nawkcire

Games, Tech and Blogging…I can't guarantee in that order.

Tag Archives: tech

First 12 hours Windows 10

Yesterday, I finally dipped my toe in the most recent develop with Windows. I decided to install Windows 10 to give it shot. Since my desktop is still my gaming and recording PC, I’m not willing to lose data over something I’m not certain of; so I chose my laptop that’s good for nothing but the Internet and doing blogs.

Like with Windows 7 when I upgraded from XP, the installation of fairly straightforward with little input from me. Then the one and continuing obstacle comes to me; upon being asked to create an account, the system allows me to connect online using my Microsoft account. Innocuous at first, I hesitantly put in my log in information. Definitely the first time looking at the innovations from Windows 8 and 8.1 and coming from Windows 7, Win 10 looks very impressive and fresh. The desktop design remains very familiar, much like a signature of the brand. Along with the translucent and bold contemporary design, it feels very new as if the developers want to be away from their predecessors while maintaining functionality. Opening up the Start menu, I encountered the same layout with a small added addition; tiles that was previous implemented in the Windows 8 series. Tiles that worked more like a glorified icon which can stream a service, such as the current weather conditions and who is sending you tweets on their Twitter app. Much like mobile phones, I was surprised Windows now has an app store where I can purchase applications. I’ll talk more later after this, but overall it looks very vacant in terms of actual apps. For me as a transitioning Windows user, I can see some similarities to other operating systems.

Of all the features I have a problem with, I’ll start with the user friendliness of the entire interface. Yes, the entire interface. The problem I have is I’m well use to using scrolling to move up and down lists. At the moment, I have to use arrow keys to move through these lists as well as options. I do like I don’t necessarily need to use my trackpad to navigate, as a internet laptop I’m use to scrolling and tapping with my pad. Next is the difficulty to find settings and options through its supposed straightforward interface. Every is so simplified to the point where there are some things I want to turn off but would turn off other things. Aside from a “settings” visible at the Start button, it took me some doing to produce the old Control Panel which I’m well versed in using. If anything, this Settings button is superfluous to what the Control Panel can do. Onto the apps and the app store, the system will automatically install some applications like Skype, a mail client and other proprietaries from Microsoft. After peaking through these apps, there are many others I can download which surpass the usefulness. The applications I would like on there is not even on there. At the time of this post, I use Tweetdeck while there is an application to display it’s streaming capabilities. Though nifty as this Twitter application is, it’s space in my hard drive to load the interface while Tweetdeck is done all online. Meaning I don’t have to load it and I can do much more than just view and write tweets. We’re not even in the store yet, but it’s more frustrating than you think.

The store does contain a lot of games and applications at my finger tips; but as I browse through the catalog, I started to look into the sizes of these “apps”. Most of the applications are about 14KB to about 10MB which in this day in age seems small for apps. The largest are the games but for the most I’ve seen, most hover around 20 KB. From what I remember, a shortcut on your desktop is somewhere around the same size as well which makes me wonder if this should even be called an “app store”. Along with these, some of the titles do give away what they’re intended for; mostly to promote a website or periodical. Which makes me wonder if these are just glorified bookmarks; in which case, it’s not innovated but more of a waste of space. Perhaps in time, they would moderate and regulate the store but it does seem more of a grab for an audience and competing with these false bits of hope.

Performance is another problem I have with it. I understand my laptop is aging and it could be edging off the minimum requirements. Compared to old reliable Windows 7, she’s a bit hefty and slow. Loading and shutting down is slow as well as initializing a program. It could be the fact it’s new so it’s creating temporary files for indexing. It could be the fact some of the apps are continually requesting updates. In which case, it’s a poor excuse to trade off performance for convenience. The app store is also nothing new to desktop PC as some Linux distributions do have their own stores where actual programs are placed to download. Which makes Windows 10’s store worse than Blackberry’s app store in my opinion even though not many user use their products by comparison.

As a technological society, we are pushing towards a more mobile world. It doesn’t really mean we are readily connected, just means we want to carry a silicon and plastic brick everywhere we go. Agreeable some places have cheaper internet, but the majority of the world is still catching up. In an operating system, it’s not about being cutting edge and well known; to me, I need something light and fast that supports my needs and not the needs of the company. Even at a $100 and over price tag, it should offer piece of mind as well as in-depth customization. Though simplicity can help a beginner; I feel a bit outed by the next generation of Windows users because they want everything at a click of an icon.

