Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Reboot - How to avoid goofing 1 - Computer

There haven't been any posts over the holidays, but I've been busy doing things, and this blog unfortunately took low priority, however, now that term is nearly starting again, I find myself with renewed interest, and a concept for another series of posts.

Consider these short guides on life, how to get the most out of things, and, as the title implies, how to avoid epic fail.

The issues are going to be as follows:
1 - Computers, the software you need
2 - Video games, consoles and PC, things to play now, things to watch out for
3 - Cooking, general things you should and shouldn't be doing in a kitchen
4 - Sports and diet, how to not die
5 - anything else I think of...

So, without further ado:

How to avoid goofing 1 - Your computer and you, use protection

First things first, you get a new laptop/desktop, you open the box, it looks all cool and fresh, and you wonder where to begin. Well, power cable in, charge that battery, then boot up, and you're met with some horrific thing which may have once been a desktop, but is covered in 10 different apps that the manufacturer really thought you needed, but don't.

So piece of advice number 1, open control panel, find add remove programs, remove anything you don't need. If you don't know what it is, google it (using the default browser for now), if it sounds like something you're not going to use, then remove it.

Now some pieces of software may be needed to support things like fingerprint scanners, so if something stops working, then reinstall the last one you removed.
Once you're done, reboot.

Next, check for driver updates using windows update, and then using Device doctor.
It's the best driver finder I have used so far, and its free, what more do you want.

Now you have blank slate to start on, lets identify what we need:
  • Antivirus, very important
  • Web browser and associated, no one uses internet explorer, for lots of good reasons
  • Speed and stability, this covers quite a few things
  • Productivity tools, for whatever you're going to be doing with your new thing
Most important things are higher up the list, so lets start with the antivirus.

I have tested maybe 7 or 8 different antiviruses on systems running XP, vista and 7, and so I know from first hand experience which ones work well, and which ones will leave you with holes in your armor.

First off, you need Spybot S&D, install it, run it, and run immunisation, don't install the "tea timer" system settings protection, it only serves to annoy. You need to run this again every now and then, once a week or so is good.
Now you need the software which is going to actively protect your system, and you need to choose from 3 options:
  1. AVG Free, fast and powerful, a strong reccomendation
  2. Avast Free, maybe slightly faster, but can be more confusing to use
  3. ESET Nod 32, in excess of £20 per year, but the best available
Either of the first two options will keep you safe, but if you're going to pay for antivirus, don't bother with the premium versions of either of those products, if you want to spend money for that extra piece of mind, ESET is the only one worth buying.
So why do I recommend these 3? They all have the following key features:
  • Fast scans, you don't want to use any more time than you have to
  • Low overheads, your antivirus is always running in the background, so it shouldn't eat into your processing power
  • High detection rates, you don't want it missing things
  • Ease of use, they are ranked in order of ease of use, so if that's the main factor you need, choose AVG
There's no more to say on that really, apart from be sensible, if you're trying to view a video, and you click on it, and it says "video.exe" don't run it.

Web browsers, options are:
  1. Firefox
  2. Google Chrome
  3. Opera
Firefox is fast and sleek, and oh so customisable, does everything you want, won't complain, I would very much suggest using this one.
Chrome is in theory (slightly) faster and is simpler to use, also, it runs every tab in a new task, so if one tab crashes, you don't need to close the whole browser. But I found no speed increase, and in benchmarks on my system, it was slower on the whole.
Opera is nice, it looks nice, it feels nice, but unfortunately, it is the least supported of the browsers, and some sites just won't work, maybe in future, this will be the browser to watch.

Now to go with that, you need the basic internet tools, for watching videos and doing other stuff, you need all of these:
Just install them all, you will need them at some point.

Now, if you're using firefox, you need addons, I use Adblock Plus, Web Of Trust, Video Download Helper, Download Statusbar and Search Preview, check them out in the addons browser.

