Soylent Project: Day One

Soylent Project: Day One

As pictured, this is the basic package of Soylent with the oil additive (containing your Omega-3 and Omega-6), scoop, and release notes/instruction manual.  According to the Soylent manual, you’re supposed to ramp up the number of meals you replace over the course of five days.  On the first day, you replace one meal, then you replace two, and finally you replace all three meals.  Each replacement accounts for one-third the total amount of vitamins you’re supposed to intake per day according to the recommended allowances as determined by the FDA. (more…)

The Soylent Project: An Introduction

The Soylent Project: An Introduction

I’d been reading about a new meal replacement system that attempts to replace the need for hunting and gathering by reducing the core components of what you need to survive into a powder form.  One of the writers at Ars Technica also wrote about his experiences with this product, named Soylent.  According to the advertising and the daily journal, all you needed to do was add water and some pre-packaged oil and you have a liquid meal ready-to-eat.  I went to their website back in July of 2014 and decided that I would try it for a week to see if I could stomach it (pun intended, sorry).

I visited their site to place an order and I didn’t realize how backed up their shipments were.  It looked like that for the $70 I paid out, I might not receive my first shipment until late September.  That’s no trouble, really.  After all, it wasn’t as though I were dying of hunger.  I just pushed off my plans until September.

And then September arrived and still no Soylent.  I received an email saying that they were tremendously backed up and that shipments were being sent out to current subscribers to their product.  New subscribers (myself) would get lower priority.  Made sense to me; after all, if you’re already on the plan, then you would need to have priority over people who aren’t.  This required me to have some more patience, though, as they projected another 10-12 weeks (4 months) before I would see my first bag of food-powder.

In between then, I flew to the United Kingdom on a work assignment and returned in late December to find my first shipment of Soylent waiting for me.

Therefore, I begin this project with this shipment and hope to report on what it is doing to me over time.  To properly introduce my vitals, I am rather obese (330 lbs) for my height (5 feet, 9 inches).  I’m not looking for this to be a silver bullet, but I am interested in simplifying a way to eat healthy in order to maximize the exercise program I’m going through.  For reference, I am switching off cardio and weight-lifting every other day with the following routine:

  • Day 1: 40 minutes cardio, 5 minutes cardio cool down.
  • Day 2: 20 minutes cardio, 20 minutes weight-lifting, 5 minutes cardio, 20 minutes weight-lifting, 5 minutes cardio cool down.

I will continue to post under this category and tags to track my progress.

Weekend of Frustration

Weekend of Frustration

 

Last Friday, I ordered a RAM upgrade for my gaming rig.  I built it about two years ago and thought I was styling at 8 gigs, but since I had opted to buy an upgrade for my wife’s Mac mini, I figured that I could use another 8 gigs to bring me to 16.  I ordered both of our upgrades off of Amazon, since I had a gift card that needed burning.  I expected it on Tuesday, but they delivered it on Saturday morning, to my surprise and elation.  I did what anyone would do; I installed the RAM, ran CMOS and saved the new memory configuration and then rebooted it.

When the machine came back up with a listing  of 16 gigs and launched into Windows, I was pretty confident that I wasn’t going to have any troubles.  Unfortunately, after about ten minutes of use and the launch of various programs that I start up every day, I was met with the following BSOD:

BSOD

Close, but this is from Windows XP. Also, mine specified different files.

It dumped out into the BSOD and then came to a halt, long enough for me to get down the specific STOP code, which I was partially familiar with.  I did what any good tech would do… I rebooted into safe mode and started working on it.  I ran the various checks and utilities, I reset the page file size to reflect the new RAM total (for the record, take your pagefile off of system-managed, and set it to 1.5 times your physical RAM).  And then I rebooted again into normal mode.  I got a different BSOD complaining about IRQ not being equal, which kind of raises the ol’ eyebrow.  At this point, I was getting a little concerned and feeling my frustration level rise.  What if Amazon shipped me out some bad hardware?

DIMMs Bad

3 of the 4 DIMMs failed a majority of the tests.

I downloaded Memtest86 at Josh‘s recommendation, and I find out that there’s a forked project called Memtest86+, which will now allow me to use a flash drive to install it and use it to boot up in.  I run it, go to sleep that night and wake up to the screen you see at the right.  Yeah, that’s a fuckton of errors, folks.  Covering addresses for three (that’s right, THREE) of the four DIMMs that Amazon shipped me.  They failed six of the ten total tests per pass, on three separate passes.  I was absolutely livid over this.  Because, it’s not like I went over to a brick-and-mortar and picked up bad hardware that I can drive and return to in order to get a replacement or a refund… I have to RMA this box of DIMMs back to Amazon and wait for them to receive it via UPS Ground, first.

Also, it was well after 2am on Sunday morning, so I was screwed until Fry’s opened up at 9am.  I took out the RAM, put in the original DIMMs, rebooted.. and Windows worked like a champ.  No errors or BSODs.  At least I had a working machine to play with until the sun came up over the horizon.  Which I did, because nothing alleviates frustration than tearing others a new asshole on Tribes for hours on end.

