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Topics - Deozaan [ switch to compact view ]

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Living Room / One Cool Chameleon
« on: May 07, 2009, 02:26 PM »
To be honest, I don't know if this is real or not, since I don't know how chameleons work, but if this is really how they change colors, this is amazing!

Click for YouTube Video

Check out the video for more. Sorry that it's in WMV format. I got this video in an e-mail and that's how it came.

EDIT: After cursory research, I've found that chameleons don't really work this way. Sure would be cool if they did, though. :)

Living Room / Cell Phone recommendations?
« on: April 12, 2009, 12:28 AM »
I've been happily and contentedly without a cell phone since last October and went purely to using Skype for all my phone needs. It's amazingly freeing not being interrupted by a phone all the time and not being able to even hear the phone ring (since all sound from the PC is routed through the headphones). It's been a peaceful, simple life.

However, that must come to an end now. It is now necessary for my wife and I to get cell phones. Since I generally hate talking to people on phones I never cared about what features they had since all I needed was something that would allow me to call other people. But this time I have certain requirements and I'm hoping that DC members can help suggest phones and/or service to meet my needs.

Here are my requirements:

  • Speaker Phone
  • Can do 3-way (or conference) calls
  • Can show video
  • Has a keyboard layout for easy text entry
  • Internet
  • Can store lots of contacts
  • GPS/Maps would be useful
  • BlueTooth would be useful as well

That's all I can think of for my needs for features. Here's some more information for you to help customize your responses to my wants/needs:

  • I found out recently that my netbook has something in it called 3G, which I think allows me to get internet access anywhere I have cell service or something like that. I supposed it would be useful to be able to make use of that, so if you know a phone that can do that and/or a service that provides that, I'd be interested in learning more.
  • I am generally a hater of Apple products for a variety of reasons, so I'm wary of the iPhone. But I won't let my prejudices get in the way of getting the right phone. If the iPhone really is that great, then maybe I'll consider the steep price tag and the two year commitment to AT&Ts services required to use it.
  • If you have a specific phone model for me, please also recommend some good accessories such as bluetooth headset/earpiece, car charger, etc.
  • If you can also provide price and where to buy, that would greatly be appreciated!
  • If you know specific phones/carriers/accessories to avoid, please let me know and explain why I should avoid them.

Thanks in advance!

Okay, so the subject seems to describe just about any media player out there already, but I couldn't think of how else to describe it.

I've had an idea recently that I think would be incredible for media players. It may already exist, or it may not be possible to do; I don't know about the inner workings of how data is stored in audio files. Anyway, the tagging I'm talking about is different than, say ID3v2 tags for MP3s. The kind of tagging I'm talking about is more like the kind of tagging people do on the internet. Short tags that describe and categorize the music based on personal associations (emotion, feeling, genre, instruments, events, whatever).

For instance, a techno song might have the tags "energetic, techno, happy, graduation, Sarah" or whatever you personally associate with that song.

What I think would be great is if there was a media player that allowed you to tag songs in this manner, that could also create playlists on the fly from your tags. You could select the "instrumental, depressing, new age, techno" tags and it would create a playlist of all songs that had at least one of those tags. Or perhaps you could customize it even further and require that the song must have x number of those n tags to be included in the playlist.

Is there anything out there that already does this? If not, is this something that would be feasible to implement with current audio formats?

Living Room / Anti-Necrospamming
« on: March 26, 2009, 07:11 PM »
There's been a trend where spammers will revive an old thread that hasn't been posted in for several months or longer. Sometimes the spam has to do with the original thread (which is why it is revived) and sometimes it just happens to be a place to spam.

I thought it might be a good idea to automatically lock threads that haven't been posted in for, say, more than 6 months (though the length of time is debatable). This would actually serve 3 purposes:

1) It would prevent spammers from resurrecting old threads.
2) It would prevent new members from resurrecting old threads (they don't always realize the date on threads when they're new to the forum).
3) It would prevent regular members from getting confused when old threads are resurrected and not realizing the original post was made 3 years ago.

Additionally, if someone wanted to continue a conversation on a dead thread or start up a related topic, perhaps there could be a method of easily starting a new thread in the same forum section that links to the dead thread. This would allow new conversations to be brought up about old topics while allowing people to read the old material, but only contributing new material, thus keeping most of the information in the new topic up to date and relevant.

So what do the rest of you think? Good idea? Bad? Got a better suggestion? Indifferent?

Living Room / Steamworks Makes DRM Obsolete?
« on: March 25, 2009, 04:10 PM »
That's what they say:

March 24, 2009 - Valve today announced a new set of advanced features delivered in Steamworks, a complete suite of publishing and development tools that are available free of charge to developers and publishers worldwide.

