Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy New Year!

This will be my last post for the year and my 400th post. I managed 200 posts both this year and last, I doubt this will happen in the coming year, I simply do not have the bandwidth to post more than 2 or 3 times a week. I thought I’d cover some odds and ends here, kind of wrap up the year so to speak.

Computers: Every few years I change Linux distributions for a variety of reasons. Usually it is because someone has put together an excellent package and provided some level of extended support for their product. This was the case when I shifted from Slackware to RedHat and then again when I went from RedHat to Ubuntu. This year, because Ubuntu has adopted the god awful Unity/Gnome3 desktop, I started looking for something. I started my search with Lubuntu, which uses the LXDE desktop rather than Gnome. I used this with my netbook and it works well for that. However, for my main machine, I tend to need more and better features. So after a few months of that, Mint Linux 12 came out, which included a fork of Gnome2 called MATES and I gave that try. Amazingly it works pretty well and includes a lot of things I normally had to download and install separately from Ubuntu. So for the time being, Linux Mint is my OS of choice.

Technology: This year saw me replace my netbook, a Dell Mini 9, with an Amazon Kindle Fire. Over all, I am pleased with the device and have seen not particular reason to root it. It not only handles ebooks, it does comic books from ComiXology really well and it handles PDF files much better than I expected. As a bonus, it handles web browsing and email reasonably well, although creating posts for this blog or even Facebook for that matter, is still a bit of a pain.

Gaming: I am going to take a bit of a break from GMing after the first of the year. I am a bit burned out and need to play for a bit to recharge my batteries and come up with something new and interesting to torture players with. In the meantime Bruce is running an HM game and this time around, we decided on an all Pixie Fairy game. This theme will complicate things for Bruce, for one thing, all the characters can fly and none of us can be surprised. On the other hand, there will be no combat monsters because no one will have many hit points or a strength higher than 14 to start with.

Carnifex.org Commenter of the Year: Due to the voting irregularities from last year, this year we implemented paper ballot voting. After 5 rounds of voting were all those eligible to vote, voted for themselves, we barred everyone from voting for themselves and we came up with a winner. This year Wade Byrd is our Commenter of the Year. Wade and I have known each other since the 2nd grade and is by far my oldest friend and probably the only person other than PezWitch who will actually attend my funeral in person. Thanks Wade, I appreciate all the posts and I hope you stick around for the coming year.

Finally: On a sad note, the father of my friend Bruce has passed on. I have not spoken to Maury in years, the last time I saw him was at Bruce’s wedding in 1997. Maury taught me programming in college and was very forgiving when I got caught doing some stupid hacker moves on the college computer system. My condolences go out to both Bruce and Maury’s wife Joan.

Wrapping up GURPS

We are pretty close to wrapping up our stint playing GURPS. We played through OrcSlayer and Harkwood. Both of these adventures were written back in the mid 80’s and were the first GURPS adventures. They took place in the BaneStorm world, specifically Caithness, I of course had to update them to fit into the current goings on in that campaign world. I also had to update BaneStorm a bit, since its last official update was in 2004.

The gist of the campaign was the characters started as squires in the service of Baroness Bronwyn of Durham. There is an orc incursion into Caithness while the knights of Durham are tied up in fighting the Caithness civil war. The Baroness send the Squires in pursuit of the orc raiders. After chasing the orcs back across the desert, they assist the human population retake Castle Defiant and return to Caithness heroes and are knighted in short order.

After enjoying a few weeks as celebrities and newly minted nobles, the characters go off to participate in Harkwood’s annual jousting tournament, where they immediately became involved in a plot by Lord Baethyn, the governor of Harkwood to kill Baron Fenmarc and take Harkwood for himself. Lord Baethyn is funded by the Sterling Rebellion who in return will side with the rebellion against King Connel. This was a lot of fun, as I have said before, this reminded me why GURPS was my game of choice for several years.


 

It is Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas everyone, I hope Santa is good to you all.

NetBook Death Knell

The other day, Dell announced it was getting out of the consumer netbook business and they had already stopped selling the Inspirion Mini line. This really comes as no surprise, Dell as a company never really wanted to be in that space to begin with. Micheal Dell himself had expressed on several occasions his disdain for them.

Netbooks have two problems. From the point of view of the consumer, the screens are too small and the systems are under powered. I personally liked my Dell Mini 9, it is light and easy to carry around, but I can tell you after a couple of hours staring at a small screen and using that keyboard, I would not be terribly enamored with it. The early models could not even play YouTube video with stuttering, forget Netflix or Hulu.

From the business stand point, netbooks are not terrible profitable. Consumers love them when they cost around $200, but once the price exceeds $300, consumers go looking for 15 inch screens, 500 GB hard drives and decent graphics. Manufacturers simply could not sell netbooks for anything more than razor thin profits and didn’t sell enough in volume to make up for it.

From my point of view, the netbook was an interesting idea, but was ultimately doomed to failure. The whole idea of the netbook was born out of the One Laptop Per Child organization. The idea behind the organization is not a bad one, but then someone thought the idea of making small cheap computers could also be made into a profitable business. The problem came when they realized, you don’t make money selling computers in third world countries, you make money by selling computers in the first world to people with disposable incomes and these people do not really want underpowered systems, they are willing to shell out an extra $200 to get a system that plays World of Warcraft.

