Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to fix your credit card’s broken/cracked magnetic strip

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As a shopaholic, I mainly use my credit card to buy new stuff. It’s one of the must-have items in your life once you reach young adulthood, especially when you want to purchase items online. Be careful of your spending, though, or you’ll end up having huge debt that you can’t easily pay back. In any case, using your card long enough may cause the thin, transparent plastic film protecting it to peel off. The exposure will then cause the magnetic strip to shed as well.

BDO American Express credit card with peeled off plasticBDO American Express credit card with peeled off magnetic strip (back)

As you can see in the photos above, my BDO American Express card needs repair. Continue reading to find out how I fixed it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Assistive Light – Enable the flashlight on your Samsung smartphone

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Assistive LightIt may not be one of a smartphone’s “smart” or advanced capabilities, but turning your device into a flashlight is an incredible, useful feature. Who knows? You could end up walking down a dark alleyway carrying nothing else but your cellphone. Or maybe there’s a sudden blackout and you’d obviously need a source of illumination to guide you around. This simple tutorial will show you how to enable the flashlight feature—also known as the assistive light—on your Samsung smartphone.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to Make Fast and Easy Gold: A Short Guide to Hearthstone Gold Grinding

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Of all nine classes available in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the Mage, Hunter, and Rogue are the best classes you can use to form a speed deck for gold grinding. Accumulating a lot of gold in the shortest time possible is one of the important things for free-to-play players, what with their reasons for not spending any real money to buy cards and/or enter the arena.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Possible Features in Future Updates

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As it is, the closed beta version of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft delivers enough features to make the overall experience satisfying and even addictive. Despite using a free-to-play model, I actually paid a lot of money just to play in the Arena mode! Lesson learned: moderation is key. Anyway, for those wanting more from the game, Blizzard is apparently handing out online survey forms, asking players what features they want next implemented in the game.

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to Make Money on Dota 2

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Do you want to enjoy Dota 2 and at the same time try to earn some money from it? You’ve come to the right place. Here are some ways you can get real cash off the game. However, the possible profit to be had in Dota 2 is rather low. Unless you’re lucky and know where to do business, you can’t just quit your regular job.

Submit item designs to the Dota 2 Workshop

Many items we use to customize the in-game heroes were actually submitted by fellow fans of the games. Through the workshop, just about anyone can contribute 3D models of items. If accepted, the items then become listed in the in-game store, where other players can check them out and buy them. A portion of the sales goes to the item contributor.

Steam Workshop

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to cash out your GCash using Unionbank eMoney Xchange

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As an online freelancer, I receive some of my pay via Globe Telecom’s mobile commerce service—GCash. Getting paid this way has several benefits. For instance, it offers a faster and cheaper way to withdraw. Paypal, on the other hand, takes 2-4 banking days to withdraw to my bank account and deducts a rather hefty fee (considering the smaller exchange rate from USD to PHP it uses). That and there are other remittance fees to pay as well.

How to pay bills through the GCash app for Android

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Though I like the occasional trips to the mall during my leisure time, the experience is sometimes exhausting because I also have to pay for my bills, specifically my phone and Internet bills issued by Globe. This local telecom arguably has the best retail concept stores—complete with demo phones, welcoming ambiance, and helpful support staff, but customers like me visit the place in droves. In other words, the queue for the cashier is quite long at most times, consuming most of my time at the mall just waiting for my turn to make payments. That’s why I’ve decided to make good use of GCash to pay my Globe bills.

Globe Telecom concept store in Ayala Cebu

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GCash App for Android

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GCash app for Android logoGCash subscribers with an Android smartphone can now easily perform transactions with Globe’s mobile commerce service via the GCash app. With an easy-to-use interface and plenty of features available, it’s a perfect way to transform your handset into a virtual wallet. It also replaces the rather outdated sending of keywords/commands as text messages to do business.

Hearthstone: How to Earn Gold (In-Depth Guide)

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Unlike many other games where currency can easily reach more than thousands, gold in Hearthstone is rather hard to earn. Besides using real money, gold is the only in-game currency available in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft that can be used to purchase cards or enter the Arena. Continue reading this guide and learn the quickest and best ways on how to gather the virtual moolah. But to sum it all up, it's to have fun in playing the game, learning the best ways to win, and just let the spoils of war roll in.

Hearthstone how to earn gold

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Release Date

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As a Blizzard fan, I’m excited for the launch of the company’s upcoming digital card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. As for when exactly Blizzard is going to release the game, no official announcement has been made so far. But when it does become ready for the public, expect it to be a huge hit.

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft game logo

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dota 2 Beginner Heroes: What should newbies try first as starting heroes?

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Every starts out as a noob in Dota 2, and that’s nothing to be ashamed about. You can’t forever stay as a beginner, though, or you will be under a constant barrage of trashtalk and hate from those who think they’ve matured enough and “leveled up” into pro Dota 2 gamers. So, what’s the fastest way to familiarize yourself with the game? It’s simple: learning to play using Dota 2 beginner heroes. Of course, there’s also the in-game tutorial for basic mechanics such as denying, last hitting, and item building. But if you want to directly dive into the multiplayer action, you can do so too. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

Dota 2 Beginner Heroes

How to create a text editor like Notepad in Java

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I previously posted on how to code using the Java programming language by creating a Tic-Tac-Toe game, complete with basic AI as computer opponent and a two-player mode. This time, let me show you how to code a simple text editor that functions like the Microsoft Notepad for Windows. The source code is contained in one .java file, containing all the necessary lines and class imports needed to launch the functions and graphical user interface. While the code is also shown below, I also made the source code (.java) and the compiled runnable program (.jar) themselves available for download.

Notepad using Java

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Beta Game Key

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In less than two weeks after signing up, I received an email from Blizzard containing a closed beta invitation for its upcoming digital collectible card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. To be specific, I got entitled to beta testing “for the Americas,” and will join other testers to help devs polish the game for a gold release based on our feedback.

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft closed beta invitation

Friday, November 22, 2013

Blog Post SEO Checklist: How to make your article popular to search engines

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When you know your article is a masterpiece, you surely want the world to know. For that to happen, your post must be good enough for search engines to display on their search results. It must appeal to them, so to speak.

Without any further ado, here’s the checklist you need to comply with in order for your blog post to be pleasing to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Dota 2 system requirements -- Can you run the game?

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Rich in visual detail and effects, the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game Dota 2 by Valve is by far more taxing to the hardware than the original Defense of the Ancients minimap of Warcraft III. Veteran players all know, that in order to pwn most of the matches, one must not only be good and proficient in all hero strategies and map awareness, but also have a good system to run the game. Very few other aspects of the Dota 2 generate more annoyance than suffering from a terrible frame rate, which leads to missed kills, delayed reactions, and other game-breaking mishaps. So, what are the minimum system requirements needed to run Dota 2? Though an important question, we know that’s not the one being asked by hardcore and professional gamers. We also need to know the recommended or optimal system requirements for a smooth gameplay.

Dota 2

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to move Dota 2 to another PC

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As of this writing, the Dota 2 game is over 8GB in total size, which takes some time to download everything to one computer alone. With future updates inbound, no doubt the overall size will only get bigger. So if you’ve another computer that you want the game installed into, it’s simply better and faster to just copy or move Dota 2 to this other system from another PC. The guide below will show you how it’s done.

