Windows 7 — What a Joke

December 31, 2008

Today I found an article via slashdot which talks about the Windows 7 Beta. The article is pretty short as the reviewer, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, is just giving some initial thoughts on the OS. Here is one of the points Kingsley-Hughes makes:

Performance of this beta is exceptional. I’ve not had a chance to benchmark it yet but it feels snappier and more responsive than earlier betas I’ve handled.

On one hand, it’s good to hear that Microsoft got a clue and made an operating system that worked well out of the box. On the other hand… if you look at the screenshots that Kingsley-Hughes provides it is clear to see that Windows 7 seems to look just like Windows Vista. It seems like they simply fixed a lot of the problems in Vista (under the hood) and are now capitalizing on their previous failure.

The sad thing is that loads of companies, businesses, schools, etc. are going to rush out to buy the new and improved Windows 7 hoping that it will be better than Vista (which they already wasted their money on). Maybe Microsoft should give all the unhappy Windows Vista users a copy of Windows 7 because they screwed up so badly on Vista. It seems like such a scam that they should be allowed to profit from their previous failure after trying to convince everyone that Vista was all that and a bag of chips! The Mojave Experiment, where Microsoft tricks their customers into liking Vista, should not be needed to get people to like Vista. Perhaps they should make an operating system good enough that it just wows people straight away. If I were to pay hundreds of dollars for a proprietary product it needs to blow my socks off to make it worth that much money!

At any rate I’m sticking with Linux which, unlike Windows, has always improved over time instead of getting drastically worse and then struggling to make a come back after realizing its collasal failure.


Computer Work on the Horizon

December 30, 2008

For almost a year now there has been a bad fan in my PSU, which is not terribly disappointing because I have had it for around 5 years now. Since it seems to be getting worse and worse I need to replace the fan which is going bad (or get an entirely new PSU). I took some time today to dismantle my setup, which is a bit painful because I have SO many wires in there, which I took time to organize about 2 years ago, but that’s the way it goes I guess πŸ™‚ .

Now, I found out that my PSU has two fans, a 92mm and a 80mm fan, so I need to order some new ones on newegg.com and replace them. I figure I may as well replace both while I’m in there because I certainly don’t want to open it all up again! When I get the new fans in I’ll probably do a little write up of how I did it. This is just going to be a standard replacement as I won’t be adding speed controls are anything fancy. The only tricky part is that the new fans will not just plug in nice and easy. I’ll have to do a smidge of soldering, but that will be very basic. This is 100% for functionality πŸ™‚ .


Yakuake — Impossible to say, but impossible to give up

December 28, 2008

I just wanted to take a minute to discuss my new favorite terminal emulator for KDE, Yakuake. I have no idea how to pronounce that which is only a problem when I want to tell people about it in person. Normally a conversation starts out as follows: “Oh man, you’ve got to try this awesome terminal emulator for KDE. I’d give you the name, but I can’t possibly pronounce it correctly”.

Screenshot of Yakuake

Screenshot of Yakuake

Yakuake, is very much like Konsole except that it drops down from the top of the screen (actually it could come from a number of places) . The beauty of Yakuake is that it’s always open, which is great for me because I always need a terminal. You simply assign it a key binding and off you go! The thing I find so fabulous about it is that it lets me start commands and check on them periodicically, regardless of what virtual desktop I am on. Also, Yakuake supports tabs and has keyboard shortcuts for just about everything. Before Yakuake if I needed a terminal I would use Katapult to open it and when I was done I’d simply press ctrl-D. Since Yakuake is always open it saves me the time of needing to open Konsole and follows me wherever I go. Yakuake has completely replaced all my other terminals emulators and I will never look back πŸ™‚ .


Quick Thoughts on Amarok 2.0

December 27, 2008

I’d like to more thoroughly review Amarok 2.0 later, but I have a few initial impressions as well as an explanation of why I can’t give the full review now. I was very pleased to hear that Amarok 2.0 had finally been released and I have been awaiting it for some time now. I had heard stories of people not liking the new interface, but I didn’t have much of an opinion on it because I hadn’t used it.

Amarok 2.0 installed just fine out of Portage, the Gentoo package manager, though it is currently masked so you will need to unmask it if you wish to install it.

