Monday, January 16, 2017

20170116 LAMP + Web server VM

I think this is maybe the second time in my life that I've successfully started the Apache service...

Tonight I:

  • Installed LAMP stack on my Linux Mint VM
  • Got everything up and running - it turns out this can be achieved using a single command!
  • Set up port forwarding to make my server visible to the wider world
  • Created my first three (incredibly basic) PHP pages
Pretty fun! Web development is pretty immediately rewarding. The write-run loop is super duper quick, plus it's fun that the weird little things you make can come alive literally from the moment you save the file in its editor. I mean, assuming you're live-editing your pages. And at the tier I am at, why not?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

20170111 Machine Learning

Tonight I:

I'm taking a course in Machine Learning. Tonight I waded through the 'Getting Started' parts, as well as Data Preprocessing. Lots of packages to install, and fiddly things to fiddle with:

  • Installed R
  • Installed RStudio
  • Installed Anaconda
  • Using Spyder for Python

Learned how to preprocess a dataset:

  • Empty cells
  • Categorical data
This course is curious because it takes place concurrently over Python and R, giving you the how-to for both languages, one after the other in each lecture. I'm sticking with both for now, examining how tasks are performed in each language. I expect to choose one over the other eventually, likely I'll go with Python, but that is yet to be decided.

Next steps look to involve learning how to operate on datasets directly. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

20170110 Virtual Reality prototyping

Tonight I:

Completed the first of a series of VR prototypes I have devised with a friend. We made pretty astonishing progress inside of around 2 hours, making use of the Unity Asset Store to build a quick proof-of-concept.

What's more surprising is that we used a don't-do-it style of locomotion, yet it didn't induce motion sickness! That was pretty surprising, but it might be because we weren't testing it for particularly long.

I don't have much to share on this work, visually, but suffice it to say that it's going well, and ought to continue for a while (a few months, at least).

We currently have approximately six prototypes outlined, that we intend to spend around eight hours on, per concept. More updates to follow.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

20170105 Virtual Reality beginnings

Tonight I:

Worked through this guide to getting started with HTC Vive development in Unity.

The entire thing took around three or four hours, with plenty of distractions and sidesteps. The guide itself is pretty straightforward, but my development partner and I spent a bunch of time fiddling around with a couple ideas that were inspired by parts of the guide, mostly in terms of 'I wonder if we can do this?' - which worked out, thankfully!

All in all, it was a surprisingly easy first step into working in VR. More to come.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

20170104 Virtual Machines

My very first pet ghost computer!
Tonight, I:

  • Set up a brand-new-in-box Brix Pro i7 to run ESXi,  a virtual machine host OS
  • 'Hacked' (is this even hacking? I don't know) an ESXi customizer program to not flag Windows 10 as an non-modern Windows operating system (it thought it was pre-XP...)
    • For this, I edited the .cmd (in Notepad) and found the function that was messing with it
    • I changed the if statement within the function to not flag an error if the version of Windows was not 9.? (isn't this the whole joke about why Windows 10 happened?!)
    • I saved the file, and it worked!
    • I felt clever
  • Re-compiled a custom ESXi .iso to make it play nice with the Brix Pro
    • Some issues with the HDD and the Network Adapter
    • Required two extra packages, and a lot of searching around
  • Made a bootable USB of the .iso
  • Installed the .iso to the Brix Pro
  • Successfully loaded the web client in order to install machines
    • Experimented a little, creating and destroying VMs
  • SSH'd into the host machine
  • Downloaded Linux Mint 18 to attempt installation of a VM from .iso
    • Made another bootable USB
    • Created a Linux VM
    • Couldn't get the VM to see the bootable USB in host machine
    • Uploaded Mint.iso to datastore
    • Gave VM a CD drive that was directly linked to the datastore .iso file
    • It worked! It is pictured up at the top of this post
    • Installed using the prompt pictured above
Quite an adventure, and a lot of fun! Total time, end to end, was 3 hours.

