Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Instances in the Real World   1 comment

The Secret World, instances

If you haven’t noticed, I like like to draw a lot of parallels between gaming and real life. This is because the two are intrinsically linked, in my opinion, life being full of challenges, games being all about challenges, and we tend to recognize these patterns when we see them. The thought crossed my mind today about ‘instancing’ in MMOs and how I’m about to enter a real life “instance”.

Now an ‘instance’ in an MMO, to the uninitiated, is a part of the game world that is created only for you or your group. They are separated from the main game world by a portal of some kind, and have challenges placed within them in a confined area. These challenges cause the reward to be better than the outside world. Dungeons with a cap on participants and bosses that require multiple players, controlled story content designed to push the narrative further, a field meant for player vs player battles that can’t be affected or affect the larger game, instances come in many shapes and sizes and I can’t think of a single game that doesn’t have instancing to some effect.

So soon my friends and I are heading out on a vacation together to see two of our good friends get married, and my gaming mind can’t help but draw a parallel to an instance. The flight leaves around the time this is set to post and we will spend the next few glorious days in the sun-and-sin-soaked city of Las Vegas getting into as many shenanigans and malarkey as the city and our bank accounts will allow. Expectations are for copious amounts of potent potables to flow, culinary masterpieces to be ingested, and many a high and low strike at the chances of fate. It. Will. Be. Amazing.

 

 

This is not something we do all the time. For any of us, this is the first real major trip we’ve gone on as a group of friends,  so it’s definitely outside of the main “world” that we know, namely New Jersey. We leave by airplane into the world we’re not use to, and we come back by plane to the world we normally frequent. Lots of space has been made in our bags for the loot that we will inevitably pick up while we are there, and we know the experience will cause our two good friends to “level up” in their relationship, and will increase our own life experiences as well. We will all come back better than we left.

Enterprise NCC-1701-C, instances

I’d definitely take this ride over US Airways, though.

  • The instance “portal” –> The plane ride.
  • The space confines –> Las Vegas, primarily the Las Vegas strip.
  • The “challenge” –> To see our good friends married and to send them into their married life together in as epic a way as possible.
  • The “reward” –> The stories that will come from the epicness, among other souvenirs.

So this may be a roundabout way of saying this, but get out there and travel! See the world, see the sites! Get into trouble! Get a ton of great stories in the process and take those doors when they open.

You never know when these experiences are going to add up enough to take your life to the next level.

//Ocho

Blake Shelton, Atlantic City, Free-To-Play Gaming, and What They All Have To Do With Each Other   Leave a comment

Neverwinter, auction house, Free-To-Play

A big warning to all of you out there: MMO Free-To-Play monetary tactics have left the gaming space.

“Well, duh,” I hear a few of you saying (those of you who still say ‘duh‘… people still say ‘duh‘, right?). New psychological tactics to separate people from their money are being developed all the time. When one part of the business world happens upon a strategy that works it’s only natural that it will be picked up and modified for others. Very true, but rarely do you see it done in so spectacular a fashion as happened recently on the Atlantic City beach.

On July 31st, 2014, Blake Shelton, one of the reality-show judges on “The Voice” and a decorated country music singer, performed a concert in Atlantic City, New Jersey free to any passer-by and those lucky enough to grab complimentary passes. The concert was held on the beach near the The Piers at Caesars, a large shopping complex on a pier extending out into the Atlantic Ocean, and presented by the Atlantic City Alliance and it’s “Do AC” promotional campaign. In other words, free concerts with big names to draw people to come down to Atlantic City. Jimmy Buffet had a concert last year and  Lady Antebellum just performed this past Sunday. Good music, ocean backdrop, a cool drink. Good stuff.

For the 60,000 attending, though, good luck on the “free” part. This show was far from “free”. In fact, it very heavily resembles the “free” we see in Free-To-Play games. Sure, listening to the music is free, but if you want anything else, and we mean anything, you will pay for it and at levels taking your “free” music price tag into account.

The news reports for this show are extensive, but lets be real. Blake wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he was being paid. Well. Without ticket sales to back up the initial cost, how did they make the money? Why, on literally everything else they could.

A coworker of mine whose relative attended the concert came back and told her all about it. When she relayed the story onto us, I asked her to clarify some specific details on what some of these other prices were.

Get this.

  • Parking: Anywhere from $50 per car to as high as $75 were seen.
  • A 10 oz bottle of water: $8.
  • 10 hot chicken wings: $22.

Parking usually: $5-$10 at most during peak season, off times you can find it free. I was also told that the vendors that were selling these high-price wares were vendors specifically brought in by Atlantic City and they positioned themselves between the huge crowd and the struggling Atlantic City Boardwalk vendors. This is just an example of some of the prices, but I heard they all were around the same level of up-charge.

Star Trek Online, lockboxes, Free-To-Play

Lockboxes. One of the biggest money makers for Free-To-Play MMOs… similar to gambling.

