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Monday, July 31, 2017

DCUO: The Game Has Changed

If you've ever checked out my blog, you'll know that the one game I've been loyal to and have played for years is DC Universe Online.  I've been a player for 4 of the game's 5 year existence and I still have fun playing it.  I've played through tons of changes, added content, various leagues, etc.  Well this month, to quote the Joker, DCUO decided to "shake things up a little".

Introducing the stats revamp and let me tell you, it have changed the way people play this game SIGNIFICANTLY.  Check this out:


Now I've only had a chance to play with my main toon (as I usually do) and I've gone through the whole new stat redistribution so I'm going to try to take this piece by piece.

New Player Stats

The biggie here is the removal of the Combat Rating Differential.  How the game used to work is that your gear (and subsequently the CR you obtain by getting better gear) greatly affected how powerful your character was.  Gear is still important now, but with the CR Differential removed it's not as important as it used to be.  You need the higher CR to access the newer chapters of the game, but while you might qualify to enter content based on your CR you may find you might not quite be ready to actually play it.  More on that later.

New Skill Tree

THIS is where it gets really interesting.  In the previous iteration of the game your skill tree was tied directly to the weapons tree.  You used to put skill points into weapons just to unlock power buffs. Well that's gone now.  The weapons tree and the skills tree is now separate.  So that means you don't have to invest skill points into weapons you have no intention of using (you will have to though if you're focused on collecting styles for different weapons).  The skill tree now gives you a bit of focus and it's now a bit simpler.  It pretty much guides you to invest in skill trees based on your role.  It's simplified mostly for healers, controllers and tanks.  With DPS though it takes a bit of thought.  You have the options of focusing on your weapon, your superpowers or forming a balance between them. My healer has a DPS build and I chose a weapon focus (because controllers are really struggling now with their new role).  What I've found is while my DPS was pretty weak with the specs I had before the revamp, my new guy is kinda badass.  Of course, this all means that skill points are where it's at right now and the best players will be the ones with the most skill points.  Skill points were important before but now they're pretty much EVERYTHING.  I think the game has moved toward making sure people really go after those feats.  One of the first things I did when I saw my skill points needed to be reassigned was go after two race feats that I haven't attempted in years.  I actually got them!  LOL!

New Power Tree

More big changes here.  Playing the game from level 1 to level 30 no longer earns you power points which were necessary to assign powers for your character.  That's been replaces with a power tree that unlocks based on game progression.  Iconic powers used to cost one of those precious power points but now they're all in the skill tree.  Daybreak has been doing a lot of tweaking with the 1-30 mechanics before the revamp because they were trying to give new players a more rewarding intro to the game.  Hopefully this does it.  I'm kinda bummed that the weapon mastery got nerfed a bit though.

New NPC Stats

Another biggie.  It pretty much means that NPC progression is on par with your own.  As a direct result, NPCs from earlier content are no longer wimps to higher level character.  I get the feeling that the game devs looked at how the population of high level characters affected gameplay for lower level characters and decided that they really needed to limit the number of people getting "carried". I know up until now a lot lower level players have gotten undeserved feats as a result of this.  That said, here is where the recommended CR might not mean you're at the right level to complete the content.  If you were a player relying mostly on gear to get ahead you're going to have to go back to basics because as I said before, skill points are now everything.  This became obvious when I queued up for a raid I could easily do alone in 3 minutes before the revamp and it took the group a half hour (and that was with me doing more than 3 times the damage of the next best DPS in the raid).

Ability Balance & New Foundation

I wanna chalk this one up to minor issues and fixes.  Simply changing the powers to better mesh with the new revamp.

So are you playing?  What do YOU think of the stats revamp?  Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Fallen: Shows I Liked That Didn't Make The Cut

Heeeeey, it's my birthday!  So I thought I'd be a super buzzkill to myself and go over the shows I'm really sad to see go this year.  Sadly every season not every show makes it and I'm the poor dumb schlub that manages to fall in love with at least a few of them.  So here we go:

1. Son of Zorn (FOX)

I had the highest of hopes for this show.  It started slow, but how can you NOT get into a hybrid animated/live action show?  It was like a fantasy Roger Rabbit!  News that this was cancelled hit me hard because I thought for sure this show was going to make it.  Looking at the ratings though, I can see why it got dropped.  It opened strong but dipped to less than half of the viewership of the premiere episode before finally bottoming out.

