Battletech Live

Online, Turn-Based Battletech – Development Logs

I Hate Microsoft

I have two computers at home.  Or, at least I did.  One of the machines is an older Athlon 64, 2.2GHz with 2GB of ram.  For most things, the machine could handle it’s own, and the 8800GT gave it a pretty healthy boost.  For select applications, the computer runs Windows XP but for most things, Ubuntu 9.04.  A couple weeks ago, I began having problems with BSOD’s, system halted messages within a few minutes of logging into windows.  I continued to have no issues at all in Ubuntu, so I concluded that it must be a Windows issue, probably a driver of some sort.  I went through the process of removing all hardware drivers from the system and all unnecessary applications from Add/Remove Programs and reinstalled the drivers.  Hello to Windows Genuine Advantage and the activation process.  The system worked fine for a few days, then suddenly, the mouse started misbehaving.  Even before logging into the system, when moved, the mouse would jump from place to place on screen.  This happened even if using a Diagnostic Startup, which theoretically should disable just about everything.  Worked fine in Safe Mode.  The problem seemed to only affect the mouse.  If I got to a point where I could type and see responses, it was still quick, but the mouse was horrible.  I looked at running services and looked up the ones I didn’t recognize, but in the end, didn’t find anything unusual.  At this point, I decided just to kill it.  I used Ubuntu to copy off all of my data and put the videocard in my other computer.

My second system was originally put together as an HTPC, but was found to be kind of a hassle, so it was brought back into my room as a secondary XP “clean” box.  It is an XFX 630i/7150 with a Pentium D 930 and 4GB of DDR2-800.  I took all of the extra hard drives out, leaving just the boot volume and the DVD.  For every day use, I found the hard drive to be way too chattery and sluggish.  I decided to switch out the drive with either two or three 500GB Western Digital drives.  These drives make a slight hum, but they never chatter like the Seagate 160 does.  On Wednesday, I swapped out the Pentium D for a Core2Quad Q9400.  The processor runs on a 1333MHz bus and has 4MB of L3 but because the memory is limited by 800MHz and only single channel, and the hard drive taking so long to come up into Windows, I haven’t noticed a big difference.

Switching out the drive:  The motherboard has four SATA-II ports and I have the Seagate 160GB drive and a Lite-on SATA burner.  I plan to put in either two or possibly three drives to replace the Seagate.  Obviously, 5 items cannot plug into four ports, so I begin to think about how it can be done.  I put two drives in and enabled RAID in the bios.  The SATA ports are labeled as 1-4 on the logic board with 1 in the upper-left, 2 in the lower-left, 3 in the upper-right and 4 in the lower-right.  I had my Seagate plugged into 1, and the DVD plugged into 2 with the two Western Digital drives plugged into 3 and 4.  When RAID is turned off, the Phoenix bios detects all four devices.  If RAID is turned on, you must also select which controllers will be used for RAID.  Since I plan for the Western Digital drives to be the boot drives, I shut everything down, and plugged them into 1 and 2, with the Seagate in 3 and the DVD in 4.  In the BIOS, 1 and 2 are designated for RAID with 3 and 4 as disabled (as far as RAID is concerned).  When the system completes POST, it shows a hard drive on 2 and the DVD drive on 4.  That’s the first oddity.  Even though they’re labeled one way on the board itself, the system detects them as different numbers.  Using the Mediashield BIOS, I set up the striped array, which detected the drives as being in positions 1 and 3, which also matches what the Phoenix BIOS reads, so the labeling on the logic board is wrong.  In any case, hardware is working up to this point, so I don’t care.

