Dec 1, 2013

Flower for PS Vita

I already got Flower for PS3 earlier, so now that the Vita version is available, I got it for free as it's a cross-buy game. I think you can also get it for free for PS4, if you have bought one of the earlier versions as a digital copy.

I was playing it all Saturday while "watching" movies (just listening, with an occasional glance at the screen). I managed to get one of the trophies I didn't get when playing the PS3 version, so once I had figured out how to do that, I went back to the PS3 version and got it there as well.

The game starts with a very bleak screen:


As you proceed, the number of flowers on the window sill grows, color increases, and the scenery seen from the window changes.

The idea in the game is that you have one petal to start with and then you collect more from flowers you visit while being flown by the wind.


I really love the graphics in this game. The colors are so vibrant and the flowers are beautiful. Just look at these:




The only minus the game gets from me is the Pure trophy. It is much too hard for a game like this. This is supposed to be something you relax with and the trophy is extremely annoying to try to get. I gave up earlier with the PS3 version and may do the same with this version, if I won't succeed in a few tries.

Nov 27, 2013

Remember Me

I spent the entire last weekend playing this game. If it had a less interesting story, I probably would have given up in the boss fight of episode 3, where I got stuck the first time, but I really wanted to see more.

The following contains spoilers.

I decided I needed to buy some time, so I searched for a game guide listing all the locations of the SAT Patches. Then I started a new game and made sure I picked up every one of them in the first three episodes. This time, when I got to the Zorn, I could take more damage than in the first game and, after several tries, I managed to beat it.

Starting a new game was a good idea, because I could also use the combos more efficiently now that I understood how they work and had had some practice. It is actually a clever system, because you can customize the combos for each battle. For example, when fighting the enforcers that give you damage each time you hit them, regeneration is very useful.

Memory remixing is much more interesting than fighting. Olga's memory took a lot of tries as did Forlan's, but I managed to get Scylla's memory right the first time. I had luck with the handbag, but otherwise the chain of events was fairly obvious. Although, there is one problem with this particular memory – even in its original version, the accident was Scylla's fault, you just don't look to the back seat that long while driving, no matter what is happening there. But parents aren't perfect, so maybe Scylla just took the easy way out and decided that it was Nilin's fault.

Before getting there, there was one exceptionally infuriating part in the game. When you're being chased by Trace, there's the part where he says "Oh my, Nilin..." and then you need to run and the floor plates are falling. You need to run without stopping or slowing down and the jumps need to be perfectly timed. I failed this one again and again and started to get really annoyed at hearing Trace's line again and again.

First I was shouting at him to keep his stupid mouth shut, and later I cursed the idiot game developer, who made the part too hard for the easy level and didn't realize that Trace's line, which I suppose is meant to be funny, only adds to the frustration. I finally managed to pass this part, after taking a little break from the game to cool down.

After the Zorns, that was the worst part. And speaking of Zorns, I got stuck with one again in episode 7. I tried to beat it probably a couple of dozen times, but just couldn't do it, so I gave up and watched the rest in YouTube. Good thing I gave up, because there would have been more seemingly endless battles ahead.

It really is a pity that they spoiled an otherwise great story with much too much fighting. What I missed most were alternative routes and ways of doing things. There were so many parts where there could have been an option of running away and hiding and then sneaking around and avoiding enemies. I guess that's not tough enough, although in real life, it would be the wisest choice.

Nov 22, 2013

PS Vita's new panorama camera

The latest update of the PS Vita OS included a new camera function, which takes panorama pictures. It's the icon in the bottom middle.


The function differs from the one in my Samsung MV800 as you take separate photos instead of panning with the camera. You take the first photo by pressing the right button and then you just turn the Vita so that the next part is in the blue frame and the photo is taken automatically. The maximum is 9 photos, which will be stitched together when you finish.


Here are the first test photos. The photo below consists of three photos and looks actually quite good.


Then I tried full nine photos and that failed. There's a part missing between the first two photos. Using the function obviously requires some practice, but as the photo above shows, it does work, if you're careful.


Nov 20, 2013

Progress

I've been thinking for some time that I should check the town plans under preparation to see if there's anything new about block 11. The plan for that was stalled the last time and they decided to just approve the plan for block 12.

