Revival 2010

I’m a bit miffed at how long ago my last post was. It’s not my intent at all to let it wither. Of course, it was also not my intent to fervently ignore it either. :p

Anyway, the ‘general update’ is that I’m realizing certain things (that were a regular part of my life, outside of work) have not been as fun as they used to be. So I’m preparing to drop them. This includes my presence in SL (this was done awhile ago), plus some *much* older activities that have been slowly withering away anyway.

I’m also looking at trimming my Eve time for a little bit, since both characters have an opportunity for going into ‘hibernation’ (long training queue) for a couple weeks.

Hoping that this will give me time back for more recent endeavors, as well as this site. :) We will see.

–TSK

EvE’s Economy – Presentation at FanFest 09

I’ve been watching the various videos that CCP is publishing during EvE FanFest this week. In particular, their economy session was the most interesting to me; It was mostly focusing on the effect of their ‘Unholy Rage’ banning program, implemented in late June.

First, the video link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSgVeU7e9tU

I focus here on the first half of the video, regarding their economy model – a closed system. You put real money in (either US$ or Euro) and, no matter what you do, no actual money comes out to individuals (aka ‘cashing out’). This was generating some interest in what is known as RMT (Real Money Transactions); The video discusses it well, but in essence someone pays real money for in-game ‘goods’ (in Eve’s case, usually the in-game currency known as ISK). This, by CCP’s TOS and EULA, is illegal because (as above) they don’t want money going out.

So, in addition to the normal ‘waves of banning’ that every ‘closed’ MMO tries to do, CCP came out with an in-game commodity known as the PLEX – Pilot License EXtension. Each PLEX gives you 30 days of game time when redeemed, and are generated by converting a GTC (game time card/code). They are sold within the normal in-game market, which meant that players themselves negotiate the (ISK) price of PLEX over time; The only difference from other in-game commodities is that you cannot transport them (making PLEX trading applicable to the region-level only, instead of the entire universe).

I find this to be a very refreshing solution to the ‘gold farming‘ problem that plagues every currency-based MMO (rampant farming and grinding were the main reasons I never liked WoW and other PvP MMO systems). That problem is also why I was so attracted to Uru (pure story, no need for money) and Second Life (they gave up and tied themselves to RMT directly – but charged users in US$ on both sides of each transaction).

The PLEX setup has not been around for very long (less than a year), so I’m not willing to discuss yet its overall impact. But (after its own speculation bubble and crash) it appears to be having the desired effect. More interesting questions still abound, such as: Can you buy the *outside* services (related to EvE, but not in-game) generated by players for real-life currency?

I do think that its worth watching though, and am still keeping an eye on developments related to PLEX.

–TSK

(Almost) September Update

Well, if I’m not going to post as often as I normally did (due to work and other obligations), then I’ll at least try to update once a month. ;)

Anyway…

Mysterium – The return trip from Spokane was uneventful, though delayed a day due to the illness. There was a three hour layover in the Seattle airport and used that time to catch up on work (once I found someplace that gave me *wired* access for the VPN connection – yay!). As one of the ‘staff’ I’ve been involved in post-con discussion, though nothing major (from my end) that needs worrying about just yet.

Hoboken – Hot, humid, and recently raining again due to the remnants of hurricane season. *sigh* Things at least began to get cooler a couple days ago, and I’m enjoying what walking time I can get in.

There was also that little thing about the plane/heli crash on the Hudson corridor a couple weeks ago. One of the piers here was pressed into service by the NTSB for the following week, which was interesting – until I saw the mobile coroner’s office on-site. Gah.

Eve Online – My character is currently waiting 4 weeks, while two skills for a special mining ship get trained. In the interim, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons, use the (semi-useless) time card from the Atari box (called a GTC) and convert it into in-game currency for purchasing said ship. :) I’ve also been following the EBank crisis; Thankfully I was too new to have done anything with them, but its been very interesting – as someone who works for the Financial Sector – to watch a virtual bank attempt to struggle out of a crisis similar to the one RL banks are facing today.

