Archive for October 2007

One More Reason to Avoid Best Buy

Published on October 30, 2007

So a guy goes into a Best Buy, purchases a Western Digital hard drive, and finds out later that the box is filled with bathroom tiles. He tries to return the hard drive (since it wasn’t what he thought it was), and the manager says that they can’t do that. Instead, he should take up the complaint with the manufacturer. How is this even legal?

I’ll just add this story to the ever-growing list of reasons why I don’t shop at Best Buy. FTW.

Improved Search Engine Indexing

Published on October 21, 2007

I’ve tweaked this site to use an improved means of search engine indexing. WordPress ships with a less than perfect SEO setup. As such, many incoming search queries were hitting pages that no longer included the requested terms: stuff like archive pages, category pages, etc. This duplicate content problem was easily solved by using the following snippet of code in my header.php file:

if(is_home() || is_single() || is_page())
    echo "\t<meta name=\"robots\" content=\"index,follow\" />\n";
    echo "\t<meta name=\"robots\" content=\"noindex,follow\" />\n";

I now ask search engines to only index those pages that are either a single post, page, or the home page itself (my photo album also gets indexed, but that’s handled by the photo album software itself). Nothing else gets indexed, but all page links are followed, so that the target pages can be indexed as necessary. This should lead to improved search engine hits, leading people directly to the content they were looking for. Win-win for the user and for me.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two Review

Published on October 19, 2007

For those who don’t already know, I absolutely adore the Half-Life universe, and I believe whole-heartedly that Half-Life 2 is the best game I’ve ever played (though titles like The Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and System Shock 2 are close runners up). You may recall that I also really liked Half-Life 2: Episode One (looking back on my review of that particular title, I can say that two of my three bad points, “Too Expensive?” and “Stuttering,” are no longer valid in my book; my judgment was clouded on the former and updates have corrected the latter). So what is it that draws me so closely to this gaming franchise? In a word: storytelling. I’ll be posting more on this particular topic soon, but suffice it to say that few games (if any) have affected me as deeply as the Half-Life series.

Episode Two is most definitely the Empire Strikes Back of this series. In my review of Episode One, I speculated that this might be the case, and it turns out that that theory was right. Be warned that this episode is very dark. It has been known since the release of Episode One that a primary character is killed through the course of events, and that is indeed the case. I’ll say no more except that the particular moment is the heaviest blow I’ve ever experienced in a game. My upcoming post on the use of storytelling will delve a little deeper into this (without spoilers, of course).

I have played through Episode Two twice, and I’m nearly halfway through my third play-through, this time with the always entertaining developer’s commentary turned on. As such, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the game, and so I present to you the following thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Portal Review

Published on October 17, 2007

I’ve played through Portal a couple of times now, and I thought I’d post my thoughts on the game. Along with Half-Life 2: Episode 2, this was one of the two items I was most looking forward to in The Orange Box. My review of Episode 2 will come later this week, as I have only played through it once, and I’d like to give it at least one more going-over (I can’t wait to write about it though; there’s so much I want to talk about). For now, let’s talk Portal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hanging Rock Photo Album

Published on October 16, 2007

It’s taken me many weeks, but I have finally posted a new photo album of a family trip to Hanging Rock State Park, an outing we took at the beginning of the month for my birthday. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Note that there are two panorama shots in this album, both of which turned out fairly decent. I need to work on my panorama skills, and I’d like my album software to be able to dynamically link to high-res variants of a specific photo (a feature it currently does not support). For now, the links to the larger image are presented in the caption.

The Downside of Electronic Distribution

Published on October 16, 2007

This past Sunday afternoon, I made the decision to purchase The Orange Box on Steam, forgoing the traditional media route. You might recall that I did the same thing with Half-Life 2: Episode 1, swearing to never do it again. I have since changed my mind on the matter. It occurred to me that Valve is a company I truly want to support. Unlike any other game developer, I actually look forward to their game releases. Much like supporting local farmers through a local farmer’s market, I decided I would buy this package right from the source, cutting out the middle man.

The only downside to electronic distribution is the fact that you have to actually download the content. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 is approximately 6 GB in size (according to Steam), so it took a while to get, even on our cable connection. Having the physical media to install with would have been much quicker, but I feel that my direct support of Valve outweighs that minor quibble.