Heroes of the Storm

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Heroes of the Storm is a new video game being developed by Blizzard Entertainment for Windows and OS X platforms. Just like Valve’s Dota 2, the game belongs to the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, in which each player controls one character/hero and joins one of two teams that compete against each other.

It is reported to use the freemium model, meaning anyone can sign up for an account and be able to play the game without spending any money, though optional in-game money transactions are also available. These purchases are similar to Dota 2 items; they will only affect the appearance of the heroes in the game (e.g., changing the outfit, mount, etc.) and won’t give players a winning advantage over others.

Heroes of the Storm

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: ForumCash – A Scam Disguised as Legit Work

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Have you ever seen those Google ads claiming that the search giant apparently lets you earn thousands of US dollars in just one week? It sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is, trying to lure innocent people looking for an easy source of online income. The same thing goes to ForumCash. It apparently offers a more reasonable rate for your honest hard work, but it doesn’t actually live up to its promise. It’s just a fraud.

ForumCash

It’s not an outright scam, mind you. ForumCash isn’t like many websites that promise riches with very little effort in your part. It also doesn’t ask any upfront payment in order to sign up and then just ignore you when you’ve already sent the money. You can even get paid, assuming you do get accepted. Its evil scheme lies elsewhere.

ForumCash begins tricking you and other users with job offers that are reasonably straightforward. But before you can get to those money opportunities, you will need to undergo a certain kind of test first. (At this point, everything still seems fine. Many legit online destinations for freelancers—like oDesk—require tests so they can award you with credentials.) It will apparently measure how eager you are in accomplishing the upcoming tasks. The next part is where it all becomes suspicious: You will be required to share certain links on your Facebook wall, basically promoting ForumCash. And the endorsing doesn’t end in just your wall, because you will also have to spam on the FB timeline of several friends and on your Twitter feeds.

Though required, there’s no one in ForumCash who will actually verify if you’ve complied with the certain number of spam you must make on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I don’t think that they will even check if you’ve done any promotion at all! I guess they’re fine with things as long as they fool several would-be workers to scam more people into joining their cause. It’s like a pyramid scheme.

If you do receive an assignment from them, the tasks usually are tedious and tiresome. You’ll end up working for several hours (more or less 18 hours a day) that usually requires writing, copy-pasting, encoding, and more spamming. You’d think you’ll rewarded with big bucks for all those work. In reality, the compensation only ranges from Php200-300 a day. As of this writing, that’s equal to 4.59 to 6.89 USD. That may already sound a lot for the average online worker who lives in developing countries like India and the Philippines, but don’t forget the number of hours spent just to earn that amount.

ForumCash is capable of continuing its scam, because of the exponential effect from the social network promotions done by the applicants. Any hired workers don’t get to stay working for the company for too long. They will eventually get tired of the long hours of work for the small pay or of the lack of active communication.

If you’re wise enough to read reviews like this post before signing up for ForumCash, you’re lucky. Others have fallen into their trap and have regretted it. Check out these other links to prove that the company is a fraud:

Of course, there are some people who claim to have a positive experience on ForumCash. We’ll let you decide if they really are telling the truth.

ForumCash testimonial

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Plants vs Zombies 2 Free Download

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Looking for places for a Plants vs Zombies 2 free download? This popular sequel to the original tower defense game by PopCap can be easily obtained through the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. Both of them offer the game free of charge, since the game is developed as a freemium app. In other words, it can be played and finished at no cost, though some optional features can only be accessed through in-app purchases.

Plants vs Zombies 2 free download

As of this writing, it’s not known if a Plants vs Zombies 2 free download will arrive on the Amazon Appstore.

Beware of Illegal PvZ 2 Free Downloads

If you know where to look, there are several ways to download an illicit copy of PopCap’s popular tower defense game. To name a few, one get download through torrents and direct download from websites listed in Google results (using the search term “Plants vs Zombies 2 free download”). I don’t condone such illegal downloads, though there are some who would rather have a cracked/pirated copy because of the promised limitless amount of keys and coins. They may also claim that some plants that can only be unlocked through money is beyond what they’re willing to spend in a game.

Do note that if you do install the Plants vs Zombies 2 APK file from another source besides the Google Play Store or iOS App Store, you may likely be exposed to malware that the hackers attach in their modified installer package of the game. The illegal copy might seem clean at first, but maybe your accounts and mobile wallet have already been compromised.

Yet another reason not to grab an unofficial copy of the PvZ 2 app is because of future updates. You won’t be able to enjoy the latest features that the great developers of the game made for the fans. And when you do decide to switch back to the legit game, you won’t be able to transfer your old progress. You’ll have to start over, with all gates, plants, and other unlockables remained barred, waiting to be unlocked once again.

 

Plants vs Zombies 2 Free Download official links: iOS App Store, Google Play Store

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bloggers, beware of these sites: Vampirestat, AdSenseWatchDog, Villainstat, UglyStat, Zombiestat

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If you’re one to frequent the Stats feature of the Blogger dashboard, you may have noticed a couple of sites that generated traffic towards your blog. If any of them happen to be Vampirestat, AdSenseWatchDog, and Villainstat, don’t bother checking out those sites. They’re expected to be rife with malware.

A list of bogus sites that you have to avoid can be found below:

  • Vampirestat.com
  • AdSenseWatchDog.com
  • Villainstat.com
  • Uglystat.com
  • Zombiestat.com
  • R-e-f-e-r-e-r.com
  • OnTimeMarketing.biz

At first I thought one of my posts got popular or had been found useful by a reader that he shared it thru his site (Vampirestat) as a sign of thanks. Being a cautious person, I didn’t immediately visit the site and instead turned to Google for answers. As it turns out, it’s not just my blog that got bogus traffic. Other bloggers have been targeted, too.

So what must you do when you also get referred traffic from those sites? The answer is simple: do nothing. That’s right. Apparently, Vampirestat and company spam the statistics page of Blogger to lure curious users into their sites. A lot of things can then happen once users visit them: spammy ads, malware infection, phishing, and more.

Do you need to worry about your AdSense account getting banned for getting traffic from VampireStat and the like? Don’t. Just don’t get involved in these so-called referrer spam. These visits are automated and no actual links to your blog have actually been placed in the wrong places. You need not worry about your blog’s page rank or reputation.

Most important of all, don’t link back to them on your own blogs. You’re simply advocating their scam. It will also affect your search rankings negatively.

Other blogging platforms (e.g. Wordpress, Tumblr) are apparently unaffected by these bogus referring URLs. I don’t have any blogs beyond Blogger with meaningful stats, so I can’t verify by myself whether or not Vampirestat and the other spam sites appear there.

Realizing that a major number of visits to your blog is actually caused by referrer spam is indeed disheartening. Just don’t give up on your blogging. With nonstop passion to write, you can eventually increase your page views made by real visitors who frequent your blog for interesting content.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Laptop Problem: Cannot Adjust Screen Brightness

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Since I updated my laptop, I’m loving almost everything about Windows 8.1: new features, major UI changes in many stock apps, security fixes, and so on. There’s one problem that rather pestered me, though. I can no longer adjust the screen brightness. My laptop can still detect that I want to change the brightness as I fiddle with the function keys, but it just can’t do so.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t really Windows 8.1’s fault here. I happen to pinpoint the latest driver of my graphics card (ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870) as the culprit of the bug. The default one that 8.1 installs by default actually lets me adjust the screen brightness. Then again, if I don’t update the driver to a newer one, I’d be then worrying about performance and glitches when I play my games. Caught between two problems, I suppose smooth gameplay is preferable to a stuck screen level of brightness.

