Friday, January 21, 2011

Left 4 Dead 2

I bought Left 4 Dead 2 during Steam's Xmass offers. I bought the "for four" pack for about 15 euros and gave the three copies to some friends. It turned out one of them hated zombies and never actually played it... >:-E

My first impressions were great. The game run smoothly on my computer (I had more FPS with it than with TF2) and it felt a lot like Alien Swarm, only harder. It was nice until I decided to play Versus.

Versus is a gamemode for 8 players. 4 of them play the survivors and the other 4 keep respawning as special infected (ie: bad-ass-zombies) trying to kill the former 4 guys (3 guys and 1 gal actually). I loved playing as a zombie, it was really fun even though I actually played less than the survivors since I spent quite some time waiting to respawn. What RUINED that game for me is that you can't stick in one team. After the survivors win the level or have their brains eaten, teams are switched. If there is a thing that can ruin a game for me is to be forced to change roles... I disliked it in Max Payne 2 when I suddenly had to play that chick, I disliked it in Halo 2 although I haven't played it myself, I disliked it in Zombie Panic! (and that is the reason I ALWAYS play as a zombie in Zombie Panic!). I don't have any problem seeing a story from different perspectives, I just want to play in ONE of them. It ruins my immersion if you suddenly force me to play something different. I'm trying to convince myself that I want to eat brains and 5 minutes later I have to protect my own brains??? What the fuck is that? I uninstalled L4D2 for that reason! I want to play as a zombie, I don't care about scores. I don't care about competition. Just find me 4 players that want to play the campaign as a survivor-only-team and let me eat their brains.

I might be overreacting but NO, I will not reinstall L4D until they put this gamemode in: Campaign with human opponents in the role of zombies. There are many people enjoying playing campains (including me) and there are many people (I guess) that would love to play freely as a zombie (including me again). So this gamemod is a win-win, they will all get satisfied. After all I am offering for free my intelligence to replace an artificial intelligence, and Valve doesn't want me too...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wildfire Adventures

I recently bought the HTC Wildfire and, once more, I managed to get into some trouble with it. Here is the whole story:

I bought the Wildfire from Plaisio for about 280 euros. I also got a Blu-ray Disc of Avatar but I have no player to watch it, hehe. Anyway before buying it I was between it, some of the small Xperias (like the X10 Mini or the X10 Mini Pro) and Samsung Galaxy 3. I didn't really like the UI of the Galaxy 3 (Sense is much better in my opinion compared to TouchWiz) and the Xperias had tiny, unremovable batteries while emitting radiation enough to boil an egg. So Wildfire, although lacking a GPU and having too few PPI was the way to go.

The first impression Android gave me were better than those of any OS I've ever worked with. I don't know if this is inherent in Android or it is the HTC Sense UI that made the difference but everything worked exactly the way I expected. I was feeling at home although it was the first day I had used Android. I've never felt like that with any other mobile OS, not with Symbian, not with Windows Mobile (well I've only used some old versions).

Wildfire's hardware is nice. The phone felt REALLY sturdy and I think it actually is tough! A friend dropped his Wildfire from the roof of a house onto solid marble and it only got a small dimple in one of it's corners! If any other mobile had taken that fall he would be collecting broken parts from all around. Well, the back cover and the battery obviously fell off the phone but nothing was broken or bent. The camera is a bit crappy but I really don't give a shit about it... :-) The speakers are pretty good (Nokia E71, my previous phone, was somewhat better in this area to be honest). The screen is better than those of my previous mobiles but still you can see the pixels (while in almost any other Android mobile you can't) which is something I already knew before buying Wildfire. The good thing about low resolutions is that AFAIK you have more spare CPU time to spend on the apps themselves. The touchscreen is great with the anti-fingerprint screen protector I use. The GPS has an extremely fast acquisition (it only takes a few seconds to get a GPS fix) probably because it downloads the ephemeris data through 3G. The GPS reception is also amazing (FFS it even worked inside my house!!!). (BTW E71's GPS was really bad)

I really wanted to use TOR on my mobile so I had to root the device. And so I did three days after buying it. The rooting went well and only took a few minutes (during which a program called unrevoked took care of everything automatically for me). I installed Orbot (that's TOR for Android) but I couldn't make it work. Transparent routing was definitely not working although Orbot used admin rights. Anyway I gave up and decided to wait for a new Orbot version that hopefully would fix the problem.

I also installed Layar which seemed really cool but for some reason I couldn't use it. Points seemed to jump around strangely and it turned out that my compass module was not working properly. I confirmed that with other applications too. For example I installed a compass application but it complained about strong magnetic fields. I tried to calibrate it and it started working perfectly, until I exited the compass app and rerun it... For some reason my compass refused to save the calibration data. Every time the device started using my compass it was useless. Even jumping to another app for 3 seconds and then back to a compass enabled app, it would go mad again.

I would have taken it straight to the shop for a replacement but two things stopped me. First, I had rooted the device and according to many users that had voided my warranty. Second, most friends told me that they wouldn't replace it with a new one under the DoA terms since the device wasn't actually dead. I should have tried it but I didn't and now I regret it.

I did a factory restore and the compass started working for about one or two days. After that it went mad again... I waited till the 2.2 upgrade was released and tried to upgrade the device (so that I could finally send it for service since the upgrade would hide the rooting and bring back my warranty) but the device refused to upgrade. It just showed an exclamation mark after a while.

The first error I had to overcome was that the phone though the upgrade was unsigned... I don't know why but, thankfully, the rooting process replaces your recovery partition (the one that handles the upgrades among other things) with ClockworkMod which has an option to ignore signature checks. But then the installation script run and emited an assertion error which roughly informed me that I didn't actually own a Wildfire... Soon I found out that the reason was that during the root process the misc partition of my phone somehow got a bit corrupted and now the upgrade wouldn't recognize my phone. Some "CID" value was not correct... I used adb to read the CID value from my phone and it was correct (it was one of the valid ones). I still don't know why the script failed to read it. Anyway the only way to install it was to open the official upgrade on my computer (which is a zip archive), find the installation script and remove all the failing assertions. So I did and then repacked my custom upgrade zip. I managed to install it (wow) but then realized that OTA upgrades (Over The Air: the phone downloads the upgrade over WiFi or 3G and upgrades itself without the need of a computer) are more like patches so my phone still had the unofficial recovery partition and although the system wasn't actually rooted anymore, the root manager application was still installed in the system partition (which meant it couldn't be uninstalled). I then found a RUU (ROM Upgrade Utility) and run it on my computer, that way the phone was like it just got out of the factory line, ready to be sent for service.

I brought it to Plaisio again but they told me it would take about a month for it to go to HTC and return. What could I do? I am still waiting for them to call... They probably sent it to Taiwan. :-) I just hope for their own good that they don't scratch my screen (although it has a screen protector) or the phone's body. I will post something when I get it back. Perhaps a list with my favorite android apps.

BTW you can find my custom ROM along with some very long troubleshooting conversations here.

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