The Other Hobbies – Video Games

To know me is to understand I have quite a few different hobbies that I ping-pong between on any given day. Presumably, you’re here because of woodworking. Today I talk about video games – my general history and recent events.

Being a child of the 80s of decent means, my family bought a PC for me to learn on and play the occasional game. In my case there were a couple. I assume the first one was a Texas Instruments TI99/4a because it was released first. I learned BASIC, I played games like Parsec and ZeroZap. Then there was the Apple IIc where I played Lemonade Stand and countless others. I think the first dedicated console we had was an Atari 2600, which had it’s charms.

The first real foray into video games for me though was the Game Boy. I had one near launch and played so many games that I can’t remember them all. Occasionally I’ll get a faint memory and try to pull on it to see what title it was. I had a ton of accessories for it too. I took it everywhere, and while the handheld and the accessories have been lost to time, we did hold onto most of the games and I took those back last year into my collection.

The real star of the show, though, was when we bought a Sega Saturn. This would be the hook that has kept me around. Need for Speed was a highlight, as was Daytona USA and World Series Baseball ’98 (it had Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones on the cover). The game of the console for me though was Road Rash.

Road Rash was such a formative game, and in all likelihood my most played while the Saturn was our only console. Moreover, it introduced me to my favorite band of all time, Soundgarden. I had just really found my niche in music only two years earlier in 1994, catching on with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, etc. STP was a drug for me, but it wouldn’t hold a candle to what I eventually found in Soundgarden. Just hearing the intro to Rusty Cage takes me back to August 1996.

So that month would prove to be one to shape my life for over thirty years now. I still love video games, I still love hard hitting music, and I feel the need to break out the Saturn every now and again to scratch an itch. It isn’t the original one we bought because it broke, but I’ve had this replacement one now for sixteen years. Around this time I got a Playstation and actually got to keep it in my room, soon after upgrading to the PS2 with it’s DVD player. The Saturn largely fell to the wayside after this due to the various failings of SEGA and the lack of content.

From there it went. In 2004 I bought my Xbox, which introduced me to Microsoft’s vision of what a console was. Upgrades to Playstation and Xbox came. I also started buying the consoles I missed out on originally. The SNES, N64, the Gamecube. I had Master System games I couldn’t even play. I got into the Dreamcast. Shortly after the kids arrived, and I sold off the Nintendo consoles when I bought the Wii. I’ve purchased every single console since.

Well, in 2019 I decided I would buy back those classic consoles I previously sold and more. I kept the Dreamcast and Saturn, plus the old 2600, but sold everything else what wasn’t current. So I spent quite a bit of time on eBay and in local stores buying pretty much what I could find and afford easily.

Now, I have pretty much every mainstream console made since 1977. I also have several of the “Classic” consoles, updated flash versions of the older consoles with built-in games made by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and now Neo Geo and NEC. I also have an Nvidia Shield TV and a couple of Rasberry Pis to allow emulation whenever I want. And of course the handhelds, including several DS/3DS, a couple of PSPs, a Vita, and an emulation handheld in the style of that original Game Boy that houses a Raspberry Pi.

What I don’t always have though, is time to play them or display them properly. A nice cabinet would go a long way…

 

The TV is dead. Long live the TV.

For some, it’s a distraction. For me, though, it’s essential. TV. I haven’t had a traditional TV arrangement for years, but then again these days what is traditional? I stream whatever I need, be it YouTube, other video sources, or digital TV services.

I bought a small TV back in February 2015 (Lights! Camera! Action!), and have really enjoyed having it available. It went out once before, but it turned out it was just the wrong power supply after moving things around. Unfortunately yesterday, all on it’s own, it died for real. Because I enjoy having it so much, an immediate search was launched for a replacement. While it was no slouch, particularly for what I paid for it, it was a bit small and didn’t have great viewing angles. My replacement search consisted of one requirement: cheap. I found an open-box 19″ model from Best Buy for $58, and that size would approximately match my monitor. I thought about going to 24″ and combining uses, but I didn’t feel like swapping inputs each time I wanted to look at the computer.

