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State of the Game–2014/2015

The new year has come and gone.  We have seen an interesting twelve months with many additions.  But we will go over things from last year just briefly.

We started 2014 with Galactic Starfighter, ending 2013 with early access and seeing the public update come in the February.  This was the space combat game people wanted when they first started seeing what was going into the game the words “…pilot your own ship…” were thrown around, what we go Space Battles the on rail shooter was a fun feature to while the time away, but it was no way integrated into the story.  Neither was Galactic Starfighter other than with an interesting change on the flashpoints with the Kuat Drive Yards FP meant to serve as the starter to jumping into the action.

Was it right?  Yes, what the team at BioWare put into this was everything people wanted from the get go.  But was on vital element missing…

ship_defender ship_freighter ship_thunderclap
ship_fury ship_phantom ship_mantis

Enable players to pilot their Starship into the fray.  The introduction of the fighters, bombers, etc… we have seen throughout the story was good, but it would have been nice.  The models are there, use the one used for the Space Battles, I think there will be a massive take on this.  But that is my opinion.

Invasion

April gave us the first part of the story arc we have seen come to its conclusions at the end of the year.  The Korriban Incursion and Assault on Tython tactical flashpoints.  We had the end of the first official season, some PvP love was also bestowed with the a Starfighter Map, the Quesh Huttball bit for the warzones.

These flashpoints gave us a certain glimpse of the goings on in the galaxy and with the breief encounter of the Revanites on Dromund Kaas which has you determining if you are worthy and then needing to steal the mask of Revan from Lord Gratham.  Was the seeds of things to come sewn back then. 

Soovada

Hit us in June.  This was initially a way to bring into the game a credit sink for mainly PvP players as they really don’t have any mechanism for dumping their credits into other than minor upgrades to their gear.  Since most upgrades can be obtained through commendations.  So, what better way than spend credits than buying tokens to get some new gear.  The weapons were interesting certain the Kingpin Blaster Rifle, very Tommygun-esque in its appearance.  It is still sitting in my cargo-hold waiting for that perfect look to match, I think I am nearly there.

Why do I believe this was meant as a credit sink for PvP.  Because when introduced they offered double commendations for all PvP events AND you could purchase tokens for the machines using commendations, credits worked just as well.  This was a success and the community were asking for more events, so we have this one, we also got life day, which need to get expanded.   But I will talk more about this later.

Welcome to your Stronghold

We all had our ships, our home away from home.  Our crew always more open when on our ships, but now, we have the ability to have decorate our homes.  This was considered a much needed addition, especially for the large guilds and keen role players of the community but there was one small catch. 

Subscribers, got early access and a nice Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace and based on past, recordable achievements we received the trophies of our successes in Flashpoint and Operations.

But Strongholds and Guild Flagships are are massive expense.  I purchased all of the strongholds and proceeded to unlock the rooms, this was an expensive exercise and now, with everything unlocked there is little in the way some of them look.  But I am happy with just slowly build on them.

People, as always have an experience with what they want from player housing decorations etc…  Often these expectations lead to disappointment and constantly there is disappointment with much of the community.   I know with Guild Capital Ships there was so much more they wanted than parking a ship above a planet to help boost the conquest points achieved from performing conquest missions there.  More on Conquests and Guild Capital Ships later.

This patch also saw Manaan come back, the ocean world and the new Flashpoint with the Depths of Manaan.  But we were give a nice expansive area to roam but nothing to do, but going into a story instance, see a reputation vendor or medical droid and enter the flashpoint.  It looked like more was planned, but nothing happened… I will talk more about this later.

Alliances Forged

The final part of the Forged Alliances story arc was included and it again took us to a familiar world in Rakata Prime (The home world to the Rakata but not their true home world but when forging their Infinite Empire this force energy of the planet made this the best choice for the building of the Star Forges.  So we are then shown a familiar mask, at the end an a peek of what is to come, the return of Revan.  Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint a new PvP season nothing much else was included.

12 times XP

Yes, you could and many did, create new toons, complete the story only on those characters and they were at Level 50 and subsequently 55 before they could blink.  This saw a massive surge in the population of the game and was regarded as one of the more successful things they have done.  Even if people didn’t continue the influx into the game this bought was massive more than they anticipated and subsequently issues arouse from this with what was happening with the server.

3.0 Drops and the Ball is Dropped

Well, what can be said that hasn’t already.  The Shadow of Revan, Early Access was available, gave people new content, 2 new planets, dailies, 2 new flashpoints and operations and with the release of this they introduced a new mechanic of Solo flashpoints.  They did this to enable players who have not done the Forged Alliances story line to enjoy them before jumping into the new content.  This was a great addition, so much so that people are wanting to go back to use it for other flashpoints, but once you hit the level cap (60 now) you can go back and do all flashpoints, including the level 50 hard mode ones, solo (with some caveats).

Then the Ravager’s Exploit reared its reared its head, BioWare went underground or at least on holidays and those who would took full advantage of the situation.  192 and 198 gear for free, well almost free, though some servers is was common, others, no so, so much in fact that people transferred characters to servers, with lockouts and started selling it to players for credits.

This is what we are left with the stinking mess that is the community team at BioWare in their attempts to handle, fumble and deal with the situation and the subsequent fall out.  But this isn’t about the exploit or their handling of it it is merely how what was meant to be a great end to a year this happened.  But we are now in 2015 we can put the year behind.

Coming Soon

What is coming soon.  There was a community cantina, in which they revealed what was on the cards for 2015.  Two major releases a mid year and end of year. Talks of focus on story, providing a unique class story again but where the events make a difference to the outcomes of your story, an interesting take as ESO tried this and found people in groups when they choose different outcomes that had a baring on the instance they were in, they found the group members would spawn in different instances.  Not being able to help them at all.

There were elements I liked that carried over and made me feel that things were different in the stories.  I did like how the cross over of the stories were there in some instances small others significant.  But they are wanting to have more focus on that, they saw a massive influx of people into the game as a result of the Revan story so they must see this as a positive.  If they can make great stories for each of the classes I think they will find their population growing again.

No PvP Love

PvP is one of those things where many people love it, others hate it, but it was an area in this game and the story that lead it to be integrated better than with any other game in the past.  They did this in some degree with some of the warzones, but it gave a bite sized way to the game, they, I feel, improved it with 4v4 arenas which was a nice quick battle, Hutt Ball which I will talk more about soon and Galactic Starfighter space PvP.  Each of these need to be integrated greatly into the game and shown that PvP is just as important to the narrative as any other element.

Queues

Some servers are good, others not so.  So the only way to fix this would be cross server queues.  But this isn’t as saying, well let us implement cross server queues.  Here is why.

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Here is a very crude map of the world with the locations of the data centres on it.  There are 3 servers on the West Coast of the US;

  • The Bastion
  • Begeren Colony
  • The Harbinger

5 servers on the East Coast of the US

  • The Shadowlands
  • Jung Ma
  • The Ebon Hawk
  • The Prophecy of the Five
  • Jedi Covenant

Europe has 9 servers, 3 in each languages

  • Tomb of Freedon Nadd
  • The Progenitor
  • The Red Eclipse
  • Darth Nihilus
  • Battle Meditation
  • Mantle of the Force
  • T3-M4
  • Jar’Kai Sword
  • Venjervalis Chain

So, players from all over the world played on these servers they often pick the server with the least network latency.  I played originally in Australia then was moved from there to Drooga’s Pleasure Barge and then finally to the Harbinger.  I play daily with a latency of about 170ms, which isn’t great but if it is stable I can deal with it.

Players in the Southern Hemisphere are the worst affected than most but I am sure that latency in other parts of the world with less stable connections are also an issue.  So, knowing there are people playing all over the world, we look at the cross server queuing. 

  1. Which server is picked to play the game one?
  2. How is the server picked?
  3. What mix of players from which servers are picked?

These are some of the questions regarding cross server queuing.  Some might suggest well, if 12 players from the 16 are from The Harbinger, why not play on the Harbinger.  Because the other 4 might come from countries like Eastern Europe where a connection to the US West Coast provide a 400ms latency and therefore making it uncompetitive against people who play with 40-70ms. 

Would a centralised server work?  Maybe if you could find a location that meant everyone could play with the exact same latency as everyone else, or with minimal changes to it. 

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That is the only physical way to make sure everyone has the same latency, but then we have cooling issues, pressure, physical maintenance,  the list goes on.

The final solution would be to use the server with the least population where the majority of players are from.  Then artificially increase latency for all players to match that of the slowest.  To perform this task would need a change to the clients.

Currently all commands travel to the server is actioned by the server and is returned to the client to display the animation or other displayable elements.  When playing with players in a group those with the highest latency have also delays in where players are as these actions, locations are then synchronised with the other clients in the group or match.

So anyone who believe they play with “LAG” should feel for the people who are geographically more distant from the servers whose “LAG” will not go away with the implementation of a server upgrade or the like.

So, in these scenarios, we use a client acknowledgement contract on data.  A command is sent to to the server and all c

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One client will send the command to all machines connected to that instance.  The computer above in Orange is “your” computer.  You are in a 4v4 arena match.  Every PC is sending the commands out too all others, including the server.  This server much acknowledge this command but it will not provide the appropriate actions until all clients have confirmed.

So, in this configuration the time it takes for the server to acknowledge the request is based on the slowest time to send a packet.  Now this person who is on the slowest link will still be at a disadvantage when the server says, yes.  If the slowest link is 400ms, this is a round trip, there for it is 200ms to the server.  The fastest is 40ms. So when the server sends the packets to the clients, this can send the data to the slowest first to the fastest.

The server will then wait a certain time before sending the request. to the others.  So, the slowest is sent first and the server knows it has received it in 200ms so, it should take about 200ms to send back.  It waits then 160ms before sending the packet to the fastest which is knows is 40ms.   Since this pertains only to actions, abilities, all locations can be updated through the client data packets being sent.

This create equality among the systems but creates an natural level of latency FORCED to uses.  Some might say this is nothing since there is a massive problem with lag.  But players who normally play 40ms complain about 100ms latency.  Forcing them will create an even further level of “unacceptable lag” as they call it to play a PvP match.  But the inqueality exists now, more so than those who complain know.

Downside to this method is;

  • Increased load on the local PCs network stack which, depending on the machine might already be under significant load and the network is possible the one area is often forgotten when it comes to increasing the speed of the PC.
  • The server code needs to be redesigned to not need to synchronise all of the data between clients and the initiator of the action will send the synchronisation data required.  Adding additional load to the client PC CPU.
  • Redesign to the client code to accept this data.  And since many of these components are linked in the way the application works it might be difficult to take this to the full advantage.
  • Rejected/Lost packets.  If the server is sending acknowledgement on packets to enable the client to perform the updates.  If one of these gets lost or needs to be requested again then we get into similar issues as would any normal multi-player scenario.

So given the complexities of implementing cross server queues where the latency issue would be a greater issue than normal.  Normal meaning if you play from Australia on The Harbinger then you will be used to playing with the latency you have change it to double or triple, and people will leave by the bucket loads.

Reduce East Coast

The East Coasts should be mereged into 3 servers like the rest of the English, French and German speaking world.  Since English EU, French EU and German EU as well as US West Coast have all three servers, what is the population numbers on the other East Coasts servers.  Complaints from this area about queue times would be reduced if they were on less servers and like much of the world who were reduced to a smaller number of “large population” servers then it is time the East Coast US was reduced to 3.

Win Trading

How do you deal with this.  Can you work who is trading wins?  Well from my understanding with comments like this;

…we can work towards finalizing our data review and assigning appropriate actions. We have a lot of information! We know who used it, who they invited, how many times they exploited, when they participated, credits gained, and whether they gained a crafting pattern from reverse-engineering.

means they should be able to get the metrics on it.  PvP is difficult enough let alone having groups artificially inflate the end of season figures.  So how can’t this be done.  It is a simple task of making sure that the teams (and you know the teams when the queues pop) get it so if they have played before in a certain period of time, pop it with someone else or another team they haven’t played.  My main issue here is a simple one, if they are all in on it or the majority of them are it then gets difficult to police.

This is the biggest thing outside of a lack of content the PvP crowd are wanting change in.  So addressing this will help alleviate many of the issues around the rankings.

Make it Integral

There have been suggestions regarding PvP and open world PvP.  Ilum was a complete debacle, their removal of it and moved to the PvP in the Gree Event made this much better but due to the instancing on planets to help with the performance, lead to some issues.  But that said, providing missions that were in the PvP area and could mean you were attacked by anyone at any time mean some tactics.  On a whole this work for my opinion.

So, including areas like this in the other locations in the galaxy.  Provide a familiar landscape but entering the area was Open slather PvP and having missions in there means unless people want to do it, attachment to the Conquest events which are often on a couple of planets I think you will have something as successful as the Gree event was and providing there was a decent incentive for those to venture in there, special decorations, mounts and the like means it will be good and makes the conquest feel that much more part of the battle at large.

