Bison – Organic Honey Basil Ale

Tonight, I’m going to be updating on a number of brews I’ve been saving up.  First is the Bison Brew Honey Basil, an organic type.

From the label:

Bison’s Organic Honey Basil Ale a light-bodied ale, infused with organic clover honey & fresh, whole leaf organic basil, lending a floral and slightly herbal aroma, a hint of sweetness and mild basil after taste.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ale.  Light, crisp, a great color, and heavily basil.

While I like basil, many people may not like this.  I suggest those who haven’t tried it to get a taster single, if possible.

It’s a 6% ABV, which is very nice, considering it should go with a meal, preferably with an Italian style dish.

Windows 8 Start Menu Replacements

 As Windows 8 is now out in the consumer market, there’s a new, emerging market designed specifically for Windows 8 users: Start Menu Replacements.

I’ve dug out a handful of these applications, and there have been good sides and bad sides to them all.  It also needs to be noted that all of these replacement applications are separate processes from the Windows 8 Kernel, so you see them on the Task Manager process list, and I’ll show you the processor usage with the Start Menu open.

Pokki

Pokki

Pokki (Free) – https://www.pokki.com/

Great design, the most unusual of the lot.  It’s currently under development, and still having the bugs worked out, but it’s quickly rising to the top of the pile (see: Google Search).

It also has the unique ability to add shortcuts to your favorite web applications, via it’s own App Store.  This may be the point of contention and confusion for college campuses that limit user profiles.  Pokki is built off of Chromium, the Google Chrome project.  This is good, as it promotes interoperability with Google Apps.  This is bad, as some apps require Flash Player to run, and that’s not included.

Installation is done via a One-Click-Install method from the website.  This also means that any updates are easily handled just by the virtue of the computer being on.  There’s another problem with it: It’s a per-user install.  It installs to C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Pokki.  That’s no good for multi-user environments.

There’s also a couple more nit-picking items I feel I need to share with you.  First is, Pokki has no configuration option.  No way to go in and make certain features your own.  Secondly, Pokki fails to acquire full control of the Windows key on your keyboard.  If you’re in a native Windows 8 application, pressing the Windows key will bring you the Windows 8 Start Menu, not the Desktop with the Pokki menu.  Once to the desktop, however, Pokki has the key completely.

Pokki All Apps Menu

Pokki All Apps Menu

Pokki App Store

Pokki App Store

Pokki Process Usage

Pokki Process Usage

 

Power8

Power8

Power8 - http://code.google.com/p/power8/

A take off the Windows 7 Start Menu, Power8 is marketed towards power users.

The ability to pin apps is there, however the Windows 7 style Jump Lists are not.  It’s got the quick functions for shutting down, but it takes up more real estate than needed.  The Start Menu itself acts like a sub-menu, with the folder expansion style.

While I understand that Power8 is still under development, the graphic button for the menu is noticeably bugged.  It was very unhappy with any setting I chose.

The settings can be found by right-clicking on the menu button, and choosing the settings area.  Processor usage, Power8 runs on a single threaded executable, but said process uses ~27mb of memory; opening the Start Menu however, yields next to nothing for CPU time.

Power8 Start Menu Flyout

Power8 Start Menu Flyout

Power8 Settings

Power8 Settings

Power8 Process Usage

Power8 Process Usage

 

Initial Configuration Window

Initial Configuration Window

Start8 (Pay – $4.99) – http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/

I’m going to show a little bias here.  Anyone who’s read anything about Stardock should know that they are the most awesome, customer service, anti-run-of-the-mill company out there. And they produce good, clean software.

That being said, Start8 is customizable only to a point, but still flexible and appears to be dependable.  It can be configured to look like the Windows 7 Start Menu, or like the Windows 8 UI (only smaller).

While being a paid for application, it has more than just a lot of promise; support comes with it too.  Process time is minimal, and menus fly out smoothly.  The only slowness I met was in the Virtual Machine (VM) when I resumed the session.

Start8 Windows 7 Style

Start8 Windows 7 Style

Start8 Windows 8 Style

Start8 Windows 8 Style

Start8 Process Usage

Start8 Process Usage

 

ViStart

ViStart

ViStart (Free) – http://lee-soft.com/vistart/

This is one of those “good enough” applications.  They’ve replicated the Windows 7 Start Menu to the letter, with a couple of extras (something they call Ultra Blur, and custom Start button icons).  While simple, it’s too simple, and does not match the Windows 8 experience.

ViStart also attempts to install with a Search Bar for IE, so just be wary of that.

