Monday, November 23, 2009

A Bug? Or simply a lack of an expected feature?

Something really bugging me about Allods Online is being unable to Invert the Mouse's Y-Axis.

I've been playing video games for 30 years. I played Wolfenstein 3D when it came out (which isn't really a 3D game), and Doom (which was 3D) and I always, and I mean always Invert my Mouse's Y-Axis to play any game using either a First Person-view or a 3rd Person over-the-shoulder view (except Wolf which didn't feature Mouselook because it wasn't a 3D game).

Allods Online has an option allowing the Player to Invert the Mouse's buttons. I guess it's catering to left-handed players, which is really bizarre now that I think about it because there's probably a greater number of players who prefer Pilot Controls in their FPV-type game than there are left-handed players who would want to flip the Mouse's Left & Right button functions.

My question is this: Is the absence of a means to Invert the Mouse's Y-Axis a Bug? Or simply a lack of an expected feature?

My argument is it's a Bug. Why? Well what makes a bug? It's being able to do something you shouldn't be able to do, or not being able to do something you should, right?

Well, I should be able to Invert the Mouse's Y-Axis...but I can't. And IMO that makes it a Bug.

Not only is it a Bug, but it's a game-breaking bug for folks like me who are very, very, very accustomed to using Pilot Controls with Mouselook. It's game-breaking because being unable to Invert the Mouse's Y-Axis means I cannot play Allods Online. Well I can, but I cannot enjoy it.

Imagine asking a left-hander to play a sport right-handed. He can do it. He won't enjoy it, he won't be very good at it, but he can do it. That's what playing with "Standard" controls is like for someone accustomed to Inverted controls. We can do it, but we don't enjoy it as we're constantly second-guessing ourselves.

So, what's your opinion? Is the absence of a feature that you'll find in pretty much any game which features either a First Person or 3rd Person over-the-shoulder view simply a lack of an expected feature? Or when it's practically an industry standard to include a certain feature, could the lack of said feature actually be considered a Bug?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

DIY - The Closet

Our walk-in closet has two sides (sort of). In the middle of the back wall is a narrow set of shelves, with two rods for hanging clothes set on either side, like so:

(as always, pictures can be clicked to view at full size)

When we moved in I got the right hand side, as evidenced by my sword and electric guitar (the box) sitting on the top shelf, while Liz got the left side. Not because she's shorter (which she is, but only by a couple of inches) but because the left side had two rods higher up, and as Liz has long dresses and skirts she needed the extra height. The lower rod on the left looks different from the two rods above it because it is; it's an expandable metal rod I installed when the two rods weren't enough for all of Liz's clothes.

For some time now Liz had been asking me if I could move her top rods up higher - to the same level as mine on the right - because her blouses and shirts were touching the bottom rod I'd installed, and because her dresses and skirts on the far left (already removed from the above picture) were sitting on the boxes we had on the floor of the closet and getting creased.

In my typical self-confident manner I looked at how the rods & shelves had been installed and said, "Sure, I can do that."

But it wasn't until this morning, when we removed most of the clothes from the closet and I got a really good look at the job ahead of me, that I wondered if I really could do it, because a few things concerned me.

The frame in the corner.
Could I take it out without destroying it. Could I get any of this apart intact? And if I did, what was the wall like underneath? Was it painted? Or had the shelves been installed before the painters came through? How were the shelves attached to the wall? Would I tear off chunks of dry wall when I pried them off?

There was only one way to find out :)

The first thing to come off was the left-most shelf and it came off in one piece, for the most part. The problem was the shelf had been secured to the frame by brad nails which rather than coming out with the shelf, tore through the flimsy particle board and remained embedded in the frame.
You can see several of the brads sticking up from the horizontal frame, as well as the damage rent upon the shelf by said brads. At least the damage was minimal and the shelf was definitely in reusable condition. That small vertical piece of wood with the unpainted patch at the bottom was next to come off.
It was attached to the wall by brads (in fact the entire shelf was held together by them) which this time I was happy to see came out with the piece of particle board, rather than tearing through and remaining in the wall, like the brad in the frame above it.

