April 08, 2015

Setup DKMS for Ceton InfiniTV Drivers in Ubuntu

Updated with fix for kernel updates! Thanks to Karl over on the Mythbuntu forums, a problem where the driver wasn't compiling properly for new kernel versions has been fixed. I've changed the MAKE line in the dkms.conf to the following:

MAKE="make KERNEL_VERSION=${kernelver}"

Here is the DKMS configuration I added to my MythBuntu server so that Kernel upgrades will always rebuild the Ceton driver and my server can be upgraded easily and automatically without worrying about whether the ctn91xx module will be recompiled and loaded automatically with each kernel update. I just tested this and it seems to be working OK. ​

I have WOW (Wide Open West) cable. I just recently upgraded my MythTV with a Ceton InfiniTV 6 PCIe card. It has 6 cable tuners in it. It works AMAZING with WOW, even without a cable card, because WOW doen't put any QAM encryption on their channels for its basic cable line up. Of course that won't cut it in my high volume SciFi/Fantasy/Kids show house. I'm replacing the WOW UltraTV DVR system with a cable card that I plug into the Ceton card in my MythTV server.

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January 13, 2015

Disable iCloud sign up on OS X user logon... forever!

I noticed that after a patch upgrade that the stupid iCloud sign up had come back in one of our Mac labs on campus. So annoying!

I had written a script to disable that, but then I realized that part of the script was version dependent and the workstations had all been updated to 10.9.5. So the stupid iCloud sign in was back. sigh

So after a quick Google search I realized that I could add in the most current version of the OS on the fly in my script with the following command:

sw_vers -productVersion

I edited the script and set it to run at every ZENWorks refresh so that no matter when the OS version changes, the iCloud sign in will never come back!

Here is the script in total (watch the line wrapping!):


# Disables iCloud setup on first user login

defaults write /System/Library/User\ Template/Non_localized/Library/Preferences/com.apple.SetupAssistant DidSeeCloudSetup -bool TRUE

defaults write /System/Library/User\ Template/Non_localized/Library/Preferences/com.apple.SetupAssistant LastSeenCloudProductVersion -string $(sw_vers -productVersion)

November 11, 2014

Time to Modernize my Chrome Bookmarks!

Google just recently came out with a new Bookmark Manager for Chrome. I've been using Google Bookmarks for since Delicious imploaded 4 or 5 years ago. I have a very specific tagging system that I use. It is important that at least some of my system still work with Bookmark Manager.
Primarily this means that I'd like to tag or organize the most important folders of stuff starting with a "#" so that it shows up at the very top. For instance, I have #mylinks for all the most common sites that I read. I also have stuff like #productivityapps, #finance, etc...
I loved Google Bookmarks for how easy it is to save and tag bookmarks. It was also realtively easy to move my old Delicious booksmarks and tags to the service. However, finding useful well made apps and plugins for Google Bookmarks has been a total failure. Yes I can limp along, but it has never been as good as Delicious was (Damn you Yahoo for wrecking them!).
So I am going to try using the Bookmark Manager and see how it goes. I exported my Google Bookmarks to a file (2.6 MB... dang that is huge!) and I've imported it into Chrome Bookmarks with the Bookmark Manager installed. I can tell you one thing. It is very slow right now. I'm going to give it some time to index and catalog everything. Hopefully it will speed up. If it becomes speedy enough I wll use it for a few weeks and see how it goes.

September 15, 2014

I Dare the Vikings...

I dare the Vikings management and coaches to take a switch to any of their players or staff in the same way that Adrian Peterson did to his son and see if they can avoid getting fired, criminal charges and jail time. 

September 10, 2014

5 Million Google Account Passwords Leaked and I Don't Care

Google Authenticator IconAbout 5 million user account passwords were released this week on a Russian web forum. I don't care. It can't affect me in the least. Why? I have two factor authentication turned on.

If you have any service that allows two factor authentication, and you aren't using it... well I'll stop short of deparaging your intellect. Just go fix it now by updating your Google account with two factor authentication! Install Google Authenticator on your phone and also make sure you have a backup phone number and email address you can use.

Google Authenticator is used by a ton of other services.  My suggestion is to use it with any service you can. My favorite service that uses it is LastPass. I can keep extremely strong passwords for all my accounts... and it can't be hacked into without using Google Authenticator on my phone. It is easy to setup and easy to use. 

May 20, 2014

Wacom Bambo Touch on OS X 10.9

Scroll Reverser ScreenshotWacom needs to get it together. Apple's "Natural scrolling" has existed since OS X 10.7 (Lion). Their drivers are still not updated to hand the difference for their touch tablets. 

During the day, at work, I use Ubuntu Linux, Windows, and Mac all at the same time to manage our servers and workstations. I have a hard enough time switching between the ALT and Command keys between each operating system. I can't also relearn scrolling two different ways on the same Mac between the trackpad and my Wacom Bamboo Touch tablet!

I wasn't a fan of natural scrolling at first, but now, I must admit, it is the correct way to do things in a touch based world. I can't live without it now :).

Is there hope? Probably not from Wacom. But there is this great utility called Scroll Reverser. It is fantastic! With it, I can reverse just the tablet touch scrolling and it works fabulously! 

May 06, 2014

Why the Apple App Eco-system Sucks

Apple with wormThe Apple App sand boxed eco- system sucks. It makes my skin crawl because Apple can do things that the developers can't. Joe Seigrist, Laspass founder nails it in this interview from ReadWrite.com.

"Apple closed down and prevented developers from expressing and creating great software for its platform because of restrictions it ignores for itself, but restricts everyone else. If I sound a little bitter, I am. It’s not the way it should be. Nobody wants the future of computing to be completely isolated, wholly controlled by company-only type experiences. That will be bad for everyone."

Apple has sandboxed itself into a corner. Third party applications that would be amazing are limited to simply being good on iOS. I started using Keepass about 9 months ago. I already had a pretty good password system for creating unique complex passwords for everything, but randomly generated passwords are still better. Keepass works incredibly well on Windows and Linux. However, because it is written in C# it never worked very well on my Macbook. Mono is pretty crappy on a Mac and Keepass proved it.

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April 11, 2014

Linux People It’s Been Awhile

Hey Linux People it’s been a while, so I wanted to post a little update about what has gone on with myself personally, with Linux, and more since last year.

Work and Linux

On the work front I am still doing my thing consulting. I have picked up a few more clients and easily doubled the amount of work I was doing a year ago. My 2 big projects are a company downsizing project as well as a Linux-based media solution. The company downsizing project has actually be going on for a couple of years now. I ended up moving an entire company from a huge office space and small data center down to no office (telecommuting) and 4 virtual machines in a private cloud. It was a little tricky shifting from about 20 infrastructure machines down in to 2, but it was really successful. 1 VM is a Windows server running Active Directory with 3 CentOS Linux VMs that provide Samba, DNS, NFS, web sites (internal and external), and more. I help support the network now, which is nothing more than clicking a button to update everything. The other project is a sweet media appliance running on top of Ubuntu Linux. My goal is to get them switched from 10.04 with 14.04, old Python to a newer Python, and moving a lot of their Python code base to a C/C++ code base. What have I learned from this project over the past year? MPlayer can suck, old developers and their spaghetti code need to disappear, old Linux people and their use of the root account need to chill, and the default Ubuntu Linux kernel is to bloated for small appliances (low-latency as well, thank goodness I can build a real-time kernel).


On a personal level, I haven’t been on my bike enough and I really need to get back on it. I probably spent too much time fishing last year. I rediscovered my love for the outdoors, which I have really missed. I just need to find me a way to get my workspace outside in the woods somewhere. I would probably be way more productive. I was there when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and I will be there again this year. Every home game, on the glass, is where you will find me throughout the playoffs and Stanley Cup. Can’t wait for that to start.

What I’ve learned over the last year

  • Yocto Project is awesome and sucks at the same time. Awesome because if you know what you are doing and can execute, you can create an amazing embedded solution built on Linux. Sucks because it is super easy for people to create real garbage. I have taken apart a couple of embedded solutions that are big in the market, got to their cores, and just shook my head in disbelief. Just goes to show, people will spend a lot of money just to buy junk.
  • Speaking of spending a lot of money to buy junk, I got bitten by the HiFi audio bug a bit, in a headphone kind of way. No, I did not go with the Fashion Accessories by Dre. See where I said spending a lot of money to buy junk? Well I didn’t. I spent wisely and got hooked up as well. Rocking studio-quality headphones by AKG and Sennheiser and I am looking at a DAC and Amp solution by Schiit as well. Imagine, a Schiit Magni and Modi combo with say the AKG K240 Studio headphones, for less than those fashion accessories by Dre. Only time my setup sounds muddy is if I accidentally drop it in the mud, otherwise it is the way music needs to be listened to (now, I am actually listening to Jono Bacon growl while writing this. I didn’t do this on purpose either. Shuffle FTW?
  • Oh, that last one, I learned that the high-end audio market actually likes making sure their products work on Linux. A large percentage of the USB DACs on the market work out of the box with Linux and Mac. Windows needs you to install a driver of course.
  • VA API, it is real, but for some reason nobody wants to add it properly. MPlayer said a year or so ago they need someone to help add it. Still not done, but thankfully last year someone created a MPlayer package with support, and they haven’t updated it in a year either. In 14.04, VA API still sucks, but don’t feel bad, it sucks for others too, like those in Debian Linux, but it seems to work just fine in the RPM-based Linux camps. Yes, I could help fix it, but I am to busy, looking at myself in the mirror.
  • Media network synchronization, why is streaming the only recommended solution? If I have the same video or audio file on 2 different machines in 2 different locations on the same LAN, let me get some perfect audio sync going on easily.

See You Soon

That’s all for now. Just wanted to say hi again and let everyone know I am still alive. Excited for the 14.04 release to drop. That means I get to update a lot of client machines, which equates to money in my pocket. See, you can make money from Open Source. Hopefully this upcoming year I can make some changes to not only this site, but hop in and give back to Ubuntu again. There are packages that I have worked on that need to get into Debian and Ubuntu eventually as well as some patches I have come up with over the past few months working on a Linux appliance.

The post Linux People It’s Been Awhile appeared first on Rich Johnson.

December 31, 2013

Star Wars New Year!

Death Star ExplosionWe've done a Star Wars New Years for quite some time now. I can't honestly remember where I first read about it but it was probably over at ForceCast. They have instructions for episode IV. But there are two Death Star explosions in the Star Wars movies. 

We decided to do a New Years for the kids at noon with the explosion from episode VI instead. So Stephanie found the exact time of the explosion, which is at 2:03:06 on the blueray edition. So we started the movie at 9:56:54 so we can have a big celebration at noon with the kids!

Also, if you are looking for an exact clock use http://time.gov/widget.html. This is the non-java version. Don't forget that TV will be not be exact if you have a DVR as it always has a slight delay. 

October 23, 2013

MS Office vs iWork - Big Whoop! Now you both stink for free!

Microsoft's Frank Shaw just posted this. Here is what both Apple and Microsoft have realized and are probably really scared of. Office Suites just don't matter anymore. Why else would they both be offering them for free with their iOS/OSX or Surface devices?
They are trying to make it seem like you are getting some kind of a deal. "Here! Have this crappy office sweet that hasn't really changed in over a decade! We are real sorry we've made you spend all that money on it over that decade!", Apple and Microsoft say to their users.
Well this is just utter crap. Aside from the poor saps that made the horrible choice to integrate their business processes into MS Office apps (what were you thinking!) instead of using open web technologies, no one needs a Microsoft Office suite or an Apple IWork suite anymore.
We've all gone without on Android and iPad devices for years. What did we learn? Google Docs, blog platforms like Drupal or Wordpress, and open source suites like LibreOffice are plenty good enough to handle our document needs. In fact, because they were all free and based on relatively open or completely open standards, there was never any barrier of entry to share you documents with others. The worst they had to do was get an ID on whatever web/cloud platform you were using and often they didn't even need that just to read a document.

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MacPorts with OS X Mavericks - UPDATED 11/01/2013

UPDATE: Macports has released a new version that supports OS X 10.9 here.
I don't normally install the newest stuff right away. I work in IT and I know how that can go. But my Mac started acting up after a recent Apple update prior to Mavericks being released. My MacBook Pro would just crash instead of sleep. So I took the plunge. Here is what I found.
My mac is setup for the college environment that I work at. We use Novell and SUSE Linux for most of our infrastructure. The first thing I noticed was that after the Mavericks upgrade, the Kanaka plugin was no longer working. It looked like all of its files were still there, but it had been removed from the list of logon providers. I took care of that with a simple reinstall of the Kanaka plugin app. Then I added in Kanaka as a logon provider configured with our list of servers and everything worked great.
The next weird thing was Java. Java seemed to have been affected so that it wasn't quite configured properly. As Oracle just updated their security hole ridden hunk of crap that I still have to run due to other application requirements I just downloaded the latest JDK (7u45) and that seemed to fix Java any anything that depended on it.
The last thing that I noticed was that MacPorts wasn't working. In fact, /opt/local/bin wasn't even in my path properly anymore. So I temporarily added it back to my path.
export PATH = "/opt/local/bin:$PATH"

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September 23, 2013

Apple Fingerprint Fail

The Chaos Computer Club has easily circumvented the fingerprint scanner on the new iPhones

The method follows the steps outlined in this how-to with materials that can be found in almost every household: First, the fingerprint of the enroled user is photographed with 2400 dpi resolution. The resulting image is then cleaned up, inverted and laser printed with 1200 dpi onto transparent sheet with a thick toner setting. Finally, pink latex milk or white woodglue is smeared into the pattern created by the toner onto the transparent sheet. After it cures, the thin latex sheet is lifted from the sheet, breathed on to make it a tiny bit moist and then placed onto the sensor to unlock the phone. This process has been used with minor refinements and variations against the vast majority of fingerprint sensors on the market.

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July 19, 2013

Java installs crapware. Here's how to install it without Ask.com

So Java is a bug ridden giant security hole. Unfortunately some of my favorite software is written in Java. Eclipse, Apache Directory Studio, Maptools, the list goes on and on. 

To make it worse, Oracle (have I mentioned that I despise Oracle?) bundles Ask.com crapware that is checked by default to install. It is horrible. It sucks. Oracle sucks.

Here is how to install or upgrade Java quickly and easily without having to worry their insulting crapware.

First go to the Oracle download site here and download the JRE offline installer for x86. Do NOT use the online x86 installer. You can also install use the x64 JRE, which only comes in offline installer mode.

Then open a command prompt and go to the location of your download.

cd Downloads

then run the following command. Don't forget to replace the [version] and the [architecture] sections with the correct information. 

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April 30, 2013

Mounting CIFS Not working in Ubuntu 13.04? Here's how to fix it!

After updating to 13.04 all my awesome pam_mount CIFS volumes to my Novell SUSE servers stopped working. Here is how I fixed it. It should also work for you if you are having issues. There is an undocumented (at least in the man page) option for CIFS mounts called sec. You can set it to ntlm or lanman. Try using either one and see if it can help fix your issue.

mount -t cifs -o sec=ntlm,uid=userhere,gid=100,dir_mode=0700,username=userhere,password=passwordhere //server/share/path /media/userhere/path

I you use pam_mount (I highly recommend it, especially in a business/educational environment) here is my default pam_mount.conf.xml file that I use. This file should go in /etc/skel so that all users use the file. You will also have to update this for all of your existing users.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>


<volume user="*" options="sec=ntlm,uid=%(USER),gid=100,dir_mode=0700" fstype="cifs" server="server" path="share/%(USER)" mountpoint="/media/%(USER)/share" />



April 12, 2013

Violent Video Games: A Catalyst for Violent Teens?