Headlining the new feature set is the Custom Executable Generation (CEG) technology that compliments the already existing anti-piracy solution offered in Steamworks. A customer friendly approach to anti-piracy, CEG makes unique copies of games for each user allowing them to access the application on multiple machines without install limits and without having to install root kits on their PC.

The new features also include support for in-game downloadable content (DLC) and matchmaking. The in-game DLC support allows developers to deliver new content as they choose (paid or free) from inside the game itself, allowing users to make immediate purchases and experience the new content in the same game session. The Steamworks matchmaking now includes the robust lobby system shipped and tested in Left 4 Dead.
Read the rest here.

Probably one of the most important thing about this (for developers) is that Steamworks services are offered free to developers and publishers, so there's really no reason why developers should use invasive DRM to "protect" their games.

Thanks Valve/Steam, for coming up with solutions!

Living Room / Google monitors your electricity.
« on: February 10, 2009, 03:19 PM »
Google has been getting scarier and scarier as they stretch their tendrils into different markets. The latest announcement from Google is that they're getting into the Smart Grid technology.

Google will announce its entry Tuesday into the small but growing business of "smart grid," digital technologies that seek to both keep the electrical system on an even keel and reduce electrical energy consumption.

Google is one of a number of companies devising ways to control the demand for electric power as an alternative to building more power plants. The company has developed a free Web service called PowerMeter that consumers can use to track energy use in their house or business as it is consumed.

Google is counting on others to build devices to feed data into PowerMeter technology. While it hopes to begin introducing the service in the next few months, it has not yet lined up hardware manufacturers.

Personally, I'm starting to becoming concerned with what Google is becoming. Something like the Smart Grid sounds great in theory, but the access to when and where I run electronics in my house and the ability to selectively limit or shut off my electronics remotely is worrying. Combine that with Google's already massive data mining and data storage abilities, and things start to get interesting.

Mini-Reviews by Members / Game Review: Defense Grid: The Awakening
« on: February 03, 2009, 06:46 PM »
Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening.

App NameDefense Grid: The Awakening
Minimum/Recommended System Specs
Click to expand/shrink
The minimum system requirements for the game are the following:
Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista
Processor: 1.8GHz CPU or higher
Memory: 512 MB RAM
Hard disk space: 1 GB available space
DirectX version:  DirectX 9.0c or higher, June 2008 version or later
Video Card:  DirectX 9 video card with shader 2 support such as the following:
  ATI Radeon 9600 or newer (9600-9800,X300-X1950, HD 2400-HD 4870)
  NVIDIA GeForce 6100 or newer (6100-6800,7100-7950,8300-8800,9600-9800, or GTX 216-280)

Recommended System Requirements:
Processor: dual core 2.0 GHz CPU or higher
Memory: 1 GB RAM XP, 1.5 GB RAM Vista
Hard disk space: 1 GB available space
DirectX version:  DirectX 9.0c or higher, June 2008 version or later
Video Card: DirectX 9 video card with shader 3 support and 256MB VRAM such as the following:
  ATI Radeon X700 or newer (X700-X1950, HD 2400-HD 4870)
  NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or newer (7600-7950, 8300-8800, 9600-9800, or GTX 216-280)

Optionally: Supports Game Controller for Windows

Supported OSesWindows XP/Vista
Playable DemoDownload a playable demo from this list of mirrors.
Pricing Scheme$10 USD
Reviewer Donation LinkDonate to Deozaan, the Reviewer
VideosThere are a few HD videos to download, or here are some YouTube videos.
Full Disclosure I have no relationship with Hidden Path Entertainment and gain nothing from this review. I just love the game!

About the game:

Defense Grid: The Awakening is a high quality Tower Defense game created by Hidden Path Entertainment. My understanding of the story is that hundreds of years previously, a bunch of aliens attacked. After the aliens were (barely) defeated, the General who commanded the armies (or whatever) had his brain downloaded into a Defense Grid in case they ever attacked again. Well, now they are attacking again, and the Defense Grid awakens. That is, the Defense Grid is the AI that controls all aspects of the towers. Aiming, firing, building, upgrading, etc. You're just the guy who tells the Grid where to put stuff. The power cores provide electricity to the grid and that's why if they're all stolen, it's game over--because when they're gone, all the defenses power down.

The objective of the game, like all TD games, is to build defense towers along a path to prevent the aliens from reaching your base. Your "base" in this game is really the location of the power cores. It differs from most TD games I've played in that when the aliens actually reach the power cores and take them, they don't just disappear and the power core is not immediately lost forever*. Instead, the aliens have to make their escape with the power cores. This gives you a chance to recover them if you kill them before they escape. When an alien carrying a power core is killed, the power core slowly makes its way back to the base. But if any other aliens are nearby, they can pick it up wherever it is when they reach it and start running toward the exit.

* The exception is that if flying enemies reach the cores, the core(s) they take cannot be recovered even if you shoot them down.

