You and the Relic – What it means to be the Lone Wolf

So starting (supposedly) today, Atheon will now port 3 random people, meaning everyone gets to have fun being the relic holder… and I have to learn how to shoot things again and actually deal with ammo shortages, but that’s not what this post is about!

For starters, here’s the controls on the PS4 (Since we’re a PS4 clan):

One thing to note about the controls – your shield dash moves you really far forward, so try to avoid being near any ledges before firing your super. Otherwise, you’ll probably wipe the raid. The team only has 5 seconds to get the relic after it’s dropped.

I’ll try to summarize what I’ve learned being the relic holder. This is not a “Here’s how to be the relic holder” post because there are 60 other ones of those, including a really nice one on reddit in a PDF. This is tuned to how we as DB do the raid, and how I have come to slot into the raid. It’s still gonna be a smidgen long though – please read it through. There are 3 times where the relics come into play. I will break those down.


After you’ve killed the waves of Oracles, the relic spawns. As the relic holder, you have 1 major and 1 minor job. The major job is to charge your super bar as fast as possible by killing harpies that spawn so you can fire your ult (it’s a dumb missle) at Templar to drop his shield. Your minor job is to cleanse the group if the group gets marked by an oracle (Likely to happen at least once).

So things I’ve found being the relic holder in Templar:

  • you really need to watch where you’re running. Switching to 3rd-person perspective makes aiming the relic an entirely different task, and more than once I wiped us because I stuck myself into Templar’s line of fire.
  • Death from Above (Jump + R2) is your friend. R2 by itself works fine but will do 0 damage to oracles.
  • Kill the oracles if you can (they will fill your bar by 1/3rd when you do) but the group stays in one spot, so don’t run so far away that you’re off all alone. If you die, the group should be able to easily recover the relic because at this encounter you can probably come back from it. That’s not the case for the other two.
  • Assuming the group is doing what they’re supposed to, you can cleanse everybody within 2 seconds. The cleanse meter is proportional: the longer you hold down the button, the more it drains, and the longer it takes to reuse. Thus you wanna use it in short bursts.
  • We don’t use the cleanse shield as a shield because it takes so long to recharge.

Atheon’s Room

After killing the gatekeeper, two people familiar with holding the relic  and a high DPSer  enter both portals, kill the gatekeepers, and get the relics within – 1 in each portal. It’s then the two relic holders jobs to assist in roflstomping the minotaurs trying to sacrifice to the conflux in the middle.

Things I’ve learned:

  • As a group we normally do Venus (past / portal on right when you enter the room) first. As soon as you kill the first gatekeeper, rush the relic. If you killed the gatekeeper fast enough, the relic is free and clear. If not, there will be a yellow hobgoblin waiting for you, so save your grenades for him. You have to rush to the relic (and basically ignore the vex) as the first relic holder because you start going blind (Marked by the Void) as soon as the gatekeeper dies.
  •  Normally the portal team waits before exiting Venus because even with rushing the relic everyone will be completely blind, and so you have to cleanse before exiting the portal. Then the portal team will exit, and you cleanse again to remove the debuff while in Atheon’s room.
  •  After enter the second portal, cleanse immediately upon hitting Martian (future) soil. You should have your ultimate at this point, so charge in and fire it at the gatekeeper – it’s the same dumb missle thing as Templar, so aim well. Then you should start wailing on the minotaur thats probably barreling towards you at this point.
  • Once the second relic holder has their relic, we exit and start roflstomping minotaurs. They will begin spawning from the portals you just came out of, so watch your back!

A special note on minotaurs

Minotaurs are your nemesis. They deal a crapton of damage, both void and melee. They are basically immune to standard attacks (if their hand is over their faces, they will actually regen health from your standard attacks), and are only damageable by death from above. When you hit them with DoA, it will toss them a small amount into the air. You want to keep them in the air as much as possible because they can’t fire their weapons in this state. You don’t actually need to double jump / lift / glide to get DoA to work. Just jump and smash the R2 button as soon as you leave the ground.
<comes off soapbox>


Atheon will randomly port 3 people into one of the two portals we just dealt with. As the relic holder, it will be your job to murder the vex in that portal. On Mars (we call it future), that will be 3 yellow hobgoblins. On Venus (we call it past), there are 2 yellow goblins and a lovely minotaur.