Now before you get all huffy and throw around the word “entitlement”, yes, we all get it. Nothing in this world is free. Everything comes at a cost. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s the backbone of a mixed market capitalist economy. Believe me, Blake Shelton got paid, Atlantic City got paid, Live Nation got paid, and at the expense of the audience, as it’s supposed to be. Sidenote: If anything, Atlantic City is the real jerk here in bringing in their own vendors instead of helping the struggling boardwalk vendors…. but that’s beside the point.

MMO Gamers, though, we’ve seen this for years. The Free-To-Play vs. Subscription vs. Buy-To-Play fight is everlasting. Is it better to be let into a game for free only to then be subjected to a possibly exploitative cash shop, or to pay a blind up-front cost and recurring fee to enjoy a “buffet” style of game, or a combination of both? They all make money and have their good and bad points, certainly.

Just like in gaming, though, the only person seeing this concert for “free” is the person who really went out of their way and inconvenienced themselves to do so. They parked really far away, probably in one of the not-so-safe areas of AC and they didn’t partake of any refreshments while they viewed the concert. In other words, they paid for their convenience in other ways. The same exact way FTP games will often trade convenience for real money, after letting you in for free.

Free-To-Play, Lord of the Rings Online

On the other side, here’s a concert *inside* an MMO.

In my opinion, the best Free-To-Play games are the ones that will offer a fun experience and entice you to open your wallet for fun extras, instead of hinder you by putting up pay walls. It’s a fine tightrope, though, between entice and force, and I’m not sure we’ve seen it walked perfectly yet. It’s certainly a slippery slope leading down into exploitative territory.

So $22 for hot wings and $50-$75 for parking? I’m sorry, Atlantic City. If you were a Free-To-Play game, I’d consider you leaning heavily on the exploitative side of the equation.

// Ocho

P.S. – I do find it funny, though, that not long ago I posted about the tricks casinos use to get your money and Free-To-Play MMOs using very similar tactics. It was only a matter of time before the tricks came back around.

Posted August 5, 2014 by Ocho in Other, Psychology

Tagged with , , , , ,

Spoilers, and Why They Affect Us The Way They Do   18 comments

spoiler_alert_original

Spoilers. They’re everywhere. It feels like you can’t avoid them, and society won’t really let you. Not unless you want to remove yourself from society. Is that right, though? I mean, why do we care so much about a simple TV show’s plot, and how did we get to the point where they have become such a polarizing issue? Some people will defend their want to post spoilers till the end, saying stuff like “Well, it’s been long enough. I shouldn’t have to wait to post spoilers!” and “Well, if you don’t like it, maybe you shouldn’t read it.” I think it’s larger that that, though, an issue that delves into how society has evolved and adapted with changes in media and social media, and how we’re still clinging onto the past.

How It Use To Be

The want to schedule my time around the airing of a TV show always felt alien. I grew up without TV being a central focus in our household. I did have a few favorites, though, like Friends or The Simpsons. When it was on, though, if you missed an episode, you were out of luck. Reading about it and discussing it with friends was pretty much the only way to catch up. It was that or wait months for re-runs. If someone told you about what went on that you missed, they were being helpful and doing you a service.

Today is a whole different story, though. The internet and video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. make it so that it’s not possible to miss anything unless you want to. If you miss a show, if you miss an episode, it’s remarkably easy to catch up on your own time. Even if that time is a couple months later with the DVD releases, or catching up on an entire show after it has long been off the air (I’m looking at you Twin Peaks… I will watch you yet).

That want to discuss it, though, that want to share the experience is still there. It always will be. It’s human nature to want to belong to social groups and prove we are members of said group by adhering to the social mores, in this case sharing plot points of TV shows and movies. We think it helps the person we are telling, and it makes us look good. If we hold TV and these programs as a part of our cultural identity, then we will discuss it with anyone who we thought was interested.

It’s Not How It Use To Be

Social media is the equivalence of standing on a soapbox, shouting to yourself, and hoping other people join in.

Times have changed. Communication has changed. Social media has exploded, and so instead of telling one person, we can tell everyone simultaneously. Multiple birds, one stone. It’s efficient, which is why people have flocked to it. You can send a message out to hundreds or thousands of people with a single click. But as the hackneyed saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s too easy to make it known to all that we are huge fans of the latest TV shows, that we follow the zeitgeist, that we should be admired because after watching an episode we now know information that is socially valuable. However, it is only valuable for a limited time. So therefore, in order to prove our social worth, we must share that information to all as soon as possible! This drive to prove we belong is very strong. Our social circles are a significant part of our identities, after all.

But that information isn’t really that valuable anymore. As I explained above, it use to be before digital media. How we digest entertainment has changed from being communal to being personal. If I miss an episode, due to life, I can catch up at any time. I didn’t really miss anything. Those plot twists the latest show held is only truly valuable, then, to the person holding it. Those who want to be vested in a show or movie simply will be. Those who don’t, they don’t really care that you happen to love, say, Big Bang Theory, and want to tell of the latest “geeky” thing Sheldon did. But that doesn’t mean they won’t care in the future. Information these days is sought out personally. If I wanted to know what happened on the last episode of Walking Dead, I can find out very easily on my own. Review sites exist for a reason.