2.  APB (FOX)

Another show I thought was going to make it. Imagine if instead of building the Iron Man suit, Tony Stark poured all that funding into the police force.  THIS was that show...and I was loving it. Unfortunately it followed the same trend as Zorn.  It did better in the ratings but staying consistent of half of its premiere viewership apparently wasn't enough to save this show.

3.  Imaginary Mary (ABC)

Yes, I can feel your judgey eyes on my blog all now.  Look when I saw this pop up in my Hulu notifications I thought it was going to suck for sure.  But hey, I thought why not give it a shot.  I ended up liking it.  Unfortunately it wasn't for the cute animated character or even the main character. Where this show shined was with the kids and how they related to their dad's new relationship.  That was where the real fun was.

4. Time After Time (ABC)
It's never fun when a show you like gets pulled early.  This show was yanked from under me after just 5 episodes.  There's 3 episodes in the can that will probably never see the light of day.  I was surprised to see how low the ratings was for this show.  It didn't even crack the level of the shows I've already mentioned.

5.  Powerless (NBC)
Dear sweet baby Zeus who art in Olypmus, WHY did we let NBC get its grubby mitts on another DC TV show?!  WHY!?!?!  Thanks to NBC our beloved Constantine is floating in the wind and our only hope for him is hopefully another guest spot on one of the CW shows next season.  But Powerless was a superhero show that didn't really focus too much on superheroes and maybe that was the problem.  Name dropping works pretty well on the Netflix hero shows but a hero is still the focus of the show.

So, just to break this down this show follows the mishaps of a Wayne Security R&D with their new director in the fictional Charm City. What threw me was that I kept tabs on the buzz around this show and the concept had changed dramatically.  Originally the show was about insurance adjusters who priced out damages cause by hero/villain activity.  I liked the original concept better.  To date, there are three unaired episodes.  Guess I should be glad it had a longer shelf life than Time After Time.

6. No Tomorrow (CW)
This was my token romantic comedy show this season and in typical fashion, canceled.  The story follows a woman looking for adventure and finds it in a free-spirit.  The only problem: The free-spirit is only a free-spirit because he believes that's a planet killing asteroid is on course to hit the Earth and he's making the best of the time he has left.  I liked the dynamic of the show where Evie (main character) kinda discovers herself, learns to go after what she wants and accepts Xavier (other main character) even though he believes they only have a limited time to live. The supporting characters actually have pretty good stories too.  The ratings were catastrophically low so I guess I can't be too surprised.

7. Man Seeking Woman (FX)
Sooo I don't have access to FX shows until after they hit Hulu.  I've watched and enjoyed the first two seasons of this show and while looking forward to watching the third, I didn't know this was canceled.  I can't really have an opinion based on this current season but sad to see it go.

Honorable Mention:  Bones
Bones concluded this season after 12 seasons and honestly, they could have stopped at 10.  Yep, this on isn't on the list because it was a welcome exit.  Oh I still watched every episode.  The problem was a villain named Pelant.  He was a REALLY good villain. So good in fact that the show felt wanting with a Big Bad.  After Pelant (not gonna spoil it), I feel the series was going downhill.  Oh and the exit of Sweets (movie project) and the intro of Aubrey (never liked him, never will) was kind of a big blow to the fans.  I think it was after this point that the supporting characters started to be more interesting than the main ones and that's always a recipe for cancellation.

Any of your shows kick the bucket this season?  Lemme know.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Traffic In St. Thomas

What you're looking at right here is just one of the many impossible traffic problems you're going to run into at some point if you live on St. Thomas.  This particular clusterfuck was cause by a pretty bad accident on the Waterfront stretch (apparently a car FLIPPED OVER).  I'm not even sure how people pull off these amazing feats of carelessness with such tiny roads, limited speeds and more potholes than you can play Whack-A-Mole with.