Possible Solutions to Adjust Screen Brightness

In my case, obviously I need to find a more compatible driver for my video card. As of this writing, though, AMD has yet to release a newer version that addresses the brightness issue.

For other users out there who happen to also suffer from being unable to adjust the screen brightness of their laptop, they can always revert to an older, yet more working version of their video card driver. This can be done by any of the following:

  • Windows’ System Restore
  • Uninstalling current driver with maker’s special removal software (e.g., AMD CleanUninstall Utility) before installing older driver
  • Uninstalling current driver and then check for drivers through Windows Update
  • Manual downloading of older driver
  • Installing the driver that came with the laptop’s companion optical disc

If, however, you insist on using the current driver (even though it really is the one that’s causing the problem), there are other ways to adjust the screen brightness of your laptop without using the dedicated function key combo or the Control Panel > Power Options slider. For instance, go to your video card’s utility software package. For AMD cards, it’s the Catalyst Control Center, under the My Built-in Displays > Display Color setting of which are configurations for color settings, including brightness, contrast, and more.

AMD Catalyst Control Center Adjust Screen Brightness

A rather embarrassing explanation as to why you can’t adjust the screen brightness of your laptop is its low on battery and is trying to conserve power. That’s probably why you can’t make the screen more brighter.

If, for some reason, you’re initially able to adjust screen brightness after a reboot but unable to do so after a while, the problem must be a recently installed or updated software. Trace back your recent installations, uninstall them, and see if that fixed the issue.

 

This problem might be happening to tablets running on Windows 8, too. If your device is affected, try doing the possible fixes above. I can’t guarantee their effectiveness. Your device may even become more unstable. You have been warned.

Most Popular Dota 2 Heroes of All Time

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Despite missing ones that are so popular in the original Warcraft III mod—Techies, Phoenix, Soul Keeper, etc.—Dota 2 already has several heroes to choose from. Naturally, some of them are bound to hog the spotlight and be chosen a lot by players, while the other Dota 2 heroes are shunned for a reason or two.

Dota 2 Heroes

Most Popular Dota 2 Heroes of All Time

Without further ado, here are the most popular Dota 2 heroes who have managed to make it to the top 10:

  • Pudge
  • Drow Ranger
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Sniper
  • Spirit Breaker
  • Riki
  • Nature’s Prophet
  • Windrunner
  • Lifestealer
  • Juggernaut

It’s easy to tell why many players choose the likes of Pudge and Bounty Hunter  in their usual selection of Dota 2 heroes. Players like being the hunter, not the hunted. Pudge’s Meat Hook allows them to be such, while his Flesh Heap gives him adequate protection from would-be predators. Bounty Hunter is also chosen for similar reasons. His invisibility skill, Shadow Walk, allows him to catch other heroes off-guard and also lets him escape.

Based on personal experience while playing so many Dota 2 games, Drow Ranger and Sniper are popular Dota 2 heroes for newbies or beginning players. They have very simple skills that do not take much time to learn. Newbies also tend to choose a carry role, believing they’re going to be the stars in-game even though oblivious to the things needed to become an exceptional carry. To them, using a support hero is boring.

Notably important, though, is the fact that even if they are the most popular Dota 2 heroes, the ones in the list above don’t actually have a winning advantage over other heroes. Six of them even have a win rate that’s less than 50%, meaning teams in matches that have them lose more often than win.

Least Popular Dota 2 Heroes of All Time

Who, then, are the least picked of the bunch? If you’ve been a regular player, then you know it’s rarer to encounter these Dota 2 heroes. In fact, when randomly chosen, they most likely get repicked:

  • Pugna
  • Brewmaster
  • Medusa
  • Abaddon
  • Skywrath Mage
  • Io
  • Meepo
  • Visage
  • Chen
  • Elder Titan

Common reasons why these heroes are the least favorite among players are skill difficulty, their supporting roles, high map awareness requirement, to name a few. Especially for newbies, Chen, Meepo, and Visage are hard to use because they and their minions/summons/conversions require great micro-management to be able to help win the game. Elder Titan, Pugna, and Skywrath Mage are capable of dealing devastating damage and killing other heroes without much help from others. Unfortunately and especially in public games, these three are expected to play supporting roles (which, once again, is a role type that newbies don’t really like to play). Io, on the other hand, requires that the player use his ultimate skill at the right moment and at the right location, or he and his tethered companion gets killed instead. Some others are least popular because they’re new additions to Dota.

 

Note that the ones listed above are the most/least popular Dota 2 heroes of all time. The findings came from the DotaBuff.com website, which gathered data from all public matches played all over the globe. If you filter the list with just games played on patch 6.79, Bloodseeker makes it to the number 2 spot (most likely because of its recently buffed skill that can now detect low-health heroes all over the map, not just within a certain radius).

As new patches roll out, the rankings of popular Dota 2 heroes will most assuredly change. Nerfs, stat changes, skill modifications, new upcoming heroes, or complete reimagining of the existing ones will surely have a drastic effect on what heroes will players pick for their next matches.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Treasure Yeti – An In-Depth Guide to Plants vs Zombies 2’s Mythical Zombie Yeti

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Appearing least often in the game, the Treasure Yeti is one of the most desired zombies for users to kill due to the riches it grants. This guide aims to teach you everything you need to learn about this mythical undead creature that’s also known as the Zombie Yeti: where to find it, how to kill it, and what prizes you get from it.

Plants vs Zombies 2 Treasure Yeti almanac entry

Note that this guide is written for the Android version of Plants vs Zombies 2 (build version 1.5). The iOS edition of the app may still be compatible with the tips here, though certain features may be slightly different.

Where do I encounter the Treasure Yeti?

Unlike other zombies, the Treasure Yeti doesn’t normally spawn at a pre-set stage/level/difficulty. Furthermore, zombie yeti sightings are sporadic with no predetermined time or schedule. What is certain is that this mysterious undead randomly appears in a level that the player has already cleared. Such random level will have an icon hovering above it. The spawn interval between yetis is estimated to be about 24 hours.

Your best hope to find a Treasure Yeti is to receive a notification from the app telling you that one has been sighted. When it happens, immediately go to the level where the zombie yeti is spotted. There’s no telling how long the creature stays there. That’s why it’s best to play that level as soon as possible.

Plants vs Zombies 2 Treasure Yeti icon

As long as a level is cleared, there’s a certainly a chance that the Treasure Yeti will appear there. Beating the level once (ergo gaining at least one star from it) is enough. In case you have a yeti to kill while at the same time still have some stars to gain in a particular level/stage, prioritize doing the former instead of meeting the requirements for the star. After all, you can always come back as you please to get a star. But if you’re up to it and have a good strategy, you can also choose to hit these two birds with one stone.

Treasure Yeti official almanac entry

Toughness: Dense | Speed: Basic
Description: A rare and curious creature, he always packs a lunch.
Speed Details: runs away after a short while
Special: carries treasure

The rare and wondrous Yeti carries his lunch box up and down Mount Brainer to his isolated mountain lodge.

What’s the best way/strategy to kill a Treasure Yeti?

