R.I.P Stephen Walker, you will be missed.
A fond farewell 2013-05-25 10:48
A farewell to all things Ubuntu 2013-04-23 11:42
It must be said that my primary reason for using Xubuntu was to have a reasonably light Linux install that didn't burden me with excessive dependencies on horrible bloatware such as zeitgeist, unity or the vast majority of gnome3. So you can imagine my surprise when testing the 12.10 -> 13.04 upgrade procedure in a vm when I noticed that such wonderfully useless pieces of tech such as the gnome-control-center and large parts of unity and zeitgeist were being introduced as core dependencies to the xubuntu-desktop package. I was disappointed to say the least, to be more accurate I was pretty livid.
"So what?" You might reasonably say, "why not just remove the crap you don't want and to hell with the -desktop metapackage? You don't need it to run your system so just get rid of it!". These are not unreasonable points, I totally agree. However what I wanted was a system devoid of a lot of the excessive crap that ubuntu seems to pile into its default setups. My disdain for this excess has gotten to the point where I spend inordinate amounts of time post-install disabling shitware and having to mess around with the core of the system so as to get things running the way I'd like. Unfortunately *buntu setups do not take well to lots of tweaking and in the process you often end up with a system that is now partially unstable because it's so dependent on extras.
It's not me, it's you
So it had come to this and I realised that what I realistically needed to do was go elsewhere and find a distribution that let me do things my way and that didn't fuck about. I wanted something that I could configure from the command line, only installed what I wanted it to and that had the latest software available. I had a look around and the answer seemed pretty obvious really.
Arch Linux, here I come
Arch was the obvious choice, it did everything I wanted and I could tweak it to my hearts content. It was designed just for that kind of (ab)use. So I got down and dirty with the documentation. A daunting experience initially but after some reading, googling and eventually mixing the Beginners Guide with a handy howto I found here I had enough information to fire up a test vm and get familiar with Arch before converting everything over. It's worth noting that if you do follow that particular guide that, at this time of writing, the naming conventions for network devices has changed slightly so when setting up your network make sure to run
ip addr show
To make sure you get your device name right, otherwise you may find that you're without a connection when you reboot into your freshly bootstrapped system. Since then it's been a breeze, Archs documentation is superb. Their wiki has a wealth of info to solve damn near any problem you can think of and the AUR is a fantastic resource.
Thanks Arch, you've given me back Linux in a way that I can enjoy and actually get shit done with.
The Death of Google Reader 2013-03-14 10:31
So it turns out that Google are killing off the Reader RSS aggregator. Personally I'm deeply disappointed in Googles decision, I'm very fond of Reader and I use it every day across multiple devices and platforms. Interestingly for me, someone on the Register forums has suggested Feedly as an alternative to Reader and they've already got an FAQ up for all the Reader users that are migrating to them. I will most likely be among them.
I find it difficult to accept Googles rationale behind this decision, as far as I can see all they're achieving is breaking the trust of a lot of tech savvy users. It raises the question, why should we put our trust in Google products when they seem to be likely to just axe them at a moments notice despite many people depending on them. And whilst usage may have 'declined' I'd be willing to be that it's still fairly high.
Today Google has lost a lot of good faith and trust from a lot of people. I, for one, will definitely have to think very carefully before signing up for and using any new Google services from now on. Why should I? For all I know they'll be gone tomorrow too.
Dear Ubuntu, 2013-02-05 09:08
It's been a rocky ride, I know. We seem to get along just fine for seemingly ages until one day one of your 'quirks' just hacks me off so much I consider going back to... Y'know.. 'her'. But lately (and I mean for the last couple of years lately) there's been something in your default install that always leaves me fuming.
I think you know what it is. That's right. Unity. It's still buggy, still a horrible inflexible and painfully forced UI paradigm that really does nothing to improve usability and you still won't even let me choose where to put that idiotic launcher bar. It's as if OSX and Windows 7 had a filthy, shameful liason and Unity was the deformed bastard offspring of that unholy union.
Thankfully after much soul searching and internal debate I found a solution that should suit every one. I'm giving you a makeover, it's called XFCE and it does what I want, when I want and it doesn't fuck about.
I'm glad we could have this little chat and I hope you understand. It's not me. It's you.
Baldur's Gate Trilogy on Linux! 2013-01-24 15:13
I love Baldur's Gate, it's an amazing story and one of the most unforgiving games I've ever played and now I've got the rather awesome BGT WeiDU mod running nicely on Linux. How do we go about this? Well we're going to need a few things. This little article is for installing BGT on an Ubuntu 12.10 box using the GoG.com editions of BG and BG2.
