We console gamers are a finicky bunch. Unlike our computer-gaming counterparts, we typically expect everything to work right out of the box. In fact, this is typically why we invest in a console over a computer. We don’t want to be bogged down by hardware assembly, installation times, and optimum display settings. And when our consoles do fail straight out of the box, we usually get pretty upset.
And yet, because of this, it is easy to forget that a game console is nothing more than a machine. And, like a machine, its parts can become worn and dirty. Eventually some parts fail entirely, and need to be replaced.
In the world of Linux distributions, it’s fairly easy to get lost trying to figure out which “flavor” of Linux fits you best. As the user, you have a plethora of desktop interfaces, default apps, package managers, and bundled services to choose from. This can be a major barrier for someone new to Linux, and an endless journey for a veteran user who hasn’t yet found their “perfect” distro. For either type of user, there’s a new distribution in town that can meet their needs: elementary OS.
elementary OS released the first version of their Linux-based OS, version 0.1 “jupiter,” in April 2011 and recently released the beta version of their upcoming version 0.2 “luna,” which is nearly a complete overhaul of the OS. I recently installed elementary OS on an older Asus Eee PC and gave it a spin. Overall, I was very impressed with what elementary had to offer.
With 2012 just about wrapped up and the Steam Christmas Sale chugging along until January 5, I decided now might be a good time to catch up on a game that’s been generating a lot of buzz this year: the DayZ mod for ARMA II.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – ARMA II? How does an aging military simulator from 2009 belong on a list of this year’s greatest hits? Thank Dean “Rocket” Hall and his zombie apocalypse mod for that one. Released this past May, DayZ is a hyper-realistic simulator that answers the question: What if there really was a zombie apocalypse? It’s true survival horror, with the emphasis on survival. Food and water are scarce. Ammo is as valuable as gold. Death is permanent. And most of all, other survivors are not to be trusted.
The game takes place in the sprawling land of Chernarus, a fictional Soviet-inspired tract of land filled with mountains, valleys, and temperate forests and speckled with small villages, outposts, and military bases. Civilization has collapsed – the zombies have taken over and there’s nowhere to run or hide. The game’s two biggest cities, Chernogorsk and Elektrozavodsk, are teeming with hordes of ravaging zombies. Further inland, wide swaths of wilderness and abandoned villages offer more privacy and protection, but supplies are hard to come by. However, even worse than the zombies are the other survivors – the players fighting along side you for survival. Food and water are scarce, and most players are willing to shoot a fellow player if it means taking their supplies. The game’s colossal map means that depending on where you are, you may be alone for miles in every direction, or you could be surrounded by hordes of zombies in a matter of seconds. The game’s only goal: Survive.
I heard about the DayZ mod for ARMA II: Combined Operations when I read this magnificently written article about it on Ars Technica. It was the greatest pitch for a zombie video game I had ever heard. The author fantastically conveys the sense of danger that surrounds the player – not just from the monsters themselves, but from the other players as well. Long journeys are planned with painstaking caution. Detours in remote, heavily wooded hills are preferred over risking detection in well-traveled areas, settlements, and open fields. Players are forced to survive by cooking food, drinking water, and mending wounds and broken bones.
As you can expect, DayZ quickly propelled ARMA II to one of Steam’s highest-selling games when sales exploded during the Steam summer sale. It reached 1 million players in roughly four months, and a commercial product is already being collaborated by Hall himself and Bohemia Interactive, the producer of the official ARMA games. When I finally saw ARMA II: Combined Operations on sale for $15 during the past Christmas sale, I decided now may be the best time to see what all the fuss was about.
When I was young, Windows held a special place in my heart. It was the operating system in which video games were developed for, and to me its sole purpose was, to execute games. Since then, I have observed the vast range of OS’s, new and old, contrasting the pomposity of Mac’s OS X to the inexhaustible community driven distributions of Linux. Many of my friends have departed from Windows, moving to Linux and Mac OS X but these are not the right instruments for me. Linux and Mac cannot get the job done, but Windows can. The majority of Americans turn to Windows to industrialize their thoughts and efforts each day. Windows 7 has matured into an invaluable instrument for business and consumers alike. Will Windows 8 be able to carry on where 7 left off? Or will its modernisms turn it into the next Vista?
Let’s find out.
