Happy Halloween!

When the leaves turned and began their slow deathly descent to the ground, that is when they came.  Through the rolling mists and under the encompassing cover of night they came.  We knew not whence they came or their purpose.  We only knew to barricade the doors with strong oaken boards and light the jack-o-lanterns.  Those who failed to heed the warnings would be drug from their homes with horrified wails of unearthly terror.  Terrible talons and gnashing teeth would tear at their flesh and rend it from bone while we listened on.

That is where the tradition began.  Those who carved the pumpkins with ancient runes and lit them with the fire of our ancestors were safe.  For hundreds of years we had lived like this.  Beyond this one awful night we lead ordinary, pleasant lives.  But this night always came.  It always returned like a bad dream, wrapping up the village in its brutal embrace.

In the week prior, we had carved our ancestral runes into the pumpkin.  It was something that always brought the family together.  It had to, lest we be torn apart by our communal failure.  As the sun set beyond the towering trees bordering our quiet hamlet, we put the jack-o-lanterns in front of our door and lit it with the hearth’s fire.  They glowed brightly in the night and bolstered our spirits.  They had protected us for years and this year would be no different.

When dusk had finally blanketed the countryside and the final iron nails hammered into the boards covering the door, we huddled together in the living room.  Our faces were fixed on the door in anticipation.  The glowing embers of the dying fire illuminated our cowering forms and cast perverse shadows on the wall.
Outside we could hear the rustling of the dead leaves as they danced in the chill wind.  They rattled like tiny bones as they blew across the rooftop.  The normal sounds of the forest surrounding our home had subsided before we had realized it.  There was an ominous silence as I could see my feelings of terror reflected in my family’s faces.

Through a crack in the heavy curtains covering the front window, I could see the soft and reassuring glow of our jack-o-lantern.  I closed my eyes for only a moment.  When I opened them, the light was gone.  My sister had seen the same event transpire and I could hear her soft whimpering.  Father shushed her while keeping his wide pale eyes fixed on the door.  A light sheen of sweat covered his brow and the back of his neck. 

The silence was the worst.  The silence was the worst until an earth-shattering boom rattled the door on its hinges.  My sister screamed as my mother wrapped her tightly in her arms.  My father stood abruptly and readied his rifle.  With a stern look, a dark aura of concentration came upon him.  His eyes never left the sights placed on our front door.  For all his preparation, it did us no good. 

The heavy door began to shake violently as they beat their bodies into it over and over.  The nails groaned against their housing in the oaken boards and I could hear splintering.  The tremors rang in my ears as my sister’s wails accompanied them in a tumultuous torrent of sound.  The embers had been all but extinguished by now and that dreaded dark now permeated every inch of our home.  I suppose it was for the best.
As their bodies continued to hammer the portal to our home, their persistence finally paid off.  The door buckled and crashed onto the floor in a shower of splinters.  Their horrible screams rang out with a blood-curdling ferocity.  My father only got a shot off before they tore into him.  I closed my eyes like a coward.  I could feel my family’s warm blood splash against my face and suddenly…suddenly I was cold.

I roam the barren halls of my family home now.  Time has stopped its uncaring march forward.  I can only stare and scream in silence as time wears my home into nothing.  There is nothing and no one to hear my terrified cries.  My family is gone, torn violently from this world, leaving me behind.  And now I slumber in this eternal darkness with no light to comfort me.

Lucky Star's Mushroom and Swiss

Place: Lucky Star Pub & Eatery
Location: Burlington, WI
Ingredients: Mushrooms, Swiss cheese

I've always loved a good mushroom and Swiss burger.  It's a brilliant combination.  And while Lucky Star gets the burger right, and there's no reason not to, the problem that continues to plague them is the meat used.  It's bland, dry, and uninspiring. 

The restaurant showed so much promise when they opened, but the continued cuts to the menu and the increasingly bland offerings are wearing the initial charm thin.  Don't get me wrong, the burgers aren't terrible, but they're just so plain.  There's nothing to them and as such, there's nothing to get excited about when eating them.

