Bastard IT

Mobile Me… The Hunt for the Perfect Phone!

This is such a First World Problem but then, as this is a blog about wasting my life playing computer games, please feel free to register you vote of disgust here

My problem is that I can’t find a new phone.

There’s nothing really wrong with my current one except it’s old. It still does what I want it to – browse the web, send emails, take pictures, film stuff and make the occasional phone call – but I can’t shake the feeling I want a new one. Now partly this is down to the desire for a new toy to play with, but there is also the very real (1st World – see here if you’ve forgotten how to complain) problem that I running out of app space on it. I don’t have that many apps but the fact Google make all of theirs unable to move to the SD card means I’m constantly having to delete apps to install their updates.

But I can’t find a new bloody phone.

Oh, I can find a phone obviously, just not one I want and it’s really grating away at me (complain here). I don’t ever want an Apple anything in my life and I can’t bring myself to even consider a Windows phone. I’m an Android lad through and through but the choices in Android come down to the following:

  • Over-sized, over-priced, bloat-ware filled horrors from Samsung, HTC, etc.
  • Poxy under-powered pieces of crap from everyone and his dog
  • The Nexus line from Google which don’t have any bloody SD card slot. Ever. FFS.

Do I want the latest slab from Samsung that will try to monitor my very bowel movements before I’ve even had them? No. Do I want a tiny piece of crap that fell out of a cracker? Take a guess. Do I want a Google-experience only Nexus. Yes! With 16GB memory and no SD slot? What? NO! Stick it up your jacksie! Sideways!

After those options it all get’s a little pointless even looking.

So what do I want from a phone? Well it’s simple really. I have a Galaxy S2 and I like it a lot. It’s fast and light and feels good to use. I want a phone the shape and size of the S2 but with more power, a much, much better battery and none of the Samsung shite I never, ever use on there. And I want it to have the voice activation of the Moto X. And some fancy NFC capability like the Skip 2. And a whole heap more app space because I’m sick of deleting Maps, G+ and Chrome every time Google Now needs an update. Oh, and I want it for no more than £150. Now someone snap to it and make it so before I have to come out there and start slapping you all senseless.

bestphoneever

I’m the best phone ever. Stop whining and buy me, you loser.

Exploring the Big Black: The True Cost of Elite Dangerous…

Blimey! It’s costing me a fair bit and that’s for sure and I don’t mean because I bought into the premium beta.

Also because ED is a truly beautiful game it pays to have a decent system to run it with the highest settings you can manage but I’m lucky I bought a beast of a system a couple of years back sporting an i7 quad core processor with a crapton of RAM and a two-year-old-but-still good nVidia graphics card.

What I hadn’t taken into account  was that is need to upgrade my bloody external equipment quite so much!

  • A new monitor was needed as the old, small one just wasn’t cutting it. The first time I switched the new one on I found I could actually see the engine flares of the ships in the far distance!
  • New headset was required as the old stereo one fell apart and was, in all honesty, bloody uncomfortable. I had to remove it every 10-15 mins to get blood back into my ears! The new ones are super comfy and 7.1 virtual surround – I can now hear ships moving behind me, turn and pinpoint them every time.
  • Two new joysticks! I started with a Thrustmaster X but have replaced that with a Saitek X52 Pro. I don’t know how people play ED with a mouse and keyboard, all I know is I can’t…
  • EDTracker. So far this is my only “waste” of money. I bought the pre-built option but can not get it working at all despite many, many attempts and conversations with the lovely chaps who developed it. I’ve given up for now and am looking at going for…
  • HeadTrackNOIR instead. It’s free and seems to work, all I need to do is source a free/cheap (but good!) web cam and I can try it out. Hopefully that will work but if not then I’m looking at…
  • TrackIR – the beast of all head tracking solutions! The cost alone is off-putting but if I’m honest I don’t want to spend too much money on this when I could be waiting for the prefect…
  • VR Headset! Be it the Oculus Rift or the Sony Morpheus or something else, what almost every ED pilot wants is a high-def VR headset and that’s what I’m really holding our for 🙂

So far the damn game is costing me a small fortune and it hasn’t even launched yet!

Google+ Plans, Pains & Possibilities…

Ever since I joined Gmail about 10 years ago I’ve been in love with Google’s services and keen to get as many of my family and friends to use them as possible as it makes my life easier and I’m lazy like that. I hardly use Office any more as Docs does what I need, Drive has pushed aside Dropbox for me and Calendar is sublime! Still, not every product Google has is great; WordPress outshines Blogger by a country mile and Flickr is in a whole different league to the painfully limited and frankly pug-ugly Picasa and it is in these areas I find myself pining for a better Google, a more integrated Google, a Google that provides me with everything in one place. I’m lazy you see, did I mention that?

