November 15, 2009

My Case for Single-License LAN Play

Posted in Commentary, Games at 1:06 am by gloriouscomputing

I only buy games that give a better (or equal) experience to paying customers (vs pirates). I generally only play multiplayer games, so if your game limits installations, requires a CD in the drive, or prevents single-license LAN Play, my likelihood of purchase strongly decreases.

I can’t give enough props to Quake Wars for being a perfect example about how supportive a game should be of LAN Play. Unfortunately, I can’t play it with my LAN Party group of friends, because we are usually around 5, which isn’t enough for the game. Nevertheless, I purchased this game, and plan to buy future Splash Damage games (Yay Brink) if they don’t abandon this practice.

A bad offender was Tribes: Vengeance. It actually required different CD Keys for everyone in the LAN Party. No sale.

I realize some of you might not understand this mindset: that a group of friends should be able to locally play together with only one purchase of a game. To understand this, realize that I grew up in the era of the SNES. If you had a TV+SNES+Two Controllers (whatever technically necessary hardware) and a single cartridge (license) of Donkey Kong Country, you and your buddy were ready to play. That’s right: Anyone could just come over to your place, where you’d sit on the couch, and you’d play. It’s just like Monopoly: You buy the board game once, and then you can play with whoever comes by without them having to buy the game.

That you need a PC per player in a LAN Party is a technical limitation. Needing one PC, Screen, Keyboard, and Mouse per player is just the technically necessary hardware, just as it was with the Controller on the SNES. Also, that the game isn’t streamed from one mainframe, but must rather be copied to all computers is also just a technology limitation. It’s merely a step needed for everyone to be able to play the same game together. The technology is different, but what you are doing is not: You sit in a room and share the experience of playing in the same virtual world.

It is already no longer the case that one license to a game means that only one copy can be in existence; this has been done away with by the most popular game distribution service: Steam. No matter what PC you are on, you can download and play the game you own a license to. As such, you may end up with many DRM-protected copies of the game, on many PCs, which is fine, because only the PC that you are currently using is able to play the game. The game license follows you around, letting you play the game everywhere, and leaving behind many comatose copies of the game.

It’s amazing how close we already are to re-realizing the glorious days of no-crack-needed same-room-multiplayer sessions. Imagine:

  • You are in a room full of LAN-connected PCs with your buddies, but only you own a license to play (for example) Left 4 Dead 2
  • You log into Steam, run Left 4 Dead 2, and host a LAN server
  • Your friends log into Steam, and despite not owning a license to Left 4 Dead 2, are now invited to join your game session (LAN Server)
  • Rather than downloading the game from the internet, it is downloaded from your PC, after which your friends join your game session

It’s important to note that your friends would only be able to run Left 4 Dead 2 in what I will call Follow Mode. They could only join your game session: The one that you, the owner of the license on the local LAN, is in. No Single Player, and no game sessions without the license holder. Want to run two separate game sessions/server? Then you need at least two licenses on your LAN, just like you would need two boards of Monolopy to play two separate game sessions of it simultaneously.

I hope you agree that just because the technology has changed shouldn’t mean that you can no longer play a single license of a game with your friends, if you are in the same room.

Further Thought A: What about Online Play from your LAN: You and your friends are still all in same room, but say you are playing a game like Quake Wars, which requires at least 5vs5 to play: Should you be allowed to bring your friends into Online games, considering you are all hanging out in the same room? The PS3 offers this feature in Warhawk: You can play split-screen with 3 friends, and all of you can join an online session with just one game license. If you can do it there, why not let people do this on the PC? So you and 1 friend could play Left 4 Dead 2 against 2 other people online, you+friend sharing one license, and the other two having their own license (or maybe doing the same thing you are). Again, your (license-less) friend could never play online, even from your room, without you being in the same online game session/server also. You play together, that is the idea.