The fun part:  I boot to the XP CD and as it’s loading drivers, I specifically see it loading NVIDIA RAID and another NVIDIA driver that went by too quickly to read.  After it finishes loading drivers, I see the message Starting Windows Setup, then a Blue Screen Of Death as the system halts.  I took the XP disk out and tried booting to the Seagate 160GB drive and got the same system halted error.  I went back into the BIOS and set the SATA mode back to IDE and booted into windows just fine.  So I started looking around and found that I’m not the first person to experience this issue.  XFX doesn’t really have much of anything for troubleshooting on their website.  They list PDF articles about how the process should work, but they don’t address what to do when things go bad.  Since it’s an nForce motherboard, I started looking around on NVIDIA’s website and forums.  In regards to Mediashield, they state that when in IDE mode, Windows has the drivers necessary to recognize the drives and complete the installation, but when setting it to RAID mode, even if the drive in use is not included within the RAID, it requires external drivers to get it to work.  And they gave directions.  The problem is that I don’t have a floppy drive or disks.  In times past, I’ve made bootable thumb drives to perform bios updates and such, so I tried the same thing here.  I borrowed a USB floppy drive and copied the raid drivers to the disk.  I adjusted settings in the bios to get the system to recognize and even seek the USB floppy drive on boot, but XP claims I don’t have a floppy drive, so won’t read from it.  I tried the same thing with a thumb drive, getting the same results.  Next, I dug up an old 34-pin floppy drive and tried it that way.  It recognized that the drive was there, found the drivers and installed them and continued on to “Starting Windows Setup”.  I get to the screen where it says to press Enter to set up windows or R to repair.  But even though it was working just fine when I had to press F6 to load drivers, select the drivers and install them, the Windows installer is now not recognizing input from my USB keyboard.  And, the keyboard had been working just fine earlier when the BIOS was in IDE mode, detecting, partitioning and formatting a single drive.

While I realize that the issues I’m experiencing are most likely caused by a combination of factors, I still choose to hate Microsoft, just because it’s the right thing to do.  Someone asked me, why do this now.  Why not wait for Windows 7?  Windows 7 officially releases on October 22nd, which doesn’t help me today.    At the same time, I have XP now, which using today as point zero, costs me nothing.  And I’m not going to spend $120 – $320 for one of several versions of Windows 7 and do Microsoft’s beta testing for them.  If and when I go to Windows 7, it will be six months to a year down the line when other people have found the bugs.  For now, I’ll take my $120 – $320 and put it toward a motherboard and memory that can use the Q9400 to it’s full potential.

(I’m going to format the pair of drives, then use EASEUS Disk Copy to do a bit-level copy of my existing, working version of XP from the 160GB drive to the RAID array, maybe putting the 160 in an external enclosure so that I can run three drives in a RAID-5.)

September 25, 2009 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Battletech Live turns one year old.

It’s hard to believe that Battletech Live has actually been around for a year.  It has changed a lot in that time, with many components closer to completion, while some still remain in the planning stage.  Here are some pictures of what Battletech Live looked like in the beginning:

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July 18, 2009 Posted by | General, Project Development | Leave a comment

Battletech Live and Google Wave

I spotted a news article that talked about Google’s new take on email, a project called Google Wave.  The idea is to extend email and instant messaging in new ways.  They say, it’s what email would be if it were invented today.  While I can’t say that Battletech Live is nearly as ambitious as Goggle Wave, I do find it interesting that I’m using a few of the same ideas.  My plan, first and foremost is for Battletech Live to be the game itself, but also be supported by a communications element.  That element is to be a combination email/IM with voice chat/forum/calendar system.  While Battletech Live is still in it’s infancy, I’m thinking of ways to take the four communications elements and make them more into a single fluid form.

Parts of Google Wave include features already found in gmail.  The upper left is occupied by a navigation panel that includes a number of standard items such as an inbox, trash can and custom folders, with a contact list directly below it.  These are both fluid panels, so items can come and go.  To the right, is a panel that looks like a gmail inbox with a few differences.  Included are pictures of the people who are included in the post.  I won’t go into all of the details of Wave, but you can read about it for yourself:  http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/28/google-wave-drips-with-ambition-can-it-fulfill-googles-grand-web-vision/

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June 2, 2009 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

More detailed information for Instant Messaging

Other than a screenshot, today’s update has little to do with Battletech.  Instead, I will rant about experiences with DirectTV.

