Technology June 26th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Windows 7 Pre-Order at Amazon
As many of you know I have been running Windows 7 on my netbook and I have been greatly impressed with it.
Microsoft has now released an early upgrade offer where pre-ordering the newest version will save you a lot of money. You can preorder the Home Premium edition for $49.99 (about half off) or you can order the Professional version for $99 (about half off).
video games June 13th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Xbox360 Review: Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
For the past week and a half I have been spending quite a bit of time playing sacred 2: Fallen Angel (Ascaron) on my Xbox360. When I first heard about the game my initial thoughts were on the line of, "oh no, not another Diablo clone!" What I have come to learn is that even though it does have some elements of the Diablo games it also has elements of one of my favorite Fantasy RPG computer games; Baldur's Gate. Yes, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is not so much a Diablo clone as it is a game with roots in both Diablo and Baldur's Gate. So the game is not so much a clone as it is a child of those two venerable titles.
To get the basics out of the way let me start by telling you that there are six character classes to pick from and each one can be customized to a great degree as you level up. The game world is immense, huge even! If you like the sandbox style of RPG then you better bring along your shovel and crab shaped bucket because Sacred 2: Fallen Angel has more sand than you can shake a stick at! Couple this with a huge amount of sidequests (600+) and two different campaigns (light and dark) and you have a game that you can play for a very long, long, long time.
Unlike its PC counterpart the Xbox360 version of the game limits you to four players total over Xbox Live. You can also have a second player join you on the same console in a shared (not split) screen environment. Much like Diablo (and Baldur's Gate to a lesser degree) the game truly shines in a multi-player format. Enough with the broad overview let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?
Food June 11th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
All This in a Bag of Chips
Just this afternoon I found myself with a hankering for some potato chips. It's not very often that I eat these things on account of how their grease tends to have a highly negative impact on my digestive tract. Every now and then though I just can't help myself and I succumb to the desire.
I stopped by a local convenience store to find my bag of chips and after a few minutes of perusing their selection I settled on the Ridges chips made by Wise. I think it might have been the words "Big Munch" next to the 99 cent price tag that pulled me in. I used to always buy the Cape Cod chips but I thought I might give Wise a shot at some of my hard earned cash.
The bag was clearly larger than any other bag in its price grouping and according to the weight data it contained 2.375 oz / 67g of chips. With that said I had also forgotten that Wise chips tend to be on the heavy side when you compare them to other chips. This is due in part to them not slicing their chips as finely as some other brands are prone to do.
After returning to my office space I proceeded to pop open the back and eat. That is when I came to a rather rude discovery.
Even tough the bag was large, and the weight clearly marked, I was more than a little bit surprised to see how much of the bag was filled with air. Looking into the bag it seemed like a very long way before those chips appeared. In fact, as you can see from the pictures, the chips took up about 1/3 of the available space inside the bag!
There is a lesson to be learned here and it does not only apply to chips. Whenever you go shopping it is always important to look not only at the price but also at the unit price when compared to similar items. Quality is also a very important factor but when all other things are equal I always try to use unit price as a basis for making my purchasing decision.
A few days ago I took my daughter with me to the grocery store to pick up a few items. One of her staple foods is Mac-n-Cheese. Unfortunately for us she has a preference for the SpongeBob licensed Mac-n-Cheese, which costs a little more than the basic elbow shaped product.
We do give her a weekly allowance of $5 that she is able to spend as she sees fit and she is pretty good with her own money. Seeing an opportunity for some learning I made a point of showing her the prices and unit prices of everything we purchased. She quickly caught on and when we arrived at the Mac-n-Cheese aisle she put the plain elbow variety in the cart and saved us about 25 cents per box.
When we got to the paper towel aisle things became a little bit more complicated. This happened because we had the option of buying them as single roles (most expensive), two-packs or 24-packs. As I am sure you can imagine the 24-pack was the best deal but I then had to explain to her that even though the pricing was the best it was not the best deal for us because we lack adequate storage space to keep the extra rolls. In the end we paid a little more and got the two pack.
video games June 6th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Going Back In Time With Fallout
After spending so much time playing with Fallout 3 and all of the current DLC I couldn't help but begin to feel a little bit nostalgic about the original game from 1997. I still remember the original spiral bound instruction manual that came with the game. I remember loading that game up in my old Windows 95 computer (I think it had some sort of AMD chip in it) and playing for a little while before getting killed by radscorpions. I have no idea where that book is now but I do know the CD-ROM for the game is likely to be inside that book.
