Upgrading a 600-series phone socket to RJ11

Live in Australia and have an old, crusty phone socket that needs to be upgraded?  Not sure if you can DIY or whether you should call a sparky?  If so, read on.

Telecom/Telstra has installed millions of 600-series phone sockets in houses all across Australia since the 1960s.  If you have one, it probably looks something like this:

If you’ve bought a phone recently, however, the chances are it no longer has a 600-series plug.  It probably has an RJ11, RJ12 or RJ45 plug instead — something like this:

So, what you probably want to do is upgrade your old phone socket to one that will suit your new phone’s plug — something like this:

Whilst there are a lot of possible combinations of old sockets, wires and new socket options, I’m going to explain the simplest case so that you can grasp the bare essentials of what is involved.  If you are still confused at the end, keep researching or call an electrician.

If you remove the cover plate of the old (600-series) phone socket, you will see six screw terminals attached to six connectors arranged in pairs.

Each screw/connector should be numbered (from 1–6) but, if they aren’t, just start your numbering from the outermost connector in the group of four.  Thus you should have 1&2 then 3&4 then a gap (to receive the non-conducting spigot) followed by 5&6.

In the simplest case, you will only have two wires connected to screw terminals.  A white and blue striped wire should be connected to terminal 2, and a blue wire should be connected to terminal 6.  By convention, the white and blue striped wire is referred to as the “white” wire — thus white connects to terminal 2 and blue connects to terminal 6.

For a single, regular, no-frills phone line that’s all you need — one pair of copper wires.

NB:  These wires usually have ~50V DC open circuit which jumps to ~100V AC when a call comes in.  Shorting or earthing them can give you a nasty zap or damage expensive equipment at the exchange which can easily be traced back to you.  If you aren’t competent to handle such live wires without causing damage, don’t proceed — call an electrician instead.

Remove the mounting screws holding the socket’s mounting-plate to the wall.  Carefully pull the plate out so you can check the back for any surprises.

Using an insulated screwdriver, release the white wire from terminal 2.  Snip the exposed/stripped section of wire off with insulated cutters to minimise the chance of an accidental shock or short.  Carefully withdraw it from the socket.  Bend the wire out of the way and tape it for extra safety if you wish.

Using an insulated screwdriver, release the blue wire from terminal 6.  Snip the exposed/stripped section of wire off with insulated cutters to minimise the chance of an accidental shock or short.  Carefully withdraw it from the socket.  Bend the wire out of the way and tape it for extra safety if you wish.

Dispose of the 600-series socket and mounting-plate.  Keep the mounting screws.

Now let’s turn our attention to the replacement socket.

The simplest Registered Jack (RJ) that will support a single phone line (pair of wires) is the RJ11.  The RJ11 has 6 Positions where wires can be inserted and connected to pins, but only 2 Contacts have actually been made — thus RJ11 is also known as a 6P2C connector.

NB:  Your phone may have an RJ12 plug.  This is exactly the same size and shape as the RJ11 but instead of only 2 Contacts it may have 4 Contacts — thus RJ12 is also known as a 6P4C connector.  The extra two wires do fancy stuff that you probably have no use for, like flashing your phone’s lights.  I won’t discuss it any more here — just letting you know.

All you need for a basic phone service (which fully supports ADSL in both its normal and naked forms) are two copper wires, so a 6P2C RJ11 socket is all you need.  If you can, get one.  But since it costs a negligible amount more for manufacturers to make 6P4C RJ12 sockets (which get used a lot by companies) it will probably be easier to find and use one of those instead.  Something like this would work just fine:

RJ12 IDC Socket

(“RJ12 IDC Socket for Flush Plates” from Jaycar Electronics)

The back of the socket will have colour-coded slots for wires.  You run each wire through the channel in the middle, then through the same-coloured slot.

NB:  You should easily find the blue slot, but you will not find a plain white slot.  Look for a white-blue slot (often a rectangle or square split diagonally with white in one half and blue in the other) — the white and blue striped wire goes in the white-blue slot.

