I talk about: Star Wars, technology, business, gaming and art.
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Today was the release of patch 5.3 for World of Warcraft. It continues the story line for the whole Pandaren campaign. There are new scenarios, and those are both fairly interesting, similar in length and difficulty as the past scenarios. Those remain my favorite pieces of Q'able content in the game. They also put in heroic scenarios which require a full group but I haven't tried them out yet.
This patch also brings in the Battle of the Barrens. There are some interesting quests leading up to the main mission which has you gather up 600 items in a weekly quest. You can kill mobs for them, but the less insane way to do it is hunting random spawn bosses along with defending or attacking caravans. The whole area is fairly well done, but since everything is open world, imbalances appear pretty quickly. These boss mobs die very quickly, so if you're hunting them for resources you need a fast mount. Caravans are a PvP event, so whichever side has the biggest population will typically win.
This patch also has a new battleground, and continues the legendary weapon quest. There is no new raid, and while the Barrens has some quests, it is nowhere near what 5.2 or 5.1 brought us. In fact content-wise this patch seems rather slim. As for loot, they went a new and really weird way. You can buy pieces of armor that have no stats, and when combined with an item you get from the weekly quest, they get turned into a piece appropriate for your class specialization. The one I got was ilvl 489 which means if all the rewards are like that, there's nothing I can use except the vanity items.
I've always liked the concept of Google Plus, a social network based on a topic graph instead of a people graph. Circles centre around interests instead of individuals, and I've always found interesting posts on the site, and not just a place for farming invitations.
But one thing has always annoyed me, and I believe has impeded its adoption. Google Plus is a very closed up walled garden, worse than Facebook. The company has promised write APIs since the beginning, but never delivered. At this point it seems unlikely they will ever allow third party clients to write to Google Plus. This means when I share a picture on my phone, I have the option to tweet it, but not post it to Google Plus. When I read an interesting story on the IGN, GameSpot, Pinterest or any other app, I always have the option to share it to Twitter or Facebook, never Google Plus.
But even worse, Google Plus doesn't have any sharing option at all. In the app, all you can do is share within Google Plus, or report a post. There isn't even an 'open in browser' option. Almost every single app, either native or web-based, has at least a tweet option. The ironic thing is that YouTube has the most sharing-happy app out there, with a dozen different options. If Google is really serious about promoting Google Plus, they need to change that.
When the Internet first started, it was the ultimate example of a decentralized network. All they had at the time were nodes, connected through this ever evolving network, providing resources to each others, sending messages in a peer to peer manner, and communicating remotely. Even prior to things like the web and email, we had BBS servers, something that anyone could setup in their own basement to host files and messages, and others would dial in directly to the server.
But as time went on, things became more centralized. Now, if I open up a communication program in order to send a private message to another person, there are countless organizations and companies involved. The ISP is always there, providing our basic connections, but chances are the communication software is also centralized. This can be a benefit, but it can also be a privacy risk, as became obvious this week when a news report came out that Microsoft is monitoring and checking every URL sent over private Skype messages.
This isn't much of a surprise. Even though sending a private message to someone else should be something that could easily be done in a peer to peer manner, that isn't the way things work anymore. When we open Skype or another modern messaging software, we actually send that message to a company, which then redistributes it. It can and does monitor everything we say. Of course, their terms of services say that they can, and Microsoft says it simply is part of their anti-spam system, but it's still a privacy invasion.
Even sending an email is getting more centralized all the time. Not only do we not run our own mail server, and instead rely on a third party to accept those messages for us, but increasingly we keep the content on their servers, sometimes forever, and simply access them through IMAP. Google is even pushing the concept of keeping attachments in Google Drive instead of on our own computers. In a word, everything online is getting very centralized. This is bad for privacy concerns, not only from the companies themselves but also governments, and it's bad for many other reasons as well. As we trust companies to do more and more for us, we place ourselves at their mercy. If Google kicks you out as a user tomorrow, how easy will it be for you to move on and switch services?
