I talk about: Star Wars, technology, business, gaming and art.
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This week Dishonored was on sale on Steam so I played through it, and here's my quick review. I usually don't play stealth games or stealth classes, but I found this game has pretty well done stealth action. Graphics are fine, the textures are not very high resolution but the art style is very nice, with a mix of medieval with steampunk, and a definite influence of Half Life 2. The choices you make, whether you go stealth or massacre a lot of people also affects the story in significant ways, like having you deal with more walking corpses and rats than guards, along with how the events unfold. It's an interesting story and fun game. Overall, I'd say it's worth a 8/10.
In the past couple of months, I've been slowly migrating from Google to Microsoft services. I don't use either company for all my digital needs, since I'm always skeptical of trusting any large corporation for basically anything, but when it comes to online services, you have to rely on someone if you want any kind of convenience. First, I'd like to quickly explain why I made the switch. This wasn't a fanatic decision. I don't particularly believe that Microsoft is somehow less evil than Google. Instead, it comes down to a couple of things Google has done that made me want to move over.
First, Google has discretely but definitively been moving away from open protocols and freedom of choice. There's a couple of examples I've personally ran into. Last year, they decided to discontinue their ActiveSync service, which means that when I got a new iPhone, I could no longer sync contacts and calendars unless I use their own Gmail app. I prefer the iPhone mail app so that affected me. Another example is for mobile documents. If I use Office Web Apps and SkyDrive, I can export a document from the SkyDrive app to the Pages app and edit it there, and then export it back. For some unknown reason, the Google Docs app doesn't have the Open in another app option. In fact, it doesn't even have any kind of sharing or export function outside of Google Docs itself, making it impossible to interoperate.
Offline storage is another good example. A few years back, Google was working on something called Google Gears to help provide offline access for files. But they killed it, while SkyDrive has a very nice Windows 7 desktop app and iOS app. Sure the web version of Google Docs provides some functionality, but not all. Finally, Gmail's new user interface is not something I like at all. So not only is Google prioritizing the web interface to the point that they are forcing it down on us, but they also change that interface in ways we may not always like.
I already started using SkyDrive a while back, so this week I decided to take the plunge into Office 2013. Up to now I was using a combination of Google Docs, OpenOffice, Pages and Office Web App. Needless to say, this was a complete mess. The biggest issue are the compatibility problems. OpenOffice cannot save as XML files, only as Office and OpenDocument, but Office Web App and Pages use the newer format. While Google Docs supports both of those, formatting always ended up being a problem regardless which other app I used. Now, I strictly use the newer Office formats.
Let's start with the one item that didn't go completely smoothly: Contacts. While I set everything to sync between the web, my desktop, iPhone and iPad, for some reason contacts seem to be the hard case. Both imports and exports failed randomly, and I'm not the only one to have reported this. Apparently it's something they are working on. Everything else was already syncing, whether that's calendar, email, files and even reminders.
For documents, I tend to like Office 2013. When the ribbon was first introduced years ago I disliked it, but now I think it's fine, most common commands are right there which seems to be the point. There are two things I've always hated in Google Docs: the templates they offered (I think they don't even offer them anymore) and the way documents would randomly break because you copy/pasted HTML that interfered with the custom CSS that makes up all Google Docs. Templates in Office are much better, and you can search web templates right from within the app, and obviously a desktop solution is a lot quicker and more stable.
One app that I actually cringed before trying out is Outlook. I've always thought Outlook was for businesses and way too bulky for daily use, but it turns out to be not too bad. There are things I still don't like about it, like the fact that when you click the close button it shuts the app down instead of going to the tray, and clicking on a notification shows just that email, not the Outlook app. But I do like how it includes mail, calendar, contacts and tasks. Ideally I'd want the Live Mail 2011 interface with Outlook 2013 capabilities. It's amazing how I can go into Reminders on my iPhone, add a task, and it shows up instantly on my desktop. That's how everything should work.
''Everything I do is local first, then gets moved to the cloud, not the other way around.''
Finally for files it's also a much better solution. As I said at the start, I tend to not be very trusting of large corporations. It always annoyed me that all my documents were living in Google Docs. I'm not going to go to Google Takeout every time I edit something. With Office 365, all of my files are always on my desktop, but they also get instantly synced on the web and my mobile devices thanks to the SkyDrive desktop app. Basically, everything I do is local first, then gets moved to the cloud, not the other way around. Also the fact that I can actually organize things using good old folders instead of having an endless list of files helps a lot.
