Windows 6.2 
Saturday, 8 September, 2012, 00:42
Posted by Administrator
I work with Windows. Comes with the territory of working for a Microsoft Gold Partner. I'm eyebrows-deep in Windows all day, from Server 2003 up to Server 2008 R2 and from XP to 8. It gets cumbersome to name all versions of Windows, so I refer to anything newer than Vista as 6.x: Vista itself was 6.0, Windows 7 was 6.1, and Windows 8 is 6.2. Same goes for Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, and 2012, which are their respective server counterparts. Makes it much easier to distinguish between modern Windows operating systems and everything older, as Vista introduced many concepts that didn't exist in previous versions.

Given that this is the environment I work in, it is vitally important that I stay on top of the latest developments in Microsoft's operating system. I read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and so on. It came as absolutely zero surprise to me, then, that there were all sorts of doom and gloom predictions for Microsoft's latest offering. They were there when XP was released because it had the Start menu with the now-familiar frequently-used list. They were there when Vista was released because of Aero's heavier requirements and UAC. They were there for Windows 7 because it really didn't look that different to Vista. The doom & gloom is much louder now, though, because Microsoft has done away with the Start menu entirely.

I'll skip to my impression of this: it's no big deal. I had no idea how much I didn't use the Start menu until it was taken away. I guess that means I rely more heavily on my keyboard than the doomsayers, then. Other operating systems don't have equivalent menus anymore either -- I'm posting this from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS right now and it has a full-screen menu, but it doesn't have the same level of functionality as Windows 8's Start screen.

My favorite Windows 8 feature is the multi-monitor taskbar. I bought an Ultramon license back in my Windows XP days and used it until Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was released. The Windows 8 taskbar gives me the functionality I really used in Ultramon without having to install a third-party application to handle it, which is great.

Also, Internet Explorer 10 is faster than ever at downloading Google Chrome.

So, overall, my work hasn't been impacted by the switch to Windows 8, despite all of the negative press the OS is receiving. I'd recommend going into it with an open mind and a clear head -- you'll probably enjoy the different experience.
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Becoming what you want to destroy 
Tuesday, 4 September, 2012, 20:58
Posted by Administrator
Yep, this is another Mass Effect 3 post. What can I say, it's a good game, and the recent addition of the Leviathan DLC was quite welcome. If you don't want spoilers, stop reading here.

I have now finished my second Mass Effect 3 playthrough. It took over 26 hours this time around because I knew what I was getting into, and that there was meant to be an order to the events. This allowed me to be more thorough with my investigations and such which, in turn, allowed me to maximize my war assets.

This time around, I chose the Control ending -- hence the subject of this post. I have all but forgotten the original ME3 endings since Extended Cut was released, so I'm looking at the latest iteration of choices here, and I have to say, despite being colored Paragon Blue as I noted two posts ago, it's really not a nice ending. Basically, Commander Shepard sacrifices herself to gain complete control over the Reapers and, in doing so, becomes a Reaper herself. The consequences of this action are explained in a somewhat mechanical fashion, which isn't particularly surprising given that Shepard is now a Reaper, but it has no emotion. The Synthesis ending, on the other hand, is narrated by EDI and is nicely done.

So, despite being Paragon Blue, the Control ending left me feeling pretty empty.

I have started a fresh Commander Shepard in the original Mass Effect now. This playthrough will lean completely to the Renegade side of the spectrum. I suspect I'll choose the red Destroy ending this time around, hopefully after maximizing the chance that Shepard will live through it ... but we'll see how my thought process progresses as I go through the series.
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Happy Anniversary, Julie 
Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 18:13
Posted by Administrator
Happy 5 years, Julie :)

I had a long, drawn-out post typed out that criticized the early detractors of my relationship with Julie, but I figured I'd better leave that off for today, given that this marks the beginning of my 6th year of marriage to the most excellent wife a man could ask for.
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The Elephants Aren't As Big As We Thought 
Friday, 13 July, 2012, 01:47
Posted by Administrator
No, I haven't been stewing over the Mass Effect 3 endings since May, I've been busy :)

Earlier this month BioWare released a free DLC for Mass Effect 3 known as the Extended Cut. This DLC did not contain any new gameplay at all; rather, it contained a clarification of the original three endings. These came in the form of extended cutscenes, still images, and voiceovers. While some folks will stick to their guns and say that this DLC did nothing to improve the Mass Effect experience, I believe it resolved a lot of the questions that I was left with after my first playthrough.

