Archive for the ‘Tablets/Computers/Consoles’ Category

Using Split Screen Safari in iOS 10

… Including how to get back out of it! 

 

Go To 

How To Geek

 

 

And how to get out of it…!

…to go back to a single Safari window is to tap and hold on the tabs button in either Safari window. Select “Merge All Tabs” from the popup menu.

… Come Back, Mako – All Is Forgiven!

 

Project Overlord

 

Hammerhead(3)

 

Oh, Bioware – there are no words…

I had forgotten just how awful this was. Not the thing in and of itself – but that damned M44-Hammerhead. The flying Mako. Making the Mako look like it’s the best thing ever.  The controls are not terrible… Oh, no. That would be far too generous to call it that.

The hovercraft-tank hybrid thing is an absolute nightmare to control – I would have the Mako any day. This thing appears in two Mass Effect 2 DLCs – Firewalker and Overlord. Whoever designed it should never admit Hammerheadit for fear of being hit by thrown Xbox controllers – as people rage-chuck them about the world from attempting to play this game.

It was actually slightly (about 0.1%) easier to use with an Xbox 360 controller. Having built myself my shiny self-build rig, I got the PC edition of the Mass Effect Trilogy. Then – oh, so stupidly – spent even more money (although not that much, at least) on adding the Overlord DLC. I like the second half of it – and I like saving the character of David. But in the beginning it’s the biggest nightmare of all time in gameplay.

It’s one thing to make it hard. It’s entirely another to make it notoriously frustrating and impossible simply because the control-handing is impossible.

Now I’m trying to play it with Keyboard & Mouse and it’s turning out to be excessively difficult to manage simply because the handling is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever tried to handle in a game.

 

Hammerhead_Vulcan.png

 

* NOTE TO SELF: *

  • The key command for “Exit Hammerhead” is not necessarily (F) – it is, in fact, programmed to use whatever was key binding was programmed in Mass Effect to return to the Normandy from the Mako, after exploring a planet.
  • The “Exit Hammerhead” command is the *same*  as the “Leave World” key command in Mass Effect [1]  > 

 

Bindings=( Name="Vehicle_Quit", Command="LeaveWorld" )

 

Exiting_Hammerhead_Code

 

My game is downloaded from EA Origins: The Bindings and other configurations are found in the Coalesced file.

The File is found in:

E:\Games\Mass Effect 2\BioGame\Config\PC\Cooked

~ (on Steam this file-path would be different) ~ 

 

* NOTE TO SELF [2]: *

When “Mining” for resources (the yellow circles, see pic), an important point is to hold down Ctrl whilst “Mining [Right Mouse] (mine is set to RM).

This is mainly for obtaining the Data Hound Achievement in it, as an extra mini-mission. Being able to “Mine” effectively is fairly important – and there’s also a couple of rather tight spots you can mine general mineral  resources from, too.

This stops the Hammerhead from flying off in whatever direction it pleases…

 

 Hammerhead_Mining.png

 

This could have gone a lot better… it’s almost like it’s trying (a little too hard…) to emulate its own themes Trying something new that goes horribly wrong; Pushing tech too far and failing miserably; Thinking it’s a good idea (in theory)… till you actually do it and it fails spectacularly; Emitting outrage from everyone when they’ve found out what you’ve done…

It’s quite a shame that the first half is right out of Satan’s Gaming Handbook – the rest of it is quite entertaining and very interesting… and dark. And creepy. And slightly terrifying at times. It’s not so hard to imagine such things actually happening. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities… unless, of course, it’s happened already… Nothing new under the sun and all that… Scary.

Just like their Hammerhead. Only that’s much, much scarier…

 

 

Skyrim 4K “Level Up” Issue

 

Incidentally, I found a working fix for the notorious and infamous “LEVEL UP” floating text for Skyrim when played in high resolutions and 4K (3840 x 2160).

I found the anwers here and here….

Mine was fixed by changing the Translate_ENGLISH.txt file in:

Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim > Data > Interface

 

Once opened, scroll down (or run Find) the text file and locate:

$LEVEL UP        LEVEL UP

 

Now replace the second LEVEL UP with either a space ( _ ) [underscore] or with a ( . ) [full-stop], so it looks like this :

 

Skyrim_LevelUp_Fix

Replace the full-stop with the underscore if preferred, but the full stop worked a treat for me

 

Now the “Level Up” text will have vanished and you should have a nice clear screen again. Problem solved and happy exploring!

 

Elder Scrolls V  Skyrim 03.08.2016 - 16.01.01.16

Now there is no circling dragon or floating “Level Up” text on the screeen – Success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well… After scratching my head for some time as to why so suddenly in a new game of Skyrim on PC, I was suddenly being attacked by dragons… many dragons… when all  I’ve done is just left Helgen at the beginning and I’m a measly level 1, and the only dragon I should have met until I reached the Jarl in Whiterun was Alduin at the execution.

For the first time – and I have played this game a lot, particularly the Xbox 360 edition – I’m being attacked by a very irate dragon whilst following the Stormcloak out of the cave and into Riverwood to see his sister. Then I try to escape… Make it all the way to Whiterun… Where there are three – three! – of the bastards (legendary bastards – they even have names!) are not only trying to kill me, but they’re also chasing me as I sprint away back to Riverwood. What the hell did I do to them… I’m not even Dragonborn yet?

Apparently, this would seem to be the result of a mod that was downloaded for the game – I don’t know why it’s on there; I think it was thrown in with the basic Steam download of it (it came with extra mod packets to make it look even more amazing than it already did). I bought the whole package, with the DLCs and everything it had in the Christmas/New Year Steam sale, and it was thrown in with all that somehwere.

Skyrim_Launch_WindowAfter searching for answers, I found suggestions of mod glitches – so I went looking for one. As suggested by some very clever-clogs on one forum, I disengaged the mods (under Data Files in the launch screen) five at a time and relaunched the game afterwards. I repeated this until the dragon circling grumpily over Riverwood (he must have been getting dizzy by now too…) finally vanished.

Then one at a time, I introduced the missing mods back into the game. The culprit that returned the dragon was Skyrim_DragonAttack_Culpritcalled narak.esp – and no, I have no idea what it was, where it came from, or why it’s there. I can’t find a trace of it mentioned via Google either, nor in Steam Community… Unless I’m somehow looking wrong. What I do know is that it made very confused and sent dragons to circle villages and kill me.

So… annoying, it was. This took all night to figure out what it was, then about an hour to go back and forth through it all to find out which one of them, if any, was causing it.

And now that’s finally over with, maybe I can go and work out once and for all how to be rid of the infamous floating “Level Up” glitch for high resolutions. Oh the fun of PC gaming…

 

Elder Scrolls V  Skyrim 03.08.2016 - 13.41.49.07

The annoying, evil Riverwood dragon

 

Elder Scrolls V  Skyrim 03.08.2016 - 13.06.24.02

Now the dragon is gone, I can focus on that annoying “Level Up” text sitting there on the screen…

 

 

My New Build

And finally I have it – my self-build computer all in one piece. I have now built my lovely, new handmade PC from all my components and parts. My own build. My very own baby. With everything chosen by me and put together with the help of a very capably friend (one brought in who knew what they were doing).

I harvested the optical drive (CD/DVD drive) and the HDD (Hard Disk Drive) from my old computer – there’s no point getting rid of good components. The rest I saved for and bought myself, or received as a gift. After about a year of planning, it’s now finally here.

