Sunday, May 11, 2014

I want to love GTA Online.

I really do, but it's so very hard when the game seems more interested in frustrating me. Today, for example, I had just figured out how to obtain a helicopter for a mission that pretty much requires it (you could possibly parachute out of a plane, but that would require some serious precision). I had obtained the helicopter, and was just positioning myself to land to pick up my co-op partners. My screen went black, and GTA Online informed me that my connection had just timed out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kerbals (almost) on Duna

Kerbal Space Prorgam can be breathtakingly beautiful at times.
Pictured: one of my first orbiters.
I finally put in a serious effort in to get to Duna (Mars) in KSP. It was an epic journey that taught me a lot about orbital mechanics.

Some new parts that KSP added finally allowed me to make a decent orbital fuel delivery vehicle (kind of a requirement for inter-planetary missions). No more franken-rocket creations that ultimately fall short or wind up using the fuel they were meant to lift (if they don't blow up before either event). I now had a system that could get full tanks into orbit reliably. I still need to work on my space station's design, but that's another project for another day. Much like NASA, I'm more interested in going to Duna than practical stuff like making it easier to do so with a much more functional space station. Who needs practicality in space anyway?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Paradox of Windows Tablets

There's no nice way to say this, so I'll just say it. Windows 8.1 on tablets shouldn't work. On paper, there's just nothing that indicates that this kind of device should be anything but a terribly compromised mess. For the most part, this is a completely true statement, and I really can't recommend one. So why am I writing this, you might ask? Simple; I decided to get one.

I've used a lot of different mobile devices over the years. My first, coincidentally, was a Windows Mobile 6 device. It was an HTC Touch Pro. It wasn't a great device, if I'm completely honest, but most of that came down to Windows Mobile 6. It was never really meant to be a smartphone platform. It was meant to run on mobile computers with integrated barcode scanners. It also required a stylus.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Downfall of Ubuntu

Everything that's wrong with Ubuntu.
Desktop Linux has always been a weird and wonderful world. Ten years ago, it was mostly weird. From that murky soup of Linux distributions emerged a little underdog created by a tiny company in South Africa called Canonical. That Linux distribution was Ubuntu, and it was amazing. It was the first Linux distribution that could make a genuine claim at being usable by non-techies. It just worked.

Ubuntu was also one of the first really major distributions to go for a Debian core instead the Red Hat system. It made a lot of waves, for nearly all universally good reasons. A lot of people didn't like how commercial Red Hat had become, and Debian was still pure, still 100% open source and not in the least bit commercialized. Red Hat spun off the fully open source project called Fedora, but by then the damage was already done. Fedora has never obtained the same level of popularity Red Hat had back in its heyday.

Sadly, Canonical didn't learn from that history. At some point, I forget which version, they decided it would be a good idea to add a search sponsored by Amazon directly into their desktop manager system. There is a way to turn it off, but just the fact that it's there and enabled by default... the open source community didn't take it well. It was essentially bloatware in Linux, not to mention the privacy concerns. There are few bigger sins that a Linux distribution can commit.

As a result, Ubuntu has dropped to a distant second below the community favorite Mint Linux on the popular Linux distribution tracker, Mint, notably, comes completely free of any commercialization. It also offers a more traditional and less demanding desktop manager, which many users prefer. Both Ubuntu and Mint are very good distributions; Ubuntu more so once you remove the Amazon software. But there are certain things you simply do not do when it comes to Linux.

Take this lesson to heart, Canonical. The dark side is easier, quicker, more seductive. But it's not better. Especially not when it comes to Linux.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Where No Greed Has Gone Before

I've been a Star Trek Online player for a while. I'm a huge Trek nerd, and just a huge nerd in general. I genuinely enjoyed it for the several months that it took to get my Federation character to level 50. That all came to a crashing halt last night when I ran into the level 50 pay wall. You see, up until now, a new ship was provided for free every ten levels. It was a pretty cool incentive, and it made me want to keep pushing to the next milestone. When you hit level 50, though, you run headlong into a wall of greed. Free ships end at level 40. If you want a level 50 ship, it'll cost you $25. Oh, there's one you can get if you've been an uninterrupted subscriber for nearly four years. Or you can join a fleet and grind. And grind, and grind. Of course, you can't just buy $25 worth of Zen (Perfect World's version of Microsoft Points). No, you have to buy at least $30 worth to cover it.

I have never been slapped so hard by the greed of an MMO's publisher. Granted, I haven't made it to the level cap in Old Republic yet, so I can only imagine what's in store there. I uninstalled Star Trek Online about 20 minutes after hitting level 50. I won't be back. Greed like this needs to be punished, severely. This kind of crap perpetuates itself because idiots are willing to pay it. Then they complain about it. Publishers don't give a crap if you complain about it... you're still paying them money, so they're going to keep doing it. STOP. PAYING. THEM.