Articles for June 2014

How to bring back the old hotkeys in Age of Empires II HD Steam edition

The other day, I visited the Steam store only to find Age of Empires II HD, with the Forgotten expansion for 5$. Having once been an avid AOE II player, I decided to buy the game to bring back some old memories.

So I fire up the game and start a simple standard game. I am then horror-struck when I realize that the hotkeys have been changed. Being too lazy to relearn all of the hotkeys, I set off to find a way to bring back the old hotkeys in Age of Empires II. Fortunately, there’s an easy method:

  1. First off, go to your Steam library, right-click on you Age of Empires, and click on Properties.Age of empires properties
  2. Next, do to the “Local Files” tab and click the “Browse local files” button.Browse local files
  3. This will bring up a list of files and folders. Click on the “Bin” folder, then the “en” folder.
  4. You should now see two files: en-language.txt and en-language_x2.txt. Open en-language.txt with Notepad.
  5. Using the search function (ctrl+f), find the following text and REMOVE it completely:

//Shortcut hotkeys overrides — NO LOCALIZATION REQUIRED
//Hotkeys made on QWERTY keyboard, for some languages (FR?), some keys could be switched to match AZERTY/QWERTZ or other common layouts
//Forgotten Empires uses a grid hotkey system.
4151 “A”
4152 “F”
4154 “S”
4155 “V”
4156 “T”
4157 “D”
4158 “R”
4168 “W”
4169 “Q”
4171 “X”
4173 “D”
4174 “Z”
4176 “S”
4177 “B”
4178 “W”
4179 “E”
4180 “Q”
4701 “X”
4702 “Z”
4703 “C”
4704 “V”
4709 “G”
16068 “S”
16078 “S”
16079 “A”
16085 “D”
16086 “F”
16087 “S”
16089 “Z”
16090 “A”
16092 “T”
16093 “F”
16094 “A”
16095 “S”
16096 “D”
16097 “S”
16099 “A”
16100 “A”
16101 “A”
16106 “V”
16121 “A”
16128 “W”
16135 “Q”
16138 “F”
16142 “C”
16144 “T”
16149 “A”
16156 “G”
16157 “W”
16161 “D”
16164 “Z”
16169 “R”
16171 “E”
16176 “G”
16178 “F”
16182 “X”
16185 “Z”
16186 “X”
16202 “S”
16203 “D”
16287 “G”
16326 “A”
16344 “Q”
16416 “D”
16426 “S”
16436 “F”
16443 “X”
16464 “R”
16487 “E”
16504 “A”
16660 “D”
16667 “F”
16679 “D”
16731 “C”

 

6. Save the en-language.txt file and repeat step 5 for en-language_x2.txt
7. Open Age of Empires, then on the main screen, click on Options->Hotkeys->Reset All Keys.

Resetting all hotkeys

There you go! You should now have the default hotkeys back!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and don’t forget to come back for more,

-Icosebyte

How to broadcast links in Minecraft

I can be really useful to broadcast links in Minecraft. It’s a great way to advertise your server’s website, or to allow people to donate. It can also be used to link to a texture pack that doesn’t allow re-hosting on your server (per example, Conquest, my favourite texture pack).

So how can we broadcast a link in our Minecraft server? Well, we need a plugin called Simple Broadcast, The 1.7.2 version can be downloaded here: http://dev.bukkit.org/bukkit-plugins/simplebroadcast/files/22-simple-broadcast-v1-7/.

Download and install Simple Broadcast. When this is done, reload your Minecraft server. This will create a SimpleBroadcast folder (in your plugins folder), which looks something like this:

SimpleBroadcast Plugin folder

Now, we need to open the config.yml file with notepad. For the sake of this tutorial, let’s just broadcast a message every 5 minutes that reminds everyone on the server to download the Conquest texture pack.

