Who We Are

We're a like minded clan of gamers from the Portland metro area of the state of Oregon, USA. While we're based in Portland, we do have members from all over! So, don't be afraid to join! We tend to play many different games and we have guild chapters all over! We might even be playing a game you love!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

This Weekend We Lost a Great Man

Over the weekend, the gaming community and the world lost a great man.  Mathew was a wonderful human being that always had a kind word to say and a smile on his face.  His presence could light up a room.

 You are loved and you will be missed Mathew JeepMcMuddy Brown.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

REVIEW: U Watch U8 Plus Smartwatch

Review: U Watch U8 Plus Smartwatch
By: Christopher “Synther” Wilson

The wearables market is still in its infancy and is mostly dominated by hands-free Bluetooth headsets.  But there are other wearable devices coming out.  First it was the experiment with Google Glass that fell flat on its face (snicker...snort…) and then came the Smartwatch.  Smartwatch sales are off to a slow start with only 700,000 units shipping in 2014.  The reason for this is threefold: 1.) Price.  Smartwatches and wearables in general, are astronomically overpriced versus their functionality.  2.) Functionality.  They simply don’t do enough on their own to justify their high price and there are no must have apps.  3.) People and their strange sense of privacy.  This is honestly the most perplexing of the three.  People go on and on about how wearables allow others to invade their privacy and then turn around and use a credit card to purchase their groceries.  Fully knowing that their credit card allows for manufacturers and stores to track their purchases and…you guessed it…invade their privacy.  I’m not going to directly say that people are stupid…but if the tinfoil hat fits…

The U Watch U8 nails the first problem by keeping the price down to a minimum.  The second problem is debatable and I still do not find any “must have apps” on the watch, but the price is low enough for the functionality that it at least evens out.  And the U8 doesn’t have a camera, so people can tuck their tinfoil hats back into the pizza box where they belong.

The U8 comes with a number of functions built in and a number of functions can be added via the Android 2.3 or higher app.  Apple iOS users will be out of luck for the additional functions, which consist of notification pushes from literally ALL of your apps.  The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth and will then sync the date/time.  It will push phone calls and SMS natively and push other app notifications via the Android app.  The U8’s home screen consists of five pages that can be swiped to either left or right with four functions per page, not unlike the screen on your phone. 

Some of the more useful functions of the watch are direct access to your phonebook from your wrist, making or receiving calls directly from your wrist (or denying calls), reading SMS messages, seeing who sent you an email and the subject, reading Facebook IM messages, or any plethora of other notification messages.  And, of course, checking the time and date.

Unlike some of the more expensive Smartwatches running Android natively, you only get four watch faces available on the U8.  These consist of two analog and two digital faces.  The default digital watch face has direct access to the phone dialer, pedometer, and Bluetooth.  Unfortunately, these three functions cannot be changed and I’m hard pressed to find a reason why I would want direct access to my Bluetooth from the watch face.  I feel that access to the Phonebook or even the Sleep Monitor would have been a more useful button to place on this watch face.  The only other complaint that I have about the digital watch faces is that you can change the time format from 12-hour to 24-hour but there is no way to change the date format.  Instead, the date format is permanently set to “military/international” format with the day/month/year rather than month/day/year. 
This is really only a problem in the United States because we’re the only ones that want the month first.  Still, I feel that there is enough of a market that this should have been an option.

The analog watch faces are fairly elegant and remind me a lot of a Seiko and Bulova watch.  They maintain an elegant and minimalist watch face and may be a bit more of use for dressing up or just for people that prefer an analog watch.

The bottom of the watch consists of three buttons.  From left to right: Apps, Volume, and Back.  On the right side of the watch, you’ll find a physical “Home” button that powers on/off the watch as well as brings it to life from standby.  I’ve found that the Volume option has multiple functions.  One controls the volume of the watch itself while another controls the volume of apps and voice calls.  But there is no real indication of which is which.  It’s a little hard to explain, but you’ll find the functionality of it once you power the watch off at night and it does it’s little song and dance saying “ByeBye” in a room with a couple of sleeping people.  You may want to turn that down to the 2 or 0 setting.  It’s loud.