1. Get the GoG.com editions of BG & BG2
First thing's first, we need the game data. So go here and here and get the games! For now you can just download the installers and leave them. We'll come back to them in a bit. While you're downloading the installers go here and get the Baldur's Gate Trilogy-WeiDU pack (current version 1.15).
2. Install WINE and some things
Seems obvious right? We're going to need wine to run the GoG.com installers, on Ubuntu I thoroughly recommend adding the official Wine PPA for the latest builds so paste the following into a terminal:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install wine
3. Compile GemRB
Now we're going to compile the GemRB engine to run the game itself so we'll need some build tools and some dev libs. I know some people find compiling a bit unnerving but it's really not that bad. Plese note that you might be able to get pre-compiled packages from getdeb.net but they seem to be extremely unreliable. Install the bits you need with the following:
sudo apt-get install git build-essential cmake libpng12-dev libfreetype6-dev libopenal-dev libsdl1.2-dev python2.7-dev
Right, now we should have everything we need to compile GemRB.
cd git clone git://gemrb.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/gemrb/gemrb cd gemrb mkdir build cd build
It's worth noting that GemRB by default configures itself to be installed in /usr/local but I prefer to install it to /opt to make it easier to remove/upgrade newer versions from source. If you want to install it to its default location then just remove the flags after 'cmake ..'.
cmake .. -DLAYOUT=opt -DPREFIX=/opt/gemrb make -j2 sudo make install
Once this is done you should add the gemrb bin directory to your path
echo "export PATH=\"$PATH:/opt/gemrb/bin\"" >> ~/.bashrc source ~/.bashrc
4. Install BG & BG2
Now we can install the game data, just go to your Downloads folder and right click each setup file and open it with Wine. Once that's done go to ~/.wine/drive_c/GOG\ Games/Baldur\'s\ Gate\ 2/ and unpack the BGT WeiDU pack there. Inside the BG2 folder you should now have a folder called bgt, a setup-bgt.exe and a setup-bgt.tp2. Run the setup-bgt.exe using Wine and follow the prompts, this will take a while so go and have a cup of tea while it's finishing.
Baldur's Gate Trilogy is almost ready, copy and paste the following into a text file in your home directory (mine is called BG2.gemrb.cfg) :
GameType=bg2 GameName=Baldur's Gate Trilogy #NOTE: SCREEN width and height can NOT be ARBITRARY without installing the # widescreen mod: http://www.gibberlings3.net/widescreen/ #Resolutions supported by the original games (gemrb) are: # * 640x480 (except in iwd2) # * 800x600 (bg2, iwd:how, iwd2) # * 1024x768 (bg2, iwd:how, iwd2) # * 1280x1024 (bg2, iwd:how, iwd2) Width=800 Height=600 Bpp=32 Fullscreen=0 TooltipDelay=500 # On Linux you'll need this set to 1 CaseSensitive=1 # I've disabled GUI enhancements because there's some # concern that they don't work well with mods GUIEnhancements = 0 GamePath=~/.wine/drive_c/GOG Games/Baldur's Gate 2 CD1=~/.wine/drive_c/GOG Games/Baldur's Gate 2 CachePath=./Cache/
For a more detailed example config file have a look in /opt/gemrb/etc.
gemrb -c ~/BG2.gemrb.cfg
What I did next was to edit the BG2 .desktop file that wine stuck on my desktop so I could double click it to run the game, open it up and set the the contents to:
[Desktop Entry] Name=Baldur's Gate Trilogy Exec=/opt/gemrb/bin/gemrb -c ~/BG2.gemrb.cfg Type=Application StartupNotify=true Icon=F014_gfw_high.0 Name[en_GB]=Baldur's Gate Trilogy
You may have to substitute the ~ in the Exec line with the path to your home directory. I hope this helps and that it all works. Enjoy!
Windows ACL is fucking moronic. 2013-01-15 10:12
After quite a good start to the day I suddenly found my otherwise serene morning ruined by the fuck-knuckled braindead clusterfuck that is Windows ACL (Access Control Lists).
Allow me to explain. I wanted to copy over a load of files to a microSD card, my PC at home didn't have a reader slot and I didn't have a portable reader with me so I took my external hdd to work to use the microSD slot in my laptop that I usually leave at the office.
Here's where things get stupid. I hooked up the hdd to the laptop and navigated to the music folder. My suspicions that something odd was going on were immediately aroused by the notification that I need permission to view this folder. Excuse me? I have never set restrictive permissions on any of this information and as far as I'm aware the harddrive is formatted as FAT32 and I didn't think FAT32 was even capable of storing permissions and ownership metadata.
