Thursday, December 24, 2009

OS Fanboy? Not Really...

Monday, December 21, 2009

3 or 5-manning Blackrock Depths (BRD) Post 3.3

A long time ago, my World of Warcraft guild, Saturnalia, leveled 3 characters by doing dungeons together at appropriate level. I don't know if we were the first to 3-man all of the old world dungeons at appropriate levels, but we had a blast. I originally posted a guide to Blackrock Depths for other 3-man groups, but now it seems appropriate to update this for the post-3.3 era of the random dungeon finder. I'll keep all of the 3-manning notes just in case you want to try it, but this guide should now be even more helpful to those who want to do BRD as a random dungeon.
Read on for the full guide...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar Review: Nothing Is What It Seems

I just saw James Cameron's Avatar. I'll break this review into three parts. The first is just about the film itself. The second is about what I think Cameron was trying to accomplish and what I think he's accomplished with this film (hint: it has nothing to do with "revolutionizing" movie making). The third part is more of the second part, but with spoilers.

But first, let me describe how I see a James Cameron film. When I was a teen, I saw Terminator and, like most of my friends, it blew me away. Like Close Encounters before it, it was a perfect blend of the ordinary and completely alien. It also had a swagger to it that appealed to me as a young man. It wasn't until Aliens came out, however, that I learned to recognize the director's signatures: the strong female protagonist; the relentless enemy which was somehow of our own making; the fading, but all-important ember of humanity. When Abyss came out, I was vaguely disappointed until I saw the director's cut (the one that changed how we thought about director's cuts). In its final version, it was nearly the same story as Terminator and Aliens, but it chose a new alien world to explore rather than the shattered future or a marooned spaceship, it was the ocean depths.

So when Titanic was announced, I was confused. It seemed as if it was both not his genre and at the same time something he'd already done. How little I knew. Nearly everyone I've talked to saw Titanic as a love story between DeCaprio and Winslet. Of course, the promotional material for the film didn't help that impression. However, if you dig a bit deeper, it was Cameron up to his old tricks again. Rose is our strong female protagonist; the sea is our relentless enemy, but the ship succumbs to it through our own negligence; and finally there is the fading of humanity. In Titanic we experience death from a dozen different directions. Rose undergoes a transformation due to the death of Jack, sure, but there's also the band that goes down playing; the man who will sacrifice anyone to get off the sinking boat. The movie is full of a dozen ways to die and and even more ways to face it. It is, in fact, a story about the nature one one's choices in the face of death.

So, when I went to see Avatar, I expected all of those things... and got none of them. So, on to the review. (more...)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

HP Laptop Envy

I can't afford a new laptop right now, but oh my, the new HP Pavilion DV7-3080US gave me laptop envy! The Intel Core i7 and the 1G dedicated graphics would really rock for gaming, and even for virtualization at work. Going to have to be strong....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random dungeons in WoW

World of Warcraft's 3.3. patch added a new feature called random dungeons. This allows characters of abotu level 14 and higher to place themselves in a queue for a dungeon. When you do this, you'll be in queue with everyone else in your battlegroup (a related set of realms that typically only saw each other in PvP battlegrounds and Arenas). If you're doing random dungeons, here are some tips:
  • At low levels, make sure you loot the last boss. The reward is apparently on a boss, not given automatically. I lost out due to this.
  • If you don't zone in automatically, you can click the "transport to dungeon" or whatever it's called button after the party is formed.
  • Don't sign up as leader unless you're familiar with the dungeon and willing to walk people through it
  • The penalty for leaving is just a 15 minute time-out. If you get a really bad group, just bow out politely.
  • The new zone map is awesome. Use it.
  • This will probably be the new way to power-level, since it gets you tons of dungeons faster than you could run to them.
  • If you die, you have to run back in. Make sure you know the layout outside the dungeon before going in.
  • If there is an option to disenchant, don't hesitate to use it. It's the same priority as "greed." Of course, check sell price for the item first. Greed might be better.
  • If someone wants to leave the group, don't get upset. They're automatically replaced.
  • If someone is linkdead, give them some time (e.g. a few minutes) and then initiate a group-kick vote.
  • When new people come in to an existing group, ask if they need an escort. Don't assume they know the way to where you are in the dungeon.

It's a lot of fun at lower levels. At high levels, it finally makes pugging worth doing for me. I never wanted to pug before, but I think that's because there was so much emphasis on not pugging for players who were good. Now the good and the bad all want to get the rewards from random dungeons, so you're more likely to get an evenly mixed group.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AT&T: We'd Rather You Use Verizon!

I recently bought a Droid from Verizon. Previously, I had an iPhone from AT&T. My partner has an old AT&T account with a junky phone that we just wanted to keep the number from. I called up AT&T and explained the situation. They told me that I was required to keep both accounts or delete one, but that I was not allowed to move any numbers from any account to any other.

That seemed odd. So I asked what they would do if the number I wanted to bring in was a Verizon number. They told me that they'd be thrilled to move a number in and replace my current number at no charge and with my current plan. Wait... so, if I were a Verizon customer, I'd get better AT&T service, but because I'm an AT&T customer, they're not even willing to just move a phone number?! No, I had to have heard that wrong. So, I asked to speak to a manager and made it quite clear that all I wanted to do was move a number, not an account and that I wanted to keep my high-priced AT&T iPhone service for a good long time. Nope. I'd have to get a new plan with a new contract.

When I explained that my life would actually be simpler if I payed the $150 to terminate the iPhone and get my partner a Droid, I was told that that was my only workable option and he didn't even try to keep me as a customer.

In the end AT&T would much rather that you become a Verizon customer than close one, old clunky account and move the number around internally. Your customer loyalty for 10 years isn't, it turns out, worth a database record update to AT&T.

Well, two Droids is better than one, I guess...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hardest Trivia Questions, Ever

Update: There is now a second article: The Hardest Trivia Questions Ever, Part Two.
Wikipedia is a font of really useful information, but it can also be the source of some of the most obscure information to have graced the Web. Specifically, their "Did you know" section on the front page tends to have some of the most obscure trivia you'll come across. I've turned some of it into a set of trivia questions. See how many you can get by using your scroll bar to hide the next question's answer just off the bottom while you guess (questions after the jump)...