Defense Grid.jpg

Defense Grid has a 20 level story mode that supposedly provides about 8 hours of game play. I'm on level 14 and I'm pretty sure I've been playing for more than 8 hours. But that might be because I'm a perfectionist and always revert back to the autosave (discussed later) if a power core is permanently lost. On top of the regular challenge of the story mode, once you complete a level it unlocks additional challenges for that map. Some challenges just make the aliens stronger, some limit the maximum number of towers you can use at a time, some give you a certain amount of money right from the beginning but don't allow you to earn any from killing enemies, and some levels even have a practice mode that gives you lots of money from the beginning but once again you don't earn anything from killing aliens.

Deep Strategy:

I know that mouser really enjoys TD games that allow you to place towers directly in the way of the enemies, allowing you to shape their path toward the power grid. Well, Defense Grid's levels do this and more. They have a lot of variety! Some levels only allow you to build along the sides of the path, some levels allow you to shape the enemies' path, some levels have the same entry and exit point, and others have separate entry and exit points. Also, no matter what level, flying enemies take a different path than ground enemies. These things add a great depth of strategy to the game.

For instance, if the aliens enter and exit from the same place, you have the benefit of all aliens passing by your towers twice. However, if an enemy carrying a power core gets killed, he drops it. Any alien without a power core will pick it up and start running for the exit. So with the same entry and exit point, you run the risk of the escapees getting too close to the new ones coming in when they get killed.

If the entrance and exit are in different locations, then you have to spread out your towers to cover the entrance and the exit. The upside is that if you manage to kill an alien just before he escapes, you won't have any incoming aliens to pick up the core and turn around and exit.

I even played a map with two power grids and two separate entry and exit points. The layout of the level was very close to symmetric, but the aliens that came down the paths were not always the same on each side. Along with the different enemies coming down each side, the minor differences in the path layout meant that different tower layouts for each side were more effective than going for a symmetric design.

The variety of towers also increases the strategy of the game greatly. Each tower seems to have a very specific purpose and they all seem very well balanced. This means that you won't always build the same one or two towers on every map because they're the most powerful and do the most damage.


Another unique thing about the game is that it will occasionally create an autosave about every 3-5 waves. If things really start to go downhill, you can resume from your previous autosave instead of having to start all the way from the beginning. Additionally, if you quit the game you can resume right from where you left off when you come back. There are some good and some bad things about these save features, which I will address below in the Good and the Needs Improvement section.


The interface seems slightly odd at first, but once you get used to it, it is very simple and very efficient. Basically, the screen is always centered where your mouse is. If you left click on an empty grid, it brings up a window on the side. If you move your mouse up and down it will feel weird because you don't see your cursor so it appears to suddenly jump (snap) from one menu item to another. The better way to use the interface is to move the screen with the mouse, and use the scroll wheel to interact with the menu items. Left clicking selects something or confirms an action, right clicking on an enemy will show its health and stats or cancel an action.

Press T to toggle showing the entrance and exit points, the flyers path, and the range of your units. Press L to fire your Laser Beam of Death From Heaven. Press Backspace to go back to your previous autosave. Other than those three keyboard buttons, it's best just to use the mouse and scroll wheel for everything else.


One thing about defense towers in this game is that the towers have line of sight. This means some towers are better suited for the front row and some are better suited for the back row. For example, towers with slower firing rates are better in back because by the time they're ready to fire again the aliens might be back in the line of sight. Meanwhile, the towers with the fastest firing rate should be in front so they can unload everything they have at them the entire time they are in range.

All towers in the game can be upgraded a maximum of two times (to level 3). Here's a brief overview of all towers, approximately in the order they become available to you. Note that some of the details might be wrong, as I'm doing this by memory.

Gun (machine gun): Fast fire, low damage weapon. Medium/Low Range. Hits Ground & Air. Upgrading increases damage and range. Good against enemies with shields. Least expensive tower in the game.

Inferno (flamethrower): Constant jet of flame that deals low damages all enemies within the cone of fire. Fire continues to burn enemies for a little while after they leave the flame. Low Range. Hits ground units only. Ineffective against shields. Upgrading increases damage and width of fire cone.

Laser: Constant laser beam attacks a single enemy within range. Continues to burn enemy for a while after it leaves the flame. Medium Range. Ground only. Ineffective against shields. Upgrading increases damage.

Temporal: Sends out a periodic pulse that slows down all enemies within range. Affects ground units only. Upgrading increases the range. This tower has a constant upgrade cost, which means it costs the same amount to upgrade as it does to build, which sometimes leaves you wondering if you'd be better off building two of them with a small range or upgrading one to have a larger range.

Meteor: Extremely slow, very high damage attacks. Splash damage affects nearby aliens. Very large range but cannot hit aliens that are too close. Hits ground units only. Upgrading increases damage and slightly increases rate of fire. You'll want one or two of these to take out the slow boss units.

