My Windows 8 Upgrade Fiasco: Part 1

Preface: I wrote the bulk of this text nearly two weeks ago. I was going to wait and publish a single large post about the entirety of my experience, but I am still unhappy. I’ve decided to post what I have so far, and call it “Part 1.”

PART 1

Backstory:

I have a desktop iMac computer, 2011 model. I have been dual-booting into Windows so I can play PC games (mainly Battlefield 3). Windows XP doesn’t have drivers for my Mac hardware, so Windows 7 or higher is required to dual-boot via BootCamp. My copy of Win7 is a paltry 32-bit, so it can only see 2 GB of my 12 GB of installed RAM. How Battlefield even runs on 2 GB of memory is a mystery to me. It has to be maxed out.

Through the end of January, Microsoft was offering Windows 8 Pro for only $39. I decided to jump on it and I bought it. I figured I owed them that much for using borrowed copies of Windows in years past. Plus, I need a 64-bit Windows OS to power my gaming needs. I didn’t particularly want Windows 8, but the sale offered a cheap long-term solution and I bought it.

Issue:

Here’s the rub. In order to purchase and download Windows 8, you must first run an upgrade advisor program on a Windows machine. I did that from my Win7 OS and purchased the program via download.

I then erased my Windows partition and created a new, larger one from scratch. I completed the OS installation, only to find out afterward that my shiny new Windows 8 is also 32-bit. I was furious.

I began to read up on the matter and it turns out that you aren’t allowed to upgrade to 64-bit if you run 32-bit currently. It’s not allowed under “upgrade” pricing. At no point was I told this or warned what I was actually buying. I felt like I was ripped off.

On top of that alarming discovery, while I was setting up Windows 8 and tinkering with settings, the entire OS crashed on me and required a hard restart. I fumed.

I began an online chat with Microsoft live support and asked for a refund. To fulfill that request, I was told that I had to call Microsoft support on the phone. I called them and was on hold for about 10 minutes. I spoke to a rather pleasant woman and I explained everything to her and that the product I paid for is worthless to me and that I don’t want it. She asked if she could put me on hold for a few minutes while she worked out a solution to try keep me as a customer.

She came back on the line and told me that if would satisfy me, Microsoft will mail me a physical DVD with 64-bit Windows 8 Pro to my house. I had not expected the offer and I accepted. I had to pay shipping on the disc.

I went on to tell the support rep that Windows 8 should never have been made as a 32-bit OS to begin with, and that these days 32-bit OSes are finished. She replied, “I see.” Well, what could she say, it really isn’t her problem. I just wanted to vent. I did ask her if they’d received a lot of support calls over this upgrade matter. She chuckled and said they had.

I’m not yet jumping for joy over this. I’m still curious how this is going to perform and whether Battlefield will play nicely in Windows 8 (online performance reports differ.)

As for the unexpected Windows crash: In hindsight, I think the system crash was driver related. I had not installed the Apple driver package for Windows that puts all the correct drivers in place for the system. Out of the box, Windows liked my Logitech mouse, MS keyboard, HP printer, and D-Link USB hub, but it scoffed at some of my computer internals such as the Bluetooth receiver, iSight webcam, and others. Once I installed the Apple-issued Windows driver package for the hardware, it appeared to function correctly. Truth be told, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what components are powering this machine.

We shall see what comes once I get the DVD, which should take 3-5 days shipping. Ugg! Then I have to delete my Win partition and start all over again from scratch. What a headache.

All of this to play a damn game. In the end, it had better be worth it.

Loving Letterpress!

A couple of weeks ago, a simple word game was launched that has taken iOS devices by storm. The game is called Letterpress, and was developed by Loren Brichter of Atebits, the guy who wrote the very popular Tweetie app.

Letterpress is incredibly fun and joyfully addictive. With each turn, you must make a word from the available letter tiles on the game board. Once you do, those tiles become your color. The goal is to control as many tiles on the board with your color as you can. Once the last unclaimed tile is used, the game ends with the winner being the player that holds the majority control of the board. I’ve given a very simplistic explanation of the gameplay, but there is actually a great deal of strategy involved.

Letterpress is free to download. The free version doesn’t have any ads, but does limit the user to two games at a time. A 99¢ in-app purchase removes that limitation, unlocks multiple color themes, and provides a list of words that have already been played in the current game. I think the pricing structure for this app is spot-on, and a model for casual games going forward. Naturally, I paid for the upgrade so I can have multiple games going at once.

