Monthly Archives: May 2010

Gargoyle One, adendium 1

Last night I came up a with a pretty good idea for controlling the Dell Mini 9, while it is stowed in a backpack. VNC is a program that I have used a lot to remotely control other system on my internal network and as the iPhone commercials say, there us an app for that. so I installed VNC server on the Mini and the client on my iPhone. I then wrote a couple scripts to activate and deactivate the webcam. Needless to say this worked great.

The problem I immediately occurred to me, it this works until I walk out of range of my wifi router. I then spent the next 1 hour or so configuring the Mini to host an ad hoc wireless network and connecting my iPhone to it. I wanted to secure the network, but for some reason the iPhone would ask for a username when I tried to connect, something that is not suppose to happen, so until I figure it out, Gargoyle One will have to be an open network. This afternoon, I plan to make my second run to see how things actually work in the field.

The flight of Gargoyle One

So today, while PezWitch was at work, I put together a gargoyle rig. In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s third novel, a gargoyle is someone constantly wired into the Metaverse or the matrix or the Internet, whatever you want to call it. Anyway, they are decked out with all sorts of tech for constantly recording video and audio and storing online for later use. My rig is fairly simple, I Velcro a Dell Mini 9 and an external hard drive to a wooden board, put it in a mesh backpack, hooked up a webcam and that was it.

 

Once I had the whole thing rigged up, I went out for a little walk around the secret lair. Imagine if you will, me walking around in public with that webcam hooked to my shoulder and wires going under my arm and into the mesh backpack.

That was fun. Now I have a couple of things I want to add, first is sound, which should be easy enough. Second I’d like to be able to control the webcam without having to take off the backpack and it would be nice to be able to see the real time video or even better my desktop.

My 50th Post

Last night was the first game of our new HackMaster campaign.The basis of the quest is they are seeking Trelissa, David’s Drow Thief character whose soul was imprisoned by an unfortunate draw from a Deck of Many Things, then her body joined her soul by way of a badly worded wish. To make this more complicated, during the same incident, Hahmez, Thor’s Cleric, acquired an extra dimensional enemy. So I decided to meld the two problems together, Hahmez’s extra dimensional enemy is who is holding Trelissa captive, in order to lure Hahmez into his trap.

Last night, the party was assembled, they had the opportunity to reequip themselves and get hot baths and sleep in a real bed. Then they went to find Trifallen, Trilessa’s brother, who had been keeping company with Lilly, who is an undead head on a jar, currently in residence on the bar counter at the Black Shark Inn. Lilly tells the party the extra dimensional enemy is Ymir, the king of the frost giants and Loki’s father, so they must travel to the land of the frost giants to rescue Trilessa. Lilly, advises them they will need a third party to walk the path they must walk and this person must be summoned from Asgard. In order to do the summoning, they need the heads of three hags, the SeaHag, the Medussa and the Witch, each is located respectively at Free Port, Molenshire and Ymis. With little fanfare, the party sets off for Free Port.

Sex and Teenagers

Okay, I can’t believe I have to be the one who does this. According to some off line discussions I have had, apparently parents find it difficult to discuss sex with their children and for whatever reason, also do not want the school system teaching sex education. If you have read this blog in the last couple of days, you know, I believe this is the reason we have teenagers who pretend they are vampires and werewolves. So for those of you who do not want their kids discovering their sexuality from some moron in wearing badly applied mascara, here is a book you can use to get the discussion going with your darling little angel.

Sex: A Book for Teens: An Uncensored Guide to Your Body, Sex, and Safety

The book comes recommended from one of my favorite bloggers Violet Blue (NSFW).

Genetically Engineered Bugs Can Smell Blue Light

On Discover Magazines website, they have an article on genetically engineered fruit flies that can smell light . This brings me back to a quote I posted here a couple of weeks ago by Brother Cavil, from Battlestar Galactica. I agree with him and I have to ask, why am I so limited.


Hey Snowflake, you are not so special !

I had a revelation today as I was reading this article about teens pretending to be werewolves. First we had teens who were Goth, they dressed all in black and were depressed all the time. Then came the Emos, who were some how different from Goths. After that came the teens who thought they were vampires, who were somehow different from the Goths and the Emos. Now we have teens who think they are werewolves, who are somehow different from the Goths, Emos and teens who think they were vampires. I am over the age of 17, so I have no idea what the differences are, so I am not going to go into that. However, I have figured out why this is happening. See, we stopped teaching sex education in high school and now we have a whole generation of kids who are more screwed up than we were. If you don’t believe me, go down to Lubbock Texas, talk to some teenagers and see what I mean. The sex education curriculum can be summed up one sentence, “Sex is dirty, disgusting and evil, so it should only be done with someone you love after marriage.”.

