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It's 2019 at the time of this writing. Fortnite has taken the gaming world by storm over the past year or so. Every parent has been begged and pleaded with by their children to purchase a modern console gaming system so that they can become sweaty try hards.

 

Then it happens. Those same children are watching YouTube personalities and streamers alike who push PC hardware as the next-level in the Fortnite madness. The begging and pleading is revived. This time, those same parents don't know where to start and may not have the funds to dump into a high-level gaming PC.

 

Socket 775 To The Rescue

 

As of June 2019, I have successfully built four Fortnite-worthy gaming PCs using hardware dated as far back as 12 years old. It wasn't difficult, but finding DDR2 RAM for older PCs is tricky, and I will throw in some more "modern" suggestions at the end of this blog for those having the same problem.

 

The secret to my success has been in the procurement of used Socket 775 motherboards and CPUs that used to fetch top dollar when they were new. Socket 775 motherboards are now in the range of $30-$60 on eBay. A magnificent Core 2 Quad Q9650 CPU, which was considered the cream of the crop in 2008, can now be coupled with those motherboards for a meer $65 on eBay as well. You'll also want a minimum of 6 GB of RAM, but 8 GB of RAM is ideal. You can get by with 4 GB, but your OS will be starved for resources and you will experience in-game hitching or stuttering as your computer continuously fights to balance your operating system's memory requirements with those of the game.

 

Next, you need to find a GPU with enough horsepower to run modern PC games at a decent framerate. While I have managed to run Fortnite at 60 fps on a GeForce GTX 560 ti, I would suggest purchasing a GPU with at least support for the latest nVidia or AMD drivers. I suggest trying to find one of these cards within your budget on eBay, Kijiji, Craig's List, or similar:

 

  • GeForce GTX 760
  • GeForce GTX 960
  • GeForce GTX 1050 ti
  • AMD R9 290X
  • AMD R9 380
  • AMD RX 480
  • AMD RX 570

 

There are many different combinations of these cards, with varying amounts of video RAM typically listed as "GDDR". Generally speaking, the more RAM you have, the better experience you will have. However, in my testing, the older GTX 760 with 2 GB of GDDR3 RAM provides plenty of speed to drive 60 fps gaming on Medium quality settings in Fortnite at resolutions up to 1920x1080. Considering this is running on a 12 year old PC, this is mind blowing.

 

For those interested in doing this themselves, here are some additional links to help you out:

 

  • CPU-Z
    Determine the exact motherboard make and model you're running, along with the type and configuration of RAM you have installed. This helps you determine what upgrades are available for your existing hardware.
     
  • Core i3 based PCs
    These machines are a great example of a complete system (lacking a dedicated graphics card / GPU) that have plenty of power to run modern PC games for thousands of hours of enjoyment. They typically use DDR3 RAM, which is much cheaper than the older DDR2 variant mentioned above due to supply and demand.

 

Feel free to drop your questions in the comments below if you'd like more information.

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This is a headshot of Ryan Covert.

As my fellow REMers [Is that a thing? It is now!] will agree, I'm a bit over the moon with my latest vehicle. I recently replaced an older Civic Si with a newer model and I'm constantly pricing out car parts to upgrade its performance and handling... and maybe add some visual flare as well.

 

In the future, I might post some links here to the progress made on the car, but for now, I'll leave you with this:

 

SiriMoto strut bars vs Megan Racing strut bars? Which do you prefer? SiriMoto offers a stiffer ride, but is it worth the additional discomfort when travelling across railroad tracks?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Uh, Oh.

 

Recently, I was delivered notice from the Evernote desktop application that my account was "changing". Evernote would no longer be offering free access to its' basic services from an unlimited number of devices. Instead, only two devices would be allowed to access my account which contains hundreds of important notes that I reference for work-related information on a regular basis. This immediately produced a frown upon my face. I began to wonder. Was it time to make the switch to OneNote? How difficult would that be? Evernote has grown on me; will I appreciate the OneNote experience or will I be forced to finally make the jump to Evernote's Premium service?

