The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Category Archives: Technology

How to earn the Steam Hardware Candidate Badge

I’ve actually been out of the loop for quite a long time with Steam-related stuff, but today, I was looking through my profile when I realised that there was a badge that looked like I could quickly attain without much effort on my part. I am referring to the Hardware Candidate Badge, which is given out for completing four actions. The fifth action awards the Enthusiast badge, although since that expired on Friday, I won’t go into much details about it. However, attaining the first badge itself is very straightforward. There are four requirements and four correspondingly easy actions: some of these requirements may already be satisfied and won’t require further action on the reader’s part, while others will require at most five minutes to complete.

  1. Join the Steam Universe group- This is easy; at the URL, there’s a button to join the group. Just click that to complete this requirement. Those wishing to opt out later can find a “Leave group” button on the side of the page.
  2. Make 10 friends- Ask around and see if anyone wants to be friends. Most people should already have this one unlocked.
  3. Create a public Steam Community profile- Most players should already have a profile; players with a public profile will already have this one unlocked, but people like me, who have other privacy settings, will need to go into their profile privacy settings and set their profile to “public”. This will unlock, and then one may switch back to their previous settings.
  4. Launch and play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode- This is the toughest one to unlock, but even then, it’s quite easy. Download VJoy, a virtual controller, and install it. Readers will need the one with the key to the joy application. Once it installs, open the program’s settings and map “Button 2” to any key, preferably “A”. The next step is to open Steam’s Big Picture mode, choose a game, and hit “A” to run it. The achievement should unlock, and those wishing not to keep VJoy can uninstall it.

  • That red ring around my level number is pretty dapper. What’s my favourite badge, one asks? That would have to be the Steam Sightseer one, because it is a cool (virtual) keepsake reminding me of how pro the Steam 2013 Summer Sale was.

  • Thanks to that showcase window, my profile looks awesome. A year ago, I was sitting at level five and was rocking a 19 inch 1280 by 1024 display, and for one reason or another, Steam’s Big Picture mode wouldn’t work on it. I’m guessing that either my screen was too small, or my resolution was too low.

After acquiring this badge, I have finally reached level ten and have a cool red ring surrounding my level number. Being level ten isn’t any different than being level nine, but I do get a showcase window that offers a bit of customisation option. Right now, I’m using it to exhibit some of my favourite screenshots, although the showcase window can also exhibit one’s favourite games, rare achievements, recommendations or even a personal message to the community. Additional levels unlock more showcase windows (level 20-29 players get two, level 30-39 players get three, etc.), increased chance of dropping card packs and allow more friends, but for the time being, I’m quite pleased to have reached level ten. Of course, leveling up from here on out now requires 200 XP points, but I’m going to take things one step at a time.

iOS 7- Initial Impressions

I was reading through several posts that reminded prospective updaters to iOS 7 yesterday of the potential frustrations that awaited users as a result of high server loads and various bugs within iOS 7 that would no doubt slow down their update to the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile OS. On October 2011, crowded servers meant that the iOS 5 install was delayed, and after I did get the OS onto my devices, a poorly-set synchronisation setting completely wiped all of my data, so I had pulled the closest thing I did in my undergraduate career to an all-nighter in an effort to restore the data to my devices. Fortunately, the iOS 7 update procedure today proved far more straightforward: my battle-worn iPad 2 was updated via a connection to my desktop. This was effortless, as iTunes simply asked me if I wanted to make the update, and efficiently installed the new OS. On the retina-display iPad, I merely had to hit the “update” button in the systems settings, and off it went, downloading at a steady 2.0 MB/s over my wireless network. Because my iPod Touch is a 4th generation device, it was shafted by the new iOS update, but the silver lining is that I will not be updating to an OS that could cause a large amount of lag in the older hardware.

  • Whereas the difference between iOS 5 and iOS 6 were minimal, the jump from iOS 6 to iOS 7 is such a visual treat. Notice how some apps, such as iBooks and Amairo*Clock, still have previous generation icons in comparison to the elegant new icons for the native iOS apps, except YouTube, because they made some recent updates that make their app feel up-to-date and responsive. Also, allow me to reminisce about how efficient the update was: remember, folks, when you’re downloading stuff at 5 MB/s, downloading iOS 7 won’t take 43 minutes.

  • A lot of mobile OS reviewers out there said that Apple could stand to learn a few things from Microsoft and its Windows Phone 8. It looks like Apple took this advice a little too literally, basing their new multitasking menu off the one found on Windows Phone 8. With that said, Apple one-ups Microsoft here, adding the capacity to close an active app by swiping the app upwards. I am very pleased with this functionality; it brings something I love about the Windows Phone 8 platform to iOS.

