Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HPHDX.net Launch

I've been shopping for a notebook computer since the end of February when my last contract ended. I couldn't justify dropping several thousand on a new computer, but I'm a bit spoiled and couldn't see settling for a mid-range machine. I lucked upon a deal on a Hewlett Packard HDX18t. I've been a loyal Dell customer ever since college and never owned an HP, but the specs are excellent for the price and the reviews are generally glowing.

As the ship date drew near for my new laptop I began looking for a bag that this monster would fit in. This led me to the HDX18 owner's thread at NotebookReview.com where I spent several hours sifting through the three hundred page discussion. I was amazed at the amount of useful information buried where nobody would ever find it and decided this was yet another job for DotNetNuke. By the end of the evening I had launched the HP HDX Owners Club at HPHDX.net. I wanted to make the site useful to the largest audience possible so I branded the site for the entire HDX line rather than a single model.

It hasn't even been 24 hours since the site launched, but it's already beginning to look like a valuable resource. Now if my computer will just arrive. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Browser gaming with Travian

The world is becoming more browser based every day. We check our email on Gmail or Hotmail, catch up with friends and family using Facebook, share news and thoughts over Twitter and even create and view documents online. The world of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) is no exception to this trend.

Travian is a real-time strategy (RTS) game where empires are built and wars are waged. Players farm resources in order to build their nation’s infrastructure, defenses, and armies. Sound familiar? There have been a number of successful RTS titles over the years, but few of them allowed you to play online with thousands of other people using only your browser. We’re not throwing sheep here. Players can choose to form alliances or attack their neighbors to expand their empire. Armed forces can be made up of numerous types of units, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

One of the wonderful aspects of this game is the built in time management. I spent countless hours on end playing WoW when I should have been doing something else, because there’s always one more quest to complete or item to find. This lack of self control is not an issue with Travian as it takes time to farm resources and build an infrastructure. Players are shown an amount of time it will take until they can afford to start a new task. In the beginning this can be as little as a few minutes while a resource is being extended, however soon these waits stretch to hours or even days. This means no matter how addicted you are to the game, you wont progress any faster by spending hours on end in front of the computer.

Of course, just because you have to wait for your resources to build up doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself logging on during spare moments with your cell phone. Travian does not load correctly in Pocket Internet Explorer, but it is compatible with Opera on Windows Mobile phones or Safari on the iPhone. I’m sure there have been more than a few battles waged during church and cities built while waiting in the doctor’s office.

Browser based gaming does have its pitfalls. Where as most MMOs employ sophisticated cheat detection techniques in their software, websites have limited access to the user machine and can’t detect illegal applications or scripts which may give an unfair advantage. Many players use the Greasemonkey addon for Firefox to tweak their interface, making information more accessible and increasing their efficiency. Others go so far as to employ scripts which allow them to schedule actions, something that is not available in the unmodified game. Though the temptation to improve the interface and gain an advantage is strong, players should be aware that these sorts of enhancements are illegal and efforts have been made in the past to identify abusive players resulting in bans.

There’s no monthly fee to play Travian, so grab your netbook and fire up Travian.