There’s just one hitch… the HDD (a normal hard drive – the ones with the spinning disc plates – that is somewhat old… OK, pretty old… and is just basic cheap and standard-stock) that I put in was harvested from a (now-broken) pre-built computer. I had many problems with booting (or not booting, as the case may be) when trying to run my old machine… and it turns out that the Windows 7 OS on it is doesn’t work.

It tries to start, gives the option for System Repair or start as Normal. The Normal option just sends you strait back to that same message. System Repair then goes through the motions, tries to repair from Restore Point, fails at that too, and the sends you back to the same old message again.

 

OEM Headaches

At first, I think it’s broken. But then I realise it’s because this was an “OEM” edition of Windows 7 – the one that came with the original computer – and they do not transfer from one machine to another.

In fact, they are locked to the motherboard upon installation, so if you want to continue to use it in a new computer from an old computer you’ve purchased pre-built (the ones you buy from a shop) – or from a new OEM DVD installation – you actually can’t. Not if you want to use it in a different machine with a different motherboard. Windows also has specific policies in regards to self-purchased OEM installation discs, as they were created for system-builders only – and the license for it does not cover people who install it inside a purpose-built machine for themselves (like this one).

These editions are actually for “commercial-use” only, and are “non-transferable”… which is why my harvested HDD won’t boot in my new machine.

The only answer is to get a new OS from Microsoft. Unfortunately.

 

The Build:

 

So… it turns out I have a perfectly good system after all. Apart from the fact that Microsoft makes the most ridiculous operating system ever, one that is locked down and unable to be used without giving them a hefty sum of money.

It’s not too hard to see why OS X and Linux systems are the go-to favourites for people who know better. Or those who don’t want to play games (although Linux systems are starting to catch on to this section of computing too).

But Windows is the king of the OS gang, and to play I’m going to have to get it working again – so I’m off to work out where to get a new “retail” edition, and for the best value. Not an easy task whatsoever, given they’re all really far too expensive.

 

My Very Own Self-Build

Putting the whole thing together was not the straightforward experience I hoped it would be – what it was, was a learning curve and one very fun experience. Some of it required quite a bit of problem-solving, and the motherboard instructions were clearly for those in the know. It took a bit of working out and guesswork, but we got there in the end.

Asus_Z97-A_MoboThe motherboard (colloquially known as a “Mobo”) is a beautiful one, but a little more complicated than I expected it to be – and it didn’t help that the instructions were not entirely clear to a building noob like me. It didn’t help that I didn’t realise at first the chassis (case) was (cleverly) built to hide wires inside it and couldn’t work out how certain things hooked up because of this… but I worked it out eventually and fixed it (the moral of our story is read the chassis instructions). The entire chassis is screw-less, except for installing the motherboard, and getting everything from opening the case’s sides to installing the HDD is all cleverly stuck together with clippy sections or thumbscrews.

i7-4790K_CPUThe processor was a much easier component to install, with the thermal paste already pre-applied (thank you, Intel!) and it was easy to place it inside the socket. The heatsink also went on nice and easy – thanks to the screw-less ideation of all hardware-makers, it had little plastic arms (thick and strong ones that are really robust) that clip firmly into place with the aid of a clever twisting mechanism thing. It was so much easier to manage – and far more effective – than the old way of fighting with screws to get it on… it was a joy and a relief to see how the new ones are made! The box was also so much smaller than I imagined it to be – it had just the processor, heatsink, and instruction booklet, and it was barely bigger than the small heatsink. It was small enough to just sit in my hand and the chip was, of course, even tinier, peeping out of a clear window in the lid of the box. The presentation was simple and beautiful, and once out the entire thing was just stupidly easy to install. Well done, Intel!

To keep up with the ease of installation, the graphics card popped into place nicely (having unclipped 2 of the slots in the back) and required no other work whatsoever. There was, however, plenty of room in there for bigger graphics cards, and plenty of extra power supply cables available for any that would require it. The motherboard also fully supports SLI/Crossfire (using more than one graphics card: SLI for NVIDIA & Crossfire for AMD), and the chassis is roomy, so you can at double-up with ease if you care to do so.

Corsair_Veneance_RAMThe RAM cards also went in without any issues. The pair of red Corsair Vengeance Pro cards looks stunning within this gorgeous motherboard and case, and required no more effort other than just popping them in… all 16GB of them. There’s also room for a further two cards for some serious power, and the mobo takes up to 32GB of it.

The PSU also went in easily (just had to press it in a little as the section given is nice and snug) and the cables were already nicely put together in bundled mesh, all sections quite easily identifiable by the codes on the ends of each segment. It’s sturdy, the cables are pretty, and 500W is plenty of juice for what I have right now. Perfect!

The first thing that was fiddly was installing the harvested hard drive… It took a while to work out the HDD needed to be installed upside down, with the pins pointing into the case, not outwards. Thanks to the (overly) effective cable-management design of the Corsair Carbide chassis, it turned out that the power cable attachment and the SATA cable slipped under the HDD section and beneath the disk drives themselves, so once plugged in the HDD would be inserted with the cables going down and inside the case when sliding it into its little pigeon-hole, all nice and tidy.

The second thing that was difficult to install was the SSD (the Samsung 850 EVO, 120 GB).

Since I had never seen this before, it was a bit of a head-scratcher and then a revelation when I realised it. It also makes life so much easier when it comes to the cable management… once you’ve worked out how it works.

 

Future Proof

I really cannot recommend these components highly enough, particularly for fellow “noobs“.

The Corsair chassis is easy to use, has loads of space in it, has a nice lot of fans, is nice and airy, and has plenty of room for installing a cooling system, and has room for 4 hard drives (HDD or SSD types) and 3 optical (DVD) drives. It’s also almost completely screw-less (and, wow, that makes a huge difference!) and has space beneath the motherboard and around the sides for cable management (slipping the cables in, so it’s all nice and tidy in there). Just read all the instructions about it first…

The Asus Z97-A motherboard has just about everything you would need: It is specifically-designed to withstand high-pressure use, such as gaming, and includes overclocking support. It has SLI & Crossfire multi-graphics card support, USB 3.0 and M.2 SATA (a new type of hard drive that looks more like a tiny card rather than a normal HDD) ports, and SATA Express (also known as SATA III/ SATA 3.2) compatible connectors.

It’s not quite the perfect build (after all, it doesn’t have an over-clocked GTX 980 Ti graphics card in it!), but it’s really pretty good and I’m happy with it. It’s future-proof (unless you count being able to upgrade to the new “next gen” Skylake system, which would require an entirely new mobo and processor… and hefty sum of money!). It has everything I require, and is compatible with upgrading to better equipment.

Ideally, I would have behemoth graphics card NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti, but the one I have is a pretty good compromise right now – but the upgrade ability is there. I would also like to install an M.2 or SSD (SATA III) hard drive for the operating system, using the current HDD that I have for storage-only (it’s what is most commonly used these days, particularly with gaming or other high-power functions like professional video editing or music production).

Future-proofing also means having Windows 10 – Microsoft will no longer offer support for any other previous system, and are going to mimic Apple and their OS X system from now on, updating their platform when required with free upgrades and versions for the Windows 10 platform alone. It’s the best model, as Apple has already proven. Is it ironic, coincidence, or deliberate that Microsoft has decided to do this with their 10 system as well..?

I don’t have a cooling system (…yet. I will see how it goes with the fans that it already has). I also do not have a monitor – but then this tiny place that I live in is rather too small for making desk-space, so the display is the TV right now… Which isn’t too bad, given it means I can play my PC games on a big screen too.

 

Reluctantly Windowed

In the end, I caved and bought a copy of Windows 8.1 to finally get it properly up and running. It’s a future-proof investment… but an investment I would not need to make if my old Windows 7 edition wasn’t locked down as an “OEM” copy, though. It would be a simple free upgrade to Windows 10.