The first thing I noticed was that the interface did look a bit cluttered. The three columns simply take up too much space and maximizing Amarok is not really my thing. However, you can simply collapse the column which shows you collection information and whatnot when you aren’t using it. It seems they have also done away with the mini-player, which is a real shame because I liked that a lot. I am hoping they just haven’t implemented it yet. After collapsing that column I had absolutely zero problems with the interface and I like it just as much as the old one.

Now, when Amarok scanned my collection it was going along great until it seemed to basically freeze for several minutes. I suspect it was getting hung up on my folder which has roughly 1600 songs in it. This was only a problem because it locked up the rest of the player, and had the same annoying bug when it would check my collection for updates. I’m sure they will fix this in a future release so I don’t consider that a big deal.

Also, I like the feature which lets you drag an entire album onto the playlist, which I don’t think was present in Amarok 1.x. Searching for music, adding it to the playlist, and playing it is just as easy and speedy as with previous releases of Amarok so there’s not much more to say about that.

Finally, here is the main problem I had with Amarok 2.0 and truthfully the problem is more with KDE 4.1 than Amarok. As some of you may know Amarok now uses KDE’s audio backend (Phonon). Apparently doing so renders my Linux audio usage back to the old days where only one application could use the sound card at a time. This is particularly problematic because I use applications such as Pidgin, which play a noise when I receive a new message, or simply having Amarok open seems to prevent Firefox from playing the audio in a YouTube video. I find this to be intolerable to the point that I had to switch back to Amarok 1.x until this issue is resolved. I have had numerous other issues with Phonon as well… such as it trying to use EsounD even though I don’t even have it configured. I know that sound in Linux is a mess and that is a real shame because I loves me some good audio.

Overall I am really looking foward to Amarok 2.0 more than ever, and I hope that the bugs inΒ  both Amarok and KDE are worked out shortly πŸ™‚ .


Uninstalling Programs in Windows — Annoying?

December 26, 2008

I suppose this post could be filed under ‘Windows rant’ because I don’t have much good to say about it these days. I received a new computer game for Christmas so it was once again time to boot my computer to the dark side. While I was in Windows I decided that I would clean up my installation as it had probably been close to a year since I actually booted it. This consisted of crawling through the file system looking for orphaned folders from programs that were long gone, emptying the recycling bin, cleaning my downloads folder, and finally going through “Add/Remove Programs” and getting rid of stuff I didn’t care about.

The most frustrating thing about all of this was that some of the programs I had installed would automatically restart the dang machine without even asking first! I don’t think any Windows installer/uninstaller should ever do this. First of all, I don’t think half the programs that “require a restart” actually need a restart. Secondly, if they do, they should ask you for a confirmation. After all, the user is supposed to be “in control” of the computer and not the other way around.

While I’m on the subject of difficult uninstallations lets talk about Norton Anti-virus. I was recently asked to clean up a new laptop before it was being gifted to someone. The first thing I wanted to do was uninstall all the rubbish-ware that comes on a standard HP or Dell laptop. There is a nifty program called The PC-Decrapifier(PCD) which helps automate this task quite nicely. Basically, it calls all of the different uninstallers for you instead of making you click all of them from the Add/Remove Programs dialog. Now, when the PCD made its way to Norton the Norton uninstaller must have taken at least 15 minutes!! That is WAY to long for an uninstalltion. All you have to do is remove any running processes, and delete all the files. It’s like the Norton uninstaller takes a coffee break part way through. I think the Service Pack 3 installer took less time to run than the uninstaller for Norton anti-virus — ridiculous!

Back before I ran Linux I would accept most of these things as the only way, but when I uninstall software on a Gentoo or Ubuntu machine it rarely takes more than 10 seconds. Also, none of it requires me to reboot (with the exception of kernel related things). All around it is experiences like these which help me appreciate Linux even more so I suppose Windows irritating me from time to time isn’t all bad πŸ™‚ .


