Archive for November, 2013

MSI 760GM-P23 (FX) won’t load Windows 7 without a BIOS upgrade

November 26, 2013

I kept going into an infinite loop where a new MB for a client media center would load install files, reboot, and do it again. Fortunately these MSI boards have an easy flashing utility in the BIOS that can access files on a thumb drive. I went to the MSI site and pulled down the latest BIOS file for the machine and now it seems to be installing Windows properly.

The file is: 7641vHF.zip. Just copy the files in it to a thumb drive, plug it in, boot the machine, go into the BIOS, and use the M-Flash tool.

A link to the file is here: http://www.msi.com/service/download/bios-20821.html

Next time I will try the BIOS upgrade first and save a lot of other fruitless troubleshooting.

RPGs need to consider how to better handle evil quests that go against moral alignments

November 9, 2013

I am on my second playing of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and enjoying it a lot.

However, as with other games, it still has difficulties with moral alignments. Basically, it doesn’t know how to handle it when players with “good” characters are asked to do evil quests.

For example, at one point my character is asked to slash some artwork in a gallery. If I refuse to do so, this shows up as a “failed” quest in my log. Yet, I didn’t “fail” the quest — I refused to do it because my character was an artist type and, logically, would be conflicted about destroying another artist’s work.

At another point, I run across a thoroughly evil flesh-munching vampire who asks me to lure an a relatively innocent NPC to their death. If I refuse to be a party to murder and tell the NPC to skip town, it is listed as a failed quest. Yet, I don’t recall agreeing to do it. I am presented with no choice. In this case, I lose out on two other side quests with powerful items as rewards.

UPDATE: I have since found a way to do the mission non-violently via dominating the NPCs mind and making him forget the event. However, it takes high social skills to do it and I don’t know if it works for classes without the dominate perk.

If I simply don’t accept a quest, the game shouldn’t list it as a failure.

Then we get to the problem of players trying to maintain a consistent moral alignment being punished via loss of experience points. If I don’t want to do your EVIL quest, then please let me have the option of another quest that isn’t in conflict with my morality in the game.

To use an absurd hypothetical, game logic thinks nothing of asking you to save some orphans — only to be asked later to burn down the orphanage. That doesn’t work. A good character who does good deeds on a consistent basis wouldn’t then go out and bask in Snidely Whiplash evil. Dr. Jekyll doesn’t normally become Mister Hyde. To use an Elder Scrolls example, someone who leads the Fighters or Companions Guild (the generally good guys) isn’t likely to then go join the Dark Brotherhood and commit contracted hits on the side.

So, if Character A wants me to slap around a puppy and I react with horror, then let them (or another NPC) offer me a make-up quest that isn’t so dark. I loved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (SW:KOTOR), but there were quests I lost out on because they were “Dark Side” and it made no sense for a noble Jedi to do them. If you are going to have “extra credit” nasty quests, then balance them with some hero missions for the boring goodie two-shoes types I tend to play.

Finally, please don’t make it to where future side-quests from an NPC hinge on doing something diabolical. In Bloodlines there is minor character that can offer a couple of side-quests. The second quest is not objectionable, but the first one results in someone committing suicide in the game. Let me turn down the first quest, but then still have the option to do the later one. Also, let me have a “make-up” quest so I am not holding my nose doing nasty quests to get just one more level-up.

Sometimes games developers seem to lose sight of that RPG stands for Role Playing Game. You are playing a ROLE, which means your character has certain things they will or will not do to be consistent with their moral code.

Now, some games handle it better than others. SW:KOTOR tried to reward players for staying true to a light side or dark side path. Yet, your hero Jedi still would get offered side quests that were Sith fare. At a certain point on your moral code path, the game should simply not offer you quests that your character wouldn’t logically do.

Fallout 3 tried to allow for gray characters who were morally ambivalent, but it just didn’t work well. Someone who will save an NPC in one mission won’t then go out and randomly slaughter an innocent NPC later the same day.

Now, a gray character might lie, cheat, and steal, but they would have to draw the line at murder or excessive mayhem. They can be rogues within certain parameters, but they can’t cross over into out and out villainy and then go back to saving homeless kittens as if nothing happened.

Dudley Do-Right can’t tie Nell to the railroad tracks and Snidely Whiplash can’t be the one who rescues her. It would make no sense to do it in the cartoons and violates logic as much when something similar is done in games.