As I mentioned in passing, the U8 Plus also includes native apps for a Pedometer (passometer) and a Sleep Monitor.  These can tie into the Android app and give you a fairly detailed look at your “workout” or the quality of your sleep.  The U8, apparently, has a motion tracker in the wrist to accomplish these feats but it is fairly simplistic.  The Pedometer allows you to adjust the width of your step but I’ve found that it seems to over calculate the number of steps taken.  For example: The mailboxes in my apartment complex are maybe a block from the front door of my apartment.  While I suppose it is possibly accurate, I find it hard to believe that I took 597 steps one way to get to the mailbox.  I also noted that the Pedometer will register steps just by shaking your wrist.  So, I find it to be a good tool for at least showing you that you’re doing something, but don’t expect a lot of accuracy from it.  It can still be a fun gadget though.  The Sleep Monitor seems to work on the opposite effect and assumes that if you don’t move, then you must be sleeping.  By this regard, if you play Eve Online and wear the watch on your left wrist, it would have to register you as being in a coma.  Or if you roll around a lot in your sleep, you will be told you have had little sleep.  Again, a fun gadget, but not very accurate.

Packaged with the U Watch U8 is a short USB cable, thus allowing you to charge the Smartwatch, and a watch band removal tool.  This is a nice little bonus, since the U8 can take any 22mm watch band.  The band that comes with the watch is a fairly good padded neoprene but if you want something a little classier (and less sweaty) you have a plethora of options available.  The U8 Plus is also “life water” resistant.  This means that you shouldn’t worry if you get some rain on it or a little water from washing your hands, but don’t wear it in the shower or dunk your wrist in a bucket of water.  I’ve found that battery life will last anywhere from 18 to 28 hours, depending on how many notifications you receive or how many apps you have vibrating your wrist.

I found two “Easter eggs” in the U8 that I have yet to fully explore further.  The first is that you can’t reply to SMS messages directly from the watch.  However, when the message first comes in and displays, you can hit the Apps button and a “Reply” is on the menu.  But this option does not come up when you go to the Messages app.  Tapping on Reply produces a keyboard that consists of about five or six letter and is clearly incomplete.  A friend of mine and I suspect that if you have voice to text enabled on your phone, you could likely speak to the watch and send a text this way.  However, I’ve yet to try this.

The second “Easter egg” was found when I plugged the U8 into my PC to charge it.  The U8 does not come with a replaceable battery, so there was no reason to pull the back off the watch.  When plugged into a PC, the U8 comes up as a USB hard drive with no memory card inserted.  This causes the little techy voice in my head to tell me to pull the back off and see if there is a slot for a micro SD.  That could be a pretty cool way to pack your personal files around!  But, again, I’ve yet to explore this further.

In conclusion, I have to say that the U Watch U8 Plus is a great little Smartwatch that functions exactly as I would need it to function.  I get to feel a little like Dick Tracey talking into my wrist, hang up on people with amazing ease, and get Twitter messages as needed without pulling out my phone.  For functionality and price, I give the U8 a 6 out of 10 stars and recommend it to anyone that wants a little bit of hands freedom from their Smartphone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Do We Receive Such Terrible Customer Service?

Title: Why do we receive such terrible customer service?

By: Christopher “Synther” Wilson

I have no flashy pictures of products to put up for this one, which feels a little weird.  But a recent conversation really pinpointed the issue at hand and gave me some insight into why we get such terrible customer service/technical support 75% of the time we call a 1800 number.  Believe it or not, it isn’t because we’re all stupid.  And I find it hard to actually fully blame the poor guy reading from a script on the other end of the phone.  The answer is simple: Customer Service management is a bunch of imbeciles and the army of plebeians in the call center is receiving horrendous training.

I don’t make this claim lightly.  At one time I was the lead technical support trainer for companies such as Netscape, @Home, and Gateway.  This was all back when customer service actually meant something and was handled correctly.  Today, customer service is seen more as a front line means to cover up any mistakes by the company and defend the company’s position rather than to simply fix the end user’s problem.  Very few companies follow the number one rule to customer service/technical support: When you answer the phone or respond to that email, own the issue and take responsibility.  God forbid that anyone take any responsibility.