Further Thought B: I have mixed feelings about this one, but I will mention this non-the-less. How about your friends can join (only) your game session always, from anywhere in the world. This would probably have to be restricted a little further. I mean, clearly, you still don’t let people play Single Player, nor do you let them play online sessions that don’t contain you. Of course, this can easily fall into a scenario where everyone friends everyone, so you would only ever need one license-owner per server. Even if you limit this to only being allowed to bring along one non-licensee friend, the everyone is a friend of everyone scenario is still undesirable. Perhaps someone can consider this further…

Putting aside Further Thought B, I definitely think the main point is a must-have feature, and Further Thought A is at least often appropriate.

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November 14, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials

Posted in Beginner at 10:20 am by gloriouscomputing

So I’ve tried out Microsoft’s new Anti-Virus software, and I like it. I haven’t really done any tests, but the performance seems fine. Before I used Avira Free, and the biggest difference is that I didn’t have to write an ad-blocking script for MS’s offering, unlike Avira, so that’s a plus. Both programs use very little RAM when idle, but MS uses less (~3MB when I checked).

The reason I moved over was hearing that this anti-virus was designed to annoy the user as little as possible. No annoying “Hey, listen! I’m still here, and I’m updating too! Aren’t I great?”. If you are running (which you should be 24/7), you better be upgrading, and if you can do it without getting in my way, the better.

Download

November 12, 2009

Apple Releases own Turn-by-turn Navigation Software [Satire]

Posted in Commentary at 11:27 am by gloriouscomputing

Not to be left in the dust, now that smartphones running Google Android 2.0 get free turn-by-turn navigation software out of the box, Apple has just released a new firmware update to iPhone owners, providing similar functionality.

“It’s so easy to use; It really fits in with the Apple mentality”, stated one happy customer. “They already approved thousands of addresses!”, he added.

Unlike traditional GPS software, Apple has chosen to continue their successful approval process from the App Store. “Just like with our App Store, it’s important that we protect our customers from locations in the wild. If we allowed our customers to go just anywhere, they could catch viruses!”, the lead software manager explained. Apple has recently hired a team to scout out new addresses when requested by customers.

“To try out the new iNav App, I typed in ‘Apple Store’, and it found it right away, guiding me there with turn by turn directions! Unfortunately, when I tried to navigate to my new job interview, a message popped up saying that it couldn’t direct me there just yet, because of ‘Approval pending’. At first I was upset that Apple had chosen to prevent me from going to my job interview, but then I found a better paying job at the Apple Store, so it’s a win for everyone!”

An Apple spokesmen said they are approving more addresses every day, so that voice guided trip to Grandma’s house might just be a decade away.

October 16, 2009

Sudo for Windows 7/Vista

Posted in For Developers, Intermediate at 6:20 pm by gloriouscomputing

It’s no secret that I like using my keyboard to get things done. It’s also no secret that Windows 7/Vista’s UAC comes up when a program asks for Admin rights. But what about if you want to run a program as Admin that doesn’t always need to be run as Admin? By default it’s just run as user, and you won’t be able to do what you need to.

For example, if I just run Notepad, I can’t save files in C:\

So what you have to do is Right-Click Notepad, and click “Run as Admin”… but what if I don’t want to? What if I want to script the same action? No luck. Windows 7 has a tool called “RunAs.exe”, but it only lets you switch to users with their Username+Password. I just want to run as myself with admin rights!

Linux people have sudo, so I just coded up a sudo.exe (in NSIS). It works just like you’d hope: “sudo.exe Notepad.exe”… or “sudo Notepad”. Of course, you’ll have to set it up so you can use it from anywhere yourself. The code for this tool is super-easy:

Name “sudo”
OutFile “sudo.exe”
SilentInstall silent
RequestExecutionLevel admin

Section
Call GetParameters
pop $0
exec $0
SectionEnd

My only problem with it is that my sudo.exe is 33kb. That’s huge for such a simple tool. If someone could code the same functionality into a smaller exe (C++ maybe?), I’d appreciate it. (I’ve tried writing it in AutoHotKey/AutoIt too, but both were even bigger!) Please let me know if you can help in the comments. Thanks!

Download Sudo

Update: Thanks everyone for the provided solutions below in the comments! Smallest solution thus far is Elevate.exe by Christof Germishuizen.

