Spring Cleaning

I have been on vacation all week and I spent most of that time doing some long needed spring cleaning. While throwing out old furniture and giving away books by the box, I came across these;

These two drawings were done for PezWitch by Phil Foglio at Treasure Con III in Billings Montana in 1985.

My new project

I accidentally won an ebay auction for a Vic 20 Computer. I say accidentally, because I have never actually won an ebay auction before. Normally I just hit the buy it now button if I really want something. When I do bid, I set a max bid and adamantly refuse to go over my max bid, this is usually not enough. Well this time $41 was enough and shipping was only $15, so I got a fully functional Vic 20 with a cassette drive for $56. Pretty good price when you consider most people selling them set ridiculous prices on shipping like $60 or $70.

Fortunately my SD2EIC drive is compatible with the Vic 20, so is my 1541 disk drive, so all I have to do really put some programs on the SD card and I am good to go. I spent a year fixing and upgrading my Commodore 64, so I expect I will do the same with this. I think I will do a JiffyDOS upgrade on the motherboard and maybe buy a PENULTIMATE CARTRIDGE which provides a memory upgrade and several ROM games.

I know, it looks a lot like the C64.

Max Headroom

Isn’t this on Netflix or something, I should re-watch this.

Oculus Rift Update

The last several weeks I have not messed with my Oculus Rift much. I really like the device, it is comfortable on my head, the controllers work very well and there is some content that is just amazing. The $600 I spent on it however was probably too much for the overall experience. I read they have lowered the price, so good for everyone who has not yet bought in.

There are some shortcomings though. The first issue is my vision must be just bad enough that it cannot compensate, because while it is not terrible is is also never quite right either. The second problem is, you really do need an area of 6-8 feet around you otherwise you bump into things. Third, there is just not that much good content available. Zero Days VR is excellent, it is well done, visually stimulating and very informative. Job Simulator, Nvidia VR Fun House and Steam Labs are all fun, but limited to a few hours of interesting play. On the other end there is Minecraft, which is completely unplayable in VR for me. While I did have some motion sickness issues early on, I have been able to deal with it in most games, but Minecraft I simply can’t, just being in it makes me sick and dizzy, and moving around is vomit inducing.

I purchased Star Trek Bridge Crew, this is a game that was made for me, and I really should be excited about it. I have two problems, first, it does not review well. The solo play is very limited, but there is a fairly limited interesting game play. The best part of it is getting together virtually and playing with other people. Which leads into my second problem, reviewers all said more or less the same thing. It is hard to find other players who want to immerse themselves in play and are willing to help out new players. This makes me very weary of joining an online game. I have tried playing multiplayer games before and my experience has been rarely good.

Overall, I think the Oculus Rift is a good first generation product, but i think ultimately we are just not there yet. VR is just not widespread enough to allow for a lot of really good quality immersive content. Facebook places is going to be a lot of fun when everyone I know owns a headset, but until then, no so much. I still think this is an area where modern technology really failed to deliver on its promises. If we had started working on this back in 1993 when Doom came out, by now we would have a beautiful VR experience and monitors would be a thing of the past. However, instead of virtual reality, we have Twitter.

The way the 80’s should have been?

I couple of weeks ago I posted on Twitter and Facebook, that I wanted to start a group similar to the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), but instead of Renaissance reenactments, I want to reenact the 80’s as they should have been. The SCA glosses over all the bad things about the middle ages; war, famine, plague, and poverty. In the SCA everyone gets to live in the castle, no one has to be a pig farmer.

In my Society for the Creative 80’s, no one has to flip burgers at McDonalds, everyone has a cool job that gives them plenty of time to go to concerts, smoke pot and fuck. Sort of a retro future where computers delivered on the promise of a better tomorrow, and economic policy that benefited the working poor and the middle class. A world where neon colors, big hair and electronic music rule the day. A time when porn girls had natural boobs and rocker boys didn’t lip sync. The world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation, but we danced until dawn anyway.

Abbie Hoffman said; “The ’60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock and roll never as great.”

My Response; “Welcome to the 80’s where dope, sex and music are better than ever!”