A friend recently shared a story with me regarding the perceived role of video game violence when it comes to outward acts of aggression by young people.

The author of the story (which you can find here), a high school teacher, recounted his days as a troubled youth and his obsession with weapons and killing – an obsession that found him going so far as to carry loaded guns in his backpack at school or knives in his pocket, and write about killing others.

As the story progresses, it is revealed that after making it through the worst of his youth and experiencing some “maturing moments” in his life, he was able break away from his violent tendencies and recognize the folly of his actions.

I was enjoying the story quite a bit.

That is, until he cited a difference between himself and some of the individuals who have carried out violent acts against peers/innocent victims: He didn’t play violent video games.

This is where he lost me. And here’s why:

While I get what he’s trying to say, and I’m glad that he was able to turn things around, even this is example is difficult to use as validation that violent video games are the catalysts that drive teenage shooters to commit such horrible acts. To be honest, I don’t really think it’s valid in this case.

The reason I say this is because when I was in school, the majority of my time spent between 5th Grade and around my junior year of high school (by my senior year, no one really cared), I dealt with bullying/teasing/prodding/etc as well. I, too, had access to weapons – including shotguns, pistols and a small rifle. And yes, I even played violent video games at this time (I bought my first PS2 using money from a summer job between my freshman and sophomore years). Of course, I never brought any of those weapons with me to school. Nor did I ever fantasize/talk about killing people.

My friends and I would engage in games of Halo on the original Xbox or I would play the likes of Half Life and Resident Evil and Medal of Honor on PS2, which allowed me to basically kill anything that moved. We’d talk about how we were going to headshot the other or kill the other with a sword. But beyond the aggression it created between friends/siblings, I don’t ever recall having the desire to use the sequences in which I was engaging as a means of “practice.”

In my honest and obviously non-professional opinion, the man who wrote this story had some major psychological issues while in school. Like I said, I’m glad he was able to turn things around, but it seems like a cop-out to me for him to suggest that the only reason he didn’t snap was because of not playing violent video games. I don’t believe that for a single moment. “Look, I know I carried guns around in my backpack at school, carried a knife on me a lot of the time, had an obsession with weapons and fantasized about killing people – but at least I didn’t play violent video games!”

No. That feels like a contrived place to direct the blame instead of saying what he should be saying: “I was never pushed to the point of breaking and I’m damn lucky to not have been.”

I would also be interested in knowing what his home life and extra curricular life were like, as I believe that has a great deal to do with how you view what life beyond your own problems (i.e. high school, social circles, etc) is actually like. I had a great group of people around me while I was dealing with the aforementioned rough spots in life. Despite my low self esteem, my family, friends, church family and even co-workers when I started work were positive influences on me. Now, I’m not saying I would have committed some horrible act against my peers, but it’s easy to say that given the direction my life took and the people who helped me see it. Had the people in my life not been there, I shutter to think about the type of person I would have been.

Because he doesn’t really delve into this very much, save for talking about his mother’s disdain for games, it’s hard to say. But, if anything was the difference, I would find it more believable that it was the individuals in his life more than his lack of video game interaction.

For sure, he’s free to justify his lack of action any way he pleases. But as someone who was in a similar position in terms of social acceptance and placement, this strikes me as yet another attempt to place the blame on something else instead of looking in the mirror and seeing where the problem really is: The person.

People aren’t talking about the mental health aspect of these shootings like they should be. And as long as people keep looking to place the blame on violent video games, I fear we never will.

March 16, 2013

If You Wear Google Glass You are an Asshole -- Such Bullshit!

From Gawker: If you Wear Google's New Glasses You're an Asshole
Let me make this clear people. Every store, parking lot, highway, street light, restaurant  bar, health club, government building, your job, and many private residences are under surveillance 24/7. 
Guess what? People have had camera's, even instant ones, for decades. There have been video cameras in glasses, buttons, hats, pens for about that long as well. How they are all digital, smaller, and easier to hide. 
Someone explain to me how having an obvious camera on your person is being an asshole, but all the other cameras that you don't know about aren't? Why are these idiots ranting about all of the hidden cameras that are capturing their actions far more often than any person with any kind of recording device?
Let us take this idiotic techno panic to its logical conclusion shall we?

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February 21, 2013

Timesync for Non-Domain Windows 7 Workstations

We've had a few workstations at work doing wonky things recently with time. I think perhaps some of it stems from our electrical grid's tendency towards power surges and the resulting BIOS weirdness that can happen sometimes after that.
I decided that our workstations needed some extra help. We have a round robin set of time servers internally. So I set out to create a script that reconfigured the Windows ntp daemon to keep our workstation clocks sync'd properly.
Here is my end result.

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February 16, 2013

The Answer Is No

The answer is no, is definitely not the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, as we all know that answer is 42. The answer no is for the following:

Is this the year of the Linux desktop?

This was the title of a post recently on someone’s blog that’s been picked up many times by different Linux news outlets. I woke up 3 days in a row with that stupid post in my reader. I’m tired of it 10 years ago, and I am still tired of it today. Here is why I feel that answer is no, and of course you are more than welcome to disagree.

I have a couple of newer, fairly powerful desktop/laptop machines. I typically run Kubuntu 12.10 on both of these machines, but I have tried various other distributions as well. I have tried Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mint, and a handful of others. The one thing they all have in common with Windows Vista? They are slow. Intel i7 or i5, 3rd generation, with no less than 8GB of RAM, and one has a SSD, and they are still slow. Slow compared to Windows 8. Windows 8 might be the donkey’s ass when it comes to a desktop operating system, but I’ll be damned, it is faster than any Linux desktop distribution out there today. It is even faster than one of the distributions running XFCE or LXDE.

I don’t get this the least bit, what happened to the good ol’ days where Linux was the fastest thing to hit the desktop? Have we decided to scrub performance for silly cartoonist styling and bling? Is it the many desktop search daemons? Does it have to do with the poor battery performance? What is it? Why does Windows 8 boot up faster for me? Why does Windows 8 run better for me? None of the pieces of my systems use binary blobs, they are all Intel rigs. Speaking of poor battery performance, I love getting 2.5 hours with Linux (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Fedora tested here) where Windows 8 gets over 4 hours. What the hell is abusing that other 1.5 hours my battery can hold? Powertop puts blame on eth0, WiFi, and other things you need running, but damn, 1.5 hours!

On a more positive note, but still not causing a switch in answer to that oh so famous, yet supremely stupid question, applications for Linux are starting to build. With Microsoft announcing their stupid rules for Office 2013 (no, it isn’t coming to Linux, so quit drooling) where you can only install Office on 1 machine and 1 machine only, LibreOffice is looking like a better option these days. Now there is Steam, so those of you who were itching to play games on Linux, have at it! I have Spotify running natively and it is quite nice. And, as a developer, nothing comes close to beating Linux on the desktop. As a developer, I don’t mean one of those that drinks Starbucks all day, waxes their mustache, wears jeans 10 sizes to small, and code in Ruby. I mean one that writes code for compiling, or writing scripts and applications for servers and cloud crap in Python, or just saying the hell with it and copying and pasting in PHP.

That is my rant for the day, and the end to some sarcasm. So quit trying to get visitors with stupid posts that have the same answer as they did 20 years ago and have no chance of changing anytime soon.

PS: NO, this does not apply to OMG Ubuntu! 🙂

The post The Answer Is No appeared first on Rich Johnson.

January 31, 2013

Gksudo for Mac? Yeah you can do that!

I have trouble typing my 16 character password in a Terminal session. It really requires having the ability to move the cursor with the arrow keys and interleave characters. This makes my passwords crazy hard to crack.

The down side is that I can't them in a text only environment easily in the least. Of course, in Linux this is crazy simple to handle. I just use a utility like gksudo or kdesudo to graphically launch a new terminal session with root permissions. On a Mac its not so easy on the surface. 

I compiled cocoasudo in the hopes that it would act like gksudo, but it doesn't really. At least it can't launch Terminal as root. This is pretty much what I needed.

So I looked around at other options and found this simple little bash/apple script.

export bar=""
for i in "$@"; do export bar="$bar '${i}'";done
osascript -e "do shell script \"$bar\" with administrator privileges"

This works great! I saved this script as osudo (as in Osascript sudo). I can then run

osudo /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app/Contents/MacOS/Terminal&

This will pull up a nice graphical authentication box where I can type my crazy password and launch a new terminal session (sometimes behind the existing one --annoying!) with root priviliges. Perfect! 

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January 27, 2013

Boot Win7 Partition in VirtualBox with Ubuntu

I've been sprucing up my Ubuntu desktop in my home office in the last week or so. The home built desktop cobbled from spare and on sale parts is quite nice really. Although it could use a bit more RAM.

This is my gaming rig, for the most part. So I do have a Windows partition on it. But often, even with some games, I could just be booting virtually into Windows through Ubuntu rather than rebooting from scratch. Especially if I'm just playing Ultima Online on a free shard.

So today I started doing some research. First I installed VirtualBox and the Extension Pack.

sudo echo \
"deb http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian precise contrib" \
> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/virtualbox.list

wget -q \
http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian/oracle_vbox.asc \
-O- | sudo apt-key add -
VBoxManage extpack \
./install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.2.6-82870.vbox-extpack

Then I looked to see how my partitions were set up. The easiest way to do this is to run 

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January 21, 2013

Mac OS X: How to Create Secure Connection to non-Mac LDAP Server

Is trying to securely login over LDAP making you crazy? At my job we use Novell eDirectory. All of our old Macs were setup to login using insecure connections to our directory. This makes me crazy. So I finally bit the bullet and figured out a way to get this to work properly.

First export the CA certificate from server.name.com with the following commands.

echo -n | openssl s_client -connect server.name.com:636 \

sudo cp server.name.com.pem /etc/openldap

Now edit /etc/openldap/ldap.conf. Change the file to look like the following.

# LDAP Defaults

# See ldap.conf(5) for details
# This file should be world readable but not world writable.

#BASE	dc=example,dc=com
#URI	ldap://ldap.example.com ldap://ldap-master.example.com:666

#DEREF		never

TLS_CACERT /etc/openldap/server.name.com.pem

Now reboot. After your reboot you should be able to use the SSL checkboxes for LDAP connections to other LDAP sources. 

When you add server.name.com to the contacts list or as a directory services login server selecting SSL will now work properly. However I've found (at least with OS X 10.8.2) that there is a bug with the Contacts app. Even if SSL is working it will not bring up contacts unless you change the settings for contacts to not use SSL. 

December 18, 2012

Far Cry 3 Initial Impressions – A Steaming Pile of “Meh”

Every video/gameplay highlight/developer diary I’d seen of Far Cry 3 before release suggested one thing: This is going to be AWESOME.

The freedom to explore an island reminiscent of the one that captivated my heart back in college with the first game; beautiful graphics in full HD display – even the chance to take on a human foe that has the potential to be one of the craziest villains I’ve ever encountered. The game looked fantastic and I couldn’t wait to play it.

Now? Now that I’ve played it, I don’t know that I would even recommend it to someone I don’t like.

I’m a pretty accepting person when it comes to gameplay. That’s why even I am surprised with the level of inadequacy that I feel I’ve been duped into playing with Far Cry 3.

For whatever it’s worth, here is my list of initial impressions of things that are ruining this game for me, in no particular order:

- The save mechanic is awful. You can’t save during a mission and when you do save, even if you’re on the other side of the island, if you haven’t unlocked a tower or outpost, you restart back where you came from. This means your entire travel experience was pointless if you didn’t finish what you were doing. Oh, and the same goes for when you die, also. The only respite from this is if you happen to be in an active story mission and your game just autosaved at a checkpoint.

- The story is non-existent. I’m not compelled in ANY way to care about this character and it’s still really unclear just exactly what the goal is. “find your friends. No wait, go here. No, you need to go collect leaves for this tutorial. Hey lets go overtake this thing. Go see the doctor.”

- Combat is ok, but not great. You get one weapon, which is fine, but if you shoot someone, 12 of his buddies show up and you’re pretty much guaranteed to die. Even if you try to be stealthy and sneak up behind someone, it ALWAYS alerts others, which defeats the entire purpose of the stealth kill mechanic, so your only real beneficial means of travel is a car in hopes they don’t follow you or sneaking around everything to avoid everyone, which is time consuming and annoying.

- The menus are ridiculous. There are so many menus, I haven’t even begun to try and understand them because it takes away from my gameplay time. The menus have menus, for goodness sake. It feels like Exzibit made the menu system.

- I CAN’T CLIMB THROUGH A F***ING WINDOW!? Seriously. It doesn’t allow you to climb through windows. At least not yet/not that I have experienced. Maybe that’s a skill that has to be earned? Come on, Ubisoft. Even Call of Duty lets you climb through windows, and I barely even like Call of Duty anymore.

- Since when does a tiger require multiple shots to the head with an AK-47 to kill?

- Jumping down 4 feet costs me health. It regenerates, but that’s not the point. The fact that small jumps can cost me health is one of the most foolish things I’ve ever seen. I’ve jumped from tree limbs in real life higher than the points I’ve fallen from in this game and been fine.

Other than the things listed above, the game is great! Unfortunately, the items I’ve mentioned have left such a sour taste in my mouth to this point, I’m not sure I should keep playing it or sell it while it’s still a hot commodity. In the end, part of me things the cash will be worth more than the frustration associated with trying to play a game that has been humped into popularity by gaming media everywhere.

September 22, 2012

2013 Tour de Cure

Tour de Cure

I just signed up to ride in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure. I’d like to invite you to support me in my efforts to Stop Diabetes!

Tour de Cure is so much more than an event to me. It’s my opportunity to change the future and make a positive impact in the lives of all those affected by diabetes. And it’s a great ride!

Chances are, you also know someone who has been affected by diabetes and you already know how important it is to stop this disease. My goal is to raise $1,000 USD. Will you join me by visiting my personal page and making a donation?

By supporting me, you will help the American Diabetes Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.

The power we have together far outweighs what I can do alone. Please join me by donating to this great cause – it would mean so much to me!

Thank you!

The post 2013 Tour de Cure appeared first on Rich Johnson.

August 08, 2012

Kicking for a cure

Kick for Cures 2012 is an event to collect donations that gets distributed to many charities. This year, my friend’s two kids are participating in the event. Their goal is $500 USD, however I heard last week that their instructor will give $100 USD to them if they reach $1,000 USD. If you can help out that is greatly appreciated.

Donate to Jenna & Nick Cannella!

Thanks everyone!

The post Kicking for a cure appeared first on Rich Johnson.

July 27, 2012

Bluecherry Releases Version 2.0

My friends over at Bluecherry have released version 2.0 of their video surveillance software as well as version 2.0 of their server software. If you are in the market for a video surveillance solution, I wouldn’t look any further than Bluecherry. Their dedication to utilizing as well as contributing to the open source world make them my favorite solution.