Software acquired:
  • ESXi Customizer (to re-compile the .iso)
  • VMware PowerCLI (I ended up not using this)
  • Universal USB Installer
  • VMware vSphere
  • Putty
  • Linux Mint 18
Thanks to Matthew Wegner for the inspiration and coaching.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The (pleasant) surprise of life with a Chromebook

It started, as so many things do these days, with a conversation on Twitter.
You can click that link about and view the full, exciting, and ultimately fulfilling meeting of the minds that occurs following it, but the TL;DR is that it got me thinking about my biggest gripe with tablets.

I hate holding tablets.

I don't want to be this person ever.
I've been slowly developing a theory on this (largely based around having spent too much time on laptops) that my brain/body cannot develop an straightforward acceptance of tablets. Every time I use one, the ultimate frustrations are that I wish it could do a couple more things, I wish typing on it was easier, and I wish I wasn't holding the damn thing the entire time.

At best, they feel clumsy. A strange halfway point between laptop computing and using a smart, and trending too closely to the latter that they come off worse. I began considering the Chromebook concept in depth. I began to see it less as a stunted laptop, but a broadened tablet. I began to start understanding what a Chromebook might be useful for.

When tempted to purchase anything that crests over the $100 mark, I have a simple system: if I'm still thinking about the item in 2-3 weeks, I'll give it more serious thought. It's a pretty handy way to let your short-term memory work over and forget things that don't really matter, but sure looks neat or cool or whatever.

I knew I was sold when I found myself sharing my new-found Chromebook perspective with a friend.

'It's a laptop that runs a browser and nothing else - I'd go crazy. It's such a weird idea.'

'Video-editing or any creative powerhouse stuff? For sure you're going to miss out. Think about everything else, though. Web-based email, Tweetdeck, etc. Maybe it's not so crazy for light work.'

It was too late. My subconscious had already ordered a Chromebook. My reality just had to catch up.

I started browsing online, reading reviews, watching videos and trying to crack the code of whether the Chromebook made sense in the lives of anyone who was a more-than-average computer user. For reference, I probably spend something close to 16 or more hours using a computer per average day. At a high level, it seems difficult to comprehend how a Chromebook could make sense. I discovered this article, 'Why I left my Macbook for a Chromebook' by Simon Phipps of Infoworld. If Simon had managed to find himself happy with a Chromebook as a daily computer back in 2012, perhaps there was hope after all.

It looks like a massive toy, which is to its credit.
A few days later, and I've settled on the model I liked the most: the Acer Chromebook 15, with a 32gb SSD, 4gb RAM and 10 hours of battery life. Upping the RAM from 2gb to 4gb afforded the 1080 resolution screen, which was my #1 priority for a 15.6" screen. Most Chromebook reviews focused on 13.3" or smaller screen. I already own a Surface Pro 2, and for everything it does well, the 11" screen makes every action take 1.5x to 2x longer than it should, and it gets frustrating real fast.

Amazon heard my call, and knocked 40% off it within 2 days. My $350 laptop had become $260. I awaited its arrival.

All of the bluster left me with a limited use-case that would absolutely satisfy me: the Chromebook had to let me walk away from my computer in the evenings, and take a break doing mindless things like watching movies, listening to music, all the while letting me do casual browsing, tweeting, etc.

The big surprise? My desktop machine is now the evening machine.

The Chromebook arrived on Thursday. On Friday morning, I decided to conduct an experiment: If I opened up my Chromebook to start work, how long would it take before I was obliged to turn on my PC?

Logging into,,, and opening the Tweetdeck app, I began about my day as usual. It wasn't until 6pm that I realized I hadn't looked to my PC once. Those 10 hours of battery life meant that I didn't even plug it in to charge until later that night.


Of course, a lot of this will depend on how invested you are in Google's app ecosystem, especially in terms of Gmail, Drive, etc. However, since that day, I haven't used my PC for anything except playing games in the evening. Instead of working hunched over a desk, I lie back on my recliner. Is this worse for my back? That's for another blog post. The Chromebook has effortlessly transitioned into being my daily machine for work, with few sacrifices to tip the scales either way.

What began as mild curiosity about the state of ChromeOS (spoiler: hard to notice there's an OS here at all) has morphed into a surprising discovery - that there's more of me in-browser than I would have expected.