I have since downloaded both Episode 2 and Portal, and have played through both once (I was up very late last night). There is so much I want to write about each, that I will separate my thoughts for both into two posts. Stay tuned.

Thunderbird in Trouble?

Published on October 10, 2007

On Monday, Slashdot carried a story about two key developers leaving the Thunderbird project. Is this a sign of troubled times ahead? Mozilla is attempting to spin off the product into its own company, which seems rife with failure to me. As a user of Thunderbird, I certainly hope that this isn’t the end of such a great product.

Windows XP SP3 in Beta

Published on October 8, 2007

The third service pack for the Windows XP operating system has now officially entered the beta testing phase. According to an article at (link points to a network mirror, since the site is down), there are 1,073 patches in this service pack, a testament to how long it’s been since SP2 was released. What I find most interesting, however, is that Microsoft is back-porting features from Vista into this service pack. A few specific features have been mentioned:

  • New Windows Product Activation model
  • Network Access Protection modules and policies
  • New Microsoft Kernel Mode Cryptographic Module
  • New “Black Hole Router” detection

Could these back-ported features be a sign that Microsoft is getting ready to drop Vista? Take up on the new operating system has reportedly been very slow, with the large vendors (HP, Dell, etc.) requesting XP preloads instead of Vista, due to customer demand. Microsoft has always been its own biggest competitor, and this could be a sign of a power struggle within the corporation (XP teams vs. Vista teams). If they do indeed pull the plug, I predict a collective sigh of relief from around the globe. Only time will tell what happens.

Fixing Broken HTML Document Icons

Published on October 7, 2007

I recently ran into a problem on my system where all the HTML document icons had been reset to the generic default icon: Default Windows Icon

Apparently, the Minefield build of Firefox had at some point corrupted this icon. I found that I was unable to change or reset the icon through the Folder Options » File Types dialog in Windows Explorer. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t restore the icon, and it drove me nuts. Then I figured out what to do, thanks to this forum post at MozillaZine:

  1. Open RegEdit.
  2. Browse to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\FirefoxHTML registry branch.
  3. Delete the ShellEx\IconHandler registry key entry.
  4. Close RegEdit.
  5. In Windows Explorer, browse to the Documents and Settings\{username}\Local Settings\Application Data folder.
  6. Delete the iconcache.db file. It’s hidden, so you may need to tweak your Windows Explorer settings to see it.
  7. Reboot.

Problem solved!

Configuring the Linksys WRT54GL

Published on October 6, 2007

I bought a Linksys WRT54GL today, to replace our aging DLink DI-624 (it had been acting pretty flaky as of late). The Linksys router supports open-source firmware, and our first course of action was to flash the highly recommended DD-WRT distribution. I have to say that I am very impressed with this firmware. There are lots of options available and it reports lots of interesting information.

Setting up the router wasn’t difficult, but my dad and I ran into problems getting our IBM laptops connected wirelessly. All of our other machines were able to connect without any problems, so it was clearly a problem with either the ThinkVantage Access Connections application or the IBM wireless adapter. We spent quite a while trying to get things working, and finally found the issue. We had originally set the Wireless Network Mode option in the router basic setup to “G-Only” mode since we intended to use 802.11g only around our house. But for whatever reason, the IBM laptops didn’t like that. Switching the option back to “Mixed Mode” cleared up the problem immediately, much to our delight. Hopefully this little tidbit will help out someone else facing the same problem.

4Q Gaming Outlook

Published on October 4, 2007

My birthday was earlier this week, and I got The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for our Nintendo Wii. So far it’s been a great game, and I’ve only just started the story line (even though I’m only over 4 hours in). There are lots of great games coming in the fourth quarter of this year, and I’m so excited! Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  • Metroid Prime: Corruption (Nintendo Wii, Available Now!)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS, Available Now!)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC, October 9)
  • Portal (PC, October 9)
  • Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Nintendo Wii, October 28)
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC, November 5)
  • Gears of War (PC, November 6)
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (PC, November 9)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii, November 12)
  • Geometry Wars: Galaxies (Nintendo DS & Wii, November 13)
  • Crysis (PC, November 16)

So many games, so little time! What games are you looking forward to?

P.S. – This is post #400 at Year of the Code Monkey. Pretty cool!

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