Random Ramblings

March 6, 2009

Window effects on old desktop

Filed under: Computer — Tags: — camotop @ 11:44 pm

My desktop computer is about 5 years old. It has an old AGP graphics card slot. Years ago I upgraded the card to an expensive ATI AGP card because I wanted better performance for Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
On Linux I never really got the card to work to its full potential — X never seemed to want to do all the acceleration and after many hours of fiddling (at several different occasions) I gave up on it.
Then I got a new machine at work. Any new computer that replaces a five year old one seems fast. And it had a good graphics card. So I have KDE 4.2.1 with all the nice wobbly windows, shadows, transparency effects, desktop cube and so on.
Of course at home I was envious. And I realized that I never tried installing the latest ATI driver after upgrading to Kubuntu 8.10 and KDE 4.2.1. There’s now a cool “Hardware Drivers” program under Applications->System. It lists proprietary drivers that previously were tedious to install, even for a seasoned Linux user.
After backing up important data to the external drives, I clicked “Activate” in the Hardware Drivers program. It said it downloaded and installed the driver and asked for a reboot. I rebooted, and it worked! That’s been the least painful install ever. Surprisingly the effects are very smooth. Sometimes they take up to a second to kick (when moving a large window), but it all feels great. So I’m actually smiling and happy again with my old desktop that feels new again. Thanks Kubuntu!

1TB external disk under $100

Filed under: Computer — Tags: — camotop @ 4:07 pm

New digital cameras have 10+ megapixels and high definition video capabilities. With exotic trips and young children there is always ample opportunity to capture those moments.
But the back-end of photo and video taking is that there is a growing need of digital storage. With a large digital music collection and 12 years of digital photo’s and videos we needed more space.
I already owned a 500GB MyBook, that works well, but filled up quickly. I looked for the 1TB drives to drop below the $100 mark. When the Fantom drive did (after mail in rebate) I bought it from Buy.com. I was worried about the brand, as I had not heard of Fantom. It turns out they just make the casing, and there’s a Western Digital drive inside.
It is well made, feels very solid, is quiet and as fast as needed.

Some deal sites helped me find this deal (and many others):
SlickDeals, DealsOfAmerica, Deals2Buy, DealMac.

Bottom line – I love the drive, and deal sites are a great tool to find a good price.

Free Online City Building Game

Filed under: entertainment — Tags: — camotop @ 2:38 am

After an open Beta (test version) since October 2008, Nile Online 1.0 has been released. The game is a city builder like Caesar III, Pharaoh, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, and Children of the Nile.

You start with a small palace and a small amount of resources. You produce goods and resources and build out your kingdom by upgrading your palace. The game is a social one where trade with other players is a big part of the fun. Still, trade or other player interaction is not required to have fun. There’s very little military action, and it’s optional at that.
This is a browser based game meaning no downloads needed (not even flash). Firefox of course works best, but other browsers are known to work as well. Since it is online, the game can be played from any computer.
When you have a busy life and cannot afford to spend hours on a game, Nile Online is perfect. You can play even just 5 minutes a day to keep things running. Further into the game upgrades of the Palace and Shops take longer and longer, with the final level upgrades taking 50+ hours. Yet by optimizing resources and perfecting labor allocation, scheduling lucrative trades and timing things right you can advance ahead of other players and make the top 100.
The game can be played for free up to a certain level, and depending on strategy anywhere from 1 to 4 cities can be founded. Tokens (called Scarabs) can be purchased for relatively low cost and spent on upgrades, new cities, enabling pyramids, or fun things like dancing monkeys to liven up the scene.
I joined the Beta at the end of October and I have been playing almost every day since — so the game is entertaining for several months. Great fun for great value.
With the game going live only hours ago, there already are over 400 players, I suspect mostly Beta players, but it looks like the new round is starting off in all earnest. It is going to be a fun ride.

Check out the game!

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