The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Experiment over

| January 18, 2008

Started here

Process: (1) Install Fedora (2) Run updates (3) I forget to cap laptop frequency at 1GHz, so it overheats and turns itself off. (4) The updates don't complete, so they're like half installed, stuff keeps dying and my Ethernet connection keeps dying. (5) It doesn't even seem to know that it is messed up. At least debian knows “your package installation is all messed up and these are all half installed and you need to fix it”. RPM doesn't seem to know.

So, I guess I'll just put up with it until the LTS release comes out.

Interview Meme

| January 18, 2008

(From here)

asks: 1) What got you into shooting? Is it something you grew up with, or did you discover it later in life? 2) What prompted the move from rockstar programmer to your current, much superior arrangements? 3) If you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Lizzie run into each other? 4) Let’s say that you have a budget of, say, enough, to spend on one custom rifle. What would you get made? 5) What would you say are the best things about being an exurbanite teleworker? The worst? 1) What got you into shooting? Is it something you grew up with, or did you discover it later in life? A little of both, actually. My father introduced me to shooting, gun safety, etc. but he ended up doing a lot of work away from the house from about the time I was 12 until after I left for university. No adult to take me shooting, so no shooting. When in university, I went a couple of times with a .22 rifle that I had (and still have), but there were more important things to buy whilst in university (food, booze, computers) than guns. When I graduated, I took the RI safety test to get the card authorizing me to purchase handguns (RI differs greatly from NY, I’ll tell you about it sometime), and bought a 1911 and a 10/22. I joined a range, and started shooting regularly. Bought more guns, started reloading, etc. 2) What prompted the move from rockstar programmer to your current, much superior arrangements? Stress. Specifically – I didn’t like my boss calling me at 7PM because he was still working and had a question, but I clocked out at 5. I hate the telephone, so someone calling is annoying enough, but calling with work and me having to context switch into that mode is hard enough. – I didn’t like my boss calling me at 7PM to tell me that he had a late meeting with the client and the client wanted this thing done right now, so we were going to be up all night doing it. I got paid for it, of course, but I really like my plan and routine. I do not like things throwing a monkey wrench into my plans and tend to get pissed off – especially if I think it’s not worth it. – I hated running Windows. It’s like swimming with 10lbs of weight strapped to you. Sure, you can do it, but it’s not fun. 3) If you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Lizzie run into each other? A computer lab, where else? She worked here, and I worked here, and my department got a grant for some computers, but we didn’t have any space. So, the departments made a bargain – we’d get to use one of the rooms in her lab if we set it up so that the other engineers could get accounts, and such. So, we did, and I ended up spending time over there with installations, upgrades, stuff like that. 4) Let’s say that you have a budget of, say, enough, to spend on one custom rifle. What would you get made? That’s actually a tough question for me to answer, since I don’t do a whole lot of rifle work right now, and haven’t really played with enough different ones to day that “this is super badass and I want a fancy custom one”. Offhand, I’d say something like a piston driven AR-10 type design, but we can get those basically stock for

The grand experiment

| January 18, 2008

So, as a follow up to this post, I am conducting a big Fedora test. I am going to switch to Fedora on a spare hard drive in my laptop and will use it as a long-term test until Ubuntu 8.04 (a Long Term Support) version comes out. At this point, I will decide whether to install Fedora on the main laptop drive and on my desktop, or to use Ubuntu 8.04 and stick with the LTS versions from here on out. Let's see where this goes..

Is there anything better…

| January 18, 2008

Than day old pizza which was a little underdone to begin with, so when you heat it up in the toaster oven, the bottom gets all nice and crispy?

By the way, Debian – after 5 years, your installer still sucks

| January 17, 2008

Way back in the day, I tried to install Debian 3.0 (Sarge) and ended up just getting pissed off at the installer and casting it aside.

Now, it's 2008, and I'm trying to install 4.0 (Etch). OOh! There's an ecrypted LVM setup out of the box. I select the default partitioning thing, let it spend an hour and a half erasing the disk, and then go to modify the partition table it created… and then manage to crash the installer… Okay, well, I'll be more gentle next time. So, I go back through.. and it still wants to spend an hour and a half formatting the drive.. WTF? Restart.. try and find a way to turn it off.. none that I can find. Restart… expert mode.. is it in there? Nope.

That's it, patience exceeded.

Of course, why am I trying to install Etch? Because Ubuntu has been headed downhill since 6.06, and more and more things get broken on my laptop. Wireless was rock solid stable in 6.06, now it barely works, and I have to reboot every week or so because NetworkManager gobbles up all your CPU after about a week. Oh, and openoffice won't print my stuff anymore… Oh, and NFS STILL DOESN'T RELIABLY MOUNT THINGS AT BOOT. But we have Upstart, so that makes it all good, right?