Somebody posted today just how terrible the situation is especially in the Waterfront vicinity.  We just finished Carnival so there were times where it was downright painful.  Now I'm not going to address Carnival traffic.  That's a special animal that the VI Carnival Committee has never seen fit to address (seriously guys, park and ride shuttling using open parking areas could have dropped that traffic to a third of what it was).  Let's take a look at the everyday problems that contribute to our bad traffic situation.

The Problems


1.  Lack of a Reliable Public Transit System

This problem starts way back when a private bus company named Mannassah was the lone mass transit system around.  Yes, PRIVATE.  People will tell you it's a good thing when private entities compete with governmental functions.  Normally that's true.  The problem here is THERE WAS NO GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTION related to public transit.  At some point Mannassah folded and VITRAN came into being.  Unfortunately everyone was too used to the inconsistent and often non-functioning bus system and decided it would be best to invest in personal transportation.  People did so in droves (pun intended).  A few years ago public transit was re-branded and overhauled but the problem remains and is actually getting worse.

2.  Too Many Bottlenecks

I can sum this up in two words: right turns.  Going East to West from the spot in the pic above, there are 4 places you can make a right turn.  Only 1 has its own "waiting lane".  The other 3 require oncoming traffic to stop and allow you to make that turn.  While 2 of those lights have right turn lights they're pretty much useless.  You still have to stop traffic in your lane and you have to hope there's space to turn in the oncoming lane.

3.  Governmental Scheduling

Public schools open at 7:30am and let out at 2:30pm.  Government offices are open from 8am to 5pm. Know this: There will be traffic from 7:30am to 9:00am and from 2:00pm to around 7pm.  Around the midpoint of those times are the worst.  This is assuming that there are no accidents, emergencies or breakdowns that limit mobility.  Alternate routes are few and far between.  By the time you're stuck in traffic it's too late to escape.

4.  Taxis and Tourism

Most cruise ship stays match the government schedule with some deviation of 30 minutes to an hour. And when cruise ships are here taxis are in full swing.  The operations at the docks are pretty smooth (I'm exaggerating since the traffic is kinda kept localized there).  It's when they hit the open roads that things start slowing down.  They tend to stop in irregular places so their riders can take pictures or crowd the attractions creating more bottlenecks.  They're biggest sin though is cruising Main Street and Waterfront looking for tourists to take back to the ship.  Taxis have tons of designated parking spaces they never seem to use because they're always trolling.

The Solutions?


1.  Step Up Public Transit

So we got a few new buses.  It's not enough.  Dollar safaris still need to operate to fill the gap and your chances of catching one of them are much greater than catching an actual bus.  I spent a week relying on public transportation when my car was in for repairs and I can tell you that catching a bus was near impossible.  They rarely show up and when they do they aren't going where you need to go (not that we'd ever know since there's no published bus route or schedule) or they pass you straight (I think there's like some kind of special dance you have to do to make them stop ;) ).

2.  Traffic Enforcement

Things that happen here on a regular basis: People run red lights...a lot, people don't stop at STOP signs, there's no order at all at 4 way intersections, Left Lane MUST Turn Left is taken as a suggestion, people turn left on red even if there's no sign allowing for left turns on red.  It's CHAOS. The cops pretty much don't care unless there's an accident.  I think if the police made an effort to patrol some of the spots that really hold up traffic it would go a long way to fixing the problem.

3.  Flex Time For Government Workers

So the VI Government has an Employee Handbook that hasn't been updated since 1994 and for the most part contains suggestions.  Here's what it says about work hours:
The standard workweek is five days. The standard workday is 8 hours. The standard work hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with one (1) hour for lunch, usually from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 P.M. Employees who are entitled to a break each morning and afternoon under law will be advised at what time the breaks are scheduled. 
Riveting.  Notice the only thing that's actually a legal mandate is the morning and afternoon breaks. For over 20 years now, these hours were pretty much set in stone.  I've seen versions of flex time come and go but there always comes a point where a manager or a director or a commissioner decides to end the policy for various reasons.  Sometimes it's actual abuse and others it's just plain old good old fashioned spite.