During this interim, Steam has given me an opportunity to do a little ‘side experiment’ which is turning out pretty well. More on that later.

—–

That’s about it for now. Busy, as usual. :)

–TSK

Stuck in Spokane? [Updated]

This is somewhat ironic.

I’m stuck in my room @ Spokane, due to a really bad flu passing around the group. It’s not affected me, so far, other than having a light cold [and now a little light-headed, slight fever, etc].

Of course, I’ve not eaten since the meeting at Cyan yesterday, but that was part of my normal pre-flight when traveling someplace for the first time. Apparently was a good move.

At least in my case I could make additional changes this week as events merit. Changing the flight by one day, though, was a *bit* expensive, relative to the original e-tickets (was close to the cost of a new one-way flight).

The irony is that I – along with several others – are as if we’re trapped in Myst ourselves. At least I’m trying to enjoy it while I can.

Oh Thank God I took the rest of this week off at work…

–TSK

Corruption? What Corruption?

Short shout-out for Dad, MystBlogs, etc.

I find it slightly amusing that I’m a Hoboken resident, and apparently have been living under a rock until sometime Friday morning (when a co-worker mentioned the corruption roundup).

Perhaps New Jersey now has a chance of having a Republican governor again (though I was rather unhappy about Whitman, for various reasons).

News aggregation link regarding Mayor Cammarano, via Yahoo (possible popup et al warning):
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/news?p=Cammarano&ei=UTF-8

–TSK

On the Eve of Eternity…

When an old friend tells me “I know your playing style, you’ll like this game,” the alarm bells kick off immediately (I have no interest in repeating the Travian debacle back in ’07). In this case, however, its because he was right and I’m wondering how I may integrate this into my life. Anyway, onto a game review…

First, the general summary:

Game: Eve Online
Owner: CCP (Iceland)
Type: MMO (subscription), Space-based, Player-driven, ‘Sandbox’ model
User content: Partial (story interaction & PvE/PvP, no actual new items generated)
Advancement: Skill learning /w RL timings, tied to equipment use
Currency/Economy: Yes (ISK), tied to RL currency indirectly, RL Market system (commodity-based)
Month-to-month Cost: US$15 per month in US, costs are in Euros everywhere else; Standard multi-month discounts. Can now buy time extentions on the Market with ISK.

I am currently under the 21-day trial invite that my friend sent me. Within the 3.5 days of playing so far I’ve accrued a net worth of about 2.2 Mil ISK (their currency), which long-term is small but has included a lot of equipment that could be usable for the long-term as well.

The current equipment list includes five low-end ships, one of which I’m eager to fly (cargo carrier – useful for mining) but one required skill can’t be learned by Trial accounts. Since the ship in question was given out as end rewards for (essentially) tutorial mission arcs, I find this maddening but understand all too well why they did it. After all, a good MMO should give enticements to stay; Eve has decided to do this by handing you very nice carrots, but no way to ‘eat’ them without a proper subscription. That’s a refreshing change (and one that’s working *sigh*).

I need to add/stress that in some respects, I’m still doing the Tutorial. The initial ‘bootstrapping’ took about four hours; Anyone with a WoW or SL/There background can probably get to a pause-point within two, and continue on at a leisurely pace afterward. There are *many* aspects of this game that are like the classic board game Othello – “Simple to learn, Lifetime to master.” Therefore you probably need to plan out reasonably quickly what you’d like to do here, and thankfully the starting mission groups do a reasonable job of ‘getting your feet wet’ on all the major job types. I completed two of the mission trees – Industrial and Business – with flying colors, but the Combat tree is making me wonder if I’m interested in completing it…

Their economy is, in a word, insane. Its effectively a full-blown (perhaps fully implemented!) Commodities market, down to Gantt charts and detailed tickers. It frightens me more than the combat does, but I suppose working in the Financial Sector for 14 years has left a few scars in that department. Very recently, a direct tie to RL currencies occurred, through the creation and selling of subscription extensions within their Market. With this action, in theory you can now legally buy and sell ISK for RL currencies (though there is no facility to ‘cash out’ – the benefit given when selling ISK is free game time). This makes it the second multi-user environment I know of that does this – Second Life was the first – and I’ll be watching to see how this new twist pans out. It will be very interesting to see what the going rates (in ISK) of a monthly time extension turns out to be.

