Kindle Arrives

Kindle7Inch

A New Toy

Kindle7Inch

Sunday I wrote a bit about my troubles with Amazon and shipping recently, and I guess maybe that complaining worked.  Not only did I get additional prime subscription time added to my account to appease me, but yesterday mid day my new Amazon Fire 7 inch tablet showed up.  As a result I spent a good deal of last night fiddling with it, and I figured I would write a little bit about it as a result.  The tablet I am talking about is the one that has been widely advertised as being sold in six packs…. and singles go for only $49.99 so that the marketing can say “under $50 dollars”.  Over the recent holiday consumer madness… they were selling the tablet for $34.99 which finally got me to jump on buying one just to see what it is like.  I already have owned several android tablets, and even got a used ipad 2 since my wife loved hers so much.  After all of that I had pretty much decided I simply was not a “tablet” person.  If I have time to use a tablet… I am probably at home and could just play on my PC, PS4, Vita, PS3…  you are getting the idea.  What I lacked though was a really good device to read on… because the iPad and Android tablets were just too bulk to use in bed comfortably without nodding off every so often and whacking myself in the face.

The first shocker is the size, because really when you think about it… 7 inches sounds like a large size.  The tablet as a whole feels more like a large phone… so something along the lines of a Samsung Note and less like a tablet.  The build quality is solid, and the device feels nice in your hand… but the plastic back makes it feel a little on the cheap side.  Then again this is a tablet that I just paid $34 for…  and in the past that would have gotten me some shanzhai reject and not a perfectly viable device.  There are some caveats to know going into it.  Firstly there is no Google Play store on the device by default, and in theory it is set up in a way to keep directing you at the Amazon ecosystem for music, movies and everything else related.  This is good in one aspect, especially if you are a Prime user… since well it has one of the better interfaces for actually watching the free streaming with Prime.  The whole lack of Google Play would have potentially been a deal breaker since, as someone already embedded in the Android world… I already own pretty much all of the apps I need to function there and have zero interest in repurchasing them from Amazon.  Thankfully I did a bit of research before jumping into this device and apparently it is a relatively trivial experience to load the Play store, it simply involves loading four different android apps on your device in a specific order.  Luckily however the above video shows you the appropriate order and provides what seems to be a clean link to the downloads.  I personally just downloaded them from my device to save having to try and swap them over through a computer.

It Plays Hearthstone

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The other thing that I would really like to do with a tablet is to be able to quickly get into Hearthstone and play it from bed.  Previously most of my Android devices simply performed like crap in Hearthstone, with the best possible version being on my Samsung Galaxy S5… and even then it was super sluggish.  This device however, took a bit of time initially to boot into Hearthstone and sign into Battle.net the first time, but from that point on I have been able to get in and doing stuff pretty quickly.  The interface ends up being a little small, so things like the settings gear can be a bit awkward to click on at first, but the base interface of the game performed smoothly.  I played a few games last night, and experienced real issues, and even as multiple effects were firing on screen I didn’t see any noticeable lag.  So for my purposes the device passes with flying colors when it comes to gaming.  At some point I will throw other games on it and test those out as well, but since I was mostly concerned about running what is normally a fairly intensive mobile game like Hearthstone…  that is what I went with first.  Please excuse the kinda crappy photo but I wanted to take a photo of me running hearthstone ON the device…  which meant taking a photo with my phone since I have not figured out how to do a screenshot on Kindle Fire OS yet and the normal methods from my phone did not work at all.

As far as the other purpose of the device, it also passes with flying colors.  Any device can read a book, so that wasn’t really what I was concerned about… so instead I booted into my Marvel Unlimited account and attempted to read some comics.  I wanted to see if a full comic page was readable with the small screen size and my less than perfect eyes.  I have to say I was pretty happy with the end results, and the slightly strange format as you might expect fits a page size perfectly.  Laying in bed last night I read around a dozen or so comics and my eyes never felt like they were being strained.  The only time things got awkward is when I needed to read a double panel spread, at which point I had to mostly zoom in and move around the screen to read the panels.  These were still awkward as shit on my full sized iPad, so I am not really too shocked about this.  These are one of those things that only really works well in a physical book.  The next step will be to load the puppy up with books, since right now our Amazon account is loaded up with quite literally thousands of books that I have zero interest in… since my wife and her mother are the primary users of that account.  In the past I always preferred reading through Aldiko so I will have to install that and test it out as well.  All told though… I am really happy with my $34 purchase… which after using some built up Discover cash back bonus…  ended up covering the entire cost.

