Category Archives: C. T. Murphy

Spread the Word: Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014

Starting May 1st, the third annual Newbie Blogger Initiative will kick off. This is a near and dear initiative to my heart, as it is the reason I started blogging back in 2012.

Every year since 2012, the NBI has gathered for a single month to help get new people interested in game blogging.  Its community-first attitude means lots of experienced advice, people more than willing to check out and promote your new blog, as well as provide an ongoing support network.

If you are interested in blogging for the first time or for starting a new blog, it is an easy way to build up some initial contacts, supporters, and views. #NBI2014 will run for the entire month of May with special events, promotions, and articles throughout. Even if you aren’t interested in starting your own blog, it’s a fun blogging community to get involved with or share with others.

For more information, check out the website. And don’t forget to follow along on Twitter as well!

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Death to Caps Lock: An AutoHotKey Story

This entire post pertains to using Windows. I have zero clue about Macs or any other operating systems. Sorry!

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THE CAPS LOCK KEY IS THE BANE OF INTERNET CIVILITY. Long has it been the weapon of choice for trolls, jerks, and other Internet low-lifes. I had a dream once that its purpose would be re-tooled, christened by a new found use that would redeem it forever. This is the story of achieving that dream.

I’ve never found any use for Caps Lock. In fact, it has long been more of a curse than a blessing. I suppose some more-than-deviants might find value in its existence. But I am not one of them.

More often than not, I’d accidentally press it. As a result, the next message I’d type would necessarily need correction. Either the direct sort where I just start over or the lazy sort where I apologize to whomever I sent it to for my yelling.

Then it dawned on me one fateful afternoon: I don’t have to continue living this way. In fact, I bet I can find a way to make Caps Lock my friend, not my enemy.

I wanted to repurpose my Caps Lock key to do something I did more and more often while sitting at a computer: search. This was before Chromebooks had been created (their keyboards replace Caps Lock with a search key), so Google probably owes me money. Just kidding Google, don’t cut off my Internet traffic!

When I am sitting at a computer, I am almost always using a browser (Chrome, because HAIL GOOGLE). If I want to look for a YouTube video, I go to YouTube and type in what I want. If I want to use Wikipedia, I go to Wikipedia and type in what I want. It’s all a bit tedious and, frankly, unnecessary.

I’ll save the parts about search functionality for another post, but I did manage to remake my Caps Lock key into almost exactly what I wanted. The process is so simple that I fully believe you could make it into most anything. How about a Reverse-Tab key for better tab-targeting controls in World of Warcraft? How about a ‘LOL’ key for quickly responding to those “funny” videos your mom/aunt/cousin keep linking you? AutoHotKey makes the possibilities endless!

While AutoHotKey is a lot more powerful than the relatively simple reason I use it, my only real need for it is to remap my Caps Lock key. Now, there are ways to do that without the need of an external program, but I like pretending I’ll one day master other aspects of the program. Your mileage may vary.

AutoHotKey is 100% free and open-source.  You download it here.  After you install it, find it in the bottom right corner of your screen with all the other icons and right click. Choose ‘Edit Script’.

Everything AutoHotKey does runs from this single script. You want to change ‘x’ key to do ‘y’, then this is where you put it. Once you are done writing your script, then save it. Find AutoHotKey again, right click just as you did before, and select ‘Reload Script’.

Now, writing the script is the ‘hard’ part though it is relatively simple. For a list of Hotkey references, check here. For a list of how to reference each individual key, check here. For a list of how to reference specific commands, check here.

A basic key modification will look like this: x::y. ‘x’ will be the key you want to modify, in our case, Caps Lock. ‘y’ will be what you want it to do.

Let’s begin with make a LOL key:

According to the key reference list, Caps Lock is Capslock, so in the formula x::y we replace the x with ‘Capslock’ if we want to modify our Capslock key.

Capslock::y

According to the command reference list, to send input to our current window i.e. type ‘LOL in the message box, we use ‘Send’ followed by the keys we want sent. We put this in the y spot of our formula.

Capslock::Send LOL

Save, click reload script, and BOOM: your Caps Lock key now types ‘LOL’ for you. Quickly dismissing links to videos you don’t feel like watching or awkward comments from boys whose hearts you aren’t ready to break will never be easier.

