Mar 30 2013

Charter to the Rescue?, Part 3

Published by under Personal,Technology

Well it’s been an interesting day. Going through the Charter Escalation Team has proven promising. The local Charter supervisor contacted me and assured me the problem has likely been taken care of. My cable has been good for the last half and hour so we’ll see how it goes.

The promising piece of news is that the supervisor actually gave me his personal number for use if the problem returns. This is great because this was one of the suggestions I gave Charter when I contacted them initially.

I’ll be sure to blog about this as the days go forward. Hopefully they did find the problem and this has been resolved once and for all.

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Mar 29 2013

Charter to the Rescue?, Part 2

Published by under Personal,Technology

I really didn’t expect there to be a second edition to my Charter to the Rescue? post, but things haven’t been going well with my cable.

The problem with my cable signal has deteriorated even further. It’s down almost all day now. It used to be for a few hours. Now it’s down for at least 18 hrs a day.

I managed to contact Charter’s Corporate Escalation Team and they recently contacted the local Technical Supervisor. I’m hoping he or she will be able to get involved and see to it that the problem is fixed. It’s been an ongoing problem for two months now. I’ve had a half-dozen tech visits. You’d think they would have figured it out by now. I’m hopeful they will, however.

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Mar 29 2013

War Thunder Thoughts – 2013/03/29

Published by under Gaming

There’s been a big adjustment to all of the changes Gaijin Entertainment has implemented in the game lately. I’ve been critical of some of them. Thankfully, they have since undone some of the changes they have made with the patches. I’m grateful for some of the changes even though they haven’t fixed everything in my opinion.

The game’s economy, for instance, is still not rewarding people with enough XP and Silver Lions. There’s clearly a difference between the version we’re using and pre-v1.29.

Bombing is still bad, but definitely better than the first v1.29 patch had us using.

Perhaps the next thing I’d like to see Gaijin address is reward system regarding enemy kills. War Thunder’s players routinely fight over targets because if you’re the last one to hit a plane before it crashes, you get the Kill credit. However, if I put twenty shots on the plane and someone swoops in from above and delivers the last shot, he gets the Kill credit even though I did most of the damage.

It’s often referred to as “kill stealing” in the game and has clearly been a source of frustration. It’s not just because of the number of XP and Silver Lions you get, but it’s not uncommon to see half a dozen planes friendly planes flying around one enemy plane. You’ll end up taking shots to your own plane if you get in the mix. And then there’s always mid-air collisions.

I’m routinely seeing and getting involved with guys who are going for the kill and have zero situational awareness. They get tunnel vision and are oblivious to what’s going on around them.

If I’m on an enemy’s tail, I find myself disengaging when other friendlies come in to kill the enemy. Friendlies quickly become more dangerous than the enemy.

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Mar 20 2013

Charter to the Rescue?

Published by under Personal,Technology

I’ve had quite a time lately with my cable company, Charter Communications. I’ve been battling signal problems for a few months. In February, I finally broke down and called them. They sent out a technician on February 26th to replace the line that comes from the telephone pole to the house. When he left, the signal was 100%. I was happy as a clam.

A few days went by and I was right back to square one. All of my channels were pixelated and some of the HD channels didn’t come in at all. The number of channels affected with the total blackout seemed to be just a select few channels that were right next to one another. TBS HD and USA HD are close together and they were both out.

A tech came out on March 6th. He took readings inside the house, outside the house, and at the pole. He determined one channel was likely bad but all he could do was write a trouble report and scheduled either a line or system technician to come out the next day.

If the guy did come the next day, I wouldn’t know. No one came to the house, but Charter’s system said someone did respond and did something to the line in the neighborhood. It worked for a couple days.

On March 14th, I went through the same process. The guy said there appeared to be a problem with the low frequencies, filled out another report and had another guy come out the next day or the following day.

I’m not sure if that’s what happened because it wasn’t until March 18th that someone came out to the house. Oddly, the signal was working again prior to his showing up, but was flaky AFTER he showed up. What the heck did that tech do?

I’m not sure, so later on the 18th, I called Charter and complained about the signal. Someone couldn’t come out until the 19th. Damn!

Of course by the time the guy showed up on the 19th, the signal was working again. The guy that came out seemed to be one of the older, perhaps higher ranking guys. He really knew what he was doing. He not only checked the line for signal strength but for signal quality and my signal passed with flying colors.

I’m hoping this is all in the past now. I’m tired of not being able to watch TV. March Madness is upon us and I expect to watch a lot of basketball over the next few weeks.

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Mar 20 2013

War Thunder v1.29.27.0 Continued

Published by under Gaming

After going off on that recent patch the other day, I figured I’d give an update on the gameplay.

I was very critical of the changes they made. The flight models and controls were changed quite extensively, as was bombing. I’ve had a little more time to play War Thunder and I have to say that even after playing the game some more, I have to stick by with what I originally said.

The new models fly like city buses, wallowing through the air. I realize this may be realistic, but it’s not nearly as fun as it used to be. And yes, “easy” does mean “fun” sometimes. One of the things that I liked about War Thunder when I started out was how relatively easy it was to fly the planes.

Gaijin Entertainment, the game’s developer and publisher, probably could have left the old controls and users wouldn’t have become unhappy. There’s no doubt that they lost a few customers. And when you think about it, Gaijin is a business. Why not try to appeal to as many customers as possible? That’s often the approach businesses take, willing to sacrifice certain things in order to make money. So the difficulty changes do surprise me.

I didn’t touch on the game economy before so I’d like to mention it. Even though you get lots of little bonus notices when killing multiple targets in a row, for instance, I find myself getting far fewer credits (Lions) at the end of the battle than before.

