For the best experience use full HD.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Highlight #23: One Man Navy

In this exciting ranked battle, we go head on with the enemy in capture point A on the New Dawn map. Once all the torpedoes and bullets stop flying my team is up a cruiser, but that doesn't mean we win automatically. You have to not only score more points, which means capturing the contested areas, but survive until the end - especially when you're the last captain afloat. Sometimes that means a strategic retreat, but only after victory is assured. Enjoy!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Let the Gaming Resume!

For all intents and purposes, the system upgrade is complete! Last night I installed the SanDisk Extreme PRO SSD and copied all my game installs over to it. Then I changed the drive letters around so make certain it has the same letter as the SSD is was replacing and, presto-change-o, I was back in business. Yes, it really is that simple. Once I'd replaced the outgrown SSD and removed the old slow original 400 GB platter drive I no longer used, I closed the case for good and began the overclock (OC) optimization.

The first thing I did was run the EZ Tune in the ASUS bios. It asks a couple easy questions, like whether the PC is for everyday use or gaming/media use, and then sets the bios. It only set the Turbo Performance Unit (TPU,) and not the DRAM. It defaulted to a 15% OC, which was nice.

I then tried the 5-Way Optimization of the Dual Intelligent Processors 5 provided with the ROG Maximus VIII Hero system board. This attempted a per core TPU optimization and a DRAM optimization. However, the system reboot failed with a 55 error showing on the LED Q-Code display of the motherboard: no memory installed. I restarted, went into the BIOS and removed the attempted DRAM speed increase. On restart the 5-Way Optimization completed sans DRAM boost. It left the DRAM at it's safe (SPD) setting.

I ran my first 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark at these settings. Here are my results.

This was a marked improvement over the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark I ran earlier this month. There is a point by point comparison near the end of this post.

I then dove into the BIOs to see if I could manually set the DRAM to it's XMP 2.0 value of 3200 MHz. Once your frequency setting is done, 103.0x47.00 in my case, the BIOS presents a list of DRAM frequencies you can select. This includes frequencies over the XMP specification of the DRAM installed if you wished to be daring. I did not wish to be daring after the first Q-Code 55 error, so I selected the closest frequency to 3200 I could get: 3193 MHz.

I then restarted the system and ran the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark again. Here are those results.

The DRAM boost added almost 200 points to my overall score. It may not seem like a lot, but so long as it's stable every bit helps. While I was running the benchmark, I also kept track of the CPU performance. Here's the 5-Way Optimization Report with real time CPU and DRAM speed listed at the bottom.

I also ran EVGA's Precision X 16 software to watch my GPU heat and performance.
This was about the hottest my GPU got. The temperature on the CPU did get a bit hotter than this considering it was running at nearly 4.8 MHz. It topped out at 61 degrees Celsius during the benchmark, well below its imposed 71 degree Celsius limit. Hooray for water cooling!

Now it's time to give you the comparison I promised above. Here are the two benchmarks I ran today compared with the Benchmark I ran January 11th with the old system board, i7-2700k CPU and DDR3 DRAM.
Two of the scores were actually better before I overclocked the DRAM, but remember I was also running the 5-Way Optimization program and Precision X 16 as the same time. That affected the GPU ever so slightly.

There is only one more screen capture to show you. It explains itself.
I am certain there are other optimizations I can make. This system board gives me the ability to tweak to my heart's content. However, I'll put that off for awhile to ensure the system is completely stable as it currently is. I've not had a chance to run all my software since upgrading, and I've already run into one that's not behaving itself. It seems I can't get into Developer mode in Lightroom 2015 (CC.) And I've a photo I have to post today! Well, I've other programs I can use to do the processing I need to do. I've also got other systems. I just hope the issue is resolvable. I'm not even sure right now what's causing it, but I'm leaning toward a GPU issue, not an OC issue. (EDIT 1/29/2016 5:02 PM PST: It was the GPU acceleration in Lightroom that was causing this problem. I deselected GPU Acceleration in Preferences and no more problems. Whew.) Anyway, that's it; all done. I already know World of Warships works just fine. I got in three matches last night before I began the overclocking today. They were all sweet victories. I'll have a Sunday Highlight next, so until then, have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

In Lieu of Gaming I Present This! - Part 2

In the course of my life I have had opportunity to build PCs of almost every technological generation. I started with kit built computers and just kept at it. There is a certain satisfaction in being able to say, "I made this," like at the end of every original X Files episode. And to be certain I've had some PC building experiences that were X File quality mysteries as to how they ever succeeded. Fortunately last night was not one of those experiences, though there were a few hiccups along the way.
This post is the history of my most current experience. This time, I was undertaking a straightforward system board, CPU and RAM replacement. I procured an Intel i7-6700k processor and the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Skylake board. As Skylake uses DDR4, I also had to order RAM. I settled on 32 GB of G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 288-Pin SDRAM DDR4 3200. It all arrived yesterday afternoon, and as my picture from yesterday's post showed I was ready to install by 6 PM. The SanDisk Extreme Pro I'd ordered last week and was waiting until the new gear arrived. I did not install it yet as I want to do a little burn in testing before I commit it to the new board.
It took me less than 15 minutes to detach all cables and remove the old system board from my case. I have an AZZA 2000 Hurricane which has lots and lots of room and is easy to work with. I didn't unmount anything I didn't need to of course. Why make more work of it? Therefore you can see the water cooler fans and radiator in the top of the case. There is one thing that really made me take a deep breath when I discovered it. The amount of dust caking the radiator was alarming. After five years it was terrible, and I am amazed the cooling efficiency of the system remained so high. It took another 15 minutes just to clear all the dust out with a can of dust eliminator and a small vacuum. I need to do a better job of keeping that under control let me tell you.