Today I found out that half of block 11 has got a proposal for a plan and it is available to public right now. Any complaints or comments are to be submitted this Friday at the latest, and a decision is to be made next month. Maybe this time they will actually get a decision.

The part in the proposal is the northern half, that is, the part to the left of the two-story house in the middle in the photo below. Now that trees are bare, you can see that the area has been cleared already, except for the tall birches. It's a pity that they will eventually have to go. I've grown quite fond of the view.


I think the drawing below shows the plan for the underground part of the new buildings as AP means parking area. The new buildings will be apartment houses with six stories and an underground parking garage. You can also see the locations of the other buildings across the street that you can see in the photo.


The next drawing shows what the planned buildings look like. They will be a lot like the apartment houses that have already been built in this area in the past 10 years or so.


I had been wondering a bit about the brick wall separating the new buildings in block 12 (the two rightmost blank ones in the picture above) from the older ones in the other half of the block, but the proposal for block 11 cleared that one. One of the requirements for the new buildings in block 11 is a firewall at least 1.2 meters high, separating them from the other buildings in the block. There were some other fire safety requirements as well, like making sure there is enough room for operating fire engines in the yard.

The attachments to the proposal revealed all sorts of interesting information, like parties involved in the process and what sort of statements different authorities have given about the issue. Based on everything I read, I'd say it's going to take some time before an agreement about the other half of block 11 can be reached. I guess that is why they're doing the planning of this area piece by piece.

The estimated schedule for the part discussed now is that building will start about a year from now. We'll see if that happens.

Nov 15, 2013

Horror games

Steam Halloween sale had some interesting games at very affordable prices. The first one I played was Deadlight, a side-scrolling zombie apocalypse. I actually managed to finish it as it's often easier to just run and avoid the zombies or to lure them into traps than to actually try shooting them (I'm a slow shooter and really bad at aiming). The story isn't spectacular, but interesting enough, and the limited movement of a side-scroller makes it easier to figure out what to do next, because there aren't too many directions available.

The ending was a surprise, although it felt a bit hasty, like the developers thought "Okay, we need to wrap this up so we can release the game. Quick, somebody come up with an ending!" Although, you must admit that it isn't easy to have a zombie game that ends in something else than "and then there were none."

I also checked the alternate ending in YouTube and... (spoilers, select the paragraph to read) it was really bad, because it made no sense. I can't imagine how the girl could immediately draw the conclusion that the guy was a murderer, just because he had her sister's necklace. They left him in the warehouse with the sister's body (as he had shot her when she had gotten infected), so he could have just taken the necklace at that point, before moving on.

Next, I started Amnesia: Dark Descent and that is nerve-wrecking. The character wakes up in a manor with a total memory loss and needs to figure out what's going on. There's nobody around, but soon it becomes clear that there is something badly wrong, and a little later you start encountering monsters. You can't fight them so you just need to run and hide, while at the same time exploring the place and performing certain tasks. Pretty basic horror stuff, in other words, but the atmosphere is anything but basic.

The distorting view when your sanity starts slipping away is very effective, especially combined with the sounds of the game, and you start valuing sources of light very quickly. This is definitely the creepiest horror game I've played so far. I haven't progressed very far, because I just had to stop and try something less stressful.

I'm not sure if Silent Hill: Homecoming can be called that, but it is what I started next. I've played Silent Hill 2, 3 and Downpour, so I knew what to expect. I like the parts where you explore buildings, because it is usually easier to figure out what you need to do in that sort of environments. My main problem with these games is just that, figuring out what to do and where to go, and so the game gets frustrating and I resort to gameplay guides to get me on the right track. I haven't progressed very far in this one either, but plan to continue playing later.

One I will not continue is Black Mesa. It's free, so I decided to give it a try. The premise, a secret research center where a sudden disaster takes place, is nothing new, but the place looks interesting. There are the usual fights with monsters and trying to find and do stuff. Then the military shows up and... I start losing interest in the game. My main problem with the game is that it feels like the makers tried to cram everything into it: monsters, malfunctioning equipment, collapsing structures, hostile soldiers, you name it. At least the game was free and I did enjoy the beginning (before the soldiers appeared).

