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Apr 172015
 

Due to a successful start of my GoFundMe Campaign, in the coming weeks, I will make a solid pass through all Windows Services as well as Windows 7/8/8.1/10 Service Configurations.

Soon, I will also enable the ability to register and login so my readers may post comments directly on my guides.

For now, you can offer feedback in the way of sending a webcam video to me, shooting off an email or let me know via my Twitch.tv Live Stream chat.

I have also begun correcting errors in presentation (I bumped up the table font size and made the website wider to display more information) as well as correct grammar/spelling errors.

Stay tuned! Much more to come!

Apr 132015
 

This text is mostly from my original post on the official Diablo 3 forums. It is replicated here for the general internet community to see: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/16952355725

Update: April 17, 2015

Tyvalir commented on my post and Blizzard is listening! The “Open Letter” is now closed. :) Direct Link.

04/16/2015 11:00 AM Posted by Tyvalir

Great feedback! You all have my thanks for sharing your perspectives so constructively here. Even fifteen pages later, I can see that most responses are on topic and respectful in their tone. *insert applause*

I’m still parsing through and collecting all of the ideas presented in this thread (since there’s a lot of good stuff here). By all means, please continue this discussion and I’ll make sure your feedback gets in front of the right folks.

Great feedback! You all have my thanks for sharing your perspectives so constructively here. Even fifteen pages later, I can see that most responses are on topic and respectful in their tone. *insert applause*

I’m still parsing through and collecting all of the ideas presented in this thread (since there’s a lot of good stuff here). By all means, please continue this discussion and I’ll make sure your feedback gets in front of the right folks.

TLDNR: Cutting out all the original achievements (class, explore, event, boss and monster kills, etc) is not the way to spark interest in Season 3. It excludes a massive amount of the player base shooting for “The Achievement Point Leaderboards” in a season.

The long post:
Update: Confirmed on page 6 on the forum thread that this is not a bug:

04/13/2015 12:55 AM Posted by TheTias

The 2.2 PTR’s “Season 3″ had the same achievements as we have now. That is, all of the regular achievements had been removed on the PTR just as they are removed on Live.

Thank you for the information and time required to reply. I wish I would have actually known this before Friday when Season 3 officially started. I would have began my campaign of “get answers” much, much sooner! :)
This also, with out a doubt, confirms that this is “not a bug”. Now I want to know “why” as the title of this thread states.

And to continue with the original information:

I played season 1 and 2 only for the season achievement point leaderboards (even though “starting over” was fun, to a point).
My career/non-season achievement score is 7200 or 98%.

Season 1 – I ended at #217 on the Americas Achievement list (because it was 11 weeks).
Season 2 – I ended at #304 on the Americas Achievement list (because it was only 7 weeks).
Season 3… Why try?

With the Season 2 Achievement point leaderboard
#1 had 8280 points.
#1000 had 4910.
8280 – 4910 = 3370
3370 / 10 = 337
The top and the bottom are separated by 337 different possible achievements available.

While in Season 3:
970 is the maximum amount of points available.
79 total achievements possible.
How is this even close to being considered “better” for their main gaming base and the largest segment of revenue? I fail to understand.
I am not asking to make it “easier” to get on a leaderboard. I am asking to keep it the way it was as it was a great system that allowed a much larger player base with a massive variety on play styles to have a shot at getting listed and did nothing to reduce the amount of top tier players fighting for the top. A win for all!

Oddly enough, I read the blog post as “We added a whole lot of achievements for Season 3, so enjoy!”
Instead of “We now made the only thing casuals can go for completely invalid in Season 3!”

From the Season 3 now live blog post: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/blog/18710109/season-3-now-live-4-10-2015
And I quote:

“And that’s not all! We’ve also completely re-worked previous Seasonal Achievements to focus more on the challenging accomplishments you can achieve during a Season. There are 100 new Seasonal Achievements altogether in normal and Hardcore, giving you plenty of new challenges to take on this Season.

As always, our philosophy when creating Achievements is that they should require time and effort to obtain. The Conquests and Season-exclusive Achievements available in Season 3 reflect this idea. While some may be achieved through normal play, you’ll find that some require creativity and dedication if you want to complete them!”

As always“?!?!? This one completely cracks me up… As always when creating Achievements…
Since when? Four hours ago? Does “As always” at Blizzard really mean four hours, just like Soon™ means forever?
Most of the bold can be translated to mean “Casual gamers need not apply”.

Sure, Blizzard wants to create challenging new achievements… while deleting almost every single one that we have been earning since the game came out and when Seasons started? What?

I cannot get to the top of any class on the leaderboards Greater Rift completion solo or in group (I do not play public games and have zero pro-gamer friends) on Americas leaderboards, even though I probably play a lot more than most people like to label “Casuals”.

