Tuesday, September 29, 2015

There Is Always a Reason Why Something is "Free"...

It was only last year that I was forced to abandon my trusted WinXP and upgrade to Win7. And I say forced because Microsoft made sure that key features of my OS was not working anymore, including security. So, Win7 was a brief yet not a bad altogether experience - if one disregards numerous lack of customization options and the palpable effort of Microsoft to make us abandon them as well, that is. Such as stopping our desktop widgets from working in order to promote the "brilliant" Win8 tiles! Nevertheless, I want to make clear that I am comparing Win10 to an extensive background on WinXP and an adequate experience with Win7.

Two words: forced updates. I was lucky enough to have opted for the Professional edition of the Win7, so when I got to switch to Win10, I received the Professional edition as well - which comes with the option to defer (yet still not pick between or even cancel) the installation of the latest updates. The Home edition, however, does not give the user any such option and all updates are forced onto him. Remember how after numerous "essential" updates in the past, our PCs encountered a myriad or mysterious problems? Yeah, there is no more avoiding them anymore.

From the initial Logging in only with a Microsoft-confirmed eMail account to the Groove Music and the Movies & TV Players amassing info on your files and personal habits, Win10 are a private person's worst nightmare. In a sense, Win10 are the basis of the most intrusive and abusive DRM ever to be slipped in with a piece of software. There had been an uproar even since the pre-release builds and some deactivation options are available but they are far from thorough. And the question is this: how much can one trust a company that silently downloaded Win10 to every WinVISTA, Win7 and Win8 PC without the consent of their owners?

Microsoft did not allow us to perform a clean install when upgrading from a previous Microsoft OS; however, using one's product Serial Number, it was possible to download the official image and burn it onto a disk (or transfer it to an empty USB). In preparation for the upgrade, I increased my system's RAM to 12GM and a few days after the initial update, I formated and did a clean install. Then I went on installing only software that was Win10 compatible. Keep this information in mind when I tell you that Win10 are SLOW. Slower than Win7 and definitely slower than WinXP! It takes forever to transfer files to and from a USB flash drive (a problem that started with Win7) and what is more aggravating, it takes forever to explore folders, especially those on my second HDD. Even if they were opened a few moments ago.
So, why is it not faster? Is it because of an increase in cosmetic additions and aesthetic customizations? No. Absolutely no.

The Windows interface and Menu options look worse than Win7. Aero Glass, for some unfathomable reason, is not available. The Windows borders are not customizable (for the first time since Win95!). Quick Launch can be made to appear with some Registry editing (I would advise Googling it - carefully) yet the icons now cannot be centered in the Toolbar and stay misaligned to the Task View button; the option of which icons and how to appear in the Taskbar is missing; whereas, this latest shinny OS refuses to learn that I do not like every shortcut to have a "Shortcut to" prefix to every shortcut I create - something Win98 had no problem learning after the third time I removed it on a new one.
There is a semi-official piece of software (no, I am not calling them Apps!) called Windows Ultimate Tweaker 4: it does offer a number of options, some of which very useful. However, one of the most important ones (specifically, which new templates and options to appear when right-clicking on the desktop) -you guessed it!- is missing. And do not get me started on the Start Menu!

Win8 were a complete failure mainly because of their Start menu. We all loved the WinXP Start Menu, easy to use, a breeze to customize and backup when needed. Win7 improved on it, even if, quite counter-intuitively, one had to use libraries in order to add personal folders in the Start Menu. Yet, everything was at the right place. Well, not so much with Win10.
Power is now a button like any other, found between(!) All-Apps and Settings - and when pressed (remember that this will also be needed to be done at 2:00AM after 12 hours of working on a screen) one has to read and carefully select between the Shut Down or Restart options that appear. Every single time. With no confirmation dialog.
The installed software (All-Apps) are alphabetized easy to navigate - yet its folders do not respond to Right-clicking them. They are just dead.
The Tiles Panel, however, this is where they screwed up again: none of the tiles are customizable in other aspects than total size (resulting in beautiful icons looking ridiculous in all that empty background). Why can we not readjust the sizes of the contained icons? And yet they even failed to adjust the tile sizes correctly!
The Tiles Panel allows resizing but only in huge pre-set steps. We can also move and group the tiles. Some (but not all) tiles come in 4 sizes, others in 3 yet most in only 2 sizes. The step-wise increments of the Tile Panel create space for 6 small tiles in each group. Have less than 6 tiles in a group and the empty space is an ugly waste. Moreover, no tile under them can grow to fill the space of 6 small tiles, so, once again, more ugly wasted space.
Oh, and for some another mysterious reason, not all installed software can be pinned to the Tile Panel, even if they do appear in the All-Apps list! You have to hunt for them in your Program Files and find the executable.