In each slot are two small conducting blades.  If you push the wire down to the bottom of the slot, the blades will cut through the sides of the sheath and make contact with the bare metal inside.  To help you with this process you may want to get yourself (buy or borrow) a punch down tool — something like this:

Punchdown tool

Use the punch down tool to punch the white(-blue) and blue wires into the correct positions on the RJ11/12 socket:

Punchdown in action

The above image shows not only the white(-blue) and blue wires being punched down, but others as well.  Orange and white-orange are the second pair that enable RJ12’s extra functionality.  For RJ11 you do not need to punch down anything but white(-blue) and blue.

Once you have punched down the white(-blue) and blue wires it should look something like this (but with the loose ends trimmed off):

Punchdown complete

Two wires punched down into their corresponding slots on the back of a RJ11/12 socket with all of the other wires folded out of the way (not punched into the socket).

Secure the unused wires with electrical tape, cap the back of the socket (if it has a cap) and then plug your phone into the socket and test to make sure it works.

If everything is working then push the socket into its mounting-plate and mount it on the wall using the original screws that you saved.

Tidy up and you’re done.

PS:  Assuming that you buy a RJ11/12 socket, mounting plate and punch down tool, you’re still going to have change left over from $50 and should be able to complete the above process in less than 30 minutes.  Each additional socket would cost you less than $20 (since you now have a punch down tool you would only need to buy the socket and plate) and would only take about 10 minutes to upgrade.  A sparky would charge at least $50 per socket.

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Zombie Eradication Guide

The information in this guide is specific to the zombie survival game Infestation: Survivor Stories.  It may or may not be applicable to other games and/or real life.  Use at your own risk.

Zombie Eradication

Zombie 101

To become an expert at zombie eradication you need to understand the enemy:

  • zombies have poor vision
  • zombies have poor hearing
  • zombies have good smell
  • zombies often lie down
  • zombies don’t move a lot
  • zombies don’t move very fast
  • zombies are bad at climbing
  • zombies are stupid

Exploit or counter all of the above to dominate the zombie infestation.

Engage on your terms

The best way to eradicate zombies is to only fight the battles you are likely to win.  The best way to do this is to engage zombies on terms of your choosing.

Always remember that your character looks forward.  If you walk backward you can’t see where you are going.  There could be zombies there.  You could draw their attention (aggro) and be attacked from behind with little or no warning.  Don’t walk backward (or even sideways) unless you are sure the area is safe.

If you sprint you make more noise.  Zombies will be able to hear you from further away — a lot further away.  You will get more zombie aggro.  Sprinting through a town/city with lots of buildings and blind corners is very, very dangerous and can quickly result in a horde of zombies on your trail for precisely this reason.  Sprinting also gives you less time to notice possible zombies lying on the ground in front of (or near) you and thus less opportunity to steer clear of them.  You may awaken these zombies and draw their aggro.  Avoid sprinting unless you have good visibility of the entire area that you are in and/or plan on sprinting through.

Until you are proficient in melee (hand-to-hand) combat against zombies the best thing to do is approach from a safe area with good visibility and pick them off one at a time.

Be prepared

If you haven’t already:  Press I to bring up your inventory. Drag a melee weapon into slot 2 of your inventory to equip it. Hit ESC go go back to first-/third-person view. Press 2 to select the weapon in slot 2. It will glow blue.  Your melee weapon is now equipped, selected and ready to be used.

The first kill

Find a zombie by itself (not very close to other zombies). Inch closer until it detects you and starts heading towards you. Back off a little. This process is known as ‘pulling’.

Always pull zombies towards areas that you know are clear of other zombies.  Pulling is safer because once you and the zombie start swinging, you minimise the chance that the noise of combat will aggro any more zombies.  These additional zombies (adds) can quickly overwhelm you if you’re not expecting them and not proficient enough to deal with them.

Place your crosshairs in (aim at) the middle of the zombie’s head.  The only way to kill a zombie is by hitting it in the head.  Press and hold the left mouse button.  Your character will keep attacking with their weapon until you release the button — there is no need to click repeatedly like a crazy person.

You will notice that every time you hit the zombie there will be a splash of blood and the zombie may lurch, often violently, in some direction. There is no need to track the head when it does this. The zombie will regain its composure and their head will return to where it was before. If you haven’t moved the mouse and are still holding down the left mouse button, you will hit them again, and again, and again.

After enough head shots the zombie will go down.

Avoiding damage

Every time you hit the zombie you interrupt its attack. Thus if you keep hitting the zombie, they will never be able to hit you. If you miss the zombie, they will probably complete their attack and might actually do some damage.