Server Update

The server has been humming along nicely now for the last two weeks. My clever backup scheme seems to have worked perfectly this last weekend. Carnifex.org seems to be back and running smoothly. I suppose it does take a disaster to get me doing the things I should have been doing in the first place. I mean last year I migrated to new hardware and setup everything in virtual machines just for the type of problems I experienced, but because I failed on the follow through,I almost lost the whole shebang.  So lesson learned

Hour of Devastation Pre-release

Today I spent 4 hours playing Magic the Gathering, I do these pre-release tournaments every now and again. The one thing I always learn when I go to them is that I do not play Magic enough to be good at it. Back in the day I would play 3-5 hours a week and I would spend maybe another 2-3 hours a week designing and tweaking decks, these days I do not have the time nor the ambition to do either of those things.

I think I like the idea of playing Magic better than I like the reality of playing Magic. Ideally, I would like to find a super casual group of players who meet once a week at someones house and we spend 1 or 2 hours playing 1×1 games with everyone, then everyone gathers around the table and we spend an hour or two playing a group game. Everyone brings fun and interesting decks and we play for the love of the game and the social gathering. I’d love to be a part of a Battle Deck  or Rookie Deck League, run in a gauntlet format.

I should probably just quit once and for all.

I am over Twitter

I officially declare Twitter the new MySpace, only people who are hopelessly uncool and out of touch continue to use it.

Cutting the cable

I canceled my cable TV service today, I also killed the service to my two TiVo’s. This really started last fall when I realized I was forcing myself to watch TV shows I was really not enjoying all that much. Over the last 6 months, the wife has been more and more watching Korean dramas via streaming services like Drama Fever. Neither of us has watched much real network TV in months. A couple of weeks ago I called my provider and reduced my service down, I figured $40 a month is fine and I might come across something I like. A couple of weeks later, I am thinking about it and really, I am still not watching TV, virtually every show I have seen has been on NetFlix, Amazon or Hulu.

So yesterday I went out and bought a set of old fashioned rabbit ears and surprise, I get 6 channels, pretty clear. Most of the channels are PBS stations, but I also get an ABC affiliate as well. I also bought a cheap DVR on Amazon to record the odd show, like Masterpiece Theater. I got one for $30, all I need to add is a USB storage device, I have like 6 laying around here of various sizes.

Today, I drove to the cable company and did the deed, I decided to in instead of calling for two reasons, first I had to turn in the M-Cards anyway and second I figured if I called, they would try to talk me out of it, if I go in, there would be 10 people behind me waiting and the person waiting on me would have no interest in delaying the line. I was basically right, I was out in less than 10 minutes.

Once that was done, I called TiVo and told them I no longer had cable and they obliged me very quickly by cancelling my service and not asking any questions. The TiVo service was costing me $40 a month, $20 for each box. The cable prior to my downgrading it was costing me $180 a month, including internet. My bill should now be around $65 for just the internet. That is a nice savings of $155 per month. I don’t think I am going to miss it much.

Backing up the server

So with all the problems I have had with my server lately, I am finely following the timely advice every tech gives, “Back up you data, then test your backups, then backup again.”. I moved my website to a virtual machine for two reasons, first to make it easier to backup and second if I had hardware problems, I could move the virtual machine to new hardware. Well that did not really work out for me. The fault is all mine, I was not backing up the virtual machine and making those backups easily accessible from other systems.

This morning I sat down and wrote a backup script, I do the vast majority of my server maintenance on Saturday, so I setup a cron job to run every Sunday morning at 5 AM. The script puts the backup in my Dropbox folder, where it is then synced with my desk system.

#!/bin/sh

# Removes the backup from 2 weeks ago
rm /home/chris/Dropbox/server/server1.old

# Renames the backup from last week
mv /home/chris/Dropbox/server/server1.ova home/chris/Dropbox/server/server1.old

# Shuts down the server VM and waits 10 seconds
vboxmanage controlvm server1 acpipowerbutton
sleep 10

# Exports the VM to my Dropbox folder
vboxmanage export server1 -o /home/chris/Dropbox/server/server1.ova

# Restarts the VM
vboxmanage startvm server1 -type headless

The next time my server goes down, I should have a reasonably up to date backup of the VM I can put online. I really don’t update this website enough to make backing up more than weekly worthwhile.