From my personal experience, the system is pretty damn slick. The server uses MySQL and Apache to store configuration settings as well as to give a web interface to your surveillance system. On top of that, they also offer a nice GUI client built with Qt4. The system supports all type of cameras and they even have their own video capture cards with an open source driver. Oh, did I mention that they have ready-made packages for Ubuntu and/or Debian? I have it running on my Kubuntu 12.04 system flawlessly, though I don’t have any cameras yet, so I just check it out with their Test configuration. Maybe one of these days my house will be under video surveillance.

Head on over to their website, links above, and check out their products, services, and their growing community! Kudos to my friends at Bluecherry!

The post Bluecherry Releases Version 2.0 appeared first on Rich Johnson.

June 11, 2012

Irresponsible Journalism and Gaming

Anders Breivik

Why do we read stories in the news?

For many of us, it’s to gain a better understanding about the world in which we live. For others, it’s to see what’s new with something that might interest us or maybe even learn something new about an intriguing topic.

Whatever the case, the stories we take in have the great potential to influence the way we see many things in life – our hobbies, our environments and even our fellow men and women. That’s a great deal of power at the fingertips of those who write these stories for us to consume. The power of influence.

That is why it bothers me so much to see stories such as this one: A recent article about the Anders Breivik – the Norwegian who murdered 77 people that – with its headline and introductory paragraphs – suggests the video games he played for more than seven hours per day (primarily World of Warcraft) were primary factors in why he murdered 77 people.

Now, for those of you who read further than the first couple of paragraphs (which is very few of most news consumers reading online), you will notice that the story is actually about Breivik’s mental capacity and how it appears that it does not support the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

But that’s not the problem I have. The problem I have is that an article about one thing would be teased as an article about another – at the detriment of the credibility to the gaming community.

As a journalist myself, it’s insulting that a writer would try to indicate that video games would be a symptom of someone murdering another person. This is likely done for the shock value to get people reading and nothing more.

I play plenty of video games myself. I play most of the war-based shooters, as well as other games that include violent sequences. I can tell you very positively that I don’t get sudden urges to go out and murder people, let alone engage in violence against other people. And I doubt the millions upon millions of WoW subscribers/players do either.

What bothers me the most about this story? The fact that most people who have no idea what the gaming community is like, will read this story (or, more than likely, the first couple of paragraphs and the headline) and believe that video games are the problem with this man. Nevermind his extremist agenda or his likely mental deficiency – it’s the violent video games that are to blame.

Some of you may read that and scoff at the notion, but believe me – people are that blind and impressionable. They will read something and – because they have no real knowledge of it themselves – they will see precisely what the article intends them to see: A controversy that doesn’t exist.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Because without people reading these stories, and not taking the time to educate themselves on the subject and the information as it actually exists, there wouldn’t be the outrage to perpetuate this sensationalist journalism.

Unfortunately, the only thing many of us can do is sit back and defend our interest in the medium that we enjoy so much and hope that eventually, some of us will have the opportunity to spark change within the journalistic ranks. Until then, I suspect this is just the latest of what will be a long history of bad journalism that targets gaming.

May 16, 2012

Donate To My Tour de Cure 2012 Ride

Hey everyone, I am riding 100 miles (161 km) for Chicago’s 2012 Tour de Cure. My goal this year is to raise $1,500, because last year I was blown out of the water by the generosity of the people at my mom’s work, the KDE community, the cycling community, and a few friends. So, if 300 of you donated the minimum $5, I would make my goal :) Last year I had a blast doing this ride and completed it in 6.5 hours. My other goal this year is to finish it in under 6 hours.

To donate, you can click on the Support image above, or go to my Tour de Cure page. Scroll down, and on the right hand side you will see “CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR ME”, click it. I appreciate any and all help!

Donate To My Tour de Cure 2012 Ride is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

May 06, 2012

No Guest Bloggers Wanted or Needed

I do not need or want any guest bloggers, especially if you want to blog about absolute bullshit. When I say bullshit, I mean the following:

  • World War I and II History
  • President Obama
  • Microsoft Windows
  • Your fancy case for a stupid iPad
  • US Politics
  • And so much more…

I don’t know what happened this week, but I received serious inquiries about the topics I listed above. I replied to all of you nicely this time, so quit emailing me back asking why. If you are the guest blogger type and actually read through my blog, then this is for you. KICK ROCKS! Go guest blog elsewhere!

No Guest Bloggers Wanted or Needed is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

April 26, 2012

Kubuntu 12.04 Released

Kubuntu 12.04 Released

Kubuntu 12.04 has been released into the wild today. Once again, I had absolutely nothing to do with this release.

The Kubuntu community is proud to announce the release of 12.04 LTS, the Precise Pangolin: the new Long Term Support version of our friendly operating system.

Check out the Release Notes for much more information on this release.

Viva La Kubuntu

I am certain that this release proves that the Kubuntu community is as strong as ever. They showed up for work, and serious work at that, in the face of adversity, with all the negative commentary floating around the interwebs. I am proud of each contributor in the community, and that includes Ubuntu as well. Congratulations everyone on a job well done!

Welcome Blue Systems

With that, I am very excited to see what the new sponsorship by Blue Systems brings. I have witnessed what their sponsorship has provided to Linux Mint, and that excites me even more knowing that Kubuntu will have that same sort of support. Here is to the future of Kubuntu and Blue Systems!

If you aren’t using Kubuntu, I highly recommend you check it out. If you are using Kubuntu and appreciate what you were given, it would be wonderful for you all to say “thank you” and show some love. I think every contributor deserves at least that, and I feel that every user deserves that same amount of gratitude. If it weren’t for the users there would be no need for all of this.

To download Kubuntu, head on over to the Get Kubuntu page. There they offer you the options to buy CDs and/or DVDs, or download Kubuntu the regular way and the BitTorrent way. If you are good at Googling, you can also find local mirrors in which you can download from as well. Here in Chicago, I have a few options that give much faster access to the ISOs as well as the repositories. Check your local universities, government agencies, and telecommunication corporations for a mirror.

Thank you once again to everyone involved with this release. From the developers to the bug reporters, and even to the complainers and naysayers, THANK YOU!

Kubuntu 12.04 Released is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

April 03, 2012

Using BlueProximity to Manage Lockscreen on Multiple Workstations

I have been using BlueProximity on my main development workstation in the office for years. I love it. I always take my phone with me. Within 1 minute of me leaving the office with my Evo 4G phone, I know that my workstation screen will be locked.
With my upgrade to Ubuntu 11.10 on my workstation I noticed that the "gnome-screensaver-command -p" command no longer worked to "poke" my screen saver from the Proximity command setting in BlueProximity. Evidently the -p option was removed from the latest versions.
So I decided to do some Googling and find a work around. While I was doing this I thought that it would be cool to do locking/unlocking/proximity for more than one workstation. I have two Ubuntu workstations in my office.
I figured that since I had my ssh keys setup so I can using ssh seamlessly without passwords between my workstations that I could easily send the same commands that I used on my main workstation to my secondary workstation at the same time. Here are the commands that I used to get this working.
Locking command:

gnome-screensaver-command -l && xset dpms force off && ssh casutton@c-010b-lx01-its.local DISPLAY=:0 gnome-screensaver-command -l
Unlocking command:

xset dpms force on && gnome-screensaver-command -d && ssh casutton@c-010b-lx01-its.local DISPLAY=:0 gnome-screensaver-command -d
Proximity command:

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March 28, 2012

Linux: “We’re not GNU”

My quick response, besides the 2 other responses I already did, to Ubuntu: “We’re not Linux”. Don’t think I need to say anything more here. I think I am starting to get over my 1990s Linux User ways.

  • Politicians: “We’re not Evil”
  • Google: “Neither are we!”
  • Emacs: “We’re still a text editor”
  • Vim: “So are we!”
  • Kubuntu: “We’re not Ubuntu”
  • I can do this all day…

Linux: “We’re not GNU” is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

March 21, 2012

Game Changer: Modifying Mass Effect 3 Ending

For as long as I can remember when it comes to gaming, it has always been satisfying to get to the end of a series.

Even if I haven’t necessarily enjoyed the ending, the journey is typically worth the price of admission.

Some people will view that as a half-hearted investment in the experience, but I would absolutely disagree. And, I would do so on the following assertion: How we experience games is and SHOULD be different from gamer to gamer. The way I enjoy a game will never be the same way you enjoy a game because our values and how they apply to the gaming experience have been formed differently.

That being said, I find the notion that BioWare needs to change ANYTHING about their recent game, Mass Effect 3, to be insulting not only to game makers everywhere, but also to gamers who have stayed true to games despite their disagreements with the creative directions.

Why should they change the game THEY made? It’s the direction the game was decidedly pushed in and we, as gamers, should accept that. What’s more, we should be thankful to BioWare for such an awe-inspiring series as Mass Effect in the first place.

The moral choices that have been put before us and the way our actions impact not only the course of the current game, but the courses of the games that follow it have been unique and moving experiences for gamers everywhere – myself included. Who are we to say that the end result should be done a certain way?

You don’t go up to a painter and say “I don’t like what you did with that particular portion of the picture,” and ask them to change it. You let them finish it and – good or bad – you take the art for what it is: An expression of the artist completed in a way that the artist wants to public to view it.

By telling BioWare that their ending is inferior to what people THINK it should be is a slap in the face to a company that has been nothing but outstanding when it comes to the Mass Effect series.

What’s more, petitioning BioWare to change their game because people are clamoring about it sets a precedent that I honestly think will threaten artistic freedom when it comes to game production.

And what if it doesn’t stop here?

What if more games are requested to be changed because people don’t like the way it ends? That carries with it the potential to destroy the value that a community presence brings to the table. In order to avoid having people question the creative direction, game makers will avoid community input entirely. Then where will we be? We’ll be here wondering why game makers aren’t listening to the community with no one to blame but ourselves.

If BioWare gives in to the demands to change the ending, I will have lost all respect for them.

Because it shows me that they would rather pander to “fans,” than have pride in their product. A real fan – of the Mass Effect series or gaming in general – may be disappointed in the endings, but they would never ask the company to change it.

And don’t give me that “well, we’ve earned a good ending.” Stow it.

You’ve earned the right to play something that numerous individuals have spent countless hours making. Assuming you have the right to demand a change to the finished product because you – on your own time – decided to play a series of games is a sense of entitlement that I have only seen in the most selfish of people.

For better or worse, the final curtain call is what we play for. If you can’t handle the finality in the end, then maybe you just shouldn’t be a gamer.

Dear Parents – 18+ games are not for your children


This little guy is my pride and joy and even has his own controller.
Even if it doesn’t actually work.

It’s no secret that parenting as a whole has experienced significant changes to its value system over the last several years.

From parents not wanting to discipline their children for fear of what repercussions it might have on their personalities to parents trying to be “buddies” with their children, it seems – in many cases – that the job of parenting has been reduced to the “option” of parenting.

The disappointing part of this for me is that I not only see this out in general public settings, but also in the gaming community. Usually it comes in the form of a 10-year-old playing an online multiplayer game such as Battlefield or Modern Warfare, but it also extends to children playing M-Rated (Mature) games that contain certain themes that may be considered over their heads or beyond what they should be experiencing for their age range. (questions of morality, violence, sexuality, etc).

Unfortunately, there seems to be a misconception among parents that just because it is a video game, children who are not necessarily the age recommended for playing the game will understand that it is not real, thereby making it acceptable to ignore the suggested age rating entirely.

This, in my humble opinion is a problem. Not only for parents and their children, but for the future of gaming as well.

Children in the Theater of War

Far too often, I have been online enjoying a battle or two on the likes of Modern Warfare or Battlefield when all of a sudden I hear the meek voice of what sounds like a child chiming in about the awesome headshot he just got or how he just ran over someone with his tank. This is usually followed by some kind of expletive that serves no other purpose but to show that he knows how to use a four-letter word.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve used some unnecessary language while playing online. Usually, it’s while bantering back and forth with a teammate about the action or something that just happened to one of our characters. However, there is a huge difference between me and others my age (I’m 26) using coarse language in a game that employs inherently and a 10-year-old doing the same thing.

The difference? I’m an adult playing a game meant for adult players.

Fortunately the solution to this is easy. Parents, you need to stop being your child’s friend and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are mature enough to play such a game respectfully while understanding what the images they are seeing represent and that what they might hear from other players is not how they themselves should speak.

Just because your 10-year-old thinks the new Call of Duty game looks really cool and tells you that some of his friends are getting it does not mean you need to buy it for him. Thinking you know your child well enough to predict how they will act while playing such a game and hearing the language present while playing is you giving your child too much credit and you taking the easy way out of telling them “no” and having them nag you about it why.

The bottom line is this: If they aren’t even relatively close to the age of the game’s suggested rating (at least 16), then they shouldn’t be playing it. And at the ages I’ve experienced children playing these games, the only people allowing/enabling children to play these games are the parents (don’t blame the retailers, parents – the majority of retailers require proof of age to make an M-Rated purchase). You are not your child’s friend – you are his/her parent.

Putting it in Perspective

To give you an idea of why I’m talking about this in the first place, consider the following:

I enjoy gaming quite a bit. Currently, I don’t own a single game that isn’t M-rated (only eight games, but still) and the majority of those games employ a combat system (i.e: Hand-to-hand, gunplay, assault vehicles, etc).

I also have an 11-month-old son, which leaves me in the unique position of being able to practice what I preach (eventually). Fortunately, I have no doubts about my ability to govern the use of my console: No age inappropriate games, no M-rated gaming experience until at least age 16 (online gameplay will require me to play with him) and if he wants a new game, he’s going to do what I did: Ask for a birthday/Christmas gift or buy it himself. Or trade current games towards a new one.

My hope is that this will not only benefit my son and my relationship with him when it comes to gaming, but also his long-term gaming experience by teaching him respectful gaming and understanding age appropriateness.

After all, if you’re trying to choose the areas in which you’re going to be a parent, then you’ve already lost. If there’s anything I’ve learned very early on as a parent, it’s that it’s an all-or-nothing deal.

And if that means I have to regulate things that include one of my own passions, so be it. Because in the end, it’s not about me.

March 08, 2012

Drupal Training Spring 2012

Live near Naperville, IL and want to learn how to create your own website using Drupal? Click here to sign up for the Spring 2012 classes at North Central College Community Ed!

Drupal 101: Build Powerful Websites with Free Software

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March 02, 2012

BeachHead Studios Caught in Lie about MW3 content drop for PS3 Elite Premium Users?

It seems the release schedule announced for the first all-inclusive DLC pack for MW3 has drawn the ire of more than just a few PlayStation 3 users – and perhaps with good reason.

According to a recent article in GameInformer, the release date for content pack – which will go to Xbox players first – is slated for Xbox Live on March 20.

Where the issue comes in for Elite Premium users on PS3 is the implication that they will be receiving Overwatch on the same day – March 20 – or the next day, March 21. What this means is, PS3 Elite Premium subscribers will either receive their third content drop the day of, or the day after, non-Elite Premium Xbox owners get ALL of the content for the first collection.

This would not be a problem save for the fact that at one point, Beachhead Studios (the makers of Call of Duty ELITE), stated via their Twitter account in response to a question that PS3 Premium members would receive their DLC before Xbox non-premium members. (see photo below).


BUT WAIT! There’s more.

I happened to take a screen capture of the tweet in question and a copy of the URL of the tweet. I then asked via Twitter (not expecting a response), if Beachhead could explain why the information provided in the GameInformer article appeared to contradict the information in the aforementioned tweet (as is evident in this tweet).