My best character in Season 2 made it to Solo Greater Rift 34… after seven weeks. I did not even get the Season 2 Greater Rift Conquest… for 10 points… LOL!

Why did Blizzard completely exclude a vast amount of their player base from Season 3?
I get that a lot of “post retail” added stuff has been massive amounts of experiments, but this is ridiculous.

Do they seriously think “Casuals” are going to continue at all with Seasons now?
400 points did take little time to get (ya, I admit a bit too easy) for the Season 1 and 2 “rewards”, but now for Season 3, it may take weeks instead of hours.
Does Blizzard really think that getting “Season 3 only items to drop” four months early is an incentive, just to delete another redundant character in an already crowded character list and start all over again, no longer even using the items earned?

Isn’t getting all the achievements and hitting at least one leaderboard the “end game” draw?
It was for me!

I must say that I liked having the 1000 players listed on the leaderboard separated by four thousand points instead of ten (or maybe even zero) at Seasons end.
I can only see Season 3 ending in two weeks for me. Why make it end in seven weeks as Season 2 did, or as one developer already said: four months? (Thanks Spluncy for the link):

http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/16860296547?page=3#56

The Season 3 Achievements are also pro-group to the max. In other words, a player that normally plays with three other people can leave the group, do a solo level 40 Greater Rift, get all of the solo Greater Rift achievements in 14 minutes and 59 seconds for 240 points and then continue playing in a group.

This is broken. Period.

The leaderboards will be completely taken up by people playing 23 hours a day for a week or two and then locked out of for everyone else for the rest of the season, slated for at least four months.

Seriously.

Blizzard, please reconsider this action for Season 4.
Don’t kill the genre for me after 19 years of dedication.

I have always lurked the Diablo 3 forums and laughed at the silly rage quit noobs trying to get their point across and I am not one of them. I will continue playing, but not as intently as I would like.

– Signed, a long time PC Vanilla to ROS player completely irritated.
Look at my post count (at the time of the original post, it was two). I don’t troll forums. I post when something is really broken
I have been playing Blizzard games since December 31, 1996.
Go ahead, Google what release date that was… I dare you.

Black Viper from www.blackviper.com

Apr 042015
 

What is New? – As of September 2014, I am no longer employed (after 4 years with the company). While over 10,000+ people visit this site daily and I have helped millions with my information, I rarely get a note of thanks or a donation. As such, it would be greatly appreciated if you would dig down deep *even $5 US dollars helps a lot and donate to keep the wheels turning. I wish to thank you, kind reader, in advance for your generosity.

GoFundMe link: http://www.gofundme.com/blackviper-com

GoFundMe has the option of remaining “Anonymous” in the respect that your name won’t be displayed on the campaign page as public information along with the donation amount. I still have the ability to thank you personally for your contribution via email proxy.

Update on April 13, 2015:

In order to give back to the internet community and an effort on my part to reach my goal, I will state this:

If I reach my GoFundMe campaign goal, I will release all content posted on www.blackviper.com, to include all images and text, past present and future, into the public domain.
This means, I will not claim any Copyright on any and all images, including my install guides, or any text that I have drafted for Windows Services!
This action, I feel, is the best way to give back to everyone that I have helped as well as, I feel, an amount of money I never, ever would have thought possible to earn with my “hobby” website.
I thank you, in advance, for your generosity!

GoFundMe Text, posted April 7, 2015:

Starting in 1999, I began www.blackviper.com as a personal project to learn about how the web worked and meet people. It turned into much more (article from 2002) What Is The Purpose of BlackViper.com?

I also have a passion for performance and removing unneeded, often memory hogging and CPU cycle stealing processes.

I began optimizing Microsoft Windows 2000 and realized people were actually using my information I posted. From that point on, I continued updating through Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 and learning more and more about how computers worked, but it has come at a price.

In order for me to have legal access to all Microsoft OS’s for me to do my testing, an MSDN subscription costs ~$700 a year. Multiply that by 16 and you have a large burden that I have carried for a long time. For those not wanting to whip out the calculator, the total is $11,200.

I also maintained a separate internet connection from 2000 up to 2005 while I was hosting the entire domain from my house, maintaining all servers and learning the hard way what it really takes to keep a resource online on the internet.  I never had any advertising on the site from 1999 to 2007 due to my feeling that my work was a hobby and I should not get paid for it. This varied in cost from $80 to $130 a month for five years, or on average $100 a month/$1200 a year or $6000 in that time span.

From 2002 to 2009, I was in a variety of traditional media outlets to include various magazines, radio shows as well as two live TV shows: Black Viper In The Media

None of them I was actually paid for and did not ask for any money.