Bombing is still a chore now, especially if you’re in a true bomber and not an attacker or fighter which just happens to carry optional bombs. True bombers, at least in my experience, have to fly almost perfectly horizontal to the ground. You can’t drop your bombs in a dive or while turning sharply (banking). If the older, unrealistic method were to be brought back and properly credit bombers with more XP and Lions, bombing could be fun again.

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Mar 20 2013

Where is Spring?

Published by under Personal

Where’s that spring weather the meteorologists claimed to be on the way? A week ago they claimed 40+ degree temps were coming. For the last three or four days, the wind has been howling at a constant 20mph, with temps rarely approaching the freezing mark. Overnight it was just eight degrees.

I can handle the snow and cold temps, but I have to admit that when you combine those two with wind, it can be truly miserable. I hate being outside in this weather.

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Mar 19 2013

War Thunder v1.29.27.0

Published by under Gaming

I’ve been pretty supportive of War Thunder in my recent posts. It’s been a LOT of fun, but I’m afraid they made some major mistakes with their large v1.29.27.0 patch.

Their attempts at making bombing more realistic, forcing you into “realistic” bombing approaches totally ruined bombing for me. If your approach isn’t nearly perfect, the game disables aiming and even the ability to release your bombs. So even if you’re certain you’ll hit your target, you won’t be able to release the bombs unless your angle of approach is correct.

I understand the interest to make things realistic, but to totally disable bombing like that is simply ridiculous. Bombing was somewhat fun for me even though you don’t get very many points for it. After today’s patch, I think I’m done with bombers.

That just leaves fighters. I don’t know what they did, but the damage system they implemented doesn’t make them a whole lot of fun either come to think of it. I’m getting killed with one or two shots an awful lot now.

The patch does have some good things about it. I especially like the new sound effects. New planes look interesting, but I haven’t played with them yet.

All and all, I’d have to say this was the uber “realism” patch, but I have to say that realism doesn’t make for a whole lot of fun. Flight physics were also tweaked. Flying a lot of these aircraft is like trying to do doughnuts with a city bus. Turning is rough!

And by the time you get your plane turned around to make another pass at something, you get shot down with one or two rounds of ammo. v1.29.27.0 needs an overhaul IMO. As realistic as it may be, it’s just not as fun to fly these planes.

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Mar 15 2013

War Thunder Throttle Control

Published by under Gaming

I’ve had a blast playing War Thunder over the past few weeks. The game definitely has its frustrating moments, mostly mid-air collisions (accidental and intentional) and occasional server issues, but by and large, it’s been a lot of fun.

Controlling your airplane is an interesting challenge because of the Gs at play. When you’re in a dive or turning, the plane doesn’t respond as quickly at speed as it does if you’re just cruising at a steady altitude and speed.

There’s been a particular situation where throttle control has proven to be a lot of fun. When an enemy pilot and I happen to turn so that we’re essentially flying in the same direction, just at different altitudes (sometimes by merely a few feet), he’ll lower his speed, thinking I won’t and that I will shoot right past him, leaving me vulnerable to a shot to the rear of the plane.

I’m usually pretty quick to see what he’s doing and I’ll cut out my engine before he does and he ends up being the vulnerable target. I can’t tell you how many times it’s worked out to pure joy on my end. Seeing a bunch of pixels in the shape of a plane blow up is surprisingly thrilling.

It doesn’t always work out in my favor sometimes, however. Occasionally the plane will have a rear gunner who can shoot me down or at least cause enough damage to make me want to bugger off. That’s happened a few times when I’ve conveniently run out of ammunition. Also, enemy planes often attract other enemy planes. I’ve been shot down a few times by diving enemies who have come to the rescue of their comrade.

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Mar 14 2013

Google Kills Google Reader

Published by under Technology

There aren’t very many services that I use religiously, but Google Reader has been one of them and Google has announced they will be killing off the program later this year. I was absolutely shocked by this news. I really didn’t expect Google to kill it anytime soon.

I remember it took me a long time to find Google Reader when I was looking for an RSS reader. I’m very particular in how I want the RSS data displayed and Google Reader didn’t disappoint. It’s held up well over the last few years, so it’s time to find another.

Enter Netvibes. I don’t recall where I found a link to this, but it looks like the free version of Netvibes will suit me quite well. The reader interface is very similar to that of Google Reader. Also, adding feeds is actually easier than with Google Reader.

If you’re looking to migrate from Google Reader to Netvibes, I suggest checking out this blog entry where Netvibes’ staff offers details on how to make the transition quickly.

Now I wonder what else Google is going to kill off. If Gmail ever faces the electric chair, I’m going to cry.

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Mar 10 2013

Sim City – What Was EA Thinking?

Published by under Gaming

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re aware that Electronic Arts has come out with another Sim City game. Unlike its predecessors, the latest Sim City is entirely online. You need an always-on Internet connection to install/authorize the game and to play it.

I understand why Electronic Arts would want to use an online authentication process, but I still hate it. The bulk of my gaming experience has been with games that had a simple key that you would enter when you wanted to install the game. It worked really well but there was always the problem of dealing with game piracy.

In my opinion, it simply isn’t possible to create a perfect authentication system. You’re going to either have a lousy gaming experience or leave yourself open to piracy. There’s no way to handle everything and make everyone happy.

EA’s approach to making everything online has proven thus far to be a colossal failure. Not only are the servers totally overloaded, but what does EA expect gamers to do when the game gets old and the servers are taken down?

I still have games that are a decade old or more. While I don’t play them, I can play them because I don’t have to worry about whether or not the game will be installable or playable because of the existence, or lack thereof, of servers. After a certain number of years, Sim City’s servers will be taken down and its admittedly low number of gamers will have no way of playing.

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