Finally got to play Overwatch

Now that my iMac is all upgraded with a nice SSD, I decided to toss Windows on a small partition and try out Overwatch, the newest property from Blizzard. Since I already have a Battle.net account it was a simple installation (once I had purchased the game). Thankfully my iMac has enough power to run the game pretty well, at least at a moderate level of graphic detail.

For those who haven’t heard of Overwatch it is a team based multiplayer, first person shooter, with character classes. This means that players pick characters who have different abilities based on their class; offence, defense, support and tank. Each class has a role in the map, and each of the different characters in the class have their own unique strengths. This is basically a new take on Team Fortress 2, another team based FPS, but with Blizzard’s unique spin and storytelling (just backstory for this game).

I played a bit of offence and support, and had a pretty fun time doing so. In particular the support class is a lot of fun, and I loved popping down a turret and keeping it repaired as it tore through the attacking enemies. The game play is smooth and easy to pick up if you’ve ever played a multiplayer shooter before. There are some characters that are a bit out of balance, but I’m sure that will get patched at some point in the future. Overall, it’s a great addition to the genre and Blizzard did an excellent job creating a refined product that is fun to play and can be expanded on in the future to keep people interested.

Making choices

The past weekend has been rather tough on me mentally. To start with, I’m on a two week hiatus from running, and so my mental escape by being out on the trails is not as available to me as normal. It’s funny how much you miss something like running when it’s not there for you anymore.

This all got complicated with some choices I had to make over the past couple of days about some potential career opportunities. I’m not going to go into specific details on a public forum, but I had to really spend some time this weekend thinking about who I am and what do I want to spend the next 20 years of my life doing. The contemplation was making me physically ill with stomach pains, and disrupting sleep and general well being.

In the end I decided that the path of least stress was the better choice and I immediately felt at peace with it. I didn’t solve the issue of what I want to do for the second half of my life, but I came to terms with what I don’t want to do. I’m grateful to have friends, and especially a spouse, that I can talk with and who listen to me when I need to ramble on as I process my own thoughts.

Now, I just need to make it to Saturday and I get to go run on some beautiful trails again!

 

Upgrading the iMac with SSD

I own a 2011 era iMac, and for the most part it has served me very well for the past 5 years. However, technology has marched on, and over time my trusty iMac has gotten slower and slower. I considered simply getting a newer machine, but when I started comparing specs I realized that my CPU and memory wasn’t that far out of date. After reading some tips online, and talking with some friends, it seemed that perhaps my biggest bottleneck was my old spinning disk drive. It was time to upgrade to flash.

At first I wanted to keep it simple, so I bought a USB 3.0 external SSD drive, with a Thunderbolt adapter (my iMac is USB 2.0). I got everything hooked up, installed OS X on the drive, and discovered the external drive wouldn’t boot. Turns out that the adapter would not allow the drive to be recognized at boot. I could have purchased a native Thunderbolt drive, but I didn’t really care for the brands that were available in pure Thunderbolt. I sent all the equipment back and decided to take the plunge and replace my internal drive.

Today the new internal 500GB Samsung drive (with 2.5->3.5 adapter kit) arrived, along with the installation kit I purchased from Other World Computing. I was a bit concerned with cracking open my iMac, as they are not known for being the most hacker friendly. However, I quickly discovered that my fears were for naught.

IMG_4689To start, you simply use the enclosed suction cups to remove the glass plate that makes up the front of the iMac. Turns out it’s held on simply with magnets. Then you remove 8 screws that are holding in the screen, then tip the screen forward, and disconnect the four connectors from the motherboard.

Once you have the screen removed you simply unscrew the hard drive mounting screws, and disconnect the cable. It’s really just that simple.

IMG_4690

You then move the mounting brackets from the old hard drive to the new one, add the thermal bypass cable that comes with the upgrade kit, and put everything back together. I had the entire procedure complete in about 20 minutes.

My only word of advice is to have a small pair of pliers or tweezers around to help grab the screws from the screen as you undo them. The magnets that hold on the glass plate also wreak havoc when trying to remove or replace the screws around the edge. A pair of small pliers helped me keep the screws lined up properly.

I then began the multi-hour task of restoring my system from a Time Machine backup. It took about 3 hours, but when it was done, everything was exactly like I left it. Well, almost everything. Long wait times for applications to load, and grinding hard drive noises are a thing of the past, never to darken my door again. The speed improvement is stunning, and I simply can’t express in simple words how much of a difference it makes to my system at first blush. It’s like a whole new Mac for only a couple hundred dollars.

I’m can’t recommend enough how easy and simple of an upgrade this whole process is. Despite being so tightly engineered, my iMac was not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. Plus, there are dozens of great videos out there to walk you through the process. If you have a mid-2011 iMac I highly recommend this upgrade. You won’t regret it!

 

Treat yo self

Today the wife and I got up somewhat early to hit the trails. She ran a few miles while I did some biking. After a quick shower and change of clothes we headed out to IKEA to do some browsing and planning for changes to the house. Since we’re probably going to live in our current place for around 4 more years, we want to make it as comfortable as we can while we’re there.

To that end we started planning some changes to the office to get my wife more space to spread out. This involves permanently closing one of the doors to the office that joins to the kitchen. This isn’t a big deal, but will take some getting used to as we can’t just shout from the office to the kitchen anymore. Later this week I’ll pick up the desk she picked out, now that we’ve determined that it will fit where we’re planning.

We also moved around a bunch of furniture to create a more private office space in our bedroom for times when we need to just get away from everybody and get some work done. I can see myself using this space a lot when working from home. It also allows us to have another comfy chair out in the main living area.

After IKEA we headed to Mall of America to browse around a bit, and then decided to hit REI since I was overdue for some new sandals. Of course hitting a place like REI while they’re having their 4th of July clearance sale means that you’re going to walk out with more than just sandals. My wife found some running clothes on clearance and we also grabbed a new running bladder to use. This is in addition to the nice Chaco sandals I picked up for myself.

As we were leaving my wife said it felt like a Treat Yo Self day (from Parks and Rec), and I wholeheartedly agree. Some days you need to just get yourself some nice stuff that you know you’re going to use, and treat yourself to some pampering.

The baseball ‘pitch’

Saturday night saw the first ever Soccer game at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. This matchup was an International Friendly between Minnesota United FC and Club Leon from Mexico. The final score was a 4-2 loss for the Loons (Minnesota), but the game was really fun to watch, and we got a lot of good plays together throughout the match.

When we first headed out to the match we were concerned about the potential for rain. There was a major storm barreling through Minnesota and the sky was turning very dark. We brought along some pocket ponchos in case we got caught in a downpour, but otherwise we were looking forward to something to help cool it off today. The temps were in the mid 90s throughout most of the day, so even a cloudy sky was a welcome reprieve.

Alas, the clouds threatened, but never opened up. Thankfully, we had seats in the shade, but there was a lot of disappointment in the stadium when all of the storms passed over without even a single drop or drizzle. By the end of the evening it was still in the low 80s as we drove home.

This was our first time at Target Field as well, and we had the luxury of sitting on the Club Level. This afforded us the opportunity for some food that was a step up from standard stadium fare, as well as an air conditioned set of lounges to cool off in before the game started. I found the Minnesota Brews stand and got some nice local beer, and we hit the ice cream stand as well for some dessert to cool us off. Overall, we had a great evening, and would love to see Target Field become the temporary home of MN United before their permanent stadium is built.