In 2005, I moved closer to my family. I was unemployed for two years.

My savings disappeared and I began working for minimum wage in a small town for three years, not even taking home enough to pay for the house payment. During this time, I used high interest credit cards to pay income tax and fill in the gaps, while still keeping my website updated as much as I could afford to do.

From 2007 to date, I have paid my hosting provider a sum of $105 a month/$1260 a year to keep the domain up and running with high up time and massive bandwidth availability. Something that I could not do on my own. This price alone is ~$12,000. I have also swallowed my pride and stooped down to having Google advertising on my site and every time I see an ad displayed, I cringe deep down.

Since very few IT jobs are in the local, Northern California area and minimum wage was just not cutting it, in 2010, I started with a company traveling full-time. Usually, I was only home 24 hours in a 7 day period (I flew out on Sunday and flew home on Saturday… rinse repeat).

In September 2014, I was part of a layoff due to a contract renegotiation and my job disappeared.

Now, I am fully in deep with credit card debt, but still have over 10,000 visitors per day and millions of page views in the last year alone, yet I am struggling to keep the electricity on.

Now, I am fully in deep with credit card debt, but still have over 10,000 visitors per day and millions of page views in the last year alone, yet I am struggling to keep the electricity on. I love helping people for free, but it is getting harder and harder to keep going.

Just counting the expenses that I have accounted for on this page, ignoring my free time (thousands upon thousands of hours) and various other expenses related to the domain (P.O. Box fees for people to contact me via snail mail), hits a grand total of $29,200!

My minimum credit card payments each month across four different maxed out cards is $988.

The campaign total that I am asking to raise ($36,000) is the amount I have outstanding on my credit cards as of April 2015.

The only thing I ask is to get back to where I was when I was honorably discharged from the US Navy in 1998: credit card debit free.

Thank you, kind reader, for getting this far.

– Charles “Black Viper” Sparks

Please share this page on Facebook to get the word out! https://www.facebook.com/pages/wwwblackvipercom/108675855165

As of September 2014, I am no longer employed (after 4 years with the company). Off and on, I use credit cards (with…

Posted by www.blackviper.com on Tuesday, March 31, 2015

If I have helped you, please take a few seconds to donate via PayPal using your credit card, an existing account, or create a new one. International donations are also accepted via PayPal (converted to $US).

All donations will:

  • Help pay for hosting charges.
  • My time used to give this free information.
  • I am now unemployed. Any money will help keep this domain going.

If you do not wish to use PayPal, you may contact me at the postal address listed on the Contact BV page.

Paypal:




Aug 272014
 

With the release of Diablo 3 Patch 2.1.0 on August 26, 2014, a bug was introduced with people logging in and having no Achievements displayed. Blizzard employees acknowledged this bug, but their “easy fix” did not work for either my wife or I.

Well, I have a fix:

Diablo 3 Patch 2.1.0 Achievement fix:

  1. In the battle.net launcher, change region to Europe (this is assuming you are playing on Americas. If not, change to an alternate region).
  2. Create character there and log into it.
  3. After fully logging in, exit game and battle.net entirely.
  4. Load battle.net and change region back to Americas (or what ever your home region is).
  5. Log in to your characters and enjoy!

-BV

Nov 052012
 

TLDNR Give Me The Fix Now:

Having poor frame rate with diablo 3 patch 1.0.5 during Maghda Encounter? I have a quick fix!

Simply make…

c:\Program Files (x86)\Diablo III\D3Debug.txt

Read-only by right clicking the file, selecting properties, then check “Read-only” under Attributes.

Introduction

Two days ago, during the Maghda Encounter with Diablo 3 on my Hardcore Character, I had extremely poor frame rates which ultimately killed my character due to less than 5 FPS with periods of no updates for many seconds.

I was pissed. I blamed it on my computer and an extended play session, even though I never encountered any issues before.

Today, I fired up an old Hardcore Witch Doctor that was level 9 and decided to give it a go.

Once again, I walked into Maghdas Chamber (after gaining eight levels) and even the movie stuttered. A rapid death I suffered.

Now, I am really pissed.

Look, Look, and Look Some More

I did the standard issue things, farted with video settings and nothing would fix it.

I then wandered off to c:\Program Files (x86)\Diablo III while I had a capped character playing normal and defeated Maghda. The frame rate issue was still present and I noticed that D3Debug.txt in the root folder of the Diablo 3 install directory was gaining in size… rapidly. The log looks a bit like this:

2012.11.05 17:56:24.245951000 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.246137300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.246417300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.246651300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.246808300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.246948300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.247087300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.247260300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group
2012.11.05 17:56:24.247428300 ERROR: Trying to lock an invalid SNO 241787 which doesn’t exists or is not part of the SOUND_SNO group

The above cut and paste is not even a full second of data. I quickly concluded it was a sound issue (SOUND_SNO group… duh?) so I thought a very quick fix would be to just plain disable sound.

