Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut sound track

For those that somehow missed it. The ‘sound track’ for the Extended cut is now available for download – for free (as far as I can tell).

Go grab it here.

Mostly it is just rework pieces of existing tracks from the already existing sound track. I like it though. Gives you a more ‘in depth’ feeling of the final few minutes of the game/story. There are 7 tracks in this download:

  1. Wake Up
  2. An End, Once And For All – Extended Cut
  3. A Future That Many Will Never See
  4. I Will Watch Over The Ones Who Live On
  5. I Am Alive An Im Not Alone
  6. We Fought As A United Galaxy
  7. Resolution

Thanks BioWare (or whomever released it). You scored some more browny points with me. Now the Earth DLC is next in line.

Enjoy!

Windows Command Centre

A few years ago I created a quick utility to simply bring together all the various configuration tools that are included inside Windows itself. The problem is that there are actually all these built-in tools and utilities but finding them sometimes require you to search or discover them by accident. The tool I created simply provides an easy way to get to a lot of them. Even in Windows 7 not everything is located in one place – especially the more ‘advanced’, older or legacy tools – e.g. ODBC settings. Additionally I added something simple to simply ‘list’ the installed .Net versions as well.

A quick summary of what it contains:

System

Control panel
Manage computer
System config
Registry editor
Performance monitor
Scheduled tasks
Locale

Regional settings
Date and time

.Net

List versions
Disable Explorer GAC view

Hardware

Device manager
Install hardware
Remove hardware
Power options
Disk management
Removable storage
Settings

Keyboard
Mouse
Display
Sound
Printer

Software

Add & remove programs
Default programs
Windows components

Services

Services
IISAdmin
Component services
ODBC

Security

Security centre
Firewall settings
User accounts
Policy
Local security settings

Connections

Network connections
Create share
Shared folders
Map network drive
Disconnect network drive
Internet options

Looks

Taskbar properties
Fonts
Folder options
Display themes

I’ve now simple recompiled the utility and created a very simple installer for it (one for x86 and one for x64)

x86 – https://dl.dropbox.com/u/20983/WindowsCommandCentreSetup.msi

x64 – https://dl.dropbox.com/u/20983/WindowsCommandCentreSetupx64.msi

I’ve tested it on Windows 7 and it use to work on Vista/XP as well. Unfortunately I cannot guarantee that it will work properly on Windows 8 if at all. All it requires is the base .Net 2.0 framework to work.

How to run application after VS MSI installer finish

Sometimes you need to do something that is not provided ‘out-of-the-box’ – as provided by the default tools you use. Take Visual Studio’s built in ‘Set-up’ and installation projects as an example.

I wanted to simply add the option to launch the executable that was installed during the install process once the installer ends. Sounds simple and there are ways of doing this with and without Visual Studio using custom installer classes plus ‘Custom Actions’ is possible but it has its drawbacks – like it suspend the installer or you have to write extra code inside your app just to cater for that.

Interestingly enough, MSI installers actually supports this functionality ‘natively’ i.e. it is a built-in feature of MSI technology to have the option for ‘Run my app after the installer ends’. The problem is just that Visual Studio doesn’t expose this functionality itself. The only way to ‘enable’ this feature is to modify the MSI package afterwards – through a ‘Post build action’ or manually (or you can use msbuild or any other build process tool).

To do this you can use a JavaScript script that simply makes the required changes to the MSI package (its internal database). See Aaron Stebner’s blog for more details. The example script to do this is located here.

I initially had trouble getting the working paths correct for my specific project but it turned out the normal ‘build’ command in VS does not always rebuild the solution. Instead you have to explicitly use the ‘Rebuild’ command on the Set-up project to make sure it recreate the MSI using the post build action script.

To summarize how to do it:

  1. First download a copy of the ‘EnableLaunchApplication.js’ script to the set-up projects directory – the directory where the .vdproj file is located.
  2. Then edit the js file to specify the actual exe name of your application you want to ‘launch’ after the MSI finish. You can of course customize it further.
  3. In the Visual Studio set up project’s project properties specify the following ‘PostBuildEvent’: cscript.exe “$(ProjectDir)EnableLaunchApplication.js” “$(BuiltOuputPath)”
  4. Take not that the spelling mistake (BuiltOuputPath) is deliberate since that is how the VS team implemented it (was probably a typo which they never fixed)
  5. Now you can use the ‘Rebuild’ command for the (set-up) project.

and thats how it works. Have fun!

That Extended Cut

[ Spoiler warning if you haven’t played it yet ]

Well, most players of ME3 now probably tried out the ‘new’ Extended Cut with the ‘new/not so new’ ending to the story. My take on this is a bit more complex. It is not a major flop but neither a fantastic success. Overall I think it is better – actually much better than the original way they ended the game but there are a couple of ‘holes’ that need plugging. Mostly small questions or blatantly ‘duh’ issues.

Lets begin with the ‘run to the beam’ scene. Explaining how your squad mates that were with you at the start of the ‘run towards the beam’ got to the Normandy was explained a bit better. But at the same time it was a bit cheesy and opens the question – Aren’t there a damn Reaper shooting at you guys while the Normandy openly comes and land right in front of it! I mean really, that would be the ideal target for a Reaper or the Normandy could have taken out the Reaper… and then immediately after the Normandy leaves the Harbinger starts shooting again… Very convenient. How do you explain that one??

The extended dialog options with the Catalyst was done well. Even though I don’t really agree with the ‘facts’ as he/it stated. But it does help picture the story behind the ‘story’ and even raises some new questions – especially about the actual origin of the Reapers and Catalyst itself. Obviously they went over the rails somewhere and lost ‘focus’ about their actual intended ‘goals’. The fact that the Catalyst was aware of the Crucible but choose to ignore it is also a bit naive – I think. And why could it not take action itself for a new ending of the cycle considering all the other ‘smart’ and powerful things it was doing??

As before I first choose the destroy option (will try the others later) and there is still that ‘hint’ that Sheppard might have survived. I don’t know if this is part of it but when the crew of the Normandy place the names of their fallen friends/leaders the name plaque for Commander Sheppard is never actually seen being fixed to the wall. Instead, it is hold up close to the wall and then the scene ends with the Normandy taking off again (but I thought it crashed…).

The epilogue given by Adm Hackett does give a sense of a more ‘positive’ future despite the destruction and many deaths. I particularly liked the image of the Krogans with their babies and children. But what about Palaven? Or did the Turians suffer too much and were completely destroyed? Also, what about the Salarians?

Another thing never mentioned explicitly is what happened to the ‘people’ that were on the Citadel before it was taken over by the Reapers? What became of people like Bailey and the rest of C-Sec? Did they somehow escape before the take-over or hide away only to be killed when the ‘red’ ending blew up the place?

Then one thing that keeps on bugging me is why do/did the Catalyst look exactly like the boy Sheppard saw just before leaving Earth? That ‘smells’ of the indoctrination theory to me.

I still think the ending could have been a bit different but at least it is an improvement. At least now there is possibility of a continuation of the whole ‘Mass Effect universe – even though the Reaper threat has been removed. I’m sure there are other threats that will soon take its place 🙂

HTMLWriter 1.7

Just a quick refresh on my HTMLWriter utility library. Some minor changes/additions:

1. Added support for the NOBR tag

2. Improved the special character functions including ignoring the ‘&’ sign when needed.

Latest version here.