Unfortunately, Microsoft do not offer a Windows 10 DVD or ISO (a download for installing onto a DVD or USB yourself) in exchange for the old system key for a Windows edition that came with your old computer, for a genuine OS you can’t get into because they locked it down. No… In that instance they want you to go out any buy a whole new machine, or at least a proper Windows 10 system installation DVD. Naturally.

Despite billions of dollars of profits per year, they still want your money.

Naturally.

The only way to save even a little money was to get a retail copy of Windows 8.1 (which is cheaper now) and take the free upgrade to Windows 10, instead of spending an extra £20+ to get Windows 10 retail upfront.

Thanks to my lovely new Samsung SSD, the installation went lightening-fast, and booting and rebooting are also just as snappy. It was a good investment, and having it on a separate drive also safeguards the system better: If the system becomes corrupted, you can reinstall without having to worry about your data (safely tucked away on the other HDD), and if you have any corrupted data, it won’t harm your system. It’s the most common way (and sensible) way of using system and storage data now, and I would recommend it without a doubt.

I would also highly recommend installing your system onto an SSD (small ones, like my 120GB EVO are not very expensive now), or even an M.2 (if your mobo has that option). The boot times are unimaginable if you’re used to an old HDD – they’re almost instantaneous, and it makes using a PC (or laptop) an entirely different experience.

 

Let There Be Power…

I have to admit (and have it said like a proud mother) that it looks gorgeous and I definitely made the right choices with all the components.

It took several hours and two giant pizzas, but eventually it all came to life. The motherboard fired up, all the fans started spinning, and you could hear the sweet sound of success – a fab fan-humming computer happily working away. The Z97-A even has a little button at the bottom for testing the mobo without having to turn on and boot the entire computer – and flashes little red lights against any areas with a problem, so you don’t have to randomly guess what’s wrong if it’s not working.

The BIOS (“Basic Input/Output System“) of the motherboard launched without any trouble (it’s DEL or F2 for this particular one) and it had some lovely in-built software to make specifically configuring it nice and easy (only required if you’re going to need some extra-specific settings, though).

Everything works just fine… so I can’t really complain. Well, I can. Just a little. Microsoft did make me have to buy a whole new OS for this thing, which was entirely unfair of them.

(Forcing people into getting a new one when they have a perfectly good one already, by locking them down, is a farcical way of obtaining even more money than they already have for no good reason other than corporate greed.)

 

Overview:

This was quite an illuminating journey and a lovely little tech adventure. Now that my baby is up and running, I’m really impressed with everything that I’ve chosen – the quality of the components and they way they play well together is impressive.

I’m most impressed by the difference the SSD has made to how the system runs, and I’m happy I now have my data and games saved and installed on a different drive altogether (also allowing more space to be used more effectively). I have tested it on older games and newer games (Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dragon Age II, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, The Elder Scrolls Online, and a few other games). I’m slightly impeded in seeing just how good it can be, since I’m playing them on the TV, which is just a basic 1080 HD screen. With the better monitors running at 2560×1440 (just under Apple’s “Retina” standard of 2880×1800, which I am used to when playing on the MacBook), there are much better graphics and better quality of visuals to be had. That is where a lot of the power goes, and where the graphics card(s), processor, and RAM get to work hard and show off a bit.

Now I’ve done it – successfully – I hope I won’t have to do it again for sometime. Just adding or updating specific components as and when should be absolutely no trouble whatsoever, too. My year of preparation, learning, reading, and researching has paid off, and now I’m more knowledgeable and better equipped to understand how these things work.

I may have wanted to do this a long time ago, but it’s better late than never. And I’m very happy I have now done so.

 

Now peace and gaming at last!

 

Spooky Say Relax!

 

I’m coming in late to the world of Watch Dogs. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into  – reviews have been mixed and it seems like game-Marmite. Now I can see why…

First impressions? This is a very confused game and I am now even less surprised at the initial backlash than I was before. It’s trying too hard to be everything. I thought it was a hacking game. I hoped it was a hacking game. I’m a geek. But this geek is vastly disappointed. It was so promising at that E3 when it toted its bells and whistles about hacking Chicago and causing chaos or being its baseball-cap-toting version of Batman, all ready to swoop to the rescue.

But… no. It didn’t just leave it there and specialise. Instead, it just spreads itself a little bit too thin, trying to be everything to everyone and quite quickly getting nowhere. It’s a real shame.

 

Dave Ja Vous

They took too long. By the time the game came out, it had all been done before and better. And not even just in games – real life had superseded it, and both tech and hacking had moved on to bigger and better things. If you’re quite a big a gamer, you’ve played this game before in other skins (sans hacking), and in comparison to what we were lead to believe, the hacking immediately takes a backseat ride to everything else that’s “popular” in gaming styles, much to my great disappointment.

Straight away, you’re thrown into a stealth-action sequence. One that involves a tiny bit of hacking. Sort of. Then there’s also driving (which is not easy to do) and being asked to “evade the cops”… and doesn’t say how. As in where the boundaries are. Well, it kind of does, but it’s not obvious and you’re busy fleeing, so it’s hard to take stock. The driving was so impossible I gave up in the end and ran… then I managed to get away. Grand Theft Auto this is not. And it’s definitely not Forza, either.

By the time I get to the “hideout” (or “hovel of an apartment/server room”), have slept, then gone out to blue triangles to bust some side-mission “crime”, it’s screaming of Sleeping Dogs.  You can also scramble up and over things and run about in stealth… a la Assassin’s Creed… and when you’re driving you can listen to some god-awful music choices (Alice Cooper and Smashing Pumpkins notwithstanding) in your car whilst cruising about… and there’s a lot of driving. I wanted to hack, not drive. It’s Chicago and I can hack ATMs, bank accounts and computer systems – how is it I can’t just order a cab online and pay for it with someone else’s credit card account? Even your most mediocre criminalist or fraudster can do that, so how a master hacker has managed to overlook this is head-scratching. He doesn’t even have a cab app – just the one to get his car thieving friend to drop him a new ride to drive.

He looks so menacing... yet he's just so boring

He looks so menacing… Yet he’s just so boring!

Of course, the realism is that this game was being made in an age when these apps were just starting out and Über wasn’t around yet. This is the problem with basing things in future-tech… by the time you get it out, it’s old-tech and your ideas are already outdated. It doesn’t help when you push it back another 12 months, either.

Underneath all this gameplay there’s a thin thread of story clinging all of it together – but unfortunately it’s a little too thin. It barely asks you to even care. It should bring tears, given the subject matter, but I imagine that most of it just brings eye-roles. Aidan shows so much promise in being the dark, brooding, guilt-ridden, strong, avenging angel… but it’s not really executed at all. He’s pretty tedious, and I frankly would prefer to give him a coupon for a free trial of therapy rather than my time to play through his story. A story that’s clearly been created solely for shoe-horning (clumsily) into the game, to give it some focus and purpose. This is not a game that’s been created to tell the story, which is what I was hoping for. I like games where I’m asked to care. To invest. To save the world, or a person, or… whatever (is there anything else?). But given Aidan doesn’t seem to really care… it’s hard for me to. He’s just an angry person taking his guilt out on everyone around him… that’s something I’d rather walk away from, both in games and life. It’s just not healthy.

 

Old Dog, Old Tricks:

This could have been an amazing game. A game-changer, like it was promised it would be. It was a novel idea at the time it was announced… but now, it just seems old. That they’re playing catch-up. It promised to be futuristic when it was announced, but unfortunately that idea was positively historic by the time it hit the shelves. Hacking things with cell phones? There’s probably a five-year-old that’s done all that with his Mommy’s old iPhone 5 already.

