Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Left 4 Broken – UPDATE

Left 4 Dead has made my choice for me: I will be playing games on the Xbox 360.

I pulled up its properties, and told it to “Verify integrity of game cache…” which I remember being key to a number of problems.  I chugged my hard drives as hard as possible for 5 minutes, and then the properties window disappeared.  “Left 4 Dead” in the Steam window became “Left 4 Dead (0%)”, and further investigation reveals that the game would like to saturate my downsteam bandwidth for about two hours, and then maybe it will feel like playing with me.

Forget this noise; I have actual games in the next room.

Left 4 Broken

I finally decided last week to try Left 4 Dead.  Pedant convinced me that it’s not too scary, especially when playing with the clan.

I’m still not sure how scary the game itself is, but the process of trying to play it is a terrifying reminder of why my desire to play PC games is waning:

Pre-purchase the game and pre-load the game content.  Steam makes this easy.  Here, Valve, is lots of my money!  Here, Steam, is lots of my bandwidth and disk space!

Some weeks after release, decide to play the game.  Double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me to update my video drivers or risk destruction.  It includes a link to nVidia’s website, which asks me which of 55 different video cards I have – a quick trip into Windows Device Manager tells me it is a pair of GeForce 8600 GTs, which I happen to know are working together via SLI – and starts feeding me the driver…

…at 14 KBps, which will take hours.  A quick trip to Google tells me that my old friends Guru3D are mirroring this download, which comes down at nearly 200KBps – as fast as possible with my current connection.  Yay!  Installing the drivers takes between 10 and 20 minutes, including the time it takes to remember that the installer turns off SLI, and getting it turned back on (via another dedicated control panel).

Ahh, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  Double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me that it is decrypting the game content.  This takes about 10-15 more minutes, and when it’s done, it just goes away.

Still, not so bad, right?  It’s still at within an hour of when I decided to try the game, and if gaming is arguably a zero-benefit activity1, then upgrading drivers and waiting for decryption is an activity of similar value.  Of course, I also didn’t pay cash money to install drivers, but let’s not split hairs.

Instead, let’s double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me that it’s has to download some game content.

K finishes making steaks, so I retreat from the computer room.  DAY 1 OF TRYING TO PLAY LEFT 4 DEAD COMPLETE.  RESULT: FAILURE.

It all reminds me of this, and not in a good way.  But today, I have no plans, so I’ll give it another go.  Since the game finished downloading content sometime last week, I should be good to go!

Double click the game’s icon to play it!  …except instead of a game about zombies, I get… nothing?  The game does not even try to launch, and it does not send any of its other windows to me to explain why.  The HDD LED blinks a few times, something has happened, butI have no idea what.

I find myself about to reboot the computer, check for updates, and then hit the forums for information.  I have no idea how long this will take, and I’m starting to lose the capacity to care.  I played Gemcraft for an hour today, and all I had to do was go to a website!  I could have done that on my laptop!

These days, there is very little that I want to do with Windows, and I know that this box would make an excellent Ubuntu workstation.  The main thing holding me back is the fact that I want a gaming PC more than I want an Ubuntu workstation2, but if all a gaming PC is good for is installing drivers and eating bandwidth, I wonder why I bother.

(What to do… Beautiful Katamari on the big screen in the living room, or rebooting and trawling forums in the back room…)

  1. I would argue that it is not, but by so arguing I would admit that it is arguable, at least. []
  2. I already have a Mac Mini running Ubuntu on this desk, so the marginal benefit would be in the faster processor, larger RAM capacity, and increased 3D capability – none of which are particularly compelling to me in a Linux context right now.  Also, I am running iTunes and PlayOn on the Windows machine, and I’d have to find a way to run those – probably a problem for virtualization to handle. []


You go back, Jack, do it again

If you pay attention to “gaming news” at all, you probably already know about Braid.1  And, if you’ve heard about Braid, you’ve also heard this:

Braid is a very important game, and everyone should be playing it.

I’m not sure what that means2, but here’s what I do know.  I started playing Braid with my wife – I handled the gameplay, and we brainstormed over the puzzles – and it was really cool.  I even had a dream that featured one of the more mind-bending time effects.  Then, as family and friends converged onto our couch for a weekend celebration, I showed it off to them, and instead of dismissing it as a shiny toy, most of them jumped in and joined the brainstorm.

So, I guess it’s a party game for brainiacs?  As long as you have one platform-enabled thumbster among you?  Could be.  $15 isn’t much to spend to entertain a room full of people.  ($20, if you add in the cost of a bottle of Advil for the ones that get a migraine.)

If you care for an overview of what makes Braid work so well, I’ve described some of what I noticed after the break.  Spoiler danger: low.

Continue reading ‘Braid’

  1. I won’t get into a lot of detail about it for that very reason, but you can check out Giant Bomb’s video review (WARNING: The “S” word is used) if you need some background. []
  2. Especially since it’s only out on XBLA right now!  PC to come later, though. []

IT Admin Locks up San Francisco’s Network

A friend shared this in Google Reader today: PC World – Business Center: IT Admin Locks up San Francisco’s Network.  She commented: “I’m a bit surprised that this isn’t more common. Who wouldn’t want to arrest the BOFH?”

Wow… I hope I’m not in the minority here, but I’m surprised it happened at all.  IT workers are professionals, and from where I’m standing, professionals take our jobs seriously.1

Sure, I laugh at the stereotypes, too, but the BOFH is just a fantasy villain!  If you can’t trust a professional, something is wrong.  Your IT guy may know a lot of things that not everyone knows, and may have access to a lot of things that not everyone does – but so do your auto mechanic, your architect, your building’s electrician, and your doctor.2

(And no, friend, I don’t take offense at your comment.  I just wanted to give a counterpoint.)

  1. That goes for individuals and groups as well.  Where was his manager in all this?  Why didn’t someone in his department intervene?  What is their contingency plan? []
  2. Your IT guy may also act a little weird, but you probably think that about your mechanic, too. []

Packaging Efficiency FAIL

Amazon sent me this:

Kensington Bluetooth USB Micro Adapter

In this box:

Kensington Bluetooth USB Micro Adapter plus box