Thursday, March 31, 2016

End of an Era: FFXI servers shut down for consoles: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

(from the Adventures in Vana'diel department)

So - it finally had to happen. SquareEnix shut down the remaining servers for the console versions of Final Fantasy XI this morning, leaving it PC-only for now.

Full info here:

I remember getting FFXI for my PlayStation 2 - it came with the Sony PlayStation 2 HDD and the promise of a whole new world of PlayStation features. Unfortunately, right after launch, Sony canceled their US plans, and the Japanese features like storing games on the hard drive, and the Sony Broadband Navigator never came to these shores. Still - it was a rock solid FFXI platform, and I spent many hours exploring the world of Vana'diel on my PS2.

When the Xbox 360 client came out, it was a blast to have an MMORPG on that platform. There were some odd issues with Xbox Live integration, and a couple of performance quirks, but the true widescreen and increased draw distance made it the FFXI platform of choice until the PC hardware and software options finally overtook it.

I played both console versions last night, archiving all of my screen shots and other ephemera. It was a bittersweet farewell. The servers were definitely overloaded - but it was still a lot of fun to run around Vana'diel and look at the sights one last time.

FFXI is going to continue on PC for the near future. Also - SquareEnix has announced plans for a full mobile version in the next year or so. This means adventurers will continue to fight the good fight, and explore the world of Vana'diel - but it's definitely the end of the console era for FFXI.

See you in Windurst!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Setting up Oracle Java JRE 8 on Ubuntu

(from the Java - But Not Coffee department)

Hi everyone,

(This is a quick post - these instructions are necessarily terse and mainly serve as a reminder to myself. If you do try this - you do so at your own risk - I can't provide any help if you mess anything up.)

I needed to set up Oracle Java JRE 8 on my Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 64-bit system.

For previous versions of Oracle Java, I followed the steps in "6. Installation from RPM package" on the web page here:

These instructions worked fine for previous versions of Java but broke with JRE 8.

When I analyzed the failure, I saw it was breaking with the alternatives command.  Ubuntu uses update-alternatives instead of alternatives.

So - I decided to try something bold.  I created a symbolic link to alternatives from update-alternatives:

cd /usr/sbin
sudo ln -s update-alternatives alternatives

Then, I followed the steps in "6. Installation from RPM package".  The package installed properly.  Just for reference, here's the commands I used for the JRE 8u77 I installed today:

sudo alien --scripts jre-8u77-linux-x64.rpm
sudo dpkg -i jre1.8.0-77_1.8.077-1_amd64.deb

That left connecting up the Firefox Java plugin.  There's many ways to do that, but I like using alternatives.. er... I mean update-alternatives:

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/ /usr/java/default/lib/amd64/ 20

Obviously - these are for a 64 bit system.  These won't work as written for a 32 bit system or a mixed 64/32 bit system.

Good luck!


Monday, March 21, 2016

GameStop: Good News For Retro Gamers

tl;dr: GameStop online is now selling retro/vintage games and accessories

When I was in GameStop this weekend, I noticed a flyer at the desk offering trade-in deals for NES, Genesis, SNES, Dreamcasts and PlayStations. I asked the clerk about it, and he said that they're using this to get retro gear for their on-line site. I found the link here:

This is a change in their policy where they would discontinuing selling older systems when newer systems were released.

UPDATE:  So - I ordered a Dreamcast game - D2 - from them. It arrived promptly, and the shipping container was a sturdy cardboard box with air pillows. They do warn you that the game packaging may not be perfect. In this case, it contained the original jewel box - definitely used, but not trashed. The booklet was included, as was the tray art. The hub for the fourth disk was broken, so they put the fourth disk in a separate envelope. The discs themselves appeared to be in good condition.

All in all - pleased with this service. We will have to see how the prices compare over time.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Quick Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

tl;dr: If you have an Xbox One - or in a surprise port, an Xbox 360 - and you're a fan of the new gritty Tomb Raider - or survival action in general - consider picking this up.

The storyline isn't quite as compelling, and if you play it straight through, you might find it a little shorter, but it takes the open world elements of Tomb Raider and enlarges them. There are many little side quests and things to do in this game world. Plus - some actual tombs to raid this time.

It's rated mature, and although it's not quite as violent as Tomb Raider, Lara still does a lot of killing in this one.

They just released a Windows version as well - available via Steam or the Windows 10 store. 

Warning: if your rig is slightly older, this will push it pretty hard, due to the huge open world spaces and all their fine detail. Unlike Tomb Raider, which runs on my rig set to ultra, I had to turn down some of the graphic settings for Rise Of The Tomb Raider. There are basic presets you can use which you can optimize for your hardware.

The previous paragraph really makes me appreciate my consoles even more.

I did play (and finish) this on the 360, and although the graphics are definitely dialed down, the frame rate is rock solid and it's eminently playable. If you're still rocking the 360, you won't be disappointed by this one, even though it doesn't quite look as snazzy as its predecessor, due to the open world demands.

I rate it a solid headshot with a compound bow.

More reviews here:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

National Pancake Day - March 8, 2016

(from the You Can Never Get Enough Butter® department)

Hi everyone,

Today was IHOP National Pancake Day!  As is our tradition, Rose and I went to get our pancake on!

Since the event ended at 7:00 PM, we tried to arrive early.  We jumped on a couple of buses, and arrived at the Seattle Capitol Hill IHOP at about 5:30 PM.  The place was already packed, but we put our names on the list, and got in about 25 minutes later - plenty of time for pancakes!

We'll let the pictures tell the Story Of The Pancake:

No pancakes yet

When will pancakes get here?

Almost time!

Um - this is not pancakes...


Let me tell you how I really feel about pancakes!



All in all - we had a great time.  We also made a small donation to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals as a thank you for the free pancakes.