The corner frame was next, the one providing additional support to the shelves. I realized there was no way to remove it in one piece so it had to come apart in pieces. The frame behind it, the one supporting the first shelf I'd removed, also came out, and I finally got to see the condition of the wall behind it. It actually wasn't too bad. It was a little dirty but at least it was painted.
The last piece of frame came off equally easy and while many of the brads had torn through the two shelves, none of the brads remained in the wall or studs; they all came out with the frame.

And then we were halfway there.

I rebuilt the shelves in the reverse order, so the last piece of frame to come off was the first piece to go back on, this time several inches higher up the wall.
The second piece of frame is beneath the first, waiting its turn to be re-attached to the wall.

Along with the second frame I rebuilt the box frame in the corner. It didn't go together quite as well as it had been originally but it was good enough for government work.

Coincidentally I work for the government, but in a desk job. The marks on the wall below the frame show how high up it's been repositioned. With the frame in place the rest of the job was as easy-as-pie, in fact the only thing left to go back on was the shelves.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.
There's a few gaps where the boards don't quite fit together as snug as they could, but some spakfilla and a coat of paint should solve that problem.
Then there's a couple of holes that will need a lot of spakfilla. This one is the biggest.
The two smaller holes to the right are brads (I re-used everything, brads included) that I nailed through from the other side in order to help support the shelf. I hammered them in at an angle, but as they went in they flattened out and came through the bottom of the shelf. They're still supporting it but I'm inclined to get a narrow strip of wood and nail it in place beneath the shelf as I'm not terribly happy with that shelf being supported in that manner.

Overall though, the end result is not too bad.
I'm reasonably happy with it, but more importantly, the wife is, and that's almost more important than my happiness, because if the wife is happy I'm happy :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'M IN !!!

Yes, that makes me happy :)


It looks good but turning/rotation is not as smooth as I'd like. No, it's smooth, it's's like the Playstation. IMO Sony doesn't do a good job with graphical rotation of the landscape around your character. Nintendo do, and Blizzard got it with WoW, but there's something just a little off with the way the camera and your avatar rotates.

Combat (at least for now, and all I played was the trio of fuzzy critters and their pink Pet Squirrel) seems to be Turn-based moves inserted into Real-Time combat. I have a base attack but it comes with a cooldown timer, as do all of my other spells. On the plus side, I don't seem to run out of Mana...I'm not even sure I have Mana. The downside? I seem to be watching my Hotbar a lot, and I mean A LOT! so I can press the key for the skill which just finished its Cooldown. It feels very whack-a-mole'ish.

The one thing I really didn't like was not being able to Invert the Mouse's Y-axis. I play all of my games with quasi-FPS PoVs (such as the GTA series and MMOs) like I play my actual FPS games, that is with Pilot controls for Mouselook. When I push forward on the Mouse I expect my camera's PoV to go down or "dive", and when I pull back on the Mouse I expect my PoV to go up or "climb". I've been playing this way for 15+ years so it's second nature to me, it's one of the first things I notice and one of the first settings I want to change. Currently there is no way to Invert the Mouse's Y-axis and it feels very awkward to be restricted to this. I can play with Mouselook operating this way, but I'd rather not. Oddly enough there is an option to Invert (Flip) the Mouse buttons, but not an option to Invert the Y-axis.

If you want in the Closed Beta is still open (an open Closed Beta?) for another week and it's been just a couple of days since I put in for a Beta Key. Oh, wait, not it hasn't. I put in for a Beta Key Friday last week when I posted the link to Massively's review, and I got my Beta Key yesterday. That's about a 5-day turnaround so if you apply for a Beta Key today you might get one by Monday (or not, or maybe earlier) giving you just a few days to try the game for yourself.

I also downloaded the Warhammer Online client as it now has a Trial very similar to that of Wizard 101, that is, a permanent, never-ending Trial but with access to low-level content only. But that's okay with me. There's a lot of characters and classes to try out in WHO (or WAR, or whatever its acronym is) so that will keep me busy for a while, and lest we forget, there's still DDO :)

I am soooo going to Hell

I've been in charge of the office coffee fund for a long time now, probably for 7 years or so. Lately (actually ever since our satellite office merged with the Main Office three years ago) I've felt we've been steadily losing money, and recently we've really been in dire straits. We've barely been able to pay our supplier (we have a Keurig machine and I buy K-Cups in bulk from a local supplier), let alone buy creamer, sugar, etc.