Look, I’ve got news for you.  When you signed on to be a customer service rep, you made it your job to always be at fault and to fix it.  That’s your job.  Period.  It isn’t to upsell the end user to a more expensive package, it isn’t to defend the company, and it isn’t to put any blame on the end user.  Own it and take responsibility.  The second rule is to never, ever, assume anything.  Get the information, repeat the information back to the end user, and work with that.  Don’t assume you know something that hasn’t been told to you.  The third rule is to ask close ended questions.  Avoid open ended questions like, “how are you doing today?”  This simply leads to a diatribe of useless information you don’t need.  Be on point and stick to the topic at hand.

I bring this all up because I just witnessed higher end reps for a fairly large gaming company do exactly the opposite of good customer service.  Then, when I called them on it, I was basically told that I was not only wrong but that they didn’t see the difference in how things were handled.  Now they’ve not only handled the issue in a grossly incorrect manner, they’ve compounded it by then trying to defend their completely inept handling of it.  It’s really rather amazing that anyone in customer service can either be this stupid or have such low willpower that they’ve been indoctrinated to tow the company line on such a level.  Let alone to hear this from people that claim to be “lead reps” for said company.
For your edification, here is the incorrect way of handling customer service, just so that we’re on the same page.


Customer contacts you via phone, email, or on a forum and states that their account was hacked.  They’ve had numerous fraudulent charges placed on their credit/debit card.

Rep: “We recommend all users enable two stage authentication on their accounts.”

Rep: “I’ll get you in touch with teir 2 support, since teir 1 is rarely able to give out more information on the nature of this issue and is more suited for handling fraudulent charges.”

So, why was this wrong?  The initial response of telling the customer that it is recommended that two stage authentication is enabled puts the blame on the customer.  As a customer service rep, you signed up to be at fault and to fix it.  Victim blaming for a hack of your network is not taking ownership and it is certainly not taking responsibility.  Whether or not the customer had two stage authentication enabled or if they used the same password on multiple sites/clients is not your issue and is it not your place to assume that this is what happened.  You never, ever, start a customer service call by blaming the victim for what has happened to them.  Not only was this standard customer service/technical support training, any moron would know that this is simply common sense.

The second part of the response may be correct in some situations.  However, in a lot of ways it feels like the rep is simply passing the buck.  “You do what you can until you can’t do any more, then you pass it up to tier 2,” is the usual rule on this.  If the standard procedure is to pass fraudulent charges up to tier 2, then by all means waste no time in doing so.

If you did the above and are unable to see how badly you handled this situation after it is pointed out to you, head directly to a doctor with an MRI machine to make sure you have a brain in your skull.

Almost immediately after having viewed this absolutely disgusting display of customer service, I was fortunate enough to actually receive good customer service.  Not just good, but outstanding!  So, here is the correct way of doing customer service, so that we have a way of seeing the difference.


Customer contacts you via phone/email/or on a forum to state that they have downloaded the new driver for your company’s hardware but that the driver will not install correctly.  The driver never gets to a point where it detects the hardware, but claims it has installed.  It then promptly fails to operate properly.

Rep: “We’re sorry you’re having these issues.  The driver was just released last night and it looks like the wrong file was put up on the server.  Here is a link to the correct driver.  Can you please download the driver again?”

Rep: “If you are continuing to have issues with the driver, can you tell me what the filename of the download is?  What version of Windows are you using?”

What did the rep do correctly here?  They took responsibility for the issue by immediately apologizing for any issues.  They took ownership of the issue by admitting that the incorrect file was placed on the server.  They then gave a 99% probability of fixing the issue by offering a link to the correct file.  The rep then gets bonus points for following up the initial statement by offering further assistance should the new download fail to install properly and by asking closed ended questions to help further his knowledge of what is going on.  This was a masterful display of how to do customer service/technical support correctly.  And it did solve the issue.  Total call time: 5 minutes.