Let's look at the color choices for a second. Mass Effect was all about choices and, based on these choices, the storylines diverged. When the player is called upon to make a decision, he or she must choose one of several possible responses that can be neutral, Paragon (often colored blue), or Renegade (often colored red). The original endings of Mass Effect 3 presented you with three choices: control, synthesis, and destroy. These were colored blue, green, and red, respectively. Since the encounter with Sovereign in the first Mass Effect installment, the player has been compelled to defeat the Reapers, which means they need to go with the destroy ending, colored red. So, if the ultimate goal is to defeat the Reapers, why is the preferred ending colored Renegade Red? Why is the Control option, which the Illusive Man has been trying to pursue the entire time, colored Paragon Blue?

It seems like a minor thing, really, but it kind of confused me. My first character was, by and large, Paragon. At the end of the game, I had to make one last decision that I have been working toward throughout the series a renegade decision.

The problem with the original endings was that I had no idea why this was a renegade decision. That is the purpose of the Extended Cut DLC: to clarify why this could be construed as a renegade action. In the end, it boils down to the fact that all Council races need to rebuild everything themselves, and that the control mechanism implemented by the race that originally designed the Reapers is now destroyed, paving the way for synthetic life to eventually eliminate organic life altogether. That honestly makes sense.

Similarly, the blue (Control) ending finds Shepard becoming a Reaper himself, controlling all other Reapers and helping rebuild everything that was destroyed during the war that played out in Mass Effect 3. This gets all Council races back on their feet again with minimal interruption to their space-faring ways, and it preserves the Geth (which matters if you decided to keep them alive to work with the Quarians).

I played through the ending with my first Shepard a second time. I chose the Control ending because, now that I knew what it was all about, it seemed to be a fitting choice.
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The Red, Green, and Blue Elephants in the Room 
Saturday, 31 March, 2012, 19:44
Posted by Administrator
You may have noticed this already, but I like video games. The Mass Effect trilogy happens to be one of my favorites. Think about it -- it's in space (which is awesome), is a shooter (awesome), combines in some RPG elements (awesome), and takes into account the choices you made earlier in the game (also awesome).

As you are likely aware, Mass Effect 3 was released on March 6th. There was a lot of hype surrounding this release -- more than I had seen for the previous installments. There were extended cinematic trailers and such airing during Walking Dead, and the trailers looked a lot like the game. Julie got me the game for my birthday (pre-order) and I was already playing it at 23:00 on March 5th -- digital download copies unlocked at the stroke of midnight on the 6th, Eastern Time.

Throughout the game, "this is awesome" floated through my head. Every mission, every cutscene, every action, every choice ... awesome. There were rumblings on various forums about the ending being supremely anti-awesome, but I wanted to see for myself. I read all of the ending spoilers and decided that I was ready to experience it, so I pushed forward.

I tasted a mild form of disappointment when I didn't get to see the Elcor cavalry, but that wasn't as bad as when I had experienced the ending. So far I have only experienced the red ending first-hand. Without spoiling it, I can safely tell you that there are lots of unresolved plot points and many new questions, which is not what the fans were promised before the release date.

So, to reiterate: I was disappointed by the ending. Does that mean I am going to uninstall the game and ask Origin for a refund? No, it most certainly does not. Did I fly into a fit of rage and throw things around the room? Did I punch my monitor? Did I get depressed and curse the very existence of EA? No, no, and no. It's a video game. Like many Mass Effect fans I, too, have spent hundreds of hours playing the previous installments, carefully making each choice in a way that fits my character's personality, molding my relationships with the crew and with organizations and species throughout the galaxy. Did EA/BioWare screw up? Yep, but sometimes we as fans need to step back, take a breath, and realize what we're complaining about.

Anyway ... I'm going to have to start my second playthrough. My first, Douglas Shepard, ended up dying on the Citadel after making the red choice. Daisy Shepard might have better luck.
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