In conjunction with the Keurig machine we also have a drip filter pot, so every morning I'll brew a pot of coffee then some time during the morning I'll make a second pot. The profit margin on the pot should be quite high, and when combined with the 25¢ profit margin per cup from the Keurig machine we should be practically swimming in money, but lately, after paying our supplier, I've barely had enough money to buy supplies so I've been using the Just In Time inventory method.

Today I brewed a pot of coffee and I noticed the tub was getting very low. Once again we have just enough money to pay our supplier with just enough left over to buy a couple of tubs of creamer & sugar, but not enough to shell out $10 for a new tub of Folgers. In my 7 years managing the coffee fund this is practically unheard of.

When our two offices merged I inherited all of the Main Office's coffee supplies, and this included two tins of Folgers Decaf, one of which was still sealed and had remained so until this very day.

As I prepared this morning's pot and noticed the coffee was getting low my first thought was "if it runs out it runs out, and that's it." But then I looked up at this green tin of Folgers Decaf that had been sitting on the shelf for 3 years, and then I looked at the almost empty tub of Folgers in my hands. Then I looked at the label and I saw the tub held (when full) 48oz of coffee. I looked at the label on the yet-to-be opened tin of decaf; it allegedly held 39oz of coffee. I looked at the small amount of coffee still remaining in the tub. Was it 8oz of coffee? Was it more? Or less? There was really only one way to find out.

In one of the drawers I found a can opener (thank Orion for well stocked break rooms) and I proceeded to open the tin of Decaf. While it had been sitting there for 3 years (and Lord only knows how long before the merge), it was still sealed, and that's sealed in a tin, mind you, not one of those foil bags. So I'm pretty sure that even though it's 3+ years old, it's still fresh...sort of. Sort of fresh, that is, not sort of sure. I'm sure it's sort of fresh. Or is that still the same thing as 'sort of sure it's fresh'?

The can opener didn't work properly and it seemed to take forever to get the tin open. Fortunately I start work at 6am and I'd got in early this morning so my chances of being interrupted mid-mission were slim to none. But there were a couple of other people that get in this early, and I'd already seen them walking to their desks as I'd made my way to the break room, and one of them usually meets me in the break room around this come on, can opener! I finally got the tin open and began pouring the decaf into the tub. It all fit, just, but a couple of taps on the counter packed the grounds together and settled them down to a less-than-suspicious level. Then I buried the green decaf tin in one of the recycling bins, way down deep, under all the other cans & bottles. Mission accomplished!

Yesterday we were down to our last carton of sugar, we were completely out of creamer, and we were almost out of coffee. Last night I bought some more creamer & sugar but couldn't afford coffee (not if I wanted to pay our supplier).

Today we have sugar, creamer, and most importantly, we have coffee. Decaf still has some caffeine so it still counts as coffee. It does, too!

I've "pulled a Carol" and switched the office coffee to decaf.

I am soooo going to Hell.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Police, small town vs big town

Oddly enough, despite what I was originally going to write, there's not a huge difference between the two. You get good cops in both bunches, you get bad apples in both bunches. I think there's a bigger difference in small town versus big city cops, but even then you still get the same make-up. You get power tripping cops in small towns just as you get nice cops willing to lend a hand in big towns.

Growing up in a small country town in Australia my experience with the police was probably different to that of my American "small town" counterpart, but probably also not dramatically different. I think the big difference between Australia and the U.S., at least small town different (and maybe it's changed from 20 years ago, too), was how you handled the cop pulling you over.

Here, you turn off the ignition, wind down the window (maybe just a little if you're overly cautious), place your hands on the steering wheel in plain view then wait for the cop to approach your car.

