I’ve had my Raspberry Pi for a while now, and it’s done a few different things. Firstly it was just a toy to tinker with, the latest cool gadget out, and that’s what my previous posts about it have detailed. I found though that while it is powerful enough for some things, it’s certainly not powerful enough to provide a smooth desktop experience compared to powerful modern computers which limits its useful functionality somewhat. After a several month gap I moved into a new flat, and found that I had a 20″ computer monitor and some speakers that I didn’t have a use for, so I set up the Raspberry Pi with XBMC and a Plex plugin so I could use it to watch stuff while cooking, in an attempt to make me cook real food more often. My Mac mini is my Plex server and the idea was that I could watch any media on it on this Raspberry Pi, but I found that the Plex plugin for XBMC on here was a bit clunky and wouldn’t always find the server and I still find cooking rather dull so that never really got off the ground. It was however capable of playing back up to 1080p h264 content thanks to the onboard hardware decoder, so that’s good.
My flatmate of the time left a couple of months ago (he enjoyed cooking and found lots of use with the Twitch.TV functionality) so I had the opportunity to repurpose the Raspberry Pi. My living room was getting increasingly warm thanks to the combination of summer and the Mac mini running in it constantly, and receiving a really big electricity bill was the icing on the cake: I resolved to find a new use for my Raspberry Pi.
Continue reading Raspberry Pi: Doing useful things
Having a lazy Sunday, so thought I’d write about my current IT setup. Just finished getting it set up so seems like a good time to do so. Continue reading My computer setup
The picture above is a Raspberry Pi playing a 1080p video (Prometheus trailer from the Apple Trailers site). What’s more, it’s not playing it from the local SD card storage, it’s playing it from a cifs-mounted volume. And it plays it totally smoothly. I threw a higher bitrate 1080p video at it and it wasn’t so happy with that (potentially due to ethernet performance) but for the most part 1080p should be alright, and 720p moreso, if it is encoded in h.264. More thoughts and explanations after the cut. Continue reading Raspberry Pi: Video playback
I received my Raspberry Pi today! I’ve had a little bit of time (very briefly) playing with it tonight and have some initial thoughts and observations on it. I’ll play with it a bit more tomorrow. I’m running Debian Squeeze as a starting point, just so I could get a glimpse of what’s to come. Continue reading Raspberry Pi: Initial thoughts
(Yes, that picture’s from Mass Effect 1 not Mass Effect 3. I don’t have any ME3 screenshots available!)
I finished Mass Effect 3 yesterday, finishing a series that I’ve loved on and off over the past few years, and I’ve been dying to talk about it with someone but no-one I know has completed it yet. I should say that right now that this whole post will have major spoilers so if you care about discovering the plot for yourself at all then don’t read this! It’s also long and wordy but with a super-brief tl;dr at the bottom, after the break!
Continue reading Spoilers: Thoughts on Mass Effect 3
I got in a mini-discussion last night just as I had gone to bed on Twitter on the topic of resolution ratios on LCD (and associated technology) monitors, but couldn’t explain it very well in 140 character segments. So hopefully I can make more sense here!
LCD etc. monitors have a fixed grid of physical pixels, as we all know. As a result, the natural resolution is an important thing to stick to for aesthetic reasons. Let’s say our monitor is a 27″ or 30″ 16:10 monitor with a natural resolution of 2560×1600, but we don’t have a computer powerful enough to play games at that resolution or want to record our gameplay. But 1920×1200 or 1280×800 are both okay. Which should we choose?
In practice, whichever you prefer the look of! In theory, 1280×800 should look better most of the time – probably. Why? Read on for the nerdy explanation. Continue reading On resolution scaling
I reached level 50! Fneb the Commando healer made it all the way up. I also completed my class quest – chapter 3 is the last chapter – so now I’m mainly interested in party-level content which I’ll write about soon. Here are my thoughts on levels 46-50 and my class quest.
- My /played to level 50 was nearly 5 days on the dot (about 5 days 15 minutes). To complete my class quest took me about another 4 hours.