I did take the opportunity to move it closer to the WiFi source, and moved the computer to the same spot. That will keep the monitor alive longer versus having it right above the miter saw. I’ll need to find a permanent spot if this one doesn’t work as well. Directly above the workbench might work one day.

I also finally switched out the keyboard for one that was much nicer to use and a touchpad.

The Only Constant Is Change

As someone born at the tail end of Generation X, I have a love affair with technology. In particular, I am reliant on my smartphone. It keeps me in touch with my family and work. It allows me to keep track of my kids, it allows me to access my work computer via tethering. I can play games, keep abreast of news, take pictures of anything.

The first smartphone I can remember owning was a Samsung Blackjack. Running Windows Mobile, in some respects I miss it. A physical keyboard, decently sized, it was very nice. I then had another, an AT&T 8525 made by HTC. These two were pretty good smartphones for the time, more like PDAs than what we would associate today. Then came the iPhone. The first one was a hand-me-down that I sold shortly thereafter to get an iPhone 3G. Then my wife got the 3GS. Then I got the 4. The 4, to this date, probably remains my favorite phone of all time. The design, the timing…it just all came together perfectly.

It might have been partially due to that reason, the relative perfection, that I decided it was time to try something new. I was tired of iOs, and more often than not wanted to jailbreak the device to add functionality and form. That, and the size was becoming cramped in an increasingly expanding market. The keyboard was becoming uncomfortable to use, and I was fat-fingering letters all the time.

Apple wasn’t going to increase the size (yet), so I switched over to a Samsung Galaxy S3. Android was a completely different world, as was having a removable battery again and expandable storage. Both of those things were important to me at first, but faded over time. I went through a different device what seemed like every few months. The glass cracked on the S3, and unlike the iPhone, was nearly impossible to replace on my own. So when the HTC M7 launched, I had one. Then I had a 2014 Moto X. This might be a tie with the iPhone 4 as my favorite, because I could customize it and it had software modifications that made it indispensable.  Unfortunately the updates were a bit slow, and I wasn’t impressed with the direction Motorola was going down. I wanted another stock Android experience, so I went with the Nexus 6P.

It wasn’t long before the iPhone 7 launched, and it gained my interest. The hardware was sleek, and although I think iOS isn’t as good as stock Android, I can’t lie and say the experience inside the apps is worse. The accessory ecosystem is also better. So, I ended up buying an iPhone 7+ last month. I sold my 6P, my Nexus 7 tablet, and my Moto 360 smartwatch and earned enough to pick up an iPad Pro 9.7. I officially am back full time with iOS.

Even though the experience hasn’t changed much in the three or so years since I left, it still feels like a new experience. I’m getting back used to things as I was before, and I do notice some of the limitations, like assigning default applications. But I just got back from a trip to the Orlando theme parks, and I was extremely happy with the battery life I got, thanks to a bit more strict resource management iOS employs. I also enjoyed how well the camera just worked, something that really disappointed me about the M7 when I went to San Francisco. I kept finding that Android devices would do a lot of things well, but would always fall short in one area. The 6P probably came the closest to fixing that, but I would still occasionally burn through battery too quickly. The Moto X and M7 had horrible cameras. The S3 had horrible software, TouchWiz. Whereas it seems like the only downfall to the iOS devices is the simple nature of the layout. I decided I could deal with that again, so I switched. So far, I’ve been happy.

Change for me lately doesn’t just end with my device choices. After seven years with Comcast as my internet and basic cable provider, I switched to AT&T Fiber. Even with a 1TB cap, I had come close in December to breaching it. I also felt I was paying too much, particularly with the TV recovery fees attached to my “free” local channels. Unfortunately with the cap I couldn’t stream a whole lot more to ditch the locals, so the solution was to sign up for fiber when it finally came available. I’m getting better speeds, no cap, and a cheaper price. I bought a flat antenna to help replace the local channels, but I’m still looking for a foolproof solution there. Perhaps a big outdoor antennal at the roof line. This change is saving me about $13 a month.

