HDDs, Steam, and Skyrim

So, my HDD started failing, and I moved my steam installation. I’ve done it before with great success, so wasn’t really concerned. Everything worked (at least that I’ve tried so far), but Skyrim didn’t. It kept thinking that the files should be on the old HDD. I wasted time downloading 6.8 GB of data only to find out it put it on the old HDD. I restarted steam, restarted my computer… but no joy. So then I started to look outside of the steamapps install dir. Though Steam support says to copy the whole directory, there’s one thing they didn’t mention. There are appmanifest files with the number of the game appended to them. The are .acf files, but they open fine in Notepad++. The one for skyrim had a hardcoded path. D’oh! So I changed it, restarted, and everything was fine. Hopefully that saves someone some time….

Dishonored Revew

Dishonored is a new game published by Bethesda Softworks, created by Arkane studios. It was almost impossible not to hear of it in the time leading up to release, but it really came onto my radar after seeing it on the Dishonorable Proportions episode of SyFy’s FaceOff reality show. The setting is what first grabbed me- the game is set in Dunwall, an industrial whaling city where of steampunk and mythos powers exist side by side. The background is one of political intrigue juxtaposed with a stratification of classes enforced by a version of the Black Plague that creates the forces that drive the plot.

The story isn’t unique or inspired; the player is the bodyguard of the Empress, and his failure to protect her haunts the story as he becomes an assassin bent on revenge and clearing his name. But the execution of the story is anything but mundane, with excellent storytelling and acting talent helping to sell the otherwise bland story. Also of help in selling the story is the effect of the players choices; the player can take Corvo down a path of redemption or a path of bloody revenge, and his actions have a lasting effect on the environment during the playthrough.

Firmly rooted in first person stealth tactics, the game can be favorably compared to the Thief franchise, though Corvo is more capable in combat than Garrett, allowing multiple ways to play through the game. The controls are tight, making Corvo easily controllable as he adventures through the detailed environment, and the array of abilities, both technological and supernatural, enforce the ability to choose your own path through the game, as they are very versatile, and able to be combined in varied ways to produce spectacular effects.

Though the game is pretty open ended within the confines of the mission, the fact that there is that mission based divide does take away from the immersive nature of the game. Each mission has a specific goal that must be completed- from extraction to elimination to information gathering. These goals can be completed without bloodshed, even up to and including the main target for elimination. At the end of the mission, the playthrough is graded on your ability to slip in and out without being observed, how many combatants were killed, how many non-combatants were killed, and how many bodies were found.

Detection is handled through a series of lightning bolts that surround an adversary’s head- the more lightning bolts, the more alert the adversary, and if the lightning bolts are red, the adversary is not just alert, but combative. Darkness and shadow effect Corvo’s ability to stay unseen, but only up to a point, and only from a distance. Its quite unfortunate that the lighting mechanics are so ephemeral, as it appears to be either on or off, without shades in between as other stealth based games have implemented.

The story itself is short, but it does lend itself to multiple playthroughs, and the execution is so well done that I find myself wanting to play again, to see if I could do some things better or differently. This is one place that I find myself not minding the mission based gameplay, as now that the game is finished, I can pick up at the beginning of a mission, rather than wading through save games to find where I want to start.

All in all, I definitely recommend the game. It is one of the first that I’ve bought within the first week of release, and though discounts played into that decision, I definitely have no regrets about purchasing it.

The New Doctor

This might be old hat, but I just started watching the new season of Doctor Who, so sue me if I’m late to the game.

I was prepared not to like Matt Smith. Or at least not like him as much as David Tennant. The tenth doctor left on top of his game, and IMO was the best Doctor ever. Especially after his best performance – The Waters of Mars. I liked The End of Time, but it still didn’t match The Waters of Mars IMO. The Eleventh Doctor brings a much different feel to the Doctor. Tennant always seemed to carry a certain manic gravitas. All over the place, infectious, but like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. That was one of the great things about the Tenth Doctor. But a funny thing happened as I started to watch this new Doctor. I started to slowly open up to the possibilities. The Tenth Doctor is gone. He left at the top of his game, and I know I’ll miss him in the role. But there’s a new Doctor, and he definitely shows potential…