Speed and stability next, tricks to keep your computer running as fast as it should, all the time and long into the future.

Tip #1 - Disable windows indexing, right click on your drive in my computer, and find the button which says enable indexing, and disable it, the speed benefits to searching with this enabled are minimal, having said that, if you lose stuff all the time, leave it on.

Tip #2 - Buy Tuneup utilities, no, seriously, you need it, it does everything for you, all you have to do is install it, configure the maintenance to happen on a schedule, disable the defrag, and it will keep most things in check, removing broken things in the registry, removing broken shortcuts, and keeping your disk space available for important files.
It also has tweaks and suggestions which it makes when you first install it, listen to it!

Tip #3 - Ditch the windows file transfer, its slower than we want it, and has no support for verification of important files. Use Teracopy, and let it do all the work, your life will be easier.

Tip #4 - One last one, defrag, and often. Now I told you to disable the tuneup defrag, and this is because, despite the virtues of the rest of the program, the defrag leaves something to be desired. Instead, my favourite is Defraggler, but if you need something with more functionality, try Smart defrag. Either way, do it once a month, or just set a schedule, and forget about it.

Lastly, if you send files by e-mail lots, or you upload files to file hosting sites, you will be using compression. "Lol I know what that is, .zip right?", nope, .zip is the worst compression you can get apart from uncompressed, so you should be using 7-zip, it can uncompress anything you will come across in normal life, and makes .7z archives, which have the best compression you can get from any software which is not in beta (see KGB Archiver).

And so we come to our final category, which is very specific to the individual, so it will be hard for me to make a lot of general suggestions.

However, there are things that you will likely need to do at some point, retouch a photo, edit some video, rip the audio track from a video and write a document.
To do all this, you will need the following:
  • Avidemux, for video editing and audio extraction, it can also convert between hundred of formats of video and audio
  • Open office or Microsoft office, one is free and confusing, the other is expensive and sleek, your choice
  • GIMP or Photoshop, both are confusing, GIMP slightly less so, but if you need raw power and have money to burn, Photoshop may be the choice, or for a more casual user, try Ashampoo Photo Commander, cheaper than photoshop, and very easy to use, but not very versatile.
  • Foxit Reader, DO NOT use adobe reader, it sucks, period, if you need to read pdfs, which we all do, use this, and your processor will thank you.
  • Able batch converter, use this to resize, rename and retouch photos en-masse, it is very varied in what it can do, and it will make life a whole lot easier.
And thus ends my epic post about how to computer, follow these rules, and your life will be better on your computer, and you won't encounter the age old problem of "my computer isn't as fast as it used to be".

Final thing, no matter what anyone tells you on the internet, deleting SYSTEM32 will not make your computer faster, and will break everything, like dividing by 0, don't do it.

EDIT - Matt C has just linked me to this nifty little thing, which can install most of these for you, highly recommended as it will save you lots of time!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cooking - Duck and raspberries

I have wanted to cook this dish for a while, but duck has always been very expensive, and raspberries are awful when out of season.

As it happens, I have been staying at my parents house in Yorkshire, and they have an allotment where they grow, amongst other things, raspberries, which have just been in season.  

So, the other day, on a jaunt out to get meat for our bbq which we had on sunday, we spotted 2 duck breasts on offer and I had to have them, they looked so delicious! On our way back, we picked a punnet of raspberries, and set in motion a sequence of events which led to:

 Sounds tasty no?

Anyways, after serving it to Louise, the following points came up, which I will be noting for next time, and if you want to make the dish yourself, you should also take on board:

- The duck breasts we had were maybe just over 1 inch thick and if you have similar thickness duck, they should be cooked for 7 1/2 to 8 minutes in the oven for rare, and 8 to 9 for medium, 6 was far too rare even for my taste, and I tend to have steak "bleu"

- The sauce was a little tart, even though I used some nice sweet vinegar, but this is likely down to the fact that the raspberry season is at an end. Take note of the time of year; at the start of season, raspberries tend to be sweeter, but near the end of season, and a few days after it rains, they tend to be a lot sharper, so taste them first, if they are a little sharp, add an extra teaspoon or two of sugar when cooking.

