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Project Management Software...NOT! Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 3:52 am View latest post
I think it's time for a new rant... Twisted Evil

I've been trying to improve my planning, especially of software projects. My method of planning in the past has involved lots of to-do lists in spiral bound notebook, along with lots of sticky notes. Not the greatest system for using my time efficiently.

I'm also a perfectionist. Yes, I admit it. In fact, I've got a really bad case of it because I'm still not convinced that being a perfectionist is really a bad thing Wink . But what I *have* admitted is that this tends to make it difficult for me to complete tasks and projects. I just love starting new stuff, but then it takes forever to release anything because I always want it to be perfect. The "perfectionist" tag also probably explains a lot of my other behavior that people around here have seen for years.

But anyway, back to the topic...ok, so to improve my ability to complete projects, I need to spend more time breaking big tasks down into smaller pieces that I can complete more easily. Then by focusing on a list of daily small tasks, I make good progress towards the overall project. As I said, in the past I've done this by making to-do lists and sticky notes.

I decided that there *must* be some cool software out there to help with this. Well, I was right...and I was wrong.

Apparently, someone out there (probably Microsoft) decided that Project Management was a BIG and COMPLICATED problem, and they therefore decreed that all project managment software should also be BIG, COMPLICATED, and also EXPENSIVE. Microsoft Project is a wonderful example of this. I am *NOT* going to pay $500 for that! I mean, give me a break...maybe it's the greatest software ever invented for huge multi-million dollar construction projects. But what about us small developers? It would take me longer to figure out how to use it than all of the time it might potentially save me on better project management.

While I was looking around, I came across some really COOL software called Mind Manager. It's one of these "mind mapping" tools for brainstorming. It has a *GREAT* interface, and I was up and running with a basic project diagram in just minutes. And it was so cool it actually made it FUN. It's really just a new graphical way to display a tree-hierarchy.

The problem is that I was really having fun playing with it until I realized that they wanted $200 for just the basic version. And all the basic version does is draw the pretty picture and then let you import into (guess what...that's right...) Microsoft Project Evil or Very Mad

You can add icons to the tasks in your project view, but there is no way to ask it to show you the next tasks the need to be done, or anyway to calculate a schedule, or to see progress on anything. Everything has to be done manually with your own colors or icons, which is a pain. It's just a pretty picture!

There is an addon for Mind Manager called Results Manager that helps with this. It goes through all of your project maps and finds all of the tasks that are incomplete or due soon and gives them to you in a nice to-do list structure. It almost adds enough functionality to make the project map a useful tool. Of course, they want another $200 for the addon!!! Just because someone wrote some book called "Getting Things Done" which is apparently one of the latest and greatest time management hypes, they think they can charge big money for their plugin and sell it to all of those companies looking for the next greatest management tool!

Sigh. It's *SO* disappointing. Once again, part of me wants to just go out and write my own! But I know I can't right now. That path leads to more uncompleted projects (but a Mind Map is just a fancy graphical display of a tree-hierarchy...couldn't I just write a zApp component that displays trees like wouldn't be that hard, would it...SLAP!!!) OK, where was I...oh yeah....Sigh.

I checked out a few Shareware Project Management systems. Namely PlanBee and MinuteMan. Wow, people complained about the archaic user interface in zMUD? Take a look at those two gems! Looks like they still develop in Delphi 3 on Windows 95. I've never seen so many ugly small fonts, colors, and buttons in my life. Maybe the software actually works, but I couldn't even bear to download it. You'd think that members of the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) would have learned more about having a decent web site and how to better present your software products.

I then found an Open Source product called Open Workbench, or something like that. uses Java...I hate Java. Downloaded it anyway and ran it. Couldn't even figure out how to start adding tasks to a project. The documentation was horrible. Stuff like "Opening a Project: to open a project, select File|Open". Totally obvious dumb stuff, but nowhere did it say how to start defining the structure of a project. Well, as with a lot of Open Source, you get what you pay for.

