Well, whaddayaknow! A new post on this blog site!

It’s almost as if you’d think I don’t have enough time left to sit behind my computer and type a wall of text!?
TRUE!
It’s a symptom called ‘children’ that’s causing this lack of concentration for longer than 5 minutes.

Aaaaanyway, I got myself this very flashy new smartwatch for my birthday (every now and then a guy just has to buy himself something pretty. Isn’t that right, Hugh Heffner?).

Since I got myself a brand new LG Nexus 5 a couple of months ago, due to the Samsung Galaxy S3 no longer wanting to do what it was intended to do, the logical choice to stick with LG as a brand was made.
Also, the LG Watch R is one of the few round watches that have enough power AND look stylish at the same time.

lg-g-watch-r-1-1

Quite the fancy shizzle

I’m not gonna go on and on why this is the best watch ever and that it has greater processor power and RAM than my first PC that ran Windows 98, even though the part about the CPU and RAM are true.
No, I’m gonna talk about how to use your Android Wear (because that’s what this line of watches is called) in an optimal way so that it can actually be more than just eye-candy.

 Wall of text incoming…

influenza virusFirst of all, a big ‘Fuck You‘ to all people who have called my employer or me personally to deafen me whilst shouting that it’s not normal to have viruses on their computers, and that it’s our/my fault that this happened.

YOU are responsible for the stuff that happens on YOUR computer !!
I don’t remotely install these viruses, nor does my employer.
Use your fricking common sense !

That being said, if you’re not (yet) offended, please continue reading as you might actually learn something…

For starters, it’s extremely important that you do not put all your trust in your antivirus software to just click along randomly on any site whatsoever, or open any email that you believe to be safe. I’m not trying to scare you, although this might not be a bad thing necessarily in some people’s case.
My intention through means of this post is to generate a thinking pattern in order for you to no longer fall for the classic virus traps, and to become trained at pre-emptively avoiding the risks.

An antivirus program DOES NOT guarantee a virus-free environment. Neither does a limited user-account (aka not surfing as a user with administrative rights).
For the ease of understanding my point, let’s assume viruses and spyware/malware/browser hijacks/… are one and the same (although they’re absolutely not) and enter your PC in the same way. More on that in a later post, by the way.
Certain antivirus software packages are less reliable than others. My personal experience leads to certain dos and don’ts concerning installation of this software. Again, let me state that the “dos” do not guarantee a virus-free environment.

vinkjeDO :

  • MSE : Microsoft Security Essentials. This free antivirus (at least, if you have a genuine Windows license, starting  from Windows XP) is simple, yet quite effective.
  • Symantec Endpoint Protection. Normally I would start bleeding out my rear end, when speaking the name of a Norton-related product. SEP, however, proved to be quite the fun and manageable tool to work with. It can be managed through a central console , but requires a corporate license (not preferred for home use)
  • Windows 7 and Windows 8 come with a free Windows Defender, which runs on a different engine than the Windows Vista version, and therefore actually works. If you have this running on your W7 or W8, then don’t disable it. It’s A.O.K.

In a side-note : http://thundercloud.net/infoave/tutorials/email-scanning/index.htm

kruisjeDON’T :

  • AVG. If you want shit, this is it. AVG seems to fuck up every year over and over again, removing Windows essential files. Use at your own risk. AND DON’T EVER BUY THE FULL VERSION. This is one major rip-off.
  • Norton360 and Norton Antivirus. On the contrary to their related product, Endpoint Protection, this home-product is still the memory-hog it used to be in the old days. It’s somewhat effective at stopping certain threats, but there are better – free – products on the market, such as – and I can’t state this enough – your common sense.
  • By contract I’m not allowed to give my opinion on Panda Antivirus. *cough*

 

I’m also gonna drop all the fine tips and tricks that can be found all over the internet, on how to secure your network-connected computer, such as choosing a super-secure administrator password, while on the other hand leaving your default user account open for everyone to use at their own leisure. This is just common sense, right? Right?

I’m also not going to rant about the facts that you don’t let your kids play/install games on your corporate PC, so you can whine afterwards that there’s pop-ups and spyware on your computer while you yourself haven’t done anything wrong on the system. Of course not. It’s your kids, and according to law, you’re totally not responsible for a minor living under you roof.  (to read in a sarcastic voice) Again, just common sense, so no big deal on raging on this topic.

A checklist to train yourself into no longer being tricked :

  • If your friends or acquaintances e-mail you in a language that you don’t speak, or a language that you don’t speak among each other, then don’t even read the mail, and delete it.
  • DHL, TNT and other transport companies do not send you freight notes in executable (.exe, .bat, .pif, …)  format or in a ZIP file. If you don’t know what a zip file is, just doubleclick the file then, cause you deserve having a virus on your PC, in that case.
  • The Belgian police will never charge you with a fine for having downloaded something illegally (even if you actually HAVE done so) by means of a pop-up or a website.
  • If it’s too good to be true, don’t click it. You didn’t win the Spanish Lottery.
  • Verify that your antivirus software is up to date. Mostly by right-clicking the icon and choosing ‘Update’ …
  • Beware of social engineering. No person will ever ask you your password for your mail account, computer, … unless they need access to it.
  • Basically, just use common sense. However, since you got to reading this part, you’re probably hoping to find good tips and tricks. Nope. You won’t find any more here. Stop reading, before you get a virus on my blog…

 

I’m tired of ranting.
Watch out for a following post on why viruses and spyware, malware etc. aren’t the same things and what you can actually do to prevent them from getting on your computer.
If your PC is infected, I’ll maybe throw in some pointers on how to clean it up.

gt6dropTriple hooray !

