All posts by Douglas

The Past, Present and Future of the DotA Genre

With the upcoming release of the much anticipated Dota 2, the future of the DotA scene is all but uncertain. Will games like Heroes of Newerth (HoN) and League of Legends (LoL) survive the competition put forward by Dota 2? What do the games’ recent DreamHack tournaments mean for the future of the games themselves?

The past

Before we start looking at how the DotA genre looks today and how it will evolve in the future, it is a good idea to introduce it and look at its history. The genre was born when Defence of the Ancients (DotA), a custom map for the action real-time strategy game Warcraft III, was conceived back in 2003. The map became hugely popular as it combined role-playing with real-time strategy and is considered one of the world’s most popular game modifications ever made. It is still maintained as of July this year but has today lost a lot of its player-base to sequels such as Heroes of Newerth (HoN) and League of Legends (LoL).
In 2009, LoL was released to the public as a free-to-play DotA-style game, drawing from DotA’s good aspects but with several gameplay and back-end improvements enabling features not available in the Warcraft III engine. These and other benefits secured a large and growing player-base all the way from the game’s early beta-versions to the released version of today. A year later HoN was released to the public with much the same concept of keeping the DotA-feel but enabling a host of core improvements. There were, however, a few notable differences between the two: firstly, HoN decided early on to adopt a pay-to-play approach — secondly, HoN profiled itself as a pure DotA sequel with a much truer resemblance to the original DotA than LoL. Despite gaining a lot of popularity during its free-to-play beta-phase, HoN suffered from major losses in player-base when going pay-to-play and thus recently became free to play again; this, however, still means LoL currently has about 20 times as many simultaneous players as HoN.

The present

Anytime soon, the two competitors will be joined by Dota 2, a game many claim will bring the truest DotA-like experience to the genre. It is being developed by Valve Corporation, a multi-million company behind the massively popular Steam platform, in conjunction with the current developer of the original DotA map himself, IceFrog. Valve’s enormous resources and experience with game design coupled with its partnership with DotA’s lead developer are two of the reasons behind the massive anticipation for the game and what it will bring to the genre. In fact, many within the HoN and LoL communities have stated they will move to Dota 2 once it is released — a move which, if done by enough people, could be a devastating blow to the two games’ fan- and player-bases.

The DreamHack

This year’s DreamHack Winter was without doubt a major success for HoN in terms of publicity and popularity. Compared to Dota 2 (LoL was not present at all), HoN hosted a larger tournament, gathered bigger crowds and was substantially more visible at the festival fair ground and it was clear that the developers behind the game, S2 Games, had invested enormous amounts of money into the event. In fact, HoN nearly completely overshadowed Dota 2 in all aspects.
Dota 2 should, however, not be dismissed. It has already hosted one large tournament, The International, with a jaw-dropping $1.6 million in total prize money for the 16 competing teams. This is definitely only one of many more such tournaments to come and shows that the importance of Valve’s financial support behind this game cannot be stressed enough: Dota 2 will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with at upcoming DreamHacks.

The future

It is impossible at this point to estimate the precise impact of Dota 2 on the genre, but there are ┬ácertain scenarios that can be predicted already. HoN, claiming to be the truest successor of DotA, will without question see a sharper decline in number of players than what LoL will see. Part of HoN’s player-base today comes from its competitive aspects and the numerous tournaments held around the world — with Valve monetarily backing Dota 2, it will be able to hold a much larger number of tournaments with substantially larger prizes. This will, naturally, push a lot of professional teams to move to Dota 2. Also, a large part of HoN’s player-base are former DotA players who will be highly likely to move to a game they see as a truer successor than HoN.
LoL is currently in a wholly different position: having, since its birth, moved towards a free, less complex, less competitive and more “fun” version of DotA it can no longer be considered a true competitor to HoN, let alone Dota 2. LoL’s player-base appreciate the aforementioned aspects of the game and are not likely to move to a game looking more like DotA; additionally, not nearly as many LoL as HoN players have even tried DotA meaning they are even less inclined to try Dota 2. The latter’s entry into the genre is overall not likely to cause troubling losses for Riot Games, LoL’s developer.