The one negative is the cost, but I think getting a much more integrated and streamlined workflow is worth the $11.50 (gotta love Canadian taxes) per month. Now I just need Microsoft to add editing capabilities to the iOS SkyDrive app or release an iPhone version of Office and it'll be even better.
Today both the E3 Microsoft keynote and the Apple WWDC keynote occurred at the same time. I had the Xbox One live stream on one screen, with the live blog from WWDC on the other. Was this done on purpose, attempting to divide their audience? Who knows. The more interesting question is who won the day?
The Xbox One suffered from a PR problem. The announcement focused on the console itself and living room features. It had very little games, so a lot of people complained about that, and the hype was high for Microsoft to deliver in its keynote today. They fully delivered, spending the whole hour doing nothing but introducing new titles one after the other. As far as delivering, I would say Microsoft did just that. There was nothing huge, nothing unexpected, but we got to see some interesting game titles. They also gave a date and price for the console which gives them extra points.
Apple on the other hand started off very slowly talking about hardware and Mac OS X. But then they moved into far more interesting subjects like iOS 7 and the iPhone. Like many people thought, they showed a brand new redesigned iOS. I'm not quite sure if I like the new interface yet, I think this opinion will need to wait until I get to play with it. The company also delivered fully on what people expected, including the highly hyped iTunes Radio, which sounds very nice, except for the small problem that it will be US only. Sigh.
Overall, both companies delivered and it's a very close call to say which one won the day, but I would say in this case Apple probably pulled ahead somewhat. While Microsoft showed a lot of Xbox One games, they didn't talk about Windows one bit, said very little about the current Xbox or even current game titles. Apple on the other hand touched on most of their current products. It's annoying how Microsoft keeps making E3 into the Xbox show every single year, when there's far more people gaming on Windows than on a console.
PRISM and domestic data spying has received a lot of coverage this week, but most of the online media is US-based, and perhaps understandably, has been focused on US issues.
However, while the American government has been busy trying to backpedal, make up excuses and political speeches, everything has been focused on calming Americans. They readily admit that they spy on foreigners, so basically, most people on this planet. As a Canadian, which I assume is the same for any other country, this is pretty upsetting. It means what we long have been suspecting is true, brushed away by US politicians as a fact of life.
The problem is a lot of my digital life is in the US, and I have very little choice about it. While there are Canadian hosting companies, when I looked to host this web site, I selected a US company because it was far cheaper. I could choose to pay more and support a local provider, but the choice pretty much ends there. When it comes to web searches, I have the choice between Google and Bing, two US companies that have specifically been pointed out in these reports. While an American who uses a search engine has reasons to be concerned, their President, and their laws, assure them that they cannot be targeted. Your laws however say nothing about me. I'm most likely being spied upon, my data collected, stored and analyzed, because as a Canadian, I have no rights.
The same is true for almost anything I do online. As a hardcore PC gamer, I have the choice between using Steam, Gamefly, or a handful of other online gaming platforms, all based in the US. For social media, all of my posts go to Twitter, Google or Microsoft, again all US companies. I use an iPhone, and switching to Android or WP8 would be of little use. Even Windows 8, by default, stores all of our documents on SkyDrive. It goes on and on like that, and the big question now is what to do about it? By being so specific in their comments, saying PRISM ''cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person or anyone located within the United States'', it's a very clear admission that as foreigners, all of our data currently in the hands of US companies is fully accessible by governments.
The big problem is that few countries have such a vibrant tech community as the US does. It seems critical to me that Canada, Europe and other countries need to all build our own tech communities so that we no longer have to rely on US companies. Of course, this may in turn have disastrous consequences for the Internet as a whole. By so readily admitting that they spy on us, the US government is alienating other countries, which in turn may lead to fractures of the net. What if we decide to cut off any data link between the US and the rest of the world? As tech companies try to grow, their own government may have just impeded them greatly.
As the world becomes more connected, a lot of people are tackling the issue of information discovery. How do you get your news, your information, updates about events or organizations you care about, and new pieces of data you may not have known you would find interesting? The old model was to stick to a single source of news, such as reading a daily newspaper or magazine, while many now rely solely on social media like their Facebook or Twitter feed, which is great to get the latest information from whoever you follow, but means you constantly miss data.
What I personally preferred was using RSS feeds, giving me multiple sources and making sure I would never miss interesting news while I was sleeping or offline. Since Google Reader was announced to be shut down however, I've been looking for alternatives. I found a replacement I like for RSS using Pulse, but I came to realize there were better ways to get some types of news.