The Treasure Yeti in Plants vs Zombies 2 is similar to the one found in the first PvZ game. It’s main difference is its timid nature; once hit from any damage source, it starts walking backwards. If it succeeds going off the screen, then that means you didn’t have enough firepower to kill it—you let it escape instead, along with its treasure.

As mentioned above, you need to prioritize killing the zombie yeti instead of everything else. However, that doesn’t mean losing the level—getting any zombie past the lawnmower—is fine, because doing so means not getting the treasure!

Plants that can instantly kill

Tough and hard to kill, the best way to bring down the Treasure Yeti is to reserve enough sun for plants that can deal a fatal blow. These include the Coconut Cannon, Cherry Bomb, Jalapeno, and Squash.

Plant Food for added firepower

If you fail to collect enough sun for those insta-kill floras, you can also make use of Plant Food to temporarily give a plant a boost in power. For instance, feeding the Snapdragon, Bonk Choy, or Repeater grants them enough damage to kill the zombie yeti.

You can also feed a Spikeweed or Spikerock in the same lane where the zombie Yeti is. Doing so pulls it to where the plant is located, thus giving you more time before it escapes.

Power Ups

Another option is to consume a Power Up. Your best bet is the Power Zap (hold your finger down on a zombie to electrocute it).

Distract the Treasure Yeti

Despite your best efforts, the zombie yeti may still endure all the blows you throw at it. To prevent the creature from escaping, place a plant to its right or exactly at the plot/space it’s standing. This zombie, even though rare, is just like any other—it will always halt to eat a plant whenever he encounters one. Your best choices for this tactic are the defensive Tall-nut and Wall-nut.

Restart level to try killing the zombie yeti again

This is a bit of a cheat but is nevertheless a good way to not let the Treasure Yeti escape. For some reason, the creature disappears if you retire from the level he’s currently found in, but it will still reappear if you choose to restart the level instead. Be aware that you can’t repeatedly restart the level for more treasure boxes, because you also need to complete the level along with the kill to get one.

Restart level to try killing the zombie yeti again

You can’t just ignore it

If left unharmed, the yeti will still walk backward after making a short appearance. Kill it as fast as possible.

What riches does the Treasure Yeti drop?

Based on personal experience, the zombie yeti’s lunch box contains diamonds (each worth a thousand coins) and keys. I’ve yet to obtain another item type from the box. Nevertheless, this is one of the casual ways for getting keys, which are important for unlocking several features of the Plants vs Zombies 2. Also check out my in-depth guide about keys.

Though I’ve yet to see it for myself, a yeti kill may also drop more lunch boxes instead of just one. Power Ups are also said to be possible drops.

 

Do you know something about Plants vs Zombies 2’s Treasure Yeti that I haven’t included in my guide? Blast away in the comments below!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Someone has copied my blog post! What do I do?

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I should be flattered, but I’m rather annoyed by the fact that someone has copied one of my blog posts. It would’ve been fine if the thief only quoted a paragraph or two and made reference of my blog, but the entire content was actually copied and claimed for his own. Making the situation even worse is that it’s the violating post that’s showing on top of Google’s search result when you use a common keyphrase.

Someone has copied my blog post

So, which one of my posts is affected by copyright violation? It’s my guide on how to set up a LAN session for the popular zombie shooter game, Left 4 Dead 2. As of this writing, searching on Google with the terms “Left 4 Dead 2 LAN” returns a post published on PC Game Monster. On the other hand, my own article nowhere appears on the listing. The guide I wrote and published myself is still the top generator of visits for my blog, though, but because it’s linked a lot by several other websites and gaming forums.

Imagine that you’re in my place and trying to earn a living as a blogger. If you own a website mainly relying on pay-per-view ads, naturally you’d want your articles to be on top of Google search results for higher exposure and therefore more organic visits. That isn’t the case here. Sadly, someone else is eating away some advertising income that should be mine. I want some goddamn justice.

What to do when someone has claimed your work for their own

Naturally, I’m not the only one affected by plagiarism. The online world is rife with people engaged in content scraping or the act of stealing posts/articles of someone and publishing it on their own website. If you’re also a victim of content thievery, you have a number of options that you can do to minimize the damage done by the wrongdoer.

Contacting the content scraper

For bloggers who make money off of their posts, they can contact the owner of the site with the copy of their work and inform them of their violation. Ask for compensation, say, a one-time fee to license your work for republication. Or you can offer them to pay you for uniquely writing another version of the content so that both articles won’t seem derivative. Politeness is the key here at first. If it doesn’t work, only then a forceful or threatening message must be used.

In all honesty, I didn’t do the objective solution above. I was so enraged upon discovering that my work was copied that I went to the thief’s own website and wrote a rash comment on one of its pages. Perhaps the thief anticipated this and had set up his blog such that all incoming comments must be moderated first before getting public. My comment has never seen the light of day, and the thief—even to this day—continues to scrape content from others.

Filing a complaint through Google

What I did next was a more logical step to dealing with content stealers: filing a complaint through Google. The search giant offers several removal options for users and companies alike and for a variety of reasons. Naturally, one of them is requesting to remove a search result that directs to another site, because said site is infringing your blog post(s).

If you want to file a DMCA complaint through Google, you can start on their Remove Content page. When your case for requesting a Google removal is similar to mine, follow the steps below.

  1. Click the send a legal removal request link under Remove content for legal reasons.
  2. Under What Google product does your request relate to?, select Web Search.
  3. Under What can we help you with?, select I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above.
  4. In the other set of listed issues, select I have found content that may violate my copyright.
  5. Since you own the post, then respond to the next question with Yes, I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.
  6. Either choose Image/Video or Other, the latter being the appropriate selection for written work.
  7. The Google removal request will then provide you a link to the appropriate form for submitting your request.
  8. Fill up the form properly. Write and describe to the best of your knowledge how your copyright was violated.

If you aren’t serious in providing the required information, be aware that there’s also a form to counter a DMCA removal request. When Google approves that request instead, the content in question will stay in the search results.

Do Google removal requests really work?

You may be wondering if all these hassle with the form is really worth the time and effort. My answer to that is yes and no. After submitting, I was immediately notified—through the email I provided in the copyright removal form—that Google had received my legal request. The email continued to state that the team responsible for investigating copyright infringement would work on my request when their workload permitted. Two weeks later, I received another email from Google which stated that they had completed processing my infringement notice. It further claimed that the search giant was on its way to disabling access to the content that I complained about.

My submission was done months ago, but even to this day, the infringing blog is still shown in the top search results. So no, Google’s removal request proved ineffective in my case. Of course, I can always resubmit my request, but that will make me once again wait to no avail.

Contacting ad providers

A third option for those whose blog post was copied by another blogger is to inform that blogger’s sponsors to no longer display advertisements on his/her blog. Many ad networks prohibit users to show their ads in blogs that don’t conform to the DMCA law.

Anticipating future copyright violations

If you expect more people to copy your work in the future, you can set up a number of Google Alerts to immediately notify you if the search engine has found a page containing your specified keywords. Or, you can always do manual searches to see if there are existing duplicators of your content.

Final thoughts

Even if your efforts to remove duplicated content from Google results do not end satisfactorily in your favor, the best next thing you can do is to not get discouraged and lose your passion for blogging. Just keep posting new stuff for your readers to enjoy. If once again someone’s stealing your work, at least that’s indication enough that you’re getting popular and headed towards the road of blogging success.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reduce DOTA 2 Lag – How to Play Multiplayer Matches without Delays

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Playing Dota 2 is fun, but only if there’s no lag. When there is, expect disappointment from other players. You may also end up getting annoyed for being unable to kill an enemy hero due to that unexpected delay. Such madness must be minimalized, unless you stay with just the restricted games in LAN lobbies.

