Starcraft 2 patch, reviving Brood War (Free-to-play SC1 remake?)

Blizzard’s StarCraft II patch to v2.1 released earlier this week introduces certain free-to-play features (map editor, Arcade access, access to additional races, etc.) but also two nice tips of the hat to SC1/Brood War players:

1: Big Game Hunters is finally back, and official! (Click here & scroll down a bit.)

2: An HD remaster of the original StarCraft soundtrack has been added to the Options–>Sounds menu.

Let the good (old) times roll!

Also: Amazing the difference the soundtrack makes to the StarCraft 1 remake, StarCraft Mass Recall. Still an open question as of this post as to whether or not it works for free-to-play players, but I’d bet it works.

Have you tried, or are you ready to download the free-to-play edition of SC2 and give it a go? I’m dying to know – Please comment below.

Is it safe to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview to Final? Not really

C:Windows.old subdirectoriesReally wish I’d done this:

But I didn’t – I read in three or four places that updating from this summer’s Windows 8.1 Pro x64 Consumer Preview edition would cause my “apps” to be lost. Who cares – Hardly use ’em.

Apparently I should have kept reading.

Running total of what the Windows 8.1 upgrader removed, four reboots later when it finally let me log in. Might as well have just backed up and started from scratch.

  • All contents of “C:Program Files”
  • All contents of “C:Program Files (x86)”
  • All contents of “C:Program Data”
  • Several subdirectories of %user% –
    • Most importantly: “AppData”, including mundane and unthreatening information like your browser profiles and Chrome/Firefox bookmarks, that wouldn’t have been affected by the upgrade.
    • If you had IE Favorites or Desktop shortcuts that weren’t moved over, they may have also wound up in C:Windows.oldUser<username>
  • All drivers, even including my WDMI-signed, Windows Update-sourced ATI Radeon driver.
  • And basically any modifications ever made directly to the registry, whether by 3rd party applications or manual settings changes, including some key remappings and graphical settings.
  • All Window Store apps, although reinstallation was made fairly trivial w/download buttons on large icons for many frequently used apps, right on the Start Screen.
  • And, of course, the betta fish boot logo. This one, of course, was expected.

What it didn’t wipe:

  • grub – Remarkably, this incredibly destructive upgrade didn’t seem to wipe my Linux bootloader, even on my single-disk desktop.
  • Boot to HyperV – Weirdly, a deleted Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview test install, however, was still in Microsoft’s boot menu. Didn’t test it at that time, however, as that VM and all others were missing from Hyper-V manager. The feature works just fine, however, after restoring the VM with original UUID and in its original paths.
If anyone else is in these same shoes, here’s a few rough, general notes on how I got back everything I really cared about – Much of what was lost was backed up to C:Windows.old, including:
  • Program data: Selectively restoring certain components of some larger applications was fairly easy, but restoring whole programs was all but impossible in my case.
  • Steam: Not the cleanest solution in the world, but basically do this to restore the bulk of your Steam games from the “steamapps” folder.
      • UPDATE, Nov 12: Looks like that wasn’t quite clean enough. Having to verify and redownload some files in most games, to ensure stability. Here’s how.
  • Browser profiles: Much of your IE information should remain intact, or will have been stored in the registry in difficult-to-recover ways. For Chrome and Firefox, however, (and possibly other Mozilla and Google products): Before reinstalling Chrome, just restore the Mozilla and/or Google folders from “C:Windows.oldUsers\AppDataLocal” by copying them out of Windows.old and into the same folder structure from the drive’s root. i.e. C:Windows.oldUsersGuest_000AppDataLocalGoogle just gets copied to C:UsersGuest_000AppDataLocalGoogle
  • Saved games: Applications that responsibly use the saved games file library seem to be fine. Everyone else? Check for any missing saved games in your old user folder’s AppData subfolders. If you’ve reinstalled a game that doesn’t see your old saves, you can likely exit the game, delete or archive its freshly-created user AppData folder, and copy the old one back in its place from C:Windows.oldUsers. If the game was really sloppily written, lacking multi-user support, you might also check its old installation at “C:Windows.oldProgram Files” or “C:Windows.oldProgram Files (x86)”
  • Desktop backgrounds/themes: Backed up in C:Windows.oldUsers%username%AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsThemes – Just had to copy its contents over the existing directory and reselect my Desktop Background Set et al. This one evaded my notice for over a week, as the Windows 8.1 upgrader weirdly retained the current background, but not its parent set.