The problem with a RSS reader is that it fits all feeds to a single format. You get a long list of news items, which is fine in some cases, but gets boring fast. I found out that I actually prefer some of the native mobile apps from several sources. Two great ones in particular are The Verge for technology and the BBC News app for world events. There are plenty of sites I follow and wish they would make a mobile app, such as PC Gamer, Massively and others. Not all mobile apps are nicely done, but in some cases, I find it far easier to use their app than to follow their RSS feed.
Increasingly, YouTube is becoming a place for far more than funny cat videos. I actually find out a lot of stuff just by following my YouTube feed. The key is subscribing to the right channels. Almost every major news source now does video, and those videos usually end up on YouTube, and let's face it, a video is far more entertaining to watch than reading a long article, at least for me. For example I find RT provides interesting financial coverage, and TotalHalibut's regular gaming commentaries are great.
Finally, one surprising source of information is the Discover tab on the Twitter app. I actually find it to be pretty good in surfacing things I didn't know about but find interesting. I typically check it out every morning at least.
This review won't be an in-depth look at Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, because I'm no expert on either of them. My background is with traditional, old school hosting where you buy a shared or dedicated account, then log in using SSH. All of my web sites and domains run on this type of hosts. But now cloud services are taking over, with AWS being very popular, and Microsoft having made a lot of efforts lately to bring Azure up to part. So while I've been working with hosting solutions for over a decade, I'm fairly new to cloud servers, and I wanted to test both and see how I liked them.
I tried AWS first earlier this year, and played around with a number of virtual machines running both Linux and Windows. While Amazon is doing a decent job at trying to make everything as easy as possible, the learning curve is still fairly steep. The first thing you need to wrap your mind around is all of the different terms they use such as S3, EC2 and Elastic to refer to the various services. During my experiments, I hit several bottlenecks where I needed to refer to the documentation, and this took some time. In the end, I got a pretty decent Linux server running, but I never managed to do much on the Windows side. Obviously a lot of people like AWS, but I would say Amazon could still work on their documentation for specific use cases.
I tried Windows Azure from Microsoft because I heard a lot of the company's efforts are going towards it. Initially, the setup is fairly similar, but right away I found both the interface and their documentation to be better. First, they actually use the right terms to describe each item, like virtual machines, disks, and so on. Then, the documentation was much easier to follow. Instead of using the reference manual style that AWS has, there are step by step guides for common cases. There are also a lot of small details that are better thought out, like allowing you to select your DNS name and RDP login information right at the creation of your virtual machine, instead of assigning defaults. However, my Azure virtual machine took a lot more time to get provisioned than the AWS ones did. In both cases I used the cheapest option, but perhaps I just happened to be placed on a very busy server.
Overall, both solutions offer a lot of similar things. Pricing is similar, the interface gives you a good list of your virtual machines and allows you to accomplish common tasks through the web, and they both offer Linux and Windows VMs with all of the usual services like databases, web servers, DNS and so on. My personal opinion however is that for someone who is fairly new to cloud hosted servers, Azure is the way to go, both for ease of use and working with a more comfortable interface. Of course those were all test systems and low key projects, I didn't attempt any long term projects, and I didn't try anything more advanced like load balancing. My opinion might change in the future as I get more involved with these services. But for now, Azure is what I'm going with.
I've been running websites for over 15 years and this particular one since 2008. It used to be that getting onto search engines was pretty easy. But for some reason, in recent years, it seems like every change that Google makes to add personalization, better algorithms, and so on, means that I constantly have weird stuff happen. I don't typically look at Google rankings for my site since ad revenue is almost non existent for me, but today I did and was stunned to see the results for site:dendory.net:
For some unknown reason, Google decided to add the word Back to all my titles! It didn't used to do that, I haven't changed anything that could cause such a strange behavior here, yet for some reason, Google now doesn't use my title tags anymore. Instead, it randomly adds a word on the pages. I've become convinced that Google has gotten lazier than ever before, and instead of following what the web protocols say, they instead focus on individual cases. So I bet if you run WordPress, Blogger or any of the big engines, you won't have that problem. But because my site is all custom code, there must be some quirk somewhere that makes Google screw up. My best bet is it's trying to add the name of my site to the titles, and because the word comes back a lot it takes it. The most sophisticated search engine in the world thinks my site is called Back. Amazing.
There's an old saying that during the gold rush, those who made and sold shovels for prospectors made more money than the gold diggers themselves. Owning the infrastructure that supports a popular activity is always more profitable than whatever the hot craze of the day is. I'm always amazed at how true this is, regardless of the industry, and how to this day it still very much applies.