In Australia, my father taught me to leave the car and meet the cop halfway, between the cars, on neutral ground so to speak. I don't know if this was a country thing, or a family thing, but I had no problem doing that the one time a Cop actually pulled me over in Australia. Of course that same act also almost got my uncle shot when he did that here in the U.S. when he got pulled over for speeding. (Being an international businessman with a lead foot that was something that happened to him with some frequency.) With his hand ready to draw his pistol the cop apparently ordered my uncle to return to his car and put his hands on the steering wheel. My uncle wisely complied.

Before we were married my wife-to-be and I got lost visiting friends in Oakland. I convinced Liz to pull up on the Freeway behind a CHP Officer writing a ticket, and before she knew what I was about to do (she probably thought I'd wave the officer over to the car) I had the door open and was out of the car, strolling along the Freeway shoulder and up to the officer.

"Good afternoon, sir," I said, by way of greeting (or something similar, although I don't think I'd yet adopted the American practice of calling everyone 'sir'.) "Are you almost finished here? We're a little lost."

The Chippie was either brand new on the Force, or just stunned that someone would actually pull up behind him, get out of their car, and ask him for directions, because he made no attempt to shoot me. He replied that he was almost done and requested that I return to our car, which I did (and I suspect Liz probably chewed me out, I can't remember :D) and when he was finished writing his ticket he came over and helped us on our way.

A year or so later we were pulled over when the officer behind us noticed our vehicle's registration sticker was overdue. I knew I'd put the new sticker on because I'd already expressed my doubts to Liz about the safety of such a system. In Australia your rego sticker goes on the inside of your car's windshield, whereas here in the U.S. it just gets stuck on your rear license plate, exposed to the elements...and the first tea leaf to come along that wants a registration sticker, and that's what had happened to us. Some bastich had peeled the sticker off. (Or it blew off in the wind, but that's doubtful.) I forget exactly what I said but I attracted the officer's attention and he leaned over to peer in at me sitting in the passenger seat, so I told him that I'd just put the new sticker on last week. He not only didn't write a ticket for not displaying our registration sticker (although we did have the current papers in the glove box) he clued me in to taking my knife and making several slices across the sticker, jig-sawing it so no thief in their right mind would try to peel it off because all they'd get would be tiny triangular pieces.

Of course we've also been pulled over a couple of times and received tickets, which we've deserved for the most part. The one I feel we didn't deserve was what I'll call a "Tailgate Trap".

The bike cop was parked on the median strip on the far side of the traffic light-controlled intersection. The light would go green and everyone would accelerate through the intersection, which crossed a 4-lane (each way) Highway with two lanes in the middle for turning traffic, so we're talking a 10-lane wide highway. The first cars would get to the other side, see the bike cop, and do what practically everyone does when they see a cop; they'd hit their brakes and slow down so the cars behind them would bunch up for no reason other than there being a bike cop sitting in the middle of the road...a bike cop who promptly pulled the last vehicle over and ticketed them (us) for tail gating. After he wrote our ticket I watched as he rode back to the intersection and parked in exactly the same spot. If they have ticket quotas (and I'm not saying they do) I'm sure he wrote his entire month's quota of tickets that day.

Many years ago, a friend and I used to ride into town on a Sunday afternoon, ride down the alley, and climb the fence into the back of the Newsagency (the very one where I'd later find myself employed) where we'd go through their dumpster looking for magazines with no covers. (I would later learn that while some magazines went back to the publisher in their entirety, other publishers required nothing more than the cover to issue credit.) Playboy and Penthouse were always top on the list but we also kept an eye out for computer magazines. On this occasion we were preparing to climb over the fence when a voice asked us what we were doing. How a V8 can creep up on you without you hearing it I have no idea. We turned around and it's a cop car. My friend quickly tells the driver we were there because he needed to take a piss. Like a cop, who is trained to be suspicious about anyone not in uniform, was going to buy that.

Now me? I was brought up that when you get busted you're better off telling the truth or you'll only make it worse for yourself, so I told my friend not to lie then turned to the cop and told him we were planning to climb over the fence to look for Playboy magazines.

