Resistance is Futile.

My thoughts on tech, games, life, and everything else.

What I use

with one comment

I know, I know – it’s been almost a year and half since my last blog post.  I was inspired, though, a couple weeks ago by a series of posts on Lifehacker where each of the contributing writers went over the gear, accessories, and tips/tricks they use all the time.  I’m sure fewer people care about what I use, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to write about it.  So, without further delay, here’s the stuff I use:

Hardware

Boy, where do I even start here?  It seems like I go through hardware more than I do underwear.  I don’t always want the latest, greatest stuff as much as I used to, so that’s good.  And my setup is not nearly as Apple-based as it used to be.  Some people were shocked when I started to branch out more, but it dawned on me that I’m necessarily an Apple person, I’m just a gadget person.

Desktops and Laptops

  • Desktop – My primary machine is a custom-built tower running Windows 7 Pro.  The hardware is getting to be a little older now, but It could still crank out Skyrim at near-maximum settings.  AMD Phenom II x6 1090T (@ 3.2 ghz), 8 GB DDR2 1066, Radeon HD 6850…those are the main highlights, I suppose.  Still, it’s a capable machine.
  • Laptop – My primary mobile machine is a 2010 11.6″ MacBook Air.  It’s the best configuration they sold of this computer, so it has the not-as-limited 4 GB RAM.  Even though I bought it after the 2011 Core i versions came out, I’ve not regretted the purchase.  It’s done everything I’ve asked it to, and more.  I can game on it a little on the go, too.  It’s currently running 10.7 Lion, and I’ve had only a few problems there with app compatibility.  Overall, it’s a great machine, and with some tweaks Windows Media Center gets the job done.
  • Home Theater PC – I’m running this nettop as my home theater PC.  It does reasonably well, even if it does choke on HD content some.  We don’t have cable, but we make use of Hulu, Netflix, and even WatchESPN through this computer.  Most of the time, it does just fine.  If all of Hulu’s content was available with Hulu+, I’d consider paying for that and getting a different gadget.  But…well, that’s not the case at the moment.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices

  • Phone – I’m still rocking my launch day iPhone 4 for the time being.  It’s still a great phone, too.  I’ll most likely be upgrading when Apple releases a new phone this year, though.  I have a bit of an itch from time-to-time to try Android or WP7, but I’m just too invested in the iOS ecosystem at this point.
  • Tablet – Right now, I’m using the Kindle Fire as my tablet, and I really like it.  Maybe I should clarify – I still think the iPad is a better tablet, but the Fire fits my usage habits a lot better.  I primarily want something to read on with occasional games or web browsing.  For that, I prefer the 7-inch form factor.  And the $199 price was just right.  It’s a little sluggish at times, but my hope is that Amazon will tweak their custom version of Android a little bit and fix that.  And there’s always custom ROMs, too…
  • Other – My only other main gadget is my Nintendo 3DS.  Frankly, gaming on a touchscreen device just plain sucks at times.  And I also love playing Pokémon, which Nintendo isn’t putting on any other platform.  So…that’s that.

Accessories

I’ve got way too many accessories to really list here, but I’ll hit some of my favorites.  On my desktop, I use the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard and my nearly six-year-old MX 518.  That mouse just plain rocks, and I’m really not sure if I’m ready to replace it or not.  The keyboard is also great, somewhat reminiscent of Apple’s keyboards in terms of key action.  Staying with that brand, my mobile mouse is the Logitech VX Nano, also a very nice mouse.  My main bag is just some generic olive green messenger bag, but it’s lasted me several years and I like it.

Software

What would our gadgets be without software, anyway?  Expensive paperweights I suppose.  I’ve already covered my operating systems, so let’s look at some of my favorite apps and programs.

Desktop Apps

  • Adium is still my favorite chat program, but Mac only.  Pidgin is okay for Windows, though.
  • Steam for gaming, both PC and Mac.
  • Dropbox is the best way to keep things in sync between my different devices.
  • Evernote for taking notes.

Mobile Apps

  • Pulse News is one of my new favorite apps.  It combines all my favorite news feeds into one easy place for me to read.  The Kindle Fire introduced me to this app and I loved it, so I loaded it on my iPhone as well.
  • Docs2Go is my favorite app for documents on my phone.  I’ll eventually get it for my Kindle…probably…
  • Evernote deserves a mention here, as well.