Found an Open Source Mind Mapping program called FreeMind. It also uses Java (Bah!). And while crude, at least it worked fairly easily. Not nearly as fancy or easy-to-use as Mind Manager. And again, all it does it make a pretty (or not-so-pretty) picture. No way to actually track tasks or make a list of which items need to be worked on next.

I guess I'm just going to keep using my old to-do lists and sticky notes. Unless someone out there knows about a good system that is EASY TO USE for creating project tasks and to-lists and scheduling critical tasks that is INEXPENSIVE! I don't need it to support multiple users, and I don't care about resource allocation (except my own time). I just need an easy way to break a project into hundreds of small sub-tasks in an organized way and then track the completion status and decide which tasks should be worked on first and next.

And I've got to add...and I don't mean to self-promote myself here...but all of this searching for software and looking at what's out there these days really make it sink in as to how great of a deal zMUD users have gotten over the years. A high-quality piece of software at a really low price. That kind of software is REALLY hard to find these days.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 12    Last comment: Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:52 pm by demoneyoungblood View latest post
Ultima Online Revisited Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 5:30 am View latest post
For some reason, I've become bored with the latest crop of MMORPGs. Even World of Warcraft that I was loving has gotten boring to me. I don't like the PVP "honor" system that was added, and I've seen a lot of the world with multiple characters now. The instance dungeons get ridiculously hard even for good groups at higher levels and just are not fun anymore.

So, I played with an old favorite this past weekend. I really enjoyed Ultima Online many years ago (10 years??). It was the first and had many problems, but it's skill-based system has always been the best in my opinion.

I found a 14-day free trial for Ultima Gold (UO plus a bunch of the expansion packs). Free download (big), and free trial. It is available on FilePlanet and GameSpot.

What drove me away from UO originally was the pkilling. I really hated hunting in the forest and then getting jumped by a high level killer and losing all of my stuff. So when I learned that UO had been split into two different worlds, and the default (Trammel) had no pkilling, I was excited to try it again.

The graphics have improved somewhat in their 3D client. They have a good "retro" look and I've always been a fan of the isometric perspective games like Ultima. There is a lot of loot, which is one of my favorite parts of these games, and the great skill-based system is still there.

I played for many hours this weekend and was having a lot of fun again...until I died.

For some reason, they never fixed the horrible death system on UO and I had forgotten how bad it can be. When you die, all of your stuff is left on your corpse and you are a ghost in search of a healer. Well, I died in the Vesper graveyard, and there is a wondering healer right in the graveyard. So I thought, no problem, I'll just rez right here. I forgot that when you rez you have less than 10% of your health.

So guess what, I immediately died again from the same specter that killed me the first time. I left the graveyard as a ghost and found another healer. But the regeneration rate is horrible. I just couldn't wait on my health to recover. I tried getting in to get my corpse again, and died again. OK, fine, this time I went back to Vesper, got some cloth out of my bank box and made some bandages. Got my health back up to full, grabbed a spare weapon and armor and headed back to the graveyard.

After fighting my way back in I got to my original death spot, and there was no corpse. Everything was GONE!!! I was still a new, poor character and didn't have insurance on anything. I don't know if there is a limit to the number of corpses you can have, or if the corpse timer is just really short. It was probably only 15 minutes from when I died the first time until I got back to the corpse at the end. My guess is that there is a limit to the number of corpses, which is just horrible and stupid.

So, everything that I worked all weekend to get...all of my armor and good weapons, are all gone.

What a waste of time. Why would they create a "carebear" server with no pkilling and then leave such a horrible death penalty compared to all of the other games out there. In 10 years have they not figured out that this kind of severe death penalty isn't fun at all??

Yeah, I know, the GM players are probably laughing. None of them probably die anymore. Maybe they've forgotten what it's like as a new player. It took a lot of work to get enough money to buy all of that good equipment that I had. And to rez you naked with no health is just plain mean@!