Conclusion

The DotA genre, having been until about 2010 dominated by Defence of the Ancients is now the stage for a fierce battle for players between mainly Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. Soon enough, the highly anticipated Dota 2 will be released and impact the two competitors’ player-bases: HoN, already a rather small game, will be hit the hardest as its profile and target audience is very near that of Dota 2’s; LoL, on the other hand, boasting a very large player-base and having moved towards a less complex and competitive game play will not suffer from any large-scale migrations to Dota 2 as it simply does not fully compete in the same genre anymore.
HoN has already taken steps towards becoming a more widely appealing game by adopting the free-to-play approach and as Dota 2 is released and starts attracting players, HoN is faced with two main choices: either continue that process or make use of the publicity gained at DreamHack to profile itself even stronger as a competitive game in hopes of attracting sponsors, teams and players for its tournaments. It goes without saying that S2 Games must do something drastic to not risk losing its players and being eliminated from the DotA scene — it is a match they cannot afford to lose.

New Design and Backend

As of this weekend, this blog now sports a brand new design as well as the WordPress software! After a week of careful planning and researching themes and plug-ins, I decided to make the switch from my good old ExpressionEngine suite to the popular WordPress blogging platform.

As I’ve already used WordPress for another blog of mine, Thy Old XBOX, I am very familiar with the workings of WordPress. Although ExpressionEngine has suited me very well for the five years or so I have used it, WordPress is still a much better platform for blogging. For anything not blogging-related, I firmly believe ExpressionEngine is the better choice. I’ve written another post on this earlier when I compared the two suites.

The process of converting from ExpressionEngine to WordPress was one which I might detail sometime in the future, one which was not as straight-forward as I had hoped.

For you users, there now comes a month or two of adapting to the new theme (which, by the way, is not my own work, sadly) and to have patience while I fix up the “About me” and “Contact” pages, as well as other things I have planned for the near future. Bear with me, for I believe this change is for the better!

What is a Kext?

A common misconception seen on a lot of places is that a .kext file is some sort of driver for the Mac OS. That is not entirely true – the kext resembles a driver but does a lot more than just act as a driver!

Definition

kext stands for Kernel Extension and is an extension used by special files in the Mac operating system (OS). These files are often pretty small and act as an interface between the core of the OS and hardware (such as WiFi-cards, Bluetooth-cards, trackpads, graphic cards), filesystems and other items central to the OS’s operation. They can be written and compiled in different programs, but many people use XCode because of the compability and ease of compiling. When working with osx86-installations or hackintosh-related systems, one often needs to write modified kext’s to enable the OS to recognize certain hardware – without them a “hacked” Mac OS would not be possible.

Where are the kext’s located?

In the Mac operating system, most, if not all, kext’s are located in the same place – the /System/Library/Extensions folder. At boot, all the kext’s needed are cached into a file called Extensions.mkext prior to being loaded. To clear the extension cache after installing a new kext, simply delete this file and it will be re-created (resulting in a slightly slower boot speed). If you’re looking to start coding your own extension, you might want to check out Apple’s Dev Center’s kext section – it includes examples and tutorials to get you started.

How do I install a kext?

The simplest and most straight-forward method of installing and applying a kext is to use the Kext Helper application. Simply install it, run it, choose the kext you wish to apply and enter your password – it will do the job for you, backing up any kext’s you overwrite and even optionally showing you what it’s doing. Upon completion, restart your computer and your new kext will be applied!
If you’re looking for a more advanced way of applying a kext, you can follow the following steps:

#1
Rename the kext you will be updating – doing this will ensure you have a backup of your old kext in case any problems arise.
cd /System/Library/Extensions
mv KextName.kext KextName.old

#2
Copy the kext to the main kext-folder.
cd /path/to/new/kext (put your downloaded kext path here)
cp -R KextName.kext /System/Library/Extensions

#3
Next, you must alter the permissions of the file in order to allow the system to execute it (make it an executable).
cd /System/Library/Extensions
chmod -R 755 KextName.kext
chown -R 0:0 KextName.kext (this will set the ownership on the file to you)
rm /System/Library/Extensions.mkext (removing the kext cache in order to update the kexts)

Hope this cleared up some of the questions that often arise! Good luck with your modding!