October 8, 2009

Install Software by doing a Start Menu Search – GetIt

Posted in Application Launchers, Beginner at 5:20 pm by gloriouscomputing

So you have the shiny new Windows 7 (Vista works too) installed, and you want to run your favorite once-a-week software. You hit the Windows key, type in “fire” only to find that you have not yet installed Frets On Fire! If only there was a way to instantly remedy this situation without any extra effort. Well, there is:

With the open-source GetIt, you can now install software with no more effort than is required to run it. Just type whatever you want to run/install into your Windows 7/Vista Start Menu Search, and shortcuts to silently install any of over 400 programs will be included in the results.

Download GetIt

Full Disclosure: I’m the lead developer of GetIt.

October 3, 2009

Quicktime? Hahaha…no

Posted in Commentary at 5:00 am by gloriouscomputing

Unfortunately, I still have to install one out-of-browser add-on to watch video online: Adobe Flash. It’s everywhere, except for those few awesome sites that are already using HTML5 Theodora… and those sites who somehow didn’t get the memo that nobody watches videos using additional out-of-browser add-ons anymore.

I believe VLC comes with a plug-in to play these without the need for QuickTime…but why even install that? It’s just another security flaw waiting to happen. I can understand that we aren’t all HTML5 Video happy just yet, but I have no sympathy for people still using QuickTime to play videos in my browser. I just won’t watch your video. It’s that simple.

And if you are considering the upgrade, save yourself a step by skipping over Flash. Go straight to HTML5 Theodora Video!

October 1, 2009

23% of iPhone users still vulnerable to losing complete control of phone via SMS exploit

Posted in Smartphone at 7:46 am by gloriouscomputing

If you believe this graph by Pinch Media, around 23% of iPhone users are still using 3.0.0. You may remember that firmware version as being the one that can be remotely exploited into doing just about anything by receiving a special SMS. This bug is fixed in 3.0.1, which is the version I’m using. Upgrading to 3.1.0 is not yet possible for anyone who does not use an official iPhone carrier.

Here’s to hoping that at least ATT filters out the special SMS messages so that these users don’t find themselves having to explain a 30 hour call to some 900 number.

September 12, 2009

HashCheck – Finally a great Checksum Verifier

Posted in Beginner, Intermediate at 5:45 pm by gloriouscomputing

I’ve been looking for a quick way to get checksums of files for a while, and this is my favorite solution so far: Just right click the file in Explorer and go to properties, and then click the Checksum tab. Easy!

Download HashCheck

August 12, 2009

Hands-on Android: HTC Hero and Samsung Galaxy

Posted in Smartphone at 4:15 pm by gloriouscomputing

Being in Europe has its benefits. I can just wank into the city and play with the latest Android phones. The USA still only has the HTC Dream (aka. G1), right? 😛
Update: Since I first wrote this, you just know got the second HTC Android phone… the Hero without the phunky OS… dubbed MyTouch.

I’ve read a lot of negative reviews about the HTC Hero, and while I’m not going to flat-out refute them, I was partially pleasantly surprise. More on that later. First, I got to play with the Samsung Galaxy.

Having played with Android only on an Emulator (without internet )before this, I only knew the very basics. Well, the Galaxy in the flesh had internet, but no google account. So I could try out the default software, but only those that didn’t require me to sign in (Not Mail, Market Place…).

After asking the clerk where the Unlock button was (it’s on the side), I was off! The OS felt great. Having just learned about the fact that you can hold the HOME button down to get an Alt-Tab style switch of currently running applications was a god-sent. Applications initially started at ok speeds. Fine, certainly as good, if not slightly better, as/than my iPhone 3G. Switching back to them once they were running was nearly instant. Since that’s what you will do a lot, it’s pretty exciting.

I also discovered another thing. You can hold one of the default buttons to bring up the on-screen keyboard at any time, no matter what. This is a great feature! This means that to search for an app from the home screen I 1) Click the App List button, 2) Hold the keyboard displaying button 3) Search. One more step than the iPhone (Press Home from Home screen, start typing), but totally functional.