Wrong!

Disabling sound did not fix the issue. What was the next thing I did?

I made c:\Program Files (x86)\Diablo III\D3Debug.txt read-only by right clicking the file, selecting properties, then check “Read-only” under Attributes.

I went back to town with a portal before surfing the install directory, so I just hopped back into the portal and the frame rate was fine. I then created a new game and went back to kill her and, even though the FPS went from around 90 to 80… it was indeed possible to complete the encounter.

It is a known issue with Blizzard and I hope it is patched tomorrow, but for those that cannot wait and are basically stuck, give this a go… it just might fix it.

As a side note, after this is fixed by Blizzard, you should put the D3Debug.txt back to read/write.

May 012012
 

Siskiyou County Office of Education classrooms in Yreka, CA dedicated to those children with special education needs, were vandalized Sunday April 29, 2012, the second time in April. This hits a part of me directly as my wife was a teachers assistant for these children, in these particular classrooms in 2006-2007. My wife says “They were the best classrooms in Yreka” and now they are destroyed. Tens of thousands of dollars in damage to electronic equipment as well as flooding the bathrooms and many other hateful acts. Curriculum’s and other books were destroyed as well. Even though no person directly deserves such acts of hate and rage, these children especially are hurt by this senseless crime. Disconnected from their classroom for, who knows how long, they do not understand why this happened… and neither do I.

Update 02MAY2012: One adult, one juvenile arrested in Jackson Street School vandalism.

Update 03MAY2012: Vandals Trash Classrooms (Video from local TV station)

For the entire month of May 2012, all donations sent to me via this link will go directly to help rebuild the classrooms in Yreka, CA. I will also match 10% of all monies received and contribute to the cause as well. I thank you, in advance, for your support.

Update 02JUN2012: Generous support of my kind readers generated donations of $70! I thank everyone that helped remedy this matter.

Apr 222012
 

Hover over the links for more back story.

  1. I remember when I purchased a book with instructions on how to get rich for $19.99 by simply writing a book and publishing it.
  2. I remember when phones had cords.
  3. I remember when more than one PC game was released annually at retail stores.
  4. I remember when $20 to fill an 18 gallon gas tank was expensive.
  5. I remember when “apps” were keyed in by hand from a magazine and magnetic storage media was not financially feasible.
  6. I remember when song skipping was an extremely advanced option on car stereo cassette decks.
  7. I remember when Mtv actually played music videos.
  8. I remember when Mtv was better than VH1.
  9. I remember when 64KB of RAM was a lot.
  10. I remember when PC Gamer Magazine was 457 pages.
  11. I remember when www.blackviper.com was only 1 HTML page.
  12. I remember when people could “dislike” things as well as like them.
  13. I remember when sharing was giving access to physical objects with whom you did not wish to give that object to.
  14. I remember when a hard cover dictionary was the only spell checking option available.
  15. I remember when receiving one email per week from my website visitors was a success.
  16. I remember when receiving 250+ emails per day from my website visitors was a failure.
  17. I remember when 99% of all statistics were completely made up.
  18. I remember when I bought my first new car.
  19. I remember when I wrecked my first new car after only 3 months.
  20. I remember when people used to interact in person.
  21. I remember when I actually looked forward to Christmas.
  22. I remember when cars did not talk back.
  23. I remember when cars started talking.
  24. I remember when pay phones actually existed.
  25. I remember when the world was going to end December 31, 1999.
  26. I remember when the world did not end January 1, 2000.
  27. I remember when connecting to the internet required effort.
  28. I remember when modems actually made noise.
  29. I remember when displaying text as an image on a website was bad.
  30. I remember when displaying text as an image on a website was good.
  31. I remember when Transformers did not suck.
  32. I remember when console game controllers only had one button.
  33. I remember when my car insurance was just as much money per month as my rent.
  34. I remember when being a geek was not cool.
  35. I remember when The Bard’s Tale was released on C-64.
  36. I remember when 16 color graphics was great.
  37. I remember when Diablo was released on PC.
  38. I remember when 640×480 resolution was high res.
  39. I remember when I refused to buy a cell phone because people could call me at any time.
  40. I remember when I broke down on the side of the road which led to a purchased cell phone.
  41. I remember when a small battery installed in a game cartridge to enable saved games was phreaking awesome.
  42. I remember when I read the Dungeons Masters Guide at my leisure.
  43. I remember when Dungeons and Dragons was the root of all evil.
  44. I remember when I bought my first optical mouse and never looked back.
  45. I remember when #wordswereseperatedbyspaces.
  46. I remember when I could write some really good one liners.
  47. I remember when my whole life was in front of me.
  48. I remember when portable music players were 50+ pounds.
  49. I remember when people protested for a reason.
  50. I remember when entire brick and mortar stores were dedicated to PC Gaming.
  51. I remember when movies were only produced in two dimensions.
  52. I remember when I updated my daily diary in 1986 at the age of 14 with weeks of “Boring day” and did not make it to March.
  53. I remember when a 20 mile daily commute from Rosamond, CA to Edwards AFB took one CD worth of music to get there.
  54. I remember when a 30 mile car ride from Corning, CA to Chico, CA and back was an eternity every Saturday.
  55. I remember when a 60 mile car ride from Corning, CA to Redding, CA and back monthly was more punishing then being “sent to my room”.
  56. I remember when a 620 mile U-haul ride from Rosamond, CA to Yreka, CA required only one pee break with cats squalling in their carriers every two seconds.
  57. I remember when video game violence was actually blown out of proportion.
  58. I remember when songs on the radio did not have to censor every other word and those words were actually cuss words.
  59. I remember when robotics was science fiction.
  60. I remember when Stephen King novels were not allowed as high school book report options.
  61. I remember when a 13″ color TV was huge.
  62. I remember when a 21″ CRT computer monitor was gigantic.
  63. I remember when my kitties fit in the palm of my hand.
  64. I remember when Google was only a search engine.
  65. I remember when AltaVista was better than Google.
  66. I remember when people actually retained knowledge instead of just googling it.
  67. I remember when people actually retained incorrect knowledge instead of just googling it.
  68. I remember when I enjoyed using ICQ.
  69. I remember when printers cost more than the ink contained within them.
  70. I remember when a map purchased from a gas station was a better option then asking Siri.
  71. I remember when after work naps were longer than nighttime sleeping.
  72. I remember when I used to be funny.
Apr 032012
 

