Archive for the “Addons” Category

In the past few days you may have noticed that whatever tool you use to download the "realm-specific" version of The Undermine Journal addon (that contains auction data specific to you realm) has stopped working. If you had the means, you might have discovered that instead of an HTTP "200" response (meaning all is well) it returned a "402" response (meaning "payment required").  If you were using my little automated update tool, you would be one of those people.

Fortunately, there is an easy remedy.  All you have to do is go to the "realm specific" page and download it directly, ONCE, to prove you are still alive.  The author of TUJ and its addon flipped a switch somewhere so as to shake out any robots that are not actually connected to humans.

So, simple instructions.

  1. Go to The Undermine Journal
  2. Select your realm
  3. Click on SITE in the title bar
  4. Click on "WoW Addon".
  5. Log in using whatever account you would normally use there.
  6. Scroll down to "Addon Download"
  7. Select whatever realm(s) you are interested in.
  8. Copy the URL of the "Download Your Addon Here" link (in FireFox, it’s right-click and then "copy link location")
  9. Save the link you copied – you’ll need it later.  I usually use a Windows7 post-it.
  10. Left-click on that link and download the file – you can use it or not.

Now, if you’re using my little automation script, you need to go open it up in your favorite text editor, and change the line that has the URL that you used previously, and replace it with the one that you just recently copied.  After that, all should be well.

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After patch 5.4.2 was applied, you may have noticed something like this:

Notice anything missing?

Notice anything missing?

No matter who it was, the nameplates no longer showed the names, making them just ‘plates’.  If you used something like TidyPlates you might not have this problem, but there were a lot of other people that did.  What was up?

The first clue emerged on the forums – if you had Tekkub’s Tekticles installed, which modified the fonts used in game, you might have this problem.

But if you weren’t using Tekticles, and still had that problem?  Look for an app called BetterFont – "!BetterFont" on your addon panel, and thus near the top.  If you have this installed, disable it. You’ll probably no longer have the problem.

If you have neither of these, search out other font-altering addons.  If unsure, disable them all, and then enable each one, one at a time, until the problem occurs again. That’ll be the addon causing the issue.

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Here’s the problem

Not one to mince words here. If you are using MMOUI Minion, WoW Interface’s “auto-updater” tool, you need to know that it’s either broken or going to break soon for you.

Here’s why.

MMOUI Minion is based off of the Java virtual platform (Often referred to as the JRE, or Java Runtime Environment).  This is a programming language that has gained so much mass that it has curled in the universe around it, giving itself its own “platform” status, similar to “PC” or “Mac” or “Amiga”. This is marketed as a virtue – “write once, deploy anywhere” – and for that reason it is very popular among non-system programmers – web programmers, smart phone programmers, etc.

Java is owned by Oracle, and is very aggressively promoted and supported. There are regular updates, and therein lies the problem. Recently, Java 7 was released and many people, when asked, said “Yes” to the question, “Would you like to update for free?”1

Now, normally this sort of thing has two aspects.

  • There is the HOORAY aspect in which everyone benefits from new features, either immediately or somewhere down the road.  Not necessarily YOU, mind you, but maybe a programmer, corporation, or ad man somewhere is cheering the release of Java 7 right now.
  • There is also an OMG SADFACE aspect, in which some things cease to work.  This is not unexpected. Interfaces change, and programs may need to be recompiled or rewritten to accommodate that.  In that case, you go to the website of the offending program, look at the forums, and find out when they plan on updating the program so that it works again.

I think you see where this is going.

MMOUI Minion was written in such a way that it broke when Java 7 was installed.  Well, that’s the breaks, but surely there’s a fix ready to go. After all, any pro Java coder will probably be working on that well ahead of the Java 7 release, using beta releases of the platform, much as addon authors do with the PTR so that their addons are ready when the patch day comes.

I searched in vain, and finally found some comments on the WoW Interface fora that alluded to the Minion app being abandoned. There was no announcement. There was no posted workaround. The download page is still there. For the love of the Titans, there wasn’t even a bug report!  Well, maybe there was, but I can’t see it. All bug reporting has been redirected to an external website – behind an authentication wall, so you can’t even RESEARCH whether a fix is forthcoming.

This kind of behavior just gets on my nerves. I mean, at least post an announcement and a workaround, or an announcement that it’s abandoned at the very least.  Or take down the download page, at the very very least! To do otherwise is very disrespectful to the users.

Here’s a solution

So the problem is that when you installed Java 7, the MMOUI Minion file itself was not upgraded. It will still work fine if Java 6 is used.  So we need two things.  We need (1) Java 6, and we need (2) to make MMOUI Minion use it.  Neither is exactly straightforward, but neither is impossible, either.

Getting the software2

  • Go http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jre6downloads-1902815.html.
  • Select the Accept License Agreement button (the “red” circle).
  • Select the Windows download of your choice (the “pink” circle). There are three variants – x86 offline and online3, and Windows 64.  If you’re not sure if you need the Win64 version, select the x86 version.
  • Click on the appropriate link and download it.
  • Once you’ve downloaded it, run the installer.  You want to make sure that it goes into its own directory – for example, on my PC it’s C:\Program Files\Java\jre6\, leaving Java 7 in C:\Program Files\Java\jre7\.4

Setting it up

Okay, you got Minion and you got Java 6.  Here’s where we put it all together.

  • Locate your MMOUI Minion icon.
  • Right click on it to bring up its properties dialog.
  • Select SHORTCUT.
  • Under “Target” you should see: “C:\Program Files\MMOUI Minion\minion.jar” ((Or something very similar. Once again, if you chose other than the default, I trust you know how to translate my instructions.))
  • Change this to: “C:\Program Files\Java\jre6\bin\java.exe” -jar “C:\Program Files\MMOUI Minion\minion.jar” This will force Java 6 to be used to run the program.
  • Select the APPLY button and close the dialog.

