Best Buy is having a sale on TV-in cards this week, so I stepped up my PVR research. In the process, I discovered that my old Baltimore Dell box has a TV-out capable video card (a G400), and I even have the magic breakout cable! A quick hardware swap and a test, and I’m left with one fewer item to purchase. Of course I still need a large drive, but they’re cheap. And LG DVD burners are on sale, so I should probably pick one up too. And I don’t really want to string network cable, so add a wireless network card. And while I’m at it, I should probably put the DVD burner in an external USB box, so that I can attach it to other machines. And in the meantime, I need a new desktop to replace the one I’m stealing for the PVR…

Technology. Ain’t it fun?

posted at 11:36 pm on Friday, October 22, 2004 in Personal, Science and Technology | Comments Off on PVRs


I’ve been trying to merge a series of changes from the mainline to the bugs branch all week. But every time I get into the flow, some critical interrupts would arrive. Even working from home didn’t help; the phone rang off the hook all day. (I’ve got two children in school nearby, so I can’t just turn off the ringers, alas). I’ve had to drop and restart the task so many times that it got completely befuddled, to the point where I realized this afternoon that I had to start over. On the plus side, I know what I need to do now, so it won’t take me another entire week… unless more interrupts show up!

I’m glad I’ve got two other team members now; at least _they_ are working on long-term projects, and are able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Without that, I don’t think we’d be making any progress at all…

posted at 11:32 pm on Friday, October 22, 2004 in Personal, Programming | Comments (1)
  1. Greg Wilson says:

    I’m really glad Blueprint lets me squat at one of their empty desks, but it’s a very noisy workplace — lots of side conversations about non-technical things going on all the time. I’ve taken to wearing earphones again for the first time in years, just to cut the accidental interrupt rate.

dungeons and dragons is 30!

It’s the “30th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons”:http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20040722x today. In honour of the date, we’re having a session over at Gerry’s house. The other hard core gamers were strongly typecast during their days at “watsfic”:http://www.watsfic.uwaterloo.ca/, and so the party ended up needing a mage (and a cleric) to complete the set. So I volunteered to be the mage. Oops…

It occured to me after we’d created a character that I’ve never actually played a D&D magic user before. We’ve always replaced the D&D magic system with Spell Law. It never made sense to me that you had to “memorize” spells to cast them (and if you wanted to cast them more than once, you had to “memorize” them more than once!. The most recent D20 explanation at least makes _some_ logical sense, although it still doesn’t mesh with my personal opinions on magic.

I started reading science fiction and fantasy in the early 1980s; a teacher handed me “A Fall of Moondust” by Arthur C. Clarke and I was hooked :-). I quickly formed my own mental model of magic, and it aligns fairly well with the Rolemaster magic system (then “Spell Law”:http://www.icewebring.com/ICE_Products/RM1/RM1_1400_SpellLawBox.shtml, part of xLaw). You either know a spell or you don’t, and with practice you get better (and faster) at casting it. As you use magic you get tired, and as you get tired you start to make mistakes. You _can_ cast spells gagged and restrained, its just _really_ hard. And so on…

Spell Law made a lot more sense to me then (and still does :-), which is probably why I’m currently in two “Rolemaster”:http://www.ironcrown.com/RMintro.htm campaigns, playing mages in both. So it should be interesting to play D&D magic for a change…

Happy Anniversary!

Update: I had a lot of fun. We consumed vast quantities of pop and Doritos, told way too many puns, and it only took us two hours to get out of the inn! We even made it two rooms farther into the dungeon than the party Gerry ran the evening before…

On the other hand, I still dislike D&D mages, especially at low level; they’re wimps!

posted at 12:57 am on Sunday, October 17, 2004 in Gaming | Comments (3)
  1. Greg Wilson says:

    I played my first game of D&D in Grade 9, when a supply teacher at the high school showed it to some of us. His name was Mister Scales, and wherever he is, I’d like to thank him for all the hours I’ve spent fleeing monsters, being crushed by falling rocks, and having my soul sucked out of my body by dread gleaners (don’t ask). Sure, today’s systems make more sense… but so what? Remember how it felt to be 12 years old and swinging a *really* big ax?

  2. wjr says:

    I’ve been playing a D&D sorceror in a campaign, and they’re a lot of fun. None of the stupid memorising stuff – you have a list of spells that you know, and if you haven’t used up your quota for the day you can cast any of them you feel like. You can also cast them a lot more often than wizards (classic-style mages) can. The downside is that they’re ALL you can cast, and your list isn’t very long. Still, I end up doing a substantial fraction of the damage dealt out by the party, in my role as lightning-bolt artillery.

    This campaign is also much higher-level (average is 14th right now) – I agree that being a first-level mage sucks. “OK, I’ve cast my Magic Missile. Now I go and hide in a corner for the rest of the day and protect my wimpy 4HP body”.

  3. Harald says:

    Yup; I like the sorceror concept (My character is actually multi-class wizard/sorceror; we found that to be the optimal solution to providing magical support in a one-shot adventure).