KDE 4.1 Font Issues Solved

December 24, 2008

Well as I mentioned in an earlier post I was having a bugger of a time getting the Helvetica font to work with the KDE 4.1 widgets, which was a substantial problem since you can’t yet change the font for them. I did everything from a system rebuild to clearing out the .kde4 directory so it would rebuild the settings. None of that was working and I was running out of ideas. Eventually I decided to make an entirely new user account to make sure it was nothing relating to individual user settings. Believe it or not that solved the problem. I am assuming there was some setting in my home directory which was causing the fonts to get messed up somehow.

I suppose I should put the solved in quotes because I wanted all the settings I had in my old user account so I still had work to do once the fonts were working. After I had the fonts working I again I made a backup of my home directory and wiped out the original. Then I copied over all the important files and everything was well again.

Now, this whole ordeal has brought several things to me attention:

  1. I don’t understand how fonts work in Linux. I suppose this is quite obvious considering all the trouble I had to go through to get KDE to see the Helvetica font again…
  2. The fact that Linux stores all the user configurations in the home directory is extremely nice. Knowing where all my settings were gave me a great deal of confidence when I cleared out my original home directory, and it also gives me confidence when I make my backups. This is something that Windows does not necessarily offer. Configuration files in Windows seem to be spread all over the place from the installation directory, to the user directory, and even in the registry.
  3. Finally, this has reminded me that it is always best to start with the easy and simple solutions than to jump to the big guns in a moment of frustration. In other words, rebuilding my whole system should have been a last ditch effort and not the third thing I tried.

At any rate I’m happy to have a working KDE 4.1 installation again and hopefully I will manage to keep it working for a while now πŸ™‚ . This is good because I can now focus my attention on other projects such as working on Spheriosity.


Complete system rebuild

December 20, 2008

Due to some poor decisions in trying to get those silly fonts back in KDE 4.1 I need to rebuild my system… This means running everyone’s favorite command: emerge -eav world .

It’s probably just as well. I have been spending quite a bit of time in front of the computer for the past several months anyway :-/ .


Gentoo, KDE 4.1, and Font Issues

December 20, 2008

Update [01/3/2009] : Eventually I was able to fix the problem πŸ™‚ .

For a few weeks now I have been running KDE 4.1 on both my laptop and desktop machines. Both run Gentoo Linux primarily and can boot Windows XP (for games). Unfortunately, when I updated Xorg on my desktop machine things got a little messy. It seems, for whatever reason, that the Helvetica font is impossible for KDE 4.1 to load. This is a problem since it’s the default font for used in virtually all the widgets. The reason I suspect this is because you are allowed to change the font on the digital clock widget and if I change to anything other than Helvetica it works great. Sadly, I can’t change any of the other fonts or I would have settled for that as a solution.

I have been trying to fix this problem for several hours now with no such luck. I can’t even seem to locate a KDE log file. The Xorg log file seems to show that all fonts are being loaded correctly. I also reinstalled all packages that I had installed from media-fonts/ and that did not correct the problem either. My next recourse is to reinstall KDE 4.1, but I really don’t want to do that because it takes a heck of a long time. The laptop and desktop have virtually the same configuration yet the laptop works and the desktop does not.Β  After spending all this time trying to fix this… I must say that it is starting to get old.

I wish I knew more about how Linux dealt with fonts, but I am finding a surprising lack of resources on the web about this. Up until this point I took fonts and how Linux did all that sort of stuff as magic…

Oh well, I guess I just have to keep at it :-/ .


Rocks — One Dimensional Asteroids Game

December 17, 2008

Yes, you read the title correctly, I will be writing about a little game I wrote called “Rocks”. As far as I know, Rocks is the first implementation of one dimentional asteroids. This is indeed a great day in video gaming history. Well, not really, but it is a great day for people who take jokes much further than intended!

So, a bit of background… Rocks started as a joke while a fellow cs student and 2 of our professors were driving back from a conference. I was bored and looking to program something quickly, preferably a game. The idea of one dimensional asteroids was thrown around and I was interested in making it ASCII based. Thus, Rocks was born. Sadly, I didn’t have much time to work on it after that car ride (where my laptop battery died). Since then, the semester has ended and I was able to complete the game. So, behold, a Rocks screen shot (Full Resolution Screenshot):

Rocks Screenshot

Rocks Screenshot

Rocks has a dependency on the curses libraries, but most Linux systems have that sort of thing installed. I have a downloadable version of Rocks which has been released under the GPLv3. In the tar.gz file you will find a complied version of rocks for x86 Linux and all of the source code with a (very) simple Makefile.