Double-click the icon to test out your work. If all is well, you’ll see a console window pop open, then the Minion program.  Unfortunately, you may have to re-configure it if you recently re-installed in a desperate attempt to make it work.  Sorry, can’t help you there.

If you’re annoyed by the console window, however, I CAN help.

  • Reopen the properties dialog for the icon (right-click).
  • Next to the RUN label, select MINIMIZED. (It was previously set at NORMAL WINDOW).
  • Hit APPLY again and close the dialog.

And that’s it!  I hope this has helped you.


  1. And hopefully “No” to the question, “Would you like a useless crufty piece of crep toolbar installed in your browser?” Well, they stated it more kindly, which is to say, they lied. []
  2. This is for Windows. Mac Heads, you’re on your own. But you’re our wisest computer users, so I have faith in you. []
  3. I recommend the offline version because there’s no telling when the online version will get hidden behind an authentication wall. []
  4. This is largely arbitrary and dependent on how you personally set up your system. I assuming that if you put your Java Runtime Environment somewhere other than the default, you already know enough to sort this out. []

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This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Addons (not to) Die For

In part one of this mini-series, I worked up to a more-or-less raid-ready user interface. In this part, we’ll fill in the blank spots with the UIs that make your life less tedious and/or boring in-game.

Overall Appearance

BetterFont does one thing – gives you a better default font to use in the game.  People with bad eyes such as myself are usually quite grateful for little visibility tweaks like this.

eAlign is one of those addons that you don’t use a lot, but is very useful for tweaking sessions. It puts a grid up on the screen against which you can align your UI elements so that they’re in a straight line.  One chat command brings it up, and banishes it again when you’re done.

Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text is a replacement for all scrolling battle text; if it only did that, I wouldn’t use it, though, since I prefer to keep the default battle text (damage appears over the head of your victims, rather than in one place, which MSBT does). I turn off the scrolling battle text overrides but keep the additional features that it adds, such as telling you how much of a thing you have in your bags when you collect one (such as herbs).

Que’Level just sticks the level of a quest in front of its description, so as to help you sort out which ones to do first (like, before they go gray).

kgPanelsTipTac totally replaces the default tooltip feature of the game, expanding it so that NPCs will also display debuff and buff icons and so forth. One of those generally invaluable tweaks.

Finally, kgPanels doesn’t do much in the way of functionality, but it does help you spruce up the appearance of your UI. I presented one example here.

Auctions

AuctionLiteThere are many auction-specific addons, but I prefer AuctonLite to others due to its smaller footprint and quantity-specific buying features. However, it lacks a number of advanced features, which others bring to the table.  I’ve taken a different approach will be explained later. For the time being, keep Auctionator and Auctioneer in mind if  you need more powerful features.

Trade Skills / Professions

Big in MoP is farming, and Farmhand brings very useful features to the table, affording one-click planting, trouble crop tracking, and auto-discard of farm implements when you leave Halfhill.   The trouble crop tracking annoys at times because it always only marks ONE example of any particular trouble type, rather than ALL.

Hand in hand with farming is fishing, which is used to get raw materials for cooking along with your garden vegetables. Fishing Buddy offers several convenience features, such as auto-lures, easy casting, and stat keeping. Its only real weakness is that it doesn’t know how to work with the new feature that allows you to fish without having a pole equipped.

Archeology Helper offers many convenience functions that speed up surveying and digging; however, since I haven’t done any archeology since MoP launched, I don’t know if it still works.

RoutesGathermate2 and Routes go hand in hand to help you manage your herb, fishing, and ore farming. Routes … doesn’t appear to be actively maintained, but it’s hanging in there for now, so fingers crossed.

Reagent Tree is great for figuring out what recipes you and your alts know, what mats you need, where they are, and how to get them.

SkilletSkillet, and its relative Advanced Trade Skill Window, provide means to queue crafting tasks, determine what you can and cannot make, and otherwise make the trade skill window a lot less painful to use. I started using the former when the latter developed serious lag-inducing behaviors.

Postal automates a lot of the tedium of opening lots of mail, mailing it off, etc. For example, when I cancel all my glyph auctions that have been undercut, I generally have 400-500 mails in my inbox; this automates opening them and sorting them into the bags.


TSMTradeSkillMaster
is a suite of tools that makes it easier to auction things off, find mats on the AH, track where items are, how much they generally bring, and so forth. It’s a complex little beastie but our glyph business would be dead without it.

Finally, The Undermine Journal’s addon provides you with up to date prices on items, what they’re actually selling for rather than what they’re vendoring for. There is a general purpose version available on Curse, or you can download a realm-specific version that updates many times a day, guaranteed to have the most accurate prices of all.  We’ve created a Python script to automate this task.


Inventory

Managing bag space is always a joy, right?  And addons that make it easier, moreso.

Adi-show-bagsAdiBags is my current weapon of choice. A while back we reviewed this addon and were not as impressed, but we got feedback and gave it another try.  If it stopped working, I’d quickly go back to TBag.

One of the things that AdiBags was missing at the time of its review was a way to view other toons’ inventories.  BagSync provides this utility in a bag-addon-agnostic fashion.

Finally, failing to keep consumables stocked up can be embarrassing, though not as much as it used to be with Warlock shards and Hunter bullets and other reagents.  Steal Your Carbon automates the task of buying these whenever you open up a window at the appropriate vendor. Do note: it is not 100% reliable, so make sure it works reliably.  My experience is that it fails on a per-character basis, rather than pre-account.