Sources
http://forums.macnn.com/79/developer-center/81624/what-is-a-kext-file/
http://www.ihackintosh.com/2009/02/what-is-kextwhere-is-kext-how-to-install-kext/

Handing out 20 Free Google Wave Invites

Google Wave free invites
I’ve been lucky enough to receive 20 Google Wave invites a couple of days ago. If you haven’t heard, Google Wave is Google’s new fresh way of sending emails. It has the potential of revolutionizing the way we use emails – it’s actually really interesting. I will be using it a lot during the coming days and if I have the time, I will post a review of it here.

Google’s invitation system works like this – I nominate people for invites and after an unspecified amount of time they will get their invite sent from Google. Thus, you will not receive your invite immediately – I’m sorry about this but there is nothing I can do!

As I mentioned, I am handing out the 20 invites I have in stock. All you need to do to get an invite is to leave a comment in the post, which you can do below. Include a valid email address and I will nominate it – provided there haven’t been 20 people commenting before you!

Good luck, this is a first come first served situation!

Considering Switching – ExpressionEngine versus WordPress

In one of my new projects, Thy Old XBOX, I have used WordPress and had a chance to look at its numerous blogging-friendly features. That, and EllisLab’s rather horrid way of handling ExpressionEngine 2.0’s release and the fuss around it, has got me thinking. I am in all honestly wondering whether WordPress would suit me better than ExpressionEngine does. However, I still strongly believe ExpressionEngine is the way to go, and I still love it and everything about it. So what has suddenly arisen my thoughts about WordPress? I’ll try to outline a few points.

Advantages with WordPress

  • Blogger-friendliness – feature-wise, WordPress beats ExpressionEngine when it comes to catering bloggers. The ease of instaling plug-ins, the ability to save drafts, the simple way to add tags and categories, the robust way to incorporate images into posts – all this makes WordPress stand out.
  • Style and styling – face it – WordPress is very sleek. Everything about it is very Web2.0, shiny, simple and stylish. That alone, and the broad range of themes available to further make it sleeker puts WordPress ahead of many platforms; especially ExpressionEngine as it has very few downloadable themes.
  • Price and license – WordPress is free and open-source. ExpressionEngine is also free if a personal license is used, but it’s not open-source. Open-source not only usually produce great software, but it also conveys a message of trustworthiness to the users – increasing WordPress’s popularity.
  • Add-on functionality – this is a big one. WordPress is more popular and wide-spread than ExpressionEngine and this shows; plug-ins, scripts, tutorials, articles and other material related to WordPress is much easier to find and is so vast that as a regular blogger one will never face a problem without a solution or lack of functionality.

There is still a lot of things holding me back, though. ExpressionEngine is a wonderful engine for people who build and maintain websites for many reasons – here are a few.

Advantages with ExpressionEngine

  • The Template-way of building a site – the way ExpressionEngine handles templates is absolutely wonderful. It is incredibly straight-forward and requires no tutoring before-hand – the basics structure and function is so easy and logic to understand that even a novice, regular blogger might be attracted!
  • Control – what I mean by this is the extensive control ExpressionEngine gives you when building a site. You know exactly what you display and how much resources this takes – and as you’re the one writing the code that displays you know exactly what you’re looking at. WordPress, being very simple and easy-to-use, gives you a complete and ready-to-use template and you’re never really sure how many database requests are made, how much resources are allocated and what scripts are loaded – and if you’re in need of control you’ll have to go through every bit of code by yourself. Now this doesn’t apply to most regular bloggers, which are those WordPress caters to, but it is nonetheless an issue that ExpressionEngine overcomes.
  • Userbase – as ExpressionEngine is used by numerous professional website-agencies and consultants, its community forums is frequented by people who know what they’re talking about – people who give the right advice at the right time. Not only with coding issues but with general questions concerning websites and everything around it. WordPress has an amazing userbase too, and of course numerous web agencies use their engine too – but you’ll never get the closeness and the same warm helping hand as you get with ExpressionEngine.

