lord of the rings: the third age

An interesting thing happened this weekend — my computer broke. But what’s even more interesting, is what happened after that — I started spending my time on everything I keep wishing I’d spend more time on. I’ve been reading a great book, watched a few old movies, spent time with family, got outside, and played my Nintendo. :)

I went to one of those used video game stores on Monday to just poke around and see what I could see. I found two games, one was a Midway arcade collection that I just had to get, since it had MKII, MKIII, NARC, Gauntlet II and some other stuff. But, I also got Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. I briefly played a demo of a LotR game for Windows a while back, and while it was pretty boring hack and slash, I figured it might be a fun diversion for the Gamecube. Boy, was I wrong.

This is the one of the coolest games I’ve ever seen, and the first of its kind I’ve ever experienced. It’s a turn-based fantasy RPG (though there really isn’t any role-playing) where you play characters that are *following* the Fellowship of the Ring. In fact, in some cases you are *right* behind them and things from the movie affect you. For example, in the first movie when one of the hobbits accidentally knocks a dead body down a well (in Moira, I think), your party is on the level below and it nearly hits them.

There’s lots of other cool stuff in the game, that I like how it works. One thing is that when you find equipment, it’s automatically assigned to one person. So you don’t have to play around seeing who should get what. Then you can also pick which skills you want your characters to work on, and develop them at the pace you want. My main fighter is working on getting five attacks per round. Our dwarf can crit hit on every attack (totally unfair … for them). The elven chick took us a while to figure out what her strengths were, we finally realized that she’s best suited to just blast people with magic. Our game box didn’t come with the manual, so we’ve been discovering this as we go along.

Another thing that I think is really well done is how the game constantly rewards you in small amounts. You level all the time, and get a few points to disburse to your attributes. It’s a nice way to keep the game from getting stale.

I’ve heard that there are other games similar to this, where they are turn-based fighting styles, but I don’t know of any. I’m really new to the console gaming scene, since I haven’t had a system since I was 8 years old and we had an Atari (Pitfall ftw!). I think the Final Fantasy games might be kind of the same type of thing, I’m not sure. I’m going to go have to rent or buy some more games to find out.

Anyway, good times. My friend Jared and I have been two-playing this game for a long time, and we’re not even 35% done in the entire game. Great stuff.

installing ~x86-fbsd

While I’m thinking about it, I might as well document what my install experience was like getting Gentoo/FreeBSD up and running.

First of all, I was really skeptical that this would even work at all. I figured that with my complete ineptitude when it comes to *BSD would just make me fall flat on my face, and get stuck on some simple command or config or something. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad or hard at all.

I didn’t want to take the chance of completely screwing up my harddrive and partitions with this new frontier, so instead I installed vmware-player on my box and created a VMX for FreeBSD using EasyVMX. Then I downloaded the FreeSBIE LiveCD iso, and setup my vmx config to boot into that thing. For the record, here’s a great forums post on how to do that.

After booting into it, I just followed the install guide, and it went well. I was a little confused by the fdisk utility, and I certainly felt out of my element not being able to do something like fdisk -l to make sure I had set it all up correctly. In fact, FreeBSD apparently uses some weird partitioning scheme that I can’t even begin to explain. The only other problem I ran into was that the naming scheme on the ethernet devices was really weird, and I couldn’t really tell which one was which.

Once I got chrooted into my Gentoo stage3 install, things felt much better. Installing a kernel was really simple, though I miss the glorious funnity that is make menuconfig. Apparently, and this is from my limited exploration of all but two minutes, FreeBSD uses a different method to tell your kernel what to do, and it looks like it just loads modules, with a config in /boot. Interesting approach, I think. I have no idea how to tell what modules are loaded or anything like that, but so far I haven’t had to worry about it — everything’s been working fine.

I got my vmware all setup and working, and I felt pretty confident after that, so that night I went home and did the same thing on my laptop. I already had four partitions on my harddrive one of which wasn’t being used at all. So I just fired up fdisk in Linux, and changed the partition type to FreeBSD, and then rebooted into the Live CD. I went through the same steps as well, and quickly got into my Gentoo install. On my vmware image, I had problems installing GRUB, and everytime I boot it I have to tell it where my kernel is each time, which is a bit of a pain. My laptop, however, already had GRUB installed, so I just edited my config in Linux to add an entry for BSD, and it booted up just fine.

Like I said earlier, I’ve been really happy with the package selection. It’s a little weird to me having the entire profile be ~arch, since I’ve been running stable for my entire Gentoo experience, but it works out well in this case. Being a minority arch, it also saves time since you don’t have to hassle with stable keywording bugs (something that other small arches could learn from, in my opinion, and will probably hate me for posting my opinion). The downside though is that there are a lot of dependencies that are broken, so you either have to creatively work around them or keyword them yourself. So far I’ve just been testing them best I can and keywording them as I go along, although I don’t think I’ve done more than three packages just yet.