Feels like this is all there is to it...

Feels like this is all there is to it…

Watch Dogs is simply an open-city driving/action/crime game. It’s also fairly simplistic, formulaic, and… unfortunately… boring. Disappointing. It’s got a bit of hacking, but it’s rubbish hacking – he’s supposed to be the best, but in your hands he’s reduced to watching CCTV, fiddling the traffic lights and stealing from ATMs… not exactly what I was hoping for, playing as a world-class hacker. Even I could probably do all that, if I cared to try hard enough to do it. Hacking a military plane coming for the city and divert it from killing thousands of innocent people… that’s the hacking story I want to take part in. Not watching CCTV on my iPhone, then stealing someone else’s money while they’re too busy yelling at other people about the crash I caused by fiddling the traffic lights.

From the beginning, it seemed to focus on the action. There was minor stealth hacking at the beginning, but then straight into an all-out car chase. From there it’s just searching for people and things to hack, and the odd crime to intervene in. There’s some gun-work, and you can have a shoot-out with the cops if you care to. Somewhere in between, there’s a trace of a storyline where it becomes immediately clear Aidan is someone with his anger and guilt turned inwards and only carnage was and destruction was going to placate it. Family was ignored, and he was deliberately a lone wolf. Not so much broody, strong, and endearing, as deeply sulky, guilt-ridden, and in desperate need of some psychotherapy and a meditation retreat.

This game could have been brilliant if it had been released in the manner they showed at E3 and at that time… But it’s not “groundbreaking” as was promised, and in fact it’s no longer even innovative. Instead, my feeling is that it’s more like Sleeping Dogs, The Hacking Edition. Count the things it has in common… then of course just link that all back to GTA, because that’s where they all began.

I’ve got Sleeping Dogs. I’ve played Sleeping Dogs. I don’t really want to play what is virtually the same game again, just it’s because it’s got a slightly different name.

It was a bad idea to push it back to make sure it was ready for all the platforms ever – it released on every console available, and they spent too long making it viable for them all. By the time we saw it, it was old. Now, it’s even more so, and therefore feels almost archaic, because we know quite well a half-decent twelve-year-old hacker could hack more things than some traffic lights, bollards and the ATM machines. Whilst Aidan is busy playing with CCTV of Chicago, said twelve-year-old is probably busy hacking into the Pentagon and aiming satellites so he can finally watch that TV series that’s only being shown in another county beamed straight to his own dish…

 

You Can Believe What You Read In The Media…

I came into this game full of hope it was more than what I had seen in the gaming media… but it turns out that really is what it’s like. It’s mundane, disorientated, confused, directionless, and the main character is as dull as dishwater. It’s a well-built game, executed well if you focus on the graphics and gameplay quality (there are no glitches, the engine flows well, everything works and it looks nice). But without really putting the character and story front and centre in the game, strong and well-rounded, there really is no need whatsoever to get on with doing anything else in the game – unless you actually like driving around and stopping minor crimes. Or causing chaos and indulging in dangerous police chases (but then you’ve already got GTA for that). Then you’re all good to go.

Instead of something groundbreaking, what Ubisoft ended up offering was an “OK” game with nice graphics and easy handling (I’m ignoring the driving… it’s for the best to completely ignore the driving…) – and that’s probably fine if you haven’t played GTA or any riff on that “open-city driving/crime” genre. If you have, then you’ve basically just seen it all before, and it feels done.

The fact that everything  in it felt like it’s been lifted almost wholesale out of Sleeping Dogs crashed any deal in it for me. Sleeping Dogs had a good story, interesting plot twists, and sometimes quite shocking scened – and that really helped me want to see how it plays out. The main character was interesting, dynamic and was invested in what he was doing. In this one, the character barely has any character and seems only intent on taking out his guilt and anger on people. Occasionally, he might stop a crime… if he can be bothered to tear himself away from being very angry and hacking the traffic lights.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the game, but so far nothing stands out about it. Apart from the fact it’s a GTA/Sleeping Dogs clone with some hacking in it. They spread the game too thin, in gameplay, game style(s), and in the platform releases. Trying to please everyone will always please nobody. Somebody please tell game-makers this obvious fact, because they just don’t seem to get it…

I think maybe I’ll just go and play Sleeping Dogs instead…

 

I’m trying to learn how you make a PC. Specifically a gaming PC. I am currently reading  about the tech and trying to learn everything I can about the basics. I pulled apart my old PC and then realised I didn’t really understand what I was looking at… nor how to put it back together again. So I decided I had better learn this properly, from the foundation upwards, and know exactly what I’m dealing with.

Very proud of being one!

I’m very proud to be one!

 

Techno-Limitations

I never did get a chance to study IT at school or college. They’re not really big on showing you anything half-decent, anyway. I never learned much about the tech side of computers, though I did learn the basics so I could know how software and games worked. I was always more interested in the software than the stuff that ran it… but then I began to realise more and more that knowing how it ran was just as important. Especially when it came to games. The more I began to appreciate the back end of gaming, the development, hardware required to run it, getting the best out of them – the best graphics, best frame-rate, best power, the best games in general. The more I loved games, the more I wanted to be able to play them on a high-end PC with the best graphics, instead of just on a console that was essentially simply plug-n-play.

I have a MacBook, but it’s a 2012 Retina edition and therefore has limitations. Not the least the fact that it’s a Mac… It also has everything soldered into it, which means I can’t upgrade it to get the newer, cooler games that are available for it, and a the end of the day games are not particularly well-ported to OS X, anyhow. I did, however, have an old and incapable PC, and thought it would be cool to research and – eventually – rebuild it. It was feasible, but I didn’t know just what state it was in, so I got it down and dug around its insides.

The old PC had potential, but it was never used. It was a bit of a weakling… To put it mildly. I realised the entire thing would really have to be ripped apart and have everything replaced… Except I didn’t know how. What I did know, however, was that it was useless in its current state and too old to have any of its parts saved.

This poor thing was put together by an idiot. Not the person who actually made it – the idiot is whoever thought these specs were a good idea. But then Jo Public doesn’t really know enough about computer specs to know they’re being duped into getting a rubbish machine with ancient tech.

Old PC Specs

Packard Bell built it, then sold it at a reduced price, hyped it up, and then dumped in a ridiculous processor (a glorified hamster wheel, if you will) and a graphics card that just about manages to show you stuff. None of it any good for doing anything other than sending emails and browsing the internet. What really shocked me was that when I looked up the processes, I realised they were practically antique, given the PC was built in September 2010…

It is (or was… before I dismantled its insides) a Packard Bell iMedia with 64-bit Windows 7 (good) and 3GB DDR3 RAM (medium… but no good anymore). Which isn’t too bad. But then they went and dumped in a Pentium E5700 (awful) and a GMA X4500 for graphics (useless). Not even an Intel Dual Core 2. Games were certainly out of the question, even for back in the day. The motherboard, an Acer N15235 with 775 socket, is also now rendered obsolete by the newer Intel processors, which right now prefer the more popular 1150 sockets for the “Haswell” Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. Even the PSU (the power unit inside) is too low to run anything useful. I know it’s been 4 years since the PC was built, but still… Even for back then, this is pretty rubbish. They say they’re “low end”  of PCs… Well, can’t get much lower than this.