I never got very far in the original game and it came out the same year I got married so my computer gaming days were somewhat on the way out. I never made it any further than Shady Sands and Vault 15 but I did enjoy the game and the fear of radscorpions has long stuck with me. I still cringe a bit when I encounter those beasts in Fallout 3!
I never played any of the other Fallout games until the latest one arrived on the Xbox360. I often wanted to revisit the world of Fallout and play through the original game but I was never able to locate the disks. That problem has come to an end because only a few short days ago I found a compilation of the first three Fallout games on a DVD-ROM and purchased it.
Returning to Vault 13
Getting back into the swing of the game was very easy. I played through the escape from Vault 13 and the rat tunnel so many times that I still knew where everything was. I didn't even forget to stop by shady sands for a bit of rope before heading on to Vault 15. After acquiring the 10mm SMG in Vault 15 I returned to Shady Sands and, for the first time, I did not get killed by radscorpions along the way! Not only did I not get killed by them but I even took out their lair nearby!
With my Fallout groove on I proceeded to explore the world that I had let pass me by a decade ago. What was I thinking way back then? This game is awesome and has held up very well over the years. I also have to say that if I had played Fallout all the way through I would have been using the hunting rifle in Fallout 3 a lot more often than I used the 10mm SMG.
The DVD Pack
The DVD-ROM pack includes not just Fallout but Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics for under $20. That is three games (some better than others) for under $20! With that low price in mind I picked it up and was not disappointed.
One thing many old gamers (especially PC gamers) are aware of is the fact that most games need to be patched for bugs found after they are released. The games on this disk are patched and in some cases they are patched again.
For example, the Fallout game comes in three varieties; patched, high-res and community patched. The basic game is the 1.2 version that fixed a good number of bugs from the initial release. The community patched version fixes even more bugs and has a large readme file listing the bugs that were fixed. The high-res version is based on version 1.2 and allows you to run the game at a higher resolution. Considering this game was made to run at 640x480 this high-res version allows you to completely utilize your screen real estate. The DOS version is also on the disk though you should not need to use it.
For Fallout 2 there is a patched and a community patched version. For Tactics you also get an editor. However, since I have not played these two yet I really can't talk about them.
The Test of Time
After spending numerous hours in the original Fallout world I began to think about some of the complaints leveled at Bethesda when Fallout 3 was released. Some said it was just 'Oblivion with guns' while others lamented the change to an FPS style of gameplay.
What I am finding is that Fallout 3 is a worthy successor to the Fallout name. It does capture a lot of the humor and feel of the original game and some things are clearly inspired from the original. Dogmeat anyone?
What I am also seeing is that you can play through the entirety of the Fallout quest in a matter of hours. What I thought would take a long time given the games 120 day allowance for finding the water chip ended up being only a 2+ hour job. The opposite holds true in Fallout 3 because you can't complete the main quests in less than eight hours of constant gaming. That may just be a sing of the times or a case of things going faster once you know where to go.
When I first started playing the game I relied too much on the burst setting of the 10mm SMG and paid the price. Without ammo to feed that beast I was stuck using my knife in hand-to-hand and often getting myself killed. I also found myself nervous in combat because in the original game you don't see the enemy life bar. Think about that, you could have the enemy within an inch of his life and you don't know.
I found a very expensive geiger counter in a shop but I could not afford to buy it. I wish I had because after entering a place that I thought was safe I found myself to be suffering from radiation poisoning. Unlike in Fallout 3 healing chems are not exactly plentiful. Ammo and caps also fall into the 'not plentiful' column which makes each shot very valuable.
After you acquire your first laser weapon you don't simply equip it and shoot it at every hostile you see. That weapon does not come with any spare ammo so you end up holding onto it for those special occasions that you think may need it. In fact you will often find yourself holstering your gun and wading into hand-to-hand with a crowbar to save on ammo!
If you like Fallout 3 or old-style single-player RPG games on the PC then you should investigate getting a copy of this game. It stands up well to other games from its time and though it is not as expansive as modern RPG titles it is still very enjoyable.
There are a few minor graphic issues but they can normally be worked around by setting the game to run in Win98 mode. The most common is where the entire screen turns black and you have to move the pointer around to uncover the screen. I had some other issues on Windows 7 with DOSBox and without. the most common problem is where colors do not match up. This likely some sort of color palette problem.
If you are feeling particularly nostalgic you might want to check out a mirror of the original Fallout website!