Wolfram|Alpha: Systematic knowledge, immediately computable.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My current bet for an explanation for the (alledged) FTL neutrinos of the OPERA experiement at CERN

A most interesting paper published via Arxiv regarding the OPERA experiment neutrino anomaly can be found here. Extremely approachable, with trivial mathematics, it offers a most palatable explanation for the observed apparent faster-than-light travel of the muon neutrinos in the CERN OPERA experiment.

N.B., there is a minor error in the paper inconsequential to the results where the authors attribute, albeit indirectly ("The Michelson and Morley experiment demonstrated the speed of light is the same in all inertial frame of reference and on this axiom Einstein built special relativity."), Einstein's impetus for his Special Relativity Theory. This is incorrect. From the master himself: "The Michelson-Morely experiment had no role in the foundation of the theory." and "..the theory of relativity was not founded to explain its outcome at all."

Give it a look.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

TWI Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, pulling the low polygon count wool over your eyes.

Telling post on the Steam forums here, looks like the solution by the geniuses at TWI for their poor implementation resulting in crappy performance is to cut the game details in a patch. While of course, not bothering to tell paying customers up-front that the game will now look even crappier than what they were shown, promised, and paid for.

How would you feel if you bought a nice sports car, had some issue, and found out after servicing the dealer had swapped in an engine with half the horsepower. Without telling you. And telling you instead now the performance will be better?

One of the better retorts to the increasingly arrogant and egomaniacal  attitude of TWI, and its CEO John Gibson in particular, can be seen here:

This is getting more and more ludicrous...

Edit: I came across this reply to a thread at the TWI forum. The thread is an ass-kissing congratulatory tome toward TWI, with the poster offering to take donations and then buy the developers drinks. This thread merited being made a "sticky" by TWI. Yet threads with valid concerns, complaints, and questions get deleted, locked, edited or moved.  This response to the drink thread is priceless:


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A twisted little troubleshooting problem...

This one might have to go into my personal top ten gotcha list.

I've been playing quite  a bit of the game Borderlands in co-op with a few buddies. I somehow skipped over this game, now nearing two years of age. My mistake. I've not had so much fun co-op in some time, easily comparable to Portal 2 for sheer fun. A really superb game, beautifully and artfully designed and executed. Goes on sale periodically on Steam for dirt cheap. Check it out and get it.

On to the problem: Having more spare time on my hands, I'd been "farming" the game for weapons to pass on to my buddies to aid them in their battles. At some point, I asked them to send me their game save files, so as to view their current weapons and other items, helping me to decide what to look for when farming.

Fast forward a few days, and three of us play an epic multi-hour stint, gaining many levels while having a hoot. I passed both of them several choice and rare weapons and other items I'd found. All good so far. A few days later, one of them joins me in a game. Pretty quickly, he notices something's awry. He has lost his level, and the choice items I'd supplied are gone. WTF? Well, we decided to just play, chalking it up to a possible game or Steam problem (more on that later). Now things got strange. He left the game after a bit, and rejoined in later. Same problem. The game was not saving his progress.

We scratched our heads a bit. Could it be due to my character being far ahead in the "quests" of the game? Perhaps a game bug? We knew Steam / Valve / Gearbox had just recently (as in the same time frame) added Steam Cloud save functionality, and game-play information tracking to the game. Perhaps the Steam Cloud functionality was broken or bugged? A more likely possibility to me was an error between the PC and the chair...

I had my buddy send me his current save file after he'd noted the file date was from a few days earlier. In fact, the date was the same date I'd had him send me his file. Sure enough, the file was the same, hashed to exactly the same. WTF? Did the Steam Cloud grab his file when first patched into the game, and was now clobbering his local save? Seemed unlikely, the cloud stuff is pretty vetted.

I asked my cohort if perhaps somehow, he'd accidentally overwritten his file manually. He assured me no such thing had happened. I found some forum posts of users having game issues since the Cloud / stats patch, but scant few had any such save issue.

I asked him to check if he'd accidentally set the file or folder to read only. No dice. WTF?

During this process, one of our other players joined. He had the exact same issues. And just like the first friend, his file hashed to exactly the file he'd sent me. WTF?

I knew when I saw the new EULA, and saw the functionality added, I turned off the Steam Cloud for the game: I was already manually saving my game saves (a habit), particularly since this genre of game can suck so many hours from you building characters and load-outs. Both of my buddies had the Cloud and stats enabled. So was it the cloud? We tried disabling it for their games, still no go.

The "Aha! moment" came soon after. I wanted to test a different save on one of their games, so I instructed them to rename their current save. To our surprise, access was denied. We made sure the game was not still running, Steam was not running, but still no go. WTF?

Then it hit me. We use Skype for our in-game VOIP. Nice, clear quality, and near zero latency, certainly lower than the usual suspects for gaming chat. Greater bandwidth use is the trade-off, but since none of us are starved for the latter, not an issue. For small files, we typically just send them as part of the Skype conversation. This is exactly how both of my friends had sent me their saves.

And there's the rub. Everyone in the 'conversation' got the file transfer notification (neither buddy had sent it directly to me, instead just doing it in the group conversation.) I accepted the transfers and saved the files locally, but neither one of them accepted the other's transfer, since there was no reason to.

And that my friends, was the crux of the problem. Skype, in its wisdom, decides that that conversation has not been completed. Every time each of them started Skype, it noted the uncompleted transfer, opened the local file, and waited for the recipient to accept. Which of course, never happened, because neither one of them needed the file, and the conversation notice had long since become history.

Opened file = locked file! The game could read it just fine, allowing the appearance of normalcy. When it came time to save progress, no go. The game did not throw any error, but merrily continued without saving anything. Not really the game's problem - it is reasonable to expect only the game is touching its files. And not really a Skype issue, though it would be nice if when started Skype would notify the user of actions it wanted to "continue", so as to remind the user and perhaps allow cancellation.

By finding the file send in the conversation history, and cancelling the (never to be seen) acceptance for the other player, the file was no longer locked / open, and the game functioned correctly.

A good one!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Playlist...

A quick update on games recently played:

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Played a few hours on the PC of the one local buddy that kept his preorder. A bit of a turd right now. Serious performance issues (we did a quick copy to two other differing machines with different CPU and GPU, all pretty high spec). Looks fair. Not horrible, but certainly nothing here justifying TWI's "cutting edge" label. Somewhat clunky game-play / movement, yet seems faster that RO: Ostfront (haven't played that in a while though). Cover system broken - it's a crap shoot whether you can cover or not. Seems faster play style by those playing compared to Ostfront.

The CODizing of the game is a success, IMHO, if you wanted the game to lean more that way. Veterans will likely not. Serious reliability issues. Crashes on all three PCs constantly (this is barely beta quality, and certainly questionable just a week from release). Server browser kaput. Music irritating (can be silenced). Weapon sounds are bordering on superb. Overall, glad I bailed on it, holds no interest at this time, and I'm not one that falls into the "pay retail for potential" crowd - a ludicrous idea from a TWI VP. I'd pass, unless you are a WWII semi-realism fanatic and / or RO & Ostfront are favorites.

Hard Reset (Demo)
Nice engine renders the cyberpunk world with attractive, though not world-beating, visuals. Game-play is quite linear, and one is unable to access areas of the environment that appear easy to get to (e.g., invisible walls trying to jump a railing, etc.) Not a big fan of that. Weapons, at least in the demo, are for all practical purposes unlimited in ammo, enemy fairly easy to clobber. Looks interesting from the rather short demo exposure, probably a decent buy for sci-fi / cyberpunk genre fans at the price.

