Sunday, March 04, 2012
Finally, an update!
Well, it’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? Am I even talking to anyone anymore? My statistics page says 182 days without an update, which means half of a year. :( Terribly sorry. I’ve obviously been busy because when I’m busy, I don’t update. But I can’t really explain most of my time away. My Bidding website certainly takes a lot of credit for my virtual disappearance. It brings in actual money for me each month, so that is where my priority is for now. I’m also creating a new website, CFI-Wiki that will hopefully mature over time and pick up the slack when the bidding website becomes obsolete (new bidding system in the works at the company). Also thinking about a similar program that checks our paysheets. Though the other sites have been using the excuse of “making money” to keep me away from DarkMercury, I like reading through my history and large gaps like this one disappoint me a lot.
So happy new year, and what’s happening with me since Quakecon? Well Alison and I celebrated our first anniversary in October with a trip to Washington DC. We went to DC a few times when we started dating to see the pandas at the zoo. Traveled in our usual style this time though. Flew into DCA and took the subway to the Grand Hyatt downtown. The hotel sits right on top of the Metro Center subway station, making travel across the city pretty easy. Well our hotel experience was not the best, but we were getting by at the employee rate, so I will not complain too much. Worth the price, I guess. We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian museums, and some at the monuments. I guess there is a Martin Luther King Jr memorial that we missed. They were also digging up the Reflection Pool, which was a bummer. But the Smithsonian is always amazing and I could spend the entirety of any DC trip there. Someday we will get to Puerto Vallarta, I swear! Also, I don’t know why my camera turns into absolute garbage as soon as the sun starts to set.
Christmas was pretty quiet. We spent it in Texas by ourselves. I think we both ended up with the flu. I missed a lot of work because of it and got invited to the chief pilot’s office, but what can you do. I’m almost a year in now on the Embraer 145 aircraft. I noticed I haven’t really made any real post about it. Maybe I will soon, but the ERJ is a good but boring plane. It runs more consistently, which is nice. I get home on time more often. But there aren’t many good stories. It hasn’t tried to kill me a single time, which is good but helps contribute to my lack of posts.
American has declared bankruptcy, which is stopping the upgrades to captain. I was pretty close, actually. Besides getting to be the big boss of the airplane and getting to fly it the way I want to, it comes with quite a pay raise that I want. A few months of captain time looks better on the resume than years and years of FO time. When people ask me what’s going to happen with the bankruptcy, I don’t have much to tell them. They are negotiating with the mainline unions right now. What comes of that will affect whether Eagle grows or shrinks. I’ve spent too much time at Eagle to give up my seniority by leaving, so I’m just going to stay put and see what happens. I don’t think the airline will shrink to the point where I get furloughed or anything. Eagle could end up growing to take over some mainline flying, or we could start competing with other regionals for American flying and shrink. Until the mainline negotiations finish, I just don’t know yet. I’m guessing that, like other legacy carriers, the unions will be stripped of their pay and pensions. This makes the whole pilot gig less appealing in the long run and will hurt the industry. I tell people I’m not afraid of losing my job, I’m afraid of losing my career.
In the beginning of this year, both Alison and I have gotten new cars. It was awesome having her car paid off, but it was starting to get up there in years, and I didn’t want to have her break down when I was away on a trip, so we looked into a new car for her. She wanted a Hyundai Santa Fe, so we found a good used one and traded in the VW Rabbit, plus some cash and got a low payment. I still need to get a picture of her with it.
On Friday, we went down to the VW dealership to look at a new Jetta for me. I’ve been going through cars pretty quickly in the last few years, but I really hope this is the one that sticks for a while. I have good feelings about it. I had a 2010 Jetta Limited Edition, and just traded it for a similar 2010 Jetta Wolfsburg Edition (WE). Over time, the 2.5 engine and the transmission on the old Jetta was starting to bother me. When I accelerated, the engine sounded kind of raspy, and it seemed to run at high RPM. Was it trying to force me to drive slower for more MPG? The actual car itself was very nice. While Alison was looking for her car, we saw a Salsa Red Jetta Wolfsburg in the VW lot. My cars have always been black or silver, but I was very impressed with the color(s). That particular one was an automatic, but I started to casually look at other Wolfsburgs.