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Ironies Of The 21st

Lately, my city suffered service disruptions from the power company. Throughout the night, my lights were flickering like a rave. In my finite wisdom, I turned down the lights and continued to surf the net and charge my phone. After a good hour of playing video games, I went to scour the internet for services that would be useless without power or cellphone reception. Here’s a short list of things I found for my locale.

Bus Schedule

In a large city, you are bound to encounter public transit at least once. Most of the time, the system does keep all neat and efficient and have boards to tell you approximate bus times and the routes where the stop is located.

Assume you are ever connected to the internet and you look up everything on an app and public transit decides to knock off the paper schedules lined on each stop. If the wi-fi kicks out, you stuck with a pretty useless app to do anything at all, neat waste of space on your phone. If the power goes out, there is a likelihood (If you are on a data plan) the cell tower will be knocked out of power or service would be dodge since a small crisis.

Good luck standing out there in the winter wondering when the bus will arrive as you stare as you search for service.

“Keep updated at…”

A lot of businesses and services are using social media these days to link back to their website or link toward social media itself for additional information. Though I agree, businesses should be transparent and allow the clients and customers to view current shakeups and hiccups. However I found there are some are not really that important. On my Twitter account, I don’t usually follow services and business around my area. When I do, it’s usually on a appreciative level. If I go there often and I like what they do, they get a follow eventually.

I don’t need to be in the know of a new product or a pre-order I will likely never want to purchase. If it’s really good, I will follow until I have to throw you overboard because this ship only has so much cargo room before you are no longer needed.

Back to services like say your power, phone or ISP; this makes me giggle a little bit. If the power goes out, you can’t check for the latest information on the power company’s website on a desktop. If you’re experiencing a service disruption from your ISP, you’re boned because you don’t have access to the net to find out what’s going on; and don’t bother calling the phone company either if you own a cellphone.

By then you are literally stuck in the dark. That is enough information you will need for the time being.

All the money in the world

This goes closer to the new technology to remove plastic cards out of our lives by having phones you can tap to transfer funds.

You do realize how much power you have on a phone right? On idle, you get about 12-24. Once that screen is active you are looking at 2-6 hours. This is all assuming certain setting are in play and you do not own a battery pack to carry more power.

Indeed convenient to have a all you plastics and accounts on your phone in a “super high tech encryption that is 100% hacker proof”. But what if you suddenly need to go on a shopping spree? There are days where I personally made purchases about 12-15 hours apart. As a person who doesn’t obsess on charging my phone, I keep her on sleep until I need her. In reality, the only benefit you get our of a consolidated electronic payment method is really just convenience while sacrifice availability. Better to have it on you than there but your cellphone is dead.

One last thing…

In the end, the best conveyance of funds and communication is just what we already have and not the electrical gizmos they’re trying to sell. People say I’m a bit nuts to have cash on me. You never know when you enter a place that’s “cash only”. I lived in the digital age before the digital age; we used coins on payphones, paid by either credit, debit or cash and we still have them around because of it’s popularity and ease of use (Probably not as much as payphones).

Regardless how emerging technology makes everything convenient, there will be some that would complicate your life when you rely on them the most. Call me old school all you want; but I want to be flexible so when one thing fails, the other will have my back.

Before my laptop dies and until next time, paper and plastics will always be more reliable than photons and electrons.

Formality v. Functionality–Big Twitter apps

[Starts 3 paragraphs in for those who want my review, thought you liked a good story…]

It’s not a surprised I use Twitter more often now to promote my blog and YouTube channel. I’m usually on there to just find something to read or have something short to get off my chest rather than posting it on my blog with under 140 characters. For a awhile when I started my blog, I wanted to be able to spread my message out there in the simplest form. Mainstream or some way to broadcast to the world, “I wrote something, might be nice to give it a read.” I started using Twitter as a media prerequisite to learn about the world and the culture I live in, over time the account went into disuse until I started my blog. First impressions, Twitter wasn’t the best place for a 19 year old. I was on it because my teacher wanted me to be on it so classroom censorship was a tough deal breaker when you have something to say but your account is restricted for media studies only. The turn around when I started this blog a few years ago a way to document my thoughts and activities. As I began to grew a skin around blogging and microblogging, I decided to use an application to be a hub for all my Twitter needs. At the time, I just read up on applications and reviews; most of it in jargon. So rather than just reading a review for the pick, I just observed what everyone was using. Most of the time, it was TweetDeck and HootSuite.

tweekdeck

For the past couple years, I’ve used TweetDeck on the basis of popularity. It was most commonly used when I was lurking at hashtag threads. When I first got it on Chrome, the interface was simple to master. One simple login screen later, the application went to work by sending me feeds from my own Twitter. Soon after, found the Search button to find other hastags to follow and after that was able to organize to what I wanted to see and not see certain posts. But that’s just one camp out of many to simplify the experience.