 

Hmmm.

 

I access my electronic notes from two devices on a semi-regular basis, and one additional device on a daily basis. Those being my laptop, smartphone, and desktop computer respectively. I need access to my notes on more than the two devices Evernote is now offering at their basic service level. It is worth noting here I do realize that if I shell out cash for the Premium service on a yearly basis I can continue to use Evernote the way I have for the past few years. I'm just not convinced that it is a worthwhile decision just yet, despite my love for the Evernote user experience. Evernote is simply outstanding at taking notes, whether they are typed out manually or pasted directly from a website. The content is always laid out exactly as it should be and is easy to search. Simply put, Evernote rocks.

 

Aha!

 

Microsoft is now offering a handy import tool for converting Evernote notes to OneNote format. I decided to give this a try. The import tool can be found here: 

 

https://www.onenote.com/import-evernote-to-onenote

 

This tool effectively converted all of my Evernote content to OneNote format and imported it into my age-old Microsoft account, effectively making it immediately available to all of my devices.  As I have just completed this operation prior to starting this blog post, the remainder of this post will be based on my first impressions.  I'll post an update in the future if I feel it is warranted.

 

Oh...

 

Admittedly, I already knew this, but I was somehow expecting more. In my opinion, the OneNote interface is clunky at best. My main collection of imported notes was not imported into the main OneNote note collection, so I had to go about finding them.  Once I did, I had access to everything from before.  However, tags didn't seem to transfer over very well and some notes reported partial errors during the import phase (albeit, I have not yet found any actual corruption in the notes). I suppose I have become accustomed to Evernote's desktop interface to the point that another approach to note-taking design is going to be off-putting, but I will do my best over the next few days to adjust to this new user interface. After all, I have used the Evernote smartphone application, and short of bewildering sports apps, which is one of the chunkiest user interfaces. It got the job done, however.  Here's to hoping I can have the same experience using OneNote's similar offerings.

 

I'm Making a Note Here.

 

I'll be toying with the OneNote desktop application over the next week and I will attempt to come to a conclusion on whether to make a permanent switch or bite the bullet and buy into Evernote's Premium feature set.  In the meantime, I welcome anyone interested in this topic to throw in their own two cents to the conversation in the comments below!

 

Happy note-taking!

 

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An acquaintance of mine recently wrote an increasingly popular article on the negative effects of client authoritative network modelling as it applies to online multiplayer video games. Specifically, the enabling of "cheaters" when client machines are given priority over the server. Glenn Fiedler is a respected software engineer who has worked on several AAA video game titles over the years and most recently finished working as the lead software engineer for Titanfall by Respawn Entertainment before moving on to start his own business where he specializes in network technology for - you guessed it - video games.

 

Glenn's original article discusses the problems with this network model and the reasoning behind developing these solutions from a server authoritative model is the only way to ensure the best experience for gamers:
http://gafferongames.com/2016/04/25/never-trust-the-client/

 

The article has since been picked up by several major online publishers, some of which I have listed here.

 

Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/04/analysis-the-division-may-need-complete-rewrite-to-fix-hacking-problems/

 

Developer Tech: http://www.developer-tech.com/news/2016/apr/27/ex-programmer-respawn-and-sony-criticises-divisions-network-model/

 

PC Gamer: http://www.pcgamer.com/veteran-network-programmer-says-the-division-needs-a-complete-rewrite/

 

Games Radar: http://www.gamesradar.com/why-the-division-is-broken-online-according-to-a-former-god-of-war-titanfall-dev/

 

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/26/hackers-cheats-ruined-the-division-pc-ubisoft

 

Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/thedivision/comments/4gjlh5/network_expert_gives_his_opinion_on_hacking_in/

 

And the list goes on...  I've left out links to articles that Glenn himself has flagged as being too inflammatory or negative in general. Glenn was simply attempting to help the gaming community at large understand what the problem is with The Division from the viewpoint of a seasoned software engineer who has literally written the correct type of code himself with a great level of success.