My friend chimed in again. He just couldn't shut up. "He wanted to look for pornos," he says, "I'm just after computer magazines." There's petty theft and robbery, and there's grand theft auto and grand larceny (& others). But when you're stealing magazines it doesn't matter whether it's Playboy, Penthouse, or PC Gamer, it's still stealing. Despite his protests I was sure my friend was not getting on the cop's good side.

I don't know if there are similar programs here in the U.S. but back home you could take your bike into a Police Station and they'd take out their little tools, look up the latest number in their little book, then stamp the appropriate number into the bottom of the frame of your bike & record your particulars in their little book. Then if your bike ever got stolen or turned up at the Cop Shop, they could see if it had one of these numbers stamped in the frame and identify the owner. My friend and I had both just got new bikes a few weeks before and we'd had them "registered" at the Cop Shop, so when the Cop asked if they were our bikes (if we were prepared to steal magazines we'd probably steal bikes, it's a logical assumption...and true, sort of ;) so it was a simple matter to show the Cop the numbers on our bikes and for him to ID us. After receiving a stern warning we were sent on our way, and off we rode, arguing over the semantics of lying and the difference between stealing PC Gamer and Playboy.

A few years later while at the local video arcade my neighbour rode up on what I knew was a stolen bicycle. I was in the office when he came inside so I had my friend, who also worked there, keep an eye on him while I slipped outside, jumped on the stolen bike and promptly rode it around to the police station. Unlike my previous encounter with the police, this time I was not averse to lying to the Cops, and I told them I'd "found" the bike down by the river. I gave them my name & number in the event that nobody claimed it, but they never called me back so I knew it must have found its way back to its rightful owner. I did tell my parents what I'd done and they thought it was hilarious. My Mum even got to play dumb when my neighbour's Mum told her about his bike being "stolen". Mum asked if he'd gone to the police, and she said my neighbour's Mum Um'd and Ah'd before saying he couldn't do that as it wasn't actually his bike. Mum said she found it very hard to keep a straight face for the rest of their conversation.

Dad used to love to drink so Mum, who was not a big drinker, was often the designated driver while Dad got plastered. Driving home from one family gathering we got pulled over at a Random Breath Testing station. The cop asked Mum if she'd been drinking and Mum said No. Dad leaned over and practically giggled as he said, "But I have!" He was in great humor and the Cop smiled, too. He was probably very happy to see the drunk guy in the passenger seat and not behind the wheel. Mum had to blow into the bag anyway but she got the all clear then we were sent on our way, but Mum was not happy with Dad. Years later Liz would be pulled over and breathalyzed while I got to recreate yesteryear's scene from the passenger seat. Like Mum, Liz was not too happy with me, either. What can I say? Like father, like son.

When I worked for the Newsagency, the same one my friend and I used to raid for coverless magazine, my alarm was set for 3am, I'd be at the shop by 4, and when 9 o'clock rolled around it was quitting time and the rest of the day was my own. Customers just starting their day were baffled that I could greet them so cheerfully at 8:30 in the morning. When I'd explain that I'd already been up for 5 hours they'd ask how on earth I could get up that early. I'd point out what a glorious day it was outside and how in half an hour I'd be heading out to enjoy it, maybe play a round of golf, or even hit the beach. For some reason they weren't happy with this explanation, and they'd leave the shop even grumpier than when they came in. I guess some people just aren't 'morning people'.

My first duty at the shop was not to open up, but to receive and count the fresh-off-the-truck bundles of newspapers, then make up & deliver the order for the local power station. Because the newspapers were always dropped off at the front of the store I'd always pull up at the front to make it easier to load the papers into my car, and I'd parallel park to facilitate loading, even though the space were marked for angle parking.

One morning I was inside when I noticed a light outside, and no, it wasn't a UFO; it was a Police car, pulled up behind my parallel-parked car.

Thinking the cops may have thought the car was stolen and abandoned I ran outside to let them know the car was mine, and found myself arguing with the cop over parallel parking in angle parking spots at 4 o'clock in the morning. As far as the cop was concerned it didn't matter what time of the day (or night) it was; the spots were clearly marked for angle parking and I was parallel parked.

"It's 4 o'clock in the morning," I told him. "There's no other cars around."

"But it's angle parking."

