The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

The end of an era

| February 17, 2016

So, this weekend, the boys and I decommissioned my last remaining Linux desktop. It hasn’t been powered on for about the past three months. Now, I still have a few low-powered “kiosk” machines – like the one I use to control the 3D printer, but those don’t really count because I only use them for a specific purpose and they’re off most of the time.

Anyway, the history of that machine (or, at least, the big blue case) dates back to June of 2003, when I built a Dual CPU Athlon system (note – not dual-core. This is 2 separate CPUs, so 2 separate sockets. This is what multiprocessing used to look like, folks.) I used that machine largely as it was for 5 years, though I think I might have upgraded the video card and RAM along the way. I think at the end it had 1.5GB RAM and some variety of ATI (now AMD) AGP video card. I know I replaced the heat sinks at some point as well, because one of the original fans failed, so I replaced both while I was in there.

In June of 2008, I rebuilt the box into a Core 2 Quad CPU with 8GB of RAM and a Radeon X850 with 256MB RAM and a 4 bay hot swap cage with 4 1TB drives (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 2 TB of usable space). In the fall of 2010, I upgraded the video card, replacing it with a Radeon 4870 w/ 512MB RAM, because Steam was starting to sell Linux games, and the ATI/AMD drivers now supported the Radeon HD series, so it was worth the upgrade. In July of 2012, I pulled the RAID cage out because we built up a SOHO server with 4 3TB HDDs (in 2 RAID 1 mirrors, so 6TB of usable space) and used it there. Since my desktop was no longer the whole house storage / DLNA server, it lost 2 drives for just a mirrored 1TB RAID 1 configuration. Somewhere in 2013, I upgraded the video card again to a Radeon HD 6870 with 1GB RAM for the same reason as before – more, newer games on Steam. It sat like this, being used for games and remoting into work for the next 3 years.

Now, in parallel to this, for my birthday in 2011, my brother gave me a mid-spec box (which we’ll call the “black box”) explicitly intended to run Windows so he and I could play some of the Battlefield games together over the internet, which we did for a couple of years until kids and such got in the way of that. In the following couple of month I maxed out that box with an AMD Phenom II X4 940, 8GB RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870. (For those paying attention, I liked the card so much in this box that I bought one for the Linux box too). That box came with XP, I installed Windows 7 on it, and then upgraded it to W10, and upgraded it from a 500GB HDD to a 1TB HDD somewhere along the way, mainly because I ended up with 2 surplus 1TB drives after I pulled them from the blue box. And that box sat that way, used to play games that only ran under Windows, until this weekend.

This weekend I took the blue box, put both Radeon HD 6870’s in it, configured them for Crossfire, then proceeded to do a fresh install of Windows 10 on to the blue box, because that box had RAID hardware in it. (As it turns out, the black box did to, but I didn’t know this at the time. Still, I like the blue case better, and the machines are otherwise very similar, so which box got kept came down to the case that the board and CPU happened to be in). After testing that for a bit, and coming to realize that these cards, while still officially supported, are effectively legacy so not all features (like, say, Crossfire) work under Windows 10 with all the games I tested them with (Fallout 4, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, and L.A. Noire), I pulled out the second card because it wasn’t doing much good. Finally, I realized that Fallout 4 requires a video card with 2GB of RAM, not the 1GB of RAM that I had, so I needed a new video card.

What do to? Well, I had a perfectly good quad core box with 8GB of RAM, and a Radeon HD 6870 w/ 1GB RAM. So I sold it to a guy at work, and used the proceeds to (mostly) fund the acquisition of an ASUS STRIX R9 390 w/ 8GB RAM. The 750W PC Power and Cooling PSU can run it, so we should be good. It came in and I installed it yesterday. It is enormous and barely fits:

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I had to remove the lower hard drive bracket (empty except for the fan it was holding) in order to get clearance, and, even then, the GPU heatsink is about 5mm away from the remaining metal bracket.

But, it fits, it’s quiet, and it ran Fallout 4 for 2 hours last night with no crashes.

Still, I’m somewhat saddened by the departure of the Linux desktop, but it does free up some space in my small office. The only thing constant is change, I suppose.

On the 2016 election

| February 11, 2016

So, the run up to the election has me thinking a bit.

On the Democratic side, I think most of the general public are going to be upset if Clinton gets the nod over Sanders, and a bunch of Sanders supporters will never vote for Clinton.