So after removing the old board and cleaning the interior as well as I thought prudent, I placed the new board into the case (after swapping the port faceplate of course.) That is when I an into my first difficulty. There is a shroud on the Maximus VIII Hero at the top of the board. I covers the ports, the heat sinks and the sound chips. It's supposed to prevent interference or some such. It was too tall. I couldn't get the new board to match up with the mounting posts in the case because the shroud hit the radiator fans at the top of the case. So much for having plenty of room with which to work.

So I had to make a choice. Modify the CPU cooling system or modify the shroud. I'm no dummy when it comes to hardware. I decided in about an android's eternity I'd modify the shroud. It's hard plastic, and normally I'd use an exacto knife to cut away what I needed to remove. Unfortunately I've misplaced my exacto knife and had to settle for a slim, sharp utility knife. To say I was a little concerned about slipping and cutting the meat off the palm of my hand is an understatement. I went very slowly, and an 80 minutes later I had a still nice looking but appropriately modified shroud. Here's what the modification looked like mounted on the board along with the silly utility knife I had to use.
Finally, I was finally able to mount the new board. I'd spent 15 minutes on disassembly; 15 minutes on cleaning and over an hour on cutting away a corner of the shroud. But that's how these things go. I knew what I was getting into when I started. It's almost never a straight forward job to swap out a system board. But I was finally ready to proceed. It took me less than five minutes to get the new board installed.
There she is all tightened down and ready for the CPU and memory. And though it's slightly blurred because frankly my hands were aching from the careful carving I'd just undertaken, I think you can see the modification looks quite good when the board is installed. But do you see the next problem? I'll give you a hint. Where is the CPU power connector? That's right, it's under the bloody cooler fan next to the shroud modification. And no, there wasn't enough room to get it plugged in, though there was enough room if I plugged it in before I mounted the board. Well, some good news is better than no good news.

So I removed the new board. That's when I made my first mistake. In an effort to save a minute or two, I loosened the mounting screws but left them in place. My intent was to move the board down the quarter of an inch I needed to connect the power cable. So of course I was very careful in lifting the board off the mounting posts and sliding it down. But I forgot about all the SATA cables at the bottom of the board. One caught on the lower right corner of the board and made it "stick." Then it release suddenly and the board "jumped" the quarter inch I needed. The mounting screws went EVERYWHERE. Just take this advice as gospel. Always completely remove screws from the case when you are working inside it. I knew better too, but I just wanted to get it done and fire up the new processor. It set me back 40 minutes as I hunted for screws. As it was, I only found eight of the nine. But I spent 30 of those 40 minutes doing the complete disassembly of the case and other components that I said above would not be necessary. Well, it is necessary when you fear there is a loose piece of metal rattling around in your case. It took 30 minutes to be 99% certain the screw was not in the case. It probably got flung out of the case and onto the floor somewhere. I didn't locate it so perhaps it went behind the desk. I don't know. I just don't want it free floating in the case.

So after three hours I finally had the board back in the case (minus one mounting screw which I will need to install later,) and could mount the new CPU and attach the cooling head to it, as well as mount the memory. I took many deep breaths as I did so in order to not rush. Rushing leads to mistakes and that can lead to broken gear. So I chilled. And in another 15 minutes it was done.
Now all that remained was to reconnect all the cables and reinstall my GTX 980 TI Hybrid. The cables were all labeled so that was a breeze. You know, back in the early days they never labeled the cable heads. If you didn't label them as you removed them, you were up shit creek without a paddle when it came to reconnecting everything. And yes, I've made that mistake - once. Trust me, you only make it once. It's so painful you will never do it again. But as I said, these cable were all labeled and it was only another 10 minutes before I had everything plugged back into the new board.
After the issues I had with the shroud encroaching on space needed by the CPU cooler, I was a little concerned the graphics card radiator was going to experience a similar block, but my worries were completely unfounded. The shroud did not encroach on the rear vent grill at all and I was able to easily mount the other radiator. Now there was nothing left to do but sit it upright, put the side panel back on and fire it up.
Ah, the sweet sounds of success are purring fans, water gushing at speed through intact tubes to the nearest radiator, and the conspicuous lack of post test beeping! I'm happy to report the operation was a success.

That was not the end of the night though. Upon restart I had my last derp moment. With a completely new board and processor installed, Windows 10 now thought I was a pirate. I spent the last 30 minutes of my night in chat with Aron S. (a cool dude BTW) getting my Windows 10 upgraded system reactivated. But at least it waits me fully activated and ready for testing tonight. Tomorrow I'll post the results and my thoughts on Skylake. Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I do appreciate you patronage. Let me know if you have any questions using the comments. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In Lieu of Gaming I Present This!

Yes, I went and caved on the CPU replacement because, damn it, Oculus Rift! Well, that and my i7-2600k was getting a bit long in the tooth. I'm really anxious to see how much performance gain I get from the Skylake architecture. The numbers look phenomenal! I'll be certain to report back to you all how it performs. If you have any questions about why I chose as I did, please leave them in the comments and I'll be as forthright as is prudent. And now to quote a funny movie,


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Highlight #22: Ognevoi Carries while BBs Cower

More exciting ranked battle play. My Ognevoi takes C and then moves to B as our Minekaze gets driven off by cruiser fire. I arrive just in time to set a fire on a Cleveland and drive it off. But as my smoke screen dissipates leaving me visible, an enemy U.S. Nicholas destroyer charges into B to challenge me. Watch the video to see how this gun boat match up ends!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Something to Ponder

My brain is so depleted from the work week that I have no idea what to write about. I didn't even get to play any computer games until last night, which saw me play seven matches in World of Warships. There will be a video out because of it soon™. But other than that, it was just one thing or another I had to deal with.