Drakensang: The Dark Eye is not an old game, barely 5-6 years old and it is supposed to be Win10 compatible. At least its expansion is, and that run fine. The original game, however, refused to run under any "compatibility mode". Does this thing finally do anything besides reducing the resolution, Microsoft? You know, running them under DirectX 9.0c or something?

The Recycle Bin still refuses to use its customized icons, just like with Win7. The Explorer folders are still unable to retain my Viewing preferences. And the Desktop still looses files (especially saved web-pages) one then has to hunt down with the Explorer (even if they are still in the Desktop folder).

Overall, not a failure of WinVISTA or Win8 proportions but nowhere near as good as WinXP or even Win7.

I am willing to accept this as a work in progress and give them 6 months to get their act together and patch things up.
Yet they should not think that they will get a free ride just because they claim to be giving it away for "free". Because it was not.
We had to exchange our perfectly working OS for it.

This goes to prove that, once more, there is no free lunch in this Universe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Game Of The Decade Is Here!

The original Witcher was a great game, whereas the sequel was even better, bigger and more beautiful in every aspect. Following on this trend of building upon and improving their achievements, CD PROJEKT RED, the small Polish developer that has humbled gaming behemoths for years, released their best game yet. And what a game THE WITCHER III: WILD HUNT is!

Yes, the world of The Witcher III is huge, far larger than Skyrim. Far more importantly though, it feels more real and it is full of life.
The game throws you in a world of unparalleled beauty with details that keep unfolding the closer you observe it. Every spade of grass and every pebble looks real and obeys the laws of physics as set by the new REDengine. From the night and day and weather cycles to gear that gets damaged and needs to be repaired by blacksmiths and from growing facial hair to NPCs with real lives, the world of The Witcher absorbs you in and never, ever lets you go. The flames of Igni feel absolutely real as do bodies of water. Beasts and humans will do the unexpected whereas the skies sheltering your travels are absolutely mesmerizing. One can easily spend hours in the game simply observing the gorgeous world around him.
There are some concessions to absolute realism one can take advantage off (quick traveling and in-battle repairs for example); however, purists can ignore them and sink in the extra hours to go old school. 
Now, all these come at a price. A couple of weeks ago, I made sure to upgrade to a nVidia 960 (pouring with a brand new 352.86 driver) and 12GB of RAM just for this game (at some point, CD PROJEKT has to ask ASUS for dividends!) and the game runs smoothly at Ultra. 
(Also, no save-files crashes this time around. So far).

Once more, the music is an essential part of both the atmosphere and the gaming experience. The composers are different than those of the previous games and this translates into a novel approach to the world of Geralt of Rivia. You will recognize a number of variations on themes from the previous games and it feels like meeting old friends, matured yet still dear to you; however, I found the music more subtle and effective and not less powerful.

Remember the days form the very first Witcher when you basically finished the game with the same sword and kept saving every last oren to buy the 5,000O leather jacket? Well, Geralt not only yields an extra crossbow but he also enjoys an ever growing choice of armor and weapons. Combine this with a huge library of books and an endless supply of potion and bombs ingredients and you will soon find your hero to be overburdened. And then you realize that there is no storage chest! Not to worry, the game now employes Roach's saddlebag (buy it as soon as possible and enlarged it). This way your storage is always close by. And, take my advice, do not sell anything! From ingredients to older swords, you will need them for crafting. And even find loot is abundant, it always feel great to gather all the ingredients to finally forge a sword or a piece of armor whose schematics you had been carrying for some time.