I took some pictures of my hand (since the phone was fixed facing the wall), and even captured a video of said hand moving. It was a bit hard to tell from a hand, of course, but the video seemed good. Certainly as good as what I’m used to from Cycorder (iPhone 3G needs to resort to a jailbreak app to record video, since Apple are wankers). I watched said video on the phone and it played well. The store clerk said to transfer files to the devide, you can either take out the SD card and put stuff on it manually, or you can just connect it with USB, and get direct access to the SD card (if not the phone memory too). I’m not entirely confident if he was just saying that to make me happy, but I have no reason to think this wouldn’t just work. The only reason I question the ease with which he assures me this works is because I’m an Apple-survivor and still traumatized from forced-iTunes. If forced-iTunes sounds kinky, you are right, but it’s not as good when it’s not consentual.

Overall, I left the store very happy with Samsung Galaxy. It runs Android, and it runs it well. Not with blazing speed, but with good speed, and if I could trade in my iPhone 3G for it at virtually no extra cost, I would do so. But for 430 Euro, I’m going to have to wait. Galaxy is probably the better of the two phones I am reviewing today, for me, largely because the button placement makes sense. The biggest downside compared to the HTC Hero is that the Samsung Galaxy has no nub. The nub really shines for gaming.

So next I stumbled into a different store, and noticed the G2 Touch (aka. HTC Hero). I didn’t read the Touch part at first, so I figured I was using just a G2, which I believe is the HTC Magic. That wasn’t the case, which I noticed when I was greeted with the home screen. “Fuck, what I mess!” was my first reaction, initially blaming it on T-Mobile/Online/whatever they call themselves here, thinking that they had customized it. I already mentioned my default dislike of widgets, and the HTC Hero is a great example of this. Being dumb-founded by the amount of screen garbage, I swiped to the right and left out of curiosity. That’s when I noticed it was the HTC Hero, because it had 7 home screens, rather than the normal 3. 3 seems like too many, and 7 is drooling stupid. Going through the screens, I ran across things what seemed like a weather app, and an Email application. One screen was blank, I believe. Can users really remember what widgets they put on which screen? I certainly couldn’t. I’d have too hard of a time remembering which application shortcuts I placed on my three desktops. So you have 7 Desktops, and no way to find anything on them. If you want something, you have to swipe left, left, left. Not there? Well, fuck. Now you are way on the left. Now you have to swipe right, right, right (or just hit home, I believe), and then right, right, right… ah, there it is! Great…

While conventional wisdom has it that the HTC Hero GUI will somehow make Android more mainstream, I disagree that this GUI is a step forward. It’s like Compiz. It’s shiny, but it kills your performance at no functional gain. The only way this will sell more people on Android is in the way people buy Wiis: “Oh, shiny! I must have it. Hm, I have it…ehh.” I like many Wii games. But the GUI: Oh my god. The only way they could make the GUI worse is if the bombarded you with even more interrogational message boxes, and the only way to answer them was to simultaneously do an handstand while pointing the Wiimote at the buttons. God-forbid you could just press A.

The worst part of all the proprietary widgets that HTC added is that they aren’t applications. This means that the neat holding the Home button to see all running Applications and switching between them easily thing… doesn’t work for getting to your widgets.

Do not buy the HTC Hero for its re-done GUI. You will like it only until you realize it’s a big mess. That’s not saying a single feature might not be better. You may have 4 different mail applications on your phone now, and 3 different ways to get to them, but one of them might be slightly better than the rest. I only played with this for a little bit, but it was very messy. I think the HTC Hero GUI adds little value and divides the community. I am much in favor of any better application that might be developed being released to everyone. If anything, bundle it with your own phone for free and charge money for it for other company’s phones. If HTC had done this, I would maybe buy one app from them, but forgo the entire 7 desktop clusterfuck with their widget square dance.