I am impressed with the degree of polish in the version 1.0 release of this app. The subtle visual and sound effects are beautifully implemented. I highly recommend that everyone download and play this creative, imaginative game. Prepare to get hooked immediately!

There has been no word of an Android version of Letterpress in development. I’m not sure how that would work across platforms since the game is tied to Apple’s Game Center. Still, it would be nice to be able to play with my friends who are on Android.

As polished as the initial release of the game is, I do have a few feature requests that I’d like to see included in future updates. Those requests are as follows:

  1. There is currently no way to rematch a player when a game has ended. The only way to do so is to go to Game Center, search for their username, add them as a Game Center friend, then request to start a new game. This is a glaring omission and needs to be added as soon as possible.
  2. I would like for the game to tell me how long it has been since my opponent has made a move. When I glance at the list of active games, I can’t tell which have been played recently and which have not. I’d like to know when it’s been several days since my opponent has moved because I want to resign that game and play with someone more attentive.
  3. I would like an overall tally of how many games I’ve won or lost, with a percentage of success on display somewhere. Since this game is so closely tied to Game Center, I am not sure how this would be implemented, but I’d like to see it added to the game in some form.
  4. There are currently no Game Center achievements to unlock in Letterpress. I’m not sure what kind of achievements could be added, but I would like to at least see something there. Perhaps my suggestion above about the number of games won or played could be rolled into an achievement?
  5. There could perhaps be an option to play offline with a friend where the two of you can pass the phone back and forth between moves. This isn’t particularly important to me, but some users have asked for this feature in their App Store reviews, so I think it would be sensible to include it.

It’s worth mentioning that you should enable notifications for Game Center. Make sure those are turned on in the iOS settings. When I first began playing Letterpress I was frustrated that the game didn’t announce when I’d lost. It turned out that I was supposed to be notified but I had the Game Center notifications turned off.

You can follow Atebits and Letterpress on Twitter at: @atebits and @letterpressapp.

A side note: This game has become such a hit, I’d imagine that the folks at Zynga are rubbing their hands thinking, “How can we make a slower, bloated, ad-filled game that looks exactly like this?” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Letterpress app

Sorry! Isn’t So Sorry

I’ve found myself recounting this story countless times over the years. Let me say, before I even begin this tale, that the technical name of the game I am writing about is called Sorry! (with an exclamation mark.) In the context of this text, using the exclamation mark when I write the name looks crazy, so I’m not going to.

The sight of the board game Sorry always takes me back my days of being a kid. It’s not that I have fond memories of playing it when I was growing up; quite the opposite. As a kid, I’d never played it at all. Sorry wasn’t in our family game collection. It was, however, in every other persons home that I could remember. My brother can probably back me up on this. It seemed as though every household had this game at some point or other.

Despite that level of penetration into the masses, no one ever wanted to play it. Ever.

I can still recall my childhood days, hanging out with other kids in the neighborhood. When we’d sit down for a board game and Sorry was mentioned, it was consistently shunned. “That’s an awful game,” they would say. This has been the consensus with most everyone I’ve ever met — to this day. It has always baffled me that the same people who have repeatedly shunned the game actually own it themselves. Why did they buy it in the first place, I’ve often wondered?

Many moons ago, I coaxed my girlfriend at the time to play with me. After the game was over, I agreed that the gameplay of Sorry wasn’t all that fun. Still, it was momentous to have finally gotten the chance to play it after a lifetime of wondering what it was all about. It’s funny, I’d seen the Sorry game box at friends houses all my life but didn’t get to actually play the game until I was in my mid-twenties.

I’m bringing this all back around again because my friend Agnes has Hasbro Family Game Night on her Nintendo Wii. One of the games in the Hasbro package is Sorry! I told her my Sorry saga and we laughed. We played. And we have since played the Wii game a few times now. Once I got the hang of it, I found it not to be sorry at all. Dare I say, it’s fun! At least the Wii version of the game is fun. Perhaps I’ve been swayed by the catchy special effects in the game, but looking past that, the premise of the game itself and rules of Sorry do indeed make for a fun experience.