If that new MacBook seems just a little beyond your budget? Look up a Chromebook. It's a small amount to gamble for something that might really surprise you.

-Written, edited, and published with a Chromebook

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Purchasing Experience from

This was the case I ordered.
This post is to serve as a review of my first purchase from I Buy Power, the eSports high-end PC gaming machine builder company.

My previous PC died after what must have been a power surge. The current place I live in has questionable wiring, particularly in what seems to be the room where all of our most expensive electronics rest. The silver lining to all of this is that I've been thinking of getting a super-charged computer for a while, and this setback just happened to align over Thanksgiving 2013 - leaving my searching online for Black Friday deals.

I had been recommended iBuyPower from a number of friends and acquaintances. I liked the prospect of tweaking a build and then letting someone else take care of the assembly. I haven't built a computer in around 10 years at this point, and can no longer afford the time to learn how new-fangled bits click together, though I hear that it has become easier in recent years.

D-DAY: The Black Friday deals were great. Initially tempted by a build with an SSD, I ended up foregoing the extra expense and finishing up around the $1200 mark. Still pretty hefty for a PC. Not the most expensive, for sure, but quite enough for me.

D+3: The company request that you add your shipping address to your credit card account, if you want it shipped elsewhere. This was the case for me, and was the first real hurdle after getting my head around which components I wanted in my new build. The bank let me down and there seemed to be serious problems getting my shipping address added to my account. After three days of back and forth with the iBuyPower sales rep, we agreed to change my shipping address to my billing address. It was going to add a little time to me collecting it, but at least the process would start moving forward.

Moments after, my sales rep contacted me to let me know that the free engraving I had opted for would not be possible with the case I had selected. This was no big deal to me, and originally I had found it hard to resist the offer, though I could not think of anything worth engraving.
In the days prior, I'd read stories of cases getting tossed about in shipping, causing parts to break. iBuyPower offer customers a premium packing service that fills the case with foam in an effort to reduce this risk. I asked if I could add this to my order, and my sales rep threw it in for free. That was neat.

About two hours after this call, I received an email alert stating:
Your order is being forwarded to our inventory queue - Please note that it may take several days before this process begins.
'Fine by me!' I figured. All I had to do now was anxiously refresh the page every few hours, hoping upon hope that I'd see a shipping update. Typical turnaround time as stated on the site, from order to shipping, is 5-10 days. At this stage, my order is five business days old.

D+8: Email update: Parts Gathering: Beginning. The inventory department has begun gathering the parts for my build. Expected turnaround is 'some days'.

D+10: Email update: Parts Gathering: Completed. The computer has moved to the assembly department. Depending on complexity, it may take a day or two before reaching Quality Control. The next expected update is that the computer has been assembled.

At this stage, in terms of 'business days', I am expecting shipping before the end of the week.

Four hours after gathering has completed, I receive an update my machine has been assembled and will now enter Quality Control. This phase tests the hardware for faults, installs Windows and necessary drivers. Things are looking good!

D+11: Quality Control is completed, and the build is moving to burn-in tests. These are 'grueling stress tests' that ensure the computer can take the strain of intensive use, I assume. Next step is shipping, so it looks promising for tomorrow. Fingers still crossed. Crossing toes just to be sure, too.

Burn-in was a short process, for sure! Just one hour later, and the machine has moved to the shipping dept. It will ship either today or tomorrow.

Five hours later, and my FedEx tracking number is emailed to me. ETA: Thursday by 8pm, in two days' time.

D+13: FedEx deliver on schedule, and the machine is in my hands. The box it comes in is massive.

Setup is a little complicated. The protective packaging I opted for is difficult to remove, and it is not always clear if it is caught on a piece of circuitry or not, due to the way it is installed. It's a plastic bag filled with two chemicals that solidify upon mixing, which allows it to get right into the hollows of the case to protect things like ram and graphics cards from getting knocked around in transit.

On boot, the computer is untouched, and I register my Windows 7 serial (marked on the side of the case with a product sticker). All is well.
In the flesh.
All in all, the experience was positive. The system that obstructs shipping to other addresses is awkward, but it wasn't a total catastrophe for me. All in all, the process took 8-9 business days, excluding shipping. I will update this post if anything noteworthy happens, but as it stands, it's a pretty neat piece of kit.

