Giving back, a Warlords of Draenor CE giveaway

I articulated in my last blog post some of the ways WoW has changed my life, and I know I'm not alone.

I can't believe I kept forgetting I had already pre-ordered a copy...

Through a gross act of forgetfulness I pre-ordered an extra Warlords of Draenor CE. It's sitting there on my desk, unopened, and I really don't need a third copy. So I'm going to give it away.

I want to hear from you guys how WoW and other games has affected you. To sign up tell me how WoW and gaming has changed your life.

In late February (exact date TBD) I will select a winner. I'll ship the physical CE to the winner and/or open it and send the activation codes. If the winner doesn't want me to ship the CE to them, I'll select additional winners till I find someone who wants the physical CE.

I'm looking forward to hearing your stories.

UPDATE:

After seeing some feedback from a few people I realize I was very vague about how to send me the story. I've set up a page for submissions. You can find it here, as well as in the top bar. Sorry for the confusion, I'll blame the migraine I was nursing while setting this up yesterday.

Ten Years of Change

In 2004 I had reached a modicum of success in my first career. I was a general manager for GNC, ran a top 200 store, had great staff and bosses, and still had enough energy to pursue hobbies outside of work. My daughter had been born the year before, and was turning into an adorable toddler.

I have also been a life long gamer. I started playing Nintendo games like Mario Brothers and Double Dragon with my parents as a young child. As I grew up I diversified my gaming. I ended up growing into a PC gamer with simulation, real time strategy, role playing, and online games being some of favorites.

I had been watching (this was back when I still watched game announcements closely) the upcoming World of Warcraft. I was a huge Star Wars Galaxies (pre NGE is still my favorite MMO...) player, and had enjoyed playing Warcraft and Warcraft II a lot (I wasn't as big on III as I didn't really enjoy the hero mechanic). So I was excited to get into WoW's beta and subsequently pre-ordered.

What I could never have expected is the lasting impact WoW would have on my life.

Addons and WowAce

I've always enjoyed programming. I taught myself QBasic before I was ten and when I was 15 I asked for Visual Basic 5 for my birthday. I even went to college for computer science, but dropped out as the real world and responsibilities settled in. So when I started using WoW addons (Cosmos and then an early addon pack) I was soon drawn to tinkering with them.

One thing went to another and I started doing a simple, and currently abandoned, AutoRepair addon and went from there to working on Ace with Turan. In 2005 we started WowAce.com and that just led to a series of things I could never have imagined.

By 2006 I had moved on to working for U-Haul, and WowAce had gotten bigger than I'd ever imagined. We were hosting hundreds of addons (all built on top of Ace), and there were more than a million users downloading them. Even looking back on it I'm floored by this.

Curse

Late in 2006 I had an opportunity I can only describe as a dream. I had spent the majority of my life breaking and learning about computers, building campy websites on the side, and dreaming of doing more.

Curse itself started off as one of the first repositories of WoW Addons. In a very real way Curse wouldn't be here today if WoW hadn't given us all this opportunity. I had been mirroring my work on Curse for a long time and through that I knew Hubert, Curse's CEO.

Through this connection I learned that Curse was going to go for it. Offices in the US, professional development team, and all the rest that entails. Along with this I was given the opportunity to join as one of the early development team.

At this point Curse wasn't the name it is today. It was a few guys in a flat in Germany. Quitting my stable job and abandoning my first career to go be a novice programmer for a no name internet company was, honestly, one of the scariest things I could do being a single father with a small child. After much deliberation I decided to take the plunge. It was an opportunity that if I didn't at least attempt I would always regret.

Since taking that plunge I've seen Curse go through some tough times and have been fortunate enough to fill a variety of roles. Python web development, Objective-C desktop development, I ran the PHP team, and helped oversee several other projects. Eventually I carved out a still growing role in IT and infrastructure.

Today

Now, over eight years later, I'm the IT Director for Curse. I fight the good fight against DDoSes, ensure our uptime (we hit 99.9969% in 2014), and help support new endeavors like CurseVoice.

It's been a crazy ride, and yesterday the fine people at Blizzard sent me a little statue.

It brought to mind, yet again, the thoughts that I owe so much to this little game. I know I'm not unique in this regards, but I wanted to write this to say thank you back.

Thank you Blizzard, thank you for making something cool, this little game, a game that has changed every facet of my life.

Re: Apple has lost the functional high ground

Macro Arment articulated something in his latest blog post that many Mac power users have felt for a while now.