On February 9th, my roommate and I got DirectTV setup, to be bundled into our Qwest phone and DSL service.  The installation guy showed up when he was supposed to and got everything set up the way it’s supposed to be.  We have the HD DVR in the living room and a standard-def receiver in the basement so we have something to watch when we’re reloading.  A few days later, we got the paper in the mail to detail the installation, listing the dish we alread had $0.00, the standard receiver $0.00, the HD DVR $199.00, the instant rebate $0.00, installation, delivery and taxes $0.00.  Total cost: $0.00

For a week, all was good.  Then last night, I get a phone call, a recording stating that they haven’t received payment yet and a reminder that we need to pay the bill within five days to avoid late fees.  wtf?  We go online to see what’s going on and find the front page lists us owing $84.27.  wtf?  When we look at “View All Orders”, we find a statement that reflects the paper will we received in the mail.  But, if we look at “Activity Since Last Bill”, it looks very different:

picture-4This morning, I started by calling Qwest to verify where our DirectTV bill is going to come from, them or DirectTV.  He stated that when everything gets finalized, the DirectTV part will be included as part of our Qwest bill.  The guy was very cool, explained everything from the Qwest end and asked me about work, being familiar with Cabelas.  At the end, he suggested I speak with DirectTV, just to make sure there isn’t any confusion on their end.  I gave DirectTV a call and got a recording.  When it asks to explain what I’m having problems with, it doesn’t understand “I want a human being” but it does know that “I have questions about my bill” means “I want a human being” and transfers me to a representative with an accent. So, I start describing the above, pointing out that I’m not having any problem with the DirectTV service, I just want to clarify the bill and make sure we’ve not been billed twice or for something that we don’t have.  The phone goes silent.  I wait a minute and say “I just want to make sure the bill is right.”  Silence…  The representative then asks, “Do you still have the error message on screen?”  I explain that I don’t really have an error message.  Service is fine, I’m calling from work and just need to figure out the billing records.  Silence…     She then asked “Have you tried unplugging the receiver and plugging it back in?”  Silence…    I didn’t know what to say at that so I just hung up.  We’ll give it a shot again tonight after work.

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February 17, 2009 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Battletech Live Q&A

  1. Any chance of being able to step back in the history of the game and have it visually show you the progression up to the current action?  Like it saves a 3d screenshot of the last actions performed so you can review it? Perhaps with trace lines and icons to show where it moved from in the previous turn, and what it did?
    1. Probably.  Since everything is server-based, I planned on recording all of the game data
      so that battles could be played back in realtime with animations.  I can also add a
      history bar for battles in progress so that players can step back through the rounds to
      see how things progressed.  Good idea.
  2. Is there any way to add a value to the mech itself that indicates  its height, and use some sort of subtractive method to determine  obscuration of the mech?  Say Atlass has a height of 3, and when  pathing the shot along the terrain, it sees 1 level of elevation  from a small building between the target and attacker, so it takes 3  from the mech height, minus 1 for the terrain, and figure the  modifiers based on the 2 left over?
    1. I seem to remember seeing a chart somewhere that talked about that kind of thing.  It might have been how to deal with things when the attacker and target are standing on different elevations.  It provided guidelines for determining the distance of the segment from attacker to obstruction, height of obstruction and distance from obstruction to target to determine if and by how much the obstruction truly obscures the view.  I’ll probably have to do something like that, based on the center of each hex.  Finding the height of each Mech isn’t difficult.  I can find it from Lightwave and record the number when it’s brought into the game.
  3. Is there presently a source of pewter Mechs now that Ral Partha has gone away?
    1. Yes.  Check out Iron Wind Metals Online.  At the time of this writing, they have 76 Aerotech models available, 33 aircraft, 393 BattleMechs plus numerous ProtoMechs, infantry, vehicles and boxed sets.  Individual BattleMech prices range from $7.75 up to $13.95.  Their models are very well done, and in some cases, include specific variants of models, which have never before been reproduced.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | General | Leave a comment