The instant you tap the Power button on your Windows 8 PC something unexpected happens: you don’t have to wait. Yes, that is a bit of an embellishment of Windows 8 boot capability, but I am thrilled to say it boots remarkably fast, quicker than any OS I have formerly seen. In less than 60 seconds you are in; though I can imagine it is not what most users anticipated. Windows no longer takes you to the sanctity of your desktop; rather you are situated in a screen full of tiles, similar to icons, known as the Windows 8 ‘Start Screen’:
Engineers are, by nature, problem solvers. They are analytical people who are taught to think outside the box, come up with innovative and creative solutions, and deliver on a deadline. They are driven by the excitement that comes from achieving a goal.
Lawyers, on the other hand, are taught to find loopholes. They are driven by personal interests; in many cases this is the interest of the client who is paying them.
Why, then, are the people tasked with solving the country’s problems and leading the country forward the people who have their personal interests at heart? The vast majority of politicians, at any level of government, are people who have backgrounds in law, history, political science, and government studies. Only one U.S. president – Herbert Hoover – was an engineer. My ideal U.S. government would consist entirely of engineers and other technical people.
With men and women from engineering backgrounds in office, the country wouldn’t have to worry about political agendas getting in the way of policy-making. Engineers would come up with efficient, calculated, cost-effective and optimized government programs. Rather than spend time arguing about party agendas day in and day out, our technical-minded lawmakers would draw out plans on dry erase boards all morning, then retreat to their desks for the afternoon to deliver on their promises.
Engineers are mostly goal-oriented people who aim to deliver a product, service, or solution. Today’s politicians are mostly driven by money, personal interests, tax breaks for their personal business interests, and earmarks for their hometowns. Engineers would only be driven to deliver the best solution possible, without the distractions of modern politics.
Unfortunately, I can’t see my fantasy of an engineer-packed ballot coming anytime soon. Until then, I suppose I’ll be stuck trying to decide which politician I think can be more innovative than the other.
The stage was set; the event was setup much as it was in previous years. However, when Tim Cook came out and announced the iPhone 5, he forgot to mention one thing: the innovation that’s usually bursting out of the sockets of the iPhone. As I was watching the keynote, I was not impressed, excited, or moved. To be honest, the new iPod Nano looked like a much more appealing electronic to buy (but that post is for another time). Now you have to wonder, is this how Steve Jobs would have done it, or is this an iPhone on training wheels? I believe this iPhone was totally designed without any guidance from Steve Jobs at all for multiple obvious reasons.
The year 2012 will go down in history as the Year of the Patent Wars. Since January, there have been so many patent lawsuits in the mobile phone market alone that it is nearly impossible to follow who is suing whom anymore. A synopsis of some of the most high-profile patent lawsuits this year goes something like this: Apple vs. HTC, Apple vs. Samsung, Apple vs. Motorola, Google vs. Oracle… among several others. The common denominator in many of the most recent cases has been Apple. As a matter of fact, a July 2012 article in Bloomberg reported that Apple is at the center of 60% of major mobile patent lawsuits today. In most of those cases, Apple is the one suing another company.
Check out this interesting twist, though. This past Wednesday, Apple announced the next generation of their mobile devices, including the iPhone 5. Although the iPhone 5 leaves much to be desired, Apple finally decided to include 4G LTE capability in their new device. The inclusion of LTE was expected by many; since the new iPad came out with LTE connectivity back in March, it would be natural for Apple to include LTE in their next iPhone. Smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC also expected the iPhone to pack LTE radios, and they both anticipated to file lawsuits against Apple if they did. When the iPhone 5 debuted on Wednesday, they both announced they will be doing exactly that. HTC was the first vendor to introduce an LTE smartphone, and Samsung’s devices are wildly popular around the world as well. Both manufacturers own hundreds of LTE-related patents, and they seem determined to identify one or more that Apple is infringing upon. Their ultimate goal is to completely block the sale of the iPhone 5 in the U.S. and in Europe.