A few hours later, the link I sent myself that referenced the tweet was no longer valid, and the tweet itself appeared to have been edited to read as follows:

new post

Fortunately, through confirmation of the player who originally asked the question via twitter, the original tweet was in fact that answer that was provided to begin with (see below) Notice also the difference in time stamp on the original tweet and the newly-found tweet.


So, with all this being said: Did we just happen upon Beachhead trying to cover their tracks by altering information? And if so, what should this suggest to PS3 players – such as myself – who paid for Elite Premium with the assumption that we would have our content before non-premium members?

Personally, I will never purchase Elite again, whether it comes with DLC or not. Additionally, I will make an effort never to support another Beachhead-supported endeavor. Because if you would rather lie to me, your customer, than admit you made a mistake, then I don’t believe you should ever have my business.

I also personally hope others who find this situation insulting will do the same, as I don’t believe a company that engages in such a poor business practice should be allowed to make money on a demographic that it is lying to.

But that’s just me. I suppose I’m just some silly person who happens to like knowing that he is getting what he paid for.

March 01, 2012

Dropbox for KDE

UPDATE: (05/01/2012) A couple of people have pointed out Dropbox ServiceMenu as an add-on to this tutorial and to your KDE installation. I haven’t used it, but it seems it is pretty popular.

A question I have been coming across a lot lately has been, “How do I get Dropbox to work with KDE?” Most have probably noticed that when you go to the Dropbox website and go to download it, it is for GNOME and the Nautilus file manager. Unfortunately for us KDE users, we don’t use Nautilus. Or I could say fortunately for us KDE users, but I am sure that will start all kinds of flame wars in the comments. Instead, KDE utilizes Dolphin as its file manager. I will use this post to show you how to quickly get Dropbox installed and up-and-running in KDE, without the use of the terminal or command line.

NOTE: In this tutorial I am using the Rekonq web browser for KDE. At the time of this tutorial, it is the default web browser for Kubuntu.

NOTE: After completing the Download Dropbox selection below, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to see how to do all of this via the command line. It is actually really simple and much faster. If you are uncomfortable with the command line, then follow this post completely, minus the end where I show you the command line way of course.

Download Dropbox

Here are the links to the latest Dropbox downloads. NOTE: these links will always be the latest version of Dropbox, so if you come here next year, this simple howto will still be valid. If anything changes, I will make sure to update this page:

Clicking on one of the links above will pop up the Save As dialog. Click the Save As button.

Rekonq web browser Save As dialog

In the Save As dialog, click the Home button and select the Downloads folder to save the file in.

Rekonq web browser Save As dialog location selection

Extract the Dropbox archive

The file that is downloaded for Dropbox is known as a tarball. It is similar to a Zip file if you are coming from the Windows world. To extract this file we will use Ark, KDE’s archiving tool. To open Ark, click on the menu button, select the Applications tab, scroll down to the Utilities section and click it, then once that is open you should see Archiving Tool or Ark depending on how your distribution has it in the menu. Once Ark is open, click on the Open button. Here you will be presented with an Open Dialog where you can select the file that you downloaded. Navigate to your Home/Downloads directory and select the Dropbox file.

Ark Open Dialog - select Dropbox file

Once the file has opened in Ark, the next thing to do is extract it. To do this click the Extract button towards the top. The only option you should have is Extract To…

Ark Extract button

Select it and you will be presented with the Extract dialog where you can select the location you want to extract it to. Select your username in the folder list, as this is where you want to extract it to.

Ark extract to location selection dialog

Configure Dropbox to run at start-up

You will definitely want Dropbox to start every time you log into your computer. To do this is really easy. Open System Settings by going to the KDE menu once again. Most distributions stick the System Settings icon in your Favorites tab, so when you click the menu button, you should see it right away. Click it if you do. If you do not see it, don’t worry. You will need to go to the Applications tab, scroll down to the Settings section, and in there you should see System Settings. Click it to open it. Once it is open at the bottom, in the System Administration section, there should be an icon labeled, Startup and Shutdown. Click it. Once that is open, in the right pane you should see 5 buttons. You want to select the button labeled Add Script…. This will pop up a small dialog for you to select the Dropbox script we want to run at startup.

System Settings - Startup and Shutdown - Add Script dialog

Click the small folder to the right of the text input box. You should be presented with a System Settings open dialog. In order to see the folder and script that was extracted from the Dropbox download, we need to make sure that Show Hidden Files is selected.

System Settings open script dialog show hidden files

Once all files are showing, click the .dropbox-dist folder and scroll until you see the file named dropboxd.

dropbox-dist hidden folder selection

NOTE: Select dropboxd, not dropbox, as shown in the above image.

Once you have selected it click OK if needed, now you should be back at the small popup dialog. Go ahead and click the OK button. You should be back to the main System Settings window now.

dropboxd executable selection

You can close out of System Settings now.

Running Dropbox for the first time

Open Dolphin, the file manager, by going to the KDE menu button and under Applications, System, there should be a menu item labeled either File Manager or Dolphin. Click it. Once Dolphin is open and in your Home folder, we will need to view all hidden files again. To do this, click the View menu item and about half way down is the Show Hidden Files item. Click it. Now you should see all hidden files and folders. You will want to find the folder named .dropbox-dist and click it.

Dolphin hidden files - dropbox-dist selection

Scroll down until you see the file named dropboxd. Note once again that it is dropboxd that you want.

Dolphin hidden files - dropboxd executable selection

You will now be presented with the Dropbox application setup dialog. Go through and answer the questions.

Dropbox application setup dialog 1

Dropbox application setup dialog 2

Dropbox application setup dialog 3

Dropbox application setup dialog 4

Dropbox application setup dialog 5

Dropbox application setup dialog 6

That’s it, Dropbox is up and running and will start every time you log into your desktop. If all went well you should see the Dropbox icon in your System Tray.

Dropbox running in KDE's System Tray

Install the quick way with the command line

Now that you have the Dropbox file downloaded to your computer, open up your terminal (Konsole is the default in KDE) and type the following commands, or copy & paste the following (you should see 4 lines total):

tar -xf Downloads/dropbox*.gz
ln -s .dropbox-dist/dropboxd .kde/Autostart/dropboxd
.dropbox-dist/dropboxd &

That’s all folks, enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!

Dropbox for KDE is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

February 28, 2012

An Open Letter to Significant Others: Why We Love Gaming

If you’re married to/dating someone who doesn’t like gaming,
you’ve likely been given this look before.

If you were to ask my wife about her involvement in gaming, she would look you off with a roll of her eyes and a very likely “don’t get me started.”
That is to say, she shares very little of my interest in the gaming world.

So little interest, in fact, that she would rather me stay up all night playing and not spend time with her than play them while she is in the room.
I realize not all significant others are like this, but I suspect my wife is not the only one who views gaming with such disdainful fervor.
Fortunately for me (and I hope those of you who share my situation), I am able to accept this.

What I cannot seem to do, however, is understand it. So, I’ve put together a list of things that all non-gaming significant others should know about your counterpart’s interest in gaming (you know, for those times when you say “I just don’t understand the interest.”). So, if you continue reading, I’ll be writing the remainder of this entry as though I’m addressing my wife (or, a group of significant others that don’t get why we love our games).

We love the stories
For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed a well-written story. Whether it came in the form of a picture book from my childhood or a novel as a youth and adult, I always found satisfaction in taking in a thoughtful piece of writing.

That is why, in many (if not most) cases, I love the gaming experience: Because the game has the ability to provide that great storytelling experience with an interactivity that lets you progress the story with your actions.

Games like BioShock, the Mass Effect series, Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, the early Resident Evil games (speed runs on Resident Evil 2, anyone?) just to name a few, are titles that have left me feeling satisfied and thankful for the experience I was able to enjoy. Each of those games are also games I’ve played multiple times because – like any good book – sometimes one reading just isn’t enough, given the contents of the story.

We love a good challenge
As much as I love putting challenging puzzles together, there’s something about a puzzle that just doesn’t hold a candle to the challenge of besting your own best effort in a game.

BioShock, for example, was a great game. It was a game I had beaten more than once on the normal setting – so many times, in fact, that I knew most of the points in the game that were supposed to the main character.

However, there came a point when I decided I wanted more out of the game. So, I played it on Survivor mode, just to see how well I could do and if I had the patience and ability to finish the game.

The interesting thing about this experience is, it took the game to an entirely different level. Not only was it more challenging, but those same points I knew about in the back of my mind had me genuinely scared for my character. Now that’s awesome.

We LOVE competition
There are a lot of us who really enjoy the competitive aspect of games. Whether it’s besting our friends’ times in a particular time-based course/car race/whatever or destroying an enemy team in a Team Deathmatch/Rush match, our need for competition and our desire to be the best is allowed to shine brightly in online multiplayers.

Some people might tell you that they do it just for fun – and that’s fine – because they probably do. But anyone who says they don’t care if they lose the match is being, at the very least, somewhat dishonest. If we didn’t want to win, we wouldn’t play.

Sometimes you just can’t explain how good it feels to be engaged in an incredibly close match and end up winning by a single point at the end. Real life or not, those of us who still want to compete but don’t have the *cough* physical ability *cough* to do so can enjoy some great multiplayer action (and, it turns out may be good for your eye sight!).

Trust me – we may sound angry when we play a first-person shooter, but it’s not anger at anything other than the fact that we’re getting our behinds handed to us, so please – don’t take it personally.

We love to pretend, but we also know what is real
You may scoff at this, but it’s true. Some of us just love to use our imaginations and step out of our own lives and into the world and lives of the games that we’re playing.

And what’s wrong with that? Sometimes the best way to deal with stress in our lives is to take a step back and put our minds somewhere else, even if that is in the form of a video game where we’re playing as a Nord Warrior who is seeking to save the known world from the clutches of an evil, world-eating dragon (I’ve been playing a LOT of Skyrim lately).

Of course I realize that my virtual life should never take precedence over my real life – and it doesn’t. Never would the progress I’ve established in a video game trump the fact that I have a wonderful real life with a beautiful family.

However, the more you harp at me for playing my games, the more it offends me that you think I value my game system more than you. So stop it.

We simply love our video games
That might sound like a “duh,” but truth is, we really enjoy the experience of playing our games. If we didn’t we wouldn’t spend $60 a game to get our hands on the latest and greatest titles.

Similar to my first point, it’s like having an author or genre of books that you really enjoy – when that author comes out with a new book, you want to read it, right? Well, we want to play the next title from our favorite author or play the next entry in a series that we’ve invested so much time in already.

When it comes to entertainment, personal preference is hard to argue against. If everyone liked the same thing, we would all play on the same console/read the same books/drive the same cars – you know the deal; we’d be boring. Fortunately, we all have different ways in which we thoroughly enjoy spending our time. It just so happens mine is video games.

* * *

I don’t know what difference something like what I’ve written here will or would make with my or anyone else’s significant other, but I do wish those of them out there who have such a poor view of gaming would take the time and try to understand their counterpart’s interest.

Who knows, maybe having a little more insight will be all it takes to bring another convert into the gaming family and change some attitudes at home. We can dream, right?

Editor’s Note: I realize this is not an all-encompassing list, so if you have something you think should be on it, by all means let me know and I will add it to the list with your name attached to it!

February 24, 2012

Why Does Kubuntu Suck?

Why does Kubuntu suck? I don’t think it sucks. However after reading a lot of comments recently on the Internet about the death of Kubuntu and KDE (sarcasm there) a lot of people think it does. I read stuff like:

  • Kubuntu is the worst distro ever!
  • Kubuntu has been dead since day one
  • Nobody cares about Kubuntu anyways

If you are one of those people who have said something like the above recently, why? I want solid reasons and I don’t want to hear stuff like:

  • Kubuntu doesn’t have Ubuntu One – neither does the KDE-based distro you switched to
  • There isn’t a Kubuntu for Android – besides a YouTube video and a couple of fanboy sites, Ubuntu doesn’t either :p Oh, and neither does your KDE-based distro :)
  • DO NOT, AND I MEAN DO NOT, RESPOND IN A 1990s Linux User KIND OF WAY! (thanks to my buddy Jorge Castro for showing me and preaching about it lately).

If you use another distro because of issues with Kubuntu, why? What caused you to switch, and by switch I mean recently, not 2 years ago.

Okay, before you start flinging this fanboy crap at me, note the following. I really haven’t contributed to Kubuntu nor KDE in well over a year (personal life is pretty cool when you come up from your parent’s basement and shave your neck (that’s for my buddy B-HUMP)). Also, my daily systems are as follows: Debian (servers), CentOS (servers), openSUSE (KDE), Fedora (KDE), Arch (KDE & DWM – be careful, their screenshots forum is more than enough to cause addiction), Linux Mint (KDE & Cinnamon), and Kubuntu. You want fast? You use Debian or CentOS servers (headless) or Arch with DWM. You want slower, then use KDE, GNOME, or Cinnamon (which is kind of hot by the way) on any of the other distros I use. To back up why I use these machines (multi-boot on my big desktop) is because I have clients that use them, and trying to support openSUSE from a Kubuntu box isn’t always the easiest. Also, I like building packages in a native environment and not in chroots. Oh, and another reason, is I like playing with them in the cloud while testing crazy hardware in remote data centers for clients. I started playing with Linux Mint recently to see if any of the problems I experienced with Kubuntu were there or not (they are there too unfortunately), plus everyone has enjoyed the Mint lately.

Please don’t respond with a fanboy or tin-foil hat on. I hate moderating comments, but I have no problem making you look like a bigger douche bag than me :) OK, so the reason I want to know the above, is because I am seriously thinking about getting back into the development swing of things in Kubuntu and KDE. Maybe you can motivate me to make Kubuntu not suck, or at least build beautiful caskets, since many think Kubuntu and anything KDE-related is dying. Did I just feed the trolls? Probably, but trolls need love too!

Why Does Kubuntu Suck? is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

February 14, 2012

Cleaning Out My Laptop – What a PITA

So I spent the better part of an hour physically cleaning out my laptop, what a PITA. Why so long you ask? It seems these days that laptop manufacturers like to toss in 30-plus screws just to open it up, and then bury the fan, which required the removal of more screws. A common thing I notice on my laptops and other laptops out there, is how easy it is to get to the hard drive or the memory. Why can&apost the manufacturer do something like that for the fan? It shouldn&apost take me an hour to clean the fan on my laptop. It shouldn&apost take more than 2 minutes.

OK, the point of the above rant was this: LAPTOP MANUFACTURERS, LISTEN UP! YOU NEED TO MAKE IT EASY FOR US TO CLEAN OUT OUR FANS!. Our laptops shouldn&apost need to follow Nelly&aposs Hot in here, and I should have to take off all of my laptop&aposs hypothetical clothes.

I know I can&apost be the only one who cleans out their laptop fans. I know there isn&apost anyway possible I am the first to think about making it as easy to clean out the fan as it is to replace memory or a hard drive. How many of you clean out your laptop fans? How much time do you spend on it? Do you just normally blow some air into it, or you do take your laptop a part and really clean it out?

Another pain is the keyboard, though I doubt this one would be an easy fix. Right now, I remove the keyboard from the laptop, flip it upside down, and gently smack the bottom of it to get the big stuff to fall out. Then to clean out the smaller particles I use a business card or something similar (folded up piece of paper) to get in between and under the keys. This actually works pretty well, but I would recommend against it while the keyboard is still part of the laptop, as you might drive that stuff into the laptop itself. Speaking of the keyboard, that is just as easy for me to get to and remove like the memory and the hard drive. Lightly pry off the top panel, remove 3 screws, and lightly pry out the keyboard. This takes me 2 minutes to remove at most, and then I spend the next 10 minutes cleaning it out.

