Monthly Archives: July 2018

July in Review

The Site

I started getting ready for Blaugust, but I am probably still behind on things.  I do tend to write things in my own good time.  This is why I can never write for anybody else.

A picture of one of our cats because I don’t have a relevant image

July was sort of an odd traffic month.  The actual volume of traffic was about normal for these days, even a little bit better than the last couple of months.  The number of referrals from search engines was about on par, almost exactly the same as May, which meant I was getting a little more direct traffic I guess.

The odd bit was the posts that were popular this month.  If you look down at the “most viewed” posts section you will see that not a single post that I wrote during the month of July made it into the top dozen, the closest being in 17th place.  I do not think I have ever had that happen before.

Also, the selection of posts on that list… again, odd.  I mean, the top one is normal, but some of the others are strange.  I guess Burn Jita 2018 came up somewhere, but otherwise I cannot explain it.

Maybe that post about masks was relevant after one EVE blogger turned completely toxic and got himself banned, only to claim it was all an project for a class and expecting all his bad behavior to be forgiven.  (That didn’t work out well and, unsurprisingly, he went right back to toxic, leaving his excuse more than a bit threadbare.)

But the two FML posts from past seasons? I am not sure what got them all that traffic.

One Year Ago

We adopted a new kitten.  He’s much bigger now.

The Steam Summer Sale wrapped up and I went over what I bought and what I considered buying, but then passed on.

Amazon Prime Day came and went and I realized I had been buying things from Amazon for 20 years.

I started using a dual monitor setup at home.  It took me a while to get used to it… I would turn off the second monitor a lot early on… but it seems natural enough now.

Gevlon was telling us about the corrupt game developer career path.  I bet you wish you knew it was just that easy to get rich.

The call of nostalgia got me to subscribe to EverQuest II for a bit to try the Fallen Gate progression server.  I got far enough to get the crazy mount.

In EVE Online Reavers were deployed in the east of New Eden where we helped blow up a Fortizar in the Great Wildlands.  CCP has used a picture from that fight a couple of times. It then took us two days to get back to Delve, during which we argued about BBQ sauce.

Back in Delve we covered the deployment of another Keepstar in the region.  I was also producing mechanical parts via PI.  And I tinkered around with one of my Alpha clones, running some of the profession quests and mining in a Vulture… I mean a Venture.

The July update for EVE Online brought us revamped Strategic Cruisers… the start of the current reign of Loki supremacy… as well as an update to Project Discovery.

It was also announced that the captain’s quarters would soon be removed from the game.

We also got our first taste of The Agency in New Eden.  It was just an event at the time, though it would grow to be all things PvE soon enough.

And CSM member Jin’taan was advocating for cat ears in space.

I found that Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin still ran on my system.  A great old war game.

Albion Online launched.  I didn’t play it.

And, finally, Lord of the Rings Online got us to Mordor.  It only took ten years.  I bought in, but then there was the question of how to proceed… and with whom… and how to get back into the swing of a game I hadn’t played for ages.  I returned to one of my favorite places in the game, Annuminas

Five Years Ago

I was looking for gold in the MMO blogging community, which became the topic of the moment.  I think that post marks the final time Tobold deigned to leave a comment here.

It was summer, so there was a Steam Summer Sale.

Activision-Blizzard was moving away from Vivendi… and WoW dropped 600K subscribers.  Heh, remember when that seemed like a big drop?

There was a promise of some news about EverQuest Next, so I started speculating about what we might hear.  The word “sandbox” got mentioned a lot.

In New Eden the battle at 6VDT-H ended any hope left for TEST and heralded the end of the war in Fountain.  The war made up most of my posts for the month, which I will list out here:

There is a summer reruns post that rolls all of my Fountain War writing together into a single post if you are interested.  It includes propaganda and the defining video of the way.

On the iPad, DragonVale and Candy Crush Saga were my current games of choice.

My summer vacation in Middle-earth got me to Moria.

The instance group got together just long enough to defeat the Storm Queen… and that was about it for us and Rift.

The Civilization V expansion Brave New World changed up the game again.

I starting musing about the inventory management aspect of games.

And we said goodbye to Google Reader.  While I am used to Feedly at this point, I still think this was a mistake by Google.  It certainly didn’t push enough people to Google+.

Ten Years Ago

BioWare finally let loose the least well kept secret in the MMO-verse at the time.  They confirmed they were making a Knights of the Old Replublic type MMO.

The mention of Diablo III seemed to spur a revival of Diablo II with the Diablo II Battle Chest taking the #1 sales spot for a time.  Not bad for a game that has not had an expansion since 2001.

Meanwhile, on the SOE front, it was time to say farewell to the EverQuest side of the Living Legacy program.  I also griped a bit about how SOE was advertising the completely out of date EverQuest Platinum on the EQ Players site and had been doing so for a long time.  That ad disappeared before the month was out though.  Such a coincidence!

In Azeroth the instance group went back to the Slave Pens as we edged ever closer the Burning Crusade level cap of 70.  We were also out in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. Then there was an off night where we visited Norrath for a bit.

Meanwhile people were selling Wrath of the Lich King beta keys on eBay for $500.

Blizzard also seemed to have a default web site for their games.

In New Eden I was pondering the economics of building and flying a marauder and comparing the benefits of a Raven Navy Issue and the Caldari marauder, the Golem.  It was laggy in Lonetrek, which later turned out to be some GoonSwarm op going on in the region.  Our little corp was on the move again.  And some of us were taking the EVE personality test while I compared ships styles of the different factions to cars from my youth.

And speaking of EVE Online, I also joined in with CrazyKinux on some crazy EVE Blog Pack idea.  I was kicked out later for not being an exclusively EVE Online blog, then weaseled my way back in.  Not many of the original 20 blogs are still up and running.

Warhammer Online was on the horizon.  I had pre-ordered the collectors edition, but then came the content removal, some classes and four cities.  And while Mythic posted the minimum system requirements, I was wondering what the recommended… often thought to be the true minimum for many games… might end up being.

And, finally, I was done with GameFly and damn glad to have escaped from Atlanta.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  3. Honest Game Trailers – Animal Crossing
  4. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  5. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More
  6. Winter Movie League – Denouement
  7. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  8. Spring Movie League – Cats and Birds and Bruce
  9. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  10. Rift Prime Time
  11. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  12. The Road to CSM13

Search Terms of the Month

test keepstar killed
[Which one?]

are wow chats dead azuremysy
[WoW was having all sorts of issues, and don’t call me azuemysy]

[Must have been a hit on a Friday post]

EVE Online

It has certainly been an active month in null sec, with battles happening in the north and south end of 0.0 space as the whole place split into two teams to fight.  Keepstars were a focus, and for a while TEST has a bunch of northern capitals bubbled up and camped, until they broke out.  All of that is going to make for a bullet point list a year from now when I do the month in review.


The Aquatic Update finally landed.  There were some problems initially, but it settled down a bit and mostly worked.  I had actually been putting off looking into Minecraft until the update was finally released.  Now I am out looking for the new stuff it delivered… and trying to figure out what to do with it once I do find it.

