Regular Stuff…

Been kind of an interesting two weeks. I’ve been committing a lot of time towards my backup application. Fortunately it works very well but I decided that comma delimited files are too primitive for configuration settings and take too much code to work with or to add on to. So I’m converting to XML. I haven’t used XML much except as data storage and that’s pretty easy to do. Saving configuration settings to it seems harder. Apparently a lot of it still has to be coded yourself if you want any sort of custom data to be stored. Fortunately it is easy to add stuff to in the future. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure that out, because it should make the other features I want to add to the program easier in the long run.

I also think I’m going to have to change the actual working code to C++ or C# in the near future. VB is great, easy to use and you can write things pretty quickly with it but it makes Object Oriented stuff a little more complicated then it already is. It’s also too tempting to write inefficient code with it. Of course if Java has some of the same features as the stuff included with the .NET framework I may convert totally to that in the future. Basically an ‘in house’ compression algorithm is all I really need. I don’t really want to get licencing for PKZIP (which is the best compression utility out there in my opinion) unless I absolutely have to.

Right now the alpha has the following features in case anyone is interested:

  • Automatic CD AND DVD burning capability. Uses the NeroCMD utility. Requires Nero 6 or Nero 7.
  • Scheduled Automatic Backups. Uses Windows scheduled tasks to work instead of residing in memory and eating up resources.
  • Scripted backup jobs. You can build a ‘job’ and configure what files you want it to back up and whether you want them compressed or not. Then you can just tell it to run that one over and over again. Works with the scheduled tasks feature.
  • Compression. You can compress your files to save space on the CD/DVD. This is good but doesn’t work on all files. It will actually make most picture files bigger. Best for database files, text, and programs right now. I might add some kind of third party compression capability later.

It will have the following features after the beta gets tested:

  • Network Backups. If you have a network it will be able to back up your important files on any computer on your network with a shared folder. I’ll probably limit the number backup folders on each workstation though, MSSQL database backups can get real big real fast and fill up hard drives.
  • Automatic “JumpDrive” Support. You’ll be able to put a specific memory stick in your USB port and it will automatically execute a job or set of jobs and backup your files to it.
  • Automatic File Searches. Mostly a feature for home users, back up your My Documents folders, and it’ll search in common places for Pictures, Documents, Financial Files, Video and Music. Save you some time figuring out what to backup if you store everything in your My Documents Folder.
  • Saved Game Backup. This is something I’m excited about personally. It should be able to look in your game directories for saved game files and back those up. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of information on different games and where they store saved game information and add ‘templates’ for them. If this program is ever used by the public, maybe developers will provide that information themselves. Otherwise it’ll probably be a community effort.
  • Upload Your Backups. You will be able to upload your backups to a remote file server, or a website, or even another computer connected to the internet.
  • Remote Backups. I’d like to add P2P capability to the program so that you can request your backup files remotely and download them. This would off course, like the JumpDrive support require the program or part of it to be resident in memory though. Could split the download/upload burden accross multiple machines real easy though.

I’ve been playing Medieval II: Total War lately. Beat a campaign with the Holy Roman Empire with minimal cheating. That was pretty cool. I’m now playing as the Egyptians. Of course there are a few bugs in the game, and some annoyances that are supposed to be fixed in the first patch for the game. The patch of course was supposed to be release Friday the 15th but apparently was not. Hopefully they’ll deploy it before the 22nd though or at least tell us what the hold up is. Of course it’s a british game developer using a japanese distribution company so who knows what weirdness that causes.

The game is pretty much a clone of Rome: Total War though, actually it’s a clone of the expansion more then anything. That kind of bugs me because I paid $50 for the limited edition and they pretty much could have just released it as an expansion to Rome as far as I can tell. It does have some new features, but honestly it plays pretty much exactly like Rome.

My brother bought a PS2 a couple weeks back. That’s been pretty entertaining. At least for him, I have little desire to play it much. He got Mortal Kombat: Armageddon yesterday though so at least now we have multiplayer. I thought about getting my own memory card and controller for it though so I could play it when he’s not here, or with him when he is. We also need a GameShark terribly bad I think. I’m not 100% sure how a GameShark for the PS2 would work but I know it makes Final Fantasy games a lot neater to play.