Cannon: Slow firing, high damage weapon that hits a single enemy within range. Large range but cannot hit aliens that are too close. Hits ground and air units. Upgrading increases damage and adds another barrel. (Level 1 fires 1 shot, level 2 fires 2 shots, level 3 fires 3 shots.) Good against shielded aliens.

Missile: Fires missiles at air units only. If you can afford to fully upgrade one of these, it should be all you need to defend against air units.

Tesla: Zaps an enemy when it comes into range. These things work better when they have time to charge up between firings, so they're best near the end of the path where only the strongest would get to. Upgrading them allows them increases their charge up rate, gives them an extra level of charge, and allows the electric jolt to chain to additional enemies.

Concussion: Constant damage to all ground units within range. Starts out with very low damage but with a fully upgraded Concussion tower (and a Temporal tower nearby) in the right place, all but the toughest or fastest enemies won't make it past without taking significant damage.

Command: Reveals stealth aliens and increases money earned from aliens killed within range. Upgrading increases the range and the amount earned from aliens killed. This tower has a constant upgrade price.

Laser Beam of Death from Heaven: About halfway through the game you gain the ability to fire a beam down from above that totally obliterates any alien inside its large radius. It's kind of a panic button. It takes a very long time to recharge. Also, to discourage you for using it when four boss aliens come out at the same time, you do not get any money for aliens destroyed by the blast. It's not really a tower, so you can't upgrade it, but it is a useful weapon when you have no other means of stopping them from getting away with your power cores.

Defense Grid - Boss Info.jpg
Four big and slow bosses making their assault all at once.

The Good

  • In a genre flooded with 2D Flash games, Defense Grid's highly detailed 3D graphics are beautiful and add a lot of polish to the game!
  • Deep strategy due to different alien paths, variety of towers, variety of alien types, and level layout.
  • Towers are balanced very well. All towers can be put to a specific use.
  • Level layouts are interesting and fun.
  • Easy enough to survive with some cores lost, but can be quite challenging to make it through with all your cores intact. I say this is a good thing because it allows players of all skill levels to enjoy the game.
  • Additionally, if you find the story mode too easy, each level has at least one bonus challenge that makes the aliens stronger.
  • Autosave feature is really nice to go back in time just a few waves to see if you can try something with better results.

The Needs Improvement Section

  • Restoring an autosave can provide differing results. For instance, sometimes the game will autosave just a few seconds before one of my power cores is permanently lost. If I restore to the save, my towers might kill the alien before he gets away this time. That is, your towers won't always do the same thing even if you don't change anything.
  • This one is related but needs a bullet point of its own. One particular time when I restored to an autosave and when the screen faded back in, all of my towers came out of the ground as if they had all just been built. In other words, all the aliens on the screen got about 10 seconds of freebie time running past my towers because they were coming up out of the ground and not able to shoot at anything. I tried restoring from the save again but it always did the same thing. It was very frustrating and eventually I had to start that level over.

That is pretty much the only real complaint I have about the game.


This is hands-down the best TD game I've ever played. I've never spent this much time nor had this much fun playing a single TD game before. It's the only one I've ever liked enough to pay for. It's the best looking, has the most variety, the best features, the deepest strategy, and is the most engaging TD game I've experienced. It has a couple of flaws with the autosave feature that, depending on when and how they rear their ugly heads, can be devastating to the gameplay, but overall I would heartily recommend this game to anyone who enjoys Tower Defense games. $20 is a small price to pay for this gem, but if you don't believe me, try the demo out for yourself and see if it convinces you otherwise. It sure convinced me!

[UPDATE] Now that I've actually completed all 20 levels, I figured I should update the original review with my "final" conclusion:

I give this game a 50 out of 10! It completely exceeded my expectations in every way!

Seriously. If you've spent more than 30 minutes playing a TD game before, you absolutely must buy this game! I've spent nearly 20 hours on it so far and I have hardly even touched any of the extra content. This is well worth the price of admission.

Links to other reviews of this game

Hidden Path Entertainment has collected it's own list of (and links to) game reviews by professional game review websites/magazines.

Other Screenshots
Defense Grid - Four Bosses.jpg
Defense Grid - Concussions.jpg

General Software Discussion / MOGware's FileHamster (Complaint)
« on: January 31, 2009, 04:46 PM »
It's been about a month since I did any coding on any projects I had set up with FileHamster to take care of revision history. Today I just started working on one and every time I save any file within the project FileHamster pops up a one second advertisement notification window.

Bad form, MOGware! Time to uninstall FileHamster.  :(

Post New Requests Here / IDEA: Auto Focus Grabber
« on: January 29, 2009, 11:55 PM »
My brother was just telling me one of those "You know what would be so cool?" ideas, and I thought that what he told me was perfect for a coding snack, so here goes.

