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Scott's Column
Warcraft III, Virtual CD, New Computer

October 1, 2002
By Scott Lewis

I finally bought a game worth playing... even if I am not any good at playing it. I played around with Virtual CD as well. This made playing Warcraft III easier. Finally I start planning my next computer as the wife has told me when I can spend the money.

Warcraft III

I bought this game and love it. However, I am not that good at it. It has been over 2 years since I played Warcraft II. That was when we sold our house in preparation for building our current home. Starcraft was out, and I played it more than Warcraft. I had to pack up a lot of stuff for storage, and Warcraft II got boxed up for the duration.

Even though we have been in our new house for 10 months (as you read this) I have still not unpacked my box of old computer games, and CD jewel case collection. Since all my CDs are in my Sony 200 Disc CD Changer in the living room, I just call the jewel cases a collection. They aren't used anymore. In fact the covers to the inserts (covers?) to the jewel cases are in the booklets that come with the CD changer.

All that just to assure you I have not played Warcraft II in over two years. Warcraft III does play a lot like War2. Many lot of the hot keys are the same, but some are new or a little different... as long as you are playing the Humans or Orcs. I have not had time to experiment with the new races and their own hotkeys. In the meantime I have to re-learn what I did know, and learn a lot that has changed.

For example: War3 does not have Archers. I really miss that. They were cool. I used to love getting into Archer Only games in War2 when I played on Kali (long before Battle.Net was around). War3 has Rifleman, which is about equivalent for a trade off. But you "train" riflemen in the Barracks with Footmen. Anyway, it just means learning some differences in the buildings and some of the units.

The differences get worse as you get into the game. War3 has a lot that is different as you upgrade to the more powerful units. I am still learning the humans... my personal favorite. When War2 was very popular on Kali it seemed everyone played Orcs. And Orcs had a couple of advantages. That's why I played Human... to be different and to face the challenge of the underdog... and ultimately... the good guys. I plan to learn a little about all the races before picking a favorite.

Overall the game is very well made. The graphics are really cool. A true 3D environment. I have run it on my laptop (1.2 GHz Pentium III, 256MB Memory) and my desktop (450MHz Celeron, 128MB Memory). I was surprised how smoothly it ran on my slow desktop. The game is a little sluggish in scrolling around the screen, but I don't notice it much. A better player would notice it more since better players are faster than I am.

As this article goes online I am getting frustrated with the game. i can't play it on the laptop... this game needs a REAL mouse. And I find it hard to get solo time in my study with the SLOW computer. But I do enjoy getting beat up by the computer from time to time.

Virtual CD & Piracy

I hate swapping CDs to play games. I downloaded a "crack" for Warcraft II so I could play it without the CD. This has nothing to do with piracy, but I know that what I am about to describe is getting close. Now that I have kids I really hate dealing with the CDs. My kids use my computer, and they are too small to understand that the way they handle the CDs are ruining them. They understand for about a day when I show them one of their CD games before I have to throw it in the trash because they man-handled it too much. But as kids do, they eventually go back to handling like they would any other toy for a 4 or 7 year old.

Now I am using Virtual CD. Virtual CD will create a virtual drive on your computer. You let it make a copy of your CD and them it "mounts" the "image" of the disc it makes to a virtual drive letter. You can have as many virtual drives as you have available drive letters.

I installed Virtual CD on both the laptop and the desktop. I let it make a copy of the Warcraft III CD and stored the files on my main machine. I point both machines to the same file. They make a network version of Virtual CD, but it costs more and that might be overkill. I expect I will keep separate local copies on each machine in the long run as I have had the game lock up on the laptop when my network connection (to a Windows 98 "server") became unstable. I have the disc semi-safely stored in my desK. Semi-safely as my kids have been known to look through my desk for thier own discs.

Because I played War3 in this manner, I have no idea if there is a performance benefit to be had. I would assume so, but I can't imagine the CD is used for much except playing music and verifying that you really have the game in hand.