As I said in an earlier entry, I'm not sure how this one slipped by me. I have not had this much fun in a game since Portal / Portal 2. FPS & RPG combined (and I'm not normally a fan of the latter), it provides engaging game-play, interesting and varied quests that thankfully have none of the "rinse and repeat" boredom factor of Far Cry 2. The humor, music, character development, and story are engrossing. Co-op play is a complete hoot. If you have even the remotest interest in the genre, and don't have the game, passing on it when Steam has one of their ludicrous sales (e.g., ~ eight bucks for the game with all four DLC) is a gaming crime. GET IT!

Dead Island
I wanted to like this game. I wanted to love it. I get a kick out of zombie games. Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor, et al, all provide loads of fun. The award winning trailer looked awesome. My friends were as hyped about it as most. The reality: at this point, a contender for turd of the summer, displacing RO2:HOS as my pick for worst game delivery of the summer.

First, the release on steam was a debug build. Riddled with bugs. The fix broke save games (though thankfully not skills progress), and clobbered the pre-order bonus DLC access. To the developer's credit, these issues were addressed rapidly, and they are hinting at some kind of compensation for those afflicted by the screw-ups.

Even without the mess, the game-play itself is not capturing me. Imagine the overly repetitive quest mechanics of Far Cry 2, insert zombies: "Go get me a cappuccino. It's all the way across the island. Fight all the zombies on the way there. And back. Wait for my wooden response upon your return. Rinse. Repeat."

Combat mechanics are a bit strange. Even with a weapon with some length, it seems hard sometimes to hit the target, while the zombie arms seem to be able to hold an invisible baseball bat, hitting you from the same distance where your character misses - and you're wielding an oar against just their arms. They also take an unreasonable amount of punishment before finally passing on to zombie heaven. Makes killing them a chore, instead of a challenge. Quests are yet more broken in the latest patch: I have quests to meet an NPC, but no NPC is to be found at the destination. Can't complete it.

A pass, at least for now, even if you are a zombie fan.


Monday, September 5, 2011

"Cutting Edge"? More like cut by an edge...

I've nearly had my fill of the Red Orchestra 2 train wreck. I know that my original blog entry saved a few gamers some wasted bucks. Even now, as one sees far more negative forum posts with the 'release' of the 'open beta' for the 'deluxe edition' suckers purchasers, the foamers proclaim how awesome the game is, how perfect the developers are, blah blah blah.

A gaming friend sent me a link, insisting I take a gander. What is amazing is that the loyal are just now noticing this fundamental flaw in the visuals. This has been obvious since the first screen shots and videos - I just assumed it was something they did for press effect. The characters in the game are chopped down midgets! See the thread "Character is so small isn't it" for some hilarious TWI style humor.

If a broken server browser, constant crash-to-desktop for clients, buggy servers, horrible client and server performance, clunky animations, steely irritating 'mood music' and hackers galore already in game is not enough to have you thinking twice about purchasing this turd (or getting a refund before it is too late), perhaps the RO2: Oompa-Loompas of Stalingrad visuals will have you wondering.

Save your money, play some other game that works and looks good. TWI may fix this, given some time, they do have a history of decent support. You just should not be expected to pay to play a beta that is barely beta quality, and seems will be troublesome for some time to come after the production release.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some things I've bee up to...


From Dust: Pretty damn fun. You are effectively "God" or whatever you might call it, and you manipulate the world, the goal being to help the nascent tribe under your watch to thrive. I keep messing with them though. Can't help it. Pretty slick physics here, particularly the water. Certainly a steal for fans of the genre, and deserving of a good hard look by those that have not played this type of game.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution: I don't normally go for highly story-driven games. Make no mistake, I want some kind of story in my single-player games, but it is not critical to my enjoyment. This game has a deep story. I find myself hammering the 'skip' during player-NPC dialogue, and when offered dialogue / response choices (that undoubtedly affect the rest of the game-play and storyline), I tend to hammer the fuck you / you're an ass / I will crush you / blow me selection. This will no doubt lead to my character having sex with the boss's poodle, but so long as I get to shoot something, so be it. I have not yet been drawn into the story enough to put up with watching a movie in the middle of my game. Not the game's problem at all - I just have short attention span for these kind of things. I'm sure those that enjoy such things, particularly if it continues some story from the earlier game iterations, will find it satisfying.

The combat reminds me of a combination of F.E.A.R. with a little Splinter Cell and Crysis (avatar enhancements) thrown in. Satisfying, and reasonably difficult. You take damage pretty quickly, and recovery also takes a fair amount of time, so that tough opponents warrant respect and thought-out battle plans. I've played about six hours so far, and from what I can tell, there is much more to go, and certainly had I perused every side-quest and explored every nook and cranny, I'd have even more time to go. It's clear that on a game-play time per dollar scale, you get big bang for your bucks here.

The soundtrack by Michael McCann is an enticing blend of electronica - I enjoy it in-game greatly, and listen to it out of game. The audio of the game is good, with some genuine LF content (e.g. transport takeoff) that provides satisfying rumble for those with subwoofers. The graphics are OK - nothing earth shattering, with fair avatar renditions and some nice effects. I'm not sure I understand yet the 9/10 or 10/10 ratings I've seen, but that may well be that I have not yet a full handle on the game. I'd give it a solid 7.5 so far, and I'm happy with the purchase. Check it out.

Tramua: WTF? Not sure yet what to make of this game. A flash based exploration game inside the mind of a comatose crash victim, you explore the world as a sequence of snapshots, finding clues and chasing a 'ghost' to recover memories of what has happened. Interesting, I jump in and out of it for something different. Cheap as hell, I'd say if you like artistic puzzle games, worth a look (as well as the most excellent Limbo).

Portal 2: Playing some community developed co-op maps with a gaming friend. Some of the creativity displayed has been most impressive (and difficult to beat). Some have been good enough to have been in the original game. The hard maps need to be played with a partner that knows what they're doing (mine has been exemplary, thankfully displaying very smart and clever play and thinking), or you'll get frustrated quickly. If you have the game, check out some of the sites offering community maps. If by some bad alignment of the planets you've not played the game, get it! It is getting cheap, and is tremendously satisfying. The single-player campaign brings back the goodness of the original, and the co-op mode is probably the most fun I've had in a game in the past year or so.

Section 8: Prejudice: A diamond in the rough. Not really my kind of game in general (HALO kind of play and environments), I picked up a four-pack during one of Steam's ludicrous sales to share with some gaming buddies. The little we've played in co-op was pretty fun. The single-player is a bit wooden, but still fairly fun. Given the price of ~15 bucks, worth it, and at the sale price a no-brainer. HALO fans will likely enjoy it much, and anyone that likes frag-fest co-op should find it satisfying. Nothing earth-moving in look or feel, but when the price is taken into account, like getting a decent ice cream cone for 25 cents.

On the subject a games, take a listen to the audio blog posts at Cynical Brit titled Entitled Gamers and Honesty in Games Journalism.  Refreshing and to the point. The latter should be listened to nightly by some reviewers and podcast hosts. The amount of corruption, back-peddling, and ass kissing in the industry can make it hard for the gamer to decide where their hard-earned cash should really be spent. If more journalists had the integrity talked about in the aforementioned blog, fewer gamers would end up spending money on hyped games that turn out to be turds.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thanks, Electronic Arts!