Anyone know of a laptop manufacturer that makes it easy to clean out the fan? Is there a such thing? Google wasn&apost my friend on that one.

Cleaning Out My Laptop – What a PITA is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

February 07, 2012

Kubuntu Is Not Dead

Kubuntu is not dead, it is in fact just as alive today as it was last month. Those of you who are posting things like, “Time to jump ship” or “Kubuntu is dead“, where do you get your facts? Did you happen to read Jonathan’s blog post? Where in there does it say that Kubuntu is dead? Why jump ship? Why jump ship to another distro that is only supported by a few instead of a larger community? I don’t get your logic, and truthfully, saying things like I have read thus far, is nothing more than childish at best. The worst part is that so-called journalists are writing such things, and not just mindless or thoughtless people. I saw one site change the title of their post because they were fact checked by Jonathan in a comment.

Did you know that the 11.10 release of Kubuntu was damn near 100% a community effort? Did you know that Jonathan switched rolls during that release to work on bzr and not Kubuntu (which is something I wish more companies would do, that being allow their employees to move around to try different jobs). Did you know that pretty much every release has happened because of the volunteer community more so than Canonical?

Canonical is not stopping Kubuntu, they are stopping the funding. Stopping the funding doesn’t mean that Kubuntu is dead. If you support the idea that Kubuntu is dead because of this, then damn near every distribution that you want to jump ship to is also dead.

Jumping ship in a time like this equates to nothing more than a slap in the face of everyone who has worked their asses off to offer to you, free in every sense of the word, Kubuntu. Remember, Jonathan was the only paid Kubuntu developer, everyone else did it for free. Don’t disrespect their hard work with your flawed logic.

And if you still believe Kubuntu is dead, why don’t you hop on IRC and join #kubuntu-devel. Does that look dead to you? Just this morning I saw the volunteers working on bugs and discussing updates and fixes for 12.04. Instead of giving up so quickly, why don’t you support the community? Let the developers know you appreciate their work, let them know your issues, help mold the future of Kubuntu.

Kubuntu Is Not Dead is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

February 06, 2012

HP LaserJet M1530 MFP Silent Install

HP, as far as I'm concerned, has some of the most insane driver and software installs ever. They are right up next to Adobe, as far as craziness, some of the time.
At work, we just attempted to install the LJ M1530 multi-fuction printer. Of course there were issues as always with new devices like this in a proper enterprise environment. There are at least 5 workstations that the device driver needed to be loaded on. Once I hear that I wondered why I wasn't scripting the install.
So I downloaded the M1530's driver. The first thing I did was use 7-zip to unzip the contents of hp_M1530_MFP_full_Solution_usb_n_w.exe. I found the usual HP mess of install files with no useful instructions for a silent install.
I dug up what looked like the main install executable under the Installer directory and ran it with the /? argument.

hpbcsiInstaller.exe /?
The following text is what I got back

read more

February 01, 2012

Install and Use LESS on Dreamhost

I am working on a few websites and recently started using LESS CSS for creating my CSS. Anyways, I am using a Dreamhost shared server for not only my website, but other projects I am working on. Unfortunately with a shared server account, you don’t have access to sudo, so you can’t install applications. I got tired of editing my LESS files on the server, copying them locally or doing the git push and pull boogie, running a make file to build the css, and then pushing the css back to the server. I searched and searched for the answer and never found out. However, I did remember that I used to do a lot of Debian and Ubuntu packaging not all that long ago and figured I could just download all the files I need from the Ubuntu archive, extract them, and put them in their proper place. After doing all of this manually and testing it that everything worked just how I needed, I decided to write a script to do all the work. That way there I didn’t have to use this blog to provide step-by-step instructions.

Getting the script

You can either use git to grab the file or you can simply grab the script only.

With git:

git clone git://github.com/nixternal/dreamhost_less_compiler_install_script.git

If you grab the script from the above link, you will need to make it executable:

chmod +x dh_less_inst.sh

Running the script

Here comes the easy part:


What does the script do?

The script simply downloads the necessary packages from the Ubuntu archive, or a tarball if it isn’t in the archive. The following is a list of everything that gets downloaded and installed as well as where it gets placed: NOTE: $PREFIX defaults to ~/.local/usr

  • lesscss – git clone of the lesscss source. bin/lessc and lib/less moved to $PREFIX
  • libev – tarball configured, built, and installed to $PREFIX
  • node.js – deb file extracted. bin/node moved to $PREFIX
  • libc-ares, libssl, libicu, and libv8 – deb file extracted. lib/ moved to $PREFIX

What you need to add to make it work

You just need to add 2 lines to your shell’s rc file. In my case I added them to ~/.zshrc, but by default Dreamhost shared servers use ~/.bash_profile. Here are the 2 lines to add:

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/.local/usr/bin
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="$HOME/.local/usr/lib"

Source the edited file or log out and back in for everything to work.


If you have any problems, please leave a comment below.

Install and Use LESS on Dreamhost is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

January 19, 2012

Mom Finally Using Linux

Just not on the desktop yet. She went out almost 2 weeks ago now and purchased an iPhone 4 because everyone said it was the best smart phone for new users. I even recommended due to word of mouth from new users and iPhone fanatics worldwide. Boy were we wrong! Where is this amazing usability I keep hearing about with Apple products? I played with the phone for a couple of hours and my conclusion, and opinion, is it sucked! Hardware wise, screen wise, and usability wise, it flat-out sucked! Oh, and mom couldn’t agree more with me on that

So today she took the iPhone back, headed over to Costco, and got hooked up with a free Droid and a complete accessory pack. Her total was $15 which was just the taxes on the value of the phone. She now has a way bigger screen, 2 cores of 1.2GHz of love, twice the storage of the 16GB iPhone, and more apps at her fingers than she knows what to do with. One thing I noticed when she had the iPhone, is that she wasn’t intrigued, or really interested in messing with it. With the new Droid, she hasn’t put it down. The only thing she is missing is some silly graphical waste of phone case now. One mistake I made though, is I didn’t transfer her contacts or pictures off of the iPhone before she returned it. Luckily we have her old phone she upgraded to the iPhone from. It is as dead as one could get, but luckily I was able to snag her contacts off of the SD card and import them in her new GMail account in seconds. She hadn’t realized I did that until I heard her say, “Oh, there are my contacts, hrmm!” She thought they just magically appeared :) The photos are a loss unfortunately, or fortunately for many. You see, mom was damn near on her death-bed this summer, and while on it, she received really nasty bruises from all the needles injected. Well, she thought it was a good idea to take pictures of them to show to people. Now people will not have to hold back throwing up all over the place, so I guess I kind of won there :)

Also on the Android front, I got a Kindle Fire free in December. A stock Fire sucks the big one. Luckily a few hackers are creating an ICS ROM for it over at XDA Developer Forums. I put it on the other day and finally the Kindle is worth the $199. There are still a few minor bugs, but I can use it and be happy I am not looking at the garbage that Amazon created. If I were Google, I would make Amazon stop telling people it is Android.

Mom Finally Using Linux is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

January 18, 2012

Keep The Lights On

.blackout { background: #000; color: #000; }

OK, as I am sure you are all aware, the SOPA Blackout crap is upon us. Yes, I called it crap. Sites like Google and Wikipedia are planning on blacking out, but they are going to do so in a non-disruptive kind of way. They aren’t going to just blackout their website with a bunch of SOPA garbage and links. Also, if you aren’t a large website that is useful to millions, blacking out your website is doing nothing more than trying to make you look cool. That’s right, if you have 7 visitors a day to your blog, don’t black out. That is just plain silly. If you think you need to look cool and black out, at least do it correctly with a 503 Redirect, or just blacking out words longer than 5 characters. Don’t know what I am talking about? THEN DON’T BLACKOUT YOUR WEBSITE! But, if you still have to try to look cool, Google how to 503 or blackout certain words before midnight.

Right now, support in the house is about 50/50 on SOPA and PIPA. If it does pass the house, I am certain it won’t make it out of the senate. The senate realizes everyone in the house are idiots and takes their bills with a grain of salt, or the speaker just ignores it like in recent times. Say for instance the senate gets a wild hair in their ear and they pass it, now it is up to Obama. Now, whether you like him or not, his plan is to veto it. He knows it is BS as well as many others in the senate know.


As you can see, blacking out your website or parts of it doesn’t make you look cool, it is actually annoying.

EDIT: You Ubuntu & Open Sourcers, this isn’t meant for you! I expect you all to blackout :) This is for my non-techie friends who think that blacking out their Blogspot/Blogger site will save their iTunes and porn.

Keep The Lights On is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

December 24, 2011

Vim Pathogen Taskwarrior Bundle

Just wanted to drop a quick note for those of you who use vim with pathogen.vim and task (taskwarrior.org). I created a quick github repository that you can add to your bundle list to get syntax highlighting for task data in vim. Add the following repository to your bundle:


I want to keep this up to date, so if you catch any changes upstream that I do not catch, let me know in the comments and I will get that fixed. Thanks!

Vim Pathogen Taskwarrior Bundle is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

December 16, 2011

Kubuntu 11.10 and My JamBox

Earlier this week I was the lucky winner of one of the Phandroid Happy Holidroid Contests. The contest I won provided me the Amazon Kindle Fire, a JamBox by JawBone, a pair of Isotoner Smartouch Goves, a $30 gift certificate for the Seidio Online Store, and a zeemote bluetooth gaming controller for mobile devices. Not to shabby. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately to some lucky woman I know, the Isotoner gloves were women’s. If they were large enough, I would rock the pinkness. The Kindle Fire isn’t to shabby either, though it is one hell of a restrictive device, even rooted. Hopefully that will change as soon as a solid ICS build is available. The zeemote is pretty cool actually for some FPS, racing, and other games on a mobile device. The JamBox, is damn nice.

Jawbone JamBox Image

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to like the JamBox. I really only listen to tunes on the train or walking around during a commute. I figured I would check it out, and if I didn’t like it, Craigslist/Amazon/Ebay it. After a little research I found out you are really restricted to the OS’ you can use to configure and get it setup initially. Windows XP (32-bit only), Vista, or 7 and Mac OS X are the only ones supported. I have that crap developer preview of Windows 8 on a machine, so I tried it. Hell no that didn’t work. Windows 8 couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Googling for help on that didn’t even result in a single thing. So, after borrowing a computer with Windows, I got it setup.

It has some pretty cool features. You can go with a wired connection with it or bluetooth. With the Kindle Fire I had to go the wired route, because Amazon has that thing locked down like Blagojevich will be soon. The sound out of it was impressive. Next I paired it via bluetooth to my phone and once again it was impressive. Speakerphone on it rocks, and just by pushing a button it will make the call, hold, mute, you name it. Next I wondered if it would work with Kubuntu.

So I enabled bluetooth on my laptop, set the JamBox to pairing mode, had Kubuntu search for it, and boom, it connected. Kubuntu even knew to add it as an audio device. To test it, I fired up Google Music and started playing. Hrmm, no sound out of it, just my laptop speakers. After playing around with System Settings and telling Kubuntu to prefer the JamBox, all worked, and worked well. The laptop speakers mute when using the JamBox, and when I shut off the JamBox the speakers on the laptop go back to playing the sound, and vice versa. I started walking around with it while LMFAO Party Rock was going and doing the dance around the house. I kept walking, and before you knew it, I was outside with it making my neighbors laugh. I then realized, damn, bluetooth has a range further than I ever thought. I was probably close to 50 feet away from my laptop, which was upstairs in the office, while I was outside.

The sound from the JamBox blows the laptop speakers out of the water. The ability to switch on different sound boosters is nice as well. The bass is good, the sound is crisp, and it is loud. As I write this, Google Music is shuffling between Gojira, Lamb of God, and more. I think I will keep this bad boy, as it is useful. Oh, and I have my phone and laptop paired with it now. So if I get a phone call, I can answer it through the JamBox and talk away. Rock on!

Kubuntu 11.10 and My JamBox is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

December 15, 2011

Review: STM Alley Laptop Bag


Here is a personal, unbiased, and opinionated review of the STM Alley Medium Shoulder Bag 15″ – Carbon from GearZap. I am in no way affiliated with GearZap. GearZap has not provided monetary support for this review or any advertisements, other than providing a free sample of the STM Alley laptop bag. Acceptance of the product does not guarantee a review.

Who is GearZap?

GearZap is a specialist online retailer of Netbook and Laptop accessories. All of their accessories, stocked in their central UK warehouse, are ready for dispatch as soon as possible.

A little background information

A couple of months ago GearZap contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a laptop bag because they had noticed that I have a couple of laptops in my arsenal and wondered how I was transporting them around. After speaking with them and letting them know that I have used another product for years, they offered up the STM Alley Medium Shoulder Bag 15″ – Carbon for me to review. The interesting thing here is I had previously tried to buy this same bag at an earlier time from a local store, but was unable to find one. I decided I would be more than happy to check the bag out and offer a review. At the time, I had planned on getting the bag and writing up a typical review in a few days time. After I started to write this review initially, I thought it would be unfair for me to review the bag without even using it. So I spent the past month doing exactly that. I have used the bag while commuting on a bicycle, the train, a car, and on foot. I have abused the bag just like I would any other bag that I have used in the past. After beating up the bag for the past month, I realized it was time for a review.

The STM Alley Laptop Bag Review

As you can see from the above image, the bag is good-looking, but does the good looks equate to a quality bag? The bag is a messenger style bag however it holds the laptop vertically instead of the typical horizontal way. I tend to ride my bike everywhere, and because of that I prefer the messenger style bag over everything else. In the past I always used the horizontal style bags as they lay across my bike nicely while pedaling my way through Chicago traffic. Concerned at first, I can now say that this vertical bag actually lays a bit nicer across the back than the horizontal bags I have used. I had to tighten up the strap so it would be held tight while riding. Now, you might be saying, “Well why don’t you use a backpack if you are going to carry on the back anyways?” Simple, a backpack tends to throw my balance off and I have never been comfortable riding my bike with a backpack. When I ride, I don’t tend to do 10MPH (or 15KPH for you non-imperial people) but ride as fast as I can. In Chicago I am typically faster than the traffic, so losing my balance while riding is dangerous. So far a messenger bag hasn’t posed this risk for me, and after using this STM Alley now for around a month, it hasn’t been an issue either. The only issue I have witnessed is dependent on the top layer of clothing that is resting against. If the material is a slicker material, such as nylon or spandex, it will tend to slip because there is just one strap holding it in place. Even when it tends to slip it hasn’t caused an issue for me at all while on my bike. The first time though it caught me off guard and scared me a little, but it didn’t throw off my balance.

Storage Capability

I have a similar bag to this one that I used for a netbook over the years. That bag simply had just enough storage to fit the laptop, an MP3 player, and barely the power cord. This STM Alley laptop bag has enough room that I can actually carry a 15.6 inch laptop, its power block, some notebooks, pens, and more. I was even able to throw in my netbook and its power block alongside the laptop. For the bag’s size, it can actually hold a bit, and do it comfortably. In the image below, you can see the inside of the bag with plenty of places to hold pens, business cards, and more.