A long awaited game has hit the shelves and I happen to own the 15th Anniversary Edition since last week.

As you guessed (by the title probably) I’m talking about Gran Turismo 6 for Playstation 3.
Although I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, and am kind of biased, I’ll try to give my opinion in an objective way here.

 

Unpacking

After gently asking Sinterklaas to bring me a gift in the form of a brand new video game being released just two days before the old man jumps down my non-existant chimney, I got sadly disappointed the bishop of Myra himself had died 1671 years ago, and wasn’t gonna go “zombie-Jesus” on me, to actually bring me a gift.
My house’s chimney ends up in the exhaust of my water boiler anyway.
So… rushing by the local video game store it is…

The limited edition version was the last one available that day, so the excitement was all over the place as I arrived home, shiny metal blue box at hand and grasping the PS3 controller with the other.
Luckily as with all Playstation 3 success stories, this one had a 1.2GB update already standing by, cutting the fun at least half an hour shorter :(

Thursday evening was already drawing near, and gaming had to be done.

 

Actually grabbing a controller

One tv dinner later, the patch was installed and I was ready to see the intro movie, which I always do. It got me an easy PS3 trophy last time in Disgaea D2.
A waste of 4 minutes of my life later, Ayrton Senna had better not show his face around my town anymore as this was one of the worst intros in video game history. Ever.
No trophy. Damn.
Curse you Ayrton and your Professor Xavier-like Centre for the mentally-challenged-to-become-pro-drivers !
Lucky I’m only going to have to watch this never again, so on to the menu.

The game easily swoops you into place while having to go through a mini-walkthrough. You buy your first obligatory shitty family car and it’s off to the race track.
The first gameplay experience felt a bit like the older Gran Turismo 5 and was quite OK.
But what’s this? Stars? I can collect golden stars?
As a Mario fan, I find this to be a good thing! And it’s also a factor to calculate your bragging rights upon! *thumbs up*
Another 30 minutes later I realised I had bought the 15th Anniversay Edition once again, and that a DLC code was included with  the booklet.
*type-type-type*
WHAT IS THIS MADNESS !!???
The code gave access to a million credits in-game and a load of cars (this originally said ‘shitload’ but that word wasn’t appropriate), a fancy GT6 driver outfit and more fun things I can’t even remember.

 

Spotlight_GT6PreOrder

 

Unlocking time !

Being a sucker for role-playing games and levelling up, this game was once again doing its magic to me by revealing itself slowly, unlock after unlock.
Still remembering the incredible way in which you could be overpowered in the previous GT game, it struck me they had added a new point system called PP (pronounced pee-pee), by which your vehicle is graded based on all its aspects that are moddable and that give you speed/manoeuvrability advantages.
This PP is then used a min/max value for allowing cars to participate in certain races. No more F1 cars in beginner stages. Yeay!

I was a little saddened by the fact that my GT5 driver’s licenses weren’t automatically reactivated and that I had to do them all over again, just when I saw the online time comparison with other PS3 friends.
Aha! A good reason to keep on playing! Competitiveness!
Of course all ups have their downs. Regular races didn’t share this time attack trait. WHYYYYYYYYY??? Why can’t I see my friend’s times online on every stage?
Why can a simple Xbox360 race game do this, and why can’t the self-proclaimed mother of Driving Simulators have this ordinary feature?

The foam on my lips quickly went away as I unlocked one of the first somewhat cool things in game : the lunar landing.
You get to pilot the original moon lander and drive actual moon routes in a time attack fashion. The weird NASA vehicle moves at an amazing speed of 35 km/h and bounces off every rock on the surface.
Still, good fun and it got me laughing out loud, or “lol’ing” as you youngsters say nowadays.

 

Belgium and better

A day or so later, and still playing GT6 (which means a lot coming from me, since I’m not really a hardcore driving game fan – see what I did there, I’m not calling it a race game), the Spa Francorchamps racing circuit unlocked.
Yeay, again. It felt quite like I had played it in other games and in the second round I could almost complete the circuit blindfolded.
Good times rolled, as more circuits revealed themself to me; old ones and new ones. The snow stages in the Alps are tons of fun without rally tyres, by the way.
My three favorite cars also popped up in the unlock list, which was a good thing to watch. (no a DeLorean is not in the game, so I’m not 100% accurate on the word “favorite”). The Toyota Celica GT-Four is one of them. Most of you can guess the other two, by now then ;) *mumble mumble Championship – click-click VROOM*

An other reason I can say I really like this game, is the fact that whenever I start a race, I usually lay back – relaxed – in my comfy chair, only to find myself sitting on the frontmost part of the chair just seconds later in a state of super-concentration. This sort of concentration hasn’t happened since I played Super Meat Boy.
Who says there’s no such thing as “good stress”?

 

Graphics whore

People that know me, also know that I can not be called the above words. Most of my game collection consists of retro games with a slight preference towards 16bit console games.
The graphics of GT6 were actually visibly better than those in GT5. This isn’t a must for most games, but Gran Turismo games are all about glamour, bling and showing off your cars, so that’s a nice little extra.
Which brings us to the big question as to why GT6 was never released as a Playstation 4 release game. Every Sony game console of the last generations has appeared in a special release version packed with a Gran Turismo game. Why couldn’t this be a PS4 release game?
Was it not finished yet?
Will the PS4 have a PS3 GT6.1 remake with enhanced graphics and non-transferrable savegame *cough* ?
Is GT6 a classy way of waving goodbye to the PS3?