Social Belonging

That drive to prove social belonging, though, still very much exists. And mixed with social media just makes it too tempting to restrain oneself. People who are more susceptible to prove their value, then, won’t think twice and will shout spoilers from the rooftops, to inform the world. Only now it’s to an audience that doesn’t really want to hear it, and might feel angered that these spoilers are being forced upon them.

It’s turned 100% around from being a valuable service to being a selfish one. Who really enjoys these spoilers? The person saying them obviously doesn’t mind them, but their target audience is for those that most likely already know it. Other members of the TV show’s social group, they’re trying to preach to the choir. They’re saying it to prove that they are followers, too.  However, they’re simultaneously telling those who don’t care or really don’t want to hear it. To those outside their social group, well, who cares about them?

5141.Spoiler.Alert.png-610x0

Those Who Don’t Want To Be Spoiled

And so what of the feelings of others? So what if someone who may want to watch this show on their own time and schedule, as modern technology now allows, so what if I tell them everything that happens in the show ahead of time? These people are not part of the social group. Who cares what they think? They shouldn’t care in the first place.

These people are the people we call friends any other day of the week. These are the people we allow into our private lives, and then, what, we disrespect them? That is how it feels. Posting spoilers shows someone’s colors, that they care so much about their social standing they don’t really care who is affected, which then forces the spoiler’s followers to make a choice. Do we keep listening to this person, whom we call friend, despite the affront, or do we stop listening to prevent the possible spoiling of something we may want to enjoy? It’s terrible we even have to make the choice at all.

However, We Might Enjoy Being Spoiled

This is a valid point. Why do we care or not if our entertainment is spoiled ahead of time? In the long run, it’s not that important. Aren’t there plenty of people who turn to the last page in a novel first? Heck, one of the big issues I have with MMOs nowadays is just this. In order to be a “good group member”, you must have already read up and watched the videos on every fight and encounter ahead of time. It’s expected.

A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego suggests that we do indeed enjoy a story more when the twists are revealed to us ahead of time. According to their studies, which took 30 people and measured their enjoyment after reading 12 spoiled/unspoiled short stories, it was found that participants across the board enjoyed a story more when the ending was told to them first, whether mystery, “ironic-twist”, or literary stories.

Their conclusion was that the plot of a story is, simply, overrated. That we read stories for a lot more than just what happens. Also, it’s just mentally easier to process.

“that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”

So, easier to process, and we get to enjoy other aspects besides the plot. I can see this. It’s like if you go to the latest Marvel movies. Do you really expect the bad guys to win and Iron Man to lose? No, of course not. You already know what is going to happen, the experience is in how Stark wins. It also explains why book-to-movie conversions are so successful. A lot of people have already read the books, they want to see the visual translation on the big screen.

Or… Maybe Not. Anticipation and Suspension of Disbelief Count, Too.

But others have pointed out some major flaws in the study. Namely, that these weren’t stories that anyone was particularly vested in in the first place. They had just been told that they would be reading these short stories that day. If anything, the study just proves that this is the case with only short stories you didn’t know you were reading ahead of time.

Other avenues suggest to going to the root of why we enjoy stories in the first place. As this Atlantic article suggests, it basically comes down to the suspension of disbelief and how much we enjoy suspending it. We want to feel like we are with those characters, like we are a part of that world, and a part of us is viscerally there. So spoilers really kill our buzz, then. They remind us that a story really is just a story.

Also, it kills the anticipation of enjoyment. And don’t tell me that you don’t like anticipation. Don’t tell me that you’ll make months worth of plans for your vacation, and then literally count down the days or hours until it happens. That you’ll make reservations long in advance to a fantastic restaurant an then pour over the menu online. Of course we like anticipation! That’s why the first kiss means something. Sure, the 200th kiss means something, too, but it’s not held on such a high pedestal as the first. If someone comes along and spoils our anticipation, we feel cheated!

A Statute of Limitations on Spoilers

So how long does one have to wait, then, to post spoilers? What is socially acceptable? This post suggests that they can start being discussed almost immediately after. However, the post seems to be aimed specifically at authors writing articles and headlines, not to individual conversations or mass posts. I can see that. It’s really easy to ignore an article spoiling a show if you don’t want to be spoiled. Simply, don’t read it. They are considerate enough to give you that choice, so the time period doesn’t have to be that long.

But what about a movie like Citizen Kane? *SPOILER ALERT* The sled is named Rosebud. I’ve never seen the movie, though, but I know this. That plot twist is a part of our collective consciousness over time and has been rehashed time and again. The Titanic? It sinks. Darth Vader? Luke’s father. I can go on. These aren’t spoilers anymore… or are they?

How much do I want to watch Citizen Kane now? Well, it’s Orson Welles first feature film and is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. I would absolutely still watch it, even knowing the twist. But, I won’t lie, still knowing it possibly kills some of the potential enjoyment, and I can’t say how much enjoyment was lost. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Either way, knowing some enjoyment was lost makes me less likely to pick it up. I’d pick it up for every other reason than the plot, but I like plot. Plot is one of my favorite things!

