Sunday, September 30, 2012

Windows 7 Shake, Show Desktop, Minimize All

     Sometimes when working with multiple programs it is beneficial to be able to quickly get back to the desktop.  There are several ways to do this.  In this post we will examine the various ways to accomplish this and the different uses of each.


     1.  Lets start with Windows Shake.  This is a feature built into Windows 7 that allows you to shake the window you want to keep active but minimize everything behind it.  This could be useful if you want to keep one window open but pull up something else from your desktop.  Basically it is as simple as left click and holding on the top bar of the window you wish to keep active and then shaking it back and forth.  This will minimize all of the open windows except for the one that was shook.  The process can be repeated to restore all of the minimized windows back onto the screen.  Please see the tutorial video below for a demonstration of how to use this feature.

Windows 7: Shake Video

Show Desktop

     2.  Windows 7 also has a button by the clock that lets you either peek at the desktop (by hovering the mouse pointer over it) or minimize all open programs and fully display the desktop by left clicking on the button.  The minimize all open programs can be reversed or undone simply by left clicking on the show desktop button a second time.  The peek feature could be handy if you are simply verifying a file is on the desktop but you don't want to minimize what you are currently working on.  The tutorial video below demonstrates how to use this feature.

Windows 7: Show Desktop Button Video

Minimize All

     3.  Another way to minimize all open applications is simply a keyboard shortcut.  Windows has employed these shortcuts for a long time and they are probably the fastest way to accomplish a task.  Some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts employ the Windows key.  The Windows key is typically located on the left side of the keyboard between the Ctrl key and the Alt key.  Some keyboards may also have another Windows key on the right side of the keyboard in the same general area.  The Windows key is the one that has the Microsoft Windows logo on it.  The keyboard shortcut for minimizing all open programs is Windows key + M.  This simply minimizes them down to the task bar.  It does not close any programs.  The minimize all is handy for those times when you need start a new program and want everything else that you were using to wait on the task bar until you are ready to use them again.

     Please leave a comment with your questions or suggestions.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

NCAA Football 13 Recruiting Guide Part 1

Part 1: Filling the preseason recruiting board

     The most important step in any successful recruiting program is selecting the right prospects.  The following guide is a synopsis of how I do things.  I play in an online dynasty and I tend to end up at or very near the top of the recruiting rankings every year so I know that this system works.

     The first task is to fill your recruiting board.  Nothing is more important than addressing your team needs on a year to year basis.  You do not want to end up starting a walk on after all.  I review team needs and always begin there.  So, lets say hypothetically you need 1 WR, 2 MLB, and 1 K.  I then use the search and add feature to select the position WR and require that their interest toward my school be at least in the top 10.  I do not bother trying to recruit players outside a top 10 interest because I think it is a waste of time.  You may land someone eventually but the effort required I believe is better spent elsewhere.  The only exception to this rule is when you have no one interested in your school at that position.  This seems to happen most frequently with the FB position, but your mileage may vary.

     Once you have searched for your WR, I always select the very best WR according to the rankings that have a top 10 interest.  I do this even if there is a guy below with a higher interest level.  This is probably just my retentive tendencies but I want to get the best guy that is interested.  I usually only do a 1 to 1 ration on team needs.  If I need a WR, then I only target one WR at the outset.  This may not hold true later after I have addressed team needs and begin to flesh out the rest of my recruit board but for starters, that is what I do.  Now, what about as I alluded to earlier if you do not have a WR with top 10 interest.  Then I drop the top 10 requirement from the search and just select the best WR in the country.  If you have to dream, dream big.  Having said this, if you do want to improve your chances somewhat of landing a player that does not have a top 10 interest in your school you could restrict your search to pipeline states and select the best player from that list.  Pipeline players always give you a better return on your recruiting time.  Repeat this process until all of your team needs have been addressed.  In the previous example, 1 WR, 2 MLB, and 1 K, this would mean that my board should have 4 players on it.  They would be 1 WR, 2 MLB and 1 K.  Great, we are ready to move on.