Either way, I believe the PS3 got pushed to the limit in this game, and I’m afraid something like  a Street Fighter IV explosion might occur on my trusty black box.
My first Xbox360 went up in smoke only days after I started playing Street Fighter IV. A similar event occured at a friend’s house when he started playing Gran Theft Auto 5. (PS3 fanboys, post your comments below :p)

 

Gran Turismo 5 (above) compared to Gran Turismo 6 (below)

 

All in all…

… Gran Turismo 6 is what Gran Turismo 5 should have been : less easy with upscaled graphics and more cars and more tracks.
If you’re looking for a fun arcade racer, don’t buy this game. Buy Forza, Need for Speed or Grid 2  instead. Or even return to the earlier times of great fun and try to find a copy of Sega Rally or Daytona USA, if you will.

GT6, however, is indeed an excellent game if you’re a car freak, like some of my friends are, or if you like levelling things up, like I do.
The driving goes at a very realistic pace and it’s all about realism in this game when it comes to “the real driving experience”. Take in mind though that the game didn’t calculate that you would ever crash into something : there’s NO damage models in the game. Again. Like in every GT game.
That does sound somewhat logical as otherwise it would have been “the real crashing simulator” but hey…  I’m not complaining.

I do advise buying a steering wheel for your Playstation 3 if you really want the full shebang. An ordinary controller just doesn’t cut it when it comes to accuracy. I still find myself tapping (some of you read ‘fapping’, right) the analog controller as if it were a good old 4-way directional pad (cause that’s what D-pad stands for).
The Logitech Driving Force GT not only looks great, but drives great as well. I strongly advise that one!

Oh, and buy yourself a good speaker system. The engine rev sounds don’t really come to life on plain built-in television speakers.

I deliberately didn’t speak about the soundtrack of the game in this post, as I can’t do this in an objective way. I sincerely hate the GT6 soundtrack.
Luckily the friendly people at Polyphony Digital provided us with a way to use our own Playstation 3 media system to play the gentle tunes in the background. Phew.

Like I said before, maybe I’m biased, but I find Gran Turismo to be great fun, even though I’m not a race game kinda guy. The above article explained why.
Can’t wait till they actually let you compare time attack scores :)

Over the years in my career as a helpdesk/field technician, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on the subject of computers in general and I dare call myself an allrounder when it comes to solving computer-related problems of any form.
I’m not saying I’m a n°1 expert on any field, but my IT-related educations and years of experience help me and my customers a lot.
My most recent employer, a pharmaceutical software developer, has a versatile helpdesk (I’m not naming it a call centre, as it is much more than that) , with competent staff that has a very high knowledge on how stuff works in the computer world. I’m glad to be on their service team and am happy to help our large customer base.

green cross

Green cross, recognize you local pharmacist through it. If the LED cross outside his door is turned on, the shop’s open.

 

However… (insert dramatic tune here)

Those that already know me personally, will also know that I just cannot stand general stupidity.
Just recently the n‘th call, coming from our beloved pharmacists struck me into writing this post and starting a new Facebook group.

The situation is as following :

  • A busy pharmacy decides to upgrade its internet from ADSL to VDSL. Basically a technology upgrade, which requires the placement of a new modem/router by the Internet Service Provider tech team and some fiddling around in the local telephony wiring system down the street.
  • The techie arrives (not sure if he was a subcontractor or actual Belgacom employee), and notices he’s in a pharmacy.
  • Techie virtually pisses his pants, hooks up the new modem to his own laptop, makes sure he can surf over the modem and leaves the pharmacy faster than his tech-unsavvy legs can carry him shouting something like “your network administrator will do the rest !” (at least that’s what we hear from our customer – don’t worry it gets worse as you continue reading)
  • Meanwhile the pharmacy, highly depending on their internet connection for price updates, insurance checks (eHealth) and Facebook browsing during the quiet hours, calls us in a slight panic and demands we come as soon as possible.
  • The situation is filed under ‘critical‘ and we dispatch a technician (myself, in this case) ASAP.
  • A little over an hour of driving and I arrive at the pharmacy where two frightened young deer pharmacists await a hero to come solve the problem.
  • I assess the situation :
    The Belgacom BBox (that’s the modem-router for those of you not familiar with Belgium) has an internet connection.
    I hook up my laptop to the BBox and strangely enough get no local IP. No IP to be exact.
    Luckily, experience tought me that the Bbox has the default IP 192.168.1.1 , so I set my laptop’s network adapter to a fixed IP in the same range (see the guide below,if you stopped reading here, dear ISP technician) and surf to the router’s IP.
    The default login for a BBox is its serial number in capitals, which you can only get by physically viewing the machine’s bottom sticker, so that’s a nice form of security. (This blog isn’t all about bashing, you know. if something good happens, it’s worth mentioning as well)
    I do my own form of fiddling, and set the Bbox IP address to that what the former router had. If you cannot log into the old router, dear Belgacom technician, a simple ipconfig command on one of the computers would suffice.
    I also add a DHCP range, which for some reason was disabled. By the technician. Because by default these things have DHCP enabled from 192.168.1.2 to .63 . If you do not know what DHCP is, don’t change it, dear technician.
    Our software also requires me to forward 2 TCP/UDP ports to the server IP (see below how to do this on a BBox). I forgive the Belgacom technician for not having done this, because he did not know the previous router’s password, and this is also not part of his job description.