PezWitch has replaced her Dell Mini 10 with an Alienware M11x. This thing is a beast compared to the Mini 10, but it plays all her games flawlessly and she can even hook it up to our 42 inch TV and play that way. It is still small enough she can carry it around with her when we travel. The last two times we have traveled, on one trip I took my main box, an Inspirion 1545, with me. I was planning on blogging and some other chores, and we were gone long enough that it was worthwhile to have it along. Earlier this week we spent the night in Fredericksburg. I took my Mini 9 with me, I also took my Kindle Fire. I ended up using the Fire far more than the Mini 9 and in fact the only real usage the Mini 9 got was when we used it to charge my Cell Phone.

RE: FaceBook and Me

I read this interesting article about how FaceBook is really making us more miserable. This kind of makes sense to me. While I was an active participant on FaceBook, I almost dreaded reading it and I hated myself for going there several times a day. I hated it because so many people were posting too much garbage. At first I thought it was just the game requests, but after I got all that stuff blocked out, I still found it annoying. What made it even worse was I kept going back, because for a lot of my friends, it was the only way to stay in touch, even if their posts made me cringe sometimes. I think the final nail in the FaceBook coffin for me, was when they banned it at work. I felt relieved and almost elated. Now I check FaceBook once a week and I am pretty satisfied with that.

RE: I am Slacker, Hear Me Snore

I have in recent years found I have less time on my hands and it is getting more difficult to complete tasks I once found easy. After having read the below articles, it occurs to me why I have been having these difficulties. Essentially, I need to learn to prioritize my tasks better, instead of trying to do a bit of everything everyday, dedicate days or even half days to specific tasks. I seem to remember being able to do this naturally when I was younger, but at some point lost this ability.

I suspect this happened while I was working for a small computer store some years ago. While employed there, I was expected to work on several machines at a time and sometimes, those systems priorities would change mid-stream and I would be have to abandon a system I was almost done with and start working on a system immediately because the customer paid for express service, often this resulted in neither system being completed that day.

http://lifehacker.com/5867102/stop-being-so-damn-productive

http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/11/11/if-youre-busy-youre-doing-something-wrong-the-surprisingly-relaxed-lives-of-elite-achievers/

Web Browser Wars

Recently Google paid for a security audit of the top three web browser, Internet Explorer, Chrome and FireFox. The PDF of the study can be downloaded here;

www.accuvant.com/sites/default/files/AccuvantBrowserSecCompar_FINAL.pdf

Of course Microsoft has funded its own study, the gist of which can be found here;

http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/07/internet-explorer-9-utterly-dominates-malware-blocking-stats.ars

The results of both of these studies should surprise no one. While I prefer FireFox, I am certainly not going defend it here. FireFox most certainly has its issues and would not even think about using with NoScript and AdBlock Plus installed first. Chromes biggest advantage is it has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Both Chrome and IE also have the advantage of extremely deep pocketed financing, Although it is interesting that Mozilla’s largest financier is Google, who pays them 50+ million dollars a year from ad generated revenue.

I am not sure what the Mozilla Foundation should do here. On the one hand a complete code base re-write would be both time and money consuming. On the other hand, staying with the current code base, means having to live with the baggage that comes along with it. It is a difficult decision and I am glad I am not the one who has to make the choice. However, if FireFox wants to remain relevant, they are going to have to do something soon.


 

This morning Christopher Hitchens died. While I disagreed with him on a host of subjects, he was one of the few loud and unapologetic atheist voices and he stuck to his guns even when under fire from those on both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum. I am sure his enemies are quietly smiling to themselves this morning, I however am sad for the passing of a great writer, debater and orator.

Happy Anniversary to PezWitch

Today we have been married 27 years. In spite of all the stupid stuff I have done over the years, PezWitch just keeps hanging around. Her only comment on the subject was “Yeah, I suppose I will have to get around to trading you in on a younger model one of these years.”.

Happy Anniversary PezWitch, I love you.

Game of the Year Awards

Video Game Awards have been announced and I am unsure why Skyrim won over all Game of the Year and why Bethesda won Studio of the year.

If you look at the stats – Portal 2 won Best PC Game, Best MultiPlayer, Best DLC, Best Voice Performance Male, Best Voice Performance Female and all Skyrim won was Best RPG. Portal 2 was nominated in 10 categories (twice in Best Voice Performance Male and also twice in Best Song in a Game) and Skyrim was nominated 3 times. It is obvious Portal 2 and Valve were the better choices for over all GOTY and SOTY respectively.

And I’m not nerd-raging about this, I am just confused.

(Blizzard did win the Gamer God Catagory which made me happy, I am a Blizz Fan Girl after all.)

RE: RE: Mr Beer

Okay, so it is a bit murky in there, but it is bubbling, it does taste like beer, and I got a bit of a buzz off it.

Picture no longer available

Mission Accomplished.

RE: Thieves steal a …… Bridge ?