Gear

RatingBusterRating Buster come to my attention when it was recommended by BRK back in the day. It’s a tool that compares an item’s stats with your own gear’s. It’s still trundling along, though it’s not current with MoP (last update was for 4.3.4). I use it for rough estimates, with custom weights, and my own tool for final decisions.  The beta version is more up to date, so if you use the Curse client, you can select that.

Pawn is a more current addon, but doesn’t directly interface to the tooltips like RB does. It uses weights from WoWHead or allows for custom weights. When an item that’s a definite upgrade for you appears in a loot roll, it makes real sure you know it with bright colored arrows.  Naturally, it doesn’t agree 100% with the other tools, so you’ll need to use your judgment. It also provides guidance on reforging, gemming, and enchanting.

VendorBaitVendorBait is useful when leveling; quest rewards that are an upgrade are highlighted. If no upgrades are available, then the one with the best vendor price is highlighted.  Unfortunately it doesn’t offer an option as to which would DE to a better enchanting mat, but there are addon for that if you need them.

MogIt is more a social app in that it merely allows you to browse different gear and model it on your character for purposes of finding the best (for you) transmog set.  I usually disable this unless I’m in search of mog fodder.

Maps

MapsterThere has been nothing even close to the legendary Cartographer for map managment, but Mapster plus TomTom (or TomTomLite) provide a lot of its features. I haven’t found anything else to fill that gap.

ChinchillaWhen Squeenix finally kicked the bucket, Chinchilla Minimap was more than a replacement, and a lot less “weighty” than some of the other minimap replacements such as SexyMap.


Social

Ara Guild FriendsAra Broker Guild Friends is an addon that puts two displays up on your LDB display (such as ChocolateBar) and shows how many of your friends and guildmates are online. Hover over either display, and a dropdown panel appears showing details related to your friends and guild.  A lot more convenient than the full-on friend and guild displays.

Friend & Ignore Share basically propagates your friends and ignores across all of your toons; friend someone on one toon, and it automatically friends them on your alts when you log in.

Chatter is one of two good chat replacements; I was using Prat until it broke, then changed to Chatter because I was impatient (Prat’s back up to date again). Both offer similar features, such as colorization based on class, guild rank, faction; timestamp and level tweaks; chat tab management and filtering.

WIM is a small IM-like window for private chat, including your battle.net and RealID friends. It can even notify people when you’re in the middle of a fight.

Rares and Reputation

NPCScan (and its map overlay companion) notifies you whenever you come within range of a rare spawn, and optionally marks it with a symbol. Hunters of rares will use this or Silver Dragon, depending on your preferences.

Ara Broker Reputations provides a convenient drop-down interface to the reputations panel, providing a quick overview of where you stand with various factions.

Pets and Mounts

I haven’t touched battle pets since Cata first came out, so I’m not going to pretend to know what’s good in this regard any more.

GupPet is a random pet and companion summoning tool; it allows you to filter out those mounts or companions you don’t want to summon, if you feel so inclined.   It does tend to lag behind the state of the game with regards to what is available to summon, so you may need to hack it yourself.  We have a guild on how to do that.

Utility

Addon Control Panel (ACP) helps you keep addons turned off until you need them, or turn them off when you don’t need them any more. It also provides useful information such as how much memory the child addons of an addon suite (such as all 40 parts of Pitbull) are consuming when loaded.

Better Blizz Options is a quiet little addon that just tweaks the Blizzard option panel a little, such as making it movable and resizable.

BugGrabber will intercept those error windows that appear when one of your addons dies; BugSack will collect them and let you browse them at your leisure.

WoWHeadWoWHead Looter is part of the WoWHead client, and basically collects stats on what you loot, gather, or otherwise come across. It does nothing for you directly, but does feed back to WoWHead, thus making it more accurate, which benefits us all.  Consider it a way of paying WoWHead back for the years of useful data you’ve pillaged.

That’s a Wrap

Aaaand that’s all!  Probably around 80 or 90 addons accounted for.  I hope this has proven useful to you. I don’t think I’ll try this again! :)

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This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Addons (not to) Die For

Two objectives here: (1) share with you, Gentle Reader, the addons that help me through the day, and (b) solicit recommendations for better. Simple enough?

Quick Definition: what’s an addon?

Addons are little programs written in a language called LUA that interface to the WoW game client using a carefully exposed API (Application Programming Interface).  It is not intended to take over playing the game for you, and in fact that sort of addon1 is explicitly forbidden by the Terms of Service (ToS) for WoW.

Thus, these addons have a narrowly defined purpose and functionality; usually cosmetic, though often the cosmetics are pretty far out.

The purpose of using them is to make your WoW life nicer, easier, more enjoyable. However, some have become nigh-required in certain situations.  I will point those out as I go along.

We’ll work this from the most essential to least; working up to a raid-ready UI in part 1 (this part), and then covering the less-necessary convenience addons in part 2 (the other one).

I apologize, but I won’t be doing PvP addons. I suck at PvP and would have very little to offer in useful advice.

Unit Frames

DefaultUIUnit frames are those little panels that have a character’s stats, such as health, mana, level, name, and so forth.  Illume did a whole series on unit frame addons two years ago, but the essentials are still the same.  You’ll need to do some research on which ones are still supported, but the big names are still active.  Right now I’m using Shadowed Unit Frames, which covers what I need covered, rather than something a little more involved like PitBull.

IcdHUDAnother useful addon of this sort is a Heads Up Display, or HUD.  So happens we did a review of those as well, back in 2011. For most people I’d recommend IceHUD, but for myself I’ve gone with a modified version of CircleHUD, which is worth it if you’re up to hacking some config files.

GridRaidFinally, for my healers, I use Grid 2; this wasn’t part of the above Unit Frames overview, but its predecessor, Grid, was. Grid2 implements a lot of the additional addons that Grid required to be really useful, so it’s a net positive.

Buttons, buttons!