Pokemon Go

I actually made it up a level in July, hitting level 33. To get to level 34 however is now a million xp, so that will likely be a while. I have kept on with the friend thing, exchanging daily gifts pretty regularly. Because of that I now have nothing save 7km eggs in my inventory.

One thing that changed with the last update has ended up being a bit irksome; the journal no longer logs when you get kicked out of a gym and how many coins you earned. That is actually kind of important information to go missing, since you can only earn 50 coins per day. It matters if I got kicked out of a gym before or after midnight. Ah well.

Level: 33 (+1)
Pokedex status: 333 (+2) caught, 351 (+1) seen
Pokemon I want: Still Lapras, still don’t have one
Current buddy: Slakoth

World of Warcraft

We hit the end of the Legion expansion and started warming up for Battle for Azeroth.  That warm up has been… slow.  But not as slow as waiting for my addons to get updated.  WoW seems to need to pitch a fit when addons are askew.  Why can’t I just unselect “load out of date addons” and get on with my life?  Instead I have to affirm my addon choices with every visit to the character select screen, and woe be to me if I forget to one again uncheck that box about out of date addons.

Coming Up

Battle for Azeroth will launch simultaneously world wide in the middle of August.  I’ll be good to go at 3pm local time on August 13th… unless there are problems.  But there are never problems when launching an expansion, are there?  Anyway, this launch will no doubt dominate a lot of the MMO related blogging.

As noted above, Blaugust is also upon us.  That will mean trying to get myself on track to write something related to the suggested weekly topics for the event.  Also, I am going to try to post something every day over the course of the month, as task that always seems daunting at the start of the month.  Then I go into overdrive and end up with excess posts by the end of the month.

In EVE Online the brewing null sec war will likely continue with each side taking on targets of opportunity.  Will it lead to another huge supercap killing battle?  Somehow I think not.  EVE Online‘s ability to handle such battles is still dubious, reinforced nodes or not. If a node goes down mid-battle the losing side just declines to log back in when the node is restored and that is the end of that.  So both sides will probably just keep scorching whatever regions of space they can manage.

Finally, if you follow TAGN on Facebook, you won’t be come tomorrow.  Pressured to fight the boogeyman that is “fake news,” Facebook is cutting off the ability for people to post automatically to their timeline from other applications.  Oh well.

Still, if it reduces even a bit of the stupidity I see on Facebook I won’t complain too much.  The note I got said I could make a “page” and things would still work, but I don’t know/care what that is really, so I am not sure if it is worth the effort.  As a source of traffic Facebook ranks well behind Bing at the trivial end of the commercial sites and, as a rule, almost none of that meager amount comes from my own feed but from when somebody links me independently in their own feed.  You can still do that.

Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean

Note: If you want to find a warm ocean on your server, copy your seed and go to Chunk Base and use their seed mapper and it will help you find one.

With the forced update I mentioned in the previous Minecraft post, our world settled down to something akin to normalcy.  Minecraft Realms still seems to be struggling some to handle the load that has come with the Aquatic Update.  It takes some time to log into the server and there are times when chunks are slow to load and responsiveness is lacking.  But for the most part things work.

Technical problems solved… mostly… now to get to the real problem, finding the new stuff!

All I want is the life under the sea that Mojang promised me

But to get the new stuff you have to go find the new stuff.

Some of it will spawn anywhere.  I’ve seen the new fish and dolphins swimming around in every bit of water.

But most of it… kelp and ship wrecks and coral and that stuff… will only show up when a chunk or region is first generated.  So basically any place we had already been on the map wasn’t going to have any of the new sea life features in full.

It was time to go exploring.  And I had a goal in mind.

I wanted to see the coral and tropical fish.  For that I needed a warm ocean.

I had found a cold ocean already, with ice floes and polar bears.

Polar bear as I row by

I had even rowed through a lukewarm ocean, which has some of the fish from a warm ocean, but still just kelp and such on  the seabed.

Warm fish in a lukewarm ocean

But a warm ocean wasn’t so close to hand.  So I packed my bag with some supplies, repaired all my equipment, and set out on a boat to find a warm ocean.

At first I spent a bit of time just finding an ocean, or at least an ocean that hadn’t been explored already.  I even found some things I did not expect.

Somebody built this way out in the wild…

But dragging out the map of the our world gave me some hints, places where I might explore.  I had a couple of false starts, heading towards where I felt there ought to be fresh, uncharted ocean, only to find myself walking for ages or sailing up and down rivers and into more cold oceans.

I was also operating under a bit of a faulty assumption, that biomes followed some sort of logic.  I mean, they do in that they interconnect and transition smoothly.  But I was thinking that you might find warm water near a desert or a savanna biome.  That was asking too much.  At one point I set up camp in a desert temple right on the edge of an ocean… a cold ocean.  I could site there in the sand on the beach and see polar bears.

Biome logic right there I guess.

So I started googling about finding warm oceans and, frankly, the results just confirmed what I already knew.  There was not yet an automatic way to find the new ocean biomes yet.

So I set myself to the task of just finding a lot of ocean.  For that there are a number of biome finders out in the world where you can enter the seed value for your world (ours is 7911042834612981993) and it will give you the approximate layout of biomes.

None of these tools are updated for 1.13, so none of them will point out a warm ocean biome for you, but they will show you where oceans are at least, at least if you can figure out where to look.  Yes, they give you the X,Z coordinates, but I am used to the landmarks we’ve built on our world to help guide me.  Still, there was a spot way up the rail line to the northern forest mansion near one of the bases I setup along the way… a base with a nether portal no less, so I could use the nether transport system to get there more quickly… where if I started heading straight west I would run into a lot of as-yet un-rendered land and, eventually a wide expanse of water.  So I headed up there and started walking.

Using that path to align, I start walking west

I tried to keep to a very straight line, marking my path and burning down the occasional batch of trees that would otherwise make me turn aside.  Once I start meandering in all directions I end up lost pretty quick.  The landscape is pretty but not very distinctive, and when the sun is at its zenith I can end up heading the wrong way pretty quickly.

I had, of course, just eyeballed the distance on the biome finder, and it always takes longer to get anywhere that you think.  I had thought about taking a horse, but keeping it safe during the night is always a bit of a challenge, and the goal was to get to an ocean where I would be rowing all the time, so I kept to just my feet.

I was slowed up a bit because I ran into several villages along the way.  That is because I have this need to “fix” such villages as I pass through.  When a Minecraft village is generated, it is just layered over whatever terrain there is.  If you’re out in the plains, everything is generally fine.  If there are hills however, you can end up with some strange building placement.  So I have to stop and dig out the buried buildings, build up the paths to reach the buildings up in the air, build a supply rest stop with bed, chest, and workbench, and light the place up.  I had to stop and dig for coal a couple of times, since I used up all my torches lighting up yet another village.

Despite this I did eventually make my way to a coast and a wide expanse of water.  It was time to get in my boat and start rowing to see if I could find a warm ocean.

I was a bit worried that maybe somebody had been here before despite the area not having been part of my most recent map render.  When I pressed F3 it said that the biome was simply an “ocean,” neither warm nor cold, and it led into a “deep ocean,” again without a temperature modifier in the name.