You can also use it to Run programs:

Capslock::Run Chrome

Launch specific folders:

Capslock::Run D:\Dropbox\Screenshots

There are so many possibilities, ones that go far beyond replacing only your Caps Lock key. I also got rid of Scroll Lock. AutoHotKey is the perfect DIY app to play around with on a relaxing Sunday. I cannot recommend it enough!

If you are still having trouble, here’s a more in depth guide. Also, feel free to ask for assistance in the comments. I am no expert, but my Caps Lock search key makes me one heck of a quick researcher.

 

Solving the USB Headphone Problem

I am no audiophile. When it comes to sound technology, the basics will do. I do spend a lot of time talking on the Internet, however, so a headset is a must own. The problem is that my headset is USB. If I want to use it, then I have to waste time plugging it, unplugging it, or fiddling around with sound settings.

Maybe you are thinking that this may be the ultimate first world problem. “God forbid you have to unplug a cord,” you think to yourself. My philosophy when it comes to technology is that convenience matters a lot. Some things should just work in a straight-forward, easy to understand matter. That’s why when I found SoundSwitch, I felt my life had changed.

Screenshot 2014-03-01 12.45.32

SoundSwitch is a simple application for Windows. It’s sole purpose is to set up a hotkey which allows you to switch audio sources on the fly. In other words, I press a button, and my audio switches from my speakers to my USB headphones. No plugging, unplugging, or sound setting wrestling need – just pure convenience.

I also should mention that I use it for a Wireless speaker I keep on hand as well. I prefer a speaker for listening to things in bed so I don’t have little hunks of plastic lodged in my ear when I eventually fall asleep. Oh and once I had a cat who ate earbuds, especially while he was already laying on my stomach in the dead of night while I was sleeping.

Screenshot 2014-03-01 12.45.43

I hit the ‘Pause’ button on my keyboard (frankly, it needed a use) and my audio output alternates between its three choices. Simply, quickly, universally. SoundSwitch also has an option to launch when your computer starts, making it even more convenient.

I know this isn’t much of a post and it is a highly specific use, but it is the small stuff like this that get me excited to look for new hacks, tips, and apps. Sure, it isn’t difficult to unplug a USB cord, but it is added frustration that I don’t need.

Even first world problems need fixing sometimes.

You can find SoundSwitch here. It is open source and I encountered no annoying ads or special offer options.

Google Music All-Access is Essential to My Entertainment Diet

Ever since its launch, I have been a Google Music fan. Though I rarely, if ever, buy music, I valued the service’s feature of uploading your own music to the cloud. Like many of us, I had a MP3 collection several years in the making. Utilizing Google Music and Google’s free 20,000 song uploads, I was able to take that entire collection online, easily accessed from any computer or phone.

I remember the days of limited storage space on my hardware. MP3 Players enjoyed a pretty quick rise toward having a usable amount of space, but it took a long while for hardware to meet the vastness of what I had assembled. I had to do a constant shuffle of working out songs I rarely listened to, working in songs I often listened to, and keep the whole supply updated with fresh material. Perhaps the ultimate in first world problems, but in the land of technological convenience, balancing plates on sticks like I had to do with my music was a recipe for lots of frustration.

Google Music changed all of that, for me. No longer was my music collection bound by the hardware in which I listened to it on. Some of you may have been able to hit 20,000 songs, but for me, that was an easy limit to stay below once I trimmed some excess fat. With all my music online, I stopped worrying about the tracks I had downloaded onto my phone (since my MP3 player had since been retired in the wake of owning a smartphone). As long as I had internet access, I was golden.

Google Music is still a perfect go-to option for that sort of use, but the service has since expanded to an all access subscription service. Given that I was pirating music as early as 12 (where I was one of the few kids at my school to have a CD Burner, so I became popular quick), it was a bit of a tough sell to get me to try a $7.99 a month music service ($9.99 for those who aren’t early adopters). It’s not that I mind paying for music – I have purchased tons of CDs in my lifetime. The problem rests with convenience.

