Josh and I have been planning a Holiday LAN party for a few weeks. It’s been two years since our last LAN party so we were certainly overdue for one.
If you don’t already know, a LAN party is where you and your friends gather, bring your PC or gaming consoles, link them together and play games together! Our past parties have always been PC based but we decided to change it up and try an Xbox 360 LAN this time.
I prefer PC gaming, as it is much easier for me to control using a mouse and keyboard rather than a controller, but either way, each system has its pros and cons. Setup time with a console is virtually plug-and-play, while there is installation and long update / patch waits with PC games. Also, consoles are much easier to transport, but there are a few negatives with consoles. First, you need multiple consoles and televisions, as well as multiple controllers and games. Josh went above and beyond this time and made sure we had plenty of everything for a successful LAN.
As you can see, we had plenty of games to keep us busy both days.
Adam brought over his PS3 and connected it to his 24″ LCD screen. He is the only person that has a PS3 among the group so unfortunately, he was playing alone.
Here we have Left 4 Dead ready to go on one of the big screens.
Some Left 4 Dead split-screen gaming action.
More Left 4 Dead on another TV in the living room.
We also tried Stuntman: Ignition. I really liked this game but I don’t think Keith and Airica did too much.
Lunch time on day 2 and we decided on a Krystal Steamer Pack!
Watched some of The Dark Knight while eating.
As evening approached, some bad weather moved into the area. Luckily there were no power outages to disrupt our gaming.
Some of the other snacks and food we had.
We finished the night off with UFC 92 which was one of the better UFC events this year. Notable victories include Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s first round knockout of Wanderlei Silva and Rashad Evans capturing the light-heavyweight title from Forrest Griffin via 3rd round TKO stoppage.
Overall, a very successful post-Christmas LAN party. I was unsure if I would like doing consoles instead of PCs but I think it worked out much better. Not having to spend hours waiting for PC games to install and update was a huge plus. Now we just have to work on getting everyone a 360 system and copies of good LAN games
Big thanks to Josh for hosting this event and all of the hassle he went through to get it running smoothly; it totally rocked!
As you can probably tell by my absence of posts lately, things have been pretty busy on my end. This is the “busy season” for hardware sites, as manufacturers are looking to get as much exposure as possible for the holiday buying season. I have been busy getting all of my staff “stocked up” with review items and have even taken a few on myself.
We saw this TJ07 at SilverStone’s booth at the 2007 CES and have been anxious to check out their uni-body design ever since. Look for my review of the FT01 to hit OCIA.net sometime next week. We are also working on putting together a holiday contest / giveaway of sorts. Look for that to hit sometime right after Thanksgiving!
In other hardware news, I have started doing some freelance writing for another tech site, which has given me the opportunity to check out some really cool hardware and has been a blast so far. I have a big article in the works as well as two other reviews for that site, which I will link to when they are published.
Aside from computer work, there has been quite a bit going on lately that I want to take a minute and touch on.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we all know what that means: lots of great food!
Josh and I are going to make deep fried turkey(s) this year. I first had deep fried turkey a few years ago at Keith’s sister’s house and OMG, it’s the best food I’ve ever had! A deep fried turkey is so juicy and tender - the exact opposite of what a traditionally cooked turkey is. I will be recording the cooking process and posting the video on here and YouTube, so be sure to check that out.
Other than that, Keith’s family has invited me over once again for their Thanksgiving dinner. They have invited me the past several years and I am really appreciative of that. I don’t really have a lot of family so it’s cool to be around them around the holidays.
On a sad note, Thanksgiving time has been a bit less happy, as it always reminds me of my mom. She passed away 7 years ago today, so this time of year always brings back those memories
The CHL hockey season kicked off about a month ago. Josh and I purchased half-season tickets for the Mississippi RiverKings and have attended a handful of games so far. As of writing, we are off to a 7 - 6 season… not the best, but it could always be worse!
If you have never attended a hockey game, I would encourage you to give it a try. I never liked hockey but was invited to go to a game with a friend nearly 13 years ago (wow, has it been that long?!) and have been hooked ever since. Being there in person is so much fun and is nothing like watching it on TV, which I agree is pretty boring!