For example, Wednesday I returned to my gaming PC with the high hopes of playing something only to discover that OneDrive had for some reason unknown to anyone created 120 gigabytes of files on my system drive. This completely filled it until the system cried Uncle sometime before I actually got to it. WTF Microsoft? Why you have to be so difficult? Anyway, it took me all night to deal with that fiasco, and to do it in such a way as to not endanger all my data files which are synchronized to OneDrive. It was just like being at work.

So here it is Friday and I've got nothing. I could throw up another video, but really, how many one paragraph posts can I expect you to accept before you wander off for more interesting pastures? But oddly enough, there is a video I want to highlight in this post.

There are several science oriented YouTube channels I watch with my personal account, which is different from my gamer account. One of them is called It's Okay To Be Smart run by Joe Hanson. The video that got my brain stuck on something I found... unlikely... is the one titled Who Shares Your Birthday. It's a video on the statistics of two or more people in a room sharing the same birthday. It's a bit heavy on math, but there are kittens at key moments to reduce the brain stress. Here's the video. You should watch it.
Did you catch that? It takes 42 folds of paper to reach the moon. 42. Douglas Adams, you cheeky so-and-so.

Well, that's it. That's how the week's gone. On Monday I learned Douglas Adams was way smarter than I ever thought, and perhaps his books were more scientific than they seemed. Or perhaps it's just that the rest of the week left me weeping for the future of humanity because nothing good ever came from stupid.

Of course, there is only one problem with the 42 folds needed to get to the moon. No matter how large the sheet of paper, or how thin it is, even if it was only a single atom thin (that would actually be worse don't you think?) you can't fold it more than a dozen times. The Myth Busters managed to fold a piece of paper 11 times! But they had to use a steam roller and a forklift. And their paper was the size of a football field. Not something easily done at home.
Speaking of the Myth Busters, this is their last season. Jamie and Adam are hanging up their goggles. This is sad in many ways, but they will always live on in my heart. And I got to see them in person a couple of years ago during the Behind the Myths Tour. That was awesome! So yeah, cool memories in that. And just last Saturday they aired an episode done in my home state! They were in Pendelton Oregon last year to find out if a train car filled with steam would actually implode. You'll have to watch it to find out though. No spoilers here.

And that's about it. Dinner is almost done and I've nothing else. There will be a highlight on Sunday named Ognevoi Carries while BBs Cower, so check in on Sunday for some exciting Ranked Battle action. And until then, have a wonderful weekend! Catch you later.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Total team effort; all contributed to victory!

The week has been a bear at RL work, so today you all get a gameplay video of Mabrick in his Fubuki that I recorded a couple weeks ago. Though I was top scorer in this game with an outwardly less than impressive 1400+ raw experience, seven others on my team of 12 earned over 1000 experience as well, and the rest were not far behind. Since experience in any given match is capped and shared, it's very unusual to see so many earn over 1000 raw XP. It was truly a team effort as we stopped the enemy's push into our base and then raced south to secure their base. All in all a very satisfying victory - enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Highlight #21: Ognevoi versus New Mexico - YOLO

Sailing my Ognevoi destroyer on the Strait map in World of Warships. I captured A, then moved behind the big island on the west side of B and swung into it from the south west. I fought hard against an Omaha cruiser to get it, and I wasn't about to give it back. That's when their New Mexico battleship captain decided to take matters into his own hands and turned west through the new east side gap into area B. What's a Russian destroyer captain to do? Charge!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Gaming News for the Week

That's Why It's Called the King of Battle

Armored Warfare

Here is a game I've hardly mentioned on my blog. It's not because I don't play it. I've actually got many, many hours of game play videos recorded. It's mostly because I'm not sure what to say about it. It's a lot like World of Tanks except it has PvE content that's pretty good. I've mostly stuck to that as I've learned the game. I've only been in one PvP match and pretty much got pwned as you can see on the screen capture above.

One thing that appears different from WoT, because I've not actually played WoT, is the speed of the game play. I've watched a LOT of WoT game play videos courtesy of The Mighty Jingles and Corelin on Digital.Flash.Fire (also of Mad Haberdashers fame.) And believe me, Armored Warfare is way faster. I suppose that's because it's 2nd half of the 20th century tanks and they are just way faster than 1st half of the 20th century tanks.

One thing I can definitely say about Armored Warfare is it's still in the early stages of development. The game works, but it needs a lot of balancing and tweaking. The latest developer blog, published every Friday, highlights a lot of the work that still needs done. Once the work is complete, this will be a very fun game. It's already superior to WoT in many ways, and not just because it provides hardcore cooperative PvE. In fact, if anything kills this game it will be the hardcore cooperative PvE. If they make it too good, no one will ever want to PvP.

Mining in Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous

I went ahead an purchased Elite Dangerous: Horizons. I haven't attempted any landings. I'd like to wait until they have planetary landings and not just moon landings. However, I did purchase a Cobra Mark VI to do some mining and go along with my Vulture. Mining is pleasant. Put on some tunes and just gather ore which the ship automatically processes into metal. I find that it's easy to make a quarter million credits and hour. That's not as much as I could make rare trading, but it is a lot less stressful.

