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November 25, 2008

UAC in Vista and Windows 7 | Posted at 2:39 PM

Let me just say I am not a fan of UAC, the User Account Control feature in Windows Vista. Ya know, the thing that comes up whenever you want to make any change at all?

I just read an article at PC Magazine on security in Windows 7 and it seems that UAC is still poorly implemented in Windows 7. For me, I just don't want it. I've maybe only ever gotten malware once in a year.

I want to echo the author's thoughts on what Microsoft should do for UAC:

"Never ask whether to allow elevated privilege to a known, valid program—certainly never ask when it's a Windows component. And if it's not a known program, examine all of its behaviors, not just the fact that it needs Administrator privilege. Then make a considered analysis of the program and allow or block it. Don't foist that responsibility off on the user."

I agree wholeheartedly. I hate when UAC asks for permission when I myself run a program. Of course I want it to run. The only time you should ask is if I downloaded the file. But see, the problem is that I expect spyware detection when I run an installer, so UAC shouldn't even bother me unless there's a problem.

You know what's even worse? When I want to copy and paste files. Seriously, don't ask me when I manually copy/paste, I know that I want to make changes. LEAVE ME ALONE.

Right now UAC is a failed security attempt. Either improve it tenfold or just get rid of it, no one likes it at all.

November 21, 2008

Sample: Using Multidimensional Arrays in .NET [Exercise] | Posted at 1:57 PM

From my IDSC 3102: Intermediate Programming class, here is the first program we had to complete.

IDSC 3102 Assignment 1

What It Is

A basic implementation of a fake airline reservation program. Add/remove passengers to a seating chart and waiting list.

What You Will Learn

  • How to use a 2D array to manage a seating arrangement
  • Display a graphical representation of the airline seating chart
  • Use an ArrayList to manage a first-in, first-out waiting list
  • Add and remove passengers from the seating chart or waiting list

Download Source

Download zip (86KB)

November 13, 2008

Left 4 Dead: Paradigm Shift [They're Everywhere!] | Posted at 9:14 AM


If you have yet to play the Left 4 Dead demo, you need to get on that shit now. No, I am serious, do it.

How come every Valve game is an A+ winner? How can they continuously come up with games that push the envelope in some way or another? I'll tell you how: Valve is made up of geniuses.

Left 4 Dead, if you've been living under a rock, is a zombie survival co-op shooter. Yes, you play as 4 disheveled persons trying to escape a zombie-ridden ground zero. And these aren't your mama's zombies neither, these things are fast and, dare I say, furious.

At first, the initial response is, "How great could that be?" Let me just say this: you've never played a game like this before. No, not even CSS ZombieMod comes close to this experience.

Why is that? What did Valve do to make this such a different experience?

I think there's a few things that jumped out at me (heh):

Lighting: The Source engine has been overhauled in Left 4 Dead to provide better dynamic lighting when using your flashlight along with darker levels with lots of corners. Your flashlight is constantly on and it is attached to your gun so if you are reloading, it will not shine on that Hunter that is leaping towards you.

Smart Zombies: Like I said earlier, these are not typical zombies and I think this is where Valve has differentiated their game. There are lots of different zombies, and apparently even more in the full game. While you may walk into a room and they'll be skulking about, once you get them angry, they turn into a vicious mob and then they just don't stop. They'll be running out of the woodwork, even behind you from places you just were. They come from the ceilings, the holes in the floor, the closets in the houses, and from all sides. It's an adrenaline rush of zombies. They jump, they leap, and some even climb on the ceiling and pin you down.

Did I mention the Boss Zombies? Oh yeah… they take a beating and will probably own you before you can even make a dent in their hide.

Co-Op Mechanics: Left 4 Dead really makes the gameplay intense by offering some great co-op mechanics. If your teammate is hurt, you can heal them but you offer up your medpack for them so you can't use it yourself. If a friend is pinned by a Hunter (a very fast, very bad zombie), you've gotta shoot him off to save him. If your friend is grabbed by a Smoker and is being dragged to oblivion, you better shoot that thing before your teammate is dead. Also, take care not to shoot your teammates, health is very important. You probably want to stick together too, if you get too far ahead or behind… well, there's no one to save you and trust me, you will need saving. It's important to note that saving someone isn't as simple as getting the zombie off, they still need to be helped up. This process is timed and any number of things could happen while you're helping your partner up, it just adds that much to the intense feeling of the game.

