Eve Online Learning Experience

As usual, months went by with me intending to post something about Eve Online.  I did post something in an eve forum a one point. But I just can’t to stop playing long enough to go back. Housework suffers. Or was that hauling ore?

One of the strong appeals is that it is a hard game. So much to learn, so much variety, so much depth. I read that Eve attracts lots of new players, but few stay. Absolutely no surprise there. Eve is not a simplistic first person shooter or ‘pissed off birds’ type of game. Yet I understand the subscription count continues to grow. The people a complex and deep game appeals to are far from the majority. But they are going to stay with it.

Stuff Learned

Not that I’ve learned much. But now I see new to not so new players doing things that are just wrong or foolish. Must be getting somewhere. A small sample.

Gankers. A player is mining or wandering about just exploring in a noob or low end frigate. Wham, in comes one or more gankers to kill him off because they can. Thats just the game. But for a good time, go into an Eve forum and say something like “gankers are just too gutless to take on experienced players. Might lose their precious ship, so they only attack unarmed miners and new players who cannot fight back.”  Hilarity ensues. Gankers step up to the plate and claim they are doing legit stuff and you (and your mom too) are a big baby for whining about it. Of course, the gankers are being the big crybabies and just can’t take being called on why they do what they do. Biggest bunch of babies in the game.  But its only a game, so don’t stress if someone smokes your ship and pods you. One day, you can go do some damage too. It’ll be fun.

Ship control. Its pretty good. But game physics dictates a big ship takes longer to react to your desperate “go that way” click on the screen. I still sometimes forget this and think “its not turning, wtf” when things are working exactly as they should.

LCOs (large collidable objects). One day long ago I was watching a youtube vid on how to stay alive in asteroid belts in lowsec. At one point, the guy is aligning and runs into an asteroid (aka LCO) and the ship stops, gets deflected. “Thats never happened before,” he says like its a bug in the game. A few days earlier, that happened to me and I lost a catalyst. So I was watching this video (link long lost) hoping to learn what to avoid.

With videos, quality varies.

Scanning.  I had tried this and gave up at the start of my career. A wonderful system, its represents a radar technology based on isotropic radar devices. But no way could I sort out the mechanics of it. My probes would die of old age. Could have been another bad video. Recently I found a good video tutorial, up to date too, http://www.eve-online-strategy.com/tutorials/eve-online-tutorial-exploration-probing. I tried again. I can now scan! Found lots of stuff, wormholes, and other things.

Scissors-rock-paper. This is one of the core aspects of Eve and PvP in all its forms. Except its DPS-HP-Shield Tank-Armor Tank-Speed-Tank-Tackle-Etc in a multidimensional format. Simply put, relying on some utility that you use to maximize your DPS or whatever it is you want is going to lose you a ship because strength in one area alone means you are glass in all others. Unless you have a very well defined need, balance is your friend. But not too much balance. Experience, including listening (skeptically) to other players is a better way.

If you want examples of good fits, forget the utilities and pretty-picture websites. One stop is the Eve University website. EU is a player corp that is dedicated to the how-to thing, be you a member or not. Example:  http://wiki.eveuniversity.org/Hurricane  for a good time. As is always the case, you might want to do a few things differently – so go for it.

There are also some excellent player blogs that can help you build that ultimate fighting frigate. Such as option two here: http://jestertrek.blogspot.ca/2013/02/fit-of-week-ad-venture-ous.html

AFK / Autopilot. I was assured in my pre-signup research that afk (away from keyboard) mining and autopilot are reliable methods for losing ships. I have never tried autopilot. The reason: your ship idles its way toward a stargate, and any ganker who thinks you might be  easy loot is going to kill your ship (and pod you too). And afk mining? Same thing and with less chance of Concord protection. Some players think killing miners is the high point of the game. If you aren’t ready to gtfo, your ship is wreckage. I will still be afk for the time it takes to refill my coffee mug though.

So someone in corp is complaining how he was afk on auto-pilot in lowsec in an industrial with a load of high-value (to him) stuff and lost his ship+cargo.  I and others tell him “you did it wrong” on several counts, why, and what he needs to do.