I finally thought Google+ was it. Sure it’s taken me a while to get started with it due to the fact they wouldn’t let my HeadBurro Antfarm profile use it until very recently but now I’m in there I’m really liking it. I’ve even got my real self up there with my real name and everything! Go me!

But now I’ve hit another brick wall and I’m wondering if anyone reading this could help me with it. Can Google+ be used to share resources between family members? Before you ask me what the hell I’m on about, let me explain, first in words and then with a quick pencil sketch.

I have a Google account. My wife has a Google account. We use both mainly for emailing our own friends and family with some G+ing from me. We also have a joint Google account that we use to coordinate our family lives by supplying its email address when dealing with household bills and the like, as well as both using the same calendar to set up days out/medical visits/school holidays, etc. If the good lady taps “Dentist Visit” into the calendar on her phone it pops up on my phone as we both have access to this joint calendar and that is so useful I can’t contemplate not having it in my life. On top of that, this joint Google account provides us both with the perfect store for our family snaps as we can both upload them to the shared Picasa direct from our phones rather than all of mine going to my Picasa and all of hers going to hers. And that brings me to what I want to know. Is there any way we can share a calendar & Picasa account if our shared Google account moves to a Google+ profiled account?

Still confused? Well take a look at the diagram below and hopefully all will become clear. We currently do the one at the top but is there any way of doing the one at the bottom in Google? I hope so because I just want this shit to be easy and G+ seems to be making it harder.

Google+ Plan

I’ll have a Jelly Bean, please…

I don’t know what is delaying Samsung from rolling out the Jelly Bean update for its S2 phone over here in Blighty, but considering it has been bollocking about with since at least October last year and started rolling it in Feb this year to parts of the I didn’t even know had phone networks, I’d certainly like to bloody well know!

I’d also like to know why Samsung don’t have a simple page I can find out more about their updates. Why do I have to search and wade through rumours, gossip & possible leaks on Google just to find out when, or even if, they are going to release one? I don’t mind waiting (well, not much) if the company making me wait actually bothers to talks to me about it!

This is my second Samsung phone, the first was a pre-smart phone slider and I hated it with all my frigging heart. I promised I would never, ever, EVER go back to Samsung but the S2 saw me break that promise and whilst I’ve really enjoyed having a powerful & slim Android phone, I can honestly say that I wish I’d have gone for the Nexus 4. It will have to have be a damn good reason for me to ever get another Samsung after this bullshit.

Of Mice and Men… This Time It’s Personal!

Remember how I was a-bleating about my inability to play GW2 with just a mouse and keyboard? Well after a very lengthy & bloody useful comments storm on that post (thanks guys – you know who you are and you all really helped!) I decided to try the Logitech G13 gamepad. I also swapped back to my Logitech G500 mouse and have shoved the Razer Naga in a drawer.

Now let me say that although I’ve done this to play Guild Wars 2 I have yet to try it out with Guild Wars 2 as there hasn’t been another stress test or beta weekend yet (I’m hoping there will be one this coming weekend) so I still don’t know if works. Still, I did get to test it out with LOTRO and after mucho head-scratching, heaps of program switching and a naval carrier full of swearing I managed to get to a set up that pretty much worked *and* has the capacity to work for GW2.

At first I tried strafing with the G13 thumb stick whilst moving & looking with the mouse but although it was easy to do, I found it tied my left hand up and I couldn’t fire off the skills. I tried loads more variations, even pulling out the Naga again, but it wasn’t until I had a brainwave over a ham & mayo butty on Sunday morning that I had a break-through. The G500 has a mousewheel that can be tilted left and right for scrolling. Or, it occurred to me, strafing!

Now it took me a looooong time to actually get LOTRO to recognise these small, sideways movements – in the end I found that I had to kill the G500 SetPoint software if I wanted LOTRO to see the side-scrolling movements and edit the keymap file to disable the up/down mousewheel scrolling which was making strafing a game of crazy mouse swingball. But by then end I found that I had a system that worked!

My right hand controls the camera & where I look as well as forward & backwards movement – my thumb sits on the wheel and tilts it left and right for circle strafing. This means I can do all the movement with my right hand so my left hand can sit on the G13 and hit the skills, jump & dodge (which I just made another jump in LOTRO). I took this rig out for a spin in Moria and it worked pretty well, I have to say. It’s going to take a lot of practice, but at least I feel the end result is achievable.

