, if you've ever had potato skins, this is that, but in pizza form.

Basically, Pizza Skins is a deep dish pizza crust, mashed potatoes in place of tomato sauce, then cheddar cheese and bacon bits.  It was surprisingly good.

The one thing I will note is that the frozen cooking time seems rather long on both of these.  In fact, it's longer than the larger pizzas.  You can get away with following the thawed directions, but make sure it's warm all the way through before declaring it done.  It will probably take some extra time on top of what is listed, but it'll be less time than the frozen directions.

So, there.  Now I've mentioned every variety of this that the Giant I shop at carries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Love The Guild Wars 2 Elementalist So Much

I touched on it in my post about Guild Wars 2 after BWE2 finished, but I feel that more elaboration is necessary.  And to accomplish that, I'm going to relate GW2 elementalists to GW1 elementalists.

In Guild Wars 1, you had a limited number of attribute points to spend.  Spread them too thinly and you won't be effective, but specialize in the wrong area and you also won't be effective.  This was a balance that was made more difficult to strike if you tried to use more than one element in Guild Wars 1.  Yeah, I know, you could go 12 Energy Storage and then put 9 into two elements, but what use was that?  There were very few skills that interacted with other elements in useful and relatively inexpensive ways.  This led to most elementalists in Guild Wars 1 using just one element alongside Energy Storage.  Your chosen element was very powerful, and you had a lot of energy to expend during battle.

Given that in GW1, fire was the element that was most easily understandable since it dealt the simplest, most intuitive damage, that's what a majority of elementalists took.  The other elements had their uses, but were less focused on raw damage.  Water Magic was pitifully underpowered damage-wise, but it was quite useful to have around because the majority of its spells would slow enemies down, and controlling enemy movement meant that key party members would be able to avoid taking damage.  Water Magic's best damage skill, Vapor Blade, had a very counter-intuitive drawback built in: it dealt half damage to a target if it was enchanted.  Given that the campaign it was introduced in, Factions, had enchantments on pretty much everything, you were lucky if it dealt full damage at all.  Water Magic had a decent damage skill in Winter's Embrace for a while, when they changed it to slow the target and deal a packet of damage every second while they were moving, but then they nerfed it by doubling its energy cost and lengthening its recharge.

In Guild Wars 2, you have real incentive to use all four elements.  Due to the lack of attribute points, levelling up as an elementalist simply means you become a better mage, and with that increase in skill comes greater spell effectiveness across the board.  Furthermore, the lack of a cost or penalty (other than the amount of time you have to wait to switch back) to switching between elements makes it very easy to switch during battle.  So if you're fighting a big battle and you're attuned to water for the support it provides, but you notice a bunch of enemies clumped up and say "hey, a meteor shower would go real nice right there", you can just switch over to fire and drop flaming rocks to your heart's content.

Plus, a fair number of the elementalist utility skills have effects that change depending on the element you're currently attuned to, giving you four options with one skill slot.  Ten skills at a time?  Pfft.  How about forty?  This is the key: Elementalists in GW2 are far more versatile than they ever could have hoped to be in GW1.  I personally value versatility in a class.  If it seems too single-purpose, I lose interest really quickly.  In role-playing games, it's typically the ranged support classes that are more versatile, whereas the front-line fighters are all "smashy smashy durr what's a spell" and the healers are all "healy healy durr what's an attack".

This is also why I liked the GW1 Dervish as much as I did.  It was a very versatile melee class.  It far outshined the warrior and assassin in its versatility.  The warrior and assassin both depended on combinations of skills, implied for the warrior (i.e. one skill causes condition -> next skill has extra effect if foe has that condition) or literal for the assassin (they had skills that you could only activate in a certain order, and between foes you had to have the entire chain recharge, which was boring to wait for).  Foes in PvE die too quickly for elaborate skill combos to really work.  If you can't do it in two skills, you need to rethink your build.  Dervishes depended on combinations of skills as well, but those combinations could be set up outside of combat or right at the beginning of combat and then used at will from then on.

Also, since energy costs for skills are a thing of the past in GW2, the elementalist is inherently more powerful.  I feel as though they know this and have balanced the skills appropriately, yet I still do a very pleasing amount of damage.  While RPGs typically have some form of mana, I never thought it made much sense for a mage to have an artificial limitation on their capabilities.  The only limit should be their skill.  Magicka did exactly this, and it was both incredibly challenging and incredibly fun, because it forced you to get good at the game really quickly, and because you could experiment with different spells without penalty.  I don't know if any of ArenaNet's devs have played Magicka, but if they have, it looks like they learned something from it.