Mobile Device Pouch

Previously I briefly spoke about the bag I used for my netbook. The one feature I loved was the pouch that held a portable media device and had a nice zippered strap that you could run the headphones through. This STM Alley laptop bag has the portable media or cell phone holder, but doesn’t have something that can carry the headphone cable nicely. What is nicer with the pouch on the STM Alley laptop bag is that it can hold various sized devices, as the pouch can stretch to accommodate even today’s larger mobile phones. Below are 3 images that show off the pouch, with the last 2 showing my Droid 2 inserted into it comfortably.

Laptop Storage Area

An issue I have had with pretty much every bag that I own, is the storage bay for the laptop is usually larger than the laptop. This is fine if you aren’t riding your bike, but if the laptop can shift inside the bag, this is what will throw your balance off while riding a bike. I can honestly say, this is not an issue with the STM Alley laptop bag. The laptop fits snug inside the bay and there is no way possible it can shift. The next few images show one of my laptops inside of the storage bay. The laptop is an older Compaq that is thicker than today’s laptops. My newer Dell fits in as well with a little room to spare. This room though shrinks up a little as you start throwing other items inside the bag.

This following image is yet another storage compartment that will fit a few notebooks with ease, or even the power block and mouse for the laptop.

A feature I have come to enjoy on laptop bags is a spot to securely hold your keys. The key fob in the STM Alley laptop bag is much nicer than any other bag I own or have owned. Once attached, the keys are held within yet another storage compartment that once zipped give added security.

The following image is the zippered compartment that the key fob is within.

On the front panel of the STM Alley laptop bag is yet another zippered storage compartment. This compartment is perfect for a notebook, some business cards, or anything else that you would need to have available easily. Inside this bag I keep my Moleskin, a pen, business cards, and my digital camera. The following image shows this front panel compartment.

On the back of the STM Alley laptop bag, the part of the bag that will rest against your side or your back, depending on how you are comfortable carrying it, has yet another zippered storage compartment. At first use and glance, I didn’t even recognize it and missed it for well over an hour or so. I had taken the pictures of the bag, and then started filling it up. It wasn’t until I started to use it that I had noticed the compartment. The storage ability of this compartment is smaller than the internal compartments, and a bit smaller than the front compartment. Even though it is smaller, depending on the size of your power block, it will more than likely fit in here. If I am not riding my bike, I will put the power in this compartment. If I am riding a bike, I will either leave it empty, or it will hold a larger notebook so that it will lie flat across my back. The following images show off the back and the storage compartment.


First off, I would like to thank the wonderful people over at GearZap for contacting me to do this review and for sending me a really great laptop bag. I probably haven’t been the easiest to work with, especially during the months leading up to the holidays, as it is one of my busiest times of the year. I am on a few boards and committees that have taken up a bit of my time, but it is these committees that have allowed me to use this bag often over the past month or so.

Back to the STM Alley laptop bag. After using this case for the past month or so, I am happy with it. It serves its purpose as a laptop case, and serves it well, as well as it looks good. I have actually had a friend of mine, who was visiting from the UK, ask about the bag and where to buy it. I can now say that my friend is also a happy owner of this bag thanks to the wonderful folks over at GearZap. The size of this case is perfect for pretty much every use I have for it. The only time it doesn’t work for me is when I need to transport a change of clothes, a 6-pack of beer, and more. When I need to carry that much stuff, I have a Chrome bag that I use, however I feel a Chrome bag is probably frowned upon when meeting with prospective clients in a much more professional atmosphere. Luckily for me, I have this wonderful STM Alley laptop bag that fits the bill perfectly.

Now, before I wrote the review and even received the case itself, I had read many reviews online from people who owned the case. I would say that more than 95% of those reviews were 5 out of 5 stars. The only complaints that I had found online were about the fact the bag is far from waterproof and that the velcro fasteners are loud when you are late to class. In response to the bag not being waterproof or where the flap folds over on the front can allow water inside the case, this is true. I haven’t used the case in a down pour, or used it for long periods of time out in the rain. When it is raining, I tend to either wear a rain poncho with the bag underneath, or use an umbrella. During those times my laptop did not get wet, nor did the contents inside. I wouldn’t recommend having the bag out for extended periods of time in the rain without some sort of protection. I wouldn’t recommend this with any laptop bag for that matter. As for the velcro fasteners being loud when you are late to class, DON’T BE LATE TO CLASS! No really, don’t be late to class. Everyone of my bags have velcro fasteners, and if you want to know loud, the Chrome bag is by far the loudest. If by now you haven’t figured out how to undo velcro fasteners quietly, well let me just tell you that you don’t pull them like they are band-aids. The slower you open, the quieter they are. The faster you open, the louder they are. I tend to get to my meetings on time, so while everyone is talking is when I normally open up the bag and get everything I need out.

So to reiterate over the last paragraph, do not be late to class and do not go swimming with this bag.

Unfortunately for my non-European Union friends, GearZap does not ship to you. For those of you in the EU, they have everything you will need when it comes to transporting a laptop, portable media, and pretty much every small digital device that you would carry. Their shipping prices look reasonable and their shipping times are good. I’m impressed at just how fast the shipment was to the US so I can do a review on it.

Reiteration time again. Overall, I am very happy with this bag and I am very happy to give my stamp of approval on the bag. If I were to do a star rating system, like everyone else does, I would have to give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. 4.5? But you just raved at how great it is, and you only gave it a 4.5? You are nuts! Yes, you are correct, I am nuts. The reason for the 4.5 is simple. As I stated, I ride my bike darn near everywhere. Because of this, being seen is important to me. With that said, being seen means I like being lit up like a Christmas tree, especially around Chicago. If the bag had a spot to safely attach a bike light to, I would have then given it 4.75 out of 5 stars. The other .25 of the star is the mobile device pouch. If you actually read this review, and didn’t fall asleep during it, you would have noticed I talked about another bag I own and how the strap allows me to run the headphone cable through it so it isn’t out and about getting hung up. If I was able to do this, and have a spot for my bike light, it would have easily gotten 5 out of 5 stars. I do have a bit of remedy for both cases though. I attach a light to the strap near the case itself. This isn’t exactly the best place, but it does allow me to have a little more light in the back when riding. As for the headphones, I use a velcro strap, and loop the headphone cable with the strap. I keep the pouch as close to my head as possible, so this actually works well for me.

Head on over to GearZap and pick up the STM Alley Carbon 15.6″ Laptop Case or any of their many other laptop cases today!

Review: STM Alley Laptop Bag is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

December 09, 2011

Looking For Small Inexpensive Linux Server

A few months back I lost my communications server to electronic death. That is part of the reason you don’t see me on IRC much and part of the reason I am desperately feening for Mutt now. I am looking to get a new server or machine that will fit the bill and that bill being cheap and able to run my email stuff (Mutt & OfflineIMAP as well as Irssi). I am desperately cheap now, especially with the holidays, so that is why I am reaching out to everyone in the intertubes to help me out.

I like the looks of one of the ARM boards as they are small enough to stick just about anywhere and not make any noise. Is there a configuration that would suit my needs and not break the bank? I like the small machines from both System76 and ZaReason, but they are to rich for my blood at this time. Of course it has to run Linux and only Linux. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

UPDATE: Thanks to Laura Czajkowski for reminding me that I have a Dell Mini 9 that I can use for this. It has a dead LCD, but I can use an external display to install and setup as it will be headless when up and running. I just need to find the power cord for it now.

Looking For Small Inexpensive Linux Server is a post from Richard A. Johnson's blog.

November 30, 2011

Kindle Review

The Fire is pretty awesome for $199. But it lacks several features that I think would put it right over the edge. I also have an older Nook Color. It has the one thing that I wish the Kindle did. An external MicroSD slot. 

The Kindle actually has MORE memory for media/apps than a Nook Color does by default however. The Nook only allows 1GB of its 8GB of memory to be used for user loaded content. The Fire has about 6GB for Amazon or user loaded content.

With the whole "cloud" thing, as long as you have a network connection, you really don't need much storage so its a nit picky thing.

The fact that it will be the best selling Android tablet guarantees that it will have great support in the modding community. I'm 100% positive that Cyanogenmod will create an Android OS install for it. As long as I can still do all the Amazon Prime streaming with a modded OS I'm game!

I've already "rooted" it and side loaded the Google Market and some Google apps. Its not perfect yet, but new tweaks and hacks are coming out everyday for it.

The bottom line is that if you are already an Amazon customer (especially if you are already a Prime user) the Kindle is spectacular.

If you have nothing invested in the Amazon eco system than it is cheap enough at $199 to make you want to be invested in it.

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Battlefield 3 Patch for PS3 Incoming


For those of you who haven’t yet seen the details of the Battlefield 3 patch for PS3, here are the details.

Personally, I’m excited to see some changes in the spawns (listed below) for Team Deathmatch.

Happy gaming!



General fixes

• Significant improvements to the Squad Join interface, full details in this earlier blog post
• Removed FIND ME A SQUAD option
• Allow players to join empty Squads alone, thus having 1/4 Squad members
• Change order of options to LEAVE SQUAD, INV A FRIEND, SWITCH TEAM
• Disable Privacy flag when 1 man Squad
• Reset Privacy flag from Private to Public when Squad drops to 1 player
• All occupied Squads will now show up colored blue on the Squad selection screen
• Players who choose not to join Squads will also show up as Blue in the “Not in a Squad” line
• Squads that are currently empty will display as white — if you wish to join an empty Squad, you can choose the first one marked with white text
• Added round duration and ticket summary at end of round screen
• Fixed sound for when climbing ladders
• Fixed and issue with some weapons’ sounds in first person view
• Fixed a swim sound loop error
• You should no longer be able to damage a friendly vehicle when sitting in an open position
• Grenades now drop to ground if you get killed while attempting to throw it
• Spawn protection now should work in Conquest so you no longer should spawn too close to enemies
• You should no longer spawn too close to enemies in TDM and SQDM
• Fix for missing input restriction during intro movie, causing players to potentially fall and die while watching movie if moving controller (or having a controller with a bad stick zone)
• Combat areas on Kharg Island in Rush mode tweaked in order to disallow defenders to access the carrier ship after first base is taken and being able to enter the AA gun
• Fixed a problem with revived players not being able to get suppressed
• Fixed a problem with the camera when being revived in co-op
• Spotting VO now plays when spotting from MAV/EOD bot
• Fixed several issues regarding the kill card, including showing wrong weapons used for the kill
• Fixed that sometimes you would be stuck on a black screen when kicked from server
• Fixed so when a team captures two flags at the same time, the UI does not show wrong owner of the flag
• Fixed a problem where the capture progress bar was shown as friendly when the enemy was capturing
• Fixed a problem with the bipod deploy sound
• Fixed a problem that you could be spawned in with no weapons after being killed while using the EOD bot
• Fixed problems with health bars not displaying health properly when using EOD bots
• Fixed a problem with flickering name tags
• Fixed a problem where you could damage friendly helicopters
• Fixed a problem where you could get stuck in the co-op menu when attempting to join the session twice
• You should now be able to spot explosives
• You should no longer spawn in home base if your selected spawn point is disabled while waiting to spawn (e.g. if your teammate dies right before you are about to spawn)
• Damage from bullets will now continue to cause damage even after the firing user is dead
• Fixed several client crashes
• Fixed a problem where players could get stuck in the join queue
• Fixed the repair icon on the minimap
• Fixed a problem with changing camera on certain vehicles
• Fixed a problem with the grenade indicator when in guided missile mode
• Fixed a problem where the machine could hard lock when joining a public coop game
• Fixed a problem where the headset attached icon would not show up in the UI
• Fixed a problem with the falling antenna on Caspian Border. It should now more instantly kill anyone in its falling path
• Fixed a problem where tank turrets would turn too slow
• Fixed a bug on co-op mission “Exfiltration” where you could end up outside the vehicle and not being able to enter it again, thus blocking the mission
• Fixed a problem where a user can become invulnerable after being resurrected
• Fixed a problem with the M60 reload sound
• Fixed a hang in terrain streaming, causing the user to get stuck on black screen under special circumstances in single player
• Fixed a problem where the enemy would not be able to get a road kill on a user that was using the SOFLAM
• Fixed soldiers disappearing in the mortar kill cam
• Fix for Type88 and MG36 zoom in animation offset when in supported shooting mode (using bipods)

Balance changes

• Increased the damage of helicopter miniguns, AA guns, and jet cannons against infantry
• Increased the damage of helicopter miniguns against jeeps
• Reduced the physics impact of AA guns and jet cannons so players under attack from these weapons no longer should lose control
• Increased the damage of the 44 Magnum slightly
• Increased the range and minimum damage of the .357 Round from the MP412 Rex
• Increased the range of all .45cal and 9mm weapons
• Slightly increased the range of the P90 and MP7 and PDW-R
• Slightly increased the range of the 5.56mm PDW-R and decreased the minimum damage at long range
• Slightly increased the minimum range of the Mk11, SVD, and M39 EMR 7.62mm rifles
• Decreased the maximum damage and maximum range of the G3 and SCAR-H 7.62mm weapons
• Reduced the damage from FIM-92 and SA-18 IGLA missiles against aircraft
• Increased the damage and range of the 40mm BUCK rounds
• Reduced the damage .50cal weapons do against helicopters
• Updated T90 canister shell tweaks to match Abrams canister shells

Source: Battlefield 3 Forums

November 23, 2011

Camping in Online Multiplayer: Tactical or Cowardly?


If you’ve ever played a single round of any first-person shooter on the market, you will have no doubt noticed (or been killed by) individuals waiting for other players to cross their paths so they may kill them.

For those unfamiliar with the term, this is known simply as “camping.” You know, “he’s holding so close to that spot, he might as well set up camp”? It’s meant as a derogatory term for players who stay in the same spot on a map for extended periods of time, hoping to increase their kill count without having to put themselves in danger.

For the hardcore players out there, camping is an offensive act. It’s done by players who are otherwise incapable of maneuvering around the maps and who couldn’t get a kill if the player they were trying to shoot was standing still.

For the casual players, however, they are merely a minor nuisance, serving as that little speed bump in the road to the occasional MVP match.

Campers are usually an easy kill once you know where they will be. If it is a confined area, it’s usually easiest to flush them out with an explosive of some kind.

But it’s never really been about how easy it is to kill them or who has how much anger towards them. The question that I have always encountered is to whether or not this is an acceptable tactic.

On the one hand, it’s hard to say what play style that happens to suit someone is “incorrect,” as play styles are largely subjective (what’s good for one is not necessarily good for another). So to that end, camping is technically as valid as you want it to be, if it is indeed allowable to call it a play style. After all, much what it employs is using the particular map you are playing on to your advantage by way of hiding in concealing areas near or in high-traffic choke points.

However, on the other hand, some might argue that camping is a cowardly response to one’s own lack of understanding when it comes to the maps and – very likely – the weaponry being used in the multiplayer matches. If you know how to use your weapon and do it well, and you know the map like the back of your hand, there is no reason why you should be backed into a corner, waiting for someone to walk buy so you don’t have to put effort into aiming, right?

Personally, I think it can be considered both.

Tactically speaking, there are some times when holing-up for a couple of minutes will allow you to collect your thoughts and maybe even a kill or two, allowing you to get back into the game – both mentally and mathematically. Alternately, if you’re playing a game mode where defensive positions will benefit the team, staying in the same area might not only be a good idea, but also encouraged by teammates to ensure a decisive victory.