Keep this in mind, as what it means is that body shots, although they wont kill a zombie, will stop that zombie from hurting you. Head shots, while they will kill a zombie, have a much higher chance of missing and, as a result, you might get hurt.

If a zombie gets the jump on you (surprise attacks you) you are much better off aiming for the body to start with (to interrupt their attacks) before moving your focus to the head. This minimises the chance of damage.

If you don’t care about being hit every-so-often, and want to take down zombies as fast as possible, always aim for the head. Just make sure you have medical supplies as it is inevitable that you will be hit and take damage if you do this.

Armour

It takes 5 hits from a zombie to kill you with no body armour on.  With Light Gear Forest, MTV Forest or IBA Sand on it takes 6 hits.  With Custom Guerilla it takes 7 hits.

Helmets (oddly enough) make no difference because zombies aim for the body, not the head.  Presumably they beat you to death with their arms then remove your helmet and eat your brain.

Wear body armour if you can — it helps.

Rifles and pistols

Shooting zombies is a waste of ammunition. The supply of zombies is infinite, but your ammo supply is very, very limited. You are far better off saving the bullets for players and learning how to kill zombies quickly and efficiently with a melee weapon.

If you are intent on wasting precious ammo, realise that one shot to the head, from any firearm, will kill a zombie.  That means there is absolutely no point wasting an M107 .50 sniper round on a zombie.  You may as well grab a Kruger .22 rifle or pistol and get the job done just as well.  It is much easier to find .22 guns and ammo than it is sniper guns and ammo (and besides, .22s do virtually nothing against armoured players so it’s not like you are going to use them in PvP).

Also realise that guns make (sometimes a lot) more noise than melee weapons and thus may draw unwanted zombie aggro.  Fire an M107 inside of Boulder or the Airport and you’ll soon see what a zombie horde looks like.  If you open fire on zombies, expect the consequences.  To avoid attracting a horde you are strongly advised to put a silencer on your firearm.

Best anti-zombie firearm/setup for stealthy eradication of zombies:  Kruger .22 rifle/pistol with silencer and scope.

Melee weapons

The best melee weapons for killing zombies are the katana, machete and hatchet.  They all take only 2 head shots to kill a zombie. Pretty much every other weapon takes about 3 head shots. If possible, avoid using a flashlight, nail gun or a regular baseball bat as they take 4 or more head shots.

Contrary to expectations, all melee weapons have the same range: 1m.  You are no safer taking on a zombie with a canoe paddle than you are brass knuckles.

Note that the game implements different ‘hit boxes’ for different weapons, meaning that they don’t all work the same way. For some weapons you need to aim a little higher (like at the forehead/scalp of the zombie), for some aiming at the right or left ear might be best. Trial and error on your part will let you discover what the most effective aiming spot is for your character/view/view side/camera angle/weapon.

more to come…

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Infestation Q&A

There are a lot of questions about Infestation: Survivor Stories that new players have.  This page exists to answer some of those questions and increase your odds of survival.  They appear in no particular order.

zombie-survival

Can I re-use arrows?

No.  Arrows are treated like ammo — every shot you fire from your compound crossbow removes one arrow from your inventory and it is gone forever.  It works exactly the same way for a flare gun and flare gun ammo.  You cannot pick arrows back up.  You cannot recycle them.

What happens to my backpack when I die?

Your backpack and everything in it falls to the ground where you died.  They will stay there for up to 10 minutes before they despawn.  Anyone can pick them up in that time.  When you are revived you will be given a free small backpack with nothing in it.

Which is better to stack, 1L or 375mL bottles of water?

375mL.  The 1L bottle quenches 2x the amount of thirst as the 375mL bottle, but weighs 2.7x as much.  Stacking 375mL bottles thus gives you 33% more effect per kilogram.  In addition, 375mL bottles are far, far more common.  If I’m running short on backpack space what I do is drink the 1L as soon as I pick it up, but save the 375mL for later.  I don’t care if some of the 1L effect is wasted because I would have otherwise left it behind.

Which is better to stack, MiniSaints or Instant Oatmeal?