Another article a friend of mine wrote posits simply, there is no statute of limitations. None, and I happen to agree with a lot of his points. Who is it that determines, about someone else’s personal entertainment, when it is finally okay to ruin a story for them? Game of Thrones is going to be around for a LONG time, both the books and the TV shows. What, really, is the rush? Why is it so important to watch it the second that it airs, and why am I then considered deserving of spoilers if I don’t? People work. We have lives. Commitments. Other hobbies. If I want to watch it 10 years from now, who are you to make the choice to spoil any of it for me? Whether to spoil or not should be a personal choice and not be forced upon you.

Spoiler Alert Banner

Avoiding All Media

I hear one of the greatest arguments for pro-spoiling is simply that if you don’t want to be spoiled, just avoid social media. Really. That’s the best argument? In this age of social media, the main argument to avoid spoilers is to avoid social media completely. Can we talk about how lame of a sentiment that is?

If you don’t want to hear me, maybe you should stop listening. … Right.

Maybe you should care less about what I have to say. … Really?

By coming on social media, you’re just asking to be spoiled. … Wow.

I was even told something like this a few days ago in a discussion I was having about spoilers. It was a group of friends who always change their profile picture to the latest character who died on Game of Thrones. I called them out on it, and got the reply:

“Mike, you have to have been paying attention to my profile pictures and the show to be spoilered…” 

This harkens back to my main points above. Why do I have to be paying attention to the show? I may in the future decide that I really want to watch it. The media isn’t going anywhere and I’m not actively searching out sites that tell me anything about the latest storylines, just in case I may want to.

Then paying attention to my friends profile pictures? That’s one of the major parts of social media! The images that you use to represent yourself digitally to the world. You post it to your social media, and then expect those who are your friends… to just not pay attention? To just un-see what you’ve already shown them?

As I said, I grew up without cable television and I’ve lived my whole life without it, but I am definitely a creature of the computer age. As such, social media is important to me. I have embraced it fully, having a Facebook account, Twitter, and many other smaller networks and online social groups. So, if I want to avoid being spoiled, I should give up a large part of my own social identity? Sacrifice my own life on the off chance you feel like talking about your favorite shows? Not happening. If social media was such a fringe element to the social spectrum, it might be easy to avoid, but this is a new age and it’s not a small part anymore.

No, I’m sorry. The answer isn’t to avoid social media entirely. It’s sadly to hide or unfollow those individuals who feel the need to spoil. As I said above, it’s terrible that this choice would have to be made at all, as these are our friends, but it’s much easier to avoid one person than avoid social media entirely.

Spoiler Alert!

But what else can someone wanting to post spoilers really do? How about, simply, think before you post! Think about what effect your post may have on others, and if you think it may possibly affect them negatively, either post a warning or maybe not post it at all. I have seen plenty of people posting their “reviews” of just-seen movies, but most are generally very aware of the possible spoilings and make a note of that. It helps them look good as they can still show belonging to the social group, but then it also shows that they care about those around them and know that not everyone wants to see it. Best of both worlds, really.  I have skipped many a post or article due to these warnings, and I’m appreciative that they’re there.

So, What Are We To Do About Spoilers?

I try to be happy person, I really do. In the end, it’s never about the individual spoil itself. It could be a character death, it could be a huge plot twist, the ending of Lost, or the Sopranos, a Harry Potter book, or even your favorite Broadway play.

But I’m just going to come out and say this: If you post spoilers, without giving others the option to avoid them, if you essentially force them upon others, with the only choice being to avoid you entirely… Stop.

It’s inconsiderate, socially unacceptable, and just rude.

The age old saying truly comes into play. Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. If you don’t want to have your favorite shows, movies, or games ruined, then maybe you shouldn’t ruin them for others.

But hey, we all aren’t perfect. I use to *be* a spoiler, and didn’t realize the damage I was doing until *I* was called out on it. Posting spoilers, unless it’s purposeful and malicious, is a minor offense at best. If these people are truly your friends, it’s very easy to forgive and forget. Live and learn.

As always, thank you for reading.

// Ocho

Leveling Up the Hardware: 5 Recent Tech Upgrades Worth Every Penny   4 comments

Intel Core i5

So, yeah, I’m a player of free-to-play titles, and I’m not ashamed of that. I won’t go out and buy the latest, got-to-have games, either. My brain just isn’t wired like that. I don’t feel any need to jump in to any first generation product without intense scrutiny and research first. This includes Elder Scrolls Online and upcoming Wildstar. I just don’t get the same thrill that others get from the hivemind, and I’m more apt to notice more flaws when I’m paying a premium price for the experience.