The other large one I seen and heard about was HootSuite. Only largely came to me from large app review sites and users from organizations. I was really hesitant at first to ever try it. Today, let hesitation be damned! Setting into a new application isn’t always easy if you’re like me, why move on to something else when one works perfectly? After creating an account through HootSuite, I was greeted with a stark dashboard similar to the TweetDeck app. Along with an approximate sidebar for your options. So how do they fare against each other?

hotsuite

After spending a few hours on HootSuite, the similarities begin to fade away. Both platforms offer multi-account support, so you can monitor each Twitter profile simultaneously. Each can create tabs based on criteria such as retweets, favourites, and hashtags you wanted pinned as a tab for easy reference. TweetDeck and HootSuite provide a simplified interface to ensure ease of use, so you know where to go and how to do certain Twitter-y tasks. Unfortunately this is where TweetDeck ends it’s list of goodies.

HootSuite offers more than just connectivity to Twitter. It provides a way to be connected to other blogging and social media websites like LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook and mixi (Hell if I know what is mixi). Along with account aggregation, it has an array of enterprising features such Assignments to help business consolidate their media efforts. As a Pro and Enterprise user, you have access to team organizations to help with assignments. With organization, you would want to see the team’s or your brand’s performance in media; so they have analytics to help form a report on your media involvement through all your accounts or just particulars. Along with it’s organizational faire; it boosts a range of in-app applications such as a YouTube app to view and share through your HootSuite, which most apps are trying to advertise the same view and share feature if not trying to enhance the in-app experience.

As a Personal user, I found the program fairly restrictive. Most of the features your listed as Pro feature which required a $8.99 (assuming US currency) per month payment for use. The only things I can really necessarily do is add apps within an app and just view counters of my tweets and followings with analytics. As a personal user, the only redeeming quality is a list of followers and a list of people I followed; which is easily accessible but really unnecessary at times. Like this feature already available on TweetDeck and on Twitter itself, it’s analytics is par if not worst to the online solution already provided by Twitter. I’m a free user on both, but getting additional data from Twitter for free. Though if I was a business, I would agree HootSuite might contain some insight through it’s own analytics but would not necessarily change my behaviour within social media. The auto-scheduler is a nifty touch if you want to send out tweets at a particular time. However this feature is best removed to prevent people with spam accounts from filling threads with their wares. Unlike Tweetdeck, it feels more geared towards businesses than it is for individual users. With it’s suite of analytics and in-depth monitoring, it’s a improbable choice for a single user like me.

What I found interesting is the load times and the refresh rates. Upon loading up each application, I found TweetDeck to be much faster. Though if you have a speedy connection, you won’t feel it. As a person who uploads video to YouTube, it’s noticeable. I can only speculate what is going behind the scenes, but this slowdown makes it very regrettable since it feels not optimized for lower connection speeds. On HootSuite, you can set refresh rates to as close to 2 minutes for each tab within the application. On TweetDeck, you can set it to almost real time in a margin of a few seconds if you have a slow connection. While TweetDeck can update in the background, Hootsuite seems to stop updating when you’re not in the Chrome browser tab. Along with update angst, the way it personally handles hashtags does make it easier to read since it gives you a brief amount of time before the dashboard tab refreshes. Good thing if you are watching a keyword or tag with a lot of frequent users.

Each application has features gear towards a niche user. Enterprising and business prefer to see things by the numbers while your average Jane and Joe want to just post and share. As a personal user with very little social outreach, it would be preferable to stick with TweetDeck by Twitter for it’s simplicity. Simple doesn’t always mean better, simple means in this case I get what I need and I don’t really need it to be any better. If I was a social media specialist or a community manager for a large organization with multiple accounts, I would say HootSuite is the way to go to provide the means of easy consolidation; but would not jump on board too quickly on analytics.

Overall experience for both, restrictive on HootSuite where features are blocked and load times are slower when connection is slow. However it does provide a sense of additional control through analytics and aggregation. Where are TweetDeck is simplistic with little to no load times. However remains to be seen if it can handle business.

Don’t believe me? Give them a try on Chrome:

TweetDeck

HootSuite

Until next time, follow me on Twitter?