This is why I'm glad there are still advances being made in peer to peer systems, like the recent introduction of BitTorrent Sync. I really wish we had ubiquitous encryption, ensuring that no one can monitor anything that goes on online, fully open protocols instead of the wall gardens which we now see everywhere, and most importantly, more decentralization. Twitter should not be one service, it should be an open protocol that many organizations run. The cloud should not be owned by one or two companies, but instead be an open cloud architecture, and decentralization should be the default when web startups come up with new ideas, instead of building more centralized systems.
I've been doing freelance work for well over 15 years now, but doing it full time for only three. During these years I've come to appreciate what it means to basically have your own solo business and be completely responsible for bringing in an income and doing every facet of what a company would typically do. It's a very interesting life style and one that has both pros and cons.
The main pro of having my own freelance business is the freedom that it affords. I no longer have to conform to a 9 to 5 schedule. I can wake up and go to bed when I want and work as much or as little as I want, during the hours that I want. No other job can give you so much freedom. You can also focus on doing what you like. I've always liked creating content, writing and making blog posts, so that's the core of my business.
Another pro is the relaxed work atmosphere. There is no boss to yell at you and no endless commuting when you work out of your own home. Being able to work at home, or really anywhere with a laptop or tablet, that means I can spend a lot more time during the summer out in the sun, and not have to go out in the cold blizzards of winter.
Of course everything is not all rosy either. This lack of a boss also means you need a high level of discipline, which has always been a problem for me. If I have something I would like to do, but there's a deadline coming up, then I have no choice but do the work that has to be done, which is something I sometimes struggle with.
But the biggest con of doing freelance work is the financial part. My income is directly linked to the success of my marketing efforts, and if I don't get enough contracts at the end of the month I don't bring in enough money either. Worse, even if I do the work, I never know whether I'll get paid or not. It's amazing how many scammers and thieves there are online. People who hire you to do some work, then never intend to pay. The percentage of people who don't pay is fairly high, and even those who do, I often have to spend a lot of time sending reminders and it can take months to get them to move. This even applies to companies that should know better.
Working full time as a freelancer is not for everyone. For now, the pros weigh more than the cons, but that could well change at some point. The freelance writing market especially is a very competitive and hard market, as I've written in the past.
Neverwinter is just the latest MMORPG to be released, and one of the activities I tried in that game is something I tend to like in any online game: Role Playing. But it always surprises me that regardless how large the RP community is, game creators make so few efforts to implement basic elements to make the lives of RPers easier. Here are some basic must-have features that any modern MMO game should have.
Chat bubbles are controversial, and many people don't like them, but I feel they should be an option. In heavy RP scenes, it isn't rare to see a dozen people all talking at once. This makes any chat window scroll very fast. By having chat bubbles, you can concentrate on characters standing near you instead of having to read everything.
Proper emotes should be available. This includes things that anyone would do in real life such as waving, hugging, bowing, nodding, flirting, dancing, and so on. The ability to sit, kneel or lay down are also crucial for many RP scenes.
You should have the ability to know who someone's target is. For example, in World of Warcraft, by targeting someone you can see the portrait of whoever they have targeted under their name. In SWTOR, characters turn their head towards their target. I feel the best would be having both. This way, you know who someone is addressing without having to constantly repeat the person's name.
Vanity items are often seen as a reward for casual gamers, but they can be very useful for RP as well. SWTOR for example has a lot of items designed especially for role players, like binoculars, a map, a holocom unit, and so on.
Proper locations such as empty and customizable rooms are also key, since role playing is often done around make-belief locales. There needs to be empty buildings, empty rooms with basic elements like chairs and tables but no in-game purpose. Whether they serve as make-shift taverns, or enemy outposts in combat RP events, there has to be room for RPers. Similarly, customizable locations are always appreciated, such as player housing, guild houses, and so on.
Customization has to also be available in social gear. WoW's transmogrification feature is awesome, because you can wear the latest armor without having to look like a clown. You can select the look of any past armor you own. SWTOR also has a lot of social gear like cantina outfits, imperial uniforms, and so on. Having as many gear customization features as possible is very important to RPers so people can get into character easily.