That something would be "versatility is the key to fun".  The more versatile you make an RPG character class (i.e. the more stuff it can do and the variety of stuff it can do), the more fun it's going to be for the player as they experiment with what's available to see what works in a given situation.  Putting that element of player learning into the class makes people feel like they've gained skill at the game, which is exactly what the Guild Wars series is supposed to be about: skill, rather than gameplay time.  Even though GW2 has a level cap four times that of GW1, I've noticed that you still level up pretty quickly, which keeps the focus off of the struggle to gain power and places it squarely on enjoying the content they've put in front of you.  Which, as a developer, is all you really want: for people to enjoy your creations.

So, I've gone off on many tangents, but the main point is: Elementalists in GW2 are far more versatile than they were in GW1.  That versatility makes for better, more fun gameplay.  Which makes me like the class a lot more than I did previously.  Which draws me in and keeps me playing the game.  Which is exactly what ArenaNet wants.

Uno Deep Dish Pizza

It took me a while to notice these at the store, because they're clear on the other side of it from the frozen aisle.  They're in a refrigerator case near the specialty cheeses.  Anyway.

I've been eating these things for quite a while now, and figured I might as well get around to posting about them.

Basically, if you like pizza and want some deep dish, look no further than Uno.  It's pretty good.  The directions are simple and straightforward, and they have separate directions for a completely thawed pizza vs. a frozen one.

My only trouble is that if I allow the pizza to thaw at all before putting it in the oven, it has a very high chance of sticking to the oven rack.  My solution is to preheat the oven, remove the pizza from the box, cut open the plastic wrapping around the pizza, then stick it back in the freezer while the oven preheats.  Then throw the thing directly onto the rack once the oven is done preheating.

The cooking time is quite a bit longer than your average frozen pizza, clocking in at 35 minutes vs. the normal 18-20.  But if you look at it, it's easy to understand why.  Deep dish pizzas are a lot thicker than regular pizzas.

The package suggests putting the pizza in a round cake pan with some oil for "restaurant quality".  I haven't tried this, to be honest, so I don't know how much of a difference it makes.

Giant carries three varieties, Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage.  I'm unsure if there's any more.  I've only tried the Pepperoni and Sausage ones, but based on those, I can't expect the Cheese variety to be much different in terms of quality.  The Pepperoni variety is a first among frozen pepperoni pizzas that I've found: I don't have to re-arrange the pepperoni before cooking it.

The crust is a bit difficult to cut with a pizza cutter, I usually end up destroying the crust in the area around where I cut it.

Overall, these are pretty good pizzas.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guild Wars 2

Since I pre-purchased the game, I have guaranteed access to all the beta weekend events.  Just finished playing my first one.  It was actually the second beta weekend event, I wasn't able to pre-purchase until after the first beta weekend event.

So anyway, what race/class combos did I play, and where did I go, what did I do, who is your daddy, and what does he do?

Actually, first up is a description of how shit works.

You have a ten skill skillbar.  Skills one through five are dependent on the weapon or weapons you're using.  A two-handed weapon will have five skills available, a one handed weapon in your primary hand will have three skills, and a one handed weapon in your off-hand will have two skills available.  Depending on what your class can equip, you can mix and match to suit your tastes.

Initially, with each possible weapon set, you only have skill number one available.  Killing five enemies will unlock skill number 2, ten unlocks skill number 3, and so forth up to 20 for skill number 5.  And they have to be unlocked in order.

Skill six is your healing skill.  Depending on your class and the skill itself, it can confer other useful effects as well as affecting other characters around you.

Skills seven through nine are your utility skills.  These do all sorts of cool things, and it differs per class.  The Engineer's turrets, grenades, and mines are utility skills.

The tenth skill slot is your elite skill.  I can't really say much about these because you have to get to level 30 to unlock the skill slot and the highest level I got any of my characters to was 15.

Levelling up is pretty simple.  You can actually get a fair amount of experience with little to no combat.  Every area you discover gives you an experience boost.  There are also waypoints, which you can teleport to for a small fee (and it is in fact really small, pretty much inconsequential), and discovering a waypoint will give you an experience boost.  Then there are also points of interest, which are scattered throughout each map nearby buildings, statues, and, well, points of interest.  Finding them gives you an experience boost.  Getting everything done in an area also gives you an experience boost.

