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Archive for January, 2014

logo kubuntu

Yes, this is how I spend my weekday nights: loading new operating systems, just to see what they look like.

I know, I know. You envy me. You wish you were me. Everyone does.

Anyway, for quite a while now I’ve considered abandoning Windows (especially after the fugliness that is version 8), and one of the alternatives I’ve been considering is some flavor of the Linux operating system. There is a lot to like about linux and it’s derivatives. For one thing, it’s free. It’s also stable, powerful, rarely targeted by viruses, and is supported by software that does most everything one could do on Windows, except most Linux applications are also free.

Free is good.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, my friend Richard sold me a his Linux laptop when he decided to dedicate his soul to the Cult of Mac. Since then, and quite a bit recently, I’ve been teaching myself Linux using Ubuntu, one of the many Linux derivatives. I’ve been quite impressed with what one can do (the Linux command line is like crack to someone like me, raised on DOS), but I wasn’t thrilled with the Unity desktop. It just didn’t work the way I wanted to (or was used to?). So, I decided to switch the laptop to Ubuntu’s close cousin, Kubuntu and its KDE Plasma desktop and give those a go. Installation was a breeze, and, though I’ve only used it for a few hours, I so far like Plasma quite a bit more than Unity.

(From what I’ve gathered, desktop preferences can generate flame wars in the Linux community, much like Mac vs. Windows fights. So, no offense intended — it’s just personal taste.)

The next steps will be to install the software on Kubuntu that I used on Ubuntu: Apache Open Office, Chrome (Unless the already-installed Chromium, from which Chrome is derived, lets me log into my Google account?), and a few other things. I did a clean wipe-and-install, so all this will have the benefit of forcing me to learn my way around Linux. After a few weeks of this, I might give a try to other Linux flavors, such as Xubuntu and Mint.

In case you’re wondering, the only reason I have not switched all my PCs yet is that there are still some applications I use in Windows, such as Final Draft and Roboform, for which I haven’t found adequate substitutes in Linux-land. I may have to eventually set up a means to boot Windows 7 or Linux on the same machine, as needed, so I can have access to those programs. From what I’ve read, that’s not too hairy a project.

At least it will give me something to do on a weekday night. 🙂

PS: If you were confused by the vague references to various operating systems and desktops, you’re not alone. There is an incredible family tree for Linux (being an open-source movement, it seems everyone has to make their own) and a dizzying proliferation of desktops. And, of course, they’re interchangeable. Plasma comes with Kubuntu, but I could have installed it with Ubuntu and just switched between it and Unity. Or I could (I think) install Xubuntu’s Xfce desktop over Kubuntu. Or…. You get the idea. For me, this kind of customizability is a benefit, not a problem.

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This is genius: a circles within circles interpretation on the “rotating dungeon,” and the rotating portions of the map can be moved by the GM. My compliments to the creators. Da Vinci would be proud.

Mind Weave Role-Playing Platform

This is the proudest dungeon I’ve ever built, and now that I’ve run it for everyone I run games for lately, it’s finally safe to post.ChangeableMaze

She might not look like much, but that’s partly that its an old sheet of paper glued to old cardboard and partly that its too big to scan all at once and my photoshop isn’t the best. All the same, please consider what I’m presenting here. There are seven rotating circles in this maze, and they overlap.

WorstMazeCircleThe biggest circle is the one that gets the player’s attention, but doesn’t cause a whole lot of confusion. The confusion comes from the circles that can break apart and leave pieces of themselves scattered across the maze. There’s nothing quite so bothersome as finding something you’ve seen before completely surrounded by things you don’t recognize. The most important, though, are the small circles contained entirely within…

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This is hilarious:

😀

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Go, Broncos

49ers-logo

Well, that was disappointing. After a house-afire start, sacking Seahawks’ QB Wilson and forcing and recovering a fumble, my beloved 49ers went on to lose, 23-17. The Seattle Seahawks, lead by former U$C coach Pete Carroll (who left the school on the hook for all the NCAA violations that occurred during his tenure there as head coach), will go to the Super Bowl to face the Denver Broncos.