So, to review: (1) Ubuntu – they keep breaking stuff. (2) Debian – installer sucks.

I think I'm going to give Fedora 8 a whirl.. I tried it about a month ago, and was annoyed about lack of packages. But, I've been talking with , and it seems like the packages they have actually working might be worth the fact that I'd have to compile Mame from scratch. So, I figure I'll install it again, poke it, and see what leaks out.

Oh, and why is every major distribution still compiled for i386? Come on folks.. The 80's called, they want their CPU back. Go i586, at least.

Kitty Cat Milestone

| January 15, 2008

So, after some effort, Licorice has finally started to come out of her shell. Liz and I have been chasing her down and making sure to pick up and pet her. She's fine once you get her, she purrs and snuggles, and loves being held. She just doesn't like being gotten.. either that, or she just likes to be chased. She probably thinks it is a game and likes to watch us try and get her.

However, last night, she came up on the bed, got her ears scratched and licked my face. Earlier, she was up on the bed and Liz was petting her.

So, that's progress.

Spirit of the Century Play Review

| January 13, 2008

New Year's Eve, I ran a SoTC installment for and Liz, based on the Spirit of the Season characters. Liz was Blitzen and was Vixen. The basic story was that an evil scientist had lost his true love, so was attempting to use an ancient pagan ritual of the 12 days of Christmas (on which the song was based) to raise her from the dead. This was accomplished by sacrificing the items enumerated in the song in a clockface arrangement around the body of his dead wife on the proscribed days. Very pulpy, and exactly what you would expect.

I'm not going to go into a play by play of the plot and actions, but will instead talk about the system, impressions and how it ran.

Player Background:

had experience with online RPG’s, but no pen and paper RPG’s. Liz played a pen and paper RPG with us some years ago. I don’t recall which one, but it was something heavily stat-based, like D&D or Shadowrun. Her main complaints were that things tended to drag on, and we would end up arguing a lot about rules, which made it drag on even more. Bullet points:
  • The system and rules were picked up quickly. The fudge dice were easily understood, the adding/subtracting to skills based on rolls was quick and easy.
  • We used skills a lot, but hardly ever used the stunts. Explaining all of them tended to drag things down a bit, unlike aspects, which people tend to “own” more than the stunts, since they are more “fuzzy”. In the future, I think I’ll use the “going stuntless” rules (available at the FATE Yahoo Group), which supplant all of the specific stunts by expanding the rules for spending action points to allow you to use them to power the things which would be covered by stunts (which also may need action points in some case).
  • We didn’t tag aspects as much as we should have. I didn’t compel them as much as I could have, and the players didn’t use them. Since this was forgotten by both GM and players, it kind of evened out. Had they used more, I would have felt the need to hit them with more compels.
  • Liz had the complaint that combat dragged on – and it only lasted a half an hour for a 30 person combat (2 PCs, 2 NPC’s helping the PC’s, about a dozen NPC mooks, and a pile of civilian NPC’s trying to get away). The problem we kept hitting was that the PC’s couldn’t roll – they would be rolling a -3 on an +4 skill, netting them +1, and the mooks would roll +1 on a +0 skill, netting +1 – a tie so nothing happens. The irony here was that I was worried about it taking too long, so I had already streamlined the combat by having any type of straight opposition (gunfights, fistfights, etc.) being a “both roll, high result wins and loser takes damage”, rather than an opposed “attack/defense” roll, as described in the rules. In the end, they just declared what they wanted to do, we made some rolls, and I narrated what happened. While this worked in this one case, it was universally agreed upon that they didn’t want to run the whole combat like this. We also talked about it more, and there was some frustration because I had misunderstood what Liz was trying to accomplish with one of her attacks (she wanted to shrink a zeppelin and I narrated it as “the people inside the zeppelin shrink too”, where Liz wanted it to “squeeze” them out, so that they abandoned the zeppelin rather than be crushed. Her narration was actually better, but this largely came out after. We agreed that if she had been more clear with her cause and effect, this might have not been so frustrating. Further, if they had spent more fate points to bump up their die rolls, which would have upped their resulting scores. I should have mentioned this to them during the fight, but I forgot to.
  • We didn’t end up finishing the scenario (I planned it for a about a 4 hour run time split between two sessions). We didn’t play the second installment, because the rule I use is “I won’t force people new folks into another game, if they want to play again, they’ll come to me”. No one said “hey, let’s play, because I want to see how it ends”, so we never finished.
In the end, I have to say that I really like the Spirit of the Century system. It worked well for a pick up game, is good for fast and loose narrative flow, and is tremendously flexible. Liz didn’t completely hate it and want to stop playing after only half an hour, so that is something. However, because no one wanted to finish the game, I still don’t think it’s “good enough”, at least for this crowd. This is no fault of SoTC – I don’t think that there is a system which will actually work for this Liz – she just doesn’t enjoy it. In other news, I’ve been reading the Esoterrorists (which uses the Gumshoe system), and I really like the way they set it up for narrative flow of mystery-type adventures. Essentially, you have a set of investigative skills, and you can use those skills at at crime scene and automatically find all clues which can be found with those skills. Thus, the plot never stalls because you failed a roll. Aside from that, it is a pretty conventional stat-based roleplaying game. Had I not read SoTC already, this wouldn’t bother me, but now, I like the flexibility of SoTC. So, I’m thinking of a “mashup”.. perhaps “Spirit of the Gumshoe”? The idea here is that the big list of investigative skills from Gumshoe, but the general skills are replaced with the Skills and Aspects from SoTC. Further, the “investigative pool” (determined by the quality of your various investigation skills), is removed and will be powered by spending aspects, instead. The skills then become a boolean “yes/no”. This should, in theory, take the aspects I like of SoTC, but mesh well with the setting and investigative schtick of The Esoterrorists. Addendum: Liz feels that this post misrepresented her position on the game. The only source of frustration was the combat, which would have been helped by the use of fate points. Just because she didn’t bug me to play again doesn’t mean that she didn’t like it, just that she has other things to do.