Miscellaneous

I’m not sure where else to put it, so I’ll mention Psst for Mac.  I don’t really like the startup chime on my MacBook Air, and since the old program I used for this didn’t work on Lion, I had to look for something new.

I think that about wraps it up.  If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to edit the post.  I’ll try to be a little better about thinking of new posts for this blog, but no promises.  Also, be on the lookout for a project me and Casey have been working on here in the future.  More on that when it happens.

-Nate

Written by Nate

March 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Gadgets

Being a nerd is cool!

with one comment

So, tonight was a fun night.  Had a nice campfire/cookout with all the friends from church.  Ate way to much food.  Afterwards, I talked Casey into helping me work on my desktop a bit.  I’ve been wanting to do something neat to it for a while, and the money just happened to be there right now.  My setup was not bad: AMD Phenom II X4 920 @ 2.8ghz, 4 GB DDR2 1066 RAM, Radeon HD 3870, 500 GB hard drive, etc.  Not a total powerhouse, but more than adequate for the games I play (for instance, Starcraft II auto-detects to Ultra settings).

So, what did I order?  I started with this: a new, awesome monitor.  I’ve been running a little 19″ LCD for a while, and it was pretty nice.  It also doubled as my Xbox screen, though, so the size wasn’t always ideal.  This new one is a nice size and resolution, so it makes playing games a lot more fun.

I also ordered another 4 GB of 1066 DDR2 memory.  Nothing special there.

The coup de grâce, however, was the new liquid cooling system.  I’ve always wanted to dabble in liquid cooling, but was never quite up to the task of building a full solution from scratch.  This pre-made solution looked great for CPU cooling, though.  So I installed it, with some much-appreciated help from Casey.  It was a little more difficult than I hoped, but everything fit into the case better than I thought it would.  Only one problem – the 3-pin chassis fan connector that it needs to plug into is on the complete opposite side of the motherboard.  And they gave me about 3 inches of cable.  That’s about 5 inches or so too short.  So, I have this nice desktop with 8 gigs of RAM that I can’t even turn on right now.  It’d be a hassle to go back and install the old stock heatsink and fan because I had to remove the mounting bracket for the liquid cooling pump.  Looks like my desktop (and coincidentally, Minecraft server) will be down until further notice.  I plan on hitting up Staples and a couple of the local computer shops in town tomorrow to see about an extension cable (such as the one found here).  I’m not holding my breath, though, so I’ll probably have to wait and order one next week.

Updates on idle/load temps once it’s up and running will be posted, though.  So be watching for that, if you’re interesting in that sort of thing.

Well, I’m out to play some Borderlands or something.  Later.

-Nate

Written by Nate

October 30, 2010 at 4:54 am

Posted in Gadgets, Gaming

Concerning gamerscore and achievements

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For a long, long time, I was almost exclusively a PC gamer.  Even back in elementary school when we had a NES and Sega Genesis, I played on the Commodore 64 more often.  I remember the first real PC game I really wanted (and got for Christmas) – Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight – back in 1998.  Through high school I worked in a computer repair store.  I got to bring home random computer parts all the time, so I was constantly upgrading our home computer.  I even custom-built a PC to bring to college with me, a computer I used for a lot of gaming.  Sure, I purchased an old PSOne, Gamecube, and even a Wii in those years, but I still relied primarily on my PC for my gaming fix.

Then things began to change…

I’d had little interest in hardcore console gaming.  Yeah, I’d spent $30 on an old Xbox and Halo 2 just to practice so I wouldn’t be pwned by my friends when we got together and played.  Got pretty good at it, too.  Casey is to blame for my real turn to consoles – when we got together to play video games, we’d split the time between PC and Xbox 360.  I enjoyed it so much that I eventually bought my own 360.  But along with the 360 came something I was not prepared for – achievements.

You mean it gives you a score for doing things in the game?  I play lots of games, so this will be awesome!  Yeah, right.  On Xbox Live, a person’s gamerscore is essentially his epeen – the bigger it is, the more bragging rights he has.  “Whatever, it doesn’t really matter,” you might say.  I like to tell myself that, too, but secretly I think exactly the opposite.  It doesn’t help when I have friends with gamerscores over 25,000, either.  I like to farm ridiculous achievements that take hours and hours only to boost my score by a measly 5G.  Some achievements are so impossible, I don’t even want to try them.  But why are these things there in the first place?  Does it really matter if I finish the last level of the Halo 3 campaign in 4-player Legendary co-op with all of us in Ghosts?  A couple weekends ago, me and 3 friends were farming the Vidmaster achievements on ODST – namely where you finish the last level of the campaign, 4 player Legendary co-op, without using the Scorpions or Warthogs.  It took us hours.  It was enjoyable because we did it as a team, but it is not an experience I’d really want to do again.