What I am doing borders on piracy. I don't think Blizzard really minds if I install the game on my two computers. But I could easily hand it to someone else now. I assume Blizzard ties the CD Key (a 25 digit alpha-numeric set of characters on the jewel case) with the game when I go online to Battle.Net. So it would not be to my benefit to let anyone have the disc.

I do not feel I am in any way doing anything wrong. And now that I know this Virtual CD technology works... I will use it a lot more. I have tried products like this in the past and they did not work. I will try loading Castle Wolfenstien, Starcraft, Need For Speed IV - High Stakes, Need For Speed - Porsche Unleashed, etc. Once I know I can run them all without the CD I will buy Virtual CD. I am currently using it on their 30 day trial. After all, I need to know it will work before dropping down hard earned cash.

New Computer

My wife has told me I can get a new computer in March. Cool!. I will be setting myself up a budget that will allow me to build a cheap server from spare parts at the same time. I am figuring $1,000 - $1,200 for the new machine and another $200-250 for the pieces I need to build a server. I think I can get away with a motherboard, CPU and case to put together a server. I already have memory and a hard drive laying around. I will just get a motherboard with onboard sound and video. That will be more than enough for a computer that will run in my closet without a monitor.

I will "borrow" a keyboard, mouse, monitor, CD-ROM and floppy drive to get the server up and running. Once the operating system is loaded (Windows 2000 Server) I will unplug all the borrowed components and use Terminal Services to run the server remotely from my desktop.

The server will be a file and print server. At that point my current computer will be going to my kids. That will mean 3 computers connecting to the server. The server will also be setup to play MP3s all the time. I will connect the sound output to an old stereo I have, and then send that to speakers around the house. I already wired the house, I just need the splitter and speakers where I plan to have them.

My main machine will be a mild gaming machine. I am not into gaming as much as I once was. I would like to try out one of ATI's All-in-Wonder video cards. This will allow me to have a PVR in my computer. Cool! The only downside to that is that the All-in-Wonder cards only have a standard 125 channel tuner. I would prefer a digital tuner that would enable me to record shows from SpeedVision & TechTV that are part of my digital cable service. Regardless, I will still try for the All-in-Wonder. It will be the driving force that has me put a TV in my computer room.

The new computer will not share anything across the network. This will allow me the freedom to do whatever I want. I will play around with multi-booting under different operating systems. I don't know if I will get a DVD-ROM drive. If I do it will be a cheap one, because I might like to play around with DeCSS. I played around with this briefly when I built someone a computer with a DVD-ROM drive a couple of years ago. My laptop's have had Windows ME or Windows XP. I could not get DeCSS to work under Win ME, and didn't even bother with Win XP. But it did work very well under Win 98 on my friends computer. So, I would like to be able to run Win 98 in a pinch just to play around with DeCSS. Also just in case I need to revert back to a time when I control my own computer, because Microsoft puts something in Windows that gives control to someone else.

I want to play with Linux as well. I have always wanted to see what it would take to run a computer on nothing but free software. Linux will allow me to try that. I will also play around with Windows XP. I don't do much with it on my laptop. It's just there. But that's what you should expect from an operating system... is should just be there. I don't mess around on the computer my wife has to use. Finally, the primary operating system I want to use on my new computer is Windows 2000 Professional.

With Win 2K I only have to worry about having drivers for my Digital Camera, USB 2.0 support for an external CD-RW, and game compatibility. I may need FireWire support if I get an iPod. Warcraft III runs on Win 2K, so I think I will be safe running it as my main OS.

Wow! Just talking about it all is giving me goose bumps. You'll have to excuse me as I start shopping for components.

Conclusion

That's it for this month. Next month I will talk a little more about my plans for a new computer and start pricing what I can afford. Also I want to talk about the iPod and what I am trying to do to prepare for it... if I ever get it.

Until next time...

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