For the longest time, downloading music was infinitely more convenient than purchasing it otherwise. Instead of going to the one music store in my area (unless I wanted to patron Walmart with their “will edit it for you and not tell you” policy), risking the very good chance they weren’t going to have anything for the band I wanted, and paying $12+ for a CD with only a couple good tracks, I could get exactly what I wanted at home. I was going to rip the CDs I bought anyway, so there would also be no need for that process either. Plus, no leftover piece of physical junk I am forced to keep.

gmusic3

I recognize there is a lot of entitlement and selfishness in getting a product for free. However, the path of least resistance is always far more appealing than a path beset by pitfalls, traps, and frustration. As music became more and more available for download, I started doing that as much as I could, though I hated doing it. At the time, that meant buying the track from iTunes, which meant dealing with their DRM garbage. If Apple had ever taken the time to make an iTunes for Windows that didn’t move slower than a dead turtle, I might have been excited to continue using their services. They didn’t so I stopped.

I did spend some time paying for Pandora. That was more a luxury than a necessity since I had already spent years dealing with ads and limited skips, but I absolutely loved Pandora’s ability to help me discover new artists to love. I had used the original version of MP3.com for years just for the purpose of music discovery, but it was definitely a needle-in-the-haystack affair.

gmusic4

When Google Music All Access debuted last year, I thought I’d give it a try. I was already using Google Music to house my MP3s, so I had the website and app installed on all of my hardware already. For the price, I thought surely a month could give me a chance to discover some new music. A month turned into nine and All Access quickly became an essential part of my entertainment diet with multiple daily uses.

It was always a matter of convenience. Google Music All Access was the first time I felt like that convenience had come around full circle. I no longer had to slog through nefarious search engines for music, risking viruses and the ire of Lord Comcast. I didn’t have to wait for a new CD to be available for public piracy and feel horrible doing it so soon after release. With few exceptions, Google Music All Access has been able to cover all of those needs, as well as give me a direct line to more complete discographies for artists I may have otherwise missed.

gmusic5

So here’s the rub: you pay a monthly subscription ($7.99 if you were lucky like me, but $9.99 otherwise). You get unlimited access to listen to whatever songs you can find on the service, which is a ton. You can make playlists, favorite tracks and albums, or let Google Music do the work and make playlists for you. There are also radio stations that could be better (they are just playlists setup for specific genres/eras). Other services may be more feature rich, but I enjoy mixing my own music in with Google’s cloud offerings. That way, I can keep everything under a single roof.

I am in love, but perhaps you are in love with something else. Let me know in the comments below!

20+ Articles in my Pocket

Let’s say you have been using Feedly for at least a week now. You may have realized that it can be difficult reading so many articles everyday. Worse, sometimes you like to save those articles, and after doing this for some time, your browser’s bookmarks look like an insurmountable wall of text. My solution to all of those ills is simple: Pocket.

Pocket3

Pocket is a free app and website that stores links for you. It is my number one app of choice when it comes to saving articles or links I may want to write about (which I tag as ‘research’).  Combining visual appeal and some really useful bits of organization, Pocket makes storing, viewing, and finding links you’d want to view another time a real breeze.

Better yet, it integrates perfectly with Feedly. Either using the website version (where you save articles to Pocket) or even by setting Pocket as your default article saver on the app version, Feedly makes Pocket a perfect choice if you often need to save things from your RSS.

While I am less familiar with iOS, Pocket on android lets you use the share button to send links, websites, and other things worth saving directly to Pocket. If I happen to check a link that a friend text me, I can easily save it to Pocket for later reading.

Pocket also uses the cloud, so your links are synced wherever you can sign in. This makes it especially handy for saving links to things you might want to access on a public computer. For instance, a few YouTube videos for a class. Rather than risking your email on a public terminal or bothering with a USB stick, you can just use Pocket.

Pocket2

Most of my use for Pocket comes from its organizational benefits. Being able to tag articles with my own made-up tags helps me keep track of them without having to organize them into various folders. As I enjoy cooking, I like to use Pocket not only for recipes, but for cooking tips and any other articles that I might want to reference back to multiple times. I also use it for tagging ‘wishlist’ items at the source I originally learned about them (book reviews, for example). If I save just the it, say on Amazon, I sometimes forget the context of why I save it, so it is handy to have original articles.

I have to admit, when I first read about Pocket, I was skeptical. Feedly already had a mostly functional ‘Save for Later’ option and my bookmarks have never failed me. Still, I do like to be surprised, so I decided to try Pocket in the hopes of its use surprising.

It took a while for that to happen. While Pocket has been incredible since the first day I used it, it took me a while to fully integrate it into how I operate. Once I did, however, I don’t think I would ever go back. It just offers a much cleaner, more organized, and more useful solution to the problem of retaining links than anything else I have tried. The ability to quickly search or to pull up specific tags makes it even better than many alternatives.