Hopefully there will be a beta soon and I can regain my hope.

Oh, one piece of advice if you are interested in the G13 – get big hands!

Google+ and me…

Google+ was always going to have an uphill struggle with me. I dropped Wave pretty much right after trying it out, I barely ever used or looked at Buzz beyond re-buzzing a blog post or two and when it comes to Facebook, well not only do I not facebook but I simply do not ‘get’ facebook. So when Google announced they would be opening G+ for beta you would not place me at the front of the queue for an invite, would you? Wrong! I was actually quite excited by the idea of Google+; partly because it sounded interesting and partly because I’m a Google kind of chap (not for me an Apple products and I’ve long since moved over to Google Docs for my writing and blogging). So I got in as HeadBurro Antfarm, populated it and quickly found that I wasn’t using it – it was just another facebook to me – just another “I don’t get it” thing so I deleted the phone app and haven’t looked at in months.

Until about two weeks ago I decided I should give it another go. I think I read about ir being out of Beta, maybe that tickled my fancy or something but whatever it was I turned back to the phone app and found it wouldn’t work. How odd. I went to the PC and there I found my account had been suspended due to name violation. Of course I’d read about the hoohah in Beta but quickly lost interest as G+ became irrelevant to me. It would appear the issue had not been resolved and now I had fallen victim to Google’s odd Big Brother-esque ruling. At first I wasn’t fussed. Big deal, thunk I, I don’t use it and probably never will. But then I noticed that they had suspended my profile too. That’s when I got riled.

I put in an appeal and in a week or so got a reply stating the G-men had looked at my case and found I was indeed guilty of being HeadBurro Antfarm, a name my mother had not given me when first I popped into the world, therefore they would not reverse their decision. I was welcome, they told me, to put my real name in the main name section and relegate HeadBurro Antfarm to the nicknames section meaning that both would be searchable. Now , none of you – NONE – know me by my real name. Well, maybe 3 or 4 of the TSMGO crowd do, but outside that NONE of you and no one who reads this blog* knows my real name so searching for my real name would be meaningless. And the thought that some of you could find my real name when searching for my actual name (I consider my actual name to be HeadBurro Antfarm, just not my real, birth name) makes my lower back all sweaty. I think it’s fear. I mean, I’m sure you are all a lovely bunch, it’s just I’m not going to put that to the test anytime soon, m’kay.

Now, I’m an easy going kind of guy so thought “Well, if I have to I have to. No biggie. Just as long as I can protect my real name, what harm is there? After all, Google know full well who I am, where I live and what my credit card number is as I’ve bought storage from them. I’ll do it as long as they let me ‘private’ my real name.” So I replied and asked if that would be an option.

It’s taken a few days for the reply to come through and it seems I can’t. I can not hide my real name if I fill in the profile as they want. But they did provide me with a workaround should I wish to use it.

I could (wait for it, it’s a doozie) put my real first name & just my last name initial in the name field. Brilliant! Genius! Now instead of being a unique HeadBurro Antfarm (a name I have held online for 5 years now) I can be just one of millions of “David B”s in the world. That, dear readers, is the thinking that got the Apollo 13 crew back to Earth, that is! That’s the kind of idea that makes the Dragon’s Den Dragons wet their pants with excitement! That’s the kind of clear, brilliant solution I’m used to expecting from an amazing organisation like Google.

Oh no, wait. No it isn’t.

It’s fucking daft is what it is.

So I won’t be using Google+, although I suspect they couldn’t care less if I do or don’t. On top of that I’ll be deleting my Google Profiles. All of them. I mean, what is the fucking point? I use Gmail, the calender, the RSS reader & Docs. I don’t share or like or +1, I just use these things for what I need. I blog with WordPress & keep my photos on Flickr. I imagine from Google’s point of view I’m a nothing to them.

* I don’t count my missus. she never reads this drivel.

It’s you, stupid…

Have a look in the mirror. Go on, have a really good look at your face. That face that stares back at you. Those eyes. Those eyes belong to the reason Second Life is shit. You are the reason the Lab employees go home crying at night, you bastard!

I’m not going to link to Uncle Hammy’s Glorious Revelation of The Ultimate Truth (can you guess why?) so you’ll have to google for it, but trust me when I say he proves conclusively that Second Life’s woes (I’m not sure what they are, but if Hammy says we have woes then we bloody well have woes!) are down to you – yes you!