Introduction

This is an opinion piece to express my discontent for the feeling that “interfaces” should be consolidated and have one “look” and feel. This is utter rubbish and I will try to convey this distaste with a few examples. One should feel warned that if you do not enjoy reading opinion based content, you should stop now. This rant spawned from Microsoft’s push to force upon us a failure waiting to happen. So I will start with the tunnel vision of Microsoft, the success of Android and the failure of other interfaces on devices that I have used recently or shopped for.

Computers, Tablets, and Phones Oh My!

Microsoft is currently in a push to “unify” devices with the up and coming Windows 8. As a person that has had the displeasure of using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a desktop as well as a laptop, I can tell you with certainty Microsoft will fail that goal. Let’s not forget that Windows 8 is not “new” in the tablet genre. Microsoft had “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition” as well as Vista and 7 running on tablets and “Windows Phone” running on phones. Granted, when XP came out, the tablet scene was not ready and the price of said tablets were beyond what people were really willing to pay. They also had an easily misplaced stylus as an input device requiring users to seemingly take a step back to pen and paper. As such, “tablet” systems have not taken off with Microsoft as its OS… and for good reason. Face it, Apple did several things right with the release of the iPad build around their iOS that spawned initially from portable devices. Unfortunately, Microsoft is going the other way and all new PC users will suffer as a result. Microsoft wants you to use Windows on your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop and it is not going to work. The only thing they are going to really accomplish is diminish market share and raise Apples stock price. Each of those devices do not need “the same” interface.

Windows 8 has the “Metro” interface (an uncomfortable replacement for the start button) that is big square and rectangle tiles (oddly enough, most are two colors) instead of icons, presumably, easier to “touch” with a touch screen computer or tablet. That is all fine and dandy if said tablet did not have any “other” functions that one comes to expect from a Windows PC, such as using Explorer to wander around the file tree. Said Explorer actually drops the Metro style full screen view and dumps back to the standard desktop that we have all come to enjoy (or at least put up with). In its current version, I cannot imagine actually using Explorer on a tablet as the interface just does not follow that type of interaction. What is even worse is that two different versions of IE are in use in Windows 8. One that is full screen if activated from Metro with the address bar at the bottom, and another one if on the desktop and opening up IE from there with the address bar at the top. How is this going to win over desktop users as well as tablet purchasers? Having the address bar at the bottom of a tablet makes a certain amount of sense… touch keyboards often appear from the bottom and it would be easier to glance right above the keys to the address bar to see what is being typed, but with the insane push of “apps” that are just short cuts directly to a website and the long standing bookmark feature, I find it hard to believe the address bar will be used often, but it still does not need to move from North to South for the average user. It makes for a confusing experience and just scratches the surface of how users will lash out at the OS and should not be taken lightly. I may expand more on this later, but off to my point.

