AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

November 15, 2010

3D TVs and Crazy Deals

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology — AJ @ 7:14 pm

So I ended up getting a new Sony KDL-55HX800.  I had been looking for a new TV for a while and Best Buy had a really good deal for a beautiful 3d Sony TV with a free PS3 and two pair of 3D glasses for basically half off. Got it all hooked up and calibrated and the quality is crazy.  I’d compare it to the difference between my really old crt and an lcd hdtv.  Great color and contrast.  3d is solid too. It does use polarized glasses to avoid a flicker but limits 3d to horizontal viewing.  Overall I like it a lot better than comparable Samsung.

October 18, 2010

MySpace and LinkedIn

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 5:21 pm

Sure they may be the abandoned end of the interwebs, but why shouldn’t they enjoy the blog linking bliss?  Thanks to Alpha Links for the latest functionality.

October 12, 2010

Success: Integrating with Facebook, Twitter, The City and Android

So after three or four days of work, it looks like I finally have a working system.  I can now post from my Galaxy S to my blog and have that send notifications to Facebook, Twitter and The City.  For those curious in the details, I’m running the latest WordPress, PHP and MySQL for the site with the Janrain Engage, Twitter Tools (slightly modified to get #tc hashing working from Android client posts) and Wordbooker for plugins.

Janrain Engage and Gigya were in pretty close running, but I liked the integrated Share ability of the Janrain plugin.  Gigya would be better for a larger site as it is definitely a slicker back end, but it lacked the front end simplicity that I was looking for for this project.  Both systems provide integrated authentication from a number of different social networks and web sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, AIM, Flicker, etc.  They also both offer the ability for users to share your posts under their own accounts directly from the site, however Gigya required an additional step to setup.  Both are free for non-commercial purposes at low usage levels (sub 1000 unique visitors a month).

Twitter Tools directly integrates with Twitter’s API and handles Twitter posting when new blog posts come in.  I had to modify it a little because the hash tags plugin was not adding hash tags when posting from the Android client (and presumably any other WordPress API using client).  I have submitted the bug so hopefully the hack won’t be necessary soon.  Currently I just have it hardcoded to always add #tc to posts to push to The City using The City’s Twitter integration.  (For those who are not familiar, The City is a private social networking platform for churches run by Zondervan.)

Wordbooker hooks in to Facebook Connect and handles both pushing status and wall updates for posts as well as pulling back comments from the wall post on an hourly basis.  Note that if you try it out, I have comment approval required still so it might not show up even after an hour since I might not be watching my phone for comment notifications.

So yeah, with that project done and out of the way, now I get to move straight in to updating my World of Warcraft mod since they just released the 4.0.1 client today… wish they could have waited another month or so, but oh well, life goes on.  At least I have another great developer helping on that project and I get paid (I’ll be it about $1.50 a week (go profit sharing) and guaranteed Beta invites for WoW expansions.) for something I’d do anyway.

Foiled by Twitter Updates

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 4:19 pm

So apparently the reason The City wasn’t getting status updates is that Twitter decided to update their system and broke the link that The City used.  After tweeting their lead developer, they seem to have gotten it working again so it is time for another test…  Here’s hoping for the best…

October 11, 2010

Hopefully The City works now

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 10:08 pm

The last attempt didn’t work.  Sorry for the blog spam.

Twitter Too

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 10:03 pm

Hopefully twitter and the city are now linked as well…

Social Networking Comes To AJHenderson.com

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 9:03 pm

So in my quest to actually make my blog something I update I have added social networking integration. With any luck it should now be possible to login and share posts with several different logins as well as auto posting blogs to facebook.

October 6, 2010

Troubleshooting the Blog and Overdue Maintenance

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 8:46 pm

Well, doing some troubleshooting of the Android WordPress client seems to point towards the fact I was using MySQL 4 and PHP4 as the main culprits.  I’d been on those ancient versions still because of the Wiicafe.com site which is co-located with this one having some legacy issues that I’d have to deal with, but this finally gave me the motivation to try tackling them.  I have not done the PHP update yet, but I was able to (apparently) successfully upgrade to the latest MySQL with minimal problems actually (about 2 hours of work for about 18 DBs) and was able to eliminate a lot of spam polluted DBs that were bogging the server down.  If the PHP update goes as smoothly I’ll be quite happy.

October 5, 2010

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta Thoughts

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — AJ @ 10:39 pm

So, as a mod author, I was able to get beta keys for my wife and my accounts so we could help with testing and get familiar with the content.  I’ve spent a few weeks trying it out now and thought I would share my thoughts.  The first and biggest thought is that this is NOT an expansion.  It is a completely new game.  Sure you may have characters that have gear that looks the same, have the same professions and have the same class, but from that point on, it’s a new ballpark.  The graphics have gotten a major overhaul with shader based water and improved lighting and rendering.  The game engine now supports loading content while you play and better in-game cut scenes.  The combat system has been completely changed and focused on game play rather than mechanics.  The quest chains have been redone to be more streamlined with better flow.  Almost nothing of the current game really remains.