If you follow the tips below, you may reduce lag down to negligible levels for gameplay. On a side note, consider having a permanent view of your ping and FPS to help you constantly check if you’re currently suffering from delays or not.

Search matches closest to your region

As of this writing, there are nine available regions in the world where you can queue in. The game states this tip itself: “Select only the closest regions to you for the best experience.” Duly follow this tip even if the region nearest to your home has a longer average wait time than the others.

Dota 2 Matchmaking Regions

Set Dota 2’s network quality setting to high

You can find this setting under Game > Network of the game’s options. In short, low quality means bigger delay, while high quality means lesser delay.

Dota 2 Network Quality

To specify the network quality yourself, use the console commands below. See my guide on how to skip the Dota 2 tutorial to know how to launch the console window.

  • cl_updaterate 40

The default value is 30, representing the “number of packets per second of updates you are requesting from the server.”

  • cl_cmdrate 40

The default value is 30, which is the “max number of command packets sent to server per second.”

  • rate 80000

This is the “max bytes/sec the host can receive data.”

Stop downloads and updates of other applications (and users in the network)

If you want smooth sailing as you play Dota 2, you need to stop any in-progress downloads (as well as uploads) by other programs. Turning off automatic updates of all installed software is recommended too, since updates can happen suddenly without your knowing. Though your antivirus program is usually the culprit to causing lags and delays, you can check which apps are currently eating away your bandwidth through the Resource Monitor.

Resource Monitor

If you belong to a network, also make sure that other computers and users aren’t hogging all the bandwidth and therefore making you lag in the game. Better yet, acquire your own Internet connection to have complete control.

Use an Internet connection meant for the home

You may be tempted by the promised speeds being advertised by cellular carriers, but their Internet access isn’t actually stable. How unstable is it? Based on personal experience, I got lags/delays as high as 9000ms (9 seconds!) several times just on one game.

Subscribe on connections powered by Wimax, DSL, or cable. Those types are meant for gaming, whereas mobile connections such as 4G LTE, HSPA+, and 3G are for users who are on the go. Factors you need to consider when selecting an Internet service provider are the speed, signal reception (for wireless), and reliability/uptime. Also be aware of any usage caps that your provider might impose, whether explicitly or hidden in fine print.

Lower advanced video games settings

Though not directly related to the game latency, lowering or disabling options found in Dota 2’s video games settings will help increase performance, specifically the frames per second (FPS). The acceptable rate is 40fps, though your computer must be able to reach and stay beyond 60fps for the smoothest gameplay.

Dota 2 Video Settings

For the fastest FPS, choose the following settings:

  • Aspect ratio – 4:3
  • Resolution – 640x480
  • Vertical sync (Vsync) – off
  • Anti-aliasing – off
  • Specular – off
  • Specular bloom – off
  • Water quality – off
  • Fog – off
  • Shadows – low
  • Animate portrait – off
  • Additive light pass – off
  • World lighting – off
  • Ambient occlusion – off
  • Textures – low
  • Render quality – lowest
  • Ambient creatures – off

Of course, you’d want to balance the performance and quality. If your computer can take it, just disable some of the settings. Anti-aliasing, shadows, and render quality are usually the ones causing a heavy demand in your computer’s graphics card. You may also want to configure your card’s own settings.

Other ways to reduce Dota 2 lag

To reduce lag even more, do the following:

  • Achieve a faster connection through proxies and tunnels
  • Don’t find matches when Steam is updating the game to a newer version
  • Don’t play when Steam is updating itself

 

Note that there will always be delays or lags as you play Dota 2. By following the guide above, you can at least make sure that your multiplayer matches have a positive overall experience. Lastly, the tips above apply not only to Dota 2 but pretty much just about any online game.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to show DOTA 2 Ping and FPS permanently

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One of the common commands that people use in Dota 2 is –ping, which shows the game latency in milliseconds (ms) and packet loss for a short while. But as you continue playing this popular MOBA, you will want to always check if the game has a consistently short response time to your inputs. This guide is meant to show you how to display ping, as well as the frame rate—also known as, frames per second (FPS)—permanently.

Dota 2

Seeing the latency or ping all the time lets you determine if you have a fast and stable Internet connection. If you find otherwise, then you will need to take certain steps to reduce the lag. After all, you can’t just ignore all the spikes happening from time to time as it will just ruin both your and your teammates’ game experience.

How to display Ping and FPS in Dota 2 constantly

The tutorial steps below are what you need to see your ping and FPS in Dota 2. First, we need to enable the developer console in the game.

1. In your Steam Library, right-click Dota 2 and select Properties.

Dota 2 Properties

2. Under General tab, click the Set Launch Options… button.

Dota 2 Set Launch Options

3.  Type in –console and press OK.

After the steps above, launch the Dota 2 application. The console should appear by default. If not, you can invoke its window by pressing its assigned key (single quotation or by default).

1. Enter net_graph 1.

Dota 2 Console net_graph 1

Command help text:

net_graph.” = 1 draw the network usage graph, = 2 draws data on payload, = 3 draws payload legend

With that command entered, you should be able to view the ping and FPS permanently, as well as the packets being sent every second.

Dota 2 net_graph default location

Other Tips & Tricks for Dota 2 Ping and FPS

By default, the data is shown at the lower-right portion of the screen. If you find the numbers too distracting while you play, you can adjust their position elsewhere on the Dota 2 HUD. Use the following console commands for repositioning:

net_graphheight x

- changes height of the netgraph panel

net_graphinsetbottom x

net_graphinsetleft x

net_graphinsetright x

net_graphinsettop x

- adjusts margin relative to the height

net_graphproportionalfont 0

- makes the numbers appear smaller

Experiment with the commands above with your screen’s resolution in mind.

Should you decide to remove the net_graph data, just enter net_graph 0 in the console.

If you prefer to show just the FPS, you can make use of the cl_showfps 1 console command instead.

The net_graph is also compatible with many games developed/created by Valve, such as Counter-Strike.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Plants vs Zombies 2: Keys (In-Depth Guide)

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One of the new features—albeit one that I personally disapprove—of Plants vs Zombies 2 is the use of keys to unlock certain portions of the game. Due to the mobile app’s freemium nature, keys are obtainable through tedious repetition, or you can avail of in-app purchases to get them immediately. This guide attempts to cover every detail about this aspect of PVZ2: how to quickly get them with or without spending any money and where to consume them wisely.

Plants vs Zombies 2 Keys

What are Plants vs Zombies 2 keys?

Along with stars and coins, keys are in-game currencies of PVZ2 to gain access to exclusive content. These include additional levels that reward stars (usually one per level/stage only), plants with unique or useful abilities, and/or boosts—for instance, a permanent, additional slot for Plant Foods. To the surprise of hardly anyone, the only other way to get these unlockables is by paying for a small fee. Keys are also needed for Brain Busters (challenge modes).

Note that keys are restricted to the world they’re found or dropped. To illustrate, you cannot gather keys in Ancient Egypt and use them in the next world, the Pirate Seas. So if you’ve some gates you wish to open in a particular map/world, stay there and gather for their unlockers.