Microsoft is all too familiar with epic failures in the past (Windows ME) and most recently with the release of Windows Vista. Vista was (and still is) a bloated OS that took a speedy XP on modern systems and brought them to a crawl. As far as the end user was concerned, it was just a pretty interface that caused this slowdown and consumers wanted answers. That answer was to give Vista users the opportunity to go back to XP, further advancing the overall opinion of the OS in a downward spiral. Oddly enough, people will probably bash Windows 8 for not being pretty, just as I did, but also discredit the usability factor on desktops… Microsoft’s current bread and butter. Why piss off your absolutely largest audience just to capture a small percent of users that are already very happy with the great alternatives available? Thankfully, Windows 7 fixed many of those nagging Vista performance issues and has resulted in a great OS that I use daily and I will guarantee that after only a short period of time, people will be screaming to get Windows 7 on their new PC’s shipped with Windows 8. Unfortunately for Microsoft, I also use other OS’s daily and they are not Windows based.

Android Success, WebOS Fail

In all honesty, I have not used any Apple portable products, so I cannot comment on ease of use, but I can comment on Android. With the release of the Motorola Droid, I was propelled from wanting a “netbook” as my movable computer of choice to just using a smartphone. The Droid did everything I wanted: email, surf the web, GPS navigation, Netflix streaming and a dizzying amount of other functions I use all the time. The interface was built from the ground up (just like iOS was) from a touch screen/portable perspective. As such, I feel it is pretty easy to use and highly functional for what I need to do as well as intuitive enough to pick up and not have to “figure out” how to do the simplest of tasks. Oddly enough, “tiles” are not a part of the interface. Multicolored icons are throughout and easily identifiable as such, not so with Metro.

During the HP fire sale of the TouchPad device, I was able to acquire one. Hey, it was only $99 and I wanted to experience the “tablet” type of device and see what I was missing. Come to find out, I was not missing much as the single most important function that I wanted a TouchPad for was to stream Netflix on a device larger then my phone while away on business. After purchase, I quickly (20 minutes) discovered that no Netflix application supports WebOS. I tossed the TouchPad on my desk and left it there for several weeks. I even tried to pawn it off onto family members that wanted to try a tablet out, but they knew that if I am dumping technology, it is for a reason… or lack of purpose.

One faithful night, I decided to see if I could make my TouchPad useful. I rapidly discovered CyanogenMod as an alternative ROM for the TouchPad. Usually used to “root” and get rid of the default flavor of Android on a device, this is installed along side of WebOS. First I used CyanogenMod 7 (Android 2.3) but recently, CyanogenMod 9 (Android 4.0) has hit “Alpha” stage and I gave it a shot as well. The TouchPad now completely rocks. I use it often to stream Netflix via wireless networks where ever I may roam. Not only does Android have a successful interface on a phone, but Ice Cream Sandwich is great on a tablet. I could not be more happy and looking forward to the advancements the CyanogenMod team does.

It should also be worth noting that I use a WebOS powered phone for work. Yes, it does what it needs to do, but since HP dropped support for the devices, they won’t be advancing any time soon. The marketplace for WebOS is a ghost town and not many applications are available. The interface works, however, as the way it zooms out and swipe to scroll left and right through open applications is great. Just a flick to the top closes an application from the zoomed out view. Somehow, I wish that feature was available for ICS… oh wait… it is. Hitting the app selector button brings up a thumbnail listing on the left hand side of all applications running. A quick swipe to the right closes the application. Good innovations do live on, even in an alternative form.

The Death Of The PS3… How I Miss Thee!

Not to long ago, my PS3 that I purchased new upon first release died. Best that I can come up with is that it had a heat related issue and I did not wish to pay for it to be fixed. After all, for the past several years, the only thing I have used the PS3 for was to play optical disk movies and stream Netflix. I can come up with a replacement… I think. I do not have the money for a new PS3, so I had to figure out what I could do with what I already had.

I am well known for doing silly things with old hardware. At one time, more then a decade ago, I had a computer hooked up to my TV to watch DVD’s as I did not have a dedicated DVD player. I used a wireless mouse for controls and all was well and good. It worked for what I needed it to do. So, I decided to take one of my old laptops with a DVD player, put Linux on it and hook it up to the TV so I can stream Netflix. After several hours of banging my head against the big screen TV, I found out that Netflix only supports Silverlight on PC’s and it is not available for Linux due to DRM. What?!? Okay, I get the fact that Silverlight is a MS flash wannabe, but my thought of using a Linux PC for streaming Netflix was busted and I was pretty pissed. Even though it is technically possible, I looked for alternatives that, once again, I already had.