Some people have been complaining about the PC controls and, up to a point, I can understand why. As with all games, I remap almost everything so that I am able to use only the right end of the keyboard (arrows for movement are default here but I use the Num-keys 1-5 to select my Sign, Num-0 to use it, / for the steel sword, * for the silver one, and so on). The game is enjoyable when set at the highest difficulty one can survive at so having quickly accessible controls are essential. That is why I hope to see a key-rebinding option Menu soon and not have to dive in the input.settings file.

The Expansion Pass will cover the Expansion (as per CD PROJEKT RED's practices, all DLCs are to be free). And if they are known for anything is offering a more than fair value for the released products.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Many Pockets Can A Dinosaur Possibly Have?

This is what you get when you allow greed to run unchecked. And 2K GAMES is an insistent and repeat offender of such abhorable tactics.

Evolve is not a game. It is DLC-pushing scheme that will not end before the complete game (which one should expect be getting after sliding over $60!) ends up costing between $350-400. And that too much for any game - let alone a game that brings no innovation in either gameplay or visuals and gets old too soon. Just head over at Metacritic and see for yourself.
Day-one DLCs? Check. (TWELVE of them - totaling $80-extra!)
Endless microtransactions? Check.
Severely limited content? Check.
Single-Player slapped on as an afterthought? Check.
Console-limited graphics? Check.
The ...success of Brink revisited? You bet!

When someone made the mistake of paying $60 for a shell of a game, been asked to pay $15 for each extra monster and $10 for each extra character is not greed: it is information highway robbery!

A product to ignore. Even when the entire bundle will be available on STEAM Sale for less than $10, it will still be an overpriced boring game.

Bound for Extinction.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top-10 Reasons New World Order Is Turning Into a Global Communist State

From Washington to Moscow and from Johannesburg to Tokyo, no matter what political party is in power, the same New World Order politics are enforced and shape the world of tomorrow. Conspiracy theories aside, this may well turn out to be one of the most oppressive period of human history. Those of us who are old enough to remember the 1980’s, we have all seen what hellish places those “paradises of the proletariat” have been: people had to be kept forcibly in them, with minefields, machine guns, razor-wire fences and walls that run into the horizon. At the same time, the developments of the last years awaken those memories and can only make our skin crawl. If history is indeed repeated as a farce, will anyone be laughing?  

10. Both Revoke Personal Property
Under Communist rule there could be no personal property, only usage. Even the flat the workers were given or the car they bought after 10-15 years of savings belonged to the State and could be taken away for any transgression against it. 
This is not very different under the NWO: buying property with a loan withholds ownership at the Bank. Miss only a couple of payments and the house or car reverts to the Bank. Even when all the payments have been made and all the interest upon interest paid in full, property taxes then kick in to serve as an annual rent for this property. And when the “owner” passes away, inheritance taxes eat away at the ownership of the heirs. It only takes three generations for the property essentially to return to the state.

9. Both Outlaw the Independent Production of Food
Under Communist rule private farms and even house gardens of produce were banned. These would promote individual entrepreneurship and no such capitalist remnants were to allowed to survive. 
Under the NWO the right to produce food has been withheld for corporations such as Monsanto and Bayer who have the exclusive right to sell seeds. In great parts of the world it is already illegal for farmers to keep seeds, even their own wild-type seeds and the same goes for people who want to grow their own food in their back yard. This is part of a NWO initiative called Codex Allimentarius and it has been running since 1963.

8. Both Keep the Population Unarmed & Powerless
Citizens of Communist States had no right to own and bear arms, they could not organize into unions and strikes were outlawed. Guns are already banned in most of Europe and Asia and, if NWO has its way, it is going to become reality in the US in the following years. More importantly, by encouraging the endless infusion of desperate Third World immigrants unemployment is kept rampant (at 7% and rising in the US but close to 30% in most of Europe). At the same time the cost of education keeps rising, resulting in people ending up with less and less power when it comes to fighting for their rights.  Police mishandling of their duties and arbitrary asset forfeitures – while insisting on its unaccountability, all greatly adds to the unarmed population powerless.