     The next step is to fill the remaining slots of our recruiting board.  If we continue to use the above example then this would mean that we would need to target an additional 31 players.  My system from here is very difficult (note sarcasm).  I again go into search and this time select any position with a top 10 interest.  From here I just go on down the list ordered by ranking and add every single player.  The only time I have deviated from this in the past is if I end up targeting 10 or so WR (I have had this happen) in which case I would simply begin to ignore WR but continue adding other positions while moving down the list in ranking order.  Once your recruiting board is full, you are done with part 1 of this recruiting guide.  Please look for part 2 where we will deal with recruiting board organization and scouting.

     Included below is a video I made demonstrating some of the basic recruiting concepts discussed above.  I used a computer and EA Sports NCAA Football 13 Dynasty website to make this video.

NCAA Football 13 Recruiting Guide Part 1 Video

     Please leave a comment with your questions or suggestions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Windows 7 Snap

     Windows 7 includes many useful new features and improvements to previous Windows products.  One such improvement is the "snap" feature.

     Essentially this allows users to move a program or application to one side of the screen and have it snap to exactly that half of the screen.  The user could then snap another program or application to the other half of the screen and in essence mimic having a dual screen display.

     The benefits to using the snap feature are exactly the same benefits one would get from having multiple monitors or displays.  You can see two programs or applications at the exact same time without having to minimize one to see the other.  A simple example may be reviewing information from one application and using that information to input data into a different application.  The process is simplified and sped up greatly when you eliminate the need to constantly minimize or switch between programs or applications.

     To utilize the snap feature we will assume that the user is running a program or application full screen.  The first step is click the middle button in the upper right corner, the one between the - and the X.  This is called restore down.  Conversely it will be called maximize if the program or application is not running full screen.  Once we have clicked the middle button we can then click and hold the left mouse button on the top bar of the program or application and drag it around.  Drag it towards whichever of side of the screen that you want it to snap to.  Once the mouse pointer contacts the edge of the screen you will see a silhouette form on exactly that half of the screen.  Release the mouse button and the program or application will snap to that half of the screen.  Repeat the process to snap something else to the other side of screen.

     I have created a small video tutorial that demonstrates the Windows 7 Snap feature so if you are having trouble visualizing any of the descriptions I have provided above the video should help.  This feature is probably going to work best on a 19 inch or larger wide screen display.  Anything smaller and the snapped programs or applications will be difficult to read.

Windows 7: Snap Video

     Please leave a comment with your questions or suggestions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mass Effect 3 = Mass XP

     Last night I was playing Mass Effect 3 and enjoying it.  I will admit that I have not gotten too far in the game yet.  Work, family and other games have taken up more of my time.  I am ashamed to admit that I was still only level 3 at the time.

      It was during this play session that I noticed something that I find interesting, perhaps a trend in gaming these days.  While in the very early levels of the game I noticed I received 5XP for picking up a med pack.  Then, later on in the level I read a data pad and low and behold I gained another odd amount of experience.  Something to the tune of 144XP if memory serves.

     The funny part at least to me was that this was enough to level me up.  It struck me, you really don't even have to fight things or do anything that requires skill to gain XP and levels in games anymore.

     I probably show my age when I say that I remember back in the good old days when you had to actually fight to earn XP.  But then I was thinking, were those really the good old days?  When you think about how far games and gaming systems have come nowadays, the power they have now for immersion is so much greater than what it used to be.  If you go back to the Atari 2600 days one of my favorite games of the time was Adventure.  Great game, but you were a square.  No joke, a square!  Talk about having to use your imagination!

     Games like the Elder Scrolls series make such good use of the world and your actions that when you sneak around, you get better at it.  When you use magic, you get better at it.  How cool is that?  So, where am I going with all of this?  I guess my point is, initially I thought it was humorous that I should gain a level from reading a data pad.  But after thinking about it, I will take gaining a level from reading any day over going back to my character being a square!