And Hyper-V:

  1. Ensure that any user-defined Hyper-V host settings still exist, or have been redefined. (In my case, just needed to recreate my deleted “Virtual Switch.”)
  2. To restore lost Hyper-V instances, restore your VHDs: Move or copy “UsersPublicDocumentsHyper-VVirtual hard disks” out of “C:Windows.old” and into C:
  3. Right click on your host and “Import Virtual Machine.” Each VM can then be re-imported from “C:Windows.oldProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsHyper-VVirtual Machines”
  4. Select “Restore the virtual machine” and note your newly restored “C:UsersPublicDocumentsHyper-VVirtual Hard Disks” VHD folder.
  5. Beyond that, most everything else is just a “Next” “Next” “Next” –> “Finish”
  6. Start and log into your virtual machine(s) to confirm success.
  7. The one desktop feature that matters/The one feature that makes Hyper-V worth playing with at all worked fine after re-importing my VMs: Boot to VHD required no additional configuration, as the upgrader left the boot options in tact.

Selectively reinstalling these items proved good enough for me.

Eventually, it’ll be safe to walk away from all or most of the the C:Windows.old directory and a ~600+MB installer directory. Guide here, if needed.


Oh, and of course, the move from Ubuntu 13.10’s beta to final, performed just a few minutes before this ordeal began?

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -y #ever painless.

Windows key mapping – Scancode map

I’ve now held on to a beautiful old IBM Model M and used it as my primary keyboard for 13 years. Came from a school district auction, along with a Commodore 64 monitor that became my first dorm television. This keyboard’s likely seen every major build of Windows since 3.1.

For this and any other device that lacks a Windows Key, however, the need for its addition is feeling ever more pressing. The keyboard-heavy interface in MetroUI greatly benefits from finding some way to fake it. Luckily, the need for others is rapidly dwindling. (Many use Caps Lock, I prefer Scroll Lock.)

In particular, check out Windows Key+Q, a Search Charm being used throughout the MetroUI environment. The Windows Key on its own handily toggles between MetroUI and the conventional desktop, as well, although that much can also be accomplished with CTRL+ESC. Other new or updated shortcuts are listed here by the Aussies at

Luckily, while the need has grown, the fix has stayed the same since Windows 2000. To reiterate, this fix works in Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and all builds of Windows Server.

Software-free automated fix: Download either of these Registry Editor files to remap the Caps Lock or Scroll Lock to the Windows key. Open them, say “yes” when prompted by the Registry Editor, and reboot.

Manual fix – If you want to edit or undo this, here’s how:

Step 1: Run Regedit. Hit CTRL+ESC to enter MetroUI, type “regedit” and select it from Apps.

(Already have a Windows key, or running an older version of Windows? Just Windows Key+R or Start–>Run Regedit)

Step 2: Within Regedit, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlKeyboard Layout.Regedit on Windows 8 - Essentially unchanged

Step 3: If creating a new mapping, go to Edit–>New–>Binary Value. If changing or erasing an existing mapping, knock yourself out. Double click or right-click–>Delete away.

Step 4: After making any changes, reboot.

The syntax can be a little tricky, but I recommend either this excellent post on the same subject. Great detailed per-key scancode list at the bottom of his original post. (Alternatively, this post covers longer registry keys, adding a second and third remapping key-pair.)

Hope someone out there finds this useful!

Tested in Windows 8.1, and works fine in Windows 10, too, if you run Regedit from the Start Menu or a normal Run dialog.

Windows 8 – Quickie review

The good:
* Hard to explain how much I like the interface.
* The screen looks crazily busy in screenshots, but when actually using it, this is every bit as much of a grand step forward for keyboard-heavy users.
* Omnipresent, keyboard accessible search.
* The MetroUI PDF reader is absolutely excellent. Like Mac OS X’s PDF reader, it is lightning fast. Much faster than even Chrome’s built-in reader (the only thing that keeps me sane at work). This is one area where the fullscreen-by-default approach of MetroUI seems like a clear win.

