Tag Archives: Windows

City Of The Daleks Adventure Game

Deep in the mists of 2010, the BBC started releasing Doctor Who games on their website. This series of games was entitled “The Adventure Games”. The first was released around the time of the Van Gogh episode, and the second coincided with Matt Smith’s first season finale.

These free games were only free to people in the UK, and they couldn’t be downloaded from abroad. I found this out by already being abroad by this time. I was provided a disc of the first Adventure Game, downloaded in the UK, but then I found out the other limitation: you had to be in the UK to install it as well.

I saw that at least some of them became available for purchase-download for those abroad, but I didn’t bother at the time.

I see the games are now available on Steam, currently about $20, though I did not get them from there. I checked Amazon recently, and they were a little more than that. I happened to see a disc version of all 5 games in Wal-Mart, for a few cents under $10.

Oh, go on then.

I installed all 5 on Windows 10, and ran the first one. It didn’t run very smoothly. Today I went back into Vista and installed them there, and the one I tried, ran just fine.

I played through the first game, City Of The Daleks. Kids watched the beginning, but creeping around trying to avoid detection by the metal meanies, at the beginning of the game, got a little scary for them. They spent the rest of the game with their attentions divided between the game, and shows on the laptop (3-2-1 Penguins and Strawberry Shortcake).

There were some moments in the game where timing was tricky, and I had to play some sections over, but all in all the game wasn’t too hard.

The game saves itself after significant points: if  you’re supposed to collect objects, it’ll save after you pick it up, for example, but there’s no save function that you can choose to use (“phew, I got round that corner, let me save here so I don’t have to start again from way over there”).

The launcher on the disc needed to be run each time I wanted to install one of the games, couldn’t just do them all at once. Similarly, the games are stand-alone, when you finish one there’s no in-game (or in-menu) button to load the next one now.

There’s several points where the game will tell you off for going the wrong way, so there’s that feeling that the game has laid out the path, and you must follow it. Some games get away with that better than others. I think this game leaned towards not faring very well, but I have played games that did a lot worse.

Having said that, there are a bunch of collectable objects hidden throughout the game, and I missed a whole bunch of them. It seems like there shouldn’t have been many places for them to hide, with the straightforward-path-ness of the game, so perhaps there’s slightly more ability to explore than I give it credit for.

I tend to have subtitles on for movies, TV shows, and games, when they’re available, as often the sound needs to be turned down, due to circumstances. Reading some of the lines as they appeared, one knows what is meant by the line, and the inflections needed to convey the right meaning through those words. It seemed that Matt Smith was, in places, just reading the words, rather than understanding them and conveying the meaning. I rather hope he put a bit more effort into the other ones.

There are cutscenes, and you can’t skip them. Most of the time this doesn’t matter as it’s part of the story, but when you’re dying for the third time on the same puzzle, it would be really nice to skip the dying animation. Or, if you started the game on Win10, and want to get to where you left off (the actual playing part) in Vista, there’s not a way to skip to that bit. Sit and enjoy it, or go make a snack. (I was fine watching that bit a second time, with the animations smoother and no lag between the voice and the animations). Were I to want to play it through again to get the collectables that I missed this fact might put me off doing it on the soonish side.

Most of the game, you’re controlling the Doctor, and Amy is following him. A fair chunk of the game you’re sneaking around, trying to avoid being detected by Daleks. At one point, I got the Doctor through, and Amy got exterminated and I had to do the part again. A bit later in the game, I got the Doctor through down one side of a corridor, while the Dalek was looking the other way. I turn round to see if Amy made it (though I would very much know if she didn’t), and after a few seconds she emerges from the other side of the corridor, having made her own timing decisions. So, AI not the best, but not consistently bad.

Oftentimes you have to duck into corners to evade detection, but then getting out of corners, particularly when there’s debris about, is awkward. Worse when Amy gets in the way and won’t get out of the way. The problems with this are more noticeable at the beginning of the game, I don’t know if I just got used to them, or if matters actually improved. At least the collision detection here wasn’t as fatally bad as in Destiny Of The Doctors.

I feel like I’ve made the game sound a whole lot worse than it was. The above problems were there, were noticeable, but ultimately were fairly minor. They didn’t make me want to stop playing and never come back to them. The low difficulty level can be put down to the game being aimed at 10- to 15-year-olds. To some up how I feel, I’d probably use words like “ok”, “average”, and “not too bad”.

