Hooked on Dragon Age: Origins, worked for me!

Or: Reasons why I am such a Dragon Age fan girl.

So I’m on my third run through with this game. And I’m still approaching it as ridiculously as I did the second time. I’m over here more worried about hurting a computer generated pixel’s feelings more than anything else.

You know its a good game when you find yourself with a case of crazy.

King of Swooping

"Oh Maker! What is WRONG with you women?"

During the first run through of Dragon Age: Origins, my character’s main love interest turned out to be Alistair. He’s blond, built, has the tendency to look like a kicked puppy when his awkward, boyish, somehow-still-innocent-but-sweet overtures are misconstrued and? He’s hilarious as hell. “We won? We did? Yay!”

…Did I mention, cute?

The second time I played through and epic battle of conscious and morality began inside my head. It started out with the innocent thought that: It’s a game! I could peruse any other romance I liked now! How about Zevran? Leliana! Choices!oneone!`1! I could frolic amid the companions Bioware had worked so hard on to entice me with. With their pretty faces and long back stories and funny quips. And did I go to these new interests to explore the new relationships and romances?

No.

The moment Alistair’s brow quirked, lightly stubble-speckled face filled my screen I quibbled, inwardly. In the first few seconds of his introduction I felt immediately as if he was staring inside my ready-to-write-fan-fic soul and judging me. He knew. I felt terribly guilty for considering any other choice but Alistair.

I kept imagining his face. His sad, sad, you just ate a Mabari puppy! Why did you eat that puppy? face.

Going off the rail on a crazy Deep Road trail.

And that’s when the ridiculousness of it all hits me again. Alistair isn’t real. He’s a program generated pixel on some highly paid Bioware member’s screen. (HI BIOWARE HIRE ME PLZ? I CAN WRITE. AND MAKE REALLY GOOD COFFEE. :D) He’s a concept, a processor-birthed entity meant to entertain me and continue shelling out my $$ so this company can continue fulfilling my house-wife fantasies wit–he’s not real!

And I’m worried about what he’ll think.

And behold, there was a sign.

That’s how you know Bioware has succeeded with Dragon Age: Origins. Bugs, glitches, giant spinning heads, splotchy kiss scenes and speeches that don’t make sense with your choices aside, Bioware set out to make a kick ass game that gets you emotionally involved and invested with it.

I can’t imagine a sign that it’s done exactly that, than me worrying over what Alistair is going to think when I’m over there romancing the Crow. Or the pretty bard–and he doesn’t even know!

But I know.

As many times as I have already been swayed by his charm, good looks, and stupidity witty commentary, I keep going back out of some sort of guilt. I think that speaks louder about character, connecting with your audience and amazing writing more than anything I’d have to say about it.

PerfectDisk 11: Now Even… Perfecter?

Many years back I was a firm believer in the Norton Speed Disk. It seemed intelligent enough. I could schedule it to run through windows scheduler. Plus, well, it was Norton… and Norton was the best at everything right? After all, the company that made Norton Commander could do no wrong! It was perfect!

Perfect except for the fact that scheduling it always seemed to make the computer run a bit slower than I liked so I ended up running it myself. Oh, and the fact that once I did run the thing it took hours even for the smaller drives at the time. Eventually I stopped falling for the hype and the continual wave of fanboyish support from a surprisingly large percentage of the tech crowd I worked with at the time. The continually high price for the Symantec products coupled with the bloatware they had become became finally drove me away.

I next landed in freeware and shareware land, looking for a light, efficient and cheap option. First I tried just using the windows defragmenter and my system ran like… well… like it was defragged by the same company that designed Windows ME. I stumbled over to Auslogics Defrag next. This program is great… there’s just not much to it. After the handful of intelligent (sounding) features of Norton this was the equivalent of going from a daily diet of double whoppers and milkshakes (so delicious but so bad for you) to vitamins, stale bread, wilted celery and dirty skunky Florida well water. Sure you can live on it but why the hell would you want to?

Auslogics worked. It wasn’t great but the drive performance afterward was better than Windows Defrag and it finished more quickly. It had a small footprint and the price is certainly right… it just wasn’t enough for me. I’d gone too far in the other extreme… I didn’t want to sacrifice features for price and footprint.

Then I found Raxco’s PerfectDisk… I think it was Version 8. It was single purpose, it was small but it was full of intelligent features and it was cheaper than Norton. I was, of course skeptical at first. I’d been fooled by bright and shiny baubles and smooth talkin’ before.

