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 And not even just in games – real life had superseded it, and both tech and hacking had moved on to bigger and better things.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…

 

What's Your Tag?

ps4

Sony’s “Yukimura” update rolls out tomorrow for Playstation 4, adding a plethora of welcome changes. According to Polygon, this update is intended to enhance the social aspects of the top selling console.

The highly requested suspend/resume feature on Xbox One will finally become available to PS4 owners, allowing consumers to easily go to and from their games and pick up where they left off.

Yukimura will focus on social aspects by helping you locate fellow Playstation 4 users on your Facebook friend list, while adding a “Friends Who Play This” feature on each game’s detail page. Xbox One currently offers something similar within their newly added Game Hub, which makes it easier to see who is playing what. For instance, if someone sees that 4 of their friends are really in to Evolve, they may be more inclined to pick it up.

The next Xbox One update has a large focus on Achievement integration, and…

View original post 343 more words

What's Your Tag?

neverwinter2

After a pretty solid beta earlier this year, the upcoming Xbox One MMO Neverwinter is ready for launch next Tuesday on March 31st. Those looking to jump in to the free-to-play RPG can download the 10.5GB file starting today, and be ready to party immediately on launch day!

Following the lore of the Forgotten Realms series, Neverwinter is a fantasy MMO that’s incredibly accessible to newcomers, and offers a pretty well laid out free-to-play model. Without paying a dime, players can create up to two different characters and have access to all expansion content immediately, but there are plenty of upgrade options for in-game currency, new playable races, mounts, vanity pets, fighter companions, additional inventory space, and even more character slots for those of who you like to dabble in a bit of everything.

Will we be seeing you online?

Bio Card Brad

Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?

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Fedora 21: Package Kit Errors

After experiencing a whole host of issues with Fedora 21 recently, I found the following in the hope that it helps:

http://fedoramagazine.org/special-update-information-for-fedora-21-users-packagekit-errors/

To run:

yum update --advisory=FEDORA-2015-0921

I ran this through, and by the look of the code it seemed to address a number of issues I have recently had trouble addressing in any of the usual ways that I was finding online, not least PackageKit issues.

Further advice states if the problems continues to run:

pkcon repair

Hopefully, this will work….

 

Aside  —  Posted: March 4, 2015 in Fedora, Installations, Linux, Software, Tech
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fedora vs Skype…

 

Skype… Easy to install, right? Just click on the pretty icon on the website and it all appears as if by magic. Right?

Well… Not so much when you’ve got a new Linux distro that is a Fedora edition, it would seem.

Installing Skype on Fedora 21: to say it wasn’t easy would be an understatement. Once I worked out that the best Skype/Microsoft had to offer was a download option for Fedora 16 it seemed like it I had no option: and I was off to see what Professor Google had to say on the matter.

The lovely Prof. Google hit on one of my favourite panic button sites for Fedora problems:

http://www.if-not-true-then-false.com/2012/install-skype-on-fedora-centos-red-hat-rhel-scientific-linux-sl/

This website always seems to have a brilliant answer for all the new Fedora codes for things I need. I love the fact there are so many people out there who not only have the patience and smarts to work these things out, but also put them online to help people.

 

Problems…

One annoying thing was that for some reason there were still issues even after I went though this tutorial… I’m not sure what was wrong, but once I worked out just what the terminal was telling me, it turned out it as missing a whole bunch of added extras too… So one by one I asked the terminal to install them as they appeared.

It was only after running this crapload of code that I finally got Skype up and running — and it actually  works just fine now.

It took much longer to mange than if the package on the website had run properly. Running everything separately, manually, makes things take so long — something we’re not used to in the age of unpacked zip files, and lightning-fast and instant installations at the click of a mouse or tap of the screen. On the other hand there’s a huge sense of achievement when after all that effort, the thing you were trying to get to work actually works.

That is why I like Fedora — everything new I try to do with it gives me some sense of achiement because I did it myself… with the help of dear old Professor a Google, of course.