Found a message from Electronic Arts in my inbox today. A free copy of one of a selection of games as a thankyou for my Battlefield 3 pre-order. I ended up getting Dead Space 2, a game I had not gotten around to ordering, but had planned on playing after finishing up some other games I'm working on. Saved me thirty bucks, the current price of the game.

So much for the oft-repeated entitled gamer's whine of EA being the big, bad publisher out to screw everyone...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From Dust released today.

The new 'I am a god' game From Dust released today. Created by Eric Chahi, the artist that brought us “Another World / Out of this World”, the game puts you in control of the world of an ancient tribe. You help the tribe to thrive by forming their environment and guiding them from afar. At least that's the idea - I couldn't help myself trying to drown my nascent tribe members with a huge blob of water. The privilege of being a god, I suppose.

The game features some pretty neat physics, particularly in modelling of water and water flow.

Pretty cheap at under $15 on Steam, worth checking out if that kind of genre is your bag. Fans of the "Black and White" series should find it particularly enjoyable, if simple.

I'm having a hoot...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

F* me, now that's a game trailer...

Makes the latest RO2: Heroes of Stalingrad trailer look like, well, something an addled grandpa made...check it out.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy birthday, IBM personal PC

I still have mine. 30 years old today.

IBM 5150

Monday, August 8, 2011

TWI does the Tanya Harding with Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

If you don't get the reference (and you might not if you're a younger gamer), Tanya Harding, currently often seen on truTV Presents: World's Dumbest... (funny as hell there, if I may say), is perhaps best known for her promising figure skating career and the later collapse of her personal and professional life.

She'd make a good mascot for TWI: 

Her orchestration (no pun intended) of the shin beating of her primary competitor in the Olympics mirrors TWI and their community's bullying and censorship of critical or questioning posts in ther forums.

Her "Wedding Video" reminds one of the sliminess TWI has resorted to to do marketing CYA (see my prior entries on the game and company to get an idea of how disingenuous TWI has seemed to become).

And of course, her infamous "loose skate lace" fall in the Olympics of '94 landing her flat on her ass resembles the announcement from TWI of a delay of two weeks in the release of the game, hardly more weeks than that away from the hyped official release date. This should be no surprise to anyone with a grain of intellect. Peers scoffed when I predicted this months ago. I should have wagered them.

The reasons are of course the usual suspects of "extra polish", and to "get it right".


It would be nice if they'd just tell the truth, known by the beta testers (closed of course, don't hold your breath for the "open" one if you're one of the unfortunate suckers that coughed up extra dough for the "deluxe" edition with promises of beta access).

The game is a mess. There's good reason you've not seen detailed footage of MP and tanks. And it's not because it's being saved for some magical marketing Kool-Aid bus...

Stay tuned, the leaky beta bangers are getting pissed...

In any case, the smart money among you will hold off on buying the game until it is released and you can get a non-hyperbolic review from a trusted source that matches your sensibilities. That will also give you time to see if the player counts drop as precipitously as the pre-sales position of the game. Particularly since TWI hasn't the balls to release a demo.

No one wants to buy a game that few are playing...


Friday, August 5, 2011

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad presales plummet off the radar...

CEO of tripwire shot a premature wad with this tweet:

Usually, one waits to see some long-term results before making grand proclamations. You know, kind of how an announcer doesn't call the first to leave the gate the winner of the race, but waits to see the actual finish.

In not much over a score of hours, the game has completely dropped off the Steam top sellers list. Even old games like Counter-Strike: Source, widely panned recent games like Brink, and minor new games to Steam such as Limbo are beating it. So much for its blockbuster, COD:Black Ops beating (hello, PC Gamer magazine) hype.

Speaking of Limbo - even if it is the kind of game that you'd consider way off the path of your game preferences, I highly recommend you give it a look. A demo is available (unlike TWI, the developer / publisher Playdead has nothing to fear scaring off potential revenue by offering a demo of the game), and the game itself is a steal at under $10.00. Dark, ethereal, and haunting, it offers a beautiful environment with satisfying and sometimes twisted puzzles. System requirements are paltry - you can play it on a very low specification machine.

The best five hours I've spent on a game in some time.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A mouse almost transmogrifies into a rat.

I'm an inveterate collector of peripherals, gadgets and toys related to PC gaming.  I've got dozens each of headphones, mice, controllers, keyboards, etc. I get them to test and try, and sometimes review, but mainly for hands-on experience so I can speak from first-hand knowledge when gaming buddies seek an opinion.

Items I particularly like often get bought in multiples (mainly mice and keyboards) so that I can have the same device on my different gaming machines, and for backup in case I particularly like an item and do not want to find it unavailable in the future should I need another.

I picked up a couple of the new Razer Imperator mice recently to play with. In this case, the new mouse bug reared its head quite by accident. I'd been playing on a machine I built for the G/F, using a Razer Copperhead (a good, if not great mouse, but one I'm very accustomed to for feel) that has had so much use the finish has worn off in many spots.

Playing one night, I noticed a peculiar small sliver of what appeared to be plastic remnants, perhaps from a package she'd opened recently. I fiddled with it, bending and stretching it, folding it, using it as a toothpick, scratching an itch on the inside of my ear canal, and finally tossing it in the trash, a crunched and mangled shadow of its former self. I noticed that night the mouse seemed a bit jerky for my fine aim needs. I realized later that the mouse seemed to be 'grabbing' the mouse pad surface. Peering at the bottom of the mouse, I saw the cause: the back friction foot had come off. My toothpick was a piece of Razer engineering.

It should be noted: I'm amazed the mouse lasted this long and through this much abuse. I'm sure it would have gone several more years. I had removed this foot some time ago to disassemble the mouse and clean it out. After years of abuse, the innards had enough muck to cause some minor issues. A cleaning remedied them. I obviously should have used some glue and not assumed the remaining aged sticky goo would suffice. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman gamer whose hardware you have fucked up, to paraphrase Congreve.

Rather than try to find replacement feet for the now out of production mouse, I decided to upgrade her, and get myself a twin to play with myself.

I've had only good experience with the Razer mice, owning pretty much every model sans the ridiculous pimp my mouse editions of the regular line. Never a single failure even under use bordering abusive. So I had no reason to expect any problems out-of-the-box with these new ones.

Razer, like many other vendors, has stopped including media with drivers / control software in the box. Understandable: media adds to the cost, and after release, the media is most likely out of date anyway. So the user guide directs the new owner to the web site to retrieve these things.

And there's the rub.

It appears the Razer web site has been hacked, they are having severe server problems, or their provider is suffering from one or both of the problems: most of the site links in the support / download sections get redirected to nonsense sites. Ugh! No soup for me! Fortunately, I was able to retrieve a copy of an older set of the drivers elsewhere, and get to using the mouse in earnest.

As a mouse, I'm pretty pleased so far. Quite comfortable, very responsive (even my not so game head daughter commented on this aspect), with much improved control software. Changing profiles on-the-fly is speedier than my fingers, making things like a fine aim / sniper mode switch a trifle, with none of the nagging delay and non-response of earlier Razer designs. The sensor works very well, tracking perfectly on the surfaces I tried, with decent lift-off characteristics. I won't bother with a detailed review, those can be found elsewhere, and this is not so much an entry about the mouse, but about customer service.

The lesson to be learned here is simple, vendors:

If you're going to deny the buyer media with basic drivers and other software, and only have these available online, at least provide alternate locations so one is not left wanting when problems occur on your end. The frustration of not being able to take full advantage of a new toy might well put the consumer off of future purchases of your brand.