Whether you have a digital version of Sorry or the old fashioned board game, I suggest pulling it out and giving it another go. If you don’t own Sorry, chances are you know someone who does. Play it. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Sorry! Game

Jetpack Joyride

I’ve become hooked on a new iOS game called Jetpack Joyride. It is made by Halfbrick, the company who brought Fruit Ninja to the masses. Jetpack Joyride is an addictive side-scroller. Gameplay, graphics, and sounds are all top-notch. I love that there are gobs of achievements to unlock. It works with both GameCenter and OpenFeint. The game is a universal app that plays on both the iPhone and iPad. Jetpack Joyride is certainly worth the 99¢ price tag. Play it now!

Jetpack Joyride Screenshot

Voodoo Castle on Commodore

A long time ago when my brother Chris and I were kids, we played a text-based adventure game on our Commodore 64 computer. Prior to owning a Commodore 64, we had an even older computer, the Commodore VIC-20. I am uncertain which computer we played this game on, as it was available for both machines. The game was called Voodoo Castle and it was released way back in 1980. At the time, there were no graphics or special effects to speak of. As I said, this game was text-only. We had to use the power of our imaginations to create the imagery in our minds. In many ways, it was like participating in a “choose your own adventure” book.

This past Christmas, in 2010, my brother and I recanted tales of this long lost game. At first, we struggled to even remember what the game was called. After doing some online research, we are now certain the game we once enjoyed was indeed Voodoo Castle. I don’t exactly know the time-frame in which we originally played it, but it was popular in our household at some point around 1983-1984. This game is probably where I mastered my typing skills as a young lad.

Voodoo Castle was released on a plastic cartridge that you plugged into the back of the computer (image below). As such, there was no way to save the game! Once we turned off the computer, all progress was lost. If you’re too young to have used a computer in those days, I’m sure you can’t even imagine what that was like. Well, that was the reality for games that were released 30 years ago. We simply didn’t know any better!

I have no recollection of how the game ends. I do vividly remember repeatedly reaching a point in the game where it told us, “You are lost in a maze of passages.” At that point, you are virtually screwed and no exit can be found.

I’m excited to announce that the complete game is now available on the Internet for free. You can play it in its entirety in your browser via a Java applet. I have played it, and it really took me back. Try it yourself!

Voodoo Castle cartridge

Voodoo Castle cover art

Playing Spore on a Mac Mini

I have a 2007-model Mac Mini Core Duo 1.83GHz with 2 GB RAM. I adore my Mini, but I am limited in the gaming department due to my Mini’s integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip. Newer generations of Minis use the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor. Using the NVIDIA graphics, newer Minis can play more complex games than I am able to with my hardware.

A favorite game of mine is Spore. I don’t think Spore got the best reception from PC gamers, but I personally enjoy playing it. EA Games generously provides both a PC and Mac version of the game on the Spore install DVD. Unfortunately, the system requirements for the game strictly forbid Mac Minis using the GMA 950 graphics chip. I did a lot of online research and found people who said they were able to rig it to work, and others who disputed that.

Frustrated at all of the conflicting information, I decided to try it myself. After a lengthy install, the game updated with patches from EA, but when the actual game launched, it failed time and time again. Therefore, I’m here to say once and for all, you cannot play Spore on a Mac Mini that uses Intel GMA 950 graphics. Period!

With that being said, you can run Spore on the very same Mac Mini if you boot Windows via Boot Camp. Within Snow Leopard, I activated Boot Camp and installed Windows XP SP3. From the Windows side, Spore is indeed playable with the same hardware. Go figure.

So now I am enjoying the fun of Spore, only I’m doing so running Windows on my Mac machine. Doing so, Spore runs just fine using the lowest graphic quality settings within the game, at 800×600 full-screen resolution. I hope this clears up all of the Spore/Mac Mini uncertainty that is all over the web.

Spore

Boosting in Sky Odyssey

One of my favorite games for the Playstation2 is Sky Odyssey. It was one of the first PS2 games I ever bought. I’ve started playing it again and had a very hard time trying to find out how to boost. I did countless searches online for a key combination to activate the boost feature. My searches didn’t turn up any helpful solutions. I have finally figured it out, and am posting it to my blog in hopes that other players will have it spelled out for them.

Boost must be earned through aircraft upgrades. It isn’t available immediately. To enable boost, enter the Customize Aircraft menu, then add boost to the inventory. If you win unlimited boost, it will be labeled Boost 4. Once boost is enabled, during gameplay there will be a thin vertical green bar next to the throttle indicator at the bottom left. To boost, simply double-tap the square controller button (same button used for accelerate). Bam. It’s that easy. I hope this helps.

Sky Odyssey for PS2