Not in a rush to play City Of The Daleks again to find all the collectables I missed, think I’ll be happy to play the other stories. I feel more in a rush to return to my game of Half-Life 2: Update, to see if I can finally get across that stupid beach without stepping on the sand.

The End Draws Near For The Media Computer

We have a computer set up as the media computer. It used to be my main machine, before I built my new rig. So far, it’s done all right, but it has been struggling a little of late.

Streaming shows on Hulu used to work all right Medium quality, there are now times when getting through the ads had been rather time-consuming so we can even adjust the quality. And Low has been starting to be the better option. A bunch of the shows, though, aren’t actually on Hulu, which links to places like CBS which host their own shows. And don’t have the Quality option. Watching stuff has been getting more awkward.

Now part of the problem could be that the OS hasn’t been reinstalled for a long time. Part of it could be the wireless reception, though as laptops set next to the computer haven’t had the same issues, it could be the speed of the wireless adapter. Could just be the machine getting old, which, to be fair, it is.

Perhaps evidence of this, has been trying to get Amazon Prime to co-operate. The kids watched the first episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood the other day, and watching it using Silverlight on Firefox was painful. It played a few seconds fine, played a few seconds slooowly, and paused a few seconds to catch up. Repeat for the whole episode. Amazon put a popup saying HTML5 has faster loading and less buffering, and suggested a bunch of other browsers, specifying for most that they should be in Windows 8 or above. One that didn’t specify that, was Opera, so I downloaded and installed that.

Alas, the course of getting technology to work never did run smooth, and trying to run Amazon Prime videos in Opera threw up some error message. Apparently it was trying to run HTML5 video, but the error message said something about making sure that the WideVine add-on was enabled (which, on checking, turned out to be enabled).

So then a long search for what this Widevine thing is, and why it’s not working.

Long story short, Widevine is a DRM for streaming video, developed by Google. It’s not working because Widevine supports Windows 7 and up, not XP, which apparently would otherwise still run HTML5 video.

My machine’s not he most specced-out XP-running computer, so I imagine there’s still plenty out there that are good enough to not have the kinds of issues we’ve been starting to have. For us, the DRM thing might mean the end of the line of this computer for streaming purposes.

I think in this blog, I’ve established my dislike for DRM, and so you can imagine there’s an element of “of course it’s DRM that’s making me unable to fix the problem”. But as the problem was there, and we’d resorted to watching Supergirl via the old laptop-plugged-into-the-temperamental-TV trick, I suppose I can’t be too hard on it.

This time.

Some Microsoft Free Apps

I browsed the Windows 10 App Store when I first got Windows 10, to see what was there. I installed a few things initially, not much that I’ve kept, or kept up with.

I tried some variants of the Tower Defense type of game, nothing free really impressed me.

I keep Cut The Rope 2, but don’t play it much, I keep Happy Connect, even with the weird Chinese(?) text boxes (adverts?) that occasionally pop up. I only need to complete the last level. When I try, I get close, but haven’t figured out yet how to untangle the last few lines.

I think the ones that might have the most staying power are the Microsoft-branded apps, possibly because I’m a big sucker for achievements.

The first of these I put on was Sudoku. I found the hardest level not as challenging as some of the Sudoku puzzles I’ve faced in the newspaper. I racked up all the achievements except the last two or three, which require months of doing the Daily Challenges, which are fairly quick and don’t all need to be done on the day in question. The Daily Challenge puzzles use alternative board types: symbols, or irregular, and you generally need to complete a certain number of rows, columns, or “houses”, occasionally within a time limit.

I installed a few more of Microsoft’s Casual Games series the other day: Jigsaw, Mahjong and Minesweeper.

In all these apps, some features (mainly the Daily Challenges) require the watching of commercials, which naturally I try to not pay attention to.

I have spent a lot of time playing Minesweeper since Windows 98 at the latest. I’ve only played the Daily Challenges on this one, which have some interesting variants: set a certain number of flags in a time limit, clear the board normally in a time limit, find the hidden treasure in a board (it’s surrounded by mines), click a certain number of safe spaces without using any flags. The achievements aren’t obviously listed in the app, you have to go hunting online to see what there is, and I have no idea how to check which ones you have.