The one exception is probably Evernote, which I have also used extensively. Evernote is great if you want a copy of the link or some of its content, rather than the full website. I use it more extensively as an archiver, but only for recipes. It pairs particularly well with a tablet if you are looking to create a digital cookbook of your own favorite recipes.

For everyday use, however, I prefer Pocket. You can bet it’ll stay that way too!

For Android users, you can get Pocket here. For iOS users, you can get Pocket here.

If browsing the internet is the Wild West, Feedly is my Sheriff.

Before I began using Feedly a few years ago, I had never used RSS before. Honestly, I didn’t even have a clue what it stood for (Rich Site Summary) or how it could improve my life. Anytime I wanted to check for news, I’d pull up each website I frequently individually, scan their front page to the point that I had last read, and repeat this process throughout the day. That was the sole source of my news since I had yet to join Twitter and my Facebook wasn’t overloaded with links as it is now.

This quickly became a problem: I am an information addict, so checking for news often occurred hourly, if not sooner. That meant that every time I wanted to satiate my hunger, I had to once again pull up the ten to fifteen websites I enjoyed. And boy was I hungry!

I eventually admitted the problem, so I decided to find a solution. I briefly looked at Google Reader, but its interface seemed ugly and loud. One of the major reasons it took me so long to get into Twitter was how overwhelming it felt, and it wasn’t until I found categories and Tweetdeck that I could structure the information so it wasn’t pure noise. Similarly, Feedly helped me organize, tame, and grow my news consumption habit.

These were the early days of Feedly so, despite being feature-rich, it wasn’t as featureful as it is today. I remember beta testing it on my iPod Touch (it was a while before I could afford a smartphone). Nowadays, Feedly is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. I primarily use it on my PC, but I frequently use it on my Android phone as well.

What exactly does Feedly do? Feedly captures syndicated RSS content from whatever websites you decide to add to it. With its variety of views, customization when it comes to categorizing feeds, and easy sharing options, Feedly is one of the most handy applications I have ever used. I’ve put it to work everyday, multiple times a day, for several years now. I even use it for aggregating podcasts since I no longer use iTunes, though it isn’t really meant for that.

It helps that it is incredibly easy to use if you haven’t before:

  • Go to the Feedly website and click ‘Get Started’.
  • Begin typing in a website to add to Feedly on the left-hand side of the screen.
  • Your best bet is to copy and paste the site URL directly: try ‘geekforcenetwork.wordpress.com’ and give it a shot!

After that, click on Geek Force Network. Feedly will display what GFN’s feed looks like. Once you click ‘Follow’ at the top, you’ll be prompted to sign in with a required Google account. This makes it easier to take Feedly with you anywhere.

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Once you have an account, it is time to add more websites and categorize them. For mine, I use Gaming, Culture, Technology, Sports, and Blogroll as my primary categories.

One of my favorite ‘tricks’ is adding the RSS link to my YouTube subscriptions. That way I don’t have to check YouTube separately and I don’t have a bunch of additional feeds on my Feedly. To find out how to get your RSS link for YouTube, go here.

Feedly is a great tool for bloggers looking to keep up with their community. Rather than use WordPress’s reader, I find it a lot more useful to have everything I read in a single location. Plus, I always felt like I was leaving Google Blogger users out in the cold.

It also helps that RSS feeds are quicker to sort through, since you always have the title and some of the body of the post available to read. As much as I wish it were not true, many websites publish articles that have zero interest to me. Feedly lets me go ahead and clear though out of the way. And for the articles on the fringe of ‘must read’ and ‘won’t read’, Feedly has a handy archiving function to save those to read later.

Since I am a huge fan, I am also a Feedly Pro user. Normally, Feedly is 100% free, but Feedly Pro promises additional features and the ability to suggest new ideas to the developer. It is still a bit early to call it a necessary upgrade, especially at $45 a year, but I don’t mind showing my support.

For Android users, you can get Feedly here. For iOS users, you can get Feedly here.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of Feedly if you haven’t used it before. If you use something else, I would love to hear about that as well!

If you are a fan, don’t forget to add Geek Force Network. Here’s a link so there’s no effort required!