Media is cheap. Put a friggin' mini-CD, or a tiny flash drive, in the box, FCS!

Better yet, flash is so cheap, why not just load a bit into all of your USB devices, so that the drivers and software "live" in the device, available at first plug-in? You could even make them updatable, so bringing my mouse to a foreign environment is a no-hassle proposition, and I always can have the latest drivers, software, and firmware at hand.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OCZ Revodrive 3 X2 480 GB Mini-Review

One of the new toys arrived today. The latest revision of the acclaimed Revodrive line from OCZ, a Revodrive 3.

The particular model I purchased (RVD3X2-FHPX4-480G) is the X2 version with 480 gigabytes of capacity. For those not familiar with the Revodrive line, these units integrate multiple SSD units, multiple controllers, and the VCA (Virtualized Controller Architecture) hardware specific to OCZ, effectively giving you a raid SSD system on a single PCI-E card. No sata cables, power cables, separate raid card, configuration, etc. required!

The unit arrives in a compact, if not luxurious (for this kind of money, it would be nice to feel a bit more coddled) box. Included in my example are a tiny user guide (ample, considering the ease of installation) including information on where to retrieve the current drivers. A sticker bragging about the device is supplied, for those needing to make their PC case look like a weathered steamer trunk.

The card itself comes in the ubiquitous anti-static bag, with the appropriate warning to use caution to avoid static discharges that might have a deleterious effect on the unit. The unit is pictured below.
We can see the flash NAND banks on the right, two of the four (X2 models only) controllers (the latest and greatest Sandforce SF-2281), with the OCZ SuperScale controller acting as the commander in chief. The latter component, new to the Revodrive 3 line, provides the PCI-E to SAS mapping, and implements OCZ's VCA, with optimized queue balancing and DMA access. Utilizing both tagged and native command queue balancing, OCZ achieves linear scaling in a raid-like (not raid, but a proprietary array architecture, according to OCZ) fashion. VCA also provides TRIM and SCSI UNMAP (the SCSI equivalent of TRIM) that help stabilize and maximize performance while minimizing write amplification. Do note - the current OCZ drivers do not currently support Windows TRIM, but OCZ promises a solution in the future.

The performance claims are impressive (from OCZ):
  • Read: Up to 1500 MB/s
  • Write: Up to 1250 MB/s
  • Max Random Write 4KB (Aligned): 230,000 IOPS
This is performance at an enterprise device level, equaling and in some cases exceeding devices I have owned (e.g. Fusion IO-Drive) at a small fraction of the price.

Installation in my case took all of three minutes: open PC case, remove PCI slot cover, insert and secure the card, close the PC case. All that is required is one PCI-E 2.0 x4 (or better) slot. Driver installation takes another minute or so. That's it. If installing Windows 7 (is anyone really still using older Windows?) directly to the device, the appropriate files can be placed on a USB drive, or on an existing hard disk in the machine, and accessed when at the initial installation device selection screen for the Windows installer via the driver load option.

I installed windows (seemed a snappy install, but I didn't bother timing it), and a game I play known for lengthy load times (ARMA II / OA). As with the windows install, the game install seemed swift, but again, I did not bother timing it.

Windows black screen "Starting Windows" to the login screen takes scant seconds on my small gaming rig (2600K @ 4.8 GHz, 16 GB Ram, Z68 MB, dual GTX 580 in SLI, etc.), quite comparable to my rigs with dedicated external multi-SSD raid setups. The actual initialization of the Revodrive bios adds a few seconds (5 or so) to the wait.

ARMA certainly loads as fast as I've seen it short of a RAMdisk. Comparing it side-by-side to a high specification machine with a single high performance SSD, the Revodrive allowed me to get to the "ready" state several seconds more quickly. Not a huge increase, but I didn't expect one - this game shows a big jump in load speed going from even fast hard drives (think Velociraptor) to even a mid-range SSD. Other confounding factors result in less than linear load speed improvements with drive throughput improvements. The bottom line, however, is that the Revodrive 3 X2 equaled the performance of my dedicated 8 SSD hardware raid system in load times for the game, at roughly one-quarter of the cost. Impressive, to say the least.

On more strenuous tests, the drive really shines. Imagine running multiple installations of windows in a virtual machine (Oracle's VirtualBox for my tests) and seeing Windows 7 boot in under eight seconds, and getting a Windows Experience disk score of 7.7 in the virtual machines including the overhead and inefficiencies of the virtualized I/O! The Revodrive makes running multiple instances of high-I/O applications and virtual machines trivial and a real delight.

I won't bore the reader with extensive benchmarks, as these can be found elsewhere in droves. Suffice to say, a quick ATTO benchmark shows my device exceeding its specifications nicely:

A most impressive achievement for the price of admission.

In addition to outstanding performance as a storage or boot device, the Revodrive driver exposes a device that Windows (Vista, 7) sees as ReadyBoost capable. This will allow for using part of the Revodrive as a cache for your system hard disk (this assumes, obviously, that you choose to use the Revodrive as a fast storage device, and not as the system device).

This provides benefits à la Intel's SRT (Smart Response Technology) found as an option in Z68 based motherboards, but without the restrictions of requiring a Z68 chipset and a 64 GB cache size limit. I plan on investigating the benefits of this kind of configuration in the future: after all, few boot their machines so often that the few seconds off of boot time using an SSD for the system drive really becomes crucial, yet letting Windows intelligently cache hard disk activity, along with being able to use the same SSD as fast storage for selected files regardless of cache candidacy seems quite attractive and interesting. I don't expect huge benefits considering capabilities of the typical gamer's PC, but my curiosity has me planning some tests.

Do note: There has been some confusion regarding the availability of a 240 GB Revodrive 3 X2 at a much more palatable price point. This appears to have been the result of a misprint in the OCZ pre-release information, further promulgated by various pre-release reviews. At this time, however, OCZ is not releasing an X2 in this capacity. The non-X2 Revodrive 3, utilizing a configuration lacking the mezzanine card containing the extra set of controllers and flash NAND, still offers respectable gains over the prior generation of 240 GB units, just not the extreme performance of the X2 series.

Should the avid gamer purchase a Revodrive 3 X2? Only you can decide what fits your own needs and budget. At $1650 to $2300 currently on-line, it is a pricey proposition. You could get roughly equivalent performance by purchasing a dedicated quality raid card and four fast dedicated SSDs and save a few bucks. But, you'd give up TRIM support, and the solution, with all the additional cables and configuration, would clearly lack the plug-an-play, "it just works" elegance of the Revodrive. For the green readers, the Revodrive should also be more frugal in its power requirements.

If you want the current top-of-the-hill performance at this price level, the Revodrive 3 X2 480 GB (or its more capacious 960 GB bigger brother) are the only game in town at this time. You simply won't find anything else that combines the performance, footprint, and elegance of this product for now. A logical and close second option is the 240 GB Revodrive 3. At ~$650 on-line, it presents most of the performance of the X2 line (likely little subjective difference for the gamer) at a price that is most attractive.

Either choice will net the hardware enthusiast performance that was only dreamed of not long ago, and was priced at $10,000 and up just a few years ago. And neither is likely to be a bottleneck for game level loading.

Edit (07/29/11): It appears, from the Global Marketing staff at OCZ, that as of now, there is a 240GB X2 version getting ready for release. Part RVD3X2-FHPX4-240G, expect a price somewhere north of $700. Looks like stupid fast storage just got more affordable for the dedicated gamer!

Well done, OCZ!