    Belgacom BBox

    The aesthetic abomination we call a Belgacom BBox

  • You’d think that by now (if you’re a bit of a network literate) the job is done, and peace is restored in the panicking hearts of the two young pharmacists. The Bbox is now a somewhat perfect copy of the old Linksys DSL router that was still plugged in the power socket, by the way.
  • I boot the server, which I had shut down in order to safely mess around in the pile of cables, in order to unplug the old router and not accidentally pull a power chord of some kind.
    It boots. Slowly. Our software starts. Equally slow. An error about not being able to connect to ‘MyCareNet’ appears.
    The little network icon on the bottom right has an exclamation mark, meaning there’s a problem with the internet connection.
    I check the IP adress in the GUI (used a difficult abbreviation, there?) and for some reason, someone (guess who) manually changed the fixed server IP to a completely different IP, not even compatible with the original out-of-the-BBox settings (see what I did there :3 ?)
    A quick fix later, the server connects again, and a pharmacist’s smile starts to appear, while the other’s stomach starts to growl. Poor girls gave up their lunch break :)
  • Leaving nothing to chance, I quickly boot both client computers at the counter for a double-check.
    Client 1 : OK
    Client 2:  seems OK at first sight, but for some reason the fixed IP address was removed and set to DHCP.
    The amateur’s work is starting to annoy me by now, as it’s been half an hour of work already counting from the second I walked in the pharmacy. (not counting the 2 hour drive to-and-fro)
  • Eventually I quickly triple-check the setup and within a rough 30 minutes all is back to what it’s supposed to be.
  • I also got a lunch date out of it, but that isn’t a story for this website :p

 

My point being : IT’S NOT THAT #@!°& FRICKING HARD TO CONFIGURE A NETWORK !!! IT’S  #@!°& YOUR JOB. DO IT!!!!!! (read in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice)

Do it, Ahnuld

DO IT NAO !

I have a slight feeling nowadays, if you ‘re able to read and have a driver’s license, you can get a job installing DSL and cable modems (more on cable modem antics in a later post). This has to stop. Companies are suffering actual loss of money because of this amateurism.
I’ve taken it to a personal level, and will educate (that’s right, you were expecting “bash someone’s head in“, right?) every uncapable technician until either they or I drop dead.

 

Retracing the steps one by one, for technicians-in-training only :

  1. How to set an IP address manually
    on a Windows 8 computer : http://kb.mit.edu/confluence/display/istcontrib/Windows+8+-+Set+up+with+a+Static+IP+Address
    on a Windows 7 computer : http://windows.microsoft.com/nl-be/windows7/change-tcp-ip-settings
    on a Windows XP computer : http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/sag_tcpip_pro_manualconfig.mspx?mfr=true
    on a Linux computer : REALLY? You’re not thinking of even touching a Linux machine, if you don’t know how to set an IP address, right ?0
  2. Running an ipconfig command.
    Windows 98 : Start ->Run -> winipcfg (it’s a graphical version of the IP config command, because it didn’t exist in command mode yet)
    Windows 2000 ~ Windows 7  : Start -> Run -> cmd . In the window that appears, type ipconfig
    Windows 8 (in Metro mode – that’s the flashy full-screen giant-icon mode) : just start typing cmd and press enter when you see the black command icon. The type ipconfig in the appearing windowDid you know : there’s more to the ipconfig command than just the command itself?
    Try typing   ipconfig /?   to get a list of possible optional parameters to use with the command.
    For instance type   ipconfig /all      (space between ipconfig and the slash) to get a more detailed result showing your DNS servers and other handy info.0
  3. Setting an IP address and modifying/creating a DHCP range on a Belgacom BBox. 
    Handy page on how to set the IP (in Dutch – also why type it when someone has done the work for you) : http://www.thierry76.be/het-ip-adres-van-de-b-box-2-aanpassen/0
  4. DHCP? What’s that?
    This wiki page has a firm explanation on the basic concept of DHCP : http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_Host_Configuration_Protocol
    Basically, DHCP allow sort of plug-and-play in your network. You just plug in a network cable (or connect to the router’s wifi), and the DHCP software part gives your computer a specific address in the network, in order for it to communicate with other computers in or outside the network.
    The alternative to DHCP would be to give all your computers a fixed IP adress (see above)
    A combination of both is also possible. Make sure you do not set a fixed IP address within your DHCP range. For instance, if your DHCP range on a BBox is still by default 192.168.2 up to 192.168.1.63 , then your starting IP for the fixed IP addresses range would be 192.168.1.64 as all the previous ones have been reserved for other computers.0
  5. Forwarding ports on a BBox
    Sometimes, certain applications on your local network need to be accessible to the bigger public.
    Say you would have a server running the Remote Desktop protocol (which allows you to see the computer screen from another pc).
    This protocol uses a certain predetermined port number. In this case RDP uses port number 3389
    You would have to tell your router, that all traffic from outside your network (for instance the pharmacist’s computer in his private residence) towards this port (basically every Remote Desktop program that connects to the BBox, from the internet) has to be directed to this specific server (with a specific IP address – this is also important as to why you should know the difference between DHCP and fixed IP)A fine example of this, using IP cameras instead of Remote Desktop is explained at http://didiersalembier.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/camerabewaking-op-verplaatsing-bekijken-met-een-bbox2-belgacom/
when you've not been sleeping well...

