20091112

I got my copy of Modern Warfare 2!

My copy of Modern Warfare 2 arrived by courier yesterday, and I managed to plow through the campaign in one night. It was on regular though. It was short, but it had plenty of action and twists. I especially loved the part with the snowmobiles. Going downhill felt great!

I tried to get on the PSN to play online, but the Modern Warfare 2 servers were having problems. Lets hope they fix that soon. [UPDATE: It looks like they fixed it. I played for a couple of rounds. I sucked, as usual.]

I tried to play split-screen with my brother but they did that 16:9 split-screen thing instead of just a line down the middle, so the viewing area is really tiny on my 24" monitor. At first it was kind of a problem, but we moved closer and we got over it.

20091109

Baldur's Gate Trilogy on Ubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 Linux

Baldur's Gate 4-in-1 boxset I had been feeling the itch to play Baldur's Gate again. To my eternal shame I've never actually finished either Baldur's Gate or its expansion and sequel. I found this guide and managed to install and play Baldur's Gate using the Baldur's Gate Trilogy (BGT) mod on my Linux box. BGT is a mod that makes it so that all Baldur's Gate games are played as one giant epic continuous game. It starts at Candlekeep and I suppose it ends wherever and whenever Throne of Bhaal ends. Since I've never actually finished it I don't know for sure but the idea is intriguing.

The installation was successful and I've played it for a bit. There are a couple of issues though:
  • I can't seem to put it into windowed mode
  • It sometimes hangs when I quit while actually in a game. I usually get out of this by doing a Ctrl-Alt-Backspace and going back to the gdm.
I haven't run across anything else so far. I'll update when I do.

So here's what I did:
  1. First things first, make sure you have a copy of the original Baldur's Gate, it's expansion: Tales of the Sword Coast, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, and Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. You have to have all of them. If you don't, I suggest getting the Baldur's Gate 4-in-1 boxset.
  2. Make sure you have the following packages installed: mmv, tofrodos, and wine. If you don't have them or you are unsure just execute the following command:
    $ sudo aptitude install build-essential mmv tofrodos wine unrar-free unzip libjpeg62-dev zlib1g-dev  
  3. Execute
    $ winecfg
    Under the "Audio" tab, make sure that only the box labelled "OSS" is checked. Click OK.
  4. Download and save winetricks into a folder in your PATH. Execute:
    $ ./winetricks directplay
  5. Download Mos Pack and extract the contents of the source directory within. I extracted the files into /home/haris/src/mospack. Execute:
    $ cd /home/haris/src/mospack
    $ make -f makefile.unix
    This will create the executables mospack and mosunpack
  6. Move, copy or create symlinks for the resulting mospack and mosunpack in a folder in your PATH.
  7. Using wine, install Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, and Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. Make sure you install everything. I installed Baldur's Gate at /home/haris/games/baldursgate and Baldur's Gate 2 at /home/haris/games/baldursgate2. When you see these folder names in this post just change them to match where you installed the games on your system.
  8. Then, if you need to, download the appropriate patches for Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 from Bioware's site and install those too.
  9. Download Baldur's Gate Trilogy-WeiDU and extract it into your Baldur's Gate 2 folder. The current version is 1.08.
  10. Download bgt_linux.rar and also extract it into your Baldur's Gate 2 folder
  11. Download the Linux version of WeiDU. Unzip it into a folder in your PATH. Personally, I extracted to a new folder and added that folder to the PATH. Whatever you choose to do, switch to whatever folder you extracted it to and execute:
    $ tolower
  12. Change to your Baldur's Gate directory and execute tolower:
    $ cd /home/haris/games/baldursgate
    $ tolower
  13. Change to your Baldur's Gate 2 directory and execute tolower:
    $ cd /home/haris/games/baldursgate2
    $ tolower
  14. Still from your Baldur's Gate 2 folder execute:
    $ ./bgt-linux/bgt-linux
  15. When prompted, type in the location of your Baldur's Gate install. In my case this is /home/haris/games/baldursgate.
  16. Wait.
  17. After the installation is done, put in your Baldur's Gate 2 CD and type:
    $ wine baldur.exe
Enjoy!
Adapted from BGT in Linux (Successfully I think) by lodgey
References: DirectPlay Games at Wine wiki

20091108

I want to be a ✭Rockstar Scientist✭!

We went to Penang for a couple of days and saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 3D at Gurney Plaza. I think Gurney Plaza's GSC is the only cinema with 3D within an hour of my place so there's not much of an option. We had great seats too: last row center so the viewing angle was 90°-ish. It was awesome.

And the movie itself was great, too. I don't particularly know who wrote the screenplay or directed but he/she/they nailed it in my opinion. I especially loved the fast cuts of Flint Lockwood describing his actions when he's doing science. I also loved the posters little Flint had in his bedroom, specifically the Tesla poster.

Going in, I only knew that Bill Hader and Anna Faris were the main characters. I didn't know that Mr T was in it. Nor did I know that Neil Patrick Harris voiced Steve the monkey.