Now one thing I know that Gentoo/BSD does differently than Gentoo/Linux is that it uses not just BSD’s kernel to boot, but also their toolchain. That means a lot of those core utilities that you’re used to are GNU no more. This is the area that I was afraid was really going to throw me for a loop, and would have to relearn how to navigate my system. So far, though, it hasn’t really bitten me much. Then again, I’m still installing half of my packages, and haven’t used it much, so I’m not really in a good position to say. The fact does remain though that I had anticipated a lot of hurdles and brick walls that I’d have to scale over just to get a working, familiar system, and that has not been the case at all.

It’s not all strawberries and corn flakes, though. There are some differences between BSD and Linux, and I’m still learning those. For one, there’s nothing in /proc. This means things like htop won’t work, and I can’t remember what my /proc/cpuinfo was, so as to set stuff like my mmx use flags. The other thing I’m not sure is possible or not is sharing my /home directory across arch profiles. Since the partitioning scheme is so different (basically, it stores all its partitioning in one normal partition shared with everything else … or something), I don’t think it’s possible to see anything outside. Kind of a bummer, but I can get used to that. I’m also not sure if ACPI is working, since my fan never seems to kick on, which has me kind of worried. I’m going to have to do a bit of research on that one.

I’m hoping that I can recommend the profile for general desktop or server usage, but right now the jury is still out, and it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions. I have, however, been extremely impressed at how easy it is to setup and install, and Gentoo’s familiar tools and portage have only made this so much simpler. Add to the fact that you’ve got some great developers (not me, of course) working on the arch, and I think this is something that could do pretty well, given time. I’m really excited and interested to see where this could go.

gentoo + freebsd

At work, we use FreeBSD on our servers, and I don’t know jack squat about it. So, I decided to install Gentoo/FreeBSD on my laptop at home to try it out. Amazingly enough, I managed to get it setup without any hitches at all, and so far I’m pretty happy with it. I’m doing this in a meager attempt to learn BSD in a roundabout way, so we’ll see what happens. Besides, I don’t really use my laptop for anything more than just surfing the web in bed, and now I’ve got it tri-booting between that, Linux, and XP.

I also joined the bsd herd, mostly in an attempt to clean up the bad dependencies I always see, and that frustrate me as a user. My passive goal is to get some more stuff keyworded so it can be used easily as a desktop distribution. I’m really not planning on putting much work into it, since I just consider it a side hobby and intellectual curiosity more than anything.

One thing that really surprises me so far is how much stuff does work natively for the distro. I thought BSD’s package list would be far more inferior than the list that Gentoo Linux has access to, but I’ve fortunately been proven very wrong. So far, the only thing I’ve run into that wasn’t keyworded was unfoo and something else I can’t remember, and I already keyworded unfoo. :)

I’ll be following up hopefully with more blog posts on how well it works as a general desktop. I’m feeling pretty optimistic, though.

almost done with dvds

Believe it or not, my collection is almost complete.  Of movies, that is.  My Amazon.com wishlist only has five more DVDs to go before I’m done.  Although, caught up is more the word I’d like to use.  I originally estimated I’d hit the ceiling at 300 movies, but it’s actually much lower .. around 200, I think.

There’s still a few more movies I’d like to get that have been released, but I’m putting them off because they were already released as fullscreen only.  Disney is the main problem in this case.  I don’t know why they don’t release them as widescreen.  My biggest guess is that they are too lazy to dig up the original print, and instead just do a transfer of the home video.

In fact, as I recall, Disney was the slowest to come to grips with the DVD market in the first place.  They have always had the worst set of features on their discs, it seems.  I know ‘Mary Poppins’ alone has seen at least three releases, and each time they got progressively better.  The first release was just a widescreen release, and didn’t even have the trailer, I think.  Not really nice treatment for one of their most signature films, handled by old Walt himself.  Fortunately, in some cases, the studio will come back later and re-release them as a better edition.  I’m really glad they did that with TRON, since the first release of that one was equally crappy.

In fact, Disney has lately picked up on re-releasing movies with more content as a cool marketing scheme, and what they will do is release a classic once on a single disc edition, and then years later as a two-disc edition.  Recent releases like that have been ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Robin Hood.’  The catch is that each time they get to say “First time to DVD!” with the second time adding in ‘two-disc’.  Sneaky.

I doubt that I’ll get to see some of my favorite movies on widescreen re-released special editions anytime soon though.  ‘Max Keeble’s Big Move’ probably just isn’t gonna make the cut, which is a real shame.