My point here is that the times that traffic is at its worst is between 7:30am and 8:30am  and subsequently between 5pm and 6pm.  But what if the option to not travel at those times was available.  I'd imagine some people would definitely want to take advantage just to avoid the traffic.

4.  Invest In Fixing Known Bottlenecks

You can't take care of the moving bottlenecks as much (maybe with traffic enforcement), but there are several places around the island that are known to cause a slowdown in traffic.  Sometimes they're as simple as the timing on a traffic light and other times it's right turn that simply cannot be made smoothly.  It would help if the Department of Public Works had a direct line of communication with the drivers to identify problem areas.  Maybe a town hall or a suggestion box.

Got any ideas of your own?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Overpowered

My star player is overpowered.
As far as gear goes, he has close to the best.
As far as stats go, he's got plenty of skill points.
Gold in the bank?  It's plenty.
He could splurge it all on a super rare item, but he saves it for a rainy day.

My star player is overpowered.
Open world?  Sure, but there's nothing left there for me.
Take me on a duo and you'll get that timed feat.
On an alert I'll save the team time and time again.
And though I seem awkward in a raid, I get the job done.

My star player is overpowered.
There were times he could advance in leaps and bounds.
Now he advances in inches and feet.
He looks to the game developers and ask if there's anything more.
They say sure, but you need people as overpowered as you to play it.

My star player is overpowered.  And he is bored as fuck.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Free Software (and Where To Find Them)

I'm actually surprised I've never addressed this in my blog.  Today I'm going to show you the world of free software.  If it's one thing you learn running IT without a budget it's that sometimes you gotta work extra hard with the tools that are available even though the money grubbers in Accounting won't drop a little spare change for nicer (and usually easier to use) software.  Let's get started on the list.


1.  Don't have Microsoft Office?  Try OpenOffice!

Microsoft Office is a lot cheaper these days than it used to be, but the full suite can still cost you up to $200.  Microsoft Office is the gold standard when it comes to office productivity but you'll probably never need all the bells and whistles that come with it.  Enter OpenOffice.  It does pretty much everything that MS Office does and costs you nothing.

OpenOffice isn't the only free alternative.  If you're feeling inclined, check out LibreOffice.  Also free; also does everything that MS Office does.

Oh, I should mention that both suites have downloads available for MacOS and Linux as well.

2.  Computer didn't come with DVD software?  Get VLC Media Player!

This one is a biggie because Microsoft killed native DVD playing in their Media Player in Windows 10.  Who needs it?!  VLC plays everything, runs on all platforms and is completely free!

3.  Need Photoshop? Try GIMP!

No, not that guy in black leather from Pulp Fiction.  GIMP is a free Image Manipulator.  It takes some getting used to.  It's not as simple to use as Photoshop but it can be just as powerful, especially with all the open source scripts and plugins available.

If you want something a bit lighter, try Paint.NET.  Unfortunately unlike GIMP, it's only available for Windows.

4.  No Adobe Acrobat?  Give pdf995 a shot!

Full disclaimer: There's really no more powerful PDF suite than Acrobat.  Seriously, Adobe INVENTED the portable document format.  You can get pretty close with Pdf995.  It's actually a suite of 3 separate programs but the bulk of the work is done in PdfEdit995. The one drawback: no in-file text editing.  That's a money feature.

5.  Not feeling Internet Explorer or the new Edge Browser?  You've got options!

There's a ton of them available and a quick search for "free web browser" will present them but I'm going to focus on just two here. Each browser boasts its own set of pluses as opposed to the native browser.

Mozilla Firefox is up first.  It's barebones with lots of plugin capability.  Second would be Google Chrome.  It's lightweight and features tight integration with online Google apps.  Try 'em both and see which one you like.

6.  Don't want to shell out for McAffee or Norton?  You've got options there too!

Yep, there are a bunch of choices here too.  More than I'd care to go over all at once.  You can get a pretty good list of them here.

7.  Have you seen how much QuickBooks costs?  Try PostBooks.

I'm wading in some uncharted territory here.  Accounting is not in my wheelhouse at all.  I do, however, know that QuickBooks does NOT come cheap.  Try this free alternative for your books.