I also changed my cell provider in the last two weeks. I had been with AT&T since 2005, but just switched over to T-Mobile with their newest promotion. I was paying $135 for three lines of 15GB shared internet, but now I am paying $112 for unlimited internet for those same three lines. I will also be adding a fourth free line this weekend. That’s an additional $23 in savings a month, even more if I wanted to count that fourth line, which would have been at least $20 more on AT&T plus less internet usage. The combined savings of home and mobile internet/phone nearly pay for my new phone. EDIT – I just got my first T-Mobile bill and it’s actually $92, because you can get $10 back for each line under 2GB of usage. So this month, my brand new phone is paid for vs what I was paying before just off the cell bill.

What the moral of this is to not be afraid to make what might seem like fairly big changes, particularly when there really isn’t any consequences. I am under no contract with either of my phone or internet changes, and only am locked into a monthly payment on my phone, but it can travel to almost any network. The payment is also no added cost to paying it in full, and I can do so at any time. I am also subscribed to a few streaming services that I could drop on a month’s notice, should I need to. I’m on the lookout for what gets me the best deal, and am no longer afraid of what the alternative would be. It suits me best to get the best deal as a free agent for all of my services, and so far it’s working well.

New network board

The home network. If you use the internet on a regular basis, this can be a crucial component of your home. Some people only use mobile internet, but this does come with drawbacks – most notably, for most people, a data limit. Nome internet at times has data limits as well, but they are significantly higher. For example, I pay for 15GB of data on our cell plan, but I get 1TB on my home plan. Overages are significantly more manageable at home as well, with $10 for 50GB vs about $15 for 1GB on mobile.

In our house, the internet is basically a utility in line with power or HVAC – it’s that necessary. I work from home, so it is a requirement (but sadly not a write-off). I have videos or music streaming for a large part of the day while I work, and my kids stream quite a bit as well. We ditched DirecTV a few years ago and went with streaming solutions. So, yeah, having a healthy home network contributes to our health and happiness.

When I moved my desk into our bedroom a few years ago (our master is bigger than we really need, and there’s no better place for it), I made my first network board. Basically, this is a simple board that you can mount on a wall to keep all your stuff neat and managed. Back in 2013 I recognized the need for one after a nearby lightning strike ruined my modem and router. Why? They were attached to drywall with double-sided tape.

Yeah. It was time to get a bit more organized and prepared if I needed to add or change things. So, I got a cheap melamine/chipboard shelf and mounted it to the wall via a French cleat. I mounted the modem, router, and a battery backup on it.

Really simple, because my needs at the time were really simple. As we rolled into 2016, my needs hadn’t changed any. Then I started getting more into home automation and technology. I added a Phillips Hue system. Upgraded my thermostat to a smart one. I needed a spot to put my Ooma Telo, a VOIP system. And the cordless phone we kept on this side of the house. I had moved my desk over to near this corner, and needed more capability. So, I made a new board that could handle this.

Really, it’s just a pine board sanded and marked for mounting holes and cable management. It’s something that anyone can do, and only takes a minimal amount of know-how. Here you can see the modem, router, Hue bridge, and UPS backup mounted, and awaiting hole placement for cable management. I ended up simply putting a shelf on top for the Ooma and phone, and it worked well.

For a couple weeks.

There wasn’t an issue with how I made it, but my needs evolved. The wifi signal out to the shop, and in certain parts of the house, became extremely lacking. So, I found a couple good deals around Black Friday and bought not one, but two new routers. I paid about the normal price of the main one for both, so it turned out to be a good deal. One, I turned into an access point only for better coverage in the house. The other replaces the router you see on the board. The old Netgear WNDR3700 is a fine router, and still works well. It does use, however, the wireless standard N, which is a bit outdated at this point. Wireless AC gives better range and better speeds, if the devices support it. It also has external antennae, which will help the coverage. Indeed, I can get a strong signal out in the shop without having to use the repeater.

So the new router (access point) in the living room is an Google OnHub, and the main router is a Netgear R6700. The Netgear has done so well I went with them again for the new one. As I said, the routers can now broadcast a good signal to the shop, so I’ll be disconnecting the extender. Because I have four gaming consoles, plus my computer, Ooma, Hue bridge and I’ll be running ethernet to the other locations soon enough, I also added an 8-port gigabit switch to handle the extra connections. All told, this is what it looks like up on the wall last night.