He would like a utility that automatically gives focus to any window that the mouse is on top of. So in other words, whenever the mouse moves across the screen from one application to another, any application that is directly under the mouse should get focus.

General Software Discussion / RedHat Linux: Fedora 9
« on: January 23, 2009, 12:36 AM »
Okay, I'm another one of those life-long Windows users who doesn't know a lot about linux. I've accessed a few linux clusters using PuTTy a few times but other than that (and even including that) I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to linux. I just started a new semester in school, working on my Computer Science degree, and for my programming class I'm going to be doing a lot of Java, working in a linux shell, and accessing a Linux cluster to submit my homework and test my programs, etc. If you are an experienced linux user, you will most likely be able to tell by my vocabulary that I really don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to linux vocabulary. I decided it was time to get linux installed on a computer of my own and thought I may as well use what my school is using.

So, I just purchased a netbook (MSI Wind U120-024US), and scancode was helpful enough to help me out with nLite and the HP USB Format tool to create a bootable USB drive so I can install Windows XP Pro SP3 on the thing, but I also want to dual boot with linux. The Wind won't arrive until sometime next week so I'm taking this time to prepare getting the software I want on it for installation. So, back to Fedora 9.

After navigating RedHat's website I found this mirror to download Fedora 9. And this is where I'm not sure what to do. It appears as though Fedora 9 uses 7 CDs to fully install (What the smurf is that about? Windows XP fits on a single CD!) but before I even get there, do I download the i386 version or the x86_64 version?

Once that question is answered, should I download all seven ISOs or just the NetInstall ISO or get a Live CD? Just keep in mind that netbooks (or at least the Wind I ordered) doesn't actually have an optical drive, so if I need to boot from CD I'm kind of smurfed unless I can get it to work on my 8GB or 512MB flash stick.

I suppose those are all the questions I have for now regarding which one to download. Also if any of you have personal experience with Fedora I'd especially appreciate your input on whether or not it's a good idea to go with that particular distro or if it's a pain in the neck. The one at school doesn't seem that difficult but then again, it's already been set up for me. I didn't have to mount filesystems or whatever to get it running first. It just boots into a windows-like GUI of some sort and I click the button for the shell from the Fedora equivalent of the quick launch bar.

Living Room / World's First Flying Car Prepares for Take-off
« on: January 11, 2009, 06:08 PM »
Contrary to reports by The Onion that no flying cars exist or are being built, the Times Online is reporting that flying cars could be available as soon as 18 months from now.

Is it a car? Is it a plane? Actually it’s both. The first flying automobile, equally at home in the sky or on the road, is scheduled to take to the air next month.

If it survives its first test flight, the Terrafugia Transition, which can transform itself from a two-seater road car to a plane in 15 seconds, is expected to land in showrooms in about 18 months’ time.



Multi Photo Quotes / LOLMouser Media Pack for Multi Photo Quotes
« on: January 11, 2009, 01:44 PM »
Announcing the LOLMouser Media Pack Add-On Extraordinaire for Multi Photo Quotes!

If you're not sure what a LOLMouser is, basically it's just a DonationCoder themed LOLCat. Images for this media pack were taken from the LOLMouser thread.

LOLMouser MediaPack Screensaver.jpg

Download it.

General Software Discussion / Electronic Arts (Compliment)
« on: January 10, 2009, 07:23 PM »
Dear EA,

Thank you for your wonderful support! You have fixed my problem entirely!

In the process of following the latest troubleshooting steps, I followed the directions very carefully. I made a copy of My Spore Creations and then manually eradicated every last trace of Spore from my system as per your instructions, with the exception of the My Spore Creations backup, of course. Isn't this long entire process of removing everything from all these obscure locations on my hard drive and from within the registry supposed to be done by the uninstaller? Alas, I admit my own shameful ignorance in comparison to the great intelligence of EA's tech support and dutifully followed all instructions you have so generously imparted upon me.

Then I reinstalled Spore, signed into my Spore account and attempted to install the patch. It was here that my own stupidity temporarily foiled my progress.

In my foolishness, I launched the game and allowed it to download the patch. I don't think the crashing problem wanted to be solved, because it made every effort to keep me from patching the game, starting first by purposely limiting the bandwidth allowed from your servers to my computer. Nevertheless, I persisted and waited about 45 minutes for the patch to finish downloading. Take that! I thought my victory was close at hand. The game asked me if I wanted to install the patch, and naturally I said I did. But then the wily game crash retaliated by giving me an error saying the patch could not be installed. I knew this wasn't OK, but I clicked the OK button anyway and it brought me back to the main menu. This was indeed a tricky beast to slay, and I figured I would have to resort to tricky tactics as well.

