Sunday, September 20, 2020

Recent purchase of old games on Steam...and labor required to actually get them running

I recently purchased a game package that consists of Railroad Tycoon II Platinum, Railroad Tycoon 3 and Sid Meier's Railroads! on Steam.  Two of these games needed a human (me) to get into the game files to fix them so the games can be run on Windows 10 (or even on Vista or 8).

Railroad Tycoon 3's issue is that it crashes on startup.  The fix is to turn on an option called "Disable Hardware T&L" in the Settings dialog.  The problem is that you cannot turn this option on in-game if you cannot get the game started.


For this, the solution is to replace the engine.cfg file which is found in the game's Steam folder (example: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Railroad Tycoon 3\Data\Configuration).  The source of the replacement engine.cfg file is here: 105_106_RT3_Vista_Fix.zip.  More information about this fix can be found on Hawk & Badger Railroad (backup link).  This video also covers more information about patching RT3:


Sid Meier's Railroads!'s issue is that it crashes constantly, like in minutes.  The fix is to directly edit the game's executable file with a hexeditor to change a specific bit.  You never know when you'll need a hexeditor, so I always install one on one every desktop PC I've owned.  Even still, I've literally not used a hexeditor on game files in over 2 decades.  Anyway, the bug fix description is too involve for me to repeat in this article, so I'll just point to the source article on Steam: Fix Crashing/LAA manual fix (backup link). 


The Steam article employs a particular hexeditor, so if you aren't experienced hexediting files, you may wish to use the recommended app.  Despite the lengthy article, the actual fix is very quick once you find the bit you need change. So far, I've not had a crash since implementing this fix.

Epilogue

When Steam gaming platform first came out, I was not a fan.  I tried to avoid it like the plague, but eventually, AAA games that I wished to play were only available on Steam, so I had to commit.  The game that finally snared me was Civilization 5.

One cool thing about Steam is that they have a ton of old games from as far back as the early 90's (maybe even earlier).  The old games are typically porteddosboxed or patched to run on modern systems.  Although you have to rebuy old games that you wish to play (for rather small prices), it is typically worth the cost to avoid the trouble of working out how to configure a modern PC to run those games.

The problem with Steam is that their updates are often half-hearted efforts.  For example, no efforts are taken to maintain aspect ratios of the original games.  This makes many of the old games appear uglier than the originals.  However, this is typically OK, as you play old games for their game mechanics and functional design more than their outdated graphical design.  A bigger issue is demonstrated earlier in this article.  Some games are so badly adopted by Steam, you, the user, have to manually configure the game files in order for the game to even run (or at least run without a ton of crashes).  

Not all games are fixable.  An example of this is Independence War (a game I loved).  Both Steam editions (original and sequel) appear to have unfixed game-breaking bugs with no community solutions.  These games are only $6, but it's $6 too much for a game that cannot be finished.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Pontiac G8 Wiper Blades, super low-key custom equipment

The Pontiac G8 is a fun and enjoyable car, though a little rough around the edges for some details.  The G8 model never had time to be polished because it and the whole Pontiac brand where cancelled as a result of the GM bankruptcy from the Financial crisis of 2007–2008. So, there are just somethings where the owner needs to consider their options when replacing worn-out parts.  One consideration: the two windshield wiper blades.

The original sizes for the wiper blades didn't do a good job of clearing the window in front of the driver.  The stock wiper blades don't swipe enough of the upper middle area of the windshield to help the driver clearly see through the enough window.  Another problem with the original blades is/was that some owners (including myself) reported chatter or incomplete clearing of the window during each swipe.  

Funny enough, it's not easy to find the sizes of the original wiper blades.  You can still buy them, supposedly, but the sizes aren't published in their descriptions. I think they were something like 24" length for the driver's side and 14" for the passenger side.  Whatever the sizes, the original blades left rather large of areas of the window unswiped during rain, not just at the top, but also the bottom of the window between swiped areas.


I didn't wait to long replace the original blades. Either late 2009 or 2010, I found some good quality replacement blades of the sizes 26" and 15".  (At the time, it wasn't easy to figure out replacements of alternate sizes.)  Believe it or not, my replacement blades performed well for 10 years.  Sometimes you get lucky.  Unfortunately, when it came time to replace them this year, I lost track of what I purchased before.