There is a little bit of room to add something small, especially if it is more home automation things. Very happy with how this turned out. Could I have done something fancy like tenons or a sliding dovetail? Sure, but a butt joint and screws is all that was really needed.

When I get around to getting custom length patch cable (or make my own) and get the wiring cleaned up, I’ll post an update.

The Sonny-Do List – 2017

Everyone is aware of the term “honey-do list.” It’s items that the spouse gives to accomplish things around the house, errands, etc. Well, I have what I like to call a “sonny-do list,” named because they are things I want myself and perhaps my son to accomplish. Since a lot of calendars include December in the following year, you have the title of this thread, and when it is being posted.

These things are home improvement items, in the same vein as what the last post was about. I have another list or two about woodworking, so if you want to check those out you are dismissed and check back soon.

On the list first is networking. I hope to get my internet situation sorted out later today (up: done), and I’ll be looking at 2017 to get things sorted out on a permanent basis. I plan on running Cat5e (what I already have on hand, and plenty for my needs) from my networking nook in the bedroom office to the living room entertainment center, and potentially to our kitchen computer. Really all it entails is running the line to each spot, drilling through the floor and bottom of the wall, the rest is easy. Just takes effort.  On a related note, I want to clean up my coax runs. They both go through the floor instead of the wall, and they need to be secured to the bottom of the floor joists along their runs.

I have some high and low voltage outlets to install. Our kitchen computer sits on the counter, and there’s a desk section that it could be mounted to the wall under the counter. Just needs an outlet, and a low-power junction that could run audio and video. Would make things much nicer out there, and that’s also where I would run ethernet if I can access that spot under the house. In fact, this could be a project I take care of sooner rather than later, because besides the actual outlet, I have everything else on hand. I ordered the VGA and 3.5mm plates several years ago. Today might be a day taking stock and seeing if anything is missing.

I also need to do basically the same thing for two of my TV locations. The bedroom HDTV is already up on the wall, and I need to figure out how things like the bluray player and Apple TV are going to be stowed for use. Perhaps a shelf under the TV attached to the wall? Could do a small floating shelf if my outlets are done correctly. The living room HDTV is still on the TV stand, but I want to do the prep work in getting it up on the wall, or its successor. I also have speaker connections that I would like to run in the wall, if I can figure out a way to access the other side of the living room. Eliminating speaker wire from being on the floor would be a nice addition to the list, but structure challenges might mean this doesn’t get accomplished.

I want to add one more external outlet at the very least, under the carport. This would allow me to easily run the vacuum cleaner that is there, plus run the air compressor if it gets wheeled down, or basically anything else. Battery tender comes to mind, or spot lights for detailing. Another outlet on the back would be good, however I run into issues with almost all of them being either on kitchen or bathroom circuits. There are a few outlets around the house where adding USB power would be nice.

Basically, the entire list up to this point involves running wire. However, there are some real big projects that I at least need to price out or start on as well. The entire house needs soffit and eave replacement. A project of this scope scares me, but perhaps it can be done in stages. The gutters either need to be replaced with leaf solutions, or have them installed. When they come down for the eave and soffit replacement, this would be an excellent time. As part of this, the eave that makes up the porch ceiling also needs to be replaced, and so does the carport ceiling. That last part would need to be done after the leak issue around the chimney gets resolved, because there is a slow but gradual leak when it rains heavily. I’m not sure the ceiling in the carport gets done in 2017, but it is possible. At that time I would run additional wiring to install additional lighting. Some LED smart pot lights might be a good choice. Something that could do geofencing, motion, and a timer.

The windows need to start being replaced, and unlike most scenarios I think we would work on the bedroom windows before we did street-facing ones. Just more practical, and a lower upfront cost. I need to install a new fan in our hall bath, and one in our master bath. Both need to be exhausted through the roof somehow. Cutting holes in my roof scares me a lot too. Speaking of the master bath, I need to run a spur HVAC line and install a vent.

Our hall bathroom needs a makeover, but I think that’s going to be something for a contractor to take care of. It’s a small space, and I could get the job done, but there is some cracking in the floor tile, and I don’t want that potential headache. The roof holes might be taken care of professionally as well, even though I think ultimately that is something I will do. Attic access is tough.