Yesterday there was and interesting article from Time about Elite: Dangerous. Yeah, you read that correctly - Time. Seems Frontier Developments released sales figures and the game has sold 1.4 million copies. Back of the envelope math tells me that's about 80 million dollars of income. That's not the 105,649,690 (as of the writing of this sentence) raised by Star Citizen, but Elite: Dangerous is playable now. And the 1.4 million players exceeds the 1,165,962 backers of Star Citizen. I am certain there is a lot of overlap in the player base, but it shows strong support for space sims in general. Doesn't it? As the Time article points out, they will never be Grand Theft Auto - they require more game savvy to play than that title - but they are certainly capable of being profitable when done correctly. And Elite: Dangerous certainly does it correctly in my book. The one thing that isn't clear is if that 1.4 million figure also includes purchases of the recent Elite Dangerous: Horizon's expansion.

The next big update for Elite: Dangerous is multi-crew game play. From what I've read, they intend on dividing roles like pilot and weapons officer among multiple players so each can concentrate on keeping the ship in one piece. As the developers said at EGX last fall,
"You'll be able to share and alternate control of weapons systems, turrets and flight duties to multiply your effectiveness. Even to the extent of piloting a ship-launched fighter and working in combination with the mothership. It’ll be especially useful in some of the very large trading ships coming in season two."
Looking good Frontier! Keep up the excellent work!

The Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Pricing for the Oculus Rift was announced last week. I detailed my feelings on the matter in my last post Oculus Rift... or Ripoff? I've been disappointed by pre-orders in the past, so I think I'll keep my money to myself for awhile. It's not like I won't be able to buy one when they finally start shipping, and waiting a week or two to get it while they service the pre-orders doesn't bother me. Besides, maybe I'll have another reason by then to upgrade my motherboard. And perhaps I'll be able to buy just the Rift at a better price point. I already have an Xbox One controller for my PC. I don't want another. For that matter, the case can go too. It's not like I'm going to be lugging my full size gaming desktop PC anywhere. Why do I need a case? Someone needs to fire Oculus' marketing idiots and give us just the headset.

SWTOR - Defeating Darth Decimus

Star Wars: The Old Republic

It's that time of year where subscribers get paid in SWTOR. This is evidently a not so new new thing. IDK, I'm still a SWTOR noob. Nevertheless, as I am a subscriber, evidently I get a droid and a jet pack mount and other things to be announced each month until August. I'm cool with that. :-) I still have the original speeder I got as a new character. I just haven't felt like spending coin on a different one as it gains me nothing in speed. But I do like the idea of hovering my way around the galaxy strapped into my personal jet pack. It's the 21st century after all, and reality as sorely let me down on that point! I'll just have to get my jet pack fix virtually. I wonder if SWTOR will ever go 3D...

But more importantly, the next chapter in Knights of the Fallen Empire is coming on February 11, 2016. It is titled Anarchy in Paradise. The funny thing for me is, I got into SWTOR for Knights of the Fallen Empire, and I have yet to play it. I decided I should learn the ropes so to speak first, so I started with a first level smuggler named Caius. I got so wrapped up in his story, I didn't stop until I'd finished it. Originally I figured I'd play him awhile, and then create a level 60 character with the token I got. But now I don't have to. Caius is maxed. So I'll be launching into Knights of the Fallen Empire this weekend in all likelihood, and should finish it before the next chapter comes out.

Detonating an Amagi

World of Warships

My World of Warships career is progressing apace, but there isn't really "news" to report. However, I feel it's necessary to state I think World of Warships is moving in the correct direction. Since the last patch, I've felt the game is a bit more balanced when it comes to ship classes; especially in the buff they gave all destroyers by making it harder for single ships to spot torpedoes. There are still some terrible balancing issues between various nation's ships, but I'm not certain that will ever be addressed. Deep down I think it's politically motivated, perhaps at a subconscious level, and I have little hope the issues will be addressed. But at the end of the day I must remind myself it's just a game and not a historical re-enactment. Players will simply gravitate to the best ships or slog through the grind at a self-imposed disadvantage. There are plenty of ships to choose from and plenty of players to play them, so I don't think it'll have much impact on the game's future that some lines are worst that others.

One thing I have noticed is there are a lot of premium ships in the game these days. This week Wargaming announced a new Russian premium cruiser, the Mikhail Kutuzov. It goes for $49.99 on the North American server and comes with a port slot and 1000 doubloons. I've not been in a match since where several were not present. This cruiser comes with smoke, something only destroyers have had until now. It's got smaller caliber guns but lots of them. It also has 8 kilometer torpedoes. In game play, it's a lot like a super destroyer. If I ever get one, I'd play it like a Russian or American destroyer. I'd likely lose it every match, but I'd make life hell on enemy destroyers and any battleship that got too close.

And that's all the news I've got. Let me know if you like this sort of all encompassing post. I'd be happy to read any suggestions anyone has. I've been known to take advice from time to time. ;-) I might even do requests. And until you visit here again, have a great time and be safe in all you do. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oculus Rift... or ripoff?

<Begin Transcendental Music>

A week ago, after years and years of development, the Oculus Rift was finally - finally - available for pre-order (limit one per customer,) with shipping expected to happen June 2016 according to the pre-order page. Or is that March 28th as another page on the site claims? Who knows. Three years ago I was brimming with hype for the Rift. I even got to play EVE Valkyrie using the Rift at EVE Vegas 2013. It was truly an incredible experience. And now I can finally order it! All my dreams are finally coming true...

<sound of needle scratching across record>

Actually, no, no they haven't. In fact, I am disappointed. I am not terribly disappointed, but nevertheless I am disappointed. For more than a year the media has been trying to pin down the price for Rift. A figure of $1500 has been widely reported, but that price includes the PC needed to run the device. Those who actually understand these things have been banking on a street price for just the Rift of about $300. Last week we found out the price for the Rift is twice that: $600. 