His premise is (overly?) simplified down to:

  • They're doing too much
  • Have too few resources behind their efforts
  • And have (in Marco's mind) the wrong priorities

I agree with at least the first two points, but I'm not convinced that overall software quality has been profoundly slipping. Human memory is a fickle thing. When we're working with issues on new versions of software it's completely possible we're being overly generous in our recollections of past versions. Ultimately nostalgia is one hell of a drug.

He went on to make some comments about Apple being a marketing driven company. Again, I'm sure he's at least partially correct, but ultimately I think the demands of the users are more to blame.As consumers we've come to expect, in my opinion, an unreasonable amount of advancement in each iteration.

So often I've heard that the teams inside Apple are much smaller than we'd expect. I also work in a (much smaller) company with small teams. There's never enough time in the day to move projects forward as fast as we want to. Inevitably things take longer or need a second pass.

Growing these teams is not as simple as it sounds (even with $100b in the bank). It's incredibly hard to grow staff and maintain quality or actually gain ground at all. There's a very significant up front cost to new staff. Even if Apple started years ago to staff up (which I hope they did) we may still be waiting a while to see any significant fruits of that labor.

Ultimately I may be fortunate and have better luck than most, but my environment is still incredibly stable and robust. Things do 'just work'; at least as much as they ever did.

All things considered I believe Apple honestly does an incredible job keeping everything moving forward. I just hope they get their ducks in a row before any potential quality problems catches up with them.

An Amazing Step Backwards

After my last blog post @MichaBailey had a question for me. The answer is going to take more than 140 characters to articulate.

I identify myself as a Mac user first and more specifically as a Mac Gamer. However, not too long ago I live tweeted a new computer build. This build has nothing to do with Apple or Mac, it's 100% Windows gaming.

His essential question: What the hell am I doing, being a Mac user, building a high end Windows gaming rig?

Let's start with the status quo...

My Setup

I've spent years buying pieces and setting up what I think is an amazing arrangement as a Mac user. Here's the component list:

I love this setup, it was a bucket list config when I finally got all the pieces in place. Everyday I still get a thrill when I see it. I've used this basic setup for all my needs for the several years. It's served well whether I'm gaming or developing. However, in recent times I've run into the following frustrations:

  • To stream I have to disconnect a display to keep the frame rates stable.
  • To boot into Windows I have to disconnect the ThunderBay 4.
  • I'm stuck on spinning disk when I boot into Windows (IT'S SO SLOW!!!).
  • I can't run new games on high settings anymore (#firstworldproblems).

I've known for a while that it's nearing upgrade time. I normally keep machines for 2-3 years and then either resell them to recoup some of the investment (I sold my last iMac for more than $1k) or pass them down to family members. I was gearing up to do the same again when Apple through a kink into my plan: the 5k iMac.

The 5K iMac

When you think about what a 5K display is, it's pretty crazy. The native resolution is 5,120px by 2,880px totaling some 14,745,600 pixels. Pixel density comes in at an impressive 218 PPI compared to 109 PPI on my current displays. I've looked at the 5K display in person; I can definitely tell the difference.

There's some technical magic in this display. At 60hz it requires somewhere around 26 Gbit/s of connectivity. You can't get enough bandwidth on current cables and ports. HDMI 1.x caps out at 8.16 Gbit/s and the new 2.0 spec caps at 14.4 Gbit/s. DisplayPort 1.2 caps at 17.2 Gbit/s and the brand new 1.3 spec is significantly ahead at 32.4 Gbit/s. DP 1.3 will be able to power a 5k display at 60hz, but it's not available on Macs yet, and I don't expect it until fall 2015 at the earliest.

All of this to say it's one of the best displays you can get right now, and when price-compared to the Dell UltraSharp 5K it comes with a free computer.

The Problem

I've been lusting after desktop Retina for years now, but it is a step back in some ways.

Specifically graphics performance overall is worse. It's not so much a failing of the machine, it's just pushing too many pixels.

Maxed out a new 5K iMac would have a Radeon R9 M295X 4GB. This is not a bad card. It is better than the GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB I currently have, but not by much. The 5K display is equivalent to four of my existing displays, and if I wanted to use my two Cinema Displays it'd be the equivalent of running six displays.

I just don't think the R9 would be up to gaming and not run into performance problems, nor would this upgrade fix any of the other issues I listed above. If I was willing to spend $3.8k on it I could fix the Boot camp SSD issue, but I'd still find myself unplugging arrays or monitors to get things done.

The Conclusion

A dedicated Windows gaming PC fixes three of my problems. I can completely eliminate the dual boot on the Mac eliminating two issues, and by having dedicated hardware I can get back to playing at high graphics settings. This also paves the road for me to get a 5K iMac later down the road as graphics won't be as important without gaming.

I'm hoping that one day the performance catches back up where I can go back to having one machine, but for now two machines is the better option.