     What do you think?  Do you long the gaming days of yore or are you completely happy with where gaming is today?  Leave your comments below.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What is a Horpion?

     A horpion is a half horse, half scorpion creature.  It has the body of a horse with both the pincers and the stinger of a scorpion.  The creature is quite fearsome I assure you.  It is incredibly swift like a horse but has the ability grab its foe with its pincers while delivering a lethal sting.

     Credit for the concept of the horpion has to go to my buddy Jim.  He created it upon hearing that an entity that uses a horse as their mascot often discovered scorpions at their facility.  He remarked, "they should change their mascot to a horpion".

     I borrowed his concept because it would be the perfect video game nemesis or even boss.  How cool would be it encounter such a creature in a game like Skyrim?  Scorpions make cool enemies but they are usually slow.  A horpion though, you would have your hands full.  Or, what if you could tame one like in Red Dead Redemption and make them your mount?  Good stuff.

     Anyway you slice it, a horpion fits into gaming about as well as anything else.  Now that you know what a horpion is and why I chose to use it as my blog name, what do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Xbox 360 Live DLC (Downloadable Content) Tip

     Video game consoles are taking over more and more as the go to device when it comes to watching TV, sports, streaming media, and of course playing games.  Because of this, more and more people that I talk to today have more than one console in their house.  For those of you who have multiple Xbox 360s in your home, this tip is for you.

     Xbox Live ties the purchases that you make on their service to two things.
  1. The original console that the content was purchased on.
  2. The original Xbox Live account that purchased the content.
     So what does this mean?  Well, it means that if you have a house full of gamers you will have problems if you do not know about this tip.  Everybody knows that when you buy a disc based game you can use it anywhere.  You can take that disc and throw it in another console and someone else can use it with no problems.  Well, what about when you download that new Xbox Arcade game or map pack off of Xbox Live and want to use it on a different console and with a different account?  I have you covered but be aware that this does require a minimum of two Xbox controllers and the secondary Xbox has to be connected to the Internet.

    First let me say that if you are using the original console that downloaded the content you are pretty much set.  Any account on that console can use the content and it will be the full version in the case of arcade games or it will show up if it is a piece of DLC for a disc based game.  The issue we are concerned with is how do I use the content on a different console with a different account.  The legitimate uses for this might be a child or sibling who wants to play the game on their console and with their account.

     The first thing that needs to be done is the Xbox Live account that purchased the content (we will call this account the primary account) needs to download the DLC again on the second console.  You will not be charged again for this content if you have already purchased it once.  Then sign out of the primary account.

     From here you would sign in the secondary account on controller 1.  It really does not matter whether the secondary account is an Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Live Silver, or just an offline account.  Then, sign into controller 2 with the primary account.  It is important to mention again that the secondary Xbox does need to connect to the Internet as the primary account needs to be signed into Xbox Live for this to work.  Once the primary account is signed into Xbox Live all content on the secondary console that the primary purchased will be available to any account.  Furthermore, the primary account does not need to play any of the games.  They can leave the room and go do something else.  They just need to leave themselves signed in.  The secondary account is free to load up whatever game and play as they wish.  The primary account will not earn gamer score nor will their save files be impacted by the secondary accounts game play.  I have also made a video discussing this topic and have linked to it below.

Xbox 360 Live DLC Tip Video

     Please leave a comment with your questions or suggestions.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7

     A lot of people are probably unaware of this feature in Windows 7.  Essentially this allows you to record what you are doing on your computer and output your actions to a file.  There could be many uses for this feature.  Listed are but a few.
  1. You could log the exact steps taken before an error of some kind occurs.  The person reviewing the file can then see all the steps plus the error screen itself.
  2. You could create some basic training instructions since the recorder will document everything that you do on the screen.
     To start PSR (Problem Steps Recorder) simply click on the start button and in the search dialogue box type psr and hit enter.  It really is that simple.  This will open a bar that looks like this.

