Category Archives: Miscellany

Projectors

About two weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that my 32″ TV just isn’t cutting it anymore. That almost seems laughably small these days, but it worked just fine back when I had it in the corner of the bedroom. Now that it’s ten feet away from the couch in the living room? Not so much.

I have no need for for 50″+ monstrosity, but some sort of upgrade seems appropriate. After poking around and seeing as how I could conceivably get a 42″ for $280, I started wondering “isn’t that about the price for a projector?” Yes, yes it is.

And thus began a descent into the madness that is projector shopping.

The basic gist is that you have to be absurdly careful. If you go to Amazon and just type in “projector 1080p,” all the projectors will show up. That is because A) they’re liars and thieves, and B) Amazon and most other sites are complicit with the deception. See, they’re “compatible” with 1080p signal, even though the projector will downscale your Blu-ray to its native 640×480 resolution. If you’re reading this on a PC, right-click on the Desktop and go to your resolution options and switch to… hell, my monitor doesn’t even go below 800×600. Nevermind. Point being, not only is that a resolution from a decade ago, it will also letterbox pretty much any media you would ever play through it.

The other end of the spectrum is legit, native 1080p projectors. Which will cost about $600+ on sale.

I’ll be honest here: I have spent entirely too much time looking at projectors in lieu of, you know, playing videogames. So here is what I’ve got, data-wise:

Projector Price Resolution Bulb life Lumen Zoom Throw Ratio
Vivitek XGA $299 1024×768 4500 3000 ? 1.6 – 1.92
VVME v61 $289 1280×720 20,000 2800 No ?
FAVI RioHD-LED-4T $279 1280×800 20,000 500 ANSI ? 1.6
iDGLAX DG-757 $234 1280×768 20,000 2800 ? ?
EUG 800 $299 1280×720 50,000 2600 1.2 ?

The first thing to note is that top item: it is an example of a tricky Best Buy “deal.” Marked down by nearly $250, everything looks good… up until you realize that it is not native 720p. You might also note how all the other projectors I have listed there have LED bulbs which should last well past 6 years, assuming you run the thing 8 hours every day all year around.

Still, everything feels like a minefield. How loud are the fans? How vibrant are the colors? Why doesn’t anyone list their goddamn throw ratios or the fact they have (or likely don’t have) zoom features? How does 500 ANSI lumen stack up to 2800 bullshit lumen? It’s a mess. How am I supposed to min-max this?!

So once again, dear reader(s), I am open to advice. I’m working with a 12-foot space that’s extremely light-controlled. I’m really just looking for something I can stick on a shelf behind the couch and hit that ~81″ of bare wall next to my computer. If I move my furniture around, I could probably get a little bigger projector space going. I’d love to hit the $300 price-point; if it’s anywhere close to $400, it better be far and away better than the ones I’m already looking at. Not looking to become a home theater enthusiast, I just want a bigger screen.

Inquisition Update

Considering I was pretty down on Dragon Age: Inquisition at first, I feel like it is only fair to state how I have been pretty obsessively playing it for the last week or so. By the time this post goes Live, I will likely have past the 40 hour mark. There are some rather annoying design decisions that will be examined in my final review, but for the most part I am very pleased. The plot has picked up significantly, and I am enjoying my time – this is what I remembered being good about Dragon Age: Origins.

Also this:

I don't actually like dragons, conceptually. Dragon Age's are alright.

I don’t actually like dragons, conceptually; Dragon Age’s are okay.

In the off-chance you were wondering about how I handled the FPS thing, the short version is I overclocked my i5 2500K processor from the stock 3.3Ghz to 4.2Ghz. It’s actually pretty goofy that I never even tried to do that before, as bumping it from 3.3 to 4.0 appears to be the safest thing in the world; it is only past 4.2 or so that you might need to mess with voltages.

The process I followed was updating BIOS, booting BIOS, clicking Advanced tab, clicking AI tab, clicking manual, and then typing 40 (later 42) and saving. That’s it. My rig was custom built with water cooling already installed, so heat was not that big a deal. I mean, it went from the usual ~30°C to ~60°C under load, but that’s well within acceptable temperatures.

I later tried to overclock my 560ti graphics card using some values I saw on the internet, but after my computer crashed to desktop, I figured the 5-8 FPS I got from the processor overclock was enough. Well, that and I downgraded everything to Medium settings… which is likely where the bulk of my gains were realized. I have since increased Meshes back to High despite the 10 FPS hit for the sake of Scout Harding’s cute freckles. And Varric’s chest hair.