The default UI has several default button bars, and a few that you can turn on as well, but button bar addons take it to a new level, allowing you to change the shape, appearance, and position of all your buttons. They also allow you to shoot yourself in the foot, so you need to be careful. For example, button bar 7 is actually used by the default UI for stance changes; you don’t normally see it as a button bar on its own, but if you mess with it in an addon, you can really get confused when you stance-dance. Cautious tweaking is advised.

Button BarsFor my own modding I use Dominos, which actually does more than just the button bars – it also lets you reposition the loot roll panel, cast bar, XP/Rep bar, and more.

Bartender 4 is also a fine alternative.  I ended up on Dominos after Bartender3 went AWOL for an extended period of time. Just me being impatient. :)

OmniCC puts cooldown indicators right on those buttons, and is so useful that you can almost use your button bar as an aura tracker in some cases.

Masque allows you to apply “skins” to your buttons, changing the shape, size, and appearance in a uniform manner. Masque isn’t limited to your button bars, either – among the addons it’ll dress up are GupPet and Bison (both which I’ll cover later). ButtonFaçade is the predecessor to Masque and shouldn’t need to be installed unless you have an older addon that requires it.

Clique makes binding actions to your mouse and buttons so easy it’s amazing.  I use it to bind, for example, my healing spells to various mouse buttons for the hover target, or the hover target’s target.  I would rank it much more critical than the button bar addon, in fact.

Auras

BuffsAuras are things like buffs and debuffs, and tracking these are a really big deal, especially when you get into raiding2. The default Blizzard interface is decent enough, but Bison takes it to a new level, allowing you to move things around and split them up. It also supports Masque skinning, so you can make this part of your UI consistent with your button bar.

NeedToKnow is another popular addon for aura tracking, but I did not have a positive experience with it.

WeakAuras is my weapon of choice when it comes to really powerful tracking options.  Where Bison displays common buffs in a manner consistent with Blizzard’s default, WA expands what it will track and gives you powerful notify options.  I use it to track many things, such as missing buffs (well fed, fortitude, etc) when critical actions are available (cooldowns and so forth), and when certain conditions exist on the target (needs reapplication of a debuff, for example).  It is a well-rounded and capable addon.

PowerAuras predates WeakAuras, and was my weapon of choice up to the point that PA started to balk on tracking certain pet-related conditions.  It is under renovation so I may go back, eventually, if it proves lighter on its feet.  TellMeWhen has an interesting interface, but it didn’t allow me to define certain auras for tracking across multiple alts.

Status / Info Displays

ChocolateDisplay bars have been common for quite some time, such as FuBar and Titan Panels.  Later technology now involves something called the LibDataBroker API, so some of the older display bar systems eventually broke.  At that point, I moved to ChoclateBar, as it natively supports LDB.

Attached to it, I have several little tools and displays.

  • Broker Currency – displays various currencies on my toon, also tracks alts. What currencies to track is configurable.
  • Broker Equipment – Swap between equipment sets, show which one’s equipped.
  • Broker Garbage – shows what items in your bags are garbage, automatically dumps garbage when you talk to a vendor.
  • Broker DualSpec – Shows what spec you’re using, swaps you between specs as needed.
  • Repair Broker – Shows overall equipment durability status, automates repairs when you talk to an appropriate vendor
  • shPerformance – shows latency, memory consumption, frame rate

SkadaSkada is a DPS/HPS/Threat meter combo. It automatically swaps between these modes based on the circumstances. An alternative DPS/HPS meter is Recount, and in that situation you will need something like Omen to track threat.

I use Skada over the other two for two reasons: 1) it takes less memory, and 2) the DPS meter seems to give lower numbers, which I prefer.  I’m looking at the DPS meter for opportunities for improvement, not e-Peen.  The lower number ensures I don’t get complacent.

Raiding

Okay, you’re outfitted with all the right mods to do your best, now we step into raids and encounters.

DBMThe defacto standard for this kind of addon is Deadly Boss Mods, or DBM as most call it. It tracks encounter events, event-specific buffs and debuffs proximity to harmful things (such as your fellow raiders), and has a number of ways of presenting this information to you.  It focuses on current raid content but offers modules for older raids, heroics, and other encounters such as world bosses and holiday events.  It’s huge, but also modular, so it doesn’t have a gigantic download profile every time a raid boss is updated.

Alternatively, BigWigs (and its 5-man consort, LittleWigs), presents a lightly more modern interface, but doesn’t seem to keep up as well with the changing endgame boss situation, or at least didn’t so much during Cata, so I landed back in DBM-land.

Boss Notes lets you create information specific to boss encounters in a way that you don’t have to dig for it. For example, you could write up which spec, glyphs, and talents were needed to best perform on a per-boss basis, and use that as a guide to prepare.

Raid Checklist might sound like something similar, but it’s far more generic in that it simply lets you know which buffs are missing / needed. Hunters especially find this useful for helping pick out the right pet for buffage purposes3.

Finally, GTFO is a general-purpose early-warning system that lets you know when you’re about to get in trouble – standing in bad, low mana, low health, etc.  Useful in and out of raids.

To be Continued

In part 2, I’ll cover the convenience-based side of the coin: bag mods, professions, social, and so forth.

See you then!


  1. Called a Bot. []
  2. Though most raid addons will alert you to encounter-specific debuffs, it’s best not to count on it. []
  3. Argh, don’t get me started again! []

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You may not believe it, but addons are severely limited in what they can do.  Mostly, they are driven off of "events" which they can react to, or they’re re-imaging of something that already exists.

Warning, technical bits

Addons that have a lot of animation or fast reacting indicators, such as cast bar replacements ala Quartz, usually trigger off of an event called "OnUpdate".  It fires every time the current "frame" (i.e. your screen) updates, and it’s the only event of its kind. Thus, the higher your FPS ("Frames per Second"), the more often this guy fires.  If you have low FPS, all animations tend to be choppy, including your addons.