Yesterday, I ordered the Fallout: New Vegas Collector’s Edition.  I’ve never purchased a collector’s edition game before, so I’m pumped.  I played the last one, Fallout 3, on PC since I didn’t own an Xbox yet, and I want to do the same for New Vegas.  After ordering it, I realized something terrible: New Vegas for PC uses Steam, not Games for Windows Live.

Steam means no Live achievements – no gamerscore boost.

I was floored.  I mean, Fallout 3 had Live achievements.  When I got my Xbox, I already had a gamerscore started thanks to that game.  On the other hand, I love Steam as a distribution and DRM platform.  And there are Steam achievements, but it just isn’t the same.  When did I start buying into all this score hype?  This was never a problem before when I just played PC games.  Another problem is the DLCs – I’ll never be able to get Fallout 3 to 100% achievements because I don’t own all the DLCs.  When it really comes down to it, do we buy DLC for more content, or for more achievements?

I don’t know, maybe I’m grasping at straws here.  It just seems to me that too much stock is placed in how many achievements you have for a game, not in how much you actually enjoyed the game.  I’m sticking with my preorder of New Vegas on PC, though.  I like to support Steam, and maybe it’s time I decided to not worry about gamerscore so much.

Written by Nate

September 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Gaming

New NEW toys!

with 2 comments

WARNING: This blog post may contain a lot of micro-reviews!

Well, in the tech world, a lot of things happen in 5 months.  And that’s how long it’s been since I’ve made a blog post.  For starters, my netbook is not my netbook anymore.  It’s still in the family, though.  A couple months ago, Mandy’s laptop died on her.  After much consideration, she decided she just wanted a netbook to carry to and from school, so I gave her mine.  What did I get to replace it?  You guessed it: an iPad!  But that’s not all I’ve purchased recently.  In order of acquisition, here’s what I got this summer:

iPhone 4.  I love it.  Retina Display is awesome, despite being a marketing buzzword created by Apple.  The updated hardware is worth it, too – everything zips along nicely.  iOS 4 finally brings many improvements to the table that have long been needed (like multitasking).  And no, the stupid antenna issue does not affect me.  At least, not too often.  The camera takes decent pictures, too, though I’ve yet to try much in the way of video.  The hardware, while beautiful to behold, worries me with all of the glass.  I require a case (more on that one later).

Rebuilt Desktop! Nothing real new here; AMD Phenom II X4 920 (@2.8 ghz), 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, 512 MB Radeon HD 3870.  It’s mostly last year’s hardware, but with a bigger hard drive than I initially put in it and Windows 7 instead of Vista (barf).  It plays Starcraft II on mostly ultra settings and Fallout 3 on “very high” (I think that’s what it was called – not installed at the moment).  I tried to go without one, but I’m still too much of a PC gamer at heart.  And my MacBook just didn’t cut it as a gaming machine.

iPad??? That’s right – somehow, I talked Mandy into getting me an iPad.  Just the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, but that’s sufficient for me.  It’s already come in very handy for me, too.  Just yesterday I took it to a live fantasy football auction draft and used an Excel-type spreadsheet to keep track of my players and my fantasy budget.  It’s also nice for web browsing around the house, not to mention Hulu+ and Netflix.  As an e-reader I find it adequate, though I think an e-ink screen would fatigue my eyes a bit less.

I think that’s it for new hardware.  Now, back to the iPhone 4 and the Quest for the Perfect Case.  For each of the 3 iPhones I’ve owned, I’ve gone through many, many cases.  On my first gen, it took me 2 tries before settling on the Seidio Innocase (which I eventually abandoned, carrying the phone naked in a belt holster).  On my 3GS, it took me 3 tries before settling on the Otterbox Commuter TL.  The problem with a completely redesigned phone is that cases suck until a while after release.  Again, 3 was the magic number for me.  First I tried the Incipio dermaSHOT – not a bad case overall, but attracted lint so much that it drove me insane.  I tried the Zagg InvisibleShield (not counting it as a case) and liked it alright, but drop protection was, of course, non-existent.  I still have the back part of it on, as it went well with my second case: the Apple Bumper.  Not a bad case, either, but some things annoyed me about it.  For one, the fully rubber part around the headphone jack tended to stretch over time, causing the case to fit less snugly.  I also bought it two days before Apple announced they’d be giving them out for free.  Fortunately, I got a refund.  And just today I got my next case…

The Otterbox Commuter.  If this case had been out on release day, I wouldn’t have spent so much money on other cases.  For what I want, it’s perfect.  Good protection, port covers, and it isn’t huge like their flagship case, the Defender.  I’ll update this post with pictures if I can ever find my camera (and get the motivation to get pictures off of it).