What's really cool is, you get an experience boost for resurrecting other players.  This makes it a win-win situation: you get something out of it, and they get to continue playing the game.  I died quite many times and most of the time another player who happened to be in the vicinity would run over and resurrect me.  The system works.  If you can't get someone to resurrect you, you can also teleport to a waypoint, which will automatically resurrect you.

And then, of course, you can kill enemies.  Can't forget about that.

Now, on to the three characters I played.

Charr Engineer

Race determines, among other things, the story you get to experience.  Furthermore, the story is affected both by choices you make during it, as well as choices you make during character creation.

My Charr Engineer was a member of the Iron Legion.  The Iron Legion is responsible for all of the Charr's technology, so to me it made the most sense.  The other legions are Blood and Ash.  Anyway, Engineer is quite a fun class, every bit as fun as I'd hoped it would be.  After unlocking and switching to the healing turret in my healing skill slot, I managed to hear my character say "dispenser operational!" and I laughed at the Team Fortress 2 reference.

I played him for pretty much a solid 16 hours, doing a fair amount of dicking around wasting time, and even meeting up with a friend to go questing at one point.  At the end of those 16 hours, he was level 13.

Engineers get guns, and guns are pretty cool.  You get a choice between a two-handed rifle, or two one-handed pistols.  I found myself sticking mostly with the rifle, but the pistols have some useful stuff.

Human Necromancer

After seeing all the weird and interesting stuff Necromancers could do when ArenaNet livestreamed a demo or two from Gamescom a year or two ago, I was really hoping they'd be decent.  Maybe I just didn't play my necromancer enough, but it seemed like it was more of a chore than anything else.  I'm still going to play more necromancer in the next beta event, with the hope that it gets better as you level one up.  I got my necromancer to level 5.

Also, the human areas are fairly lag-inducing and complex to navigate.  I really do prefer the Charr starting area.  It's a lot simpler and more straightforward in its layout.

Norn Elementalist

I honestly did not expect elementalists to be as awesome as they are.  I mean, sure, I saw that you had an attunement for each of the four elements and swapping between them changes the type of spells you can cast.  I didn't really think much of that.  I thought I'd start an elementalist, find an element I preferred, and stick with it.

Not so.  Good job, ArenaNet.

All the elements are useful to have, and they all have one or another situation where they'll shine.  On top of that, there is a vast difference in the spells you get when you change your weapons around.  They cater to a lot of different play styles, and it works quite well.

Remember what I said a mile or two up the page about how you get your weapon skills?  Well, elementalists have a variety of weapons, and four elements, which means...  four times the skills!  Elementalist is officially the most versatile class I've played thus far.

Some of the utility skills for elementalists are pretty neat, so I'll highlight a few of them here:
  • Glyph of Storms - Causes a storm based on the element you're currently attuned to.  Want to rain down fire?  Attune to fire, then pop the glyph off.  Want to kick up a sandstorm?  Switch to earth.  You get the idea.
  • Conjure Fire Axe and Conjure Ice Bow - Elemental weaponry at the ready!  These skills give you two of their weapon, one is given to you, and the other is dropped on the ground for another player to pick up.  They offer some interesting skills and open up even more play styles with the elementalist, as well as allowing your party to deal the type of damage they need to deal at any given time.  There are more elemental weapon skills available, but these are the two I was able to unlock.
  • Call Owl - An owl swoops in and attacks your target.  Which is pretty neat, just on general principle.
I spent a lot of time playing my elementalist, and got her to level 15.

(yes, I didn't play a ranger...  Sylvari and Asura aren't available yet.)

Overall thoughts

I love how you can work with other players to clear an area or complete an event without ever having to party up.  That's pretty awesome.  Also, I love the extra ways of getting experience outside of combat.  Even though the level cap is 80, you can have plenty of fun in the game at level 15, or even level 5.  Just play the game, and you'll have fun.  There are little minigames all over the place.  At one point, I was throwing snowballs at kids.  Another place entirely, I was pissing off devourers with music so I could steal their eggs.  And last but certainly not least, in Lion's Arch, there's the diving board.

Yeah, a diving board.  Nothing special about a diving board, right?  Wrong.  This one is perched insanely high above the water.  It has its own waypoint.  There's an NPC that gives you a free speed boost there.  And just before the diving board itself, there is a pair of diving goggles.  If you pick them up, your skills get replaced with Spin and Flip, which you can only use as you fall into the water below.  Yes.  I am not making this up.