 

Skype Install

Installing Skype 4.3 on Fedora 21:

http://www.if-not-true-then-false.com/2012/install-skype-on-fedora-centos-red-hat-rhel-scientific-linux-sl/

<Code is written in green>

 

First:

<enter root mode:>

 su -

## OR ##

 sudo -i

 < Changes terminal to:>

[root@localhost ~]# 

 

Installation:

yum localinstall http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/7/x86_64/e/epel-release-7-5.noarch.rpm

 

<Success>

 Installed:
  epel-release.noarch 0:7-5
Complete
  • Required Dependencies:
    yum localinstall http://li.nux.ro/download/nux/dextop/el7/x86_64/nux-dextop-release-0-1.el7.nux.noarch.rpm

 

<Success>

 Dependency Updated:
  cups.x86_64 1:1.7.5-15.fc21
  cups-client.x86_64 1:1.7.5-15.fc21
  cups-filesystem.noarch 1:1.7.5-15.fc21
  cups-libs.x86_64 1:1.7.5-15.fc21
  dbus.x86_64 1:1.8.16-1.fc21
  dbus-libs.x86_64 1:1.8.16-1.fc21
  dbus-x11.x86_64 1:1.8.16-1.fc21
  freetype.x86_64 0:2.5.3-15.fc21
  gtk3.x86_64 0:3.14.8-2.fc21
  libgudev1.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21
  libstdc++.x86_64 0:4.9.2-6.fc21
  sqlite.x86_64 0:3.8.8-2.fc21
  systemd.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21
  systemd-compat-libs.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21
  systemd-libs.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21
  systemd-python.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21
  systemd-python3.x86_64 0:216-20.fc21

 

  • Download Skype 4.3 Dynamic
cd /tmp
## Skype 4.3 Dynamic for Fedora/CentOS/RHEL/SL ##
 wget --trust-server-names http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-linux-dynamic

  • Extract Skype:
mkdir /opt/skype
## Extract Skype 4.3 ##
 tar xvf skype-4.3* -C /opt/skype --strip-components=1

 

  • Create Launcher:
ln -s /opt/skype/skype.desktop /usr/share/applications/skype.desktop
 ln -s /opt/skype/icons/SkypeBlue_48x48.png /usr/share/icons/skype.png
 ln -s /opt/skype/icons/SkypeBlue_48x48.png /usr/share/pixmaps/skype.png
touch /usr/bin/skype
 chmod 755 /usr/bin/skype

  • Open /usr/bin/skype with text editor and add following content:
 <Open Text Editor>
 ∘ gedit /usr/bin/skype
 ∘ nano /usr/bin/skype

Then in the text editor add:

#!/bin/sh
 export SKYPE_HOME="/opt/skype"
 $SKYPE_HOME/skype --resources=$SKYPE_HOME $*

<save>

 

<< * INSTALL PROBLEMS * >>

  • PROBLEM: Error Received:
 /opt/skype/skype: error while loading shared libraries: libXv.so.1: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Ran:

 yum install libXv.so.1

<Because the terminal code stated that it was lacking the package named “libXv.so.1”, we request Yum to install it – and keep running the Skype request to find the missing packages until it finally runs>

 

  • PROBLEM: Error Received:
 /opt/skype/skype: error while loading shared libraries: libXss.so.1: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Ran:

yum install libXss.so.1
    • PROBLEM: Error Received:
     /opt/skype/skype: error while loading shared libraries: libQtDBus.so.4: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

    Ran:

    yum install libQtDBus.so.4
    • PROBLEM: Error Received:
    /opt/skype/skype: error while loading shared libraries: libQtWebKit.so.4: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

    Ran:

    yum install libQtWebKit.so.4

    <<Skype now running >>

     

    run Skype:

    skype

    Aside  —  Posted: February 23, 2015 in Fedora, Installations, Linux, Software, Tech
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Apparently Fedora seems to be the more complicated option of Linux to choose from than the others, if you’re a newbie to the system. Well done me…! This is just mainly down to the fact they like to do things a little differently, so you can’t just follow the same commands or options as some of the other Linux distros out there (that aren’t based on GNOME 3, at least).

    On the other hand, it’s an interesting learning curve. I’m currently learning slowly, but at least I am learning something. I’m also learning the art of patience, given my seriously underpowered netbook is probably running at its full capacity with this system. But regardless of how different it is, I like it. It’s complicated, which is interesting. Everything is fairly manual on it if you want something more than a net-surfer out of your chosen machine, so you have to find out everything you need to do to get things up and running. Now that but isn’t what’s different about Fedora. It’s the fact the way you get things done is very different.