Bookmark Docs – A review

Bookmark Docs – A review

App Name: Bookmark Docs
App URL: http://www.bookmarkdocs.com
App Version Reviewed: 2.1.1
Supported OSes: Windows XP, Windows Vista
Tested OS: Windows Vista
Support Methods: Free Lifetime Technical Support by E-mail
Upgrade Policy: Free upgrades for 1 year after purchase, 40% discount on purchases after upgrade protection expires.
Trial Version Available: Yes, fully functional for 30 days.
Pricing Scheme: $24.95 with volume discounts. Licensed per user, instead of per installation.

Introduction

I found out about Bookmark Docs through a thread on DonationCoder.com.

From the site:

Bookmark Docs lets you precisely “bookmark” any places in various documents and then quickly return to them whenever you need, and do all that in a unified manner. Add bookmarks and hyperlinks to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, CHM, and MSDN documents, and to Web pages.

I’ve seen many bookmark managers over the years (and have bought more than a few), and haven’t found anything that really satisfied my needs, so the idea was interesting to me. The installation was professional and seamless, though you will want to pay attention to the options at the end; Bookmark Docs by default does not put an icon on the desktop, but does want to run at startup, so set your options accordingly.

Overview

When you first run bookmark docs, you are presented with a pretty simple interface.

Bookmark Docs Initial Interface
Bookmark Docs Initial Interface

It shows a list of your currently available windows in applications that are supported as links, a link to add a manually created link, and a list of supported applications at the bottom- a welcome bit of foresight. When you click one of the links, you are presented with a dialog that shows what will get created. You can also expand the bottom portion to show a bit more detail about where the link will be stored (more on that later), and what the actual link to the document is. Just conjecture, but it appears that an absolute link is stored along with a relative link, so I’m not sure what the ramifications of changing one or the other is. There is also a place to tag your links- the usual sort of tag rules apply, i.e. word tags, separated by commas. A drop down showing the tags that you have used before is available, though one oversight is that you can’t add/remove more than one tag in this manner. If you want to have more than one tag, you have to type it in yourself.

New Bookmark Dialog
New Bookmark Dialog
New Bookmark Dialog - Expanded
New Bookmark Dialog - Expanded

Once the bookmark is added, the other tab shows a list of the bookmarks. It has an incremental search, also, so that you can search when your list of bookmarks (inevitably) becomes too large for the screen to display.

Bookmark Docs - Bookmark List
Bookmark Docs - Bookmark List
Bookmark Docs - Incremental Search
Bookmark Docs - Incremental Search

There is also a taskbar notification icon that allows you to invoke the add window, or to add a bookmark link to your active window. I did note that if you are in an unsupported application, the application that appeared in this window seemed random; there might be logic behind it that I haven’t yet figured out.

Bookmark Docs - Right Click Menu
Bookmark Docs - Right Click Menu

There is also access to the help documentation (online only), and the Bookmark Manager. This is where the more advanced aspects of Bookmark Docs can be found.

Bookmark Docs - Bookmark Manager
Bookmark Docs - Bookmark Manager

In this window, you have a breakdown of the tags that have been used in links, and the ability to filter based on those tags. You can also drag tags to links in order to quickly tag them. Renaming tags is also possible from this interface. The more exciting option is hinted at by the bottom window in the interface. You can load different bookmark files, so that you can have more than one set of bookmarks. One list of bookmarks can be kept in a version control system, or on dropbox to sync between machines/users, and the other kept private to your machine. The application also supports copying the url of the documents (in full or shortened format), so that you can use other applications to manage the syncing of links, such as google bookmarks.

In practice, I’ve found the linking mechanism to be quite reliable, even if I’ve found quirks in certain applications. Web pages and PDF files work splendidly. In Word documents, in 2003 documents, the link shows up at the top of the application when you are taken to the page, but less conveniently, in 2007 documents, the selected location shows at the bottom of the screen. Not a crippling issue, just a little less than optimal.