Also provide any player from one guild get points for taking down someone from another guild but anyone who has been taken out, is detrimental, some amount of points come off.  Could win/trading be a part of it if guilds with Republic and Imperial versions could do it.  So getting the balance right is important.  But if you make it only minor but the number of kills for each missions as bonuses etc… can add. 

What about the Guild Flagship Raiding?  Something I have been thinking of for some time is, guilds have flagships now, we can now move them from planet to planet which then give us boosts for conquest events.  Provide Guild PvP raiding of other populated flagships.  This can make the conquests more person, provide the raiding only on a specific day, to enable the guilds to prepare.  Enable flagship decorations to be defences that can help your guild from being raided.  The issue with this is alerting guild members their flagship is being raided by another guild.

Outpost Attacks

One of the things I liked with World of Warcraft is, when the opposite faction raids an outpost.  Messages would appear telling players this was happening.  This it is up to the player to determine if they wish to join in.  Link this to the Fleet and have those sitting around on fleet, hear an audible announcement that players are attacking the Organa Palace all able members to respond.  Make them sound like the warnings at the time of the Rakghoul events.  It is a buzzer, it audible and then people can jump into their ships on mass to attack the raiders, or repel them. 

This is how it would work;

  1. An imperial invasion force would attack a settlement on a planet.  These are the “PvP” zones, areas where you are flagged to attack anything within them.
  2. An announcement is then broadcast in general chat on the planet.  Then an audible broadcast is sent out on the fleet.  “Attention.  Imperial forces have attacked “Castle Organa”.  We require all available, to proceed to “Alderann” to repel the invaders.
  3. Players can then take their starships or guilds can pilot their flagships into position above the planet.
  4. They can then travel to the location that is being attacked.
  5. Any player that is a member of a guild partaking in the attack and they have their flagship above the planet, they would receive some boost similar to the healing of that done by the GSI satellite on Makeb.
  6. Any guild flagship can also deploy a temporary medical station where players of that faction can respawn when they are felled in battle.  (This is crucial as the attacking side is put out by the distances they must travel to get back into the fray.  But put some caveats around it in that it can’t be within the enemy zone and can’t be within attacking distance of enemy NPCs.
  7. If this planet is one of the conquest planets anyone participating in this action would also get bonus points for the conquest objectives.
  8. Low level players against high level players, the greater the level gap between the players killing another the less bonus points.  So this means it is more beneficial to attack players of similar level.
  9. Provide special mission items that can be retrieved from special locations that enable the deployment of manned turrets similar to those used in Kaon Under Siege or Collicoid War.  Low level players can then man the turrets, they are provided some level of additional defence while manning the turret They do the damage based on the player they are attacking.  level 60 higher damage than a level.
  10. What is the end, in each outpost there is a high level NPC that needs to be killed.  They are similar to many of the champions in that region of the PvP and once defeated then the battle ends, all players partaking will receive extra rewards, achievements, etc…
    1. The objective at the end can be healed and guarded, they do not put out much damage (but this might not always be the case) but they are reliant on the defenders to protect them.
    2. These end objectives must be difficult to get to and difficult to kill. 

There would be a question on what about, going in what about a bunch of stealth characters sneaking in to take the objective, not entirely possible.  It would be any NPC close to the objective would have advanced stealth detecting abilities.  They could sneak into part of the way but they couldn’t.

What about mid fight, stealth out and advance, that could be done much like it is in normal PvP.  But this is greatly hindered. 

What about instances where there is low populations.  Switching instances after a player stealths out.  All players who begin an attack receive a special debuff this debuff only cools down when a player is not in battle.  This debuff prevents players from switching instances or using quick travel,  iIt is 5 minutes.  Players defending do not receive this debuff.  If attacking players decide to all stealth out, hide for 5 minutes for the time to wait for the debuff then Quick Travel or Change instances they might be seen by NPCs or enemy players.

Then the defending team could switch instances to determine what the happenings, if there are no additional instances, then this is not an issue but the debuff will still be present while in enemy territory.  

Bring the PvP into the game’s greater conflict would help immerse players greater into the galaxy of SWTOR.

Hutt Ball

This is an area which can be a major problem for some people.  There are those who like it, others who hate it.  Me I am neither.  But something I have always felt is Hutt Ball should be a competition on its own.

There is a couple of ways to do this.  Follow the seasons for the normal PvP, which is 8 weeks.  So, in 8 weeks, you are to have all teams face off in a best of 3 elimination.   Then it culminates into a final with a best of 5 can play for the title of Hutt Ball champion.

The systems are in place to record results from games and the games are held at certain times of the day and this is to make sure you get through the number of games.  Is it possible.  I am sure it is as many of the mechanics are in place in the back end there would be a need for some tweaking.

But then enable players to enter and watch the matches going on.  The games going on are in separate instances so this is achievable, enable a selection of which game to watch.   I could even go as far as provide a simple betting system as well.  Get players more involved in it, make it a proper competition and bet on the winner.  I know this could open up all sorts of issues but even if you don’t allow it.  I think it would add to a more immersive galaxy. 

Sabacc and Pazaak

Something called by the community since launch.  BioWare placed a wonderfully addictive game in Knights of the Old Republic called Pazzak.  People have called for this to be included into the game in some form.  There is even a Sabacc table on the Esseless, you can interact with the table but it says, it isn’t taking players at this time..

One on One games, player v player.  Finding cards throughout the galaxy and also from drops from major bosses.  Another PvP experience and one that is not like other games.  I say work it out.

Finally

These are just some of my suggestions for bring PvP into the fore.  We know that BioWare can delivery story, we know they have the mechanics in the game to deliver it but I believe there is one thing that the crowd, all, want more than anything else.  A performance upgrade, moving to DirectX 10, 64 bit clients, or at least making the game perform consistent across the board and not be impacted like it is dependant on the goings on in the world.  When I hit ATL + Z and I get a 10-15 fps boost in performance there is a massive issue.  We want updates but I believe BioWare would by some leverage if they came out and said, guys, we are working on Migrating to (an example) Frostbite 3, we will be releasing a version on the PTS come June.  We will not release anything else until this is done. I feel everyone will sit back and say “finally”. 

But the state of the game is open for debate.  We are getting story, more story and some additional minor quality of life issues.  The state of the game as of this day is healthy and it is growing by the day.  But they need to get their arses into gear and look at what is hurting the game the most.  It isn’t the current content out there, it is the performance, the bugs the little things.  Once you have a stable, well performing platform then what you can release the sky is the limits at the moment, the limits are very much imposed on by the very dated and dogged Hero Engine they have used, butchered and hacked to pieces to get it to work.  It performs well, but it is prevalent that the more they add to this engine, the more issues that come from it. 

The Cartel Market gets the most love, new packs new items, items on sale.  The one that gets the least love is performance.  Yes this is lower than PvP but PvP is not far from it.  Is what they have restricting their growth, time will tell.  But for many in the community, time is not a luxury.  They will leave if things don’t improve.

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A Change for the Better or no Change at All

This is a rambling from my mind, my mind has been hit very hard of the last few years.  I have been on a mix of heavy pain killers as my back was causing issues.  I was taking various mixes of anti-depressants which lead me from being incredibly tired and lethargic to not have a consistent train of thought.  Since then I have had 2 operations, one for a complete ankle reconstruction the other for a neuro stimulator implant device.  This has had some massive affects on my life.  I now do not get back pain to the same extent I had before, a win, but  the device gives me sometimes massive head-aches.  These are, well terrible, they are migraine like but I believe worse as the device is what causes them.

So, the other issue I have had recently is the my creativity and thought process.  My thought process in these times has sporadic to put it mildly.

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Above shows a crude chart, the numbers on the left side represents any particular thought be it about dinner for tonight my current work, the weather, anything, each number represents a thought that can entered my head.  Then there is the time and I can concentrate on any one things for only short bursts before not through any reason I can find my mind loses track of the thought, it disappears amongst the many neurons that are firing and forever will it not return.

This alone has been the reason why my posts of late have reduced, I was able to focus, save come back and save over a period and then post it but lately it is the coming back that is getting more and more difficult.  Then there is the creativity side of it.

I used to be a creative type, some might disagree with it but having many a story written, feature film scripts, novels etc… each showed I had a depth in many areas for creativity.  Then, Pfft, gone.  Unsure why, how when, it was a process that happened for some reason and I find it returns for even shorter periods than my normal thought processes, it requires obviously a different side of my mind.  But right now as I am writing this I am struggling to stay on my task of keeping things together enough to form the sentences to make sense since I feel I could type words but not have structure to it and have not sense at all.

I am now coming off the drugs the anti-depressants at the moment and this is causing more issues.  As I feel it further constrains my thinking or other physical abilities as all my processing is just trying to keep my mind running, like a computer running at 100% CPU usage, and I need to speak to someone but I have to wait until there is a gap in the processing before I can and when there is I jump in but it has taken too long and I find I have run out of the processing power and therefore it will come out in fits and bursts as the mind is too bust controlling other things other elements other processes that I need to speak.

You can imagine in a business where I need to work on solutions to complex business process problems where I need to use my mind in many different ways, logically, conceptually, creatively (to a lesser extent), draw on all my history of programming, architecture and so on and have all of this needed on a whim when someone asks me, “Tell me how I can best do this…” Recently I was asked to appraise someone’s proposal (it wasn’t really but I won’t get into that) for a solution for recording time and attendance in a system in many systems that aren’t linked together in any form and they proposed to have this implemented by the middle of February, this was also dealing with systems I only have the fleeting understanding of to begin with.

So, I have my mind, needing time to process things I normally do, what everyone does, the random thought changing processes that come into play, “Why was it foggy on the morning of 9th September 1998 and why did I leave my lights on””?” then I will need to concentrate hard on my work, then there is the withdrawals of the anti-depressants.  Which are terrible.  I have been slowly coming down off them for almost a month, to the Dr. request is was 100mg, 50mg, 25mg 12.5mg over the 4 weeks then stop.  I did that and I am still feeling the side effects of these drugs not in my system.

Dizzy spells these are terrible, I will be siting down and simply moving my eyes from one screen to the next and my mind, will have this bizarre feeling of being delayed in updating what I am physically seeing.  There is the vagueness, which is no knowing anything, not thinking anything the true moment when someone says what are you thinking I can say, nothing, there is not a thought in my mind, light is entering my eyes and that is it nothing else.  Right now I am trying SO hard to type this.

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My mind sees this, a lightening strike something quick and massive as all of above all at the same time being muddled and confusing and compounding as my mind is also trying to form words, words to articulate what I want to say only to find the harder I try and focus and more distorted the image becomes and therefore the words that I want to come out with might come out, and come out again, then it might repeat and this might be fine for a Herald Sun reporter (not a journalist), but when I am trying to describe what I am going through in words and images it is difficult.

So that is me right now, I want to achieve so much, there are times when I have a spring in my step ready to take on the world and others times I am sitting there looking blankly with nothing happening other than the simple involuntary actions taken by my body.

My Perspective

Might be curious to know one of the biggest things that is leading to my depression is the inability to be in control of my own destiny.  I am now a father and since getting married and having children I feel that these decisions that I would do, what I could do have been taken from me.  This might seem the same for anyone who has a family, priorities change, but the issue was before if I didn’t like my job I could quit and find a new one, now, I am scrutinised with regards to my job why did I quit, why do I want to quit.  It isn’t a matter of being unhappy where I am, well not enough of a reason to say I am unhappy where I am I want to find a better job.

Herein lies the dilemma, I want to find a job where I am making a difference, giving people enjoyment or making their life easier with their daily task.   As in my jobs where I get unhappy with my ole it is often due to changes in this, recently I have have had a software product I was working on, it was running, well, people were using it and it was making their life easier.  I was finding ways to improve it, to enable the best from it.  A choice made in November to completely remove this product from use at the site with no forethought, no consultation, just a new manager coming in stamping their authority and showing they are the boss decided to can the software and role back to the use of 70 plus Access Databases and even more pieces of paper and Excel spread sheets.

This was taken from me, I was not able to provide the input or anything, I am not in a state of limbo with development in I do not know my worth as a developer when I am writing software to facilitate communication as opposed to making life easier.  My film work was always fun when I knew people liked what I did, they were enjoying what I created.  The development of my film, which I had put so much effort into was taken from me when the people whom I trusted, stopped working thought their time was better spent elsewhere.  This is OK, but in the same reality I see this as being a betrayal as it happened, once again with coming to me, talking about it that they want to go at it alone, or whatever reason they wanted but it was the lack of consultation that I felt left me high and dry.

So now having children, and a wife who isn’t working means my income is the sole source of income further create strain on many aspects as there is even more focus on me my job, not the happiness factor it is a money issue, we need you to work, we need you to work in IT and we need you to work as a programmer as we need you to earn at least $X so I can’t just quit and become some dude in a check-out, not that I want to, but they are meaningless benign jobs that earn money but in the end provide no true fulfilment in the greater good, my greater good.

This endless cycle of wanting my work to mean something, have it mean something only to have my work forcibly taken from me.  All my work as an IT programmer has been like this, all the major projects I worked on have been work I have been proud of, but they are now not being used, for any number of reasons.  To pour so much blood, sweat and tears into creating artistic masterpieces only to see them used a fire kindling. (I know my work is no masterpiece but it is a crude but apt analogy).

