Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 reinstates why being a PC Gamer sucks

Last year games like CoD 4, Halo3, Crysis, Gears of War, BioShock etc. impressed us with their stunning gameplay and texture details. For the first time we saw Consoles churning out stunning games with amazing production value and rich cinematic experience. 2007 was definitely a year of the Xbox360 with so many high quality exclusive releases. But Sony hopes to redefine this in 2008. MGS4, a PS3 only release sets the bar higher and does it in great style. It showcases the amazing power of the PS3 and well, makes my life even more difficult...

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was the most anticipated game this year (along from GTA4) and it definitely has lived up to all the hype and expectations. The game received a 9.9/10 from IGN UK, a 9.5/10 from IGN AU, and a 10/10 from IGN. IGN was quoted in a video review, saying MGS4 is "one of the best games ever made".GameSpot gave it a perfect 10/10 saying "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the most technically stunning video game ever made."

I know the X360 and PS3 camps are highly divided. Each group is proud of their exclusive titles. From an end user standpoint, I am still a little hesitant to buy one of these nex gen consoles. I can't wait to play Gears of War2 on Xbox live but don't want to miss out all the MGS4 and Grand Turismo action. And getting two consoles isn't a viable choice. PS3 has come back strongly and looking at the upcoming list of games, exclusivity is a trend that is here to stay for a long time.

All I can hope for is that Game studios don't forget us, the PC gaming enthusiasts and atleast port some of these titles for us. Till then the moral dilemma of which console to buy continues and hoping some day MGS4 comes to PCs.

Check out the video reviews below..

IGN review

Gamespot Review

GT Reviews

Zemanta Pixie

Monday, June 16, 2008

Opera 9.5 For Linux : Hits n Misses

I have always been a great fan of Opera. Ever since its first version, Opera has always been the dark horse in the browser wars. The first to introduce tabbed browsing, integrated e-mail and IRC client, customizable themes, the quick content toggle buttons etc., Opera led the innovation race but failed to garner market share.

Opera has released v9.5 of it's desktop browser with a host of new features aimed at faster browsing speeds, better synchronization and rendering of modern standards.Here we discuss installation, setup and the great and not-so-great features of the linux version of this release.

Installing it is a breeze. autodetects the distro. If not, select your distro and download the installation file. For ubuntu/debian users, deb files are available. RedHat/Fedora users can get the rpms.

Double clicking on the debs in ubuntu would start GDebi that will start the installation process. Same works for other distros as well with their own package managers.

If you love the terminal, simply do this (Ubuntu)

$ sudo gdebi opera_9.50.etch-qt3_i386.deb

Great! Once you are done, let us try the new Opera9.5.

The interface has got a nice makeover with all the regular bells and whistles which opera users have already come to know and love. It's touted as twice as fast compared to it's previous release v9.2. It also sports Opera Link, offering integrated synchronization of bookmarks and other notes between multiple machines, as well as between the desktop version of the browser and Opera Mini, the edition scaled for mobile phones.
Here are the list of features in the current release.

Now for the big question, is it worth moving over to Opera from firefox?
Opera is definitely fast with the only browser coming close to it's speed being the new firefox 3.0 rc2. There is still no substitute in firefox for the image toggle buttons. They are a life saver when you have a slow bandwidth connection as you can skip loading heavy images.

Opera loses out when it comes to rendering complex websites. Blogger for instance, struggles in Opera. From the screenshot, it's clear some of the javascripts aren't compatible with opera.

Firefox has loads of useful addons which have become such an integral part of our browsing experience. Unfortunately, due to the lacklusture community support, the widgets and addons are still unpolished and underdeveloped. Firebug is something I really miss on Opera. Luckily Opera is working on Dragonfly,which will be the foundations of Opera's upcoming Developer Tools with an ability to debug JavaScript, inspect CSS and the DOM, and view any errors.

Bottomline is, Opera is still a really fast and light browser with some really innovative features. Its uncluttered and friendly interface will attract a lot of new users. In coming days, it will face some really stiff competition with firefox 3.0 which is optmised, faster and lighter than ever before. It's a tough path ahead but hopefully with a small but loyal community of opera enthusiasts, it will sail pass and make a mark for itself in this highly competitive browser segment.

Enjoy using Opera as I always have for the past so many years :)

Monday, June 09, 2008

BioShock: Fixing the Savegame crash bug

Recently I bought the PC version of BioShock. I had been waiting for this release ever since the amazing reviews that came out which praised the console version of this modern FPS. Unfortunately, the pc game is riddled with bugs and spoils most of the fun.

The most irksome bug is the savegame crash bug. Each time you save your game, the game crashes/freezes. If 2k Games expects you to finish the game, playing continously for 36 hours, without any provision of saving, they surely overestimate our gaming provess. Anyways, let's fix it.

The key problem is that in th retail version, save files were being saved with the extension bsg when they should be bsb. To overcome this, here is something you should try.

Download this niftly little app called BioShock tweaker and change the save game extension from bsg to bsb. I also recommend running it at 1440*900 or lower.

BioShock is a beautiful game but 2K Games' poor execution for the PC enthusiasts leaves a lot to be desired. It should have never made to retail stores with so many bugs. Hopefully, some new patches will iron out all the bugs very soon. Till then, the world of Rupture awaits me. I am off.

Src: Grim_2o0o at 2K forums

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Google integrates labs into Gmail to test beta features

I am a huge fan of gmail. Ever since I got my very first invite, four years back from a really nice prof, I have completely stopped using the likes of yahoomail and hotmail.