Grid Style Ciphers And Such Security…

Recently I read a WordPress blog about hacked email woes. I think I should share my experiences with it and some techniques to prevent it. After the first time when you feel your privacy is violated, you usually would want to find the solutions that would solve it. Usually, we take the easy routes to get it done. Easy routes are cheap and less time consuming, however they’re probably quick solutions to probably a few small small problems in your security.

Lets start with account security, this is pretty much anything requiring a user name and password. Though not sure if everyone does this, but it seems those that assume the same username to all their accounts fairly much allows a bit of consistency with password insecurities. Especially if it’s those people who have your user name across multiple service, they can just easily search up the username and if they crack the one password for that; they’ll get them all. If you are those kind of people who keep usernames the same and keep shuffling the password, that’s a good plan. However do note it is recommended to keep a different password for each account; from my point of view in out interconnected world, this might be hard. Consider we all own probably 2 or more email address as well as miscellaneous services like online banking, online games, and various accounts requiring an account and password; this approach would require a minimum 20 password you have to remember by heart. Eidetic memory would be the only ability you would need for this, however most of us don’t really remember those passwords that well and usually try to brute force their way onto their account by cycling through passwords or just resetting the password which would defeat the purpose of having the password in the first place. To reduce the amount of passwords to use or even cycle through, I suggest prioritizing your accounts into categories.

Getting Started

First you are going to need to think about all the possible passwords you can create. Don’t pen them or type them out; use your mind and figure out which ones are going to work out. To find out which one’s are going to work out, you have to know what kind of restrictions you have on your password from the service you are going to use. Sometimes the service would want you to have numbers and letters while some would go the distance and ask for numbers and letters with one letter capitalized. Most of the time, numbers and letters will do fine and dandy. Now in your head, find things you know that people won’t know. These could be important dates, lucky numbers, names of pets, and certain random facts you know of yourself that others don’t know or would not be able to guess. From this stack of keywords and numbers, we have the most secure passwords; lets call these Alpha Phrases for now.

Now think of things people might know in person only; sports teams, political and religious affiliations, inside jokes, names of those people and so on. The bulk here will be our Beta Phrases.

Optionally, think of common words and numbers you could use in a pinch. These could reference to games, movies, books, dirty jokes, et cetera. This will be our Pool. These should be easily recalled at anytime but would make the least secure passwords like “asdf”, “root”, “admin”, “1234”, and “password”. These phrases suck when combining with themselves but would make a minimal password when combined with a Alpha or Beta Phrase.

Priority Tier System

This is how I normally put my things together online to keep it from getting compromised. This system varies depending on people’s influence and usage.

A priority based system would require is pre-planning in terms of how you will classify your accounts. Basis of this blog, I’ll demonstrate with a 3 tier linear system. Linear because each priority does not interact with the one succeeding or preceding itself. However if you are part of a business or a person who has grey zones, read the non-linear area of this section.

The highest priority should be assigned to accounts that will contain real life consequences in the event that your account is breached. Under this priority I would recommend using a combination of two or more Alpha Phrases to ensure security. This should make it impossible for someone to break into the account and would protect your assets like a bank account or a business email. Each account here should have it’s own unique password.

One down is moderate, passwords should be quick accessible but hard to guess. So the bulk of these passwords would be Beta Phrases, you can sneak in a bit of the Pool in there if you want it. In my opinion, this contains personal and social media. This is the area where you wouldn’t mind an accidental breach or doesn’t have a physical loss, don’t cry over spilt milk and all that. You can be a bit more lenient in using a password twice, try and not overdo it since people might find out.

Low priority are the accounts that will get lost so the passwords won’t make a difference since it’s kind of just something you made to check out the service. This is things like IRC and forum accounts unless you are a forum moderator or an administrative figure. Which case, these are things may be consider moderate or high depending on popularity of the service you are working with. As a normal user, likely you will only need to mix a couple Pool phrases together. The accounts listed here are the low of the low so you can literally have one password for all the accounts.

Now in life, nothing fits into boxes the right way so for those that aren’t too sure what is what I’ll help you how with exceptions and rules to help you through in sorting accounts and assigning passwords. If your account links to other accounts, that linking account must be secured higher than the other accounts. So lets say you have an personal email to forward email, that forwarding email address’ password MUST NOT be used again since it’s directing information to other emails. Same goes for gaming accounts where you’ve collected ultra-rare gear in and social media if you are a social butterfly. So they’re like semi-high priority but not really when you don’t want to use it anymore.

The only thing you would have to worry about in this system is any passwords that are shared since if one gets compromised, then it’s likely the other would get hit pretty hard. Also if you don’t have a diverse pass phrase pool since someone could can just guess it. Any case, change you password after you think one of them is compromised and try and avoid using the same password.

