New website Reactor-Core.com

8 08 2012

Greetings, I would like redirect viewers to my new website http://www.reactor-core.com. I will not be updating this blog in the foreseeable future.  The new website will contain the same content, computer modding, tech./game info and reviews among other things.

Hope to see you there…





Diablo III Beta mini-review

30 04 2012

Will Diablo 3 live up to old-skewl Diablo fans expectations and welcome new players to the Diablo gaming franchise?

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BACKGROUND

Back in ’96, yeah, way back then, I fell in love with an impressive looking dungeon crawler/RPG game with a rather dark and malefic name of “Diablo.” From the first ominous game cutscene to the epic final boss fight of Diablo himself I was completely spellbound by the game. Diablo II arrived a few years later in 2000 and continued its undying grasp on me by improving the game play and storyline.

For close to eleven odd years I have waited for another rendition of the game to be developed bringing it with it up-to-date, modern improvements in graphics, gameplay, experience and storyline. On May 15, 2012 new and old Diablo fans will finally get to sink their claws into Diablo III.

Based on playing the Diablo III Beta here’s a glimpse of what new and old Diablo fans can expect…

GRAPHICS

Probably the most significant change to Diablo III is the updated graphics engine. The game still uses a top down 45-degree angle view but now uses a modern 3D engine to dramatically improve the games backdrop, interactive-environment, characters detail along with their gear and fighting effects.

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One part I really enjoyed about the new graphics capabilities was the inclusion of a  interactive-destructible environment and damage effects. Buildings, walls and other in-game items can be used and destroyed depending on what the player is doing, using and types of spells or damage output they are generating. All I can say it’s really fun to see some mobs being destroyed and body parts go flying all around the screen.

SOUND

The music scores and ambient sound effects and dialog are as immersive and impressive as ever. Blizzard has done a fine job updating theme music and ambient sounds which will bewitch the player and transport them deep into the world of Sanctuary where old Diablo fans can call home again.

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GAMEPLAY

Diablo III stays pretty true to the past in keeping with easy and simple one mouse control playability. The UI is exceptionally familiar to old-school players while new Diablo’ers will find it very easy and quick to pick up.

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The leveling and skill system has been completly revamped and streamlined. In my opinion this is a welcome change from past Diablo games where if your characters particular build did not turn out how you were expecting it to you were pretty much stuck with it /frown or had to create a new character from scratch all over again. The new skill system does provide you with a little hand-holding in the beginning but you have complete control or what skill-sets you want to use at any given time and can change them at any point too, which is a huge welcome for this Diablo-geek.

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One aspect of Diablo III I will be exceptionally intrigued to use is the inclusion of a  “real money” in-game auction house where players can sell and buy in game goods and wares using their hard earned dollars. I remember back in the day playing Diablo II and finding out all kinds of upgraded gear on ebay I could bid on for my character and some items/gear selling in upwards of several hundreds of dollars! So this will be very interesting to see how this evolves. Can you say hello to “Bank of Diablo.” Of course you can still use in game gold you accuired to purchase wares also just like in the past as well.

Yea yea, soo what Charters are the best to play in Diablo III? Well, I played all of the characters in the Beta: Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter. And the absolute best character which totally kicks-ass and I enjoyed the most is…

All of them if you can believe it. Pfft I know right? I normally lean towards a strong melee class but I had a blast playing them all. Blizzard has done a remarkable job in making it rather difficult for me to unanimously have me easily pick one character over the others. They all have very unique talents and skills in allowing you to crushing your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamination of your girl/boyfriend asking if you’re finally done playing now? I will most likely level all the classes since they were all a blast to play and level.

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I didn’t play to much in multiplayer only but just a few levels with one other player on one of my characters. It was easy to group and up and one change/aspect of multiplayer I really really liked was all the loot which drops from mobs, chests is yours and your alone, nice. You don’t have to fight with other players on loot drops anymore, you can still trade if someone loots something that would better suit the other player/character as well.

GAME PERFORMANCE

I played Diablo III Beta on an iMac with a 3.4GHz Core i7, 16GB RAM and a AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB graphics. Game play was very smooth overall, around 60-FPS and load/transition screens taking only a few seconds. Since this was only the Beta i’m sure game performance will only increase when the final “optimized” version is released.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For most all die-hard fans of the Diablo franchise and newcomers to Diablo III will find it’s a game well worth waiting for. It will bring back all the fun evil dark memories of past Diablo games and should have no problems creating new insidious yet exceptionally fond experiences for the foreseeable Diablo future.

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New search engine site to crush Google?

13 10 2011
DuckDuckGo.com

DuckDuckGo.com

I stumbled upon a new search site which offers pretty clean search results. It also returns results in a less cluttered fashion with no ads or non-related links.

