Monday, September 03, 2012

Penny Arcade Expo 2012

Another PAX up and gone.  Given this was my 8th PAX I think that I have really hit my stride in managing my time there as well as any associated stresses of going.  There is just so much to see and do that you have to consign yourself that you are going to miss truly great events in favor of other truly great events.


For Friday, I did not have much on my plans to hit. I was interested in doing some D&D as well as hitting the expo hall and seeing what folks had brought in.  Instead of jumping into the queue line, I was happy to see that the Penny Arcade Merch line was already open and nearly empty, so I jumped in and got my yearly tee shirts and book.  After getting through the mega line (which I got to talk to two nice guys in the insurance business, seriously), I was able to check out the insanely crowded expo hall.  After quickly looking through the expo hall, I settled into line to watch the live play demo of Assassin's Creed 3 which was absolutely incredible.  Besides being blown away by the graphics, it was just incredible to see what they have done in terms of interacting with the environment.  When Connor was climbing a tree, it was not climbing a ladder or rope, he was moving branch to branch in a very realistic manner.  My friends went through earlier and mentioned that their playthrough included stopping to pet a dog in the street.  Just wow.

After meeting up with my compatriots outside the League of Legends tournament (which I hope is not part of PAX next year, but separate and nearby) and grabbing lunch, we headed over to the Annex and starting going through one of the special encounters where we all got to play evil drow.  The DM was a little distracted, but we still had some fun (got a free d20).  We realized that the queue line was nearby to try out D&D Next.

While in line we met some nice blokes from Canada.  One of the folks in the room also broke out Cards Against Humanity which was sick, disturbing and cool.  Basically I have been told it is similar to the game Apples to Apples where you basically do Mad Lib.  Cards Against Humanity contains only the most foul aspects of humanity to use in sentences that can only end horribly.  Once we got into the game, I was shocked at how well balanced the game felt and how much fun we actually had playing.  The story the DM put together was fun, and coming from the 4e perspective I was a bit skeptical of the characters with few abilities and few hit points.  But once we started playing, I saw that it was really a playground for the players and DM which required way less math and fiddly bits and focused on what D&D should be about, which is a group narrative that is fun and engaging.  For instance, one of the characters in the group was a priest of Lathandar, which could be done fairly dry and just playing the mechanics, but instead the player basically put life into his character where he tried to convert every creature he met to his god whether they be undead, animal, or person.  Plus he monologued... a lot.  Scott's character was a halfling rogue who used to be a chef, so when he got the chance, he backed some poisonous pies to feed some Orcs.  Just had a seriously good time.


On Saturday, I had two things on my agenda: Acquisitions, Inc and the DM challenge.  Up until that point, I decided it was time to hit the expo hall again and time permitting, I would check out the board game area.  Well time didn't permit and we got sucked into all the cool games.  While the big triple A games were cool, what we came away with was how cool the indie games were, although part of that is probably that we could actually go play them and talk to folks working the booth as opposed to the big titles and companies were just overwhelmed with people.  I did get a chance to try out Doom 3 3D, which left me feel nauseous.  I was impressed by the look and how smooth it was, but felt like my eyes were about 2cm too close together for what they wanted to show.  Another cool one I saw was Hawken which had some awesome mech action coupled with neat visual cues on damage taken.  Also I got roped into trying a controller that attaches to Android devices via bluetooth called Moga which felt incredibly smooth and comfortable... if I had an Android device.

After lunch, we were able to get in another D&D encounter before we began the long line sitting exercise known as waiting for Acquisitions, Inc (and a blog that has good pictures as well).  While waiting we met a few groups playing Zombie Dice (best line game ever) and decided to join forces to have a bigger game, which included a couple from the UK named Ben and Jen as well as Dennis, a friend of Scott's and also Glen and Amy.  After that we switched up and played some Cards Against Humanity.  The D&D session had some incredible set pieces as some cool effects, but at its essence it is about watching Wil Wheaton, Scott Kurtz, and Mike and Jerry at their best.  It was fun, entertaining and loaded with butt jokes.

After that, Jason and I headed over to take part in the DM challenge while Scott went to the Avicii concert. Our DM had flown in from London and I was lucky enough to land again with one of the guys we had met the night before.  In addition, the DM from the challenge last year was part of our player party this time.  The encounter set was placed in Menzobarranzan with evil Dark Elves (a theme for them this year).  The campaign was pretty interesting and I can see what the DM was trying to do, but as normal players we didn't cooperate.  In either case, what he planned was super slick, but what ended up happening was also very interesting.