It’s not lag. It’s not the viewer. It’s not high prices. It’s not the fact the Lab is competing with land owners and renters. The shitty customer service. The fucked chat. No. It’s you and me not just shutting the fuck up and sitting quietly like the open wallets we are spunking wonga up the Lab’s leg like a sex-addled ATM. That and the fact you just won’t let him have facebook-humping-SL dream and cruelly insist on keeping your name secret so you can hide behind a made up persona, you cowardly shit!

So listen to Uncle Hammy, keep your miserable whining to yourself and keep paying the bills so the Lab can have more parties Hammy can crash and twat on about.

Fuck me…

Q: Who would be daft enough to have a business model in which your customers can’t pay you? A: Oh those crazy kooky Lindens!

Update (3rd March 11): I had a follow up “How Did We Do?” questionnaire from the Lab asking me to rate their recent help. I shit ye not. Also, despite a general email about local payments systems now being in place, I still can’t register my card for the same reasons I ranted about below. LL for the win!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Righto, first off let me say that I may well be wrong about this but if I am I’m buggered if I can see how. Still, I could be and if I am I shall offer my apologies to the good old Lab right now. Somehow I doubt anyone there will give a shit one way or the other.

When I first created an avatar in Nov 2006 I waited a few weeks before putting any actual real money into the game, but when I decided the time had come I slapped in my credit card with the greatest of ease and have had no problems whatsoever since. I even added the same card to Ryne when I created him in 07. Since those days I haven’t created another avatar… or rather, hadn’t. I created Ya (Steal Head) late last year and have just created Bryce last week. The noticeable difference between the first two and these new ones is that I can’t connect my credit card to them.

Can’t do it.

Simply won’t work.

Ohhhh I’ve put in a ticket of course. No answer so far. I’ve also gone  on as HBA and used Live Help twice (he’s my one and only Premium account, the others are freebies) and can honestly say that whilst perfectly friendly, the helpers were fuck all use. They seem to think that all I have to do is log into my new av’s account and use the link lin the Billing Information Section.

THERE IS NO FUCKING LINK!

I have lost count how many times I’ve explained that to them. Sure in HBA & Ryne, the Billing Information link allows me to delete or update my card or PayPal information, but in both of my new av’s accounts there is no such detail – no links. None. Nada. FUCK ALL! This is what I see in the Billing Information section of both Ya & Bryce:

Now, you tell me where I can put my card or paypal details in there.

One help tech told me I had to try buying something in-world to ‘kick start’ the system into recognising me. Seriously, what the fuck? Still, I’m game for a laugh (normally – in this case I really am not, I rather suspect I’m quite the fucking opposite in fact) so I popped inworld as both Bryce and Ya and clicked on the Buy L$ button. A dialogue box popped up to tell me I could not do such an act and I should click its helpful link to buy some externally. The link took me (via one of the interminable and seemingly random log in screens) to my SL account page. Upon logging in I was shown the Buy L$ option on the Linden Exchange page. I typed in the amount of L$s I wanted and clicked buy – the system whisked me off to an external provider of payment management:

First off there is no PayPal section. Odd as I had just changed both HBA & Ryne to PayPal from my card in their SL account areas and successfully tested that both could buy L$ in-world from my PayPal. Still, no hardship as I could add my card here, test it in-world and then change over to PayPal as I had done for HBA & Ryne. Happy days.

Regular readers may guess that this seemingly happy ending is about to be flushed down the crapper like a week-dead goldfish. Well done you. Gold star.

Despite entering my card details 100% correctly, this service would not progress any further and instead asked me to correct the errors indicated by its handy red error icon. There was no fucking error icon showing. I know this because I then went and entered incorrect data to test it and POOF! the error icon appeared next to that data as promised. Back to correct information and no with NO errors showing I could not progress due to these fucking error fucking icons. Fuckers!

My last life line was the Toll Free UK helpline number! I could just speak to a human being and they would fix this mini-cluster fuck for me! Yay! Humans FTW! I love people, me!

More gold stars, anyone?

The Toll Free number (someone should tell the Lab that we in the UK do not use the term Toll Free and beyond reminding us of dialogue from US TV imports and films, it is meaningless) took me to a recorded message stating that the number was no longer being used and would I be interested in renting it from the owner. No. No I would fucking not. I would be interested in throttling some fucker with it and shoving it up their arse for all to see, but renting it, alas, was not foremost on my mind if I was being honest.

So there it is. My ticket went in two days ago and will no doubt rot like an unflushed week-dead goldfish until I get a useless answer that tells me to “Try the Billing Information section of your account page”.