A 6-Speed in the right price range finally turned up, looking very cool in the same red color, tinted windows, the rear spoiler lip, and tan interior. The WE has the better, turbocharged engine and it is quite an improvement over the old one. The features of the new car are pretty much the same as my last Jetta. It has the same dashboard and radio, although bluetooth audio finally works! So it’s really an upgrade of style and engine. I wrote in the last Jetta post that part of growing up was realizing your priorities and not necessarily needed the fastest car on the road. So I must be growing younger again, haha. That’s still true though. Alison’s Rabbit had a 2.5 engine with the 5 speed, and I loved that setup, even though it was 20HP less than the Jetta. Had the gearing been set up the same, I would have been happy. But I was just not enjoying the Jetta’s engine the same way as the Rabbit and I couldn’t see myself owning it until it died. Well I really like the new car, just hope that the previous owners were nice to it and it will last a long time.
On the computer front, my awesome 8800GT video card finally died after almost 4 years. I bought an overclocked 560Ti to replace it, and Left 4 Dead 2 looks awesome at 2560x1600 res. Both cards are made by evga and hopefully this one will last just as long. I’d like to further replace the cpu/ram/motherboard before Quakecon time, but I’ll save that for a summer project.
I sold my iPad1 to get some cash for the iPad3, which is coming out soon. I think I’ll dedicate a separate post for that. I also spent $25 and bought two G3 iMacs. The graphite one is pretty decent and I’m going to keep that one. The indigo one is slower, and scratched up so I’m trying to pawn that off on craigslist and make $20 back. I remember middle school when the iMac first came out, and I didn’t like it. I was very anti-Mac back then. However, it did what it set out to do and changed the industry. It was able to win me over eventually, so it is an impressive machine. For $25 (potentially $5), it’s a cool piece of history. It even runs OSX 10.4 Tiger pretty well. You can browse the internet, do email, run some pretty recent software, etc. Not bad for a 15 year old computer.
Hopefully it won’t take me 6 months to do the next one.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Quakecon 2011 started off the same way they all do, with Tim and his friends arriving at my house on Tuesday. I was lucky again this year to get the time off work. Since the Quakecon dates are rarely announced in time, I had guessed the wrong weekend to apply my vacation time. We had a smaller group this year, almost the same people as last year. Tim, Adam, March, Steve, Matt, Joe and Jo all came down. Normally, they arrive early to help volunteer for setup. This year though, a vacation was needed and everyone just used the time to relax and have a good minilan (the LAN before the LAN). They do enough volunteering throughout the event, and it was good to finally see them. Usually, between their staying at the hotel and their volunteering, it would feel like I never saw them.
We were feeling a little skittish about the convention this year, after network outages turned Quakecon into IRC’con last year. This year the Quakecon website was hacked and there was very little information available. It seemed like no one really cared about Quakecon anymore and the magic was dying.
Overall though, I think we were mostly happy with Quakecon 2011. If you’ve ever been to one then you know what it is like. Depending on what breaks that year, they are all pretty much the same. The network was much more stable this year, due mainly to a routed network instead of switches. AT&T sponsored internet was a very welcome addition. But there was a flaw in the network this year. Using routers instead of switches meant that searching for LAN games wouldn’t work. To get into a game, you had to manually type in an IP Address, which is a pain to look up. Lacking an official solution to the problem, I personally started keeping track of LAN Games and sharing the info over a twitter account and the IRC room. It was a detriment to the LAN overall, in my opinion, but not a huge one. My efforts seemed mostly futile as there just weren’t enough people following the twitter accounts and joining IRC. Over time, we just started playing games online, since the speed was good enough. In the end, it didn’t really matter if you were playing with strangers in the room or strangers on the internet.