A few days later, he’s telling how he got ganked again. Autopilot in lowsec.

Fear of 0.5. or going to Jita, or any number of other things. My own preference is highsec, but I’ll happily go into lowsec for various reasons. If I get toasted, its just a ship. I can get another. And any cargo too. And I have gotten toasted. Sometimes in one shot. There was this big flash of white, and I’m podding my way to the gate.

Yet you will see chatter about the dangers of going into 0.6 (highsec) or 0.5 (still highsec) because someone really desperately wants to kill your frigate with its little cargo of ammo and a BPO for more ammo. And to go to Jita? Death can only follow. Every time. Why, there have been stories…

Take the trip. Go places. Visit Jita, buy and sell some stuff there. Its all good. If you are flying a freighter with more than a few hundred million ISK in cargo, or a hauling some PLEX in anything, you WILL be a target (but you’ll still get through most of the time). Lugging that load of 30 missile launchers and 5000 missiles in your industrial? Why would anyone bother?

Yet sure as homeopathy is a bogus, someone will offer “They just might kill you cuz them am want to.” Bah. Get in your ship and do what you want. Learn what the real risks are. Get shot – it won’t kill you. And it will happen a lot less often in highsec than you have been led to believe. AFK mining and autopiloting excepted.

LowSec is Dangerous.  This is true. But it also depends on what you are doing and if you are paying attention. Every time I’ve tried mining or ratting in lowsec, no more than 60 seconds have elapsed before a ganker or pirate shows up hoping for an easy kill. Every. Time.  Yet I usually survive. Keep that scan big. If mining, be aligned to a station or gate. Keep eyes on screen. Incoming? Be gone.

Last time I went in with a barge (Procurer), some guy in a Tengu decided I was dinner. I saw him coming and was almost up to warp when he scrammed me. I spit my drones at him. He stops shooting me as he finds them annoying and targets them instead. I get away. Sadly, he was on me before I could mine anything at all.

Most other times, I’m just going gate to gate or gate to station. Usually nobody in sight. And if there is, I am usually gone before they can so much as lock me.

Critical.  So they say not to fly anything you cannot afford to lose.  I say – are you so sure you cannot afford to lose that cruiser, iteron, or frigate? Get out there. Have some fun. Its a game, and the loses are in game money and ships. Its serious stuff, this spreadsheets and spaceships, but why play if you are afraid to lose anything?

Posted in Eve Online, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Software: Visual learners need not apply

While some may argue there is no such thing, I disagree. And being disagreeable, I’ll get right into this.

I think visually. When I deal in information and processes, I want diagrams. Pictures. Something that lets my primate brain think and perceive in multiple dimensions. If I have to face a wall of text, I am not at my best so far as learning goes.

In the world of software development, the apparent gold standard is the wall of text. As is a dictionary approach to explaining anything.

Way back in the previous century, there was the 80 character by 24 line monitor, probably monochrome green or orange.  Inside this visual jailhouse, programmers wrote descriptions and documentation in text alone, in courier font. It was compact, terse stuff. People who did well without any visual aids beside the ASCII alphabet did well. They became the elite. The trend setters. The Alphabetically Correct.

To this day, the legacy persists. You can see it in any coding standard requiring line lengths be limited to 80 characters. Rationale? None other than thats the way it was always done because Grandpa’s monitor could not display any more than that. In 1970.  So we better all suck it up and code like its 1970.

And these aging codgers demand  all explanation be text, text alone, and nothing but text. Its the gold standard, one followed to this day despite the ability to slam a dozen detailed diagram across the net in less than a second.

A few people persist in doing things the “wrong” way.  Take this wikipedia article on AVL trees. There is textual explanation, sample code, and the forbidden – DIAGRAMS. Holy crap, someone might catch on to what an AVL tree is, what it can do for them, and how to futz with one. Probably 20 times faster than with the pure wall of text those elite programming gods of the 1970s would have written and demand to this day.