A couple of months ago I posted about thieves who actually stole a bridge. Well it looks like the two brothers who did the deed, were caught. In the original story it was thought the scrap metal would bring around $100,000, when they went to sell it, they wanted little more than $5,000. The thing is, what I find most interesting is the speed in which they were able to pull apart the bridge. They were apparently able to do it in under a month. I can tell you, if the state of Texas decided one of our bridges needed to be torn down, they’d pay a couple million dollars to a contractor to get it done and 10 years later, that bridge would still be there, although there would be orange pylons blocking the road and a nice warning sign.

RE: Mr Beer

Today the beer has been bottled for 7 days, the instructions say to leave it for a minimum of 7 days, 14 is better. Again I am all for better, but I am also impatient. So I took out 2 bottles and put them in the refrigerator, where I will leave them until tomorrow or the day after. As I moved the bottles, I noted the beer looks clear, very nice.

Interesting ideas

I have not needed a condom in many years, however, I have personally never had problems wearing a condom when needed. I have always felt guys who complained about them and had trouble keeping their erections were just being d-bags. Seriously, if a woman is willing to get naked with me, the least I can do is keep my erection, it just polite. So anyway this company came up with the idea of a lubricant that helps men maintain their erections and then put it on the inside of a condom. Seems to me to be a pretty good idea, so no more excuses, man up and do what you have to do.

http://gizmodo.com/5866129/will-viagra-in-a-condom-get-guys-to-like-using-one

RE: Will desktops be irrelevant in three years?

Last year I wrote about this subject because some random Google exec thought cloud computing was where is was all at. I wrote that piece 20 months ago, more than half way to his predicted “Death of the PC” and I see companies like Dell, Acer and Gateway still making billions of dollars selling PC’s.

Now we have Jonathan Zittrain telling us the death of the PC is on the horizon. The center of his argument is that cell phones and tablets are outselling PC’s. This was pretty much Google executive John Herlihy’s argument as well. However Zittrain goes on to complain about the closed garden of Apples iPhone AppStore. I am going to say this again, PC’s will not die until PezWitch can plug her smart phone into a 42 inch TV and play World of Warcraft at 1920×1200 resolution.

Seriously, WoW is a 30 GB install, how many smart phones have that much free space for a single application? I doubt there exists even a dual core ARM processor capable of running WoW in 640×480 let alone anything approaching 1920×1200.  You can’t even get an iPhone App that lets you log into the WoW auction house to buy and sell things using a simple interface.

Now here is what I hope will happen. I believe approximately 80% of the people who use computers are too stupid to actually use them. This is born out by the fact that virus’s and malware are so prevalent and I still get email from people where the subject line starts with FW:FW:FW:FW:RE:. I would like to see these people replace their computers with an iPhones, a Kindle Fire and an xBox, or some other combination of smart phone, tablet and game console. People who are too stupid to use computers should all be corralled into the closed gardens where they can not do harm to others and will be a lot less likely to have to call tech support because every time they open Internet Explorer, they get a dozen porn popup windows.

Even if the virus writers start creating for smart phones and Kindles, it will not really matter, because I can do a full scale reset in 5 minutes and have all the apps reinstalled in another 10. I can teach even the stupidest non technical person how to do this in a minimal amount of time. This will leave real PC’s to the rest of us and they can stand in awe of our ability to type “dir” at the command line and glean information from this cryptic environment.

Sadly, this is not going to happen. Ten years from now, the same companies who are selling PC’s today will probably still be selling PC and making billions of dollars a year doing it. Some one will also reinvent the Dumb Terminal/Thin Client/Cloud Computing paradigm yet again and technology pundits will again be singing “The witch is dead” around the PC.

Everything old is new again.

Mr Beer: The bottling

Last week I put the beer wort into the fermenting keg along with the yeast. Today I drained a little bit and it tasted like somewhat bitter flat beer. Just what I needed it to taste like. The instructions say 7 days minimum, 14 for better taste. I am all for better taste, but I want this batch out in time Christmas and if I went to 14 days, I would not be ready. So into the bottles it went.

Misc My Life Stuff

My birthday has come and gone, for those of you who have lost track, I am 48. PezWitch gave me a Mr Beer kit, which I started the first batch last Sunday and should be ready for bottling tomorrow. I have not made my own beer in a couple of decades, so it was kind of fun and this kit took out the really suck ass parts of the process. The first batch I stuck to the basics, but for later batches I plan to try and go off the reservation and modify the recipes.

Linux Mint seems to be working pretty well at this point. While the LXDE desktop was functional and very speedy, it does lack some of Gnome2 spit and polish, so I am seriously considering switching over since MATES, the Linux Mint fork of Gnome2, seems to be working fine. I somewhat predicted this would happen, although I figured it would take the form of Gubuntu rather than Mint picking  up the ball and running with it.

PezWitch said the other day, that we should write a book together. I thought about that for a couple of days and decided it was not a good idea. The only type of book I would really want to write (besides porn maybe), would be a super hero book. If I wrote a super hero novel, I would have to be the central character, because, frankly, I can’t think of anyone who would make a cooler super hero than me. The problem with someone as cool as me being a character in a book is I would come off as way too Mary Sue. So there you have it.