Mahjong, I remember when the Microsoft variant was called TaiPei, and threw up fortune cookie phrases when you finished a game. Again, I’ve only tried the Daily Challenges, so I don’t know if you get the fortune cookie messages in this one. The variants are, match all the pairs of golden tiles, match all the tiles that are counting down before they finish counting down, clear the board within a time limit, get a certain score within the time limit, or match a certain number of tiles within a time limit.

Last up is Jigsaw, where I’ve played more than just the Daily Challenges (attach a certain number of pieces to a section that’s been completed, “Jam” where you need to connect the piece it gives you, or the rather inventive “trap a bug in the board”.

The main Jigsaw game has two main options, regular jigsaws, or the “Jam” game mentioned earlier. I prefer the Regular type, and each puzzle has 4 difficulty levels, with different numbers of pieces. To keep the “game” element of it up, a small number of puzzles in each collection start “unlocked”, then when you complete puzzles, others in the collection will “unlock”. And then by doing the puzzles, you earn in-game currency that you can use to by other collections in the game (though quite a few are free, anyway).

Jigsaw is the best for when you may have to abandon the game any moment to chase after kids (as far as I know, and I’ve only tried it with Sudoku and Jigsaw, if you close the program, the game saves your progress).

Mahjong is the most challenging of these games (I like giving my brain a workout).

And the Achievements slowly rack up…

Adventures In Windows 10: Update to Build 10162

Switched to the Fast Track of Insider testing a day or two ago. Fast means trying out some of the new features earlier than the Slow track, which presumably is more refined and stable. But it takes a little bit of time for the update stream to catch up.

First of all, the upgrade went pretty smoothly: once it had downloaded the upgrade, I had to restart, as you would expect. Then there was a screen that I couldn’t capture (not being in Windows for the Print Screen button to work), but was pretty cool.

At the top there was a “Windows is upgrading” notice. Taking up most of the screen, there was a big circle, with the progress percentage showing in the middle, and the border of the circle turned blue from 12 o’clock round in a clockwise direction, indicating the progress in a different way.

Along the bottom of the screen there were three sets of text, the first to do with the moving of files, the second to do with drivers and settings, and I think the third to do with applications. And those had their own progress percentages counting up. Looked pretty neat.

The former build I was running configured a PIN to enter on each logon, instead of one’s password. Disappointingly, that’s gone. My password is longer than four digits…

The other thing that’s obviously missing, I can’t find the Insider Hub any more. This listed various things to try, to see how you like the new features. I just can’t find it now.

I overloaded Windows 10’s browser (then “Project Spartan”) a few days ago, and it only loaded one time after that. Now it’s “Microsoft Edge”, and appears to be working. Not using it that much, though.

I also noticed that the App Store is no longer “Store (Beta)”, but “Store”. Gearing up for release day?

Long week ahead for me, too: time to go impose some rest on this day of rest (some of the rest so far has been more in the direction of “theoretical”).

Adventures in Windows 10 – The Start Menu

In giving Windows 10 a go, I browsed the App Store for some free games. Also, given that I’m part of the Insider Program, I looked into the Insider Hub to see what was there. They have Quests, which are basically “try out new features, then give feedback”. Which, conscientiously, I ought to do.

The Quest I tried was to investigate the Start Menu. Being used to 95, 98, ME, 98, 98SE, XP for years and years, and Vista for a while, I’m comfortable with the old-style Start Menu. Windows 8’s Metro Screen, which some people in the house are running, I plain don’t like. Windows 10 has a hybrid of both Start and Metro, the latter initially taking up about twice the space, but with settings you can make the Metro part full-screen if you want to.

Shudder.

Windows 10 Start Menu

(I clipped off the very top of the Start Menu, which has my name. The first Metro section is headed “Life at a glance”, the second “Play and Explore”.

Generally, I just ignore the Metro part.

Just now writing this, I right-clicked on the Windows logo which passes for a Start button, here’s what I found:

context menu from right-clicking on Start in Windows 10

Well that’s some pretty useful stuff there. I mean, I actually use that stuff. That’s actually a pretty nice change.