Instant Oatmeal.  Both have the same effect (restoring moderate hunger and minor thirst) but MiniSaints weigh 400g whilst Instant Oatmeal weighs only 220g.  Instant Oatmeal thus gives you 81% more effect per kilogram.  If I’m running short on backpack space what I do is eat the MiniSaints as soon as I pick it up, but save the Instant Oatmeal for later.  I don’t care if some of the MiniSaints effect is wasted because I would have otherwise left it behind.

What happens if I don’t eat or drink enough?

You die.

 How long can I last without food or water?

Assuming you start with full meters across the board:

    • your thirst meter will run out in 50 minutes
    • you start taking damage (losing health) due to dehydration after 53 minutes
    • your hunger meter will run out in 1 hour 06 minutes
    • you then lose health due to dehydration and starvation
    • your health meter runs out in 1 hour 30 minutes
    • you die

What happens when my health gets low?

Below 50% health your stamina recharge rate will decrease.  Stamina is what you use to sprint.  If it recharges slower you can sprint less often.  This has a significant effect on how fast you can travel long distances, and also how often/far you can flee from enemies.

Below ~85% health you can no longer sprint at all.

How do I kill zombies?
What is the best way to kill a zombie?
How do I avoid taking damage from zombies?
What is the best melee weapon for killing zombies?
Should I shoot zombies?
How do I take on more than one zombie at a time?

See my Zombie Eradication Guide.

Why don’t I spawn in the same place as I was when I logged out?
Why do I get moved when I change servers?

Cheaters.

Once upon a time, you did spawn back in exactly the same place as you were when you logged out.  Then some lowlife scumbags worked out an exploit now known as ‘ghosting’.  Let’s say you were engaged in a firefight with an enemy group holed up in a pharmacy.  One player would log out, log into an empty private server, run to the back room of the pharmacy on that server, log out, then log back in on the original server.  They would appear, like a ghost, behind the enemy, and kill them all.  Ghosting.

Because of these lo-skill/no-skill cheaters, the game was patched so that if you switch servers you will be teleported to ‘a safe location’ somewhere near where you were on the last server, but not exactly.

The patch also made ‘server hopping’ more difficult for the lazy scumbags who would go to an item spawn location on one server, loot it, then switch servers, loot the same thing on that server, and keep doing this over and over again… hopping servers and collecting all of the (usually) weapons (specifically sniper rifles) for themselves.  They would then sell these items for GC on the open market.  These server-hopping scumbags are the reason why most of the good loot locations now have virtually nothing in them, because they get hopped on every open server every couple of minutes by these lowlives who are too lazy to earn the weapons in the normal way, like everyone else.

Why do I sometimes get a blue shield over my health meter?
What does the blue shield mean?

All three settlements (marked by red circles on your map) have a ‘safe zone’ around them.  When your character enters a safe zone a blue shield with a white cross will appear over your health meter.  As long as you are in the safe zone other players will not be able damage you (at least, not directly).

The safe zones were implemented to counter cowardly snipers who would camp the hills around settlements and shoot people entering or exiting them.

If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Infestation Private Server

Is it worth renting a Private Server for Infestation: Survivor Stories (formerly called WarZ)?  The short answer is: No.

Private Server

To explain that answer a little more fully we need to look at what why players might want their own private server and how private servers actually work.

Player motivation

There are a number of reasons to consider a private server.  Here are a few:

I’m sick of this PvP shite and being ganked by other players all the time!  Probably the number one reason to get a private server is so that you can avoid being victimised by teenagers who think that Infestation is Call of Duty with a zombie backdrop.

I can haz all da phat lootz!  Probably the next most popular reason is out of frustration that all the loot you ever seem to get are Bags of Chips, Boonie Covers, Tactical Knives, Flashlights and M9 Helmets.

I want to explore without feeling paranoid about dying all the time.  Umm, this is a zombie survival game — you’re supposed to feel paranoid.  But yeah, it’s hard to explore certain areas when you get a bullet to the head every time you go near them.  See ‘PvP shite’ above.

My clan wants a training ground to hone our 1337 skills.  Quite rare but it happens.

There are more, but most are simply variants on the ‘PvP shite’ theme.

How private servers work

The two central themes from above, that I will address now, are access control and loot.

Access control

As the administrator of a private server you get to decide who gets in and can kick anyone who doesn’t play by your rules.  That’s the theory.  In practice it isn’t that simple.