On the Side:
Soggy, un-seasoned fries

App of the Week: Battle.net Authenticator

Battle.net Authenticator
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
Platform: Windows Phone
Price: Free!

Security and convenience.  You can have one or the other, but never both.  This is especially true when it comes to online accounts.  Players of any MMO are well aware that there are those who would love to steal their accounts to sell them or turn them into gold farmers. 

Fortunately, the developer/publisher for some of the world's best MMOs, Blizzard, has given players the ability to add an authenticator to their account for years now.  There has been an app available for Android and iOS for some time now.  Windows Phone users are no stranger to apps taking some time to see life on this platform, but the wait is usually worth it.  And until now, there have been the keychain authenticators which serve the same purpose. 

The Windows Phone app does exactly what it needs to.  It generates unique, one-time use codes that work in conjunction with the account.  That way if someone tries to log into your account, they'll also be prompted for the authenticator code.  Without it, there's no way for them to log in.  It's a fantastic way of adding extra security to your account and a must have for any user of Blizzard's services.

Steak 'n Shake's Triple Steakburger

Place: Steak 'n Shake
Location: Bourbonnais, IL
Ingredients: Lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato, American cheese

If there were such a thing as a "classic burger", the Steakburger would be the embodiment of that ideal.  And when it comes to a good thing like that, you really can't have too much.  In the case of the Triple Steakburger, may the sun always shine on its creator. 

Steak 'n Shake has nearly perfected the "classic" diner with impeccable burgers and rich shakes.  I've not been to one and seen it at less than full capacity.  It's because of their ability to consistently produce delectable burgers.

The burger is full of juicy flavor and everything a burger lover should expect.  The toppings are fresh, with the onion adding just enough bite but not enough to overpower the rest.  Each flavorful patty holds grilled perfection within its meaty embrace.  The Triple Steakburger is great at what it does.  If it were any better, it couldn't be served in a diner.

On the side:
Steak 'n Shake's signature shoestring fries.

Fix It! Nokia Lumia 920's Disappearing Screen

Recently, as misfortune loves me, I had the pleasure of figuring out why my Nokia Lumia 920 screen would turn black when receiving a text or phone call.  Anytime a text is received on Windows Phone, it displays along the top of the screen in a toast notification.  This notification also displays on the lock screen.

While I would hear the chime that a text had been received, the screen would be dark until I turned it on and unlocked it.  Days later, the problem escalated and began affecting incoming and outbound calls.  I could dial and answer fine, but the screen would go black immediately afterwards.  This prevented me from getting back into the phone until the call was over.

As it turns out, this issue is related to a larger problem with the once-flagship Windows Phone.  The Lumia 920 has a notorious problem of dust getting in the front of the phone through a small space just above the camera.  The dust embeds itself in the front facing camera.  I never used the front facing camera, so I never thought it was a big deal.  However, if the dust accumulates too much, it screws up the proximity sensor.  This makes the phone think it's being held up to the user's ear which turns the screen off.

It's easy enough to blow the dust out with a can of compressed air, but it is an ongoing struggle.  Nokia has since fixed the issue with a sheath on all future models.  Nokia has also stated that existing users can take their phone to a Nokia Care Point Center to have the sheath put on.

App of the Week: Facebook

Publisher: Facebook
Platform: Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1
Price: Free!

The one glaring omission from the Windows 8 app store has always been Facebook.  It's a service with so many users that itself is tied into so many other services.  Until this co-release with Windows 8.1, Windows 8 users had to either trust third party apps or resort to using the actual site.
The Windows 8 app shares a similar design to the Windows Phone app, which itself bears a strong resemblance to the apps on the Android and iOS platforms.  That's all thanks to the uniform design from Facebook. 
So if you've used the Facebook app for mobile platforms, you'll be familiar with their latest release.  Because desktop users will probably still use the actual site, I don't know how necessary the app actually is as it doesn't provide any additional functions.  While the same can be said of Windows RT devices, since RT is only available on tablets, the touch centric design definitely favors the app over the site.  Either way, the app is finally available so Windows users can stop their belly-aching.