8.  No WinZip or WinRAR?  Use 7zip!

It's not surprising that the you don't really need to have compression programs installed, but it's nice to have options.  Plus you never know when you're going to run across that one program that uses a compression algorithm you've never seen before (there was a time I didn't know what the .rar extension meant).

9. Project to small to warrant buying a full fledged audio editor?  Check out Audacity!

Whether it's editing out blips in mp3 files or recording audio directly from the sound card, Audacity gets it done.  I've used this for a variety of audio projects and it sure beats paying $500+ for major sound editors.  Ever wondered what the reverse audio in certain songs say?  There's even a preset to reverse audio.

Hope you enjoyed my list.  What free and open source programs do you prefer?  I'm sure I missed a ton on my list.  Tell me what you think in the comments.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fall 2016: The Wishlist

Fall TV is ready to get started soon so I just wanted to go over a few things I'm hoping to happen this season.

...before I do though I realize I haven't written anything in a while.  Sorry guys, lotta stuff in the way these days.  Unfortunately since I'm not as connected to the IT game as I used to be I find very little material to actually write about.  I'm working on that though. Let's get started.

Oh, one more thing:  There are A LOT of new shows coming this season and not all of them are even premiering in the fall.  For a full list follow this link.

1.  The Tick

Yep, there is totally a Tick reboot out there.  Only the pilot is available though and by the looks of it it's gonna get picked up since it's vastly outscoring the other two pilots.

Of course this means I'll become an Amazon Prime subscriber.  Yes in addition to Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Now I'll be adding yet another streaming service to my roster.  But hey, at least Amazon Prime has additional benefits.

2. Luke Cage

Speaking of streaming services, I can't even tell you how excited I am for Marvel's Luke Cage.  We got a taste of the character in Marvel Jessica Jones but while he's integral to her character he wasn't really to resolve her storyline.

3.  Designated Survivor

I'm about to piss off a lot of people here but I've never seen 24.  I heard it was good; great even.  I just never got into it like at all.  I am looking forward to the story for Designated Survivor though.  Keifer Sutherland is place into the role of a low ranking Cabinet member who becomes POTUS when everyone rank above him is killed when the Capitol explodes.  ABC sure does love presidential dramas.

4.  Powerless



I feel the need to kinda explain myself on this one.  I'm not watching for Vanessa Hudgins.  I'm watching for Alan Tudyk and Danny Pudi.  Oh and I'm also watching because this is based on a DC comic book (I know.  They did Constantine dirty.  By all rights they should never haven another DC show ever).  What I'm not certain of though is if this takes place in the DC Cinematic Universe, the Arrowverse or is doing it's own thing kinda like how Supergirl was doing before she got connected to the Arrowverse.  Either way, I'll be watching.

5. CBS stops messing around and finally joins forces with Hulu

Haha!  Didn't see that coming did ya?  My biggest wish is that CBS will abandon their streaming service and hook up with Hulu.  Alas, I don't think that's happening.  Last season the only CBS show I was watching was Supergirl.  Not a problem this season.  CBS does have an ace in the hole though.  They've got a Star Trek series and they're planning to make it available exclusively on their streaming services.  Hmm, another $6 a month?  That pilot better be PHENOMENAL.

It seems like a short list, but I'm a simple guy with simple needs.  Plus I'm looking forward to all my favorite shows that made the cut last season so when you add the 4 more shows it's still a lot of TV.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Windows 10 WTF?!

I'm here to tell you the only thing really great about Windows 10 is Ninja Cat.
Seriously, just look at that majestic bastard!
Having been forced to use it for going on about 4 or 5 months, it pales in comparison to Windows 7.  See, it used to be that every other version of Windows was The One.  Windows 95: Perfect.  Windows 98: Crap.  Windows 2000: Beautiful!  Windows ME: Who phoned in THIS turd?  Windows XP: We just can't quit it.  Like really, we can't.  Windows Vista: THIS is what you follow XP with?  Windows 7: Yes, all the good stuff from Vista with all the crap cut out!  Windows 8:  Tablets?  You think the future of a DESKTOP OS is in TABLETS?!