| January 13, 2008

  • Liz and I went to see SPAMALOT on Thursday. Very well done. Some favorites, plus some new stuff.
  • Summer Glau is apparently going to be in the Sarah Connor Chronicles, playing a Terminator. First River Tam, now this? Typecast, anyone? That said, I can't say that I mind Summer being cast as a martial arts badass. Plus, the fact that she's a cutie doesn't hurt much either.

Bacon flowchart

| January 6, 2008

Bacon flowchart

Thanks to for sending it along.

Matty the fireman?

| January 6, 2008

I should probably mention that I applied for membership to the local fire dept. For the next month, I will be attending the equipment checks and will learn some basics. After that, and they get to know be a bit, they will vote on me at next month's meeting. Once I am a member, I get to take a physical, and then I have 2 1/2 years to complete the basic firefighter class, which is 100 hours of class time, with about a 70/30 book work/practical split.

I do not know how I will react to fires and such, but I know that if my house were on fire, or if I were to go off the road, I would want help. Well, all those folks helping are volunteers. I'm young and strong, so there is no reason I can't help too.

My father in law is a firefighter in a town about 10 miles south, and he calls me up today because there is a massive structure fire and that I should show up and see how things go if I wanted to learn something. So, Liz and I go down, explain what's going on to the perimeter security fellow who tells us to stay out of the way and be careful because there are tanker trucks on the way up. We head on down and park far enough away to not take up any close parking spots, then we walk down. Turns out it's this huge barn full of hay. Luckily, there were no people inside, and there was one calf which they got out. We see the chief's wife and help her bring up some water to the staging tent, which is on a hill so I can see how it all lays out. There are three portable tanks (basically big temporary pools made of steel frames and huge waterpoof bags), and they have a large “one way” truck flow set up. Truck comes in, drops a hose, and dumps 1500 gallons of water into one of the temporary tanks in about 5 minutes. There are literally half a dozen of these trucks queued up ready to dump water. When they do, they race off to suck up some more from a local pond. Meanwhile, a second set of trucks are drafting from the temporary tanks and pumping water to the hoses where the firemen are dousing the fire with as much water as they can put on it.

We only stayed about an hour, but this continued for at least 6 hours – a barn full of dry hay can burn for awhile. The landowner (who was on the fire dept, incidentally) had an excavator with one of those grabby attachments on it, and they used this to collapse the barn in a controllable fashion, exposing the bits which need more water, etc. Lots of guys in there with hooks and axes making sure that it gets put out.

In the end, a dozen fire companies were called out, and there were at least 50 firefighters on the scene.

On the way out, we saw the Realtor who set up the deal with this house. He's on the fire department as well, and happens to be this poor fellow's neighbor.

Now, here is the real unexpected twist – I wanted to help. I wanted to know what to do, have gear, and lend a hand. I was just standing there, trying to stay out of the way, feeling pretty out of place.

So, we'll see where it goes. At the very least, even if I'm not cut out to run into burning buildings, I can help with maintenance and upkeep, try to run fundraiser things, and make some friends. One thing about the local volunteer firefighters – they're all really nice, upstanding folks.