  • All of the native iOS apps get a beautiful new look, feeling modern and minimal to emphasise the content. Browsing in the new Safari is as smooth as ever, though it did take me some effort to acclimatise to the new location of the favourites and share buttons. There is also a little something called shared links now, which provides a neat shortcut to links posted by the people I follow on Twitter. This is bloody useful.

  • Lyrics are back on iOS 7 for iPad, baby. The newly designed music app looks even better than it used to, allowing me to navigate effortlessly though all my music, and most importantly, brings back lyrics to the iPad, which were removed since the iOS 5 update two years ago. This change was undocumented, and Apple had never formally explained why they removed the lyrics. It took two years to bring the lyrics back, and since I’m likely not capable of updating to iOS 8, lyrics on my iPad are here to stay.

  • The videos application also gets a change, retaining its old layout but appearing more modern in graphical terms. I’ve opted not to mention the new notifications centre because aside from a new screen-filling appearance and increased amount of information it gives, it behaves similarly to the old one but strips away the capacity to post a Facebook status or Tweet.

I’ve only been playing around with iOS 7 for the past hour or so, but a majority of my reactions are positive. The new design is reminiscent of the Windows Metro design. Clean and elegant, it brings iOS into the modern era, making my iPad feel like my Windows Phone and doing away with the skeuomorphism  that made the iOS feel like a previous generation device. Modern technology is supposed to be sleek and elegant, and the new iOS delivers: in fact, the new animations and behaviours make things feel like an elegant, interactive version of Prezi. While I’m still more used to the older multi-touch gestures; the new Spotlight search (one-fingered down on the home screen) and Control Centre (one-fingered up on the dock) take some getting used to, but I love the fact that I can now turn on my WiFi without going into the settings. While iOS 7 still functions as it did previously, the updates are refreshing and most welcome. Of course, I imagine that my iPad 2 will not have any support for iOS 8 once it comes out, but I do intend on using the iPad 2 until the very end.

Windows Phone 8 and the Nokia Lumia 520

I’ve been using an old-school Samsung flip phone for the entire duration of my undergraduate career, and the phone in question had been in use since 2005. Of course, said phone received SMS texts nearly twelve hours after they were originally sent, and could not send texts without an additional 25-cent surcharge (owing to the fact that after the contract expired, its service was paid for an inexpensive but limited plan). There was also the minor problem of the battery discharging within three days of acquiring a full charge (while on standby), and the fact that the microphone was not delivering sound effectively, The time had come to make an upgrade: whereas I had done without a present-generation device, several of my friends found it difficult to contact me via SMS to coordinate events, such as raclette parties and wings nights. Right at the edge of a new school year, but before the next-generation phones release, I decided to update my phone. One of my friends had, incidentally, been pushing me to “get a phone appropriate for my requirements”, and noted that the difference between my old phone and even an entry-level smartphone was roughly the difference between the 18th century musket and a 21st century assault rifle.

  • After giving the phone a full charge, and loading both my custom wallpapers and some apps onto the phone, the device feels a lot less foreign now. It will probably take me a while to get used to this phone after the old flip phone (which has an antennae!). The Windows Phone 8 experience is sleek, responsive and clean, contrasting the bewildering array of options on an Android platform and the aging iOS platform. The new iOS 7 is supposed to change that, and I’ll probably talk about it once I get it for the iPad (the fourth generation iPod touch I have won’t support it).

I had my eye on the Nokia Lumia 920, one of the top-of-the-line smart phones on the market, although unfortunately, stocks were depleted city-wide. I thus settled for the lesser Nokia Lumia 520: while inferior in hardware and construction, is still considered to be a reasonable phone (strangely enough, the Lumia 920 isn’t featured on TechRadar’s picks). With a reasonably large screen and sleek design, it feels compact in one’s hand. However, the screen smudges easily. Given that I was in the phone market to get access to better SMS, better audio quality and a battery that held its charge, the Lumia 520 technically is sufficient for my purposes, except for the 8GB internal storage. The storage limitation was quickly rectified with the purchase of a MicroSD card, which boosted the memory and will allow me to store a few more things on the phone to extend its usability. However, I hope that lack of gorilla glass won’t come to haunt me in the future: as my previous phone lasted eight years, I imagine that this phone should have a long service life and prove more than sufficient for what my requirements are (mainly, ensure that I am able to reach my friends for events and activities that should come up). My current plan is similar to the phone: excluding data, it is minimal and cost-effective. I don’t imagine I will need data, so I’ve disabled that and hopefully won’t incur any random expenses. I suppose it’s time to make use of the bells and whistles on the Lumia 520 that is supposed to set it above my old phone the same way a modern rifle outperforms a musket.

Amairo*Clock

Danny Choo’s Culture Japan releases yet another fun clock, Amairo*Clock, in the same lineage as its predecessor, DRACLOCK. In terms of functionality, it is identical to Draclock, being able to read back the current time (in Japanese) when the screen is tapped, notifying one about their birthday and possessing a built-in alarm. While the core mechanics are identical, Amairo*Clock features new characters from the eroge Amairo Islenauts and features voice acting from said game’s original voice actors.

