Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Super Smash Bros. Brawl First Impression

Also, as long as I’m procrastinating, might as well post this too. It’s only like a week or two late.

  • Diddy Kong is a lot of fun. I was surprised as how fun and balanced a character he was.
  • But Sonic the Hedgehog is definitely my favorite character.
  • Moves are way easier to pull off. Love chaining combos in midair? So much easier now.
  • Way more floaty. Wee!
  • Because there’s a lot more airtime, there’s a lot more focus on combat in the Y-axis. Sonic’s down stomping attack is used a lot.
  • Sonic is now the fastest character. However, he doesn’t really move all that fast compared to the characters in Melee. Thus, everyone moves more slowly.
  • The nerf bat hath smiteth Link, my previous main. He feels a lot less visceral than in Melee. Part of might be the animation cycles; in Meele it was totally possible to pull off two or three spins in a row on DK. Now, not so much. Things feel slower and smoother.
  • SOOO much more of an emphasis on items. I have no problems with items normally, and Nintendo hit the sweet spot with the defaults in Melee. Now it just feels like too much.We’re talking like five smash balls in a single round, and two or three insane ships of doom, split into three pieces which everyone battles like crazy over. Yeah. When you play with items (he said, abusing italics), you fight for items. There are now at least five or six items of power equal to or greater than the stupid hammer. And they spawn all over the place! Seriously, it’s completely insane.
  • However, you can turn it all down and/or off, so I’m not complaining too much.

The “Ubuntu Upgrade Process” Compared Unfavorably Against “A Pile of Trash”

Dear Ubuntu,

I am mad and ranting. This is flamebait because it’s been a major problem every single Ubuntu release since I got involved four versions ago. Four freaking versions! That’s two years.

A little over one year ago, I was using Ubuntu 6.06. It was a good release, and it served me well. Then I tried to upgrade to version 6.10, and it was the worst upgrade I have ever done in my entire life. The IRC channels were flooded with people who said their systems were broken, mine included. Based on what I was told, the fact I had once used an early version of Automatix to install the fglrx 3D acceleration drivers had somehow made significant changes to my machine that lurked deep within the system, waiting to resurface and bite my head off when I upgrade. In retrospect, this was BS. There were a lot of things gone wrong with the upgrade that Automatix had absolutely nothing to do with.
I ended up reverting to 6.06 until 7.04 came out, when I backed everything up and did a clean install. This is what was have been using up until about noon today.

At noon, I made the decision that I had waited long enough, and the time had come to check out 7.10. After all, two months after release, the upgrade should be a smooth process, right? This was a horrible, horrible mistake. First, I needed to download 1.1 gigs of packages. This took three hours. Then, they were installed. This ran until 9pm.
Yes, I repeat, this was a nine hour upgrade. During this period, I was instructed not to use any programs because of “data loss.”

Oh, but it’s not an unattended upgrade either. Periodically, a dialog box would appear asking if I wanted to replace X configuration file I didn’t know existed with Y configuration file provided by the new package. While this box was on the screen, the entire upgrade would grind to a halt. There were like six of these things, spaced about 45 minutes apart. What the heck? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is bad design. This is disrespectful to the user. This is stupid.

Right, so the install finally completes. I reboot, to be greeted with a blank black screen. This blank screen stayed for a very long time (blinking occasionally) until the login box appeared. I decided to chalk up the long boot time to first boot and the blank screen to… a bug or whatever.

I logged into Gnome. There was an absurdly long login period, which I also attributed to first run. My processor indicator instantly shoots up to 100%. The system becomes sluggish and unresponsive. Apparently that nifty new “Tracker Desktop Search” tool is preset to begin indexing aggressively the first time an existing user logs in. I kill the process.

My mouse and windows are still sluggish. Running glxinfo reveals that my previously working fglrx drivers no longer are providing 3D acceleration. A popup message randomly appears in the center of the desktop telling me that non-free drivers are available for my hardware. It appears that it has clipped off the edge of the taskbar and taken it with it. I click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I eventually locate the icon in the tray that the bubble was supposed to be attached to. I double click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I go to the restricted drivers control panel and discover that the alert was for my unused dial-up modem; fglrx is indeed enabled. Great.

I try unchecking and rechecking it my double clicking. The desktop disappears and I am presented with the login screen. I log in again. Very long wait again. I decide to get online to find out how to fix the graphics drivers. The upgrade has uninstalled my wifi program of choice, Wicd, so I try to use the network control panel manually. Nothing happens. I try to change the essid of the network to a nonexistant network. Whoops, didn’t like that. Now I can’t get the control panel to come up at all.

