Digital Logic

Movie Monday: Not a Recurring Post

by on Jun.08, 2009, under Comedy, Games

Who doesn’t love TF2 taunt kills combined with Chris Cornell (especially on a slow Monday morning)?

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Grinding My Gears: Bad Site Layouts

by on Jun.04, 2009, under Web Design

In my daily life I come across hundreds of websites. Most of them are pretty good. Some of them are not. So, as a new “whenever I feel like it” kind of a section, I’m going to throw in some sites that could use fixes. First up, Ctrl+Alt+Delete Comics. Now I know a while back that this particular web comic was tossed aside (something about having too much emotion and too little humor), but I’ve kind of stuck with it. I’ve also noticed that the site could use a new design, or at least some effort to fix the old one. Let’s take a look.

Internet Explorer 8

Mozilla Firefox 3

Mozilla Firefox 3 with AdBlock Plus

Wait a second, what is that? Your header bar seems to have become misaligned, making it painfully obvious that it is in fact, three different sections. What I don’t understand is the fact that the rest of the header was moved up when the image was removed. Oh wait, now I see it. The designer of the CAD comics website seems to have used tables and spacer gifs for the header (and, in fact, most of the page). Now, while this might have been an acceptable way to create web layouts in the 1990′s, it has now been more than a decade since CSS was introduced. The page hasn’t changed much since November of 2005. It’s time for an update, and the new layout should display correctly regardless of what is on the page.

And that’s what really grinds my gears.

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Throwing Out the Rulebook For MMOs

by on May.22, 2009, under Games, MMOs

Found this article on Slashdot. As a fairly well seasoned WoW player (although I have since lost interest), this Dana Massey has hit the nail right on the head. The entire MMO genre is based around a singular idea. You log in, you kill stuff, you get more powerful. All games have basically the same UI elements, but fail to deviate from the norm.

Who said that MMOs require hot bars? Who proclaimed that it’s not a proper MMO unless you have quests? Blizzard took a formula that almost all MMOs had been using for years and distilled it down to addictive perfection. Love or hate WoW, it’s a polished, polished title. It’s no coincidence that on hardcore MMO sites, like this one, WoW is not the most hyped or trafficked game around. It’s not that it’s bad, but veteran MMO players don’t have the same love for it, simply because we’ve all seen some variation of it before. The WoW community has always been a bit apart from the larger MMO community. Based purely on the number of subscribers, WoW articles should statistically annihilate every other game on this site, but they don’t. A huge percentage of people who truly love WoW, I’ve always believed, do not know or particularly care about this whole world of MMOs out there. They’re WoW players and that’s it.

It’s true that this is a tried and tested formula, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s attracted millions of people to a hobby that was once basically an underground. Blizzard’s commitment to quality is nothing less than astonishing and let’s face it: they’re in the business to make money. If your users are happy, that means more sales and subscriptions for you, and making players happy is something that Blizzard is very good at.

Part of the problem, as Dana states, is that re-visioning the genre is risky. Developers see a style that works and make their game conform to the standards. From a business perspective, it makes sense. The only problem is people who play MMOs aren’t going to leave their hard-earned characters and move over to a new title that has basically the same gameplay elements and only has slightly better visual elements. Because of the nature of MMO games, there’s no reason to transfer. It’s basically like playing any regular single player game 90% of the way through and then dropping it to pick up the next title, except in the case of MMOs, the game never ends.

For people who don’t mind doing the same thing over and over again, current MMOs are just fine. I’ve always been a person who enjoys not only variety, but a genuine challenge, and current generation MMO games don’t deliver that (I’m looking at you, Blizzard). If a game came out that even began to carve a new path into what massively multiplayer online games are, I would probably give it a fair chance. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the ever-changing Team Fortress 2.

Update: There’s a great GU Comics about the above article.

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Looking for Something Old?

by on May.17, 2009, under warren-gray.com

Update: Aww, nuts. You can find information on how to extract your own files from GCF archives here. Still Alive can be listened to and downloaded from my file repository here.

It has come to my attention that there are still a few links to the old version of this site. As I want to avoid the dreaded 404 error, I will be redirecting those links to this post. If you’re looking for the Portal Song (Still Alive), you can listen to it on YouTube. If you’re looking to extract information from GCF archives, I may cover this when Valve gets around to releasing HL2: EP3.

