The Stargazer stargazes in EVE Online

Recently I decided to give EVE Online another try. When I first started playing EVE many years ago, I thought Asteroid mining would be a fun profession. I trained the necessary skills, bought a pretty huge Mining Barge and wasn’t actually bad at my job. But that was exactly the problem. It didn’t feel like fun, it felt like a job. But as long as I was in a nice corporation things weren’t that bad. At least I had interesting people to chat with. But eventually the corporation I was in got dragged into a war and later some drama ensued. If the gameplay would have been more fun, I might have stayed, but mining was as exciting as watching paint dry, so I left the game.

Over the years I returned several times to the game. For some reason I always felt drawn to it, even though I knew I would feel bored pretty much immediately. But a couple of days ago I watched some EVE videos on YouTube and learned about Exploration. And this occupation actually looked like fun! In order to explore Cosmic Signatures you needed to send out probes which allow you to triangulate a site’s location in space. And instead of just watching an automated process, you have to move your probes around manually. It’s basically a small mini game.

When you reach a Relic or Data site you usually have to do some hacking (which is another cool mini game) in order to get access to interesting (and hopefully) expensive loot. There are also Gas sites where you can mine rare gases which is obviously pretty lucrative, but at the moment I am avoiding anything which feels like mining. Last but not least you can explore Wormholes which lead to far away solar systems.

Alas this Wormhole space is pretty dangerous. Some systems are defended by NPC ships, but the real threat are other players. During the last days I lost several exploration frigates. Everytime I was shot down by another player. What angers me the most is that there was actually no good reason why these guys shot me down. I was no threat, my ship was unarmed and I had nothing of value in my cargo hold. But that’s EVE for you. This game is definitely not for the faint of heart. Luckily my ship was ensured, so I didn’t lose that much money.

If everything goes as planned I will have trained the skills necessary for my new ship next week. Hopefully this ship will then last longer than the one I lost today. Wish me luck!

P.S.: If you’re interested in reading more about my exploits in EVE Online, let me know.

Game Recommendation: TIS-100

During last year’s various Winter sales I picked up a very exciting game – especially if you are interested in programming. It is called TIS-100 and was created by Zachtronics which is know for games like SpaceChem and Infiniminer. In TIS-100 you get to write Assembly code for a pretty weird machine you found on your uncle’s attic. The manual looks like a scanned copy of an instruction manual from the late 70s or early 80s.

Basically TIS-100 is a puzzle game in which you solve the puzzles by coding Assembly, which is the closest thing you can get to actually write machine code. While the first few puzzles are pretty easy, the difficulty curve becomes increasingly steep later on.

For me it was the perfect game to bask in nostalgia. Back in my university days I had one course in which we wrote Assembly code for microprocessors. It was definitely one of the more fun courses back then. In TIS-100 you not only get to solve the increasingly hard puzzles and learn something about obscure computer architecture, you also get to uncover clues about what happened to your uncle. Detective work by code!

If you’re into computers, retro games, perhaps even programming, you definitely should check the game out. I recommend getting it from GoG for 6.39 or your regional equivalent.

Happy New Year!

This post first appeared on my roleplaying game blog Stargazer’s World.

At first let me wish all my readers all the best for 2016! In addition I hope 2016 will be better than the last years.

Some of you might remember that I was signed off work in 2014 for about half a year and again I am suffering from depression since early November. I am slowly getting better but the fact that my grandma died on January 1st  didn’t really help. Even though she was almost 84 years old and suffered from dementia, everyone was surprised and shocked about her sudden death. Luckily she didn’t have to suffer and had a long and fulfilling life.

There’s a lot to do right now, especially since I will probably take responsibility for my grandma’s house. It’s the house I grew up and lived in for the last 30-something years. It’s a pretty big house (for a time four generations of my family lived under one roof) and there will be a lot to fix over the next years, but with the help of my girlfriend (and future wife) I think I’ll manage.

That’s actually the other big news in my life. If everything goes as planned I am going to marry my girlfriend of almost 16 years in 2016. Wow! Now I said it on the internet … no going back. 😉

Roleplaying-wise there’s not much new to talk about. We’re already in the middle of organizing our annual roleplaying convention in Limburg. Because of recent events and my health I probably won’t be as active as in previous years, but I hope I can at least run two session on the big day.