Best Laid Plans

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Last night I had every plan of running a bunch of LFR in the hopes of getting a main hand weapon.  However in the middle of piddling around in Tanaan jungle I got a Baleful Armament to drop for me.  Unfortunately… it turned into the lowest possible version I could get.  That said it is better than nothing and matches the 650 shield that I have as well.  I am at the very least “viable” as a tank, though I need to do some stuff to set up my bars.  It is my hope that at some point I will get a decent sword and shield to drop in normal that I will roll offspec on.  In the meantime I need to get used to tanking as a Paladin, and this at least gives me the ability to run the daily heroic relatively easily for Valor.  As to how much pug tanking I will be doing… that is an entirely different question.  The main problem with last night however… is that I did not really sleep well Sunday night.  So by the time I spent awhile fiddling with the Kindle, my wife suggested that it was bedtime… and for once I agreed.  Admittedly I went to bed and continued to play with the Kindle, but sitting on the couch was invoking the most furious of yawns.  At the very least tonight I want to run the Black Gate on both characters, in the hopes that Tuesday night LFR is still the best possible time to run it.  In theory I should probably do the entire LFR on Belghast in the hopes of getting an upgraded weapon before the Wednesday night normal raid with Jed and crew.

 

Always a Sale

AlwaysASale

Psychology of Clearance

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a bargain hunter.  Few things feel better than finding that rare item on sale for as much as 50 to 75% off of its original price.  I know without a doubt that I got this instinct from my Mother, because when I was growing up I can remember my Grandmother joking that she thought I would end up being a “Blue Light Special”.  For those who are either not old enough, or not from the right region…  K-Mart used to have a literal blue light attached to a cart that they would drive around the store, and for thirty minutes a specific item in the store would be at a significant discount.  I remember my mother would always go to check out whatever these items were, sometimes whether or not we actually needed them.  So to say that allure of finding a deal is ingrained in my very fiber is a very true statement.  Thankfully my wife is much the same… so she gets it…  and in truth we simply don’t like spending more money than we need to on anything.  She however is always willing to carry it further than I am…  and there comes a point where I am sick of dealing with something and am willing to spend any amount of money to be “done” with it.

One of our favorite activities during the parts of the year when stores are changing out seasonal merchandise is to go clearance hunting.  We live in Wal-mart country, and are roughly two hours away from the central office.  This means at any time there are around thirty or forty Wal-mart stores within easy driving distance.  The trick of Wal-mart is the odd quirk that every store is essentially self governed to a certain bit, and this extends to what they choose to put on clearance.  So one store might have an item for full price, but a store ten minutes away might have it for 75% off depending on a whole bunch of factors.  My Lego habit has been fed by the fact that I can pretty regularly find whatever sets I want on deep discount… so that $200 set becomes $60…  or the $30 set becomes $10.  So the question always becomes… is this item good enough of a deal, and there have been times I have passed something up only to kick myself later.  For example when driving home from Pax South last year, I found Star Wars Lego AT-TE for $40, but ended up passing because it felt like we had already spent a silly amount of money that weekend.  I’ve kicked myself since because that was originally like a $150 set, and really freaking awesome.

The Steam Sale

AlwaysASale

So these instincts of bargain hunting and regret of the deals I have missed, carried with me into the digital world.  As a result the Steam sale has been one of those forces of nature that I never can seem to resist.  When I see that $60 game that I have always wanted to play… selling for only $5… it is really hard not to go ahead and pick it up and tuck it away for the day when I really get the desire to play it.  The problem being… I like quite literally everyone else I know is doing this, and as a result we have hundreds of games as a steam backlog that we “really need to play”.  Compound this with the fact that new games are constantly being released, it comes into a situation where there are just games that we own that we are quite likely never going to play.  Over the last year I have tried really hard to resist the lure of the Steam Sale, but usually I end up picking up at least one “deal” that looks too good to pass up.  Even though on some level the number of games that I have that I have not even installed…  is a massive stress point for me.