 

As a software developer myself, I not only find this interesting but also very familiar. When we're developing software at REM we always take into account the potential actions of the client machines accessing our software and the best ways to circumvent problems without negatively impacting the website visitor's experience.

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"... Not to mention five years of therapy!"

 

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT)

 

Most of you are probably scratching your head at this point. I wouldn't blame you, really. That is arguably an obscure and mostly unknown quote. But it's also one that had me howling with laughter in the early 1990s as a teenager.

 

 

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT) is and always will be one of my all-time favourite video games. While it can be broken down in definition to a simple, point and click adventure game (a genre that has received many refreshing new titles in the past few years to help bring in new and old fans alike), it's also one of the funniest stories ever told.  I kid you not that I was so crazily obsessed with this game that I used the characters for a family tree project in my grade 9 high school French class. It seemed befitting, given that the zany host of characters this game includes all act like a dysfunctional family that you can't help feeling connected with by the conclusion of this hilarious adventure.

 

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT)

 

Now, you might also wonder why I'm even writing about this circa 1993 game. I don't typically utilize my blogging time to wax nostalgic about old entertainment products. In this case, however, it seemed like a great time to do so since some of the original developers of DOTT have recently released a "Remastered" version of the game. I snapped it up through Steam and managed to get my four-year-old immediately hooked on the game. This is both good and bad. Good because I am having a blast playing through the game again (for probably the zillionth time) and bad because I have to wait long periods between play times so that he doesn't miss out; four-year-olds and their inability to stay up late and their limited screen time. You may know how that goes.

 

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT)

 

So, back in 1993 I was lucky enough to own the MS-DOS version of this game that came on 3 1/2" floppy disks.  At the time, I did not yet have a CD-ROM drive for my PC, so the "full talkie" version of the game (as games with fully recorded dialog were referred to back then) was not an option. I probably installed that game a hundred times over the years and always made sure it was included in every new PC I built from there on. If you play through this game one time, you'll understand why it is a beloved treasure of mine.  LucasArts (yes, a division of THAT Lucas, of Star Wars fame) were the original developers of the game, and one of the original designers of the game is also at the helm of the company (Double Fine) that produced the newly released Remastered edition. Shout out to Tim Schafer!

 

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT)

 

I can't possibly do this video game the justice it deserves in a full review, but I'll leave you with some fun links and videos to check out if you're interested in learning more or picking up a copy for yourself. I can assure you that if you have any sense of humour you will not be disappointed.

 

Check out the official trailer for the Remastered edition: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6v-zGTzNCE

 

Check out the making of this glorious production:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjF4eMrYfG0&list=PLIhLvue17Sd6qEN1FU1NmGNJGEQTeDhvt

 

Check out PC Gamer's review of the game:
http://www.pcgamer.com/day-of-the-tentacle-remastered-review/

 

To purchase this game, you can find it on Steam, Gog, and possibly other online retailers, as well as on your PS4 or XBOX One.
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/388210/

GOG: https://www.gog.com/game/day_of_the_tentacle_remastered

 

For more great videos produced by Two Player Productions:

https://www.youtube.com/user/2PlayerProductions

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIhLvue17Sd7F6pU2ByRRb0igiI-WKk3D

Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle (DOTT)

 

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Smart teams produce smart products.

 

Our mobile offerings are now smarter. This is in thanks to some doubly smart decisions by our team over the past month or so. Everyone on the team at one point or another has put some time into thinking about how to make things work better.

 

Events, Secured Content, and Ecommerce Benefited.

 

These three modules are a showcase of our newest mobile code. Wherever possible, the module will allow switching between desktop and mobile rendering without losing track of where the visitor is in most processes. Although the typical user will never have a need to render both a desktop and a mobile view of the website being visited, the underlying tech that drives our sites does support this model in most cases and makes it easy to view either version without reloading the page.