I feel right now I have done my dash, I have written all the words physically inside me to describe this, but I still feel like I have undersold it or the contrasting one of over done it.  People can look at this, say, well that is life, we don’t get to make choices for the better we have to do what we have to do.  I have my boys and they are the most important thing in life, in my life to make them happy and healthy, but surely to make them happy would be for me to be happy myself and if I am happy with my life then I can be a better father, which I feel I am not.  I feel like I am a terrible father that I do things or do not do things more to the point with my men that I should.  Conscious effort to not be like my father in my boys upbringing only to find that I am in some ways.  Coming down off the medication makes this a larger blurrier line than before.

Having no choice, feeling out of control with where I am heading and feeling all along that I am wanting the best for my kids and I can’t do that. I need to work to give them a roof over their head, food in their bellies.  Yet a happy father and a dad who is there when they need them would be more important making them happier.  I have to wrap this post up, one it is terribly long, 2, I am starting to lose my way in the writing as I am starting to get vague in my mind 3, I am sure there was one when I started at 1. 

Passwords a Plenty

lock-iconIt is a trend in life, you live in the modern era you will have a presence online, it seems a inevitable as the rising of the sun every morning there will be data, out there with information about you.

So in this growing online world the amount of information that exists grows as well.  We start finding it easier and easier to share photos and updates to family and friends.  Once we would send a yearly letter, with a current photo, now, log on to Twitter or Facebook and it is there, what we did this weekend, last weekend, and the hundreds of weekends before.  This is good and it is also bad.

But this post isn’t about the benefits of social media nor is it about the pitfalls of having a presence online.  It is about trying to make sure you data, remains as safe as possible and the first line of defence is the password. 

There has been plenty of information about there about what the most common passwords are, but what I will do in this post is show ways to help manage the plethora or passwords that are out there without having one universal password, how you might be able to have the most complex passwords out there but there is only a need to really remember one of them, and if there is only one, then that one can be more complex.

Hackers use a couple of different techniques when hacking the main is a brute force attack.  This is trying any account information they might be able to glean and trying all types of passwords.  Now a crude brute force attack, uses a combination method.  There are far more sophisticated versions available that use many different algorithms and heuristics to try and get passwords for accounts.

I want to show some examples of the amount of time it can take for a crude brute force attack.  To put it simply when using just characters, upper and lower case and numbers (this is a minimum for most passwords), this gives, 62 different characters.

Password Length

Combinations

a-z, A-Z, 0-9

Combinations

a-z, A-Z, 0-9, &, #, !, *, $, @

Difference

1

62

68

6

2

3,844

4,624

780

3

238,328

314,432

76,104

4

14,776,336

21,381,376

6,605,040

5

916,132,832

1,453,933,568

537,800,736

6

56,800,235,584

98,867,482,624

42,067,247,040

7

3,521,614,606,208

6,722,988,818,432

3,201,374,212,224

8

218,340,105,584,896

457,163,239,653,376

238,823,134,068,480

This simple table shows how the length affects how many possible combinations available.  Now looking at the Oxford dictionary there are about 228,132 words.  A brute force attack would and could cycle through a word in the dictionary very quickly.  To see the inclusion of the additional characters at only 8 character passwords offers 238 trillion more possible passwords.

The amount of time it takes for a PC to try and iterate through 457.163 trillion passwords is:

NOTE:
This is a single threaded calculation, using multiple threads across multiple cores could increase this speed, same would be using the cores on a GPU, my home PC has 1000+ CUDA cores all could be used to calculate passwords.  Though is more difficult than using a traditional processor.

So a quick explanation on how secure a password can or can’t be shows that the more characters one includes means that there are than many possibly combinations to check.

So, knowing that, what is one to do;

  1. Having multiple simple passwords across all the sites
    This is the most common approach people use passwords are easy to remember but are also easy to crack.
  2. Having a Single Complex password across all sites
    This is good, it makes cracking a password more difficult, but once they have it, they have it for potentially all sites.  Especially since people use the same email address too.
  3. Use complex passwords that are connected to what is being used
    This adds further complexity to the passwords but also makes it a little easier to remember them since you are at the site the password is being used.
  4. Multiple complex passwords mixing it is good
    And difficult to remember, we are creatures of habit, when we enter our password many times we will remember it, if we don’t then we will for get it.  Then you are going to have to go through a number of forgot password steps to get or reset the password until next time you forget the password
  5. Use a password vault.
    This is the best solution, as many password vaults enable very complex passwords, store ALL your passwords in an encrypted file and it also means you only need to enter one main password to open the fault.

Above is ordered, in my opinion, from worst option 1, to best option 5.  So why is it this way?  Why should I consider having any of these options.

Forget the single words

This is plan and simple, forget the days of having “password”, “welcome” or anything else that is a single word, why.  Simply because these words are in a dictionary and are the first ones used.  That coupled with numbers, “password1”, “welcome1” and so one.  These are nice and easy to remember, but a cinch to guess in a snap.

A password can be more than one word

A password can be made up of multiple words, it can be a sentence.  Single words are more simple to hack, but multiples in a sentence can add more complexity to hacking this password than even using a mixture of letters and symbols.

This also make the password more simply for the user to remember.  “LetsGoBroncos” is an example, “ImNeverGonnaGiveYouUp” these simple phrases suddenly make things more difficult.  Words exists and common heuristics can be used to help work out patterns but once again these take time to process and the longer it takes to hack it then the less likely it is to be hacked.

If it takes them 50 days to crack 1 account or 1 day to crack 50 accounts, they will opt for the 50 accounts in 1 day, every time.

Replace and Increase

There are letters and even words that can be replaced with one symbol.  “ILoveMoney”, “ILove$”, “ILove$$$$$” are all realtively easy to remember, but the last one, is a little more difficult to crack that the first 2.  Including these symbols means the number of possible combinations to try go up.  The more combinations the more difficult it is.  Other are using &, @ () for letter or word replacements, I will not give a list here, some are common some aren’t but it is best for you to use what you understand than me, some might use # for H but, I would use # for hash or sharp.

Forget the right way, use your way

What I mean by this is, the right spelling might not be the best.  Many ways to spell different words, or the use of homonyms, words that sound the same but have a different meaning. Butt and But, Poor, Paw, Pour and Pore.  Each of these can be used in your phrase;

MyCatHaasBigPores – so, Hass, and Pores changes the context of the word when looking at it and again makes it more difficult to guess.

Where I am can help me remember

I use the Blingles site and when I create my password I use “ILoveMyBlingles”.  But don’t use this across the board.  “ILoveMonstersHigh”, “ILoveMoshiMonsters” and so on.  Since guess the patter and you have all of them.  But, “
”MonstersHighRocks”, “MyMoshiMonstersAreCool” provide some examples of this.

A place a password can call home

We have now, so many passwords all complex and all long enough to take your account out of the mix of any quick brute force attack.  But I can’t remember them, well, I can now say don’t.  Use a password vault.

A password vault is a secure place for you to store all of your account and password details.  But there are so many, some online, some offline, some mobile, some not.  The thing to remember is look at something that you want to use and which is the best approach for these.

The simple ones is just an encrypted repository for all your passwords.  This is all it needs to be.  Others have better features like auto typing or storing additional information or grouping of the data.  Some features a nice others I feel are required.  Below is a list of things you want any password vault system to have no matter where or how it is stored.

  1. Strong Encryption – You want to have the best encryption possible, but also you want this to change if the best encryption gets better.
  2. Encryption is only as good as its encryption key.  This is like the password used AES uses up to 256bits for a password key.  Below is an example;
    6ZPIAFHPwPyqjkMIyRTRkC4Hd4MZPjUhkM4fgKF8T8M= MyEncryptedPassword but is encrypted with a 256bit key, the maximum size for AES.
    AuR4SL2Bt1BfPxdoB/X87bAQ6b+lsepCkoFrsQQ46+I= is the same word encrypted as before, but it used a 128bit key.  So, as you can see when something is encrypted with a longer key it will create better encryption.
  3. Generating passwords is a good one since coming up with passwords that are complex enough for use in systems and keeping them safe is not as easy as it sounds.  Once could simply put in jshdfjksdhfjksdfhjdsh  but without knowing I have created a pattern in the password, patterns are one element of trying to hack and crack encryption as patterns in passwords and keys could also setup patterns in the data they are encrypting.  Keep away from this.
  4. Key or a Password, why not both.  The better vaults have the ability to use more than one method to secure the vault.  Passwords are good, simply remembering a single password makes things easy, but a key, is far more complex than any password.   If the software can use both, it will further lock down the vault and prevent people hacking that, since this is going to contains the keys to your entire digital life, might as well make it as secure as possible.
  5. Password hashing – The vault should store your password within the file as a hash.  If it doesn’t hash it, then it isn’t as secure as one that does.
  6. Is NOT a cloud based solution.

With these in mind we need to look at a couple of elements I stated that need further explanation.

The Keys to the House

I used words like AES and 256bit, 128bit, Keys, Hashing.  So what are these and how does this affect me looking at password vault software.

AES

This is Advanced Encryption Standard it is one of the newer and possible more secure of the the encryption algorithms.  Though no encryption algorithm is completely unbreakable, the time to break 192bit and 256bit AES is obviously increasing high.  It is the current standard used by the US government.  Though with all of the goings on about the NSA and them hacking and requesting data, it is best to keep things as secure as possible.

256bit, 128bit

These are the key lengths used to encrypt the data.  The minimum of AES is 128bit and the max is 256bit.  I know what you might say, if increasing the key length also increases the strength of the encryption as I showed above why not use a longer key.  The Algorithm is fix to take keys at a maximum size.  But there is a trade off, the longer the key the longer it will take to encrypt and decrypt the data.

Keys

Keys are a file or a single of characters up to a certain size that are used to add to the security when encrypting.  With Vault software some of them might use a password and a key.  If you don’t have the key you can’t decrypt the file, ever.  Since both parts are used to decrypt the file and therefore you are missing a large portion of the key used to encrypt the data.  SSL uses this form of encryption since there is no passwords they use a combination of public keys and private keys.  Data can be encrypted using the public key but only the private key can be used to decrypt the data.

Hashing

This has nothing to do with potatoes.  A hash is a one way encryption of data.  In the world of the ever expanding internet when passwords are stored on the server they should be stored in a hash format.  Why?   It is impossible to workout the value that created the hash, I say impossible but in terms of reference, in computing nothing is impossible and giving the amount of time it can be calculated, infeasible means the time it takes it process, currently is not within these boundaries and therefore are not possible at this moment in time.

Given a machine that can perform 1012 operations per second, this is a lot.  The time to work out a solution 2n and given that this time is in the terms of time small, 264.  It would take 213 days give or take to calculate this.  Increase it to 2100 which is still not terribly complex that would take 40,196,936,841 years, yes, 40 billion, the universe is only 14 billion years old, give or take.  So a computational task that takes that long to complete, is considering infeasible.  213 days isn’t but I wanted to point out the difference between the complexities, might not look like much on the surface but turns out to be massive in the end.  AES complexity is 2254.2 so that would potentially take longer than the 40 billion years to work out a 2100 complexity.

OK, so you want a vault that has good encryption, enables use of keys and passwords (both would be better), can generate passwords, stores the vault password as a hashed value and is NOT a cloud based solution.

Encryption in the Clouds

Why not in the cloud?  So much stuff is moving there, it would be nice to use a system that enables me to get access to all my passwords online.  For a couple of reasons.

  1. The internet might not be always available and therefore you might need a way to use it offline.
  2. You can be assured the business who operates the site will be there tomorrow.  If it is gone, so is your complete vault of passwords.
  3. Can you trust them?  Given the plethora of statements made by Edward Snowden regarding the NSA and companies handing over private data to them what gives you any trust in someone who houses all of your account and password information.  NSA knocks on their door and requests is with a federally signed document stating they must provide it.  OR, they are in a country who’s laws aren’t as strict as other countries and therefore it isn’t in their best interest in keeping this data out of state hands.
  4. You sure it is secure?  I have entered my password and the database is showing, but is it encrypted, how can I tell, where do you keep the password, in the same database I have my data in, etc…  All of these are valid and go to show when the data isn’t in your hands you are putting a lot of trust into these businesses.

So, offline would be a recommended model but cloud solutions are good if they offer ways of backing it up offline, accessing it offline, terms of services and service level agreements, etc…  If not, and you read some of them and realise that they do not store things in one way encryption or using simple encryption algorithms.

What should I use?

Well there are two I would recommend, both are offline and one offers many more devices.  It is a preference and either would enable you to feel safe using.  KeePass is an open source software than provide all of the elements I would look for an more.  This is an offline model but it can support using file hosting services like DropBox if you wish to maintain this not just locally but enable you to synchronise the data across all systems.  There are some mobile applications that can use the KeePass database as well, but KeePass has only the software for Windows but since it is Open Source, there are many different versions available for many devices, see the Download page.