I still do have some options though … you can buy it in another region, provided they also have an English translation.  That’s what I had to do with ‘Shipwrecked’, another awesome Disney movie which I don’t think has even been released in the US yet.  I bought it from Amazon.co.uk, and then had the change the region code on my DVD player to rip it.  So now I have a perpetual movie.vob sitting on my harddrive that I better not lose, since I can only change my drive’s region code a few times before it locks up for good.

The Ultimate Disney website has a great page bout which ones have only had pan and scan releases (fullscreen), and where you can buy the widescreen ones.  Sometimes it’s a pain being a perfectionist, but that’s what comes with the territory in being a collector.  Besides, it’s a lot of fun hunting these down and finding them as well.

Once I’m done with my wishlist queue, I’m still going to go looking for some more movies.  I’ve still got my Netflix queue, which has 465 movies in there right now.  The success rate is pretty small though.  I remember doing the math once, and it was something like 5% of movies I watch, I end up buying.  However, the ones I do find, are usually great treasures, so it’s all worth it.

I still have a lot of TV shows on DVD to collect as well.  There’s more coming out every month too of stuff that I want to get, and I imagine it’s going to be that way for a while.  However, I’m also going to shift to collecting old records.  I’ve got a few at home, and I’ve got my record player too.  I want to get one that has an audio output jack as well, so I can record MP3s of them.  There is some great stuff out there, I tell you what.  Pretty exciting. :)

legend of the green dragon … take two

For some reason, I got the itch the other day to play Legend of the Green Dragon again. Maybe it’s because I need something to do in my downtime and I’m just sitting in front of the computer waiting for it to entertain me voluntarily.

If you’ve never played this game, you’re missing out. It’s a web-based port (written in PHP, using MySQL as a backend) of the classic Legen of the Red Dragon BBS door game that was so popular back in the day.

I actually had an install of LotGD on my server and wrote about it a year ago, but I think my server went offline for some reason or another, and I forgot about the game and never set it back up. Now that I’ve had a dedicated, hosted box for about six months now, and since I’ve been pretty happy with their service, I feel pretty confident in running the game again.

I installed the latest stable version this morning and turned on a bunch of modules that looked cool as well as tweaked the standard gameplay a bit to make it a little less frustrating and also throw in some more random occurrences. I’m sure it’s not as decked out as the other ones, but I know at least I’m gonna have fun. :) I also set the “new days” to every four hours so you can get your RPG fix in on a regular occurence.

Slay the green dragon!

I would love to make a Gentoo ebuild of this game, and I’d been toying with the idea for sometime. If there’s any interest, lemme know and I’ll try and throw something together. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard.

Someday I want to setup a real BBS on my linux box and get the original Legend of the Red Dragon working. I’ve still got the archives, and I bought a license for it when I used to run a BBS way back in the day. If anyone knows how to do something like that, please lemme know. That’d be great to run some door games again. :)

Oh, one last thing — since upstream makes you login to their website to download their source code (which seems strange to me, but whatever), I mirrored some of the files here. And if anyone has a copy of the old 0.9.7 GPL release, can you send me one? I couldn’t find it anywhere. I found one, but I don’t know if it was the latest or not.

button, button

I’ve started to notice a trend in desktop-oriented software for the Linux platform. As some programs grow in features, the options to remove those features in a preferences panel are not keeping up. The idea behind that worries me, because that’s exactly how most software on Windows is — not giving you the option to customize the application’s experience.

All I’m asking for is this — if you are going to add a new feature to your program that changes the way things are displayed or presented and if the new feature is non-essential, please add an option to turn off that display in the preferences. That’s all I want. I think once you settle on a core design and display for a program, and that display is consistent, once you start adding on to that, you need to have an option to revert it back to the original design that you’ve been styling with for a while.

There are some easy examples I could point out that do this, GNOME of course being the worst of the lot, but I won’t go off on their horrid UI design decisions in the first place, where their goal of simplification is that the entire desktop should be one button and you can’t even push it.

For some reason though, their philosophy of “less is more” has somehow trickled down to most applications using the GTK framework, it seems. The example I actually have in mind is a popular application that I’ve been using for a long time, and I’m not going to mention them, since I don’t want to rail on them. In fact, I’m going to do my best to hack the code and at least turn it off on my box, then figure out a way to set it as a preference and submit it upstream.

If you’re going to add something new, for the love of whatever, please throw in a boolean with a checkbox somewhere and say “Do you want this turned off?” There are some features like that I’d seriously pay money for (and maybe I should). I figure it can’t be that hard adding a few more lines of code just to add in a preference.

Desktop applications on Linux with a myriad of preferences has always been one of the major pulling points for me, and one that really helped it easier for me to switch from Windows.  I would really hate to see that custom go away for whatever reason.  I think software is much better off giving users the options to do exactly what they want.  That’s just one of the many things that makes open source software so great to start with.

more classic cartoons coming to dvd

I have *no* idea how I missed these, they weren’t even in my wish list. I didn’t see these three until I was dinking around on Amazon.com this morning. Maybe they were recent additions.