And DuckDuckGo apparently does not track and use your browser or other info. According to their privacy policy they do not store, share or show any personal data. DuckDuckGo will go out of its way to delete that data according to it’s privacy policy.

Check out one of their privacy pages: http://donttrack.us/





Mini-Review: Onlive gaming service for Macs and PCs ditches monthly subscription fees

6 10 2010

What is Onlive?
If you’re not familiar with Onlive’s gaming service it’s basically a cloud computer gaming service. If you have a Mac running OS X 10.6 or a PC running a recent Windows flavor you can create an account for free and play a multitude of games all without downloading or installing the actual games onto your hard drive. Onlive originally had planned to offer their gaming service for around $15 buck per month plus game prices but announced yesterday there will be no monthly fee to play games using the Onlive service. You will still have to purchase games you want to play with several options available. Many games offer a free timed demo, discounted 3 to 5-day game-play passes or full purchases of the games for unlimited play. Onlive even offers a very interesting feature of letting you become a game voyeur allowing to watch other gamers in which you can gage if the game perks your interest or even pick up some playing style tips from them as well.

My Onlive test drive
I signed up, downloaded a small 10MB app and ran some games in demo mode on my iMac i5 and was pleasantly impressed with how fast I could access the games with lag-less game play and quality of the graphics and sound overall. You basically play the game in HD, 720p so you’re not gonna get, in my case, true 2560 x 1,440 resolution but very excellent graphics considering you are essentially streaming the entire game. My whole Onlive experience was pretty much flawless with nothing stalling or delaying me from getting to the games with regards to my initial registering and clicking on a game to play.

This opens up the doors to many wanna-be gamers or budget students whose computer systems are simply lacking in processor power, a pixel-crunching graphics card or limited storage space. I have heard some netbook users having a pretty good experience as well. Currently they offer close to 30 game titles with more being added soon and titles are varied including titles like: Assassin’s Creed II, Borderlands, Darksiders, Batman: Arkham Asylum, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, NBA 2K11 just to name a few.

Overall
I think Onlive offers a great service giving budget or wanna-be gamers a pretty easy way to test and play a variety of games on their non-gaming and gaming systems. I think it also gives hardcore gamers a sweet avenue to easily squeeze in more game time without having to download demos or trek down to a store. It also seems like Onlive is sincerely listening to gamers who are using their service and striving to accommodate their requests which is always welcome.

So there’s really not to much stopping any potential gamers out there from checking it out and getting their game on.

Mini-Review: Onlive Mac and PC gaming service


Mini-Review: Onlive Mac and PC gaming service 5 out of 5 stars
Product:
Onlive.com gaming service
Version:
Small 10MB App. download to play all the games, version: 246.61376
Cost: Service is free, you just pay for the games you want play
My take: "Drop dead easy way to get your game on!" -RiscX
Onlive login screen

Onlive login screen

Onlive sceen in spectator mode view gamer playing Mafia II

Onlive sceen in spectator mode view gamer playing Mafia II

Onlive screen shot in spectator mode watching a gamer playing Mafia II

Onlive screen shot in spectator mode watching a gamer playing Mafia II





Mini-Review: The Nook from Barnes & Noble… from an Apple iPad user’s perspective

3 10 2010

I had the pleasure of spending half a day with the Nook e-reader and here are some of my notes, observations and brief comparisons.

POWER UP THE NOOK AND…
As an iPad user from day one I found the Nook a little frustrating at first and kind of funny when I kept clicking on the top screen where you read the content to try and navigate to to other areas or functions of the Nook. After a few moments of confusion I focused myself back to the bottom touch screen area were you interact and navigate around the Nook which is basically a rectangular 3.5-inch color touchscreen with icons for navigation and functions. I found the navigation a little confusing and redundant but not completely frustrating or complicated. I did find myself clicking around the touch screen and side arrows to clumsily get to where I wanted to go eventually. Again, this was my first 5-minute impression using the Nook so I could see myself after a a few days acclimating myself to it.

THE NOOKS SIZE
What I really liked about the Nook was holding it in my hand. I could grip the entire Nook in the palm of my hand, it felt comfortable, natural and extremely secure without any worries of it slipping out of my grasp. The weight is best described as a light but solid feeling, compared to the iPad which is noticeably heavier and not as “graspable” in the palm of your hand. The screen is relatively half the size of the iPad’s.

THE SCREEN
The 6-inch matte e-reader screen is exceptionally easy to read in normal to bright light environments. Text is sharp and clean. In low light or dark situations I found the e-reader almost impossible to read except for the bottom illuminated touchscreen area.