I was at Fry’s only two minutes after they unlocked the doors.  Now, under normal circumstances, flagging some poor working schleb over there is kind of a crap shoot during their prime hours.  They usually ignore me unless I stare someone down, or go to the desk and ask for assistance.  However, when you’re the first person in the store, it’s like you’re a celebrity.  I was walking through various departments to get to the computer component area and sales staff were all over me, asking me if I needed help.  I guess they were all looking for that first commission of the day or something.

So, I made it to the right area.  I was looking at the DIMM prices for the one I wanted, and within ten seconds, I had one on me asking me if I needed help.  The thing about Fry’s is, never ask these guys for advice.  Never.  If you go in knowing exactly what you want, take down the Fry’s PLU number and then say, “I want one of ######.”  They’ll go right to their computer, print out your little receipt so you can take it to the cage in customer service and buy it.  If you don’t know what you want, then call a friend on your cell, look it up on Wikipedia, Google for it, do anything except ask these chuckleheads for advice.  They don’t know shit about shit, other than making a sale.  They will smell your lack of confidence and jump on you like a starving man at a free all-you-can-eat buffet.  Anyway… I got the DIMMs and picked up a couple of cans of compressed air to I could clean out the case, then left the store to return home.

Don’t get me started on the bitterant, either.  That shit is nasty.

Old Ram

The old set of RAM, the original 8GB I had installed.

I replace the RAM again, go through the whole thing.  I clean out the case, which desperately needed it.  As soon as I bring up the computer, I get a BIOS checksum error.  I go into the CMOS, save the new memory configuration and reboot.  Same thing, checksum error.  It’s Award BIOS, I use my laptop to find out how to correct it, and it turns out that I never activated the backup recovery option when I installed it.  To make matters worse, I’m running Revision 3 and the site says they’re up to Revision 11.  Another RAM swap back to the original, I download the new Rev and apply it using the Windows flash utility.  I restart the machine, the computer gives me ten short beeps and it shuts down.  I restart it again and launch into CMOS, this time it seems to load fine.  Save the config, restart.. ten short beeps and it shut down on its own.

Fuck!

I try restarting it, and it comes up, but it freaks out over the configuration.  So I just reset the whole thing, delete it and flash it back to default.  I don’t bother to save any of the old configuration files.  It comes up again, this time with the full Gigabyte full-screen advertisement about the board.  I jump into CMOS and reset the boot order, all the normal stuff.  Get rid of the quick-load screen, I want to see POST, damn it!  Finally, I got it back in order, I shut it down after I confirm it can load into Win7 without difficulty.  I put back in the new RAM, just to be sure, and the same thing happens again.  BSOD in Windows.

New RAM

The package the new RAM arrived in.

Now, I’m thinking I have two bad sets of RAM and I’m about ready to drive back to Fry’s and replace it with a new set.  Something in the back of my head tells me to try it one more time.  I let it reboot, and I get three short beeps and then it shut downs.  I go down the hall to let my wife know that I might be heading out to buy a new motherboard when I hear the Windows 7 startup sound chime in.  While I was out of the room, it turned itself on and successfully started up.

I think it heard me.

It was running fine, now.  I logged in and started doing some stress-testing, using HeavyLoad and DXDiag.  HeavyLoad managed to get me to 75% RAM utilization and 100% CPU before I stopped it.  DXDiag ran the little floating box test and I had no problems, there.  I sat back in my chair, completely flabbergasted by the sudden development.  Then again, given my long history with Windows, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

First Look: Tribes Ascend

First Look: Tribes Ascend

I have had a long-running affair with the Tribes series since Dynamix and Sierra announced it as part of the Metaltech series back in the mid-90s.  I had gotten used to the Sierra Games’ sim, which was based on FASA’s Battletech games, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to like the switch to a first-person shooter.  After all, my experience with that kind of gameplay back then was limited to iD Software’s Doom, Quake, and of course, the original FPS that I played, Wolfenstein 3D.  Although I might not consider it a first-person shooter, I feel that Descent falls into the same category. The feeling of being in a mech in the original Earthsiege (1994) games was awesome.  I played them off and on, often times I would return for replay value.  Later on, after Tribes was released, they came out with the mech sim game, Starsiege, which featured the same universe/backdrop that the rest of the series does.

Loading screen for Starsiege Tribes

Ah, the good ol’ loading screen for Tribes.

My first entry in playing Tribes was when it first came out.  I played through the solo tutorials, but although you can shoot these dumb bots and get a feel for how the different armor classes work, and jet-packing all around the map.  The very basic aspects of the game are transferred, and then after that, you’re on your own.  The only way to really enjoy the game is to jump on a multi-player server and have fun.  And of course, fun is relative.  The fact is thatTribes is probably one of the most fast-paced FPS games out there, if not the fastest.

