Journey to Fusang / The Wild Blue and the Gray

I read some of William Sanders’ material in a short story collection and decided to search for more of his works. I found Journey to Fusang and The Wild Blue and the Gray. Both of the books are good, but have a different tone. Journey to Fusang is a hilarious romp through the U.S. in an alternate history where Europe never came to the New World. Instead, America is full of Arabs, Chinese, and Russians. Finn goes from one sort of trouble to another, but always seems to get out of harms way through bluff, skill, and a little luck. It is a fun trip by water to New Orleans then north and later west, eventually to California (Fusang). Finn makes allies and enemies throughout the book, but is always looking out for himself and a way to make a buck. The ending was funny but disappointing in a way. Overall, a good, fun book to read.

The Wild Blue and the Gray is definitely more serious, but fun as well. The Confederacy won the Civil War, and is now trying to help their allies England and France against Germany. Amos Ninekiller is a Cherokee sent to join the air war, but there are many ulterior motives afoot. The brutality of war is displayed, as well as some humanity here and there. Amos is in the thick of it from the get-go, and sometimes takes matters into his own hands to help his friends and allies. The ending is somber, as war is hell and there is really nothing glorious about it in terms of human suffering and loss. Another good book by Sanders.

Pirates of the Outrigger Rift / Free Trader’s Fortune

These are some indie books I read free through Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library. The first one by Gary Jonas and Bill Allen had a 4 star rating so I wasn’t sure about buying it, but I thought it was good. I liked the universe the authors’ developed and the variety of characters and their development throughout the book was good as well. There were some funny moments, lots of action, and a mystery to who the real villain is until the end. Lots of cool tech and the whole cyberpsi powers of Sai were awesome.

The second book was written by only Bill Allen, but I was hooked from the beginning. All of your favorite characters are back with some new villains and other characters, and the typical government desire to use or discard people. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s been a great ride so far. More interesting tech is introduced and there are more good action scenes and banter.

I recommend both of these books for some fun science fiction reading.

Luftwaffe Victorious

This is the first alternate history book I’ve read that deals with the Luftwaffe during WWII. It is one story only, not a collection of short stories. It reads like some of Peter Tsouras’ books in that it comes across as a telling of military history and not a story set in alternate history. I liked what Mike Spick did to cause the change in history. It was also interesting to read about the different planes and what other uses the Luftwaffe could have had for Germany.

Each chapter has footnotes referring to other books or what actually happened to give the reader some perspective. At just over 250 pages it was not tedious to read. It also follows time for the most part in order, not jumping around to different points in the war. I recommend Luftwaffe Victorious for anyone who is interested in WWII and alternate history and fans of Peter Tsouras.

Crysis

Why not talk about a game after taking a two year break. I finally played Crysis and I think my opinion was summed up so well by Andy Kelly in the May 2016 issue of PC Gamer, I don’t think I need to say too much. The first 6 missions rock taking on the PKA soldiers, even the one with the tank. The last 5 missions were pretty bad, especially mission 7 in the alien ship (crap) and mission 10 pressing several keys while dodging enemy fire in the air (I mean flying the VTOL in strong winds, bigger crap).

The only other good thing about the game is the save system – checkpoint saves plus quicksave / quickload = a great save system for any player that doesn’t take you from the action. I am a traditionalist when it comes to saving in games. I think checkpoint saves only is crap – why should I have to replay sections of the game several times for no reason. Just a waste of time or a way to prolong the game. I like traditional save anywhere and quick saves, but I was okay with the checkpoint saves because I could save anywhere quickly and not leave the game. Great immersion and a way not to have to repeat parts of the game unnecessarily.

Check it out on sale from Origin or Steam. You still can’t play on ultra-high settings probably (I played on moderate and the game stilled looked great). And enjoy the first half of the game with semi-freedom to go after your objectives whichever way you please. But if you get bored with the last half, don’t feel bad about quitting. From someone who finished the whole game, you won’t be missing much.