I’m working on reading through Eragon as well. We went to see the movie Saturday. I have mixed feelings over it. For one the book isn’t as great as some people claim. It’s pretty obvious it was written by a teenager, and not the genius everyone tries to make Paolini out to be. It’s pretty blatant about all but plagiarizing other works. Eragon itself reads almost exactly like Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World”. The first book in the Wheel of Time series. Of course that book in turn has a lot in common with “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkein. I see a strong tendency towards that. Of course, I’d know, I did the exact same thing in one of my own self indulgent stories, but I haven’t let anyone read that one except my mother.

I mean come on a character called a “Shade” is introduced right off the bat. The guy then travels with a Storyteller who is more then what he seems to a River Town fleeing from orc variations. Has anyone seem this before?

The movie was extraordinarily well executed I thought, except for the beginning, which was utter crap and not entirely necessary. It did not follow the book at all though, and I’m only in the first hundred pages of the book and I could already tell they butchered it pretty bad. The mixed feelings part though is where it gets kind of complex.

You see as far as I can tell the people who wrote the movie, had better writing skills then the author of the book. So honestly it is better written, and the actors were pretty great. I mean Jeremy Irons, you can’t do a whole lot better, except they should quit killing him in movies. In my opinion they could have come up with a more original movie that was not based on a book and probably done a lot better.

Honestly though this Inheritance series of books is all pretty much utter crap written by a guy with only average talent and hyped up way more then it should be. I actually have to force myself to read it and unsurprisingly I’m not the only person that feels this way.

-Aaron

Someone Explain This To Me….

Can someone explain to me why Dish Network does all sorts of charity work for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans and yet treats their loyal customers so poorly? I mean they’ll basically just give you free stuff if your house gets blown away by a tropical storm, but if you’ve been a good loyal customer for almost ten years they’ll screw you over at every opportunity.

This is unfortunate since they spend an enormous amount of money telling everyone how great they are, but are unwilling to provide something to their current customers at a discount or at no charge, that they give new ones for free. Talk about great customer service.

Now I can understand some of the gadgets not being available to current customers, but what about standard stuff like receivers and dishes? Why charge out the nose for a newer, more functional receiver that will make the most of the service your customer already pays for? A service I might add the old receiver wasn’t even designed for nor can it use all the features of said service?

What brings this up you might ask?

It’s a funny story really. My parents got Dish Network when we moved up to Fritch, TX because Cox at the time did not provide service to rural customers. We got a big package and swiftly set it up, enjoying our new satellite TV. This was in 1997.

We moved back to Amarillo, taking our stuff with us. After a few months my parents decided they wanted a receiver in their room. So they called Dish Network and they sent a guy out to set us up with their Dish 500 service. Made them sign a two year contract and soon they were enjoying the service in their room. That was in 2000.

During the setup process he informed us that the receiver we had was vastly outdated, and updated the software as best he could. He told us we should really call them and get them to send us a newer one for the living room. Wonderful.

So now in 2006, they start seeing ads for a free DVR to new customers. They decide to call Dish about getting a new receiver. They are informed they will have to pay several hundred dollars for a new receiver. This is after nine years of being a faithful customer, honoring the contract and only missing one or two payments. Which they caught up within a day or two.

They are now stuck with an ancient receiver that barely works. Dish refuses to upgrade them. It will cost over three hundred dollars they say. Three hundred dollars for something everyone else gets for nothing. Not one penny! They refuse to give in.

Not only that, but apparently these ‘no upgrade rules’ aren’t even Dish Networks! They’re AT&T’s. But wait! When you call AT&T they say Dish Network made the rules. If you cancel your account for six months, then they might upgrade your receiver.

To make matters even funnier other satellite companies ‘don’t provide service’ in Amarillo. How the heck does that work? Does the satellite skip over Amarillo somehow? Can you not line your dish up with it, even though people in Oklahoma City can? What’s the deal?