I persisted though, and found a lukewarm ocean after not too long, so it seems that an “ocean” is somewhere between warm and cold.  It makes sense I guess.  So I kept rowing.  I found lots of things.  I saw several wrecks and undersea ruins, including a combo wreck and ruin that were on the shore.

A mighty wave must have washed that ship ashore

I also found one of the rare mushroom islands, complete with the mushroom cows that inhabit such places.

Mushroom cows crowding to wave to me as I pass

I was not, however, any close to finding a warm ocean so far as I could tell.

It became clear to me that this large ocean area was made up of many different ocean biomes, so it seemed likely that there was a warm ocean out there.  But spotting such a biome from a distance might be tricky, which would mean zig-zagging all over the water to make sure I hit every biome.

There was a hint.  One of the changes that went in with the aquatic update was the color of water.  Rather than being one uniform color, water now has different colors.  Cold and normal oceans are the deep blue to which we have become accustomed.  Water in swamps now has a sickly greenish tint that is just about perfect.  And warm water has a lighter aquamarine shade, which stands out even at a distance.

Unfortunately, that shade applies to both warm and lukewarm water, so I spent time chasing lighter shades of blue only to be disappointed.

Still, I kept going.  There was a lot of ocean to row around so I kept going, day or night.

Exploring at night seemed a bit wrong, since you cannot differentiate the water color in the dark.  But I would just hit F3 every so often to get a reading on which biome I was in to cover that.

Of course, it turned out that exploring at night was just the ticket.

As I rowed along during one night cycle I saw some light under the water.  This wasn’t a big deal at first.  Underwater ruins have sea lanterns in them, so you can spot them from quite a ways away at night.  But as I got closer this seemed like a lot more light than just one ruin, so I steered towards it and soon found I had reached my goal.

The glow of a warm ocean at night

It is hard to see in that screen shot, especially against the white background of the blog, but that is a bed of the new coral, all aglow under the water.  I had reached my warm ocean at last.

As it turns out, sea pickles… which I guess is what you get if you put a sea cucumber in brine… give off light.  They also only appear in warm oceans, so a decent way to find a warm ocean is to row about at night looking for light under the water.

This turned out to be just the corner in what was a long stretch of warm ocean.  I sailed along, looking for some land nearby where I could setup a base.  I did find a stretch of likely soil after a bit, and when the sun came up I went ashore and built a little house with the usual amenities .  From the shore there I could look out and see the beds of colorful coral.

Looking out on a warm ocean

So I found my warm ocean, which led me to the usual question, “Now what?”  I didn’t have a plan for the warm ocean really, aside from finding it.  Meanwhile I was also now at least a good 5km from the nearest settled area, though I had wandered about so much I wasn’t really sure.  I was also low on some supplies and, more importantly, my tools and weapons were fast wearing out after fighting many zombies and fixing one village after another.

I felt that, having now located a warm ocean I needed to head back to one of my established supply bases to repair and re-pack.  Fortunately I knew that I didn’t need to trace my exact steps home. (I couldn’t manage that if I had wanted.)  I knew I was still south of the northern forest mansion, so all I had to do is travel straight east and I would eventually cross the long overland rail line that connects the mansion to the rest of our settlements.

So the next step was to sail eastward, but that is a topic for another post.

Kickstarter – Stay Awhile and Listen Campaign Ending Soon

The Kickstarter campaign for Stay Awhile and Listen Book II is wrapping up in just a few days.  You pretty much have through this coming Wednesday to pledge.

The campaign is closing in on its $12,000 goal, sitting at just past $9,300 as of this writing, putting within striking distance of success.  But “almost there” isn’t there yet.

If you look over at Kicktraq you can see that, while there have been some pledges recently, the curve has flattened out and unless there is a last minute rush of people, the whole thing is going to come up short.

So if you were considering this project, but had put it off, now might be the time to revisit the campaign and see if this is the sort of video game history project that interests you.

Keepstar Down in Kinakka

In something of a replay of the Keepstar kill in Aeschee I wrote about yesterday, the Imperium and various locals formed up again earlier today to kill another Keepstar in low sec space.

This time around the Keepstar in question belonged to Waffles, the former low sec arm of Pandemic Legion.  While SniggeWaffe, the main corp that made up Waffles, was folded into Pandemic Legion late last year, Waffles still exists and holds some assets, including the late Keepstar in Kinakka.

Closing soon…

As with the Shadow Cartel Keepstar, there was a big form up for the kill, with at least seven fleets headed out to low sec, leaving time dilation effects in their wake as they traveled.

Even before we left it sounded like there would be no defenders.  As we metered fleets into the system, the titans landed and started firing, stopping the repair timer and beginning to eat away at the structure.

Titans framed between the uprights firing

I was in Kendarr’s fleet in the logi wing again.  It was the fourth subcap fleet to be pinged out, as the first three filled up before I had even logged in.  I didn’t get to spend a lot of time watching the Keepstar however as we went off to go camp the gate to the high sec system Onnamon.  That kept the faster locking combat ships in our fleet busy, knocking out about 40 kills.

We did get warped on to the Keepstar grid for a chance to get on the kill mail.

More fleets on grid

Unfortunately Kendarr would only warp us in at 100km off the Keepstar for our tag.  While I brought along a sentry drone so I would be able to drop it and take a long shot at the Keepstar, I needed to be inside of 60km to make that happen.  So I missed out on another Keepstar kill mail.  But nearly 2,000 other people made it on.  While somebody was gunning the Keepstar, no fleets came to support it.  Still, Kinakka topped the low sec charts for kills.

Kills happening in Kinakka

And so another structure on the periphery of the fight was destroyed.  The main front in Fade continues to be a grapple over i-hubs.  To get at Circle of Two we need to take those down to remove the cyno jammers so we can go after their Keepstar again.  That will be a while coming.

A Keepstar Goes Down in Aeschee

The War of the Keepstars carried on last night as the Imperium formed up in their forward base in Cloud Ring and went to… um… Aeschee… in the Essence region… to kill a Keepstar owned by Shadow Cartel, a 500 pilot low sec alliance.

That seemed odd.  Not that I think we need a reason to shoot a Keepstar.  If an alliance puts up a structure and cannot defend it, then it gets blown up.  But we are in a war here and Essence didn’t seem like a front line region in the conflict.

Shadow Cartel’s Keepstar minding its own business

However, it was explained that Shadow Cartel is a long time ally of Pandemic Legion and NCDot, not to mention one of our foes in the Casino War, so they were going to lose their citadel for being with our enemies then and now.  And if PL and NCDot didn’t form up to help defend their ally, well there was a lesson to be seen in that.  Plus, who isn’t going to go along for a Keepstar kill?

I was in for it and flew an interceptor over from our staging in Pure Blind to our own Keepstar in 6RCQ-V in Cloud Ring to join up with one of the fleets.  I bought a Megathron so I could join up with the Baltec doctrine fleet I knew would be called.  I felt like flying a DPS ship for once, and I have a nice SKIN for it.