- I left Voss at around level 49, and did the last little bit on Correlia. I quite enjoyed Voss, but do wish that mixed-faction towns were planned a bit better. To add to what I said last time, you don’t get flagged for PvP if you’ve just landed on the planet and entered the zone, but if you’ve just come from elsewhere on the planet then anyone can attack you with no intervention from guard or the like. Given a few minutes of not being attacked you’ll lose your PvP flag, but it’s still not a great way of doing things.
- Once I hit 50 I basically lost all interest in side quests. All I did was my class quest and the main planet quest. Side questing in this game is good but I tend to prefer big story lines. When I no longer needed the exp these quests pretty instantly felt like too much of a grind to bother with.
- The class quest ending at chapter 3 – I thought that each story would be more chapters than this (I had heard of there being 5 or 6 chapters). If you include the prologue then there are 4 chapters per class quest. However, they have left it open to having more chapters, and I suspect that more may come in without extra expansions – perhaps later ones just weren’t ready for release?
- Overall impression of my Trooper’s class quest: not too interesting. Much better than anything I’ve experienced in an MMORPG but still not as good as I would have hoped. The first chapter had a story I was engaged in, but the two other chapters introduced a completely new enemy or objective which meant I just didn’t get too involved in them. I’m looking forward to the class quest of the Jedi Knight (which I have rolled, and have got up to level 8 with so far).
- I leveled the whole way using just one companion, and now have him at 10000/10000 affection. I’ve started using one of the other companions instead who’s a bit more designed for tanking. Means I have to do more healing though as he takes aggro from more mobs!
I’ve started leveling a Jedi Knight, I’ll check in occasionally to comment on the differences. Now that I’m 50 I can start covering the end-game as it stands a bit more, so keep your eyes peeled for future updates!
I’ve not updated for a while, but I’m back to playing after Christmas and I’m making my way towards level 50. I’m back at work though (counting down the days until I leave for a better job) so haven’t played as much as I did before Christmas, so I decided not to do a thoughts post every day. So here are my thoughts from the last few days of gameplay.
- The first flashpoint, The Esseles, paints a really nice picture for how flashpoints will play out in terms of interaction with the story versus killing a couple of bosses and collecting loot, but as I mentioned before, Hammer Station and Athiss go very much against this and feel much more like a bog-standard MMORPG dungeon. Fortunately, Taral V and Maelstrom Prison do not disappoint, and have far more story interaction within them. If you haven’t played either of these instances but enjoy the stories this game contains, they’re well worth playing.
- I’m currently on Voss after finally having left Belsavis (hooray!). Voss is the first place I’ve come across with a city hub shared between factions, with each faction having it’s own “wing” and all of the normal vendors found in a shared area. When I landed, I was warned against starting any fights with the Empire by an NPC, which lead me to presume that, like WoW, any fighting would result in any aggressors being attacked by lots of guards. Nope. I was ganked right by the commendations vendor in the centre of the city and not a thing happened to the person who attacked me. This… strikes me as being an incredibly stupid design choice, and I’m hoping it’s a bug.
- I’m still enjoying being a healer in this, which is good. Today I went to a Heroic 4 area with a couple of guild members and a random, and had a good time there. The challenge with the Trooper class is keeping things steady over a long time, due to the ammo mechanic – you want to keep your ammo at 8 or higher as much as possible so you can get the higher rate of ammo regeneration. Burn through your current reserve of ammo quickly and you’ll not be able to regenerate quickly enough to maintain a good DPS output, maintain threat, or in my case, keep your team alive. We had some trouble with a boss in this area, but we did take him down. When the boss’s damage output increased approaching the end, I had to cast more heals to keep up but then ran out of ammo, even though I had been more or less fine all the way through. This resulted in a couple of party members dying, but fortunately the boss died at about the same time as the second member died. It was good to see a fairly challenging boss fight even in just a Heroic phase – I had figured out much of the strategy by our first wipe, but one guild member mentioned on voice comms that he found it good practice for future challenges.
- I’ve heard that the opening operation content is rather badly tuned, and is rather easy… It’s worth bearing in mind that this game was only released just over 2 weeks ago! However, I do hope that this doesn’t cause subscriber numbers to cut down, and that Bioware can tune the current content or bring out more soon.