If you happen to play it let me know what you think πŸ™‚ . Rocks gets harder the longer you play and can actually get challenging. So if you think it’s too easy then play for a few more minutes and you will see it get harder!

Enjoy!

Rocks Download: rocks.tar.gz


Mega Man 9 Review

December 16, 2008

About a month ago I purchased Mega Man 9 off the Wii Virtual Console. At the time I was still in the middle of a tough college semester so I played it little by little. I finally finished the game a week ago, and got around to writing up my thoughts on the game.

Game Play:

The game play in Mega Man 9 is spot on with what I remember from the old NES classics. For those who don’t know, Mega Man 9 was made in the same style as the NES Mega Man games of old. In Mega Man 9 we find that our hero has the usual abilities such as… jumping and shooting. No other abilities are given to him. However, you do have the option of using the Rush Jet or Rush Coil and, of course, when you defeat a boss you get to use their power afterward. Capcom did a perfect job of recreating the feel of the NES Mega Man, which is 100% ok by me πŸ™‚ .

Story Line:

Mega Man games of yore have never been much for a story line so there’s not much to say here. I wasn’t expecting all that much from Mega Man 9 in the way of a storyline and I got what I expected. They attempt to explain everything but the bottom line is: Dr. Wily did something bad and you have to go around destroying robots to make things right.

Old School Boss Selection Screen

Old School Boss Selection Screen

Music:

I absolutely love the music in Mega Man 9. Now, I should mention that it is the classic 8-bit style music. I have met people who find this absolutely annoying, but for me it brings about a certain nostalgia. If you liked the NES Mega Man music chances are you will like this as well. Likewise, if you hated the old 8-bit music you probably won’t like the music in Mega Man 9.

Controls:

I found that the controls for this game worked just fine. You hold the Wiimote sideways: ‘1’ is shoot, ‘2’ is jump, and the D-pad moves you left and right. To pause and switch weapons you simply use ‘+’ .

Extras:

Mega Man 9 features a store where you use the bolts you collect throughout the levels to buy items such as energy tanks and extra lives. They also added a few more items such as the shock guard, which allows you to jump on spikes once without exploding instantly.

Challenges:

Mega Man 9 features different challenges, which the game notifies you of after you have completed them. Some of them include:Β  Jitterbug (beat game in under 60 minutes), Quick Draw (defeat a boss in 10 seconds or less), and Heavy Metal (reach a boss room without firing a weapon). These are turned on by default and can be fun to try and achieve. Either way it does not hurt the game to have these features around and can add a bit more play time to the game if you are into that sort of thing.

Galaxy Man Opening Screen

Galaxy Man Opening Screen

Time Trails:

Another interesting mode of play is the “Time Trial” mode where you are given all power-ups and are placed in a level of your choosing. Then, you try and get through the level as fast as possible. Furthermore, you can compete against the top times that people have accomplished and uploaded via the Wi-Fi network.

Difficultly:

Since it has been a while since I played any of the NES Mega Man games I’m not sure how to rate its difficulty in comparison to the others. I certainly wouldn’t call it easy, but I don’t know if it is as hard as the others. I would say that it probably took me around 9 or 10 hours to complete the game, but now that I have beaten it I would probably make it through in just under an hour. The difficulty comes in figuring out the “tricks” to each level for the first time. Once you do that it is fairly easy to finish a level in around 2 to 3 minutes. It is a different style of gaming from the modern sense. A lot of games these days are long and of easy to medium level difficulty. Mega Man 9 sports short, very difficult levels. You need to understand that you might not complete a level on your first, second, or even third attempt in this game.

Bonus Content:

Mega Man 9 features downloadable content that you must pay for with Wii points. As I am a poor college student, I have not yet purchased any of these features. Some of them include: being about to play as Proto Man or purchasing an additional level.

Conclusion:

All in all, Mega Man 9 has a lot of great content, and it is good to see a big player such as Capcom making awesome games for the virtual console, especially for a reasonable $10. If you were a fan of the old school Mega Man, or if you are looking for a fresh and challenging Wiiware title Mega Man 9 will not disappoint!