Quafe… so refreshing

When the ping went our for the Baltec fleet forming under Cainun I was in it quick, which was good because it filled up fast.  Unfortunately it filled up with Megathrons, so Cainun first asked people to swap to logi, then started kicking battleships from the fleet in order to make room for logi.  We were going up against an armed Keepstar.

So I bought an Oneiros off alliance contracts and swapped to that.  I would go back to being a space priest for another fight.  Meanwhile, on coms we were asked/told to keep the banter down and be quiet as all fleets would be sharing the same voice coms so Asher could direct us all.  A lot of people would be on the same channel.

With not a lot of time between the form up and the Keepstar’s timer, we were undocked and waiting on a titan to be bridged out.

Waiting on a titan for the bridge, our Keepstar in the background

We could see capital ships undocking and jumping out to the first stop on the trip to Aeschee.  I knew a lot of ships were on the move.  But it wasn’t until we bridged out and landed at the first citadel stop that I started to appreciate how much firepower was on the way.

That Astrahus needs Traffic Control

That is the sort of scene that makes you wonder if an Astrahus should have enough power to tether all of those ships.  And, of course, the titans dwarf everything else.  The capital fleet near the back seems small while you can barely see the subcaps jumping in close to the citadel.

Having done the easy part, the slog to the destination began.  Low sec space tends to also be low utilization, so the nodes running them often start to stagger when a big fleet moves through, and we were several big fleets attempting to gate through the region.  Time dilation quickly kicked in as we went from system to system, easily dropping to 10% when too many people went through a gate at once.

Fortunately it wasn’t too many gates until the next waypoint, but the time went slowly and I started to wonder if we would make it in time.  I was watching Jebi on EVELog Twitch, one of my favorite New Eden streamers and his timer was counting down as we lumbered from gate to gate.

We arrived at another citadel where our titan friend bridged us ahead.  The subcaps were first in the system on a friendly Astrahus on grid with the Keepstar.

On the Astrahus looking at the target

Of course, it wasn’t subcaps only for long.  Soon the titans started jumping in, landing on the Astrahus.

Something, something, titans will never be common…

The titan blob blotted out the citadel, and we were not bridging everybody in yet.  Asher was trying to meter the incoming traffic to keep from revving the tidi meter to 10% by piling everybody on.

When the timer finally ran down we still had people out of the system, but the titans had aligned to the Keepstar already and warped to it to start shooting at it.

Opening salvos

The titan guns were enough to stop the timer and hit the damage cap with room to spare.  It was suggest that titans ungroup their guns and fire using just a single weapon, since most of the damage was wasted anyway.

Of course some people, seeing the shooting start, panicked, fearing that they wouldn’t get on the kill mail.  Like fans at a concert for The Who, seeing this warm up got them to surge forward before their time.  A couple of force auxiliaries warped ahead into the titan ball, only to be targeted right away by the Keepstar.

That meant the subcaps got the call to move forward so we could use our logi wing to try and save the errant faxes.  The first one died before we could get reps on it, but a later one was save.  But now we were in range as bombs headed our way.  We spread out to orbit Cainun as best we could inside the super ball, where movement was constricted.

My Oneiros in the middle of titans

There was a lot of reps to be handed out at that point.  Bomb damage was hitting a lot of people, so I was busy for a stretch.

The handling and rationing of firepower had kept tidi down in system, keeping the shoot to its expected 30 minutes, so eventually the Keepstar wore down to the point that Asher started having groups warp in to tag the Keepstar with their weapons so they would get on the kill mail.

The subcaps turn came and we warped in, landing just 7km or so off the structure.  We were set to apply our minor damage.  I had brought a combat drone for just this reason… I chose the Oneiros because its drone bay can hold a selection of repair drones and still leave room for that whore drone to get on kills… and tried to target the Keepstar.

However, like a lot of people, my client was misbehaving.  With about 1,800 ships on grid, the client was near its memory cap and things were not always working right.  For me this manifested itself in my not being able to target anything.  Everything, including the Keepstar, came back with an error about needing to be within 129km when I was quite clearly much closer than that.

This IS close than 129km

No tinkering with this would fix it and I didn’t want to dump the client and restart at that point.  The kill was very close and I wanted to at least get a screen shot of it as it started to brew up.

The Keepstar starts to go…

The explosion hit.  It is a good thing that there is no splash damage from a Keepstar explosion, as I was very close in by that point.  The big explosion cycles through and a wreck remained on grid where the Keepstar had been.

The wreck as the explosion subsides

The kill was recorded, and while I did not get on the kill mail nearly 1,500 of my close and personal fleet mates managed to at least tag it.  Of course, you couldn’t even get to the kill mail for a while as everybody was hitting zKillboard at the same time, bringing it to its knees.

My client was about done for as well.  It had pretty much stopped responding, so as we aligned back to the Astrahus I was pointed and moving in my own direction.  I killed the client and logged back in.  There was still room in fleet fortunately, a bit of attrition having worn us down from the 256 people listed when we left Cloud Ring.  I was alone when I logged back in, but was able to warp to Cainun and get on the titan that would start us on our trip back to 6RCQ-V.

Thus began the tidi bound flight home.  Still, Asher gave us an estimated time for the operation before we departed which was pretty accurate.  We formed up at 23:00 UTC and he said that if all went well we would be back on our Keepstar at around 02:00 UTC.  We beat that time, but not by a lot.

The ride home was slow, but the lack of anticipation made it much more relaxing.  We jumped and aligned and waded through the tidi as the various fleets tried to stagger their movements along the way.  We sat for a bit at the final waypoint with some of the capital on an Astrahus, waiting for our turn to bridge back home.

Waiting for the word to go

Then it was “bridge up, go go go!” and we were back in sight of our Keepstar, ready to dock up and call it a night.

So, as I always say, the war goes on.  A lot more ops are planned for today and tonight.  There is still grinding to be done in Fade.  And tomorrow there is a final timer for another hostile Keepstar in the north.  I am not sure if that is going to be a fight or if we’re in the mode where we wear down the enemy by setting final timers for which they have to form, only to have us not show up.  But if the ping goes out and I have the time, I’ll show up.  And if not, well, there is always the Alliance Tournament on Twitch.

Other coverage of this event:

Friday Bullet Points from New Eden

Time for a Friday catch-up post, this time focused on EVE Online.. with a few items I won’t roll together a post for yet feel I should mention.

  • Pandemic Legion Escapes!

The bubble camp in failed to hold back an organized breakout in UALX-3.

The location of the camp

After several days of feeding TEST and the Legacy Coalition dreadnoughts and subcaps, the fleet trapped by the initial Keepstar fight in UALX-3 finally got its act together.  A subcap force cleared the area early on the 25th, allowing most of the capital force to log in and jump out, denying TEST further easy kills.  The full story, complete with video, is up over at INN.

Of course, over on Reddit, where TEST and Brave had been smugging hard in /r/eve, the tables turned as the formerly trapped returned the favor with a savage mocking of their own, made all the worse by the /r/eve moderators being on strike and only removing TOS violating posts, as opposed to their usual effort to trim back repeats and low effort bad posting.