Dogfights are quick and utilize a wide array of weapons, from spinfusors (basically, glowing blue discs that impact with a nice-sized damage AoE), to plasma guns and cannons, mortars, mines, grenades, flares, and of course, my favorite… turrets!  The original Tribes came with only three sets of available armor: light, medium, and heavy.  What I always though was the best aspect of playing the game, was the mods… oh, the mods!

My clan (Clan Oni) was very much into two mod types: Rengades and Shifter 1.1/Shifter X.  I wish I had kept all the videos I shot during those days, so I could put then online.  Instead, I did a quick search on YouTube and found the following video that I think adequately shows the various classes from Renegades:

And here’s one from the Shifter mod:

Anyway, I wanted to give you a proper understanding of what Tribes is before I launch into my look at the latest incarnation.  Do we all have a better appreciation for the game, now?

Login screen for Tribes Ascend

The login screen for Tribes: Ascend.

For those of you who don’t want to waste any time, let me just say this: Tribes: Ascend is a worthy successor to the lineage.  After wasting my time with Tribes 2 and feeling better with Tribes: Vengeance, I feel like Ascend is what I had hoped would come next after playing the original for so many years.   It carries on the speed, and picks up some of the better aspects of Vengeance that I thought were great changes (skiing, for one).  Although they do add a lot of the mod changes into the base game, they’ve also integrated some of the ranking systems that we’ve come to expect from our FPS’, such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and even Halo 3.

Ascend is a Free-to-Play game that really means it.  While you have the option to pay for Gold in order to unlock more classes, weapons, and add-ons, you can also unlock the same items through gameplay.  I started out a free player before I went VIP, and I did pretty well for myself with the basic weapons and earning experience points.  Gold is the quickest way to get those unlocks, as the ratio of Gold to XP is kind of skewed.  But play enough, you can rack up about 150,000 XP and spend it to unlock a few weapons or classes.

The Thumper

Since I play with my Technician armor the most, I equip this weapon every time and I ended up mastering it fairly quickly. Click on it to see the various bonuses.

Once you’ve acquired the various tools of the game, as you use them, usage allows you to master them.  More exposure to them in the field will elevate the bonuses that you have with each one.  Armor experience unlocks more health, or faster regeneration.  Some of the toys you use, like the light turrets, will have a higher armor class and gain damage bonuses when firing at the enemy.  When I play my favorite, the Technician class, my turrets will allow me to gain a lot of kills as people try to jump into my generator room to take it out in order to shut down the base guns and the radar dish.  If they destroy my prized turrets, I’ll deploy them in a new spot just to keep things interesting.

As with the originalTribes, players recognize defensive and offensive patterns, so you have to vary it or else predictability is a killer.  Just ask the Heavy Armor that insists on taking the same route into your gen room, and is surprised when you set mines down along his skiing path.  Or the light armor that boosts toward your flag and then goes SPLAT against your sudden deployment of a forcefield on the other end.  Those things are like brick walls to them, and given their speed, well… they leave a nice little splotch against the field and then I get the points for flag recovery.

Defending the Generator Room on "Crossfire."

My Technician-class armor character setting up defenses in the Diamond Sword generator room on the “Crossfire” map.

Before, I mentioned how fast the game can be.  Ascend injects nitrous into the speed of gameplay, and seeing some of these guys float in and zoom by, you have to adapt and keep up as much as possible in order to successfully play and give as good as you get.  Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of time respawning, and that’s no fun for anyone.  The greatest thing about the game though, is that if you don’t think you can keep up with the speedsters, you can opt to defend the base or the flag through various means.  The game gives points for defense and repairs just as much as kills and captures.  And while everyone else on the game is more interested in taking flags and flying across the map, they’ll need someone to defend against the raiders who’ll baserape like crazy.

Skiing!

One of the best parts of playing is being able to ski!

And they will not hesitate to rack of generator and turret kills, people, trust me!  On certain maps, there are numbers of choke-points for entry, and if you know the maps well enough, you can set up your defenses in the proper areas.  Drop a turret in a spot they won’t see until it’s too late, but then get ready to have it destroyed the next time they come through.  Make sure to set down some motion sensors/detectors to combat those pesky stealth guys, because you won’t see them until it’s too late.  Or even at all… man, they’re sneaky bastards!

Dogfighting out in the field takes on a new dimension with the ability to ski.  Skiing is essentially letting your momentum carry you along the slopes/angles of the map.  If you fire your jetpack at the right time, when you land, should you do so on the downward slope of a hill or a mountain, you will pick up speed with you engage your ski thrusters.

All in all, though, I love this game.  It has mixed everything I loved about the original with spectacular graphics and excellent features.  I found this great video on YouTube that does a great job of portraying what I do on a nightly basis, now (courtesy of Gamespot):

If you’re interested in playing Tribes: Ascend, then feel free to use my referral link to download the game.  I appreciate it!  I’ll leave you with the full set of screenshots from my gameplay, below.