GOG to Offer Linux Games

GOG announced that it would begin offering Linux versions of some of its games this fall. See the full story on their website.

This is great news for gamers as it gives more choices on which platforms to run games. Mac games started appearing on different digital distributors sites including Steam, GamersGate, and GOG a while ago. Now GOG will join Desura and Steam in offering a 3rd platform choice for gaming.

By supporting games in native environments, distributors make it easier for people who do not run Windows to have fun with PC games without emulators or virtual machines. More choice is better for everyone. It is one more reason PC gaming continues to thrive.

Rufus – Create Bootable USB Drives

I ran into a problem trying to flash the BIOS on a Dell server recently. I downloaded and ran the Windows BIOS installer, but it would not work. It would either stall or finish and say reboot. At reboot, the server would get stuck going through its checks and the hard drive would show constant activity. After a while I nervously powered off the server and started it again. It booted fine, but the BIOS was not updated. I noticed there was a DOS BIOS update available so I decided to download it. However, I needed a way to boot the server into DOS to run the BIOS update.

After some searching I found a program called Rufus here. It is a free standalone program that creates a bootable USB drive. You can create a bootable drive from an iso file or create a bootable DOS drive (it comes with a free version of DOS). I created a DOS drive with a 2 GB USB key. I copied the BIOS updater on to the drive after it was ready and successfully used it to update the BIOS on the server. Rufus is a great tool for creating bootable USB drives. It solved a problem for me; maybe it can do the same for you.

AVG Removal Tool

Sometimes recently when I have removed AVG Free to replace it with MS Security Essentials (less overhead and not free for just personal use) I have run into problems with AVG’s uninstaller failing or stopping. If this happens and you go back to uninstall but the uninstaller fails to start, you need to go to AVG’s website and download their removal tool. As of today I only see 32 and 64-bit tools for 2012-2014 editions, but I think they work on older versions as well. Download and run the tool. It may reboot more than once, but after it is done AVG should be gone including the listing in COntrol Panel/Add Remove Programs or Programs and Features.

Free Kindle Books and Tips

I stumbled across this blog as an app a year or two ago. I was skeptical of it because of the name, but it is the real deal. I have downloaded many free books thanks to the blog and found others at discounted prices. The daily blog includes book descriptions, categories, and ratings. Nothing under 4 stars makes it into the blog. The blogger, Michael Gallagher, also occasionally references free Kindle books on other sites. Michael frequently provides tips for getting the most out of your Kindle as well. Michael’s blog is a great resource and it is free. You can check it out online at http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/ or download the app for your phone, tablet, or Kindle. If you find a book you like through the blog, make sure you purchase it from the blog link so Michael gets credit for his hard work.

Unity of Command – Final Thoughts

I just finished all of the scenarios for Unity of Command plus the two DLCs. I definitely like playing the German side better. the Germans have great armor and armored vehicles; the Russians mostly have lots of infantry and there armor is often weak. While this may be historically accurate (although I think there should have been more T-34 tanks), the Russians just are not as fun to play.

The other thing I noticed was about the scenario difficulty ratings. I love that they exist, but medium and hard don’t always seem accurate. Some of the medium scenarios are pretty easy, some are medium, and some are near impossible, at least for me. The difficult ones might just have been because of turn limits. The hard ones are all involved, but some are much easier than others and are more of a time consuming effort rather than really difficult. However, the hardest scenarios are definitely rated hard. On the other hand, I finished some of the hard ones well within the turn limit.

I never had the opportunity to play multiplayer, but there are network and hot seat options.

In any event, I highly recommend Unity of Command for anyone who likes turn-based war games. I am glad PC gamers are lucky enough to have so many indie developers to bring us some great games from genres that are “old school” or “dead” to the big companies. Support these indie developers, like 2 x 2 Games, if you have the chance.