On the Republican side, I think its both more fractured and less divided (if that makes any sense). What I mean to say is – if Cruz gets the nod and Trump is out, I could see a lot of Trump supporters voting for Cruz. I also think the opposite is true. (This is likely because there is not as much difference between Republican candidates’ positions as there is between Sanders and Clinton.)

However, for all of you who are falling into the camp of “I will never vote for someone with a D/R next to their name and I won’t vote my party line if they put up [Clinton/Sanders/Cruz/Trump/anyone else], might I suggest that, rather than not voting, you consider voting for a third party. Any third party. Pick one that truly represents your views and vote for their candidate.

If I might push my luck even further, I would ask everyone angry with the current state of affairs to consider voting on the basis of the candidate whose positions you like the best, rather than focusing on issues like “electability”. After all, what makes someone electable is peoples’ willingness to vote for him/her, and if your only reason for not voting for someone is because you don’t think other people will, well, that kind of is a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it?

Also, for what it’s worth, I want to see a Trump vs. Sanders debate. Both are populist candidates but appeal to radically different segments of the population, and is wonderfully representative of the divide in the US today. I think it would make for a good show.

Battle report – 1p40K demo game 1

| February 5, 2016

So, a friend was back in town on holiday break. We got to talking about wargames, so I broke out my 1p40K demo setup. I use the US Army and Insurgent lists from the Fan Armybook for these games because there is a chance that people not familiar with wargames will be familiar with basic military strategy and equipment. In this case, my friend is a Sergeant in the Army, and hence is familiar with that equipment.

Lists

The basic lists are:

US Army

  • 1 x Platoon HQ (4 guys with Assault Rifles) and the “Binoculars” upgrade (lets them call in an artillery strike).
  • 2 x Veteran Squads (2 guys with Assault Rifles, 1 guy with an Assault Rifle and a one-shot Grenade Launcher, 1 guy with a Machinegun)
  • 1 x M2 Bradley (autocannon, machinegun, 2 one-shot missile launchers)
  • 1 x M1A2 Abrams (3 machineguns and a battle cannon)
  • 2 x Humvee’s (Uparmored, with machineguns) Total is 815 points.

Insurgents

  • 8 x Regular Squad (4 guys with assault rifles, 1 guy with a Grenade Launcher), with the “scout” upgrade.
  • 2 x Technicals with Machineguns.
  • 2 x Technicals with Missile Launchers I had calculated the total at 800 points, but actually had that wrong. Basically, I made the following mistakes:
    1. I didn’t add in the cost for the missile launchers (30 points each for a total of 60)
    2. I forgot that the technicals can’t transport troops, and let all of them do that.
    3. Since the scenario called for a hidden deployment, I bought “scout” for the squads. But, one squad deployed in the open, 3 deployed in hidden (but fixed) places, and the remainder were held in reserve. This means, at a minimum, I spent 75 points more than I had to. So, in the end, aside from letting the technicals transport my reinforcements in, the game was actually pretty even. Spending 75 more but forgetting 60 means it was 815 to 815. However, I also think that the way I used “scout” ended up not being worth the points, and I should have just used the standard rules, which would have paid for a couple of transport vehicles.

Anyway, on to the pictures. Note that these pictures are taken at the end of each turn, not at the end of each activation, but I’ll try and spin it into a narrative that makes some sense.

Introduction

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The basic scenario is that there are bad guys in the large compound to the right of the picture with some guys by the gate. The blue and yellow cards are miniature playing cards for hidden set up.

The Army can move on any board edge. He chose to move on the left board edge, and this is right after first turn, so he’s moved his Abrams right up to the crossroads (which would prove to be a bit of a mistake).

Turn 1

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On his first activation, the Abrams moved up to the roundabout so it can see the compound.

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On my turn, my insurgents (behind the sandbags at the compound) shoot at the Abrams with their AKs and RPG, scoring an immobilized result. The RPG gunner gets a round of applause for his targeting of the vulnerable track areas.

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On his second activation, he moves up the Bradley.

My insurgents in the top floor of the building reveal themselves and shoot at the Bradley, inflicting a wound but having no secondary effect.

He then disembarks the troops from the Bradley, who assault the building, lose the assault and are pushed back into the street.