Things I’ve learned:

  • The Venus minotaur is a bastard. He regularly spawns in a poor position to hit him and take out the two goblins with one shot. If he’s poorly positioned, ask someone inside with you to work on the two goblins while you deal with the minotaur, or vice versa if the situation calls for it. The downside with asking for help is it reduces DPS on the Oracles spawning over your head (which are not your problem, but you shouldn’t be contributing to slowing things down, hehe).
  • Same deal as before, as soon as you enter, you start going blind. Once the vex are dead, go back to your teammates and cleanse them ASAP. The faster you clear oracles, the faster time’s vengeance happens, and the more DPS you do to atheon.
  • I will normally fire an ult shot at the last oracle to help out as I’m charged by that point, but it seemed like they were no longer killing oracles in 1 shot last night like they normally were. That said, time’s vengeance also wasn’t popping reliably either, so it might have just been a bug.
  • As soon as you step outside the portal, put up the cleanse shield for the people exiting behind you – oh yeah also try to be the first one out as you’re not doing anything really inside the portal once the vex are dead. Stay with your team though and cleanse them as they zone out.
  • Once you’re out, find a good spot behind a rock and start poking your head out to fire your ult. Time’s Vengeance charges your ult nearly immediately, and you will out damage probably 1/2 of the group if you land all your relic ult shots (Gjallahorn deals a ton of damage, but you don’t run out of ammo or have to reload :) )

So, that’s it! Not too bad, and it all kinda flows once you get a feel for it.


Vaults of Glass Round 1

Some important times in the video:

Door Opens at 21:30
28:00 Jump Down to Death Pit
48:28 Confluxes Phase Ends. Oracle Phase begins
1:10:00 Oracle Phase completes. Yay Loot
1:14:40 Templar Boss Startup. Watch me act like an idiot and melee the boss
1:27:40 Where We figure out WTF to do with the Relic
1:57:50 Where we give Jason the job of Relic duty, and he gets murdered
2:06:13 First Enrage wipe
2:07:39 Watch me look like an idiot when I didn’t hear the bathroom break announced
2:08:39 Parked for bathroom break
2:12:30 Beginning of successful Templar Boss Attempt
2:20:50 Beat Templar Boss
2:20:51 Begin The Great Loot Cave Hunt! aka Bungie hates its players
2:24:30 Watch as the entire team scales the wrong wall
2:31:20 I accidentally fall to my death and get spawned at the bottom, which triggers my search at the bottom
2:32:37 I spy the Great Loot Cave and try to figure out how to get there
2:33:33 Finally figure out how to get into the loot cave
2:33:51 I announce to the group the finding of the loot cave. The next few minutes are me trying to guide people down to me
2:35:35 David Can’t die correctly
2:36:40 Throw up a bubble to light the way
2:37:40 Loot cave!
2:39:40 We head into the Gorgon Maze
2:40:00 I encounter a Gorgon, and realize just how much health they actually have.
2:40:50 The entire party tries to take down a Gorgon. Yeah, not happening
2:46:20 Successful run through to second loot cave
3:15:39 Successful Traversal of the Gorgon Maze
3:15:31 Begin the jumping puzzle!
3:25:30 My successful jump attempt. I cheated a bit I think but it worked
3:26:45 Commence dance party
3:31:20 Bust down the door to the Vex Time Ring area
3:35:35 First time ring entrance
3:39:55 Second attempt at first time ring
3:40:52 watch as the time ring taunts us by not working!
— It’s 1:30 AM by this point, so some of my play gets sloppy—
3:44:25 Third attempt at first time ring – success!
3:46:23 When I learn meleeing minotaurs with the relic is a bad idea
3:48:07 So a DualShock 4 is good for about 5 hours of play before it warns you about needing a recharge.
3:50:20 Fourth attempt at first time ring. Communication breakdown about who was supposed to be inside
3:55:00 Fifth attempt at first time ring
3:58:50 Sixth attempt at first time ring
4:01:00 First attempt at second time ring
4:04:37 Seventh attempt at first time ring
4:06:15 Second attempt at second time ring
4:10:10 Eighth attempt at first time ring
—We get the second portal up but get stuck trying to defend outside —
4:17:17 – Ninth attempt at first time ring


Playstation 4 Blu-Ray disc load times

A friend of mine asked me if the PS4 loaded a Blu-Ray faster than the PS3. Naturally I read this as “Please benchmark the PS4 for load times across a selection of discs and provide data for my own analysis.”


The reason I read it like that is because Blu-Ray disks require programming, and thus not all disks are created equal. Some have ads, some use the Internet to get additional content, some have no menu at all, and so on.