Anyway, enough rambling for one post. Anyone on MystBlogs (or perhaps from SL-related feeds) who are looking for me there can look up the name ‘Alain Kinsella.’

/salute
–TSK

Notebook Annoyances

One of the major problems I have with travel (at least out of NJ) is the need for decent connectivity to work.

Now, I would not worry as much, since – usually – I could bring a couple small items with me and just borrow someone else’s PC (preferably one with a large enough monitor, so the RDP to work will not freak out). This is what I did during last year’s trip to my father’s house, and it made the flight *so* much easier to deal with.

This time, however, its a bit different. First, its a personal preference of mine to only borrow a system from either very-long-time friends or from family, since in those cases I’m not overly worried about what they may see while I’m logged in. Second, the VPN is now checking if an anti-virus scanner is up and running on the connecting system (and only allows XP or 2K right now). And, I’ve pledged to bring at least one notebook to Mysterium in order to help with various projects on-site.

So, this is why I’m currently undergoing the hell again of a re-install of XP on the old HP notebook (2 hours and counting!). It was running Linux quite nicely (and even had Windows 7 32-bit on it for a few days), but those happy experiments were due to losing my original media. Obviously, I’ve corrected that (the replacement from HP came in yesterday), and the first part of a dual-boot with Win7 is underway.

Of course, that’s not stopping me from re-examining how I setup the hardware. The old 7200 RPM disk from the Sager got dropped in before this rebuild, and there are 2 x 1 gig memory sticks en-route. Still a ton cheaper to do that, then to price out a replacement notebook; So far, about 15% of the quote I got from Lenovo (and that was *after* a 40% ‘shared’ EPP discount). So far I expect the only caveat to be less battery life, but it was already near the 4-hour mark so making that a bit less is *not* an issue…

Hopefully the new setup will be finished by Saturday (just did reboot #5 under XP-Update *sigh*). Crossing fingers…

–TSK

Mysterium

As one of the group helping with Mysterium this year (and this is possibly my only chance to visit Spokane in awhile), I’m finishing plans to go. As things stand so far – and despite that I’m traveling from US/Eastern/NJ – it’s been pleasantly cheaper than my insane two-week jaunt last year.

Flight – $420 (EWR to GEG)
Hotel – $320 (4 nights, applied a discount code to Travelocity which nuked the fees and taxes)

May still add a car to that (since my flight out is 5 AM on Monday!), I’ve got time to consider that at least. :)

But comparing to last year, I spent nearly $700 on a round-trip to Branson, MO (I stayed at my father’s house). Plus the hellish cost of parking at EWR for five days ($90 I think). So I still think I’m doing well over last year.

My only gripe so far is the flight; Newark to Spokane requires flying to Seattle first, which I consider a waste. After all, the same model plane is being used for the leg from Seattle to Spokane; If it were a small ‘hopper’ jet like the ones used at Branson, I’d understand, but why not direct? *sigh* Ah well, can’t have everything.

Anyway, so far, so good…

/salute
–TSK

TCF 2009 / InfraRed, part 2

Last weekend was the Trenton Computer Fair (with its 4th annual IT Conference on the Friday before). In short, the weekend summarized to ‘feh.’

Quick summary by points:

– IT conference was cool, just like last year. Wish I could have stayed longer, but despite leaving ‘work’ early (to drive down in time) I just could not stay the entire time like last year. This may have been in part due to being careful with caffeine and other stimulants over the weekend. [Note to self – bring a bag lunch for Friday from now on.]

