Friday, April 22, 2011

A Brief Interruption in Blogging

Your Critic had really wanted to play Portal 2 last night.  I'm in Chapter 5 and thought I might be able to get near the end of the single-player game.

Remember this little guy?

Guybrush Ulysses Threepwood Cox, Evil Mighty Pirate Cat.

He has a lot of teeth in that no-so-innocent little kitty mouth.  Several days ago he managed to sever the plug end of the gaming headset (but luckily, only the mic cable, so at least I still had headphones).

And yesterday, we got home from work to find that he'd made neat work of my mouse

"THE CAT ATE MY MOUSE," I angrily tweeted, and was immediately asked, "That's not a thing a cat can do, that's a terrible pun!!  Does your cat understand how reality works? That it is not in fact pun-based??"

Well, no.  Our cat is indeed pun-happy.  When Your Critic's spouse left for work this morning (an hour after I did), he reported that cat was going to town on my PC speaker wire.  *sigh*

Meanwhile this is on its way (for less than that) to Your Critic via Amazon and local express shipping.  I'm a PC gamer forever, even as I slowly learn to use our PS3, but I'll admit -- wireless controllers have never looked so tempting.  Too bad the wireless Razer cost more than three times the one I ordered.

So, a slight delay in game completion; I'll probably have something to say about Portal 2 next week, and we've just started Mass Effect 2 as well.


  1. Forgive me, but I believe you've said you'd rather be dragged OT here than on TNC.

    If a dude were looking to build a gaming rig on the cheap now, what components would you recommend? Dude has been too busy with student teaching to keep up on technology but is now taking a medical leave.

  2. I'm not our host, but I assume that since its a thread, you're open to advice from the cheap seats?

    I've developed a huge affection for Their hardware reviews are good, and include a really decent summing up section at the end, they have a good eye for fitness to a task and useability generally, and their quarterly price point segmented guides are really excellent. I've built three systems more or less following their recommendations (+/- depending on what I knew I wanted, and what I already had on hand) and have been really happy with all of them. The most recent was a low end desktop I built for my wife, since her hospital's Citrix install refused to play nice with her MacBook Pro. I used the "Compact fusion Reactor" from their March 2011 guide, and I'm in love with it; for a single purpose, tiny, $300 dollar machine, its a surprising workhorse. I'm seriously thinking about building a second and putting it in the kitchen. (A simple internet/video/music station in the kitchen has been a home improvement dream of ours for some time).

    Their community has been good every time I've dealt with it, although take that with a grain of salt; hardware boards attract desperately insecure adolescents (of a shocking age range) the way dangling cables attract kittens, or anything that she believes might be food attracts Empress Josephine (aka the blog) and one of the loveable banes of my existence.

  3. 1.) Medical leave? That doesn't sound good! Hope you're doing okay.

    2.) On the PC:

    - I personally like Intel CPUs but the recent generations of AMD processors are also fine. At this point you definitely need a quad-core CPU but last year's models are pretty cheap. Mine was an i7-930; the newer / current version (the i7-950) is currently running about $270 on NewEgg but the i5 series is available more in the $150 range.

    - Case is totally a personal preference, a style thing. The higher end ones are more convenient to work with (cable management, rolled edges) but unless you're planning to be inside the machine weekly you can safely cut corners here -- I wouldn't go for a $30 case but you could do with a $50 - $60 one. I like Cooler Master; husband likes Antec. Both are solid, reliable brands.

    - What motherboard you buy will have to depend on what CPU you get. Once you've decided at a processor, have a good look at all of the reviews on the motherboards in your price range. This part is obviously pretty critical; there's a pretty big price range on most of them. I wouldn't go for the cheapest but you also don't need the most expensive, for sure. Reviews on this one will be a big help. You'll probably need to target $100 or so.