Make sure your porn collection dies with you

The last thing any of us want is to die suddenly and have innocent relatives discover the porn collection stashed on our computer. My solution to this problem is fairly simple, a virtual machine where you can safely download and enjoy porn, without having to worry about clearing you browsing history or storing you videos in misnamed folders. The virtual machine is installed into an encrypted folder or drive where only you can access it. I also suggest taking the additional step of loading the virtual machine with Linux, simply because it is less vulnerable to the malware that tends to inhabit the dark underbelly of the internet. There are many alternatives and combinations of tools, but what I am inclined to use is VeracryptVirtualbox and Ubuntu. You could just as easily use BitLocker, VMWare and Fedora. This is not going to be a tutorial, I am not especially interested in providing a step by step of how to do this, none of these things is terribly difficult to figure out. My intention here is to simply present an idea, a solution to a problem.

March of the Magnitudes

I need a deck to play in the Modern format. Playing Standard is generally pretty easy, it is no problem to find a quick and dirty reasonably priced deck to play. Modern on the other hand is pricey, even a tier two deck can cost $500 without blinking. Awhile back I came across the March of the Magnitudes Modern Event Deck. Ever review more or less said the same thing, it is a solid tier two deck that can be upgraded for a reasonable amount of money. So this was the route I went, it is a straight forward deck, the basic idea is to generate tokens and disrupt your opponents strategy while you build your army of tokens.

Original Deck:

Creatures:
2 Soul Warden
3 Tidehollow Sculler

Spells:
3 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
3 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Zealous Persecution

Planeswalkers:
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Land:
4 Caves of Koilos
2 City of Brass
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
2 Ghost Quarter
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus

This is what I have done so far. The two big upgrades were adding Thoughtseize and Godless Shrine, I rounded out a couple of the play sets and removed cards that did not generate tokens, pump creatures or disrupt my opponents game. I thought about adding a second  Elspeth, but if I draw 2, I can only play one, so I added Sorin instead, who has similar abilities and fits the colors of the deck.

Upgrade Draft 1:

Creatures:
4 Tidehollow Sculler

Spells:
2 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
2 Thoughtseize
2 Zealous Persecution

Planeswalkers:
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Land:
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Thoughtseize

The original deck cost me $90, the 4 Thoughtseize cost me $80 ($20 each), the Godless Shrine cost $56 ($14 each) and then another $15 to complete play sets and add Sorin. The grand total was $241 for the deck, about half what most competitive decks in Modern cost. I am calling it a win, assuming I can win with the deck.

Server is still down

My server system is still in the shop being fixed. I was sort of waiting for it to post anything meaningful, but I think it is going to there a while longer.

I think I missed my calling in life. I should buy broken Commodore 64’s, repair them and then resell them. I think I could make some money on this and I seem to have a knack for it. For the last year I have been restoring and upgrading a C64 I bought on Ebay last August while the wife was away. This week I fixed the final piece, which was the 1541 disk drive. Last year when I got it, the drive worked for about 20 minutes before it stopped. Since then it has been a low priority because I had a SD2IEC device, which allowed me to run programs off an SD card. This week, I decided to try again and I noticed, the drive powered on and even the red drive light lit up like it was trying to read the disk. So I pulled it apart and noticed the drive head looked really grungy from years of reading floppies. So I cleaned the head with some alcohol and a Q-tip. While I was in there, I re-seated the ROM chips, figuring it could not hurt. When I got it back together, it worked magnificently. I am now waiting on a “Y” splitter cable so I can use it and the SD2IEC together. I know the 1541 has a pass through port on the back, but cable lengths and desk positioning make it impossible to use, therefore splitter.  So now the work is done and I have a fully operational C64.

One of the great services I found for the C64 community is CommodoreServer.com, they are an online service that allows you to sign on over the internet and use disks stored there. It is a very cool service provided free, although you can donate and get some premium services. It is a bit weird to get hooked up, but once you have figured it out, its fine.

LOAD “V-1541″,8,1
SYS 49152
NEW
OPEN2,2,2
PRINT#2,”ATDTCOMMODORESERVER.COM:1541”
CLOSE2
LOAD “@USERNAME,XXXX”,2
LOAD “CSMENU”,2
RUN

I know, it looks cryptic, but it works. This does requires some sort of network to serial conversion, I use the WiModem and it works perfectly. for some slightly more detailed instructions, try here.