Yesterday I noticed another neat feature. At the bottom of the main Start Menu screenshot earlier, there’s the All Apps button (similar to in Vista, where you’re shown your recent programs and then there’s the “All Programs” button).

These have been streamlined, too: most stuff isn’t in folders anymore, it’s just all listed alphabetically. Some things are still foldered, there’s a downward arrow next to it to let you know.

How folders are handled in the Start Menu

I mentioned at the beginning of the post about trying out a few free games in the App Store. Well, some of those I decided I didn’t want any more, after a quick test. Before I seriously thought of hunting for whatever they call “Add/Remove Programs” this time round, I right-clicked on one of the programs in the Start Menu.

Uninstall from the Start Menu

You can do it right from the Start Menu.

I didn’t expect to be this impressed with Windows 10, but I really like how they’ve streamlined all this stuff.

Adventures in Windows – dual-booting Vista and 10

I said the other day that I was going to try out the Windows 10 Insider Preview. I downloaded it, it took me a couple of days to be ready to try to install it.

During those couple of days, Microsoft has turned a bit cagey about just how things will go after 10’s release date – where they said before that I would be able to switch to the full release Win10 when release day hits, and have it be genuine and supported forever, they are now vague about how long Release Windows obtained that way will last. Staying with Windows Insider will mean I can keep running Win10 allegedly indefinitely, at the potential cost of stability.

With the knowledge that I can switch back to single-boot Vista if Win10 turns out to be a bad proposition, I figured, after all this work, I might as well still give 10 a go.

The prep:

My C: drive is a terabyte. Using Windows disk management and then MiniTool Partition Wizard, I shrank the one partition on the disk down to 500GB. Using AOMEI Backupper, I backed up the partition to D:. I did this twice, once including the boot record, once just the data on the partition.

I used the Universal USB Installer from Pendrivelinux to put Windows 10 on a bootable flash drive (I told the program that it was Windows 8). I installed Windows 10 – not entirely surprisingly, I couldn’t just install it to the Unpartitioned Space, Win10 had to change the partition style to GPT.

The installs:

I told Win10 to use 400GB, with that and the other boot partitions, this left 540GB to put Vista back onto.

Win10 install went fine.

Tried installing Vista from scratch onto the unpartitioned space. The installer complained “Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is of the GPT partition style.”

Yes, I know it’s of the GPT partition style, and I’m even reading Microsoft pages saying that Vista supports it.

I’m also finding tons of other pages with other people having the same message.

Most of the advice offered to get around this problem, not usually explicitly, means going back to old-style MBR rather than staying on GPT. Sadly, that’s not an option for me, 10 only likes GPT.

Some instructions said Vista needs to be with SP1 to support GPT. Other places said to force booting in UEFI mode in the motherboard. We put the Vista-with-SP1 installer on a UEFI-enabled USB drive (using Rufus, this time), and I tried rather a few UEFI Bios settings, and kept ending up with the same message.

Somewhere in this process, while fiddling around in GPart (if you look around this subject for any time at all, you’ll find instructions on using this), I accidentally wiped the C drive and the installed Windows 10. Didn’t take long to reinstall it.

In the end, after a lot of searching and trying variations on the above themes, I installed AOMEI Backupper on Windows 10, and restored the just-the-data backup to the Unpartitioned Space.

I loaded the Vista+SP1 installer from USB, and told it to Repair the install. It said that Vista and Windows 10 were now in the bootloader.

Booting into Vista (both times I’ve done it now), it’s wanted to verify the integrity of both hard drives on startup. I have not yet agreed to this.

Booting into Vista the first time, Vista installed some drivers or something, then restarted (hence going into Vista the second time).

Another thing I’ve noticed: in the simple version of the BIOS, the boot order section has displayed some different things over the course of getting Vista to work:

I think with the Windows 10 USB installer, that USB drive had the UEFI sign over it. Not 100% on that, but I seem to recall it.

After installing Windows 10, a boot loader thing showed up in the boot order, with the UEFI sign.

After restoring Vista, another item with the same listed details as the Win10 boot loader, and the same UEFI sign, showed up in the boot order. This loaded Vista the first time (I think on restarting, the computer went into 10, memory is starting to fail me).

After Vista installed the drivers and restarted, I noticed a third bootloader thing listed in the boot order. This went into Vista as well. I hope these things don’t keep being added to what’s there. Visions of Tribbles multiplying and accumulating, came to me.

