Warcraft, the Movie…

This past weekend I watched Warcraft… pretty disappointing. Poor acting, not much of a script and nothing too surprising or interesting.

I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but I did thoroughly enjoy Warcraft and Warcraft II, in the days when it was an RTS game not an RPG (I didn’t find Warcraft III as interesting as the first two). There were a few nostalgic references to those RTS games but that didn’t make the movie that much better.

Should have rented it before buying… oh well.

Retro Game Review – “Battle Chess” for NES

Game Title: Battle Chess
Game System: NES

Graphics: 7 / 10
Gameplay: 8 / 10
Replay Value: 8 / 10
Difficulty: For casual chess players, there is more than enough of a challenge here.

This chess game is solely responsible for my wanting a blue and red chess set, due to the colors of the two sides in the game. Sadly, such a chess set would be mostly for show, as I’m not terribly interested in chess – please keep in mind that I’m reviewing this game as a mildly interested beginner at chess.

The graphics offer 2D and 3D modes. The 2D mode has a quicker feel due to a lack of animations, and the chess pieces have a nice clean look. It’s the 3D look, however, that inspired my imagination playing this game as a kid. Every time a move is made the pieces slowly (and I do mean really slowly) walk to their new destination. If they take a piece as part of the move, a short 10-second animation is shown of them fighting one another.

These 3D fight scenes are cool, but the sluggish pace of moving pieces in the 3D setting can make you really, really want to switch to the 2D mode and its more responsive feel. There are a host of sounds that accompany the 3D mode and add some nice atmosphere generally lacking in chess games.

Due to my lack of chess skills I only play on the “novice” difficulty setting, and there are a number of levels beyond that. The NES’ humble processor performance is obvious when the computer will sometimes think for 5 or more seconds before making a move – but it’s generally not enough of a delay to become truly annoying. You can also play in a two-player mode instead of playing the computer.

Overall a fun chess game with more than enough difficulty for beginners and beyond.

Return to Raspberry Pi

A couple years ago I bought a Raspberry Pi – the B+ Model. Unlike Arduino, which I made a number of hobby projects with, I only really used the Pi as a normal Linux computer. Its specs are fairly modest with ½ GB of RAM and an ARMv6 processor – and this ARMv6 CPU really limited which Linux distros could be installed on the microSD card that functioned as storage for the system.

I ended up installing Pidora, a flavor of Fedora Linux using the Xfce desktop that runs on ARMv6 processors (Xfce is actually my favorite desktop, regardless of the system – followed by Gnome, then followed by Unity on Gnome).

After running some console commands and browsing some of the software that was installed, I ended up just playing a game of chess, which I lost… and then I disconnected the Raspberry Pi, perhaps for another good while.

Guitar Pedals – MXR Distortion +

One of the reasons I bought a Jackson electric guitar as my first guitar, many years ago, was because that’s what Randy Rhoads of Ozzy Osbourne played (though he played a variation on the Flying V body shape – cool but a little too extreme for me). The MXR Distortion + was just as key in the tone and nature of his sound.

This MXR pedal is not very high-distortion, like many modern distortion and overdrive pedals. But the tone is sweet and smooth, and remarkably articulate; it’s an optimal pedal for shredding, providing just enough bite to carry the gentle fuzzy base tone through the mix.

The pedal is a nice sunny yellow, with a stomp switch and two knobs: “Output” and “Distortion”. Generally, I keep the distortion knob ¾ up or higher, and the output from 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock. If you really crank up the output close to max it gets a bit fuzzier as the sound breaks up. I much prefer the definition provided by moderate output volume settings.

This is easily my favorite guitar pedal, and it’s built to last with MXR’s durable metal design.

Windows 10 & Old Games

I’m a fan of a number of old computer games that were released for older versions of Windows. Not too long ago I upgraded all three of my PCs to Windows 10: one from Windows 7 and two from Windows 8.1. Overall I like the new OS, with a few exceptions; most notably compatibility with some of my favorite old games.

On Windows 7 I had a game that no longer works (Street Fighter IV). That didn’t work on Windows 8 and it doesn’t work on Windows 10 – at least I have a copy for Xbox 360. But on upgrading to Windows 10 one of my favorite older games stopped working on all three of my PCs – the game was “MechWarrior 4: Vengeance” from the year 2000. And quite possibly my favorite PC game, “Total Annihilation: Kingdoms” from 1999, worked on only two of the three upgraded PCs.

Overall I like Windows 10 – but if you play older PC games, proceed with caution!

Retro Game Review – “Dr. Mario” for NES

Game Title: Dr. Mario
Game System: NES

Graphics: 8 / 10
Gameplay: 8 / 10
Replay Value: 9 / 10
Difficulty: Varies by level from simple to more or less impossible

Bright, colorful graphics, 8-bit looping soundtracks that never seem to get old, and addictive gameplay – Dr. Mario has all the elements of a great NES game.

Let’s start with the familiar comparison to Tetris that all similar puzzle games undergo: yes, rotatable items falling from the top of the screen must be matched up in certain ways to score points and proceed through the game. In the case of Dr Mario, the point is not to eliminate falling block shapes – rather, the falling “pills” are used to neutralize and remove viruses – colorful, squirming humanoid creatures. When any four pill halves and/or viruses of the same color are matched together, they’re eliminated and the player scores points. Even four pill halves can eliminate each other, without any viruses being affected.

Generally it’s easier to match four vertically, as the pills can always be stacked up vertically – but once in awhile a horizontal match occurs and adds some variety. When four are matched, any pill pieces that are no longer “anchored” on a stack of items fall down and settle on whatever is below them.

You lose the game if the falling pills reach the top of the “bottle”-shaped container that the gameplay takes place in, obstructing further pill pieces from falling into the playing field.

The first few levels are good for learning the rules and strategy of the game, but the midrange of the levels are the most fun. The most difficult parts of each level are the start and finish: the start because there isn’t much room from the top viruses to the top of the playing field, and the finish because lots of pill pieces can build up and accumulate on various corners, as well as the wrong color pills ending up on differently colored viruses.

While higher levels have more viruses, there is a certain advantage to having more viruses of similar colors next to each other – making it easier to match multiple viruses while using fewer pill pieces.

There are a few nice graphical touches, including a magnifying lens that shows close-ups of the viruses as they’re being defeated, and Mario on the other side of the screen, tossing each pill into the playing field. You can see which pill is up next at any time, as Mario holds onto it for a bit before tossing it into the bottle.

Overall, a great game that is, in my opinion, better than Tetris, and a great deal of fun.

ReSharper Ultimate – Amazing!

I recently installed a demo/trial of ReSharper Ultimate – and it’s phenomenal.  In just a few hours I was able to apply hundreds of small tweaks and adjustments, improving the quality and readability of my code.  It’s almost like having an expert coder sitting next to you, giving tips and insight into the functions and classes.

Another great tool in the Ultimate package is dotCover – a much better test runner than what Visual Studio typically has with NUnit, my unit-testing framework of choice.

Thanks to JetBrains for creating such an amazing tool!  This is Visual Studio the way it should be.

Check it out at:



Building a New “Fonte Labs” Site

I’m in the process of creating a new Fonte Labs site, as well as this blog.  While this blog is publicly available, the Fonte Labs site will be offline for a while as I choose which projects will remain available, and as I tune the appearance and functionality of the new site.

I will post a message when “Fonte Labs” and its various projects are once again available.

My Blog 2.0

I’ve created a new blog as part of a sweeping effort to remove old content, refocus my efforts and build new libraries, coding tools and so on.

I’ll be adding new posts as new technologies and projects are developed.