The C64 stuff has distracted me a bit from my Oculus Rift. Considering it cost me way more the C64 did, I suppose I should pay more attention to it, and I promise I will as I go along. But the big thing that has been weighing on me about it, is just how far along we really are not on virtual reality. In this regard, I think technology has really failed to live up to its potential. When you think about it, we have had all of this technology for at least a decade, but we are now just getting first generation hardware. When I think about this, there really is no particular reason why I should not have had one of these in 2007 and I might even argue it was possible in 1997. Okay, processors and video cards were not what they are today, but look at what people accomplished with the C64’s in their time, I look at those old demos and I am amazed at what they accomplished with 64 KB of RAM. Why was it not possible to produce even crude VR with 500 Mhz processors with 512 MB of RAM or how about 2 Ghz processors with 4 GB of RAM? Yes I acknowledge that small LCD screens we use for Cell phones were not all that developed in 1997, but how about in 2007?

I think the issue here is probably one of low expectations, back in the 80’s technology, computers specifically were going to change the world, and they did, but not as radically as they should have. I have always said, games drive computer technology advancements, but for some reason, in the 90’s we got caught in doing other things with computers, they became communications devices and tools we used to get work done and they stopped being fun, they stopped being life changing, we took our eye off the ball. Back when Doom originally came out, we loved the game, because that is what we wanted our computers to do, we wanted to walk around in virtual worlds and have experiences the real world could never produce, we wanted out computers to provide us with an interface we could interact with, but somewhere along the road someone somewhere decided, no one wanted that. Instead of Operating Systems we could build worlds on, we got databases, spreadsheets, word possessors and web browsers. We have computers today in 2017 that really don’t work much differently than they did in 1997.

So the server is down again

Well fuck.

RE: C64 in the modern age

Earlier I wrote about what a modern Commodore 64 needed to look like. Well here is my completed setup. The butt ugly green cartridge is the EPYX Fastload, the blue box with the 2 buttons is the SD2IEC SD card reader and beside that is the WiModem.

Pretty much all of these devices work as promised. I cannot surf the web or run World of Warcraft, but it certainly makes the thing way more useful. I can store boatloads of C64 programs on a single SC card rather than maintaining a bookshelf full of decaying old floppy disks. I like the hot keys it provides as well, Commodore Key (C=) + RUN/STOP key saves me the trouble of typing “LOAD”*”,8,1″ and then “RUN” to get programs going. AND of course the best reason of all is, I do not have to wait 8 minutes for a game to load and as you can see;

I can telnet to the odd C64 BBS. The EPIX cart has another nice feature as well, a reset button, I cringed every time I cycled the power on my C64, thinking, this will be the one that ends it all, the reset button does not power down the system, so I feel better about using it. Sadly, since I bought it on ebay, I did not have a choice of colors, I suspect the butt ugly green is not their best seller.

So there you have it, the Alienware of its time, the best selling computer of all time, the computer than influenced a generation of programmers, hackers and nerds.

Homemade WiFi Modem for a C64

I have started the attempt to build my own WiModem, this is my stage 1 prototype, I am not 100% sure about the wiring at this point, and I have not sorted out the firmware yet. So I am not plugging it in until I figured everything out.

The C64 breakout board cost $17, the MCUNode ESP8266 costs $10, you can probably find them cheaper than that.

Making my Commodore 64 useful

This folks is how you get a Commodore 64 (C64) on the internet. What this is, is a WiModem, essentially it is a WiFi card that fools the C64 into thinking it is a Hayes Compatible Modem. It is actually a really clever use of an ESP8266, I am thinking I am going to build one of these myself. Once you have this device setup and connected to your router, you can connect to telnet BBS’s using old terminal programs just like it was 1985. On the surface this probably seems a bit dumb, considering it is not 1985, it is 2017. However, I would like to point out, its Commodore 64, not an Alienware Aurora R6 and if I wanted to connect to the internet like it was 2017, I’d just use my Alienware.

Sex and other things, but mostly sex.

So I like lesbian porn, it should be a no brainer really but apparently its not. Don’t get me wrong, I like threesome (FFM preferably) porn too, but I by enlarge prefer there be no dudes in the video or picture. I think the reason for this should be obvious, there are no penises in lesbian porn. I am not opposed to penises, I have one myself and it is my favorite body part and I certainly will watch a MFM threesome or MF video, I just prefer there be no penis.

The real reason I wrote this post is I wanted to post this picture, I found it while I was searching for replacement pictures for some of my older posts and thought, wow that presses ALL of my buttons. Okay, I lied in the title, this was just about sex.