I ignored it and told it to copy the contents of the music folder over to my laptop and saw again that numerous individual files and a couple of folders kept flagging up as requiring read permissions (note I'm doing all this from the administrator account of the laptop). Once the copy had finished and I'd skipped a few items that just wouldn't go (permissions issues again) I went back over the data to see what was wrong. I couldn't access the folder I particularly wanted to copy. It told me I needed to change the ownership of the folder, so after a certain amount of arse-fuckery trying to work out which account I should change it to (Windows ACL is arsefuck stupid and painfully overcomplicated compared to UNIX permissions) I finally sorted it out. Or so I thought. I ejected the hard drive and re-connected it and started trying to copy the folder I wanted over... No luck, more permissions bollocks. Then I had a look inside the subfolders, no data shown. What the absolute fuck? Had Windows just deleted 14GB of data for no apparent reason? I wasn't sure so I ejected the hard drive again and hooked it up to my Linux desktop. Lo and behold all of my data was there and Linux let me do everything I wanted with it. Unfortunately my work desktop doesn't have a slot for SD/microSD cards so right now I'm using scp to copy up the data to my server and I'll use cygwin to scp it back down to my laptop. Temporarily at least. I think ultimately what I'm going to do is partition off a chunk of disk space and just install Linux to the laptop so I can use an OS that isn't fucking stupid.
New cat! 2013-01-10 11:34
We have a new cat in the house. A couple of days ago, after finally finishing the adoption process, we welcomed Sidney into our home from the local Blue Cross shelter. So far he's settling in well and with any luck he'll be exploring the garden once he's had a few weeks to properly get his bearings and adjust to his new surroundings. Here he is on his first day home.
Haiku time 2012-12-11 10:08
Oh silly cyclists
You are not pedestrians
Get off the pavement.
Todays haiku is brought to you by the letters "Get on the fucking road and stop trying to run me over, you pricks"
More on character sheets and development models 2012-12-07 10:40
Firstly, mad props to the D&D Buddy developer. I posted my list of issues with the apps 3.5 support on their facebook page and he was addressing it within hours. There's still work to be done but it's getting better and better very rapidly. I must say I'm very impressed.
Secondly, my mobile character sheet is nearing it's 1.0 release. Most of the functionality is there, it just needs some bits added to the rendered simple data and an editor section for spells per day. I'll post it to the rpg subreddit when it's ready (could still be a week or two away depending on my other commitments) but it's already usable (but not perfect) for non-spell casters. As a stop gap measure casters could easily use the Notes tab to keep info on spells per day until I implement a dedicated tab for it.
That's all for now, have a great weekend!
D&D character apps 2012-12-05 12:59
As you may or may not know I'm writing a character sheet app for D&D 3.5ed for mobile devices. It's not finished and there's still some work to do but you can see the current stable dev version here. Another app that I'm watching very closely because it has the potential to render mine completely obsolete (I think this is a good thing by the way) is DnD Buddy and today the author released the latest and greatest edition which apparently has 3.5 ed support. Except it doesn't.
What it has is Pathfinder support and whilst Pathfinder is a great fantasy roleplay system you can't just pull out a Pathfinder character sheet and play D&D 3.5 on it because there are a couple of differences. The skills list is very different and this is one of the key issues also D&D 3.5 doesn't have CMD and CMB (I don't even know what those are). The app allows for 'Action Points' as well, I don't know if 'Action Points' are a thing in Pathfinder but they don't exist in D&D 3.5.
And it doesn't quite end there. Both 3.5 and Pathfinder calculate AC in the same way yet the app miscalculates those numbers on the rendered sheet even though the character editor gets it right and the save modifiers (will, ref, fort) don't calculate properly either. Another point of contention is that you can't just put in your class as anything, you have to pick from a predefined class list which is horrendously limiting. The extended SRD for 3.5 and Pathfinder has hundreds upon hundreds of classes. Trying to put all of them into one application so that nothing is overlooked (and let's not dwell upon the joys of multi-classing characters within this restriction) is insane.
Hopefully the author will address these things soon. But it is things like this that led me to start writing my own character sheet application, people try too hard in these apps to make them omniscient but roleplay games like D&D and Pathfinder constantly have new spells, classes, races etc added to them. Sooner or later you're going to miss one and disappoint a player. That's why my app doesn't try to hold your hand. It keeps it's functionality to a bare minimum and in the rendered view only shows the player the bare minimum stuff they need to have to hand. It's definitely not pefect and it's still got a lot of work to be done in finishing up the feature set and tidying up the code but at least it doesn't presume to tell players what to do.