People may be upset with you for these reasons, but at least they are serving a purpose. The best examples are Domination mode Call of Duty or Conquest mode in Battlefield. If you have an objective that requires capture and containment, then once you capture said objective, setting a “perimeter” around it and staying within that perimeter might be considered camping, but it is also a tactical approach to keeping the game in your favor.

Conversely, I think if you’re outside of those situations (or outside of sniping, which isn’t camping if you’re in a hide trying to take out enemies around the the map), you’re a coward. I mean come on, with how the maps in Call of Duty are made, it’s difficult to be terrible at this game and NOT get at least five to 10 kills in a match. On top of that, camping immediately implies that you don’t know the map (at least to me) well enough to be dangerous – which is exactly why you should be moving around it; you need to learn the different paths to be a more effective player.

And, worse than hindering your own ability to benefit your team, you’re hindering the other players’ chances of enjoying the game by employing a cheap (and have I mentioned cowardly?) method of getting kills, usually against people who are better than you and are expecting you to face them head-on.

So what is there to be done about this? Simple: If you’re the camper and you’re not playing a defensive position on an objective, try growing a pair and moving around the map. You’ll die quite a bit, but that comes with the territory of learning the layout so you can *gasp* GET BETTER. You’re not only hindering yourself by sitting in a corner, you’re ruining the game for other people.

If you’re one of those players who plays the objective and goes for defensive points or likes to snipe: Mute everyone on the opposing team. Because if you end up destroying them, you’re going to hear about how much of a camper you are, even if what you’re doing isn’t really the camping that they think it is.

Lastly, if you’re in a game and you come across a camper, make it a point to target that one individual the rest of the game – preferably with explosives. Trust me.

November 17, 2011

Rooting the Amazon Fire Tablet From My Mac

Kindle Fire... Rooted from my Mac using http://blog.actlocalmedia.com/2011/11/developing-on-kindle-fire.html and http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1296916.

You need to have the Android SDK installed. To do that, go download the SDK at http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html. Unzip it and install it to a location in your home directory. I put at ~/android-sdk-macosx.

Then you need to update the SDK by running the following command: 

~/android-sdk-macosx/tools/android update sdk --no-ui

That update can take quite some time. Sit back and relax while you watch a free Amazon Prime streaming TV show like Serenity or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

You can add the path to the adb command by editing your ~/.bash_profile and adding a path statement like the following.

export PATH=${PATH}:~/android-sdk-macosx/platform-tools

Basically all I needed to do was to edit the ~./android/adb_usb.ini and add a line at the end with "0x1949". Then plug in the Fire (you have to have your own mini usb cable to plug it into your workstation) and then run "adb kill-server" to restart things. Once that is done you can check to see if you are able to see the device by running "adb devices". If a device is listed you are good to go!

Now you need to install the ZergRush hack to root your Kindle. This is quite simple really. Download it from here https://github.com/downloads/revolutionary/zergRush/zergRush.zip and unzip it.

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November 11, 2011

First Impressions: Modern Warfare 3

Similar to what I did with Battlefield 3, I’m going to save most of my comments for the full review, which should be complete by Monday. That said, here are three lists of five – What I love, what I hate and what the jury is still out on:

Five Things I Love

– The reward system is great. It plays to the strength of the player and makes itself flexible for people who enjoy a variety of game modes.
– The maps are a lot of fun. The Call of Duty series is about being fast-paced and these maps encourage that type of gameplay very well.
– The campaign. It has a lot of excitement, you’ve been invested in the characters since the first Modern Warfare, and keeps the action moving very well.
– The perks. These are actually useful (which hasn’t been the case in past games, if you ask me) and leave me torn on which ones I want to use more.
– Spec Ops. If you thought you were going to miss having a new Zombies mode, you’ll quickly change your tune.

Five Things I Hate

– Connection problems. I hate being dropped from games that are in the middle or near completion.
– Spawn points. This is always a problem with FPS games, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying to be spawned right in front of an enemy player or have one spawn right behind you.
– Hit detection. It still lacks consistency. On more than one occasion, I point-blank shot someone in the head with a shotgun and they lived and killed me.
– Quickscoping. It’s stupid and should have been left out of the game. It’s a distraction for players who are trying to win against people who know how to use their weapons. A glitch in the system should not be a style of gameplay. It should be fixed.
– Lack of sniping maps. You can make a map a sniping map by using a sniper rifle and getting creative, but none of the maps feel conducive to sniping, which is really disappointing.

Five Things the Jury is Out On

– ELITE Service. Since this has been suffering from overload for the first week, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s a good service. Part of me thinks it will be, but it’s just too early to tell.
– Weapon advancement system. It’s an interesting idea to advance weapons based on your performance with them and having specialized perks for each one. I’ve only been able to advance through one weapon so far, so I don’t have a solid opinion yet.
– Strike Packages. These are a good idea, though I’ve only had the pleasure of playing one so far. It should be interesting trying the other two.
– Split-screen multiplayer. This was very laggy when I played it on MW2, so hopefully it has been tweaked a little bit to make it more fun in MW3.
– Weapon balance. I haven’t ventured into very many weapon combinations yet (trying to get used to the maps with a single weapon first), so I haven’t had a chance to see whether there is a lack of balance or not. Hopefully this will be a non-issue, but I fear that is wishful thinking.

I haven’t quite finished the campaign yet, so once I do, I will begin my final review. If there is anything you have a question about, feel free to ask!

As always, happy gaming!

November 04, 2011

Gaming as an Adult: Setting and Testing the Limits (Part II)


Editor’s Note: This is part two of my look at enjoying gaming as an adult. Click here for Part I.

If you were able to read the first part of my look into gaming as an adult, hopefully you were able to see where I was coming from when it comes to working with your priorities when trying to enjoy your gaming hobby.

However, there is more to enjoying the gaming culture than simply playing the newest games. Along with prioritizing your adult-life duties so they can be completed as necessary, it is some times beneficial for adults to partake in events and share their gaming experience with other adults as well.

Doing so allows you to engage with individuals like yourself who may share some of the same interests in gaming and some of the same characteristics as people.

Additionally, taking time to engage in this kind of behavior helps keep you interested in the latest games and even experience genres and titles you would have otherwise left unplayed.

Here are a few ways you can get out and about and experience gaming culture as an adult:

– Enjoy gaming with your adult friends –
This isn’t your typical gaming session at a friend’s house where you go over for an hour, play a couple of rounds and head home. What I mean by this is to get some of your friends together who enjoy gaming and make a night of it. This might include a Call of Duty or Battlefield tournament in your home with a prize of some kind between you and your friends. It might also mean getting together a couple of TVs and trying to complete speed runs of your favorite games (such as how fast can you beat Bioshock on easy mode). Or, if you’re looking for something a little more ambitious and you live somewhere with a rentable rec room, there is always the possibility of a multi-team deathmatch tournament in Halo or – as I mentioned earlier, CoD and Battlefield. These are all things that are easy to put together if you take the time and make the effort. Even if you’re not interested in playing, but just want to talk games, sometimes all you need is a trip to a local pub and some good company.

– Attend the occasional midnight release party –
While I’m not as young as I used to be and my all-nighter days are behind me (until the next baby, anyway), I still make time to get out to a midnight release. My most recent release was Battlefield 3 and the next release will actually be Monday night, where I will be playing in a Best Buy-sponsored Modern Warfare tournament (just for that store) prior to the release of Modern Warfare 3. Do I have to do this to enjoy the game? Not necessarily. But, I would make the argument that engaging in gaming culture and playing with others who enjoy gaming as much as you do is a good way to stay and feel connected to the community, similar to why you may be reading this in the first place. There’s just something about getting home with a just-out game at 2 a.m., still pumped up on adrenaline, and breaking into the first part of a newly-released story. Much like a good book, if you’re a fan of the author or the series, there’s no shame in going out of your way to be one of the first people to experience what the story has to offer. Besides, we’re adults and one of the perks of that is being able to stay up late if we want (just make sure you have some time off available at work, just in case).

– Engage in gaming discussions –
This is one of the easier things to get involved with. All it really takes is getting online and joining one (or several) of the hundreds of gaming sites on the Internet where discussions live. Even if you’re not planning on being a regular member, having the opportunity to read the opinions in (mostly) real-time about the latest games and gaming news may be something helps you enjoy the experience of video games as a whole. I really like knowing what’s on the horizon in gaming and being able to form an opinion on those things, as well as engage in discussions about them (if you couldn’t already tell). What I find more interesting, however, is having discussions in which I have to defend my own opinions on topics about games. One of the things that people misunderstand about gaming is that it’s not just a form of entertainment, it’s also a cultural entity, existing as unique memes for us to share and experience. Often times, the stories games tell draw from larger ideas or historical moments that have shaped our world as we know it. Being able to talk about those things (and the less dramatic, fun elements) can be a lot of fun.

– Attend a gaming event –
Over the last several years, events in the gaming world have become more known to people outside of the gaming world, growing with popularity of games themselves and the proliferation of console ownership. Because of this, opportunities – literally around the world – exist for gamers to get out and go hands-on with the latest games and games of the future. Some of these, such as E3, are closed to the public. However, others – such as Pax East – are not and should be visited if you have the time and the resources. Not sure which events are open or closed to the public? Here’s some info that might help you out with that (Ignore the dates – it’s mainly for the base info).

As I mentioned before, it’s one thing to prioritize, which is important to do if you want to maintain a gaming life along with your other responsibilities. It’s another thing entirely to take advantage of the things that can really help you get the most out of being an adult gamer.

If you’ve got something think should be added to the list, let me know!

As always, happy gaming!

November 03, 2011

Gaming as an Adult: Setting and Testing the Limits (Part I)


When I was younger, gaming was something that was always present in my life.

From the days of the first Nintendo system to the day I bought my first console with my own money – a PlayStation 2 – I had always held a special place in my heart for the way turning on a new game made me feel.

Even now, there’s nothing quite like putting that new game into my PS3 and embarking on a journey all my own, complete with the feelings of the unknown and the excitement associated with the twists and turns of the storyline.

However, in between those stages in my life, there was a change. Not necessarily in how I feel about gaming, but in how I needed to approach it – for the benefit of myself as well as my family.

After all, it’s easy to play video games all night when you’re single and have very few responsibilities aside from a part-time job and some high school classes. But when you get to the point where I am – married, employed full-time, the father of a six-month old and busy most weekends – it’s easier to see the need for prioritization (but not necessarily easier to accept it).

That said, I’d like to share a few things that I have been trying to do to ensure that my gaming hobby doesn’t create problems with my real life (which can be tricky to do when your wife is not at all interested in gaming):

– Have a set gaming time —

This is something that I’ve only recently been doing more of. It’s setting aside a time in the day (or in my case, the evening) that you can enjoy your games. For me, it’s after my wife and son are in bed and after my responsibilities for the day and the evening are taken care of. After all is said and done at home, I can turn on my console and play until I’m tired, which requires me to include my own “STOP” button to ensure I don’t fall asleep at work. It has been an adjustment for my wife and I so far, but I believe in the long-run, it will be more beneficial than hurtful, allowing me to spend time with my family and take care of our home without trying to squeeze in some time on the games I’ve worked hard to pay for.

– Plan out your game purchases —

I knew very early in the year that this fall was going to be very difficult to obtain the games I wanted to play unless I took the time to determine which games I wanted the most. So, that’s what i did – I narrowed down my list to the top three of the many titles coming out (all within the same month, for some reason – come on game makers, what’s up with that?), determined how much I would need in total and went from there. Because the goal of this exercise is to spend as little out-of-pocket money as possible as a means of providing necessities for my family, I sold some of my own things to ensure I could afford the games I wanted. Besides, it’s not like I’m always wearing some of the authentic football jerseys I parted with, and my family comes first.

– Try before you buy —

This is sort of an extension of the previous thought, but one that I believe many people tend to overlook. With the economy the way it is and with the price of games sitting at around $30 for a decent, used title, it may suit you better to try out the games you want first. It used to be, console demos were reserved for discs with short, playable portions of games that were either coming out very soon or were already out. However, with the evolution of consoles to include downloadable demos of considerable quality, there’s no reason for people to buy games only to realize they hate them. Want an extended trial? Rent it from the local video store or get a one-day rental from your local Redbox (though I don’t recommend keeping for more than one day). This may seem like common sense to some, but for many, it’s an afterthought – especially (and surprisingly) now that money is usually best spent on other things.

– Don’t fight about it —

As I eluded to earlier, my wife is not a fan of my gaming hobby. Part of this is my fault, as I tend to be a vocal player when engaged in multiplayer contests and can get caught up in the moment when going through difficult moments in the game I’m playing. I honestly can’t blame her for being hesitant about me playing because of this, but fortunately for me, this does not define my typical playing experience. Still, that doesn’t mean my wife and I haven’t had our scrums about it in the past. Because of those instances, I have worked to minimize the instances that might lead to a disgruntled spouse. Part of this process has been cooling down my competitive nature – games are just games, after all – and focusing on why I enjoy the games, not why they sometimes get me frustrated. There is no reason for a game of any kind to come between spouses, so if it is, you need to consider taking steps to eliminate the problem.

– Don’t have time? Don’t play —

Finally, like all hobbies, sometimes time is just not on your side. There will be days (even weeks/months) when you won’t have time to enjoy a multiplayer session or beat a mission (or even goof off in a dungeon or two if you’re an RPG player like myself) – and that will have to be okay. While I experienced this a little bit after getting married, it was the birth of my son that made this regular occurrence. Instead of those before-work gaming sessions, I have to make sure that I am ready to go and that he is ready to go to the babysitter. When I get home? I have to make sure he is either taken care of or take care of housework that needs to be done. But you know what? That’s ok. Because by putting him and my wife first, I will be showing him what it means to prioritize with my actions – even if he doesn’t understand it until he’s older.

Some people may read this and laugh at the notion that gaming would require prioritization at all. But those of us who are adults and who have lives know better. And for those of you who have had trouble with it in the past? Maybe some of the things I’ve said will help.

Since this topic has more to it, I’m splitting it into two separate discussions, the next of which will discuss ways to keep things fun for you despite growing up (or at least attempting to).

As always, happy gaming!

Battlefield 3 patch coming in a few hours

Just in case you haven’t heard and have been clamoring via your mic for some fixes to the Battlefield 3 multiplayer, you’re in luck! There is a patch that is mere hours away.

The details (via gamepur.com):

The developer has confirmed that this new patch fix a number of issues gamers are facing in Battlefield 3 multiplayer.

DICE also confirmed that this patch is server side so there is no need at all for a client update. The patch will fix following issues:

- Fix for rubber banding
- TDM/SQDM spawn point fix
- crash fixes in end of round-
- Fix for connection problem when joining password protected servers

This patch will go live at approximately 12 a.m. on the West Coast/2 a.m. Central time/3 a.m. East Coast time.

So, if you’ve been having issues (like I have with the spawn points), just hang in for a little longer and all will (hopefully) be much better.

Happy gaming!

November 02, 2011

Official Grand Theft Auto V Trailer Debut

If you’re like the rest of us in the gaming world who saw that Rockstar was teasing a new Grand Theft Auto reveal, then you’ve been waiting with anticipation of where it will be located.

Well, the secret is now out that Grand Theft Auto V will be making a return to the city of San Andreas – the Rockstar version of Los Angeles (and hopefully some Las Vegas in there).

