Studio711

Forza Motorsport 7 Review

I don’t spend much time playing video games anymore, but I always make time for Forza games when they come out. Racing simulators are my favorite and this is one of the best. I also know a couple people who work on the game so it’s fun to see what they’ve been up to.

Forza 7 is gorgeous and the driving experience is wonderful. This version adds night racing and dynamic weather conditions. You might start in the day time or dry weather but you could end in night time or rain. Other than that, though, it’s another series of races to enjoy. If you liked the previous ones, you’ll like this, but if you’re hoping that this version adds an epic story line, look elsewhere.

One thing that I’m unhappy with in this version is the lack of incentive to make the game more realistic. For example, there’s no incentive to turn on realistic car damage. You don’t pay for any of the damage after the race or suffer ill effects during the race. Just smash your way up to the front. Sure, you can change this setting, but it doesn’t give you any more money or lead to faster lap times so how many people will really do this? I’d like to see a cash bonus if you run with damage enabled or maybe a penalty after the race for how much damage you did to your car.

In general, I’m still waiting for two things in a racing simulator:

  1. Let me play Forza with virtual reality goggles on. I’d probably puke after 20-30 minutes of it, but I still want it.
  2. We have all this great real world map data available. Let me plug in an address and drop my car there. I don’t even care how real the graphics are. Just get the turns and the elevation changes to match the real world and I’d be thrilled. How fast could I make it to work on empty streets with a Ferrari? I want to know!

Closet Storage

Over a month ago, I started tackling the storage closet upstairs. I removed the wire shelves, patched the walls, painted, and made a simple tower to hold all the computer and network gear. The next step was building cabinets.

Cabinets aren’t usually a great choice for a closet since you lose the space where the doors have to swing open, but I wanted to go for it here because we always leave the door to that closet open. The computers generate a lot of heat and there isn’t any cooling system in place other than the open door.

I really don’t like projects that require me to go in and out of the house 100 times so I decided to build the cabinets in the garage. I designed them so I could assemble and paint everything in the garage, and then disassemble it to the point where it would fit through the doorways.

This is the first time I’ve really tried to make cabinets. There were a ton of mistakes but in the end, it looks pretty good and it will meet our needs. It’s difficult to take a picture of a closet, but here is one attempt:

As I mentioned, there were a lot of snags in the project. These were the biggest ones:

  1. The cabinets are built out of 3/4″ plywood with poplar along the edges. I completely miscalculated how much poplar I needed which meant a second trip down to Crosscut. It’s about 30-40 minutes each way and Saturday is the only day they are open when I’m not at work.
  2. Despite measuring a dozen times and carefully planning it all out, the cabinets were too deep and covered up the light switch. I was able to cut out a bit of the face frame so you can reach in to hit the switch. It’s ridiculous but it’s really isn’t that big of a deal. It will just make me feel dumb forever.
  3. I didn’t think to use special cabinet door hinges until the complete end of the project. I spent hours upon hours getting the doors to align and making sure they all closed smoothly with a fairly consistent gap between them. At the end, it dawned on me that cabinet hinges have an adjustment built in so that you can fine tune after everything is assembled. Why didn’t I think of that before?

These are all good lessons learned because I think there are a couple more projects like this coming along.

Fantasy Football – Week 5

The Seahawks pulled out another win against the Rams who seem to always win no matter how good either team is. The defense was outstanding pulling in 5 turnovers, some of them at critical moments in the game. The end of the game had plenty of drama but the Seahawks came out on top. They need to get that running game figured out though.

In our league, it looked like Logan might finally break his winning streak. He posted the second lowest score in the league but… Tim had the lowest score so Logan won. Luke and Dad won too, keeping them tied for 2nd place. There’s a gap back to fourth place where the rest of us are trying to figure out how to get pointed in the right direction.