Next stop: Level 50! Once I hit 50 and complete my class quest, I’ll finally be able to take a look at some operation content for myself. A big thing that I want to do is to roll an alt though – I’ve been fairly disappointed by the Trooper’s class storyline (though I’ve still not finished) and I’m hoping that the Jedi Knight story will appeal to me more.
Another few levels gained! Now that I’ve got beyond level 40 I’m not going to be pushing much more on the levelling front as I’ll be away for Christmas from tomorrow, but I think a little break aroundabout now is a good thing to prevent getting burned out or such. I’m still debating with myself whether to take my Mac with me and to make some video in my spare time, I shall have to see how feasible that’ll be. Anyway, on to my thoughts!
- My /played is now 3 days 14 hours.
- I completed chapter 2! Wow, that went a lot quicker than chapter 1. A bit disappointing that the storyline didn’t evolve more than that. Basically, whereas chapter 1 had 6 planets in it I think (not necessarily in order: Ord Mantell, Coruscant, Taris, Nar Shaddaa, Alderaan, Tatooine), chapter 2 just has 3, Balmorra, Quesh and Hoth – and Quesh is a really small planet in comparison to most others, represented by its level range of 36-37. I started the chapter at level 31, completed the chapter at level 39, and I’m now into chapter 3.
- Hoth was the first planet where a small part of my questing area obviously overlapped with the questing area of the Empire. Previously, planets have been designed so that Republic and Empire don’t cross paths, which makes sense given the storylines generally involve Republic questing in areas with Imperial mobs and (presumably) vice versa. This meant my first real run-ins with Empire players, and it turns out that in solo PvP I have a lot to learn. Not really surprising given this is my first time playing a healer class!
- Speaking about PvP, it seems like the Republic on my server is kind of not very good at warzone PvP. Oh well, thankfully I’m mainly interested in this game for the storylines.
- I got my level 40 mount and training, and I think I’m at about 200k credits now. I know a lot of people have been having trouble affording mounts but I really haven’t. Basically, I’ve just not bought anything really. I’ve not bothered selling stuff on the auction house either. I’ve just been vendoring everything I’ve come across but without buying anything. I had slicing too but that has since fallen to the point where I don’t have enough skill to gather any more, and that’s been the case for some time. So I guess the best advice I can give is don’t buy anything!
- Once I’ve finished the story content for this class, I’m absolutely going to roll another class. It’ll either be a Jedi Knight or some sort of Sith class. I think I’ll likely play a Jedi Knight first but undecided. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy playing this class or because I want to be SUPER FORCE USER, but because the storyline never quite gets as epic as I’d like. I’m doing things that a special forces soldier does, but I never feel quite like I’m doing anything quite as epic as in other BioWare games. Still, I’m in chapter 3 and that isn’t the last chapter, so I guess things could still change. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still enjoying this.
Think that’s all I’ve got for now. If I don’t post again I’ll be back just before the new year. Take care!
After the server maintenance for the launch day of The Old Republic, I played the game a bit more and got myself another level, and have since played myself up to level 37. Once again, thoughts follow.
- At a little bit into level 37, my /played is now 2 days 22 hours.
- I completed chapter 1 of my class story! After wrapping up Taris and Alderaan, I had a quest to go to a space station to conclude the chapter. Don’t want to give away any spoilers, but my worries that the story would basically just end with “you haven’t saved the day, the same mission continues in chapter 2″ were unfounded – the story of chapter 1 (and by extension the prologue) is a separate package from chapter 2. When chapter 1 ends, I “get a break from my duties” before returning and asking for more, where I am given an entirely new overall mission to complete. So that’s now what I am doing.
- Near the start of my chapter 2 story line (when I was about level 31-32) I returned to Tatooine, as part of the quest line. On my first visit to Tatooine, the intended questing progression took me through some of the planet but left large amounts of it unexplored. While I’m sure that much of this is to keep Republic and Empire players separated to an extent, it’s also clear to me now that some areas are simply for higher levels. In other words, while a planet may have a certain level range listed, for some of these planets this is simply the level range for your first visit there, but you may have the opportunity to return later on to experience some more content. So while the planets have a very obvious level progression path at face value, BioWare have spread content around to create a better overall narrative.