Scroll down the config.yml file until you see this:

messages:
– ‘Thank you for using SimpleBroadcast!’
– ‘Plugin by &oKingDome24.’
– ‘If you have questions, please visit the BukkitDev page!’
– ‘%laquo%Many new and cool variables are now available%raquo%’

These are the messages that will be broadcast by the plugin. Let’s replace it with our own. In my case, I’ll give a link to Conquest, so my message will look something like this:

Don’t forget to download the Conquest texture pack!

http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/1452033-174-32×32-conquest-wip-weekly-updates/

To write our own messages, we need to respect a few rules. First off, need to enclose our messages in single quotes (‘). Furthermore, line breaks are new allowed.

So how do we add single quotes and line breaks INSIDE of our message? We need to use something called variables, the full list of which can be found here: http://www.simplebroadcast.net/documentation/#variables. Variables also allow us do add formatting to our text, so our link looks more like a link.

So let’s go back to our message, we’ll need to replace our single quote with it’s corresponding variable, ie. %sq%. Let’s also add a line break before the link. We now have this:

messages:

– ‘Don%sq%t forget to download the Conquest texture pack! %nhttp://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/1452033-174-32×32-conquest-wip-weekly-updates/’

Now, we need to give some style to our link. Let’s make it blue and underlined. We can do this by adding the &9 (blue) and &n (underline) variables before the link.

messages:

– ‘Don%sq%t forget to download the Conquest texture pack! %n&9&nhttp://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/1452033-174-32×32-conquest-wip-weekly-updates/’

So now, let’s say we want to make this link appear every 5 minutes. Still in the config file, we need to find the following line of text:

delay: 60 # time in seconds

This line corresponds to how often (in seconds) the message will be displayed. If we want it to appear every 5 seconds, then we’ll write:

delay: 300 # time in seconds

Ok, we can now save the file and reload SimpleBroadcast by typing /sb reload in the minecraft chat (or sb reload when using the console). Our link should now appear in Minecraft!

Our link displayed in Minecraft

We can now open the chat and click on the link, which will give us the following prompt. Were we to click yes, it would open the page in our browser!

Minecraft link prompt

That concludes this article, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

Easy way to remove pages from the main menu in WordPress

I fell in love with WordPress the first time I used it. It’s just so damn intuitive and simple (for the most part)! Nonetheless, there are some things that aren’t so obvious. The other day, I encountered one of these on this very website. The problem was that, after creating a new page, it was visible in the website’s main menu. Now, I did not want this page in the main menu, but there was no option to hide it in the page manager.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to remove pages from the main menu in WordPress. What we need to do is to create a custom menu in which we add only the pages we want.

Let’s say we create a new page called Test:

Creating our new page

Our menu will look something like this:

Menu with both pages

But the thing is, we don’t want Test to appear in our menu, so we need to go to Appearance->Menus and create a new menu.

Creating a new Menu

Now, we can add the pages we want to appear in our menu by selecting the checkbox next to them and click “Add to menu” .

adding a new page to the menu

Once you have all your pages, you need to select the “Primary Menu” box. 

Making our menu the primary menu

When all this is done, click on “Save menu” and there you go!

Fixed menu

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

Add smoke, crates and a bunch of new blocks to your Minecraft world

If you’re like me and you enjoy building in Minecraft, you might find yourself frustrated by the lack of decorative blocks. In this article I’ll show you a way to add smoke, crates, and a bunch of new blocks to your Minecraft world.

Note: we won’t really be adding new blocks but, rather, we’ll change the texture of already existing, yet unused blocks.

Allow me to explain myself. Every block in Minecraft has a specific number associated with it. This number is called the block’s ID. Fortunately for us, not all of the numbers are associated with a block. These unused numbers are simply “dummy” blocks that look and behave like some already existing block.

Per example, the block ID 1:0 is Stone, while 1:1 is unused. This being said, if you were to give yourself a block with an ID of 1:1, it would behave exactly like stone, but you would be unable to stack it with “real” stone, because they aren’t the same blocks; they don’t have the same ID!

Knowing this, some texture packs have created decorative textures for these “fake” blocs, This means that people who install the texture pack will see the re-textured blocks, while those using a different texture pack will just see the default block.