On New Year’s Eve I first ran Mutant: Year Zero for a group of friends and even though I didn’t really learn the rules that well, things went pretty smoothly. We had a lot of fun and decided to expand the one-shot to a proper campaign. Luckily MY0 is almost prep-free and is prefectly suited for improvising.

I really hope I can get back to posting more often and more regularly but it seems there will be a lot of real life in the way – at least in the first half of 2016. Let’s hope things will slow down after that.

The best headphones you can get for 25€

Recently I looked for a replacement for my current headphones which I am using on my OnePlus One. I mostly use a low-priced Sennheiser headset which has pretty good sound, but lacks a microphone and a remote control. While looking for alternatives I read about Amazon’s Premium Headset. I have bought Amazon-branded products before and usually the quality is great while the price is low, so I gave it a chance.

The headphones remind me a lot of the current iPhone headphones. The shape of the earbuds is almost identical and they sound and fit great (at least for me). They don’t close the ear canal completely, so it’s a great alternative for people who don’t like in-ears. Of course the sound quality can not be compared to something like the Ultimate Ears TripleFi, but they are at least on par with my Sennheiser headphones (which were in the same price range as the Amazon ones).

What I really like is that the lower part of the cord (below the remote control) is flat and doesn’t tangle when you carry the headphones in a pocket. You can also attach the earbuds to each other magnetically, which helps to further reduce any tangling.

The remote control has volume control and a button which allows you to pick up incoming calls or play/pause music. A double-press jumps to the next song on the playlist. It should work well with any Android phone, but I’ve read reviews that the remote doesn’t play well with Apple products. Since I don’t own any recent iPhones or iPads I can’t confirm this, but if you own an Apple product, you should do some further research. I haven’t been able to test the microphone yet, but from what I’ve read on the internet the quality should be fine.

All things considered the Amazon Premium headphones are the best headphones you can buy in that price range. The cord is genius and is a welcome change from the tangled mess you usually have to deal with. Sound quality is great and the earbuds have a great fit. If you’re looking for some new headphones you should definitly check them out!

Watch me play games on Twitch

Yesterday I started streaming to Twitch. I don’t have any big plans at the moment, it just sounded like a great way to allow my girlfriend to watch me playing some of the cool new indie games I’ve bought while she’s not at my place. Eventually I decided to archive the sessions and upload them to Youtube. At the moment there are two videos for you to enjoy: one of me playing Deep Dungeons of Doom, a pretty easy to learn but hard to master indie dungeon crawler and another video of me playing Bardbarian, another sweet indie game.

I don’t have a set schedule yet and I doubt I’ll ever do some “serious” streaming, but if you’re interested in watching me play around in various games you should keep your eyes open at my YouTube channel and my Twitch page.

Vivaldi

Recently I started using the new Vivaldi browser as my standard browser. I know that the current version (Vivaldi is still in development) is not meant for productive use, but I wanted to know how well it actually works. And the only way to find out is to use it for a while. But before going into details let me share some background information first: Vivaldi is being developed by some former Opera devs. Vivaldi is based off Chromium but adds a couple of interesting features. For example you can stack tabs and even show two websites side by side in one browser window. You can take notes directly in the browser and later versions will feature a fully-fledged email client.

What I like about Vivaldi:

  • The UI looks pretty sweet and reminds me a lot of Windows 10
  • It’s compatible with Chrome extensions (alas buttons are not shown)
  • The side panels for downloads, bookmarks etc. are very handy

What I don’t like about Vivaldi:

  • It’s still terribly buggy and sometimes pretty slow
  • Basically every website tells me that I have to update my browser (I have to use a User Agent Switcher to remedy this)
  • It can’t replace Chrome completely (yet)

Overall I am pretty happy with Vivaldi. It looks nice, works pretty well for an early version and since it’s compatible to Chrome extensions it might even replace Chrome (which I normally use) in the long run. Alas it’s not really ready for prime time at the moment. Sometimes sites fail to load completely, or browser tabs crash without any reason. I also have the impression that the current version of Vivaldi is even a worse memory hog than Chrome itself. But I think Vivaldi is a browser worth checking out.