Instead of waiting in line for the expo hall, I was ran into an interesting guy from California and we talked a lot about interesting games.  He headed onto the hall, and I learned that the Wil Wheaton Awesome Hour was already full up so I headed down to talk to the folks at Reaper Miniatures who put on one of the largest kickstarters of all time.  I took some time to paint a miniature of my own and found it super relaxing and fun. I am afraid I have found a new hobby.  Once I left, I headed for the expo hall to see some more of the indie games and get a chance to play Forza Horizon and another game from Dream. Build. Play.

After lunch, I met up with Lindsey and her daughter, Sam.  We wandered about looking for a place to buy Cards Against Humanity but gave up.  I was surprised at Sam who at only 7 months was having the time of her life waving at everyone she saw and just being a bundle of smiles.

At this point, I am completely worn.  I find a nice quiet place to rest my weary legs and wait to have dinner with Amanda, Scott, and Jason.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 NFL Draft - How'd I guess

Well per usual, I did my mock draft 1 week ago just to see how my set of picks would turn out.  I have come up with my own scoring just to see how I did.  I score 5 points if I get the team correct with my guess and then 5 points if the location in the draft was correct but for every spot off, I remove 1 point.

Pick - Team - My Guess - Actual - Score
  1. IND - Andrew Luck - Andrew Luck - 10
  2. WAS - Robert Griffin III - Robert Griffin III -10
  3. MIN    Matt Kalil - Trent Richardson (CLE) - 9
  4. CLE    Trent Richardson - Matt Kalil (MIN) - 9
  5. TB    Justin Blackmon - Justin Blackmon - 5
  6. STL    Maurice Claiborne - Maurice Claiborne - 5
  7. JAC    Quintin Coples - Mark Barron - 0
  8. MIA    Ryan Tannehill - Ryan Tannehill - 10
  9. CAR    Fletcher Cox - Luke Kuechly - 3
  10. BUF    Michael Floyd - Stephon Gilmore - 3
  11. KC    David DeCastro - Dontari Poe - 0
  12. SEA    Riley Reiff - Fletcher Cox - 0
  13. ARI    Mike Adams - Michael Floyd - 0
  14. DAL    Melvin Ingram - Michael Brockers - 1
  15. PHI    Michael Brockers - Bruce Irvin - 4
  16. NYJ    Cordy Glenn - Quiton Coples - 0
  17. CIN    Dre Kirkpatrick - Dre Kirkpatrick - 10
  18. SD    Mark Barron - Melvin Ingram - 0
  19. CHI    Jonathan Martin - Shea McClellin - 0
  20. TEN    Courtney Upshaw - Kendall Wright - 0
  21. CIN    Kendall Wright - Chandler Jones - 5
  22. CLE    Luke Kuechly - Brandon Weeden - 0
  23. DET    Stephon Gilmore - Riley Rieff - 0
  24. PIT    Dontari Poe - David Decastro - 0
  25. DEN    Nick Perry - Dont'a Hightower - 3
  26. HOU    Stephen Hill - Whitney Mercilus - 0
  27. NE    Chandler Jones - Kevin Zeitler - 0
  28. GB    Kevin Zeitler - Nick Perry - 4
  29. BAL    Peter Konz - Harrison Smith - 0
  30. SF    Devon Still - A.J. Jenkins - 0
  31. NE    Alameda Ta'amu - Doug Martin - 0
  32. NYG    Coby Fleener - David Wilson - 0
91 Points!

So, I did get a bunch of misses, but overall I think I did better than in years pass.  Mostly it was the late rounders that I was able to either get the team right or hit on the pick.  Once you get later on it, it just ends up being really challenging.  Better yet, I didn't spend a ton of time working on this :P

So how did the Lions do?

Really it is the OT that was the big surprise of the draft and biggest break.  He was the second best OT and he was able to hang around for 23 picks.  We drafted a WR next that was probably too early for this guy.  He went out late last year (November) with an ACL injury.  Who knows when or if we get this on the squad.  Our next 6 picks were CB and OLB.  It's what we really needed to pick up and looks like they are grabbing a bunch to see which ones stick.  I am down with that as a strategy.  However I wish they would have went and grabbed a C in the second round.  There was a couple good ones hanging around at that point that would replace Dominic in a year or two and would give us a nice upgrade in terms of size.  Oh well.

Fan grading came out as a B, but I think that is a bit optimistic.

My take:
1st round: A
2nd round: F
3rd round: B+
4th round: C+
5th round: C
6th round: C-
7th round: C+

Overall, I think it is more of a C+ type of draft.  Missing our on C or on one more RB, was definitely a miss.  Picking a WR that is out, is another miss.  I saw a couple of good ones that would have made me happy.