There are bugs with this.  The print screen function is locked out when the Start Menu is opened, the button itself has a graphical bug to it (bad transparency, I think).

Processor wise, ViStart does some good, with a single thread process, but also has a secondary process called ViUpdater, which appears to be an auto-updater application.

ViStart Start Menu

ViStart Start Menu

ViStart Options Window

ViStart Options Window

ViStart Process Usage

ViStart Process Usage

 

Start Menu X

Start Menu X

Start Menu X (Free, Pro $19.99) – http://www.startmenux.com/

Start Menu X is one of the “branches” of a line of an existing Start Menu replacements; Start Menu 7, Start Button 8, and Start Menu X.  But don’t let the lineup confuse you.  X is the latest version.

This app starts as a freeware application, but can be upgraded to the Pro version.  The benefits of the Pro version are minimal, but if you use them, they can be very powerful; specifically the tab function.  Cost wise, if you have no need for the Pro features, the free version is probably good enough.

Playing with the application, it’s smooth and is easy on the eyes (matches the current theme).  It takes up a lot of the screen area (but less intrusive than the native Windows 8 menu), and generally works as intended, with a nice, clean operation.  A simple interface will make this a good option for many.

It includes a Power Control Panel, where you can decide to shutdown, lock, etc.. and have a timer for such an event (like when you’re downloading a big file, but it’ll be done in an hour, you can tell the computer to shutdown in two hours or so).

The downside is that clicking any part of the app that is a Pro feature, it will prompt you to buy it.  Otherwise, the process usage is good, and is nice and speedy!

Start Menu X Menus

Start Menu X Menus

Start Menu X Settings

Start Menu X Settings

Start Menu X Process Usage

Start Menu X Process Usage

 

Classic Shell

Classic Shell

Classic Shell (Open Source) – http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/

Personal favorite of the free grouping, Classic Shell is probably the most customizable, flexible, and hassle free of the lot.

Configuring it is easy enough, though you will have to open the Advanced option to get the rest of the goodies.  It has a Windows 8 option for skin and button, and a plethora of other options.

As the lightest wight of the bunch, it has a great number of things going for it.  The latest release adds an Apps menu for all of your native Windows 8 applications, but still keeps a great number of the original Windows Start Menu options intact.  For enterprise users, the settings can be made, and exported for your mass deployments.

Classic Shell Menu

Classic Shell Menu

Classic Shell Settings

Classic Shell Settings

Classic Shell Process Usage

Classic Shell Process Usage

 

If you’ve made it this far, here’s to you!  And here are my suggestions and top pick!

Classic Shell is great for the most users.  The processor usage is light, and the options are great (if not a little too much).  Unfortunately being Open Source makes support a bit more difficult, since it’s a job for only one person.

Start8 is a great choice for just about the rest, as it’s a paid for, highly supported application.  The Windows 8 configuration is a great bonus to get people used to the feel of the native Start Menu.

Start Menu X is, however, perfect for the power users out there (so long as you go Pro).  The price tag is a little too high for my opinion, and I personally will stay with the freeware version unless the price comes down to meet or beat Start8.

Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA

Tonight, I’m finally trying the Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA.

Sierra Nevada - Torpedo Extra IPA

Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA

From the label:

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Ale is a big American IPA – perfectly balanced yet full of flavor and aromas that highlight the complex citrus, pine, and herbal character of whole-cone American hops.

At Sierra Nevada, we take hops seriously. Torpedo Extra IPA starts with the world’s finest whole-cone hops and intensifies their flavors with a little magic from our “Hop Torpedo.” A revolutionary method of dry hopping, the torpedo brings this beer alive with a rush of complex hop aromas and flavors not found in any other beer.

Surprisingly deep, and flavorful, for what is considered an IPA with a citrus overtone.  Crisp, but not too bright (what with enough spice to kick back the citrus).

Currently, as I write this, I am thoroughly enjoying this brew.  At a 7.2% ABV, it is very nice, and holds its own against other IPAs.

The Security of Online Game Management Services

Today, I was asked to give my opinion and technical know-how on Steam.

My 15-year-old is quite the computer lover.  Among other things, enjoys playing some games on “Steam” (owned by ‘Valve’), and talking to a couple friends via Steam’s server.

My wife is very concerned about our home computer’s security, specifically that outside parties can hack into our computer via Steam.  Are her concerns legitimate?

What follows will possibly be overly complicated, but should give you a general concept into what can and cannot happen via Steam or any other legitimate (EA/OriginImpulse) online game management service.

Steam functions primarily as a storefront and product licensing operation, with downloadable content (games) which can be managed by the user, and have a social network of friends.