READING ON THE NOOK
The Nook uses “E Ink” which is very readable in bright or normal light environments, as stated before in low light situations I found the Nook pretty much impossible to read. There are some accessory lights and Nook covers with built-in lights you can buy for reading in low light which run in the neighborhood of $15 to $50. The light accessories for the Nook seem to work with mixed reviews I read online. Some reviewers mention the light accessories, while allowing them to use the Nook in dark situations, seem to last for an hour or two before a noticeable dimming occurs while other create uncomfortable glare on the screen making it difficult to read. Navigating from page to page is as simple as clicking on arrows on either side of the screen.

BATTERY USE AND SPEED
I used the Nook for a few solid straight hours reading, listening to some music, trying to jump on my personal hot spot and really didn’t notice any battery drain. The specs say you can read up to 10 days without recharging it not including the wireless feature. While clicking on icons in the touchscreen area I did observe noticeable lag from clicks to the screen updating content and proceeding to the next screen. This was not unbearable by any means but was noticeable with a one or two seconds here, three to five seconds there.

SURFING THE WEB, NOT!
The Nook came with a beta web browser. I tried several times to connect to my local wireless network but could not. I did get a few messages of “Connecting to Network” but the connection would ultimately fail. The Nook’s default web page did come with a default page listing the browser’s features but overall it looked like the browsing experience would be clumsy scrolling and viewing web pages and navigating from one page and link to the next.

OTHER FEATURES
The Nook comes with internal storage of 2GB and expandable to 16GB via a small MicroSD card. You can load up music to it as it supports a few main audio formats including MP3 and Ogg Vorbis but not WMA. Listening to music was fairly acceptable with sound coming out of the internal bottom single speaker. I cranked the music to full loudness and was surprised the speaker sound did not seem to crackle or distort slightly as some other devices seem to do when cranked. The overall sound is not as strong and the iPads speakers but does seem to fair a little better than Apples first generation iPhone. Listing to an audio book was a little hard to hear and understand using only the built-in speaker so I would recommend external speakers solutions for that use. The Nook includes a headphone jack as well. It can be recharged with a wall jack or USB connection.

Image formats are supported as well for wallpapers and book covers including JPG, GIF, PNG and BMP. But the display is E Ink black-and-white so the image quality is pretty much mute.

The Nook did include two games, sodoku and chess which seemed fairly playable. But alas no Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto are available… yet 😛

DOWNLOAD CONTENT
I downloaded, via AT&Ts 3G network, a daily newspaper edition of the San Jose Mercury News for 0.50¢ and it took about a minute to completely download. Scrolling from section to section and story to story again did seem a little cumbersome compared to the iPad and images with stories were in glorious black-and-white. Side-note: Why does the cost of an e-edition newspaper run relatively the same as a hard-copy print edition? Are network back-end delivery servers spiting out digital versions of the newspaper run the same as traditional hard-copy paper, ink and trucking/fuel distribution costs? Seems something is completely off-balance with that format. then again, maybe it can be all equated to just a convenience fee 😉

Barnes & Noble offers more than a million titles available in their store with more than 500,000 free e-books available and new and best sellers costing around $10.

HACKING A NOOK
Yes it seems you can gain root level access of a Nook via software now to install your Android-nized version of browsers, tweety and audio apps to run on it but after upgrading the Nook’s firmware with hacks detected will make the working unit an expensive unattractive paper weight.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
If you want a digital reading device for mostly novel-type content to be read in lighted environments then this is a sweet little reader. However, I tend to use, read and buy instructional books and materials with diagrams, illustrations and charts which I feel would not be the best experience using a black-and-white only e-reader to view such content. The Nook does feel naturally comfortable in the palm of your hand while the interface and navigation is reasonable to figure out but not overly intuitive for me. If you like to do some reading in bed as I do under low-light conditions as to not disturb your mate, you may have to fork over extra dough for a lighting accessory. I have not touched a Kindle so really can’t say if the Nook seems better or not.

I really can’t compare the Nook to the iPad directly either. I have heard people trying to compare e-readers to tablets or iPads but in reality they are two completely different devices to serve different needs and purposes. Yes they share some similar functions but it would be like comparing a 4×4 off-road pickup truck to a sub-compact car. They both can get you from point “A” to point “B” in a few situations but only one literally offers tons more capabilities, functionality and fun to get you to your ultimate “B” destination.

Mini-Review: Nook, by Barnes & Noble


Mini-Review: Barnes & Noble Nook 3 out of 5 stars

Product: Barnes and Noble Nook

Version: Nook 3G, Android 1.4 e-reader

Cost: $150 and $200

My take: “Nice little e-reader as long as you have light, a little laggy but feels comfortable in your hand.” -RiscX

Mini-Review: Barnes & Noble Nook
The Nook in hand outside on sunny day, feels comfortable and reads easy. iPad on left, Nook on right, both are readable outside. Bottom of Nook, speaker, headphone and USB port.