You can [innuendo] me, any time.

You can [innuendo] me any time, Scout Harding.

Hey, don’t knock it till you play it.

End of Year

Looking back in the archives, it does not appear that I have any sort of New Years tradition, be it predictions or year-end reviews. I don’t see any particular reason to start now. Happy New Year!

…okay, I’ll write a little more.

Currently playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, at around 40 FPS on a good day. The overclocking worked for 5-8 FPS, which sounds small, but makes a big difference going from 35 to 40. There were a few moments of glorious 60 FPS when I wasn’t overlooking vistas and such, so I may chase that dragon at the expense of plastic hair or whatever people complained about at certain graphic settings.

One thing this year has heralded the end of, at least in my mind, is the tyranny of Steam sales. Between Humble Bundles, Amazon price-matching, insane GreenManGaming discounts, and general aggregators like IsThereAnyDeal.com, the best deals are generally not on Steam. This point was hammered home a few weeks ago when I realized taking advantage of cheap Steam dollars actually limited my options – almost to the point that I might end up paying more.

In the 11th hour though, Steam finally delivered some historic lows prices for the following:

  • Transistor
  • The Long Dark
  • The Forest
  • Child of Light
  • Wasteland 2
  • The Banner Saga

Two of those are Early Access games and both are sandbox roguelikes at that, but I enjoyed Don’t Starve so… yeah. Perhaps by the time I get around to playing The Long Dark and The Forest, the full games will be out. There were two games I eyed but did not pull the trigger on: Divinity: Original Sin and Wolfenstein. The Steam discounts of both were above historic lows, so I figure I can keep waiting a bit longer for them to fall deeper into discounts. It isn’t as though I’m hurting for games, right?

And that’s about it. In 2015 I anticipate coming back into WoW for at least a brief period of time; longer depending on if Blizzard goes forward with WoW PLEX, and what price gold price it ends up settling on. If the going rate for time-codes is 20,000g, it would be difficult to argue against buying the expansion and immediately buying 20 months of playtime. Even if I do not end playing that long, it would be a good hedge against inflation to keep gold locked up in time-codes (assuming the codes do not decay). You can take the goblin out of the AH, but you can’t… something something.

Beyond that, we will have to see what catches my eye.

You Win, Amazon Add-On Program

Back in the day, one of the big draws of Amazon for me was the free shipping on any orders over $35. If you waited long enough to accumulate a decent enough shopping cart, it worked out rather well as you were spending more than $35 anyway. Other times, I would really want that $25 item right now, but was faced with the prospect of eating shipping costs and “getting nothing” versus just finding ten more bucks worth of whatever. Of course, that is kinda Amazon’s entire plan, right? Once Prime came out, my worries disappeared and these days I routinely pick up $15 items whenever I feel like it rather than saving for one big purchase.

Enter Amazon’s Add-On items. If you want a thing of $1.59 Scotch Tape, Amazon won’t ship it to you at all unless you pair it with $25 worth of other items.

So last week, I found some random item I wanted to get for someone. “$2 add-on, huh? Okay.” I started looking around Amazon for other things that perhaps I had been putting off purchasing. So I picked up a 3-meter HDMI cable for $7.50. And… err… let me look around some more. Oh, here’s an anti-static wrist strap for $6. You know, for that distant future in which I install another SSD or upgrade my video card or whatever. Then it was one of those shake bottles with the metal ball inside, for protein shakes, for $8. I was close now! And you know, I always wanted another end-table and here’s this one for $19. Done!

Oh. The end-table isn’t shipped from Amazon, so it doesn’t actually count towards the limit.

At this point, I’ve been on Amazon for almost an hour and decided to basically say “Fuck it” and bought what I want. Which was this:

Fine~

Fine~

So, you win this round, Amazon. And, I suppose, I win a little too.

Devalued Steam Bucks

So this past Black Friday, I took advantage of two deals which, at the time, seemed to be no-brainers. First was a $50 Steam gift card being sold by Best Buy for $40. The second was the Logitech G502 gaming mouse being sold for $80… with a $50 Steam gift card thrown in. Pretty sweet, right?

Well… I’m now having a hard time imagining what I’d buy with this.