Go Lions!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 Mock Draft

 Updated to include links to player profiles...
  1. IND    Andrew Luck QB
  2. WAS    Robert Griffin III QB
  3. MIN    Matt Kalil OT
  4. CLE    Trent Richardson RB
  5. TB    Justin Blackmon WR
  6. STL    Maurice Clairborne CB
  7. JAC    Quintin Coples DE
  8. MIA    Ryan Tannehill QB
  9. CAR    Fletcher Cox DE
  10. BUF    Michael Floyd WR
  11. KC    David DeCastro OG
  12. SEA    Riley Reiff OT
  13. ARI    Mike Adams OT
  14. DAL    Melvin Ingram OLB
  15. PHI    Michael Brockers DT
  16. NYJ    Cordy Glenn OG
  17. CIN    Dre Kirkpatrick CB
  18. SD    Mark Barron SS
  19. CHI    Jonathan Martin OT
  20. TEN    Courtney Upshaw DE
  21. CIN    Kendall Wright WR
  22. CLE    Luke Kuechly ILB
  23. DET    Stephon Gilmore CB
  24. PIT    Dontari Poe DT
  25. DEN    Nick Perry DE
  26. HOU    Stephen Hill WR
  27. NE    Chandler Jones DE
  28. GB    Kevin Zeitler OG
  29. BAL    Peter Konz C
  30. SF    Devon Still DT
  31. NE    Alameda Ta'amu DT
  32. NYG    Coby Fleener TE

As part of my normal tradition, I am putting up my take on the upcoming NFL draft.  Since last year, my picks were so awful, I am not spending time writing up my take on each of the picks.  The overall feeling I get this year is that more teams are willing to stick with their existing postitions.  I don't expect a lot of upward movement even though some teams in the middle would consider moving down, I don't see a lot of teams willing to spend the picks to move up.  Even your talented teams have many needs that they will want to fill in the draft.  I think Kansas City did the best job in situating themselves to move up or down if the mood strikes them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Synology 212j

I ended up picking up a NAS. I found that I was doing a lot more transferring of files around my house and after a number of hard disk failures, I decided to add a little bit of redundancy into my life. After a lot of research and some feedback from my friends, I picked the Synology DiskStation 2-Bay (Diskless) Network Attached Storage DS212j (White) along with two 2TB Seagate drives.

The drives and NAS showed up last Tuesday. I dropped the drives in and had the power on to the device in a couple of minutes. I was then left with a "now what?" moment. I tried connecting via IP address and got nothing. I finally gave up and installed the Drive Assistant that came on the disk. This basically told me the NAS didn't have any firmware on it. Whoops! So I dropped the v3.2 DSM on the device and went from there. Once that was installed I was connected to a very slick UI all delivered from a webpage. I noticed that it was already provisioning the drives, but I prefer to have a little bit of input on this, so I cancelled the formatting and set it to create a RAID 1 volume instead of the Synology Hybrid format. 4 hours later, it was done, but I was already in bed.

The next day, I installed DSM v4.0 the next day was very happy to see that I did not need to redo all the permissions I had setup. The upgrade went smoothly and I was able to setup all the shared folders and setup permissions. Next up I have applied encryption to the documents shared folder which went smoothly so far. I then started to backup my laptop and showed Michelle how easy it was.

At this point, I will need to decide what is going to get backed up to S3 and also to learn if it is encrypted when it is backed up. So really I am completely sold on this device. It is awesome for the things that I am using it for.

Given I have two Seagate drives that are greater than 1TB, I do have some concerns about drive health. The number of ECC errors that Synology is reporting is quite high. I do have them in Mirror so hopefully that is sufficient for my data redundancy needs.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

NAS indecision...

So I have been researching NAS software and solutions. For years I have got along with burning to CD/DVD and removable, portable hard drives. Data though keeps getting larger and I find that I am doing more and more work from different machines which makes the movement of data suddenly something I care about within the house.

So far the biggest thing I have come across is FUD. Lots of complaints about little things in each of the various solutions that are out there. And when digging into freeNAS to run on an older desktop, they are suggesting things that this desktop can't even do. 8G of RAM? 1TB of HDD? Although I do frequently deal in very large files I just don't know what I will need.

So where does this leave me?

Well, I don't know. I would like to pick up a NAS as I don't think my old desktop is the right solution. Now I need to figure out which one is going to do what I want which is ridiculously simple:

  1. Save data over the network easily from Windows and Linux
  2. Be secure
  3. Be quiet
  4. RAID 1... I need mirroring.

Maybe this: Buffalo Technology LinkStation Duo 4 TB (2 x 2 TB) Network Attached Storage LS-WX4.0TL/R1

Or maybe this: Synology DiskStation 2-Bay (Diskless) Network Attached Storage DS212j

I just don't know...