 

RE: Website reconstruction work

I have finished going through all my old blog posts looking for missing pictures. I believe I have gotten them all. If I still had the picture, I uploaded it again, if I did not have it, but got it off the internet, I tried to find the original picture and barring that, I uploaded something close to it. If I could not replace the picture at all, I simply replaced it with picture not available. As I said yesterday, if you come across one please let me know so I can fix it.

Edit: Oh and yes, for those of you who noticed, I did delete all of the old political posts I made, but I did that last November.

Website reconstruction work

So I spent some time today going through my blog looking for missing pictures. I have found a lot of them. If I have the picture, I am re-uploading them, if I don’t have the picture or I cannot find where I got it from on the internet, I am replacing it with “Picture no longer available”. This is probably going to take a while to complete, if you come accross an old post with a broken picture or link, let me know and I will fix it up as soon as I can.

Thanks

RE: Server is back up

Okay, I gave in and put the old VM back online and imported the posts from the last week. I thought about it over the last few days and just really started to think that there is a lot of stuff here I don’t want to loose and it would be way too much work to figure out how to archive it and keep reasonable access to it, especially the wki part of the site. So I decided to keep it all, warts and all. I even decided to stick with the old theme, frankly I like the soft tones and the easy colors.

C64 in the modern age

There are three things every Commodore 64 (C64) needs in the modern era of computers.

  • SD2IEC, which bring a modern storage solution to the C64 in the form of SD cards.
  • EPYX FASTLOAD RELOADED cartridge, which updates the C64’s terrible disk access routines and speeds up the loading of programs.
  • WiModem, which gives the C64 access to the internet by emulating a Hayes compatible modem.

Now don’t get me wrong, adding these to your C64 is not going to fundamentally change anything about the C64, but what it will do is make life easier for you and make the retro experience less frustrating and more fun. These upgrade will probably cost you $200 when all is said and done, but they are easy to install and none require you to open the system.

There is some argument to be made that a JiffyDOS replacement ROM is a necessary upgrade as well. I disagree, it is a nice to have, but not a need to have. My first problem with the JiffyDOS ROM is it is not much better than adding the EPYX cartridge and the keyboard shortcuts are not all that short. The second problem is, the ROM requires you to de-solder the old ROM chip to install the replacement. This is a process I am unwilling to undertake, while I am competent with a soldering iron, running the risk of destroying my C64 is entirely too high, so for me and I think most people this is a no go.

So now I guess the question is, what do you do with your spiffy super fast internet connected C64 with a ton of storage space?

Server is back up

I got the server back from the repair shop. Oddly the problem was the CPU, I say oddly, because in the last 20 years I have seen less than 5 CPU’s go bad out of the hundreds of computers I have worked on. Fortunately the CPU was still under warranty and the shop replaced the CPU while they RMA the failed one. I imported the quick and dirty VM I built over the weekend and again, here we are. I like the fresh start, so I am going to stick with it. I may or may not put the game wiki back up, I have not decided yet if it was really worth my time or if my players actually used it or not. One of the issues with it was it grew organically over a 10 year period and so there is a lot of clutter, so If I do decide to put the wiki back up, I will start all over again and build it up in a much more organized fashion.

Me and my C64

Last year while the wife was off in Montana helping to take care of my mother, I bought an old Commodore 64 with intent of gutting it and putting a Raspberry Pi in it. Long story short, I was actually able to repair it with a 20 minute soldering job. Since then it has been a center piece of my nerd cave, while I do not use it much, I do occasionally fire it up and play Zork or Hammurabi. Well a couple of week ago I came home from work and found it on the floor, apparently knocked off the desk by one of the cats. When I booted it up, all the characters were funky. A quick run on google showed this was actually a common problem when shipping these boxes. The character ROM (901225-01) is socketed and occasionally come loose and the fix is to open it up and re-seat the ROM. This morning I got ambitious and opened it up for the 2nd time, it did not take long to figure out which was the correct chip, but the process was fairly easy. and when I put it back together, it booted up fine and dandy.

 

As you can see, I am back into Zork without too much hassle.

I have been thinking about this movie all week!

“Fritz! Get up for God’s sake, get up! They’ve killed Fritz, they’ve killed Fritz! Those lousy stinking yellow fairies, those horrible atrocity filled vermin, those despicable animal warmongers, they’ve killed Fritz! Take that, take that, take that you green slime! You black hairy short bowlegged…”