So I am looking into how to fix it; essentially make a new one out of it. The only problem being I know nothing about hardware, chipboard, chipsets, and wires, and what you’re supposed to do with them. I can use a screwdriver… and that’s about as far as it goes. I pulled everything in there apart, before knowing whatever any of it really was (I worked out a couple of things, though…), and now I don’t know how to put it back together again, and nor do I know how to change it. So I’m learning. I’m going to teach myself what all this means, and then I’m going to somehow get new stuff and make a shiny cool new PC out of it.

Somehow…

 

Techno-Learning

OTech Supportnce I’ve worked out how to rebuild it, I will then have to work out if I can fit it all into the shell of the old PC tower (I think with what they call a “micro ATX” motherboard). If it doesn’t all fit into the original tower case, then I will have to end end up building one from scratch, I suppose. New tower case, HDD, disk drives, etc, included. So far, I’m learning about motherboards – it’s what I know the least about, and apparently it’s pretty complicated. It’s the heart of it all, the thing that drives it. The right motherboard with all the right cool stuff will run the PC really well, and let you have all the cool extras to play all the cool games – the right motherboard will run the best processor, graphics card, RAM, power unit (the PSU)… everything.

It also won’t fit into my tower if I get the wrong one. There’s 4 different kinds. I think know which one will fit… of course, that’s doesn’t necessarily mean it will go with the other hardware that I hope I don’t need to upgrade– the HDD, disk drives, possibly the power unit (PSU), mainly. There is probably more than those involved… but I’m still learning.

I love the intersqueb!

DA Inquisition (Cover Art)It’s release day in the UK… I got my parcels at 8.15am from a very nice posting-type person. I spent a couple of minutes burrowing my way through the packaging, uploaded the DLC codes that I had (pre-order + Prima Guide ones), opened up the box, stuck the first disc in, and… then waited about 4 years for it to auto-install itself into the Xbox (360 edition). I highly suggest that (if you haven’t done it before) you take this time to go to Dragon Age Keep and set up your past deeds to Thedas. – Unfortunately, this doesn’t directly import your past two games; instead it accesses your achievements via Origins and saves the decisions that are based on them. You must then must run through the “Keep”  to check it has all the relevant details correct, then you can import them into Inquisition.

Once I was in (having spent a long time in the “Keep” sorting the relevant details out), I spent over an hour – each – creating two characters (yes, two… the first one really bugged me… I don’t know why…) but other than that I’ve done very little within the game so far. However what I have done it’s pretty cool and fun!

It plays just like a DA game on the Xbox should – yet this game is DA by way of Mass Effect,  The Witcher 2, Skyrim, Oblivion, and (a little bit of) Fable 3 (whilst on a random detour). It’s got the open worlds, lots of snow and mountains, keeps to hold, decisions to make, chests to loot, and a castle to make pretty (very Fable 3, those last two).

The hard decisions are quite Mass Effect, too, as is having everyone stuffed into one place to talk to them (Skyhold is clearly their Medieval Normandy) and taking all your stuff you found to your resident researcher (who unfortunately is not your favourite ME mad scientist, Mordin…) to have it turned into other, more useful, stuff. You have rips in the Fade to close (straight out of The Elder Scrolls’ Oblivion), and only your Inquisitor can fix them. It’s even got “Witcher” (Inquisitor?) sense for finding loot and plants (press down LS) – but you then must listen out for the change in tone when it finds something – which is far too easy to miss. Not only does it play a lot like – and rather looks like – The Witcher 2 (only rather easier), the Inventory seems to have been inspired by it, too.

Oh, and Inquisitor jumps just like Skyrim’s Dragonborn… It’s really rather fun to find all those little inspiration Easter eggs in there!

 

Good Game, Good Game…

It is a good game. Actually, it’s a pretty awesome game. It’s Dragon Age caked with all my other favourite games – what’s not to like?

Gameplay is fluid and easy to control. The UI has changed a little, the controls have changed a little (only slightly, to make them better), and the overhead battlefield view is a great extra addition. It all adds to what makes this a better game – it’s more strategic again, and less cross your fingers and hope for the best. It’s still really hard, but because you have a lot more control over your companions, it’s much more fun and interesting. To make it all the more complicated, the main fighting takes place whilst you (as the Inquistor/Herald of Andraste, and whatever else you get called along the way) are trying to close annoyingly shiny green portals that keeps spitting out more evil things at you. Learning to balance the two is difficult – it’s not really something you’ve been asked to do in Dragon Age before. Or anything else I’ve played for that matter…

They also throw you a huge Pride Demon to conquer as your first boss fight right off the bat. Something rather mean – and very DA. All I can say is for my attempts, they didn’t exactly go very well!

One key thing they’ve added is the Resuscitation element from Mass Effect 3. If you can get to a fallen comrade, you can bring them back into the fight by holding down A (on the Xbox). It might be another thing stolen from another game (at least they own it), but it’s a damn good addition and a great idea from whoever thought to bring it over.

DA Inquisition (Helmet)

One rather annoying thing, though, is that there’s no graduated or immediate recovery after fighting – you can only regain health by taking potions. On the other hand, you can craft them as much as you like (if you have the supplies for it), and you can get extra supplies from Supply Caches or use Reset at camps. Another annoying thing is that is doesn’t pause with the Xbox button – usually the Xbox button on the controller will auto-pause whatever is going on, but not in this one. The only thing that pauses the game is by opening the Menu… so you will miss those cut scenes if that’s the time doggy decides he just has to go piddles (yes, that is precisely what happened…).

It’s also has some other rather annoying issues… like slowing right down, glitching music (or disappearing altogether), graphics popping, entire dialogues disappearing from cut scenes as characters just stand frozen, dialogue glitching – out of sync or jumping within cut scenes and conversations… Having to restart it after freezing isn’t so much fun either. Teething issues are not so much fun with new games – it’s one of the reasons I generally only buy older ones. They’ve already got the 13,000 patches required ready to upload when you buy it (cheaper).

The game also has loading screens that make Skyrim’s seem like a nanosecond in length… I’m pretty sure even the Titanic movie is shorter than them. It’s a good time to catch up on your gaming magazine reading, I suppose.

I imagine a lot of these issues are because it’s pushing on the upper ends of the Xbox 360’s capabilities (since it’s also a next-gen release – I sure hope so…). It doesn’t excuse them, but at least that makes it understandable.

The graphics are beautiful, colours are gorgeous, and everything looks amazing. And whilst this is all true, I imagine most people will probably point out is that although it might look better than DA2, it doesn’t look quite as good as it maybe should, given it’s also appearing on a couple of next-gen consoles either. That it only looks new from a Dragon Age perspective…. as I said, it looks a lot like Witcher 2, which is quite a few years old now. But all this really doesn’t matter whatsoever. It doesn’t take anything away – I still think it looks beautiful, and it’s utterly awesome.

At the end of the day, it’s still Dragon Age. And I love Dragon Age. It’s really returned to the feel of Origins, and kept all the good stuff from both games. I’m not too far into it, but already I’m in love with it. It’s got its shortcomings (in terms of teething problems as mentioned earlier), but there is nothing about this game that could not let me love it.

 

Third Time’s The Charm…?

DA Inquisition (cast)They didn’t just mix Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2  to make this (although they did do that). They mixed in everything. And it works (well, technically it quite literally doesn’t sometimes, but still…). The story is good, characters are strong and diverse, and the world is back to being huge  – all of Thedas this time, as opposed to just Ferelden in Origins, and only Kirkwall in DA2.

The style of the game follows more along the lines of Origins; it’s more complex and open than DA2, and with more interesting conversations. The dialogue wheel is obviously back, and, basically, all the same rules apply as before. The dialogue glitches do put a damper on it though… You can now also move the camera about a bit within conversations (they’re not all locked cut-scenes), and characters are interesting and entertaining. Like in the Mass Effect games you can walk past and overhear conversations between NPCs… and for some reason there are a lot of people searching the ground for something or other… very strange.