I turned to the XBOX 360. Unfortunately, the XBOX 360 requires a Live subscription to stream Netflix that I was not willing to pay for. Another unfortunate aspect of this adventure was that I updated the XBOX with the latest version available and the GUI turned into a strange, 3D avatar infested mishmash of… you guessed it, two colored tiles. Want to experience the prequel to Metro? Look no further then the kiddy interface on the 360. Another chink in the XBOX’s armor is the fact that mine does not play Blu-Rays, but more importantly, I wanted my Netflix back, so I turned to the Wii.

The Wii does not play Blu-Rays either, but at least I can stream Netflix without any additional cost. I should mention here that I don’t use the Wii. It was purchased for my wife, so I have not had the displeasure of using the motion controllers much. I did play Tetris by plugging in an old-skool style controller to the Wii wrist strapped uncomfortable bricks, but didn’t use it often enough for me to remember why I hated it. Oh, look! A bunch of square tiles! At least these had rounded corners! I then downloaded Netflix, activated it and off I go. I actually used this motion interface for a week before throwing the controller across the room. I cannot stand the Wii controllers and I could not even search for movies or browse for more. This sucks.

I then went to the local Walmart to get a standalone box to play optical disks as well as have the ability to stream Netflix. I landed on, what I thought, was a good deal and will suit it’s purpose and brought it home. It was a Sony player, so I figured that the interface would be compatible to the PS3 that I so miss. It was, sort of. It was slow as running through quicksand. I could not search or browse movies, only view my queue and streaming HD was not working. Even though YouTube was an option, I could not view the favorites that I have saved (music videos). I took it back and almost purchased a new PS3 with money I did not have, but I didn’t.

A friend of mine caught wind of my distress and offered up his Samsung player he was no longer using to take care of duties. It works, but not that well. The PS3 streamed wonderfully via wireless but the player does not have a wireless option. I now have a 50′ CAT5 cable running through my house from the player to the router. At least it does HD, but the interface for Netflix? No searching or browsing movies. Oh how I miss the PS3! The PS3 saves my point in my show watching and this player does, kinda. If I do not pause it in the middle of a program, it will randomly pick 1 of 100 episodes that I already watched and call that not viewed and I start from there. When a person is on episode 78 and it decides to pick 31 as its starting point… it gets annoying quick. After viewing a program, it gives the option of playing the next episode, but if you wish to wander back to the queue, not find anything worth viewing at the moment and jump back to what you just watched, the next episode is, again, a random pick. Crazy annoying crap, really. At least the interface on the player is basicly functional, which leads to my next point: “Smart TV’s”.

Smart TV’s?

Picture this: a college student is living in a 10′ by 10′ square (tile) and needs all the extra space and shed any electronic equipment that is not needed. That leaves me out. In the back of my mind, I want to get a TV to hang on the wall in the computer room. I want a TV that streams Netflix and can be connected to a computer at some point. No problem there, until I casually went to Walmart and discovered what I want was out of my price range (and more then a PS3). It has been (and still is) in the back of my mind, but I know that any “smart” TV that I get will have some crappy interface, slow as can be, and just be barely functional to even call it smart.

Enter Samsung. I was caught watching live TV when a Samsung commercial for their new smart TV’s came on the screen and I could not fast forward. It showed people standing in front of the TV and waiving their hand in front of them to move a cursor on screen as well as go from an open palm to a clenched fist to click. Are you serious? But wait, you can even talk to it. Uh, what? Yeah, I just laughed. I then looked up Samsung’s website to see what other craziness it can (or cannot) do. Come to find out, it has a bunch of built in features and has alternate input methods, such as a remote with a built in touch pad/microphone and a keyboard with a touch pad. Great, but I do not like touch pads either. At first opportunity, I plug in a mouse to my laptop to completely avoid using the touch pad at all. In certain Samsung’s propaganda videos, they even state that this new interaction is “fun”. Well, call me an old fart, but I do not find waving my hand around to be a fun way of messing with a TV or talking to it to make it do anything. Maybe that college student might enjoy it or a Kinect/Wii user, but I sure don’t. Oddly enough, the touch screen interface on a phone is just what the doctor ordered. I have no problems using it, via thumb. Oddly enough, it feels like a natural interaction vice a finger running over a touch pad. Depending on the actual size of the small remote control, it could be a usable alternative for me. If not, thankfully, a TV producer does have (acceptable) options available, such as the “like a Bluetooth mouse” from Panasonic.

Hey TV manufactures everywhere, I will give you what I think is the best option available: Bluetooth mouse. Let me connect a Bluetooth mouse to the TV so I can sit it on the coffee table and move it as I see fit. It is a tried and true method of interacting with desktops that, I feel, does not need “reinventing”. Granted, this option may not be great for everyone, but at least give the option. If you can engineer a camera on a TV that recognizes faces to “login”, you can let me connect a damn mouse to it.