  • Amairo*Clock was released on May 2, 2013 and requires iOS 6.0 or later, as well as 501 MB of storage space.

  • This app is completely incapable of operating in landscape mode on the iPad. However, give the image a good look and realise that landscape mode’s absence is probably not sufficient a detractor from this app.

  • I was enrolled in a introductory Japanese course a year-and-a-half ago. As it stands now, I retained some of the material, but for all intents and purposes, I am illiterate in Japanese.

  • The ability to use custom backgrounds is über pro: here, I have a background from Interface Lift, a site that hosts superior quality wallpapers. I use their wallpapers to liven up my desktop at the lab because said office space has no windows (we use Mac exclusively and are located at the core of the building).

  • As previously, there is a battery indicator and options menu: when I wrote the reflection for DRACLOCK, I had zero iOS experience. Presently, I have programmed a few iOS apps, although the bulk of my work remains in development for Mac OS X (and more specifically, physiological simulation software).

  • What I look forward to most would be a Mirai Suenaga version of these clock apps, featuring Mirai Suenaga and her sisters in a similar fashion. As I come across these apps by pure chance, I am not certain whether or not such an app would be reality.

Amairo*Clock is rated 17+ in the iTunes App Store for “Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes” and “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity”, given that the characters can be given swim attire in the options menu. The most notable feature, though, is the capacity to choose custom images for the background. Like its predecessor, Amairo*Clock is a simple app that carries out its functions very well, and this time around, is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad.

Victory in Steam Sales

March 20 was a sunny, warm start to Spring 2013. While Spring would subsequently kick off far cooler than anyone had expected, March 20 turned out to be a magical day. I had woken up to sunshine, and woke up with the intention of making the final set of changes to my thesis paper, which was due on Friday. March 20 was the release date of Gundam Unicorn‘s RE:I AM (by Aimer), the ending song to the sixth episode. RE:I AM effortlessly became my favourite of the ending songs (right up there with Earthmind’s B-Bird), and I had looked greatly forward to the song’s arrival. The NSERC results had also announced on the 20th, much to my surprise, and as such, March 20 was shaping up to be a great day. By the time evening had arrived, my thesis paper was nearly completion, and I decided to take a break. At that time, a friend asked me about the Left 4 Dead/Resident Evil crossover, noting that he wished to play L4D2 at some point in the future. I replied by asking him how much L4D2 was, and, with my own curiosity piqued, I decided to check for myself. To my surprise, the game was on a discount: at 75% off from its regular 20 dollars, the offer was too good to pass up. We made our purchases immediately and have since then, become the proud owners of L4D2; upon the completion of our academic term, we resolved to familiarise ourselves with the game and engage in co-op missions. At the time of writing, academic term is over, and we will likely begin our crusade against zombies very soon.

  • RE:I AM is now permanently associated with my rushing towards the end of semester, charging head-on towards a thesis defense, oral exam and two conventional exams. I have yet to actually play L4D2, but I’ve heard many good things about the game.

  • My first experience with BBC2 was at a friend’s place three years ago. After watching several entries in Marble Hornets, he would show me several of his favorite missions, leading me to wonder whether or not the Type-88 rifle, one of the two long-range rifles in the campaign, would be sufficient to stop the Slenderman. One thing led to another, and the Type-88 would eventually be referred to as the “Slenderman rifle” between us.

Mere days after the deal I got on L4D2, another sale would catch my eye. April 6 was a foggy, cool morning; as the mists blanketed the landscape and obscured the familiar, I was in the process of studying for a quiz, which would involve the tuple relational calculus, domain relational calculus, XPath queries and table normalisation (first, second and third normal forms). However, before I began, I was scrolling through the Steam Store on the iPad, thinking about what games I would have liked to add to my library once term ended. In a curious stroke of luck, the Store displayed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on its “Today’s Deal”. With only an hour remaining, I jumped online and made the purchase before the deal expired. However, at the time, my Dell XPS 420 was unable to run the game owing to its video card (an ATI HD 2600 XT, for the curious). I would have likely installed it at the time, but as my computer was unable to play it, I consented to continue studying for my databases course and preparing my thesis defense presentation, before heading to a friend’s place that evening to partake in preparing and enjoying spaghetti with sausages, Scrubs, Cards against Humanity (Canadian edition) and relaxing in t3h hot tub.  This time, my old machine’s incapacity to play the game meant that I would not be able to procrastinate, and as such, may have very well contributed to my completion of my undergraduate honours program on a high note. Given that it is summer now, and four weeks since that foggy, cool morning, I believe the time has come for me to capitalise on these purchases and see where the adventure will take me.