The other is Norton Identity Safe.  This is a Free product as well but is not Open Source.  But Norton release a version for Windows, iOS and Android, which can cover most of your needs.  Norton is a trusted name for the protection of your PC.  Since they released Norton Utilities, they have kept making your PCs faster and more secure.  BUT, this is the only cloud based solution I would recommend.  It is simple, easy to use and can store more data you need.  My main issue with Identify Safe is there is no use of keys, passwords for the vault that are limited to 20 characters. 

Is there an issue with using Open Source software for your passwords, no, as long as your control the file the passwords are stored in and I do.  I have my password file, available to me anywhere I want.  Store it in DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, anywhere that might enable you to store any file type the ones that allow automatic integration into Windows Explorer or enable automatic synchronisation as well would mean all PCs that run the software could get access to it.

IF you WANT a cloud based solution I have included this one in here as my recommendation for it.  But I would prefer to recommend KeePass.  As it is more secure (as it is offline), can use a key and a password, the passwords aren’t restricted in size for the vault itself.

The Password to Rule Them All

So, you have decided to use a vault and you are about to create a new one.  The password, remember the lesson of the password.  It comes all undone (potentially) if you secure your vault password with password (11bits, yes a long way shy of the maximum of 256bits allowable in AES).  So if you only need to remember one password, then go to town.

0n3P@$$w0rd2Rul3Th3m@ll

It means that once you have that, then everything else is there for you and you can store anything secure in there you like.

References


Public-Key Cryptography. (2014, June 15). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-key_cryptography

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). (2014, June 24). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Encryption_Standard

George RR Martin and the DOS

WordI have a DOS operating system at home.  I know the redundancy of saying a Disk Operating System Operating System, but DOS is its name, despite it having an acronym.  I do like using it, it takes me back to a days when computing was simpler but also more complex at the same time, viruses were propagated by the sharing of floppies, spyware and malware were words not invented and despite there being some issues it often just worked.

So why am I writing about this and George RR Martin using DOS, well why, DOS was decent for 1992 but we have moved on and not just for the worst, see below;

‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin has explained why he does all his writing on an obsolete disk operating system (DOS) computer – because it does not correct his spelling.

BBC – BBC – Wed May 14 23:45:00 UTC 2014

His reason for it and using WordStar was it never corrected his spelling.  I can relate to what, when writing novels using modern word processors they are trying to correct everything, spelling, grammar, improper word usage.  Now some of these features have been a god send in some ways, but the auto correction item sometimes makes sentences like “As I pushed my hands into the earth I knew I belonged on the Earth.” so, it is difficult for applications to know which context is what, as a reader we can work these out. 

So, for you George RR Martin, move into the realm of modern computing (I know your internet machine is) but there is much more that Word 2013 can offer than WordStar.  I know what it is used to but this is a nice tip anyway.

Click the File Tab and click Options

image

This opens Words options.  Under there is proofing which is where all the spell checking happens, so I will go through these options to help enlighten how they work and then, how to turn it off and turn your Microsoft Word 2013 into a sometimes less annoying application, at least when it comes to spelling.

When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs

These items are some exceptions to the general spelling rules.

Ignore words in UPPERCASE – Simply put, when you write acronyms, etc… like DOS, the spell checker will simply ignore the word as it knows you are possibly referring to an acronym.  Uncheck it and you will see those pesky words you have typed in uppercase to have the red squiggly lined under them.

Ignore words that contain numbers – Numbers within words, why would ne1 would want to do that?  Yes, we have started to become a society of abreviations for words that really don’t need them, thx to the texting generation or now the Twitter generation where getting the words out for what you had for breakfast might put you over the 144 character limit.

Ignore internet and file addresses – Type a URL or URI which can and often does have words that are not real, http://www.whereismyworld.com (This is made up, well maybe I haven’t checked it).  So, we can see that whereismyworld is not a proper word and Word would rightly flag it so, unless you using the http:// or the file: qualifiers to state what comes next.

Flag repeated words – Handy in much of my writing, who, who indeed, has not had this problem when they need to use two words in a row, Wagga Wagga and Mullem Mullem are examples, certainly in Australian Aboriginal lexicon. 

Enforce accented uppercase in French – There are words in the French language that their definition is different between one spelling and another and the difference to them is merely an accent character.   Remember the option of ignoring uppercase words, well this above will mean if you want to talk about “The sign above their head read CURE.”, well this would not be right since our intrepid heroes, being in France, are looking, not for a cure but a priest, which is, “The sign above their head read CURÉ”.  There are many different words that are like this but in Word this is often used with French (Canadian) selected (and is defaulted too).

image

Suggest from main dictionary only – Simple, any custom words you have added will not be included when you right click the word and it shows the suggestions available.   Unsure where you would want this, I guess to use within an enterprise who do not want people getting around spelling mistakes by using custom dictionaries to add words.

Custom Dictionaries – Opens a dialog that enables you to include any dictionary you want.  You can look up Medical dictionaries, legal ones, computing ones and so on.  You might have free ones, but many might be pay.  But this is where you would add any new or custom dictionaries you want to include.

AutoCorrect options

This is the area that Mr. Martin didn’t want to  do, and thankfully for him you can turn a lot of these off.  Sick of having those (c) being turned into © or worse.  Each of these can be turned off, like all options.  Though the AutoCorrect feature is handy, especially when it comes to words I just have trouble typing properly.

Show AutoCorrect Options buttons – These are handy options that will initially display as a small underline, then as you hover a drop down button appears with some options to reverse the change, turn off this auto correct or go to the AutoCorrect options.

Correct TWo INitial CApitals – This is a handy feature I must say, it happens a bit just because I am not a touch typist so I might just hold the shift key down a little longer than needed and then I have hit the next key.

Capitalise first let of sentences – Says what it does.  When typing a new sentence, which is the start of a new paragraph or the first word following a full stop.  It will automatically capitalise the word for you.

Capitalise first letter of table cells –  Like the sentence one, this will look at the first word of a table cell to need to be capitalised.

Capitalise names of days – Monday, tuesday, wednesday and so on, these days of the week and proper nouns and therefore need to be capitalised.

Correct accident usage of cAPS LOCK key – This one fixes the mistake of you hitting the caps lock key, and continuing you writing and will also turn the caps lock key, off.

image

Each of these options can be turned off, and it will no longer correct anything for you automatically.

When correcting spelling and grammar in Word

These options are for the spell and grammar checking in Microsoft Word.  Once again, each of these can be turned off if you do not want to even see your mistakes.

Check spelling as your type – This will show that red squiggly line under the mistake.  When this came in, with Microsoft Word 95 (I believed I saw it in Word 6.0 but I could be wrong). Was a real step forward in the spelling mantra of word processors, and you now see it all over the place.  In the later versions of web browsers that are now including these same marks to enable you to see the mistakes in web pages.  Don’t want to see them, then turn them off.

Mark Grammar errors as you type – Once again when this was introduced into Word it was an external application they bought and then integrated it into Word.  It didn’t work well when first introduced as it would often not pick up the different spelling of words based on the context they’re used in.   But this can be annoying in some respects but it shows a blue squiggly line when it detects and issue, so, turn it off and you will not know how grammatically correct your sentences is or isn’t.  This is annoying when it comes to a sentence fragment.  I like them.

Frequently confused words – There are words that are often confused.  Which words, well my mind pours over this poorly written work to know it isn’t the paws of a cat causing this nor is it the pore within my skin.  That is a poor example, but you get the point.  It is supposed to determine the context and which word would go there, or was it their, or they’re, who knows, well I do and most of the time, Word does too, or to.  Damn.

Check grammar with spelling – Remember once upon a time, you would click F7 and you would them be displayed a dialog.

image

Yes that is the one.  Though it did look different, and it shows you the work, selects it and shows you the options.  Once, this was the ONLY way to check the spelling in your documents.  I would be curious to know, who still uses the F7 key to check spelling. 

Granted now, I can get definitions and hear how it is pronounced, if you haven’t hear it before.  But times have changed since the humble spelling and now grammar dialog.

Show readability statistics – I know what this does, but I don’t.  Off the bat it tells me if the sentence I have written or even that matter the document will provide too much for the person clasping their eyes, trying to make sense of this madness, written before them, or if it is too easy and maybe the difficulty needs to be ramped up.

It shows the number of words and the like, but the what determines the Flesch Reading Ease or Flesch-Kincaid Grade level mean something, mostly I am sure Flesch and Kincaid.  But if these are important you can see this after using F7 and everything is checked and complete.

Writing Styles – If you use the grammar checker then this will be of some benefit.  If you understand the differences with all of the variations of sentence style or grammar then you will be more at home in this dialog. 

The dialog shows all of the different forms of grammar and then writing style that can be checked in your document.  But since you can turn off grammar checking, this might not be of to much interest if you have the check grammar with spelling turned off. 

I don’t think I will go through these options and tell you the difference between Passive sentences and wordiness. 

Now, if all of these options are too much for you to bear that is OK, baring all like this will help.  But you can also not care and turn them off, or just hide them in your current document. 

So for Mr. Martin, turn off Check text as your type, check spelling as your type and check grammar as you type and you will not be bothered with any of the issues that make you want to use the old DOS WordStar.  If there was grammar checking in this Live Writer, I think what I have written here would possibly break all the rules of any grammar checker.

Just for reference, turn it on in Word will make it look like;

image

Too many squiggly lines if you ask me.  Perhaps George is onto something.

A Strange Oort Cloud Object

SpaceSo many theories have come and gone about the coming of the 4 horsemen.  Some fantastical and some potentially plausible, depending on your belief and understanding.  But one recent theory has me intrigued and has me in search of more information.  But first I will put some context in it on perhaps where these theories might have come from and the possibility of links to others, if I can.

Nibiru

This is supposed to be a planetary object that is meant to come into the solar system that will either hit earth or be a near miss.  The orbit is contrary to the orbit of other objects within the solar system (which in itself is not strange).  This bizarre orbit is not the area which is not unreal, Pluto (a planet in my books still) was thought to have been capture by the Sun.

Simply put, a planetary body supposedly the size of the Earth orbiting our sun (albeit in a very contrary way to all other planets) would have been seen, would cause all kinds of other disturbances within our solar system including knocking asteroids in the asteroid belt and even hitting objects in the Kuiper Belt.  The theory of a hit or a near miss in 2012 never eventuated but because it hasn’t been seen one might postulate that it is still not proof it doesn’t exists as there are billions of billions of objects within the known universe that we have no seen but theory suggests it is there.  But this end of the world scenario has been theorised but has never materialised.

So going on about this Nibiru since this seems like the most plausible scenario on the scale of plausible of not plausible to potentially having plausibility.

Firstly why has not much in the main science spoken about this? Most of the comments come from what is called pseudoscience, even if some of these scientists are reputable.  It also doesn’t help the debate when conspiracy theorists jump onto this bandwagon and yell cover-up as to why only information from the fringe is emerging.

So let us look at the information we have;

Images, yes some have emerged from sources unsure that show and object with what seems to be satellites.  Those with some understanding states this object is a Brown Dwarf Star with its own system of planets orbiting.

So this is an image, enhanced, taken from an observatory in Antarctica.  This is an image in the infrared, the red blob is meant to be the brown dwarf, more often only visible in the infrared spectrum as they emit heat but very little light.

The position of this is 0°02’37.77” arc-degrees, Right Ascension 9h47m56.32s.

When things start to go strange is when the believers start looking at this with several pairs of rose coloured glasses, enough smoking of the wacky tobaccy and state that one of the celestial bodies orbiting this brown dwarf houses and civilisation that settled earth as a form of slave labour, in the subsequent 3600 years since their last visit we have expanded in size and have broken our so called shackles.  This race is called the Anunnaki, they are a technologically and supposedly morally superior race of beings to which we are their slaves.

Now I am willing to accept there is a lot about the universe that is not know.  I am even willing to look at the evidence about there being another object out there beyond the Kuiper belt affecting the orbit of the outer edge planets.   But the moment we start going into this realm of another civilisation on another planet orbiting close to their brown dwarf star then I need a little more than some theories out there.

I have some theories about the universe which are mine, I am not a astrophysicist nor a scholar nor mathematician of any kind and my theories are based on information I have read and seen, they are not unbelievable nor are they backed up by any basis either, they are mine.  I am one who requires a lot of convincing and will often sway when there is evidence presented.

Nemesis

Some scientists believe an object is out there an unseen twin to our sun, a Brown Dwarf which correlates to some information in the Nibiru camp.  But they do not believe that this object enters our solar system but merely orbits the sun, tugs on the orbits of Neptune and Uranus and every 26 million years (give or take) will disturb objects in the Oort Cloud and this send these sometimes massive objects into the centre of the solar system.

This theory has gained some momentum based on the theory of mass extinction events happening every 26 million years or so.  This option sounds plausible, most systems in the universe are binary systems and the fact that we are in the select few of non-normal systems and happen to have life and happen to have intelligent life, seems hard to swallow.  But the idea of there being a twin star, yet unseen orbiting far out from our sun doesn’t seem too far fetched.