Sorry for the inconvienience. I lost some data during site migrations.

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Summer Development

by on May.17, 2009, under Personal, Technology

Just wanted to make a quick post outlining what I’m going to be working on this summer. I think I’m going to be brushing up on my PHP skills. I’d also like to learn a bit more about SVN and source control in general.

In addition, I’ve decided that I’d like to take my other web skills to the next level. I’ll be integrating URL rewriting and new CSS rules into my project. I’ll post more about the project once I’ve determined exactly what it’s going to be.

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Politics can be fun!

by on May.11, 2009, under Comedy

A recent Cracked article, entitled 5 Terrifying Bastarizations of the Wikipedia Model helped me stumble across Conservapedia today. I briefly glanced through it (most of it isn’t really worth reading), and needless to say, was not at all phased by the extreme bias present in the writing.

Now, I think the concept of collaborative efforts of a group of people towards a common cause is a good idea. It helps them get together and make their side of the story easier to understand for people on the outside. However, like in nature, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Similar to how I would compare the almost sacredness of Wikipedia to the database of hilarity that is Encyclopedia Dramatica (also, interestingly enough, mentioned in the above Cracked article), I will say that Liberapedia is the counterbalance to Conservapedia.

It provides a very lighthearted look at almost the same information, but from a rediculously left-wing outlook. I highly recommend checking out the article on Communism. Even if you’re somebody who can’t (or doesn’t want to) understand politics, at least you can laugh at half-decent satire.

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Interesting Read: HD Preprocessing Lag

by on May.08, 2009, under Games, Technology

Came across an interesting article today regarding an issue that I’ve experienced regarding the HDTV and video games. It’s fairly easy to understand for people who may not be totally tech savvy, and even provides some tips on how to improve those response times. From personal experience, I’ll say that the Sharp Aquos line of HDTVs has a fairly good set of tools for dealing with the delay. Even in the case of the Nintendo Wii, the games are much more playable than on other brands.

Anyways, on to the article.

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Time for an Update

by on May.05, 2009, under Personal, Technology

Well, I haven’t been here for a while, so let’s give a quick recap of what’s going on in the world of Warren.

First, I’ve moved! I’m now in a much nicer housing unit living across the hall from my friend Dave and down the street from another one of my coworkers, Jake. I have to say that I was very impressed with the state that this particular appartment was left in, and our landlord has been nothing less than incredible.

Business is still going strong, and for anybody interested in having their computers fixed or purchasing home electronics, you can feel free to send me a message. I’ve got a few new clients here and there which may lead to me actually having a positive income this year from my business partnership, Edgelink Consulting.

Work-wise, I’m back at RIM for the summer, returning to my roll as a BIS Tools Developer. The work isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but I plan to put a few Warren-themed changes into the system. (No, Jake, I won’t break anything.) I’m planning on starting my Work Report early this term so that I have plenty of time to review it.

School-wise, the winter 2009 term went really well. I ended up with (what I think) are pretty decent marks in my CS and Human Resources class, and an okay mark in statistics. With any luck, this means that I might actually be in good standing with UW (which I’m told is not an easy feat). Over the summer, I’ll be taking another Professional Development course (Problem Solving), which should be, um, enlightening….

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do with my free time this summer, but I’m going to try to focus on learning some C++ or Perl, and I should probably brush up on my PHP skills (check back later for an article on getting PHP running on IIS).  I’d sort of like to update this site with some sort of software, but I don’t have any ideas as to what to actually make.

I think that pretty much does it for now, but I’ll try to update this thing once in a while.

- Warren

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Doing Things the Hard Way: Debian GNU/Linux

by on Dec.04, 2008, under Technology

So in the midst of panicking for exams and living in my crapshack, I totally forgot that I actually have a blog sitting here. Somebody even commented on it, but got blocked by my spam catcher.

Anyways, over the last few days I’ve been struggling through getting a working installation of Debian on my server box. For those of you who don’t know me, let me give you an overview of my knowledge of the wonderful world of Linux: little to none.