Suggestions for Improvement

The interface for accessing documents is a little less accessible than I’d like. Though it’s definitely easy to bring up the document links, I think that a shortcut menu of your most accessed links on the taskbar notification icon, and perhaps shortcuts to them would be a definitely welcome improvement. The ability to copy links out of the application, however, might possibly mitigate this; I will have to see how it works in practice with other productivity applications that I use to speed up the launching of documents and applications.

Comparison to other apps

I’ve used a few bookmark managers over the years, and the bookmarking facilities included in several other applications. I have to say that this is the most slick implementation, from adding bookmarks, to the tagging of them. The ability to bookmark a certain area in a document is especially great, as many times I have to reference certain parts of a document, and finding it each time that the document is opened does reduce productivity.

Conclusions

I foresee that this will become one of those applications that I come to rely on heavily. Though there are a few niggling areas that could be enhanced, it does what it sets out to do, and really is a timesaver. I give it my recommendation.

The TC1100 experiment – Part 2

With the deciding over, the fun part begins… shopping! I did some more research into the TC1100, and found that there are several different versions. It appears that the max processor is a Pentium M 1.2GHz, and the maximum memory is 2G (if you discard the 512MB that comes standard). The price variance seems to also be pretty large, so I have to set myself a shopping limit.

I would like to spend less than $400 on the tablet and all upgrades. I’m basing that on the fact that I’d have to get a stand for the iPad, and the stand I was looking at was about $50, and I’m sure I’d get a keyboard, and that would run about $50, so the price for an iPad with 32GB of storage becomes $799 + tax.

The tablet I was able to secure on eBay was $239 + $12 shipping, so that fell within my budget. I did find out while I was doing this that I needed to be more assertive with my purchase; I missed out on a $249 deal that included the dock and DVD/RW. But I was able to secure that in another auction for $49 + $12 shipping. In that auction I learned another lesson- because right after I hit the buy it now, I found another one for $44 that included an additional power cord, which I think I might need.

But my total so far is $298 + $24 shipping, so I’m satisfied with the purchase.

The TC1100 experiment – Part 1

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to get a TC1100 instead of an iPad. In order to keep my expectations on the same level as what I would have expected from an iPad, my first step is to list out what I expect from the tablet.

My primary use of the tablet will be as a reader- PDFs and eBooks, for the most part, but it would also be nice to be able to access office documents. I also want to be able to take notes on it, and use it for general organizational purposes; it would be nice to be able to check e-mail and such on it, but that’s not a primary purpose. Of course, web access is a necessity.

For these needs, the processor of the tc1100 should be more than adequate. I will want to have at least 1GB RAM, and a DVD for installation of software. Another upgrade option is an SSD in place of the standard hard drive. Searching, it appears that PATA SSDs are still being manufactured by a few firms out of China, in addition to a Transcend HD. 32GB seems to be the sweet spot, which is a bit less than the 40GB HDD the tc1100 comes with. Windows 7 is also an upgrade option.

With these limitations and upgrade possibilities in mind, it’s time to go shopping!

My iPad Quest

My iPad Quest has turned into something else. I have this rule that I’ve enforced on myself; when I decide I want something techy, I impose a wait on it, while I put the money aside and research it and see how it develops and get more information. I was almost to the point of buying an iPad. I have an iPhone, and I enjoy it, and after seeing an iPad in person and what it could do, I figured that it would work for me.

But during my due diligence, I came across the following image.

Apple iPad vs HP TC1100 Comparison

Then I really started thinking about it, and doing the same research into the tc1100. Ignoring the trollish nature of the image (and the incorrect information in a few categories), that’s actually a pretty good comparison- but how does it hold up in the real world? I’ve already had a few tablets (Motion Computing m1200, m1400, Fujitsu P1510D) and a few smaller devices (OQO, Sony VAIO UX), and my biggest problem was that I was trying to do too much with them at the time- they were my primary computer for a lot of things (other than gaming and development). I fell into the trap of expecting the device to do too much on the limited power that it had.

One thing that Apple has done with the iPad is to limit expectations- mostly by locking you into what you can do, and out of what they don’t want you to do. But if I can limit my expectations- then I can get what I need at a fraction of the price.

So, my iPad quest ends (at least for now) to be replaced by my TC1100 quest.