As server admin you can:

  1. set a server password
  2. mute characters
  3. kick characters

The server password is easy enough to understand and does initially limit who gets to play on your server.  The problem is that passwords leak, players have more than one character each, and TAB lists the characters not the players.  What this means that very, very quickly you will have characters on your server with names you do not recognise and you will continually be asking “who the *** are you?” in chat.  It gets really annoying having to do that all the time, and eventually you’ll stop bothering, or create a list and make even more work for yourself.  Server administration becomes a chore, a job, and is no longer fun.  You’re paying money each month not to have fun.  Doesn’t make sense.

Mute characters works, until they log out and back in again.  Then you’re back to square one.

Kick characters works, until they log back in again.  And since they know the password you can’t stop them from doing that without changing the password and that affects everyone.  So, every time you kick, you have to log out, change the password, log back in again, and then tell everyone.  But wait, what about those people who aren’t logged in when you make the change?  That’s right, they have no way of knowing.  So you have to devise some completely different system to let everyone know that the password has changed.  Maybe an email distribution list, or a website.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s more inconvenience for your players and more work for you.

Eventually, your rules (whatever they are) will anger a player.  To get revenge, that player will create a new character, with a completely different name, log into your server, and then proceed to annoy the living crap out of you and/or other players.  If you have a PvE server the player will snipe and kill other players.  You can kick them all you want, and change passwords all you want, but because the actual player is not using their ‘main’ character to get back at you, you have no way of stopping them. No way at all.

So, since Infestation’s access control methods work on character names (as opposed to player accounts), and are not permanent, there is no way to effectively ‘ban’ anyone and, ultimately, that will lead to major problems.

Loot

Recent changes to the loot spawning system mean that private servers don’t get anywhere near the loot that public servers do.  But even if you are happy with the amount of loot on open private servers, there is a really, really important thing to be aware of:  Hibernation.

About 10 minutes after the last character logs out of your server, the whole server will enter hibernation — it will go to sleep.  Nothing will change until someone logs back in again.  That means that if you clear our Norad just before going to sleep and then come back again the next day, it will (still) be completely empty because, as far as the game is concerned, only ten minutes have passed — not eight hours.  (Well, ten minutes of respawning might get you a few pieces of garbage, but that’s about it.)

If you want a private server so you can ‘farm’ a particular location for a particular item, forget about it.  You literally need to park a character there and do nothing else with your account in order for spawns to be ‘normal’.

Internally it seems like the map is broken up into different zones and that, if no players are in the zones, the zones themselves go into hibernation independently.  So, if you clear the Airport and then go to Boulder for a few hours and then come back you’ll find… bugger all.

No characters in a zone means no loot being spawned.

I was able to get ‘normal’ private server spawning by buying a second account, creating a character, filling their backpack with food and water, and then running them into a cleared zone and sitting them on top of a wall (out of reach of zombies).  They then did nothing but eat and drink for hours on end.  Their mere presence kept the zone active and the loot spawning.

The problem with this is that characters eat a surprisingly large amount of food and drink a surprisingly large amount of water when doing nothing.  You don’t really notice it when you are actively playing a character because you scavenge food and drink along the way.  But when you have this other character sitting there doing nothing the food and drink seems to vanish really quickly.

Apart from being able to carry in enough food and drink to last any decent amount of time, there’s another logistical problem as well:  You need a second computer to run the second account while you use your main computer to do interesting things (like actually find all this extra food and drink and then travel (and possibly fight your way) back to the other character to give it to them).

Trying to run two copies of Infestation on the same computer at the same time, even inside virtual machines, is fraught with peril and likely to be detected and result in you getting banned.  I don’t suggest you even think of trying it.

Assuming you solve all of the above logistical issues, there is the additional problem of how you actually get your character to keep eating and drinking while you are asleep — because if you don’t they will starve to death.  Well, obviously you script it and, oops, you’ve just created a bot and broken the EULA/ToS and can expect to see the ban hammer come down really soon.

It is really easy to detect a character that does nothing but eat and drink in the same spot for hours and hours and hours on end.  Really, really, really easy.

Conclusions

Unless you have a clan and are looking for a private training ground, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to pay for a private server.  The limited number of admin tools at your disposal will make effective access control impossible and will tie you up in administrative duties, making the game less fun for you.  The zone and server hibernation mechanics mean that you will have no option but to carry out activities which are relatively easy for anti-cheat software to detect and will likely get you banned if you want to maintain ‘normal’ private server loot levels.