That didn't end up mattering, though.  In 2020, the secret has long since been out.  It's actually more common to find 26"/15" sizes than what might've been stock sizes.  On multiple sites, I found that the main size recommendations are 26"/15".  So, it is really down to quality (since price stopped being a factor since I'm no longer looking at stock blades).

After seeing recommendations on multiple websites (including forums) and reading many reviews, I settled on Trico brand blades:  Trico 25-260 Force Beam Wiper Blade 26" and Trico 25-150 Force Beam Wiper Blade 15".


Many modern blades try to support as many car models as possible, so they come with adapters.  I remember my first replacement blades being very simple to install.  This doesn't seem to be the case anymore.  The Trico's aren't hard to install, but it is a ~10 step process which includes removing their default adapter, adding the included secondary adapter, then removing a piece of that adapter to specifically fit the G8.  Again, not hard, but not intuitive either.  

I like the Tricos because they cover even more area of my windshield than my first replacements.  It amazes me just how much of the window they clear with each swipe. So far, the Tricos work well.  We'll see how they perform as the season changes.  

Friday, September 11, 2020

Baseball obscure stat

Baseball obscure stat:  In modern era of Major League Baseball, no game has ever had an unassisted triple play in either the 3rd or 8th innings.



So, I did it...I saw a movie in Covid-time [TENET]

Yup, it's true.  I went to see a first-run movie during covid-time.  Though, I'm not even considering movie theaters right now.  That's not going to happen until COVID-19 vaccination is widely available.  In the meantime, how should someone see a new movie?  Well, there's streaming services.  But, for some reason, paying $30 to watch a movie on my own device at home seems alien.  So, let's go to the movie drive-in!

Holiday Twin Drive-in

Yup, it's true.  I went to see a first-run movie at the drive-in.  Social distancing is super easy with two tons of steel and glass (and an additional 10 feet of parking distance) between you and others in outside world.  

I saw TENET.  It's an enjoyable, yet complex film that will take multiple viewings to completely understand.  

So, here's the problem.  Seeing a movie at the drive-in is an inferior experience, particularly for big films designed for modern theater screens.  It's an acceptable experience, but not high quality.  The main problem is that your own car fights against the experience, at least many modern cars do.  Even just turning your car on to ACC for the radio (to hear the movie's sound on the drive-in's FM station) will start up all sorts of interior lights, including the status screen that is present many cars.  Yeah, you can turn them down or cover them up, but that's just annoying.  

Then, condensation forms on the windows in certain conditions. You'll have to open the windows from time to time.  In most cars these days, power windows require the car to be on in the pre-start position. Guess what that does!  Yup, it turns on even more interior lights!

Then, there's the weather.  Fog, rain, and even dust or remnants of ash from fires in the nearby mountains can all detract from your experience.  This weekend, I experienced rain, blown dust and fire ash.

The biggest problem of all?  Most movie drive-ins do not play first-run movies.  I literally had to drive 1 hour to see TENET on opening weekend.  

Even still, seeing a movie on a big screen is better than not.  Drive-in may be inferior, but it is preferable to the alternative: sitting for 3 hours in an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers around breathing the same air and touching the same surfaces, or queueing up to close at the snackbar or just walking too closely when exiting the theater.  

Friday, August 28, 2020

Charities suck and you suck for supporting them?

Presentations that provide misinformation or misrepresentations regarding charities are common.  Awhile back I ran into this seemingly well-meaning Youtube video  (below)  that attempts to expose the dirty underbelly of charities.  Normally, I don't promote content I see as wildly or widely off-base.  However, in this case, I feel it's important to see the earnest and confidence of the presentation and still be able to peer through the facade to come face-to-face with the video's deep flaws.

I've worked with funding of charities in the past.  After viewing this video, something just feels off about its presentation.  It's as though Thought2 (pronounce "42") is trying to promote an agenda of lowkey fearmongering rather than provide accurate information.  