To my surprise, I found the Labs option in my Gmail settings tab. It lets users add some experimental features to their gmail, try them and send feedback to google.

There are some really useful ones like Superstars, that lets you add additional stars to mark emails that need attention for specific purposes. There are some funny addons as well. For instance, Email Addict blocks your screen for 15 mins and prompts you to take a walk and get some real work done ;)

Overall, it's a nice feature added by google. And best part is, if any of the features break, they have given you an escape hatch. Simply click on this link.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Google Finance starts Free Real Time Stock quotes updates for select exchanges

Google Finance, Google's finance portal now offers real time stock quotes for : Dow Jones, NASDAQ, NYSE, S&P, Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzen Stock Exchange.
This is quite remarkable considering the fact that real-time stock quotes are generally a paid service everywhere.

For example, Yahoo Finance offers stock quotes with a delay, while real time quotes cost you $13.95 per month. Since most stock markets don’t just give out this info for free, this is probably Google’s attempt of drawing more visitors by taking on some loss. Google still has a long way to go before it can catch up with yahoo, in the finance portal segment but this might be a good strategy in the long run. I won't be surprised if yahoo announces a similar move soon.

Recently, NASDAQ became the First U.S. Stock Exchange to facilitate Free, Universal Access to Real-time Stock Data. They enable this using NASDAQ Last Sale which provides real-time data for securities listed on NASDAQ, NYSE and Amex -- including price, volume and time. Google, CNBC and WSJ have already started integrating this service onto their respective portals.

You can find the full list.. of indices for which Google provides stock quotes and the delays for each one here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Heroku makes Ruby on Rails Deployment a really fun task!

I am a hobbyist programmer. Folks who like to develop stuff just for fun and not for a living. Ruby on Rails is the hottest new kid on the block that promises faster and easier development of dynamic web applications. Imbibed on ideas of DRY (Don't repeat yourself) and a sound MVC framework, It is probably the easiest to get started for hobbyist programmers.
Few weeks back ..I wrote about Getting started with Rails on Linux.

Once you have finished development on your local machine, the next logical step is to host it online. As a hobbyist, I started looking at some cheap hosting plans. I also stumbled upon some free hosts like vlexo. I got an account a week back and I still haven't managed to get it successfully hosted. So many configurations to manage, limitations on plugins etc.

I was about to give up and that's when I remembered Heroku. I had tried it months back courtesy of an invite from Techcrunch. I have to admit, initially I was pessimistic about the usefulness of an application that lets you edit, host and manage a Rails application all using a web interface. A Y Combinator startup built on Amazon EC2, Heroku is the best thing that happened for beginners and hobbyist who want to start their Rails journey.

Heroku boasts of tonnes of really great features. Ability to manage multiple apps, export and import apps, on the fly editing of code, a Rake and rails console, ability to add external gems and plugins, and an ability to work locally on your maching using their API and Git. Heroku also takes care of the scalability issues and has a inbuilt database and logs viewer. I could go on and on but it should be enough for beginners who are looking to run and deploy their first app. To try out Heroku, I deployed a simple application TaleWiki which was imported from a local copy.

Some tips for beginners:
1. If you are using and older version of Rails (pre 2.0), dynamic scaffolding and pagination won't work on the latest version of Rails running on Heroku. You'll need will_pagination or classic_pagination plugins. Watch railscast on using it. Classic_pagination is not available in Heroku's plugins list but can be downloaded from here.

2. If you are using the authenticate methods in Rails, do remember to add the following in your config/environment.rb file

config.action_controller.session = { :session_key => "_youApp_session_id", :secret => "some secret phrase of at least 30 characters" }

3. Heroku uses PostgreSQL as the underlying database. So do remember to setup database migrations before exporting your local app to Heroku. You can then export the migrations to Heroku. Heroku doesn't have an interface to run sql to create tables. Rightly so as beauty of Rails lies in abstraction of the underlying database from the application.

4. Do watch some of the screencasts of getting started with Heroku and using the other features.

Here are some screens of Heroku running my webapp.

Great! Hope you have a great time with Rails and Heroku. Happy Coding!

Why have the posts dried out ??

Agreed it's vacation time and I should have loads of free time to keep updating the blog.

I have 3 excuses to help me out here -

1. I am now back home in India juggling an inconsistent internet connection, XP woes and a technologically insensitive crowd. People around me would rather waste timing sleeping, eating and watching IPL (A cricket league), than discuss the latest happenings in the world of technology.
A poor connection also means no reviewing of latest web2.0 applications.

2. I blog mostly about "my" personal experience with technology. How I did things which satisfied some distinctive need of mine, be it on Linux or sometimes on windows. Lately, the journey has become so smooth that I have nothing great to write about these days. It's a plus in many ways as my transition from XP to Linux has been so evolutionary. I have also seen the rise of amazing web2.0 technologies, the Ajax revolution, the facebook culture and highly imaginative and innovative range of web applications.

3. Finally. I have graduated from my Alma mater, National University of Singapore. My first job seems likely to be a more functional one than technical. I want to play around with as much new stuff I can before starting work. Some say one should prepare for the job ahead. I rather believe in doing what the heart says. In the next couple of weeks, I am trying out a lot- new languages, new frameworks, new technologies. Slowly transitioning from a technical perspective to the functional view of managing technology.

Long post. Hope it helped justify my laziness to blog. Great! Time to get back to writing up something useful after a long dry spell of inconsequential posts.