In short: If you liked Guild Wars 1, go pre-purchase Guild Wars 2.  If you hate MMOs because of their reputation for repetitive and grind-filled gameplay, go pre-purchase Guild Wars 2.  If you have $80, go pre-purchase Guild Wars 2.  It's as simple as that.

By the way, I'm in Blazeridge Mountains.  That will mean something to you when you get to the world selection screen after logging in.

I will close with the two screenshots I took on my first night of playing the game.

My friend and I hanging out on a rooftop in Kryta
Us at the Lion's Arch Diving Board, just before we jumped off

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Back at 100%

If you've been reading my Twitter, you already know this, but...

After over 12 hours of work last night, I'm finally back up and running with Windows XP SP3.

There's still some things left to install, but all the stuff I use on a regular basis is set up and configured.

Everything I was able to do before I was an idiot and went "herp derp me install plop to MBR this can never go wrong" is back, for the most part.  I've made some tweaks and changes as well.

I don't exactly have my full Firefox extension set back up and running yet.  I'm kind of running an experiment to see if I can get by with less than what I had.  I had to rewrite my UI tweaks CSS for Stylish because I didn't have a copy of it anywhere else, but the YouTube tweaks, well, I just went to my own blog post on the subject and downloaded it from there.  Speaking of which, there's a small change I just had to make that I haven't uploaded yet, so expect that before long.

In the install/update process I did manage to finally get a copy of the standalone Windows XP SP3 installer, which sped things up greatly.  The fun thing is, that's the only way I can get to Windows Update from a fresh install with my Windows install disc.  Windows Update refuses to accept WinXP SP1, which is what my install disc installs.  Yeah, I know, I can slipstream it.  I probably should.  And I should see about slipstreaming all the updates too, to try and reduce how long it takes to play the Windows Update game.

One major change is that I installed Microsoft Security Essentials as my antivirus, instead of AVG.  AVG and I have never gotten along well, it's always done nothing but report false positives.  Plus, AVG has a rather large install footprint and resource requirement, and craps itself all over your system installing browser toolbars and plugins and whatnot.  MSE is a lot simpler, a lot lighter, and just overall better.  And the best part: it's free to anyone that has a legit copy of Windows, which I happen to have.

I also changed my Foobar2000 interface around a bit.  Rather than doing separate playlists for each artist, I now just have all my music imported into its music library, and I slapped in the UI element that lets you browse through it and filter it and build a playlist from it.  This is one of the reasons I love Foobar2000, its interface is so modular.  Any time you want, you can go into layout editing mode and tweak things.  Even better, it has a scratchbox where you can play around with a new layout without having to change your existing one.  Then if you like what you end up with, it's simple to apply it.

In mIRC, I basically lost all my scripts.  I know I have a copy of one of them floating around somewhere, but it didn't show up quickly enough in a search of all my hard drives, so I just rewrote it.  I still have a couple more scripts to write (like my auto-identify script...) but overall it's back as well.

The final finishing touch that I added before going to bed was installing and configuring Winwall.  It's so sad that even though Winwall annoys me so much, it's pretty much the best wallpaper rotator available for Windows XP.  It could honestly do with having a much larger (or even resizable) interface.  It's just so cramped.

Anyway, I need food, so that's it for this post.  Hey, now that I have a computer connected to the internet, I can keep track of my Rogue Galaxy gameplay again, which means I can play the game again.  So much potential gameplay time lost due to having no OS...  Yeah, I could have done a session when I was running Ubuntu, but I spent approximately 99% of my time in Ubuntu either tweaking things, trying to get it to use a refresh rate other than 60Hz, or not using it because it would stop responding during periods of high disk access thanks to the fact that I was running it off of a hard drive in a USB2.0 enclosure.

Yeah.  Food.  Bye.

Edit: food's warming up on the stove (yay skillet meal), and I remembered that while I was installing Windows XP, I FC'd Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love in Guitar Hero: Van Halen.  I think this is my first FC of a song that contains a pattern that I have to tap.  The song has two slider note zigzags, and I'm bad at zigzags one-handed...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ubuntu 12.04

So, it's been quite a while since I last used Ubuntu.  The most recent version I used prior to yesterday was 6.06.  ...Yeah.  This will basically be an "impressions and some useful tweaks" post.

Overall, in the graphics department, Ubuntu has come a long way.  I remember popping a freshly burned CD of Ubuntu 5.04 into a CD drive, booting it, and seeing that ugly as all fuck brown theme for the first time.  Now it's actually pleasing to the eye.