     Click "Start Record" and you are on your way.  This does not create a literal video recording but rather a document containing screenshots of  mouse clicks as well as descriptions of actions taken. This will keep logging your actions until you click "Stop Record".  At this point a Save As screen will pop up which will give you the opportunity to choose where you want to save the file in addition to allowing you to name the file.  I usually save these to my desktop and give them a name that describes what I just recorded.  This will save a zipped file to the location that you specify.  When you open the zipped file you can see screenshots as well as descriptions of what action was taken in each screenshot.  You could then attach the file to an email if you wish to have someone review your steps either for troubleshooting or training as mentioned above.  Please check out my small video tutorial on PSR below.

Windows 7: Problem Steps Recorder Video

     Please leave a comment with your questions or suggestions.

NCAA Football 13 BCS National Champions

     I finally did it!  I took Stanford to the BCS National Championship and won!  Let me provide some context to this story.

     I have been playing NCAA Football 13's online dynasty mode with a good buddy of mine.  He had been using the Oklahoma State Cowboys and I had been using Stanford.  In the 2012 season he stormed into the BCS National Championship with an undefeated record.  I on the other hand had lost a heartbreaking game to my bitter rival Notre Dame but still managed a respectable 3rd place in the BCS voting.

     It was the Conference Championship where things got interesting.  I was ranked 3rd in the BCS while Utah was ranked 2nd.  This created the perfect match up for me to obtain a BCS Championship berth as Utah would play Stanford for the PAC 12 Championship.  It was a thrilling game and the pressure was really on as losing meant I would not go to the National Championship and Utah would.  I felt it was a safe bet that if I beat Utah that Stanford would move up to 2nd in the polls and be in the big game.  I managed to beat Utah and was set to play my buddy for the all the marbles.

     The time for the game had finally come.  The game was a back and forth affair, very evenly matched.  Stanford had an unfortunate knack for throwing the defense the ball however and this ended up being the nail in the coffin.  Oklahoma State Cowboys ran out the clock to seal their 2012 National Championship.

     This takes us to the 2013 season where both of us put together undefeated regular seasons.  He was ranked 1st in the polls and I was again ranked 2nd going into the Conference Championship week.  This time Stanford was to go up against the formidable USC Trojans.  What a game, I won 10-7 in a game that was all about the defenses.  Stanford had thrown 4 interceptions in the game and still managed to win.  Low and behold when we advanced to the next week who moved into 1st place in the polls?  Stanford!

     So, heading into the 2013 BCS National Championship Stanford was #1 and Oklahoma State was #2.  This time around the contest was much different.  I have a certain system that I use.  Every year it is different and this particular year it was that I blitz every play.  This is usually a feast or famine way to play the game.  If you get to the QB or RB early things are great.  When you don' is usually bad.  My buddy played well but my defense had gotten to him early and often.  He made some adjustments in the second half but he had a couple of key turnovers that really cost him the game and Stanford took home the Championship.

     Because I had accomplished everything that I wanted with Stanford and my contract was up I set out to find a new team.  I was hoping to sign on with the Arizona State Sun Devils, Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, or the Idaho Vandals.  None of these teams had any positions open but you only find this out by declining jobs and then some new ones reveal themselves.  I passed on many, many head coaching jobs, including the Arizona Wildcats.  It became clear after some time that all of the head coaching gigs were taken and now I would settling for either an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator.  I waited until the very end hoping something would be available at my desired schools, but alas, I had to sign with the very last team to offer me a job.  I am now the Offensive Coordinator for the FIU Golden Panthers.  They actually had a decent season in 2013, but their talent pool decreased greatly with the last graduating class.  I have my work cut out for me but also look forward to the challenge.  Can I take FIU to the top?  Stay tuned.