Using graphics processing units (GPUs) to watch the heavens.

As gamers, we sometimes marvel at the visual treats our GPUs provide us in our games. Few realize, however, just what a powerhouse of processing power modern graphics cards can be. I've had blog entries highlighting some uses of these "general purpose" capabilities of GPUs aside from their normal roles as rendering hardware.

A new paper "Accelerating Radio Astronomy Cross-Correlation with Graphics Processing Units" demonstrates a novel use of the hardware capabilities of modern GPUs (in this case, units from the Nvidia line of Tesla and standard GPUs) to accelerate the cross-correlation of interferometric data from radio telescope arrays. For those not familiar with this technique, allowing an array of telescopes to resolve at the level of a telescope the size of the array (implausibly large to actually realize - arrays can span arbitrary distances), a quick look at the Wikipedia article "Interferometry" provides a high-level refresher.

Even readers without a mathematical inclination should find the paper accessible, though a full understanding will require very basic calculus. There is a minor mistake on page 9, a confusion over 8b/10b encoding, that has no material effect on the contents of the paper. These are astrophysicists, not computer scientists...


Saturday, July 23, 2011

OCZ Revodrive 3 X2 PCI-Express SSD 480 GB Review - Incoming!

I received an email confirming shipping of my recently ordered OCZ PCI-E SSD. I wanted to pick one of these up to play with to see if it delivers on the pretty astounding capabilities (for a workstation / enthusiast consumer grade device) seen in reviews of pre-production samples. Several of my gaming machines already have dedicated RAID hardware SSD systems, and I've had earlier PCI-E based solutions (e.g. Fusion-IO) that were intended for enterprise use and were priced accordingly.

The latest OCZ offering appears to offer a level of performance equaling and in some cases exceeding these loftily priced solutions, in a form factor that gives the enthusiast gamer a hassle free, no cables, plug-and-play installation. You could perhaps beat the price by building an array of several fast SSD combined with a quality dedicated hardware raid card, but if the unit delivers as promised, why bother?

There was a puzzling delay between OCZ's announcement of availability (I ordered then) and actual availability, but it appears the device is now available at the usual outlets. Unfortunately, either because of supply and demand, or a price change by OCZ at the last minute, the price seems to have jumped almost $200.00 to nearly $1800.00. Fortunately, Amazon is honoring the price I ordered the drive at, saving a few hundred bucks. Good on them!

I chose the 480 GB Revodrive X2 model over the 240 GB Revodrive 3 since it offers dramatic performance increases over the previous generation, much more so than the non-X2 models. This is not to say the non-X2 240 GB does not offer worthwhile benefits over the earlier version, just that it is not nearly as dramatic of a boost as the X2, which has double the controllers and nearly double the IOPS capability and double the data throughput rate in some cases via its mezzanine card architecture when compared to the non-X2 240 GB model.

Unfortunately, due to some marketing typos further promulgated by pre-release reviews, gamers were led to believe there would be a 240 GB model of the X2 at a much more affordable price compared to the larger capacities. Such is not the case, and OCZ has corrected their media to reflect this.

I intend to focus specifically on any benefits the card brings to gamers as far as load times and any enhancement in game performance (e.g., streaming of textures).

Is it worth the $1800.00 price of entry, or for that matter the $650.00 cost for the smaller and lower performance 240 GB Revodrive 3 for use in games?

Stay tuned for the review in the next week or so!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Regarding Comments...

I pretty much post / approve any comments. Exceptions are outright ad hominem posts, or ones patently blather from fainbois that may not agree with me.

Reasonable comments are always posted, unedited. 

If you chose to disagree, well though-out comments are likewise nearly always posted.

However, if you want to be caustic, feel free to do so, but have the fortitude to post with a real name and account. You see mine, give me the same courtesy.

Do note: there is, and has been for as long as I've used it, an issue with the Google blogger comments system:

Rarely, I don't even get the comment. I don't even see something to approve. You will find similar comments on other blogs, and it has happened to me posting a comment elsewhere. It has apparently happened here, as a friend of a commenter notified me that a particular comment had not shown up, and wondered if I'd not approved it.

If you post a comment and it does not show up (even obnoxious comments usually will get a post from me referencing them and inviting a proper response), assume that may be the case and feel free to re-post it. If you continue to experience issues, feel free to email me.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A sorry heBETAting of the truth...

Part of blogging something that won't please all is the expected personal attacks. Particularly from fanbois and their ilk. Such is the case with my recent post (I) Don't Believe the Hype. It seems some of the faithful need to make up fatuous motivations for by post. I make it clear - my BS meter has been steadily increasing toward the marketing versus reality picture of the game Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad, and my goal is to get PC gamers to look behind the curtain and use their heads in deciding game purchases. This is not the first game to appear to be over-hyped, and won't be the last.

The popular fabricated motivation of the day attributed to me is that I am lashing out because I was rejected from the beta test of the game. That that is bandied about by ill-informed random fans of the game is not surprising. What is, and is revealing of the credibility of some TWI staff, is that it is offered up by TWI as the sole reason for my exposé.

Seems like the truth is stretched, or broken, in more than just the current apparent reality of the game. Were I actively involved in income production in the gaming industry, such apparently slanderous and defamatory actions would warrant swift legal action by me. As it is, no one pays me to do anything gaming related, I'm just a PC gamer, and I find this laughable. A piteous example of what appears to be marketing CYA.

The fact is, I declined the beta invitation. I was not interested in being just a warm body: told that feedback was not desired, simply bodies to fill servers to show off working parts of the game to press. Marketing, in other words. Others in the candidate pool at the time were rejected, including long standing members of the Red Orchestra community that had not always toed the glowing, Heroes of Stalingrad will stop global warming line, but instead offered constructive and valid criticisms.

Those accepted received an acceptance email. I have shown mine below, with my response. I marked out certain personal information. They are otherwise unchanged. Strange to "welcome" someone rejected, and provide an NDA, don't you think?

I'll leave it to you to decide what the truth is in this. It should be patently clear. And it should give one pause that some senior members of TWI do not seem to be above promulgating such falsehoods or making attack posts (while censoring or locking out replies), instead of offering facts. Hilariously, these douche nozzles seem to prefer fighting fires with a hose attached to a gasoline pump, rather than using the water of facts to put them out.

I'd be more than happy to post a response from TWI showing anyone that was rejected, yet mysteriously received the same acceptance email. 

Perhaps there's some strange black hole or other anomaly in their office, warping the truth. Maybe that same anomaly is also what's stopping them from offering a demo of the game, instead of making gamers fork over their hard-earned dollars to decide if it's great or a turd. A really great game can sell itself in demo form, and doesn't need hyperbole and secrecy. Any developer worth their salt that truly has a great game, and not just over-the-top marketing hype, should be willing and able to provide one. Do you buy your new cars without a test drive?

As a gamer, unless you've played the original and are enamored with it, I'd either wait for a trusted gamer you know to take the plunge and render an opinion (since, as already stated, reviews from magazines and press can be quite shifty), or wait for a demo. The latter is unlikely to ever happen. Wonder why?

As little as I believed the hype as of late, I believe it even less after these recent examples of the pomposity and perfidy of TWI. And it seems, so do more and more gamers.

Edit (7/21/11): Thanks to some recent messages, the story (polysemy intended) from TWI gets even more bizarre. There is now apparently another conspiracy theory there, one where old hands (guys around since the free mod days, active in the forums) of the Red Orchestra community are out to "get them" by spreading lies and innuendo and influencing others. What? Attacking your own faithful now? Perhaps the address in the acceptance email is a typo and it's not Roswell, GA but Roswell, NM instead. You know, where the aliens hang out...