I served the duck with some simple steamed green beans, picked yesterday, and some slices of yellow courgette, fried in butter and oil (also picked yesterday).
Good eating.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cooking - Okonomiyaki

After all the gripping DF posts, I'm sure you all fancy something else, so a good recipe to use up leftover veg, or to show off your pronunciation skills (o-ko-no-mi-ya-ki), or just because you fancy something different.

Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese pancake/omelette dish served with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonaise, or if you don't feel like making the sauce, you can always use worcestershire sauce and mayonaise, but I can tell you it is very much worth the effort.

I will link to the recipes to save me writing them out again, but I will add this:
- Use less cabbage, maybe 1 1/2 cups instead of 2 to 3, and make sure to finely chop it.
- I am thinking about blanching the cabbage a little bit before adding it in next time as it was very crunchy, but then again, I like it like that so maybe, but I'm not sure.
- The portion serves 2 hungry people well as a main course, maybe 3 normal people, and maybe 4-6 as a starter.

The pancake itself is found here (pancake) and the sauce is here (sauce). And if you care to make your own mayonaise (mayo), but I will fess up now, I did not.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

TOA - The End?

The beast was slain today by the captain of the guard.

He took it upon himself to protect the miners who had been caught by the beast, and armed with his legendary golden warhammer, he struck the creature a killing blow. In the end, the forgotten beast only injured 2 war dogs, who are expected to make a full recovery.

The miners continued their efforts with new pride, the death of the beast brought them new hope. Aristlitast was unstoppable with it's mighty military, the best trained in the land.

And soon they struck raw adamantium, praise to the miners! The fort would be the richest place in all Tadinramul, with it's hallways lined with the precious metal and a dining room made from solid gold!

But wait, the adamantium vein is hollow, and steam rises up from the depths, tainted in strange purples. The miners lean over the edge to have a look, and the shaft leads down to a chamber below, impossibly vast and with glowing pits in the floor of unknown depth.

Then they heard the screaming, wails of horror echoing throughout the cavern. But these were the brave miners of Aristlitast, normal mortals would have fled and activated the carefully lain traps, but they simply shrugged and started hauling the precious metal to the surface, signalling for the rest to follow suit.

Then the creatures came, some with names, others wihout, salt monsters, steam demons, magma men, and shapeless horrors of the depths, they all poured out of the shaft in countless quantities.

Now they fled, the miners and haulers alike, running for the passage to the surface. The dwarves ahead of them urged them on, sealing the great stone doors behind them.

"We must run for the lever room and seal them in for good, then flood the underground, it is our only option!" screamed the captain of the guard.
"Never, we are mighty, a few monsters won't scare us off our prize, send the military to bar the passage, we will stand and fight!" said the mayor, recently elected to his post after a bountiful trade with the elves.

And so it was, the military were sent down to the passage, they crept their way along, and slowly opened the doors.

What they met was a wave of flame, engulfing the whole passage, ripping the doors from their hinges and killing the military instantly.

The dwarves on the surface heard their screams and pulled the lever to seal the depths, but already 20 of the beasts were on their way up the main shaft and toward the fort.

The top most gate had also broken, no longer connected to its lever, and by the time it was fixed, the demons were upon the mechanics.

The flood was activated, but it only served to slow the flaming creatures, the volume simply not being enough to stop them. The rest of the monsters charged on unperturbed and tore through the carefully lain traps at the top of the shaft and into the fort proper.

There were no more defences, it had been assumed that all the previous defences would have been enough, and now the rest of the fort was entirely open plan, death would come quickly.