Gridlock

Another approach is to construct a cipher, a method to conceal your written work. Depending on what you use as a cipher it can be super easy or super hard. You can use a grid of 260 squares arranged in a 26 x 10 grid and fill each grid with a random character from A to Z and 0 to 9. Based on a phrase or a number, this grid should hash out a sequence that should consist of numbers and letters. You can use it like a map. First you establish a set of rules. easiest one off the top of my head is a mnemonic like “I love those adorable puppies.” So “I” has one letter, so look in the square in I1. “Love”, four starting with “L”; L4. And so one until you have a sequence from the phrase. Usually online services require a minimum of 8 characters so your phrase should be at minimum 8 words long.

Simpler cipher is to get yourself a letter, like a rejection letter from a college or university. Pick a number, then just go through the letter puling out a word or number that happens to fall upon every n times, where n is your count number. You can substitute it with letters so you can take single characters in words. It might take longer than pulling words but as long as you remember the count and keep the correspondence, you can always refer back to it. It’s antiquated but as long as it’s difficult, password’s safe.

Take it to the cleaners

Not too sure what it’s called but it just wipes temporary data off your computer. I personally use CCleaner by Piriform, it deletes all the temporary history from all my browsers and for a bit of flavour I have it clean out my Start menu and certain programs that need to be deleted. Even without programs, you can delete it too but it would be quite hard to know what’s junk. The point to it is to get rid of anything weird that’s inside a file that’s either sending or receiving information that you don’t want sent, such as what you’re typing in as a password. This is only a temporary measure but it’s a start of a two prong attack to rid your computer. Having some anti-virus protection helps a lot if it program has an active scan feature to let it check incoming data for malicious material like a worm or something. When I get nervous, I usually use CCleaner then run a full scan followed by another run with CCleaner to make sure it’s all cleaned up. Probably the first one isn’t necessary but it never hurts to try.

Nuke it like North Korea (too soon?)

If you have exhausted all methods into removing malware off your computer, there is a last resort but sometimes comes at a heavy price. Reformatting a hard drive would be a hard thing to do considering the size and collection of stuff you’ve accumulated. Best you can do is save as much as you can before you wipe the hard drive clean and start over. Usually all operating systems now have some feature to allow you to wipe the hard drive. I have two methods of wiping my computer if I had to, CCleaner has a feature to allow a full hard drive wipe and I have my two operating system boot discs. Be careful when you do this and change your BIOS to allow boot up from a CD or USB, whichever medium you keep your boot disc on. This should be a the last course of action, but it’s necessary if you want a virus free computer.

At Day’s End…

After all this stuff, online systems are vulnerable to attack. Certain companies are good at keeping up with security holes, some not so good. I know for a fact my Hotmail account was compromised server side since before they fixed it, my Junk folder would always contain 100 messages every day about random products and services I don’t want to know about. Sometimes no matter how hard you make those accounts hard to break into, sometimes it’s just something out of your control and you have to accept the fact that the service you trust can be so incompetent. In which case, it’s time to find a new service to replace it.

Stay safe and stay secured, everyone. See you next time!

Instant Messengers Make Me Feel Lonely…

So this is going to be that post where I jump straight to the point and not finesse my way through the English language. Every time I log into any instant messenger like MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, it seems either someone is doing something or my entire contact list is offline. As a gamer, I sort of like the idea of someone on the other end chatting rather than just that intermittent message to check in now and then. For one thing, the Internet is face paced; meaning a minute real life is about four hours in Internet time. For me, even a minute seems a long time; an hour is almost an eternity without entertainment.

At the moment from the last past decade, I’ve had a lot of IM services installed on my computers now and again. First one I’ve ever used was MSN Messenger since it came with Windows (now called Windows Live Messenger). It was good considering I needed an email and a lot of people suggested Hotmail (now Outlook) and everyone I knew was using Hotmail. The downside is when I started getting a lot of spam messages after a few months of service popping into my inbox. Then when I started signing up for other services, it started to become a burden. At the time my hotmail account was live, I would get about 50 spam messages and maybe 10 from services I’ve subscribed. When I got into high school, I switched off from Hotmail as my email service and signed up on Yahoo turning my Hotmail account for games and tertiary services mail receiver; more on that later.

Yahoo.ca, still in use today more than my Hotmail account. Not very handy since it’s services connected to it are not really things I need. Yahoo Messenger was the biggest thing I used for about a few years just to talk to people who also moved on from Hotmail. Aside from animated native avatars, the service was more or less what I saw from Hotmail but with a news feed and some stuff I could get from other sources. I’ve spend about a few years with the account, then just slowly phased out to use the IM service.