I played mostly QuakeLive of course, and did decent. The most fun, however, were the Left 4 Dead 2 versus matches we played. There were 8 of us, which is the perfect number for a L4D2 vs match, and of us only 3 really play the game. Dead Air had just been released, so we played a lot of that. It was pretty fun to stumble around as noobs.
The vendors area was borderline empty. There was a Dell/Alienware setup, and some Rage. I think a Silverstone booth sold some headsets. I can’t remember the other ones and frankly I didn’t spend much time there. Ventrillo again tried to give away a car and again I didn’t care. Joe wasted a lot of his time standing around the QuickDraw stage trying to win a chance to play a game and maybe win some money. Some money that they probably won’t pay anyways. I stopped fighting over the prizes a long time ago. I never win and why waste the time.
With Jo’s prompting, I went to more panels this year. They had one which was an interview with some of the key id software employees which was cool. John Carmack is a smart guy and it was interesting. What was less interesting was the PC Perspective event. Year after year we go hoping to win big prizes but as always, nothing. I can’t remember anything actually presented there except Nvidia was there and I can’t remember what they were on about. Nvidia Douche   returned this year with a speaking role. I noticed that every picture I took of him always comes out the same. However, March, Jo and I made it interesting by (joining the crowd in) yelling crude things at them. They couldn’t hear us but it was funny to those around. What was terribly depressing was an actual fight that erupted over a PC case given out as a prize. They wrestled and twisted and fell over each other and we all watched in horror. Sad to watch people’s morality absolutely dissolve at the hint of material gain.
Though it was better than last year, we haven’t decided if we are going back next year. There was an idea floating around of renting a place to set up a big minilan and just have the week to ourselves. Maybe over time it will turn into our own convention. Either way, as long as we keep getting together once a year that’s enough for me.
Monday, May 02, 2011
Left 4 Dead 2
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.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Well I forgot my headphones for my flight from Dallas to Cleveland, so all I can do is type. Yet again, no one else has made a review of Quakecon 2010, so the job defaults to me.
Quakecon time is always my favorite time of the year. Mostly, I am excited to have my friends come down to Texas to visit me. This year I was really excited to have everyone over to my new house, with plenty of room for people to sleep, set up computers, and go outside. With two spare rooms with beds plus the pull-out sofa, I thought I was well prepared, however people ended up ignoring the beds to sleep on the floor, and slept on the sofa without pulling it out. This year I actually remembered to charge the pump for the air mattress, however it deflated a bit during the day and March slept on an under inflated mattress because I forgot to tell him where the pump was. Sorry about that. Sleep always seems like a minor concern though, as they are so tired from driving that they can pass out anywhere and be fine.
The best part of the entire weekend, in my opinion, was my little minilan party that I had for the people who were not volunteering. My sunroom is a natural candidate for LAN parties. Our new dining room table extends quite far, and I’m able to have 3-4 people on each side. Most people have pretty decent laptops these days to make the journey easier, and this helps the minilan setup as I don’t have to run cabling and power requirements are minimal. I will have to invest in some more fans though, as the air vent is small and the windows are big! We had fun all day wednesday playing Quakelive and soldier of fortune 2, starcraft 2 was also played. Quakecon 2010 was off to a good start and it hadn’t even begun yet.
The very second that I had finished packing up my desktop for the LAN, we got word from Tim that the line was moving, and the convention was accepting computers for drop-off. So we hastily packed up the Jetta and sped off downtown to get in line. Only to our welcome surprise there was no line! I’m not sure if there was just no one around, since no one had pre-registered this year, or if the system was so good that it destroyed the line in 45 minutes, but we cruised right in and started filling out our information. The registration system had its up and downs this year. It was lightning quick, but the only things you could register this year was a computer, monitor, mouse, keyboard, and headphones. Everything else was left at-risk. I’ve never felt less secure at Quakecon, but most people are decent folk, and as long as you don’t leave tempting items in full view, you’re probably fine. As far as I’m aware, no one from our group lost anything.