As of this writing, the available variations are the Egypt Key, the Pirate Key, and the Cowboy Key.

Egyptian, Pirate, Cowboy keys

Where do you get keys in Plants vs Zombies 2?

Unlike some plants and game boosters sold solely for real cash in the app’s store, keys can also be obtained by just playing. But the chances of them dropping from slain zombies are very slim. You may end up gathering many stars and killing countless of zombies and yet still have only one or two keys from the spoils of war. Time-wise and if lucky, one can get a key from kills every hour or so.

Plants vs Zombies 2 Gate

Should you choose to use real money and save yourself from hours of grinding, simply tap a locked gate to open a small pane that contain the buy button. On the other hand, don’t choose this option first if you’re still hunting for more stars. You can take advantage of that period to hope for key drops.

What are the fastest ways to get keys in Plants vs Zombies 2?

If you’re a hardcore PVZ2 player who doesn’t want to spend a single dime on in-app purchases, your best choice is grinding. In the world of gamers, grinding is the process of repeatedly doing a task to obtain something. In this case, we do away with those mindless monsters in the hopes of getting keys. It can be tedious, so prepare yourself from the inevitable sickness that is known as boredom.

To minimize the monotony of grinding, choose a map stage/level that you find most comfortable and entertaining. You don’t have to stick to normal levels—you know, the ones where you need to plant Sunflower plants and gather suns to be able to buy weaponized flora. Other levels are applicable too, such as the one with the memory mini-game (tapping two zombies that carry the same symbol to kill them) and the ones that use conveyor belts to give you plants, as long as there are zombies to kill. And speaking of those levels with conveyor belts, their zombies tend to amass faster than normal levels, which usually gain momentum only after a couple of minutes. In other words, also consider choosing a level that spawn a lot of the undead.

A Youtube user claims that Day 11 in Ancient Egypt seems to be a good source of keys. See his video below:

Plants v Zombies 2 - Ancient Egypt Key Location

And like I said already above, be sure to be in the world map of the appropriate time/era. If you’re looking for keys with pyramid heads, for instance, then grind in Ancient Egypt. And once again, the drop chance is very low. Expect some hours to waste for one or two drops.

If you’re one to boast of your PVZ2 tactics, you can play in mini-game or stages in endless mode. These are the Pyramid of Doom in Ancient Egypt, Dead Man’s Booty in Pirate Seas, and Big Bad Butte in Wild West. You can try reaching the highest level you can, while at the same time killing zombies and finding more keys occasionally dropping here and there.

If you’re engaged in Plants vs Zombies 2 as a casual player, that means you can’t afford so many hours of repetitive gameplay for a chance of keys dropping. Fortunately, PopCap and EA have updated the app to include the Treasure Yeti and the Piñata Party. The abominable snowman in the game is a rare zombie that spawns in a random stage in a random world and is estimated to appear once a day. When killed, it drops valuable items such as keys, diamonds, and more. The Piñata Party, on the other hand, is an occasional game mode that becomes available once in a while. If you’re successful in battling zombies from all worlds in this special event, you’re entitled to smash three piñatas for a chance to get power ups/boosters, coins, plant costumes, and keys. Complete three parties in a row to be able to whack a Senior Piñata for a mystery treasure.

Plants vs Zombies 2 Senior Pinata

What should I use my Plants vs Zombies 2 keys for?

Besides opening new paths with more levels that reward stars, keys give access to new plants and power-ups. As the game walks you through the basic gameplay, you’ll end up getting your first unlockable plant, the Bloomerang. It’s a powerful plant that shoots out boomerang petals at multiple enemies.

After Bloomerang, choosing which new plant or booster to unlock is up to you. Here’s my say to what you must pick first:

  • Twin Sunflower: Important. It produces two suns at a time and uses only one ground plot. Later levels will have players conserving empty patches for weaponized plants for firepower, as well as being able to collect more suns.
  • Spikerock: Recommended. The better version of the Spikeweed, this is a great plant for damaging zombies that are tearing down your Wall-Nuts.
  • Plant Food Boost: A good choice. By default, players initially have three slots for Plant Food. Though more than enough especially to expert PVZ2 addicts, three is sometimes insufficient for some later levels.
  • Sun Boost: So-so. Starting with 25 more sun doesn’t exactly give you much of a head start than starting without them. Nevertheless, this is a good boost, though unlock it only after the previous three.
  • Shovel Boost: So-so. It doesn’t take a landscape architect or a green thumb to effectively position plants in the game. If you keep on scooping up plants to free up ground plots, then there’s something wrong with your strategy. A one-fourth refund of sun per shoveled plant isn’t also that significant.
  • Cherry Bomb: So-so. A Cherry Bomb indubitably does incredible damage to zombies, although you can imitate such devastation towards zombies by simply consuming a Plant Food on an appropriate plant.
  • Grave Buster: Least priority. While it gets rid of gravestones in an instant, this plant takes quite a while to recharge. Gravestones don’t also appear in every level, which means unlocking the Grave Buster is relatively not worth the effort.

Do you have more tips and tricks that aren’t mentioned here? Feel free to fire away at the comments below. Let your fellow Plants vs Zombies 2 players know your secrets to keys!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Free Dota 2 Items: How and Where to Get the Spoils of War

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One of the great features of Dota 2 is its granting you the ability to customize your favorite heroes in the game. Through items, every gamer has the chance to make every hero appear in their own image and liking. With unique guises that cause your heroes to stand out from the crowd, opponents that you beat down the road will remember you through your spectacular playing skills and your formidable heroes.

To give you a preview of what items can do for your heroes, this is what Slithice the Naga Siren looks like by default:

Naga Siren's default appearance

This is how she would appear if she dons the Designs of the Slithereen Nobility Set:

Naga Siren equipped with Designs of the Slithereen Nobility set

So how do you get these equipment and also other items such as HUD skins, taunts, announcers, and more? Dota 2 has an in-game store where you can browse for items of different quality. The cheapest is Common, which often comes with the most basic cosmetic change for your hero. On the other hand, items of Legendary bearing have unique aesthetics but are also likely priced with the heftiest amount. One may think that spending for items to change appearance is just too much. Luckily, there are other ways to get items in Dota 2 without any cost.

How to get Free Dota 2 Items

Playing on Rated Matches. If you finish every rated multiplayer game you entered all the way through the end, meaning an ancient is finally destroyed and the scoreboard with the final statistics has appeared, there’s a chance an item will drop for you. The same goes to other players who’ve played through and through. I’m not sure about this, but performing really well in the game might increase your likelihood of getting an item. Common quality items are the most likely to drop, but there’s still possibility—no matter how slim it is—for you to come across an Uncommon, a Rare, and even a Legendary.

Besides items, games also reward players with treasure boxes and player cards. These may appear useless and worthless to some people, but do not just throw them away. You can actually trade them for items! (More on that below, way below…)

Leveling Up. Your player level (aka Battle Level), as shown in your Dota 2 profile, may seem useless to you. However, that detail is used among other information to find similarly skilled players during matchmaking to become either your teammates or opponents. When it comes to getting free items, you can receive one whenever enough points have reached the level-up threshold (1000 points). This is a guaranteed or 100% item drop. Obviously, you must finish your games to gain experience points (aka Battle Points) in order to up one level.