So, I picked two re-issue discs and three native digital discs (were not converted from film / originally released only on DVD). As a bonus round, I also tried a 3D Blu-Ray which the PS4 currently does not support (meaning I can’t replace my Panny Blu-Ray player yet. Boo, Sony!)

In no particular order:

The Last Starfighter:
14 seconds to load disc (appeared in the PS4 menu)
43 seconds to get to the menu

Shawshank Redemption:
14 seconds to load disc
15 seconds to get to the FBI warning
15 seconds to get to the first WB logo
15 seconds to second WB logo / movie starts with no menu

The Avengers:
18 seconds to load disc
16 seconds to display the avengers logo
10 seconds to language selection menu and to start playing previews (the PS4 displays the pop-up menu to then skip thru – a nice touch).

The Hobbit:
17 seconds to load disc
20 seconds to some disc spinning icon
10 seconds to WB logo
13 seconds to menu

The Hobbit 3D:
17 seconds to load disc
21 seconds to disc spinning icon
10 seconds to disc error

Scott Pilgrim:
14 seconds to load disc
45 seconds to universal logo (a bunch of different loading indicators appeared during this time)
28 seconds to play a comcast ad (yuck!) – Trying to get around the ad was a PITA and no menu displayed to get to me to the actual menu to play the movie.

So on average it’s about 15 seconds to get the disc to load up, and another 50 seconds to a minute to get to something meaningful. That’s on par / a tad slower than my Panasonic 3D Blu-Ray player, but I imagine there will be a patch in short order to enable 3D Blu-Ray playback, which will also change these times (better or worse).


Why a Mac Pro?

I was involved in a lengthy/argumentative discussion about Apple’s Mac Pro and its “validity” as a workstation machine. One of the main arguing points was the price, and that for the price, you were over-paying for Apple’s design which was “silly” for something like a workstation which is just supposed to be as fast as possible.

So, being an engineer and a developer who has grown up in the “data” world, I decided to build a system to match Apple’s and do a quantifiable comparison. Now, I understand Apple gets much better pricing than I do, as do all the other OEMs, but I wanted to build something so that I could closely match Apple’s systems – I can’t find HP or other high performance workstations that come close to the specs from Apple without spending significant $$$. If you find something that closely matches, feel free to hit me up.

So, on we go then. Here’s my build to match the $2999 price point from Apple. I predominantly use Newegg for hardware, and didn’t stray too far from them in general.


Apple appears to have chosen Ivy Bridge Xeon E5s, specifically the E5-1620V2. This isn’t available from Newegg, but PC Connection has one listed for an estimated street price of $332.02.


Apple will be using DDR3 ECC memory clocked at 1866 MHz. This is also not available from Newegg even though sources dating from 2011 say modules from Samsung have been around a bit. For now, I’ll use 1600 MHz modules from Crucial in the 3 x 4 GB configuration Apple states which run $162.99.


This is one of Apple’s secret sauce things. The E5-1620V2 runs in Socket 2011. Newegg lists no Socket 2011 server-grade motherboards with Thunderbolt, which is typically what goes into a workstation for Xeon-grade hardware. Asus does have a few motherboards with Thunderbolt, but none with Thunderbolt 2, and none that will house a Socket 2011 Xeon. So, I decided to side with the processor, and picked out decent looking and affordable Supermicro motherboard for $319.99.

PCIe Flash-based storage

Another one of Apple’s secret sauce options, PCIe flash storage is mostly in the realm of high-end server hardware, although OC-Z has been bringing a number of more affordable units to market. Newegg thankfully stocks these, so I picked a model that closely approximated Apple’s specs (1.5 GB/s reads & 1.2 GB/s writes). Newegg sells it for $639.99 but is out of stock at the time of my research. The same drive from Amazon is $589.99 so we’ll go with that. It’s important to note that these RevoDrives aren’t easily made into boot drives either, which means we could need another SSD just to boot from.

Graphics Cards

A third secret sauce; the FirePro D300 is an unannounced model from AMD. So I picked out something that kinda approximates it for $449.99, or just shy of $900 for 2 of them. Note there’s a cheaper version that’s Dual DVI, but we live in the future, right? DisplayPort all the way!

Power Supply

Apple pointed out how much more efficient the new Mac Pro is over the outgoing model. So naturally, I wanted an efficient power supply. I went for an 80 PLUS Gold power supply from Seasonic, who ironically is likely to also supply Apple’s components, for $129.99. I could have spent more on beefier internals / more wattage, but this seemed a good compromise between price vs beef.