So, while I won’t bore you with the details of actually installing it (basically you put the CD in and press go), I will regale you with some of the adventures I have had setting up and configuring this system. I’ve been working exclusively from the command prompt.

First of all, what exactly am I working with? Well, the important parts are below:

  • Intel E2160 Dual Core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2x500GB storage drives (I haven’t finished formatting the rest) and a 250GB boot drive.
  • Antec 900 Case

Static IP in Debian

Alright, first things first: I hate networking. I don’t really know why some systems don’t want to communicate with others, but that’s the way it is. I like my servers to have static IPs because I find that the hostname is often unreliable. In Windows XP, which is what the system used to have on it, it’s a simple 4 or 5 clicks followed by an OK to get you set up. In Debian, this appears to be a much different story. It shouldn’t be a shock to anybody that you need to be root to perform these operations.

The file that you’re looking for here is: /etc/network/interfaces

In the file, you’ll probably see some auto-generated information about your current interfaces. Now, for me, my ethernet card is eth1. eth0 was mysteriously stolen by the firewire interface I didn’t even know I had. In order to set a  static IP for eth1, I had to enter the following (I really wish I had a code box):

iface eth1 inet static
address 192.168.1.20
netmask 255.255.255.0
network 192.168.1.0
broadcast 192.168.1.255
gateway 192.168.1.1

This tells eth1 to use the address 192.168.1.20… somehow. I hear that broadcast and gateway are both optional!

Configuring Programs to Run at Boot in Debian

This is something that sounds a hell of a lot easier than it actually is (at least the first time you do it). First of all, you need to write  a shell script that goes in the /etc/init.d/ directory. I’ll post the one that I use to start SABnzbd+ at boot. Feel free to correct me if there’s something wrong with it, but it works and that’s really all I care about.

— sabnzbd.sh —

#!/bin/sh

case “$1″ in
start)
echo “Starting SABnzbd.”
/usr/bin/sudo -u warren -H /etc/sabnzbd/SABnzbd.py -d -f /home/warren/.sabnzbd/sabnzbd.ini
;;
stop)
echo “Shutting down SABnzbd.”
/usr/bin/wget -q –delete-after “http://192.168.1.20:1200/sabnzbd/shutdown”
;;
*)
echo “Usage: $0 {start|stop}”
exit 1
esac

exit 0

— end of file —

So essentially it launches python to start running SABnzbd+. You can start and stop it manually by typing:

% /etc/init.d/sabnzbd.sh start/stop

In addition to placing this script in the directory, you also have to make the necessary symlinks to have it run at boot. To do this, I simply type the command:

% update-rc.d sabnzbd.sh defaults

Hooray. Done.

I’m sure I’ll run into other adventures with my setup and I’ll be sure to post anything educational here. Either way, I’m pretty happy with the fact that it’s actually up and running now, and I hope it stays that way….

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Congratulations to FFXI for a New Innovation in the MMO Market

by on Aug.26, 2008, under Games, MMOs

Reading through the news today revealed this gem: http://www.playonline.com/pcd/topics/ff11us/detail/3599/detail.html. This is a new system designed to help attract newer players to the world of FFXI. Basically,

The FFXI development team is proud to announce the “Level Sync” system, a revolutionary new feature in the upcoming version update that will allow all players—grizzled veterans and novices alike—to adventure and gain experience together regardless of level differences!

The Concept

The development team has been listening intently to feedback from players, and working hard to address concerns such as the following:
“I can’t party effectively with my friends or linkshell members because our levels are too far apart!”
“I invited one of my friends to play FFXI with me, but we can’t party together because we don’t have any jobs at similar levels!”
“I can’t find anyone close enough to my level to party with!”

The new Level Sync system is the result of extensive discussions on how to resolve these concerns, while preserving game balance and avoiding abuse and power-leveling by RMT groups. It addresses the issues that have resulted from a steady stream of new, low-level players joining an existing game world populated by scores of high-level veterans, and is part of the ongoing effort to clean up the FFXI community and remove players in violation of the users’ agreement.

As an avid MMO gamer, I know that when it comes to helping people level as a higher up character, it’s just not fun, and I’m not really interested in starting a new character. Being able to temporarily level down to match a friends level is a fantastic idea, and I’m surprised that nobody has looked into it before.

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