On top of that, the slightest thing will make their service cut out. Clouds, the wind blowing very hard (which is like 200 days out of the year), and apparently the alignment of the planets. Solar flares oddly don’t affect it.

Some non-competition agreement I’m told is the problem. That’s great, Dish Network has a MONOPOLY here and they happily screw over loyal customers and say there isn’t a thing we can do about it.  My parents aren’t the only ones with this problem.

They’re extremely dissatisfied with how they’re being treated, and unless they want to go with the much more expensive cable company (which does in fact upgrade your equipment free if they change something), or go without for half a year they are pretty well stuck with Dish’s pitiful customer service.

Playstation 3

I’d like to say that I have the $500-$600 it takes to get a PS3 when they come out on the 17th, because I would just to be able to play White Knight Story. It looks awesome. Go to gametrailers.com and check out the quicktime version of the trailer. It’s “Final Fantasyesque” looking I think.

My brother-in-law and I were discussing that earlier. We thought it was probably worth it. Even if to just beat the game then sell the PS3 on E-Bay for twice what it’s worth. You know they’ll run out by noon that day.

Aaah if only I had the money!

Anyway my brother is running our D&D game now and sucking badly at it. I hope he gets better but I don’t think he’ll put the effort into improving. He wants me to help a lot but I quit DMing because of his crap. I don’t think I want to give him too much.

I accidently threw away my Rome: Total War expansion a few weeks ago so I had to order a new one. Kinda sucks because I hadn’t actually beat the expansion enough to really feal satisfied with it. I’m working on a Scipii campaign now, very little cheating and I seem to be kicking butt. The Scipii seem harder then the other two factions and their troops seem to suck more for some reason.

I like that their weapons and armor can both hit the ‘gold’ level but troop experience is more valuable in my opinion. I find it annoying that some campaigns you can get a general for practically no effort whatsoever by using an army with no family member to lead it against an enemy army, and in others you can conquer half of europe with an un-generaled army and never get one. I wish I knew what caused the ‘man of the hour’ thing to pop up.

I just can’t wait for Medieval 2 to come out. It looks great!

Nothing New With Blizzard

It seems Blizzard has put off releasing the expansion for World of Warcraft until January. It was set to be released on November 22nd (which was really convenient considering my birthday is the day before), at least according to Amazon.com. You can read IGN’s very brief article here. Unfortunately, this isn’t anything really new with Blizzard. They are notorious for doing this very thing with their games. Anyone remember Diablo II? They delayed it for what? Two years? Then when it finally came out it was two or three weeks before you could get a copy because they all sold out practically before their boxes actually came in contact with the shelves they sat on.

I hope this isn’t a marketing tactic. It is clever if it is, but unfortunately it’s nothing new to Blizzard. They claim they are just polishing things up but I can guarantee you these things will happen when the game is released.

  1. There will be considerable lag on practically all servers if many aren’t in fact down for the day.
  2. There will be a huge patch, probably in the 100 – 250 megabyte range if not bigger.
  3. Within one week of the expansion being released there will be yet another, albeit smaller, patch to fix the dozens of bugs that they didn’t catch during testing. It will likely screw things up worse then they were before, requiring a ‘ mini-patch’ a few days later to fix whatever catastrophe the last once caused.
  4. There will be at least one well intentioned but annoying if not completely debilitating feature added to the game within a month.
  5. The day it released there will be an obscene amount of blood elves on every server and the dranei racial city will be largely deserted.
  6. Within minutes of being able to log in you’ll see naked, floating corpses of female blood elves at the Ironforge city gates. Outside the Ironforge Auctionhouse you’ll run into a floating male blood elf’s butt every time you exit. Said levitating corpses will remain there for weeks.

According to Amazon.com the release date is “January 30th”. In my experience that usually means that there isn’t a concrete release date. Usually though it’s a middle of the month thing. I’m speculating on either the 17th or the 24th, right after the usual Tuesday updates, which by the way will take all freaking day.

Of course I don’t actually believe they’ll stick to the January release date. Most software companies don’t set deadlines.