Because it fires so often and is at the heart of your FPS, OnUpdate even "handlers", such as the code routine that updates your cast bar, are supposed to be kept small and focused. All the stuff that sets the texture, size, position, and other frippery associated with the cast bar, for example, will be done elsewhere. We try to restrict the OnUpdate handler, in this case, to calculating and drawing the cast bar, nothing else, and then handing off to the client so it can get about the business of rendering.  If we put stuff here that takes a long time to do, it will drag the system FPS down.

What this means to you

There are a few conclusions you can draw with this knowledge.

Addons count

The addons you have loaded will affect your client’s performance.  Furthermore, those with no OnUpdate handler will impact performance far less than those that use one.  I don’t suggest you learn to read LUA source code as much as be familiar with what addons are high-impact with animations and critical indicators, such as Quartz or any unit frame addon. The more of these you have, the more delay there is in rendering each frame, until your FPS starts to decline.

You can’t eliminate this, but you can mitigate it.

The fewer, the better

The first principle is that the more active addons you have, the less responsive your client will be.  So if you can eliminate addons that you don’t really need, that will help performance. Sometimes it’s a matter of disabling those that you only use from time to time, such as MogIt – which does have some real-time components, but nothing you need in the middle of a raid. 

Quality Counts

Comparative testing of addons is a must, to eke out every bit of performance. The best approach is to get a little FPS addon (or just use CTL+R to turn on the built-in one), then find a quiet place to test your candidates.  For example, all else being equal, try each HUD addon and look for dramatic drops in FPS. Any obvious outliers can be given the boot.

A good place to test your candidates is in the entrance of just about any instance. Avoid those with a lot going on – e.g. Violet Hold or ICC – and opt instead for those that have nice, quiet staging areas, like Karazhan.

Easy Upgrade

All other things being equal, if your client’s main issue is with framerate under load, a simple video card upgrade may do the trick.  I’m running a Radeon 5000 series card which I purchased for under $100 over a year ago, and get on average 30 fps in cities.  I have a lot of problems in 25- and 40- man raids, though. Purchasing another identical card and coupling it with the one I have already will improve matters a lot, and that will also improve the performance of all my high-impact addons.

Or, I could upgrade to the next tier of Radeon, a 6000 or 7000 series, whichever is available in my price range from my favorite vendor (I prefer Gigabyte solid cap boards because electrolytes are icky)1.

It isn’t just WoW that will improve, I’ve found. So many apps and games use similar mechanics for updating high-activity visual components that a nice video card upgrade.

So, protip – if you buy to last, you can stretch a PC’s life a long time with video card upgrades.


  1. Example only, but oho, looky, under $100! []

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I was both surprised and pleased to learn that there are already a lot of addons for the Pet Battles system.  I was also surprised there was a need for them, but upon using the system, it became apparent why that was so. They apparently keep the original design team from 2001 on hand to get the ball rolling on new interface elements. The Battle Pet interface thus isn’t unusable, but, merciful Light, it can use a bit of help.

I’ve taken some time to go through all the addons I could lay hands on, the results which follow. I hope it proves useful.

Team Managers

After the Pet Merge of 2012, most avid players have a multitude of potential battle pets to choose from, and, if you’re like Team Grimmtooth, each alt has preferences.  You may have noticed, however, that whatever team is set up for one toon, shows up for all toons, even across servers.  So what’s needed here is a way to simplify the job of setting up the battle team for each toon.  Fortunately, the WoW addon community has you covered.

PetBattle TeamsPetBattle Teams

PBT’s biggest draw is the huge number of teams you can assemble. I’d be happy with ten or so for all the alts, but this one makes sure there is plenty of breathing room. The controls for building a team take a little bit of getting used to, but the controls for switching teams is simplicity exemplified. Open your pet journal, click on the team you want, move on.

What is missing, for me, is a means to name / label each team meaningfully. Eventually, there will be a dedicated team for each of my toons here, and labels make that a lot simpler.

Which leads right up to the other contender in this category.

Battle Pet Tabs - 3 TeamsBattle Pet Tabs

This one only offers eight saved teams, which is probably plenty for most folks. It also lets you set macros for each team, and name them in a significant-to-you manner.

Battle Pet Tabs - Highlighting a team tabThe most pleasant surprise is that even with three teams configured, this addon still used very little memory. True, it spiked to around 200K, but it let go of most of that when the garbage collector came by1.

Unless you’re looking to set up a LOT of teams, this one seems to be the better choice.

Well, almost.

There’s a bug … it forgets your teams between logins. Assuming this gets fixed, this is my choice.  If not, well, good memory without nametags is better than non memory at all, amirite?

Update: I’m reading in the online comments at Curse that there is a conflict between this and PetJournal Enhanced. If I had to discard one of the two, it would be the other one. But I’d like to have both. I hope they get this sorted.

Pet Journal Enhancements

The Pet Journal contains a lot of filters and other organization tools.  But pretty much every default UI element has been enhance, and this is no different.

PetJournal Enhanced

PetJournal Enhanced

This does two things, primarily.

It adds new sorting options to the sorting menu, allowing such things as sort-by-level. Additional filters are also added, so you can, for example, filter by the zone you’re in, which is pretty spiffy if you’re in that mode already!  :)

Secondly, additional pet info is provided for all the pets, allowing you to see at a glance several relevant things about your pet, such as what kind of pet it is (“tanky, speedy, powerful”), as well as its rarity.

Now, at 285K, it’s the heavyweight of all of our candidates, but toting around a database of information can do that.  And as far as size goes, relative to some addons, it’s pretty slight.

