Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Experiences With the Ulefone Be Touch 3

It's a long standing joke among me and my friends that I am a cheapskate. Joke as in "it's funny because it's true" kind of joke. I'd like to think this is partially down to personality and partially circumstance - I used to be genuinely poor when studying and couldn't afford such "luxury items" as a coffee/tea at the local café every damn week. Neither could I buy the fanciest juice and I often resorted to meat so cheap it was probably not meat anymore (which had me eventually stop eating a lot of it all together, even now when I can afford it I rarely buy it). It's funny because one of my best friends is in many way my opposites, we often end up joking about how I am the cheap but optimistic one and she is the wasteful but pessimistic one (the correlation is anyone's guess). We often end up having discussions about whether something is worth the money or not and we rarely agree. My favorite was when she bought a vacuum cleaner for... brace yourself... 3500 euro (more than 4000 dollars!). I never let her live it down and I don't care how super advanced it is. Unless it does the vacuuming itself, and also massages my feet, it can never be worth that much money. She teasingly said I'd probably end up reusing my birthday candles for my sons birthday cake (well she ain't wrong! I turned 31 and he turns 3, why waste the 3?).

So anyway, this all brings us to my smartphone dilemma. I was way late getting one in the first place, and only then got it so I wouldn't have to waste money on smsing my then out-of-country-living bf. With a phone connected to the internet I could send all the messages I wanted a lot cheaper! My first smartphone was a Samsung Galaxy s2 and I was really happy with it. If I had to say anything bad it would probably be the battery life, but I am sure pretty much all smartphones of this generation struggled with it, hence all the memes making fun of it. It was especially jarring going from a non-smartphone that only needed charging every four days or so to having to charge my smartphone every day. But other than that I was very happy with my purchase.

Two years went by and my phone network provider told me I could now upgrade - my only choice being the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. I didn't want a Sony phone and I didn't want a compact model. Neither did I actually want to extend my subscription with my PNP since I thought it was a lot more expensive than it was worth. When they phoned me they sounded baffled at how few SMS and phone calls I did each month, and I rarely used up my 2gb internet allowance. So I started looking around for the option to buy a phone without subscription and getting a cheaper sub on the side. It turned out to be about the same price anyway since a phone without sub was so expensive. So I ended up getting the Sony Xperia, and I wasn't particularly happy with it.

It had some good things going for it like a kick-ass camera and good battery time, but it was finnicky (especially the screen) and had me frustrated as hell many times because it wouldn't register the correct words I was typing. And eventhough the camera took great pictures, that was only when it wasn't busy crashing and freezing up. When another 2 years had gone by I was determined not to make the same mistake again and only go for a phone of my own choosing.

This time I had the benefit of the cheap smartphone market being a lot bigger than last time around, with a lot of competitors from lesser heard of brands (at least here in backwater Sweden). So I thought to myself, why not take a chance at one of the chinese brands? The price difference was immense, and it seemed like the only major difference was the camera quality (at least in terms of what I wanted from my phone). I decided it would be worth the downgrade for the price difference alone.

So I ordered a Ulefone Be Touch3 and threw my old Xperia in a drawer somewhere, hoping never to have to deal with it again. I've had it for four months so far, so what do I think?

As mentioned I can only really compare to my two other phones - Samsung Galaxy s2 and Sony Xperia z1 Compact - and there is some good and some bad.

The good
One of the best things about the Ulefone, and especially compared to the Sony phone, was how empty it was. It might sound strange, but what I mean is my Sony phone had at least two versions installed of everything, making it extremely confusing as to which to use and extremely annoying when they wanted to be updated all the time. There was the Android Music listener and the Sony Music listener. "Album", "Photos" and "File Commander" all handled my pictures in different ways. There is Play News Stand and News and Weather, which both do practically the same thing. Not to mention the completely useless program "What's New". Imagine having none of that! Just the stuff you want, clear and easy and understandable.
Eventhough it was cheap it handled pretty much just like both of my other android phones in terms of screen responsiveness (and better than the finnicky Sony one had) and speed. It seemed to be able to handle running multiple programs without any issues.

The inbetween
The camera was definitely less good than my Sony one, but then my Sony one had been exceptionally good. And the Ulefone one was definitely not bad, it just handled lighting a bit less great. For the price however it was well within what I expected and I never had any issue with it, it especially never did any crashing or freezing like my Sony one had been notorious of.
It supposedly had a quick-charge battery, meaning it would charge faster than other phones. This was nothing I really noticed, but that might just come down to my charging habits. Since I almost always charge my phone over night I can't really tell if it goes faster or slower.

The bad
I realized buying the phone from some Chinese webpage, that if I ever ended up having trouble with it my chances were slim that I'd get any help with it. Not because I thought the Chinese webpage would be childish about it, but because it probably meant having to send it in and months worth of waiting times that I definitely could not be bothered with. Going in buying this phone I therefore settled on two things - firstly I hoped everything would just be fine, at least for the two years I aimed at using the phone. Secondly I thought that even if something did happen, I would at least be an experience wiser and not too much money poorer.