Dota 2 Player Profile

If you want to earn XP more than the usual amount for every game you finish, there are purchasable items for such purpose. The International 2013 Interactive Compendium, for instance, not only includes a free Smeevil courier, but it also lets you gain Battle Bonus points for faster leveling.

Remember that this method, as well as the first one above, only applies to games whose stats will be recorded. Any matches with one or more players who leave during the hero selection and pre-game stages are not counted and therefore will not gift you any item.

Training. Like it or not, all new players are compelled to undergo Dota 2’s learn-to-play mode. I wrote a blog post about how veteran players can skip the tutorial and jump directly to the multiplayer games, but Valve has seemingly fixed all workarounds to it. On the plus side, once you complete the tutorial pSniper with Gunslinger's Riflehases that involve Kardel Sharpeye, the Dwarven Sniper, you will acquire his Gunslinger item set. It seems the rifle is already given away by Valve for free and should be present in your inventory from the very start.

I haven’t tried the tutorial myself (Valve hasn’t imposed it on me and all players who got into the Dota 2 scene since its beta release), so I’m not really sure if what I wrote above is accurate. What I do know is there are indeed rewards to obtain in those tutorials. Since Valve really insists on new players to undergo training, I’m guessing there may be even more rewards in the future for those who play the tutorial. Getting compensated for doing forced hours of restricted play is encouraging, after all.

Trading. Given that Dota 2 is intrinsically social, one of the more popular games in the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, and is now free to play, you’re bound to gain friends who you’ll be playing with every now and then. If you’re in luck, you’ll gain friends whom you can frequently trade items with. Perhaps they have extra items to give away. Maybe they have items they don’t want, and they are willing to swap them for yours. Or perhaps they’re not interested with collecting items at all (they don’t boost hero stats nor improve game skills anyway!), so maybe they’ll donate all their loots to you. Lucky!

Dota2Lounge

Trading is not limited to just with people you know. There are several websites that primarily serves as the go-to destination for players looking to trade with others. Dota2Lounge.com (D2L) is so far the one that I can easily recommend with confidence. That website requires your Steam credentials and, once you’re logged in, lets you connect with its members. Trading there is quite easy: using the search bar, you can find what items other players are willing to trade away in exchange for items they want. The reverse is also true; you can search usingRikimaru with The Subtle Demon set your existing items and find out what other players will give for it. If you’re skilled and patient enough, you can let go of your trash items and gain more valuable ones. In fact, the set items I got (like Naga Siren’s and The Subtle Demon for Rikimaru, the Stealth Assassin) were completed through a combination of trades and bets.

Betting. Another significant feature of D2L is its betting system. If matches of notable Dota 2 tournaments are scheduled for the day, the website allows you to bet on one of the teams. If the team you choose wins, you get back your stakes and also the potential rewards. If you lose, you cannot claim your items back. Potential rewards for siding a team depends on the percentage of players that has voted for it. Naturally, the underdogs or less favored teams tend to have higher potential rewards. Dota2Lounge only allows up to 4 items as wagers, with Common, Uncommon, and Rare as the only acceptable item quality types. Also, your potential reward’s item quality is the same as your wagers. For instance, you can win Common items only if you’ve wagered a Common item as well.

Dota2Lounge Betting

If you’re up to it, selling for real cash is also available in D2L. However, they do not offer a secure means to transact between money and items. You might end up with a scammer who will just suddenly vanish once he receives cash, not giving you whatever item they offered. As such, trade at your own risk when money is involved.

Treasure Chests and Player Cards. Now that I’ve explained trading above, I can finally continue talking about chests and cards. The chests are quite useless to many people since they initially do not have the key to open them with. Each key usually costs $2.49 in the store, an amount that some may already find too expensive. Luckily you can search for keys in Dota2Lounge. As of this writing, the exchange rate is typically 1 key for 5-7 rares. You can even find desperate people who are willing to trade a key for only four Rare items. Some chests also happen to be valuable. For instance, the Treasure of Champions 2013 contains exceedingly special items and is therefore deemed worthy to be traded for at least one Rare item.

Dota 2 Player CardAs for cards, these are usable only by those who have purchased the International Interactive Compendium item, which is only sold a few months before the International Dota 2 Championships. Those who cannot afford the compendium can just trade away their cards and at least receive some Common items for them. Some cards are even more valuable. Just do a bit of research and you’ll find out their true value soon enough.

If you’re looking for more online places to mingle and exchange items with players, try out Dota2Marketplace.com and Dota2Price.com. I haven’t checked them out myself, so please be careful and cautious against scams and frauds.

Valve’s Community Market. The last method in my list is not exactly free. On the other hand, the market offer items sold at the store at discounted prices. A $2.49 key, for example, can be bought in the market for as low as $2.00. If you’ve a key and don’t have the chest to open it with, you can buy a chest for only 3 cents! It’s not just about keys and chests there, there are also equipment, ingredients, and other exotic items obtained by the playing community.

Steam's Community Market for Dota 2

 

Keep in mind that all items are purely for cosmetic purposes only. They do not affect the gameplay beyond physical changes in order to keep the game equally competitive and fair to everyone. Also, all heroes are always playable the moment they are introduced to the game through patch/update releases. You don’t have to worry about other players gaining an advantage on you just because they have bought items and have unlocked a hero through purchases. The latter problem is what League of Legends is guilty of, but not Dota 2.

While, through this post, I am advocating methods to obtain free items for your in-game heroes, do note that most purchasable items have been contributed by fellow Dota 2 players. If you buy their submissions through the game store, these hardworking artists receive a portion of the sale. You can even submit your own designs through the Dota Workshop and earn some money at the same time! If you lack the creative skills to submit your own creation, you can also at least help by choosing/voting which submissions gets approved and imported to the game.

Chinese Domain Name Scam – Beware of Renewal and Trademark Fraud

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Last week, I received a suspicious email from a sender that I’ve never interacted before. He claimed to be a manager from an organization that handles trademarks and intellectual property protection based in China. In the letter, he informed me that a company was planning to obtain rights for certain domain names that are similar to that of my website and that I should perform some necessary actions to avoid any conflicts of interest.

At first I thought the letter was legit, since its arrival in my inbox happened to coincide with Google’s constant email reminders about my domain name, conanhughes.com, getting an automatic renewal with the web hosting company eNom sometime in August. What made me suspect of fraud or foul play shortly afterwards were some red flags contained within the email’s content:

  • Spelling and grammar errors (in other words, broken English)
  • The company claimed to be buying the domains does business mainly on imports/exports of hard goods, which is quite irrelevant to my domain name and my website’s niche
  • The sender failed to properly introduce his trademark and IP protection organization
  • Bogus physical address

The last three indicators of fraud that I listed above can be easily confirmed by doing a simple Google search. I dared not to call the included phone number, visit the listed websites, or even reply back. After all, doing so will let them know that the email address they sent their fishy letter to is real (that there’s a real person using it) and will probably send more emails to convince me that they’re the real deal.

Here’s the fishy email in its entirety:

Dear Manager,

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

We are the organization of trademark intellectual property protection in China. Here we have something to confirm with you. We received a formal application on 23/07/2013. A company named "TianHui Import & Export Co. Ltd" was applying to register "conanhughes" as its Trademark and the following domain names:

  • conanhughes.asia
  • conanhughes.cn
  • conanhughes.com.cn
  • conanhughes.com.tw
  • conanhughes.hk
  • conanhughes.net.cn
  • conanhughes.org.cn
  • conanhughes.tw

After our initial checking, we found the names were similar to your company's, so we need to check with you whether "TianHui Import & Export Co. Ltd" has any relationship with you and whether the registration of the listed domains by "TianHui Import & Export Co. Ltd" would bring any impact on you. If no impact on you, we will go on with the registration at once. If you have no relationship with that company and the registration would bring some impact on you, please inform us within 10 workdays.Out of the time prescribed we will unconditionally finish the registration for "TianHui Import & Export Co. Ltd"

Please contact us in time in order that we can handle this issue better.