Good thing this was a free trial. I won't be paying to play this. Too could be so much fun.

I guess that's my comment about a lot of MMORPGs right now...each one has it's own faults. Everything is level-based grinding. Why hasn't anyone cloned the UO skill-based system? Or they either have an extreme death penalty like UO, or no death penalty at all (like WoW). Seems like a middle-ground is needed here.

I wish I had a bunch of friends who were talented graphical artists and had the time to invest in a game of my own. I've been in a ton of betas and none of them have listened to my feedback on what would make a better game. AC2 was a great example. I complained about the leveling system, the lack of space to carry stuff, the lack of loot, etc. They didn't listen. And guess what...the game was a flop.

Sure, everyone probably thinks they can design a better game. So why are we 10 years since the beginning of UO and still don't have a really high quality game?

Guild Wars? Got bored with killing the same scorpions all the time. I missed the green starting area and got tired of the "wasteland" feeling of the next part of the game that goes on for too long.

I guess I'll go back to WoW and see if I can find a way to make it fun again. Maybe someday someone will release a game that is fun instead of just tedious.

My question is: is this even possible? Are MMORPGs doomed to be boring level grinding treadmills? Will companies continue to make the game tedious just to force you to subscribe longer in order to make any progress in the game? Are their any other games out there that do it better that I should be trying? (I've already played the "big names" like EQ, DAoC, EQ2, AC, AC2, UO, AO).

Am I forced to conclude that MUDs are still better? Hasn't *anyone* taken a proven MUD game-play system and adapted it for a MMORPG?
[Post your comment]   Comments: 19    Last comment: Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:19 pm by adamwalker View latest post
I Hate Computers (again) Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 7:37 pm View latest post
Wow, this has *not* been my year for computers.

This morning I went into the office to find the mail server hung. When I tried rebooting it, it gave some memory errors and hung again.

The mail server has been the most reliable machine I have ever had, so I guess I shouldn't complain much. It was a HP Pavillion system that was *donated* to Zugg Software many many years ago (6-7?) by a very generous zMUD user. It was only a Pentium 233Mhz, which I had upgraded to 512MB of RAM over the years, running Windows NT 4.0. It's main purpose is to serve as our main printer server on the network, our FAX machine, and it runs the MDaemon software for our incoming email. Since I only have a WinNT license for MDaemon, I'm stuck with WinNT for that. This hasn't been a problem since WinNT has typically been rock solid.

Well, I looked inside and first found that the memory in this old machine is the old-style DIMMs. It has 4 128MB DIMMs in it, for a total of 512MB. I tried swapping various combinations of the DIMMs, but there seems to be memory errors in at least three of them because no combination worked at all.

I checked our local computer stores, and nobody has DIMM memory any more.

OK, I thought this was no problem. I still had the old server system that was at Superb sitting on the floor. I hadn't turned it on since it was returned since the hard disk was a mess from that hacker attack. But I put the disk from the HP system into it and tried to boot it. It doesn't boot at all. In fact, I get nothing at all on the screen, not even a powerup test. Sigh...I guess I should have tried to turn this system on back when it was returned from Superb. I have no idea what those guys did to it, but the motherboard appears completely dead. Since this was originally a leased system, I don't even have any way to tell if the original parts are still in it. For all I know they swapped out parts before sending it back. All I know is that it would boot before they sent it, and now with a new disk it doesn't do anything. What a mess.

Next, I pulled out my old development machine that died back in February. It almost booted the NT disk, but the power was obviously still flaky and would turn off right in the middle of booting. I decided to put the power supply from the Superb machine into this and see if that would fix it. Nope, it was even worse. It looks like the problem with my development machine was the motherboard and not just the power supply.

Geez, that's THREE computers that don't work now. That's just ridiculous.

OK, my last chance was an old Windows 98 system that I had down in our guest bedroom for web surfing. It was Chiara's old computer about 4 years ago. Another old PII 233Mhz, but at least it had a more up-to-date motherboard and case and take the newer memory chips (which I have plenty of).