In other sports news, my college football team, the Ole Miss Rebels, have been having a pretty good season, especially compared to last year. We are 6 - 4 on the season and gained bowl eligibility last Saturday. This is the first time the Rebs have been bowl eligible since the 2003 season. The only question that remains now is, which bowl will we be headed for?
The final two games of the regular season will determine that. We play LSU this Saturday (2:30 pm CST on CBS) and Mississippi State on Black Friday. If we win out, which is very possible, we are almost 100% headed to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. A loss or two losses and we are more than likely headed to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.
I am hoping for a bid to the Cotton Bowl, as that is a much better bowl, but a trip to the Liberty Bowl would mean I could possibly attend, which would be sweet in itself. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out, especially the LSU game this weekend. I’m betting Ole Miss pulls out the victory - you heard it here first!
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been putting on some pretty good events lately. Since moving to my new place, we have ordered each UFC pay-per-view and have been having parties here on fight night. The most recent was UFC 91, which pitted champ Randy Couture against the 3 - 1 newcomer Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar, formerly in the WWE, is an absolute monster and I fully expected him to be the new UFC Heavyweight champion after the night was over. He came in weighing 40 pounds more than Couture, is 18 years younger and is super quick and agile for his size.
And sure enough, Lesnar ended things in the 2nd round after catching Couture with a shot that dropped him to the mat. Lesnar capitalized and reigned down a series of hammer fists that forced the ref to call the fight. Congrats to Lesnar on this victory and I will be looking forward to seeing him defend the title against the winner of Nogueira / Mir.
Speaking of that fight, which will take place at UFC 92 on December 27, there are also two other headlining fights on that card. The first pits Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin against undefeated Rashad Evans in what should be a great fight. The other main event caliber fight that night is Quinton “Rampage” Jackson against Wanderlei Silva. Jackson has fought Silva twice and both times, he has pretty much been destroyed. Rampage is one of my favorite fighters so I am certainly hoping he pulls out the victory. As they say, third time is a charm, right?
Big 3 Bailout
Oh geez, don’t get me started! Are you friggin’ serious? It totally baffles me how companies that make SOO much money, as these three do… they have one “bad” year and they are on the verge of bankruptcy! Where the hell did all of that money you made over the past several years go? Seriously. Do they simply not keep money in the company?
I certainly hope Congress doesn’t bail out these idiots. What kind of message will that send to other companies if they do?
Just because people don’t want to buy your products in flocks, for whatever reason, you are instantly entitled to have your company saved by the government? What’s next, Nikon asking for help because they aren’t selling enough cameras, Microsoft asking for money because they aren’t selling enough copies of Windows? Seriously, where does it stop?
So let’s say the Big 3 go bankrupt and all those people lose their jobs. Guess what? THERE ARE OTHER JOBS IN THIS COUNTRY YOU CAN DO! So many people tend to think that losing their job would be the end of the world. No it won’t. Go get a different job.
Sure, it would be a change of pace and you may not even like it, but it isn’t disaster. You can still survive.
Economy In General
Stocks continue to drop, unemployment is up, etc. The world is coming to an end!
Gah, whatever. Have you been to Wal Mart recently? I went last Saturday and it was a mad house. Wonder where all of these people are getting their money! And when Black Friday rolls around, I have money that says you will still see people lined up in front of all the major retail stores hours before they open!!
Sales may be down this year compared to past years, but is that a bad thing? Maybe that just means people aren’t consuming like a fat kid sitting up to his neck in skittles. It’s amazing how much junk people buy and they think that junk is going to make them happy.
All jokes aside, 90% of the economy is between your ears. If things are right in your house and you know how to control your finances and not spend like a drunken Congressman, everything will be fine and you have nothing to worry about.
There are so many people that aren’t affected in the least by the current state of the economy. Those people call in every day to the Dave Ramsey show and tell their stories. How are they able to survive this horrible economy without losing any sleep about it?
They are debt free. They have no credit cards or other stupid payments holding them back.
So yeah, that’s about all I have for today. I will try to post updates a bit more frequently over the next few weeks. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below!
A few weeks ago, G4’s Attack of the Show (AOTS) took a look at the OCZ NIA, or Neural Impulse Actuator for short. The NIA is a gaming accessory, a headband of sorts, that recognizes facial movements and translates those to in-game actions.