Finally, there has to be ways for RPers to communicate and find each others. This is usually done with custom chat channels but more could often be done on that front. In WoW, many role players use a mod called MyRP, but this could be integrated in the game itself. Fields for things like biography, history, home town, role play type and so on can be placed in a character sheet.
This is just a quick chart I made comparing food costs of things I eat. The figures are for one portion of each.
Today, Adobe announced that it no longer would be offering its software for sale. Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere and so on will now only be available as part of its Creative Cloud subscription model, a service where you have to pay every single month to access your own software.
It's no surprise that this was the end goal for Adobe, as it is for most software companies, but it happened much faster than I thought it would. The cloud subscription system has been in place for a few years, but now this becomes the only option for people who need to use Adobe products, which includes a large amount of people. Of course, Adobe isn't alone. Microsoft Office 2013 is now being offered as both a purchased product and a subscription service. There should be no doubt that the end goal once again is to get rid of the purchase option, and that at some point Microsoft will do the same thing, which will only push other companies to follow suite.
''The latest SimCity is a prime example of what can happen in cloud services''Subscription services used to be for software that had a heavy need for server infrastructure. Things like MMO games or payment software, both requiring servers to maintain a large part of the ecosystem, along with regular updates. But I personally find this trend to apply subscription models to everything highly troubling. The latest SimCity is a prime example of what can happen in cloud services. This is a game that has traditionally always been single player, yet now they forced it into a cloud system and players have encountered a myriad of problems.
The gain for these companies is pretty easy to see. Adobe products are expensive, and people quite often do not buy a new version of Photoshop every single year. But if the only option is to keep paying, then they in effect end up forcing you to upgrade every year, whether you want to or not. Microsoft Office is an even more ridiculous proposition. There are very few cases where someone would require the latest version of Microsoft Word. In fact, Office 2010 does 99% of what everyone needs a word processor for.
In just a few years, we'll find ourselves in a world where few software can be bought. Everything will be in the cloud, and everything will require you to pay on an on-going basis to have access to your software. Just think about all your library of software programs, everything you ever bought and still keep around just in case you need them. Now think if all of those required you to pay a few bucks every month, the nightmare that would be. Do you keep paying, or forgo your option to use something you paid for? There are even rumors that the Windows Desktop could become a subscription service.
If there was ever a case for open source, free software, and independent alternatives, this is it. I have no intention to ever pay a monthly fee for desktop software, but as time moves on, the available options may be reduced by a lot.
Today was the start of Neverwinter, the new F2P MMO in the Dungeons & Dragons world. I played Neverwinter Nights several years ago so I was eager to try it out. After about four hours of gameplay, I would say my overall impression is meh.
Neverwinter is an ambitious project by Perfect World, a company who made several other games like Star Trek Online and Torchlight. The game itself is a pretty well rounded fantasy title, with all of the basic stuff you would expect from a modern MMO, as well as some extra things like the Foundry, a way for people to help create quests and missions for others in the D&D universe. One nice point is that all of the main quest dialogs are voiced, which I think is needed for any modern MMO. They also have a path feature that can show you the way to any quest way-point, again a very useful thing.
On the graphics side, the character creation is very nice and has a lot of options, but while the characters look decent there, in game everything looks a bit washed out. From a distance, most characters look exactly the same. While that may change at end game, the clothing and armor diversity is pretty slim too. There's also only a handful of classes available, and when in game, you only have a very small number of skills that you can use. I know this was a deliberate choice, but only having 4 or 5 hotkeys make this seem more like an action game than an MMO.
The game is heavily instanced, like most modern MMOs, but Neverwinter does not feel like an open world. In WoW, even though you have a lot of instancing and phasing going on, you always feel like there is an open world, and you can walk or fly from one place to the next. In this game, every area is cornered off, similar to how Guild Wars does things, and sometimes the zoning process doesn't even make sense. For example, one part of town is in day time, then you cross a gate, and it's completely dark.