But, overall, I’m not cheap. Far from it. Gaming is a great hobby, but the software is only the surface of the experience. The only reason we enjoy the experience at all is because of the hardware we have backing it up. And when you upgrade your hardware, your gaming experience improves across every game you play, not just the latest shiny. For this reason, I’ll spend a lot more on hardware than I ever will on games. Go check out the MMO Juggler’s latest post on upgrading to a new sick 27″ Quad HD (1440p) monitor and try not to be jealous, I dare you. I mean just look at that Guild Wars 2 shot!

Look at it! It’s 1440 lines of awesome. Credit to the awesome MMO Juggler. Click on it to see the full size.

So lately instead of playing games, I’ve been researching and upgrading my hardware and tech and wanted to share the fruits of my labor with you. If you’re looking for great upgrades that are a great bang for your buck, check out this quick list.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

5) Seagate 1 TB Solid State Hybrid Drive

The standard hard disk drive, a stack of magnetic spinning platters, has been around since the 1950’s and has been the defacto storage for computers today. Over time the platters have been able to hold more, the data transfer speeds have improved, but hard drives have hit a limit on how fast they can be. The physical and mechanical constraints of how fast the plates can spin can only go so high.

The latest storage technology, though, is Solid State, and is found in flash drives, cell phones, and other small devices. Instead of spinning platters, Solid State uses a solid block of material, usually a crystalline semiconductor, and uses electromagnetism and quantum mechanics to store and dispense information. Woah. However, Solid State drives are still relatively small, and still way out of the price range of the average consumer.

But the Seagate Hybrid Drives are well within budget. Seagate has combined the speed of Solid State with the storage capacity and price of HDD. For maybe a modest 20% increase in price, A SSHD gives up to 4 times the speed and a 20% increase in overall responsiveness than a standard HDD. During the sale, I paid $75 for a 1 TB SSHD, which is less than what the standard cost of a 1 TB HDD normally costs! Until SSD’s drop in price, a SSHD is the best value going.

And installation? Couldn’t have been easier. Installing the drive into your case is just plugging the drive into the board, making sure it’s getting power from the PSU, tightening a few screws, then formatting the drive,  cloning it with your current HDD, and finally setting the new drive as the main bootable from BIOS. That’s it. Trust me, you can do it.

So tiny, but it has breathed new life into my TV.

4) Chromecast

Without cable growing up and without cable now, we don’t watch much TV. However, that doesn’t mean we still don’t enjoy streaming video. We currently subscribe to Netflix, love Hulu, and are flirting with the idea of Amazon Instant Video. We also see nothing wrong with dropping a few bucks to stream movies or TV shows we want to see. It’s a new age.

Chromecast, at it’s basic premise, allows you to take any tab in Chrome and stream it directly to any TV with the device attached. On top of that, the Chromecast also has apps for popular services, so it doesn’t even run Netflix from your PC, it picks it up itself.

With this device, my TV is finally getting some use again, and it’s only $35, which is a lot cheaper than my XBox Gold sub was, and a lot less complicated.

Don’t give them more than you have to, especially for the “rented box”.

3) Motorola Surfboard Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem

Do you know the difference between Docsis 2.0 and Docsis 3.0? Do you know which standard your cable modem is using? Do you know what your current Internet plan is capable of? If not, you may want to do some research.

By any stretch, Docsis 3.0 is not a new thing. Over 7 years old, Docsis 3.0 is a telecommunications standard that offers significant transmission speeds and quality over previous generations. However, due to lack of consumer knowledge, it is still not widely in use, even by those who are paying for the tiers to use it. Essentially, if you’re renting your cable modem box from your provider, you’re most likely still using 2.0 and paying them a monthly fee to do so.

This modem not only gives you a significant boost in speed and quality, if your service allows it, but it also frees you from that monthly rental fee! Faster speeds and it will pay for itself over time, this one is really a must-have for any serious internet user. This has gone up in price, too. It use to be $50 when it was a lot less known, but over time it’s gone up to where it is now at $70. Still a solid deal.

Installation might require a technician to come out and install it, and probably the safest way to do so to make sure it’s set up properly, but it can be self-installed. If you self-install, talking to support might still be necessary, though.

Doesn’t take up a lot of room, but boy does it fill up a space.

2) RCA Home Theatre Sound Bar with Bluetooth

This came up on Woot for $40. I picked it up, and have been in love with it ever since. Heck, I didn’t even connect this to my TV for the first couple months I had it and it was still worth it!

Essentially, this speaker bar has multiple speakers, a subwoofer, and pairs smoothly with any bluetooth device, like every smartphone. Having podcasts playing or music around the house became a whole lot easier. Just pair the speaker with your phone, then start playing music. Done.

I then took it a step further and attached it to my TV and suddenly instead of the tinny embedded TV speakers, a much more rich full sound emerged. I watched The Avengers (not usually a superhero fan, but the speaker needed a good test… good movie, though) and the sound alone blew my mind. Paired with the Chromecast from above, I don’t think I’ll ever stream to my computer again. The difference in quality is that substantial.

If you see it again for $40, it’s a must buy, but that price is ridiculously low for a sound bar. Lowest price for a new one is looking around $80, which would cause me to balk. However, if you catch one on a decent sale, it’s well worth the price.