Classic retro LAN party image. Note the CRT monitors...

In addition to my previous post on http://zupertails.be/blog/?p=279 (which you should read if you’ve never seen or heard of a LAN party), here’s a little follow-up on the currently-played games and often-used software, in order to prepare you for the better LAN party experience.

Over the years, the LAN party scene has evolved quite a bit.
The stereotype idea that people have of a bunch of nerds gathering together, talking geek stuff, eating and sleeping behind their computer screen and constantly playing first-person-shooters is already long gone.
The appearance of a high percentage of female gamers into this LAN scene has cranked up the credibility factor and given these events more of a social background. Of course, not only the appearance of the opposite sex was the only change of direction. Social media, free games and a bigger variety and subvariety of games have also played a role in this evolution.
To give you a wild example : expect score beating competitions in games such as Peggle and Word Feud to be played. Scrabble and other board games (classic Warhammer, anyone?) also take part nowadays.

In any way, this little guide will prepare you computer-wise for a fun LAN.

Trackmania Nations screenshot

Trackmania nations, a worldwide played free racing game

Games

The list below is not and never will be complete. You play whatever game you want at a LAN party. Just try to tune in with your friends and co-gamers to see what they’ll be playing mostly, so you can have optimal fun.
I’ll split up the list in free/paying games so you can decide for yourself.
Also : if you don’t have a Steam account, go and create one. There’s tons of free games on Steam nowadays !

FREE :

  • The Trackmania series (racing – multiplayer)
  • War Thunder (flying – multiplayer)
  • JFK Reloaded (banned here and there in the States for obvious reasons – also a score attack game)
  • Team Fortress 2 (first free Steam game – super popular first person shooter)
  • Stepmania (musical madness – plays best with a dance mat)
  • OpenTTD (less played, but still an awesome single/multiplayer game – free version of the original transport Tycoon Deluxe game)
  • Tetrinet (not-so-licensed-by-Nintendo multiplayer version of the classic ‘Tetris’ brick-dropping game)

PAYING :

  • EVE Online (MMORPG – space themed)
  • World of Warcraft (MMORPG – fantasy themed)
  • Super Hexagon (psychedelic singlplayer score attack game)
  • Surgeon Simulator (just plain fun – single player)
  • FTL (space ship simulator with a high-score system – single player)
  • Minecraft (incredibly fun sandbox game that actually has an ending – single/multiplayer)
  • Left4Dead 2 (scary zombie first-person-shooter. Absolutely worth every penny – use headphones and play in the dark)
  • Sins of a Solar Empire (old but sturdy real-time-strategy game – single/multiplayer)
  • Borderlands 2 (mature themed first-person-shooter-RPG – 4player co-op)
  • And don’t even get me started on the classics such as the Battlefield, Counter Strike, Unreal Tournament and Command and Conquer series.

Left4Dead 2, zombie survival at its best. Available through Steam or as a boxed game.

Other software

  • DC++ (software that makes downloading easy – I can’t stress enough that it’s illegal to share paying software, and other copyrighted stuff. DC++ is basically used to easily share your shareable data through means of a searchable index by connecting to a local server. If you plan to use this software, please hash all your shares beforehand as this takes a long time to complete. For more info on hashing, check the DC++ software manual)
  • A good antivirus solution for your computer (some downloads can contain viruses)

Other than that : come to a LAN party with the right attitude ! You’re here to have fun and so is everyone else. There’s nothing worse than a whiner ruining the atmosphere for all the other players.
Oh, and don’t bring a Mac… There’s a special place in hell for people who bring a Mac to a LAN party…

For those if you who didn’t know it yet, Microsoft gives away (yes, for free) some of their top Xbox360 titles for Xbox gold members.
As can be seen in this article, the first free game is Fable III which is available as a free download in order to promote the new Games with Gold action by Microsoft.
Be fast tough. The download is available until june 30.

After that, those that got the game for free, will have it ‘forever’. If you didn’t get to download it by then, you’re screwed.

The actual official start date of the Games with Gold promotional  action is set to july 1.
The Fable III giveaway is apparently just a warm-up exercise for Microsoft.

So, what’s the deal with Games with  Gold, then?
Microsoft plans to offer 2 free Xbox 360 games every month, starting every 1st and 16th day of that month.
Official rumors (yes, there is such a thing) state that the first two games that will officially be released, shall be Assassin’s Creed II and Halo 3.
Two delicious top level titles.

In similar news: this week  a SEGA deal is launched on the Xbox 360 marketplace. Check it out!
For instance : Virtua Fighter 5 costs 400 credits.

That’s it for now. No pics. No specials.

Eve's logoSome of my personal friends know it already…
there’s a new woman in my life.

Her name is Eve (not not “Eva”, sorry girl).

After having a long-term relationship with her for over a couple of years, we broke up, because we lost interest in each other.
That, and my wife found out Eve and I were spending too much time together, and she needed the attention more. (you read ‘attention whore’, right?)

Recently, Eve got back in contact with me (she haunted my dreams frequently during the four years of abstinence).
A tempting request received over email persuaded me.
The only sad part is… I have to share her with over 40.000 men and women daily.

If by now, you don’t get it already, EVE Online is a video game.