It’s not that there are no games I want to purchase on Steam, it’s that there aren’t many games I want to purchase from Steam. My Steam Wallet money isn’t going to pay for purchases on GetGamesGo, or GMG, or Amazon, or Square Enix’s own website, or Humble Bundle, or wherever else. When you limit yourself to just the Steam store, I’m finding that the value just isn’t there in many cases. Or at least not to the same degree. And it feels real damn silly to knowingly pay $2 more or whatever for a digital product you could purchase cheaper somewhere else with a similar number of mouse-clicks.

Basically, I am really hoping that this year’s Christmas Steam sales are extraordinarily good, lest I feel dumb for locking up my dollars in Steam’s storefront specifically. Which is a scenario that would have been outrageous even a few years ago.

This is Why You Wait

Dragon Age: Inquisition

  • 11/18/14 – Released for $59.99.
  • 11/24/14 – Discounted to $45 via GMG.

 Far Cry 4

  • 11/18/14 – Released for $59.99.
  • 11/24/14 – Discounted to $45 via GMG.

Now, you may be tempted to chalk this up to being a holiday thing. Or a GreenManGaming thing. And you would be right in that prices (probably) don’t drop this quickly under normal circumstances.

But, guys, it hasn’t even been a week.

The GMG deal apparently expires on Thursday, so there is a little tension as to whether we will still see a similar price drop on Black Friday from somewhere else. On the other hand, the Steam sale begins on Wednesday, so you can probably safely hedge your bets then.

Quote of the Time Interval

Carson63000’s response to SynCaine’s cynicism of Blizzard’s recently announced Overwatch:

It’s a cruel burden to know just how many people like stuff that you don’t like.

It is, isn’t it?

Selling Laptops

In the approach of the 3-year anniversary of my buying a new computer, I decided to finally find a home for my world-traveling gaming laptop. Seriously, I bought an Asus G50v way back in the day expressly because I was studying abroad in Japan and I wanted something that could play Battlefield 2 when I got back. The laptop performed its intended function admirably, granting many, many years of mobile desktop gaming (shit weighed over 6 lbs) through some of the heaviest WoW raiding periods in my GMing career. The world moves ever onward however, and I felt terribly guilty for leaving it in a closet drawer for the last two years, especially when it was effectively and permanently obsoleted by my $179 tablet purchase this summer.

But… what exactly can you do with such technology? eBay? Craigslist? The laptop itself worked perfectly fine, at least in the era before sub-20 second SSD boot times and 1080p resolution standards (seriously, it had a 1440×900 screen). I almost could not consider selling it to a family member out of good conscience. But who knows what the actual market price would be.

Enter Cash4Laptops. Actually – spoilers! – don’t enter there. It is unlinked on purpose.

Total bullshit.

Total bullshit.

As you might imagine, I was rather excited to see the potential of “up to” $330 for my aging beast. So I submitted my order, got prepaid labels, shipped it off to the Nevada pasture, and awaited their inspection report. Then it arrived:

Hi XXXXXX,

Good news: your device arrived safely at our facility and just received a professional appraisal by our qualified device inspectors.

Nothing to do now but receive your cash!

After carefully inspecting your device by hand, seeing its condition, and following up-to-the-minute market conditions—you’re owed $52 for the device.

“Fifty-fucking-two dollars? What the literal shit?! Are they selling it on Pawn Stars?”

Now, on the one hand, obviously yeah “terms & conditions” blah blah. It’s a used laptop, no question. But my problem with the valuation isn’t even that it came in at 15% of the quoted price, but that it was less than half of what they would supposedly pay for a laptop that didn’t even turn on. You can’t even make up bullshit like that. How “used” does used have to be to be worth less than a laptop that doesn’t even power on? Did they open up the case and find a wasp nest inside? It still boggles my mind.

In any case, I asked for clarification on the valuation, was told to call in, did so, was transferred to the Purchasing department, left on hold for 40 minutes, and finally spoke to someone who admitted my laptop was inspected to be in “flawless” condition. The guy went on to say that the release of the Surface 3 has been a “slap in the face” to the old laptop market in general, and prices are in freefall. While I was forced to take the dude’s word on face value at the time, it appears to be reasonably accurate after all. Still, the terms & conditions mentioned they had to ship it back at no cost if I didn’t like the new value (within three days), and there were other, competing websites that were offering more than $52.