As noted above, there may be some conflict between this and Battle Pet Tabs. Hopefully that gets cleared up. That does lower the score of both just a bit, however.

LibPetJournal-2.0

Because this addon will almost invariably show up in your searches, I mention it now.

This is a library of software routines to enhance the Pet Journal, but it is not a program that will run on its own. I do not encourage downloading it separately, as those that need it, have it incorporated.

For example, PetJournal Enhanced (above) happens to use this library, so you get it automatically if you use that addon.

Tooltip Enhancers

By far the most popular enhancement type I’ve seen so far is the tooltip enhancer. These in some way enhance your tooltips, under a variety of circumstances, to help you organize your pet collection and make decisions as to whether to engage a wild pet, or what team makeup to use, or so forth.

The really useful enhancers work in the wild, hovering over a pet, hovering over its unit frame, hovering over it on the mini map, as well as hovering over its nameplate during a battle.  Some also do this for auction house pet crates2. One or two seem to be dedicated only to AH tooltips; I didn’t really test that aspect.

BattlePet Count 2

BattlePetCount

This one is my favorite of this type. The tooltip is clean and clear, shows ALL of the pets of that type that you might already have, and works with the minimap. The Minimap tooltip is abbreviated but helpful. The in-battle tooltip works with the battle pet unit frames.

It’s a little heavy on the memory, but it appears to be put to good use.

Pet Known

This one didn’t work for me – might have been an issue with TipTac, as someone else noted, but you know what? Plenty of tool tip addons get along fine with it, so I’m thinking TipTac isn’t the problem.

That may come off a bit harsh, but trust me, I can be harsher.

Trapper's Sense

Trapper’s Sense

I liked the look of the toopltips that this one generated.  There are a couple of problems.

First of all, it doesn’t work with the minimap. This is not a show-stopper by any means, but it does fall short of a reasonable bar.

Secondly, if you have less than three of the sort of pet being looked at, you will get LUA errors. Now, with my setup, I have something that catches them (Bugsack and BugGrabber, which I highly recommend), but not everyone is so fortunate.  Hopefully, this gets fixed, because it has promise.

And the minimap thing would be nice, too.

Pet Counter

This is one of those that I’m not certain if I was supposed to restrict myself to auction house crates or not, but as said above, I didn’t test that3.

At any rate, in the wild it did nothing.  Tooltips under all circumstances tested were unmodified.  And then it got worse.

Whenever this addon was active, WoW eventually became unstable and crashed to destktop.  I am always amazed when this happens with an interpreted language such as LUA or Python, because what it’s actually exposing is a defect in the interpreter – in this case, WoW – that isn’t being handled properly.   So I’m half alarmed, half impressed, at this.

Pet Caught 2

PetCaught

Sometimes the best thing you can say about a tool is that it does what it says on the tin. That’s what we have here. At 9K memory consumption, it does a pretty decent job in exchange for very few resources. It even works with the mini-map.

Battle Mods

Battle mods affect the actual pet battle frames that are used in some way, adding enhancements, altering appearances, etc. They seem to fall into two buckets – functional, and cosmetic.

Pet Battle Pokemon Mod

This one does exactly what it says; it plays Pokemon music and sound effects. For aficionados of the old classics, this will probably be a lot of fun. For neophytes like myself, it really doesn’t do anything useful.  But, hey, I know the nostalgia thing, and this will no doubt feed that.

Technically, I liked its easy setup, its well-put-together configuration pane, and the fact that my volume control worked. :)

Pokemon Trainer 2

Pokemon Trainer: The Pet Battle Mod

The purpose behind this mod is to get the important information about your pets and the opposition where you can see them. It does this very well, and as you see above it does it in a fairly intuitive manner.

It also provides the same sort of information in the tooltips for creatures found in the wild.  Unfortunately, it also apparently nukes the tooltips from other battlepet tooltip addons, so, for the time being, you have to pick one or the other.

Pet Battle Music

This one requires hackery to configure, i.e. editing a LUA file in a text editor. Out of the box, it really doesn’t do much of anything, and it comes with dire warnings that should make the average person’s hair stand on end.

GotAwaySafely

This eliminates the confirmation dialog if you forfeit a battle. I’m not sure what problem this solves, but it does exactly what it claims.  And its footprint is so tiny that it doesn’t show on any memory meter I had on hand.

rPetBattleAnnouncer rPetBattleAnnouncer (StreetFighter)

Purely cosmetic, but you street fighter fans will probably get a kick from it.  The above presents itself every time you start a pet battle, and also offers something nobody else does: a way out before you get started.

e

Pet Battle Quality Glow

I heard about this one on WoW Insider, and it’s a really good one.  All it does is put a quality-indicator glow around the border of whatever pets are on display; above, the opponent’s beetle is Uncommon, thus its border is green.

It also provides the same glow and verbiage (common, rare, etc) in tooltips.

This is excellent and simple and very tiny; things I approve of in an addon.

Others

BattlePets List

Update: Before you read my comments, note that Reader Thelandira/Sheeturself pointed out in comments that the results you get from this addon are dependent on how you have your filters set up in the Pet Journal.  It won’t show anything that doesn’t get through the filter.  Thanks for pointing that out!

It’s also possible that PetJournal Enhanced may interfere with it since it has its own additional filtering, and BPL may not be getting anything it can use as a result.

This is a chat window tool, and, according to its description, it should show you the list of available battle pets in a specific area.  Unfortunately, it never did work as advertised. The best I could get was for it to tell me of pets I already knew in Stormwind.

It’s very tiny. Maybe its database didn’t get shipped with it. I’m not really sure what else to do with it.