In EVE (the game, not the woman), you get together with an average of 30.000 players (not pimps, but video game players) on one giant server cluster, in one giant universe consisting of over 7500 star systems (measured near the beginning of 2013).
You basically fly a mining/shooting/transporting spaceship or hang around in your captain’s quarters, doing administration, manufacturing, invention and whatnot.
Knowing there’s an almost infinite number of EVE Online related websites that explain all about the game to you, I will not be the one to repeat them. I’ll just quote the better.

If you ever plan on playing EVE, there’s a really nice new-player-experience for you, as described in this lovely reddit tribute, that recently got some attention in the media, and even made it on the official EVE Online Facebook page due to the cuddliness of the article.
Every veteran EVE player can concur : the first time you play EVE (and like it – it’s not a game for the masses) is a feeling you’ll never have again. Ever. Ever.
The experience of thinking you’re rich as hell, after your first full night of mining, or having completed your first  kill-mission, and afterwards getting this illusion shattered by looking at market prices, fits right into the collection of disappoint memes.

A tiny guide at what you can do in EVE is necessary, though.
Let’s start out with what NOT to expect in EVE, before you get a 14 day trial trough either the EVE website, or the Steam Store.
Eve isn’t… :

  • World of Warcraft. Really, anything WoW represents gets raped in every hole possible and turned around
  • A flight simulator with cockpit view. If you want these kind of games, look for games like Microsoft’s super successful Freelancer.
  • A game with an easy learning curve.
  • Kiddie material (the average age of the EVE player is found to be between 25 and 30, with the occasional elderly player)

I promised you some help in EVE. Here it is :

  • First of all, if you want to gimme a shout in EVE, mail me in-game. My character name is (as you might have guessed) Zupertails.
  • Prepare to be number-crunching, after a couple of weeks in-game. You WILL strive to become better in every tiny way possible.
  • Skills are NOT gotten by grinding and grinding. No, you get in-game skillpoints to assign to your favorite skills OVER TIME.
    The only thing you get by grinding like a nut is money (referred to as ‘isk’ further in this post, as well as in the game) and reputation with certain factions.
  • You will have to read A LOT of forums/wiki pages/in-game descriptions/…  if you want to get good at this game. The in-game tutorial will only get you that far.
  • MMOgames wrote a fine article for beginners. [Check it out].
  • EVE University have their own website, and have an actual bootcamp for training beginning players inside the game.
  • Make friends. Lots of friends. EVE is not a single-player mmorpg (contradictio in terminis).
    You’ll need friends to cover your ass in combat, to help you get a bigger and faster mining yield, to train you in every aspect of EVE.
  • If you like to make real-life investments, and check out the national newspapers on a daily basis to see how good your recently acquired stock options are going, you will have a ball in this game. EVE allows you to manipulate the completely player-driven market at your own will. Want to buy out an entire batch of items inside a constellation? Go ahead, be a market broker! Buy low, sell high, but prepare for huge risks.
  • A very important one : DON’T GIVE UP EASILY. I know it can be very frustrating getting your precious ship blown to pieces, just milliseconds before realising you forgot to pay insurance.
    I’ve seen a lot of players getting disappointed by their first EVE experience just because they didn’t understand the game mechanics.
  • Don’t get blinded by the PLEX offer. PLEX is an in-game vvveeeeerrrryyyy expensive item, that allows 30 days of game-time for free.
    Play for fun instead.
    If you’re rich in a (hopefully nearby) future in EVE, then consider farming for your monthly PLEX. But be warned, you’ll have to work for your PLEX.
  • Don’t know what to do yet? Check out http://swiftandbitter.com/eve/wtd/
  • Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.

As stated somewhere above, there’s tons of websites ready to help you start in EVE. There’s also the in-game tutorial. There’s a EVE Beginner’s chat channel.
There’s tons more.


Don’t let this movie discourage you :-)

So….

for those of you that know, i’m married to a Dutch girl. Apparantly New Year’s day  isn’t celebrated much there, but as little as NY (not “New York”) is appreciated in The Netherlands, the Sinterklaas feast is celebrated as much. His Holiness’ feast is soon to be upon us again…

Therefore a little explanation on the old geezer :

Sinterklaas (sounds a lot like ‘Santa Claus‘  – more on that in a second) is one of those traditional Winter figures in The Netherlands, Belgium, and the older colonies of The Netherlands : Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles.
The old man is celebrated annually in Saint Nicholas’ eve (5 december) or in Belgium on 6 december. Tons of other countries celebrate him as well. More on that in the specific Wiki page.

The Sinterklaas feast (not an official holiday) celebrates the old bishop of Myra (Turkey), Nicholas or Nikolaos.
Nick is of greek origin and was known as a wonderworker and gift-giver (putting coins in shoes people left standing around for him).

The most commonly know legend about this man, which is also depicted in the logo of my hometown ‘Sint-Niklaas’ tells of a terrible famine that struck the island on which he lived. A butcher then lured 3 kids into his house, killed them and tried to sell their remains as ham.
Nikolaos is said to have thwarted the butchers plan, and to have brought back the three children to life, by use of prayer.
Many more anekdotes exist on this. More on that on the official Saint Nicholas Wiki page.

A lot of storytelling has been going on ever since (the guy died 6 december 347 A.D. after all) and many stories spun off from the one above, but all remained true to the fact that old Nick was a do-good’er.

Sinterklaas is depicted most of the time as an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape over a traditional white bishop’s garment, wears a red mitre, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top and also has a ruby ring.
He carries the big book of Saint Nicolas that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year.