Many have called that a bitter pill. Lucky Palmer has stated that is little more than the manufacturing cost of a premium VR headset. He has stated it's the price for making cheap VR in the future. Here is exactly what he said on reddit,
The goal never changed, but the timeline of achieving that goal did. I still want to make VR cheap, functional, and disruptive, but it takes a certain amount of quality to do that. Three years ago, I thought a good enough headset could be built for $300 and run on a decent gaming PC. 
Since then, we have learned a lot about what it takes to induce presence, and the landscape of the industry has changed a lot too - we are no longer the only players, and the burden of bringing good VR to everyone is no longer solely on us. The best way to make a technology mainstream is not always as simple as making a cheap product as quickly as possible, that is what lead to the last VR crash! Tesla is a good example - Elon Musk had to convince the public that electric cars could be awesome before he could build the technology that would actually make electric cars mainstream. If Tesla had tried to make a $35k mass-market electric car back in 2008, they would have accomplished little. Instead, they made the Roadster and Model S, proved that electric cars could be awesome, invested heavily in R&D, and now have a clear path towards their ever-present long term goal, making electric cars mainstream. 
Virtual reality is actually in an even better scenario. GearVR is already an awesome headset for $99 if you already have a flagship Samsung phone (like tens of millions of other people), and there are other companies entering the VR scene in the near future. Eventually, VR is going to run on every computer sold, and there will be a wide range of hardware at various price and quality points, a lot like televisions or monitors. 
The Rift is the first headset capable of delivering presence, the sensation of feeling like you are inside a virtual scene on a subconscious level. As I have said before, VR needs to become something everyone wants before it can become something everyone can afford - I totally understand people who don’t want to spend that much on VR, but this is the current cost of making a really good headset. Much like smartphones, the cost of that quality is going to come down over time - you can buy unsubsidized phones for less than $100 that blow away the best $600 phones from just five years ago, that is what time does to the cost of technology.
Let me translate all that for you. "Rift is the Tesla automobile of virtual reality, and we have to charge a premium price for it in order to drum up interest and raise the money need to research how to make cheaper VR in the future and take it mainstream." Or put another way, if you really want this now, oh boy are we going to stick it to you. Otherwise, wait a few years and I'm sure we'll be ready to sell it to you more cheaply. Wow, that doesn't sound like a technology company. That sounds like a social media company that can't figure out how to make a profit. I find it very hard to believe Lucky Palmer actually had the guts to weave that amazing web of bull shit on reddit. Talk about your marketing bullshit with fancy words like "presence" and "magic" interspersed liberally. It's enough to make me gag. Lucky Palmer is no Elon Musk and this doesn't work coming out of his metaphorical mouth. Am I bitter about the $599 price tag? Well, not bitter because I'd buy a Tesla if I could afford one. However, like 99% of the people in the world, I'll have to wait for the $35k Tesla because I'm not that rich. I can't help but feel this boneheaded price on the Rift will accomplish just the opposite of what Mr. Palmer claims they want to accomplish. I know I am really turned off by the price.

But the price isn't the only thing filling people with angst. The PC requirements given by Oculus are as well. It turns out many current gaming systems are failing the Rift Compatibility Tool test. Here are the minimum requirements as given on the Oculus website.

This doesn't look all that bad, right? It's misleading. The issue is the CPU requirement. What is not stated here is that Oculus is looking at only single core processing capability. It doesn't matter if you have n i7-2600k like mine overclocked to beat the band. You'll still get a result like this.

Clicking the "Learn more" link explains the failure with an asterisk note beneath "Why am I getting this error?", and clarifies Oculus is focusing on single core performance.

How can that be bad you wonder? Well, it's not bad per se. First of all, though the requirements listed by Oculus at the very top are touted as "minimum" requirements, the note on this page refers to the requirement as "recommended." So which is it? And have a look at that processor again. The i5-4590 just happens to be (arguably) one of the best single core performing CPUs Intel has ever produced, even if it is nearly two years old. It's performance in many other respects is less than my i7-2600k when overclocked, and certainly less than newer i7-k class CPUs. 

Granted, the i7-2600k isn't the newest CPU on the block, but it is not alone in being unable to pass the Rift Compatibility Tool test. The i7-3820 also fails the test according to this Oculus forum thread, as does the i7-3970x. Your i7 will have to be in the upper 4000 series range before the single core performance begins to top the i5-4590, which makes sense as they are of a generation. Basically there is no difference in single core performance between an i5 and an i7 of the same gen. Upgrading to that generation of processor though would require a motherboard replacement in my PC with a likely memory replacement as well. That's not something I'd undertake lightly just for Rift. If it were a simpler CPU-only upgrade, I'd consider it.

But wait, this isn't the end of the matter. The Rift Compatibility Test doesn't take everything into account. It can't. It's just this dinky tool designed to get people to buy the $999 Alienware (Dell,) HP and Dell computers Oculus was paid to promote on their web site. (Wait, was that my cynical voice?) After all, I can overclock the dickens out of my CPU. I can boost it's single core performance by quite a bit since the entire system, CPU and GPU, are water cooled. Can't I get as much performance out of that premium, though dated, CPU as the newer i5-4590?

Well, the forum thread I linked above recommended people actually test their system. At some time in the past Lucky Palmer stated a 3dMark score of about 9000 or better would be suitable for the Rift. You can download the 3DMark Firestrike 1.1 demo from Steam for free. The system test takes about 5 to 10 minutes and gives you feedback on their website. Here are the results for my system, and you can see the Oculus Rift recommended PC score right below my result.