Yes, administrative costs exist and are typically a large amount of where the donations are used in a well-run organization.  However, this video makes it sound like there are dozens if not hundreds of people on charity payrolls.  The truth is that most locally managed charities are scraping by with just a few people, who are often volunteers, in makeshift or hand-me-down office spaces.  

Yes, some charities are short-sighted in their march to achieve artificially important goals.  However, the video's example of water pumps drastically misses the point: most communities that were helped do have working water pumps, even if many do not.  

The video's example regarding clothes and electronic donations is also far off the mark.  As stated by another Youtube commenter (Tripe): 

"Blaming the entire collapse of the Kenyan textile market on imports isn't reality. He does state "domestic market" at one point, but that isn't the data he presents.  He blames charity for the loss of 500000 jobs, but those people were serving the entire industry, not only the domestic market. The same issues that lead to the collapse of exports were still affecting the domestic market as well.  They've had loads of problems including tariffs, labor prices, port prices, high energy costs, stiff competition from Asian countries, corruption, outdated machinery, credit problems, trade reforms and more. I think it would be more accurate to say imports are one of the factors that lead to the downfall of the domestic textile market and are currently retarding the resurgence of the domestic textile market in Kenya, (if they have the leadership for such a resurgence),  not the main cause of the collapse and the loss of 500000 jobs."

Also, I found the video's focus on Africa-support charities produces a dramatically skewed story.  IRL, many charities are for local benefit, so don't have same economic effects about which this video speaks.   Thoughty2 seems to be heavily focused on big-picture and grand-gesture charities.  The charity rating services that are mentioned in the video are heavily focused on these types of charities too.  This video makes no mention of rape crisis centers, suicide hotlines, or local food banks.

Oh, United Way also locally audits the charities that they support using similar criteria as the organization that this video promotes.  United Way audits charities within each community separately.  This means that even national organizations are audited at a local level to justify their funding in that area.  The problem with organizations that publish charities ratings is that the numbers are often misleading, with too much emphasis placed on making "administrative costs" out to be a bad thing.  Due to the nature of some charities and the location of the people they help, costs are naturally higher for some charities over others. United Way funds charities without making the mistake of assuming administrative costs are somehow bad just because.

I'm not sure if this video is well-intended, or if it intentionally misleads.  Either way, in my opinion, this video is completely unreliable for the topic of charities and should not be used as a reference in discussions regarding charities.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A missed call in a Baseball game that didn't matter (but might've if things where different)

Some missed calls in Major League Baseball will live in infamy forever.  Other missed calls are nearly forgotten.  I recently ran into a video by SB Nation where a nearly forgotten missed call is discussed.  Pivetta is the pitcher and Barnes is the batter.

Instead of me retyping the discussion, just watch the video here.




It's hard to judge the accuracy of the statement about the play without seeing the play.  So, check out the play here.



After watching the replay, it's clear the Home Plate Umpire did call the runner out as a result of the fielding of the ball, and not due to any action by the runner himself.  This means the Umpire stopped play while the ball should've technically remained in play.  Does it really matter?

Though the fielding of the ball was incorrectly ruled a catch by the Home Ump, it's the pitcher who fielded the ball.  The pitcher's next action would've been to throw the runner out at First, which should've been the real end of the play.  Now, there's a slight chance the throw to First would've been screwed up, so that is why the play shouldn't have been stopped.  However, most probably the result of letting the play continue vs ending the play with a catch call wouldn't have changed the outcome of the play in this case.  The runner would still be out and the inning would still have be ended.  Now, if other base runners where present, then this missed call would've been more consequential because this bad call would've stopped base running and ended the inning.  At that point, maybe this bad call would've been more memorable.  But even in this case, it's the last out of the inning.  The batter would've still likely have been thrown out at First.  The end of the inning would've still happened right then and there.  Austin Barnes wasn't robbed a base hit by the bad call.

There is one chance of Barnes getting on base in this scenario if it weren't for the bad call.  Had the Ump not ruled the catch and ended play, the pitcher may have thought he had a proper catch and failed to throw the ball to First, giving Barnes a chance to make it safely to First.  However, it can be argued that this would've been an Error by Pivette, still not a base hit for Barnes.