The meh:
Changes in MS Paint leading up to Windows 7 radically increased the utility of that simple tool, but progress seems to have stalled.
* Games: For better or worse, stock Windows games that we’ve had since Windows 3.0 are now gone.
* Game size: While some are still downloadable from the MetroUI app store, Minesweeper somehow crazily gobbles up over 140MB of storage space when installed.
* Took multiple reboots to perform the install and to later install Hyper-V (total 4 – 2 to get it to recognize I’d enabled AMD-V prior to installation and 2 installing). However, many driver updates (ATI Catalyst Radeon drivers, etc) strangely no longer require it. You win some, you lose some.
* Media center – Pretty clear why they’re currently giving it away. I didn’t use it in Windows 7, but it doesn’t feel at all like it was redesigned in any meaningful way for Windows 8 and MetroUI.
* Yes, they took away DVD decoding. Who cares – They also added in so many other codecs to the stock environment that it’s better than it was. Only DVD and MKV playback required additional software.

The bad:
* My PC hung up on both of the first two times I booted into Windows 8, locking hard w/o a BSOD or any functional human-interface devices. No repeats after patches, as noted by many other reviewers.
* The absence of a Start Menu and constant need to flip back and forth between the conventional desktop and MetroUI interface is unnecessarily jarring. Really wish there was a middle-ground/a mini-MetroUI that could be brought up where the Start Menu used to be.

Well, that’s about it – Planning to note other issues as they arise in separate posts, including some keymapping details.

(Hard to find a good answer via Google at the moment, and harder via Bing, but YES: Scancode Map key remapping in the registry works w/no changes.)

Das Blinkenlights for sale – Pristina Kosovo

14.1″ laptop – Lenovo ThinkPad T61 7664 ($300 USD OBO)

• T8100 Core 2 Duo
• 14.1” 1440×900 LCD
• Upgraded 3GB memoryLenovo T61
• Upgraded 500GB hard drive w/hardware encryption and biometrics
• Ports: 3xUSB, 1xVGA, 1xEthernet, 2xAudio & 1xExpressCard/54, modem, FireWire.
• Gigabit Ethernet, integrated microphone, and 802.11b/g/n WiFi.
• Extended-life battery & spare
• Windows 7 Home Premium installed
• Weight: 5.5 pounds
• Price includes laptop case

17” laptop – HP Pavilion dv9700t ($300 USD OBO)
• 2.50GHz Core 2 Duo Penryn T9300 processor, 3GB of RAM
• 17” 1680×1050 display with wide viewing angle
• 250GB hard drive & open expansion port for second drive
• nVidia GeForce 8600M GS graphicsHP Pavilion
• Ports: 4xUSB, VGA, HDMI, S-Video, Ethernet, Modem, ExpressCard/54, FireWire, Audio, Secure Digital card reader.
• Integrated Altec Lansing speakers, webcam, microphone, pop-out media remote control, and full-sized keyboard with numeric keypad and 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.
• LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support
• Windows Vista Home Premium installed
• Weight: 7.5 pounds

Google Nexus 7 tablet (manufactured by Asus) ($175 USD)
• Android 4.2 Jelly Bean tablet
• 7″ 1280×800 screen
• 1.2 megapixel front camera
• Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor
• 16GB storage

I’m back!

I’m back online, and more importantly, so’s – Now being edited from Pristina, Kosovo. Not much warranted talking about after leaving Nepal and arriving in Santiago (and not much warranted talking about in Nepal, judging by the old posts restored here), but hopefully I’ll have an insight or two worth spamming folks about now that I’m back out in the real world.

It’s strange how much of a difference it makes, having an international border between you and the nearest McDonald’s. Definitely makes life a great deal more interesting.

This site was once hosted gratis by my former employer, the late great GSI Hosting – Sadly, my server there is long deceased & offline, but I’m starting anew on EC2 & moving some content back to Highly recommend NFS, but still have a lot to learn about EC2 before saying the same.

Hey: There’s a decent thing to write about. Hmm… That’d be original and everything, right? Well, maybe not, but at least I might be that guy that finally posts a decent “here’s how much a low/no-traffic WordPress site costs to host” post.