''another generic fantasy MMO''As for the launch itself, things looked like they were going fine at first, but they quickly had launcher problems, then massive lag when it came close to peak hours. For a company that already saw the launch of many MMOs, it's puzzling why they had such issues.
I would say my biggest complaint of Neverwinter is that for now, it seems very much like another generic fantasy MMO. In those four hours I haven't really found any hook that would keep me playing. With WoW and SWTOR right now, both of which are quite unique for very different reasons, I just don't see myself being inclined in playing Neverwinter much more. That may change in the future, but for now it may end up being a pass.
As I've talked about before, I relied on Google Reader for my RSS feeds, something I would consult every day. I both want and need to stay up to date on various news items, and always found Twitter or other social media to be very poor at being a news source. You never see the full feed, and typically miss a lot of items every day as the latest posts scroll by whether you're watching or not, which is a bad way to get the latest news. So I started to try and find a workable alternative to the soon to be gone Google Reader.
My requirements were that it needed an iPhone and iPad app, not rely on Google Reader, and be both visually appealing and customizable. It's amazing how many iOS RSS apps are actually simply clients of Reader. Feeddler is the app I used, but it relies entirely on Reader and there is no sign whether they will modify the app or not. Feedly on the other hand came out and said that they would build their own server side platform, replacing what Google was providing with Reader. This is good, and this app in particular is very popular, but after trying it for a few days I didn't like it. I found that the news items it would surface were inconsistent, and the interface, while visually appealing, was not that great. You only see a few items at a time and you constantly need to swipe around to see more.
Flipboard is one I tried early on. It certainly is the most beautiful app out there for news consumption, and has a lot of sources available, but I found it to not be customizable enough. While it does have many well known news sources, if what you want is not in the list, there is no real way to import it. This turned out to be a deal breaker for me. Finally, I tried out Pulse. This turned out to be the perfect choice for me. It has its own list of news sources like Flipboard, but allows you to bring in RSS feeds found in Google, Facebook pages, and many other types of sources. It shows up the news items in a nice but highly compact way so you can see a lot on a single screen, and the articles themselves are shown in a well formatted way, similar to Readability. The sharing function is also nice, it has a built in URL shortener for when you want to share stories on Twitter. Unfortunately it does not have a web interface, but the iPhone and iPad versions are very well done.
In the end I decided to go with Pulse. If you're also trying to find a Google Reader replacement, I believe that out of all the alternatives, Pulse may be the best one.
One of the criticism of Bitcoin is its wild volatility and swings, like the one we've seen this month. It's a valid criticism, since it can be really hard for a legitimate business to sell products or services in a currency that's worth $100 in the morning, and $235 in the afternoon. There are also those saying that Bitcoin is not stable enough, that a DDoS on one of the largest exchanges, or a group of players messing with the market, can create artificial fluctuations which would not be possible in our modern financial markets.
Those are all valid concerns, but I'm always surprised when people think about our fiat currencies, stocks, bonds and so on as safe and stable. The truth is that anything that has a value which can fluctuate is, by its very definition, susceptible to quick changes based on external factors. This has been plainly visible in many EU countries in the past couple of years. The fact that the Euro exists helps stabilize the value of that currency by a lot, otherwise Cyprus money would have become worthless in recent weeks.
But it doesn't take massive government-level actions for volatility to occur. Just today a single Twitter account, that of the AP, was hacked which led to a massive drop in the value of the Dow:
MarketWatch noted today that Bitcoin is on the way back up, now at $130 from its earlier crash, yet no one seems to be talking about it. When the virtual currency was on the way up, Twitter was abuzz with action, but ever since it came crashing down it's like many analysts came to the conclusion that it was game over.
I won't make predictions as to where the Bitcoin value will eventually end up at, but I think it's foolish to think what we saw this month is a condemnation of the currency. In fact for something that is barely a few years old, it's holding up pretty well.
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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