That covers only three advantages, yes, but they are three major advantages and do actually outweigh WordPress’s. I love the way ExpressionEngine works and it just plain suits me, that’s why I will stick with it in the future too. Here’s a little comment I wrote on Joshua Wood’s site Distance to Here.

I’m considering switching to WordPress too, mainly because (as you mentioned) the blogging features outrun ExpressionEngine completely. I love ExpressionEngine too, I love everything about it – the templates system and overall the simplicity and the closeness to how one would develop a site completely in PHP…
Is WordPress easy to skin? Is the template engine as straight-forward as ExpressionEngine’s?

Oh and I read you were talking about EE2.0 and its release coming up soon. With all due respect, EE2.0 has had a scheduled release the past 1.5 years (although it seems to have a final release-date set now, actually), and I think a lot of people (including me) have waited way too long for it and are getting tired.

Hopefully EE2.0 brings some blogger-friendly features along – otherwise I doubt EE can keep attracting customers other than purely developers and/or consultants. What are your ideas?

Review of SIGMA 70-300mm 4.0-5.6

When I decided to purchase a new lens a couple of months ago, I wanted a lens with zoom. It was one of those features I lacked on my D40 kitlens (which is only 18-55mm). I wanted to try new techniques within photography, and I wanted a tele-zoom lens at a cheap price. I was out of luck until I, by chance, stumbled upon a SIGMA 70-300mm lens on a trip to Japan.

Appearance, feel and weight

The outer parts of the lens are coated in a black, rubber-ish material with a special feel to it. It has a definite touch of quality and style, and besides being rather good to look at, it comes very much in handy when zooming or focusing (as it provides good grip). The filter-size of 58mm means many lenshoods and filters will fit – many of them making the lens look very professional when viewed at a distance. Weighing around 550g it’s neither clumsy nor difficult to handle, and it feels very good when resting in one’s hand.

Features and quality of image

As I lack different lenses to test, I can’t really comment on the quality of it. All I can say is that I am happy with the quality – it’s enough for my needs. At maximum zoom a tripod is mandatory as the lowest aperture one can shoot at it 5.6. Also, due to its lack of Vibration Reduction (VR) (Nikon’s stabilizing engine), hand-shot images can sometimes be slightly blurry if taken in low lighting-conditions. It has a built-in auto-focus engine that does its job – however if you let it work too much it will consume a lot of battery!
The reason the lens is called a macro-lens is because of its ability to focus at objects at a mere 1.5 meters distance! If you select the special “macro-mode” this distance is even lower – 95cm! This means one can come very close to subjects and still get a crisp, clear image – very handy to say the least.

Conclusion

The SIGMA 70-300mm lens is a great lens for amateur photographers looking for some serious zoom. Shooting at 300mm is fun and interesting – this lens will unlock the door to a whole new world of detailed photography. Examples of areas of use are during sports-events, wildlife photography and portrait photography. Considering its very low price, a minimum of around $200, it is an excellent addition to your collection of lenses if you’re lacking tele-zoom abilities.

  • Pros
    • Price
    • Quality and feel
    • Appearance
    • Zoom capabilities
  • Cons
    • Lack of Vibration Reduction (VR)
    • Small aperture
    • Badly optimized auto-focus engine

I’m Using Woopra!

Real-time analytics. Just to hear that word got me thinking a lot. What if I could, in real-time, track all my visitors and see what pages they went to and where they ended up. What paths they took to reach certain areas, what links they clicked, how long they read my articles. What if there was something that could do this for me in such an easy, fast and manageable way. This “something” was Woopra.