My second HIS ATI 5970 has also died within two years. Not good!

November 8, 2013

I bought a brand-new ATI 5970 not long after they came out. It was $699 on Newegg for this beast of a card at the time. I loved the performance (it lived up to the hype), but the longevity is another story (and not a happy one).

Shortly before the two-year warranty ran out, the card started to fail. After about a month of back-and-forth with Lexy-Pacific (the warranty processors for HIS), they located an exact replacement card and shipped it.

However, I am saddened to report that the SECOND card (same model, and and new out of the box) has also failed within two years.

It is also with regret that I report that HIS refuses to stand behind their products and replace it or otherwise offer to make it right.

Two crazy-expensive cards failing within two years is not a good sign. It is compounded by having HIS blow off customer loyalty. There was OBVIOUSLY something wrong with this run of cards, as two of them in a row cratered out following the same failure path.

Other companies who sell high-end equipment, like Asus and EVGA, have been quick to offer to process an RMA for items out of warranty as a courtesy to their buyers. They know that doing so keeps people who may spend thousands of buck a year on computer items happy.

Well, despite pretty good experiences with HIS on other graphics products, I have bought my last HIS card. The replacement card in my personal gaming rig will be an EVGA GTX 780. One factor in my decision is that EVGA treated me right a while back on a top-end graphics card that failed past the warranty period. They are being rewarded with a $500 card purchase now for having been a stand-up company when it came to customer service.

What is it with these thoughtless laptop users in eateries?

November 8, 2013

I had lunch today with a coworker at a great little place in Austin called Cafe Java. He was pressed for time and the place was very busy. We had a bit of a wait for a small table for two. My coworker had to leave before we had both finished to get back to work.

However, what frosts me is that there was a some hipster with an Apple notebook and a single beverage glass camping a table for four the whole time. He was there when we arrived (and appeared to have been there a while). He was still there when we left. He was happily camping that table as customers put their names on waiting lists to get a seat.

Now, Cafe Java has signs posted on all of the tables asking mobile device users to please be courteous and limit their use during rush periods when there are more customers than available seats. The sign on the table was less than a foot away from our oblivious Mac user as he noodled away on both his notebook and a smart phone. He was working a different device with both hands.

The same restaurant has a lunch counter where single people with mobile devices can generally work away for longer periods of time without causing anyone to wait for a table. The lone regulars know to take their notebooks to the counter when it is busy.

I spoke to the restaurant staff on the way out and asked them if they could tactfully explain their mobile devices table-camping policy to this person when he checked out.

Yet, this is just common courtesy. One shouldn’t need to have to post signs everywhere and even be spoken to in person. Taking up a table for four with a laptop and a drink glass while others are waiting for tables is being a jerk. Doing so despite a clearly posted policy asking you NOT TO DO IT is being obnoxious.

Hey, it is great you have a nice Mac and a smart phone. Congrats! Now show you also have a clue when it comes to busy restaurant etiquette and common courtesy. Please limit your mobile device use at tables or booths when you can see a backlog or take it to the lunch counter and free up a table for a larger party.

Sadly, this isn’t a rare event. I quit going to one coffee shop in Austin after watching people camp tables for six with a single cup of coffee during an entire breakfast rush. Meanwhile, I was standing there waiting to sit down.

OK, so you have homework to do. Please go to the library or your dorm room or just come back later when it is slow.

Oh, and while on a rant about thoughtless mobile device users, I also need to toss in a dig at the guy who sat one table over from me at the patio of an outdoor eating place. I was with a ten year-old girl (my granddaughter) and her stepfather. This yahoo spent the entire meal loudly dropping F-Bombs and other obscenities into his ongoing phone conversation within full earshot of the other diners.

Dude, get a clue! Go be a jerk out of earshot of the other people who are trying to enjoy a meal.

Not all of us want to hear you act like like a character in a bad Quentin Tarantino flick — and I darn sure didn’t want my granddaughter exposed to it. I sent her to a play area next to the patio to get her away from the F-Bomb splatter zone.

This was an older gentleman, which means he really should have known better. But then, he had a strong accent from somewhere in the Northeast, so maybe he never learned manners.

NOTE: I don’t know why it is, but this post has turned into my number one draw for fake “comments” from spammers. I guess spammers are drawn to a post about people who abuse technology and act like jerks. It is topic they know well…