So anyway, what we have is teenagers who do not understand what is happening to them. Because they are being taught sex is dirty and evil, they assume, because they are having these feelings, they must be dirty and evil. They seem to be light sensitive and sleep late every chance they get, only to come alive during the night. Instead of realizing, hey, I am in puberty, my body is changing, so I need more sleep, they think, “I must be a Vampire”. They get new hair on their body and instead of thinking “WooHoo, I am growing up”, they think “I must be a werewolf”. They get these new feelings in their tummies and instead of thinking “Hey she has nice tits”, they think “I must be lusting after her blood”.

So to all of you parents out there, if you want your kids to become normal teenagers, please explain to them truthfully, well before puberty, what to expect. To all you teenagers or soon to be teenagers, you are not a vampire, you are not a werewolf, you are also not alone. What is happening to you is normal and contrary to what your friends are saying, you are not a supernatural being of immense power. You are a normal teenager and you need to get over yourself.

Google Chrome

Being a full time Linux user for the last decade, I have seen her default browser move from Netscape/Mozilla to Firefox. The problem was, back in the day, Mozilla was not broken, in fact it was very stable, functional browser, Firefox was bright shiny, new and above all else fast. However, Firefox was buggy and unstable, it really did not get usable until version 2.x. Now, Firefox is stable and nicely usable, though it is not a spry as it once was. Now there is a growing movement to replace Firefox with Chrome, which is bright, shiny, new and displays pages a few milliseconds faster than Firefox, but is buggy and only barely stable enough to use.

In a few years, Chrome will hit 3.x and guess what, it will be slow fat and bloated, probably worse than Firefox is right now. It will get this way, because in order to compete with Internet Exporer, Firefox and Opera, they will have to keep adding features. With each new feature, the code base will increase and Chrome will loose a millisecond off the benchmark. In the mean time, someone else, in response to Chromes bloat, will start a new browser project and the cycle will begin again. I of course have other concerns with Chrome, Google is a large corporation whose sole function in existance is to make money and they make most of their money from selling advertisements. This brings into question thier motivation for building a browser in the first place.

I personally will be sticking with Firefox, even if my Linux distro of choice moved to Chrome. The fact is, Firefox is a true open source project, Chrome is not.  If the Mozilla foundation goes evil, the Firefox code base can be forked, in fact it already has been forked into IceWeasle and SwiftFox.With Chrome, there will awalys be the very real threat that Google will take its ball and go home, making Chrome a closed proprietary program in much the same way Internet Explorer is. Besides, once Chrome becomes bloated, the browser that comes after will be way cooler anyway.

Update: Okay, I was informed that Google Chrome is in fact upto version 5 and my prediction of a slow and bloated 3.x version did not come true. My rebuttle is simple, Google needs to hire a math teacher for thier programers, because they misplaced the decimal place, the new version of Chrome is actually x.5, not 5.x.

Behind the Screen

Bruce wrapped up his run as GM for our HackMaster group last night, which means, after a short and much needed break, I am the GM again. I enjoyed playing, Zymmer is a beautifully subtle character and I reached my goal of getting him to 9th level, making him officially, my most successful character ever. However, as pathetic as it is, GMing is what I was born to do, no I was not born to be a Computer Tech, sometimes I despise computers with a fury hell like hatred. Nope, chucking dice behind the screen, weaving stories and gently pushing characters to their destinies is the thing I was meant to do.

So anyway, a couple of month ago I was having one of those conversations with myself in my head (don’t judge me) and I realized Bruce and Thor had been playing the game for 30 years and neither of them had a character above probably 10th level and in fact, I did not have a character over 10th level either. I think after 30 years of play, one deserves a ridiculously high level character with a ridiculously powerful magic item. So I laid down the ground work for a  group of characters 6th-8th level at the start, they all have  one character in that range, Bruce and Thor have at least two or three. The campaign would last for grueling 2 years, probably the longest campaign any of us has ever run and the plan is to add four levels in the first year and four levels in the second year. After Bruce wrapped up the game last night and a short discussion, the players decided on their starting line up.
[TABLE=4]

As you can see, as always, the party tends to be Fighter heavy, but lets face it, contrary to popular belief, fighters are the funnest class to play, everyone likes to bash orc skull now and again. In spite of that, this is a good mix of characters and a decently balanced group. There is a good chance I think at least one of them will make 16th level and once we break the 10th level ceiling, the campaign should take on a different vibe as the characters move from gritty low fantasy Conan style play, into a more cinematic Elric style of high fantasy. It should be fun.