- Another example of the point above is Nar Shaddaa. There’s one area in Nar Shaddaa, a planet that is (off the top of my head) marked for levels 20-24, that contains heroic areas around level 30. Later on you can return there as part of some quest lines, which for me included a companion quest line.
- I seem to be on the losing team more often than not in warzones, which is rather annoying. Hmph.
- I’ve finally figured out the potential contained within the modular items system in TOR. It’s pretty interesting actually. Basically, armour and weapons of a better-than-average quality don’t simply have a base set of stats but have slots to fit upgrades in, and generally have enhancements already fitted. So, for instance, an assault rifle may have a colour crystal, a barrel, a mod and an enhancement. Any of these modifications can be removed or replaced at any time, and doing so can improve your item. Also, aside from increasing the bonus stats that the item provides, upgrading these items can actually change the most basic stat – damage dealt for a gun, or armour for armour – depending on the quality and level of the modification inserted. As a result, you can potentially stick with the same gun for many many levels by simply modifying it to keep it competitive. It’s an interesting system that is worth doing a video about some time.
- Since starting on chapter 2 of my class story, I’ve now been to a few additional worlds – Balmorra, Quesh, and Hoth. Balmorra is another large world, but Quesh is pretty small, about the size of 1 zone on other maps. I’ve only just started on Hoth, but I suspect there will be a fair amount of content here since it is an iconic planet of the film series.
- I decided to start going around with my head-slot item hidden. I miss seeing Fneb’s face. At the same time though, it feels weird to see her running around in heavy armour without a helmet. Would have loved for there to be an option of “remove helmet in conversation” – just like that clone trooper dude does in episode 3, removing the helmet whenever talking to someone. I imagine that’d be a nightmare for the production team though, particularly with all the different hairstyles available. Anyway, for now I’ll be going with head-slot hidden, but I may change back, who knows!
- I was worried about running out of ammo (the Trooper’s ability resource mechanic) when healing, or having to form a specific ability rotation to ensure I don’t dip into lower regeneration rates, but so far in both PvP and party-size play I’ve been okay. The occasional time where I’ve had to really burn through and just spam heal someone has been rare enough that I can use my ammo regen-boosting cooldown to save the day. I’ll be honest, though; I’m still worried that I’ll have to simply form an ability rotation to maximise healing output in larger groups, particularly larger operation in PvE, in a similar fashion to an aimed shot/multishot rotation for a Hunter in classic WoW (which was something that bored me to tears). But doesn’t seem to be a problem in party-level content or in PvP.
- A couple of abilities worth mentioning regarding healing as a Trooper: Advanced Medical Probe and Trauma Probe. The latter is gained from a talent and is super handy – a small heal whenever you’re hit, can only happen every 3 seconds or more, 10 charges. But it doesn’t consume any ammo to cast, is an instant cast, has no cooldown, and if you’re in a group then it stacks. Aside from the obvious “cast it on your main tank in a party” use, it’s also super-useful elsewhere. In solo PvE I can cast it on my tank, and it’ll give him enough life that I can damage enemies down for a fair while and generally have a much easier time. Warzone PvP is where it’s really helpful. In disorganised warzone play Trauma Probe allows me to not have to worry about healing myself so I can stick with healing others, unless someone specifically begins to focus me down. I can just shrug off stray shots and AoE damage. Handy stuff.
- Advanced Medical Probe, without any talents in healing, seems a bit dumb. Compared to Medical Probe it uses less ammo (2 compared to 3), casts slightly quicker, heals for a little less but has a cooldown. But with talents it improves a lot. The cooldown is reduced (I believe from 12 seconds to 9), but AMP will also put a HOT (heal over time) and a 10% armour buff to the recipient of the heal. And for good measure, it’ll reduce the cost of your next MP to 1, meaning that you can cast both AMP and MP for the same cost as normally casting MP. Much better!