Usability-wise, well, it's Ubuntu.  It's the Windows of Linux.  If you can't see the nice big Firefox icon and click it to browse the internet, well, you're probably blind.  The thing it's on, called the Dash, works similarly to the taskbar in Windows.  The button up at the top brings up a screen that immediately shows you the programs you've run most recently, and it has a search box so you can type in the first few characters of what you're looking for.  This is neat for novices, but to be honest I prefer the old Applications menu structure, and I'm dying for some menus so I can organize things.

Thus begins a long list of things I preferred about older Ubuntu distributions.  They didn't adulterate the environment so much, leaving it up to you to customize its look and feel from thousands of options.  This one has about three options for the look and feel.  If you don't like those, well, you're stuffed.

The settings program is fairly straightforward and I was able to tweak a few things to my liking through it, but two of the big things I like that I can't adjust through it are the workspaces and sloppy focus on the mouse cursor.  In fact, even though there's a nice button on the dash that shows four workspaces, I can't get into any workspaces other than the first one.  I even made sure I had the keyboard shortcut for changing workspaces correct.  Still, the button is useful in that clicking it shows you all the windows on the current workspace and you can click one of them to focus it.  So if you have a lot of stuff open and overlapping, it makes it easy to find the window you want.

Ubuntu also has an "app store" of sorts, which is basically their replacement for the Synaptic package manager from earlier versions of the distribution.  In addition to letting you install free packages, you can buy commercial Linux programs through it.  Including a lot of popular indie games, like Braid, World of Goo, and more.  Heck, you can even buy the Humble Indie Bundle 5 through it.  I'd get the bundle, but... I already have Psychonauts and I'm not too interested in the rest of it.

Ubuntu also has a cloud storage service called Ubuntu One.  Just by using Ubuntu, you get 5GB of free cloud storage.  Which is cool if you have files that you want to be accessible from elsewhere and maybe happen to lack a USB flash drive with the capacity to store them all.  But generally speaking, you probably already use Dropbox and will be installing the Linux Dropbox client.

Getting a multi-monitor setup going is fairly simple.  To do it entirely within the GUI without having to mess around with config files, you pretty much need to install the proprietary drivers for your graphics card, which are recommended anyway because your visual experience and 2D/3D performance will be greatly increased in comparison to the open source driver.

However, multi-monitor in Linux does have its nuances in comparison to Windows.  When watching YouTube, if you have hardware rendering on, the hue of everything is off and it all looks blue.  Fullscreen works as expected in this mode, though.  If you disable hardware rendering to get correct colors, Flash sees both monitors as one big desktop for the purpose of determining your screen resolution.  So it sets its fullscreen window to that size.  But then it goes "oh hey, our fullscreen window shouldn't span monitors!" and scales it down to fit in one monitor.  So what you end up with is a really wide and not very tall fullscreen window.  And since Adobe has discontinued Flash for Linux, it won't ever get fixed.  All the more reason to promote HTML5 video, I guess.

As far as running Windows programs is concerned, you have to install Wine.  Wine is essentially an open source implementation of the Windows API and all of its libraries.  The majority of regular old Windows programs will simply work out of the box, with no configuration changes.  It's when you delve into the realm of playing Windows games that you start having to mess with things.  Fortunately, there's another package called Winetricks that helps greatly with that.

Overall, it's pretty easy to use, but parts of the whole ease of use thing grate on me because I want to get in and tinker with things and Ubuntu doesn't really want you to get in and tinker with things.  Still, it's decent for an intro to Linux, and proof that Linux is more than ready for the desktop.  Tweaks after the break.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Herp Derp

So I ran the Ubuntu 12.04 livedisc that I downloaded for a few hours before finally realizing that I have a hard drive sitting here that I could install it to and a USB enclosure I could put said hard drive into.  Combine that with setting my BIOS to boot off of USB, and we have ourselves a semi-decent workaround for the issue at hand.


Much later edit: Well, except for the fact that the INSTALLER FUCKING CRASHED, yeah.  Also, lol@myself for making so many tweaks to a livedisc environment that will just be wiped when I reboot.  Srsly.  More about these to come in another post.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


This morning before I went to bed I had the bright idea to try and install Plop Boot Manager to my hard drive's MBR, so that it would control the boot process instead of the Windows boot loader.  It offers a lot of extra capabilities, hence why I wanted it.

Except that trying to install it fucked up my partition table.

Fucked up partition table = BIOS no see OS = Can't use computer.  Simple as that.