Before I could express that sentiment however, the guy said “Okay, how about I round it up to $100 and we’ll cover the Paypal fees?” Okay then. Deal.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is A) don’t be particularly surprised if you get a Pawn Stars-level lowball offer when using these sites, and B) dispute the valuation, especially if they have to send the thing back for free. Getting an extra $48 (and a blog post) for putting my smartphone on speaker while I browsed Reddit with a beer is pretty damn time efficient. Was the laptop worth even more than $100? Obviously yes, if they could so easily “round up” to the next hundred bucks. But I got more than I started with and no longer have to worry about it anymore, so I consider it a win.

It’s 25% Off!

A friend of mine still hanging onto WoW for dear life wanted me to see this news:

Wow. Much Savings. Such Doge. Wow.

Wow. Much Savings. Such Doge. Wow.

In other words, character transfers are 25% off for a limited time. Not quite the 50% discount Blizzard was offering back in June of last year, but hey, why would they? They got back 600,000 subscriptions in Q3. Can’t possibly stymie that value-added cash flow equivalent to any number of quality Steam games/bundles/etc.

I kinda get the argument that the value is there for players still invested in playing WoW; even at $18.75 there are only a few Steam games that could stand up to ~100 hours of play that WoW could easily generate in a month. On the other hand, my subscription ended 5/10/13. I am nearly a year and a half removed. And even if I came back tomorrow, all my toons are still stuck on no-Pop Auchindoun-US whatever merged PvP server nonsense exists with just about everyone else I know having abandoned ship to a PvE server. So the costs for me to get back into the game is, minimum, $15 + $18.75 + the expansion. That is a rather serious goddamn commitment for something I don’t even know I will find fun anymore.

So, no thanks, Blizzard: it’s still a wee bit ridiculous. If I could transfer my entire character stable wholesale for that price, sure, maybe. I simply got too much gold, too many alts, and not enough fucks to give.

That Michael Ironside AMA

If you are not familiar with Reddit, it’s… well, let’s just say it’s a thing. A thing that occasionally has “Ask Me Anything” threads from famous people, like Michael Ironside. You might be familiar with him from his work on Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. Or, you know, any of the hundreds of classic movies he’s been in, including Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and Free Willy.

In any case, in his AMA he related had a rather interesting story about Splinter Cell:

Q: Hello, Mr. Ironside! I have to say that I liked your voice work as Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. How do you feel about Ubisoft’s decision to not use you in the newest game? Also, any stories about your work on the games?

I think it’s a great idea for Ubisoft. They’ve gone to motion capture, and this spring I will be 65 years old. I don’t think anyone wants to pay money seeing a 65 year old Sam Fisher bounce around on set, killing and stumbling while he kills people. I wish them all the luck. I hope that franchise has a long and storied future.

I have to confess I’m not a gamer. And when they sent me the contract for the very first game, it was quite lucrative, and I said “absolutely, I will do this.” I thought it was going to be like PONG, and I would just have to introduce it.

My wife, actually, went out and bought a brand new SUV with some of the money.

When I got the script, it was very stiff, very inflexible, and very blood and violent.

And I didn’t want to do it. And told them I was going to give them back their money. They asked me what would it take to keep me on the project, and i said we would have to change the character, and give him some type of humanity. To their credit, they sat me down with the game creators, and we came up with the present Sam Fisher, who had an empathy and was not just a 2 dimensional killing machine. And we got as much humanity, I think that that format will allow.

And my wife didn’t have to give back her SUV.

ALso, what happened is, when you’re doing games, usually it’s one person in a booth doing their work, creating their character, and then the next person goes in, you usually never get to work or meet anybody. On the first 2 games, we brought the cast in, and we all did it together, so we had a sense of humanity. That was one of my stipulations.

I said “Working is like making love, if i do it by myself, it’s just masturbation. I’d rather have the other cast around.” And I think the proof is in the pudding, the game has had a pretty good set of legs on it.

I confess that I have never actually played any of the Splinter Cell games, which I realize makes highlighting this anecdote a little weird. Still, it is a bit encouraging to hear that by virtue of a single person, a group of developers were able to come together and change what would have (undoubtedly) been a more one-dimensional experience into one with a lot more texture. Somewhat less encouraging was the fact that Ubisoft felt like the killing machine script was good enough at the beginning, but I’ll give them a pass here.

In any case, this is still one of the best AMAs I have ever read. This Christian Bale story, this Starship Troopers trivia, these Highlander 2 moments with Sean Connery. Way good.