The new companions for this one are so far well-written and diverse. But the best thing is seeing old friends again. It’s great when you go up that hill and then… “Varric!!” (yes, I yelled… he is my favourite!). I haven’t seen yet if there are others. But you do get to hear a little of what happened to those from DA2 from Varric, which is good.

And therein lies the main point of this game – it’s the sequel to DA2. The consequences of what Anders did. You’ve been brought in to clean up his mess… by shutting down green shiny things that spit out demons at you. It’s really no surprise as to why the “DA” part of the title was eventually refereed to as “Dammit Anders!”

Of all the differences between the two games, biggest thing I miss in this one is the mirror or Eluvian in the Black Emporium, where you can change the way your character looks. It was really useful to be able to go back in there and change hair, or makeup. Or the entire face.

I also would then not have had to make a whole new character all over again.

 #gamebreaker !!

 

DA Inquisition (Sword)

Oh yes… That I still do. I used to love my iPad… but now… Now I want to throw her out of a window. Preferably one that’s on the top floor of the Canary Wharf towers. When there’s a massive carter at the bottom for it to fall into.

There has been yet another new update released: v8.1… and despite high hopes it would fix the so many issues that it has, it… well… hasn’t. Once again, I made space, downloaded the update, and… nothing. After a weeks of barely tolerating all this, I’m now really am ready to go up to the top floor of that tower – no update has fixed anything that’s wrong with it.

It has not become any better, even after update 8.1. If anything, it may be even worse. And for this privilege I even had to give up an extra 1GB of precious space in my 16GB iPad, leaving just barely 12.5GB left. What a waste of space. Literally.

... Wanna join me?

… Wanna join me?

I even gave up a few games to make the space for this. Hearthstone was particularly difficult to let go of. I no longer have space to download my Audible books, and I there’s no space install any music from iTunes anymore, either. And for some reason, it saves my pictures twice – and I can’t even get at the Photo Stream service, nor understand why it has to save it locally twice on my hard drive. It’s supposed to be on iCloud. A server. Not local. I have no idea what they’re doing – and, frankly, I don’t think they do either. For some reason, I must endure their new brand of crazy, and now have to very carefully pick what I want to keep on my girl at any one time – and for something to stay, something now has to go. It’s like musical chairs. But with data. Data that I want to keep on her, but I’m not allowed to, because they took all my space… and also some my sanity.

I was looking at the iPod Touch range the other day on the Apple store website; just browsing the pages that were there to tell you all about them. Towards the bottom of the main page, there was a boxed out bit that advertised them with iOS 7, and I immediately thought that if I got one and it shipped with iOS 7, there was no way on earth I would ever update it. Ever.

It was  right then that I realised just how much I resented the massive difference in quality the OS brought, and how user unfriendly iOS 8 really was. My iPad has gone from something I loved using to something that was bordering on being virtually unusable. No longer fun. No longer nice. Now… now that new OS is just a nightmare.

It reminds me more and more of my Windows Vista laptop… and that was another thing I would have gladly thrown from a skyscraper and into a crater for just how abominable that system was.

 

Issues…

The difference in the way my iPad operates between now and before the update unfortunately screams instantly in anyone’s face. I would like to add, “from the moment you turn it on”… but even that part is difficult to do now. She used to wake up like a dog that’s just heard a gunshot. Now you’re lucky if she wakes up at all without freezing. Actually, you’re lucky if she does anything without freezing.

Getting the feeling this has something to do with the problem...

Apple Tech? Seems legit…

From therein on, it just gets worse. The wifi system is terrible and you’re lucky it even picks up a signal. It doesn’t even always auto-log into my home wifi… forget anywhere else. It certainly can’t hold a signal properly, or use it. Safari is a pointless nightmare that never works properly, and along with the wifi, seems hellbent on conspiring against you ever accessing the internet. Between them, it feels like you’re back in 1996 and trying to get into a dial-up connection that refuses to work no matter what.

This particularly comes screaming into your day whenever a new search in run on Safari. It won’t respond when you tap on the website you wish to go to. That’s if Safari actually brings you anything at all, of course. Quite often it will get bored halfway through a request and just never goes anywhere; it freezes. Sometimes it crashes. Sometimes even a Force Quit and reboot won’t fix the issue. Sometimes simply attempting to do anything straightforward on Safari becomes absolutely pointless, to the point of frustrating absurdity.

Occasionally, it might work, though – if you can successfully scroll up and down the results page. Then it allows you to tap the results. But almost always the touchscreen becomes completely unresponsive, and you have to do something to remedy that.

I’ve all but given up on a game that I loved, because it can’t seem to load it properly anymore, and when it does it is usually unstable and really slow. Even apps as simplistic as the BBC News or Asda Groceries apps are difficult to manage. The touchscreen will always, at some point, become entirely unresponsive of its own accord, regardless of whatever you may be doing, or which app was involved. Most apps are slow to load, and then even slower to close. Hitting the Home button in front brings everything “home” in such slow motion, I think it’s going to crash. The new system’s absolute lack of ability to manage anything is truly astounding.

Twitter and G+ apps even joined in the fun. They have apparently been harvesting a crapload of data in the background onto the local drive for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Nearly 1GB of data they stuffed into themselves. Each. When I saw that they were adding to my space problems, the iPad very nearly really did go out the window. Only deleting the app and reinstalling actually aborts the data, so that’s what I had to do. Even then, Twitter still has issues loading properly at times. I have absolutely no idea if it’s going to continue to hoard data again as I continue to use it, either, which doesn’t fill me with much confidence.

Will they ever get it right...?

Will they ever get it right…?

As well as all this, the jump to iOS 8 has screwed up my Pages app (Apple’s answer to Word – which is a pretty great software, by the way). I use this app a lot and – for some reason that is entirely unfathomable to anyone but themselves – the Pages designers decided the iOS 8 update would no longer be able to read certain format documents, rendering a good amount of my documents unusable on my iPad. The only way to fix it? Log into iCloud via the browser end, opening the document(s), and re-saving it again under the new format. You can’t even do it on the OS X app – it can only be done via the Pages Beta app on iCloud.com. Genius.

You can tell they thought all this through long and hard over all this. What makes it worse was that this, like other little niggles, wasn’t widely mentioned by Apple, or particularly specified properly in the update information; I only found out through searching through Google and Apple forums. I would have expected Apple to have offered more information and specifics, even advice for porting, regarding various changes to the system and apps than they did. The information wasn’t exactly widely available, and what was there wasn’t too easy to find… As in it wasn’t obviously there amongst the other shiny paraphernalia offered in the OS release website pages. There was a lot of posturing and pretty images on their website – everything you needed if you were a newbie purchasing a new system from scratch. Not too much for someone upgrading. Apart from how “different” it all was… and forgetting to mention how those changes were going to bugger up your systems. I have very high expectations of this company,  but… well… it seems that my high expectations of this company seems to have set the bar too high for them this time.

 

Rotten Apples…

iOS must be, without doubt, the most unstable OS I have encountered. Except Windows Vista. Vista may be worse. Maybe… And that is most certainly something I thought I would never say about an Apple product, system, or software.

I’m horrified and astounded by how unbelievably glitchy and unstable it is – even after 3 updates. They haven’t managed to stabilise it – it’s certainly not just me, if the hits on Google are anything to go by – and if anything, they may have made it worse. My iPad certainly still seems extremely unhappy to have it, and she’s not getting any better, either.

I probably need to learn how to do this...