I was wise to this particular trick, as I had similar problems the first time I tried to patch the game from 1.0 to 1.1. So I checked the cache folders for the EA Download Manager, but to my chagrin they were empty (just as they were the last time I encountered this problem). At this point I began to wonder why I even had that useless EADM installed. It never seems to do anything. Unwilling to spend another 45 minutes downloading a patch that won't install again, I retreated from my attack and accepted defeat. For the time being! The crashing bugs may have won the battle, but I knew that through following your enlightened instructions, even a simple fool like me would be able to win the war!

Today I decided to give it another try and had a much more successful experience. I must have caught the bugs off guard as they didn't have time to limit my bandwidth or keep the patch from installing. The patch downloaded from within the game in about 10 minutes and installed correctly without a hitch. At this point I realized it was practically guaranteed to be blue skies and vast space from here on out! So I launched the game again, or maybe it automatically launched itself, I can't quite recall at this stage. (I hope you don't hold it against a simpleminded idiot like myself that I don't remember this exact detail.) I let the intro movie play and allowed the game to log me in to the Spore servers. Success after success!

All that was left for me to do to ensure my victory over the bugs was to load my game and see if these extraordinarily complex troubleshooting steps actually allowed me to visit my home planet without crashing the game. It was at this point when the crashing bugs revealed the aces up their sleeves. There was no saved game to load.

Apparently, if you only back up the contents of My Spore Creations, which consist of various image files and videos of your creations, it doesn't actually back up the save data for the game!

"Oh no!" I thought, "I've lost all of my saved games and hours spent building, creating, exploring, expanding, etc." And with a heavy heart I felt the hopelessness of defeat.

I began to ask myself questions such as: How could the brilliance of EA Tech Support have failed me? How could the well trained, highly educated, unimaginably omniscient technicians at EA have failed me?

It took quite some time to understand, but the gears started turning, and the fleas jumped off my head as the temperature began to rise to uncomfortable levels they weren't accustomed to, and I realized that you had not failed me. You are, in fact, saviors! You absolutely solved the problem beyond a shadow of a doubt!

Now, forgive me for being a little bit slow. As I alluded to earlier, I'm not the sharpest spoon in the drawer. But what I eventually realized was that with no saved game data to load, there was absolutely no way the game could crash when I visited my home planet. I don't even have a home planet anymore! Indeed, as I let it sit here on the main menu, showing the spiral galaxy and six uninhabited planets on which to start new games, the application is very stable and it does not appear as though it will crash any time soon.

Victory is ours! Your plan was incomprehensible genius! I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Will you please forgive my unfaithfulness?

Forgive me if this is out of place, as I would never assume to understand your brilliance, but I think I have an even better method to keep the game from ever crashing again. If I just follow the steps you outlined previously, except just stop before reinstalling the game, I'll have no game to crash either! No home planet, no game, no crashes! It's absolutely brilliant.

Though there is one area of your ingenious plan that I could use a little more clarification on. Without a home planet and without a game, what am I supposed to do with those tiny little images of my creations that I backed up? The game (I haven't eradicated every last trace of it from my system again yet) doesn't even recognize half of them as being my creations anymore, and they won't really do anything neat like they did when I spent so many hours building, creating, and perfecting them. I'm almost beginning to think I should just delete these as well, but I know, with your unending intelligence, that you told me to back them up for a reason. Please shed some light on a poor halfwit who lacks the understanding.

I praise you for your incredible and undeniably great wisdom! You have helped me so much, every step of the way. I am completely and absolutely satisfied in every way possible, thanks to your generous support. You have my eternal gratitude.

Thankful always,

General Software Discussion / Electronic Arts (Complaint)
« on: December 21, 2008, 11:07 PM »
EDIT: I'm a born-again believer in EA. They're the best in existence.

N.A.N.Y. 2009 / NANY 2009 Release: HexCards
« on: December 12, 2008, 01:51 AM »
NANY 2009 Entry Information

Application Name HexCards
Version 1.08.2008.12.30
Short Description Card "Battle" Game
Supported OSes Windows 98 or newer
Web Page
Download LinkHexCards (Windows)
System Requirements
  • Minimum
    500 MHz processor
    256 MB RAM
    Windows 98
    OpenGL or DirectX compatible accelerated 3D video card
  • Recommended
    1.0 GHz processor
    512 MB RAM
    Windows XP
    nVidia or ATI accelerated 3D video card
Version History
  • v1.08.2008.12.30 - Final NANY 2009 Release. Game now highlights winner and automatically starts a new game.
  • v0.07.2008.12.11 - Fixed the code to find and store adjacent tiles. Game logic now automatically captures cards.
  • v0.06.2008.11.08 - Game board now creates an extra ring of hex tiles for walls.
  • v0.05.2008.10.11 - More data is stored to make it easier to find adjacent cards/tiles.
  • v0.04.2008.10.08 - Coded to dynamically create board of any size. (alternate board sizes not implemented)
  • v0.03.2008.10.07 - Coded to dynamically scale graphics sizes based on tile size.
  • v0.02.2008.10.06 - Streamlined creation of hex shapes for various uses (playing cards, board tiles, hand tiles, etc.).
  • v0.01.2008.10.05 - First playable prototype.
Author Deozaan

HexCards is a card game in which two players strategically place hexagonal cards on a playing field to capture the other's cards. Each of the six sides of each card is assigned a numeric value ranging from 1 to 10 (10 is displayed as an "A"). When you place a card on the playing field, you can capture cards in adjacent tiles if the value for that specific side is larger than the value on the adjacent card's side. Watch the video tutorial for a demonstration with instructions for more information.