Even if you just want ‘to explore in peace’ there is no fun in doing so when all you get for your efforts are hats and flashlights.  From my testing the decreased loot means you end up with few ranged weapons and virtually no ammo, so you end up having to melee 99% of all the zombies you come across.  This, in effect, limits your travels to low zombie density areas where controlled pulling is possible… which means you cannot explore the higher density areas.  So much for exploration.

About the only individual I see private servers being worthwhile for are hardcore role-players with elite melee skills, fantastic horde control, and complete mastery of the stealth mechanics.  The rest of us are better off waiting for the admin tools to improve.

Renting a private server

If you’ve decided to go ahead and get a private server anyway, but can’t work out how, just do the following:

  1. select a character that is alive (doesn’t matter which one)
  2. click ‘Play Game’
  3. click ‘My Servers’
  4. click ‘Rent Game Server’
  5. configure your options
    Private Server Setup

    1. region (pick the region closest to where you think the majority of the players that will use your server are likely to live — so as to minimise latency)
    2. slots (maximum number of players at one time)
    3. rental period (in months)
    4. server name (you cannot change this)
    5. password (you can easily change this later)
    6. whether or not to show:
      1. nameplates (turn off for realism, but if you do it makes differentiating bandits from lawmen impossible in the field; easily changed later)
      2. crosshairs (turn off for realism; easily changed later)
      3. tracers (turn off for realism; easily changed later)
  6. click ‘Rent Server’
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Infestation Survival Guide

Formerly called WarZ, Infestation: Survivor Stories (aka Infestation or ISS) is a zombie survival game with PvP elements.  This guide is for the survivalists, not the PvPers.

infestation

In ISS players take on the role of ‘survivors’ and there are no quests to tell you what to do, you just need to survive as long as possible and as best you can before the inevitable happens — the zombies get you.  And they will get you.  Your job is to delay that eventuality as long as possible.

Characters

You start out with 5 character slots and, I assure you, you will need them all.  Once a character dies, you are forced to wait a while before you can ‘revive’ them.  While you’re waiting for that character’s timer to run down, you’ll want to keep playing, so you’ll switch to another character.

So, mentally prepare yourself:  you will die and you will have multiple characters.  If you put all your eggs in one basket you will end up disappointed.  Best to spread the load and the risk across multiple characters, and to accept death as a learning experience.

Server choice

When you click ‘Play Game’ you will have a choice of ‘Official’ or ‘Private’ servers.  While all servers are hosted by Hammerpoint Interactive (the developers of ISS), the private servers are rented, customised and administered by players.

If you join an official server, especially one with a high population, expect to be killed by another player in a matter of no time — perhaps even seconds — depending on where you spawned.  Spawn sites are often camped by cowardly players that like preying on new players so, yeah, don’t join official servers.

Join a private server, and one with as low a population as possible, if you want to do the survival thing, as opposed to the PvP thing.

The first spawn

When you first spawn into ISS it will either be day or night.  For your sake I hope it’s not night.

At the time of writing there is only one map (‘Colorado’).  In Colorado, the sun rises in the SW and sets in the NE.  Yeah, a bit weird, but America is like that.

Anyway, sunrise is at about 0530 and sunset at 1930, which gives you 14 hours of day followed by 10 hours of night.  Press the ESC key to see the game time and access menu options.  One minute of game time takes only ten seconds of real time, so the game runs 6x faster than the real world, making daylight last for a little over two hours of real time.

In practice the twilight period just before sunrise and just after sunset is quite long, which means you can get an extra hour or two of visibility before darkness takes you — but boy does it get dark.

If it is night time I suggest you turn off all the lights in your room and shutter the blinds if need be, because you will barely be able to see a thing.  You have no hope of a) seeing zombies, and b) killing them, if you can’t differentiate between shades of black on your screen.

You start the game with a flashlight and can turn it on/off by pressing the F key.  Note that the light from a flashlight not only attracts zombies, but other players as well, so whilst you may have no option but to use it, use it as little as possible.  Flashlights are a death magnet.

Flashlights can also be used, in a pinch, to club zombies to death.  This is handy, because you have no other weapon and thus no other choice.