This is great for multiplayer, because it allows you to add awesome new blocks to your builds without breaking the server! So how do we do this?

What you’ll need:

The first thing you’ll need is a texture pack with metadata textures: In this tutorial, I’ll be using the Conquest texture pack, because it’s one of the most popular packs as well as my personal favourite. It also has a wide variety of awesome textures, such as animated smoke, crates, chains, etc.

You’ll also need access to a Minecraft server running Craftbukkit and WorldEdit, or WorldEdit for singleplayer.

Changing the textures

Once you’re finished installing WorldEdit and the Conquest texture pack, you can start decorating! Here’s a diagram of all the “hidden” textures of Conquest: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14812134/Forum/reference.jpg. But how can we use them in Minecraft considering these block IDs are not in the game? That’s where WorldEdit comes in.

Here’s a small medieval house I’ve built. As you can see, I’ve imitated smoke coming out of the chimney using cobwebs. The effects is decent, but real smoke would be a lot better!

Medieval house with cobwebs

What we need to do, is to replace each cobweb block with a block of ID 30:2 (as you can see from the reference sheet posted earlier).

So, open the chat and type //wand, this will give you a wooden axe, which we will use to convert our cobweb to smoke.

Spawning the WorldEdit wand

Using the wand, we now need to set the region in which our command will take effect. To do this, left-click the first corner of the region you wish to affect, then right-click the opposite corner. For more information on how the wand works, you can look up the WorldEdit wiki: http://wiki.sk89q.com/wiki/WorldEdit/Selection#Selecting_cuboids.

Setting the first position

Setting the second position

Once the area is selected, we can replace the blocks, to do this, we use the following command: //replace <block to replace> <new block>. In our case, we want to replace cobweb (ID: 30) with the smoke texture (ID: 30:2), so we will type:

//replace 30 30:2

Medieval house with smoke

And there you go, you now have awesome animated smoke, and the best part is, if you were to change your texture pack, you would just see normal cobwebs. This means that you don’t break your game by using this method and that this won’t ruin the build for other players.

So that concludes this article, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

Add cool effects to your voice in Skype

Ever wanted to surprise your Skype friends with some cool voice effects? In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to add tons of effects to your voice in Skype,

What you’ll need to do is to download a free program called Clownfish. This program is primarily intended as a translation tool, but it also offers a wide variety of voice effects, which is what we’ll be looking at today.You can download Clownfish here: http://clownfish-translator.com/download.html.

Once you’re finished downloading and installing Clownfish, fire it up as well as Skype. You will then be asked if you want to allow Clownfish to use Skype. Click “Allow Access”.

Allow access to Clownfish

You should now see this message confirming that Clownfish is working.

Clownfish confirmation

So how do we add effects to our voice? Well, you need to access the Clownfish menu. You can do this by going to your task-bar and right-clicking on the Clownfish icon.

Clownfish menu

Now, go to the voice changer sub-menu and select “Hear voice”. This will allow you to… well… hear your voice :P. We can now add an effect. Go to Voice Changer > Voices, and select the effect you want! You should now hear the effect you chose, and so will your friends.

Selecting a voice effect

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

How to use Android on your Windows computer

Any self respecting nerd enjoys tinkering with Android. Unfortunately, not all of us have enough money for a decent Android phone. So, instead of playing with an old, slow phone, why not simply use Android on your Windows computer? This article will show you how.

To do this, we will be using an Android emulator called Genymotion. I prefer it to the emulator bundled with the Android SDK, because it’s easier to use and much faster. Furthermore, it’s free for non-commercial use, which is what we’ll be doing.

Step 1:

First off, you need to create a Genymotion account. You can do this by going to this page and completing the “Sign up” form: https://cloud.genymotion.com/page/customer/login/.

Genymotion signup

Step 2:

You can now activate your Genymotion account (by going to your email inbox) and download the program. (I recommend that you download the “Ready-to-run Genymotion installer”). Once the download is finished, install the program.