7. Both Prove That Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
Under Communist rule, supposedly, everyone was equal. In practice, however, the Party bureaucrats were chauffeured in their hand-made ZiLs on reserved lanes while everyone else walked. The same was true when it came to accommodation, clothes, food, trips and everything else.
Now, replace the word “Party” with the word “Corporation” and you have the same situation only this time under the NWO. Corporations claim and get the full protection of the law (under which, supposedly, everyone is equal) and yet when it comes to obligations (such as paying taxes or not embezzling the pension funds) or accountability (such as causing the ecological catastrophe of the Gulf of Mexico or murdering entire cities in India) they prove to be more equal than others.

6. Both Use Fear & Propaganda to Control the Population
The West, and especially the US, served as the perfect bogeyman for the Communist regimes: “Work harder or they shall make you their slaves”.;“They are dying in the streets from hanger and killing each other like animals – do not complain or that will be your fate as well”. 
NWO is more circumvent. It has its (useless) Security Alerts; its airport insulting (and worthless) shoe-searches; its Murdochization of the media; its shadowy enemies that “can strike at any place, at any moment”. In both cases, fear serves the same purpose: the state promises to keep you safe – in exchange for your rights and liberty. If it manages to scare you enough, this starts to seem like a fair deal.

5. Secret Services That Do Not Work for the People Paying Them
There is little doubt that from the Soviet KGB to the Cuban DGI, the Communist secret security forces served more to protect the ruling elite from the wrath of the people and far less to neutralize external threats. After all, a Philby here and an Ames there and all the secrets of the West were theirs for the price of a small Manhattan apartment. 
On the other hand, from Pinochet in Chile and Sadam in Iraq and from Suharto in Indonesia to Abacha in Nigeria, the secret services of the NWO have never stopped training, arming, funding and pushing into power puppet dictators in order to loot their countries. Copper, bauxite, diamonds, oil, they are all exported for a (reasonably bribable) pittance. Even if that were not against every sense of international agreements (not to mention blatantly unethical), there is something even worse: the citizens of the countries paying for these secret services operating under so many tables do not see a single red cent of all these riches. Case in point: the US practically owns the Iraqi oil field since 2003; even if the American people paid (and are still paying) for this war, gas prices in the US, instead of falling, have gone up by 20% since 2003. Why? Because the profits of the oil fields are siphoned away by the Corporations the secret services are working for instead.

4. Both Waste Resources On Useless Mega-Projects
Oh, how the Communists loved Mega Projects! The grander and the more useless the better. From a giant Родина [Motherland] statue in every town to melting the Arctic (I know!) there was no limit in how the State wasted the people’s toils. 
Certainly, there are no such wasteful mega-projects under the NWO, right? Well, yes there are. And the biggest of them all is called Perpetual War. The US, the UK, even countries like Germany and Japan that are constitutionally restricted to invade anyone (not to mention cash-strapped Greece) spend money they cannot afford and keep going deeper into debt in order to buy military hardware they…cannot use. This is crucial: these are no necessary defensive expenses.  Perpetual War for the US, for example, is insisting on a two-and-a-half war capability doctrine - and then spending 35 Billion(!) dollars on C-27Js cargo planes that the Air Force had made clear they cannot use and 35 Trillion(!!) dollars on a F-35 program that is only benefiting the company that manufactures them . And who makes sure that everyone keeps spending tax-payers’ money on such useless hardware? Kindly refer to item No.5.

3.  Both Try to Demonize the Christian Church
Contrary to popular belief, Karl Marx’s phrase “religion is the opium of the masses” was not a derogatory comment against religion. What he actually meant was that Christianity (since Marx lived in Germany) offers solace to the exploited masses so if they are “to revolt and overthrow their industrialist oppressors”, such pacifiers were be taken away. Nevertheless, even after the Communist regimes consolidated into power, they did everything to uproot the Christian faith from the population, probably because it undermined the role of the Party as the sole provider and governing power. 
If it were not for WWII and Stalin’s great need for soldiers ready to die fighting (and, after all, Communism can promise many things but an afterlife is not one of them!) Christianity would have been totally outlawed in the Soviet Union. Instead, it was tolerated, even if made incompatible with any advancement in the Party.