So astrophysicists will continue scanning the heavens in search for this wondering where this object might be, why, well if it disturbs objects out in the far reaches of our solar system, these objects come into the path of the earth like Feb 15 2013 over Russia, seen, photographed, videoed and heard by people in the region.  This was one of the largest such objects in recent times but was smaller than the one that shook Tunguska June 30 1908.

So it seems like a good thing since this object that crashes back in 2013 was nothing compared to the size of the object that brought about the extinction of the Dinosaurs or the other events that brought the eras of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods to the abrupt ends.  And since there is a massive object (90377 Sedna) which some also call a dwarf planet and Sedna is about half the size of Pluto and if knocked from its orbit would cause a massive problem if it crossed into our orbit.  Hence the search for something that might cause some issues. 

The Oort Cloud is just as unknown as the Universe

That is the truth, the Oort Cloud a cloud of the remaining particles, gases and dust not formed into planets, comets, asteroids and other stellar objects orbiting our Sun it is a almost spherical cloud about 1 light years or about 60,000AU1 , scientists can guess the items in it, they would be making sure they mark the ones that can cause problems.  This floats around in space, orbiting our sun, very slowly.  It is said that the objects there can be perturbed by the gravitational forces of the Milky Way itself.  Though there is no data to support this theory but they need an explanation how comets from the Oort cloud change their trajectory around the sun.

Scientists are trying to look at these bizarre trajectories of these ex-Oort cloud objects to determine a possible cause, but I believe they are still looking, and certainly the believes of any theory of an extra planet/twin star brings those believers back into the fray and scream cover-up again since they believe it is simple to explain why these objects have been shifted from the original and safe orbit around the sun.

But because something is not known doesn’t mean someone is covering information up.  A lot of science is the search for truth, so scientists out there are searching for this truth.  To them claim that the government is making or forcing the scientists to clam up about this mystery in the depths of our solar system is odd in deed as it would see that more data would come out, likes of Edward Snowden aren’t alone in their need to release information they feel the world should know. 

Let us Assume…

OK, let us look at this with some defined context.  Suppose there is a brown dwarf star out there orbiting our sun, it is about the size of 8 times earth mass, we will hold it there for now.  Since there is various theories on when this sucker orbits the sun 3600 years or 26 million depends on how far out since Sedna takes 11,400 to get around does show the gravitational influence the sun can have on celestial bodies.

sciam1

  1. It is thought that at its furthest point this star is about 3 light years from the sun, but it is also about 1 light year to Proxima Centauri (our closest star).  Knowing that Proxima Centauri is about one-seventh the size and one-eighth the mass of our Sun but is also at its furthest point three-quarters closer to Proxima Centauri than our sun you would think that there might be some tug from the closest star certainly enough for it to shift. 

But I will say that Proxima Centauri is our closest star now but hasn’t and won’t be ours in the past or future.  So this tug might be nothing.

Where am I going with this?  I am getting there, well I hope I am.  So, this body then decides (well, you know what I mean) swing by our neighbour hood.  Some might say we should be able to see it by now if it is going to swing by the place, well brown dwarfs are hard to see, they give off almost no visible light so spotting one, not iluminated and not silohetted becomes a tough job.

NOW, the government (puts its cover-up hat on) and determines that it isn’t in the publics best interest to know about this coming brown dwarf.  That it will not hit Earth but the magnetic field this object would have would possibly cause a reign of destruction onto the planet and the seas swelled, tectonic plates shifted, lava flowed land was lost into the seas, forever.

Why would they?  What possible explanation could they have for not letting us know there is an object, 8 times bigger than us about to cruise past and say hello?  That anyone who was planning on releasing information out there, publish papers in peer reviewed journals have said to have been killed.  There is only ONE reason I can possibly think of. 

Panic.  Often when the end of the world talk hits the air it is coming from the mouths of those who are not seen as credible sources.  They are not getting up with panels of experts or the UN science teams.  They aren’t broadcasting from major radio or TV stations they are more often confined to themselves or a select few, releasing podcasts and administering web sites about the impending doom.  So when they talk we hear but we don’t listen and even if they say something slightly credible, the number of boy who cried wolf scenarios that has come out from these people, we are loath to believe anything they say.  BUT, if the government comes out, the President or Prime Minister emerges to a pack media contingent, microphones, phones, tablets and notepads at the ready to take down the titbits about to come forth, then we listen, then we take notice and understand that things are bad. 

But is not telling us early going to create a panic when there is no denying it and the possibility of doom is looking as sure as the Pope’s convictions as a Catholic.  People will be rushing out buying supplies for the end, building bomb shelters hoping this means that the holy man Jesus will come down, take a select few and leave the rest to burn in the impending devastation that will come.  People will profiteer, selling new products assured of survival beyond the apocalypse despite the fact that would not ever help you survive crossing a quiet street let along this cataclysm.

So is it a cover-up, in the way to stop the panic now and create a worse panic later are they deliberately sending out the “scientitians” saying there is no Nibiru, there is no Nemesis, there is Planet-X and we are still unable to find the green sheep.

2

So, where do I sit, I have provided all of this information provides pieces here and there, given even a possibly plausible reason (albeit not a very good one) why misinformation might be spoon fed to us by the governments.  What is my stand on it? 

Ifs, Buts and Maybes

We have infrared telescopes trained into space looking at the the universe presented before is.  This is a place of mystery to say the least.  We live in a galaxy with over a billion stars and certainly when you look at this image from the Hubble Space Telescope;

galaxy-space-milky-galaxies-hubble-distant-originals-download-free-backgrounds-wallpapers

You realise that this small area of sky gives us a glimpse of that wonder.  We are a young species, about 6000 years old, we have advanced so quickly in that time from the moments we burnt our fingers lighting a fire to burning our fingers on the hot fires of industry to burning our fingers on our friends iPhone as the battery is about to explode.

Out there, there are forces beyond our reckoning even for the super smart boffins pondering the ever evolving equations might say what a black hole can do but we don’t really know, they are equations on paper that tell us about it do nothing telling us what it feels like.   Words sometimes fail to adequately express situations, the feelings I have for my boys, the feeling I have when I gaze up in wonder the feeling I have while peeing in a pool and the warm euphoria sweeps over me. 

I believe there is something out there, it is disturbing things and might orbit our Sun.  This might be Nibiru or it might be Nemesis, since I am only looking at information I can get from documentaries, the internet and second and third hand talks at the pub, mean that I am still sitting firmly on the fence as to what it is. The ever violent nature of the universe tells me we can’t predict all possible outcomes, we can’t protect ourselves 100% of the time and that sometimes it is best to just take what we have and enjoy the moment.  Because IF there is something out there that will cause havoc, what can we possibly do to stop it.  Nothing.  If Sedna was coming towards us and even if we knew when it was going to hit, an object slightly smaller than our moon, we could not do anything to stop it.  Bruce Willis will be too old and in the words from Robert Loggia (General William Grey) from Independence Day said “And turn one dangerous falling object into many.”

It is out there, in space, our end and it will not come out of the blue, we will know it is coming and we will scuttle like ants with their nest disturbed trying to delay the inevitable.  But I want to enjoy my time with my family before I worry about the end and if it comes, we will worry about it then.

  1. An AU or Astronomical Unit is a unit defined as the distance from the Earth to the Sun (the mean distance since our orbit is slightly elliptical.  This is about 150,000,000km in in length.  This is only a guess but I am thinking that AUs were made to help measure the distances to the planets before things start getting measured in light years.
  2. FOX, Mem (2004). Where is the Green Sheep? Australia: Penguin Australia – ISBN: 9780670041497.

Addendum

It might sound like I believe in the theories of Planet X but in some part I do.  But I will be asking my beautiful wife if I can get a Telescope for my birthday.  I will then look at the stars and find the things I would like to see with my naked eye.  I will also like to target the position to be that of where this object might come and see for myself.

I would like to take some pictures of it myself and see what I can show.  The universe has always fascinated me, learning about the strange goings on around the place, Jupiter my favourite planet, biggest in our system but a minnow in the universal ring, but its magnetic field 4 times larger than our Sun, Whaaaa?  Questions, what drives it, Venus, shrouded in mystery and Sulphuric Acid Rain, extreme heat and pressure so intense it has crushed everything we have ever sent to the surface, more than 10 atmospheres.  Triton with geysers like Earth but eject liquid nitrogen high into the air and it falls back as rain on the surface. 

File:Triton moon mosaic Voyager 2 (large).jpg

This is only in our Solar System, what awaits for us outside it, or still within.  I will forever be learning of the universe and all we learn about the new things we find.  And if a day comes, in my life time space flight becomes a reality for more than the super rich I would like to see it. 

Tolerance in the MMO

swtor-logo-256x256World of Warcraft set a very nasty trend in the world of MMOs, though it has been in gaming for sometime, elitism.  In gaming it is specifically the exclusion of those who the “elite” deem unworthy.  This is everywhere in society but for a game that promotes itself as being inclusive for everyone and being social it is incredibly unlike that in reality. 

Why am I bringing this up?  I experienced this to a certain degree last night, a couple of nights ago and I see it in general chat on both Imperial and Republic fleet in SWTOR.  The game released, everyone is on a level playing field and as the game progresses it shows the casual, dedicated and the down right obsessed players as the gap widens.  Free to play launches and a massive influx of new players waddle in, getting feet wet and the gap again widens, like that between rich and poor you start to see the quality of gear difference, money and so on each of these make this gap, and it is there, get wider.

Ejection

golden_fury

Daily questing on Makeb.  The call goes out to dish out some hurt on the Operation Boss (and unofficial world boss) Golden Fury, Toborro’s “golden” child.  This is an interesting fight, not very difficult but a few things to be mindful of, placement in the fight and so on.  But that is me going off on a tangent. 

The call was for DPS, I put my hand up after checking my gear, it was SM so I wasn’t greatly concerned since I had on average 156 gear (few pieces higher) so I was beyond the recommended gear.  One thing I have never done on any of my toons is stack endurance.

Endurance Stacking

MOST armour comes in 2 flavours, an endurance heavy version and a stat heavy version.  The idea is Tanks can use the endurance heavy version and the others can use the stat heavy, but they are there to mix and match to a personal taste.  My total health on my Mercenary, Bounty Hunter is about 32K, decent, my output for damage is very good, I can output anywhere from about 3K to 10K damage a second based on various circumstances (this is all that it states in MOX).  So.  I am well geared for SM, I have done it before on this guy and feel confident.  Because I don’t stack endurance and look at ways of boosting my power and critical chance and multiplier, to the untrained eye it might seem I am a little under-geared, especially in comparison to to those with 35K, 40K health.

OK, I was in the instance, ready to go and someone invited one too many DPS to the party.  No problem, then I get kicked from the group.  I asked why, they said gear.  OK, I looked at the others and out of the other DPS I had lower Endurance, since they weren’t in the instance they couldn’t inspect my actual gear so it was purely based on endurance.

I told them that and then the one who kicked and invited me is on my ignore list.  To not look at the whole picture and simply look at the amount of health does not mean I am lousy at DPS.  My Sentinel was testament to that simply because I was very picky about where I allocate my points in everything.

Request for Leaving

The next item I have seen for wasn’t as bad as before but it is certainly one of the lower forms of it.  I was running Eternity Vault, Hard Mode and I was working on the Puzzle that happens after you beat Gharj.  Normally I am not the one who is on the Pylon duties.  Reason I have heaps of DPS more often than note and am better to simply attack and not have my time clicking the puzzle.

So, the puzzle was running but suddenly there was a reset in the middle.  Reasons people were complaining about things going to slow.  OK.  Then it came out, those who do not know this, please leave.  An interesting statement considering firstly the Operation was Hard Mode most players were Level 55. 

So, I was told to get into the fray and begin turning the puzzle, that is fine, since I was playing my sniper I was able to still be useful.  But there was another sniper not doing anything in the group and certainly was level 52 so DPS output was far lower than mine. 

We then halted a second time due to the other team being slow but I felt the finger was being pointed at me.  We continued and we got through no wipes.  But the tone of comments, the accusations of not knowing what was going on smacked of this elitism becoming more prevalent.  We continued and strangely when we get up to Soa, the one complaining about not knowing the fight and people should leave, died on the second set of crumbling floors.  Strange no comments were made then.

General Chat

The final element of this elitism case I am putting forward is things seen in general chat.  Guilds posting ads there are not uncommon.  Often each guild I have seen is Causal, Laid Back, etc…, but this one was after highly geared players for all Ops, etc.. will only be allowed if they have gear over a certain level.

I have seen people looking for groups for ops, then requesting saying, please be geared.  Another was asking about wanting to do Dread Fortress, Hard Mode and wanted proof of completion of Story Mode achievement. 

These are now starting to tell me of this once World of Warcraft elitist ways are creeping in more and more, exclusions by way of “my” choices.