They had me after the first time I ran it.

I’ve reviewed PerfectDisk before (and hopefully will continue to do so) and so I won’t dive too much into the first result… but I can tell you that my drives were more than just a little faster… programs launched quickly and there was a decided “snap” to the system. It scheduled itself. It’s system footprint was reasonable and it had a nice smattering of intelligent sounding… and acting… features.

Well, A couple of weeks ago the fine folks over at Raxco Software once again provided the Geeks with an evaluation copy of their consistently impressive PerfectDisk. The newest iteration, version 11, continues the outstanding tradition set by its predecessors while upping the bar even higher for the competition.

Footprint

One of the first things I look for in a defrag program, or any system maintenance utility,  is the background footprint.  I leave my PCs on a lot. Our server is on 363 days a year… only down when I take it apart to clean it. The home PC is on more often than not. I also work a lot and don’t like to waste time doing system maintenance when I can be stabbing people or flying spaceships. Because of this, I prefer to schedule my weekly defragging for times when I’m at work or asleep. This also means at least some portion of the program is running in the background at all times, waiting to run when I tell it. PerfectDisk uses 2 programs for this… PDAgent and PDAgentS1… and these programs retain the same names between version 10 and 11. A big difference between the two versions, however is their size. In Version 10, these programs were already an impressively small 9,876 bytes combined (all of these figures are under Windows 7 x64). In version 11 drops almost in half to 5,532 bytes!

When loading the actual program, the footprint of the open program increased just slightly from 26,200 bytes to 29,556 bytes… but this still leaves us with a reduction, overall, from 36,076 bytes in PerfectDisk 10 to 35,088 in version 11. Both programs rise by similar amounts while operating defragging, of course, but again I’m not at my computer when it’s defragging. I am at it when it’s scheduled to run.

Features

Next up in my wish list of Defrag program qualities is feature set. The perfect example of a featureless Defrag program is Windows Defrag. It doesn’t do anything but defrag the files. The order of the files is irrelevant. Connectivity to other PCs? Not important. Decent (or any) logs? Hell no. Space management? Go buy another program.

The feature set for PerfectDisk 11 is expansive enough that rather than just referring to it as a defragger, it’s more accurate to call it a drive management system. It not only helps manage your drive performance through intelligent defragmenting of your files. Though Space Management, it will give you back more of that hard drive real estate and, most importantly, help you remove the duplicates that always seem to build up on a computer used for any sort of work. Run this Dup finder just once. You will be surprised how much space is taken up by duplicates installed by major apps like Adobe.

One of my favorite updated features is the use of presets for SmartPlacement: Raxco’s intelligent file placement system. In version 10, SmartPlacement essentially allowed you define ages for rarely and recently modified files and a simple check box to aggressively defragment empty space. In Version 11, the system has been revamped to include several different levels of defragmentation, from conservative to “classic” to Performance and Performance Aggressive. The more aggressive, the longer the run time but the more significant the impact on system performance.

Defrag Speed

Now that I can actually schedule the defrag without suffering constant system slow downs, the actual speed of defrag is much less important than it used to be. However, I also don’t want to have my drive chewing away at full bore for 8 hours, even if I’m not inconvenienced. I run defrags weekly on by 300GB system drive approximately 50% full and they are typically complete in about an hour on a Aggressive Performance setting… the initial run took longer, as is typical in my testing experience, but the performance difference was noticeable even though I had been using PerfectDisk 10 before. The end goal of any system maintenance software is to promote stability and speed and PerfectDisk continues to deliver.

One experience to note: The first weekend I installed this thing I accidentally scheduled it for Sunday rather than my actual normal day of Saturday when I’m at work. After installing it an poking around a while I decided to waste some valuable time and play some Star Trek Online. I played a few hours and quit. When I closed the window The perfect Disk Status Window was up behind it. It had completed a defrag without crushing my system. I opened up Outlook and it popped up in what seemed to be half it’s already quick launch time.

Price

I’m not a millionaire. If you are, please buy me things and/or send me money. For the rest of you that aren’t, price matters. Norton = $49.99. PerfectDisk = $39.99 for Pro, $29.99 for Home premium. Better product for less money. How the hell could this not be a selling point?

Conclusion

So there you have it. Another year brings another fantastic release from Raxco. If you haven’t used this program before, try out one of their demos and I guarantee you that you will be impressed and that you will become a believer. You simply cannot appreciate the difference a professional disk maintenance tool can make on your own system until you see it for yourself.