Hate and Fear

I recently noticed a disturbing trend on social networks. People are much more willing to spread hate speech, racist slurs, anti-islamic propaganda, and extreme right-wing positions than before. I guess there has always been a certain amount of racism and xenophobia in society bubbling slightly under the surface, but now people are way more open about those positions. I especially noticed it in the German corner of the internet, but I guess it’s pretty much the same in other European countries, probably even world-wide.

As a German I am deeply disturbed by the fact that anti-immigrant, racist, and generally hostile ideas are spread openly. From what I’ve seen these ideas are mainly spread by people who feel insecure, weak and powerless, or overwhelmed. They are looking for reasons why they are in such a powerless position and instead of blaming the real culprits, they tend to attack people even weaker than themselves. War refugees, people trying to get political asylum, immigrants, etc. are blamed for everything. In most cases the people spreading this kind of hate are actually not bad people. They are just uninformed and in fear. Alas the media does nothing to set things right, instead major news corporations are using the people’s fears to make a buck. Even the government is happy to distort the facts and use people’s fears to further their agenda. During the financial crisis in Greece many German politicians spread false information about Greece in order to obfuscate what was really going on.

Especially because of Germany’s history I am particular sensitive when it comes to certain behaviours and ideas. In my opinion we have a special responsibilty to make sure that something like the Third Reich never happens again. But with each year that passes I get the impression that many people don’t care about this responsibilty anymore. In politics Germany wields its power over Europe more openly. Gone are the humble days of the Bonn republic. This is pretty obvious when you look at how our government forces its Austerity policies on all Europe. And it can be felt when thousands of people joined the PEGIDA marches to protest against immigration, refugees, and the “islamification” of Europe. Hate and fear are rearing their ugly heads again.

I am sick and tired of this. And I plan to do something about it. At the moment I can’t do that much, but I started by spreading real information over social networks, especially when people who I was “friends” with, shared links to questionable hate-mongering sites. I also openly stated that I don’t accept such things in my stream. Since I am both active in a political party and a workers union I try to use my positions to actively fight everything from racism to islamophobia. Instead of keeping my mouth shut, I tell everyone where I stand and oppose the spread of lies. I don’t want to remain silent anymore!

To Linux or Not to Linux?

Over the years I – an avid Windows user – have always kept an eye on what’s new in the Linux world. Several Linux distributions have piqued my interest over the years. But even though I dabbled with Linux it never became my number one OS. The main reason is probably that I love to play computer games and the vast majority of games hasn’t been ported to Linux yet.

I’ve had some hopes for Steam OS, but it’s not meant as a replacement for Windows but more like the OS for a Linux-powered console. One Linux distribution in particular has caught my eye lately: Elementary OS. It looks a bit like MacOS X and has been praised by fans and critics alike. But again, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll use it on my main PC.

But I recently acquired a Windows-based tablet, which should run Linux as well. Since it’s a different beast than my main gaming machine, I could try using Elementary OS on it. I don’t play that many games on my tablet anyway. BUT I have no clue how well the various Linux distributions support touchscreens if at all. Has anyone of you tried to install Elementary OS or a similar Linux distro on a Acer Aspire Switch 10? Please share your experiences below.

The threat of nuclear war

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of the Soviet Union many people believed the nuclear threat was a thing of a past. But even though both the US and Russia have reduced the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals, the actual destructive power hasn’t decreased – quite the contrary. The bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki are what we nowadays call tactical nuclear weapons, and mere firecrackers compared to modern strategic nuclear weapons.

Strangely enough the risk of nuclear war was much lower during the Cold War than today. Back in the day the US and the Soviet Union kept in touch all the time. The militaries of both sides spoke with each other in order to prevent misunderstandings which could lead to mutual assured destruction. There was the famous red telephone line connecting the White House and the Kremlin directly. All these safeguards don’t exist anymore.

So, why am I writing about all this? Just today I read an article about how the current situation makes World War III more likely than ever. Perhaps the article is a bit alarmist, but I still recommend anyone to read it. The only way to get out of this dire situation is to realize that there’s an actual risk and finally ban ALL nuclear weapons.