"I'm only parking for a few minute and it's easier to load the papers this way."

"But it's angle parking."

I recalled a friend getting busted for Public Indecency (& whatever the formal charge is that equates to "Pissing off a Cop by being a smart arse and talking back to him") when he'd taken a leak on someone's lawn while staggering home at 4 o'clock in the morning. When the cop had asked the almost obligatory "What do you think would happen if everyone did this?" my friend, a professional Gardener & Groundskeeper, had replied, "Well, speaking from a professional point of view, the excessive amounts of nitrates would kill the lawn." For answering the Cop's question he got to spend the rest of his night in jail.

"So what if everyone parked like this?" the Cop asked me.

"It's 4 o'clock in the morning," I argued with him, "there IS nobody else. If there were, I'd have angle parked."

I don't know how many times we went back & forth but we wasted far more time than if he had just said, "Don't do it again," and let me go on my way (which he eventually did anyway after ordering me to re-park correctly). Or yes, I'll admit, if I'd just said, "You're right. I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

But it was 4 o'clock in the morning! I was the only car there!

But it's angle parking.

My final encounter with the police was when I was house sitting for a friend who lived in one of the better parts of town. Driving to work from his house I would drive down a very long straight road, and most mornings you would find me doing a little more than the posted 60kph (35mph) speed limit.

On this particular morning a car followed me out of my friend's neighbourhood. When I turned onto this long road he followed me and that was when a little voice inside me said "That's a cop."

I accelerated to just shy of 60kph and the car stayed right behind me but I wasn't going to go over the speed limit. I got to the end of the road, signaled correctly, and made the turn...and the car stayed with me. I was about two blocks from the Newsagency when flashing blue lights lit up my car from behind and finally confirmed my suspicions.

I pulled over and the cop pulled up behind me, and I did what you do NOT do here in the States.

I opened my door, hopped out, and walked back towards the cop car.

The passenger door opened and a cop got out and met me in the space between our cars.

"I'm on my way to work," I said to him, pointing down the road, "I just had two blocks to go!"

"And you almost made it," the cop said with good humor.

There was no ordering me at gun point to get back into my car. No hostilities. Just a cop and a citizen having a chat at 4 o'clock in the morning on the side of the road.

While following me down that long straight road they'd run my plates and learned that I did not live in that neighbourhood, nor did I appear to be going home, so they'd pulled me over to check me out. The cop ran my driver's license, everything checked out, and with no further reason to stick around we wished each other a good day and went our separate ways.

But that was 20 years ago, in a small country town. I suspect thing are a lot different now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Allodds online

Yes, it looks a lot like WoW, but I'm not complaining about that. This video was taken from Massively's website/review.

Is it just me?

Am I just out of touch? I don't watch the news much because it's mostly doom & gloom and I really don't need to see an hour of bad news right before going to bed. Instead I rely on the TV in the bus, a discarded newspaper, my coworkers, or my mate who has his finger on the political pulse of the country (because that's his job).

But it seems to me that the current regime is a lot more of a one-man show than the last gig. Of course maybe that's because the last front man was a bit of a cowboy. He made for great TV, especially Late Night whose writers really loved him, but you also got to see and hear a lot about Cheney, Condy, and the rest of the team.

With the current group I'm seeing a lot of their front man but I hardly ever see anything from Biden or Hillary. I do see Hillary occasionally, but man! What has Biden been doing? Is he back packing through Pakistan trying to find Osama? Where is he? And who else is there? It's almost as if there's nobody on the team but the Big O.

But maybe the ubiquitous "they" like it that way. Maybe Obama is being set up to succeed, or fail, all on his own, which is smart politics if you ask me (and even if you don't).

If it turns out Obama is a success, his team will come out of the wood work and say, "That's our boy!" (Is it racist to use the term "That's our boy!" to refer to our black President, even when "That's my/our boy!" is a well known term of endearment with no racial connotations?)

And if he fails they'll still rear their heads - this time in mock horror - as they exclaim, "You did what?"

They'll either ride his coat tails to victory, or wash their hands of him, and if you've taken the fast track to the top, you really shouldn't be surprised when the ride down the other side is even faster still.