Genymotion account confirmation

Step 3:

Start Genymotion, You’ll see a dialog box asking you if you want to add a new virtual device. Click “Yes”. This will open the Virtual device creation wizard. You’ll need to click on the “Connect” button, and enter your Genymotion account info.

Adding a virtual device

Step 4:

Once you’re connected, you’ll be shown a list of all the different virtual devices. Select the one you wish to emulate and click “Next”. The device will now be downloaded and installed.

Step 5: Once the device is finished downloading, you’ll see it in your Genymotion menu. All that’s left to do is to select the device and click “Play”!

Pressing play

There you go, you now have a working Android operating system on your computer!

Android in action

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and don’t forget to come back for more,

-Icosebyte

Should you really clean your registry?

You’ll see this a lot online: “Is your computer running slow? Then clean your registry!”. Obviously, these statements often come bundled with a 40$ software that claims to drastically increase your computer’s performance by simply cleaning it’s registry. In this article I’ll test out one of these registry cleaners to see if they actually work.

First off, what is the Registry?

The Windows Registry is a large database that stores both Windows’ settings and those of the programs you install. It was designed as an alternative to *.INI files, which were slow and cumbersome.

Why do we supposedly need to clean it?

Those who sell registry cleaners state that we need to clean the registry because, over time, it becomes riddled with unused data (keys) that negatively impact performance and cause system errors. While it is true that the registry slowly fills up with obsolete data, is it true that this slows down the computer? Should you really clean your registry?

What we used for our test:

For this test, I’ll be using RegClean Pro (http://www.systweak.com/registrycleaner/), because it’s one of the more popular registry cleaners out there, and it’s ranked #1 on toptenreviews.com (http://registry-cleaners-software-review.toptenreviews.com/), for what that’s worth.

I’ll also be testing the computer’s performance using the ever so popular Passmark PerformanceTest.

Here’s the computer on which I’ll be testing RegClean Pro:

Processor:AMD Phenom II X4 960T runnning at 3.6GHz
Video Card:MSI 1GB GDDR5 Radeon HD 7790 with a memory clock running at 1500 MHz and a GPU clock running at a 14.2% higher speed than stock.
Hard drive:Crucial M4 128GB SSD (OS Drive)
WD10EZEX 1TB Western Digital Blue Drive (Storage)
Memory:16GB CORSAIR Vengeance DDR3 RAM, running at 1600MHz.
Operating system;Windows 8.1 Pro, 64 bit edition.

On to our tests:

Before cleaning our registry, we need to assess the computer’s performance using the Passmark benchmark. These were the results we obtained:

Initial benchmark results

Next, we open RegClean Pro and scan our Registry. The program found a total of 668 errors.

RegClean Registry analysis results

We then ask RegClean to fix these errors.

RegClean is finished cleaning the registry

Now that our Registry’s clean, let’s test our performance anew:

Results of the second benchmark (once our registry is clean)

As you can see, there’s virtually no change in performance. If anything, we’ve actually scored lower (-1.09%) that we did before cleaning the registry. But we aren’t finished yet.

RegClean also has an option to “Defrag” the registry, which apparently also improves performance, so we ran the Defrag analysis, and RegClean reported that the registry was 4.6% fragmented.

RegClean registry fragmentation report

Therefore, we ran the Registry defragmenter, which took a few minutes (we had to restart the computer). Once this was over, we did another Benchmark, and this is what we obtained:

Benchmark results after defragmenting the registry

As you can see, there still isn’t any significant change. The slight increase in the score (+2.65%) might as well be due to the fact that we’ve just restarted the computer.

Summary

In conclusion, Registry cleaners, or at least RegClean, DID NOT increase our computer’s performance. If you really want to speed up your computer, you’re better off saving your money for better hardware. Instead of spending 40$ on a Registry cleaner, use it buy a stick of RAM. Or, even better, save up for a better video card or processor.