From there, I started to be real storage heavy since I was playing a lot of games so I’ve moved on getting Trillian which was a Messenger client capable to most of the IM clients at the time like Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL. I wasn’t too sure at the time what I was getting into with a third party messenger client but I need the space and every bit of pinching helped. After all that, Hotmail was piling up with spam exponentially that I had to start putting everything in junk to be deleted. This was also around the time it seemed that my Yahoo account was also getting some spam as well, not from random messages but random people adding me and receiving bot messages about adult cam sites. Definitely moving on, indeed.

This was now around when Google started to public allow access to their Gmail service. It still is what it is today, a simple online service with integrated chat and video chat which is a nice feature. Great for those who don’t have hardware space for more software. I use it to this day, even created a second account for WordPress so I don’t have a lot of problems sorting through some messages (then I found out about folders, hehe). Not really much to say about the service since the company kept expanding into a news aggregator and a social network. Which pretty much Microsoft and Yahoo (or whoever is the parent company) was doing at the time as well to keep up with Facebook’s popularity.

In between all those email chat clients and accounts, I’ve found a couple game chat clients. xFire was the first one for me when I was getting pretty good at America’s Army so I decided to get it and try to join some social groups on it to play with them and hone in on my fragging skills. As you can tell, I never really did hone it otherwise I would be a pretty good cyber-athlete. But I did meet a lot of people on there; and then I got a microphone.

That’s when everything expanded into VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) programs. First was TeamSpeak, which was fairly advanced in the settings area. But the UI was simple enough to navigate. I use to be really into ti since I had a lot of servers kept on my gaming PC until the around 5 years ago when I started to really buckle down to my school work. I finally really gave up when TeamSpeak 3 was announced and a lot of people either upgraded for a server license or moved onto other things.

At the same time, I was in school and a lot of people were on Skype and talking about it. As a curious teen, I checked it out. Skype at the time was pretty simple, very MSN Messenger but without the email account. For the large part, it’s a VOIP client and a small telephone service. Which is neat and all, but I was curious about and tried it. To this day, I’m usually on and off since no one really talked to me and I only got it to kind of checked it out. Back then it wasn’t much of a hub for gamers since the the bandwidth was literally clogged for Skype. Now it’s a bit slimmer and more graphical in the interface. Now I hear good things, but in my opinion it’s just the ISP’s being “innovative” with better service. When I find a good group, maybe I’ll give her a shot.

Some time before I stopped pursuing being a damn good gamer, I was introduced to Ventrilo which is slightly complimentary to TeamSpeak. The user interface was a bit more complicated but still user friendly and the settings were very simple and straightforward. Around this time from what I remember, I used it mostly for Face Of Mankind and some casual games. Looking back and looking at both TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, I would be more into Ventrilo since the size and features are more in line to something simple and usable. If you want a server, it’s free but to a certain amount of slots I think. If memory servers well, it’s maximum of 40 players per private server.

Just a year before founding this blog, I got into a bit of casual games. Nothing really one or the other, but just something out there to keep busy without much level grinding and gore. Major memory landmark here is the good half year of Wurm where I found a good bunch of people to play with into building a small settlement. Then we have a few falling outs, then it just got complicated and I dropped away from the game due to lag and drama. However they did introduce me to Raidcall, which I still have on my gaming PC. Raidcall I believe is a Chinese port for another system they use in the East. The system is really much of a need-to-know interface and settings. Nothing really too complex and ridiculous in terms of extensive settings for audio or interface. The UI is fairly much close to TeamSpeak with a simple menu and list of channels. For those with a low budget group, servers are free and you technically own it. Downside to the ownership, it’s more of a virtual server on their side so free is determined on your server traffic to determine how slots are allocated to you. However I do believe they have slot packages if you wish to upgrade rather than get more server traffic in with a maximum of I think 4 servers per account.

Through all these open hub connections to the Internet, most of the times I’ve logged in is either empty or very lonesome since there is no one really there for you. Always out of place and only out for game loot, groups don’t really provide for the social interaction I sometimes need; just to talk and relax rather than focusing on getting in-game gear. In short, I have no friends. Yup, no friends… I guess that’s why I like to play games that are very co-op in terms of working together rather than exploiting one another to get what you want. Either that or single player games that are pretty immersive or intensive to the point I don’t care if I’m alone in a virtual world.

That’s all for this week, see you guys for the next one!

We are back online! Back to blogging and laziness!