Power rankings for week 6:

1. Logan
2. Luke
3. Ben (+1)
4. Austin (-1)

On to the weekly awards…

This Week This Season All-Time
Highest Team Score Luke had 122.61 Luke had 161.89 (Week 3) Tim 200.51 (2015)
Lowest Team Score Tim had 77.59 Dad had 61.50 (Week 1) Andy had 41.29 (2015)
Biggest Blowout Luke beat Ben by 19.97 Luke beat Jim by 74.22 (Week 3) Luke beat Andy by 113.02 (2010)
Closest Win Andy beat Jim by 2.96 Dad beat Ben by 5.33 (Week 3) Jim beat Ben by 0.12 (2012)
Highest Scoring Player Deshaun Watson had 45.54 as a free agent Tom Brady had 45.72 for Luke. (Week 3) Drew Brees had 60.54 on Tim’s bench (2015)
Longest Active Winning Streak Logan has a 5 game winning streak Logan has a 4 game winning streak. (Week 4) Micah (2011) and Ben (2015) had an 8 game winning streak
Longest Active Losing Streak Tim has a 5 game losing streak. Tim has a 4 game losing streak. (week 4) Kyle had a 14 game losing streak (2011)

Recover Deleted Files

I’m super careful with files on my computer. Careful almost to the point of obsession. After having a hard drive crash and losing a bunch of data 15+ years ago, I made sure it would never happen again. But recently I broke one of my own rules and ended up in a bit of a mess. The rule is: get your files off of SD cards as soon as possible.

There are bunch of good reasons for this but a few are:

  • SD cards are easy to lose
  • SD cards are easy to damage
  • SD cards are easily corrupted

None of those bit me. The problem that bit me was user error. I left files on the SD card for a couple weeks because I was too lazy to put the card in the computer and copy them over. The exact sequence of mistakes is probably boring to read, but the bottom line is that I thought all of the old photos on the card had already been transferred off but only about 80% of them had. There were a bunch of “first day of school” photos that I hadn’t transferred off right away and I didn’t notice that fact before deleting them.

As soon as it happened, I realized what I had done and my stomach twisted into a knot. I just lost files not because of a software/hardware problem but because I was an idiot.

I immediately ejected the SD card from my computer and slid the lock lever over to prevent any further stupidity. Next it was time to find something to recover the files. When a computer deletes a file, it doesn’t actually overwrite the file, it just removes the entry from the “card catalog” that points to the actual file locations. So if you can carefully scan the disk and you know what the binary header of your file looked like, you can still read the old data.

If you search around for “recover lost files” there are tons of programs available and I believe two things are generally true:

  1. They’re going to cost quite a bit of money because they know you’re panicked.
  2. It’s a great way for hackers to get you to install spyware/viruses. You’re in a hurry and you click away without really checking the validity of the site.

I ended up using PhotoRec which is free, open source, and hopefully safe. It’s not very user friendly, but that was fine with me.

The tool worked ok, but it didn’t find any files on my first scan. I had only saved .CR2 (Cannon Raw) files and the tool didn’t have a scanner for those files included out of the box. Thankfully they allow you to add your own file signatures, so I whipped open a hex editor, figured out what the header of a CR2 file looks like and added a new signature.

After that it quickly plowed through my SD card and found the “deleted” files. It didn’t get 100% of them, but because I took about 100 pictures of Elijah in ~4 different poses, I still had plenty of good photos to choose from. The day was saved.

But this is one of those lessons that I’ll never forget. When you walk in the door with new pictures on your SD card, immediately copy them to your computer and get them backed up to cloud storage. And whenever I buy my next camera body, I’ll probably be buying one that has built-in WiFi syncing available. I might even check out those WiFi SD cards to see if they’re worth it.

XFinity For Roku

Earlier this year, Comcast launched an app for Roku, but I only just got around to installing it. It’s still in beta so you won’t get a full feature set, but it’s still an interesting move for the company.

Previously, if you have Comcast service and you want to add another TV in your house, you had to pony up $10/month or more for another box that sits with that TV. Ouch. Now they are offering you alternatives to that extra monthly bill.

For quite a while they’ve allowed you to stream to a browser window or a phone app. The main limitation there is that you have to be on your home network for it to work, but this has still given me a way to have football on out in the shop. I just connect my laptop to the TV and I’m good to go.

The Roku app makes this even easier. You can pick up a basic Roku for ~$30-40 if you don’t have one already. The XFinity app is free and voila, now you’ve got live TV via the Roku without an extra monthly fee. If you have their Cloud DVR service then  you can access those shows through the Roku interface. (Note that I haven’t tested that since we don’t have the Cloud DVR service.) The only downer for me right now is that I only get standard definition on most of the channels. That doesn’t happen for everyone and it should change when the app is out of beta.

This feels like a direct response to the rise in popularity of non-traditional TV services like DirectTV Now, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Playstation Vue, etc. Compared to those services, Comcast is coming at it from the other side (moving from traditional cable to internet) but it’s good to see them making moves in that direction.