There are more things to do that involve woodworking as a more primary focus, but those are left for their own entries.

 

Housekeeping – Late 2016

Been awhile since I shared some projects I’ve taken care of around the house, and with the completion of a couple more I figured it was a good time. I’ve posted this in several categories, it will be interesting to see which side of the site this gets published to.

Our house is 45 years old now, built during a period that really isn’t well-known for great designs or longevity. Ours was remodeled and added-on to about 15 years ago, and the results are decidedly mixed. Not our fault, we moved in after, right about eight years ago. Some of the projects I’m just getting around to were noted on the inspection. What can I say, I’m a procrastinator.

I’ll start with the project I just completed. We have a whole house fan in our hallway, and it had two controls – one big monstrosity of a panel on the left here, and a manual timer on the right. Note, this picture was taken after I was done, so the missing button and dial were there before.

Well, the dial control is supposed to have a automatic shutoff, but the clockspring has been broken since probably we moved in. I can’t honestly remember. While I was at Lowe’s shopping for items for another project, I saw a digital timer that met my criteria. Many timers only go for as long as 60 minutes, but I wanted something more like eight hours. This one goes up to four, or there is pure manual control. That worked for me, and it was fairly cheap.

It turned out that the big control box was a thermostat, long since broken. The only thing relevant was the power button that reset the manual timer when needed. I pulled the dial timer and discovered only 14/2 wire, and I needed a neutral. On a hunch, I also pulled the thermostat and found that neutral I was looking for. If I put the timer where the thermostat was, I could eliminate the dial timer and junction box completely. It was fairly trivial to get the wiring correct, there were three 14/2 wiring runs coming into the double box. One was hot, one went to the fan, and the other ran inside the wall to the dial timer. It was only a matter of determining which run to assign the line/load to, and I guessed correctly. I put in an old work box where the old timer was, and a blank plate. Then I used a two gang plate and a blank insert in with the old thermometer space.

Speaking of a thermostat, shortly after we moved in I replaced the analog thermostat with a programmable one, a seven day unit. It had worked well for a long time, but with the addition of some home automation things (Phillips Hue, Amazon Echo), I wanted a smart thermostat. I had my eye on the Ecobee3 for a bit, and picked one up when it went on sale just before Black Friday. Again with the wiring, I didn’t have enough wiring in the wall (needed a common). However, Ecobee includes in their box a kit to convert five to four at the furnace. An extra hour or so (trip to store for some connectors), and I had it hooked up and running. It’s very nice to be able to see how the weather impacts our heating and cooling, and see just how much and how often the furnace or AC kicks on. It also comes with remote sensors, and you can see the temperatures in other rooms and identify hot or cool spots. After a month I’ll be able to see a detailed report, even more than I’m getting already.

Our house did not have any external outlets until earlier this year. I installed one in the back of the house to run the lesser extension cord for the shop, and on Saturday I installed one on the front to run holiday decorations and what-not. This was the project I completed right before the fan timer. A much needed addition, and I have plans for at least one more in the carport for the vacuum and when I need to bring the compressor down.

I posted a few weeks ago on Instagram a picture of a networking board, a neat setup of my networking equipment on an easy to access board mounted to a wall. I got a new router, so it’s time to redo it. I got the new router up and running Friday night, but by Saturday morning the internet went out and hasn’t come back at the time I am writing this (Saturday night). When this gets posted, the internet will have been fixed.

Next up I think is some more wiring and general improvements. I want to add an outlet at our kitchen computer to mount it below the counter. Probably add a 3.5mm and VGA connections as well. I have a bit of that already on hand from when I thought I was going to do it several years ago. I’ll also start wiring for our bedroom TV wall mount, and future living room wall mount. Perhaps finally run some ethernet cable to the living room instead of using powerline.

That’s pretty much it for this time around. Might have a followup at some point next year when these other things get taken care of.

Short hiatus

This past weekend, and now into the early part of this week, I have focused on getting our house interior in order. I have revamped all of our bedrooms, mainly on different layouts. The child bedrooms are pretty much done except for cleaning up little stuff, the master bedroom is being worked on right now. At the same time, my wife is doing some painting.

