Since the last post way back in May, my computer hasn’t changed much. Back then I added the Razer Mamba mouse and Megaloden Headset.
The mamba has been amazing, like spectacularly good for a wireless mouse. Its only problem is battery life. I’ll often leave it on and leave for a 4 day trip at work and come back to find it dead. It’s not a huge deal since it can easily become a wired mouse by plugging it in. My only real disappointment is that as soon as I bought it they came out with a new mamba, all stealth-apple style. I don’t think the new one is vastly different though, it has some fancy lights. I will try to resist the temptation to buy another one.
The Megaloden headset is alright. It’s bulky and takes up a lot of room in my suitcase when I took it to DasLAN. I don’t like the fabric ear covers, compared to my Bose Triports, but the Bose has no microphone. The mic is alright when I’m at home in a quiet environment, but was almost worthless in the noisy environment of Quakecon. I’ll probably keep them because the market for them is pretty small.
My only big PC news is that, after 9 years, I’ve finally bought a new case for my computer. Since high school, I’ve rocked an old school Lian-Li PC-60 or something. I have pretty high standards for my computers, it turns out. I wanted a silver case to go along with the Apple Cinema Displays which narrowed me down to about 5% of the total case market. Go ahead and try to buy a nice looking silver case, I dare you. You can’t do it anymore. Your computer these days must be black, which is funny because in the past everything was beige and you could never find any black. We kinda went past the goal of customization and ended up back where we started. Anyways, I considered buying a dead Apple PowerMac G5 and gutting and modding it to make a PC from it. Not only extremely troublesome, it would limit me to one DVD drive and wouldn’t be very upgradable.
The bar by which I’ve always measured PC cases has been the Maximum PC “Dream Machine” for 2002. The case is a Cooler Master ATC-110, which went out of production soon after. I’ve occasionally searched for one, usually to never find one, or find one in bad condition. However, I recently came across one on ebay in basically flawless condition and so I pulled the trigger and bought it. I’m pretty excited to get it. It’s almost a full tower, so it’ll be larger than my current computer, but it doesn’t actually go to LAN Parties anymore. I have my Macbook Pro for that now, so I don’t have to worry about traveling with it much. I like the way the door covers the drives, and I have plenty of USB ports on my keyboard and monitors so I don’t need them on the case. Hopefully I can put up some images when I get the computer built. It’ll be fun to rebuild the computer, I never get to do that anymore it seems.
I considered buying an i7 setup to make it like a whole new computer, but the Core 2 Duo is still fine. Maybe next year for Quakecon (or whatever we end up doing).
It’s been a long time since I’ve been really into gaming. I’ve kept up with Quake 3/Live a little bit, but mostly I’ve been working on PHP programming and other stuff. Left 4 Dead 2 has changed that however, bringing me back into the world of PC gaming. I was never someone who was into the whole zombie apocalypse thing, but I do like this game a lot. Besides having a pretty fun mix of zombies, weapons, and adventures, what I like about this game is the teamwork. There are only a few campaigns, but trying to get through them with different people with different skills is challenging, and brings something new to gaming for me. I’ve always been the solo warrior of Q3 before this. I’ve been playing L4D2 with some random people online. When you find a good teammate online you friend them through Steam and can invite them to play with you again later. When you have good teammates you can ramp up the difficulty and have some fun. Here’s a gameplay video where I make some good appearances:
Since getting back into PC gaming, I’ve picked up a Razer Mamba mouse, which I love! I never thought I would like a wireless mouse on my gaming machine, but this is something else. I also got a Razer Megalodon headset, which is less impressive but still nice. Longer reviews of one or both may come soon.
In Quakecon News, QC is coming sooner than we expect! It’s may already and that means about 3 months to get good at Quake again. If people are interested, I’d like to start a QL night or something where we play some DM/CA/TDM together to prepare. Let me know! My Pre-Quakecon LAN will actually have some thought put into it this year. Can’t wait to see everyone.
As I was making my Friends 3.0 page, where I have my friends' blog entries as if they were posted on my site, I came across some limitations of Magpie RSS. The software is very good at making a big array out of an RSS feed, but it can't handle some of the newer web standards like RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0. When I started to add a lot of personal feeds to the friends page, magpierss's limitations became more apparent.
As much as I searched, I couldn't find a real solution other than completely rewriting my friends page based on other RSS parser like Simple RSS. Luckily, I came across a hack of Magpie on Google, and I wish I could remember where it came from so I could give credit. The page wasn't even available anymore, but Google had cached it, and I managed to copy it. I had to do a lot of editing to remove the HTML formatting, but it does what it promises, and gives magpieRSS the RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0 support it so desparately needs these days.
That's not the only thing special about this hacked together MagpieRSS file though. It seems Wordpress sites have broken most Magpie RSS feeds with it's "media:content" tag. For some reason, when MagpieRSS parses this tag, its "content:encoded" tag changes simply to a big letter "A". It through me for a loop for a while, and not seeing a good fix online, I simply edited the Magpie parser to ignore "media:content". This fixes the content:encoded issue, which I think is more important than some media file anyways.
The last edit of the MagpieRSS deals with categories. Many feeds list assigned categories with by having each one in a tag, like:
MagpieRSS will simply append the category array value each time so you end up with "SportsBaseball". My version appends a '@@@@' at the end of each category, so the array value will be "Sports@@@@Baseball@@@@". From there you can use the php function 'explode' to separate each category from the string.
Hopefully, someone out there will find this useful.
I haven’t posted much here on DarkMercury lately (Happy New Year btw) because I’ve been pretty busy with a new website I’ve written for work. It’s a PHP script that loads schedules and sorts them depending on different criteria you input into it. Each month every pilot and flight attendant in the company looks through these lines to figure out which is the best for them and lists them in the order they want. The people who have been there the longest get the first pick, and so on down the line. On the ATR, I’ve only had about 35 lines to look through so it wasn’t much of a big deal to do it by hand. As I make the change to the Embraer jet, now I’d have to look through ~280 lines. I looked into other commercial bidding software and decided it wasn’t worth the cost. It’d be easier to just write my own. So for the last 2 months I’ve been working on a pretty powerful and unique bid software that I finally announced on company forums last night. So far, it’s gotten very good reviews, and because I can capture a little niche market here, I enrolled in the Google Adsense Program. Google displays relevant ads on the bidding website, and when someone clicks on them, the advertisers pay google and google lets some of that trickle down to me. It’s not a bad program and I’ve been watching it throughout the day as people learn about the site. Hopefully the system can kind of sustain itself and bring in some pocket money each month during bid time.
I rarely get much actual traffic on my DarkMercury website, and the traffic I do get is usually on my AppleTV and Freenas posts, so I’m running a little test to see if google ads work well with my site. I have one strip along the right menu bar, and individual blog entries that I choose can display an ad header. I pretty much set these only to pages linked from google for the visitors. I know most of my friends simply use the RSS and nothing will change for them. So far, the adsense program is looking good and I hope to open up another website with the same model in the next few months. Until that one is ready, you can check out the bid program, written from scratch at [link removed]:
[Edit 05/02/11: I removed the actual name of my work website due to Google showing my personal blog in its search results for the bidding program. While I realize that anything posted online should be expected to be read by anyone, I’d rather disassociate the two to the best of my ability.]