I actually had the opportunity to try a pre-production version of the NIA during the 2008 CES in Las Vegas this past January.
I spent maybe 15 minutes working with Dr. Michael Schuette, VP of Technology Development at OCZ. I went through a very brief calibration process then jumped into a UT2004 Deathmatch. The NIA had a pretty big learning curve, but after about 5-10 minutes I was able to control my character somewhat and managed a few frags. I was able to raise my eyebrows slightly to fire a gun which worked surprisingly well, but walking and jumping were a bit more difficult to master. Had I done a proper calibration and configuration, I am sure it would have worked much better.
The moral of the story is that the device did in fact work, and with more time to play with it, it could work quite well.
As I was saying, AOTS took a look at the NIA in their Gadget Pr0n segment recently and well, let’s just say they didn’t give it a fair review at all. A 4-minute TV segment is not enough time for a first-time user to really give a fair opinion.
That being said, I just caught word that Dr. Michael will be on the show today to challenge Kevin Pereira to a gaming contest. Kevin will use a standard mouse and keyboard while Dr. Michael will demonstrate the NIA. I’ve seen Dr. Michael use the NIA both in person and on video, and I’m pretty confident he is going to totally destroy Kevin!
I got the idea for this post from Bob’s post on the same topic. I really enjoyed reading his post and looking at his past workstations and how they has evolved over the years. Call me nosy if you wish!
So here we are, doing my version of the same post. I got my first computer way back in 1998 as a Christmas gift. At that time, I barely even knew how to turn it on, but I knew I loved technology and wanted to learn as much about computers as I could. Within a year or two, I was already working on websites so I needed a workstation. Below are the photos I was able to find of my workstation then, now and everything between!
This is the earliest photo I have of my workstation, dated sometime in 2001. This was the first computer desk I ever purchased and it worked pretty well for my needs at that time. Needless to say, that audio system could pump out some bass! This was when I still lived at home with my parents.
Here we have my “workstation” in college… sorta. You can see some of my main system in the background, but the majority of my time my freshman year was spent in my girlfriend’s dorm room, so I did all of my website work on this laptop.
This is the next workstation in my photo collection. This photo was from when I lived at Stephanie’s house during the summer of 2004 between spring and fall semesters. Kim and I didn’t have a place to stay that summer so Steph offered to let us stay with her.
This was my first setup after I got married and was living in the married student housing on campus. There is a futon on the right where you could lay and watch TV when you weren’t on the computer.
I ended up moving the futon out of the computer room so I could add another table and have my own workstation again. There simply wasn’t enough space at the other desk. I also made the switch from CRT to LCD monitors, which saved a ton of space. This particular photo shots my external watercooling case that I constructed from a Silverstone SFF chassis.
This was my workstation at my old apartment in Oxford. As you can see, there is plenty of desk space, which allowed me to get a lot done. I think my days at that apartment were the most productive… of course, that could be because I was no longer in school.
And finally, my current workstation. I got this desk from Keith when I moved - my first real “computer” desk since 2001. I had been using folding tables since that first desk because they were easy to transport and offered a ton of real estate.
And there you have it. Feel free to post links to your workstations, as I love to check out other people’s setups
When you work online from home, it is a necessity to keep your computer system up and running at all times. Any time your system is down, it could be costing you money… and should something tragic happen, like an electrical spike or lightning strike, it could easily fry your entire computer. The last thing I want to do is lose all of my work-related data, so last night, I picked up an APC Battery Backup system.
Truth be told, I have had my eye on a battery backup for some time now, but the high price had always kept me away. A battery backup is similar to a surge protector in that it protects equipment plugged into it from surges, spikes and such, but it also has a built-in battery system, so if the power does surge or goes out completely, the system switches over to the battery, allowing you to safely shut down your components without any damage or data loss.
After recently getting a new TV (something else I want to protect), I decided it was time to go ahead and pull the trigger. The unit I went with, APC’s BX1500LCD, was originally ~$200 but happened to be on sale this week for $160 at Circuit City, and I also had a $30 gift certificate, so I paid $140 with tax and all - not too bad.
