Schedule a Steam Download

Having a download scheduler is a must if you want to take advantage of your ISP’s (typically overnight) free off-peak period – if you’re lucky enough to have one of course! This is becoming more important as games and online media (such as podcasts) increase in size, thus eating into our woeful data caps at a great rate of bits. Well, until our ISP’s get a little creative and offer cheaper/free data from services like Steam and iTunes I suppose.

Just how big are games these days? As an example, take the last five games I grabbed off Steam: DiRT 3 is 11GB+, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Dead Space are both 7GB+, Medal of Honor Airborne is 6GB+ and Battlefield Bad Company 2 is 5GB+. (Yeah, I got sucked in by some good bargins lately!)

Now that's a big download!

Sadly Steam does not have a scheduler built in, so you either have to set an alarm for the middle of the night (and apologise to the missus in the morning!) or use a little craftyness to schedule a download…

The basic solution I’ve used with success is to use the Windows Task Scheduler to run a game at a set time, which triggers the download+install or update prior to the game launching. Here’s what I did,

  • Buy a game on Steam (well duh!).
  • Initiate the install and start the download, but immediately switch to your downloads list and pause it.
  • Go back to your library, find the game and click the play button (or use a start menu/desktop shortcut) to launch the game. We need to do this to get some housekeeping out of the way – sometimes when you first launch a game you get a “here’s your game key” dialogue that you have to click through first. If you don’t do this housekeeping step the scheduled process will hang on that dialogue box.
  • Click through any dialogue boxes (copying game keys etc) being sure to tick the “don’t show this again” checkbox. This should get the game downloading again (has to happen before you can play it) but immediately pause it again.
  • Start Windows Task Scheduler and create a simple task that launches the game at the start of your free off-peak period. The program you want to run is either the steam executable with the correct game id, or the game exe directly. For example, to run DiRT 3:
    C:\Games\Steam\Steam.exe -applaunch 44320
    where the “-applaunch 44320” goes in the “arguments” box in the scheduler, or,
    C:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dirt 3\dirt3.exe
    where your Steam install folder may of course be different. You can find the applaunch id number from a desktop shortcut – right-click the game in your library to create a shortcut, then look at the shortcut properties to see something like: “steam://rungameid/44320”. To find the game exe, look in the game folder inside the “steamapps\common” folder inside your Steam install folder.
  • Once you’ve setup your simple task to run once at the start of the free period, you should probably test it. Either set the scheduled time for a couple of minutes away and watch it execute (then reset the time afterwards), or run the task manually. If all goes well the task will run and the download will start (pause it again!).
  • Leave Steam running (even if you use the first shortcut example), check your task time, and go to bed! Now hopefully in the morning the game is installed and ready to go – or it may even be running! (but more likely you’ll see the updating dialogue that has the progress bar and “play game” button on it ready to be clicked.)

Of course if the download is slow or simply too big to complete in a short off-peak period, then you may need to check it in the morning and pause the download before the free off-peak period finishes, and repeat the task the next night.

I’ve found I need to leave Steam running as I’ve had trouble starting Steam during my ISP’s free off-peak period. This is pure speculation, but I wonder if some automated filter/prioritisation system is incorrectly seeing Steam traffic as P2P traffic or something and thus blocks/drops packets (as is known to happen on my ISP for connections to torrent trackers during the off-peak period).

So, there you go. That worked for me and allowed me to schedule a large game download overnight. 🙂

If you try it, good luck! …and let us know in the comments – or if you’ve got a better solution until they build a scheduler into Steam (but I shouldn’t hold my breath right?!)

New Google UI

When searching on Google today I noticed a new UI for the results page – lots more whitespace, no-underline links and softer colours including grey sites links in place of green. Apparently it’s common for Google to “test” changes on a set of users – no doubt a small percentage but large number of users given their customer base – and it would appear I’m included.

Here’s what the new and old results pages look like for me on Google.co.nz and Google.com respectively (Firefox 4 on Windows 7 while logged into my Google Account),

New UI:

.

Old UI:

.

Personally I like it, mainly because I’ve been running a very similar colour scheme here on my blog and on my personal site (noble.gen.nz) for some time now. In fact, I think Google just copied my scheme! Ah well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right?!

May the 4th be with you

Nice little nod to Star Wars Day on Trade Me today:

🙂

And less than 12 hours now until the May 4th Star Wars announcement (presumably about the Blu-ray release of the Star Wars series) via maythe4th.starwars.com:

Wild weather and meddling Americans

On my news radar this morning…

Re the Albany tornado:
‘Miracle’ only one death in Auckland tornado: MP
Forecasters had no warning of chaos
with photos and associated videos including here and here

Re the newly amended Copyright Law:
Internet users face flood of warnings
WikiLeaks: US offered to bankroll New Zealand piracy crackdown
IP-Address Is Not a Person, BitTorrent Case Judge Says

Thumbs down to the new Copyright Amendment Bill

By now most people in NZ are probably aware that the Government rushed into law the Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Amendment Bill on Thursday under urgency on the back of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill. Formerly dubbed the guilt-upon-accusation or 3-strike law, this new law includes a revamp of Section 92A that sparked much controversy and backlash in 2009. Instead of providing a run-down here, I’ll throw up a bunch of links worth checking out to see what others have to say. Incidentally, the new bill was supported by both National and Labour and only the Greens, Hone Harawira and Chris Carter opposed it.

The bill itself:

Comments and reactions:

And how’s this for the ultimate in hyprocracy – National MP Melissa Lee, who spoke in favour of the bill, has inadvertently ousted herself as a pirate! Check out the offending tweet and subsequent news story from NBR and TorrentFreak.

Finally, I think this cartoon from around the time of S92A in early 2009 sums up the situation nicely,

Oh, and just in case you were concerned, as noted in the cartoon it’s not subject to copyright. It has been released into the public domain.

Google search for “tilt” on my Android

After seeing this little easter egg mentioned on Google Operating System (-via Search Engine Land) I thought I’d check it out for myself. Here’s the result on my Android:

😀 Nice one Google.

Halloween fun in TF2

It’s been a while since I’ve played some Team Fortress 2, and on jumping in last night I found plenty of changes and some Halloween themed maps and items. Did I mention items. Holy crap batman! As well as seemingly hundreds of items to (randomly) find/collect, there’s a whole trading/purchasing system now?! As well as games of tag inside the main objective-based round? Weird. Man am I out of loop. I can’t help thinking Valve have just been adding fluff to try and keep the game fresh, but I just want the old TF2 experience dammit! Sigh. Am I turning into an old gaming fart or what?! Anyway, here’s a few screenshots…

Sentry gun force field

Ceiling Spy is watching - homage to ceiling cat

Heavy Elvis enjoying a sandvich - with a pumpkin-head Soldier calling for a medic in the background

Damn that Horseless Headless Horsemann!

Blu FTW! Actually I think we lost that round, but I still clocked 100 points as the team's medic 🙂