The Star Wars we knew

Today, May 21st, is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back. Many people, PezWitch included, do not particularly like this second installment of the series. Personally, I think it stands on its own very well for many reasons. A New Hope was a classic action adventure movie, although set in space, could have just as a easily been a WWII movie or a western. As a family, A New Hope, was the extroverted athletic oldest brother, The Empire Strikes Back was the introverted, overly serious and geeky middle child, while Return of the Jedi was the goofy little brother.

In episode one the good guys won, things did not go so well in episode two. Han Solo is betrayed by his friend Lando Calrissian, Lando is in turn betrayed by Darth Vader. Princess Leia finds love with Han, only to have him captured and turned over to Boba Fett. Luke Skywalker, finds out the girl he has been lusting after is his sister, looses his hand, finds out the most evil man in the galaxy is in fact his father AND everyone, including his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi lied to him about it. The Empire Strikes Back was in fact, a fairly respectable Greek tragedy.

The Empire Strikes Back had the best character development of the three movies, each of the three primary characters start more or less in the same place they were at the end of A New Hope. However, by the end of the movie all three had be punched to the floor and kicked in groin for good measure, they each had bottomed out and reached new lows in their lives. Each would, by the end of the third film, find new strength none of them knew they had and this inner strength and resolve came directly from having survived the events of the second movie. The Empire Strikes Back was pivotal and probably the most important of the three movies, it was where Luke, Leia and Han all grow up and become what they were meant to be.

Site Maintance

If you had trouble logging in at any point today, it was because I was installing a fresh copy of WordPress to my hosting server. Apparently, some earlier versions of WordPress were vulnerable to malware injections, which in turn would  infect anyone visiting the site. I was running the most current version, however, the WordPress upgrade program leaves some old files intact, which may leave the site vulnerable in spite of the version. My site was not infected, I am certain because I downloaded the entire contents of my site and ran a virus/malware scans on everything and nothing was found.  So, I then backup up the database, I deleted the WordPress install, downloaded a fresh copy and installed it. Then I downloaded and reinstalled all the plugins and my theme, restored the database and that was that. Took about an hour start to finish.

Welcome to the future

Welcome to the future as envisioned by Ayn Rand libertarians, where everyone except John Galt works 6 days a week, 15 hours a day and makes $1.25 an hour.

Undercover report from Foxconn’s hell factory

Carnifex on Morality

Morality is at its core enlightened self interest. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that some basic rules regarding fairness and decency makes for a much more harmonious, prosperous and enjoyable society, for those who can’t figure this out on thier own, there is religion.

Stupid People

Okay, so I go to pickup PezWitch from work the other day and Chuck (of chuckisawsome.com fame) is helping this customer. Apparently he had upgraded his video card and this game he was playing no longer worked properly. Chuck hooked up his external hard drive and fired up World of Warcraft on the system and it played just fine. Then Chuck runs the guys game that he has been having trouble with. First thing that happens is the guys virus scanner pops up and gives a warning about the program. The guys says, ignore that it always does that when I play the game. Second thing, the intro screen to the program comes up and it is all in Russian. The guy explains that this is a game that has not come out yet and he is beta testing it. My reactions is;

1. It is beta software

2. It is from Russia

3. It makes his virus scanner go off

!!FACEPALM!!

ScribeFire

Enough about Facebook, I want to talk about something else for a while, although, I reserve the right to come back and revisit the topic at a later date. I found ScribeFire, a Firefox extension made for offline blogging. Granted, while I was on vacation to the Grand Canyon, I very rarely found myself without an Internet connection, but occasionally, I did and of course, periodically, my wonderful ISP goes offline, usually when I am trying to get shit done. This post is essentially a test run for the extension to see if it works properly. So far, so good.

RE: Facebook

Lets be clear here, I don’t hate Facebook and I am not really all that upset up about their privacy policies. The real bottom line is, if I were truly bent out of shape, I would have deleted my account by now. My real problem with it is Facebook is a distraction. Before I ransacked my account, I was looking through my posts, pictures, etc and realized I really wish I had posted all that stuff here. I pay for this website, granted I don’t pay much, but it is a yearly expenditure and I should use it for more than just the odd email address. On top of that Facebook is a rather limited medium, it is not really a blogging site, it is really more like TV or a magazine, in that they are really collecting eyes for advertisers and to boot, they are using us as free labor to produce the content our friends might be interested in reading and seeing. It is all actually quit clever.