The last three weeks have been pretty tough considering the lack of the Internet. After just a few days of connection, I’ve been trying to fix a lot of problems. For one thing, sleep; another thing, find a job. The sleep thing for one is kind of difficult since my sleep cycle is equal to a teenager cramming exams last minute. I’ve been trying to keep awake for a full day so my cycle sets back to to night. For this week, it will be my mission to put my cycle back to around the 10 in the evening mark. Once the net was back into my own home, I pretty much got reacquainted with Star Trek Online. It was literally the first thing once I saw I had a connection. Sort that out for a few hours or so then moved onto updating and upgrading Avast! and completing the final bits of thing I forgot to do on my laptop. Felt a little sluggish at the start of the session since I mostly forgotten what I wanted to do and what to do. After a few rounds, I began to finish and catch up on my YouTube viewing list. Especially watching a 30 hour long playlist of someone playing Kerbal Space Program. As of this post, I’m about 10 away from completion. Hopefully it would give me some insight to how I am playing this game and what I can do to change up my own techniques. Of course a physics game has calculations I can pull from experienced players, but the best kind of fun is when you try then you look it up to compare where it went wrong. I guess that’s why I like Minecraft, you get to do so much but without a guide you can’t really accomplish everything. But you can try then when you give up, just look it up on a wiki page.

As of now, the library and Starbucks shenanigans are a close; but I might see the library some day and just look out on the street and think of the times I’ve been there alone and reading from my tablet and then my “new” laptop. With new hardware, comes new challenges. From last Sunday to now, I’ve been slowly clearing space off my desk to accommodate my (somewhat) portable device. I went though a lot of old paper receipts that have found their way on my table and wiped off the dust a bit. With all the cleaning of this quarter of the tabletop, it’s a tight fit with all the cables I still need to feed to it. I borrowed an old TrendNet router from an acquaintance from high school. So far it works very well since the cables going from my computers do connect properly to the router and from the router, it makes a good connection to the modem. Of course the router is wireless so I do have the capabilities of the B and G protocols. Downside, I think a fuse broke prior to the installation so I get a drop out with the router from time to time. It’s not a hassle with streaming video but when it comes to games, I will have a lot of lag when it attempts to reconnect or forces me to relog after a long time out. So far the drops outs take about 5-10 seconds to reconnect, I have nothing to complain since it’s the only way to get a free router. Maybe if lucky I will pick up an old DLink router; I’m afraid my luck has been expended with this miraculous find. Cheap router yeah, but free is another matter.

On the literary writing ownage front, I got two poems in on the weekend. They’re in my opinion are good and stylish with a lot of inspirational undertones. I might say it’s a bit eloquent but I’ll let the judges decide on the 31st. I tried emailing to them but I’m not quite sure if they received my message or just ignored it as spam or something. In which case, I am a bit suspicious but I will continue on in writing as much as I can and think good thoughts. If anything, if I do win the prize money would help my problems especially finding a job. For a month’s work, it would definitely be worth it for trying even for third place. I’m not greedy, just pretty much under-qualified in a world where academics defines “experience”; not necessarily bitter about it, just have to make do what I can to get by. Still, it could be an opportunity to jump from a literary loser to a professional poet. Thinking big, thinking positive.

Onto visual creativity, still looking for stickers to put on the back of my laptop on a budget of free with a theme of personality and dorky. Seriously I have to hide this messed up factory paint on the back. If Photobucket was responding, I would definitely post up some picture onto the post about the look of my salvaged laptop. It’s kind of neat. Kind of antiquated of about half a decade or less with a cracked cosmetic side along the exhaust port and scratched and beaten back. Did I mention the the F8 key? Oh right yeah, I think in the last week’s post. The F8 key works, just missing the button face. Otherwise the rubbery cushion and the input still works. I’ve replaced the power adapter but my acquaintance says I may have been scammed; though in my opinion when it comes to electronics, power input is important and should always be powered by the exact specifications by the manufacturer. Which would explain the loaned router just constantly resetting or dropping my connection to the modem since the power adapter is from another device which he “traded” for his snapped original power adapter. Suffice to say this set up with two computers side-by-side only cost me a power adapter and much luck.

Now I can run a full screen application while accessing mail and wiki pages without minimizing a screen. Hooray, it’s like Star Trek but with a lot of cables everywhere!

VOIP services galore!