So it seems perhaps my rig can possibly run the Rift after all. However, the big unknown here is how critical the single core speed is to the Rift's performance. I monitored my system using Arx Control on my phone while I ran the 3DMark test. No single core ever exceeded 60% utilization, but it was obvious the test was taking advantage of all four cores. If Rift for some reason required 3D games to utilize a single core, it would be staggeringly stupid, not to mention a step back into the 1990s. It is not a technological requirement designed to pave the way to the future of VR as Mr. Palmer insists.

After thinking about Rift for a week, and having typed all this out, I still can't decide whether I'm outraged or simply offended. I've got the same feeling in my gut as the victim of bait and switch. I really can't doubt it's been tremendously expensive to develop the Rift. But I look at the offering, and the cost, and the extra cost of potentially having to upgrade a system that already runs anything I throw at it extremely well, and I have to ask, "Are you kidding? Do I look like I was born yesterday?" Then again, part of me still wants to pre-order. And sooner or later I will upgrade my CPU even though that means a motherboard replacement. Couldn't I just do that this spring and get it over with? I just can't get past the feeling I'm being toyed with, no pun intended. Like it was hype-hype-hype just to get us to the point of /r/shutupandtakemymoney.

So what are your thoughts about Rift and the price tag, literal and implied, Oculus has placed on it. Do you think the price is justified? Are you outraged? Do you intend to buy the Rift regardless? Tell me what you're thinking so I can better figure out what I'm thinking. And as always, thank you.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Highlight #20: Destroyers Distract While the Team Caps

In ranked battle, you play to the victory conditions and win, or be distracted and lose. Each ship has a task, and long range piddling around doesn't get it done. Battleships battle. Cruisers screen and support. Destroyers scout and harass. Victory favors the bold; not the timid. But don't be foolish. Play smart and make the opponent be foolish. This match illustrates how it's done.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fleet Friday: A World of Warship Statistics Nerd Site

For Fleet Friday today, I want to talk about statistics. One of the things I enjoy about World of Warships if the ability to track how I am doing. To facilitate this provides numerous statistics concerning every captain's game play. If you want to know how good someone who dissed you in game is you can look it up. You'd be surprised how many of them have statistics worse than yours.

But there is a problem with the statistics provided by They are a snap shot in time. There is no history. They don't tell you how you are doing over time. And frankly, I really want to know if I am getting any better or not. It helps to know such things on those frustrating days when nothing seems to go my way.

Fortunately, there is a web site that will provide historical context to your World of Warship gaming. It is, and it's plugged directly into using the World of Warship API via your game login. It will show you many things about your game in either graphical or tabular form. It is a statistic geek's fantasy come true. Here are three charts I reference at least once a week.

Two of these charts clearly show that I am in deed getting better. The average damage chart can't. The big dip you see around the beginning of November was when I began playing Russian destroyers. Lower tier ships just don't have the damage potential of higher tier ships. So average damage to a player who plays a variety of ships as I do is not as useful.

So one thing that does not track is Ranked games. You can see from my generated signature at the top of the post I only played three games last night. That is not true. I played six. I don't know if the team will add tanked statistics later. I know the site Ship Comrade is working on a ranked leader board, so it is at least accessible through the API. Time will tell. The only bummer about this is it makes me statistics somewhat inaccurate. But then again, the World of Warships official statistics don't seem to take them into account either. I suppose it really isn't necessary. You can see how someone is doing just by looking at their rank. Right?

Anyway, personal statistics aren't the only thing you can get from You can get tons of information about individual ships as well. I have recently started diving into this treasure trove of data, and it has been fascinating. And though there is no functionality to download the raw data, you can still use copy and paste to bring it over into a spreadsheet program like Excel. I did just that on Wednesday this week for the North American server data. With some minor tweaking, here's what I got.
Oh boy! What fun a statistics nerd like me can have with this! For example, have you ever wanted to know what the best ship in a particular class is? I know I have. Of course, you can be content with anecdotal information like your favorite World of Warships YouTuber stating the Mogami is the best cruiser in the game, but to me that's not actually knowing something. And doesn't such a judgement depend on what your measuring criteria is? Do you use average damage or win rate for example? Of course the answer is both according to what you think is important.

So is the Mogami the best cruiser in the game? Let's have a look. This is where you're going to need to learn the art of the Pivot Table. I will admit it's not one of my strong points, but as a statistics nerd I feel it is my duty to struggle onward. And frankly, the newer versions of Excel make it so damn easy. So first, let's isolate all non-premium cruisers by tier and compare their average damage. Here is the result.
Looking at the Tier 8 cruiser results, the Mogami is over 9000 HP average damage above the Admiral Hipper and over 15,000 (!) average damage above the New Orleans. Nope, no balancing issues there.

But how does that translate into victories? Just because a ship has an inherently higher raw potential for damage doesn't mean it wins more often. The skill of the player makes affects that a lot. The only way to know if the higher damage potential equates into more wins is to take in a whole lot of data from all captains so as much noise is eliminated as possible and look at the average win rate. This is what that looks like.

In the case of the Mogami, it seems higher potential damage does correlate to a higher win rate. This does not always hold true. The Cleveland has the highest average damage or it's tier, but the N├╝rnberg has a slightly better win rate. I think we can say the Mogami is the best Tier 8 cruiser in the game.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg with what you can do with the raw data provided. Have you ever wondered what the most popular ship is in World of Warships? I have. Mind you, it doesn't keep me up at night, but I have on occasion been distracted wondering what gets played most. Is it the Tirpitz which seems to show up in every match? Or the Cleveland for the same reason? Of course, my view of that is tainted by the tiers I play. But with data on all ships I can figure it out.

