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Returning to WoW

 Well, after quite a bit of time away, I’ve returned to playing World of Warcraft.  This is really an awesome game.  Its great to be able to play online with family and friends.  I started up a new character this weekend along with my wife and 2 kids.  I’m trying out playing a Hunter for the first time.  He’s also a Horde Troll character which is pretty new to me as well.

Here is a picture of my character with his pet scorpion Clix:

Its possible that I’ll quickly reach burn-out from playing.  You really have to put a lot of time into a character to get anywhere with him.  I’m level 12 now.  The highest character I’ve had was 45.

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Upgraded to Dual Core System

Well, today I went ahead and upgraded my home PC.  I really needed to do this for a number of reasons. 

First, the system was just not powerful enough for some of the new games that have come out.  For instance, I purchased two copies of Oblivion a while back.  One for my son to use on his XBox 360.  The second was the PC version that I would use.  Well, turned out that none of the computers in the house could play it very well.  Not even the dual core 3Ghz media center PC we use for the TV (graphics card just wasn’t quite good enough to smooth out the gameplay).

Second reason was that I’ve been trying to checkout the new Windows Vista OS.  I can’t really install this on any other system in the house except my own PC (believe it or not we have 5 computers running in the house on a regular basis, one for each person in the family, plus the media center for the TV).   I’ve been trying the various builds of Vista as Microsoft puts them out, but I’ve had sporadic device driver problems due to my older system.  Plus the Aero feature was kind of chugging and the new media center hardly worked at all.

Finally, related to the above is the fact that as a programmer myself, I’ve wanted to play around a little with some of the new cool API’s for the media center in vista.  So I really needed a solid computer to run it on.

My intent was not to get the most powerful system I could, but I did a little research to set some guidelines on what I was after.  The research also helped me decide whether to buy a built system or build one myself.  The last few computers I purchased as pre-built systems.  It just seems sometimes to be cheaper to buy pre-built.  This time it looked like I could leverage some existing items and just upgrade the motherboard, CPU, memory and graphics card.  So I took a tri to Fry’s this morning with the following criteria:  motherboard that supports dual core processor, sli graphics, ddr2 memory, sata, gigabit Ethernet.  My plan was to find the cheapest board that met this criteria.  This should get me into the modern age of gaming, and I should have room to upgrade as needed.

I found a board for around $120, added to this a AMD 64 Athlon X2 3800+ processor ($160), 2 GB of DDR2 RAM ($170), and a NVidia GeForce 7600 GS 256MB SLI ready card ($150), for a total of $600.  Although not exactly needed, I grabbed a 200 GB Sata drive for $55.  This gets back to meeting the requirements for current games, while also setting myself up for easy upgrades as needed.  I’ve tested out Vista, media center and Oblivion.  All appear to be working very well.

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Penny Arcade

I just realized that I didn’t have a link to Penny Arcade on my blog.  I’ve been reading their blog and comics for a while now and really love their sense of humor and writing styles.  Definitely should have shared this link to my family and friends much sooner.  I first discovered Penny Arcade from their comics in the World of Warcraft guide book.

Anyway, definitely visit their site.  On several occassions I blew a good hour going through their archived comics.

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New Phones – PPC 6700 and SPH A900

Well, Chris and I finally decided to get new cell phones.  We’ve been using our current cell phones for over 2 years.  I’ve been using the Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC Phone and Chris has been using the SPH-A620 picture phone (I only know the model for Chris’ phone because the original manual happens to have been siting in the desk cabinet next to me). 
 
We really loved these phones when we got them.  They both had cameras.  I’m not the type to ever remember to bring a camera with me.  So having one built into my phone was great.  Plus we had the unlimited PCS Vision plan.  With my pocket pc, this was most useful to me.  Using the pocket internet explorer I could browse the web anywhere at anytime.  Obviously my phone being a pocket pc had plenty of other uses that I’ve taken advantage of over the last couple of years. 
 
Anyway, so we now have new phones.    Chris now has a pocket pc phone, well Windows Mobile phone, the PPC-6700.  She’s loving it already.  Specifically she’s excited about easily sync’ing all her calendar/contacts/etc.  I’m changing up a bit as well.  I’d really become hooked on the vey large screen of the G1000 (3.5").  So I passed up the PPC-6700 and the soon to be released Treo 700wx.  Because I was very much set on the larger screen (really makes a difference with eBook reading and web browsing), I decided to actually get a phone and a separate dedicated pocket pc.  So I now have the SPH-A900.  I’ve ordered the Dell Axim X51v (3.7" screen).  I’ll tryout using the A900 as a modem.  Both it and the PPC-6700 support EVDO for cellular broadband speeds.  We’ve upgraded from the PCS Vision to PCS Power Vision plan.  A final benefit of the upgrade has been that both our phones now have Bluetooth support.  So we’ve grabbed a couple of Jabra BT500 headsets.
 
Finally, for anyone who has or is thinking of getting a phone with EVDO support, I really recommend giving Orb a try.  This allows you to setup your home media center pc as a server for music, pictures, and videos.  I’m even able to access my media center PC’s tuner for live TV viewing away from home.  I know SlingBox is another possibility.  I haven’t tried it, but from what I’ve read and heard it doesn’t provide as many features.  Oh, Orb is free.  This access is available to just about any web enabled device.  I’ve checked out recorded shows on Chris’ PPC-6700 and it was perfectly smooth.  It even worked on my A900 via the WAP browser and the media player on the phone.
 
 
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Dangerous Packaging

I’ve been reading Sean Alexander’s blog now for better part of a year.  Yesterdays entry on package hell was pretty good.  I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one who’s been frustrated by some of the insane packaging that has become way too common these days.  I haven’t seriously cut myself, but I’ve come very close many times.  The worst part is when you pry one of these packages open just enough to get your hands in to pull out the item you’ve paid for.  It feels like reaching into the mouth of a alligator.

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Trying out the new Live Writer

I haven’t made any blog entries in quite a few months.  When I was making more entries, one of the things I had been having a problem with was the blog editor for Spaces.  Well today I found out that Microsoft had released a beta of Live Writer.  Its a blog editor that works with Spaces as well as other popular blogs. 

The key feature for me is spell check.  However, it also provides easy embedding of web links, pictures and even Live Local maps.   The other cool feature is the support of a API for adding extensions or plug-ins to the application.  If I can ever find some free time for hobby programming I’d like to check that out.

Anyway, if you’re not happy with the online editor built into Spaces (or whatever else you might be using), you should pull Live Writer down and give it a try.  You can find a link to it on the Live Writer Spaces site.

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