Go, Broncos.

Let’s be honest, the Seahawks deserved to win: they played better, especially in the 4th quarter when we turned the ball over three times. And on that last one, I really have to wonder why they ever called that play, when there was plenty of time to call a timeout and come up with a plan of attack over 2-3 plays. The desperate shot to the endzone could have been saved for last.

Still, this is the toughest we’ve ever played them in Seattle and a sign of progress. In three years under Harbaugh, we’ve been to three NFC Championships, winning one, and one trip to the Super Bowl. For any 49er fan with a functioning memory that can recall the rotten days under Singletary, Nolan, and Erickson, the last three years have been a remarkable turnaround. And, at the end, we had a good chance to win the game, in spite of the horrid officiating.

No, I’m not saying the refs threw the game to Seattle. Again, they beat us. But many of the calls were terrible and at least one, which should have been a “roughing the kicker” penalty, undoubtedly influenced the course of the game. The crew tonight was incompetent.

Nor has officiating been a problem in only this game. Many times during the year in many different games, we’ve seen awful calls that were obviously wrong. The NFL needs to do something about this, because it’s hurting the game, itself. And it needs to be done this off-season.

Anyway, that’s now over and done with and, as my friend Alfred likes to say, we’ll allow ourselves a day or two to mourn, then get ready for next year.

As for Super Bowl Sunday… Go Broncos!*

*(No, no divisonal or conference loyalty. Not when Pete Carroll is coaching.)

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book cover wailing asteroid

I’ve gotten way behind in my science fiction reviews, so let me jump back in the saddle (or choose another cliché) with a short review of Murray Leinster’s “The Wailing Asteroid.”

My brief evaluation: Recommended with strong reservations.

Regarding Leinster, I’ll confess, for a science fiction fan, I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of him, even though he was referred to as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”  Speaks to my cultural poverty, I guess. This Wikipedia entry gives a good summary of his career, and there is also a informative entry for him in the online Science Fiction Encyclopedia. He wrote in many genres besides science fiction, including mysteries, adventure, and romance; his earliest science fiction tale was published in Argosy in 1919, making him one of the pioneers of the genre.

Spoiler warning. The rest is “below the fold” (more…)

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"Hmm. Maybe I shuold just rip his heart out."

“Hmm. Maybe I should just rip his heart out.”

Via Richard Iorio. That touch-move rule is the source of so many fatal chess games

An Italian man allegedly cut open his Dublin landlord’s chest and tried to eat his heart following a fight over a chess match.

Saverio Bellante, 34, was charged Monday with murder. Police say he admitted his guilt after being arrested Sunday at the home he shared with Tom O’Gorman, a policy researcher for a conservative Catholic think tank in Ireland.

Pathologists said the 39-year-old victim suffered dozens of severe knife wounds to his head and chest, which had been cut fully open. Ireland’s senior pathologist determined that the heart remained, but a lung was missing.

Police offered no explanation for what happened to the lung. Evidence suggested that O’Gorman’s prone head and body also were bludgeoned with a dumbbell.

In the old days, Alekhine used to throw his king against the wall in disgust after a loss. Now, if you can’t beat your foe, you just eat his heart.

So much more civilized.

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"Banned by Nanny State"

“Banned by Nanny State”

I’ve already made clear my opposition to Los Angeles’ ban on plastic shopping bags handed out by stores with your purchase. Now, here’s an example of why that law is just plain stupid:

Today I had to stop at the grocery store to pick up some vegetables for dinner. (Broccoli crowns, to be precise.) I did not have my “environmentally friendly” (but health-hazardy) reusable bag with me. As I ride the bus to and from work  (environmentally friendly! Yay, me!), I didn’t have one with me. So my choice was to either walk all the way home, get a bag, come back, and walk home again, or just go inside, buy the broc, and “go bagless.” I chose the latter.

Kind of. You see, I still had a Dread Plastic Bag with me: the transparent plastic bag we put our vegetables in before buying them, which I used to carry the crowns home in.

So what’s the point of the ban, man?

Repeal it.

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