Before Wicd, I used NetworkManager. It used to be buggy and not able to connect to hidden WEP networks. I’ve updated the network since than to a hidden WAP network. It connects! Yay! I’m connected to the internet! Suddenly, almost all the plugins on my taskbar all crash at the same time. Then my mouse freezes. Then the screen goes black. I wait for three minutes. Nothing happens. I’ve had better experiences with Windows ME.

At this point, I’ve wasted like thirty minutes messing with the stupid thing, in addition to the nine hour upgrade where I was hovering nearby checking every 15 minutes for “Replace configuration file?” dialogs.

This is completely unacceptable. You know what, I’m not even gonna bother anymore. I’ll just back up my recent data, wipe the entire thing, and start from scratch. It’ll take two hours, tops. Am I overreacting? No. You just wasted my day.

The Ubuntu upgrade process is junk. I’ve never had a Debian or Windows upgrade that ended as horribly as either of the times I’ve used the Ubuntu major version updater. Windows is trash. QED: The Ubuntu upgrade process performs worse than a pile of trash.

Huzzah, etc!

I have an announcement to make.


Ahem. I now return you to your normal blog.


Wine is a great tool for Linux users who need to get their Windows software running outside the Microsoft OS, and it actually runs most things fairly well, but it can be a pain to configure. Actually, configuration is a huge reason it’s not more popular. So, what’s the logical thing to do? That’s right! Make an application that automates the configuration of popular Windows software. Someone has just started such an endeavor. It’s called Wine-Doors.

Actually, I can’t believe that no one else has tried this yet. It seems so obvious now.

Pirates III is Out

There are some people who would say to me, “James, being an extreme Pirates of the Caribbean fanboy, having eagerly awaited the conclusion of the trilogy for months, and having been one of the first to see the third movie (having gone at 12:01 AM on May 25th), do you feel that it has been worthy of the anticipation, lack of sleep, ten bucks, and “Pirates” name?

The people who ask these things don’t exist, but I’ll flatter myself and pretend that they do.

To these sorts of people, I shall reply:

(Spoiler. Mom, don’t cheat.)
Continue reading ‘Pirates III is Out’

Thunderbird Annoyances

Thunderbird 2.0 has been released! Huzzah. It’s like 1.5, but with slight changes! Right, enough of all that. Now I will complain. There are some things that have been bugging me about the new version. Some of them have been bugging me since v1.0. I first started thinking about them when I tried an early beta of 2.0, and I had hoped that would be fixed for the final release. Guess not.

  • Horizontal view
    • Re-sizes message list instead of current message
    • Message list items don’t get twice as high to fit more info in
  • The “from:” and “attachments” panes take up space at the top and bottom of messages. It would be better to move their contents in-line. It’s not like I’m going to forget who sent me the message halfway through. I’m also not fond of having my viewing space halved when someone sends a bunch of images. Can re-size both the from and attachment panes, (with a small button to target) but they still take up at space and it’s annoying.
  • If you sort a folder by date so that the newest messages appear at the top, that view *only* holds true for that folder. There is no way to set the view application-wide; one must do the sort manually for every folder. A subtle annoyance.

There’s probably more, but those are the major things that have been getting to me. Within a year, there will probably be some extension called “Thunderbird Mix Plus Plus” or some such nonsense which fixes all this and more. Else, it all gets corrected in a future release. I await either of those with impatience.


I am writing this post from pretty much the coolest Java app I’ve ever seen. I’m not a huge Java fan, and I’ve used very few interesting apps lately, so that might not be saying a whole lot.

But I digress. My new-found toy is called “JDarkRoom“, and it allows the user to experience the joy of using an old, simple text editor. Minus all the frustrations of actually using such a program, of course. It’s very straightforward, almost to a fault. No spell checking, no fonts, nothing. Notepad looks almost feature-laden in comparison. However, this is the entire point of JDarkRoom, the very place where it excels. It’s a blank slate. You don’t have to fuss with the margins, the font, or even saving. Basically, it aims to be an tool for first drafts and other things where distractions must be minimal. Imagine a green-on-black screen, just waiting to be filled with text. This is the tool in a nutshell.

While the concept is wonderful, the implementation is not without issues. The biggest cravat is a distinct lack of Ctrl-Z. A must, the “undo” command is a huge feature that needs to get in before I’ll even consider using it full-time. Another annoyance is the wafer-thin blinking cursor, an item barely visible on my laptop’s screen. Yet another nitpick is how the mouse cursor I-beam dosen’t magically vanish when you start to type. Don’t get me wrong, this thing isn’t perfect at all.

However, with a little work from the author, JDarkRoom could develop into something really nice; it’s defiantly something I’ll be keeping my eye on.

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