This year we followed my new seating suggestion, which was to sit our group with the aisle between us instead of the table, which I thought was much better. I got to sit next to Jo and Matt, but all I had to do to talk to everyone else was turn around and it was easy to talk to Ben, Joe, and Steve. I also tried to keep Jo and I on a schedule of arriving later and leaving later in the day to be around more when the Tech Desk volunteers were finished with their shifts. It’s strange to think about being lonely in a LAN party of 3000 people, and I felt that way in 2006, but I definitely had fun with everyone this year.
There were problems however, as anyone who follows the event knows. The story is, that at the last minute the provider of the network switches and routers backed out at the last minute. This caused the staff to have to use older, slower equipment which was quickly overloaded. Internet connectivity has never been fast at Quakecon, but I’ve never seen so many computers tethered to phones before. These days you are lucky if a game even comes out for the PC. You are luckier still if it has multiplayer mode. But now for certain, if it has multiplayer support, you know you won’t be able to play it unless you have an internet connection. So without the internet, basically every single new game wasn’t working, including their own Quakelive.
Well you’d think that’s not such a big deal, we can just play some old school games like the good ol’ days. Some Quake3, Jedi Knight 2, SoF 2, etc.. Only this year was also the beginning of the new authoritarian “no file-sharing” policy. While I won’t deny there is potential for illegal file transfers, file sharing through direct connect is the easiest way to share legal files like game patches and updates. While Adam did get a file server up and running later in the event, the effort it took to take files over to him, and get people motivated proved to be too much for most people. Quakecon can function without the internet, and it can function without file sharing, but without both of them combined, the party largely stalled and became IRCon 2010.
A big complaint many people had this year was that Quakecon has finally “sold out”. People point to paying to skip the (nonexistent) line, and the “Quakecon Store” where you could buy shirts instead of fighting for them. I hated fighting for shirts anyways, so those complaints didn’t bother me. But I do agree that the vendor area has a different aura about it than when I started attending. Maybe the new-ness has just worn off, but I thought in the beginning it was more personal. You could really actually use and test the new products instead of just look at tech specs and demos. A lot of vendors just play videos, and I have youtube at home. I forced myself to walk around, but I still don’t understand the rage about Rage or why there is a spaceship there. Now there are two mustangs for you to win a chance to lose, instead of 600 video cards which would be cooler and more useful anyways.
My usual review of the LAN events still stand also. The quickdraw tournaments are a hassle to get in the running for, and more of a hassle to actually get chosen for. I’m pretty sure that the winners from last year still haven’t received their prize money anyways. About the only reason to actually try for the quickdraw is that Quakelive actually worked on those computers, and not in the BYOC. Quakecon 09 ruined most of the events in my mind, as I have absolutely no desire to watch people humiliate themselves for a video card that will be outdated in 2 months anyways, or quakecon girls who are hired to distract you from the fact that there’s nothing interesting going on.
I have a lot of bad things to say about Quakecon in recent years, but the fact remains that it’s still one of the best things that happens every year. The fact that everyone wants to get together once a year and have a weekend just like old times means way more than a faulty network and stale events. I’ll host Quakecon myself next year if I have to, and I hope everyone will try to take time in August 2011 to keep the tradition alive. There were many good times, like the minilan, watching Avatar, going out to eat, and I did have fun playing the games we got to play. To the people who took the time to come, I still had a great time with you. To everyone, I hope you’ll come next year.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I was very lucky to get the time off for Quakecon 09 this year, and it was a good thing because this was a good one. Dan came down with the normal group of Tim, Adam, March, Matt and Steve. Also there were Brian and Joe. As usual, they drove down, which took about 19 hours. They somehow get faster at it each year. Unfortunately I wasn’t at home when this happened because I was working, but a few hours later I got home to find about 15 more computers in my apartment than normal. It was pretty funny to see all the laptops everywhere and I wish I got a picture of it. People slept on our sofa bed, on our air mattress, on heavy comforters, and even on our footrest thing. By the time I woke up the next day, most everyone was gone already.