I reveal an insurgent group in another building (you can see them in the foreground on the right) and they shoot at the Abrams, inflicting another wound and getting a Shaken result.

He moves up one of his Humvees (you can see the back of it poking out from behind the building) and put fire on the building.

I pass with my remaining unit (all the rest are off the board).

The fire team in the Humvee gets out and assaults the building through the back door, destroying the defending insurgents and securing the building. They take position on the top floor to provide fire support with their M249 SAW (Machinegun).

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With all my moves complete, he moves up his remaining Humvee and puts the other fire team in the building on the opposite side of the street as the first.

Turn 2

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This one starts with a bang. I roll successfully for all my reinforcements, so first turn I roll on a technical with recoilless rifle (missile launcher) which is proxied by the Humvee with a tube blue-tacked to the top, and take a shot at his Abrams with it. A good hit with that causes a wound – so, remember, we’re now up to 3. They also got shaken, so their shooting is going to be quite bad.

He rolls up with the Bradley and blows up that truck (hence the smoke and flame) throwing the remains of the squad out.

I roll on a second recoilless rifle technical, and shoot the Abrams again. Another wound! Now 4!

He splits fire from the Abrams, shooting a machinegun at the technical, a couple machineguns at the guys in the building, and the main cannon at the guys behind the sandbags. The technical survives, and everyone else takes minor casualties.

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This overview shot shows things a little better.

He moves up his left side fire team into the next building so they had a good field of fire and were able to put more fire on my guys across the street, whittling down that squad but not forcing a morale check.

The guys riding in the un-blown-up technical disembark and get into a building, then shoot at the Bradley, causing a second wound with no secondary effects.

His command squad (outside the building in the foreground, up against the building) call in an artillery strike on the compound, which does minor damage.

My guys who were thrown from their exploding technical run for cover behind the sandbags and ineffectively shoot at the Abrams.

All the remaining squads exchange fire with nothing particularly interesting happening.

Note that even though I could have had my 2 machine gun trucks come on this turn, I elected not to do so, holding them in reserve until next turn.

Also note that his two Humvees are now positioned peeking out from some walls in the foreground left and right of the picture.

Turn 3

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Once again, I go first since I have fewer units and thus ran out of activations first. Rather than get blown up by either the Abrams or the Bradley, the remaining technical with recoilless rifle peels off and shoots the Humvee it can see.

The infantry all exchange fire, leaving a couple units with only one man left and they fail morale and are suppressed.

His command squad joins another fire team in a building, and everyone basically shoots at everyone else without much effect.

Then my remaining technicals show up. They have machineguns and your standard 5 man squad with AKs and an RPG. They come in on the opposite board edge as the rest of their friends, unload out of their technical into the building and shoot at the Bradley. BOOM. No more Bradley.

The other squad takes up position behind a hedge row and puts fire into the building with the command squad and second fire team.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 4

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Again, I go first. One of the squads with an RPG hits the Abrams again, getting a Shaken secondary effect.

The Abrams then everything at the full strength squad at the end of the street, killing 3 but failing to suppress them, largely due to the Shaken result rendering its fire less effective.

My remaining technical with the recoilless rifle then backs out and shoots the Abrams, destroying it.

The infantry then all shoot at each other with minor casualties since everyone is in cover.

His remaining Humvee comes out to give some fire support.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 5

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He pulls his command squad and second fire team back, using the remaining fire team and Humvee to cover them.

My remaining teams, all well below starting strength, advance, firing as they go.

My truck with the recoilless rifle advances and eliminates the squad shooting from the building overlooking the crossroads. (A recoilless rifle round through the window tends to ruin your day).

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Turn 6

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At this point, it’s a free for all. Everyone converges on his remaining units who try to fight valiantly and hold their position. At the end of this turn, all that remains is the Lieutenant, trying to dramatically call in an airstrike before his position is overrun. It’s so bad, I’m out of smoke markers and have to use a bare tea light (the markers are lights covered in cotton wool which is painted and the light at the center flickers making it look like fire).

They do manage to kill the technical with the recoilless rifle, however.

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View from the compound.

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View from his board edge.

Result

At this point, we called it as a marginal insurgent victory. They eliminated a whole platoon of US Army, plus a Bradley and an Abrams, but at the cost of several technicals and 35 men.

I want to play!

My son Miles wanted to help us measure. He’s 2 and he’s already getting it:

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