Wednesday, August 8

And thus it happened

I do have a good reason for not having blogged a good while, I really do. I've been vacationing on and off since ate June. One of the perks of the job, you know... Too bad I'm not getting paid, though.

Anyway, this is just a brief update to say I've finally gone through with it and bought my new PC rig. Yeah, I know I said I would hold out till DirectX 10 is really here but oh well. Call me impatient. I'll just upgrade when time comes.

So here it is:
  • motherboard: Abit IP35-E
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
  • cooling: Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
  • memory: 2x1GB OCZ PC800 CL4 Platinum
  • GPU: Galaxy 7900GS
  • PSU: Be Quiet! StraightPower 450W
  • case: CoolerMaster Centurion 534 light
There you have it. Now I'm waiting for all the pieces to arrive. And then... my oh my, it's so gonna blow up in my face, I know it!

Sunday, June 17

Doctor Who

No computers this time and no games. Just a few words about why I dig the British show Doctor Who. I'll go ahead and admit I had never heard about it except for the title itself until really quite recently. So perhaps ironically this over-40-year-old franchise is a new discovery for me. Naturally, though, I'm talking about the current, "modern" incarnation of the show, currently in season 3 in the UK (and, quite obviously, on the intarwebs). I have not seen any of the old series and frankly I'm not sure I would like to right now.

So why do I like it this much, having no background knowledge of the show's tradition? For one thing, because it's British. No, really. There's something about British TV, when compared to American, that makes it fresh somehow. Maybe that's simply because it gives you a different experience than what you're used to. (Note that I don't watch that much British TV at all, otherwise I suppose that effect would be gone.) It's low budget, unavoidably tacky, cheesy--and yet all that makes it appealing. It's almost like theater; you don't expect great visuals and you know you will have to use your own imagination and suspension of disbelief to piece it all together. All this means that we focus instead on the story, the main asset being the writing. And what I like so much about the show is that the writers are able to take all of the most conventional, old-school, old-fashioned and nowadays unused science fiction themes and motifs--the kind of themes that just shouldn't work in year 2007 without coming off as downright ludicrous--they pay homage to them (and, obviously, to the old Doctor Who series), they process them and what comes out is a thoroughly entertaining experience of the kind you don't really see on TV anymore, with a specific kind of atmosphere that is really incredibly enjoyable. I really love the fact that the most fearsome foes, like the Daleks and Cybermen, have barely changed in design from the old days, so now they look like they belong nowhere near 21st-century science fiction. Tacky, cheap and pretty hilarious-looking under different circumstances, they still don't spoil the show, which holds together and doesn't for one moment become it's own parody. And that's good stuff, I say.

I've already written here before that I'm a big fan of Battlestar Galactica (even if it really did have its downs in Season 3). So if BFG is one extreme of what a cool sci-fi show can be--this serious, layered space drama--then Doctor Who lies at the exact opposite end of the spectrum, where fun, adventure and British accents are what keeps you watching.

Currently I'm just finishing catching up, with the last two episodes of Season 3 to go before I'm up to date and ready for the next one, which should be available on the net tomorrow, if I'm not mistaken. I've also just started watching the more adult-themed Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, and I suppose I'll say a few words about it in the future as well. Over and out.

Saturday, June 16

The nerd cute

One question before we start. Does anyone know what the geeky, strictly non-gay equivalent of "cute" should be? Well I don't, but it would sure come in handy right now. Here's why.

Just yesterday I received a package from my good long-time friend Lex Mortis from the Netherlands. He was getting rid of hardware from his old PC and was kind enough to send me some of the items, since sadly they turned out to be slightly better than the stuff I have. (Yes, I know, I desperately need an upgrade. I'm holding out till DX10 is a must though.) So anyway, the hardware--a Radeon 9800 (or 9600; opinions differ, hehe) video card, a SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 sound card and a BenQ DVD burner--came with little stickers I wasn't expecting. Here they are.

(click to embiggen)

the sound card

the video card

the DVD burner

Well this made me chuckle, so thanks, man! Also, I've realized how absolutely hermetic nerdy humor is. Anyone brave enough to analize this and explain to a lay person why exactly it's supposed to be funny? I'll pass.