Apple’s case and thermal design is nothing short of beautiful. Since we’re arguing for price vs performance though, I went with a reasonable case that everyone loves and should give us enough room for $99.

Operating System

Some would argue Linux/BSD if you’re doing HPC work, which in this case this would be free. However, much of Apple’s target audience is Video / Animation / Design (ignoring the sizeable iOS and OS X dev communities), and they will need an OS that runs Adobe programs. So, the only alternative to OS X is Windows 8.1 Professional, which for an OEM copy runs $139.99. Yes, I could have picked Windows 7. It’s actually more expensive though because Microsoft is really trying to get people to like Windows 8.

Final Price: $2,673.99

So yeah, I can hear it now. It goes something like – Ha! We saved, like, a little less than 300 bucks (including shipping and tax). Suck it Apple Fanboys!

The problem is, in this configuration, I can’t even be sure the system will boot because of the RevoDrive, and adding a semi-decent SSD boot drive (which you now will have to micro-manage Windows not installing everything to it) and you’ve sucked up most of the $300. Additional caveats include:

  • No 4k monitor Support
  • No Thunderbolt
  • No USB 3.0 and only 2 USB2 Ports
  • Probably doesn’t have enough fans for cooling out of the box

Once you add the appropriate amount of fans for cooling, it’s probably louder than the Mac Pro. And significantly uglier. And has no lightup back panel. And has no option for warranty support (something workstation purchasers generally go for because workstations are critical pieces of equipment).

In closing, I think the Mac Pro is probably Apple’s best attempt yet at closing the price gap with standard Wintel machines. And it does it looking, sounding, and performing better while at it.


Day 1 Review of Google Glass

Glass SetupLiving in the future is kind of awesome. Wearable computing is one of those things I’ve looked forward to since I initially researched it in college, and now hear I am as part of the Google Glass Explorer program. Being objective about the device is going to be difficult. :)

The interface feels good, although if you’re a shutterbug like me you’re going to quickly fill your carousel. Thankfully Glass will act like a camera when you plug them into a computer (unlike my Nexus 4) so you can manage photos.

I’m still playing with different cards, and they all take an unknown amount of time to show up. Google is still working through a bunch of sync bugs between the Android app and the Web interface. I set everything up through my Nexus 4 and the companion MyGlass app, so supposedly I won’t ever have to goto the web interface, but after trying to edit contacts on the phone I will probably do that in the future on the web.

The device itself is lighter than I expected, more comfortable than I expected, but also more “in your face” than I expected. It definitely takes some getting used to having it sitting there just above my horizon line.

I also am getting my fair share of strange looks. I opted for the cyan/blue model, so I expected that a bit. While I was ingressing a group of teenagers walked by and said “Is that Google Glass??” And I didn’t realize they were asking me for a second, but then responded “Yup!” They then said “How is it?” to when I responded “Awesome!”

Their final query as they were walking away down the block went something like “Then why are you still using your phone?” I chose not to yell “Because I play ingress and I’m in NYC!” because that wouldn’t have made much sense, but it does raise a good point.

So fair Glass is very focused around sharing photos and videos. There’s no way to compose an email, or write a text post to any of the social networks it supports. I imagine that will change as the Explorer program progresses, but for now I still need my phone for more than just its cellular modem.

Overall I’m really liking it so far, even if the battery is very quick to drain under medium-to-hard use. I already carry an external battery pack for keeping my phone alive when I’m ingressing, so keeping the Glass up will not be an issue.

I’ll try to keep up posting these to give my initial, granted subjective, impression of Glass over the next 30 days. Stay Tuned!


Internationalizing an iOS App

We recently launched in Spanish and Portuguese on MeetMe, and I got an opportunity to discuss the process and some of the issues we encountered working to internationalize an iOS application (and backend). Head on over to the engineering blog at MeetMe to see what was entailed –



I recently gave a lightning talk at Philly Tech Week with Dallas Gutauckis and Chuck Greb, along with several other mobile developers from the local Philadelphia area. My talk focused around iOS’s localization abilities (and inabilities) and general pointers about localizing mobile apps. Reception seemed good, and overall the entire Mobile Lightning talk went well. I’d love to do another, although 5 minutes is pretty tough to talk about anything and be informative.

You can grab the slides here. Feel free to post a comment and let me know your thoughts.



So I’ve finally decided to reboot my blog, after several failed attempts. We’ll see how I go this round, although I’m already liking this new version of WordPress a lot more.