– The storied ‘flea market’ of past years has now officially fizzled; It was easily 1/10th its former glory, probably smaller. I almost left right then, in utter disgust, but still wanted to listen to some of the seminars.

– First seminar was regarding the use of virtual worlds by those with disabilities. It was very cool, and I got a laugh out of the opening statement by the presenter: “When I held this in Cali, there were 200 people in attendance.” At the time I was the only one there, and my response: “You’re too far away from the NYC Metro area, which would have generated more interest.” Others did walk in eventually, and as I had more experience in SL than the presenter did, I ended up (again) fielding questions from the other attendees. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to create something that can be printed and handed out when I go to things like this…

– The other presentation was ‘Should You Upgrade to Windows 7?’ And the answer was a firm ‘maybe.’ The number one reasons were ‘more secure’ and ‘the Vista/7 core is more refined for stability and speed now.’ One great note was: “The number one reason Vista did not do well initially was the total lack of driver support – both 32 and 64 bit.” I had to agree with that, as I remember quite well the big uproar when XP was coming out – the drivers were going from 16 to 32 bit, so everything needed a re-write. The same has to occur here (in the name of security), but it was not communicated well (and I think M$ has started to learn about doing this correctly now, as people really *are* voting with their wallets this time).

Anyway, I did not need convincing, but it was good to hear the arguments and be reminded of Windows’ history; We (the PC world) have grown complacent overall, and things like Conficker are the current results of that. I really think Jobs/Apple has the opportunity of a lifetime to gain market share, by releasing OS X for ‘normal’ PCs this year. Too bad it won’t happen (and yes, I’ve heard of ways to get around the problem – that’s for another post).

—–

And that, in short, was TCF. The most annoying thing about the weekend was a complete lack of IrDA adapters anywhere (and, again, a number of people had no clue what I was talking about). So I gave up a few hours ago, fired up Amazon, and got an adapter that was reported as working great with my F55 (not Polar’s, since it cost 3x more than this one). If it works, I’ll get another as a spare. And I still need to get Windows re-installed on the Sager, but I’ve discovered the pains of using a 4800 RPM notebook disk…

/salute
–TSK

Seeing (Infra)Red

So, a few weeks ago I advanced enough in the Virgin Healthmiles program, that I had about $150 in discounts available from their store. After perusing what they offered, I finally settled on getting a heart rate monitor (HRM) from their equipment partner, Polar.

I got the F55 HRM for about $50. I could have opted for something like an F5 for (essentially) free, but if I intend to be serious about the program (and my health in general) as much as I have recently, it was best to get something a bit more well-rounded and flexible. And, in theory, uploaded sessions from the Polar unit can grant me points under the HealthMiles program; Good win-win here.

I have so far done the initial setup and recorded a test session with it. Though I find the chest strap uncomfortable at any ‘snugness’ setting, it does work well in getting a heartbeat out of my skin (which is a big plus, given my personal experience with similar devices).

There was just one catch that I initially overlooked – It needs to communicate with the world via an IrDA port. No problem, I thought, just pull out the HP notebook and . . .

. . . Find no IrDA port on it. Argh.

Now, ignoring the separate fact that the sync software is Windows only (and the HP is now Linux), this is slightly surprising; That notebook is circa 2005 and I did not think it would have been too ‘new’ for bluetooth to have totally taken over IrDA. Of course, I’ve had so many notebooks over the years, all of them with IrDA, that I did the ‘mindless’ thing and thought it did have it.

Anyway, the older Sager notebook does have the port (I just re-checked), so I’ll probably spend tonight re-installing XP on the poor thing (to confirm that *something* will talk to that HRM). Getting a desktop IrDA bridge – usually via USB – has been a completely different (and annoying) saga over the past few days, and one I really don’t want to repeat. I still have an opportunity to try and grab a working adapter at the TCF flea market next weekend, and if I can’t find it there I’ll finally take to ordering online.

–TSK