Companies like Comcast and EA have gained reputations, if not awards, for being the worst companies in America for the simple reason that they fail time and again to follow the first three rules of customer service.  Sure, they have some dirty back end deals that you don’t find out about until later, but the initial reason is because they have terrible customer service.  And then they back up that terrible customer service by having leads or managers that attempt to defend their terrible customer service.  In most cases, you can screw your customers all you want as long as you apologize for it and take ownership on the phone when they call you.

I just gave these companies a plainly drawn road map on how to fix their terrible reputation.  I doubt they’ll use it because the people in charge are more concerned with being right than fixing the end user’s issues or how to properly conduct business.  I hope they enjoy getting more awards.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

REVIEW: Revisiting the PRO DSE901 E-Cigarette

Review: Revisiting the AquaVapor PRO DSE901
By: Christopher “Synther” Wilson

It will be two years in February that I quit smoking.  But not just quit.  I was able to quit in three days flat.  This after having been a pack, to a pack and a half, a day smoker for 24 years.  This is after having tried patches, gums, lozenges, and a trial of Chantix.  Patches irritated my skin.  Gums taste terrible.  Lozenges taste terrible.  Chantix made me moody and depressed.  And none of them killed the urge to smoke.  But the AquaVapor PRO DSE901 and a 10ml bottle of 24mg strength AquaVMax Cocoa Mint eLiquid was able to get me off cigarettes in three days.

There were some white knuckle moments in those three days, no doubt.  Day three in particular seemed to be pure torture and there were times that I thought I was going to melt my e-cigarette from over use.  But it held up and things were actually exceptionally easy after that.  But it should be noted that e-cigarettes of any kind are not a smoking cessation device.  They are an alternate form of nicotine ingestion.  The biggest key to not smoking cigarettes anymore is to tell yourself, “I’m not quitting.  I’m simply doing this now instead of smoking.”

No doubt, getting involved with a fantastic local community, the support of friends, the support of my wife and family, and getting into bigger and better mods as a hobby has had its own effect on helping me too.  But two years ago I was a total noob to all this and doing research was difficult because it was really just coming out.

E-cigarettes have been around for almost eight years but they really busted out onto the scene about two and a half years ago when Blu started to flood the market with their kit.  I wanted something that felt like a cigarette and a pack that would recharge the batteries.  But after some research and cost analysis, I found that the Blu e-cigarette really wasn’t that great of a deal.  Instead I settled on the AquaVapor PRO DSE901.  The diameter of the PRO feels like a cigarette in the fingers, the drip tip is akin to a Swisher Sweet cigarillo, and the charging case feels like a pack of cigarettes.  Vapor production is an adequate recreation of an analog cigarette.  Don’t expect huge unrealistic clouds of vapor with this.  The entire package does an excellent job of recreating the smoking experience.

Over the course of these two years, I’ve upgraded a few times.  First it was to Ego style e-cigarettes with CE4/5/6 tanks.  Then it was to a variable wattage Ego style battery.  Then it was to a Smoktech SID variable wattage device with 18650 batteries.  And now my normal device is a Nemesis mechanical mod and rebuildable atomizers.  But every now and then I come back to my PRO DSE901.  It’s elegant, sleek, and small.  It fits inside a jacket pocket without feeling like two rolls of quarters.  And with the 2000mAh battery in the PCC (Personal Charging Case) pack, it does a pretty good job of lasting me throughout most of the day.  Two years later and I would call myself “an advanced vaper,” yet this kit that I started with still works just as well for me as any of my mods.

The standard PRO DSE901 is a three part device with the battery, atomizer, and drip tip cartridge.  What I didn’t know two years ago is that in its normal configuration, the PRO is really what we call a dripper.  This means you drip in e-liquid until the polyfill in the drip tip cartridge is saturated and wet, then put the tip on and vape for about eight to twelve puffs.  You then pull the drip tip off and drip in some more e-liquid to top it off and you’re ready to go again.  This is normal use.  The reason I didn’t know this two years ago is because there was, and still is, a lot of miscommunication on all sides of vaping.