I had thought I would be making a bookcase for our games this week and this weekend, however it may be put on a short hold while we get our bearings with the new layouts. I may have earned myself a second bookcase to build by changing the bedroom layout, but so it goes. I may post more about the new bedroom/office layout on this side of the site, but the main page is almost always about the woodworking.

My office area is entirely Ikea. This does not shame me, as I was able to get most of what I wanted for a lot cheaper than it would have been by doing it myself. I will, later this year, be buying their sit/stand desk mechanism and be putting it under my current desk surface. I will see how amenable it is to being installed with a custom surface or full desk. It’s pretty cheap for what you get.

(Internet) Jail Pardon

Data caps. These are one of the most annoying things about the information age – it’s a pure restriction. Very few of the excuses of why data caps exist make sense, least of all the justification that only a limited few are ever impacted by them. I say bull.

Comcast’s data caps haven’t increased substantially in almost a decade. Until a week go. It had been at 250GB, then 300GB for a very long time. Until recently in trial markets, it was a soft cap. Unfortunately, I was a trial market (read: let’s see what we can get away with), so it was a hard cap. As someone who has ditched traditional forms of TV for the most part, I still hadn’t been hitting 300GB a month regularly. Until my kids found all these Let’s Play videos on YouTube. Then, I’d be in danger of going over every month. There were a lot of months that I did, and I’d have to pay extra. I trialed paying even more for unlimited for a couple months, but the cost advantage wasn’t there.

As of June 1, though, Comcast has upped their cap to a much more reasonable 1TB a month. Let’s get serious though, they didn’t do this out of the goodness of their heart. The competition is much more real these days, with AT&T GigaPower, and much more importantly, Google Fiber. I rarely have issues with Comcast’s service, but I think they are a pretty slimy organization. As long as the service stays on point, I don’t see changing at least for now. Partly because we also get local TV included in the price. The speed and reliability are fine.

The data cap relief is relevant because I recently started subscribing to Playstation Vue. I had Sling TV for a bit, but Vue offers a much better variety of channels. I cal get this on my Playstation devices, but I can also get it on the Fire TV Stick that is out in the shop. I’m hoping at E3 we’ll see an announcement it is available on Roku devices as well. Save some wear and tear on the PS3s I primarily use it on.

Current tech

I love gadgets, always have. I thought about doing a tech history, but that’s pretty long-winded. Instead, I just thought I’d share what I’m using now, and what might becoming up shortly.

Phone

For the past 17 months, I have been using a 2014 Moto X. This has been a great device, and it convinced me that I couldn’t go back to carrier-branded models or skinned Android ever again. I also wanted a little bigger phone. So, I picked up a used Nexus 6P in mint condition. I love it. The fingerprint scanner is long overdue, although I miss some of the Motorola software enhancements. The screen is extremely good, but I’ve yet to really test the camera.

Tablet

I’m currently using a Winbook TW801. It is an 8″ tablet running Windows 10. It’s not fantastic, largely thanks to the 1GB of RAM. However, it can log me into my work VPN in a pinch, which has it’s perks. I’d rather have a modern Android or iPad for casual use, but this works for now. I also still have my HP Touchpad running CM9 for occasional use. However, it does suffer from a severe lack of downtime if the battery runs out.

Computers

I’m using an HP ProBook 4540s that I purchased new in 2013. It still runs very well, upgraded to Windows 10. In the next year or two, it will have to be replaced as my main backup to my workstation. My desktop is one I built around 2012, a Core i5 2500K paired up with the usual accouterments. It’s mostly for work, so there’s no great graphics card, just enough to get me by. Dual monitors help me keep focused on the task at hand, and a water cooling system keeps temps down.

Misc

I have a few other diversions around. I picked up a Lumia 640 on Windows 10 as a workout phone, but the app selection is poor. It’s decent enough to mess around with though. I have a Zune HD on my desk so that I can listen to OTA radio

I do want to pick up a new Android tablet soon, and the Pixel C may be an option. My laptop will also be replaced, perhaps by a Surface Pro. I’ll be making gradual upgrades to my desktop, starting with a fresh infusion of memory and a better graphics card. The processor should be fine for quite some time.