That concludes this article. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and don’t forget to come back for more!

-Icosebyte

Why do files get fragmented

File fragmentation can be a real plague on traditional hard drives. They slow down your entire computer, while reducing the life expectancy of the drive. But how does this come to be? Why is it that files somehow end up scattered across the whole drive?

It’s actually quite simple. Imagine the hard drive as being a series of boxes, each one capable of holding 1 byte of information (in reality, it would be more accurate to think of these boxes as holding 1 bit of information, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just think of them as storing 1 byte):

Empty memory

When the hard drive is new, all of these boxes are empty.Now, let’s say we store a 3 byte file on the drive. This file will fill up three boxes.

3 Bytes taken

Now, we add a new 14 byte file to our drive, the computer appends this data to the previous file. At this point, we still have no file fragmentation.

2 Files written

Now, let’s say we delete the first file. This leaves us with some free boxes before and after File 2.

Delete fie 1

As you can see, we now have 6 bytes of free space on our hard drive. But, does that mean we can add a new 5 byte file? Indeed, we can, but we now encounter a problem, which is that we only have 3 byte of contiguous free space. This means that the computer will need to split this new file into 2 parts:

File 3 split in 2

So now, to read File 3, the hard drive head (the “needle” that reads and writes data to the drive) must jump over several blocks of memory. This makes the operation slower and more damaging to the hard drive.

That summarizes, extremely roughly, why do files get fragmented.

-Icosebyte

How to bring back the Windows 7 start menu in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 is a pretty nice operating system. It’s fast, stable and offers a bunch of cool features. This being said, I absolutely despise the Metro interface. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great on tablets, but it just sucks when you’re using a keyboard and mouse. That’s why, in this article, I’ll show you a way to bring back the Windows 7 start menu in Windows 8.1.

Keep in mind that we won’t be installing the actual Windows 7 start menu, but rather a nice imitation.

What we first need to do is download a free program called Classic Shell, which is available here: http://www.classicshell.net/

Once the download is finished, launch the installer. Classic Shell also offers the possibility to restore the classic Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer 9, but I prefer to opt-out of these option.

ClassicShell installer

Once the program is finished installing, you can select a bunch of options such as the type of Menu, the icon for the menu, etc

ClassicShell options

And there you go! You now have a nice imitation of the good old Windows 7 start menu.

Start Menu screenshot

I hope you enjoyed this article, and have a nice day!

-Icosebyte

How to pre-generate your Minecraft World

Have you even wanted to explore a Minecraft world without facing constant lag because the map is being generated? A good way to avoid this is by pre-generating your world. This can also be useful if you’re hosting a Minecraft server and want to provide your visitors with a map of the world.

So how do we do this? Well, it’s actually fairly simple. The first thing we need to do is to download a program called “Minecraft Land Generator”, which is available here: https://sites.google.com/site/minecraftlandgenerator/home/download. What this program does is it generates terrain by constantly changing the spawn point of a Minecraft Server.

Note: The main download didn’t work for me (the zip file was corrupted). If you also encounter this problem, you can simply download the “Source” zip file (https://github.com/Morlok8k/MinecraftLandGenerator/archive/master.zip). You’ll find a working, compiled version of Minecraft Land Generator in the “zip” subfolder.

Once you’ve downloaded and extracted Minecraft Land Generator, you’ll want to click on “MLG_Initial_Setup_Windows.cmd”. This will prepare the program.

MLG initial setup

Once this is done, we’re ready to create a map. Click on “Run_MLG_Windows.cmd” and enter the desired world size.

Run MLG Windows

Note: If you want to change the seed of your world, simply change the seed specified in the “server.properties” file that was created when you ran  “MLG_Initial_Setup_Windows.cmd”. Now, you simply need to wait for the program to finish creating your world!

Map of output world

If you wish to know how to create a map of your Minecraft world, you can check out this article: http://thecomputerblog.net/create-map-minecraft-world/.

That concludes this article on how to pre-generate your Minecraft world, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

-Icosebyte