Thursday, June 7

Let's recap

What? Four months? No way... Oh, wait.

So here in short are just a few things I didn't write about on the blog over that period, in no particular order:
  • 6 months of playing Wii (with Mario Strikers Charged hitting my collection just last week)
  • finally starting exploring GameCube capabilities (Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader being the first game I'm trying out)
  • getting an R4DS flash cart for my DS, which let me start exploring the wonderful world of homebrew (Comic Book DS for the win), and yes, also being able to try out loads and loads of games and still ending up playing only a few
  • doing a World of Warcraft trial and what I thought about it
  • doing a Dungeons and Dragons Online trial and what I thought about it
  • ending up getting hooked on Guild Wars again and, uhm, what I think about it, I guess
  • growing somewhat dissatisfied with PC gaming on a rather old rig and contemplating upgrading to a new computer
  • contemplating getting an Xbox 360 as an alternative to an all-new PC rig
  • whatever random stuff that didn't make the above list.

And there you have it. Now that I'm up to date, maybe I can actually start blogging again. Heh, wishful thinking.

Thursday, February 8

Blood, sweat and old PCs

Old computers, right? Garrrgh... See, I just came back from my girlfriend's appartment, where I tried to work magic with her old desktop PC while she's at work. How old? Forty-something megs of RAM kind of old, that's how old. So why would anyone... and so on, right? After all she has the laptop. Yeah, about that. The laptop itself also isn't a new thing, to put it mildly. It's actually my mom's laptop from before she got herself a new one a year ago or so. The old laptop which she actually bought second-hand on Allegro (the Polish equivalent of eBay, still much larger than the actual, as a matter of fact). You gettin' the vibe yet?

So the laptop took quite a bit of fussing around to get the Internet working on it. But I screwed up, I admit, and while installing Windows 98, I forgot to install the Polish character set and all that. Now my girlfriend needs to get a move on with her master's thesis but she can't use the laptop and now you know why. And I'd just rather not try the whole installation procedure again for the time being. Enter the grandma PC. My girlfriend came up with the idea I reanimate it and put it on her kitchen table as a typewriter, essentially, for as long as she needs to work on the thesis, while the laptop is going to remains something of an Internet terminal, if you will. Now the desktop PC -- whose age by now you have probably quite accurately guesstimated -- isn't just slow. Ohnono, that wouldn't be exciting, would it? Especially since I only wanted it to run Microsoft Word and that's it. So in addition to being slow, its Win98 spurts out all sorts of funky errors when I try to access anything remotely related to configuration, it corrupts documents saved to My Documents (but not elsewhere), its hard drive is faulty, it stalls at random moments, all of that jazz.

So I thought, Well maybe I'd just give the disk a good old format treatment, install a fresh copy of Win98, install Word 2000 and leave it at that. That's why I went over to my girlfriend's place while she was away, armed with a Windows 98 CD and an Office 2000 CD, bent on making that thing work. First surprise: the BIOS haven't even heard of booting from a CD. Joy. So I think, Ok, let's try running the setup from the existing Windows installation. Think again. The computer's CD drive doesn't read CD-Rs. At that point I sort of gave up. I decided I don't have enough willpower to go back home (even though it's just across the street), open up my PC, take out one of my DVD drives (which, for all I know, might not even work on the old one), carry it over to my girlfriend's place, open up the old PC, put in the drive, install Windows (maybe), take the drive out again, bring it back to my place and put it back in my PC. No way.

So what I ended up doing was tidying up the existing Windows installation as well as I could, clean the desktop, create a folder on the desktop called My New Documents (for if you saved any Word document in the real My Documents folder, closed it and tried to reopen it from Word -- the only possibility, if you recall, since you can't open My Documents folder itself -- it came out all messed up), and write (as in, with a pen on a piece of paper) a point-by-point operating manual for the Typewriter Formerly Known As Old Generation PC, with all the don'ts heavily emphasized.