Norwegian related stuff :

Some similarity can be discovered between Sinterklaas and the mythical presence of Odin, an old Germanic godly figure.
Although not really proven, many websites and books speak of the similarity in ‘horse-on-rooftops’ and black helpers.
This last fact brings us to the Sinterklaas helpers of nowadays : Zwarte Pieten

Odin

Zwarte Piet

The so-called Black Pete is basically Sinterklaas’ helper. Many folkloric tales tell of this black guy helping out the old geezer. Either as a funny black gnome assisting Sinterklaas in the aiding of those that are in need, or as a dark devilish character out to punish bad kids.
The reason for his/their link to Sint differs a bit in every tale…

niggah stole my pepernoten

  • Dutch colonial times
  • Moorish invasion of Spain
  • Zwarte Pieten depict the 2 black ravens Hugin and Munin, Odin’s helpers
  • Other Odin -relations refer to Nörwi, father of the night, which seems self-explanatory
  • Piter was an Ethyopean slave, who was sold in a Myran market. Nikolaos saved him

Santa Claus

Different theories again exist on how the European old guy became the American invention called ‘Santa Claus’.
Their core exist of a truth that in the early 1800′s Dutch folklore brought the Sinterklaas character to a revival in the United States, slowly degenerating the true meaning of the story behind Sinterklaas.
His Holiness’ picture was actually used in an American pamflet to promote ‘Sancta Claus’ as the patron Saint for New York. This didn’t really work out great in the end, but the cartoonesque character remained, and he kept returning in New York’s Christmas parade.
The word spread and the red ‘n’ white character was quickly linked to the 25th of december.
As it happens with Dutch immigrants, they travel back home every now and then. A select group of Europeans soon got know the name of Santa Claus, without the link back to the Christian belief that held Sinterklaas together.
Logn story short : the modernization of the world quickly lead  to faster communication worldwide, and soon ‘Saint Nick’ was known all over the globe.
Zwarte Pieten got replaced by elves but presents remained.

But that’s a different story :)

Yo.

It’s come to my attention recently that the ageing process of a gamer, combined with certain events in his social life, does indeed affect the amount and type of games one plays.
Only last week, I discovered I wanted to play a deliciously awesome game : “Skies of Arcadia” (available for SEGA Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube).

SOA on DC

…only to come to the conclusion I didn’t feel like hooking up my Dreamcast, with the sole reason that this game did not support Achievements, like those on the Xbox360 (or the lesser popular Trophies on Playstation 3).
That very same second of realisation, an instant change of mentality occured, after which the urge to actually play good games and not to care about what others can see, rose.

And THAT’S when it struck me : write memoires and entertain others with your gaming history !

“WHAT THE FUCK, ZUPER! Don’t go all scoobie-doobie-doo on us!”

- Too late, it’s started…

*fuzzy image and mysterious sound*

It all began during the European release of the SEGA Mega Drive somwehere near the end of 1990. My younger nephew – with a bigger allowance than myself at that time … hell … he even earns more money than me right now :p – got hold of a Mega Drive with Sonic The Hedgehog.
It was love at first sight (with the console, not my nephew…), and the urge to buy a SEGA product was created.
Thank you, consumer market.

If you stop reading by this time, having your dream shattered in which I’m the ultimate Game Guru who grew up as a baby lying amidst mainboards and playing the original Pong as a toddler, then I apologize.
I believe that part of my gaming addiction/affinity has to do with the fact that I discovered the world of video games at a later age.

Anyway, slightly after the nephew incident, I tricked my parents into buying me (gifting me as a New Years present) a SEGA Master System II. The mutual agreement to which we came had to do with the allowance thing, mentioned above, and the Master System I (the one that allowed the Card System) was already a discontinued product.
A black-and-white 12 inch TV set which had been sitting around the house was instantly claimed for my personal entertainment, and for the first time in my life as a gamer (I was already 13 at that time – much older than the average gamer nowadays – and “thenadays” ) I could experience the crappy controls of the rectangular SEGA Master System controllers.

Blisters later, my best friend at that time (still is a good pal by the way) got himself a MEGA Drive as well.
Crap.
Trumped again.

Ah well, at least I got two nearby people that had a 16-bit console, providing easy access for me, so the urge to buy a MEGA Drive for myself wasn’t really present.

Saving up every penny Belgian Frank for a second hand Master System game, I discovered the wondrous world of  video rental stores that also sold second hand video games.
For a 13-year-old at that time, my games collection increased in numbers exponentially.
During this period (1991′ish) I also met someone who – at that time – didn’t look important and appeared to be a know-it-all annoying wise-ass, but many years later appeared to be an actual Game Guru, owning a games store and providing me with all my import(ant) game needs. But that’s an other story.

I recall a couple of store names, but not the actual one on the corner of the Kokkelbeekstraat, where I met the above mentioned guru, so if you readers might know which video rental place I mean, let me know, ya?

Ann’s Videoclub (thank you for selling me a 32X) , Superclub  (thank you for my first CD-i experience) and Franky’s Videotheek (thank you for an overall good video and game experience) were some of those popular places at that time.

Master System games like Alexx Kidd in Miracle World, Zillion, Aztec Adventure,  Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 (yeah I have MKII on MS !) are still in my possession today and I don’t regret playing them, as many of those games also linked directly to and from the other hype that crossed Europe at that time : anime (Thank you French TV with your Club Dorothée for getting me addicted like a crack whore to the ever so amazing Dragon Ball cartoon series)

MKII

** Pop quiz : did you know that Mortal Kombat was NOT the first game to feature actual in-game blood? Do you know which one it was? **
Let me know in a comment, or through Facebook, if you know the answer.