This is one of the higher end home models, with 865 watt 1500VA capacity, 8 outlets and even an LCD screen that displays more than 20 status notifications.
We hooked the unit up behind my computer workstation and purchased a 25′ extension cable for my TV so I could connect it as well. As is, I am running the computer, both of my LCD monitors and my TV on the battery backup system.
One of the coolest features of this battery backup is the real-time power consumption monitor. This will tell you exactly how much power is being used by the components plugged into the system. Josh and I experimented with this for a bit, and here are some of the numbers we found.
- With everything off, there was still about 15 watts being drawn. This is called phantom energy and is common with all electronic devices.
- My (aging) computer and monitors pull about 165 watts at idle and right about 200 watts under full load.
- My TV pulls a whopping 300 watts when watching a brightly-colored show.
- The max draw we could pull with these components was 500 watts total, still leaving me over 300 watts of headroom on the UPS.
So far, the UPS has worked great and I have no complaints. If you are like me and work from home, work with valuable data or simply have a lot of nice electronics / home theater equipment, you might want to consider protecting your investment with a quality battery backup system. A few dollars now to protect a lot of valuable equipment is money well spent, and certainly a better bet than those ripoff extended warranty offers!
I spent the better half of today moving my main system into a new HTPC case for a review on OCIA.net. I really am not fond of case reviews, especially using my main work system, because something ALWAYS goes wrong. Today was no exception.
I finally finished the transfer and photo shoot, booted up the system, which worked for a few minutes… then the trouble began. The system froze at the Windows loading screen. I shut down, then tried to start up again… FAIL. The system would power on for a split second, then power off. I tried just about everything I could think of:
Removed motherboard from case
Removed add-in cards
Put power supply on PSU tester, all volts were fine
Reseated ATX and all other power cables
Checked GPU, CPU, Northbridge for excessive heat
Funny thing, if I pressed power then reset , it would sometimes boot but only for about 5 min then randomly shuts off.
I was completely out of options, but something that one of my writers (Rutledge) said got me thinking. He said it sounded like a heat issue… but I had already checked the obvious sources. Then it hit me.
During the move, I had taken the cover off the power supply to blow out the dust inside. Perhaps something happened to the PSU fan while I was doing this…
Sure enough, the fan wasn’t spinning… and this is why. When I replaced the cover, a wire had become tangled in one of the fan blades and I didn’t notice it.
I fixed the wire and everything is working perfectly now. Now that I have wasted several hours… I should probably shower and get some sleep.
One really cool app I have found so far is midomi. It is similar to Verizon’s V-Cast in that it can “record” audio or you singing or even humming a song, and it will search for the artist and name based on that recording. Below is a quick video of it in action.
The program is pretty neat, but far from perfect. I have been getting a lot of “server busy, try back later” messages and also have come across songs that are not recognized. But, not bad for a free app!
I have been spending the past few hours checking out various (free) apps from the iTunes App Store. As you can see from the screen above, I already have several cool apps installed. I made a quick video showing some of these apps in action. My favorite, by far, is Pandora… can you say Satellite Radio killer? Incredible!
I actually should have seen this one coming a mile away, but eh, perhaps the anticipation of a new OS got to me.
I woke up earlier than normal to install the 2.0 software on my first gen iPhone. It took a few clicks of the “check for updates” button, but soon I was off to the races, happily downloading the 200+ MB 2.0 firmware update. Things were going as planned until the update finished and I needed to log into iTunes to activate the phone.
Epic fail on Apple’s part for not beefing up their activation servers in anticipation for such high traffic. They already knew that a ton of people would be activating their new 3G iPhones, and that even more people would be upgrading to the 2.0 firmware on their first gen phones and activating as well.
“Apple has confirmed to us that activation is down, and that customers are being asked to take the phone home and activate via iTunes later. We’re not sure what good that’ll do, since the servers are down no matter where you are, but Apple says it’s “working on a solution.” In the meantime, it looks like the new SIM works in first-gen units, so at least upgraders aren’t totally phone-deprived. Oh, and remember that updating a first-gen iPhone to 2.0 requires hitting the server as well, so if you haven’t taken the plunge we’d say hold off until this all gets sorted.“