The list of dos and don'ts had this as one of the points: "Back up your work on a floppy (or better two) as often as you can". And with that I put on my coat and went floppy shopping to a nearby mall. (It also gave me a good excuse to go eat a fish burger, as I had been hungry since getting up at 6 am.) And this was the best part of the experience, I tell ya. I felt so old school. I mean dude. You know, I can't remember when was the last time I bought a box of floppies -- nor when I used a floppy, for that matter. I'm almost glad I bought some new ones before they finally disappear off the face of Earth.

So, old PCs suck royally, but at least they can give you a nostalgic experience. Now if only the somewhat reanimated PC can give my girlfriend some a word-processing experience.

Wednesday, February 7

Ain't nothing like clean-up

Every now and then comes a time when you have to reinstall your XP. Wish it wasn't the case -- and maybe some day I'll manage to protect myself from all sorts of crap and be careful enough not to stuff my system with junk to boot -- but the way things are now, it's not very surprising that sooner or later (luckily, it's usually later) it's necessary to finally wipe it all off. Now, obviously it's a nuisance, obviously no matter how well you prepare yourself beforehand and how much attention you put into backing up all important data, files, settings and whatnot, you end up losing something you just forgot about and some other things that theoretically should work fine after the format just don't wanna and you have to go through the long and laborious process of configuring your foobar2000 just the way you liked it before the reinstall. But! The thing that never ceases to surprise me is... how much I like that. No, really. I'm by no means an order freak but still, once a certain critical mass of mess ("mass of mess", hehe) accumulates -- be it computers or real life -- I get a serious kick out of getting rid of stuff, organizing things, putting them in the right places, making it all nice and tidy... so that finally I can admire the new (or, renewed) Quality with a capital Q. It just feels good. And same goes for reinstalling XP. Suddenly all just works fast, suddenly I have no mess in my Start menu, suddenly I have a nice new WindowBlinds skin, new slick wallpaper, fresh set of ObjectDock icons. Suddenly I find myself purging my apps partition out of programs I haven't used for years. Suddenly I find myself organizing my Opera bookmarks. And please take my word for it: I'm no order freak. Really. But it just makes me feel good, and every now and then a computer user simply deserves to feel good, doesn't he? Well, at least until it all goes back to normal.  

Monday, January 22

Stuff them ears!

So I had the bright idea last night to start looking for new earbuds for my trusty Creative Zen Touch. After a good year and a bit of using the player, the pack-in earbuds (not that horribly bad themselves, incidentally) just started giving up on me. (By the way, don't even ask what made me think of my mp3 player's earbuds while sitting at my computer at night.) Still last night I did some research online... and guess what, as of today I am a proud owner of a Sennheiser CX 300 set. Yeah, I still can't understand how I managed to get myself to pay 159 zlotys (that's aroud 40 euros or 53 dollars) for a set of earbuds, and not to mention -- just a day after I initially thought of getting one (pretty unusual for someone like me)... but there you go. Of course I could just say I'm a gadget freak and I live for getting new things. Now that would about explain everything, right?

Anyway, this is the first time ever I own a set of those freaky-deaky earbuds that fit right in your ear canal. I admit it's a little weird at first (not to mention I still have this funny, hard-to-describe feeling in my right ear as I write these words, some 30 minutes after removing the earbuds) but I suppose -- or at least hope! -- this will in fact go away. I can already sense this is going to grow on me as I use the set, until I would be able to go back to "normal" earbuds. The tricky thing about using canalphones (as I've just found they are called -- thank you Wikipedia) is that you won't get practically any bass unless the silicone cushions (three different sizes included) don't sit tightly inside your ear canal. That's why at first I was like, "Wait as second, I paid 160 zlotys for THIS?" Turns out I didn't stick the earbuds deep enough. So yeah, it is a little weird and it feels a little... uhm, intrusive on your body, so to speak. Especially if you're a person who doesn't like having things stuck in their ears. (Ok, that's sounded creepy... Are there any people who like that?) Still, when used right, my new earbuds deliver a sound quality to be reckoned with. Oh gawd, I sound like a walking sponsored article.

Oh, and while I was writing this, I realized I just have to plug the new earbuds into my DS and play some Meteos that way. Ooh goodie goodie.