That about sums it up.  Adoption stuff is still going.  We’re finally done with the home study, and things are looking solid from a financial perspective, too.  The waiting game can be trying, though, and it’s tough not having any idea of when a baby could show up.  For more on that, see Mandy’s blog.

Also, you should see me and Casey in comic form if you haven’t already done so.

That’s all for now – peace out.

Written by Nate

August 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Posted in Gadgets, iPhone

New toy! part 2

with 2 comments

Who knew having a netbook would be such a daunting experience?  Maybe for the average user it wouldn’t be, but for me (sadly) it could not be more complicated.  In 5 days with my netbook, I had 5 different operating systems installed on the bugger.  The following will be my run-through of the positives and negatives of each.

Windows 7 Starter

This is the OS that came pre-installed on my netbook.  Now, I love Windows 7 – I had it installed on both my work computer and my personal computer within the first week it was publicly available – but with a name like “Starter” you just know it’s going to be gimped.  And gimped it was!  Want to change your desktop background?  Sorry.  How about hook up an external monitor or projector?  Sure, but don’t expect extended desktop OR mirrored mode.  There are other things that it doesn’t include, but those were the two that got me the most.  Also, while it ran fine on the stock 1 GB RAM, it felt a bit cramped for me purposes.  Without the extra money to upgrade memory or Windows (another $80 to bump up to 7 Home Premium) I decided to look elsewhere…

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Next, I went to the open-source community.  Ubuntu is one of the more popular and user-friendly flavors of Linux out there, and with good reason.  Add a netbook-friendly app launcher and you’re all set, right?  In theory, yes.  Unfortunately, UNR hasn’t been tuned for my video chipset, so the launcher was extremely sluggish.  Apps themselves ran fine, but the launcher was unbearably slow.  Add to that problems with the wireless card and trackpad, and it just didn’t make a good fit.  Which led me to…

Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop

If it was just the netbook interface that was slow, why not try the regular desktop version?  Okay, I said, let’s go for it.  The desktop version worked great, after a little tweaking for the aforementioned wireless card and trackpad.  This turned out the be the OS I ran for the longest time (at that point), and it started to grow on me.  Program compatibility eventually came up, along with some VPN and Remote Desktop issues.  Maybe another version of Linux would suit me better…

Jolicloud

If you haven’t heard of this one, don’t feel bad.  I found it at random one day a while back, and it excited me.  A Linux OS made specifically with netbooks in mind?  Boasting the largest compatibility of all Linux aimed at netbooks?  Let’s give this a try, I said.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a modified version of Ubuntu with a custom launcher (much akin to the Ubuntu Netbook Remix).  That would have been fine with me, but it had the same UI sluggishness of the Netbook Remix.  This just won’t do, I thought.  What could I try next…

Windows XP Pro

I happened to have an XP Pro license that wasn’t being used.  After slipstreaming in the SATA drivers (long story) and getting it to boot from a flash drive (longer story), I was in business.  The venerable operating system performed admirably and, since it’s Windows, program compatibility is a non-issue.  I can even run WoW on it, albeit at low detail settings and occasionally horrendous framerates.  Now I know why manufacturers held on to XP for as long as they could…

I’ve decided to stick with XP for now, mostly for compatibility and performance issues.  Ubuntu Desktop ran great on it, and with the big version 10 due out late April, I may just give it another try.  If I had to give my opinion (which I am) on which OS would be best, it would be a tough call.  Windows 7 would run great for a normal person, but 1 GB RAM is too little for me to run it.  Ubuntu Netbook Remix/Jolicloud could be awesome, once the bugs for my particular configuration are corrected.  Ubuntu Desktop was fantastic until I had issues – issues a normal person would not likely run into.  XP, though long in the tooth, still remains the best option, I think.  But hey, what do I know?