That’s where things stand at the moment, I haven’t quite had the time today to try more things: to let Vista do the integrity check, try the different bootloader things more, to find out why I haven’t seen a proper OS selection screen – and if that last one’s a problem, to try and Repair 10 to see if that fixes it.

“The course of the adoption of new technologies never did run smooth.” – William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Technical-Problem-I’m-Determined-To-Fix-Right-Now, Act I Sc I.

As a side note, Windows 10 (which skipped right past Windows 9) was codenamed Threshold. In the Star Trek Voyager episode Threshold, Janeway and Tom Paris exceed Warp 10.

Keep an eye out for Windows 10 early adopters turning into slugs. </PSA>

Adventures in Windows – approaching 10

Microsoft announced a while ago, that users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 would get free upgrades to Windows 10. Today, ArsTechnica released an article called “Here’s how to get Windows 10 for free even if you don’t have Windows 7 or 8“. The short version is, you need to sign up for the Windows Insider program, install a preview version of the software and run it, then you get to run the final build, and get subsequent updates.

I first used Windows with Win3.11 at school, then when we got our first PC it came with Win3.1 (about a week before Windows 95 came out – Dad picked that up about as soon as it came out). We ran 95 and 98 a long time, my own first PC ran 98 and 98SE a long time – I had a brief experimentation with running Windows ME. ME had some cool features, but due to a lamentable shortage of stability, I upgraded back to 98SE.

When I first built a computer, I got XP Pro. That computer is still running it.

Now other computers in the house are running Windows 7 and 8.1. 7 I could probably get along with, 8/8.1’s change of style irritates me when I’ve tried to use it.

When I built my current computer (such a satisfying thing to do, upgrading some components recently was really cool, too), I didn’t buy an OS. There was a spare Vista Ultimate sitting around the house that I was allowed to use. I’ve heard bad things about Vista compared to good things about Vista SP1, but I managed to miss that whole debacle.

There’s a very apocryphal story, goes something like this:

———-

Bill Gates died. As he got to the Pearly Gates, St Peter greeted him. “Welcome, Mr Gates. According to our records, you’ve done some really good stuff, and also done some not-very-nice things over the years. You are one of the very few true Neutrals we get around here. What we will do for you, you can have a look around Heaven and around Hell, then you can let us know where you’d like us to allocate you.”

Bill Gates thought this sounded reasonable, and so started off the tour of Heaven. There were the fluffy clouds and harps, it seemed quite pleasant. After a few days, his time was up, and so he got into the elevator to the Other Place.

He braced himself for what he might find. As the doors opened, he was pleasantly surprised to find himself on an open golf course. The clubs were weighted perfectly, it was great. As the tour progressed, he found himself sampling all sorts of sumptuous foods, fine wines, craft beers, the kind of music he didn’t know that he’d always wanted to hear…

After the tour, he was taken back to the Pearly Gates. St Peter shuffled over. “Well, Mr Gates, what’s your choice?”

“Well, St Peter, I find myself very surprised to say this, but I’m going to have to choose Hell.”

“Right you are, sir.” St Peter didn’t seem very surprised. Bill Gates walked back towards the lift. As it started descending, the temperature began to rise. It was already unbearable by the time he was halfway down. When he reached the bottom, he realised that Dante was more optimistic than anyone could have imagined. The chains, the tortures, the screams.

“Welcome, Mr Gates”, came a voice from behind, a voice that sent shivers down his spine despite the heat, a voice that threatened to tear his head apart. It was the Devil.

Barely able to speak, Bill Gates managed to stutter “What… happened? It looked… different before.”

“Oh, my deepest apologies, Mr Gates. That was the Beta.”

—————————

I think I heard that one round about Win98, and some OSes (Vista, 8) seem to have deserved it more than others (XP, 7). Still, there does seem to be wisdom in not being an early adopter.

I’m doing the 10 Preview upgrade, a) because it’s free, and b) because of the longer-term support. I think I’ll turn my computer into a dual-boot machine, and keep Vista as the primary OS, and play around in the 10 Preview and upgrade that when the time comes. Keep updated, try out the apps, see what legacy programs might still run, see what runs better.

Got some preparation and backup to do before I get to that point, though. Let you know how it goes.