Category Archives: Free Time

All kind of things I do in my free time

Movie of the Week: Iron Man 3

The worlds vainest superhero is back!  returns to the screens as Tony Stark for the final part of the Iron Man movie trilogy.

In Iron Man 3 reality has finally caught up with Tony Stark. He is suffering from post traumatic stress after his near death experience in The Avengers which strains his relationship with Pepper Pots. In a moment of anger he challenges the The Mandarin, a terrorist that threatens the security of the United States of America. The Mandarin retaliates with a devastating attack on Tony’s villa that almost gets Pepper and Tony killed. Tony is left homeless, without his laboratory and with only one unfinished prototype of his Iron Man armour. He decides to go into hiding to prevent further attacks on those close to him, in particular Pepper. In his self-imposed exile Tony needs to overcome his fears and figure out a way to conquer his new arch enemy with very limited resources.

The third Iron Man movie is a bit darker than the first two. Just like the main character the story has lost a bit of the lightheartedness. But in return you get more suspense, a plot with interesting twists and even more action than before. Robert Downey Jr. is again at his best and delivers a very entertaining performance which ensures that things don’t get too serious. The special effects are brilliant as usual but still leave room for the human aspect of the story. The final showdown delivers the stunning final that the trilogy deserved.

If you like action, comedy and special effects in an entertaining format you don’t want to miss Iron Man 3.

Upgrading the hard disk in a PS3

After our old laptop died half a year ago I had an almost new 160GB Solid-State Drive going spare. And as my PlayStation 3’s 80GB hard disk was slowly filling up and more speed can never hurt I decided to swap its hard disk for the SSD. The whole process wasn’t difficult. Information on the necessary steps is available on the Internet but scattered. I’m writing a step by step guide in the hope that somebody else might find it useful.

  1. Required Hardware
    To upgrade the hard disk of a PS3 you need of course a new drive. Any 2.5″ SATA drive should work in theory. I’ve used an Intel Solid-State Drive from the 320 Series. You also need an external USB 2.0 hard disk to backup the data stored on your PS3. I strongly suspect that drives larger than 2TB won’t work but haven’t tested that. The drive needs to have a standard PC partition table with an MBR and a FAT32 file system with enough free space to hold a full backup of the PS3 plus 300MB for the firmware image.
    To perform the actual upgrade you will also need a Phillips screwdriver, a DualShock 3 controller and the USB cable to connect the controller to the console.
  2. Backing up your Trophies
    Even a full backup of a PS3 will not contain the Trophies that you earned by playing games. The only way to keep them is to link all accounts with trophies to a PlayStation Network account and synchronise the trophies before the hard disk upgrade.
  3. Backing up your data
    To create a backup you only need to connect the external hard disk and then select Settings / System Settings / Backup Utility / Back Up. The PS3 should list the external hard disk as a possible target. Simply select it and wait. It might take over an hour to create the back up depending on the amount of data currently stored on your PS3.
  4. Preparing a firmware image
    To complete the upgrade you will need a disk with the firmware for the PS3. You can download the firmware image from here. You will get a file called PS3UPDAT.PUP. The easiest way to install it is to copy it to the back up hard disk that you used in the previous step. The hard disk should already contain a folder PS3. Simply create a sub folder UPDATE in this folder and copy the firmware image into it. It is very important that the directory names and filenames are spelled in uppercase.
  5. Changing the hard disk
    Now you are ready to change to the hard disk. A very good description of this step can be found here.
  6. Installing the firmware
    When you first power on the PS3 with the new hard disk it will complain that it cannot read its hard disk. You now need to connect the DualShock 3 controller and the backup hard disk via USB cables. Afterwards follow the onscreen instructions for installing the firmware image (and not those for rebooting the console).
  7. Restoring the backup
    After formatting the hard disk and installing the firmware your PS3 will be back to factory defaults. It will ask you for network settings, a username and similar information. Don’t spend any time on providing that data because it will be overwritten anyway. Once you can log in simply go to Settings / System Settings / Backup Utility / Restore, select the USB hard disk as the source, pick the latest backup (if there are more than one) and let the PS3 restore the data. This might again take over on an hour.
  8. Restoring your trophies
    Your PS3 should now be fully configured again and know all the previously existing accounts. To get their trophies back simply synchronise their trophy collections with the PlayStation Network. This will restore all the trophy back to your PS3.
  9. Activate Games and Videos
    If you have bought games or videos online from the PSN Store you need to activate them via PlayStation Network / Account Management / System Activation / PS3 System now.

After you have gone through all of the above steps your PS3 should work as before, or possibly even faster if you replace the hard disk with an SSD. Mass Effect now starts in 47 instead of 59 seconds on my PS3. But you will of course only get performance improvements for games that are actually installed on the hard disk.

Game of the Month: Borderlands 2

One of the games that suffered under my prolonged Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer carreer is Borderlands 2. I bought the game last year when it was proclaimed to be the next big Science Fiction multiplayer game by players posting on the BioWare Social Network. In the end I didn’t play the multiplayer mode much (see below) but I finally finished the singleplayer campaign today. And after I got over the fact that this game is definitely not Mass Effect 4 it was actually great fun to play.

Borderlands 2 is a first person shooter with role playing elements. At the beginning of the game you pick one of four (or five with an extra DLC) characters with different abilities like deploying a gun turret, cloaking, using two guns at the same time or freezing your enemies. As you progress through the game your character gains experience that you can use to boost his or her abilities. Another role playing element is the extensive amount of loot that can be found: six kinds of weapons, shields, grenades, ability boosters, new custom looks and other interesting items. As the items are randomly generated you can always find new unique loot. While playing the game you can also complete Bad Ass Challenges e.g. by using specific abilities or killing specific enemies to improve various aspects of your character like gun damage or maximum health.

The story takes your character to a planet called Pandora. Pandora is a hostile environment full of monsters, bandits and an army of deadly robots. Your mission is to defeat Handsome Jack the president of the Hyperion corporation and end his reign of terror over Pandora. To accomplish this you must stop him from opening an alien vault where an undefeatable warrior is hidden. Jack wants to control  this warrior to secure his dominance permanently. The main story is divided into a series of missions each with rewards waiting at the end. Besides the main mission you can complete a vast number of side mission that grant your character extra rewards like credits, unique equipment or experience points.

Borderland 2 is technically a very good game. It doesn’t feature photorealistic graphics, the world looks like a comic strip. This style also keeps the violence (of which there is a lot) tolerable. In return for the simple look you get very smooth animation (even on the ageing PS3), vast maps with many details and fast loading times. The game also never crashed for me which is unfortunately not always a given these days. The game play is very good: controls, weapon balance and level design are all excellent. There is also enough story and humour to keep things interesting. The only problems are the occasional spikes in difficulty. I found the displayed difficulty rating of a lot of the missions was not accurate.

The multiplayer mode is interesting because it allows up to three extra player to join the hosts singleplayer campaign. All the players simply play the current mission together, face tougher enemies and get better loot in return. Due to the level of consensus and cooperation required this is really something you want to play with your friends and not with strangers. And as my favourite fellow players unfortunately never bought this game I didn’t play in this mode a lot.

Overall Borderlands 2 is a really enjoyable game full of action and weird humour. If you try to complete the side missions as well it will keep you occupied for a long time.