To do so I split the ships into standard ships and premium ships. I did this because I needed to pair down the data rows and I did not want to break them out by class or tier. I want to see them all at once, and separating the purchased ships from the free ships wasn't such a bad thing in that regard. Even with that done, the chart for the standard ships was freakishly enormous. I have a 30" 2560x1600 monitor and it was still a struggle to get it to fit and be legible. But I think I got it. Here's my ginormous chart (click here to see the full size, full resolution version,) with the much smaller premium ship chart below it.

These two charts show two things. I figured there were two measures of how popular a ship is, and one of them is directly affected by how many players actually achieve that tier of ship. The bars show the total number of games played on the North American server by all players for each ship. That is the one affected by the number of players who get the ship. It would be possible to normalize the data across tiers as the total number of players with the ship is provided, and doing that is on my list, but I've a day job too. So for now, the total games played is really only relevant within tiers, though won can see just how popular the OP Cleveland really is. The diamonds show the average number of games played in that ship by all players. This measure isn't affected by how many people have the ship as it is an average of those who do. It is a direct measurement of how much a specific ship wants to be played, and that in itself is an indirect measurement of how popular it is. The one caveat to that is the number is affected by how long the ship as been available. The German and Russian ships will not have as high an average as they have only been out half (less?) as long.

So, of the standard ships, looking across the diamonds, it appears the most popular ship in World of Warships for those who have earned it is the U.S. Midway carrier. Of course, that could be because it's so OP, but hey, popularity is popularity. Tied for second place is the Japanese carrier Hiryu and the Japanese destroyer Shimakaze. Third place goes to the Japanese carrier Taiho.

The most popular premium ship by average number of games played is the Japanese cruiser Atago. A far distance behind it is the U.S. cruiser Atlanta, and right behind the Atlanta in third place is the Russian cruiser Murmansk. The Tirpitz only comes in at fourth place. YMMV.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the charts. There will likely be more in the future. One of the charts I'm working on now is potential income earners. It would be ships with a high victory percentage as well as a high survival rate. Average damage and other statistics that earn credits and experience also need taken into account. That chart will be so busy I'll have to break it out by tier or class or both! I can't wait.

Lastly, if you play World of Warships please consider sending a donation to the team. They have done a lot of work for the community and I am very appreciative of their efforts. Their effort deserves to be rewarded. Also, if you have specific charts you'd like to see but don't have the time or software to create them, let me know in the comments. I'll see what I can do to provide anything you're interested in seeing. And until we meet in battle, sail carefully and have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
(Turning Points in Ancient History)
by Eric H. Cline (Andy Caploe - Narrator)
Published by Princeton University Press 2014
and Audible Studios 2014

In a turn from the usual, I decided the next book I needed to listen to during my daily commute would not be a Science Fiction or Fantasy work. I wanted something more scientific. Something I could sink my mind into. My recent post about the Yamnaya culture whetted my appetite for ancient history, so I opted for this Princeton University Press/Audible published work by Dr. Eric H. Cline, the former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and current Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University. Dr. Cline is without a doubt an expert in this field. Perusing his biography on will verify that fact. 

So what is this book about? Well, according to the publisher's summary it's about this:
In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the "Sea Peoples" invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?
In this major new account of the causes of this "First Dark Ages", Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.
A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age - and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.
I must admit this time in ancient western society has always held my attention, even more so than the Roman period. This is the time of the Old Testament, the Hebrew story of how the Kingdom of Israel came to be. This is also the time of The Trojan War, of which Homer wrote about many hundreds of years afterwards in The Iliad and The Odyssey. It was the height of the western Bronze Age. Chariots were the tanks of this time, and allowed the founding of the first empires in human history. Sailing vessels plied the coasts of Greece, Anatolia, the Levant and Egypt, bringing peoples from many nations into contact with one another. And if these little tidbits of historical meat are not enough, we recently had the discovery of an early Mycenaean warrior's tomb filled with riches of bronze, silver and gold - much of which came from the Minoan civilization on Crete; Thus illustrating that even 3500 years ago wealth from across the civilized western world was already traded and ostensibly coveted for appearance's sake.

This society flourished for three hundred years, and then seemingly over night it vanished during the 12th century B.C. The great empires fell and from our perspective 3100 years later there was no reason for it. But slowly over the course of the last century and more so on the last 20 years, archaeologists have pieced together a hazy view of that long lost time. They've done so by carefully sifting through the remains of ancient cities. They've unearthed letters sent between the rulers of these ancient empires. They've discovered ship wrecks from those days - with the cargo intact! They've analyzed the climatological records buried in lake sediments. And every step of the way they have reanalyzed what happened and tried to understand why.

That's where this book comes in. It is not a book espousing one theory over another. It is a summary of all that has been discovered in the last few decades, and how those discoveries have shed light on the people living at that time. It is an overview of a golden age in human history of which we know precious little.

This is not a book that gets into the nitty-gritty of of one particular theory or another. It talks about them all: their strengths, their weaknesses and their prejudices. It gives them all fair shrift, and tries not to put one in front of another. The book is analytical, not confrontational.

This book also attempts to bring to life the people living at that time. Too often modern humans think of ancient humans as somehow less intelligent or less capable than we are today. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lack of technological advancement is not a litmus of intelligence. These ancient people planned, and pleaded, and schemed with the best/worst of us modern humans. The author brings this out in the many letters he quotes. Hearing those ancient sentences that were put down in clay so long ago gives me thrills. It is our ancient ancestors speaking so we can overhear them though more than three millennial separate us from them. And they are pretty much just like us, though their manner of address is fascinating,
To NaphuVuria, King of Egypt, my brother, thus hath
spoken Burraburiash, King of Karduniash, thy brother :
With me it is well ; with thee, with thy land, thy house,
thy wives, thy children, thy nobles, thy horses, thy
chariots, may it be exceeding well ! I and my brother
have spoken friendly with one another, and thus have we
spoken : " As our fathers were, so will we also be good
friends." (full text here
These words were written more than 3000 years ago. It should be noted that these two men were probably not biological brothers. However, diplomatic correspondences from throughout the lands of the western Bronze Age often use familial associations to connote diplomatic relations. Thus a lesser king would address a more powerful king as father, kings of equal power as brother, etc. Doesn't that thrill you? Well, if it doesn't perhaps this book isn't for you.