Diagrams showing how things work to a creatures that evolved with an awesome capacity to think in color, in motion, and in space? How could anyone imagine that would be useful, when there is a perfectly serviceable ASCII character set to explain everything in? Apparently not most of the programming language, library, and framework developer / documenters.

At best, you get some contrived or simplistic examples. And thats fine, though they are too often non-extensible or without a context. This forces you to conduct a series of experiments when something goes wrong.

My current personal favorite is where the original context goes when a click driven event handler in an object invokes a jQuery $.post or $.ajax which returns a Promise and somewhere else in that object, you attached a .done() to it and in that code is … wheres my object context? When this stuff works, it is a beautiful thing. When it does not, its a frikken hair pulling, monitor punching, cuss-spittin’ nightmare.

All the simplistic examples work. But then, every example is only talking through the DOM, not through a series of events in a self-updating object. There is nothing visual to show me where all these inputs (event args, this or $this) end up or become gone. When your experiment means grinding everything down to the properties of passed objects and pumping their names and values and types through console.log, the documentation has failed.

Failed. Yet the jQuery documentation is better than most.

I don’t mind doing some experimentation.  It leads to improved understanding, every time. But how much should you need to do? If perhaps a couple of diagrams eliminated 20 hours of frustration where I learned nothing but new ways of stringing together a variety of expletives, I might have found some cool features and uses, and a decent level of comfort with using them.

When I am finally done my explorations, I will make the diagrams that should have been available. These will be added to my own how-it-works documentation, though having gotten that far I probably won’t need to look at them again. What I expect is certain things will be obvious in  hindsight, and hindsight alone.  For they surely are not in the docs.

Posted in Linux, programming, Web development | Leave a comment

Linux Mint 15 happened

One of the things I did while not playing Eve was finally get around to installing Linux Mint-Cinnamon.  The Plan to upgrade was at least one major Mint release ago. But when you are game-addicted, Plans don’t happen, except in-game.

The process:

  • Back up everything. Takes a long time (so many gig). Filezilla was very busy. Backup machine and main are on the same side of a small router. Donna was playing LOTR on her machine on the other side of the router. No complaint of slowness – all network utilization was on my side.
  • Download and make nice dvd of iso (almost a gig).
  • Install.  I had Ubuntu on the machine. Mint says no upgrade: wipe or die. So having made the backup, go for it. Took less time than the backup by far.
  • Realize I did not export and back up my hundreds of bookmarks. Oh well.
  • Post install – get all the updates. 220 of them, 191MB.
  • Test connectivity with Firefox. Works, with sound and video just happening.
  • Hey, Cinnamon has no games. Install Kpatience and and Konquest which are good for casual play. They pull in a large bucket of libraries from the the KDE zone (Cinnamon is Gnome based). All good. I can get some serious games later. Sudoku…
  • Do some minimal setup such as locking down the ip address so I can find the box from other machines. Could set up an internal DNS, but that seems like work.
  • Downloaded, and will soon install the MVPS Hosts file. A true treasure. Blocks the crap, protects every browser at once, not a plugin soaking up cpu, and never phones home.
  • Explore a bit. It has LibreOffice 4. Liking that. According to the Linux Mint site, the base is Ubuntu 13.04, so up to date enough for me. The Cinnamon desktop looks very similiar to earlier versions, but seems cleaner with better icons and first class rendering.

So why Cinnamon, why Mint?

I had Ubuntu. It had (spits) Unity. And a not great Gnome.  I installed a few other desktops onto it – Xubuntu, XFCE, Mate, and Cinnamon.  Of all these, I was most comfortable in Cinnamon. Second place goes to XFCE for simplicity.

Cinnamon is full featured yet not a serious resource hog (at least not like Unity or KDE). I can have my 8 browser windows open with 5 to 60 tabs each, another browser, a virtual machine running, webserver, and a crapload of other stuff open without stressing anything. Not bad for a mere 2.4ghz quad core and 4g ram.