  • More Keepstars In Peril

The war continues.  While the Legacy Coalition was sitting at their camp to try and keep the northern fleet from being a fleet in being, the Imperium moved back north and resumed its grind against the foes up there.  One Keepstar went down without a fight last night (more on that in another post) and one is set for its final timer later today tomorrow.

  • New Referral Program

This has been in place since early in the month, but I thought I would mention it here.  I stuck it in the position where you put the weakest item on your list, which is to say neither first nor last.

Earlier this month CCP announced an updated/changed/new referral/recruitment program, the details of which are here.  Structured like an event for The Agency, you can accrue better rewards by recruiting more people to the game, including special ship SKINs.

Are you recruited or have you been recruited?

All of this hit with the usual damp squib effect for which CCP can be famous.  The forum thread about it accrued a long series of “fix my thing!’ posts and other complaints about the game, not one of them new.  The video released to push recruiting also had its detractors.  It certainly didn’t feature much of the game, with the whole thing feeling more like a Farmer’s Insurance ad.

The old recruitment links have been migrated to the new system, though I am not sure that will help me.  I’ve had a recruitment link up at the bottom of the side bar over on EVE Online Pictures for more than five years, have had people click it and tell me they have subscribed, and have never received any reward or notification.  So my own reaction to the program was cool as well.

  • Alliance Tournament Starts Tomorrow

The annual Alliance Tournament kicks off tomorrow, speaking of things to which my reaction has always been a bit chilly.

Episode XVI – EVE NT Takes Over

I tend to be a purist about EVE Online.  In my world view, everything that affects the game happens within the game on the single server which we all share.  So an e-sports event, with a set of arbitrary rules, which only certain elites can join in on, that takes place outside of the game, and which rewards the winners with PLEX and special ships that come back into the game, is contrary to the spirit of the game in my view.

Also, EVE Online is difficult to watch on a stream if you want to get a good sense of what is really happening and the volunteer commentators… can vary in quality.  Not everybody can be Elise Randolph or Jin’taan’s tie.

But some of the kids seem to like it and certain groups pretty much fold up shop to concentrate on it every year.  I am surprised there is a war on currently, as I have no doubt key people are fully invested in it.

Anyway, the first rounds of the Alliance Tournament start tomorrow.  There is a detailed Dev Blog up about the event, with links out to all the information you need.  There is also a site setup where you can see all of the pending matches and make your own predictions, and INN has a post up with the prize ships and a last minute rule change.  The matches themselves will be streamed on the CCP Twitch channel throughout the weekend.

While CCP is providing the prizes as usual, this year also marks the handing over of the running of the Alliance Tournament to the staff at EVE NT, who will be streaming the event from their studio.

Addendum: Four teams are out of the event, so four other teams get a pass in the first round.

A Blaugust to Revive Blogging

August is nearly upon us, and with it comes the annual event of Blaugust. Initially something of a challenge to get bloggers to post every single day for a month, it was a meant to rally our little corner of the internet and get us involved and cross linking and all that.

A bit hard core in its first round… post every single day in August, 100 word minimum… it lost a bit of its edge over the years.  Last year it was very free form, post or don’t post, whatever.

This year however Belghast is back with a new, revived vision for the event.  While there is still room for the occasional poster, it is also an attempt to roll in aspects of the lapsed Newbie Blogger Initiative of old in order to get new people into blogging.  And so Blaugust Reborn was… born… yeah.

Blaugust Reborn

Belghast has an explanatory post about his vision for the event which also includes links to officially sign up, which puts you on “the list” and such, as well as a link to the official Discord channel for the event.  It still being July there is yet time to get on board the Blaugust train, but don’t loiter, go now!

Here is a list of the participants so far, or at least those that have a blog on the list:

  1. A Green Mushroom
  2. A Hobbits Journey
  3. Aeternus Gaming
  4. Ald Shot First
  5. Arc’s Oddities
  6. Armagon Live
  7. Ash’s Adventures
  8. Athernes Adventures
  9. Aywren Sojourner
  10. barely readable diary
  11. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  12. Bio Break
  13. Book of Jen
  14. Brain Dump
  15. Built on a Daydream
  16. Calamity Jess
  17. Can I Play Too
  18. Casual Aggro
  19. Cinemaxia
  20. Contains Moderate Peril
  21. Daily Creative Thinking
  22. Deez Wurds
  23. Diary of a Guild Leader
  24. Endgame Viable
  25. Fresh Eyes in Gaming
  26. Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism
  27. Galumphing
  28. Gamer Girl Confessions
  29. Gaming Conversations
  30. GamingSF
  31. Geeky Dad Fitness
  32. Glyffe
  33. Going Commando
  34. Gray’s Cozy Nook
  35. Heattanu’s Game
  36. I’m Not Squishy
  37. Inventory Full
  38. JVT Workshop
  39. leaflocker
  40. Learn Japanese Online
  41. Leeterati
  42. Magen Tales
  43. Mailvaltar – MMOs and other stuff
  44. Me vs. Myself and I
  45. MMO Syndicate
  46. Mmosey
  47. Moonshine Mansion
  48. Municipal City
  49. Murf Versus
  50. Nerdy Bookahs
  51. Neverwinter Thoughts
  52. Nomadic Gamers, Eh!
  53. Ocarina Farms
  54. Party Business
  55. Pizza Maid
  56. Plan B Better
  57. Princess in a Castle
  58. Professorbeej is Awesome
  59. Psychochild’s Blog
  60. RandomX
  62. Ryuh Note
  63. Scarybooster
  64. Self-Distract Sequence
  65. Shadowz Abstract Gaming Blog
  66. Shards of Imagination
  67. Simply Janine
  68. Soul of the Forest
  69. Stabbed Up
  70. StarShadow
  71. Stropp’s World
  72. Symphony On A Chip
  73. Tales from the Backlog
  74. Tales of the Aggronaut
  75. TechJoy2Day
  76. The Ancient Gaming Noob
  77. The MMOist
  78. The Parent Trope
  79. The Path They Walk
  80. Thinking Play
  81. ThisThingIsNeat
  82. Through Wolfy’s Eyes
  83. TroytlePower
  84. Unidentified Signal Source
  85. Welshtroll
  86. What’s Occuring
  87. Why I Game
  88. WoW Alt Addiction

Some of those names are likely familiar, others are new.  I put myself on the list, so you are free to copy it elsewhere without fear of leaving me out.  I know you were concerned about that.  Also, I am going to bet that Shintar will click on every link and tell me if I miss-linked somebody.

Also, there is the option to sign up as a mentor.  I opted for that, mostly because after nearly a dozen years I am set in my ways and have some fairly firm opinions on the whole blogging thing.  4,733 blog posts will do that to you.

Also, a bunch of those sites already have posts up about Blauguast.  As usual, I am running late on the whole thing.  There have already been a raft of posts on the event and the first round of topics. But that leads to my first bit of advice on blogging, thus helping to fulfill my mentor obligations.

Don’t worry that somebody else has already posted about a topic if you want to write about it.