The stupidity of internet caps

The internet. The great invention of our time. Well, moreso the public acceptance of it versus the invention, but you get the idea. Just a few hours ago I got an alert on my tablet about severe weather in my area. Think about that for a second: you could have an internet (and other things) portal in your house that’s not being used audibly notify you that something’s up. I’ve got a weather radio in my house and frankly it sucks. Yet my wonderful little 9″ tablet sitting on my bed warned me about some dodgy weather in the neighborhood by making a noise. A certain noise, too, as I instantly recognized what app had warned me of what. Isn’t technology great?

It is when it isn’t run by people with a bottom line to worry about.

Several months back (perhaps two years or more), my internet provider announced it would start enforcing the caps for usage. The limits had always been there, but never enforced. Unfortunately, Comcast started enforcing them. First it was 250GB a month, now it’s 300GB. Now, most people would probably look at that number and wonder who would ever use that in a month. I wasn’t particularly happy about having a data cap, but I was pretty much in the same boat: I only used perhaps 15GB a month on a regular basis. Not a big deal.

That was a long time ago.

We live in an era now that is more common than ever for people not to pay for cable or satellite TV. We became one of those households some time back. Our TV entertainment now is either streaming, or Blu rays. Mostly streaming. We only ever came close to hitting our cap in one month, but it was only by about 10GB. Until this month. It’s the 24th and I’m already over by 10GB. Why? Gaming.

Video gaming these days is completely different than five years ago. Then, digital distribution was still pretty rare, and I attribute it to pricing. Steam started over ten years ago, and in that time frame you really saw a shift from physical to digital distribution for PC titles. Microsoft and Playstation eventially got on board and really started pushing digital, this time with sales and free games with their subscription services. Nintendo, the only people in developed countries who still don’t understand how the internet works, even started having sales. At last, digital distribution became a viable alternative to buying retail copies. Particularly GameStop’s ‘new’ copies.

With the last generation, titles weren’t overly large to download. There were a few, but usually you’re looking at titles that are a few GB. Nintendo’s Wii U digital library generally still aligns with this. However, sometimes you’re talking 40-50GB downloads for major titles. A 50GB download would be 1/6 of my entire month. And patches? We don’t need no stinking patches! Unless…you actually want to use the game. What’s a 10GB patch between friends? There’s 1/5 of the month’s allotment.

Oh, but what if your console or PC goes boom? The horror? Well, at least you didn’t lose your purchases, they are all right there on the cloud for you to grab. RIP, your data cap. Or, you can try to download the games over the course of a few months. Nothing like owning a game and not being able to play it.

One would think this would be a great deterrent to digital distribution. I would agree, but the failure of a system doesn’t mean the product itself is a failure. I started calculating how much room it would take to store all my games, and beginning a project to do just that. Just what I had was a ton. I started thinking more about going digital. I get some pretty good games each month on the various Xbox and Playstation consoles and handhelds, free. Those would have to be digital regardless. Then I started looking at some sales available for digital titles, and wondered what the benefit of having them sit on a shelf would be. I could resell or trade, but I don’t usually do that anyway. It became even more enticing when my little one broke my Mario Kart 8 disc – never would have happened if I had gone digital.

So, I’ve started to go digital. In fact, I have one console that right now is exclusively digital. No real reason, I just found some good sales on the software. My internet cap, though is in tatters. I’ve used up one free extension of my cap that gives me 50 free GB, but I don’t think even that will be enough for this month, thanks to a SoA marathon my wife is on. I think her goal is to finish the series in four days. That’s what it is, unfortunately. This month though was hit by one of my consoles failing and having to redownload a bunch of games. I went too far, and should have spaced it out more. But I shouldn’t have had to.

I’ll have the decision to make in a few months about whether to go to fiber. I get 300GB and 50 down for about $75 a month. And a handful of basic cable channels. Or I can get 1TB and 1TB down for about $150. $75 is a lot to pay for speed and some extra insurance. Perhaps there will finally be some competition though.