For some reason, when I put 2 SDRAM 256MB cards into it, it only detects one. If I put 4x256MB into it, then it detects 512MB. I have no idea why it only detects half the memory. But who cares, I have a ton of these slower SDRAM cards, so I just left the 4 plugged in to get the 512MB.

I got the NT hard disk to boot. Now, for some reason the network card isn't starting, even though it's the same one that I transferred from the HP system that died. Sigh...fine...I do a Remove, reboot, then do an Add and reinstall the drivers.

It's times like this when I *really* miss Windows XP. Dealing with hardware without the Device Manager is such a pain.

Well, when NT reboots, the network card is working again. Wierd.

So I think the mail and printer server is alive again. I've got parts of FOUR computers all over my floor and desk right now. What a mess. And this system that works is a lot larger than the HP Pavilion system that died, and won't fit in the spot it used to live, so now I get to rearrange a bunch of stuff in the office to find a place for it.

I don't know what caused the HP system's memory to die. But since it has been turned on for 24x7 for the last 6-7 years, I'll give it a break. I'm still really pissed that this server from Superb doesn't work at all anymore. Wish there was some way to sue them, but there is no way to prove anything at this point. I'll never lease another computer again in my life, and I certainly will never do business with Superb every again.

Computers are SUCH a pain.

(This is NOT what I wanted to spend my day on)
[Post your comment]   Comments: 16    Last comment: Thu Aug 18, 2005 10:58 am by Atreides_096 View latest post
The "Summer Movie Thread" Posted: Tue May 03, 2005 4:09 am View latest post
OK, I know everyone is dying to start talking about the new movies that are starting to come up, so it's time for a new blog thread.

Chiara and I went to see "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" today, and we both really liked it. It is very faithful to both the book, and the overall collection of Adams stories. They added some stuff to the movie, for example, that isn't part of the first book, but is straight out of the Infocom game "Bureaucracy" that Douglas Adams wrote (the part about the "queues" and filling out forms).

I thought the movie was very well cast, although the Ford character could have been a bit better. Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin was wonderful, although I didn't really care for the styling of the robot itself.

Some of the sets and sequences were fantastic. The section going through the planet construction yard was incredible.

I give it a big thumbs up for Douglas Adams fans. If you have never read the book, don't bother seeing probably won't make any sense to you and you'll wonder why people are laughing. But even in the small audience we had at 2:00pm in the afternoon on a Monday, there were plenty of people laughing, including ourselves.

We are also looking forward to "Kingdom of Heaven" with Orlando Bloom...we love "period flics" and I was a big fan of Gladiator and have always liked Ridley Scott movies.

And of course there is Star Wars III, Revenge of the Sith. We probably won't see it the day it comes out, but a only a few days later.

So have at it...feel free to post your comments on the Hitchhikers Guide or any other movie this summer.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 4    Last comment: Tue May 03, 2005 9:29 pm by Humpton View latest post
Colorado Weather Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 5:03 pm View latest post
Ahh, spring-time in Colorado. You just never know what will happen next!

We had an SCA event down in Colvis, New Mexico this past weekend. Just a one day arts event that Chiara was in charge of. So we drove down on Friday, had the event on Saturday, then started to drive home on Sunday.

Of course, on Sunday, Mother Nature decided that Colorado needed a blizzard. The biggest storm of the year hit Colorado and closed the interstate from the New Mexico border to Colorado Springs. So we got stuck in Raton, NM, for the night, along with most of our SCA friends.

Then on Monday we were able to get home, and by 3pm Monday afternoon, you could hardly tell it had snowed at our house. And today it's supposed to reach 70 degrees (F).

That's spring in can have warm weather one day, and a foot of snow the next day. Crazy stuff.

Anyway, after an extra day on the road, we are now back safe and sound and I'll be back to working on zApp today and the rest of the week.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 3    Last comment: Wed Apr 13, 2005 12:05 am by Zugg View latest post
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