It reminds me very much of an old situation I once found myself in when I was first looking for work.  It become a matter that no one would give me a job as I didn’t have the experience, but, how can I ever get experience if no one gives me a job.  So, specifically asking for people who know the fights, who are properly geared places a massive burden on people, why.  How can I work out a fight if I have not run through it, if I go into a fight with other people who don’t know it.  When you have experienced people going into operations to determine the mechanics there are many wipes, as you determine the best time to swap tanks or to kite the tank.

E.G.

The first time someone goes into fight Soa.  We all went from the western side.  The tank taunts, takes the agro and the fight begins.  The Melee DPS jump into the fray and every else begins the bombardment.  Now, if you don’t know, when Soa’s health reaches a point, he shields himself, which makes him invulnerable to damage and he drops items from the roof which causes the floor to fall away. 

So, if you one of the ranged members of the party in the right location you would be safe and sound, watching your melee counterparts fall to their demise causing a wipe in any doubt.  So, you try again, you manage to escape but now you might wait, only to find the platform you are on also falls away and you have to begin descending down the long way, jumping, healing and so on. 

Then the next platforms and the fight goes.  If you are learning the mechanics you may wipe many times in each fight, costing you lots of money in repairs costs.  So, to then force people to learn the fights with unexperienced people makes it even more difficult, you have one person who knows the fights, you can send through 7 people inexperienced with minimum gear and you will get through with minimum wipes. 

Is there a reason for being elitist, no.  So you were the first ones to complete nightmare mode Eternity vault with no wipes in under 2 hours, were you?  How do you know?  If so, who cares, it seems you could be one of a very small minority who do.  Help teach those who don’t know to reduce those who don’t know.  The more people you can include the more fun you could possibly have.

Brand loyalty in the PC World

Hardware-Chip-iconWe have seen it in so many areas of life.  Coke v Pepsi, PlayStation v XBOX (Nintendo is as Nintendo does as are their fans).  Like footy teams we pick it, we stick to it and we will hopefully never let our belief waver that we have picked the wrong side by providing any number of logical and very much unorthodox arguments over the choice of one said team over another.

I was looking at PC part prices as I wanton to do and I saw a special for an AMD Radeon card.  If someone was close to me they would have heard me mumble I will never buy and AMD card again.  It dawned on me on this loyalty and if I was rightly justified in my belief.  I have used AMD hardware before, so I believe I have a valid reason for not wanting to go down that path again.  Though to the fan boys out there it would seem petty and because I wasn’t going to show it love, then I deserve not have have the love returned.

Why no AMD?  I have used three AMD devices in the, a CPU from the old days and 2 video cards, one being a desktop the other being a laptop.  Back in the days with the CPU, PC parts were VERY expensive and one was looking for the next upgrade without the least expense.  I was looking to upgrade my current Intel 486 DX2-66 this lead me to the AMD Am5x86 chip. 

It sat into the slot on my motherboard, which was handy, didn’t need to worry upgrading that part, it gave Pentium performance and was cheaper than Pentium which at that time was having Floating Point issues and also required a different motherboard than I had.

Why did Intel name their new processor the Pentium instead of 586?  Because on a Pentium when you add 100 to 486 you get 585.99999999999999. 

So I did it.  I drop what little cash I had, put the chip in, using careful levering of the old chip out and the new one in.  I turned it on, I knew at worst I would have to re-install my Operating system, which was Windows 95 at the time but I was hoping for it to work.  And…

It did, until…

I am wanton to rebuild my PC from time to time, by that I mean, perform a clean install.  There are a couple of reasons one being I find that a clean machine is a lean and mean machine, the other is also about backing up and making sure I have access to all my data offline, since I am often performing a low-level format of the disk during this process.  Must scrub clean all that nasty pornography so the police don’t find it.

So, I decided that this day was the day I needed to perform my re-install.  Found all the disks, Windows 3.11, MS DOS 6.22 and my Windows 95 upgrade disc, I got it and Office 95 for free, I still have the box of Windows 95 Smile yes cool and nerdy.

The path was, Install DOS, Install Win95, when prompted for upgrade use the Windows 3.11 disk when prompted.  All was good, install DOS, first problem.  DOS installer wasn’t working as expected.  These were also the days when the Internet was not common on all PCs and I did have it on my Windows 95 machine but, well it was not even running DOS yet so no good.  One just had to plod through the issues and get it working.

I will not go through this problem but suffice to say, 3 days later I got Windows 95 running.  Phew.  First time I had issues.  Before with my old Intel chip, I had done 2 re-installs without issue.  So, this put me off.  There was also a problem my friend had with a Cyrix Processor.  So, since I had no issues with Intel CPUs, I have stuck with them.

Intel 486DX2-66, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4 HT, Pentium Core2 Quad, i7, I have not has issues with any of these processors and my first foray into overclocking happened in the Pentium III when I overclocked my Pentium III from 450MHz to 550MHz a 22% gain in performance not too bad.

My next test into AMD was the AMD Radeon 5770HD with 1GB of DDR5 VRAM, it was a great bang for buck card with the research I had done.  Lots of recommendations on it.  It wasn’t too expensive and it was a considerable bump in performance from my NVIDIA 9400GT.  When I got this there were a couple of games I played regularly, in that I mean I come back to them frequently, I still do now, so any system I have needs to run these games.  One is The Movies, by Lionhead Studios, Age Of Empires II by Ensemble Studios and Knights of the Old Republic by BioWare. 

The Movies gave me hope since it would come up with an ATI logo when starting which meant that ATI supplied them cards and it did.  Age of Empires, it is solid and works, I can even run it in a Virtual Machine.  Knights of the Old Republic was the issue.  Upon looking around the internet, there were workarounds for this issue, it related to the OpenGL drivers for the ATI Cards.  I needed to copy the OpenGL driver into same folder as the game. 

That was strike 2, I shouldn’t need to do that.  I didn’t have to do that on my NVIDIA card why should I on an AMD one.  So, one last chance to impress.  Not long after that I was in the market for a laptop.  I saw in the paper a sale on, I went there, my Wife didn’t want to come in happy doing word puzzles in the car, I went in and game out with a brand spanking new HP DV7 laptop.  It was faster than my Intel Core2Quad at home as it had an i7 in the guts as well as an Intel 3000 HD video card and an AMD 6770M 1GB DDR5 chips as well.

It was a nice machine, nice and quick, I upgraded the HDD in it as there were 2x 750GB 5400rpm drives in it, I made them 7200rpm drives.  Performance wise it is nice, I can overclock it, it gets a little warm but I use it mainly for playing SWTOR while I am away from home and it did the job until a driver update from HP went awry and SWTOR stopped playing.  Putting this at a driver issue from HP I though I would go get the Mobility driver from AMD…. NO.  I can’t do that as I need to download the verification tool, which I did and it told me it isn’t compatible.  Thankfully, I was able to get SWTOR running again, I rollback the driver and it worked, but performance (which was the reason for me upgrading) was terrible.

One might think this is HPs fault, and that is what AMD say.  We let companies use our hardware but we are not responsible for the way they are implemented or the drivers they supply.  The other issue is also they do not provide a fall back either.  Which is poor service on AMDs part.

HP Driver Release – 2011-11-18 , Version 8.882.2.3000

AMD Driver Release – 2013-12-18, Version 13.12

Yes a large difference between the driver versions.  Now NVIDIA devices in notebooks, work with NVIDIA drivers, no issues.  But to Install Reference Drivers, Install New drivers, re-install reference drivers, update driver from Device Manager.  To do this just to get the driver working and at proper performance it bad not only from HP but also from AMD who simple washed their hands of the matter.

Strike 3 Thumbs down

So, this experience has put me squarely into NVIDIAs camp and Intel’s camp and I might pay more for it but I haven’t had issues.  I have also maintained loyalty on Seagate drivers as I have had some issues with WD devices.  Strange how these problems can create loyalty in one brand or another.

Beat the Heat

Hardware-Chip-icon

Last night was a strange, it was about 12 months ago, nearly to the day that I upgraded my PC. Intel Core i7 (mine is the 3770K) with 32GB G.Skill DDR3 RAM, GTX760 OC Video Card, Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard all siting inside a Silverstone Raven RV03 case.  The weather was hot last time I did this and now, I bought a new part for this computer and it is reaching 43°C (109.4°F & 316°K) so it seems about right that I am doing it again with hot temperatures coming around.

But it is the hot temperatures is why I am getting this particular part.  Backstory – I like to play games, which I am sure many of you might know, I play them on my PC and I live in Australia.  These combinations mean, my PC runs a little on the warm side as the ambient temperatures are often hotter, and in summer it is more the case with the ambient temperature even higher than normal.  Suffice to say, playing games I then see a warning (by games I mean, SWTOR) telling me the CPU is over 70°C (158°F & 343.15°K), this from my understanding is hot.  Hot, it is the temperature at which if a Barista made my coffee and the milk hit that temperature I would return it as it would be burnt.  But these 70°C temps were going to get worse when the air outside the case was hotter than it was when I was first reading these temperatures.

If you run your CPU at high temperatures constantly it will reduce its life span.  CPUs will not run forever and the more stress they are p[physically put under then it will shorten their lives.  Also a note to understand something about the way CPUs are made.

CPUs are made on wafer of semiconductor material (usually Silicon crystal).  This material, when made can be of varying quality.  The better the quality the better the ability to withstand higher temperatures.  The wafers that perform the best go into Intel’s best CPUs their Extreme Editions, ones that weren’t quite as good start making up the lower end processors.  I say weren’t so good is to state that it couldn’t cope at the higher end of the spectrum but did well at lower ends, so they can run it at a lower speed and it will perform very well.

The K CPUs, the ones capable of overclocking use a better wafer than a normal unlocked CPU.  Meaning my 3770K has a better wafer than the stock 3770, simply because they have designated this to be overclockable and must still be stable if it is overclocked (to a point, which I am sure Intel will not tell us which point this is).  But, if they fill their quota of top line and they have wafers that are considered top left over they would go and make the next one down and the next one down and so on.

So, what were my options?  I had very good airflow into my case, I had 6 fans on the case alone, 2 exhaust and 4 intake.  But my CPU was still hit 70°C+, which I thought was hot.  Is, well, Intel don’t say what is too hot, hot enough for the CPU to begin throttling.  But it is wise to push the CPU to its maximum safe temperature just to find where it will throttle, unless you have the ability possibly not, I have seen that the i7 will go has high as 100°C before it will internally throttle, so, if this is a mark of the CPU causing itself to cool down by reducing the load, 70°C is not too bad, but it means my overclocking ability is limited.

So, I could add a massive heat-sink and fan to the CPU like this.  But this seemed very gaudy to me and if you look at where my CPU sits on my motherboard there isn’t a lot of room as that Thermal Amour as they call it, comes up high around the edges and might prevent it from working, or fitting.  So I decided to go for liquid cooling, it works for the car which gets far hotter than any CPU so why not use the same technology that has been around for ages, but this time for a new application.  So time to hit the internet.  There are lots of different systems around.  Closed loop, refillable, double radiators, different liquids coolants, all so much.  Intel released one, which I thought was not too bad, but then in the end I decided to go with;

When I was looking at this, it crossed my mind a couple of times and the Corsair Link software was what caught my eye.  Plugs into a USB header on the motherboard and then enable you to control the speed of the fans based on certain parameters.

I then dropped the cash on the Corsair H80i.  I felt this could do the job, provided that ability for me to control the fan speeds (therefore the cooling) and enabled me to help overclock the CPU a little more than I have.

So, I get home (sorry for the no unboxing video, why do people want to show the unboxing, when this this become something that people want to see, anyway, I digress).  So, I looked at the radiator, the 2 fans, the pump and brackets and I felt I have bit of more than I could chew.

So I removed the rear exhaust fan and find that when I attached both fans to the radiator, I do not have the room as the motherboard gets in the way.  I looked more into it, the top exhaust fan, starting to run into the CPU which means the curving of the pipes is a little higher than I would like, which means more pressure on the joints.  I had to leave it be.  Come back after dinner.

I think more, remove one of the HUGE intake fans at the bottom of the case.  There is room there for the Radiator and fans, it lines up nicely with the CPU and there are holes there for attaching it.  I decide to have my dinner.  My youngest has decided to help, he inserted some various screwdriver heads between the memory slots, though a circuit tested would look good stuck into the PCIe x16 slot.  So with the all cards removed, some fans disconnected I decided to unplug the bottom fan (after removing the various additions added by my son.

BUT, looking more and more at this change is making me uncomfortable.  Simply put, I am losing one of the massive fans, which I am sure pull a lot of air and direct it to the CPU (currently).  I have no other place to put it (the fan that is).   After more looking at the situation and thinking more, I realised that I could not fit, anywhere in its entirety, both fans and the radiator.  I was starting to look at this situation as needing more than more to solve it.  Not wanting to give up, I realised that I could mount it in an unorthodox way, and looking more into it I realised the top exhaust fan, could be removed, have the radiator and one fan on the inside and then mount the second fan on the outside of the case. 

I proceeded to do this, checking the direction of the fan flow, since it talks about better cooling is with air intake.  So I did this, both aligned correctly I also took the grill that prevented fat fingers getting into the fan blades onto the outside fan, attached that to the radiator.