This past weekend for Thanksgiving there was predictably yet another Steam sale going on, with its own rock bottom prices on games.  I hit the site a few times to see what was being sold, and oddly enough had zero desire to purchase anything.  At this point we have done a bunch of renovations on the house, so there is definitely the desire to “spend no more money” going on, but I don’t think it was that.  There were also plenty of games that looked interesting to me, so I don’t think it was simply the fact of not having anything I wanted.  I think maybe it is just the fact that I have finally come to the realization that there is no limited quantity here, that I am racing to snap up before they sell out.  In a physical store… they have a limited number of items on the shelf, and when those items are gone… especially when clearance is concerned… they are not getting any more.  When you are selling a digital key to a digital game… there is absolutely no rarity going on there.  They can sell keys a virtually unlimited number of times… and be able to keep ratcheting that price downwards towards infinity, each time catching a new batch of purchasers.  A physical copy of Pokemon or Final Fantasy ends up gaining value, but a digital copy only serves to get cheaper.

Always on Sale

SpeedTest

I think another thing that is finally sinking in… is that I can purchase a game at any point and don’t need to have it waiting in the wings for me to play.  I have insanely fast internet right now, in fact I ran a test this morning for the purpose of this article and you can see it over on the right hand side there.  There is not a game that is available on steam that I cannot literally download in less than thirty minutes.  So it is not like I need to preload things to really be able to have fun… I can wait for the whim to strike me, purchase it in any of the many always on market places and be playing the game less than a half an hour later.  This is vastly different from the chunk of my life where I literally had to drive an hour away to be able to find any of the games I wanted to play.  There is a part of me that still attributed a value to having something on hand, rather than having to go out and acquire it…. since I still remember having to go from store to store looking for one of the last remaining copies of a new game.  Now I purposefully shun physical copies of things for the simplicity of knowing I can pre-order moments before the release of a game and still get the full benefit.

The other side effect is that there is quite literally always a sale going on somewhere.  Between Steam, Origin, GOG, Greenman Gaming, Amazon, Humble Bundle… and countless other minor retailers there is quite literally always a sale going on for any game I could ever want to play.  The only time this is not necessarily the case is for any game I might want to play on the Playstation 4.  There I am very much still at the whim of a single game store, since once again I am not a huge fan of buying physical copies of games for the console.  I greatly prefer the fact that thanks to my 2 Terabyte harddrive upgrade in it, I can have most everything I might want to play “on tap” and waiting on me to boot.  All of these things honestly make the individual digital games worth less to me than they used to… and this is maybe going to be a problem that the industry will have to deal with.  There was a time when I was willing to “snap up” a game for $20, and that degraded to $15… and then to $10… and now quite literally a AAA title has to be $5 or less for it to trigger that “buy now” instinct.  I feel like I am simply becoming desensitized to the effect of the “Big Sale!” and now it seems simply easier to pay the price something is currently selling for rather than trying to stock pile it for later.  This entire topic came up, because this recent steam sale seems to be the one that a good chunk of my friends also passed up.  Has the magic of the Steam sale finally lost its magnetism?  I’d be curious to hear some of your thoughts about this, because for me at least over the course of this last year….  the only “deals” that I have really snapped up are those coming from Humble Bundle or the PSN store.

Hibernation Season

Hiding Out

Every now and then I go through these periods where I run away from the groups and games that require me to interact with other people and for lack of a better term “hide out”.  They are usually paired with a period of high stress in my life, and I guess the current work stress mixed with the life stress of a bunch of big things looming on the horizon… could count as that.  I also just went to the doctor and found out that I am dangerously low on Vitamin D.  Generally speaking a healthy range is between 30 and 70 and on the test I came back with a score of like 10.  Vitamin D effects all sorts of things… not the least of which is mental health and mood, so I would not be surprised if all of the bouts of depression were related to that chemical deficiency in particular.  I am taking some insane 50,000 unit Vitamin D supplements once a week to help balance me out again, but I am still in the thrall of that desire to hide away from the rest of the world.

