Bloglurking & Steam Gushing

While I normally insist on writing out the full “web” instead of using the hideous contraction “b” (WEB STARTS WITH A “W”, PEOPLE!), I think “bloglurking” looks and sounds neater than “webloglurking” so I’m going with it. (Yes, I know that it’s not madtinkerer.weblogspot.com. But in perfect world you would need to type in those extra two letters or alternately it would be “wlogger” and “wlogspot”. They didn’t call Email “Rmail” (short for “ric-mail”) or NMail (short for “nic-mail”), did they?)

Anyway, Bloglurking is what I do. I like to go out, find a weblog and read through it in as chronologically an order as the archives allow. (That’s another insane thing: ordering the posts in reverse chronological order. If I didn’t have better things to worry about, I would have “fixed” that “feature” with mine.) If I feel really compelled to comment, I might leave a comment, but every single different weblog has a unique commenting system which means another free online account to keep track of if I sign up. So mostly I just read and don’t comment which on message boards is called “lurking”*.

The main two weblogs that I have been lurking on lately are Eric Burn’s formerly wonderful Websnark and Shamus Young’s Twenty Sided. Lately, neither one has been very exciting but for vastly different reasons. Websnark is conspicuously hassle-free to connect to because Eric only updates when hell gets chilly anymore. On the other hand, Twenty Sided has become increasingly difficult to connect to and I’ve noticed that lately the only days I can read it are when he doesn’t update. I assume this is because he gets so much traffic that his server can’t handle it anymore, as it used to happen with Websnark. So I don’t recommend either of those two right now, unless they get their acts together.

Hey Eric: You could post at least once a week on a specific day. I’m going to catch up to you if you’re not careful, and if you’ve read my archives, you know what a procrastinator I am! (Yeah, I know you have Banter Latte now, but that’s a lot more literary as opposed to pop-cultury than Websnark so I can’t very well compare MT Live and Uncut to BL, now can I?)

But enough fanboy whining. I also have some fanboy praising to do. Despite his occasional outburst of language, and semi-arrogant attitude that is either funny or irritating depending on your temperament, Garry’s Blog is fun to read whether you have Garry’s Mod or not. And it freaking works when I try to read it and he’s updating almost every day (which isn’t a requirement of me liking a weblog, but updating regularly is). It’s maybe not so much fun if you have zero interest in game development or programming, but he has Real Life posts too.

And while it’s not a personal weblog, Steve Jackson Games have been doing a weblog long before it was called that. I also regularly check the mostly-D&D news site EN World even though it evolved into a news site and hasn’t been a weblog for a while now. I don’t check it as often as I check the GG comic, but Kaja Foglio’s Livejournal is always a treat to read.

Here are a few others I just recently discovered: +1 blog of nerd music & culture, Comics Make No Sense, and the delightful Insect Picture of the Day.

Anyway, onto Steam. Right when I wrote that last sentence, my youngest brother who currently is away at college in Michigan invited me to join him in a Team Fortress 2 game. I’m writing the rest of this paragraph 45 minutes later. So right there Steam is awesome.

Steam is a service that Valve uses exclusively with their PC games. This means that if you want to play Half Life 2 or any of their other games, you need to have a Steam account. This also means you need to have a working connection to the internet and/or have logged into Steam in the last 24 hours to play Half Life 2 or any of their other games. Once upon a time, this was a dealbreaker (see my upcoming massive Orange Box Review for details), but once I finally obtained a computer that had the capability of running Steam, I see how wonderful it is.

The games menu is integrated with an online store, community menu (mostly a friends list: if someone is a “friend” it tells you if they are playing online, and you can use it to chat with them as well), a Tools menu and My media. The last one I never use, but it’s nice to know that it’s there. The basic tool you get in the Tools menu, if you have The Orange Box, is the Source SDK which is used to make maps and custom stuff for Half Life 2. I also haven’t used that yet either. The main features for me are the games list which automatically downoads new versions and patches (and there seems to be some sort of bittorrent or similar technology behind it because it sends me those new files at breakneck speeds), the friends list and the store. Thanks to the super-fast downloading times and the availability of various game bundles(not just Valve games but many developers and publishers), the Store part of Steam is the most convenient game-content delivery system I have ever experienced. I know that sounds like marketing BS, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.

In the past there have been numerous issues with Steam. Fortunately, probably at least partly because I came to the party three years late, all those issues seem to have been worked out. The need to let my copy of the Steam client (automatically) check my account status via the internet every so often was at first a minor annoyance because I haven’t been playing games online much, at all, ever, until recently, but now I simply make sure the wireless switch is on when I boot up and Steam takes care of the rest.

In summary, I give Steam a hearty “thumbs up”. I didn’t think that a proprietary content manager was something I could like, but Steam is not only as painless as it gets, it’s actually a pretty useful service and I wish it supported all of my old games too. I bought The Orange box from a physical store, but it was really just a formality. I won’t ever have to use the install discs again because Steam will always have it in my account. I still do like browsing through physical stores, but they’ve officially become somewhat obsolete.

*Once, early on, I confused “lurking” and “trolling” which led to a somewhat funny thread on a Final Fantasy forum where they kindly explained to me that I wasn’t behaving nearly as badly as I was accusing myself of doing.

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