Unfortunately two rather bad things did happen with my Ulefone.

Firstly, when visiting my parents in northern Sweden I noticed I didn't have any internet service. Phoning and sending text messages still worked fine, but no internet surfing whatsoever. This didn't work even in the heart of the city they live in, and eventhough it is the north of Sweden we're not talking the Siberian Tundra here. Normally any phone network works there so I was confused that I wasn't getting any reception whatsoever. When buying my Ulefone I tried to make sure that the phone operated on the frequencies used in Sweden, and I've fortunately never had any issues where I live - but it was nonetheless annoying to have it not work away from home. This didn't bother me too much however since I don't visit my parents too often and can generally get by without the use of internet on my phone when I am there (especially since they have wifi anyway).

The second hiccup was worse - without any sort of explanation part of the screen stopped working completely. It't not cracked in any way and the phone hasn't been dropped more or harder than any of my other phones (especially not more, since I've not had it even a quarter as long). I have no idea what has caused it and even less idea of how to fix it (possibly a screen swap?). It's an area going horizontally across the middle of the screen about 2 cm high where it simply does not react at all. Fortunately most things can still be done on the phone (it just makes scrolling very awkward). Typing is not an issue since the keyboard is below the area - but there are situations where I have to tilt the screen to get to the area I need to interact with because it happens to be right underneath the "dead zone".

It's an odd issue and a frustrating at that. Since I am in fact going to visit my parents in just over a week I opted for swapping back to my Sony phone for now, since eventhough it has also caused me a lot of grief it at least has a somewhat working screen and internet connection once I get to the north again.

So my overall verdict of the Ulefone? It is alright. I do think I've been a bit unlucky with the screen problem. I'm thinking it must've been damaged somehow from a fall eventhough there is no visible damage. And the connection issue? Well, maybe you should avoid getting a Ulefone if you live in Sweden... If you can find someone to service it in case something happens then I'd still recommend it. But I guess I need to look for other options...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Some Hate on MMO Cities

After the hundreds of days worth of playtime I poured into WoW, I told myself to stay away from other MMO's for a while. I've been doing so-so on that front, since there are a ton of them nowadays and some seem truly interesting and like there is a fun game there to play even for someone who has no actual multiplayer interest in it, like me. Eventhough I've hardly tried many - I've managed to stay clear of both Rift, Wildstar and Final Fantasy XIV so far - the ones I have tried have horribly failed to keep my interest. And it's turned out it's not for lack of social sphere like I thought it would be.

Funnily enough, the only MMO I've played other than WoW and actually really enjoyed I played while I was playing WoW - Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The only reason I didn't stick with this one was the one I thought would be a problem for any MMO other than WoW, that I simply didn't have enough friends playing it at the same time. In the end, eventhough I had fun with it and managed to even get my then bf to play a bit with me, the pull of the social life on WoW turned out to be too great. Once WoW was over and done with for my part, I thought that I might be able to enjoy other MMO's uncrippled by this fact. In fact I was intent on it (the lack of social sphere in the game) not being allowed to cloud my judgement of an otherwise good game, because I always felt it was unfair towards other MMO that WoW would always have the bigger playerbase. Once WoW didn't have the social bit to keep me tied to it, I hoped I'd be able to enjoy other MMO's freely eventhough I feared the opposite.

Nothing fun to do here... -

So I tried Guild Wars, admittedly this was also while I was still playing WoW, but this time the problem wasn't the lack of friends to play with. I got to some sort of quest hub, and I'm not even joking, I couldn't find my way out of it. I thought that maybe I was just being stupid for that particular game, but it turned out this would be a recurring issue for me with other MMO's I tried. Ok, so I wouldn't necessarily fail so horribly as to not even manage to make my way out of a city. But the city, usually a massive main hub with not only quests but anything the player might need in terms of interaction, crafting and general restocking is where I end up logging out for the last time.

I tried Guild Wars 2 because everyone said it was such a masterpiece of a game, some said it was really even better than WoW but most players just didn't realize because they had their noses too far up WoW's posterior. And it was quite fun, I actually played it for a couple of hours before I ended up in yet another darned city and just... lost interest in the game completely. Because I had professions, or tradeskills, or whatever Guild Wars 2 calls it, and I had things to sell and probably a lot of other stuff that the city could provide me with. But I just got utterly lost and the entire thing was so boring because running around for an hour just trying to find things is not my kind of fun. And I realized I would have to do this many times before I finally had it all in my head and didn't have to think about it or google names to find the blacksmith and even then I would still have to spend a lot of time just travelling around in the city doing all those chore stuff that is often required in any game that has all that gear and item tinkering going on.

Yet another vendor

I tried Neverwinter and ended up having the exact same issue. The game itself was actually quite fun, the battles were fun, but then I had to run around in the city talking to quest givers and finding vendors and all the fun I had just blew right out the window. I realized yet again that any fun I might have inbetween the city-visits would just not be enough to make me want to go through it over and over. (I also tried Star Trek Online but that was just weird).