Two and half years ago, it was common advertising practice for companies to state that their e-cigarette cartridges were equal to a certain number of analog cigarettes.  When the Blu first came out, it was often stated that one cartridge was the same as an entire pack of cigarettes.  Later that changed to about a half a pack of cigarettes.  Then they started saying that each cartridge was equal to a certain number of puffs.  All of this is complete crap.  First, there’s no real mathematical way of calculating how many analogue cigarettes are in an e-cigarette cartridge.  It’s simply not possible.  Even if you calculated the amount of nicotine in a particular brand of analogue cigarette, multiplied that by 20 cigarettes in a pack, and then put that much into a cartridge, you still would not have an accurate reading of number of cigarettes per cartridge.  This is because of the second reason: puff counts.  The average vaper will take a five to six second puff on an e-cigarette.  A puff on an analogue cigarette is usually only around three seconds and that’s considered a pretty big drag.  The length of your puff directly relates to how much e-liquid is vaporized.  And last, there is the fact that your body is addicted to a lot more than just nicotine with analogue cigarettes.  There are close to 7000 chemicals involved between what is used in making the cigarette to what is released when you inhale.  An e-cigarette has only four or five and, other than the nicotine, they’re all food grade materials.  The end result is that you’re going to be puffing on that e-cigarette a lot more than you do on analogue cigarettes, at least initially. 

Companies have since given up on equating their cartridges to analogue cigarettes, unless you press them.  Unfortunately, the idea of this has stuck in the public’s mind and it still comes up with people that are either new to vaping or from the completely clueless.  On the vaper’s side of things, they tend to spread misinformation as well.  And they tend to do it with alarming regularity.  Usually this comes in the form of elitism.  “You’re not a real vaper because you’re using a cig-a-like and I’m using a mod.  Everyone knows that cig-a-likes are crap!  Get a real mod, noob.”  This kind of thing is pretty common, though totally incorrect and does nothing to help people that are new to vaping or to those that simply like the smaller size of a “standard” e-cigarette.  The last source of misinformation is from disreputable journalists from questionable “news” sources that say things like, “E-cigarettes Contain 10 Times More Carcinogens Than Regular Cigarettes.”  They post things like this with absolutely no links to the original research.  And if they did post links to the original research, the questions of A.) How was this research conducted?  B.) What eLiquids were used?  C.) Where were those e-liquids made?  D.) What generation of device did you use (using an e-cigarette designed and made in 2007 will yield radically different results than an e-cigarette designed and made in 2014)?  Claiming things like, “e-cigarette vapor was found to contain more formaldehyde than regular cigarettes,” makes one wonder where this imaginary formaldehyde could have come from.  Formaldehyde doesn’t just magically come into creation because you vaporized a mixture of Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, Nicotine, and food grade flavor additives.  It is simply impossible.  So this one statement immediately brings into question how this research was conducted, since the statement makes it obvious that their testing lab was not setup as a clean environment or they were testing e-liquids of questionable make.

The end result of all this is that while there is more information available to people that want to start vaping, the problem hasn’t changed overall.  Two years ago, I found a lack of information and today the information is buried under a pile of virtual bullshit.  All of which the politicians are more than ready to weave into their particular agenda.  If it is about e-cigarettes and you heard it from a politician, it’s probably a lie.  We’re talking about people that can’t even explain how the internet works (it’s a series of tubes, right?) or are willing to block something like Net Neutrality and attempt to convince you that it hinders economic growth.  Can you really expect to believe them on this?  Of course not.

Since there seem to be a lot of self-proclaimed elitists on the internet, allow me to be the first to tell you that if you want an e-cigarette that is relatively close to the smoking experience, get the AquaVapor PRO DSE901.  As I stated, it’s a dripper but if you don’t like dripping there are upgrades available.  The first of these is in the form of cartomizers.  Cartomizers are basically the same as the cartridges you’ll find on Blu, NJoy, or any number of other e-cigarettes.  These are cartridges that contain a coil that is surrounded by polyfill.  You fill them until the polyfill is saturated, blow out the excess, and put it on the battery.  This effectively makes the PRO a two part device.  Personally, I find cartomizers to be a complete pain in the ass.  They’re messy, the way they vape is hit or miss (one is fantastic, another one out of the same box vapes like crap), they leak in the PCC pack out the air hole, etc.  However, there are those that absolutely love them.  They’re not expensive so I can only recommend that you try them out and see for yourself.  I can say that they do have a harsher throat hit, so if that is something you are looking for, cartomizers may be for you.