I also have an Ubuntu laptop at work. Installed the Cinnamon desktop (among others on an earlier laptop). It was on an earlier version and had some stability issues. Maybe it was a Cinnamon issue, or maybe it was a Cinnamon-Ubuntu mismatch. But the work must go on so I opted for stability and fell back to Gnome Classic. Stable and pleasant, but its not Cinnamon. And the laptop still goes into total brainlock sometimes – just not as often.

But I was hooked, and the people who are deepest into the Cinnamon world are the Linux Mint people. They were my best chance of getting a nice stable system with the Cinnamon desktop. Its looking really good. Because of the Ubuntu background, it has all the good parts of Ubuntu too, like Synaptic.

Now all I need to do is copy back all those files.  Hopefully before my “week without Eve” experience expires.

Maybe I should get a buddy account and install Eve Online under wine. Two independent machines, endless opportunities.

Nooooooooooo, one is addictive enough.


Posted in Linux | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Played a century

Eve Online so took me, this is the first time I’ve taken a real break from it (real = more than 1 day by choice or was out of town with no usable computer/network). Some people think I am easily addicted to computer games.  Not true, I claim, lying. A true addict would post this on an Eve forum.

Trying 4 to 5 days of no playing. If I start shaking or throwing up, there is only one cure. Play. Just one more mission…

Of course, I did make sure the main and alt were loaded with training for all that time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Game of the Century

I discovered Eve Online and I am hooked. Of all the games I’ve played, its games where you build, develop and create things, or places, or worlds that drew me in. Sure, a first person shooter can be a blast. But its the mind that needs feeding. Eve Online is the ultimate feeding ground.

As of now (2012 Nov 4) I’ve only been on it for 8 days so my description will be a little incomplete. On day 3, the credit card took a hammering (its really really hard for me to bring out the cc, so this says a lot).

Eve Online is not something you can describe in a sentence or two. The scope is immense. The learning curve is steep. The detail and capability goes on and on.

At its heart, it is a complex and realistic economic simulation set in a galaxy far away in which possibly hundreds of thousands of people participate.

What’s in this galaxy besides star systems with planets, moons, asteroid belts and stargates? Raw resources, refined products, manufacturing facilities, sales, a commodities market, bases . Players in ships operating independently and in groups. Much much more. You can participate in any aspect.

Go out mining in your space ship. There are dozens of models, each of which you can kit out according to your needs. Each is a trade-off. You are free to go out and attack miners (or any one else) to steal their cargo. There are risks. There are weapons. There are gangs and pirates. Its a space-based free-for-all. With laws – and enforcement in some parts.

Join, or start, a corporation and build an economic empire. Perhaps augmented with a fleet of warships. Recruit others.

Yes, you have space battles. But these are not anything like a first person shooter. Its tactical. You set targets, give orders, stuff like that. The ships do their thing according to their abilities and the opponents they face. Augmented by your learned skills.

There is a learning aspect that is conceptually like the ‘technology trees’ in games like freeciv/civilization and master of orion. These trees are skills and capabilities that you can build up. But so many, some claim that it would take you 15+ years to get them all. This is a powerful equalizer, one that makes you focus on what you want to be. Trader, corporate leader, warrior, pirate, manufacturer, explorer, scientist, market day trader, whatever you want – focus on those skills. But not to the exclusion of all others. And likely you will become a bit of a cartographer, taking notes on what is where. A bit of math mojo helps.

There are things done for playability. Space ships have a “speed limit”. In real physics, so long as you have thrust you can keep accelerating. Eve Online ships have two settings: stop and max (but take time to accelerate and decelerate).  You can also fly through things, which makes sense in warp drive, but not so much otherwise. These do not get in the way of The Game though.

There is a strong social component – if you want it. Or you can be the lone wolf, or any mix you want when you want.

There are also live chat channels of various types, and you can make your own. Live chat help is a big deal starting out.

I’d type more, but there are ISK to be made…

More to come, and possibly useful info for rookies.


Posted in Eve Online | 1 Comment

Ubuntu Unity, I’ve had enough

I had over time upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 then 12.04 and with it to the the Unity desktop. Unity cause me increasing grief, though I was not always sure it was the cause. It also makes some things really inconvenient. The only person I see it being beneficial for is someone who never has more than one or two apps open at the same time.