Small, but more than enough to do the job.

1) EVGA GeForce GTX 750

My old card, a PNY GeForce GTX 460, has been showing signs of aging and it has come time to replace it. A video card upgrade always rocks, but the EVGA GeForce GTX 750 is a solid card that can work in a much wider range of systems.

Going from the 460, though, I didn’t know how much of an increase I was going to get. The 460 is twice the size, took up it’s own rails from the power supply, and was a solid workhorse. In comparison, the 750 uses 60% less power, is tiny, and doesn’t need to be plugged into anything but the board. It is a few generations newer, though.

So, for the budget $105 I paid for the card, I wasn’t expecting a significant upgrade. What I got, though, was a significant upgrade. Before installation, I took the time and performed a few benchmarks to see exactly how much of an upgrade I would get, using the 3DMark11 software, which is conveniently available through Steam.

Aside from the Physics scores, which are taking a small hit, I found an across the board 35%-47% increase in graphics processing! So anything having to do with lights, shadows, surfaces, and textures are all getting a serious bump. Not bad. The increase in airflow and power savings would be worth it alone, but the performance increase makes it a solid upgrade.

My system before was no slouch, either. I could play almost any game on full settings easily. Now, though, it’s even easier to do so, and this card should last me a good long time.

Intel Core i7, GeForce GTX 460

Okay, so I’m not the best at cable management. So sue me.

So, overall, the next time you think of dropping a huge sum on the latest and greatest game that’ll cost you $60 for a few weeks play, think about possibly using that for a tech upgrade instead.

You might miss out on one game, but it’ll make the rest of your games a lot more fun.

// Ocho

P.S. – And trust me, if you miss the latest game that everyone’s playing just this once, you’ll live.

Pi Day Shenanigans #π   7 comments

Pi

It’s Pi Day, Pi Day, Gotta Get Round on Pi Day! Everybody’s looking forward to diameters! Diameters!

Alright, so this post isn’t so much about gaming. So sue me. However, it *IS* about Pi! And really, who doesn’t appreciate Pi? I’m a big fan of promoting the maths and sciences, and Pi Day is a great day to do so. So here are a few tricks, a few facts, a few nonsensicles, etc. all about our favorite irrational constant. (Sorry e, they haven’t made an e day yet)

A History of Pi

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406…

Pi (π) is, simply put, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. Pi is considered an irrational and transcendental number that never ends and never repeats. The exact person or date the ratio was discovered is lost to the ages. There are those that suggest that since the Great Pyramid of Giza has a ratio of the perimeter of the base to the pyramid’s height that comes close to 2π, that the Egyptians have known of pi since the pyramid’s building between 2589 to 2566 B.C. However, this may also just be a coincidence of the efficient design the Egyptians used.

However, a Babylonian tablet from around 1900 to 1680 B.C. *does* calculate pi to 3.125. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus of 1650 B.C. calculates pi to 3.1605. Pi is even roughly approximated in the King James Bible, in 1 Kings 7:23 in which is being described the construction of a temple by King Solomon:

And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

30 cubits (an ancient unit of length, the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger) circumference / 10 cubit diameter = 3. Not bad.

It wasn’t until Archimedes, around 250 B.C. started using multi-sided polygons that it changed from being an educated guess to what we know it as today. Using geometry it became more and more refined starting with Archimedes, then mathematicians Ptolemy, Hui, Chongzhi, Aryabhata, Fibonacci, al-Kashi, Viete, Roomen, Ceulen, and Snellius. Pi was refined more and more until Christoph Greinberger, using the same polygonal method, came to 38 digits of Pi in 1630 A.D., which remains the most accurate approximation manually achieved using polygonal algorithms.

Then came the era of infinite series, or using the sums of terms of an infinite sequence, and more refinement by mathematicians such as Somayaji, Madhava, Gregory, Leibniz, and Wallis. Isaac Newton and Leibniz’s discovery of calculus in the 1660’s led to even more refinement.  Abraham Sharp using infinite series calculated pi to 71 digits, finally surpassing Greinberger’s 38. Machin came around in 1708 with a new method that reached 100 digits, and his method culminated in Ferguson’s 1946 620 digits.

Then came the computer era. Around 1949, Wrench and Smith using a desk calculator, reached 1120 digits. Technology kept progressing and the number snowballed finally reaching 1 million digits in 1973. As of 2011, the number of found digits, as I’m sure has been beaten by now, is up to 10 trillion digits.

The funny thing is that as far as functional computations go, no more than 39 digits are necessary, as that is the amount needed to accurately calculate the volume of the known universe to a precision of one atom. We had that in the 1600’s.

So What Use Is Pi To Me?!!!!

That’s all well and good, sure, but what use does the average person need Pi for?!! Well, math is essential to all of our lives. Sure, you may not need it on a daily basis, but you know of it and so probably use it unknowingly. For example, here’s a favorite bar bet on mine:

A height of ~ 3.75 in.