So when I woke up, I j-j-jammed in my WinXP install disc and reinstalled XP.  All was fine, except for one thing that I swear I've fixed before but can't remember for the life of me how I did it: my boot drive was K: instead of C:.  One of my other hard drives had taken over the stupid C: drive letter.  And with Windows being so infinitely intelligent, you can't use its own disk management software to change the drive letter of your boot drive.  It won't even entertain the thought of queueing it up as something to do when the computer is restarted and then telling you "Reboot your computer, moron!".

In the process of rebooting and trying to get it fixed, my BIOS started doing its thing again, where it goes "lol what IDE Primary Master?  I see no IDE Primary Master!".  Usually if I just turn the computer off and let it sit for a while to think about what it's done, when I turn it back on it goes "lol jk" and starts up.

That was several hours ago.  Letting it sit has never taken more than 20-30 minutes before.

So I go "okay, might as well see if it's the hard drive" and swapped it out for what appears to be a brand new 120GB hard drive that had never been formatted before.  Start up computer, and it still can't see it.  In other words, suspicion confirmed, it's my BIOS.

First thing you're thinking is "lol, you still use IDE devices?"  Yeah, yeah.  I built that computer in 2004.  You know, before SATA became really popular.  Hell, it's got a 64 bit processor.  I've never been able to use it at full power because I've lacked a 64 bit OS for it to run.

My plan was, if the 120GB drive magically worked, I was going to partition it about half and half, and set up Windows on one half and one or another flavor of Linux on the other half.  But that doesn't mean much now, I can't use the damn thing.

All I can hope for now is to earn enough money from this job that I can buy the stuff for an all-new computer.  Which will take very uncomfortably longer than I really want it to.  If anyone I know is reading this and you have even a semi-decent computer you can lend to me for a while, I'd be really grateful.  I'd want to be able to install stuff on it though.  Stuff meaning my usual day-to-day setup, rather than me being a retard and FUBAR'ing your computer.

I should have just gone to sleep at 4:30 AM like I wanted to, but noooo, I was just like "lol let's install plop to the MBR!  This won't take very long!"  Well, half of that was correct.  It didn't take very long.  But now due to circumstances entirely unrelated to it, I can't even use my computer at the moment.

I'm downloading the latest Ubuntu livedisc, I'm going to see if I can't boot off of that and not have to use my parents' computer.  I won't be able to watch anime (sadface), but...  At least I'll have the internet.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Really? REALLY?

So, CAINE is a student organization at the University of Virginia.  Its website is  It has officers, including a treasurer, whose job it is to procure funding from the university so we can have materials for meeting activities as well as expanding our collection.

A few years back, we decided that our website really needed an overhaul.  After weighing our various options we ended up buying hosting and the domain name that we use today.  The main reason was that if we weren't hosted by the university, they had no say in the content of our website and we could be sovereign.

The first thing they took issue with was how we referred to ourselves.  They claimed that saying "UVa Comics and Anime Club" implied that we were affiliated with the university, most likely in an "official endorsement" sense.  They recommended that we change it to "Comics and Anime Club at UVa".  Fine, whatever, they were happy with that, so we changed it and went on with life.

Until yesterday.

Now, apparently, that's not enough.  It's no longer crystal clear that we carry no official endorsement from UVa.  To rectify this, they sent a huge wall of text of legalese that we are to copy, verbatim, onto our "front page".  This is essentially a non-affiliation notice.

Only problem: our "front page" is the forum index.  I imagine they'd want it immediately visible to visitors of the site, which means placing it near the top.  This would push our actual forum content down the page just far enough to confuse new visitors, who don't generally expect a forum to have 5 miles of legalese at the top of the page.  A new visitor is going to take one look at all that legalese, go "ok, whatever", and then look for whatever they actually wanted on the site and effectively ignore it.  So basically, this legalese is for the sole purpose of UVa stroking its giant cock.  Not on my face, thanks.  I'll keep my site clean of such things.

The funny thing is that part of the notice states that they "have no control over" us.  Which is exactly why we have our site hosted by someone other than them in the first place.  So if they have no control over us, then why are they suddenly allowed to dictate content that should appear on our website?

The answer: they're not.  At least, not on my watch.  Good luck, UVa, I'm not putting your jerkoff legalese on my site.  I did, however, change the reference so it says "Comics and Anime Club in Charlottesville".  Let's see Charlottesville send us a notice next.  I'm waiting.  Then I'll take a shit on it and send it back.  In a country that's as extremely litigous as ours is, SOMEONE has to stand up for common sense.