One other thing that I did not like was that it CAN take the name of an area, such as “Stormwind”, and give you a list of pets in that area (Assuming it worked); however, “stormwind” would not work, because it is case-sensitive.  I sincerely believe that case sensitivity is the Devil’s work.  I realize that WoW itself has that issue, and this addon is probably relying on WoW stuff to get info, and thus inherited that weakness, but it’s still the Devil’s work.

Additional Considerations

While this is not related to Battle Pet addons per se, something to look for is interaction with the Battle Pet interface. Especially, things like addons that might get in the way, such as those that alter the Viewport such as Fubar or Sunn. ChocolateBar Broker Display, as an example, has a configuration setting to hide it when you are in pet battles4. As you can see by some of my screen shots, IceHUD does not (but here’s hoping.).

Some Conclusions

Mem Chart

I’ve broken down the memory results for all the different addons. Some explanation of terminology seems to be in order:

  • Base – The memory used after the game loaded and I logged in, and after I kicked off the garbage collector5. This represents the addon in its quiescent state. Any addon that used LoD6 was not forced to load, as the intent here was to see what it looked like just idling.
  • Open – The memory used after using the addon. This does not include configuration windows. For pet journal enhancements, this means after opening the pet journal; for tooltip enhancements, after getting an appropriate tooltip to appear. For battle enhancements, it’s measured during battle.
  • 1, 2, and 3; for those addons that worked differently based on the number of pet teams involved, I tried to break down the additional load per pet team.

The tool I used to read memory was Addon Control Panel, which is unwieldy as all hell, but does allow direct reading of individual addons and components, something none of the other tools I tried will do.

Ratings

At this link are some arbitrary ratings for all the addons tested, base solely on my own testing.  3 = worked and didn’t crash; 0 = didn’t work at all; 4 means it was actually enjoyable, and 5 is reserved for home runs. :)


  1. Garbage Collection in programming terms is the reclaiming of unused memory. Sometimes a program will need a big chunk to sort things or make a list to show the user or something, but afterwards it doesn’t need it, so the virtual machine (VM – WoW, in this case) that it is running in will occasionally reclaim any memory it can to use for other things. Failure to do so results in what is called a “memory leak” and can eventually lead to an out of memory condition for the VM. []
  2. There are some serious bugs in the Blizzard code for crated pet tooltips – so much so that the native bag frames and auction frames are pretty much broken right now when it comes to crated battle pets. This does NOT apply to pets that have not yet been brought into the journal and then crated, only to those that you crated within the journal itself. Some addons, such as Shefki’s TBag, have managed workarounds, but expect changes to take place on Blizzard’s end as well. []
  3. To be honest, I see little need for that sort of coverage without coverage for wild pets as well.  Maybe I’m being shortsighted. Maybe not. []
  4. If I may, for a moment; I am amazed that the new Blizzard frames were bound to the screen size instead of the viewport size. That seems to violate normal style guide rules for this sort of thing. []
  5. It’s a thing. []
  6. Load on Demand, a technology that keeps an addon from loading until it’s actually needed. []

Comments 5 Comments »

I’ve often used WoWHead and other similar sites to compare stats on items as I gather them, but most if not all have a couple of flaws.

  1. They often don’t include all viable stats, just the major ones, in their comparisons – or at least not that I can see.
  2. It’s usually impossible to compare 2H to DW or 1H+OH ratings; for example, a staff compared to a wand and an orb. But that’s what you need to know when comparing staves to wands and so forth.

I started working on a solution to the latter and ended up creating a full blown worksheet for item comparison.

Coincidentally, Rating Buster is losing its mind, so this is somewhat timely.

Rating BasherWhat it does and how to use it

  • In the blue box on the right of the sheet, select your toon’s class + spec.
  • In the left hand column entitled Equipped / MH, put the stats for the item you are currently using.
    • For any stat that doesn’t have a weighting value (Column I), you don’t need to populate it, because it will not count.
  • In the column entitled Of Interest / MH put the stats for the item you are considering.
  • If you’re comparing dual-wield stats or MH + OH stats, you’ll want to fill in the offhand value as well, especially if comparing 2H (say, a staff) against a one-hand with offhand (say, wand + orb).
  • If any of the items have gem slots and/or bonus stats, you will need to populate the bonuscolumn appropriately.
    • No, I haven’t pre-loaded those with common values for gems and other bonuses. Read your tooltips.
  • In the little yellow box at the lower right, you will be informed if it’s an upgrade or not.

I realize this isn’t optimal like WoWHead or something like that, but it’s better than a lot of the available tools right now, and it does things I like that they don’t, or they do something silly like say that a wand by itself is an upgrade over a staff, even though the wand + orb combo doesn’t even come close to the same stats when put together1.

This worksheet is protected against modification; you will have to make your own copy to use, since this is an interactive device.  If you don’t have a google account – which is all you really need – why not? Drop me an email and I’ll float you an invite.

I still haven’t figured out a way to mass-import the stat weights yet (right now I’m doing like everybody else and looking at Mr. Robot).  What this means is that until I do, I’ll just be doing one major update per patch unless I see reason to do otherwise.

The version number will reflect the patch level that the gizmo coincides with. As you can see, right now we’re still not up with 5.0.5.  In a couple of days, Light willing.

Technical Notes

You can add specs to this yourself.  You will need to add the name of the spec to the list entitled “Specs” which is on the “Classes” tab, and you will need to come up with a little mnemonic for it.  For example, “Rogue, Assassination” becomes “RoA”. Then you will need to create a spec weight table as a named list, this time with the name being the mnemonic.  You will find all these on the “Weights” tab, but there is nothing that says it has to be. In fact, if you create your own tab for your own stuff, you won’t have to worry about it getting overwritten whenever the main sheet is updated.