It's the size of it. See, I have this issue with cities in any old RPG, not just MMO's, but most of the time they're fortunately not big enough for it to become big enough of a problem. It does happen though, Final Fantasy XII was right on the threshhold for what I can endure. I've realized I pretty much detest having to run around in a city or village and look for things. Maybe I enjoyed Warhammer so much because I don't even remember it having cities!

Just loads of characters I don't care about -

I don't know if this is something that has come with age, or if it's the times - the instant satisfaction times. Maybe me not knowing exactly what to do and where to go frustrates me too much or maybe... it's because I remember the first time I stepped into Orgrimmar and I was completely blown away. Running in through those gates I pretty much gasped at the massive city that lay before me. It was something I had never seen before and I was amazed at everything there was to see and to do. Eventually I learned where everything was by heart in pretty much any city in WoW and barely had to even look to get where and what I wanted. The more I played the more the amazement wore off and everything just needed to be as effective and fast as possible. I lost interest in the exploration for explorations sake, something I loved to do in WoW, and just wanted to get to wherever would get me the next piece of gear or level as fast as possible.

But that was because I had done pretty much everything there was to do in WoW many, many times over. Somehow I've transferred those feelings over to other games I play and other MMO's are hit especially hard because you spend so much time in cities doing the tinkering and trying to find people to talk to.

There are still MMO's I am interested in trying however, like beforementioned FFXIV or The Secret World. We'll see if I get around to it and if I end up logging out in another city.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Some Awesome Old Computer Games

As I am sure a lot of you do, I have many fond memories of my video gaming youth. Other peoples stories often goes something along the lines of "I had an older sibling who played and so I started to play..." or "my parent was really into video gaming..." or "I got my first console/computer when I was four..." and so on. It wasn't really that way for me, I didn't own my first console before I was 12-13 something and we didn't get our first computer until just some years before that. But I came across video and computer games every now and then and managed to build up an interest and love for them. My earliest memory is probably from playing Lemmings on some computer owned by a friend to the family. I must've been around five or six at the time.

Most of the games I came across growing up are still around in some way today. Even if they're hard or expensive to come by, there are often ways to get around that, at least until you've saved up enough to get your own copy (Symphony of the Night, you will be mine!). But then there are those that seem to have disappeared, sometimes so utterly I question whether I ever experienced the game at all or if I just dreamt it. This seems to more often be the case with computer games and I have many memories from games that I've spent tons of hours on back in the day that I've found difficult to get working nowadays.

I remember a marble game on our Mac (no, not Marble Madness) that I used to play with my mom. I loved it but for the life of me I can't find any information about it anywhere. It doesn't exactly help that whenever I try to find anything about a marble game on a Mac, all I ever find is Marble Madness. Damn you Marble Madness. However, when researching this post I finally found the game! It's Oxyd - this seems pretty impossible to get working.

Then there was a game I used to play with an old friend of mine - Monkey Shines. It was a simplistic platformer for the PC (if I recall correctly) and we played the hell out of that game, just like we played the hell out of a lot of games together on the PC, her and I. I'm greatful Youtube is around to provide proof this game ever existed, but look at it. It's ugly as hell and the gameplay looks abysmal, a 6-year old could probably produce better in Game Maker. Yet I clearly remember how much fun we had with it. It wasn't like we were completely out of options either, at this point we both owned an N64. But maybe our standards were lower? The music isn't half bad though.

Asterix & Obelix was another one we played for hours. We really sucked at that game I recall, it was SO HARD! But we inched our way forward slowly but quite surely. We played it two player and I remember crowding around the keyboard trying to get a good fit. I don't think we ever beat it and we probably didn't even get very far. This is the case with most games I played around this time, a lot of time invested but little to show for it except good memories. But that's all that matters really.

And last but not least for this post one of my favorite shareware games, and there were many good ones! - Escape Velocity. I have probably mentioned this game before, but it deserves mentioning again. I started out playing just Escape Velocity, but then there was a version or sequel or something (I'm not quite sure what it is) called Escape Velocity Nova. The core concept is simple, space trading and exploration - something which seems to be all the rage nowadays. Imagine No Mans Sky with less procedurally generated content and typical mid 90s PC graphics and you're pretty damn close. Just read this information on the game from the creator Ambrosias own homepage;

"Escape Velocity offers a rich and open-ended environment that evolves as you play. Over a hundred worlds occupy the galaxy, each with its own technology, alliances, and commodities. As you earn credits and gain fame, Confederation peace keepers and Rebel patriots struggle for power, leaving you in the middle.

Numerous sub-plots fill Escape Velocity's world; your choices affect the story's development, guaranteeing that each game will be different from the last. You'll have the opportunity to infiltrate hostile military bases, ferry emergency supplies to distant star systems, rescue passengers from stranded cruise ships, stop alien invaders, and more."

Doesn't that sound awesome? I can't recommend this game enough, I remember not too many years ago when I was talking about it to my then bf and a friend of his and they decided to try it out (the Nova version). They both got completely hooked and played it to the ground over a couple of days. Just looking at a video of it now makes me want to play it again.

What are your favorite computer games from back in the day?