Your views on a topic may differ, you may bring fresh insight, you may have your own story to tell, and as a rule, somebody will hear about this topic for the first time from your site.  If you want to be really neighborly, link out to other people posting about the topic.  But don’t stifle yourself just because somebody else wrote about it first.

In fact, we’re supposed to be in the prep week where we post some advice around the technical aspects of blogging.

I have opinions on that which I can cover quickly enough.  My main message is:

Avoid a situation where you must pay money for your blog to ensure its continue existence.

Don’t self host.  Don’t set up shop at a site without a free plan.  Your blog exerting even a minor financial burden makes it all the easier to quit and delete you blog completely, something you may come to regret later.

This goes double for anybody just jumping into blogging.

Also, if you delete your blog you’ll be contributing to link rot, the bane of the web.  So don’t do that either.  And paying to blog makes it more likely that you will do that.

Anyway, going the free route likely means using, Blogger, or Tumblr, each of which has their own ups and downs.

Blogger – The oldest blogging platform around.  Owned by Google, which mostly neglects it.  Has the best blogroll side bar widget, so is very blogging community friendly.  Also has pretty bare bones, laughably inaccurate stats.  It will count your own activity towards stats, even when you’re logged in.  It is very, very free and open to customization if you are handy with HTML and CSS.  If you’re not, the default templates can be a bit bland.  Is mildly awkward until you get used to its quirks, but benefits a bit in traffic from Google searches… but only if you link your blog into Google+. – The place to go if you want some interesting layouts and new features springing up.  A lot more detailed stats that are not inflated by your own actions nor the actions of comment spammers.  I know the latter to be true as there have been days when I have received more comment spam than page views.  Also, very serious about tags and categories.  You can create RSS feeds from either, for just your blog or across all of  Restrictive about what you can customize.  Static blog roll options, unless you hack together a Rube Goldberg venture like I have.  New features tend to show up unannounced and as often as not don’t work as expected for the first month or two.  The free option means ads on your site, which have grown a lot more aggressively prominent over the last year.  But if you pay to get rid of them, your blog won’t disappear if you stop.

Tumblr – All the layout options of with even worse stats than Blogger.  Lives in a self-contained community of likes, follows, and re-posts, which can be gratifying.  You can find people like yourself.  Has the Facebook/Twitter problem of people following you in the hopes you’ll follow them back.  Comments are odd.  No ads that I have seen.  More porn than you might care to imagine.

I have actually used all three and, even after settling on, I have setup versions of the blog that syndicate onto both sites.  Behold TAGN as a Blogger and a Tumblr site, though the Tumblr site really sucks because I want it to send people here.  That never happens though.  Mostly everybody just comes here directly or gets sent here by mistake via Google, with “by mistake” being the dominant route.

While I am here, I might as well dispense one more piece of free advice, worth exactly what you paid for it, double your money back if not satisfied.

Choose your blog name carefully.

If I could go back in time I would tell myself that the name of this blog is one of those things that is funny the first time you hear it, but which gets less funny each subsequent time, and after a dozen years I’ve heard it a lot of times.  And yet it is my brand, and to ditch that is to start over.  So I carry on under that burden.

Your blog name should be short and distinctive… and, if possible, start with the letter “A” because people like me will alphabetize things and most people will only click on the first few links in a list before getting bored and moving on.

Anyway, that is it, my announcement about Blaugust to join all of the others.  Again, go visit Belghast’s post for links to sign up and join the Discord channel.  Also, there is a Twitter group and a spreadsheet around here somewhere.


SuperData and PUBG Resurgent

As another month draws towards a close SuperData Research has their monthly top ten lists ready for us.

SuperData Research Top 10 – June 2018

On the PC end of this things this month saw a surge by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which leapt from ninth place in May to third position in June, pushing down Crossfire and Fantasy Westward Journey Online II, both perennial top four entries on the list. Aside from the release of a new map it seems that a price cut on Steam was what drove the jump by PUBG, catapulting it over its rival Fortnite, which is down in sixth place.

League of Legends and Dungeon Fighter Online held onto their usual top two positions, while DOTA 2 fell down to the ninth slot. World of Warcraft and World of Tanks held steady in seventh and eighth position for the month, as did CS:GO in tenth.

On the console chart though Fortnite held onto its dominance, grabbing the top spot for the second month in a row, followed again by FIFA 18 and Call of Duty: WWII.

The Crew 2, newly launched, took the fourth slot, pushing the aging but resilient Grand Theft Auto V down to fifth. Far Cry 5 was also a new entry on the list, while Detroit: Become Human and Destiny 2 both fell off the chart in June.

While Fortnite‘s success gives hope to the industry, SuperData had a report earlier this week about how the game’s popularity might be cannibalizing the video game market rather than expanding it.

On the mobile end, while Honour Kings and QQ Speed held first and second position yet again, Pokemon Go pushed up from fourth to third, supplanting Fantasy Westward Journey. Last month SuperData said that Pokemon Go was poised for a strong summer, with new features to tempt people back during the outdoor season. Down in ninth spot Candy Crush Saga stayed on the chart for yet another month.

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds gets huge bump from Steam sale. PUBG sold 4.7 million units on PC in June, up significantly from May and only second to its peak month in October 2017. Growth was underpinned by a reduced price point of $19.99 on Steam.
  • The Crew 2 sells 700,000 digital units across Console and PC at launchThe Crew 2 fell far short of Far Cry 5‘s impressive launch earlier this year but digital sales eclipsed those of the original The Crew due to the shift away from physical sales.
  • The Sims 4 is still going as strong as ever. We estimate that over 800,000 PC players purchased the new “Seasons” expansion for The Sims 4 in June, making it the game’s second-most successful expansion after November’s “Cats and Dogs”. This is especially impressive considering The Sims 4 is approaching its fourth year.
  • Call of Duty: WWII trajectory outpaces Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare but lags Call of Duty: Black Ops III. WWII’s additional content revenue was up significantly compared to IW’s last year due to a new DLC release, but it still could not match BOIII’s “Zombies” DLC sales last June, despite BOIII being in its second year at the time.

Seeing The Sims 4 mentioned almost brings back a pang of nostalgia.  A decade back no list of best selling games would have lacked for a few titles from The Sims franchise.

Summer Movie League – Board of Equalization

With week eight of our Summer Fantasy Movie League complete we are officially into the back half of this fourteen week run.

While we are past the $100 million launches, there are still a whole string of new films waiting to hit the screens while the early blockbusters hang on week after week. For week eight we had the following choices.

Mamma Mia 2               $526
The Equalizer 2           $403
Hotel Transylvania 3      $334
Ant-Man and the Wasp      $210
Skyscraper                $167
Incredibles 2             $149
Jurassic World            $135
Unfriended 2              $103
The First Purge           $61
Sorry to Bother You       $42
Sicario 2                 $29
Ocean's 8                 $24
Leave No Trace            $23
Uncle Drew                $21
Won't You Be My Neighbor  $20

As I noted, ten out of the fifteen films on the list are sequels, which I am sure says something. And the top new choices on the list also added to the sequel count, with Mama Mia 2 expecting to to the box office, followed by The Equalizer 2. After that we were into more sequels, with Skyscraper being the only anchor choice without an antecedent… and I am sure that it being the only original story in that group says something as well.