The next upgrade option is to get a DSE901-T tank atomizer.  These keep the three part design of the PRO, but the atomizer is built with a small spike in the center of it rather than the stainless steel mesh bridge of the standard atomizer.  The spike pushes into the tank cartridge, which contains about 0.8ml of liquid, and feeds the liquid directly to the coil.  If you want less fiddling and you don’t want to drip to top off your e-cig, these work fantastic.  I recommend the low resistance (1.7 ohm) version from Value Vapor.

The most recent creation is the Kanger T4 clearomizer.  These turn your PRO DSE901 into a two piece design and hold 1ml of e-liquid.  AquaVapor has these available in 5-packs in low resistance (1.8 ohm).

For flavor and vapor production, I still prefer the standard DSE901 atomizer and drip tip cartridge.  I don’t mind dripping and I’m used to it.  And if I had known that this was the proper way of using the PRO, I’d have had a much easier time.  One thing that I can suggest is replacing the polyfill in the DSE901 cartridges with organic cotton.  It’s a simple process and a single cotton ball will likely fill all five cartridges in a pack.  I find that the vapor production is a bit better and your cartridges will last longer because you just replace the cotton when it gets worn out.  Aside from the cotton ball, you’ll need some tweezers and about five minutes of time.

You can purchase the PRO DSE901 PCC kit from AquaVapor for $59.99 plus shipping.  Tell them that I recommended it to you and write your own review for them if you like it.  I do suggest getting the kit with manual batteries instead of the automatic batteries.  Manual batteries are sealed and will last you much longer, while automatic batteries allow activation when inhaled but are unsealed and subject to damage from leaks.

For e-liquid flavors it is hard for me to make too many recommendations because it is all about your subjective taste.  But there are a few brands that I like and I can highly recommend.  There are some rather general flavors that I can offer, as well.

Mt. Baker Vapor

These guys offer some of the best e-liquids around with the best flavors I’ve found and with the best prices anywhere.  You can specify the mixture of Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG), the Nicotine strength, and add up to five additional flavor shots (beware…5 extra shots is usually way too much).   I’ve found that a 50/50 mix of PG/VG produces good vapor with excellent flavor, two extra shots of flavor is about right for me, and 12mg strength keeps me pretty satisfied.  Recommended flavors: Thug Juice, Hawk Sauce (the official flavor of Seahawks fans), Afternoon Delight, Peach Rings, Butterscotch, Candy Cane, Grappler.

Northwest Vapors

Yet another company that offers excellent flavor and fair prices.  I usually get Regular (Medium VG) mixture, 12mg strength.  Recommended flavors: DAKool Menthol, True Tobacco, Gummy Peach, Peppermint, Vanilla Smokey, Strawberry Overdose.


These e-liquids tend to be a little stronger in nicotine and are a little more expensive but are excellent.  All of these e-liquids are a 50/50 PG/VG mixture and I usually order them in the 18mg strength, since there is no 12mg option.  Recommended flavors: Cocoa Mint, Cinna Twist, Apple Pie, Cubana, Carolina Leaf, Georgia Special, Menthandy (which is good when mixed with Georgia Special for a very pleasant menthol cigarette…menthol hack!).

Almost two years running and I can go from my Nemesis mech mod with a sub-ohm build Patriot RDA, pick up my PRO DSE901, and be perfectly happy.  It is an excellent device that is well built and continues to operate as if it were brand new.  If that doesn’t state how highly recommended this kit is, I’m not sure what else I can say about it.

PDX Murderous Moppets

PDX Murderous Moppets
Community of Freedom