     

    The Way of the Fedora

    Currently I am trying to run Yum updates on Fedora [21] – apparently yum (Yellowdog Updater Modifier) “allows automatic updates, package and dependency management, on RPM-based distributions“… In other words, the Fedora OS needs it to manage software in the background, and was specially made by Fedora creators Red Hat for this job… Although apparently something else called DNF will be replacing it in Fedora 22.

    Yum runs the basics on the system that you can usually rely on other operating systems to manage on its own without having to download the tool for it:

    yum can:

    • install packages
    • delete packages
    • update existing installed packages
    • list available packages
    • list installed packages

     

    Trouble…

    My little netbook has been chugging away at updating and installing everything from the Yum package for a long time, still isn’t quite halfway through yet. It’ll get there eventually, though… I hope. The idea was to get LAMP onto the machine, which first apparently requires Yum installations/updates. After, it can install LAMP software: Apache, MySQL and PHP. With this, I can then install WordPress in it.

    It might seem long-winded just to work on WordPress, but that’s obviously not the point here. The point is to learn how this all works. Though, when I go and do it on the Raspberry Pi, the entire system to manage the same thing will be completely different, thanks to Fedora and Respbian operating systems being completely different forms of Linux. Hence the interest in it. Doing it two different ways makes you learn far more.

    … Unless it crashes your computer. Which it looks like this has. Poor little mite… It’s barely got baby-PC specs; it’s unsurprising this may have overburdened it a little…

    … Nope. Though it seems to have finally come to the end of unpacking its 1135-strong file kit at least. Followed by verifying  every single one of them. Then it finished. Hoorah!

    Next phase: Installing more things. That aren’t responding properly. So… apparently the next phase is actually Troubleshooting.

    This might take a while.

    Apparently it’s not able to install MySQL now. It doesn’t seem to understand what I’m asking it to do… after some research it seems that Fedora 21 is a version that works a little differently to the others and the usual commands won’t necessarily work. That’s the one problem with computers – you can’t have a nice heart-to-heart with it, or sit it down for a cup of tea and have a nice chat to understand what the problem is, or yell until it gives up and does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a computer, designed to understand one thing, and unless you get that thing right it just looks blankly back at you. Fun.

    And that is what’s happening now.

    So I’m now going to find out what the Fedora equivalent to a cup of tea and a biscuit to figure out what’s the matter with it. The kettle to boil is Google. Hopefully it will make me a nice brew and find me some Digestives…

     

    Plans of Mice & Men, etc…

    I originally dumped Fedora onto the netbook mainly because Windows 7 Starter was awful on it, and I had a couple of Linux operating systems pre-loaded onto a free DVD from a magazine to make good use of. I also wanted something simple that ran okay on its ridiculously-low specs to lend it to an older teenager for some net-basics – Facebook, email, YouTube, surfing, online banking, etc. Basic stuff. I wasn’t really looking for a new project other than rebooting a dying netbook.

    But then I realised that Fedora was actually a pretty cool toy that I could play with. I could get some practice and insight into slightly more complicated things with Linux, and I’ve taken this chance to just play around with it to see what this distro can do and how. It’s been especially useful because Fedora is such a different system to other Linux distros.

    It’s already been challenging – after being used to the horrors of Windows and the ease of OS X, Linux of any kind is a shock – and Fedora doesn’t do much of anything for you, preferring to remain simple, expecting you to put anything in there that you want to have installed and not particularly interested in holding your hand. They seem to want you to make it all your own space, and for this Fedora, and all Linux distros are a fabulous idea.

    Now I’m wondering exactly how much the teenager will be using it…! *insert tongue-out emoji here in your head*

     

    Testing Linux distros on old netbooks is a normal process, it seems. It wasn’t just me who hated the god-awful Windows Starter series a headache (you know, the one after you’ve banged your head on the wall so much the wall actually gives up first…), and people have been using Linux to actually try and make use of their pointless little purchases once and for all.

    Now, I join them. Accidentally.

     

    Long story…

    I accidentally wiped the crappy OS from my crappy old netbook. Yes, accidentally. As much as I hated that damn thing. Although, really, I rather possibly think it may have subliminally been a Fraudian “slip” – Windows 7 Starter is an even more appalling than Windows Vista (I never before thought that possible…), and there is nothing good to say about it. At all. I even reinstalled it, in case I put something on there by accident that shouldn’t be there, or something was a little incompatible for it’s pathetic 1GHz processor and it’s hilariously inept 1GB of RAM. It did nothing to help. Sadly.