In summary:

  1. Create a name for your spec and insert it into the “Specs” named list.
  2. Create a mnemonic for that spec and include it on the same sheet, next to your spec’s name (row B).
  3. Create a named list and name it after your mnemonic. Populate it with the stat weights you want, in the same order as seen on the “Weights” tab.
  4. ???
  5. Profit!

If all of that made no sense to you, custom weights are not something you should attempt. WoWHead or Rawr is probably your best bet.

Hope you enjoy using this tool! And if not, I’ll refund your complete purchase price provided it is purchased directly through the Grimmlabs Swag and Incidental Crap store.


  1. Yes, looking at you again, Rating Buster. []

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A blog post I recently read (can’t remember who’s) was commenting that she really didn’t like having to use addons to get the most out of the game, and then provided some examples that really (to me, at least), didn’t support the statement of "have to have to get the most out of the game".

For example, Dominos is nice to have, but you don’t really lose anything by not having it. While the default action bar behaviors are obscure, they are, nevertheless, learnable given time and patience.  Dominos, and others like it, is a convenience addon. Claims that it is "required" are and should be viewed with skepticism.

However, I share the annoyance at addons that ARE more or less required for certain things. Or, more correctly, that they are necessary at all. the addons, of course, are lovely.

If you’re a raider, for example, you’re going to be at a real disadvantage if you don’t have Deadly Boss Mods or something similar.  In some cases, you just may not be able to do your job at all.

Well, truth be told, I’m not annoyed at DBM. I’m annoyed at Blizz, and the way that some things – raids, in this example – are designed in a general way of speaking.

Look at why we use DBM in the first place.  It isn’t the cooldown bars, or other quality-of-life features as much as it is the situational awareness features that tell you that Ultraxion is about to do his twilight thang, or Onyxia is taking a deep breath, or Flame Wreath is about to go off.

Now, not all of these are impossible without an addon.  If there is a chat emote, you COULD watch that. But those that don’t … those that have visual cues only … or sound cues … those make a lot of encounters nigh impossible.  It’s not necessarily a matter of graphics setting, all of the time – though that is one case. Sometimes the effect is just buried in all the busy-ness of the encounter.

These are the things that make DBM and GTFO and their ilk necessary. And that’s what annoys me. We should be able to glean what we need from the default interface and visual cues should be clear and not require a graphics upgrade to see. The best raiders are not always the best equipped in the meatspace world, after all, and it would be a virtual travesty if they had to sit for that kind of reason.

Now – before I start sounding like Cyn, let me clarify that I totally understand that in order to improve, the game’s requirements must by necessity be increased as the years march by. That’s fine. What I’m speaking to is the load on a system that is well within the stated requirements of the game1 and yet which cannot fully access the basic parts of the game.

You may consider raiding to be a non-basic part of the game. After all, estimates show that raiders are probably well below the ten-percent mark of player population in the game. However. Let me note here that the story line of each expansion, including Vanilla, all terminated deep within the final raid of said expansion.  Raiding is, and always has been, integral to this game.

In the past, when a critical shortcoming has been noted, Blizz has done just enough to overcome that, and no more. Well-known examples of this are the default raid frames (Pit Bull, X-Perl, Grid, et al), or movable unit frames (ibid. ish.), or those little spell alerts that let you know that a special ability has popped (Power Auras et al).

So it’s entirely possible that Blizz will respond to the escalating need for DBM-ish with its own raid alert system, and that it will be just barely adequate but not usable by most peoples’ standards (and likely will be very buggy at the start, too).

I truly hope not. What really needs to change is the approach to raid design, and making each raid work within the constraints set forth by the system requirements on the box, and not some sunny-day estimate.  Addressing the core problem is always more effective than slapping on band-aids, and aping an addon is just that, a band-aid.


  1. Taken from the very box, donchaknow. []

Comments 1 Comment »

WoW Insider’s addon columnist recently posted about a bag addon that intrigued me – AdiBags. What interested me was how it stashed things based on what they were, and had many ways of doing this, so many needs could be met.

AdiBags (showing bag interface)While my old standby, Shefki’s TBag, was still working just fine, it had one annoying lack: I could not get it to sort items by level. Some of the alts have huge piles of equipment stored up against future leveling and it’s always a chore to pick out the right ones when they achieve a new level.

Adibags not only sorted items in descending order by level, but it broke them up by type as well.

Having seen this, I went to give this new toy a run for a couple of weeks.  And it went well, until tonight.

Tonight, I needed to find something, and realized that AdiBags did not support the crucial feature of searching all your alts on a server for items.  As you have no doubt guessed, TBag supports this, and more.  It’ll let you look at your bank (non-interactively) from anywhere. It’ll let you look at somebody else’s bags (your alts, that is) as well as their banks.  It’ll search them and highlight what it finds, and dump a report into the chat pane.

AdiBags' filtering optionsTurns out, there are five things that TBag lacks compared to AdiBags:

  • It doesn’t label the categories
  • It doesn’t have as many useful categories
  • It does not collapse multiple stacks down to one slot (including empty slots)
  • It is not as easy to change out bags.
  • It doesn’t seem to support filtering by category

AdiBags’ deficits are:

  • It does not allow for comprehensive search across alts
  • TBag viewing bank contents remotelyIt does not allow you to view alts’ bags and banks
  • The bottom bar is a little busy (but nice attempt)
  • The overall view is sometimes difficult to get your head around.

Those last two are subjective, I realize and fully cop to.

Tbag search featureAt the end of the day, the lack of search is pretty hard to get around once you need it. On the other hand, there is little missing in TBag that I cannot live without.  If I absolutely must have the sorting feature, I’ll just turn it on when I need it.  Easy enough to do.

Both of these tools are outstanding, both are currently supported, both are good to go with MoP on the horizon. I have my preferences, but I really don’t see much of a downside to either.

Comments 7 Comments »