Charaging cable for the Nook via Wall or USB. iPad, Nook and iPhone 2G under direct bright desktop lighting. iPad, Nook and iPhobe 2G with camera flash, all readable.

The Nook’s Achilles heel, even though this photo looks like it was taken in complete darkness it actually was taken at 3PM on a sunny day with ambient light coming through sliding glass door, the Nook’s readability falls down under low light conditions.





Mini-Review: FocusWriter, a theme-able unique text editor

1 10 2010

Sometimes you come across an app which makes you really enjoy using your computer. This is one of those apps; FocusWriter.

I recently ran across what I think is a really cool writing app for students, writers and others looking for a rather light text editor with some rather nifty features. FocusWriter is described as: a fullscreen, distraction-free word processor designed to immerse you as much as possible in your work. The application’s window can be themed and includes some nice little features not found in most other text editors.

FocusWriter autosaves your writing progress, and reloads the last files you had open to make it easy to jump back in during your next writing session. Some of the other features I think are really nice are a hiding toolbar and live stats bar. You can even “Theme” it to your liking with custom color schemes and even use your own images as backgrounds to get you really immersed in what you are writing.

I’m using FocusWriter 1.3.0 for Mac OS X 10.6.4 on an iMac i5 system and it runs smoother than butter. I find it fairly light, sits around 45MB installed and just a tad heavier on system memory compared to TextEdit which is saying a lot for all the features it has. They have a Windows version and a few Linux packages as well.

Even though FocusWriter is called a word processor I feel it’s more in line of a really nice text editor to be precise. Some other features I would have liked to see are more font control, stylization of text and drag and drop capabilities, both onto the app icon and adding files into the document window itself. Then again those might cause distractions and add to unnecessary bloat to what is otherwise a simple, unique beautiful text editor. I like it so much i’m going to replace my ‘ol TextEdit writing app with this one.

Mini-Review: FocusWriter


Mini-Review: WindowShade X 4 out of 5 stars Product: Graeme Gott, FocusWriter

Version: 1.3.0

Cost: Opensource but feel free to donate if you use it 🙂

My take: “FocusWriter is my new text editor!” -RiscX

Here are some screen grabs of FocusWriter:

FocusWriter main screen

FocusWriter main screen: Heres is one example of a "themed" main screen with background image, foreground colored with 70% transparency and colored text. You can toggle and extend the document window to full screen mode hiding the desktop entirely and simply focus on your writing task at hand.

FocusWriter Toolbar

FocusWriter Toolbar: FocusWriter also lets you fully customize your toolbar with many options selecting only those you want to use and/display. Another random theme I set up as well.

FocusWriter Stats-Bar

FocusWriter Stats-Bar: Smart feature which all text editors should include is the stats bar of your current writing projects, you can even have time limits and writing goals to again keep you focused 🙂 I really like the document tab feature letting you keep multiple document in one window such as your main writing piece with another tab holding notes and other tabs displaying other various documents/content related to your main work all in one simple window. Yet another theme I used.





Mini-Review: WindowShade X

26 09 2010

Unsanity.com has updated WindowShade X to 5.0.6, grab it here: http://www.unsanity.com/haxies/wsx, and I thought this would be a good time to give a mini-review. WindowShade X is a simple system utility app. which if my memory serves me correct was a feature introduced by Apple way back in Classic Mac OS 7 or 8 where you could collapse windows to their titlebar.

Essentially when you double-click on the title bar of a window, instead of the window moving into the dock, which you can leave that feature on if you like, it will collapse the window to the title bar in its place. I love this feature as it seems to increase my productivity when I have my desktop infested with a copious amounts of windows to deal with dragging and dropping files from one window to the next. WindowShade X has many other features like making the window transparent which can be dialed in to your exact liking among others.

Sidenote: Some people have said the Application Enhancer, aka APE, WindowShade uses tends to cause issues with their system. Personally I have used Windowshade close to a decade since Mac OS 10.1 on dozens of Mac systems with various flavors of Mac OS X from web production to gaming systems and haven’t had any issues related to APE or WindowShade.

I’m currently using WindowShade X 5.0.6 on a iMac i5 using Snow Leopard 10.6.4. Personally I find WindowShade X a utility application I would hate to be without.

Mini-Review: WindowShade X


Mini-Review: WindowShade X 5 out of 5 stars
Product: Unsanity, WindowShade X
Version:
5.0.6

Cost: Upgrade is $10, $15 otherwise
My take: "I would hate to be without it." -RiscX
WindowShade X

WindowShade X in action








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