What followed was not pretty, dwarven men, women and children being torn to pieces by the demons, burned alive and eaten in front of their friends. Some of the dwarves managed to lock themselves in the farmland, and remove the flooding mechanism used to irrigate the fields. Others fled to the trade hall, only to be chased down by the demons.

The ones who escaped ran back into the top of the fort, their reasons unknown to me, perhaps madness had taken them, perhaps out of loyalty to their friends, perhaps trying to get their pets, we will never know.

But none ever left the fort, it may have been possible to seal the entrance if there had been less panic, but the mad running around meant every dwarf was lost.

The last to die was the mayor, chased into a corner, he begged for his life, but was shown no mercy. He was knocked unconcious in the trade hall, then dragged down a corridor and butchered.

Maybe one day people will return to Aristlitast, to find the fine crafts or to look at the engravings lining every corridor, maybe the demons will leave, maybe they will make it their own home, ultimately the future is unknown, but what I do know, is that the Righteous Picks, are no more.


TOA - Ambush

It is now the winter of 1055 in Aristlitast and the last trade caravan is soon at arrive, the booze supplies are dangerously low as there is nowhere to store the booze, all the barrels having been used for food storage.

The carpenter works overtime to make more barrels, but the demand still far exceeds the supply, hopefully the traders will bring more.

And here they come, upon the Western cliffs a caravan is spotted heading for the fort, prepare the goods for trade!

But wait, something is wrong, goblins have been spotted springing from behind bushes, it's a trap! Send the militia!

But it was too late, by the time they arrived all the traders were dead and the goblins had fled.

The bodies were gathered and taken to the burial chambers in the shaft, and the goods recovered from the mountain, no sense in letting them go to waste, and the personal effects of the traders themselves can be returned to their families when the next caravan arrives (assuming it is better fated).

But now worse news, the scouting party in the depths has stumbled across something else, something big, something evil.

Lashid the forgotten beast has awoken, a great body covered in lidless eyes with thin wings of stretched flesh and poisonous fangs.

The underground is safe no more, the only way to press forward would be to build covered walkways through the depths, and even then there is no guarantee that Lashid wouldn't be able to break through, it is best sealed down there, or maybe trapped...

Friday, 18 June 2010

TOA - The Depths

Zan died from starvation, but in times of sadness, happy events have a way of coming forward, and two dwarven couples have been married, forgoing any formal ceremonies due to the circumstances. There is even a baby in the fort.

All is going well, the farms have once again started producing food, and the drink shortage has been solved so the fort is now completely self sustained, meaning we do not need the traders, and once an indoor water supply has been secured, the gate will be closed, Aristlitast will remove itself from the world while the project is completed.

The great stairway into the depths.

And now that stairway goes somewhere, four years since the founding of the fort, the stairway finally reaches nearly 150ft into the earth, and the miners have found a network of underground caves, filled with bugbats and troglodites, foul denizens of the dark. The militia was dispatched as the yelps of one of the miners dogs were heard and they arrived at the scene to find a bloody corpse and a blood splattered trog eating from it, the militia charged and made swift work of the creature, pausing to build doors as a barricade to any other unwelcome intruders.

While this was happening, one of the traps at the entrance to the shaft had been sprung, we had captured a trog, but what to do with the creature? They are humanoid in shape so it would be strange to eat it, and most of the fort believes them to be inedible, it cannot be trained and setting it free isn't an option. So we will keep it until we find a use, perhaps the militia can train new recruits with it.

But now the caverns, vast and filled with gems and fungi like you have never seen, and fine webs which could be spun into fine clothing. A scouting party was sent, and killed another trog on the way, they pose little threat to fully armed dwarves, and the group discovered a tunnel downwards, a series of ramps and small chambers leading deep into the earth. The route was followed a little way, but then news was passed down that traders had arrived. Not wanting to let them in on the potential wealth down below, the scouting party retreated, sealing the doors on the way out.

Perhaps next time we will venture deeper, perhaps we will find something interesting...