Infinite Crisis Giveaway

Some time ago I had the opportunity to play Warner Bros.' upcoming title, Infinite Crisis.  Since then, I've received a few codes for Crisis Coins and Merit Grants.  I feel they should go to players more deserving, but they're first come, first serve.

Code #1 (Unknown)

Code #2 (3000 Crisis Coins and 9000 Merit)

Fix It! Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 Won't Open PDFs

In my line of work there are what I like to call the "monsters of the week".  These are the problems that have no clear solution and require me to scavenge the bowels of the Internet for an answer.  When I find said answer and its cousins, something else inevitably goes wrong.  This week involved Internet Explorer 10 not opening PDFs within the browser on Windows 8.

Now, this was a fresh load of Windows 8 Pro (64-Bit) on a brand new machine.  I went through the usual of checking the add-ons, reinstalling Reader after performing a complete uninstall, checking Safe Mode, running a virus scan, performing a SFC, etc.

What ultimately fixed the issue was adding a Registry key.  A reg key that doesn't exist on any other Windows 8 machines that don't have the issue.  The common answer I found was modifying the TabProcGrowth key within HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main.  The default value is 0, but needs to be set to 1.

This key also controls IE's ability to drag the tab and create a new window with it.  Sure enough, that symptom was also present on the machine I was working on.  Again, this key didn't exist on the problematic machine.  Nor did it exist on three other machines running Server 2012, Windows 8 Pro (64-Bit), and Windows RT that could open PDFs within the browser.

What fixed the issue for me was creating a new DWORD value within that string, naming it "TabProcGrowth" and setting the value to 1.  Closing and reopening IE confirmed I could open PDFs within the browser and create new windows by dragging the tabs.

Since every other Windows 8 machine I tested doesn't have this key and they function fine, I have no clue why it was necessary to add it to this machine.  But for those running into the same issue,and there seems to be a lot of you, this is what worked for me.  Good luck!

The Fix:
1.  Open RegEdit
2.  Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main
3.A.  Change the TabProcGrowth value to 1 instead of 0.
3.B.  If TabProcGrowth doesn't exist, create a new DWORD value with that name and set the value to 1.
4.  Close all running instances of Internet Explorer and launch again.
5.  ????
6.  Profit

Lucky Star's Bourbon Street

Place: Lucky Star Pub and Eatery
Location: Burlington, WI
Ingredients: cheddar cheese, bacon, onion strings, and bourbon sauce

To be honest, I've had this burger twice now.  The first was as leftovers.  It was very good as the bourbon sauce had marinated the beef overnight, soaking into every nook and cranny.  The fried onion strings had gone limp and added nice contrast to the saucy burger.  It was probably one of the best re-heated burgers I've ever had.

When it came time to eat the fresh burger, it was another story.  The construction was the same, but instead of a soft, flavorful burger, the fresh Bourbon Street was very dry.  This is something I've noticed with the burgers at Lucky Star.  The meat is drier than most and there is little to no seasoning.  The dryness of the burger stood in stark contrast to the meager helping of bourbon sauce on top of the trimmings.

The closest comparison I can draw is to Friday's Jack Daniels burger.  The recipe is similar, but there's one crucial difference.  If Lucky Star allowed the burger to marinate in the sauce instead of lightly topping it, the burger would improve dramatically.  This was proven to me by having the burger as leftovers.

Overall, the Bourbon Street isn't terrible, but what hurts it most is how easily it could be improved. 

On the side:
A hearty helping of somewhat soggy fries.

App of the Week: Reaper

Publisher: David Peroutka/Hexage Ltd.
Platform: Windows Phone, Windows 8, Windows RT, iOS, Google Play
Price: Free Trial, $2.99 - $4.99

When purchasing a game for either my phone or tablet, I'm hesitant to purchase games without the Xbox Live moniker.  For reasons I'm not entirely proud of, I like getting the achievement points that come along with playing an Xbox Live game.  But as I perused for something to kill my already non-existent free time, Reaper's intriguing art style caught my eye.