Which is Taller, The Height of My Cup, or it’s Circumference?

Say you’re in a bar. Take your pint glass, or any cup, really, turn to the person next to you and say: “Hey, for the next drink, I bet you are terrible with distance.” If you don’t get punched, take your glass and ask which is longer, the circumference of the top of the cup, or the height. A person who isn’t fluent in math will generally say the height… and they are incorrect. A person who is fluent in math will say the circumference. And they’d be right. “Cool”, you say. And then start stacking. Put under the glass your cell phone, a pad of post-its, etc. and keep asking. Eventually, they’ll say “Okay. The height is bigger.”

The height of the stack finally matches the circumference of the mug, at ~10.5 in.

… and most likely, unless you really put a ton of stuff under it, they’d still be wrong. It’s funny like that, our brains tend to overestimate vertical height, and underestimate horizontal length. The circumference of my mug? ~10.5 in. (Forgive the inadvertent advertising, this is just some of the stuff I have around me… I like tea.)

Get More Pizza For Your Buck

So, pizza, right? Who doesn’t like pizza? Hot sauce and melted cheese over a thin, crispy crust is the thing of gods. So simple, and yet, so complex. But should you get a medium? Should you get a large? How much MORE pizza does an extra 4″ really giving you?

As it turns out, a lot.

I took the menu to a local pizza place and compared some prices, all inches listed are for the diameter of the pizza:

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99

Using the simple formula for the area of a circle:  Area = π * (radius)^2, we can calculate the total area of the pizzas. And really area is what we’re going for, as that is a true determination of the quantity of pizza you’re getting.

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75 – A = 78.5 sq. in. = 10.13 sq. in. / $

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75 – A = 153.86 sq. in. = 15.78 sq. in. / $

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99 – A = 200.96 sq. in. = 18.29 sq. in. / $

Well damn. Look at that. If we use the Personal Pizza as a baseline, we see that the Medium pizza is almost twice the size! The large is not as big of a difference, and is only 2.5 times the size of the personal and only ~30% larger than the medium. However, even if you get the large, you’re still getting the most pizza for your dollar.

Your results may vary, depending on what your local places charge, but most likely the results will end up about the same. Also it depends on how hungry you are. If you’re only hungry for 78 sq in of pizza, by all means don’t pay more for wasted food.

Speaking of Pizza…

I’ve definitely seen this make the rounds, but to figure out the Total Area of a Pizza, you use…. PIZZA! Crazy!

We aren’t talking about the area of a circle, though, but the area of a cylinder. Afterall, pizzas have height, too.

The formula for the area of a cylinder is thus:

Area = π * (radius)^2 * height

If the radius = z, and the height = (just roll with us here, these are totally legit substitutions) then:

The Area of a Pizza becomes: Pi * z * z * a

BOOM!

Test the Speed of Your Computer’s Processor

Occasionally I build computers. So far, I’ve built them for myself, for friends, and for family, but I definitely know my way around the interior of a PC box. Not too long ago, I upgraded my system to a nice, probably overkill, but wicked Core i7-3770 Quad Core processor. It is a thing of beauty. I had upgraded from a much older AMD Dual Core, and wanted to know exactly what kind of upgrade I had received. Sadly, the exact figures have been lost to time, but let’s just say it was a very healthy difference.

I found out, though, using a very simple benchmark program that involves, you probably have guessed it by now, calculating Pi! It’s called Super Pi, and it simply calculates how long it takes your processor to calculate to 1 million digits of Pi. In fact, you could even tell it to keep going, but most time 1 million is enough to get a decent benchmark, and with today’s computers it’ll be done in seconds. Go ahead and put your system through it’s paces, too. A medium-end system generally takes about 15 minutes to calculate 32 million digits.

Einstein

Other Fun Pi Facts

π – The Alt-Code for the greek symbol representing Pi is Alt-227. Just hold down Alt and type ‘227’, and Pi will appear on your screen.

π – All in a bid to improve math and science in our country, in 2009 the United States House of Representatives designated March 14th as “Pi Day”. July 22nd is even designated as “Pi Approximation Day”, as sometimes 22/7 is used to approximate it, but we don’t really want to celebrate an approximation, right?! (Oh wait… since Pi can never be fully calculated, we use an approximate, huh? Ah well.)

π – Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s Birthday! The man, the myth, the legend.

π – My wife and I celebrate the day we started dating on February 7th. If we were to give other transcendental irrational numbers days, then February 7th would be “e Day”! How awesome is that?! (e ≈ 2.71…)

π – Salvadore Dali was a big fan of the irrational Pi and used a lot of mathematical principals in his art. The Dali Museum in Flordia even celebrates Pi Day in his honor with all kinds of events!

Wow

Longest post ever? Yeah, but so it goes. If you made it here to the end, please have some pie! Compliments of CSTM.

So go out, my awesome readers, and see the wonder and the majesty that is Pi. Appreciate the history, the search for knowledge, get more pizza than you can eat, check out a Dali painting or two, build a computer, and win a bet.

Happy Pi Day all!