  • It's playable.

HexCards - New Game.jpg
The start of a new game.

HexCards - Draw Game.jpg
A game ending in a draw (both players have 4 cards).

Unzip into desired directory and run hexCards.exe.

Using the Application
If you're not sure how to play, check out the video tutorial.

Delete HexCards directory.
It may also save a few kb of harmless data into the Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Craven Entertainment\HexCards\ directory.

Known Issues
No known bugs.

Living Room / Funny, Strange, and Confusing Error Messages
« on: December 07, 2008, 08:15 AM »
I thought for certain that we had a thread like this before but I couldn't find it. And rather than resurrect two similar threads from last year (here and here) I decided to start a new one.

The general idea of this thread is to post screen shots of any genuine error messages you've come across that are funny, strange, absolutely not at all helpful, or even confusing. I'll start off.

I encountered this one a few days ago. I can't remember what application I was running at the time, but I think it was one of those free MMO games.

Useless Error Message.jpg

This one I got a couple years ago and once again I can't remember what application it came from.

Big Error.gif

And finally, this is one I didn't personally witness, but an online friend of mine sent me the image of this even more years ago. I believe this was a message that occurred during the installation of some software he owned.


Steam is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Half-Life by reducing the price of Half-Life 1 to just $0.98. As someone who absolutely loved the original Half-Life but for some reason never finished it, I'll be snatching up this deal! UPDATE: The deal has ended.. Sorry if you missed out!

Here's an excerpt from my review from The Best Games You've Never Played thread:

Half-Life 1 was incredible to me because it was the first FPS game (I know of) that actually had a real story about why you were going around killing things. It was the total opposite of the macho FPS "Bad Dude" games of the day like Doom, Quake, or Duke Nukem 3D. You weren't there because you were a tough mofo and the world/universe relied on you for its survival. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're just trying to get out alive. You don't even start out with a weapon. When you first encounter the enemies, you've got to RUN! Plus, the way it loaded sections of the game kept you interested in the story because you were always trying to survive one disaster after another. There was no transition between levels where you could look at your statistics and save and rest and relax. It would have made a great sci-fi book (or dare I say movie?) if properly adapted.

Why are you still reading this? Hurry up and buy it!

Living Room / R.I.P. Michael Crichton
« on: November 06, 2008, 09:18 PM »
One of my favorite authors has unexpectedly passed away today.

Michael Crichton, best known as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of NBC's ER, has died. He was 66.

In a statement, his family calls his death unexpected, but said he had been privately battling cancer.

Read the rest at

I have read many of his books and they helped shape my imagination and perception. I will greatly miss reading new work from him.

Living Room / Swoopo - A New Take on Online Auctions, or a Scam?
« on: November 02, 2008, 01:28 PM »
For what is probably the first time in my life, I just saw an ad banner that interested me enough to find out more information about the product being advertised. The "product" is called Swoopo, and it is an online auction site unlike any other I've seen before.

From staring at it for the past 10 minutes trying to understand how it works, this is my observation:

Auctions have a continuous countdown timer to when the auction will end. However, this is actually the part that is vastly different from traditional auction websites. The timers are relatively short, and are based on the current bid for the item. So for instance, I'm looking at a Nintendo Wii that is currently going for $0.60. That's right. 60 cents. And the countdown timer appears to be 30 minutes until the end of the auction.

But here's the thing: Each time someone bids, it resets the timer. And actually, someone just bid on the Wii, and now it is going for $0.75 and the timer is now 15 minutes until the end of the auction. And it continues like this. As the bid increases, the time on the countdown timer decreases, until some of the auctions are down to 10 or 15 seconds for each bid.

And to prevent an auction lasting forever, there is a final ending time for the auction. This Wii auction is scheduled to end, at the latest, on December 2nd, if people keep bidding until then.

Swoopo Bids.png

So it actually sounded fun and unique enough that I decided to sign up and try it out. And that's when I learned about the one "feature" that, to me, makes it sound too much like a scam than a real auction site.

You see, in order to place any bid on any item, you need to pay $1 for each bid. (Basically, you buy bids in advance.) That, to me, brings up too many questions about whether these other bidders are even real people, or just auto-bots made by Swoopo to artificially inflate the bid price and make you pay another $1 to bid again.