Dedicated to the num nutz at TWI: 

A most interesting use of GPUs, and an "infinte channels" communication scheme.

Taking a break from the nonsense of the maelstrom my exposé on Tripwire Interactive's Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad (if you've not read it and you're a gamer, take a gander, it may save you some money), I checked out some recent papers at one of my favorite brain gyms, the Cornell University Library. Two particularly interesting papers piqued my interest.

The first, "Encoding many channels in the same frequency through radio vorticity: first experimental test." by Fabrizio Tamburini, et al, shows the results of recent experiments (extending work done earlier with lasers) utilizing the orbital angular momentum states of electromagnetic waves to allow a (theoretically) infinite number of channels to be simultaneously transmitted on a single frequency without resorting to any need for dense coding or channel sharing techniques. Fascinating. Do note, this is a pre-print, you will catch a few mistakes. 

The second, "Real-time, fast radio transient searches with GPU de-dispersion."  by A. Magro, et al, demonstrates a most interesting use of GPGPU computing (the use of GPU functionality for highly parallel computation as opposed to its traditional rendering role), in this case Nvidia's CUDA. In this example, a computational problem for exploratory astrophysics, the dispersion of radio signals from distant sources through the inter-stellar medium, is solved through compensatory algorithms. Utilizing the GPU compared to a CPU results in a 50 to 200 times improvement in processing speed, opening the possibility of moving the computations from offline into the real-time realm. As a user of GPGPU since before the term was even used, this is an exciting example of real-world benefits to science of this evolving capability.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A manufacturer doing the right thing.

All too rare these days. In the thread What causes this (amp related)? in the Head-Fi forums, a poster brings up a potentially serious issue with an esoteric (though very fairly priced) headphone amplifier.

NWAVGUY responds with an engineering opinion. Watch the foamer fans of the brand go nuts. Then watch, after all their personal attacks and ad hominems toward him, as not only are the cold hard facts shown to be true but are confirmed by outside sources. Even then, the believers rant on. Reminds me of the recent reaction to some entries here: attack the blog (and me), not the facts.

To their great credit, the manufacturer (despite one of their representatives on the forum being a particularly obnoxious example of typical foamer behavior) does the right thing. Everyone is offered a way to be made whole. Refreshing.

Makes me want to buy their products just to show support for this rare behavior. So I did.


Monday, July 18, 2011

You're viewing a member of the "Ill Informed Attack Blogs" !

I just picked up an e-mail from an eagle-eyed reader. It appears, by proclamation of Yoshiro, a.k.a. Jared Creasy, that my blog is officially an Ill Informed Attack Blog! You can see details in the Steam or TWI forums, assuming of course the posts have not already been deleted in the recent rash of censorship.

Here's one of the award announcements (click to enlarge):

Cool! I didn't even know that he, a senior member of TWI and also moderator of TWI forums and Steam TWI related forums even had such awards to give out! I also appreciate that Jared locked the thread immediately after announcing the award: I probably couldn't stand the accolades that were sure to follow. The idea of an open discussion is just plain stultifying.

I am honored, though I'm hoping this doesn't mean a free copy of Heroes of Stalingrad is going to show up on my Steam account.

I truly appreciate that Jared, whom previously I've never attacked personally, had the time to think out such a unique award, since I know he was much too busy to respond to my inquiries as to giving actual feedback, as opposed to being a just a warm body to show the press, when I was invited to the beta for Heroes of Stalingrad.

Thanks again, Jared, for thinking of me and my lil' ol' blog!

P.S.: If you want to debate the facts of my entries, I'd be delighted to post your response(s). Better yet, how about just responding in your own forum - I'm not the only one looking for real information on the game to back up the claims so close to release.

P.P.S.: Not only have I not attacked you Jared, I admire you for what you were able to do in those Subway® campaign TV ads! Edit: I've been advised you're NOT that Jared. He was obese and got skinny. You just have a big head. My bad. 

P.P.P.S.: To help you out in your time of need, I think you meant "Ill-informed", not "Ill Informed". See the difference? The former means clueless, the latter means knowledgeable and not feeling well. Happy to clarify that for you!


Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain!

Who can forget the climax of the great film "The Wizard of Oz", when Dorothy and her companions realize they'd been hoodwinked: The "Great and Powerful Oz" turns out to be an ordinary little man, until then concealed behind a curtain and using mechanisms to animate what turned out to be nothing. We as PC gamers have seen an analog in some recent games: Homefront and Brink spring to mind. Both hyped up as "the next big thing", both turned out to be largely turdelicious, and are effectively dead games scant months after their release.

Prime examples of hype meeting reality. I shared the skepticism of many at the marketing of these two games, and even with low expectations, shared the disappointment of many in what was delivered.

Now, clearly, like or dislike of a game is a personal thing. Opinions should be expected to differ. There will always be outliers of both in the overall appeal of a game. Technical objectivism aside (e.g. incredible visuals, realistic AI, realistic sound, etc.), some may find delight in another's bomb of a game. I can think of one myself: I found Frontlines: Fuel of War to be an enjoyable single-player game. No world beater, but my experience was better than I expected, by a good margin, than what I would have thought based on critical and gamer reviews.

In that vein, the subject of one of my recent entries (I) Don't Believe the Hype, Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad, will very likely have great appeal to some gamers. Certainly it will, if only through cognitive dissonance, to the Red Orchestra brand faithful.

Nonetheless, that entry seems to have hit a nerve. Comments (all but one particularly obnoxious one published at the time of this entry) lean toward support of the entry, or neutrality. The expected ad hominem or two is of course sprinkled in.

Sadly, perhaps the most interesting discussion at this time of the entry, to be found in the TWI forums, cannot reliably be used to judge the response from gamers. Even adjusting for the expected bias by forum posters there (no indictment intended or implied - one should expect a bias toward a game franchise in the game's forums), the rank censorship going on clouds the view. Posts positive toward the entry are generally summarily deleted, with threats of bans bantered about, while those negative are generally left to stand. Insults and ad hominem toward those not toeing the line are treated similarly compared to those foaming at the mouth with glowing statements. Same in the Steam forums by TWI appointed moderators. Laughable, were it not for the chilling effect it has on open discussion.

It does remind one of the movie scene. The curtain has been pulled back. The reaction of the Great and Powerful Oz is most telling.

I've been apprised of veiled threats against some beta testers for allegedly "leaking" information. Well, at least if this is happening it is information, and more than the developer themselves seem to offer the community and other potential purchasers of the game. I have been quite clear with persons I know that are in the game's beta to not reveal anything violating their NDA to me (unenforceable as it is - TWI might want to invest in proper legal counsel next time, and use care in post NDA statements to participants), and as far as I can tell, no one has violated any part of their agreement, certainly not in any actionable manner.

Perhaps if the pulling back of the curtain had revealed something appealing, such caustic reactions would not have ensued. I have no plans to purchase the game on release, as I've already stated. I will, however, be happy to respond to the many requests for a full review if at least one of the local gaming group does buy the game. Despite my distaste for much of the community shared by others, and the apparent hyperbolic marketing of the game, I won't let that get in the way of an objective review. I am always willing to take a new look, and learn new things, when it comes to games.