// Ocho

P.S. – Pi Day Shenanigans has also been brought to you by Math Happens. Follow it on Twitter at @YouGotMathed. Why? Because You Just Got Mathed!

Sources: 

Happy Pi Day: Fun Facts About Our Favorite Irrational Number

Bible Gateway: 1 Kings 7

Wikipedia: Pi

Wikipedia: e

Wikipedia: Cubit

The roles of altitude and fear in the perception of height

Today I Found Out: The Mathematical Volume of a Pizza is Pizza

www.SuperPi.net 

The Dali Museum, Calendar

www.Alt-Codes.net 

CNET: National Pi Day? Congress Makes it Official

Wikipedia: Pi Day

Woojer, Kicking Gaming Up A Notch   Leave a comment

When I was younger, I attended more than a few rock concerts. I loved them. Especially the long, all day, 20+ band affairs. You name it, pretty much every rock band of the 90’s I’ve seen. So now here I am, in my early 30’s, an adult, an avid gamer, and, well… let’s just say I didn’t escape some permanent damage from all those concerts. My wife just asked me if I could bring up her smartphone, but I clearly heard her say “Can you bedazzle my trombone”. Yeah…

Also, in any given social situation, if the level of ambient noise reaches a certain volume, I completely lose the ability to hear someone even a foot away from me. Combine this with my inability to read lips, and I might as well have stayed at home. I haven’t lost all of my hearing, but it’s definitely not as sharp as it could be. That’s why, being a gamer, a fan of live music, and having some hearing damage, this new Kickstarter I came across really looked like something I’d be into.

It’s called Woojer, and it looks like it’s going to be a necessary addition to my gaming habit. Woojer is essentially a “woofer” you attach to your clothing and headphones that allows you to physically “feel” sound. It has, at it’s core, a proprietary polyphonic transducer that “plays” these low frequencies. When you hear the audible sounds from your games, and then feel the corresponding vibrations from Woojer, your brain picks up the slack. Using Perceptual Inference, the ability for your brain to essentially make up what is not there but what it thinks should be there, it translates the two stimuli as one. So when you listen to music, it feels as though you are at the concert. When playing a game, that helicopter will feel like it really just passed over you.

Secret World, A Time to Kill, Woojer

As Neal Naimer, one of the people behind Woojer, states in this PA Report interview:

The principle of operation is perceptual inference, or auto completion. The product simulates the sensation of live music or a very strong sound system. Using a Woojer on a single point on your body is enough to convince the brain that the entire body is receiving sound…

Placing Woojers on your body makes the sensation even more immersive. Imagine adding an augmented reality device such as Woojer which transforms any audio signal into silent, harmonic tactile sensations that resonate throughout the body to other existing immersive devices like the Oculus Rift VR headset.

I’m not a huge fan of putting on any extra headwear to experience more immersive gameplay. I already wear glasses, so adding an extra layer in front of them feels a little awkward. However, wearing a simple device that I can attach to my shirt? Done. I’ve already signed on as a backer, and since the Kickstarter has successfully funded, I hopefully WILL be receiving one of these fantastic devices next Spring.

The Kickstarter funding period will conclude very soon, in about four days, at 10:10 AM EST on Friday, December 6th. So if you want one, you better hop on it while discounts are still available.

Half-Life, Woojer

This won’t obviously cure my already damaged hearing, but if what the site says is true, I may not have to keep my headphones turned up that loud, either. So more immersive gameplay, more intense music and movies, and not having to keep it at levels that could further damage my hearing? This sounds like a huge win all around.

// Ocho

Posted December 1, 2013 by Ocho in Other

Tagged with , , , , ,

Some MMO Poetry, Because Why Not? #NBI   9 comments

Star Trek Online, Space

This is for you, Syl… and you as well, Jeromai.

For your reading pleasure, here is a collection of MMO haiku, made up on the spot. Random, creative, MMO-based poetry goodness. If you’re feeling creative as well, how about starting up your own site, or joining up with other writers? It’s not as hard as you might think. Enjoy.

Guild Wars 2, Puzzle

Fiction or Real Life?

Friends we meet in game are real.

Reality blurs.

—————————————–

I level crafting,

but can’t make good leveled gear!

Why is this useless?!

Elite Polaris, Draugh, dungeon

Knights, Templars, Castles.

The sword was overpowered.

Still true to this day.

—————————————

“Hey! Big bad boss guy!

Look at my big armored butt!

… Whoops… I lost aggro.”

Star Trek Online, U.S.S. Split Aces, Foundry

“Captain, it’s the Borg!”

“My tribble is in the bank.”

“GTFO, Noob!”

————————————–

The Bad-Ass Templars,

Sneaky Illuminati,

Confusing Dragon.

Guild Wars 2, Lion's Arch, Environment

I love Guild Wars 2.

It’s like walking through fine art,

with mass violence.

————————————-

One more special mark,

until I’m finally done!

Wait… there is more grind?!

Newbie Blogger Initiative, Poetry Slam

Fin.

// Ocho

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