I can tell by some strange English sentences on the site that it's based in a foreign country. (Looks like Germany, after some research.) Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. It's just a side-effect of being inundated with spam that I'm always a little wary of professional looking sites with strange English translations.

Looks too much like a scam when their main source of revenue is to have people buy lots of bids instead of buying lots of products. Too much of a conflict of interests for it to seem ethical to me. I suggest you take a look at it if you want to just see what I'm talking about, but don't say I didn't warn you if you try to buy something and end up paying more on your bids than what you actually paid for the item.

In conclusion: Avoid it! :down: :down:

P.S. They also operate under,,, and

Living Room / Math Homework and Q*bert.
« on: October 24, 2008, 04:46 AM »
@!#[email protected]! I've been staring at this Pascal's Trianglew for so long that I'm starting to see Q*bertw in it!

Living Room / Real Life Tron on an Apple IIgs
« on: October 20, 2008, 02:55 PM »
An amazing true story of Tron:

One day, when Marco and I were playing against two computer opponents, we forced one of the AI cycles to trap itself between its own walls and the bottom game border.  Sensing an impending crash, it fired a missile, just like it always did whenever it was trapped.  But this time was different – instead of firing at another trail, it fired at the game border, which looked like any other light cycle trail as far as the computer was concerned.  The missile impacted with the border, leaving a cycle-sized hole, and the computer promptly took the exit and left the main playing field.  Puzzled, we watched as the cycle drove through the scoring display at the bottom of the screen.  It easily avoided the score digits and then drove off the screen altogether.

Shortly after, the system crashed.

Our minds reeled as we tried to understand what we had just seen.  The computer had found a way to get out of the game.  When a cycle left the game screen, it escaped into computer memory – just like in the movie.


General Software Discussion / Third Party Check Disk replacement?
« on: October 14, 2008, 09:44 PM »
I've been experimenting with TrueCrypt, or at least attempting to, but it keeps telling me that my hard drive has a bad block. I've run check disk twice and it never finds any problems. TrueCrypt specifically mentions that check disk may not even see the bad block and I should try to find a third party solution.

Any tips or suggestions for such a solution?

Living Room / PRO-IP Act signed into Law
« on: October 13, 2008, 08:13 PM »
What the smurf is my government doing? The RIAA and the MPAA have won a major advantage in screwing over everyday citizens like you and me with the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act that was signed into law today.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush signed into law on Monday a controversial bill that would stiffen penalties for movie and music piracy at the federal level.

The law creates an intellectual property czar who will report directly to the president on how to better protect copyrights both domestically and internationally. The Justice Department had argued that the creation of this position would undermine its authority.


For an in depth perspective on the PRO-IP Act, read Law of the Game on Joystiq.

The PRO-IP Act does three things, generally: 1) it increases the penalties for infringement by expanding what is considered a 'work;' 2) it broadens the ability of the government to permanently seize goods; and 3) it creates an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a new cabinet position whose sole job is to increase intellectual property enforcement. In short, it's a load of bad news for consumers, but really, it's not that much good news for many intellectual property owners either, as I'll explain.


I hesitate to think what might happen if a machinima is made from a game using the licensed soundtrack in absence of a Machinima Rule from the developer. Not only could the machinima maker be looking at issues from both the game developer and the musicians, but so could anyone who downloads the video.

Sounds like it's time to start using TrueCrypt for your PC that doesn't even leave your house!

from Joystiq

Living Room / Malware Tricks: Skype Edition
« on: October 13, 2008, 02:18 PM »
I just got an IM on Skype from some random user trying to sound like an official service by being named Online Monitor ®:


ATTENTION ! Security Center has detected
malware on your computer !

Affected Software:

Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows XP
Microsoft Windows 2000
Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0
Microsoft Windows Win98
Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Impact of Vulnerability: Remote Code Execution / Virus Infection /
Unexpected shutdowns

Recommendation: Users running vulnerable version should install a repair
utility immediately

Your system IS affected, download the patch from the address below !
Failure to do so may result in severe computer malfunction.

[link removed]

I don't know how common things like this are on other IM clients (since I only use Gtalk) but I thought people should be made aware. I also took this opportunity to educate my wife about things like this to make sure she doesn't unwittingly click the link.

More info about this particular occurrence here: Skype Security Blog

Note that the link in my scam was different than the one posted on the Security Blog.

Living Room / The 150 Best Online Flash Games
« on: October 07, 2008, 03:06 AM »
Tech Cult has compiled a list of the 150 best Flash games. As a testament to the quality of this list, many of these have already been mentioned on DonationCoder!

It was a long and exhausting task: playing hundreds of online games for hours in a row, day after day. It was hard, but someone had to do it.

The result is the list that you will find below. Enjoy!

image courtesy of xkcd


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