I was watching a documentary about the housing bubble and how many investors lost money when everything came crashing down in 2008. Firms went bankrupt, billions of dollars were lost, but one thing remained a constant. Those who made millions were the few that were holding the basic infrastructure for the whole system. The CEOs, managers and others who worked in Wall Street and came out rich, while millions of investors around the world, people who thought they could make a quick buck with this brand new sub-prime mortgage craze, ended up losing everything.
One market I know well is the online ad market, and again I can see a similar pattern. In the past decade, every company on the planet has been urged to go digital, to place banner ads on ad networks and pump money into Facebook, Twitter and others. In a sense, this is the greatest shift the marketing world has ever seen. The whole world of physical advertising can be replicated online, with billions being spent with very little knowledge or studies being done about potential results.
There are already signs that online ads don't work nearly as well as some would want you to believe. Meanwhile, it's the infrastructure that's making money. Ad networks like Google or Yahoo, ad exchange companies, and a lot of underground, unknown companies that deal with everything from legitimate SEO services to shady groups making a lot of money on fake numbers, all in an effort to keep companies pumping money into the system.
The million dollar question is what will be making money next. It's hard right now to compete with Google or Facebook, and even if you could, I'm not sure it would be worth it. It may well be the case that online advertising is on the decline, and just like TV ads, people will figure out that web banners work only up to a point, and is not the great savior of marketing that many would like to believe. So what infrastructure is going to support the next billion dollar industry? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Witcher 2 is one of those games I saw when it came out, put on my wishlist, and mostly forgot about it. I knew I wanted to play the game since it's a RPG and a well rated one at that, but I just never got around to it. This week I noticed it was down to $19 on Steam, my maximum price for most games these days, so I went ahead and got it.
According to Raptr it took me 12 hours to get through a single walkthrough which is decent, and overall I was pleasantly surprised. The graphics are simply superb, very amazing to look at. I was also surprised at the depth of the story and how fun it was. I found it to be a good mix of story and combat, with a good pace. On the negative, I would say some parts are overly complex, even basic gameplay elements such as alchemy and spell names, especially if you've never played the first game. Also, because you play Geralt, customization is weak compared with other RPGs. Still I would give this an 8/10
Payday is a game that came out last year but right now it's on sale for $5 on Steam, so I decided to get it last weekend and have been playing since then. The game places you in the role of one of four thieves trying to rob a bank, steal an art piece from a mansion, steal a virus from a hospital, and many more scenarios like that. You can play online with random people or with computer AIs.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by it. The scenarios are challenging, yet you can still do quite well even if your teammates are not that great, which is rare in team based games, something Left 4 Dead suffers from. The scenarios are well done as well and fun to play, lasting around 30 minutes each. I would say it's certainly worth the $5 and is a game I will likely keep playing in short durations, kind of like TF2 and L4D, games perfect for when I'm bored with nothing better to do. 8/10.
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These are ebooks that I have published under my name or my pen name. They are available to be purchased from Amazon Kindle or Kobo. You can also go directly to my Amazon Author Central page.
The 3D Art of Patrick LambertGenre: Art
Click here to buy on Kobo
Click here to buy on Amazon Kindle
This book showcases some of my art from the past 5 years along with exclusive commentaries on what goes on behind the images. Delve into a world of fantasy, sci-fi and urban scenes, along with concepts of violence, sensuality and dominance.
Business and Technology
Building an online news siteGenre: Business and Technology
Click here to buy on Kobo
Click here to buy on Amazon Kindle
This is the story of TideArt.com, a digital art news site which started around two years ago from nothing and grew to serve over 70,000 page views per month from users in 40 countries. By describing what it took to start the site from almost no budget, going through creating the web site, making content, marketing and more, the hope is that anyone who wishes to build a small or medium informational site can learn valuable lessons to apply on their own projects.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi fiction
Alone after the endGenre: Fantasy and Sci-Fi fiction
Click here to buy on Kobo
Click here to buy on Amazon Kindle
Alicia is an average young girl that is suddenly plunged into a post-apocalyptic world when a nuclear bomb wipes her town of Montreal. Alone in her shelter, she knows that she will run out of food and needs to go outside, but will there be other survivors, and if so, who can she really trust? She will soon come to find out that danger comes from unexpected sources.
Dark Heart: The Eternal ConquerorGenre: Fantasy and Sci-Fi fiction
Click here to buy on Kobo
Click here to buy on Amazon Kindle
Most tales tell the story of a hero, a selfless white knight coming to the rescue of those in distress. But in the fantasy world of Feradel, one young mage refuses to follow the path she is expected to, the path of good and virtue, instead taking pleasure in evil, despicable acts. This is the story of a girl taking pleasure in the most careless and vile acts, becoming a necromancer and killing simply because she can.