Attached the back plate to the underside of the motherboard.  I then screwed this in (mind you I don’t have big hands but there wasn’t a lot of space for me to screw these in), but I managed.  I removed the CPUs heat sink and fan and realised a possible reason for the high heat, there was some small areas where air could sit between the CPU and the base of the heat sink. 

Air isn’t a great conductor of hear, so what can happen is the heat in those pockets gets far hotter than the rest, this heat is transferred into the heat sink but also back to the processor.  For this transfer to happen it needs very high temperatures.  So it is a bad cycle.  So, I applied the pump to the top of the CPU, attached to mounting bracket and screwed it down, making sure I work on opposite corners.   One thing I didn’t realise was just how big, or think it was.  The pictures are deceptive and though it tells you the thickness of it, you can perform some calculations to determine its size, but nothing beats seeing physically how big it is.  This is the size of it, on the side.  Fans are black radiator is grey.

image

 

This is as accurate as I can get it for the screen.  Based on a typical 96 pixels/inch for screen resolution, those running a higher DPI would not see this accuracy of this.

image

Same with this this is it front on.  So, you can see the space.  So if you are looking into water cooling, understand the size of the rans and radiator in the images is deceptive.  And this is a single radiator those with doubles I am sure take up more room.  But as with me, I didn’t have enough room all inside the case, but, a mix between inside and outside I was able to get it in.

I plugged everything back in, turned it on, it worked.  Surprised smile

NOTE.  Water coolers will NEVER cool the CPU down to anything below ambient air temperature.  Why, because the air being sucked through the radiator is at this temperature and it cannot therefore cool the liquid down to below that temperature.  If you want colder cooling you will need to look into Phase Change cooling  This is a silly name, certainly meant to sound way cooler than it is.  This operates like an air conditioner, the difference here is instead of blowing cold air out, it uses the same process but in an enclosed loop.  It uses a combination of pressure and heat transferral to change the refrigerant (the liquid) into a gas then back to a liquid.  It is called Phase change as it is meant to describe the phase change from liquid to gas.

So I ran up a game, but I couldn’t run up a game that I have seen the 70°C warning (as they were down with a patch) so I still tried a game, Lord of the Rings Online.  Considering the ambient air temperature inside the house which was about 35°C, the fact that I managed to get a max of 50°C from it means it is working.

I have not taken the time to set up my temperature profiles yet.  But also note the link on the site for the software (and you need to download it.  If you are running Windows 8 or 8.1, don’t get it, instead use the following link.

Corsair Link Software Update BETA Version 2.5.5145

This takes you to their forum page with a download for the software.  The version of the software on their site, Corsair Link Installer RC v2.4.5110 will not work with Windows 8.  Please do not download this, use the beta version from the link above.

Cooling

A note on cooling in general.  NEVER let anyone person tell you that the stock CPU fan is no good.  All tests carried out in the labs in the CPU makers are done using the stock CPU fan and heat sink.  If you do not plan to overclock, or cause your CPU to run at 100% for a long time chances are you will not need anything more than the stock CPU heat sink and fan.

Well if you think your CPU is running hot you can get applications that enable you to read the temperature of the CPU you can download some software called CoreTemp and for GPU you can use GPU-Z .  The CoreTemp will provide information about the CPU and will provide a per Core temperature reading.  It will also show the MAX temp of the CPU before throttling will occur. 

Laptops will always be hotter than Desktops, but that are also harder to cool down.  Cooling pads help as it enables the air under the laptop to remain cooler, sucking in cooler air will result in a cooler inside.  But you will know if things get heated since the air from the CPU and GPU (if available) will be blowing out and those vents can be hot to touch. 

Without adding extra features like water/liquid cooling or additional fans look at what you have.  If you have only 2 fans, CPU and power supply then maybe an extra one can help.  But it will do nothing if the airflow is restricted.  Keep it off the floor (hot air rises so you don’t want it too high), but high enough not to suck in the crap from the floor like dust.

imageIf you only have a CPU fan then there is a way that you can help keep it cooler (but you sacrifice noise by doing so, and potentially battery life (if a laptop).

Go into power settings, Control Panel | System and Security | Power Options.  Then the active plan (the one selected radio button), click Change plan settings and the following dialog will be displayed.

Under Processor power management you can set the cooling or the power state (Max or Min values of how much processing power to use, self throttling)

Active cooling will keep the fan running at max to cool the processor.

Passive will keep the fan at a lower speed and will speed it up as the load increases.  If the load doesn’t increase the fan won’t. 

Self Throttling, it is the max state, setting it to a % of total.  If you set it to 75% it is a total CPU.  If you have a 4 core CPU, it will not disable 1 core and have the others max at 100%, if you set it at 75% it will run all cores at that value.

Disabling Cores – Silly if you ask me, but possible and from the BIOS.  I would not recommend this, but if you system is running hot and you want to make sure that it doesn’t break before its time, then this might help (especially if you don’t need the power), only surfing the web or looking at emails.  Watching HD movies you need the grunt, leave the cores alone.

Cleaning

Cleaning you PC out will help, dust can block airflow and prevent the maximum cooling to happen.  This is prevalent on the CPU heat sink, if you suck in dust it will land on the CPU as the fan blows onto the heat sink.  If that is starting to crude up; as you can see with this stop Intel CPU fan and heat sink, the dust is blocking up the gaps between the fins of the heat sink.  This prevents the air circulating through the fins and cooling down the CPU.

This one might need to have the fan removed to be cleaned, but you can get air kits that help the process, make sure a protective mask is used as this dust will go everywhere. 

Filters can help decrease the dust inside PCs, and not restrict airflow.  very fine netting used for curtain sheer to diffuse the light coming from windows is good if fine enough.  A test,. blow through it, if it is too hard to blow through then your fans will unable to suck air throughout it. 

To find out where air is coming into your case, use a tissue.  Hold it against open areas, or areas that have access and hold it gently to the corner.  If it is drawn into the case, then air is coming in.  The more visible the movement the greater the airflow.  The greatest airflow should benefit from using that filter type material.

Regular cleaning can help massively with the cooling ability of your PC and if it is running cooling it will last longer. 

Fans on the case can help, adding a fan to the inside of the case (if room) can bring cooler air into the case or push it out.  But, if air is getting pushed into the case then it needs to be pushed out of the case, either through vents or sucked out by fans.

So, Cool PCs are Clean PCs and Clean PCs are cool.  But, more air flow, colder air, all of them help, but there is lots you can do without spending money.

PlayStation V XBOX – Part 1

So, for a lengthy period of time, well not that long ago, since the release of the XBOX back in 2001 the Sony and Microsoft have been going head to head.  The first salvo has been fired, Sony announced the PS4 back in February 2013, and gave a great look at what will be possible early on with games like Killzone and the Unreal Engine 4 running.  There were teases of other games, Destiny from Bungie will be running on PS4, Blizzard has come out and announced that it will also be developing for the product.  Then just a couple of days ago, Microsoft has announced that the XBOX One will be going head to head.  The first time the consoles will be released at about the same time (if not the same time within weeks of each other).

History

The console wars is a funny one, if you visit one of my preferred gaming sites there is a forum dedicated to “System Wars”.  Where the argument over the better console has been waging for some time.  Most of the time it comes down to better graphics, gaming having better foliage (nee Alan Wake) which game was not true HD resolution.  This has Anti-Aliasing, this doesn’t this supports FXAA software and blah, blah, blah.  Absolute drivel and most of it just pure fanboyism from the most ardent fanboys on the planet. 

Understand something interesting, PSone, won its generation of the console wars, the PlayStation 2 won it’s generation of the console wars, Wii won this generation in the console wars (but an interesting turn that isn’t mentioned in the breakdown is the Wii is never really included, since it might have still been from last generation, the SD generation and the WiiU is a true to the current generation the HD generation.  In which case the PS3 won this current HD generation, by the slimmest of margins though.  As it overtook the 360 in sales come January 2013.

So, giving this history I tried, to explain the differences in the hardware to these fans, but like fans in any area, they often failed to see the real argument, or see facts.  That said, I felt this time around I will trying and put all of this down, go through the details in the hardware that I have at the moment and see if I can explain if there is a better console as as the details become more and more solidified as the month tick down to the release there should a clear winner.

There was a site, TechnoBuffalo that did a video series of  very impartial take on these console wars, looking at each console they had, The Controller, the hardware and so on, it went through at 12 rounds and in the end the PS3 came out on top.  They also did the motion controllers as well, took them through the paces, I recommend it a watch, if you are interested.

PS3 – XBOX 360

thCALBUV43It is clear now, that the hardware within the PS3 was impressive, the fact that games like Uncarted and Killzone showed just what the PS3 was capable.  The 360 was no slouch and games like Gears of Wars gave the console some good looking games.  The 360 took early points as the hardware in the PS3 was a complex mix of PPU and SPUs and to get the most out of them you really need to know what you were doing.  The 360, offered a closer to PC chip, with a Tri-core PowerPC base and early on games seemed to be made for 360 then ported to the PS3 and running on a single PPU (which was a PowerPC base chip).  We only saw the power from studios that have had the PS3 in their stable for sometime and these were often the first party studios of Sony.

But as the years went on the gaming engines developed got more savvy of the architecture of the PS3 and we started to see those triple-A titles released on both platforms come ahead on the PS3.  Also looking at the differences between Killzone 2 and 3, Uncharted 1, 2 and 3 and how much better each iteration got, the God of War 3 game, these just blew peoples mind at what was possible on the PS3 and that infamous Cell Processor.

The Next Generation

I preferred this to any of the original Star Trek series, and though I am not a massive Star Trek fan (though who know I play Star Wars games over Star Trek games certainly know) I do like the next generation.  That said, I am here to talk about the XBOX One and the PS4.  We have architectures that are as close to each other that they have been and to me this is a smart move.  The cost of making games nowadays is so prohibitive that it makes more sense to develop on a common platform and then port to any others, these ports are obviously going to suffer, but if they are in many ways glorified PCs, then the port will fair better.  Not to mention optimisation can be done much better on a closed specs system than it can on any PC game where the end platform it is running on, is an unknown, RAM speed, CPU Speed, Cores available, the plethora of graphics cards and memory speeds on those and the list is endless, which is why something like DirectX was such a great step forwards for development of games, but I will get to that.

The Processors

Apu2These are about the same.  They are AMD 8 Core processors (APU2 most likely though not explicitly stated.).  Their clock speed seems to be a coveted secret at the moment, the reason is for both it is an area of contention.  AMD release multi-core APUs that run at 4.2GHz, they also release multi-core APUs at 2.4GHz.  Sony has stated in their press event that the CPU is a “supercharge PC Architecture” x86 processor.  Microsoft merely said it was an 8 core CPU (but physically said on stage a “native 64 bit architecture”).

Microsoft said the 64 word to set it apart distinctly from Sony.  Is the CPU in the PS4 not a 64bit chip, no, it isn’t but because they said, x86.  The x86 Intel architecture evokes in the crowds that know, a 32bit world.  The fact that in software there is x86 and x64 monikers to denote the difference between the 32bit and the 64bit chips.  But to understand this, my current PC is an x86 architecture chip but support x64.  I run, 64bit Windows and Office on the machine.  I can develop applications for the 64bit architectures and compile them.  To access the amount of RAM I have 32GB, I need a 64 bit address space (well 48bit if memory serves me), it is still larger than the the 32bit max, or even 36bits that PAE can address. 

AMD-Trinity-APU_thumbSo, marketing spin they are for one of a better work similar, though Sony did use the “Supercharged” word, which is something that I personally wouldn’t use on any processor that is not running in excess of 3.5GHz.  Microsoft then talked about transistor count, 5 billion transistors.  Mmm, why would they say that, now sure many people would know what a transistor would serve within a CPU, but 5 billion that is a lot, even for today’s processors.  My current i7 has about 1.4 billion, Intel know the exact numbers.  But this is just a CPU, the GPU in my machine, Nvidia 570GTX has about 3 billion.  So combined this is 4.4 billion transistors.  So the numbers that are being touted by Microsoft in their 5 billion transistor count isn’t as advanced as they would have you believe, it isn’t a cheap knock off, but certainly not mind blowingly advanced.

The image I have included is a simple representation of how an APU is connected internally and the logical components they consist of.  This doesn’t reflect either of the processors that will be used in the PS4 or the XBOX One.

Memory

8GB, plain and simple.  Sony is using GDDR5 and Microsoft DDR3.  The difference between them is bandwidth, plain and simple.  The max at the moment for DDR3 is about 3.0GT/s (3 billion transfers per second).  GDDR5 is 6 billion transfers per second, twice as fast as that in the XBOX One.  So the PS4 seems to have a faster transfer rate, is this better, damn skippy3 it is.  If in one second I can transfer twice as much data, it means I can get it from CPU to the GPU for output twice as fast (this is merely in moving the data across the bus, nothing more).