Amazing. I can not give the Lab my money. I can not link my two new avs to a payment method and let my hard-earned wonga fall into their eager little hands. They must be so tit-deep in wonga that they just don’t need any more – I can only imagine their bog rolls are glued strips of $100 bills and they each ride to meetings on the back of gold unicorns whilst drinking tea made from water strained from their own personal clouds shipped in from Nepal. That’s fine, really it is, but if they could just see their way to making things in SL free so my new avs can actually buy stuff that’d be swell. In the absence of that happening (I realise it will have to percolate through the Love Machine for a few years first) how about you let me give you my card or paypal details for I can send you some new bog roll, eh?

I ask you,  is this a way to run a fucking ballroom?

Fuck me.

Thoughts on games, fingers & fun

As expected I’ve not been in-world much over xmas & new year. After three months of being crazy busy at work and running the very demanding Steal Head story I needed a long break awayfrom SL, Steelhead, the Ning, this blog, writing, the lot. I’ve picked up my laptop or phone (on which I’m writing this very post) a few times but nothing has come; it’s as if my brain simply does not want to think about anything and, frankly, that’s fine with me.

As part of this annual “shut down” I’ve been unfaithful to SL again and bought some other games to play. Last xmas it was the rather wonderful Borderlands & Portal as well as the just OK Ghostbusters & Mirror’s Edge. This year it’s been the disappointing Black Ops, too-hard-to-move Deep Space & a bit dull Amnesia. On balance I’d have to say that last year’s choices won and, for me at least, there is a common factor linking the failure of a majority of these titles to hold my attention past longer than a few plays (hell, in some cases past the first hour) and that is their controls.

Let me explain. Whilst I’ve never owned a console (nary a NES, SNES, PS, Wii or XBox has passed my front door) I have friends who have bought each and every console ever released so naturally I’ve therefore played on most of them and to to a man, jack, dog the thing they all have in common is that I’m utterly, utterly, UTTERLY! crap at using their controllers. Really I am, I don’t know why, I just am. There seems to be too many buttons to press all over the bloody things, too many directions to move too many joysticks and d-pads in at once. It’s like asking a new born foal to rub its tummy and pat its head whilst trampolining through a war zone. Even the simplest of FPSers or driving games or beat-em-eps  has me wildly jabbing, squeezing, and occasionally dropping the ergonomically designed mind-fuckers like some kind of drunk vicar unsuccessfully juggling triplets at a christening.

No, not for me the A-B-C L-R Thumb D-Pad dance. I play like I type… with two fingers. Throw a mouse in there and I have all I need to happily play a shooty shooty game like Left 4 Dead on my PC until I pass out from lack of sleep/food/water. But if you go much beyond that then I’m fooked and it’s in this regard that the above mentioned games let me down – they seem to assume I have an extra hand and at least one more eye than I actually have. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the biggest offenders seem to be console ports or that chief amongst them are Microsoft’s XBox games, after all the game play is all based around the perfectly designed handsets and not a long, flat QWERTY keyboard.

The straw that broke the camel’s back (not to mention had the camel ranting at the computer like a camel who’d grown up with navvies) was Dead Space. I’d come to expect that MickeySoft’s games would have at least three screens of mappable keys (movement, actions, interactions) and it would be an enormous ballache trying to remap them so my cack-handed hands could cope, but when faced with the fact I simply couldn’t remap all the keys, only some of them, my ballache took on an almost mythic quality that would have made God punch a kitten. The death knell for this particular title came down to two bastard things – the movement was locked to keys instead of mouse, and simple gun firing had been complicated with a frustrating two-stage aim-then-fire affair that proved to be messy, slow and counter-intuitive. I’ve no way of knowing whether it works any better on the XBox and frankly I don’t care as I don’t have one – it doesn’t work on a PC and that’s all that matters to me.

I don’t know… maybe I should get an XBox controller for my PC and try it, but when a game like Left 4 Dead (and its even more amazing sequel) manages to work using just my two hands and single pair of eyes I sort of think fuck it, why bother? Either they make the controls more intuitive (or at the very least fully mappable) or I’ll just not bother.

Now if you excuse me, I’m off to play Left 4 Dead 2, a game that removes the need to think about the controls and lets me, well, play the game. Grab a shottie & some ammo and meet me down in New Orleans – we’ve got some zombies that need a damn good talking to 🙂

Stuck in limbo… again!

If you are wondering why I’m in-world a lot at the moment, then wonder no more… I’ve been ghosted for the last three days. I’ve put a ticket in, but only being a mere Premium I’ve heard fuck all :-/