Overall I think the majority of the improvements are a vast improvement over the current game, though I think the scope of the changes may cause some tension when the expansion first comes out.  Other areas really did suffer for the worse in some people’s views, but not without alterations in other areas to make up for it.  A good example of this is the mass simplification of the gear system.  Previously, if you felt like doing your own theory crafting, it was possible to take non-standard routes with gear and accomplish unique specializations that you couldn’t match with a standard Elitist Jerks build.  Now this really doesn’t seem possible.  There is some options for altering gear stats, but you don’t have enough subtly different variables to tweak anymore.  To make up for this though, the skill aspect of the game has been refocused on game play.  The pacing of combat has slowed, but the complexity has gone up.  CC and cast breaking is back with a vengeance, as is damage avoidance.  It’s less reflex based and more thought based to deal with the challenges each fight provides.  Additionally, Bliz was nice enough to include really solid visual cues for things like ability procs.  The emphasis on all this really seems to be a move towards trying to have a more natural interface with the game that focuses less on the mechanics of playing the game and more on what is actually happening.

What really makes this work is that Blizzard has also really taken the storytelling to a new level in this expansion.  Epic story arcs covering entire zones and smoothly flowing throughout the zone, as well as the addition of heavy instancing and lots of in-game, in-line animation lead to a game that actually feels like you are in the story and your actions matter.  So far I have made it through Vashj’ir and Deepholm and I can easily say these are two of the best zones Blizzard has made yet, with Vashj’ir quite possibly being their masterwork.  Vashj’ir puts you at the center of the conflict between the Naga and the Tidehunter.   Through heavy use of instancing and a smooth, flowing storyline, in addition to the smoother, more natural interface,  this zone feels the most like you are actually making a difference and actually living out a story of any zone I have played before.

Deepholm was a little more like Borean Tundra in its layout, but with a main story arc that covers the entire area.  As you work to repair the damage caused by the rift between Deepholm and the surface, you explore several subzones and interact with different factions in your quest.  In both Vashj’ir and Deepholm, the questing and the instances run smoothly together with the dungeons acting as a cap piece to the story line, very similar to the way Deadmines and the Defias line worked, but to a greater extent.

The last major change, and perhaps the most significant for the longevity of the expansion is the guild leveling system.  One of the main classical problems for guilds is that late in an expansion, players begin to leave.  This leaves guilds unable to continue functioning since there are always new guilds cropping up and it can become impossible for any guilds to maintain sufficient momentum.  The guild leveling system offers significant advantages to running with an established guild and should help momentum be maintained for a more consistent and stable experience.  Also, guild reputation should help ensure stability by offering a reason not to switch guilds flippantly over stupid things since it will take time to re-earn guild perks and rewards if you switch to another guild.  Conversely, with raiding switching to only allowing either 10 or 25 man raids to be done by any particular individual on a particular week, guild perks such as Cash Flow (which grants a portion of the gold looted by guild members as extra gold to the guild bank), act as an incentive for guilds to maintain an inclusive atmosphere extending beyond just a core 10 man team.  Both the criteria of leveling and the perks lean towards benefiting large guilds and should encourage guild leaders to maintain large organized guilds, perhaps with a core raiding team funded by the guild bank and other teams for non-progression players.

I’ll try to post more as I make it through additional zones and get a better perspective on the expansion overall.

Bible Apps for Android and Reading Projects

Filed under: Church,Personal — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 10:02 pm

So I managed to find two great apps for Bible reading and study on Android.  When I was looking I ended up deciding on one that is easily the best for online (Internet connected) study and another that is a clear winner for offline study.

YouVersion by LifeChurch.TV is easily the best online Bible study program I have ever seen.  A wide selection of translations and reading plans, an online user driven commentary and discussion, synced reading between multiple devices and the web and the slickest, smoothest running Android app I’ve seen all combine to make this a very wonderful reading Bible.  The main disadvantages are the slight additional power usage of requiring a cellular connection, the connectivity requirement itself, and the unavailability of good research quality resources that integrate with the program.  This is now my general reading Bible of choice.

CadreBible, while not quite as neatly refined as YouVersion, is a very solid offline study/research Bible with a good selection of free and fairly priced translations and other resources (like concordances, commentaries and the like).  The selection is not as good as Windows Mobile’s e-Sword yet, but the app is very actively developed by a team in Australia.  I did have some issues getting my paid content downloaded, but an e-mail to the company was returned within minutes and as it turned out they are working on replacing the part of the system that was causing me trouble.  This is now my research Bible of choice.

I’d gotten in to looking in more detail because we have been starting a length study of Romans at Terra Nova and when I was giving the book a read through in preparation, I started noticing just how much of an improvement Today’s New International Version is over the original NIV translation.  The higher quality of the translation led me to notice several things I had not noticed in previous readings and caused me to decide to make another full read through of the Bible with TNIV.  I’ve always found that Bible apps with reading plan guides help this kind of a project to go smoother, so that is what kicked off really looking in to it.  Maybe when I get done with this read through I’ll finally get around to trying to make it through the Koran so I can be better prepared to discuss the differences between what the Bible says about Christianity and what Muslims believe Christianity is about from their teaching.  (For those not familiar, Islam holds that Jesus was a teacher and a prophet, but never claimed to be God.  This can lead to some great discussions with Muslims, but I don’t really know as much as I should for those discussions with more scholarly Muslims.)

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