For the Monday Hot Takes league I decided to anchor once again on The Incredibles 2 again. However, as the week wore on a bit, I decided to break my five week affair with The Incredibles 2 and hop over to Jurassic World in my lineup. For the last few weeks the two films have been incredibly… erm… very close in box office result, and with Jurassic World cheaper again this week, I made the jump.

However, with my lineup of 7x Jurassic World and 1x Sicario 2, I felt like I hadn’t spent my money as well as I might have. So I swapped out Sicario 2 and a screen of Jurassic World for Skyscraper at the top and Leave No Trace at the bottom.

That was a mistake.

Not a huge, week wrecking mistake mind you, but not my best choice. My logic was that Skyscraper, after a disappointing opening, might at least have a soft landing for its second week, coming in ahead of The Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World. No such luck however, as it ended up doing about the same as the cheaper Jurassic World and less than The Incredibles 2. Though I will say Skyscraper did about what I budgeted for. It was the dinos and Parr family that beat my expectations.

Summer Movie League – My Week Eight Picks

Meanwhile, Leave No Trace was a gamble on good reviews and word of mouth and a hope that it would expand into many more theaters than the 311 it was in last week. However the theater count only rose by 50 and word of mouth wasn’t enough, so it ended up in sixteenth place for the week. Basically, anything else I could have put in that slot would have been a better choice. Still, at least it wasn’t the worst performer for the money. That honor went to Unfriended 2 though Uncle Drew was close on its heels and they traded positions a couple of times.

But at least I had the dinos. Jurassic World (and The Incredibles 2) lost very few screens and were still enough of a draw to keep my lineup alive. The winner of the week though was The Equalizer 2.

As the estimates came in it looked like Mama Mia 2 was on track for about the expected amount, somewhere around $35 million, despite an inexplicably savage review by Rex Reed. I mean, there are some lukewarm words about the film over on Metacritic, and there there is the big fat zero from Rex Reed. Not an ABBA fan I guess.

The surprise of the week was Equalizer 2 which, rather than loafing behind Mama Mia 2 by $6-8 million as expected, was running neck-in-neck with its musical, eventually passing it to take the top slot for the week, a performance that also made it the best performer in leagues that give a bonus for that. Not the TAGN league for sure.

Still, its run away box office made it the optimum anchor for the week in any league. It headed up the perfect pick for the TAGN league, which ended up being 2x Equalizer 2, 1x The First Purge, 1x Sorry to Bother You, 1x Sicario 2, 3x Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

Summer Movie League – Week Eight Perfect Pick

The scores for the week ended up as:

  1. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $84,297,170
  2. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $79,863,521
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $79,339,103
  4. I HAS BAD TASTE – $79,339,103
  5. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $77,556,503
  6. Joanie’s Joint – $70,923,433
  7. Too Orangey For Crows – $69,612,552
  8. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema – $68,524,263
  9. Goat Water Picture Palace – $64,255,715
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $60,741,210
  11. grannanj’s Cineplex – $59,822,230
  12. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $46,953,336
  13. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $44,638,270
  14. Kraut Screens – $39,318,422 (did not pick)
  15. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $38,186,929 (did not pick)
  16. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $37,555,835 (did not pick)
  17. aria82’s Cineplex – $26,248,436 (did not pick)

Hampsterplex was the only one to go with two screens of The Equalizer 2 as their anchor and so won the week.

After that was me and the dinos followed very closely by Corr and I HAS BAD TASTE who both went with six screens of The Incredibles 2 as their anchor.

Pak was in the running for second anchoring on three screens of Ant-Man and the Wasp.

But after that the scores starting falling off with mixtures of Hotel Transylvania 3 and Mama Mia 2 dragging people down. And then the filler started dragging people down, with Po getting the worst of it by riding on six screens of Unfriended 2. Ouch. And then there were people who didn’t pick. Is it the early cut off, the fact that it is summer, or a loss of interest that is causing us to see so many missed picks this season?

That left the overall scores looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $763,504,908
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $756,232,332
  3. I HAS BAD TASTE – $739,664,638
  4. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $736,026,252
  5. Goat Water Picture Palace – $717,683,449
  6. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $701,638,152
  7. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $684,610,043
  8. Kraut Screens – $683,116,941
  9. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $682,702,338
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $668,749,031
  11. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $666,428,796
  12. grannanj’s Cineplex – $654,331,579
  13. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $641,653,028
  14. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema – $636,639,570
  15. Too Orangey For Crows – $620,561,633
  16. Joanie’s Joint – $613,672,747
  17. aria82’s Cineplex – $605,936,381

I managed to hold the top spot, tip-toeing a millimeter or two further ahead of Corr. But the big change at the top was Vigo, whose failure to pick dropped him back a few spots. At this point staying in the top five is as much a matter of picking every week as it is getting a good win, though not getting a sour lineup does help.

But there are still six weeks left to go! Still plenty of time for anybody ahead of you to screw up, starting with the week nine lineup.

Mission: Impossible        $756
Mamma Mia 2                $227
The Equalizer 2            $201
Hotel Transylvania 3       $157
Teen Titans GO!            $149
Ant-Man and the Wasp       $116 
Incredibles 2              $89
Jurassic World             $76
Skyscraper                 $61
Blindspotting              $41
The First Purge            $28
Eighth Grade               $26
Unfriended 2               $18
Sorry to Bother You        $18
Three Identical Strangers  $16

This week we lose Sicario 2, Ocean’s 8, Uncle Drew, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, and Leave No Trace off the end of the list.

Dominating the list this week is the return of Tom Cruise to his Ethan Hunt role in Mission: Impossible – Fallout 76.  While not expected to come close to the $100 million mark with its opening, it is tracking for a good $60 million, which is nothing to sneeze at in the middle summer market.  And it is really the last BIG opening this summer.  But if you anchor on it you’re off to picking inexpensive filler.

Also at the upper end up the list is Teen Titans GO! to the Movies.  When we saw the trailer for this I said to my daughter, “You used to watch that.” which got an icy response of, “I used to watch Teen Titans, NOT Teen Titans Go!”  Pardon my ignorance.   While it is a youth focused movie opening in the summer market, it only comes up in fifth place, tracking for somewhere around $15 million.

Further down the list is Blindspotting, a crime thriller set in Oakland, which has good press but opened on only 14 screens last week, so needs to expand quite a bit to contend this week.

Then there is Eighth Grade, which follows a girl during his last week in middle school before moving on to high school.  It has been out for two weeks already, has good press, and did better than Blindspotting last week on 33 screens.  Again, its performance this week depends largely on how much it expands.

And finally there is the return of Three Identical Strangers to the list.  Had this been on the list last week it would have beat Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Leave No Trace.  Coming into its fifth week, I assume it is expected to expand onto more screens to justify its return over a title like Sicario 2.