[VOIP programs are linked at the bottom]

Ever since I started playing multiplayer games, I always liked the idea of VOIP. It beats having a 2-10 seconds delay on every message. Over the years I’ve seen some impressive standalone software and some proprietary. In my opinion, most proprietary software would be the least effective considering most of them have a small but noticeable lag time in some situations. The only one’s I’ve really encountered is the Battlefield’s VOIP program, Armed Assault’s “Chain of Command” channel system and America’s Army TeamSpeak application. The first two worked superbly, however it does pick up the sound from the headset and creates a feedback. TeamSpeak is a pretty good one with hardly any lag spikes. ArmA does have a channel feature, allowing various forms of speech to be projected from Direct (localized and distance based), Team (simply that) and Command being the supposed channel for the leadership. However since I started using VOIP, times have started to really change.

First of being localized chatter applications. Some games like Armed Assault have this feature to lessen the amount of chatter over large virtual distance. This have been applied to Mumble and TeamSpeak under certain supported games for this. Second is the method of compression to allow voice to be transmitted. Well if you are looking for some VOIP software, maybe I can help you out.

If you like playing games with voice, there is a vast select to choose from. Here is Mumble, TeamSpeak, and Ventrilo. The last 2 in the latter is mostly what I’ve encountered mostly when I’m online. Mumble is an open source software which primarily focuses on local chat. It’s pretty nice in terms of how you can send information to a few or to everyone. Downside being the support of the local chat feature. Like Mumble, TeamSpeak 3.0 versions have that local chat as well as settings to place people at a given distance as well as individually lowering or increasing another user’s volume. On top of all this new features like channel icons and a variety of customization features making it very versatile in the “look and feel” department. Downside? Server costs and licensing, so administrators beware. Next on the list is Ventrilo. Its versatility with Logitech G15 LCD display support, simplified settings and minimal display makes it fairly simple to use. To this, it has a profile feature; allow you to make a call sign and under that call sign have all the servers which you will log into under that call sign. This is crippling especially with multiple call signs since you would have to add each server on each call sign individually. The in-game HUD is marginally good. Upside to this is a free 10 slot server application allowing you to make a server for a small amount of people. Though it’s simplicity doesn’t carry over too well in it’s server program. This is mostly configuration files with the parameters loaded into a DOS display which at times may confuse you. Lastly, I’ve been looking around and found a new one I’ve been really enjoying. It’s called RaidCall. So far I find it pretty nice since you can create three 50 slot servers for free. It works is pretty easy from registration to start up. It’s not very simplified but if I could describe it, it would be between TeamSpeak and Ventrilo good. Though without all the bells and whistles, it maintains an honest latency of 45-50 ms (DSL at 300 mbps). Sound quality is fairly the same as TeamSpeak with a setup which is much more simplified than Ventrilo. Redeeming quality about this is that you can as the administrator to your own server, ban people based off of account ID or IP address. Downsides is that to join a server without finding on with the search is the ID number of that server. One thing I hate though I hardly had a problem with is how oversimplified the settings are. I almost didn’t have my microphone working. My recommendation would be fairly bias. If you want easy and simple, try Ventrilo. If you want more settings and customization features, pick up TeamSpeak. And if you’re half and half and you’re really cheap, RaidCall would be a nice pick from the litter.

Now I’ve dealt with the gamers; on you trend savvy internet social people. You guys get it great since most clients have their own proprietary voice which surpasses video games as well as webcam features to match. Windows Live Messenger (MSN for the people living in the 2000’s) is pretty good if you want to link towards your email account. Downside being from Microsoft and that it doesn’t auto-update itself from the last time I checked. This goes the same with AIM and Yahoo Messenger (might need to auto-update my brain for that one). A 1-up solution would be Skype. I do notice latency changes at certain times and depending on wire or wireless connection. This and the ability to call phones give it a nice method to call anyone around the world for a small fee. The new kid on the block, Google Voice, I’ve haven’t tried this but some of my contacts have told me that it’s very similar to Skype and the install is much lighter to only add in the interface (I’m using Google Chrome as a browser by the way). Back by popular demand, Google has free calling to North American numbers which (if you have a long distance relationship) would be the nice delicious icing on this chocolate cake. Overall all these I’ve mentioned have a simple setup and registration (Windows Live might be somewhat annoying), simple and minimal design and good quality sound. Big downside is that if you want to use it for video games, you will receive a large lag spike and maybe disconnections.

Like always, sharing is caring so post your views on VOIP and what you use or recommend on the bottom. Links to all the software is listed under.  Almost forgot…TGIF!

Mumble

TeamSpeak

Ventrilo

RaidCall

Skype

Windows Live Messenger

Yahoo Messenger

List of VOIP programs on Wikipedia