But I have 5 to 7 browser windows open all the time, each with one to 30 tabs. I know whats more or less where in non-Unity systems because they are all iconified in a row at the bottom of the screen. With unity, you have to click the big FF icon on the left hand bar. Twice. Which then shows you all the browser windows in miniature. It looks so cool. Too bad the order changes so you have to browse them to figure out which one you want.

Also, the toolbars of all apps are absorbed into the Unity top bar. This is fine if you only have one or two things open. But as a developer, I’ll have several things. And each time I want to do something, its a trip to the window of interest to force focus, then way up to the top of the screen to invoke a menu item, than way back to the window. I nice screen space saver, a pain in the butt for getting complex work done.

But the thing that had me curse the most was having the screen lock. That is, the machine is left on all the time. Walk away, it locks the desktop. Come back later, or the next day, you would expect it to wake up on a swipe of the mouse, show a login box, and away you go. Not so. The login box would take up to half an hour to show up. All I’d get is a black screen with a mouse pointer that barely moved. An ssh login from another machine was deadly slow. It was clear something was eating up cpu/ram/threads/something. At first I thought it was Firefox leaking again. Until I noticed the same thing would happen without it running at all. Without anything else running. Some internet searching tells me this is a common problem. No cure (oddly, not a problem in 11.10).

Except there is a cure.

I discovered I could install the Linux Mint “Mate” desktop on Ubuntu. Linux Mint is built on Ubuntu so this was not that much of a surprise. I just had never seen it before. So a couple apt-get operations later, I have Mate installed on Ubuntu.

What a difference! I can find stuff. My menus don’t get taken away. And the screen unlocks near instantly. It is a thing of beauty. And it was so easy to do.

I have a similar situation at work. On upgrading there, I reached Ubuntu 11.10 and Unity. So on goes Mate. But the version of Mate compatible with 11.10 renders fonts poorly (on 12.04 its flawless). I messed about trying to improve that without success. It should be fixable, but I am expected to produce product, not piss away hours tweaking my desktop.

I have Xubuntu running in a virtual machine on it though. And that behaves itself revision after revision using the Xfce desktop. It turned out I could install the Xubuntu-desktop quicker than even Mate. So on it went. Goodbye Unity, hello Xfce. Another pleasant difference, and fonts render perfectly.

I gave Unity several months of time for me to get used to it. And I did, as far as I could. But those little (and one big) gotchas left me too frustrated to continue with it. Unity has a lot going for it, but ease of use for me as a s/w developer is not one. I’m just the wrong audience for it.


Posted in Linux | Leave a comment

Will that be QR Code or Facebook?

Assumptions. We all have them. But for some, they are like a plague. And these in particular make me wonder where all the intelligent life is.

See big ads in newspaper (also magazines). Even a high $$$ full page ad for a product or service that could or is used by most people.

“Scan this QR code to go to our website” it declares in a 40 point font next to a giant QR code graphic. No website address. No social networking link.

Repeat for a different ad for a product/service/organization with just as wide an appeal. On this one, the 40pt font is “Find us on Facebook!” next to big facebook link. No QR code, no website address.

A smart little ad writer would include:

  • Facebook address if they have one. G+ too, and maybe Twitter.
  • Website address if they have one.
  • QR Code if they want ease of use for smartphone owners who have a reader.

To include only a single one of those tells me the ad writer is beyond hope. But perhaps it was written by the owner or exec in charge and the ad writer had no choice. Stupidity can be found anywhere, even on the top floor.

Clues (for anyone who actually created such an ad):

  • Not everybody has a smart phone, and not all of those that do have a QR reader and know how to use it.
  • Not everybody is on Facebook. A lot of people have no interest, and people are leaving FB every day. Where’s you “Find us on Google+” link?
  • People will type in a web address if they find the topic interesting enough. If the ad is in an online version too, that link can be clicked.
Posted in Boneheads, Internet, Web development | Tagged | Leave a comment