In any case, it’s 1AM on a week day, so I’m gonna crash now. The Red Bull sugar rush is over.
Stay tuned for more stories from the life of a gamer :)

(did someone say “Spiderman thread”?)

I recently bought myself a cheap android tablet.

As technical kinda guys are, they want to get the most out of their product, so I started fiddling around with it.

First of all : base specs of the machine.

Brand : Novitab

Android 4.0 ICS
“GetJar” marketplace
10.1″ capacitive display
cortex A8 1.2Ghz cpu
1GB RAM
Tilt sensor
8GB storage
Slot for micro SD
7 hours video play
Wifi b/g/n
HDMI 1080P
2 xUSB
Front camera , 300K
2 speakers
microphone
270x163x12mm

(more tech specs on http://www.novitab.com/NoviTab-10-1/)

Not bad at first sight. Especially when you know I paid less than €200 for this gadget.

On with the tweaking and upgrading :

First of all, the built-in GetJar marketplace (shared by awesome brand names such as Trust, Medion, Yarvik etc.) sucks donkeyballs, but seeing as the machine itself costs tons less because of Google not interfering in the production process, all is still well.
A simple Google search (ah the irony) brought me to the ever so classic XDA Developers forum, where I found a creative solution for the GetJar problem.

If you want to check it out : I have provided a download at http://www.zupertails.be/stuff/Novitab/Novitab–GooglePlay.zip including a manual on how to make your cheap-ass tablet Google-ready and include the Google Marketplace (now known as Google Play) for your app downloading needs.

The RunMe.bat inside the zip file is not necessarily designed for this specific model, and deletes telephony, SMS and Bluetooth functionality (they’re a battery drainer even if the hardware is not inside the actual machine). If your cheap-ass tablet does have Bluetooth inside, just remove the Bluetooth part in the batch file and so on and so on.

Let me state by now, that neither I nor the original designer of this batch file have any responsibility of you f*cking your tablet up while performing the so-called upgrade to Google Play.
This is something you do at your own risk.
If ever you’ll need to send this tablet back to its manufacturer for RMA procedures or similar, please be aware that they might void your warranty because of this (eventhough adding Google Play support does not actually mod the hardware or the existing factory ROM)

The steps are basic : unzip the zip folder in an easily accessible folder on your computer and read the instructions provided in the Word document. Should you not know how to unzip a folder (double-clicking it is not always unzipping), if you don’t know how to open a .docx file, or if you’re using a translation program to even read this text in your native language, then STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW and leave this to a (semi-) professional.

Hell… I’d even advise you to buy an iPad at that moment, seeing as that’s a tablet designed for “mommies and daddies”.

After the upgrade, sign in with your Google account, and you’re good to go.
If you have an Android phone and have already bought certain apps there, you’ll be able to download them again for free onto your secondary device.

The first thing that came to mind during this process : will this thing play my games that appear to be laggy and stutter’ish on my HTC Desire (first gen phone)?
On with the test : let’s install The Sims Freeplay from our newly acquired access onto Google Play.

Result : runs like a charm. Not as fluid as on a PC with 8GB RAM, a GTX 580 and a Core-i7, but nevertheless smooth for a tablet that doesn’t even support 3D acceleration in a native way.

As more ideas start to pour in on what to do with this fun trinket, the 10” gps seemed the most interesting.
Now keep in mind that this Novitab tablet does not have a gps module nor does it have Bluetooth inside to hook it up to an external gps module.

If any of you have experience in connecting an USB gps module to an Android ICS tablet, and making it work, then please let me know.

As the average human being is creative in finding workarounds, so am I.
My smartphone that has everything on-board (Bluetooth, gps, wifi, 3G, …) should be able to share its gps location over Bluetooth. But can it do so over the only form of communication my tablet provides : wifi?

Jup.

TetherGPS is a program available on the Google Play Store in either Lite (free) and Normal (€2,22) mode. The difference being that the Lite version stops sending gps signals every 15 minutes or so.

First of all, I setup wifi tethering on my phone in which I share my phone’s 3G connection over its wifi channel. Most Android 2.0  machines or higher can do this through the Settings –> Wireless menu.

Next, I start the TetherGPS server module on my phone, in which the gps signal is sent over wifi to anything connected to my phone through the tethered network.

On to the tablet, which is about to become a 10” gps (no more peeking at a small screen !). Yeay!

Luckily the people at Novitab (*mumbles something about a well-known brand not wanting to have people know they make cheap tablets*) left the Developer Options on in the Settings menu. This allows you to turn on the ‘Mock gps locations’ option in which you tell your device to receive fake gps statuses from any connected device wanting to do so.

Start the GPStether client (we already bought it, so no double payments on the tablet) after having connected to your phone’s wifi and it should say something like ‘connected’ or so.

Next, start your favorite gps software (I’m still a sucker for Google Maps with Navigation, but when I’m abroad and not willing to pay shitloads of money for an internet connection to stream my maps, I have Copilot Live) and it should put you on the location that your phone (the tether server) is located.

Next mission : to find a car kit for this relatively huge tablet :-)

Oh and if anyone knows how to extract the current ROM in an easy way to an .img file, please let me know, as Novitab does not provide a downloadable stock ROM on their site, unlike bigger brands such as Samsung and HTC do on their websites.

I haven’t gotten to experiment sufficiently with ClockWorkMod ROM manager to be able to backup my current ROM.