Annoying group invites

Within a few seconds of joining any server, you typically start getting invitations to join groups on the right hand side of your screen.  And they just keep coming.

Do not accept any of them!

There is a slimy mass of low-life scumbags that cruise from private server to private server, inviting people on that server into a group.  If a player is silly enough to accept the invitation, the scumbags then use the map to see where the player is, go to that location, kill them, and steal all their gear.

Yep, these cowardly pieces of shite spend all their time preying on newbies and PvEers because they don’t have the guts or the skills to join an official server and mix it with the rest of the PvP crowd.

They will lie, they will deceive, they will betray, they will kill.  Do not accept group invitations.

That said, pressing the TAB key will show you the list of players who are currently on the server.  The ones flashing in blue are the ones that have sent you group invitations.  Right-clicking on them will give you options.

Chat

F1 through to F4 let you select the 4 chat channels.  Press ENTER to begin chatting in the currently selected channel.  F2 is global chat, and the one you’ll use most often as a newbie.

Where to go

Pressing the M key toggles your map.  The arrow shows where you are and which direction you are facing.

Since you have no decent weapon, I advise against going where the zombies are.  You should avoid combat completely until you get some food, some water, and a better weapon.

At intersections along main roads there will often be abandoned roadblocks.  Both civilian and emergency services vehicles (police, ambulance, fire, military) may be present.  In quite a few (but not all) cases, the roadblocks will be zombie-free.  Find one and then start scavenging.

What to get

Weapons:  Anything is better than a flashlight.  You may come across bats in civilian vehicles, shovels on fire trucks, but probably the best you can hope for is a tactical knife in a police cruiser.  Press and hold the E key to pick things up.  Press the I key to bring up your inventory.  Drag and drop to rearrange things.  Get a better weapon into slot 2 as soon as you can.

Water:  Often found near ambulances and fire trucks (as well as in stores).  Cans of soda also do the job.  You dehydrate (get thirsty) faster than you starve (get hungry) so stockpile more fluids than solids.

Food:  You’ll have lots of choices.  Nearly all of them are good except one — the humble bag of chips.  Eating this will make you less hungry, but will make you more thirsty, so about the only time you should eat them is if you have crazy amounts of fluids available.  Avoid chips.  Some foods only satiate hunger (like chocolate) but others satiate hunger and also quench thirst (like minisaints and instant oatmeal) so they are better.

Running out of space

It wont be long until you find you can’t pick up any more stuff either because you have no more room (free slots) in your backpack or because the contents of your backpack are too heavy (all backpacks have different slot and weight limits).

You need to develop good inventory management skills if you want to do well in this game.

Key to this is realising that many identical items ‘stack’ (so only take up one slot in your backpack, regardless of how many you have there (although their individual weights do still add up).  So rather than having 375mL and 1L bottles of water, you are better off just having more 375mL bottles (since these are the ones you come across more often anyway).  Also, rather than having two different foods which satiate hunger and quench thirst (like minisaints and instant oatmeal) just pick one and stack up on that one.

So, minimise the variety of items you carry and you’ll be able to fit more into your backpack.

Combat

Eventually you’ll want (or be forced) to take on a zombie.

The left mouse button is used to initiate attacks but for such an attack to work the weapon must be both equipped and selected.

The numbers at the bottom of your screen show you what you need to press in order to select/use an equipped item.  Your flashlight starts in slot 2, so pressing 2 on your keyboard will select the flashlight.  Hopefully you have a better weapon by now though.

With your slot 2 weapon selected, clicking on the left mouse button will swing that weapon towards whatever is in the middle of the screen (at your cross-hairs, if you have them).

Zombies only die from head shots, so aim for the head.

Death

Zombies hit back.  Sometimes they miss, but sometimes they don’t.  As they hit you your health will decrease.  If your hunger meter (knife and fork) hits zero your health will decrease.  If your thirst meter (glass of water) hits zero your health will decrease.  When your health meter finally hits zero you will die.  It will happen.  It is inevitable.

To avoid starving, eat.  To avoid dehydrating, drink.

When fighting, if things aren’t going your way, you can always turn and run.  Holding down the left SHIFT key will let you sprint but, in doing so, you will also make a lot more noise (and maybe attract even more zombies) so make sure you bee-line it away from the zombies and towards safety.  Note that you can’t sprint if your health is too low (flashing) so if you want to exercise that option, don’t leave it too late.