Best Regards,

James Tan
Auditing Department.
Registration Department Manager

4/F,No.9 XingHui West Street,
JinNiu ChenDu, China
Office: +86 2887662861
Fax: +86 2887783286
Web: cn-network.com

Please consider the environment before you print this e-mail.

After a few research, I found out that these scams work by compelling you to register domain names closely related to your existing ones. They also sell these available domains for hefty prices. Charging such unreasonable amounts of money is not exactly ridiculous to them, since some people can be fooled and scared into thinking that, by ignoring the domain registration offer, they will lose potential customers from their website, get caught in more trademark disputes in the future, and undergo other kinds of negative experiences.

If ever you receive an email similar to the one above, just delete it right away. You are not supposed to be getting messages from a third party. Only your domain registrar and web host have the credibility to send messages regarding domain names, registrations, and renewals.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Remove Android Bloatware: How to Uninstall or Disable Unwanted Software from your Mobile Device

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The first time I received my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from my cellular carrier, Globe Telecom (Philippines), I was greeted by not only the impressive hardware design of the phone and the latest Android operating system at the time (Jelly Bean 4.1), but also many bundled apps that I found no particular use and benefit for my lifestyle. In other words, I saw them as bloatware, which were insisting their presence on my device even if they were useless to me. The appropriate thing for me to do next was clear: to get rid of the apps guilty of loitering in my phablet.

How to remove Android bloatware

Uninstalling unnecessary software from an Android device is not exactly hard or impossible, but it is also not as easy as how you remove preinstalled applications in your Microsoft Windows-based computer. The later versions of Google’s mobile operating system have been given some easier ways to do the task, but limitations still apply.

Why Do Bloatware Exist?

Before heading to the proper guide, one might be interested on how apps—the ones that many purchasers didn’t ask for—happen to be in their gadgets right out of the box. Most of the time, they eat away your device’s resources: slowing down CPU performance and reducing usable storage space. They bring a negative impact to your mobile experience. So why did someone bother to include them? Is it merely a screw-you gesture by your cellphone carrier? Globe was polite enough to only add its company logo as one of the stock background images in my NotBloated Androide 2, but Samsung did the liberty of adding its own trash. I also know that other networks aren’t as kind, adding more worthless crap and ruining overall customer satisfaction.

As much as you hate it, they add these junk software because cellular networks or manufacturers—whichever responsible for preinstalling said crap—get paid for doing so. They obviously already gain profit from selling the devices, but their insatiable hunger for money drives them to exploit the users more. Poor us, the consumers…

Benefits of Removing Android Bloatware

Being the victims of capitalistic exploitation, it is then up to us the consumers to eradicate unwanted applications in our mobile devices. Successfully doing so frees up extra storage space that we can use for other apps that we actually want. Perhaps some of you are minimalistic in nature, and their imposing presence just irks you all the time. Naturally, they’re out of your mind when they’re out of sight. Even if some bloatware are designed to run in the background, their existence is still felt as they drag down the processing speed and consume mobile data, two things that are much better used for the apps you really need.

Risks, Scope, and Limitations

By reading and applying the steps in the proper guide below, you acknowledge the possible risks that you may accrue. Harmful consequences include system instability, crashes and sporadic reboots, and even totally bricking of your phone. You have been warned. Tinkering with your phone’s system settings, ROM, etc. may also void your phone’s warranty.

Bricked smartphone

Also note that I made this guide using my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 that ran on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Other devices, especially ones under different brands and with other Android versions may have different yet similar steps to disabling bloatware, if not totally incompatible with the guide.

How to Remove Android Bloatware

Let’s start with the safest method: disabling apps. Yes, it’s not exactly getting rid of undesirable applications from your mobile device, so storage space is still wasted. Since they still persist within the system, the bloatware remain there even when you perform a factory reset. On the other hand, any offending apps you disable will no longer appear in the app list. They also stop running in the background and affecting CPU performance and battery life.

To disable a mobile application, simply go to your device’s Settings. Once you’re there, head to the Application manager. Switch tabs to list all apps, not just the ones that you downloaded and ones that are currently running. Scroll through the list and find the software that you want disabled. Tap on it to proceed to its App info page. If the version of your Android OS allows it, the Disable button is available and not grayed out. Tap the button and confirm your decision in the warning pop-up dialog box. The app is now disabled. All disabled apps are located at the bottom of the All apps list tab, in case you want to re-enable them.

All Apps listDisable on App info page

Note that your OS may not allow you to disable certain apps. Other software, on the other hand, is up to your discretion on whether you want them deactivated or not. But as the warning states, disabling built-in apps may cause errors in other apps and your device’s system. When you put the Messaging apps out of action, for instance, you won’t be able to send and receive text messages unless you enable it back or install another SMS app.

If disabling is not enough, you can opt for completely replacing your stock ROM with a custom one, such as CyanogenMod, AOKP, Paranoid Android, and SlimBean. These 3rd-party modifications of the Android OS are most likely bundled with the fewest extra software along with the essentials. End result? More free space, less clutter, less performance impact. However, the process required to flash a custom ROM is not something an average mobile user can easily do. Chances of bricking the device also exist.

An easier alternative to flashing is using apps, such as Titanium Backup and Gemini App Manager, that removes bloatware for you. By approving their request for root or superuser access to your device, they have full privilege to uninstalling any software. Just like with disabling apps, complete removal also runs the risk of making your device unstable. Reverting your device back to its stable state will be even harder since you can’t simply re-enable the permanently deleted apps, whose absence has caused the aforementioned instability. Be careful.

Gemini App ManagerGemini App Manager available actions

Yet another risky method is available for any Android daredevils out there: a nifty bloatware removal script built by the folks at XDA Developers. If you have the right knowledge, the devs claim that you can even get rid of more than 20 apps in just 3 seconds or less. Use the script improperly and your smartphone might end up unable to boot up.

If the thought of getting bloatware from a newly bought phone is downright annoying to you, perhaps you should just opt for the purist Android path. Just buy any Nexus device, the software innards of which are the default experiences that Google intended for its Android users. No extras, no frills, no annoyance.

My List of Disabled Apps

To be honest, I only used the disable method since I just cannot go on experimenting with my one and only smartphone. Anyway, here are some of the apps that I disabled and so far haven’t caused any negative performance and stability impact to my handset:

  • ChatON – a mobile communication service by Samsung.
  • Popup Browser – an extension to Samsung’s default Internet browser that overlaps the current app screen with an adjustable window. This may be useful to some, but I still prefer the speedy Google Chrome.
  • Readers Hub Store – an online digital newsstand. I’ve chosen Kindle, so no thank you.
  • S Suggest – an app discovery tool that recommends software for you. Google’s Play Store already has its own suggestions that works for me.
  • S Voice – Samsung’s take on Apple Siri voice assistant. Until they’ve perfected voice recognition, these features are just gimmicks to most people.