The NWO approach is not that different. Once more, being openly Christian is not illegal but it is a sure way to staunch any career. From academia to operating bakeries and from acting to toll-booth operator (all true stories), stating your beliefs, openly wearing a cross or simply wishing people “God bless you” will get you overstepped and even fired. When (according to the 2013 CIA Factbook) only 2% of the population are self-declared atheists it makes no sense that…Festivus (a fake Holliday made up for a sit-com episode) can be considered on equal footing with Christmas when it comes to seasonal city decorations. Not to mention the constant Hollywood ridiculing of the Christian Church, something no religion or faith has to endure.

2. Both Insist on Flattening National Identities
Under Communist doctrine, all nationalities were considered bourgeois relics and meaningless because they were all “fellow workers of the world”. A position that trickled down to the European Communists parties to this day (which is very peculiar position to defend today if one is to consider item No. 8). Of course no such brotherly feelings were shared with the workers of the "decadent West". No, the enemies are essential, they breed fears and fears are necessary for totalitarianism to thrive. The reason for such position was to ensure that “when Communism won the Cold War” there would be no residual animosities because of nationalistic dividers.
By this point it should be of no surprise to anyone that the NWO has adopted the exact same approach. Initiated as the forced American Melting Pot mentality it has started to spiral out first to Britain (having to accept the infusion of a multitude of nationalities form the failed empire) and then to the rest of the world. Even traditional nationalistic countries, such as Korea and Japan, are made to pass NWO laws that will encourage the absorption of different nationalities, giving them equal footing with the native population of many generations.  Once more, this is in attempt to morph an average global citizen that has no fixed country and national identity. Only yet another interchangeable cog.

1. Both Employ Blanket Surveillance & Torture by the Thought Police
Bolshevik Communism failed so miserably to inspire the people it governed it had to resort in wire-tapping phones, steam-opening letters and having neighbours (and, sadly, even family members) snitching on each other. If you were found dissatisfied with the communal lot assigned to you, well there were many options open for you: "focused interrogation" at the KGB near you, a visit to the sensory deprivation tank at the local psychiatric ward, a long trip to a picturesque Siberia work camp or, if you were exceptionally nasty in your comments or affiliations, a one-way trip to the white cells of Lubyanka.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 it was revealed that the infamous Stasi, the East Germany Secret police, had well over 500,000 “informal employees” (as they called their informants) and 600 million snitching reports – all for a population of 16 million people. Of course Snowden’s revelations made all this look like amateur hour.

The NWO regime has been recording and spying on every phone call, every email, every webpage each and every one of us receives, sends or visits. For 7 fricking billion people! And if you are found to rub their automatic filters the wrong way, your name comes up for abduction, transfer to a cooperating dictator (see also item No. 5) for “sharpened interrogation” not even the Nazis dared employ and, for a select few, a one way trip to Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

Novus Ordo Seclorum: totalitarian and not even original! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gaming As An ArtForm. And This Is A Masterpiece!

If there ever was any doubt that gaming is an art-form, the Shaddow Warrior shreds it to pieces.

The game offers traditional Japanese settings (from the temples and the castles to the mythology and the paintings), rich late 80's environments (from shipyards and inner courtyards to caves and snowy mountains) and a great collection of interesting guns. It may be only 9 in total yet I got more excited when I got the shotgun or the rocket launcher than I ever was finding any one of the bazzilion guns in Borderlands 2.

Each type of enemy has different strengths and different weaknesses so you will have to try to figure out the best and quickest way to put them down. Each gun comes with three purchasable upgrades and augmentations. No sniper rifle because this game wants you to be up close and personal.

The music is sublime, the dialog witty, the atmosphere mesmerizing, the hidden secrets will keep you exploring every nook and cranny (and try again and again to find your way to that impossible to reach bonus statue) and the story unfolds in twists and turns and double-crosses. And the ending will make you misty.

I know it is not fair to this epic game but it does bring to mind the game Daikatana should had been. See, Mr Romero, if you fail to get it right, someone else eventually will. Now, I usually refuse full marks to games that come with an obligatory online digital distribution platform such as STEAM (required here); however, this game is so good I decided to make a rare exception.

Highly Recommended!