Another free game is Haunted Memories. I read some reviews and there were lot of references to Slender Man, but I'm not familiar with that one. I suppose it's the boogeyman that's after you in the game. The game isn't finished yet and I hope the final version will be less frustrating.

To begin with, it's much too dark. I mean, literally dark, as in "I can't see a thing." It's also very hard to figure out what needs to be done. I gave up after some aimless wandering around, wondering where I'm supposed to go and what to do. Still, I managed to get an achievement – by falling and killing myself. I didn't even see what happened. I just got stuck, it was all dark, and then there was a text saying I fell, and the achievement popped up saying I had killed myself. Wasn't that fun?

After this kind of games, Dear Esther was a nice change, as was Gone Home, but more about those later.

Nov 14, 2013

Games

I have played or at least tried several new games recently. The first one is Rain for PS3, which I pre-ordered in good time, because I knew it would be "my kind of" game. The main character is a boy, who is visible only in rain. When sheltered from rain, he is invisible and only his footsteps and stuff he moves when walking by can be seen. He tries to reach a little girl who is just like him, and there are also monsters, who are visible in rain, invisible out of the rain.

The concept is great, but the actual game started getting a bit boring, because the solutions to problems are too repetitive. Still, it's a beautiful game and I enjoyed playing it through. The tedious part was finding the memories, which only get unlocked once you finish the game, so you need to go back. I just searched for a list of the locations and used that to complete that part. You get the last 3 trophies, if you find all the memories, and I so rarely get 100% trophies in a game. The only one in which I've managed to do that before this was Journey.

Touch My Katamari is for PS Vita and it was free with PS+, so I decided to try. The so-called story of the game is weird and the king started annoying me very quickly. The basic idea is simple, you just roll a ball over stuff, which then sticks to the ball and makes it bigger. You need to achieve a certain size in a certain amount of time. That could have been fun, but wasn't really, because the ball sometimes gets stuck and won't move even though there's nothing to stop it. That wastes precious time and gets me annoyed, and I'm not playing games to get annoyed, I do that quite enough without any games. So, I think I'll forget this one. Good thing I didn't pay for it.

I remember reading reviews of Remember Me and thinking it isn't for me, because they mentioned combos. I've got enough trouble with pressing single buttons, so I was sceptical about managing any combos. However, this is in November's free PS+ games and that meant I had to at least try and see how hard it would be.

I downloaded and installed the game on a Saturday afternoon, started playing and noticed suddenly that it was midnight. The game has a really interesting story and a female main character (Nilin), who dresses in an outfit suitable for her tasks, instead of extremely skimpy clothing, and looks like a normal person otherwise too. That is always a huge plus.

The controls turned out to be not too bad, although I still have trouble with fighting, even in Script Kiddie (easiest) level. However, I have managed to progress to the boss fight of chapter 3, although only after dying a lot. Nilin has already died in fights with various opponents and also very often by misjudging a jump and falling. Fortunately, there are frequent save points, so things don't get too frustrating.

I really hate boss battles, so I'm giving the game a rest right now, but I hope I'll manage to play at least a bit more of it later. I don't expect to be able to finish it, but I'd love to see more playing the game myself before I resort to watching the rest in YouTube. If only there was a game where you could just go exploring Neo-Paris. That would be fantastic.

Nov 11, 2013

Hill climbing

On Sunday, I decided to go out, although weather was really foggy and a bit damp. I wanted to test the elevation measuring in the GPS device, so I headed to the highest hill around, Jouppilanvuori. It's a man made hill and is a downhill skiing center in winter. There is a proper road to the top on the other side, but I decided to take the footpath on the north side, which I hadn't checked before. You can see it in the photo, going right in front of the tall fir trees.


This is the back side of the hill, so the terrain is more uneven than on the side that is used regularly.


The footpath went zigzagging up the hill and got narrower, but it has clearly been used. I know that at least mountain bikers use this side for riding downhill.


At this point I really didn't know how long the remaining path was, but I saw that this shortcut would take me straight to the top, so I decided to try. After all, the worst thing that could happen was that I'd slide down on my tummy and get a bit dirty. That didn't happen, although I did slide down on my knees a bit a couple of times. Too bad I didn't take a photo of the shortcut once I got up the hill. I'm sure it was a hilarious sight.