Later.

Written by Nate

March 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Gadgets

New toy!

with 2 comments

Well, I decided to go ahead and wait on the iPad.  As interesting as it is, and as awesome as its potential may be, I’ve decided that it would be a little redundant in my gadget collection.  That may not be exactly a bad thing, but it isn’t something I’m going to go with right now.  After all, as one of my friends pointed out, I already own an iPad Nano (i.e. my iPhone).

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be leaving for San Francisco, CA.  I’ll be there April 10-14 for Sungard Summit, a conference that deals primarily with the digital campus products Harding uses, namely Banner.  That’s going to be fun for me, as I’ve never been any further west than Abilene, TX, where my in-laws live.  On the other hand, I’m kind of nervous about taking my nice, expensive MacBook all the way out there with me.  Trust me, these two paragraphs have been more related than you think…

I had originally thought and iPad would be an awesome device to bring along, but the price and release date had me concerned.  So, I decided to fill the extra-portable computer void in my life with a brand new netbook.  Yes, that’s right – the device Steve Jobs himself called worthless.  However, this worthless device (upon which I am currently typing this blog post) cost me half of what an iPad would have.  Problem solved, now I’ve got something portable with crazy battery life to last me while I’m in San Fran in a couple weeks.

Here are some unboxing pics for my HP Mini 210:

I’m convinced that unboxing pics and videos are essentially gadget porn, and I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so…

Anywho, it’ll be nice to be able to have a computer on my trip that didn’t cost more than $1500.  “Why the HP?” one might ask.  To that person, I would have one word: keyboard.  Have you ever tried typing on a netbook?  It is not a pleasant experience, to say the least.  My mom owns an Eee PC, and typing on that thing makes a person want to literally throw it into the next county.  The keyboards on the HP netbooks are, in my most correct and superior opinion, the best you can get on such a small device.  The keyboard on here is the chicklet-style spaced keyboard, much akin to the MacBook keyboard.  Typing 0n it can almost be described as pleasant.  Almost.

Now the eternal debate – keep Windows on it, to reformat and go Linux?

No new news on the adoption front, just waiting it out until our background checks come through.  That can take anywhere from a few weeks (which have already passed) to a couple months, depending on how slowly the state of Arkansas decides to move.  Keep praying that Mandy and I stay patient, and that everything goes through as quickly as possible.  We want a baby, dang flabbit.

That should about do it for now.  I realize it has been a while since I updated.  I make no promises that I will update any more in the next two months, either.

Nate out.

Written by Nate

March 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Gadgets, Unboxing

One week with the Otterbox Commuter TL

with 2 comments

I’m a very particular person when it comes to iPhone cases. On my first gen iPhone, I used the original Seidio Innocase. Sometimes. Usually I just carried it naked or in a belt holster. After all, that aluminum casing was much more difficult to scratch. Then I got the 3GS. I love it – the device is snappier and more reponsive than the first gen, and little perks like video recording and a better camera just sweeten the deal.

On the down side, the casing is MUCH easier to scratch. So I resigned myself to getting a case. At first, I used the Incipio Feather case. It was awesome. Hard case, rubberized coating, and didn’t make me feel like I was carrying Zack Morris phone. After a week, the rubberized coating started peeling off – not an isolated incident, I found out from my research. Next, I tried some case from Radtech that ended up being a clone of the iFrogz Luxe case. Yuck. Casey had always been fond of his Otterbox Commuter TL, so I figured it would be worth a shot. After a week of use, here are my thoughts:

Likes:
+ Great protection – the hybrid hard/soft case gives it a good grip, yet it still feels like a solid case.
+ Covers all ports/switches – with the exception of the silent switch, everything is covered. Headphone port is covered, 30 pin connector is covered, yet they’re still easily accessible.
+ You can still see the Apple logo.

Dislikes:
– It’s a case – honestly, I’d rather my phone go naked, but I’m too much of a chicken.

All in all, I think it’s worth a look if traditional hard cases don’t appeal to you, and you still want worthwhile protection.

Onto another topic. Mandy and I are on the road right now (she’s driving, I’m blogging) headed to Kansas City. This will mark our first meeting with the adoption agency we’ve decided to work with. Pray that all goes well, and that we can speed this process along as much as possible.

Also, please ignore any typos or weird formatting. This is the first post I’ve written completely on my phone. That’s all for now.

Nate out.

Written by Nate

February 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Adoption, iPhone