From the licensing perspective, purchases are for the lifetime of the user.  As in, what you buy in Steam, you own.  Forever.  And it’s not tied to your one computer.  You get a new computer, you can install the Steam client, and get all of your games back, and, with some newer games, saves from those games.  The downside is, if you have multiple users for that computer, who have different Steam accounts, they cannot play your already downloaded games unless they have purchased them for themselves.

The “social network” of Steam is limited, and can be completely ignored if you don’t want to deal with it..  It’s nice to have an achievement page (which is automatically generated with an account), and you can share that page via other social networking services (like Facebook), but it’s more for that personal “warm and fuzzy” feeling.  You can add friends to a list, and chat with them, join games with them (depending on the game), and see what they’re playing.  But overall, the social part of Steam is useless.

In the face of malicious hackers, have a long, and complicated password.  Uppercase and lowercase, and throw in a ! or any other special character to make it near impossible to guess, and take hours to brute force.  Just in case, DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CREDIT/DEBIT CARD TO BE STORED ON THE ACCOUNT!

There are other measures you can use to protect your computer from the strange and wild Internet.  One that I use is PeerBlock, which stops outside sources that even look shady from getting in (and likewise for things going out!).  Additional lists of addresses can be added manually, or by importing a .p2p file (I find I-Blocklist is useful, as others have done the work already, in the case of the Steam blocklist).  Some items are good (the Allow type) and some items are bad (the Deny type).  Steam would be in the Allow, for me.

Within Steam, there are no Parental Controls.  M rates games can be blocked only by the user account birth date.  To help with this, there are other tools that can be used instead.  Windows 7 has Applocker (tutorial), and a variety of other applications out there.  I will not post any here, as many of them come with key logging functions, which I will NOT abide by.

Essentially, Steam is a safe application to be running.  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t tell a stranger, and you’ll be fine.

 

As for Origin or Impulse, I haven’t had the pleasure (or displeasure) of working with those applications in many years (in the case of Impulse, never for Origin, though I’ve heard horror stories).  I would guess something like Steam, and still apply the rules above to these as well.

Obligitory Patent Troll

If you haven’t heard yet, the folks at Mojang AB (the makers of Minecraft), are now being brought under suit by Uniloc USA, Inc.

The funny part is, it’s not for the PC desktop version, it’s the Android Minecraft PE.  For something that the particular edition doesn’t do!

In particular, section 12 is where the “infringement” is laid out.

12. Mojang is directly infringing one or more claims of the ’067 patent in this judicial district and elsewhere in Texas, including at least claim 107, without the consent or authorization of Uniloc, by or through making, using, offering for sale, selling and/or importing Android based applications for use on cellular phones and/or tablet devices that require communication with a server to perform a license check to prevent the unauthorized use of said application, including,but not limited to, Mindcraft.

The Android edition has no communication with an authorative server.  The possible “license check” is done via the Google Play Market, so Mojang is definitely not at fault here.

Plus, “Mindcraft” != “Minecraft”.  Just saying.

Ovila – Golden

A new style from the Sierra Nevada and the New Clairvaux Abbey, the Ovila Belgian-style Golden.

Ovila - Golden

Ovila – Golden

From the label:

This abbey ale is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the monks, at the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

Belgian inspired golden ales are noted for their devilish personalities, but there is nothing mischievous about this complex ale. It is brilliant golden and layered with notes of summery apple and pear and pepperv spice from the use of a traditional Belgian yeast strain.

A portion of proceeds from this ale goes toward the restoration of the historic Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. This medieval building stood for nearly eight centuries in Spain. William Randolph Hearst purchased the monastery 1931 and planned use the stones for a castle even grander than his famous San Simeon. Although Hearst’s, plans crumbled. these historic stones will rise again in a California Cistercian abbey.

This was an interesting find in the store.  The bottle comes with a paper label seal over it, stating that the contents are under a high pressure.  And when uncorking it, I could see the reason for the warning, as the cork came out smooth and easy, with little need for force.

Ovila - Golden Seal

Ovila – Golden Seal

Taste wise, my first reaction was a disapproval.  Do not sip this beer.  It goes down much smoother, with a better flavor when not held in the mouth.  The many notes they used in this brew are appropriately balanced, but too long on the tongue, and it’ll go downhill very quickly.

The look is very light, as per the picture, and initial pouring is very heady, due to the carbonation they put into it (again, hence the warning seal).

After all is said and done, an 8.5% ABV, and quite appropriate for Summer.  A good brew all together.