    That’s the main difference in Spell Law that I like. Casting is based on “power points”, similar to a sorceror’s quota; again, no memorising stuff. You still have a limited list of spells that you know, but it’s larger, especially at first level. Casting takes longer, but that seems to balance out in most combat and you get faster with experience.

    I’ll have to try a higher level Sorceror sometime, though!

six degrees of St. Elsewhere

This one has been sitting in my to-post pile for two weeks now. *sigh.

From “My head just exploded”:http://www.xoverboard.com/blogarchive/week_2004_10_03.html#000967

bq. So this website, by means of a Kevin-Bacon-style relationship of crossovers, has logically linked one hundred and sixty-two television series as existing in the same universe of continuity… and therefore are all the creation of the autistic Tommy Westphall.

Check it out…

posted at 10:29 pm on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 in Humour, Links, TV | Comments Off on six degrees of St. Elsewhere

layout problems

If you’ve seen layout problems or certificate warnings recently, it’s because WordPress has two URLs for your weblog, that are _supposed_ to be for different purposes. Unfortunately, the code appears to use the two interchangably.

When I changed what was supposed to be the admin interface from HTTP to HTTPS (so that the naive referer check in wp-admin/admin-functions.php would work with my SSL-based webserver), it apparently broke _some_ (but not all) of the URLs on the main blog page.

I don’t have time to investigate right now, but I’ll get around to it eventually.

posted at 2:38 pm on Monday, October 04, 2004 in Site News | Comments Off on layout problems

bittorrent is cool

I remember being skeptical a few years ago when I heard about the technology, but it sure has taken off!

I missed the season premiere of “Joan of Arcadia”:http://www.tvtome.com/JoanofArcadia/. I fumbled the VCR programming and taped from 7:59 until 8:01. (Note to self: build “MythTV”:http://www.mythtv.org/ based Media PC ;-).

Prompted by a “recent entry”:http://rae.tnir.org/archives/000671.html on “Reid’s blog”:http://rae.tnir.org/, I “seached the web”:http://www.google.com/search?q=arcadia+bittorrent, “found a torrent”:http://torrent.youceff.com/download.php?cat=107&ref=0&subref=4, downloaded “Azureus”:http://azureus.sourceforge.net/, and about 2 hours later had a copy of the episode on my disk. In testing, I found that I had to find a copy of a “XviD binary”:http://www.xvid.org/, which was also straightforward (thanks to Google :-). We plan to watch the episode after the kids go to bed tonight.

There are days when I say “I hate computers”, but today has been a good day for technology!

posted at 5:17 pm on Sunday, October 03, 2004 in Links, Personal, TV | Comments (4)
  1. Jeff K says:

    You may still hate computers… I have yet to be caught by bit-torrent, but on the other P2P networks it is distressingly common for a G-rated type file name to actually contain XXX stuff. I think I make my wife paranoid by hiding the screen and turning off the sound when I first fire up a music video or whatever. I’ve seen quite a few things I would never have wanted to on the P2P networks, but so far nothing of the highly illegal type [knock wood, thank God, etc.]

  2. Harald says:

    I must admit that I’ve never had trouble with bad files, either on P2P networks or with torrents. Maybe I’m just lucky? In any case, the episode of Joan was fabulous quality, and contained no ‘icky’ bits…

  3. Reid says:

    I’ve also recently started using Azureus, which has all the features I’ve wanted for a while. Unfortunately, I managed to K-O some in-progress, multi-gig downloads by turning on a setting somewhere that “imports” torrents, making them non-usable by other BitTorrent apps. Actually, not so much of a problem, as my slow downloads in Azureus were being caused I think by not enabling UDP communication. I still haven’t found where I can tell it how many ports it can use — I have over 100 set aside. The doc mentions how this app doesn’t need many ports like other apps somewhere, but I’m still not 100% sure it wouldn’t help.

    P.S. Your site looks iccky today. Did the CSS file go missing?

  4. Reid says:

    Oh, never mind about the iccky CSS comment; all looks well now. I must have caught the site at a bad time or something!

neep! neep!

“zombies seeking brains”:http://www.defectiveyeti.com/archives/001006.html

posted at 4:27 pm on Sunday, October 03, 2004 in Humour, Links | Comments Off on neep! neep!

_now_ they tell me…

“Scientists find coffee really is addictive”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2002052772_coffee03.html

bq. Don’t be surprised if missing that cup of morning coffee gives you a headache or makes it difficult to concentrate at work. It’s all part of caffeine withdrawal, say Johns Hopkins University researchers who released a study that could result in the official classification of the condition as a mental disorder.

This isn’t news; everyone I know already knows about caffeine withdrawl headaches, and I know of several hospitals that now give patients caffeine either right before or right after surgery, to prevent withdrawl symptoms from interfering with their post-op recovery…

posted at 4:26 pm on Sunday, October 03, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on _now_ they tell me…