Listmas 2013: Ethan’s 14 Most Influential Games, Part II (Special Guest Post)

    Cave Story (PC)





I found this game at the height of my dissatisfaction with gaming and yearning for the retro days. It was the perfect find. Everything about this game is short and sweet, without any of the tiresome, excessive features that keep stacking up in mainstream gaming. Beautiful, pixel-based graphics, platform-shooter gameplay, a brief story that respects the player’s intellect. In artistic endeavors, keeping things simple is what opens them up for the view to put themself in. This is a game that really invites you to develop a relationship with it. It also was my introduction to indie games.

    Tetris (PC)



I’m not the kind of person who really bites hard into casual games. I see them as time-wasters more than an experience. As old as Tetris is, I didn’t really play it until I got a job. At Job, I learned that there isn’t always a lot to do, so while sitting at Desk and awaiting Responsibility, time-wasters can be pretty handy. In those many hours, I played Tetris. I played it hard. Then I started playing it at home. Tetris became less about wasting time and more about perfecting a new skill. I became better at Tetris than I ever before thought humanly possible, and I know that I’m nothing compared to the powers that others have obtained.

    We Love Katamari (PS2)



Did everyone play Katamari or did nobody? Everyone talks about it like it’s obscure. It’s one of the most unique games I’ve ever played on a console. You are a tiny prince with a sticky ball and it’s your job to roll up everything in the world, starting with paperclips and ending with countries. You can only roll up things that you’re already larger than. If the game wasn’t pure fun, you would probably notice that you’re committing some of the most horrifyingly violent acts to ever take place in a game. You roll up babies, mothers, cats… Terrified police open fire upon you in desperation, but it’s hopeless for them. The blindfolded guy swinging at a pinata shouts “What’s going on?!” as you absorb him. You don’t care. You’re smiling and laughing and singing along to the music. You’re a child again, incapable of empathy.

    Counter Strike (PC)


My first shooter after Goldeneye 64 (So: my first good shooter). There’s not a lot to say about this one. It’s purely a multiplayer experience. It opened me up LAN parties and gaming online, which taught me that I was not nearly as exceptionally good at videogames as I thought I was, so there was a lot of gaming to do before I could be satisfied with stopping. It’s a game that wouldn’t be worth much for me to go back and replay, but it redefined my outlook on games in ways.

    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)



This is another game that I call a great artistic achievement. You are a swordsman slaying giant landscape monsters to revive a sacrificed girl. The bosses are fascinating and intense experiences, but that’s really all there is to it. The world is vast and completely open for you to explore, but there are only small things for you to find that boost your two stats (health and grip) very slightly. This game is the anti-Zelda. The world is so blank, other than the beginning and the end, that it becomes a playground for theory and the gamer’s own storytelling.

    Disgaea



This grid-based, tactical game has two sides. There’s the main game, with puzzle based elements controlling the battlefield maps in ways that can either secure your victory or destroy you, depending on how they are used. It’s fun and challenging and has a funny, offbeat story. Then there is the post-game where everything goes crazy and you have to become insanely powerful to accomplish anything. You can beat the story at around level 50, but your characters cap at level 9999. There are insane difficulty jumps between every remaining challenge, and you have to find creative ways to maximize your grind to ever have a hope (if done right, you can gain hundreds of levels with a single attack). It’s the most satisfying thing to be completely destroyed by a mob of super-powerful enemies, then to return and crush them all with a single character whom they can’t touch. There’s also something to say about my lack of regret for sinking over one-thousand hours into the first two games… so far. It might not be a good thing. I guess I’m prone to monomania.

    The Mother Series (NES, SNES, GBA)



My prefered playing order for these games: Earthbound (Mother 2), Mother 3, Mother (Earthbound Zero). If you want to play them all (you do) but only speak English, you’ll have to emulate and grab fan translation hacks. These games are absolutely beautiful, and they completely deviate from their JRPG genre. They are set in vintage America, and the action is mostly text-based. All of the dialogue and situations are quirky and funny, but the games are no joke. They can be disturbing, tragic, highly intellectual, and touching. Throughout it all, the fun and the heartbreak, you feel a sense of innocence. These games have more love in them than anything else I’ve ever played, and probably ever will play. Not just love for the game, from the creator or the player, but love for everyone and everything; and, of course, all of the vulnerability that comes with it.








Goodbye, now.