While I’m not opposed to them reusing previous locations, I feel like it would have been a lot more fun to revisit somewhere like Vice City, which I still believe is the best game in the series (graphics be damned!).

The trailer looks great, though. I’ve always enjoyed the way Rockstar draws you in with their trailers and then makes you wait with anticipation for their game, and I expect this will be no different.

The characters look clean, the animations look (mostly) fluid and I anticipate the missions will be just as awesome as past games.

Either way, I’m really excited to learn more about this game and the characters that will inhabit its world.

Here is the official trailer for your enjoyment. Let us know what YOU think:

November 01, 2011

Battlefield 3 v. Modern Warfare 3: An Unnecessary FPS War


With the release of Modern Warfare 3 just days away, I wanted to engage in a topic that has been bothering me about the current state of FPS games – specifically the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises.
For some reason, there seems to be a need to “draw a line in the sand,” in terms of which faction you support and why. There is this conjured necessity to pledge and allegiance to one side while condemning the other as being an inferior product.

However, I don’t see this as something that should be happening, especially with two of the most prominent – and fun – games available on the market. After all, we’re supposed to be gamers! We bow to no specific series or game – we enjoy them as they are meant to be or we don’t enjoy them because of their shortcomings, not because it is the “enemy.”

I mean really, how stupid is the notion that Call of Duty is better than Battlefield and vice versa? The truth of the matter is they are such entirely different games that comparing them side by side is pointless. You know what you get by doing that? You see that they are both FPS games, both have campaigns, both have multiplayer and both feature a military-based premise. That’s it.
After that, you have to very different experiences – both graphically and in terms of gameplay – that set them definitively apart.

To be clear, when talking about these two games, the majority of comparison and basis for loyalty comes on the merits of each game’s multiplayer component, which garners most (if not all) of the attention gamers give each title.

That said, on the one hand, you have the recently-released Battlefield 3, which is the direct sequel to the PC-exclusive Battlefield 2 that so many have been clamoring for over the past several years. While it is a military shooter like Call of Duty, the feel is much more gritty and real – a success by EA and Dice to make it feel like a tactical experience infused with squad-based play and specific roles that you might find on the actual battlefield (medic, engineer, support, recon).

The game modes lend themselves to the idea of tactical gameplay, with the favorite modes being Conquest and Rush – objective modes focused on specific objectives that need to be captured and held to obtain victory. Even in this instance, the realism comes into play as such game modes could correlate to real life as war games played by troops as a means of training. There is the traditional team deathmatch, but that isn’t where Battlefield made its name. If you partake in the Conquest or Rush modes, you’ll be forced to work as a team to achieve the goal, which is what the entire Battlefield experience is about: Putting the team before yourself and obtaining the kill as a means of achieving the objective.

Conversely and on the other hand, you have the upcoming Modern Warfare 3, which is the latest (and final?) installment of the popular series that began with the genre-defining Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Unlike its counterpart, Modern Warfare 3 is a largely exaggerated military shooter, utilizing the storytelling the series has thrived on to set the stage for battles that literally span the globe. In Modern Warfare, the lone wolf is the king – even in objective modes such as Domination or Search and Destroy. While team cohesion is encouraged, it is not required to win, which many players really enjoy. After all, there’s nothing quite like being the rouge sniper who makes his way around the map destroying the dreams of the enemy team.

More traditionally, Call of Duty is a predominately “run and gun”-style shooter that provides maps that encourage a fast-paced approach of moving between buildings and through enemy territory as fast as you can, all the while taking out enemy players by any means necessary (riot shield, anyone?). The maps themselves are a lot more closed than those in Battlefield and offer less detail as well, but that is because they are meant to be more arena-like than simulations of a real-world location.

One thing that may set the games apart this release cycle is the Spec. Ops (Special Operations) mode in Modern Warfare 3, which is a wave-based co-op experience with its own rewards and leveling system. While Battlefield 3 has its own co-op mode, this is more an extension of the campaign, offering missions to complete instead of enduring wave after wave of enemies (again, lending itself to the idea that Battlefield is tactical to Call of Duty’s run and gun).

Now, with all the aforementioned ideas understood, I have a hard time seeing how just one of these games should be considered over the other. Sure, you could make a case for such a thing if you’re a strictly tactical player or a strictly run and gun player, but to confine ourselves to one experience is to cheat ourselves out of the fun found in being a gamer in the first place.

The truth of the matter is, there should be no allegiance. Instead, there should be gamers enjoying the different aspects of both games and joining together while doing so. This whole idea that one game is superior (whether it is done via marketing tactics or stated plainly in an interview) shows me one thing: Desperation. But needless desperation.

Unfortunately, that desperation reaches players in a way that creates a rift within the gaming community and suggests they should or should not buy a specific title, which only hurts us – the gamers – in the end.

I’m not trying to stump for one game or the other (in fact, I’ve already preordered and paid for both); I’m simply encouraging those of you who feel like you’re on the fence about this issue to get off and be your own person. Buy the game you want to play, not the game you’re being led to believe is superior. After all, if you enjoy playing both – for whatever reason – then they are both superior games for their own unique reasons.

Battlefield 3: Beautifully Crafted and Painfully Broken


Seldom do I encounter games that boast a great deal of potential for success and timing that might allow them to overtake a genre.

Usually, the games I buy are either leaders of the genre – already established through previous and successful entries – or good examples of them, utilizing features that players enjoy, but not necessarily possessing the ability to overtake the top dog.

In the case of Battlefield 3 (BF3), the potential existed for the latter of the aforementioned two to become the former. Unfortunately, I say “existed,” just as it suggests – in the past tense of the discussion.

Leading the charge of features that put BF3 in position to take the First-Person Shooter crown is the new Frostbite 2 engine, which right away shows how capable it is of delivering top-tier graphics and impressive realism. If you’re like me and my friends, you get a great look at this by entering the multiplayer first.

The best maps to judge the graphic capabilities are the outdoor maps in modes such as Conquest or Rush, with my personal favorites being the maps set in urban environments (Seine Crossing, Operation Metro, etc). The detail and clarity of the architecture in conjunction with the way things like smoke, sunlight and even wind affect the overall environment is nothing short of exquisite, and despite the decreased frame rate of 30 frames per second (FPS) (by comparison, Modern Warfare 3 will be 60 FPS). Add to that the destructive environments and Battlefield 3 boasts one of the most authentic looking experiences of any multiplayer I have ever played.

The campaign sees no drop-off in ability from the Frostbite 2 engine and shows little-to-no screen tearing. The animations throughout the missions have a great look to them as you’re making your way across the different terrains – all of which are visually stunning. The one thing people are commenting on regarding the graphics is that the console versions (I played this on PS3) don’t look as good as the PC iteration. To be completely honest, I don’t think this is something that should take away from the game at all. Given the other game options out there and the way they look, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something much better.

Despite the focus of most modern FPS games being on multiplayer, I’ve always been a fan of a decent (even if it’s short) campaign. Right away you can tell the Battlefield 3 tries to offer what many other FPS campaigns before it – specifically Call of Duty (surprise, surprise) – have done and offered a “playable movie” in the campaign. Unfortunately, unlike those preceding it, Battlefield 3 carries forth a very forgettable story. The plotline – which I won’t divulge for those of you who still haven’t played it – struck me as typical and unsurprising. It had the basic missions (Tank/Sniper/Capture/etc), a couple of somewhat shocking, but not unsurprising twists and an ending that… well… left me asking “that’s it?” Don’t get me wrong – by the end of the campaign, I had enjoyed it enough, but it wasn’t quite the breathtaking experience that I (and I think many) players anticipated it would be.

My biggest gripe about the campaign isn’t in the difficulty – which is easily above Call of Duty on the normal setting – but the way my character is directed to perform tasks and is usually killed while performing them as directed. For example, early in the game, you’re tasked to an overpass where you’re supposed to man a light machine gun (LMG). However, upon obtaining the LMG and laying down suppressive fire, your elevated location combined with the lack of cover usually results in your death. I did this three times before finally moving away from the designated area and completing the task from another location. This one instance of annoyance would have been tolerable, but there are many more like it throughout the game.

When you look past the lack of innovation in the story and the annoyingly poor AI direction, the campaign gets the job done with a story that will at least keep your interest, but won’t likely have you raving about how great it was. The one thing I appreciated the most about this game (at least through most of it), is the realism portrayed in verbal commands and communication, weaponry and scenarios. Outlandishness takes a backseat to the sobering, true nature of warfare.

Of course, it’s not truly about the single-player campaign with Battlefield 3, is it? Of course not. And fortunately for those of us who understand this, the multiplayer doesn’t disappoint. For the most part, anyway – but I’ll talk about the shortcomings in a minute.

To put it as best as I can, the multiplayer experience and gameplay of Battlefield 3 is something I haven’t experienced for a long time. With Call of Duty, it’s less tactical maneuvering and more run n’ gun intensity. With Socom, it’s less intensity and more luck of the draw (provided you can move past the fact that there hasn’t been a good Socom since Socom 2). Battlefield 3 gives you a well-rounded experience that offers something for everyone and doesn’t confine itself to a specific designation.

One moment, I’m lone-wolfing it through Tehran Highway with my sniper rifle in hand, moving around the map as cleanly as possible during a Team Deathmatch, the next minute, I’m in between the shipping containers of Operation Firestorm with my shotgun or LMG, moving with my squadmates to secure an area in Rush. Or, if I’m looking for something that is literally bigger than just my squadmates and I, I’ll head to Conquest mode for a trip through the Grand Bazaar and an epic battle involving ground forces, tank and jeep supports and airstrikes moving overhead.

In addition to the stellar gameplay, the environments are, as I mentioned earlier, the best I’ve seen. The maps themselves seem particularly well put together, allowing for a great deal of freedom when approaching an objective or attempting to flank/sneak up on an enemy. I appreciate this in particular due to the usually-confining locations in most multiplayer games. While there are areas you cannot venture past in Team Deathmatch, the freedom you are allowed still far exceeds anything currently offered in a multiplayer experience.

Unfortunately, there are a few problematic items that have persisted since the launch of Battlefield 3 that may keep it from reaching above and beyond the “Call of Duty Crown,” which is honestly disappointing for me to write. The biggest issues:

— The party system: While it is understood that Battlefield employs squads, which allow for only four people at a time, there seems to be a big problem with joining a match and keeping your squad intact at the same time. In the multiple instances (at least 10) that I have tried to do this with various friends, not once have I ended up on the same team. Now, when I get a game invite, I usually decline it because it’s very unlikely that I will end up in the same squad or even on the same team.

— Hit Detection: I talked about this in the Things I love/Things I hate piece I wrote not long ago, but hit detection in this game is something to be desired. The biggest sign of this for me is when using a sniper rifle. More often than not in games that utilize sniping, a headshot – if well placed – will give you a one-hit kill. That is only the case some of the time in Battlefield 3. I can honestly say, I have fired upon multiple enemies several times with my SVD or MK11 and hit what appeared to be their heads, only to receive hitmarkers that gave away my intentions and usually cost me the kill. This problem also persists with shotguns at close range (but less often than the sniper rifles).

— Spawn locations: This is a big one for me, as I HATE when I don’t have the opportunity to move before dying. However, that is precisely the problem I am facing in nearly all of my matches in Battlefield 3. Just last night I spawned in front of the enemy time three times in a row and had them spawn behind me another four, resulting in seven VERY frustrating deaths. I understand determining a way to work out random spawns for players is difficult, but this is something that should have been a priority from the beginning instead of a problem now.

— Weapon Progression: There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’re within reach of that next weapon unlock and getting into a match you are confident will yield the fruits of your labor. The thing is, that labor seems to take a REALLY long time, especially with the escalation in point requirements with each unlock. I know this lends itself to the player ranking system, but come on – it shouldn’t take three days of playing eight to 10 matches per night to get an unlock of a weapon or for a weapon.

— Servers: I was so giddy about having dedicated servers for games I almost wet myself. And then I got online to find the majority of the servers empty, with just a select few having actual gameplay on them. Then I discovered that these functioning servers usually had a wait list attached to them because they were the only ones available in the region. Yikes.

Scarily, these are just a few of the issues that persist in the multiplayer. While these things may not seem terribly game-breaking to many players, they might be deterrents to players who are unfamiliar with Battlefield and are used to the “plug and play” features of other multiplayer experiences. Hopefully EA can get things under control and fixed before there is a mass exodus due to the MW3 release next week (which you will be able to find a review of right here).

Still, I don’t think there should be a large decline in interest, given the functioning aspects of the game. Battlefield 3 offers a great multiplayer experience complemented with an intuitive menu system, which allows you to filter the games you want based on their server, core/hardcore nature, region and game mode. It gives you a nice level of customization that you can even track online thanks to Origin and the Battlelog.

But most of all, it gives you a multiplayer that currently (and for the foreseeable future) has no rival. Though the problems are a nuisance and should have been dealt with before launch, this may be the quintessential FPS multiplayer of the year – especially if it receives the patches it so desperately needs. So if you have any kind of interest in online multiplayer, I definitely recommend picking this up (just make sure you buy it new as it requires an online pass).

October 25, 2011

Battlefield 3 First Impressions: Loves and Hates


In an effort to save most of my comments for the full review I plan on writing, I’m going going to do a bullet-point list of the loves and hates that I have of the game so far.

As always, I encourage different points of view, so if you agree or disagree or want to add something to the discussion, jump right in.

Five Things I Love

- First and foremost, I love the graphics – they are unlike anything I’ve seen in any game I have ever played. The Frostbite 2 engine definitely shines in this game.
- The movement of the character in multiplayer and single-player. The realism in the graphics is accompanied well by the fluid movements of the character.
- I think the damage is right where it needs to be, which always seems to be a problem with online multiplayer.
- I like that the maps which incorporate vehicles aren’t overrun by them (yet) and that they are secondary/support methods instead of a crutch for the other team.
- The role abilities (support, medic/assault, etc) are great, but only when people actually use them. I try to use my defibrelator as often as possible and hope everyone else does as well.

Five Things I Hate

- I hate using the knife or trying to use the knife. It really only serves the purpose of stalking up on your enemy and getting the fun animation where you kill him and take his dog tags, which requires you to hold the knife button down. Actually knifing is worthless and is more likely to get you killed than get you a kill.
- The campaign is – so far (four or five missions in) – forgettable at best. I find it to be uninspiring and full of mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong – it looks AMAZING – but I have no attachment to my character, and that’s disappointing.
- Gun hop while using a scoped weapon (mostly on assault rifles) renders the scope damn near useless.
- I hate that there is no option to back out of a match before the next round (at least I haven’t found the option yet – and I’ve hit every single button on my controller in an effort to back out).
- I hate that I have tried to get into team deathmatch multiple times – by myself, even – and have had success with this just once. Yup. Once.

Five Things The Jury’s Still Out On

- The controls are somewhat suspect and leave me wishing the knife action (that I wish worked) was elsewhere on the control, as well as the crouch option.
- The party system is still something to be desired. I’ve been in a squad with friends, only to be moved to the other team.
- The random spawn points might need some tweaking. I’ve been killed multiple times already from spawning right in front of an enemy.
- Progress seems slow though that may be due to getting used to the maps.
- I’m always picky about hit detection and I’m still trying to get a good feel for it in BF3.

Anyway, if you’ve got something to add, let us know!

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