This is why I had such high hopes for Windows 10.  Historically, Windows 10 was supposed to be AWESOME.  Spoiler alert: It isn't.  In fact, it's so horrendous I can give you 10 reasons why you should just stick with Windows 7.

1.  It's bloated

Believe it or not, Windows 7 and Windows 10 actually have the same system requirements.  Actually using it though you pick up on just how poorly Windows 10 performs by comparison.  The biggest change I had to make in my routine was switching browsers.  For the record, the Edge browser is not poised to take the browser crown.  It barely works properly.  I used to be an avid Mozilla Firefox user.  It worked great on 7 but on 10 it lagged horribly.  I was forced to switch to Chrome.  Some will argue that I should have switched a long time ago but hey old habits die hard and I still prefer Firefox.  Even Chrome starts to suffer once you open more that 3 tabs.

2.  They shuffled their menus again

Every version of Windows presents a new version of Peek-A-Boo with where they put stuff.  It takes a while to figure out where everything is but with Windows 10 they went to new depths to hide stuff.  The one item I used the most is now the hardest thing to get to: Control Panel.  The Options menu item on the new version of the Task Bar doesn't lead to it.  It's not listed anywhere on the Apps menu. In fact, the one method I've tried that gets me there more often than not is...

3.  The Search Bar works when it wants to

The Search Bar is the easiest way to find all the stuff Microsoft has stashed in the back but it only works half of the time.  Also, they designed it to be both a system search and a web search.  But WHY?!?  If I want to search the web I know where the browser is dammit!  Sometimes I attempt to use the Search Bar and it develops a hiccup where it won't search for anything.

4.  The Windows Store is STILL crap

It didn't work properly on Windows 8 and it doesn't work properly on 10.  Besides, apps are for tablets.  On a desktop they're fluff.

5.  Windows 10 often registers phantom movements

One quirk that really irritates me is that Edge will often spontaneously close.  It's not a crash, it closes.  (Keep in mind I have to use Edge because that's the only way I can work with the database I use on a daily basis).  I know it closes because I found a way around it.  I just open two tabs and when Edge gets the kill order I get notified if I want to close all tabs.  This is just one quirk though. Several programs don't play nice with 10 and that includes Office.  Like that one time I had a document irreversibly squash all my images because I tried to put a caption on one.  I had to ditch the version I was working on and go to a backup.  Another time it started rapidly shifting between two programs for no reason.

6.  It essentially tricks you into an upgrade

The nag screens, the notices, and that damn Task Bar icon that won't go away no matter how many times I say no.  My personal laptop is still running Windows 7 and I aim to keep it that way but Windows 10 is very aggressive.  If anyone finds a way to make that thing go away for good clue me in.

7.  DVD playback is gone

Once natively supported you're going to have to install a third party program to play DVDs now.  I recommend VLC for DVDs.

8. Privacy

The first time I installed Windows 10, the first thing I noticed was my pc cam was on.  I started looking for the cam settings and fiddling with them but it never turned off.  No option I messed with turned it off so I just unplugged it.  Granted it was an old Logitech cam but it was enough to make me nervous about what else is magically turned on by default. Heck, they even changed their update distribution to include peer-to-peer and it's turned on in Windows 10 by default.

9.  It comes with a rollback countdown

Microsoft really really REALLY wants you to try Windows 10 so if you were tricked into upgrading you still have an out.  You have 30 days to roll it back to whatever you upgraded from.  It is possible to do it after the 30 day limit but the process is more difficult.

10.  The free upgrade doesn't stay free

Okay, I admit this point is kinda nit picky considering than I'm bashing Windows 10 but you have to face the fact that this is the future of the Windows OS.  At this point you either get on board or cling to your dearly held previous version.  The problem with holding on to old operating systems is that a) support for software and hardware on older operating systems wanes and eventually ends and b) the older an operating system is the less secure it gets...especially if you're connected to the Internet.

The point is that at some point you'll have no choice but to upgrade.  Unfortunately, Microsoft is only giving  you a year to make your decision and the free update offer goes bye-bye in July.  Windows 10 does indeed suck, but at least it didn't cost you anything.

Personally, I'm sticking with Windows 7 as long as I can.