To the Market Place! Unlike the other (physical) store, this store had the Market Place accessible from their Android phone (here the HTC Hero). Oh, how wonderful it was. Being used to the hackish (Yeah, I said it!) App Store, this “Market Place” was a dream come true. Why:

  1. You don’t need to enter your password every time you visit it. On the iPhone, I would download an App, then come back a few minutes after having tried it to install another: Bam! Enter password again, please! (Edit: I hear that you can turn this off. If iphones would “just work”, it’d be off by default)
  2. Apps install in the background. You can install an App, and stay in the Market Place. I don’t install apps one at a time. When I want to install apps, I usually have a few in mind. The iPhone kicks you out of the store so you can watch the progress bar. With the Android, you tell it to install one App, and you are instantly ready to install another. It’s a queue, in the background, with notifications coming up on the Awesome Shade (allusion to AwesomeBar) when it’s done, from where you may run the app, if you wish.
  3. Free Apps are first class citizens. The App Store of Apple was designed around payware. If you download freeware, it will be rubbed in your face that you are getting the same, illogically forced, experience you would if you had paid for another non-free app. I’ve never bought an iPhone App, ever. However, when I reinstall all my apps after the typical format I have to do to upgrade my firmware, I always get the stupid “You’ve bought this app before, so it’s free for you this download. OK / CANCEL?” First of all, I’ve bought nothing. It was always free, and even if it wasn’t before, I certainly don’t need to be confronted with a show-stopping message box (the download doesn’t start until you click OK). Also, OK/CANCEL? Are you fucking kidding me? I clicked Install TWICE in a row, so yes, I do want to install, and no, of course the fact that I don’t have to pay for it, just like I’ve never paid for it before, will not change my mind. Of course, since I am reinstalling all my apps, I can look forward to clicking OK 20 or so more times, after being kicked out of the App Store each time.

The Market Place feels amazing. Being a bastard, I even installed SIPdroid on the phone that was on display. Doing this on the Amazing Marked Place give me a feeling that resembled that when Obama was elected president: a long sigh of relief after long years of terribleness. Of course, just like with Obama, a lot of people say the Android platform could be even better, but boy is it so much better than what I’ve experienced before it!

HTC Hero has the nub. The nub is great. I’ve played the Galaxy clone, and I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it as much with the Galaxy’s arrow keys, separated by an OK button. Unfortunately, and this is even more of a deal breaker: the Back button on the HTC Hero really is in a terrible place, as the reviews have said. If you are not left-handed, this button will be a frequent pain in the ass.

Considering that I use my phone for applications way more than I do for gaming, I will have to go with the Galaxy’s slightly better Back button, forgoing the HTC’s cooler nub. Probably though, I will wait for an even better phone, since I’m not in a hurry.

Another weird thing about the HTC Hero was that I was unable to hold down any button to get the on-screen keyboard anywhere, unlike with the Galaxy. It certainly came up when I usually needed it, but not having the ability to have the keyboard at any time was scary, especially since I was so happy to just have found that feature on the Samsung Galaxy.

I also tried the iPhone 3GS in the store. Fuck it’s fast! There is no denying, the iPhone is the fastest phone of the 3 I spoke of here. Unfortunately, going back to the iPhone OS felt like I was walking with clutches. Going 200 M/H… but with no steering wheel… right into every wall. It’s hard to find a perfect metaphor. Yes, it’s the fastest, but considering the OS it’s running, I couldn’t be swayed away from the Android’s much smarter OS. If I could trade in my current 3G for either a 3GS, a Galaxy, or a Hero, I’d pick the Galaxy… then the Hero, and last the 3GS. The thing is, if your apps are already running in the background on the Android, they open just as fast as they do initially on the 3GS. Both Android phones’ Web Browsers seemed as fast, if not faster than the 3G’s, but perhaps not as fast as the 3GS’s. Since I’m used to the 3G, Android would still be a better upgrade for me, all things considered.

…Looking forward to my uber-SIP-cell-phone…

August 3, 2009

GUI Usability: The most important monologue of the year

Posted in For Developers, Intermediate at 5:31 pm by gloriouscomputing

I’ve never made an entry into this blog for the sole purpose of linking to another, but this is very important for anyone with an interest in GUIs (User Interfaces):

The original article is well written, and captured my attention for a few hours (I made the mistake of stumbling upon it from my iPhone), and the first part of the following video series is also excellect so far.

Android GUI designers (including phone manufacturers HTC, Sony), for the love of God, please take note!

Part 1
Part 2

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