Case in point: Had you asked me a month ago my thoughts on ARMA II, I would have been dismissive. My only experience was with the "single player" mode of the game. Quoted for a reason: to call it such is a gross misnomer. It is more like a sandbox to familiarize oneself with the mechanics of the game. Nothing more. As a game "mode", it is horrible.  Pulled kicking and screaming into the multiplayer mode, my eyes have been opened. While the game certainly has its quirks and bugs, its verisimilitude can at times be strikingly effective in its immersion. The "add-ons" and mod community provide bits and pieces that allow the game to become more than the sum of its parts, and to me represent the finest example of a "moddable" game I've yet played.

I'm not nearly deep enough into this very deep game to do it justice in (an already requested) review. When I feel like I have enough measure of the game, I will write one.

Stay tuned...


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ahh, Summer.

I love summer. Who doesn't? When answering a question from a friend's teen about why there are seasons, I recalled an animated graphic I made for Wikipedia's article on the Equation of Time. Using the most excellent Mathematica, I modelled the Earth's orbital components and calculated the components of the Equation of Time, generating a series of graphs that were combined to form the animation. The Sun, time, and the seasons all in one...

An Engineer's Audiophile...

If you have not happened across the blog NWAVGUY I highly recommend a gander. Using state-of-the-art test gear (including the yummy Prism Dscope III), he shreds audio BS seen elsewhere with cold hard science and facts. My kind of blog!

AMB Mini3 DIY Headphone Amp  is a great place to start. Watch the reaction of the foamers to cold hard facts and measurements. Sound familiar to that of non-glowing PC game reviews/previews/skepticism?


(I) Don't Believe the Hype...

There’s been much hype about the upcoming FPS PC game Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad from TWI, that cannot denied. I have never believed it, per se, but I did have high hopes for the quality of the game. The latter is no longer true. Most of the hype, repeated and linked ceaselessly, has been from the RO community and the developer themselves. Much of the rest has been from one publication (PC Gamer) and one reviewer there, known for uneven reviews.

Who can say how much of that positive “pre-review” might be the result of selective hiney powdering of said reviewer by the developer, the promise of ad revenue (a recent full page ad...), or other coddling à la the infamous COD reviewer junkets? Conspiracy theory? No, reality - the “review” business, whether it be PC games or anything else, is known for its corruption. Examples are rampant. Good reviews seem easily bought, or otherwise obtained. 

Part of the job of marketing, frankly, is the inveigling of hapless reviewers. I myself treat any review, save those by trusted friends or critics with unimpeachable credentials, with a block of salt for these reasons. 

And for the same reasons, eyebrows surely must rise with scepticism at “pre-reviews” making proclamations so grandiose as a game from a relatively unknown publisher somehow “beating” megaliths such as COD:BO. 

We should not forget the many games hyped similarly that turned out to be turds.

Opinions posted in counterpoint to this tide of hype from those not part of the religion of HOS are excoriated and often locked or deleted in the TWI forums. These selfsame forums allow other threads to limitlessly suppurate their spite until it fills every available crevice so long as they involve bashing other games and potential competitors. 

Similar behavior can be seen in the few other forums actively conversing about the game, often from apparent patrolling by TWI cultists: Witness the ridiculous level of “down-voting” of dissenting comments toward the alleged quality of the most recent game-play visuals on the gametrailers.com site. (You’d think these probable sock-puppets could at least be creative enough to use names dissimilar to their TWI forum monikers when doing their psuedo-astroturfing...and that TWI would at least be bright enough to use a sock-puppet moniker when actually astroturfing...)

To not toe the line is to be branded a “hater”, or “ignorant”, or “naive”.  

Such censorship and bullying of dissenting opinion and warranted scepticism, either from corporate edict or inaction in corporate forums, or by fanbois elsewhere should not go unnoticed, and instead should garner a dim view by the PC gamer.

TWI has made AAA claims for the game, but there has yet to be seen AAA evidence. Few backwater developers that have made grandiose claims have delivered, and I share the view that the proof is in the pudding. We’ve yet to see anything truly justifying AAA status much less claims, a status that seems preordained by the believers.

We really know little about  game, other than the paucity of information released by the developer and proclamations by the foamer faithful. 

We do know that not all of the “sneak peeks” of the game have been met with unanimous praise. 

Why might this be so? There are some prime reasons PC gamers buy a game:
  1. The game has a fundamental mechanic / game-play style they particularly enjoy.
  2. The game serves as a showcase for their PC horsepower: Crysis: Brutal for hardware and pretty!
  3. They want to play what their friends and their community plays.
To some gamers, satisfying even one of these qualifies a game as desirable, while others require all three (and more) criteria to be met. Looking at RO:HOS in each of these areas proves enlightening.

The game has a fundamental mechanic / gameplay style they particularly enjoy.
Viewed by this criterion, HOS finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Despite efforts claimed to make the game “more accessible” to the mainstream gamer, I’ve seen little if any evidence this has been successful. Sandwiched between the more mainstream (arcade? popular style?) play of AAA titles such as the Battlefield and Call of Duty series, and the arguably superior “realism” of games like the ARMA series, HOS seems to be limiting itself to an exceedingly thin slice of the gamer pie. 

The attempted COD land grab by TWI (historically implausible weapons, unlocks, etc.) has further alienated their existing dedicated community, and to my eyes is not going to be sufficient to capture any real segment of the mainstream market without losing many from the existing core.

The fact that one will find more people in their local Safeway than are actively playing HOS’ forebearer worldwide at any given time amply demonstrates the vacuum of interest in this category of play and game family (WW II “realistic”).

The game serves as a showcase for their PC horsepower.
The visuals seen so far for HOS have been underwhelming at best. Not much really can be expected from the already aging version of the engine used. Statements from the leaky beta testers have not been encouraging in this regard, excepting those of (possibly sight impaired) foamers

Most serious PC gamers have serious investments in PC hardware. They want to show it off, if only to themselves. HOS seems unlikely to fulfill that desire. 

“Gameplay AND graphics from 5 years ago” as one viewer of the game commented.

That the game is being consistently shown with less than “full on” visuals (by admission of TWI staff) when it is allegedly scant weeks from release rings alarm bells. Are the visuals seen in fact really as good as it gets? Is the performance with the apparently mythical “full on” settings so dismal it can’t be shown? Who knows.

We certainly have been told to expect great visuals. Where are they? 

And why on earth with beta testing nearing its end, so close to release, would the game not be tested at its limits? Something doesn’t pass the smell test here.

Apologists saying things like “...the game is set in WWII and has a certain look because of this...”,  with foamers quickly chiming in with nonsense like “People know in their heart of hearts the game is going too [sic] have pretty good graphics...” (Really? Your heart told you so?), where no one I know of has publicly seen anything remotely resembling modern hardware quality capabilities in visuals is analogous to Britney Spears fans wailing how fine her voice really is. 

When was the last time a game that actually had truly kick-ass capabilities was not shown in that light scant weeks before release? I can’t think of any.

They want to play what their friends and their community plays.
This may ultimately be the killer for the game. All but one of the serious gamers I personally pointed toward the game has stated they no longer plan to purchase the game. Their reason: the community. I’ll not delve into details. A perusal of Facepunch will give one sufficient pause as to the view seen by many others. Suffice it to say, the CEO of TWI has claimed he gets ten messages a day from new community members stating they don't want to go there any more.

We want to play what our friends are playing, and meet new friends in the greater community. The latter in the case of RO seems utterly uninviting: a club no one wants to be a member of, save the overabundant churls already there. I myself have joined the ranks of “no thanks” because of the behavior there, seemingly encouraged rather than disciplined by TWI themselves. 