The first thing you see is a list of the sites you’ve added – in this case the only one is my blog, douglasstridsberg.com. Next to the site is a small box showing pageviews and visits in a neat little graph. After clicking on my site, I am taken to a sort of dashboard where I can watch all the latest statistics rolling in. I see a map, some graphs and a side-bar menu along with a lot of little information about referrers, keywords, searches and other things. Everything is neatly arranged in neat colors and in an overall very friendly user-interface.
image
I am pleased with Woopra. As the screenshot shows, I’ve only just begun using it – and it will perhaps take a while before it truly shows its beauty. Apparent they are closing their beta sign-ups – so you’ll have to wait before getting one!

Early Review of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X5

UPDATE: It seems the phone has finally been released, under the name of Sony Ericsson Pureness. Looks cool!

The display

The first thing about the new Sony Ericsson XPERIA X5 (just X5 in short) you will notice is the display. Not only does it sport the usual you’d expect from Sony Ericsson – high resolution and crisp, clear pixels – but the display itself is transparent! It’s like looking through a piece of tinted glass, except for the fact that the piece of glass can display text, images, videos and even games! The only major downside to it is the lack of colors, although I personally am not missing it too much.
image

The outside

The rest of the phone consists of a glossy black keypad, all in one piece except for the lines dividing the numbers and the Call, the center and the Cancel buttons. When lit up, the three mentioned buttons glow with a green, white and red light respectively. The + and – volume buttons are placed one on each side, in line with the three main buttons. On the sides there is also the power input and the SIM-card slot. On the back side of the phone the back side of the display is visible (which you of course can see through) and the small power button.

Built-in battery

What’s interesting about the XPERIA X5, apart from the display, is the way it handles battery and storage. The X5 features a built-in media-storage module of up to 2GB’s – enough to fit more than 500 standard-sized MP3’s – and a built-in regular storage of around 100MB’s. It also has, in contrast to most other phones, a built-in battery. I suspect the reason Sony Ericsson chose to build the battery inside of the phone was to avoid the extra cost and vulnerability of a battery cover.

Light-weight

Although the X5 lacks a camera, it’s a great mobile phone. The design of the outside, not to forget the design of the menus inside the phone (!) gives a very luxurious impression and modern impression. Most, if not all, standard features are there (such as Bluetooth, radio, synchronization, music player and fast 3G internet). Thanks to its design, the X5 is very light weight and small, it can be used by a lot of different people with different lifestyles.

Conclusion

I love this phone. Sure, the lack of colors can be annoying at times and it sure would be fun to have a built-in GPS and WiFi internet. But for anyone, ranging from businessmen to simply every-day users, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X5 is a great phone. Just wait until it reaches the markets, I guess!

New XBOX Blog Launched

A couple of weeks ago I decided to start publishing XBOX-related articles on a new blog I created. For this purpose, I uploaded an installation of WordPress and started writing.

The XBOX is Microsoft’s old gaming console – it was good at the time and it still is. My goal is to educate people about everything there is to know in and around the XBOX. I’ve written content about connecting the XBOX to a TV, changing the harddrive in the XBOX and a lot more!

For this purpose, I’ve started Thy Old XBOX. Please, visit the site and read some of the articles and do comment on the content if you wish!

How To Remove Spotify Ads Without Premium

This guide, in its entirety, is taken from SmexDesign. Credits goes to him for finding this!

#1

Open Spotify and log in with your credentials. Click Edit in the top-hand menu and then press Preferences….

#2

Set the Proxy to HTTPS and enter these details as your host and port:
Host: 213.203.241.210
Port: 80

Make sure your settings look like mine:
spotify proxy settings https

Now, play your favorite music without ads interrupting! Comment back if this works for you!

Other notes

A reader by the name Christoffer had an idea about how this fix works. Here’s what he said:

But I’m pretty sure that I understand why it did work before. They seem to have targeted the ads to the countries in which it was possible to register for spotify only, so if you used a proxy from a country with no ads, you wouldn’t get any at all.

Sounds like a reasonable explanation, does it not?