Ovila – Saison

This is a long time coming, as this particular brew is no longer available on the shelf.  However, the Ovila Saisonwas a great way to end the Spring.

Ovila - Saison

Ovila – Saison

From the label:

A collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Co and the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux, Ovila Abbey Saison brings the centuries-old monastery brewing tradition to America

Ovila Abbey Saison is complex and contemplative-but also refreshingly dry and drinkable. With earthy and spicy aromas, this rustic Saison has note of green grass and a faint citrus tang. The body is light and layered with fruit and spice accents and a dry, peppery finish.

A portion of the proceeds from this ale go toward the restoration of the historic Santa Maria de Oliva chapter house on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. This medieval building stood for nearly eight centuries in Spain. William Randolph Hearst purchased the monastery in 1931 and planned to use the stones for a castle even grander than his famous San Simeon. Although Hearst’s plan crumbled, these historic stones will rise again in a California Cistercian abbey.

My first tasting of this brew was a bit hasty.  The citrus brews are rarely ever my personal choice, but this one grew on me quickly.  If this ever comes back, I will be investing, and storing for the long-term, as this is a better choice for the Summer months than the Spring, in my opinion, with a 7% ABV.

Star Wars: The Old Redo

I admit it, I bought the Collectors Edition of Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR to most) when it came out.  I played for the first three months, then everything fell apart; it was yet another MMO.  Something to possibly eat into the great behemoth that World of Warcraft is.

Yesterday, I got wind, via MMO-Champion, that Electronic Arts (EA) was converting SWTOR to a free-to-play limited-trial model, another item similar to WoW (level 15 max), and enticing previous players with a 7-day window to play without having to re-up their subscription.  Tonight, I’m going to see if they’ve made changes and added things that should have been around since the launch.

Yeah.  Nothing’s changed.  At least, from my perspective, at a level 41 Smuggler/Gunslinger, with a level 2 in Legacy.

I find that the new Legacy reward system is lacking for lower level players, as Legacy is a leveling system all on its own.  Mechanics are still the same for combat, companions are still the same for trade skills…

Now you can color your armor to match.  Ooo.  Ahh.

Oh, and plus I’m being forced from my native server of Fa’athra to Drooga’s Pleasure Barge.  Where my character names are being taken by someone else.  As my server is now very VERY lightly populated, I find this odd, as we were a full server when the game launched.  But, as it happens, that’s the way it’s going.

So yeah, just going to pass on this, and realize I bought the CE version, and enjoyed it for a while.

Higgs Boson – A Quick Statement

Out of the 4th of July celebrations (including the 15 second “oops” in San Diego), CERN (our universe’s version of the Black Mesa Research Facility) believes they may have found the Higgs Boson!

And then there’s another term that’s floating around for that particular quark characteristic: “God Particle”.  Follow that up with the amazing amount of religious … individuals, claiming that the possible discovery (science is all about test-test-test to prove something exists or is a fact) is a clear sign that their deity exists.  I won’t say which group, as most groups claim the other group is wrong (in most things, even what the skin color was of the guy that was nailed to a tree), and all of them are stating similar “arguments”.

Higgs Boson is a theorized characteristic particle, that exists in what is called the Higgs field, and gives other particles mass.  The problem with figuring this all out, and observing the particle, is that the Higgs mechanism (both the particle and the field) exists for the tiniest fraction of a second.  We’re talking billionths of a second or more.  So CERN runs the Anti-Mass Spectrometer LHC, all day, every day, in hopes to glimpse that brief instant.

MokaFive

Today I watched a MokaFive demo.  Its like a VM, but with separate-able profiles, similar to AppV.  It leverages the local hardware for the VM, uses incremental updating for version changes, and has some nice policy features.

[Devil's Advocate=1]

The “trial” is useless.  It’s operated by the MokaFive team, using their environment, which means you don’t get to join a MokaFive VM to an ActiveDirectory domain, and you can’t get AppV installed at that point.  Their Windows 7 image is the trial (see 30-day) edition, so there are more problems with just that hurdle.

The suggestion of using the Adobe Creative Suite is useless, as the great and mighty Adobe states that any time you put a CS product in a virtualized environment, support is then void as this violates the license.

On a different scale, the Autodesk products CAN be used in a VM, however we have learned from that mistake, and a local installation results in a smoother utilization of the software.

Good ideas, some centralized management, but you’re still running a local VM on a local machine.  Unless you use a USB drive deployment for the VMs, there is very limited mobility (“cloud”) in this product.

MokaFive is basically VMware Player/Fusion with a shimmy and a shake.

[Devil's Advocate=0]

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