Then about about the other elements, something more tangible.  DDR3 (XBOX One) transfers at a max (at the moment) of 24 Gigabytes per second. That is the entire length of a single layered Blu-Ray disc in 1 second.  The GDDR5 in PS4 is 48 Gigabytes per second, yes twice the amount of data.

NOTE:  These rates are indicative if, the memory runs in Dual Channel or Quad Channel configurations (DDR3), then this can affect the transfer rate.  Not in the magnitudes of double or quadruple but it can increases them.  So since a DDR3 chip can come in up to 8GB flavours, one could never know what configuration it will be in.

GDDR is a little different since it based on the number of lanes per chip, these lanes are based on the transfer pins on the physical chip.  These comparisons numbers I have listed are based on a 64 lanes (which is two 32 lane chips).  But it is not uncommon for any number of chips to be present, which could be 8 or 12 (this value is dependant on the manufacturer of the device and the RAM) chips in their configuration, the number of chips increases the total bus width.

The more I dig into this the more complex it can get.  Suffice to say, the PS4 has better memory and depending on how they configure it, they could have this at screaming rates.  The DDR3 is a 64bit bus width and no matter the number of modules of memory you use doesn’t change this.

This information is courtesy of List of device bit rates.  Once again these are arbitrary numbers and since we do not know a whole lot about the Northbridge1 and that speed or width we can’t be too sure. 

Networking

Both to have Wi-Fi (though the Sony conference didn’t mention it, but since the PS3 had it as standard it foes without saying that the PS4 will have one).  Though Gigabit has not been mentioned, it to me is one of those things that is a given.  PS3 had it, so should the XBOX One.  If it is Wi-Fi only then there will be one really annoyed person (as in me) as I have wired my house up with CAT6 and Gigabit routers and switches.

Disc Media

Blu-Ray seems to be the order of the day.  PS3 had it and this gave the game a clear advantage over the 360.  Games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, would have been a massive headache swapping out 7 discs. (Wait, wait… 7.  If I know my maths like my calculator does, 7 x 9GB is 63GB, a game on a PS3 was max 25GB.  So, where did the additional space come from.  There would be a lot of duplicate data on each disc to accommodate the play.  Essentially the game would be broken into 7 chapters so to speak and each 9GB disc would need to have ALL game assets, textures, models and sounds, etc… on each disc so it could be played.)

So now they both have the Blu-Ray media gone are the days of disc swapping.  I am happy about this, though the only game I played that required me to swap disc recently was Lost Odyssey on XBOX 360 (it is a good game, check it out). 

GPU

Well, the PS4 has  what was called an “enhanced PC GPU” this can be anything.  If it is an APU from AMD then their best APU available today has a GPU – HD 7660D (The D is meant for Dual Graphics)  So we are talking not a bad GPU in the scheme of things not quite the same as a desktop GPU, it can’t be.  But it is still pretty decent. 

The XBOX One, well, it is unknown.  If they are using an APU anything is possible, but since they weren’t talking about it in their reveal the other day, my guess is it isn’t anything to boast about but it could be anything.

HDD

The XBOX One has a 500GB HDD that can’t be exchanged.  Once again, Microsoft likes to say, you want that nice shiney new 1TB drive for your XBOX One, sure drop us $250 and you can get it.  The PS4 has a hard drive, rumours are that it might be 160GB, nothing is concrete yet, but since the PS3 had an upgradable HDD and you could just buy a 2.5” drive and put it in yourself this might be a cost saving exercise more than anything.    There is a couple of points to note on this.  The XBOX One will require all games to be fully installed (claiming this is about the always on and always knowing of your games you have).  The PS4 will not need full installs, it will be similar to the PS3, it is done to help load times or common assets that need to be perhaps streamed, I am unsure but I believe it is optional for the developers.

This is going to make things interesting, couldn’t install too many games on a 500GB HDD if they are full installs and no simple upgrade path.  Not totally surprising from MS. 

Remainder

The rest of the stuff isn’t a real concern in my books, USB 3.0, HDMI ports, interesting there is no talk of 3D, Since Sony sell 3D TVs and 3D Blu-rays are common place now, it would be strange not to have it, but it could also be a developer item, if they want to include 3D it is up to them.  But neither Microsoft nor Sony spoke about it.

Independent Developers

xboxlivearcadeMicrosoft looked like it was going to be the champion of the independent developer, and in some manner it is with Windows.  The release of XNA and Game Studio Express ventured in a new way for game developers to look, you can create your small game using free tools and release on the XBOX 360.

Sony had their Minis and PSN games, but they require licencing to Sony and official company registration with them.  Early days, Microsoft had some wonderful games coming out on XBOX Live Arcade, but then in the later years Sony was pushing these games and had some great ones, Journey as an example.psn

Sony also announced that they would allow independent developers to self publish games, I am sure there is a process and registration to go through but this is a boon.  MS, has come out and stated they will not be allowing self publishing of titles.  In my mind this is a backwards step from Microsoft.  But in reality after watching the reveal it isn’t totally surprising since they seem to be more pushing the connection of you and your TV and devices more than ever and the games (which I am hoping will be more prevalent at E3 soon) took a back seat.

Finally

Well it is late, I have written more words than I thought I would, and I am still writing.  But I am trying to put out there information that states what is good and not so good about the specs of the new console.  This is all preliminary at the moment and there is still a lot of information missing on both sides of the fence.  I think in terms of viable power, the PS4 seems to be in front, even with the information based on GDDR5 and DDR3 alone.  But as more and more information is coming out I will add more parts to reveal more and more.

 

  1. The Northbridge is the controller that handles the transfer of data between the CPU, GPU and RAM simple.  Typically, though modern CPUs have this capability on the chip itself, therefore increase the bandwidth of the bus.
  2. APU is not Apu.  But I thought it was cute to put this in.  APU is Accelerated Processing Unit.  It is a combination of the CPU and GPU on the same die.
  3. This is an Australian term to mean “damn straight”.  Skippy was an old TV show, the Kangaroo (which was actually a Wallaby) about a Kangaroo that was much like Lassie , but he was a Kangaroo.  The Kangaroo was a goody two shoes hence the straight reference.

XBOX ONE

Well what can I say, I have seen the live press event from Microsoft for the new XBOX, it is called XBOX One.  I am surprised, pleasantly but also surprised not so.  The architecture is similar to the PS4, though they were talking more about transistors than anything.  The x64 architecture seems to be going in the right direction, will this be an Intel chip will this be an AMD chip.

Hardware, all that was mentioned and briefly I might add was, 8 Core CPU (x64 most likely since they spoke of 64bit), 8GB RAM (nothing on the type), 500GB HDD, Blu-ray drive (finally), WiFi (hoping there is an RJ45 connection for gigabit), HDMI In/Out (this looks very much like the way things are going to be controlled by the system and USB 3.0.  So there is nothing earth shattering, like the PS4 conference, the specs are what they are, they are pretty much like a decent PC spec. 

Though interestingly is the XBOX One going down the APU route (casting CPU and GPU onto the same die, which improves the bus speeds between the two processors) or is there a separate GPU.  There was no mention on the GPU, the Sony press event, did mention a GPU that has the ability for compute processing, including demonstrating the Havoc physics engine running.  No Bluetooth on the new XBOX, though there was no mention of it, they were talking more of Wi-Fi Direct which is a wireless technology capable of connecting like devices directly together but using the Wi-Fi network stack.  But the headsets, there are a lot of people with Bluetooth headsets that they connect to their phone, these can be used on the PS4 but interesting we don’t know about the One. 

The TV “Experience” seemed to be the main thing that they wanted to point out, how it is placed into the lounge room and connected to the TV and how to operate the TV.  The interesting element I am interested in is the switching between TV and all other elements on the XBOX at the command of your voice, but they never mentioned about how the TV is connected, is there a tuner in the console or is it using the HDMI connection abilities and the control it can offer, not sure, not much was said.

New-Xbox-One-ConsoleTo understand something they missed with this event, the main people watching this press event, other than the MS people in the crowd are the “core” gamers.  These will be the people who will be looking at getting the console at launch, dropping the big bucks to have that experience.  So telling these “core” gamers they can improve their interactivity with their TVs isn’t really going to sell more systems.

The Controller looks very very similar to the original 360 controller, but the D-Pad seems to be improved which is one of the things that I hated about all of the previous controllers for XBOX.  Force feedback on the triggers is a nice touch but nothing terrible innovative.

There is talk of the improved responsiveness with Kinect and the controller, Kinect has been improved from memory 2 frames faster than the original, nothing much improved there,m and a 15% increase in latency on the controller, well I am not thinking it will be noticeable, since the level for most people to notice is about 70ms. 

3 Operating System, mmm.  This sounds like marketing spin to me.  It looks like it is running Windows 8, with DirectX 11 (possibly), WinRT (which is the main UI which gives us that switching back in, wven the snapping was very much ripped from Windows 8 and then the one that combines them all.  This is what I believe it is, DirectX (won’t say which version), WinRT all with Windows 8 kernel under the hood.  Why not, it makes sense the WinRT platform offers that modern streamlined approach which is what you see in the UI, why not build it into the One.  Windows 8 is already a great performer when it comes to games, especially DirectX 11 games, why not utilise that.  If it is running 3 operating systems as they mention seems a little bloated, 8GB of System Memory, Windows 8 will utilise a good chunk of 1.5GB to 2GB of RAM so you need something that is light weight and most OSes aren’t.

The games, what games were there, Remedy teased a game that was similar to the new Quantic Dream game Beyond: Two Souls.  A new Forza game, surprisingly named Forza 5.  A Halo game but also, Steven Spielberg is possibly going to be the EP on a Halo live action TV show, which is to be leading the way in the “immersion” of using Kinect, SmartGlass and XBOX One console.

Call of Duty: Ghosts, looks nice, but is looks very much like Crysis running on a top end PC.  But since this isn’t an exclusive game and since the architectures are going to so similar to (PS4 and One) the game will be almost identical.  Dogs, there is a dog in this game that we are meant to care about.  I think I remember Peter Molyneux spoke about having a Dog AI in the game of Fable 2, one that we would care about one that we want to share the game experience with.  Can’t say it is a good thing or bad thing.

They also mentioned about the sub-division of polygons.  This isn’t a new technology feature, what this means is when a model with a 3D polygon mesh is zoomed in the polygon that makes up that mode divides again, and again so the surface will be more defined, the reason this is possible is due to the number of polygons that need to be rendered on screen reduces as the scene is getting tigher and tigher and these polygons can then be used to make what is seen better.

We also so no games running live at the event, we did see, 2 games running “in-engine” but in reality until we see someone up there with a controller, controller what we see this is going to be a tough pill to swallow.  I am sure many people remember the E3 Sony press event when Guerrilla games showing off Killzone 2 and their CG trailer touted as “in-game”. 

Forza 5, launch game, all EA games will be released within 12 months, nothing slated for release window.  Call of Duty: Ghosts, I am not sure they mentioned the date on that.  The Remedy game, Quantum Break from the look of it, possibly not a launch game.  They also touted the 15 games that were exclusives, possibly more of Rare underutilising their talents in creating more Kinect mini-games.

Finally

I didn’t do a post on the Sony PS4 reveal press event, because it was in the afternoon here, I had come home from work and then it was dinner time with my kids, when it was fresh in my mind I forgot to write.  My opinion with the XBOX One, the name, is reminiscent of the WiiU, It is about you, about your experiences, but this is the One box, to control them all, your TV and all your “content”.

NFL integration, interesting and I like the 49ers but not of interest in Australia, and from my understanding the rest of the world.  Had they announced a partnership with FIFA (not the game but the controlling body of Soccer in the world) and how the “experience” can be connected and integrated right into the system.

They have a lot of interesting concepts, which is what we saw at this event today.  Readying the twitter sphere is seems that the main players of the industry are also wanting more details, since they might have dev machines, but these dev machines will be PCs, running close to the final specs.  Companies will often ship preliminary dev kits close to final specs and as they specs get nailed down they ship the proper kits. 

One thing that I wanted to know from both the PS4 and the XBOX One announcements is independent development. Sony mentioned about self publishing, which is a huge boon, but nothing about the openness of their platform for independent developers, main dev kits are pricey, 10K, 20K it depends on the company.

There was a lot of talk also about integrating with your XBOX friends, but I don’t have that many XBOX friends, the PS4 at least has the connection to Facebook where I have a couple of hundred (I am not sure it is that high) friends.  So, it has me disappointment and wanting more, especially from the games side.  I can hit a button, get my TV on and click the remote to change the channel, so having it become the DVR so to speak of not just games but all content then it will be worth it.

Microsoft – All regions you are releasing this console in at launch, make sure you launch all features to all regions at the same time.  In Australia Kinect didn’t have voice recognition in a lot of regions due to regional dialects and accents, well they need to get this right not just with Kinect but also, TV integration and the TV guide.  This feature, which was one of their major points in this event will be useless if not released in all regions at launch.

I give Microsoft a wait 19 days and see if they can wow me more come E3.  Surprise not so, I found it underwhelming mostly, interesting feature set and interesting direction but certainly it isn’t saying me, buy me day one.