Paco Hope My Random Musings and Rants

22Feb/150

On Pharmacists and Roadside Justice

I've seen a few discussions of this story of a licensed, clearly competent pharmacist who shoots and kills a would-be armed robber. I understand that what he did was legal and—to many people—justified. Applying the death penalty at the roadside as punishment for threats is not the society that we want to live in. The guy is not a hero. He was reckless and put others in danger needlessly. He was absurdly lucky. Nobody who has studied how to respond to an armed robber would endorse this course of action, even if they broadly support gun rights.

11Jan/151

My Strategy at FTL: Faster Than Light

I'm playing FTL: Faster Than Light on my iPad. Apparently you can get it for Windows, Mac, and Linux as well.

So far I've only won it twice—once with the Engi Cruser and once with the Federation Cruiser. A couple friends of mine have asked me to write up my experiences and strategy. I've only won it on the easy difficulty without the advanced options turned on. These are my personal strategy ideas. I notice that there is a Strategy Guide at the FTL Wiki that says a lot of similar things. It's good.

Basic Principles

Plan your route through the sectors.

I always plan a route that has the most green sectors. You often can't tell what the green or red sectors will be before you get one space away from them. Once I can see what they are and I am choosing, I look at what alien race will be in the sector. Here's my priority for aliens:

  • Zoltan is better than Engi is better than Slug is better than Rock is better than Mantis

Slug nebulas can have good stuff in them.

Nebulas Aren't that Bad

When I first started playing, I avoided them as much as possible. Now I don't. Fighting in a nebula isn't that bad, really. Plasma storms, though, suck. If I get caught in a plasma storm, I often maximise my shields and wait for my FTL drive to charge. Then I jump out of the battle. It's hard to win a fight with half your reactor down.

Restart without remorse.

If your ship is not well on its way to being bad ass by the time you reach sector 5, just quit. There's little to be gained by getting all the way to The Last Stand and losing.

Upgrade the systems, even if you can't power them.

Upgrades on things like engines, oxygen, etc. are kinda extra hull points for the ship. They give you an ability to take extra damage and keep fighting. If you're using a 2-point drone, and your drone control only has 2 points of capacity, then a single hit on your drone control will stop your drone. Likewise with weapons. If you're using a 3-point weapon and you only have 3 points of weapon system, then a single hit knocks your weapon offline.

Use Your Crew

Crew are valuable. The more the merrier. Spread them around the ship, mainly stationed near systems so that they jump on the repair as soon as something's damaged. You also need them to be near possible fires or intruders.

Putting a guy in the sensors gives you the capabilities of a sensor upgrade as long as he's in there. Putting a guy in the door control gives you doors upgraded one level. These are cheap ways to get some benefits early on without buying them.

I rarely buy crew. I never give them to slavers. I always fight slavers until they offer me a crew member, then I accept the offer. I love slavers because they give you free crew. One time I declined the offer of a slave. Instead, I bombed all the crew, leaving the ship intact. I hoped that would get me extra guys. Instead, I got no new crew at all. You have to accept the surrender to get the free crew member.

Boarders

In general, I try not to fight boarders or fires. If I'm boarded, but there's no ship to fight, all I you have to do is kill some boarders. These are super easy fights. I just huddle all my crew in a few rooms out of the way and open up the outside doors. I let the air out of the rooms where the intruders are. Don't let the air out of the whole ship—just where the intruders are. Make them fight to break down the doors room by room. Each time they open a new door, that room will empty of air and they'll have to fight its doors. Sooner or later they will either be so weak that they're an easy fight for your crew, or they'll just die. If you don't have any upgrades to your doors, you can't do this.

Teleporter systems in enemies are always used. I have never seen a ship that had a teleporter that didn't board me. So as soon as a ship pops on my screen, if I see a teleporter, I go ahead and open a bunch of my doors to the outside. I want to get rooms empty of air before they arrive. Then, when they do arrive, I close the doors that aren't helping me fight boarders.

Mantis virtually always have transporters. They are also the best hand-to-hand fighters. If you're flying the Zoltan cruiser, the teleporters won't work until you've taken enough damage to knock out your super shield. Often you can get a bomb or laser to damage the enemy teleporter before that happens. You can delay the boarders, or maybe injure them before they arrive.

Use the Doors, Luke!