You usually restore health by using bandages, pain killers or antibiotics (found around ambulances and inside pharmacies and stores).  Some foods and drinks (e.g. MRE, can of soup, energy drink) can also boost your health but, with the exception of the MRE, the amount is quite small.  Every bit helps though.

Yes, you can consume health-restoring medical items, food and drink whilst moving and fighting, but only if you have them in slots 3-6 so you can select/use them without having to access your inventory.  When you press I to bring up your inventory, your character stops moving.  If you are fighting zombies that would be a fatal mistake.  So make sure you have at least some health-boosters in slots 3-6.

When you finally do die, take a deep breath, embrace the moment, try to learn from what happened, and try to work out what you could do better or differently in order to survive next time.

Oh, and when you die you drop all your gear where you died.  Yep, you lose it — all of it.  The dropped items will stay there for a maximum of 10 minutes before they despawn.  During this time anyone, even other players, can pick them up.

Revival

A dead character can be revived after the 60 minute timer runs down, so rather than waiting you should create and switch to another character and keep playing.

When the timer runs out, revive the dead character.

You will see that the character has nothing in their inventory.  All of their gear was lost when they died.  If you have any spare items in global inventory you can take this opportunity to gear your character up again.

Global inventory

You can move items between your characters and global inventory in a few different circumstances:

  1. it is a newly created character that has never been out in the world
  2. it is a just-revived character that has not yet gone back out into the world
  3. you are talking to the non-player character in the vault at any of the three settlements (marked by red circles on your map)
  4. you log out a character within the safe zone surrounding a settlement (indicated by a white cross on a blue shield over your health meter)

If you think going out into the world with a flashlight is bad, going out with nothing is just awful.

The key towards making recovery from death as painless as possible is to stockpile lots of gear in your global inventory so you can transfer it to your characters after they have been revived.

So, go out, scavenge, find stuff, bring it to the vault in any settlement, then transfer the surplus into your global inventory.  Rinse and repeat.  Over and over again.

Eventually you’ll have enough stuff that death is reduced from a catastrophe of epic proportions to something annoying but tolerable.

Summary

To survive you just need to do a few things really well:

  • scavenge the right stuff
  • manage your inventory
  • aim for the head

Take care out there.

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Terminal Keyboard Macro

Find yourself typing the same thing repeatedly in the Terminal app on OS X?  Wish you could keyboard macro something that works regardless of what shell, sub-shell, or program you’re in?  Well you can.

I’ve been doing a bit of Erlang programming lately and got tired of having to change working directories so that I could compile my .erl files into .beam files and have them appear in the right place.

A bit of research led me to Learn You Some Erlang and a nice chapter on modules.  There it covered how you don’t always have to do this:

cd("/path/to/the/module/").
c(myModule).

You can, in fact, tell the compiler to save the .beam in any arbitrary location.  While that page didn’t explain how, this one did.  (Yes, the command is ‘file’ not ‘compile’, but Erlang is a bit weird like that.)

Anyhow, you can get that down to a single line:

c("/path/to/the/module/myModule", [ {outdir,"/path/to/your/ebin/directory/"} ] ).

You can then bind that whole command to a single keystroke in Terminal.

Terminal > Preferences... > Settings > Keyboard

Just select a convenient key (or keystroke combination) from the list, double-click to edit it, and replace the contents of the bottom field with whatever macro text you want.  (Note that control characters (like enter, delete) can also be encoded into the macro.)

Easy as that.  Simple macros for whatever Terminal commands you find yourself doing a lot, and no need to install special software.

PS:  In my case I used F14 and full paths ("/Users/tim/Dropbox/project/...") so that the command would work regardless of where I was and what the current working directory was.  One-key compilation and no need to change directories – yeah baby!

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Erlang syntax highlighting for BBEdit/TextWrangler

Coding in Erlang on OS X?  Using BBEdit or TextWrangler?  Wish you could have syntax highlighting for your .erl and .hrl files?  Well you can!

Paul Guyot developed an Erlang Language Module for BBEdit/TextWrangler that you can find over at Google Code.

Download, read the README, plonk the module in the right directory, relaunch your editor.  Easy.

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