Gameplay: There's a lot of things that make this a great multiplayer game. You can only carry a pistol and one other type of weapon. Your pistol has unlimited ammo and should be used most often but you're gonna need your machine gun or shotgun when the fun starts. Additionally, you've got one medpack for yourself (or to use on a teammate) and you can also hold one bottle of painkillers. There's also a slot for a special weapon like a pipe bomb or a Molotov.

One of the scariest and coolest things that can happen in the game is when you trigger The Horde. Yah, it sounds bad and it really is crazy. This happens when you do a number of things including shooting a car that has a car alarm or getting vomited upon by a Boomer zombie. The Horde is just Valve's way of saying there's a shit ton of zombies heading your way so you better all bunch up and get ready. They come from every direction (and I mean every, watch the ceiling!) and depending on the type and source of the trigger, they will either attack all of you or just one teammate. Other dynamics of the Horde might be introduced in the full game.

It would seem to be a great idea to hide in a closet while this all boils over but that's a very bad idea. See, these zombies aren't idiots. If you're behind a door, they will bust through it (which is awesome to witness) and tear you to shreds if you can't kill all of them.

Intensity: Left 4 Dead is just a very intense experience, especially on Expert mode. It's a good idea to have a headset or mic to communicate with teammates but most people will just be screaming into it asking for help or warning you that a Hunter is right behind you. See, every time you play the maps the game changes. This is Valve's "AI Director" at work. It really makes it a cinematic experience. The Director is just an intelligent way for the game to dynamically change the amount of zombies, the sounds, and the music to make it unique each playthrough.

Another thing that contributes to the intensity is the speed and acrobatics of the zombies. The first time you see them turning the corner sprinting for your throat you realize that you've gotta be on your toes. If you're not watching your back… you better hope someone else is. The first time you see what a Hunter is (or more aptly, don't see it) you'll freak the hell out. I would not say L4D is a scary game in a horror-movie type way but rather it is a scary game in that it creates a certain thrill and is almost suspenseful. Once you get to an area that is not overrun by zombies it's a relief until someone does something stupid and alerts every enemy within a 3 mile radius to your location. It's basically an adrenaline rush.

The End

That's all I have to say for now. L4D is an instant buy in my opinion especially when you try the demo and play with friends. It's also the first multiplayer game in a long, long time to entice me and get me hungry for more. The last multiplayer-only game I played judiciously was CSS. Not even TF2 could get me addicted… but L4D? That's a different matter entirely.

One Sentence Review: Fallout 3 [PC] | Posted at 8:35 AM


Title: Fallout 3
Platform: PC
Review: The only way to describe the experience when you first fire up Fallout 3 is how you felt when you played Morrowind: confused, epic, daunting, and a whole ton of awesome.
Grade: A+

Buy it from Steam

One Sentence Review: Fable II [Xbox] | Posted at 8:29 AM


Title: Fable II
Platform: Xbox 360
Review: Addicting, long, and full of fantastic voice acting and writing, Fable II is one of the gems of 2008.
Grade: A

Buy it off Amazon

November 6, 2008

First Impressions: Red Alert 3 [Retail] | Posted at 3:24 PM

I’ve posted previously on the multiplayer beta of Red Alert 3 and it was apparent how I felt about it (not so thrilled).

So what do I think of the single-player campaign and LAN play, the pieces of the game that I really wanted to see. I said previously I hope EA did it right and so here is my initial impressions.

The Bottom Line: It’s fun!

Yes, my hope that the campaign and network play would be fun has come to fruition. While it still did not provide the same “Wow? factor the first time I played RA2, it is a worthy successor. The humor is there, the diverse missions are there, and the cheesy FMV cutscenes are there. Unlike C&C 3, I will probably finish all the campaigns.

I have yet to finish the campaigns but as soon as I do (not for awhile) I will post a full reflection on my experiences. As of yet, my strategies have not developed fully nor have I played with the Rising Sun much.

There was one thing that jumped out that was extremely disappointing: no local co-op play. Me and my roommate sat down, both of us using my one copy of the game (we’re cheap), ready to work together and play the campaign together.

Unfortunately, RA3 is only co-op campaign over the internet and there’s no option for LAN co-op, which was really a disappointment.

On the other end of the spectrum, the music is fantastic. It’s got the same heavy hitting riffs RA2 had and really goes well with the game. I remember starting a LAN game and the music almost sounded like jazz or classical music, but when we started attacking it was some crunchy riffs. I am really enjoying the soundtrack.