January 5, 2014: It's been several weeks since I posted this, and the computer continues to run like a dream.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Write or Die is great fun for terrifying yourself into 5+ minutes of work

The timer signalling when your session ends is a blessing. That said, I didn't look at it once.

Okay I guess I have to start writing so here I am, fudging out word after word after word in the grim hope that by the end of the next five minutes, I will have succeeded in clawing together five hundred silly little words, all in a row. Or a paragraph, at least. If I don't keep a steady stream of words going, my words will start to eat themselves. I am using Write Or Die.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not even close

Okay, so this might be easier to put out if I don't try to make it into something. Apologies if it makes little sense.

As he was, so he shall be

Tuesday July 14 2009 - I think that's the first Giant Bombcast I listened to. It was about California Extreme, and I had just returned home from a year in Paris. In my final few weeks there, I was reading up on Jeff Gerstmann, and found out that the whole Gamespot thing had happened, and that Giant Bomb was a new site he had founded with a bunch of other ex-Gamespot staffers, including one Ryan Davis. I had no idea who Ryan Davis was.

Today that seems like such an alien idea.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hotline Miami 2's beautiful opening music

At E3 I was lucky enough to get a first look at Dennaton's upcoming sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. If you played the first, you'll know how important and effective the use of music was in the game.

Here's the first thing you'll hear when you launch it later this year:

Like it? Love it?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review A Great Game Day: Silent Hill 2

Unsettling barely comes close.

There is a dearth of available games to play. There are fewer good games, and the list narrows when we consider 'great'. Silent Hill 2 is one of the few that I consider to be of such a quality that it can stand beside the greats of any other art form or entertainment medium.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Video Game Club - Episode 0

A few weeks ago, Rob Manuel, Adam Rosenberg, Scott Nichols and myself got together to talk about video games. We're thinking of turning it into 'a thing', and are in the middle of ruminating on how best to work it.

For our first installment, we discussed Cardboard Computer's Kentucky Route Zero.

You can (and should) watch us do so at this lovely YouTube link:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Very Funny: TBS, King of the Nerds, and Nerdsploitation

Hard to believe, but none of them are warriors

Reality television is not my cup of tea. I remember being hooked on successive seasons of Big Brother in my younger years, marveling at how the show's producers had found such unusual personalities among the throng of attention-starved applicants. As my life has progressed and I have found less and less time for television, good and bad, it is safe to say that reality shows have fallen off my radar. What I have caught of recent output in the genre has seemed relatively innocuous fare amounting to nothing much more dangerous than a favorite comfort food: fine in small doses, but possibly not the best foundation for a life perspective.

When I first saw the trailer for TBS' new reality show King of the Nerds, it sounded immediate alarm bells in my head. Despite this reaction, I felt compelled to check it out, especially given that TBS has garnered its fair share of bad press among nerd communities of late, with a wonderful article that compared how The Big Bang Theory uses nerds as its punchlines, while NBC's Community is a more inclusive and generally embracing affair. With King of the Nerds, I considered that perhaps TBS was looking to to make amends. To boldly go where no TBS series had gone before.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Porpentine's Big Chaos Game Jam: Streamy

I don't know where this originates, but it's so evocative and I don't know why.

Last weekend, Porpentine announced that she was launching a game jam specifically focusing on games created in Twine. One of my goals for 2013 was to take part in a game jam. As soon as I saw the news, I knew I had to start planning for Big Chaos Game Jam.

As a crusader for freedom of expression, her focus for the jam was straightforward and simple: DO WHATEVER YOU WANT AND HAVE FUN. I must confess that I can find this sort of freedom to be at times paralyzing. Without anywhere to start, where do I begin?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Game Jam Game

I had this vague impression that I might want to take part in a game jam in 2013.

I wound up figuring out how to crudely use Twine a few weeks ago, and then a Twine game jam was announced yesterday and the deadline was tonight. So I sat down for a few hours, and I threw an experience together.

I call it Streamy.

This is a bookending sentence that makes that above link seem somehow more enticing.