 

There's more to come.

 

As my actual title suggests, I am actively working on our mobile solutions whenever time permits. We have lots more in store, so keep your eyes on REM. We promise to bring our customers more to love about their websites.

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I'm taking a few short minutes to complete this blog post before I jump back into my to-do list. I'm relatively busy with my work at REM and I'm quite happy about that.  I'm happy to be busy because it means REM is experiencing success. And that only happens when our customers experience success.

 

The work I'm digging into this week revolves around mobile usage scenarios for some of our flagship WebWiz@rd modules. We're actively evaluating the needs of our customers and what will make them more successful at doing what they do best.  Our mobile offerings are getting smarter every day and I'm happy to be at the forefront of this initiative.

 

Happy computing from your mobile device of choice! I'm here to make sure it works the way you expect it to.

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This is a headshot of Ryan Covert.

The Background.

 

So. The story goes that I - not too long ago - came right out as to say that I was not a fan of the Apple Watch because I had no interest in wearing another watch any time soon. I had fully embraced the idea that watches had no place in my life now that I keep a smartphone close to my person at all times.

 

Flash forward to the recent holiday season where I was given a Pebble Time Steel and instantly fell in love with the whole smartwatch craze.

 

Notifications! To My Wrist!

 

My favorite thing about having a smartwatch is the fact that I don't need to pull my phone out of my pocket every time I receive an email, text message, Facebook notification, etc. The joy of being able to quickly glance at the watch to determine if said notification requires an immediate response has already saved me a tonne of time over the past couple of weeks.  I've also set up more reminders for various household and work-related tasks that I normally relied on my smartphone to handle.

 

Bluetooth Has a Great Range.

 

I'm impressed with how far-reaching Bluetooth can be.  I have now started leaving my phone in various locations around my home and the watch still manages to pick up notifications sent to it without a problem. I've only experienced one problem with the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) not syncing with the watch for a short period of time which required a hard reboot of the watch.  Other than that, it's been near flawless.

 

Watchfaces Are Fun!

 

Over the holiday I used a Darth Vader Ugly Christmas sweater watch face. Not everyone found it as humorous as I did, but it was the perfect bit of festive joy I needed to carry around with me.

 

Final verdict. Wiping Off This Egg.

 

Pebble Time Steel is a stupendous investment. The always-on LED screen makes it easy to check the time without physically interacting with the watch, and the battery life lasts for several days at a time.  I've averaged about 5-6 days of moderate use before needing to charge the watch.

 

I wear it to bed and it tracks my sleep, too. Checking out my sleeping habits have been a great addition to my overall health plan.  Keeping up on the winks is key to living healthy!

 

So, I'm wiping this egg off my face for good.  I used to wear watches full time and I'm now back on the bandwagon. Smartwatches are a dime a dozen, so if you have a favourite that you'd like to gush over, feel free to drop a comment below!

 

P.S.

 

The gamer in me must admit that I installed a few, simple games on the watch.  The Flappy Bird clone named "Tiny Bird" is a pretty decent time waster.  (Do you see what I did there?)

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What is everyone up to this holiday season? I personally can't wait to go skating on the lake near my family's home once it freezes over, and to drink hot cocoa, and to play LEGO video games with my 4 year old son who is quite possibly more adept at playing said video games than his 30-something old father. (Yeah, that's me.)

 

On a related note, I've been busy working on a small pet-project here at REM for our customers and I'm itching to reveal it. In the mean time, I'll leave you with this: Dean Martin said it best.

 

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REM is a hard working crew made up of some pretty great people. We work hard and we play hard, but we sometimes need breaks, too.  Since I'm writing this blog post on a Friday following the release of a customer's major site overhaul / redesign / upgrade, I thought it befitting to simply share a funny video that put a big smile on my face this morning.

 

Who wouldn't want a pair of squeaky shoes?  Seriously!

 

Happy Friday!  Or Monday, or Tuesday, or....

 

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