Steam and Crysis

My poor 360 has relegated to a Rock Band station as of late (ok that demo of Dynasty Warriors: Gundum was somewhat distracting) mainly because I’ve been bushwhacked by Valve’s Steam.  Microsoft’s Live is a great service: player coordination, demos, original games, new content, and achievements are a pretty succinct summary of what it offers.  I think however, that I might like Steam better.

First of all it made switching to the new PC almost too easy.  Since all of Valve’s games are tied to Steam only had to download the service and log into my account.  After that I just picked my games and Steam did the rest (downloading and installing them all).  Simple as pie.

Next is Steam’s growing collection of of digitally distrubted titles.  Most recently we saw the Unreal titles, and Atari’s back catalog added.  Other companies offer a damned fine selection through Steam as well:  almost all of iD Softwares back titles are in there (every Doom title, every Quake title, Wolfenstein, and even Commander Keen), Activision (Call of Duty), THQ (STALKER, Company of Heroes), and more all available to download at the click (or several clicks) of a mouse.  The GUI for Steam is familiar to any computer use and certainly less convoluted than the over abundant sliding menus on Live.

I managed to pick up Bioshock for $29.99 so I’m working my through that at the moment.  I picked up Prey, on sale this last weekend, for $4.95.  I couldn’t argue with that price.  Most of my time, when not playing Rock Band or getting my ass handed to me in Team Fortress 2, has been dedicated to working my way through Crysis.

It won’t win any awards for original story but between gorgeous graphics, solid physics, and open ended gameplay that let’s you approach the game how you want it is a damned fine title and probably the best single player FPS I’ve played in a while.  There are parts in the game I’ve had issues with (the zero gravity section was annoying, and an escort mission that sucked) but they are mostly the sections that move away from that open-ended element.  There is a certain thrill as I assault a KPA base in my cloaked powersuit taking out soldiers one by one with my silencer equiped, laser sighted, sniper scoped assault rifle (did I mention the weapon modding system, fun).  Or sneaking up behind a humvee and nailing the auxiliary fuel tank with a few well-placed shots and watching the KPA soldiers scramble from the soon-to-be flaming wreckage.

The game was certainly stronger before I started fighting the aliens.  Things have gone too far towards the run and gun style and I miss having to actually think about how I want to approach (or avoid) a fight but we’ll see if things don’t make a comeback.  Regardless I still recommend  the title if you’ve got enough machine to run it.  I’ll have some final thoughts on the title once I’m through and some on Bioshock once I’ve gotten a bit further in than I am right now.

Dear Vista…

Dear Vista,Please stop accessing me so much.  I neither need nor appreciate it.


Mike’s Hard Drive

Vista’s disk trashing issue is well documented. It manifests itself as the incessant “clicking” and “ticking” of hard drive access when little to no actual computing is being done.  Finely fed up with this I dove into Vista’s innards in an attempt to silence this annoying garbage.

Some quick searching revealed several possible culprits:

  • Superfetch (loads frequently used programs into RAM for quicker start up)
  • disk indexing
  • Windows Defender

I thought I had already disabled the last but a quick glance over in Control Panel->Admin Tools->Services revealed that was total BS.   Superfetch was disabled in the same place.  Disabling those two services still didn’t solve me problem.  Some searching revealed that Windows stores settings for indexing under Power Settings (really? WTF?) so I hopped over there and switched the settings from “Performance” to “Balanced.”  Quieter but still not quite there.

A quick glance at the task manager revealed a program “aacenter.exe” jumping up and down the list when I sorted by CPU usage.  A bit of googling revealed this to be the ASUS ACPI Center which seemed to be a bit of extraneous, and ultimatley useless, motherboard software.  Back in Admin Tools I opened up the task scheduler disabled the automatic disk defragmenter (really MS?  I know how to defrag my own HD thanks) then killed the aacenter.exe task (started whenever a user logged onto the computer).  Seconds later only the faint hum of fans could be heard.  Success.

Dunno which did it in the end but it seems my HD does it’s own thing without being bothered by vista.  So if you have this problem check out the above programs (you might try this solution here as that might also work.