Upgrade the door subsystem relatively early. It is crucial against boarders and fires. I've been boarded as early as sector 2, but usually it starts around sector 3. If I haven't upgraded my doors by sector 3 or 4, I am probably doing so badly that I'm destined for a restart. Early on, if I see a ship with a teleporter, I send someone running to door control as soon as the encounter starts (at the same time I'm opening exterior doors).

Fire

Whenever I can, I fight fires just like I fight boarders. If a fire breaks out, especially in a remote system, I tap the door controls and open up enough rooms that there is no air in the room where the fire is. It will eventually go out.

Fires you can't wait out

Obviously, if fire is raging in the weapons room during a fight, it's a different story. I send as many people as I can spare to jump on the fire. The more people are putting out a fire, the less damage any individual one of them will take, and then they can all contribute to the repairs, too. In busy, hard fights I often have a little posse of 3 guys running between shields, weapons, or whatever needs fixing.

There No Place Like Drones

You really want to have drones. If you have a defensive drone and a combat drone, you are a force to be reckoned with. Defensive drones shoot down things that fly at you. That includes missiles and—crucially—asteroids. While your enemy is being pummeled by asteroids, a defensive drone will shoot down most (if not all) the asteroids headed your way. Combat drones keep the enemy's shields down by one generally. When you've knocked the shields out entirely for a brief instant, that combat drone usually sneaks in a direct hit. It's random, but sometimes those drone hits are really awesome.

Stuff I Really Like

Scrap Recovery arm

If I see a way to get a scrap recovery arm, I do it. If there is any way to make it work, I do. It's like investing: the earlier you get it, the more it pays off over the life of the game. Getting it late in the game is often not very useful. I've even sold it in sector 7 in order to buy something else I really needed.

Drone recovery arm

If I've got drones, I simply must get this. It means that you lose very few drones ever. If the drone is still flying at the end of the encounter, you get it back. Normally they're lost whether you win or lose.

Stuff I Haven't Found a Use For

Here are some features in the game that I virtually never use.

Crew Teleporter

I don't do the boarding party thing. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm no good at managing all the details of hand-to-hand combat. But crew are too precious to send into hostile territory when I could just "nuke the site from orbit."

Advanced FTL Navigation

This lets you bounce around sectors going back to beacons you have already visited. I can only think of a handful of times I wanted to do that.

System Repair and Anti-Personnel Drones

These are a great idea. But if I have a drone subsystem, I'm usually to busy using it directly for combat to use it for housekeeping. Boarding drones can be vicious. I love them. But these two aren't worth the cost.

Hull Repair Drones

I go back and forth on these. It's basically a way to trade a drone part for 3-5 points of hull repair. Great for patching up in the field, but they're a luxury. If it's a choice between a defensive drone or a hull repair drone, I'll take the defensive one every day.

Shield Charger and Weapons Chargers

Not that I won't accept these if they're given to me, but I never spend money on them. You only can hold 3 augmentations, and these aren't worth that slot.

Hope That Helps

That's all I have for now.

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26Oct/14Off

Why Watch TV News?

I am increasingly perplexed that anyone ever watches TV news any more. Some math:
the average person reads 300-400 words per minute.
The average news presenter speaks 100-120 words per minute
The average 30-minute program on US TV has 8 minutes of ads. The weather takes a good 60 seconds and the fluff and credits take another 2 minutes.

7Sep/14Off

Desperate Repair of RHA MA750i headphones

I have found what I think are the most perfect headphones (MA750i from RHA). (Thanks Ritesh for the recommendation!) The cost/performance ratio is great. I paid £90 for fabulously durable headphones that sound awesome. I had them for months and they were great. Then they broke (see below for the stupidity on my part). So I bought another pair. Simply can't live with out them. On my first commute with the replacement pair, I BROKE THEM! I thought I was going to burst into tears in Piccadilly Circus tube station. I didn't even get to the office.

Sadly, I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy. Out of desperation I spliced the two busted headphones into one pair. I can get sound. Nothing else (volume, start/stop, microphone, etc.) works. That sucks, but it's far better than nothing.

3Sep/14Off

My MacBook, Bluetooth, and Apple Magic Trackpad

When I'm out of the office and running my Mac on batteries, I turn off Bluetooth networking to save power. Then I come into the office and plug in. I use my MacBook with its lid shut. I plug into a keyboard and a monitor. I have a Bluetooth Magic Trackpad. Great set up. The problem is that—with the lid shut and Bluetooth turned off, I have no mouse or pointer control. I need to turn Bluetooth on using just the keyboard.