I had a slightly different strategy for the line this year. Instead of waiting all day to be at the front of the line, I wanted to wait until it started to move before heading down to the Gaylord. With Tim and Adam and the group volunteering, they would get in first and let us know when to come down. Typically we’d arrive at the line around 2pm and wait 9-10 hours for registration to start. On top of that, I had a new motherboard/CPU/RAM combo in the mail from Newegg. My desktop is intel based for the first time ever, a Core 2 Duo 2.93 Ghz, Asus motherboard, and 4GB of RAM. Woot! It arrived mid-afternoon and I spent about an hour or two rebuilding my computer right before quakecon. It would give me some problems later, but nothing that ruined the experience. After I finished rebuilding my computer, Dan and I decided to head down and get in line anyways. I was pretty lucky to get a shirt right away as they were thrown to the crowd. I don’t hoard shirts anymore, but I like to get one per year. We waited for about 4 hours in total, which wasn’t too bad. Had I waited another hour after Tim texted us we might have been able to cut that down to 3 hours, but there were plenty of people who showed up after we did, so I don’t think it’s possible to entirely skip the line. That night you basically set your computer down on the table where you choose, and walk out. We had a good spot near the tech desk and the NOC, but next year we need to sit on opposite sides of the aisle, instead of around the table. If someone is on the other side of the table, you basically don’t see them the whole event.
This was the first year I woke up early enough to get down to the event when it actually started, 9am on Thursday. After dropping Alison off at the airport to go home for the weekend, Dan and I went to iHop for breakfast and then to the Gaylord. The layout was similar to the 2005 layout when it was at the Gaylord before. The vendors were straight ahead through the door with the BYOC to the right. I always like the sponsors that let you use their products while playing a game, like when Razer had the copperhead display. There didn’t seem to be much of that this year. There were some laptops like that, and some consoles and intel systems, but I could pretty much get the same experience at my own computer. I’m looking for stuff that will make my computer better, not just the same experience somewhere else. They did have cool stuff though, the new Wolfenstein game looks sweet, and playing Doom 2 was fun on the xboxes. I think it really says something when your game is still fun to play like 15 years later. These days a game leaves you bored after 4 hours. Bawls was there selling cases and drinks and we got one. Around the sponsors was a lounge area where you could watch the tourney matches with commentators describing the match. That was pretty cool and fun to watch. And there was the Quick Draw stage where they held the “how much of your humanity will you give up for something free” events and the Quick Draw Quake matches. It would be fun to play a quick draw match, but you have to be present to win, and the odds of me getting called are so low that I don’t think it’s worth my time to hang around there. I’ve also watched plenty of noobs play quake before, so the match itself isn’t appealing enough. If you want to win a shirt, it’s the place to be though.
We got to our computers and set them up. The main game this year was Quake Live again, like last year. They used Quakecon as an announcement for Linux and Mac support which is cool. Quake Live is a great game, and it’s basically what Quake4 should have been. And despite what people say, it’s NOT just Quake 3. Should I go into it? The weapon strengths are different which alters gameplay and it took a little while for me to get used to it. The machinegun is weak as all hell now. You can pump 100 rounds into someone and still not kill them, which means that getting your revenge frag is harder. Instead of going for the quick MG frag after you die, its now a better strategy to give it up and look for a weapon. Quake has always been a game about controlling items, and this makes it even more important. The shotgun is stronger but spreads more, making it strong enough to kill almost anyone at really close range, but even more useless if someone is medium/far distance. With a longer weapon switch time, it’s also harder to get the SG kill. The Rocket Launcher is similar. It does lots of damage when it actually hits you, and far less when you get hit by splash damage. You can bounce around your enemy all day and hardly hurt him, while he’s probably pwning you with Lighting. The LG seems to be the center of the QuakeLive experience, with it being found everywhere and ultra powerful, quick reload time (meaning you can switch from it quickly), and instant damage. You can own at QL by having a LG and switching to the RL to finish the kill. It also seems easier to rail people in this game. All in all, it’s close enough to be fun like Q3 and mastering the new skills can be fun. QL’s web interface and stats will let you play against people with the same skill level as you so you’re not just always being pwned by one person, and that’s probably a good thing. It’ll help people learn and like the game better so all in all QL is a win.