App of the Week: Steam Tile

Steam Tile
Publisher: Element26 Software
Platform: Windows 8
Price: Free!

One of my favorite features of Microsoft's latest OS is the Metro interface (Yes, I know that's not the name anymore, but it stuck.  Deal with it.).  This exploded Start Menu displays all of my applications with beautiful Live Tiles that continually update with new information.  It's as if my PC came alive!

Well, I also play a lot of games.  Many of these games are stored within Steam.  Up until now, my only way of accessing these games was to either launch Steam or pin the game launch to the Metro interface with a bland tile.

Element26 Software has decided that isn't enough and release Steam Tile.  Steam Tile connects directly to your public Steam profile and pulls down your game information to add new, attractive live tiles to the Start Screen.  The tiles will update with achievements unlocked and time played.  Opening the app allows users to pin the games of their choice so it's not necessary to launch the app each time.

Right now, I'm using them to track games I still need to beat and those I play on a regular basis.  Combined with the ability to make custom columns within Windows 8 and this is a must have for any gamer running Windows 8.

Release Calendar: October 2013

October 01:
Assassin's Creed: Ezio Trilogy (360)
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS)
NBA 2K14 (360, PS3, PC)
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Trilogy (360)
Travel adventures with Hello Kitty (3DS)

October 02:
Rune Factory 4 (3DS)

October 04:
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

October 08:
Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)
Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition (PC, PS3, 360)
Capcom Essentials (PC, PS3, 360)
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3)
Dishonored: Game of the Year Edition (PC, PS3, 360)
F1 2013 (PC, PS3, 360)
Just Dance 2013 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Wii)

October 12:
Pokémon X (3DS)
Pokémon Y (3DS)

October 12:
Skylanders: Swap Force (PS3, 360, 3DS, Wii, Wii U)

October 15:
Cabela's African Adventures (PS3, 360, Wii)
Hometown Story (3DS)
Pinkalicious/Silverlicious 2 Pack (DS)
Wipeout: Create & Crash (360, PS3, 3DS, Wii, Wii U)
Worms: The Revolution Collection (360)
Zumba Fitness World Party (Wii U)
Valhalla Knights 3 (Vita)

October 22:
2K Definitive Strategy Collection (PC)
2K Essentials (PS3, 360)
2K Power Pack (PS3, 360)
Just Dance Kids 2014 (360, Wii, Wii U)
Lego Marvel Super Heroes (PC, PS3, 360, 3DS, Wii, Wii U, Vita)
Madagascar 3: The Video Game/The Croods: Prehistoric Party! Combo Pack (3DS, DS)
Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy (PC)
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 - Full Burst (PC, PS3, 360)
Rocksmith 2014 (360)
Sonic Lost World (Wii U)
SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton's Robotic Revenge (PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, DS, 3DS)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3DS, Wii, 360)
The Croods: Prehistoric Party!/Rise of the Guardians Combo Pack (Wii)
The Sims 3: Into the Future (PC)

October 23:
Family Tales: The Sisters - Deluxe Edition (PC)

October 24:
Batman: Arkham Origins (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U)
Defense Technica (PC)
EVE: The Second Decade Collector's Edition (PC)
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (3DS, Vita)

October 29:
Angry Birds Star Wards (3DS, Wii, Wii U, PS3, Vita, 360)
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (360, Wii U, PC, PS3)
Battlefield 4 (PC, PS3, 360)
Beyblade: Evolution (3DS)
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirrors of Fate HD (PSN)
Doodle Jump Journey (DS)
Monster High: 13 Wishes (Wii U)
Pac-Man and His Ghostly Adventures (360)
Regular Show: Mordecai & Rigby in 8-Bit Land (3DS)
The Dark Eye: Demonicon (PC, PS3, 360)
Transformers: Ultimate Autobots Edition (DS)
Transformers: Ultimate Battle Edition (Wii)
WWE: 2K14 (PS3, 360)
Wonderbook: Walking with Dinosaurs/Diggs Nightcrawler (PS3)
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirrors of Fate HD (XBL)