The visibility from the top was exceptionally poor. On clear weather, you can see the entire town center and the church clocktower.


The GPS signal got lost when I was climbing the back side of the hill and was only found again once I was at the foot of the hill on the side shown in the photo above. I understand why it would disappear at the back of the hill, but it should have been found again when I got to the top. I guess I'll just have to try again some other time, although the fog shouldn't have anything to do with it, considering how good the signal reception was later on my walk.

Once I got home, I uploaded the GPS data to the Garmin Connect site and checked how much of the route I got. The satellite photo shows the footpath quite clearly and if I hadn't taken the shortcut, I would have had to walk quite a bit around the hill to the proper road on the south side.


After all the sliding in the mud and fallen leaves, I decided I needed better walking shoes. The ones I had yesterday have too hard soles with too shallow pattern. So I went looking for something with better grip and also better water resistance, and found these.


They feel very good, but the real test will come when I go for a longer walk. 4-5 km should be enough for finding out how good they are for walking. The soles are made of two types of rubber and should be good for slippery surfaces.

Update: I may have figured out the reason for the disappearing GPS signal. There is a radio mast (or a cell tower) on top of the hill and I suspect it may be the reason for the blocked signal. That would be logical as the signal came back once I got further away from the tower.

Nov 9, 2013

Garmin Edge 200, part 2

I've been testing the device both while cycling and walking. Today it was walking as I went to take care of some errands in the town center. The accuracy of the GPS seems to suffer a bit when walking between tall buildings on the east side of the center. You can see that the rightmost vertical line in the picture below doesn't go along the streets, so the signal was lost in a couple of places and then picked up again later.


The way I'm using the device while walking is that I have attached the extra bracket that came with it into my backpack strap.


When in place, the device is facing forward and seems to pick the signal well enough. I'm really looking forward to going to Paukaneva to track the plank path, so I can see it on a map and also check how accurate the distances given in the direction signs are.


It's really great to have a device that can tell me my walking speed and distance. I have tested a meter that calculates steps, but I didn't trust the figures it gave, because the length of your steps varies and number of steps times the input step length cannot give accurate results.

My main reason for wanting the figures is to keep track of my physical condition. The changes in distances and speed should give some idea of the MS progression, although mine seems to affect cognition more than physical condition.

Nov 6, 2013

Garmin Edge 200

I have been using a Sigma 800 odometer for measuring cycling distances and an Excel table to keep track of them plus maximum and average speeds. However, there is a device that can do all that and more automatically and it's called Garmin Edge 200. It's a GPS device that records speed, distance, average speed, maximum speed and changes in elevation while also keeping track of your route. When you upload the data to the Garmin Connect site, you can view your route on a map or a satellite photo.


For a one-speed bicycle, my Jopo is certainly accumulating brackets for different devices. I won't be removing the Sigma installation as long as it works, but I probably won't be using the odometer very often from now on. The place there was left to install the Garmin bracket was near the right handle, where it is easy to see and reach even during cycling.


The ones in the middle are the Sigma odometer and a bracket for a led light, which I did not use today as I was out around noon and visibility was good enough.

I took the odometer with me on this test run to compare the readings from it and the GPS device. There were differences, but they weren't really significant. Some can probably be explained by the different measuring methods. The odometer simply counts the rotations of the front wheel, while the GPS records location data. Anyway, the differences were small and as long as you use the same device, the figures can be compared with each other.

When I took the bicycle out from the storage and started the GPS device, it took fairly long for it to find satellites. That's probably because I was standing by an 8-story building and the visibility to north-east, east and south-east was totally blocked by it and two other houses. At the other end of the route, by the supermarket I visited, the device found the satellites immediately at power on, probably because I turned it on in exactly the same place I had turned it off 20 minutes earlier.

As I loaded the data to the Garmin Connect site, I was surprised at how accurately the route was shown on the map, but I like the satellite picture even better. Now I don't need to draw the routes on a paper map anymore.