    - GPU is where it gets expensive. Most people building PCs tend to pair ATI cards with AMD processors and nVidia cards with Intel processors but there's no real structural reason to do that, it's more a collective force of habit at this point. I personally have not had a good run with ATI cards in any machine in the past and so go exclusively nVidia, but they work perfectly fine for millions of people so that's one you can pick for yourself as well. I don't know what the current series in ATI cards is but in nVidia cards it's the 500 series. Any of the 400- or 500-series nVidia cards should be fine; mine is 2010's flagship card, the 480.

    I really like EVGA for customer service on parts; all else being equal, if you can buy one of their motherboards or GPU's or one of someone else's for a similar price, I'd go with the EVGA. Just make sure you register your parts on their site, heh. Their customer service is US-based which can be a huge help; I have nothing at all against Taiwanese parts but it's impossible to do phone-based customer service with those companies for time zone, cost, and language reasons.

    But yeah, the other advice you've just received (came in while I was writing this essay) combines well with my real point: read the hell out of reviews, especially on NewEgg. That'll tip you and educate you.

  4. 1. Re: cat. As someone with a cat who destroyed every one of our curly phone cords (the kind ancient phones plugged into their handsets) forcing us to go 100% wireless phones, and who has long experience in cat control via distraction, a suggestion might be to actually go out and buy one of those springy handset phone cables and give it to the cat to destroy and be distracted by. Our cat doesn't chew up those small cables, just the little ones.

    2. Razer mice are not exactly a scam, but at least nowadays they're a lot closer to Monster Cable or Alienware than they were when they came out. I owned an original Razer Boomslang that I used forever, but the time of Razer has come and gone. Personally, I used a single Microsoft optical mouse exclusively for at least 7 years, and I've never had any response issues. The only reason I'm not using it is because it finally became shaky in gameplay situations, and I felt the need to get an actually ergonomic mouse (Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser 7000). Even then, once I got the hang of my mouse hand being vertical instead of horizontal, I haven't noticed a problem.

  5. I actually just like the size, weight, and texture of the Razer mice. I'd never go for the $85 ones -- there's no added value there, for anything I do -- but that $30 - $40 price point is pretty common for most of the good Logitech and Microsoft mice as well, so I may as well have the one that sits well in my (enormous, long-fingered) hand. The soft matte texture really suits me.

    As for the cat... this guy chews on everything. Not the sofa, but doors, desks, boxes, feet, legs, carpets, cables, toys... he seems to have the wool-eating trait from his Burmese side and an oral fixation to boot. So far a pair of $1.50 Old Navy flip flops has kept him from chewing on too much other stuff but he's nearly destroyed those already. If I could even find phone handset cable now it might be worth a try but he'd probably snap it in half an hour too, haha.

  6. Well, snapping it in half doesn't end the fun. My cat would literally chew an entire cable to bits. Bit of a pain to pick up the cable bits, but less pain than chewing other stuff.

    And on top of that, she used to play fetch with the cable bits. The various pieces were her favorite toy for quite awhile.

  7. we are in game synchronization right now. p2 and me2 are my pursuits of choice (when i'm not reading a song of ice and fire).

  8. I finished the single-player Portal 2 game on Sunday, planning to start tacking co-op soon... ;)

    And ME2 is annoying the hell out of me but I'm running on the theory that ME1 did too, when I first started, and this, too, should pass...

  9. When I played ME2 the first . . . three times . . . my graphics card was so inadequate I was stretching 800x600 across a 22in screen and still couldn't pick up the pistol in the beginning because the framerate was too low for the "activate something" flashing square to work.

    I love Mass Effect. Love love love it. Except for driving the buggy through mountains in the first game and scanning for Iridium in the second.

  10. I've been obsessively reading about pet nutrition, habits, behavioral quirks, etc... lately. One thing that I find feeds Elvis' love of chewing/scratching/destroying things is giving him raw rabbit legs to snack on. I supervise him, they take him hours to take apart, he loves chewing the bones, and by the time he's done, he is all "chewed out" for a few days afterwards. (Granted he doesn't seem as chew-prone as Guybrush, but might be worth a shot if you're not too squeamish about the idea of kitty chewing meat in your home. I've heard dried chicken necks will also do the trick).