This book is for those who don't have a well founded background in entirety of western Bronze Age history but want to. It's a starting point. Though I knew some of what was discussed about a few of these ancient civilizations, I did not have the overall picture of how these civilizations interacted. I didn't understand how they related to one another. I did not appreciate the complexity of their interdependence. And I certainly had no idea of how wide spread contact between all these civilizations were. If you wish to know this sort of information and make a start down the road on learning more, this is the book for you. It will serve as a solid foundation for anything else you may read or study later. It will provide context. 

If you are seeking specific information about specific events or empires, you will be disappointed by this book. It isn't concerned with one place, or one person, or just one event. It's concerned with everyone all over the eastern Mediterranean, and more over their interconnections and interactions. It's a holistic treatise, not a discovery announcement. Much of what is stated in this book has already been stated elsewhere; in some instances many else-wheres. But this book pulls them all together in one place at one time, and allows the reader to grasp the whole of it. It's a staggering picture to the unacquainted. To the mildly acquainted, it's a real eye opener. It may not impress others.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Highlight #19: Gnevny Defends for the Win

The Gnevny goes toe to toe in #WorldofWarships with a cruiser, a battleship and a carrier to defeat the opposition's push into our base while my teammates take the fight to the rest of their fleet.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goodbye 2015 - You Were Not Kind

I am certain many of you went out to celebrate the new year in the traditional social fashion. I did not. I was not up for it. I am glad 2015 is over, for personally it was filled with more sad memories than happy memories. I also did not feel like celebrating the start of 2016. There are just too many family, friends and people I looked up to who didn't make it to the new year. I wasn't exactly melancholy. I just wasn't good company, and why should I let my mood dampen anyone's celebration?

So instead, I vowed to finish my first SWTOR character's story arc by the end of the year. It was just the distraction the doctor (me) ordered. Did I make it? Of course I did.
I didn't quite get there after I finished the Smuggler story arc along with the Republic story arc, but I had a lot of companion interactions to take care of afterwards and that put me over the top. It was during those companion interactions this happened.
Yup, Risha and I got married on New Year's eve. I had to make a choice, and as much as I find Akaavi exciting and not just in a martial sense, she and I see things too differently to have had a lasting relationship. That became apparent when things really began to heat up between us, like lava hot, and Risha came storming in and demanded I choose one of them. To be honest, I wanted them both, but they were having no part of that fantasy. When I suggested it, Akaavi demanded to fight a dual with Risha, and there is only one way a Mandalorian duel ends. Someone has to die. It was at that point I realized I had no future with Akaavi, so I chose Risha. Interestingly enough, Akaavi respected the decision I made, and is still a valued and loyal member of the crew. We've become her clan since hers was treacherously murdered. As for Risha and I, once we retake her throne (oh yeah, did I mention she's an heiress?) we're going to need heirs of our own. BEST MMORPG MISSION EVER.

There was still 90 minutes until midnight when I finally logged out of SWTOR. I decided I'd finish 2015 by watching one of my father's (and mine of course!) favorite shows: M*A*S*H. I had three episodes of  season three left to go. Those are the episodes where Henry Blake dies on his way home and Trapper John gets his orders home while Hawkeye is on R&R in Tokyo. It's the mother of all goodbye seasons. McLain Stevenson hasn't been with us since 1996, but I didn't find out Wayne Rogers had passed away yesterday until this morning. Wow, talk about totally freaky coincidence. I had no idea as I said goodbye to "Trapper" John McIntyre once more, I was really saying goodbye to Wayne Rogers as well. By the way, Wayne Rogers was wrong, which is a terrible thing to say about the recently departed. What was he wrong about? The popularity of his character in M*A*S*H. I liked "Trapper" just as much as I liked Hawkeye, and though I grew fond of Mike Farrell as B.J. Hunnicutt, I wish Wayne Rogers had never left the show. But life's full of should-have, would-have, could-haves. And I suppose in some ways the show could not have grown philosophically had the character continued. As the seasons went on, it became harder and harder to laugh off the message, and I think that's what made the show so great. I know my father, who fought in Korea during the difficult first 13 months, loved the show because it was so accurate in it's portrayal of be crazy or go insane. For years all I ever knew about my father's combat experience was the fishing trips he'd take as the XO's driver once he got off the front lines after six months. They had no poles. Just a bottle of whisky and a case of hand grenades. Yes, M*A*S*H was more real than most people suspect. It wasn't until I'd gone into the Army myself that my father told me a little about the rest of his experience while in Korea. That validated the rest of the show's social commentary for me.

And that was my New Years celebration. It was solitary (just me and the misses, and she doesn't play computer games or watch T.V.) It was quiet. I hope 2016 will be a more upbeat year. We will see. I don't prognosticate in the absence of facts. Perhaps Dr. Sidney Freeman said it best, and I should pull down my pants and slide on the ice. Can't say I'll do that just yet. I'm just glad to bid 2015 goodbye. What I can say is I sincerely hope everyone reading this has a safe and wonderful 2016. May it be all you hope it will be. Thank you for spending some time on my site. Peace.