TWI’s flippant attitudes are sewage sauce on the excrement pie. To paraphrase one example: “You just don’t get it. It is a revolution in gaming. You’ll see!” Really? How about letting the gamer decide what is and isn’t revolutionary, instead of decreeing it so as if only you are the all-seeing, all-knowing of the PC gaming community? Even hardened, long faithful members of the core community feel slighted and are turning their backs on the game because of the attitude pervading the forums from the top.

So, a game that has apparently already dated visuals, with a play style that seems to attract a limited player base, played and hyped by a community with one too many TWIrps. 

It seems there must be many better places to spend my PC game monies in the near future (like the upcoming Iron Front WW 2 realism game on the ARMA OA engine, and of course BF3 and MW3, with ARMA 3 and Dead Island thrown in for good measure), and I and others I know plan to. 

The fact that the game, only a few weeks away from release, did not even muster a mention in the list of the top dozen games of the most recent OTX GamePlan insights surveys of PC game purchase intents bodes poorly and is a focused magnifying glass on the (un)reality of the hype. 

The fact that the recent Steam giveaway of the top ten games in 100 winners’ wish lists resulted in a grand total of three “wishes” for the game reinforces the detachment of reality from the hype.

The fact that many long-standing and devoted members of the community are not pre-ordering the game, and some have chosen to divorce themselves from the community speaks volumes.

The fact that one beta tester called the game “...shite [sic], with some interesting features...” is perhaps the most disquieting indictment of the chasm between the hype PC gamers have been fed and the apparent reality of the game.

I played the original mod. I bought OSTFRONT to vote with my wallet for an original job well done. I never even played the latter in earnest, I’d already moved on from an enjoyable time with the free mod. I just wanted to reward a tiny team for their effort. It’s a shame the heads grew so big, and too much of the community so foul, that I’ve no desire to continue my patronage of the brand.

I’ll be voting with my wallet, along with others. Elsewhere.

I may buy HOS when it is cheap, for which I do not anticipate a long wait.

Edit (7/20): The reactions to this entry (other than the largely concurring comments here and elsewhere) have become something bordering on bizarre. Like watching Bill Clinton in his infamous parsing of words. See the post A sorry hebetating of the truth, and be sure to follow the hyperlinks contained therein, for an amusing trip. The Attack Blog entry should amuse you also.

Edit (7/17): It seems some readers have posted links to this entry in various forums, including TWI. I've received amusing messages regarding the (not surprisingly biased) censorship going on at the TWI forums (and Steam forums by TWI moderators) over comments toward the entry. Head on over to see great examples of the artificial view TWI wants you to believe...and the reality (before they delete those posts.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crosshairs' IBleedV20 goes live at Tripwire Interactive!

 A visit to the studio responsible for the highly anticipated Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad is planned for this weekend.

See http://bashandslash.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=4137 , and elsewhere on the BashandSlash site for details.

Should be good!


The best customer reviews ever at Amazon.com

This is a cable. To connect some audio components together.

It is $500.00

That is itself is not so remarkable: "Audiophile" kooks can pay upwards of $40,000.00 for an eight foot pair of speaker cables. They think they sound better, that the electrons "know"...
A mutation at the P. T. Barnum locus in their genes, I suppose.

What makes this remarkable is that it is just a CAT6 equivalent Ethernet cable.

The ensuing reviews border on the brilliant. Have a look and a laugh.

Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable

Regrettably, if you want one, it looks like you'll need to pay at least double on the used market...


Sunday, January 9, 2011

159 Degrees of Separation: One of the greatest escapes in history.

I'm a huge fan of Paul Nahin. A true polymath, his areas of expertise range far and wide. Paul has written a series of books targeted at the lay reader (perhaps better said as advanced lay reader) on a wide range of subjects, from electronics (The Science of Radio), probability (Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzles), to general mathematics and physics (several).

I have them all, and enjoy them immensely. One of my favorites is Chases and Escapes: The Mathematics of Pursuit and Evasion, a fantastic overview of the history and mathematics of modern pursuit theory. Pursuit theory in this context includes the analysis of optimal strategies for both pursuing (catching) a target, and evasion (losing or avoiding the chaser) by the target.

I thought of Paul recently when I caught the excellent BBC documentary Hiroshima, part of the BBC History of World War II series. If you have any interest in the history changing atomic bombing of Japan, I can highly recommend this documentary / docudrama. The film intersperses interviews with members of the allied forces, and those of survivors from Hiroshima, with superb reenactments and CGI of the events leading to, and including, the bombing.

In the documentary, it is mentioned that after the release of the bomb, the pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, Colonel Paul Tibbets, made a "159 degree diving turn" to maximize the distance from the bomber to the detonation point of the Little Boy Uranium gun-type bomb. It had been determined that the plane could be damaged and possibly crippled if the distance was less that eight miles. As it turns out, Tibbets put 10.5 miles between the detonation and the plane (according to science officers analyzing data after the bombing.)

Why 159 degrees?

Tibbets had said to Oppenheimer (the father, in essence, of Little Boy and the subsequent Fat Man Plutonium implosion bomb): "I told him that when we had dropped bombs in Europe and North Africa, we'd flown straight ahead after dropping them - which is also the trajectory of the bomb. But what should we do this time?"

According to Tibbets, Oppenheimer replied "You can't fly straight ahead because you'd be right over the top when it blows up and nobody would ever know you were there."

Tibbets continues "He said I had to turn tangent to the expanding shock wave. I said, 'Well, I've had some trigonometry, some physics. What is tangency in this case?' He said it was 159 degrees in either direction. 'Turn 159 degrees as fast as you can and you'll be able to put yourself the greatest distance from where the bomb exploded.'"

I'm quite sure that something got lost in the translation here, either by the interviewer, or in Tibbets' memory of what was said (I'm quite sure Oppenheimer would not have said such a thing!): As we'll see, the statement "I had to turn tangent to the expanding shock wave" doesn't make much sense, and I'm sure what was meant is more along the lines of "Turn until the line from the detonation to the plane is tangent to the turning radius..."

We can do a simplified version of the problem with simple trigonometry. We want to maximize our speed and distance away from the detonation point, within the reasonable limits of the aircraft (i.e., no Split-S maneuvers, though I think the plane could tolerate one, and it might have been even more effective at getting maximal distance.)

Viewed from above the bomb run, we can diagram the problem as below (most certainly not to scale):

D represents the distance from the release of the bomb to the detonation point.

R represents the turning radius of the B-29 Superfortress (I am not aware of any actual data on Tibbets' aircraft: having been lightened by removal of non-essential components, I would venture a slightly smaller number than a standard B-29.)

Plugging in some rough numbers garnered from various sources, we find R/D ≅ 0.19

Since the tangent of angle a is defined as that value, we find that a = Tan-1(0.19), or a = 10.8 degrees.

a is half of angle b, making b = 21.6 degrees.

We know from basic trigonometry that angle c is 180 - b, or 158.4 degrees. Close enough for government work!

Hence, a turn of this angle will point the Enola Gay directly away from the detonation point, maximizing the distance over time from  that moment of flight.

In reality, the problem is a bit more complex, since it really is a problem in three dimensions (the drop height, actual detonation height of ~ 1900 feet, the time from drop to detonation, and the speed of the aircraft and the effects of the dive and turn must all be taken into account.)

In a personal communication, I asked Paul Nahin if he was aware of any such analysis. His reply was negative. Perhaps in the next printing of the book...