In the world of tablet computing there stands one king: the Apple iPad. I presume every article written about a tablet will generally start this way and say, “The Android blank blank can best the iPad in blank blank areas, but in the end the iPad is a better deal in its price range.” I believe that manufacturers have to understand one thing about the niche markets Apple creates, even though tablets are currently crawling into the mainstream market: You cannot directly compete with Apple unless you are putting an ecosystem around the product. Sure the Apple iPad is great, but I could name better tablets. However, I would not suggest buying those tablets, because other than the tablet itself you are not getting much else. Apple is the market leader because of the fact that their ecosystem provides end-to-end solutions for just about everything. Apple is the forerunner of innovative software solutions and has been doing a great job in the consumer space so far.
What does all this have to do with Microsoft’s new tablet, the Surface RT and Pro? Well, Microsoft is the only other company that can offer the ‘total package’ Apple users blather about, and I believe it can do it far better.
When I was in high school, I played a lot of video games. Granted, I’ve been a gamer since as long I can remember. My fondest memories of childhood were those spent in front of my television with my brother by my side, trying desperately to get past even the second level of Battletoads on our old NES. Back before Steam was emptying my wallet with their never-ending sales, my friends and I hounded our local Gamestops for any juicy deals. A lot of game stores were dumping their old inventories back then, so we scoured bargain bins for any overlooked gems from the NES, SNES, or N64 era. Yard sales, pawn shops, and flea market stalls were our gold mines. By the time I headed out to college, I probably had around 300 games in my collection.
Needless to say, I did a lot of arguing about games. I met friends who also played and loved video games like I did. We talked about which game had the biggest influence on each genre, argued what game pulled off a specific mechanic first. Of course, I had my biases. All of my friends did. We were more likely to love a game from our childhood over another game, even if it was comparatively mediocre by most measures. And like most geeks my age, I spent many of my teenage years on the Internet. I spent many hours online researching games made before my time, learning the intricate history of gaming, and debating the merits of one game or another to total strangers.
Now, imagine taking all that arguing and then turning it into a game: that’s Metagame in a nutshell. It’s a card game for geeks who like to argue about games (which is probably most geeks). Functionally, the game plays a lot like Apples to Apples (or perhaps more appropriately, Cards Against Humanity). Players draw a hand from one stack of cards containing titles of video games and try to best match them with a set of hypothetical questions. Which gave players more freedom: Morrowind or Grand Theft Auto III? Which is funnier: Katamari Demacy or Grim Fandango? The game can be played with two competitors and an impartial judge, but is even more fun to play with a large group of people.
Valve co-founder and current managing director Gabe Newell recently made it pretty clear how much he really hates Windows 8. Two weeks ago, Valve officially announced that they would be porting their Steam distribution service to Ubuntu and would be working to natively support Valve games on Linux, starting with Left 4 Dead 2. Their drive behind the project: Newell’s belief that Windows 8 will be a “catastrophe” for PC users.
Granted, Gabe’s got a bit of a habit of dropping bombs on people – five years ago he called the PS3 a “total disaster on so many levels.” Unsurprisingly, he wound up going on to apologize to the makers of the Playstation 3 in 2010 for his remarks. But when Phoronix’s Michael Larabel went to visit Valve’s Linux offices this past April, he was shocked to see Newell speaking like a died-in-the-wool open source supporter – so much, in fact, that Larabel wondered how the man could have ever worked at Microsoft for over 13 years.
Why all the harsh rhetoric for Windows 8? Why the sudden push for open source? Despite Half Life: Episode III now being five years in the making, Newell seems to be pretty excited about Valve’s new project. At a reception at the Casual Connect game conference in Seattle, Newell stated that their “perception is that one of the big problems holding Linux back is the absence of games. I think that a lot of people — in their thinking about platforms — don’t realize how critical games are as a consumer driver of purchases and usage.”
I think any gamer will agree. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I never installed a Linux distribution on my personal laptop. Plus, if anything is going to make a real impact on the way game developers look at Linux, it’s going to be Steam, which is now the largest third-party distributor of digital entertainment. So naturally, open source advocates are pretty excited about what this new development could mean for Ubuntu and the Linux platform as a whole.
But Newell’s recent praise about the virtues of open source seems fishy at best. Besides the obvious compatibility issues with Linux (which I bring up below), there’s the simple fact that even a Windows 8 catastrophe will probably not spell the doom of Microsoft. And let’s not mince words – despite Gabe’s push for open source, Steam will pretty much be anything but. So what effect will Steam have on Linux users in the long run? Quite frankly, probably none at all.