Given those choices my Monday Hot Takes league picks were 1x Mission: Impossible, 2x Jurassic World, and 5x Sorry to Bother You.  My thought is that a film like Mission: Impossible is landing on fertile ground this week with, with only The Equalizer 2 offering up an alternative action option, so it could very well.  Still, The Equalizer 2 is cheap, so Tom Cruise needs to suppress the opposition as well as exceed expectations to be worthwhile.

We shall see if I hold to that position all the way to the Thursday morning lock time.

And, speaking of lock time, the league locks less than 24 hours after this post, so go make your picks now!

The New Rig in the House

We’ve been running on the same hardware around our house for quite a while now. We are working our way towards museum status on the console front, what with a Wii and a PlayStation 3 still hooked up to the TV and multiple samples of the soon-to-be-abandoned Nintendo DS/3DS line scattered about the landscape.

On the PC front my wife has the most recent machines in the house, both a desktop in her office and a laptop which she uses for work being of recent vintage. My daughter and I were both sitting on some aging processing iron for our gaming needs. But the dam broke on that when my daughter headed back into World of Warcraft. The coming of Battle for Azeroth and the finishing of Legion got her invested again. This will be the last expansion before she heads off to college, so we’ve both been talking it up, making plans, and getting ready.

However, WoW was crashing for her pretty regularly on her old machine, a 2012 vintage iMac. At the time I bought it, the unit was a magnificent piece of hardware, a 27″ model with an i7 Intel processor. But time makes a mockery of hardware that stands still. The burden of regular upgrades to MacOS have slowed the machine down. I cannot say for sure that Apple deliberately hamstrings older models, but they got caught doing that on the iPhone.

My own machine is actually older than hers. I initially put it together back in 2010, which I am shocked to learn was eight years ago now. How does this happen? But I had to refresh it in 2013 when a power supply blew and zapped the motherboard. So I at least have a generation 4 Intel i5 in it, along with an updated video card.

But with an iMac there are no upgrades. That beautiful industrial design, that slim package built around a magnificent screen, that all stays frozen in time. It will always be running a 3rd generation i7 and an nVidia mobile chip set from the time. Even some every day tasks, like web rendering, was feeling a bit on the slow side, and WoW would crash regularly and could barely keep up with the current version of Dalaran. So it was about time for a refresh.

This time around my daughter wanted a Windows machine. The iMac, and the one mentioned here is the third one that has been out in the family room for her to use, was chosen by me due to its ease of administration. Like every corporate IT group, if I have to keep things running then I get to pick the configuration. Also, parental controls were available and easy to configure and maintain relative to the Windows alternatives.

But now she is old enough to drive a car, has a job, and is giving serious thought to exactly which university she wants to attend. Also, she is tired of being limited to the MacOS options when it comes to software, so I did not fight the Window option. If anything, I was in favor of it because it would be cheaper.

I set out to build her a modest but capable Windows desktop. I wanted it to be cheap-ish because she also wants a laptop for school at some point, we still have the whole “pay for college” thing looming in the distance, and I also want to refresh my own desktop at some point.

My new favorite tool for configuring and pricing setups is PC Parts Picker. I spent some time there tinkering with configurations. One of my problems is that it is easy for me to fall prey to the “for just a few dollars more…” aspect of pricing. Why get processor X when processor Y is just $80 more… and you know what, processor Z is just another $120 more than that… and soon I have a configuration priced well beyond what I really want to spend. This time I planned to hold the line.

Fortunately there was some inspiration on PC Part Picker. One of their sample builds was based around the Gen 8 Intel i3 processor. I might have eschewed the low end of the line in the past, but at this point the i3 is a pretty hardy specimen. It now comes with four cores and the clock rate is good, while the heat and power draw are modest.

But what really sold me on the sample config was the case, a small Cooler Master model that, frankly, looked nifty. I don’t know why, I just wanted to build up a PC in that case, and since I was keeping the budget small I thought I might as well keep the form factor small as well. So I ended up with the following parts list:

I was still hemming and hawing about it when Prime Day came along at Amazon and the SSD I wanted was actually one of the sale items. So I ordered that, then just went all-in and ordered everything else.

Everything had arrived by Friday last week so I set about putting everything together on Saturday morning.

Getting the case together and the hardware set did not take too long. I was surprised at how small the Mini ITX motherboard was. It is basically a bit wider than the RAM slots, with just enough room hanging on over the end for a PCIe slot.

Motherboard, CPU in place

I ended up not using the Zalman CPU cooler, opting for the stock one simply because the Zalman was too big for me to attach and work around easily. The stock cooler is probably good enough. We don’t plan on tinkering with clocking or anything.

The video card was missing from the initial build. The one on the list is the one that is in my current machine. I plan to move it over to her system once I get around building out my own new setup. There was also 8GB of RAM to install as well.

Then it came time to install the OS. I went to the Microsoft Store down at the mall to pick up a copy of Windows 10 Home. I’d never actually been inside, so just wanted a reason to go in. The place is pretty empty most times I walk by it, at least compared to the mob that is always in the Apple Store right across the way, so I never go in lest I be pounced upon by the staff. This time I wanted something though, so the pounce, which came right away, was appreciated. Good luck getting helped that fast at the Apple Store.

Of course, installing Windows took longer than actually assembling the hardware.

And not just because the cats stepped in to help…

The Windows installer recognized the SSD just fine, but did not like the way it was formatted, or so I gathered once I deciphered the error. MBR and GPT were new acronyms for me, but it has been a while since I installed a fresh OS. Unfortunately, Googling the error sent me off to the BIOS for some settings that had zero impact on the error. I finally realized I just needed to delete the curren partition on the SSD and let the Windows 10 installer format it however it felt it needed to and everything went fine from there.

Then came the really long task… installing World of Warcraft. That was the first thing my daughter wanted on the machine. But installing WoW, which weighs in at 58GB these days, over WiFi was taking a long time. Eventually I turned everything off and dragged the new box to my office where I could hook it up directly to the router. That sped things up. Then I brought it back out to the family room, got it set up with my old monitor and a scrounged keyboard and mouse, and set her off to try it out.

She was impressed with the load time. WoW practically leaps off of the SSD into memory. She was a little less impressed with the way things looked. However, that was more a matter of going from the really nice screen built-in to the iMac to the hand-me-down 20″ monitor she was using, a unit that dates back to about 2003.

New Rig in Operation

The built-in video support was up to the effort and she was able to move up the grapic settings for WoW to 7 on their basic 1 to 10 scale. When the video card is in place at some point in the future she’ll be able to run at max settings.

As it turns out, you can use the iMac as a monitor, and we even have the cable for it. We will experiment with that this week. But for now she is all set up on a handy little system. I am not as happy with the case as I thought I would be… the moveable front panel aspect of it is kind of flimsy… but the airflow through it is really good. The 140mm fan it comes with barely has to turn to keep the whole thing cool. We shall see how the magnetic dust filters on the top and front work out.

Now I need to use this warm up to help me spec out my own new system.  I will probably go with an Intel i5 for my own use.  I am tempted to go with the Mini ITX motherboard and a small, well ventilated case though.  I don’t need a super-deluxe ATX motherboard with SLI support and all that.  I always overbuild on that front.  This time I will try to keep things slimmed down.