Oct 27, 2013

Cycling and walking

The weather is starting to get colder and days are getting shorter, but today was a nice, sunny, almost warm day, so I decided to take advantage of that and cycled to Paukaneva to go for a walk.

I was really surprised to see this. The road I needed to take used to go right there where those white things are. First I turned back, but went only about 100 meters or so when I started thinking that there must be a way, so I went to have a closer look.


Actually, there is a newer, bigger crossing a bit further on from the location above. It is very clear why this was done as the new crossing is in a lot safer place than the old one, with good visibility to the main road in both directions.


This panorama shows both the old (right) and new (left), so you can see they aren't that far from each other.


The rivers aren't flooding, but the water level is higher than in summer. To get to the entry to Paukaneva, I needed to take a tiny road, path really, on the other side of the river, cycle to where you can see the other bridge and go under it (there's a small path on the river bank). If you own a car, you can just drive the main road and get to the parking lot near the place where the plank path begins.


Bog isn't really that interesting this time of the year, but Labrador Tea (Rhododendron tomentosum) smells best now. In summer, the smell is so strong it can give you a headache, but now it's just a very faint, pleasant smell in the air.


This is the place where I picked cranberries last year, but I didn't see any today (maybe they had all been picked) and the terrain was much too wet to go and take a closer look wearing the shoes I was wearing. Should have had rubber boots, but I wanted to make sure my left foot wouldn't start hurting again, so I chose proper walking shoes.


To end with something more colorful, here are some cranberries I found in September last year.


Sep 26, 2013

A Clone in the Dark

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing PS Store when I saw a few interesting games you could get for free, if you had PS+. Also, there was an offer for getting 3 months extra when subscribing for a year. The price was €49.95, which seemed reasonable, considering all the free games I would get to play. Games I wouldn't buy separately, because they might be too difficult for me.

I subscribed and the first game I tried was Gravity Rush for PS Vita. My suspicions about that one proved right as I got stuck in a boss battle I haven't managed to win yet. I would be very annoyed, if I had paid full price for the game, but now it's just a pity, because I'd love to explore the city further. I haven't totally given up yet, but decided to play something else for a while and try this one again later.

That something else turned out to be Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark. I loved Portal and even though this looks very different, the basic idea is still the same, getting through fields with all sorts of nasty lasers and turrets and other fairly lethal contraptions. I first thought this could be too difficult for me, but as the game was free, I had nothing to lose (except time).


The game turned out to be good fun, and not too difficult, although it takes me a lot of time and tries to figure out what needs to be done. One of the really good things about the game is that you can skip bosses. For example, I had big trouble figuring out chamber 1-8 and decided to check what the skip function would do. It took me to Chapter 2 where the chambers aren't quite as tricky. Although, I did go to YouTube for help and managed to pass 1-8 as well.

The really hard part of the game is finding the collectibles. They're called helixes and they're so well hidden that I cannot imagine how people manage to find them. The only one I have found myself so far was in the very first chamber where it was clearly visible. For the other ones, I've resorted to YouTube videos.

The game has cross-buy, so you can get it for PS Vita and PS3 for the same price (or for free in this case). Before I realized that, I wondered a bit about the cloud sync function I saw on one of its screens in Vita. That is for saving progress in one device and transferring it to the other. I'll need to try that one as I have downloaded the game also to my PS3, although I plan to play it mostly in Vita, because it is so much faster to start playing with it (no switching cables like with the console, which shares the monitor with my laptop and uses the same kind of cable).


Sep 16, 2013

Mushrooms

My left foot is still hurting, but I decided to go looking for mushrooms anyway yesterday. Fortunately, my foot doesn't mind cycling, so I got to the woods without any problems. When in there, I could have had a rest, except this chair was probably moist/wet and inhabited. It wasn't actually in the middle of nowhere as I was standing on the logging road when I took the picture, and the main road is a little bit to my right here. It always amazes me how lazy people can be. You need a car to get a chair like that in this place, so you might as well have taken it to where it belongs.


The new zipper pull in my vest is a compass. I like getting really small gear to minimize weight. I don't actually need a compass where I was going as I'm already familiar with the terrain, but it still feels safer to have one, just in case.