I swear – If one more guy had posted instructions to reach EC2’s pricing calculator instead of just giving a basic answer about real throughput & storage requirements, I’d have just given up and tried to see for myself. Matter of fact, that’s precisely what happened.

Enough rambling. Time for sleep.

Old posts follow

What follows are what I could recover from my old, long lost site. Not much missing, except a hotel review or three. Locked for comments.

Two stories made for each other

From el Reg:

Colonel: US Army has working electropulse grenades

From The Washington Post:

Lost U.S. Weapons May Be Going to Taliban, GAO Says

Is this what safety feels like? Brings to mind an awesome idea for a finale to Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. Using time travel, future humans who were somehow affected by the events of the first three Terminator films (for continuity’s sake) return to the past and loot US Army munitions stores, feeding the Taliban and leading to an Afghan-led victory over the machines. Yay!

(To the overly pedantic: Yes, I’m aware that the latter is about lax controls over gifts of arms to tribal militias. Still, these stories make for one hell of a set of neighbors sitting one tab apart in Firefox.)

Climate change – Unavoidable through passive means, but what about more active measures?

Ship stranded by the retreat of Kazakhstans Aral Sea
Ship stranded by the retreat of Kazakhstan's Aral Sea

NPR reports that a scientist at NOAA, Susan Solomon, says that the damage done by our CO2 emissions has already reached the stage that a considerable amount of future damage is unavoidable, going so far as to use the term “irreversible” to win some new and much needed press coverage. While the soundbite above hardly breaks new ground, one must wonder if Solomon studied active methods to combat this phenomenon. She seems to have a lot to say about the relative inadequacy of cutting emissions now, but I wonder what she’d say if queried about the possible role of devices like those used by the fictional teraformers of Mars in Kim Stanley Robinson’s award winning novels? What possible role should orbital mirrors and the like play in trying to mitigate the impact of these changes?  To tone things down to the realm of something not just possible and plausible but something that she might feel free to approach with more of a straight face, what role can solar radiation management in the broad, general sense play in mitigating the impact of global warming? These questions really need to be asked more often if the necessary but apparently grossly inadequate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that currently drive international debate ain’t going to cut it.

Anyone know enough to simply dismiss those options out of hand? I’m not familiar enough with the topic to tell the crazy fringe from the unpopular fringe. They do seem to get some coverage in the pop-sci press, ala New Scientist. See Sunshade’ for global warming could cause drought by Catherine Brahic.

Via: Global Warming Irreversible, NOAA Scientist Finds on

Via’s Nano still missing

It’s official – Via’s not going to come to market anytime soon. Considering the raging success of Intel’s Atom, it’s hard to imagine how (even in this economy), Via can’t get the only viable competitor to market.

I’ve previously written (maybe not here, but *eh*) about my desire to pick up a Via Isaiah/Nano/C-Vapor processor-powered HTPC, to do the job of running my storage, media player, and firewall apps on a single box, isolated from my main desktop. Unfortunately, however, Tom’s Hardware reports that the dual-core version is still more than a year out (More details). Combine this with the simple fact that Via claimed to “ship” the product almost a year ago, but it’s still not available on the open market.

This sucks. The Atom is hardly as inspiring, lacking any real muscle but also lacking any sort of functional GPU component. Boxed into the crappy Intel graphic chipsets, and without any sort of hardware-level extensions for media decoding, encryption, or compression, it is an incredibly lackluster component in comparison. Yes, it may benchmark pretty well against the shipping-but-missing Nano, but noone buys a netbook to run Quake – People buy netbooks to run software that can be very, very heavily optimized for the right kind of processor. Tying in the gzip decompression of Firefox, full-disk encryption requirements for laptops, and hardware-assisted decoding of digital media with a processor designed to take the load would result in a much better product.

That said, though, I’ve reached the point where I’m willing to buy an Atom based mini-PC rather than wait 13-14 months for Via to finally make their parts available. An Eee w/HDMI would fit 2/3 of the needs outlined above and, in this particular case, have an incredibly compelling design. With integrated UPS, HDMI support with sound (thanks to a discrete AMD GPU), and a stylish design, this box is one of the most compelling devices I’ve seen in a long time. Now if only it was had the hardware-level instructions necessary to also run my VPN on this boring little processor.

*le sigh*