Until that point… I will keep my dumb TV and only connect smart things to it… or at least try.

-Black Viper

Mar 132012
 

Diablo 3 Multiboxing: Possible Or Not?

In short, yes! Controlling 2 to 4 characters in Diablo 3 is possible with 2 to 4 seperate accounts, game purchases and free mouse replication software, but is it practical?

Unfortunately, the answer is no for the average gamer, including me at this time.

I just tried this using Input Director and Desktop + Laptop (on board graphics) running at same resolution (1366 x 768) using two beta accounts (wife and my account) and created two new characters.

The reason multiboxing Diablo 3 Beta is not practical is the systems become unsynced with relation to each other very quickly. In town, moving around is fine. Either “clicking” each move or holding down the mouse button (though clicking seems to work better) functions as expected. However, when getting into a fight and waiting for the resources to load (sound, spell effects, etc) the systems become unsynced and the characters start to run off in different parallels in relation to the master. With no follow command, getting them synced back up is as “easy” as running into a corner wall and waiting for them to stack on top of each other, but upon moving from that spot, the characters will still be just a little bit off. A pixel here or there adds up quick and they will become out of sync again. Let us not even factor in the battle.net latency as, regardless of systems, it will not be the “same” across all computers at the exact same moment for any extended period of time, once again making the characters not synced. The character in game also goes “just beyond” where clicked to move. As a result, the characters may not sync up due to different angles of arriving at the same location.

Even with the laptop running minimum GFX settings, it could not keep up with the desktop. This should not come as a surprise, but a current high end gaming PC with 4 virtual machines may struggle keeping everything synced up (I would say an I7 EE, 16GB RAM, SSD’s, 2 or more nVidia 500 series probably would work) and completely stutter free at all times. I do not have a system with such high end specs to test, so I had to only test what I have available. As such, unless 4 systems have the same high end specs (or at least way beyond what is required to run a single instance of Diablo 3 very smoothly), quad-boxing or even dual-boxing, is and will be, difficult to pull off for the average gamer. I would venture a guess that multiboxing is beyond average to start with, though. :)

With loot not being shared between party members (drops only show for the character that can pick it up), this makes looting difficult through trash monsters but still feasible for boss drops. Money (gold) is automatically picked up if the character is in range, but that range is still pretty small and gold does not drop in the same spot for all characters.

I really looked forward to multiboxing in D3 as I enjoyed it in WoW. I also spent a lot of time to run D2 on 8 systems over 10 years ago just for the “extras” it offered. However, having mules sit in town (level 1 characters going to Hell difficulty) is very different then controlling all those characters at the same time. For a good laugh, here is a guide and my findings I drafted in 2001 for Diablo 2 Muling.

When I dual-boxed for a long time with WoW, I used in game macros and was accused of “botting” often. It was fun for me overcoming aspects of the game while still controlling all characters… and that is the key.

“Botting” is mixed in with multiboxers more often then I can stomach. What is the difference in pressing one key on a keyboard and having it replicated across 4 computers verse having 4 keyboards very close to each other and stretching my fingers to hit “1” at the same time? “Botting” is automation! Having a character complete multiple tasks (traveling, killing, looting, crafting, vendoring) while the person “controlling” said character is at school/work/beach/sleep/etc. When I did not tell my characters to do something, they did nothing. That is not “botting”, that is multiboxing.

Hardware macros are not really “automation” unless it is doing much more then mashing three buttons. Using my G-19 keyboard to “macro” actions is pretty trivial. I played a (fairly) recent MMO that did not monitor hardware macro actions (like WoW does). As such, I made a macro button to constantly mash “1 2 3″ every 15ms. The game lasted right around 7 days for me as it made things extremely easy. How was I killing monsters before I macroed that action? Using three fingers to mash 1 2 3 and thus using those actions every cooldown anyway.

The interesting aspect (and general thought) about multiboxing is that the person somehow becames super rich in game. That is not correct for me as I purchase the standard stuff that everyone else does (example being epic flying, enchant them all up) and, in effect, I had 4 times the loot and 4 times the in game cost (as well as the wallet MMO monthly fee drain). As far as I am concerned… that makes single character controllers and I even.

People also do not understand that, as a whole, multiboxers are still behind the power curve as far as game content is concerned. Sure, in any given time period, Diablo 3 multiboxers would have “4 times” the chance that a good item drops, but 4 people have that same chance and probably completing content above the level of the multiboxer anyway (hell vs inferno for example) and getting items “worth more” and also much easier…

Multiboxing is work… hard work. :) Even though it may not be practical, I wish that I could find a way to make a single high end gaming system capable of running D3 in 4 VM’s manifest as I still want to do it upon Diablo 3’s release. :)