Romance and Erotica
Amazon awakenGenre: Romance and Erotica
Click here to buy on Kobo
Click here to buy on Amazon Kindle
''Amazon awaken'' is the story of a young amazon girl who reaches adulthood and experiences sex for the first time. Kathy, 21, has her best friend Lilith help her discover those sensations with hot lesbian sex. But what happens when a man, someone seen as inferior by the highly matriarchal village, wants to show her pleasure as well?
Many studies show that customers want engaging content from the sites they go to. This includes businesses who try to grow their reach online and communicate to more people through web sites and blogs, along with marketing campaigns and a social presence. The sad truth is that most fail because they do not produce regular content that is both engaging and relevant to users.
- Content articles
- Getting started in the CG industry
This article was published on TideArt and covers how a college student studying 3D art can get started in the industry.
- What is "InPrivate Browsing" and why would you need it?
This how-to article covers Internet Explorer 9's InPrivate mode and explains what it does.
- News reports
- Compromised Certificate Authorities and how to protect yourself
This article aimed at IT professionals describes the recent hacks against Certificate Authorities and how a network can be protected against future similar attacks.
- AT&T rolls out LTE technology
This report follows AT&T and their new high-speed cellphone network based on LTE technology.
- Evernote just got better
This news report covers some of the changes Evernote did to their product, including lowering limits for free account holders.
- Product descriptions
- How a soap dispenser can be good for you
This piece of content explains why someone should get a high quality soap dispenser for their home.
- A good diet to lose weight
This article talks about diets and the amount of foods that should be consumed by a typical person in order to lose weight.
- Countertop Wine Glass Racks
This article describes the benefits of countertop wine glass racks, and why you would want one for your home.
- Use The Social online marketing flyer
This professional advertising flyer was created to promote new offerings from a company.
- The Hair Show by Chiggy's Touch
This press release was created for a hair show that was held in Toronto, ON.
- Brochure cover for utS
This brochure was made for a local Internet Service Provider.
Simple PHP tweet script
This is the most simple Twitter API 1.1 tweet PHP script you can find. If you don't want to use a library to automate your tweeting, this is for you.
Simply create your app on the Twitter Dev site, add your four keys to the file, then call it with 'status' as a GET parameter.
This is a small collection of flame effects I've been using over the years in my own projects. I created them using ParticleIllusion.
Free animal outline icons
This is a set of 6 animal icons in black and white, with transparent backgrounds.
TexPak6 for Vue
Rocket Launchers for Vue
Relive the cold war with Soviet and USAF nuclear missile launchers! Whether you're recreating history, or branching out into an another dimension where war is raging, these vehicles will serve you well in your battle for dominance! Included are 2 versions of the launcher, in standing mode and in launching mode. Also, both USAF and Soviet textures are provided. BONUS: US and Soviet ICBM missiles also included!
Armored Vehicles for Vue
Combat, patrol and fighting vehicles, these Armored Security Vehicles (ASV) will be at home in any modern setting, whether it's in the middle of a war or while patrolling the streets of a busy city. They come with 3 textures:
* Mounted gun
* Rocket launcher
Patrol Boats for Vue
This set includes 3 patrol boats as Vue files: * Police * Army * Fire Rescue These Patrol Boats are perfect for any water related scene, to serve both as background props or to be center stage in your ship adventures. They are designed for both close up and far away renders, and are constructed in a way that makes it easy to change any part of the models, such as the logos, textures, text or numbers on the sides. BONUS: Lights set included for night scenes!
Hi, my name is Patrick Lambert and I'm a freelance content creator living in Montreal, Canada. I have over 15 years of experience in technology and I create content for many different industries.
I've written for...
...and many more!
- TideArt - Web site for artists.
- Presentations I made:
- Android Apps - The Android Apps I've created.
- Commissions - Information if you want to commission art from me.
- Aurebesh - Learn the language of Star Wars.
- Two-Factor Authentication - Google Authenticator demo.
- Crypt - Free online encryption and hashing service.
- Vue Tutorials:
- 3D Models - All the 3D models I've done and released for free on ShareCG.
- Old C Projects - This is a zip file of my old (10-15 years) Linux projects that probably don't even compile anymore.
My rates are flexible and vary based on your needs. Contact me for custom requests.
Phone: (438) 807-2637