I think in part this is why I have not really been around in Final Fantasy XIV much because I have helped to build this wonderful and interactive world…  that likes me being around.  So when I am around I feel obligated to interact and be friendly…. and right now that is just too much of a drain on me.  Similarly I have an issue with Wildstar because the Black Dagger Society is so damned friendly that I feel like an asshole if I am not also friendly back.  As a result I end up playing a lot of Diablo III because I can get lost in a private game without the feeling of needing to reciprocate too many social graces.  This is definitely a me thing and not due to any of the amazing people in my life.  I am broken, and every now and then I just need to retreat inside myself until I am “less broken”.   What I do when I am like this is hang out downstairs and binge television shows.  I don’t really watch TV on a regular basis apart from Walking Dead/Fear the Walking Dead which becomes Monday morning water cooler discussion at work.  I am what is wrong with broadcast television…  I either record a show or watch it from a combination of hulu/netflix/amazon prime.  The concept of watching a television show as it airs just seems so damned strange to me now.  The problem being…  I am the reason why good shows get seen as failures…  because they are designed for people like me…  not the nightly television viewing public.

The Strain

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Awhile back one of my coworkers told me about the show The Strain.  The problem with not watching television is that you also don’t really find out when a show is on the air.  I love movies and television shows about things that go bump in the night, and as such I have a deep respect for the director Guillermo Del Torro.  This show is apparently an adaptation of a graphic novel by the same title from 2009.  There is really no disguising the fact that this is a vampire show… but not one in the Ventrue/Toreador tradition that we have seen Hollywood obsessed with lately.  These are the Malkavians and Nosferatu that hide in the shadows.  This show brings back a return to “vampires as monsters” instead of “vampires and glittery swoony boyfriend material”.  The problem is I am not sure how much more of the plot that I want to give away other than that.  Suffice to say you end up with a badass team of Vampire Hunters, lead by a grizzled old Van Helsing type that is played by none other than “Argus Filtch” aka David Bradley.  The show has a very “zombie apocalypse” feel to it, but with smarter hunters stalking their prey rather than the mindless oppression of a world constantly looking for food.  If you like the monster genre, I highly suggest you check it out.  Even if you don’t normally like monster movies…  it might be worth your time because the characters are really excellent and with their own interesting flaws.  The first season is available on Hulu, and the show has been picked up for a second season.

Constantine

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Constatine might be the “least NBC” television show I have ever watched.  I am not really sure what the network executives were thinking when they greenlit this show…. but honestly it was not destined for broadcast television.  The show developed a very small but fanatically devoted following… and honestly after finishing the first season I can see why.  Sadly watching this show I felt pangs of regret… because I am part of the reason why the show never got a second season.  I recorded it on my DVR and then binge watched it months after the show was cancelled.  This is going to be another Firefly/Space Above and Beyond regret for me…  because really the show is quite amazing.  It does an excellent job of presenting the character of John Constantine with all of his flaws…  and virtues.  They did a much better job with the casting this time around than the Keanu Reeves movie….  which while they failed miserably at Constantine did a pretty damned good job of capturing the setting.  I am still holding out hope that someone might pick this up as a Netflix, Hulu or Amazon exclusive.  They have already announced that the character of John Constantine would be appearing regularly on Arrow, so there is at least hope keeping this franchise alive.  Placing this show on NBC however…. was just destined to fail.  I think had it even appeared on the NBC Universal owned USA network… it might have found a home.

Killjoys

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This show…  took me a few episodes before I got into it…  but now I am currently watching my way through it and I love it.  What it reminds me of is Firefly… but a show set in a different corner of that universe.  In Firefly you were out on the outer rim of society…  in a lawless wild west simulacrum.  This show instead is about the bounty hunters operating in and out of the core worlds, the Killjoys.  So far the show has spent equal time on and off of civilized worlds, and as it progresses there is an interesting world emerging.  The bulk of the show is set in an area of space known as the Quad… which is a planet orbited by three dwarf planets.  Qresh being the central planet ruled by the nine families, and between them is an unsteady peace…  along with comes a very brutally cold war.  Westerly gives you a big barren wasteland world, that was exploited by the “The Company” for natural resources and then sometimes nuked from orbit when the worker class rebelled.  Lieth is the farmland world, filled with “indentured servant” farms and their own share of illegal farming going on.  Finally you have Arkyn that so far in the series we have not heard much about… other than the fact that something went really wrong there… and folks tend to call it a “dead world”.  I am only about halfway through the first season and I have to say I am loving it.  The first episode does not do a great job of really showcasing the feel of the show so I would say give it at least three before you decide if you like it or not.  As soon as I wrap this up I plan on returning to watching the show…  which is available through Hulu… but you have to connect to your cable provider to grant access to it…  and have to play it through a web browser.  Both of these things I find annoying but I am dealing with it.  What are some of your most recent favorite shows?