The jokes were good, too. Some were obviously targeted at the kids in the audience. But there were more than enough geeky/nerdy ones in there to satisfy me. Hell, they had Bruce Campbell, Mr T and Neil Patrick Harris. I am well-satisfied.

The 3D was used to great effect. As my brother said: this is a disaster movie. There wasn't a lot of things flying out of the screen, but the depth perception lends a bit more oomph to the destruction that is happening. That said, it isn't necessary to have watched the movie in 3D to enjoy it. It is plenty good enough to stand on its own.

20091105

Dragon Age: Origins — No top down view. No spell-casting while paused. I am a sad panda

Playing on the PS3 after finishing the PC version, I felt hamstrung by the console interface. In combat, it replaces the expandable ability bar and hotkeys by mapping spells and abilities to the face buttons. You get two sets of commands and can alternate between them with R2 (or right bumper for the 360).

Tactical combat is sadly stripped down for the consoles. In the PC version, you may use a handy top-down viewpoint of the battlefield. You can maneuver the camera above the characters on the console, but it doesn't scroll in and out. It's also more difficult to command characters to take specific positions on the battlefield, and I couldn't cast spells while paused. This really takes away from the combat -- it's a shame that console players again don't get the options that PC players enjoy. via 1up.com

I was very much looking forwards to playing Dragon Age. But after reading that, I'm a bit bummed out. Getting it for Windows is not really an option because I don't run Windows anymore. So the PS3 is my main gaming outlet.

Why do console games get "simplified" interfaces/control schemes by default? It's not like I can't plug in a USB keyboard and mouse on my PS3 and game away. I understand that it might be an unfair advantage in multiplayer games. But this is single-player AND multi-platform. A keyboard and mouse control scheme and its attendant advantages should at least be an option for games like this.

20091103

Failing drives annoy me

I had a surprise when I upgraded the netbook to Karmic. It installed a SMART monitoring tool by default and it reported that my hard drive is failing. I did not experience this when I installed Karmic on my laptop but that was a clean install, not an upgrade. I did a search on Google and discovered that many are experiencing this and it is apparently a known bug. So this is the output of sudo smartctl -iA /dev/sda (install smartmontools first):
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Device Model:     TOSHIBA MK1652GSX
Serial Number:    29AGF4FCS
Firmware Version: LV020J
User Capacity:    160,041,885,696 bytes
Device is:        Not in smartctl database [for details use: -P showall]
ATA Version is:   8
ATA Standard is:  Exact ATA specification draft version not indicated
Local Time is:    Tue Nov  3 06:21:31 2009 MYT
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000b   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  2 Throughput_Performance  0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0027   100   100   001    Pre-fail  Always       -       1129
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       10235
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       147
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000b   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  8 Seek_Time_Performance   0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   088   088   000    Old_age   Always       -       5027
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0033   253   100   030    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       240
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       34
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   096   096   000    Old_age   Always       -       47116
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       63 (Lifetime Min/Max 23/68)
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       138
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0030   100   100   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x0032   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
220 Disk_Shift              0x0002   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       108
222 Loaded_Hours            0x0032   089   089   000    Old_age   Always       -       4505
223 Load_Retry_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
224 Load_Friction           0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
226 Load-in_Time            0x0026   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       334
240 Head_Flying_Hours       0x0001   100   100   001    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0

I have since discovered that SMART is not monitored by default in Jaunty so it's not a surprise that there were no warnings. I have no idea what the reallocated sector count was pre-Karmic, but I think that the hard drive was already going bad — there were signs even though it was mostly running fine. And the numbers does seem to indicate that it is genuine rather than a bug. After thinking it over I am leaning towards prudence and simply replacing the netbook's hard drive and buying an external enclosure for it in order to use it as portable storage. It's probably for the best.

That said, I'll take note of SMART beforehand the next time I do an upgrade to Karmic.

UPDATE 3/11/2009 11:21 p.m.: Upgraded another computer from Jaunty to Karmic. Zero problems.

20091102

Lesson from TV: It doesn't pay to become Good

I saw the latest Dollhouse episode just now and it made me feel sad for Topher. Supposedly he is an amoral genius, but he is now starting to have questions about what is right and wrong. This will not end well for him.

Switching your alignment to Good is, ironically, almost never good. Just switching is never enough. You feel the Need to Atone™ for your past misdeeds. This need, if left uncontrolled, can lead you to doing Stupid Things™. Eventually, if your supposed "sins" are perceived to be severe enough, it will Drive You Crazy™.

Switching to Evil on the other hand, is almost always good. You stand to gain obscene amounts of power, and with power comes happiness. The key is of course to Never Overextend™. Learn where the limits of your abilities are and curb your ambition to match. Many who have fallen to Evil failed to observe this simple rule and paid for it.

This is a lesson I learned from many hours of watching TV and movies and I bestow it upon you.