I wish I knew how to do this…

Coupled with the almost equally-inept OS X Yosemite, it seems that Apple appears to be focused on effectively punishing anyone who doesn’t have a new model of a computer or mobile product. This new pair of operating systems seem to be entirely designed for the high-end newer products that are also brand-new out of the box. Older models who are migrated onto it seem to be having nothing but trouble. They’re clearly not optimised well enough for the older processes to manage to run them properly, and the migration itself is also flawed… well, mine was. A whole bunch of stuff doesn’t work on both platforms, and both are 2012 models; only two years old. But that may as well be lightyears.

The older models clearly aren’t able to quite manage to run these things. Certainly in the case of iOS 8, this is particularly evident. Simply put, my iPad just cannot really cope with the new operating system. She gets easily upset by anything, and not only freezes or crashes the apps, she even freezes and crashes her entire system, especially when there’s space memory for the CPU (the brain) available. I haven’t been able to open files on iOS Pages app that I created before the upgrade, and the one game I have left (whilst having to delete the others to make space) doesn’t work properly.

n the other side, as well as other irritating niggles, on reboot after the new OS X Yosemite update, it screwed up my Gmail account in the Mail centre of my Macbook, and also forced my Macbook Apple ID apps into launching under their designated default setting of my iCloud account, as opposed the Apple ID account I actually do use – leaving me wondering for while why the supposed upgrade to having everything sync wasn’t working (the iPad was set to the proper Apple ID I use). I been unable to view screenshots I created from games on my Macbook with OS X Yosemite (although other platforms or software are perfectly able to manage them). The wifi doesn’t connect or work properly (and there’s more, but they’re over here). The point being that my Macbook doesn’t work properly anymore, either.

I regret updating both of them. A lot. I feel guilty for putting my girls through it. My poor sweet things are being forced to endure such difficult working conditions, and I can’t undo them. Well… I could – but I won’t. I guess I just really hope that my faith in Apple as a good company will come through and will fix the problems.

Naive, I suppose. But until then, I will continue to still rant about it…!

 

When I got my MacBook Pro Retina, I naively thought that 250GB was enough on-board space. In my defence, it was 2012 and I didn’t realise how many cool games were available for the Mac platform… (and we’ll just write The Witcher 2 off as a really big mistake and not count that… I still have no idea where that one went wrong).

What do you mean, 'Yosemite' broke it?... Want me to bite him?

What do you mean, ‘Yosemite’ broke it?… Want me to bite him?

Now, I have quite a few games with their add ons, DLCs, whatnots and what have you, and they’ve stuffed pretty much nearly half of my available space (more, if you include other things like screenshots and stuff). Clogged it right up. CPU got sluggish (and we’ll just pretend not to count the upgrade to OS X Yosemite – that’s a whole other rant… or two…!). I got some of it back when I got really annoyed with Witcher 2 and dumped all 22GB of it. But the fact of the matter was that at least 80GB of my space was taken up by games and their extra watsits – and that’s a bit more than my Macbook can handle, given what else is stuffed in there too…

In the last two years since I bought my two shiny-new Apple products (iPad [4] Retina & Macbook Pro Retina), Techland has changed a lot. It’s changing faster and faster as the weeks go by. Not years or months. It takes just weeks. Two years ago, 250GB of HDD was enough for a laptop and 16 GB was enough for a tablet. But that was before everything went digital and was required to be downloaded. Now, thanks to all that downloading, hard drive space is being measured in terabytes. iMacs are coming with 1TB of space as standard (apart from the one cheaper option which has “just” 500GB on board – it practically screams “I am only for the download-phobic outliers out there”…). They also come with NVIDIA GTX 775M graphics cards with 1 or 2GB of graphics space. They’re really cool… but then about five minutes after I thought my 650M was pretty cool, it was already out of date (but that’s a whole other rant…).

Meh. 

I love Apple, but they can also be such a pain in the arse.

 

Enough is Never Enough…


Hmmmm…

Maybe this will be big enough to manage all my Mac games –

MyMemory 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

For now, at least... 👾🎮💻 😋

 


So… The space issue is really bugging me. For anything Apple to be mobile and useable you need shedloads of both on board data and cloud data. And thanks to the irritatingly incompetent networks/cable/phone companies, we do require both – since the internet can’t always be accessed to rely solely on cloud connection for storage/gameplay/etc, and then you need that shedload of hard drive space so to access what you can’t either get on the cloud or generally via the internet – and usually because the internet access just isn’t there.

The tech is there, but there’s nothing – or, or rather, no one – really supporting it. Not here in the UK, anyway. So, at best, we end up with either 128GB iPads with best-option wifi and 4G access, or a laptop/desktop with an external HDD hanging off it, also with the best-option wifi, in the hope that either one or both storage and access options will suffice for what we require of it.

[I will never understand why the tech and hardware firms haven’t already come to some sort of mutual arrangement with the networks and internet firms – it would obviously benefit them both. Is it only obvious to everyone who doesn’t work for these companies or something…?]

I need a lot right now...

And I need a lot right now…

Currently, I have neither of these options – and a growing abundance of “lack of space” pop-ups whenever I try to shoehorn anything else in. I’m looking into something to hold more space for my games… I hardly have enough to justify an external hard drive measured in terabytes – I have a Mac after all (now, it would be a very different conversation if I had a high-end PC, and ergo access to the entire Steam toy box…!). I have, though, found a lovely little USB key that holds quite a nice little total of 128GB, and that made me smile. Not the price, though… Not until I went to My Memory… They have nice prices. This, at least, may be a half-decent temporary solution. I can’t imagine 128GB will take that long to fill.

I can’t wait for terabytes to be stuffed into something smaller than a flash drive. Most external HDDs are annoying, and the ones that aren’t too annoying (the really light, small, shiny ones they have the gall to call “portable”… They all should be “portable”…) cost too much. And even then, they tend to gear towards the whole Time Machine thing when it comes to using it with OS X – something that is a nice idea in theory, but a stupid one in reality, and entirely impractical. So I’m not a big fan. The 128GB flash keys were a relief to see when they finally turned up – at least they hold a fairly decent amount of stuff, and it’s all that I really need. For now.

Obviously, if the networks on internet companies can get themselves together, then space wouldn’t be that much of an ongoing issue – most things will be directly available from cloud servers; we would be able to continuously stream content, and easily save our own content back onto them. Downloading wouldn’t even be required, and ergo, neither would space.

I am lucky enough to have a good broadband service at home and I take advantage of it. However, I have rubbish access over 3G outside (and don’t get me started about the lack of even half-decent wifi out there too), and since content streaming when it comes to games is still not available anyway, that therefore still means I have to forgo most of the things I would like to download onto my iPad, including games. Saying goodbye to Blizzard’s Hearthstone and Capcom’s Ace Attorney to make room for other things, including iOS 8, was painful to say the least.

Not Enough Disk Space

… I feel his pain

I make as much space as I can: All the data that is on my iPad that can be backed up and exported from the local drive is, via the various cloud apps that I have installed (backup of backups is always a good idea). They are then deleted from the iPad and makes more space – however, there are some things like particular pictures I’d rather keep directly on the local drive (as well as being backed up over cloud, of course), and they do help clog it all up. Unfortunately, we’re also still in the era where games have to be downloaded to be played, and they’re pretty big these days. So I’m still out of space on the 12.5GB that’s left after iOS 8 took over. I’m still waiting for that future to turn up – where the downloads aren’t necessary at all… then maybe I could play the games and have my locally-saved pictures at the same time, as well as listen to music as well. Right now there’s nowhere near enough room to even think about having my iTunes or Audible downloads on it as well as everything else. There’s an option to stream iTunes from their iCloud server… but that’s obviously not helpful when it takes up so much data when out and about, and you’re stuck to listening to it over wifi at home, which is unhelpful as the point of having it on a mobile platform is that it’s, well, mobile. Restricted to listening to it over home wifi rather negates that point.