I should have gone a week or two earlier. Now the woolly milk-caps were there, but they were all dry and full of maggots. Still, they were there, which means that nobody else has found the place yet and there will be mushrooms for me there next year (provided I'm able to go).

I was disappointed, but decided to walk around a bit anyway and see if there would be anything interesting to photograph. This strange looking thing is a fungus of the family Polyporaceae. There are over 200 species of Polyporaceae in Finland and I have no idea which one this is.


Another unidentified species. You can tell just by looking that these are not edible, whatever they may be.


My disappointment vanished when I found these. It's actually two separate mushrooms, but they were growing in a hole so close to each other that when I picked one, the other one followed. I could actually see just a half of one mushroom from under the mosses, but as I had just found one similar mushroom a bit earlier, I knew immediately what it was. These are called Albatrellus ovinus (lampaankääpä) and they are very good edible mushrooms when young. The young ones are off-white, whereas the older ones are light brown or yellowy.


So, I found three big mushrooms with about half of each usable. I removed most maggoty parts already in the forest and back home, checked the rest more carefully as I diced them. Basically, you need to get the bigger concentrations of maggots out. An individual, almost invisible hole here and there isn't that dangerous (it's just extra protein anyway).


These ended up in the pot with some onions, coconut milk and rice. Not a traditional Finnish recipe, but tasty and glutenfree and dairyfree.

Sep 15, 2013

Dehydrator

I've been planning on getting a food dehydrator and finally decided to get it. I would have liked the heavy duty model, which costs €250, but that was a bit too much, so I got the one that cost €50 and has less settings.

The first photo shows the dehydrator set with the minimum space between the trays. The instructions said to turn it on empty for 5 minutes to remove any residue from the fan. I did that and put a thermometer inside to check how warm it gets with this setup. It showed over 50°C in the middle tray when using setting 1 and that is too much.


You can increase the space between the trays by turning the trays to another position. With setting 1, this setup gave 45-47°C, which is better. I'm planning to do some experiments with ventilation by raising one or two trays more, so there will be openings on the sides as well. This would probably work well with stuff you can also dry in the room temperature, such as herbs and mushrooms.


Here is my first try with the dehydrator. I used a slicer to get even thickness for the banana slices. It took 6 hours on setting 1 to get these dry enough. The machine makes a bit too much noise and that can get annoying, but you can't really expect too much for the price I paid for it (compared to what one with all the proper settings costs).


Here are the dried slices. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I didn't add anything, just dried the banana slices as they were, but they are actually very good.


I'm planning on drying all kinds of fruit, depending on what happens to be available cheaply at the time. Glutenfree müsli is fairly expensive, so I'm thinking of just buying the flakes and adding the fruit myself. That way I'll get just the mix I want.

Aug 15, 2013

Food

I probably spend more time thinking about food than an average person, but that's because I have to. I have so many restrictions in my diet that it's a real effort to find something new, but I've been lucky this summer. First of all, I found some really good glutenfree bread in the store I told about in an earlier post.

These are sort of pre-baked breads, so you need to bake them for 15 minutes in 200°C. The first one is amaranth bread. It feels really hard when you take it out of the package, but it softens nicely in the oven and tastes really good. I also tried the alternative way of slicing it and putting the slices into a toaster for about 3.5 minutes. It's easier and the bread tastes even better and has nicer texture.


I also found some baguettes. These are made of corn, rice and flax flour with sesame and flax seeds. I like these even better, because there's more crust and I like that when it is crunchy right after baking. The same manufacturer also makes a version without the seeds.



Moving on to the less healthy products, there's chocolate cake and muffins. I have found some chocolate muffins before, but they weren't very good, so I was happy to find the chocolate cake from the same company that makes the breads. This was good, but not as good as the chocolate cakes I used to make when I didn't know how bad wheat is for me.


Mini muffins from the same company that makes the products shown in the earlier post were actually better. I guess it's because there is less comparison as I didn't really eat this sort of muffins before my diet change. These are really small and packed individually, which is always good, because for some reason, glutenfree bakery gets dry really fast. My main problem with these is that the outer package says there are 9 muffins inside, but there are only 8. I have tried the cocoa muffins as well and that package had 9 muffins.