The events there were pretty hit or miss, like usual. It’s never quite been the same since HardOCP left, but I had high hopes for the Nvidia event and something called the hardware event. I heard a rumor in the forum that Nvidia was supposed to do something big so when I got the day right, Dan and I and the group headed down to it and were excited to see a big pile’o'prizes, HardOCP style. It became clear pretty quickly though that the prizes were for the few that they brought onstage. Not only did Nvidia have nothing to talk about, but they couldn’t even give prizes away without embarrasing themselves. They had a mod-a-PC contest between two groups that was okay, but then they wanted to wax a guy’s chest and when it came time to start eating live crickets and fish, I had had enough. I’m not sure but I think I was one of the first people to walk out of the mainstage. Like I told Adam and Dan, it’s not so much that I was grossed out, it was just boring. I’ve never been excited by people eating things on fear factor and such, and I’d just rather be in the BYOC if Nvidia has nothing to talk about. I was surprised when the rest of the group was behind me again in about 5 minutes and we decided to hit up Logan’s for steak. Much better use of the time, indeed.
The Hardware Workshop by PC Perspective the next day saved Quakecon events. This was basically a return of the HardOCP workshop, and those guys did a great job of putting it together and keeping it interesting. AMD was there showing off their overclocking tool, and it was cool to see just how far their processors could be pushed, but it could have been even better if they talked about the basics of overclocking. What steps to take first, where to start with, etc. Would have been very cool to learn some real stuff at a workshop like that. They did manage to overclock a 3GHz Phenom to 5.5GHz, something like that using liquid helium. Pretty impressive, but not practical at all. I don’t see a lot of 3dmark2007 tournaments anywhere. They called tickets for prizes and threw a lot to the crowd, even processors. Dan wants me to mention nvidia douche who somehow showed up again at this event. He was giving away prizes, but would run around screaming trying to pump people up but would rarely actually give anything away, and when he did he just gave them to people seated on the aisle. So we learned pretty quickly to not be impressed or excited from him. Everytime we turned around nvidia douche was there it seemed.
I didn’t feel like going to the closing ceremony or finals, and I don’t know who won the Shelby Mustang from Ventrillo. I still think that money would be better spent on more video cards for more people. A lot of people worked hard just to win a 99% chance of losing that mustang. Other than QuakeLive I played a little Quakewars, Q3…and uhhh…ok I guess I played a lot of Quake Live. Also got some more TV shows like Seinfeld, House MD, XFiles, Stargate SG-1. My plan to upgrade my computer right before QCon was mostly a success, although there were times when my computer threw an absolute fit. I didnt reinstall Windows XP, just let it redetect my hardware when it rebooted and reactived windows, and I got pretty good speed out of it. Quakewars looked great at 1920x1200, but then it would start to throw explorer crashes and firefox crashed a lot (which is not helpful when QL is launched from the web browser). Reinstalling Firefox seriously helped it not crash all day Friday, but on Saturday it started again and early Sunday night I installed Windows 7 with Adam’s help. It’s actually not too bad and has been completely stable, so maybe it was just WinXP and not bad hardware after all. I should probably RMA the motherboard just to be safe, but laziness will probably prevail.
All in all, it was a great time, I’m glad everyone could come down again. Glad Dan finally made it down after 6+ years of trying. I tried to balance out sleeping and playing, tried to not get dragged into drama and all that that comes with less sleep. I think this year was an overall really good year. It was a record setting year for Quakecon in terms of attendance, it seemed well-organized this year with twitter and google calendar updates, and I hope we can do it again next year! Thanks for coming everyone!
Check out more pics in the Quakecon ‘09 Gallery