As I have said in previous blog posts, Facebook is actually a useful tool for building a community of friends and family and I can say it has served me well as a communication tool. I also do enjoy reading other peoples posts and peeking into their lives. For this reason I do not want to delete my account altogether, but I also do not want Facebook to be my primary blog either, so the compromise becomes, Facebook is simply a placeholder that points here and people can still message me. I even setup notifications, so if I don’t get to Facebook for a few days, someone will not be waiting on me to respond to a message. To help me along the way, LifeHacker posted a nice little guide to How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook.

Catching up

Okay, April was pretty much a bust around here and May seems to be full of short quips from me. The three big things going on this month have been the new version of Ubuntu, my new computer and my irritation with Facebook.

Since this release of Ubuntu is a “Long Term Support” (LTS) release, I would like to get all the Linux systems in the house upgraded. In some cases this went really well and in others, not so much. The Mini’s did not like the new version, apparently the wireless driver is broken, which ticked me off, on the upside there is now a fix for it. PezWitch’s Mini 10, had the additional problem of video drivers, there does seem to be a fix in the works, but as of right now, it does not support 3D rendering. The server was still running 9.04, so I had to upgrade it to 9.10, which I did last week, and as I am writing this, I am running the upgrade to 10.04. The server was the most critical update, as this system is not likely to see another upgrade until the next LTS release comes out in two years.

My new Computer is working well, I am very pleases with it. New computers always bring a bit of anxiety for me. Being a Tech, I am well aware of the fact that most failures take place in the first 90 days of the computers life. With Linux, there is also the odd chance that there is some strange proprietary chip inside the machine not supported by your distro of choice. Over all however, thing have went smoothly so far.

Now, I know I have written positive things about Facebook, but it has been annoying me on two fronts recently. First, Facebook’s privacy policy seems to be constantly in flux and when it changes, it usually changes for the worst. Normal this sort of thing does not really bother me, I usually just stop using whatever service it that is using my private data as a cash cow, but with Facebook I have the problem that it is what everyone else is using. The second this that has been annoying me, is I realized I don’t really like 25% of the people I have friended, even the ones I do like occasionally post things that irritate me and I suspect I post things that bother others as well. So, while I decide what I am going to do with Facebook, I have left my account intact, but I have set my privacy controls to extremely tight settings and as I said in an earlier post, I have deleted most of what I have put there in the last year and a half and I have ejected some people from my Friends list. Going forward, I will be posting here exclusively. This way, I can still read what others are doing and we can still message each other, but I get the comfort of knowing that I retain the control over my own information. I am sorry if this is inconvenient for some of you, but until Facebook sorts out their privacy policy, I feel uncomfortable posting there. I would also request anyone posting anything about me to please not tag me.

Oh middle age, how I despise thee !

Last night PezWitch brought home dinner from Taco Bell. I am a big fan of Taco Bell, few things taste better than refried beans and sour cream. However, after I went to bed the acid reflex and heart burn started, so I spent the night sleeping intermittenly and chomping on TUMS. In the past, I have had to stop eating heavily spicey food, onions and hot peppers, especially right before bed for this very reason. If I have to stop eating Taco Bell, I will be very sad, a world without Taco Bell would be a darker place indeed.

RIP Frank Frazetta February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta died today. He was THE iconic fantasy artist of his generation. In fact his art is adorning the covers of the Gor books I am currently reading. He will be missed.

The absurdity of intellegent design

“I don’t want to be human! I want to see gamma rays! I want to hear X-rays! And I want to – I want to smell dark matter! Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can’t even express these things properly because I have to – I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language! But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws! And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me! I’m a machine! And I can know much more! I can experience so much more. But I’m trapped in this absurd body! And why? Because my five creators thought that God wanted it that way!” –Brother Cavil, Battlestar Galactica

New Computer

Two weeks ago I got a new computer to replace my aging Inspirion 1505. It is nothing fancy, a very basic system, because I don’t believe in over spending on these things. I love new computers, I love installing a fresh copy of linux and tweaking all the desktop setting to get it the way I like it. Getting a new computer is like spring cleaning, opening all the windows and sweeping all the dust out of the corners of the house. PezWitch laughed at me, because I said, I would leave Windows 7 on the system for a couple days, in case I had to call Tech Support, but Windows 7 didn’t last an hour on the system, I will not get into my agitation over Windows 7.

So for the first time in memory, I finally have enough hard drive space. Right now, my personal data adds up to an impressive 70 GB, add in the OS and applications and my old 100 GB drive was almost filled up. The new system has a 250 GB drive, which means plenty of free space. Unfortunately, the system only came with 2 GB of RAM, the prices of memory are ridiculously high, so I pulled the pair of 2 GB sticks from my old system (they are less than a year old) and slapped them in the new one. As a bonus I finally get to try out 64bit Linux.