It rather feels like we’re stuck in tech-limbo – we have available to us cloud storage and streaming on one side, and the option of mass on board storage on devices on the other, yet we would require hardly any storage at all (except just enough for the system) if the cloud services we’ve been supposedly promised about a millennium ago would actually turn up, along with the online access and support for them. The problem, of course, is that it can’t turn up until internet/network providers actually provide sufficient internet access to do so. Everywhere. Nationwide. Even in the tiniest corners of the country. Not just in the home, but wandering about outside, everywhere and anywhere. Without proper constant access, we can never be rid of the need for a large local hard drive.

The other thing is that most people don’t even have large local hard drives on their mobile devices – certainly not their Apple ones. Most have the lowest priced option – no surprise given Apple’s price ranges. And just 8 or 16GB is never going to be enough.

Decent and low-priced 4G access would be a great answer, at least for now. But it’s not being offered here. It’s hardly available to use at all, and even then the price plans are generally eye-watering for a realistic amount of data to stream everything you want. But if it was more readily available at a decent price, it would probably solve a lot of these problems outlined here.

 

Solutions?

... the dream

… It’s the dream!

The best solution? Get the internet working. Everywhere. In all places, in all areas of the country. Wifi or 4G…. As long as it works well at well above 100mbps in every corner there is, nationwide. Idealistically, I imagine this is what Apple imagines also, given the way they have designed their hardware. This idealism, however, is not something that has been acknowledged by BT, Virgin Media, or the countless mobile networks there are out there.

There are places on this planet who are lightyears ahead of us here in the UK – places where even 100mbps is probably a laughably low bit-rate. But here, we get a nationwide average of – what? – 8mbps, realistically speaking? And that’s at home, from our home broadband routers. Outside your modem’s ping range, you’re screwed. There’s nothing out there to rely on except your awful 3G service, and if it does actually work at all, you can probably barely use it for more than a few hundred MBs as a part of your contract/bundle plan. Don’t mention 4G… for all the “4GEE” adverts around, it exists in about 12 hotspots nationwide and costs a small fortune to access on particularly awful data plans. Mr/Ms Average Jo outside of central London isn’t really going to get much of a chance with that option, and you might as well say it doesn’t exist until the mobile networks sort themselves out and offer it to everyone at a sensible price.

who loves living in the dark ages...?

Who loves living in the dark ages…?

At my parent’s home in rural north Wales, they barely pass the 2mbps mark on a good day. We should be able to expect a norm of above 1000mbps… but the infrastructure and investment is virtually non-existent. Without it in place, sophisticated cloud servers and streaming options aren’t really viable, and we’re back to practical hardware matters. How very… turn of the century (21st Century, naturally).

So… we’re left with only “turn of the century” solutions for more space, the most practical solution being some kind of internally-located external memory, like on mobile phones. SD cards clearly didn’t catch on… Apple certainly has no intention of going down that route anymore and using them. Even my 2012 Macbook doesn’t have an SD port. I imagined they would come up with something that was an alternate, but none has come to light. They seem intent on sticking to USBs, “upgrading” USB slots to 3.0 ports, so we can transfer bigger files at a faster rate between flash drives and the computer. Up to 128GB of data apparently…

Phone companies have managed to overcome burdensome on board memory issues and offer even lower-end Smartphones with the capacity to upgrade their on board memory with SD cards, most commonly up to 64GB – some even 128GB. The card is obviously unobtrusive and sits inside the phone itself. It’s a great compromise: Put less hard drive in the unit, yet allow the buyer the option for more. Simple enough. Easy enough.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to believe in this. Their hardware designers have failed to take inspiration from this, which is rather a mystery to me. They continue to be narrowly-focused on using the Cloud, but at the same time they continue to push online downloads, mainly via iTunes. Granted, they continue to add extra on board space for their new hardware, but there is no “top up” solution to adding space to older models, except to offer overpriced external hard drives.

Adding the ability to use internal extra memory space seems like such an obvious solution to “external” memory options. But, no… it was just Cloud. And 3.0 USB flash drives. The latter are annoying, can be lost and broken, and stick out the machine about a mile. The former is great in theory, but pointless without constant and accessible internet access.

Apple used to be trailblazers in all areas. They trailblazed the Cloud, but given the fact that online access isn’t yet universal, I had imagined they would have also invented something for the interim, until online access was better and more readily available (and much, much cheaper…). Something better than SD cards, but not as obtrusive as external HDDs or USB drives. Until that “someday eventually” when constant wifi and/or 4G access is available throughout every square meter of every country, it seems like a better solution than what we already have to struggle with. However, with Apple trailblazing blindly ahead with cloud-based everything, no one is going to be looking at anything else, either. Whatever Apple does, you can guarantee everyone else is going to be following closely behind. And they’re only interested in online-only when it comes to extra storage.

 

Cloudy With Little Chance of Space…

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t live in rural north Wales. If they did, they would realise just how the other half live, and it would be a whole different story… And I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

... Fact!

Fact!

Up in the hills, valleys, and mountains of Snowdonia, there is barely any internet access for homes, let alone – and even less when relying on mobile networks. There’s barely even any 2G.. let alone any 3G. 4G is out of the question. Ergo, so is Cloud. I can’t imagine it’s very different in other places here in the UK as well. Outside the main cities, and certainly outside of London, there is very little online access over basic 8mbps broadband, and barely-there 3G. Even in the centre London there are a mass of black holes, even on the best mobile networks.

So… we must continue to endure with archaic solutions. The very ones we have used for years… Decades. External hard drives and USB flash drives are really no different to the external floppy disk drives we used to have to plug into old computers like the Amiga. They’re also no less annoying and cumbersome.

The fact you also have to carry around anything from a huge, black brick-shaped thing that also requires another plug just for itself, to a USB flash drive that always seems to somehow get knocked as it sticks out obtrusively, is ridiculous to the point of absurd. Laptops and what have you are supposed to be mobile and convenient – but there’s nothing convenient about having virtually no battery life, or any decent storage space… yes, one terabyte may have seemed like a lot back a year or so ago, but with HD, 4K, 30GB games plus extra DLCs, etc, it means very little now. Especially when you download everything and want to keep them. Therefore a whole bunch of other stuff ends up having to be carted along for the ride, wherever your going. It’s how many years since laptops/notebooks/netbooks have been the norm for people? Yet very little has actually changed. More on board HDD space is useless if it’s still less than you need, and have to buy some stupid add-on that you have to lug around, plug in, and have it hanging around, taking up even more space.

Again, it’s annoying.

 

Thanks to the fact that downloading things is still the norm, I will be getting that 128GB 3.0 USB flash drive. That way I can store my games on there, not clog up the hard drive and screw up the CPU (the “brain”). I still rather resent having to pay that extra money for it to do so, though. I paid for the laptop, paid for the games, paid all that extra for my laptop to be a damned Macbook (as opposed to buying a cheaper, even more annoying Microsoft product)… I don’t see why I should have to pay extra for more storage on top of it. It’s almost as bas as having a Wii U… (lordy, Nintendo screwed up with the hardware and storage on that one!).

I can’t help thinking that surely, by now, the supposed trailblazers of tech would have worked out a way to store downloadable games on the Cloud too.

But no. The future of such things now lie with Sony PlayStation, it seems, who are working on pioneering streaming games right now.

Maybe this time it will be Apple who are doing the following…