    Then after reinstalling it all, the wifi card wouldn’t work anymore when it restarted afterwards (the only damn thing that was still working on it before…) and it seemed like a newer update broke the driver or something. It’s not like I cared enough to try and look too deeply into the why. I was just ready to throw it out the window. After the first set of installations, it seemed to be working. After the second set of update installations – a bunch of security things – it stopped working altogether. The wifi manager wouldn’t turn on, and when it was forced on it couldn’t find anything (and yes, the wifi was on and everything else on it were working). As far as the computer was concerned it didn’t even have a Wifi modem anywhere near it.

    So I was mad at it, and tried a free DVD of Linux distros (Linux operating system distributions) on it from my latest Linux Format Magazine. Only I chose the wrong thing… Fedora (21) has an option to run it live to try it out… 4M Linux did not. I picked the second option and instead of trying the live test, the other distro wiped Windows from my hard drive and (to add insult to injury) failed its installation, so I was left with nothing Now I’m rather mad at that instead now…

    And here I am, now trying to install Linux on it instead.

     

    Fedora

    Not the hat. Fedora 21. It’s a Linux OS based on the GNOME 3 kernel (if you know/ care what that means). It’s on the DVD that was from the latest issue of Linux Format (great magazine). I decided to try and see if it would install/run properly onto, and from, the hard drive of my little (… tiny) machine. It’s apparently the installation is quite a long slog (it took hours) on hardware that is at the absolute minimum of its recommended specs – a minimum of 1GB RAM. That’s the max my little thing has got. It also seems to be made all the more complicated because, to the new system, the hard drive is full. This is because it is formatted in NTFS – a Windows-only format. Apparently Linux is not a big fan… so it doesn’t work on it. The NTFS partitions have to be reallocated. Which takes a long time, it seems. Then it “reclaim[s] the space” and does its configuration thing. Which also takes a long time.

    … Just in case it went south with the RAM restrictions (it is tempting to put a 2GB RAM card in instead, but that requires spending money on a machine I’m still not entirely sure about yet… even if it is only about £20) I had Puppy Linux on standby. If anything will work on the little tyke, it’s that.

    Installation is straightforward at least (despite being time-consuming). The installation itself takes quite some time, which is normal enough, but this was taking double that. Even after the poor netbook slogged away so hard to manage to even sort out a partition for the system, it took quite some time to get the Fedora onto it. After all that time invested, I’m still not entirely pinning all my hopes on it working properly though – which is why a copy of Puppy is on a USB ready to go! It’s not that I don’t trust Fedora – it’s that I just don’t trust that netbook as far as I can throw it.

    Once the system is [finally] installed, quickly setting up an admin account and Root Password is next (and easy enough), then it goes off against and sorts itself out, then eventually asks you to Quit to reboot. Rebooting doesn’t take too long (especially given how little the netbook has to boot it with), and the white-filling kernel is cute to watch anyway. After that, setting things up is easily done following the basic instructions, and then you’re in. Nice and easy.

    As an operating system, Fedora so far is pretty nice on it. It’s pretty in general, and even runs much better than I expected on such a machine. It’s also customisable, easy to use, and particularly easier to get used to if you’re more familiar with OS X, I would say. Customisation is definitely a key word the Fedora guys were looking at here, as was user-friendly. The thing is just plain nice, I would say. Despite wasting the better part of a day shoe-horning it into a three-year-old netbook (give or take) with a 1GHz processor and 1GB RAM, I’m left impressed by the way it works. Other than playing with Raspbian on my Pi, I have had no dallying with any Linux-based product… but so far I’m pretty happy with the both of them, actually.

    Time and use will tell… but so far so good, anyway.

    Good job Fedora guys, I say.

     

    HARDWARE:

    • Samsung NC110 Netbook
    • Intel Atom Inside 1GHz processor
    • 1GB RAM DDR3
    • 320GB HDD
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 (GMA 3150) shared graphics card
    • Cyberlink Youcam
    • Wireless Modem (which isn’t working thanks to some inexplicable rubbish Windows/Drivers issue)
    • (shipped with Windows 7 Starter)

    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…!