July looks to be a good month for new releases. First, on the 17th, we get treated to the complete series of both Birdman and Space Ghost.

I really love both of those shows, and remember them quite fondly, mostly because they were *never* on television, and being able to catch them was a very rare treat. Plus, as a little kid, I loved the sci-fi / fantasy cartoons as my favorites, so of course that made them only even cooler. I’m really excited to pick up these two sets and can’t wait to give them a watch. I’m hoping that we get treated to even more classic sci-fi cartoons from Hanna-Barbera in the future, too. Their works have been so extensive, there’s just so much good stuff in there.

Next on the 24th is a collection of the Woody Woodpecker show. Now this one I remember seeing a lot, and all the time, as it was really popular, or at least on TV a lot. I vaguely recall this being show on the Bozo the Clown TV show, but I can’t be sure — it might have been Mighty Mouse instead. Either way, I remember watching the clown show and being frustrated waiting for him to show another cartoon. Of course, the cool part about the show was at the end Bozo would always give the kids on the stage free sets of board games and stuff.

For some reason, I recall Woody Woodpecker as being one of the more crazy cartoons … seems like they did more … something. I can’t really pinpoint it now, but I do remember liking this cartoon almost more than any at a really young age. Of course, Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry always were enjoyable too, but for some reason these seem to stick out more in my memory. One thing I do remember is they seemed to have a lot more color to them.

I did just notice that Chilly Willy is on the box. I love that little penguin. Ah, I can’t wait for this one.

Next up is another classic collection, this time of Popeye cartoons. I was always on and off about these as a kid. I remember sometimes I’d really like them, and other times I’d get bored of the formulaic plot (at such a young age, too! It still bothers me today with TV). So, I’m not sure what to say about this one. I remember liking some of them, a lot. I’m more excited to see a good, near complete, nicely put together collection come out more than anything. They are classic, though, and there’s nothing I love more than the cartoons that were originally shown in the theater. On some of my Tom and Jerry cartoons, there are some that were filmed in scope, and it is really cool watching them with such a huge aspect ratio.

Speaking of theatrical collections, Droopy’s comes out just a week from today. To be honest, I’m really surprised there even are that many Droopy cartoons to start with. I remember watching them alright, but they seemed really rare now that I think about it, or I just didn’t happen to catch them much. Either way, I can’t imagine there being very many of them, but I could be wrong. I can recall a few images of these in my head, and while I can’t really remember anything special about the cartoons, I do know I enjoyed them. I’m thinking it was probably just standard slapstick kiddy cartoon fare, and didn’t really stand out. Not to say they weren’t good, they just got mixed in with the others, and never really got individualized. I’m really curious to get my hands on this one as I think most of them will be new to me.

And here’s one that already came out, but I’ll comment on it anyway, since I’m getting all nostalgic. I got this for my birthday in March, since my little sister got me an Amazon.com gift certificate. Thanks Beckie-poo!

I picked up a copy of Captain N: The Game Master, the complete series, and I’ve been watching it lately — partially to reminisce and partially to torture me.

The animation on this thing is so horrible, it’s sad. Even Legend of Zelda fared better than this one (check out an old post on that subject). The styles don’t match half the time, and sometimes the background is missing or not moving or something. It’s pretty funny. I do, however, remember really clearly loving this show when I was a kid. Actually, it came out in 1989 it looks like, so I would have been 13 at the time.

It always really bugged me that we didn’t have a Nintendo growing up, and this was the best I could get, pretty much. The stories of arcade games always fascinated me, and watching this cartoon show was a great way for me to get into the parts that I really cared about anyway — the character development. I know it sounds odd, but just mix together my love for stories, science fiction, fantasy, computers, cartoons and games and it makes perfect sense. In all honesty, I still enjoy watching the show today, as its interesting to see how things “work” in the game world. I dunno how else to explain that. It’s just kinda fun. :)

audio visions

Man, I love music.

This morning on the way to work, was listening to Audio Visions on XM Radio (who gave me a sweet deal, by the way, $77 for a year’s subscription), and something really cool was playing. I checked the artist info and it was some guy named Chris Spheeris, and the track name was Afterimage.

I’d never heard of the guy, but the music seemed a little more haunting and interesting than usual, so I quickly scribbled it down while stopped at a light.

When I got to work, I checked it out on Amazon.com Music and bought a used album of his called Desires of the Heart for about $5. The album name sounds cheesy, I know, but I poked at about half the track samples after buying it, and it sounds really good. I’m excited to get it. It’s always fun finding some new artist whose stuff you instantly like right away that you’ve never heard of.

Well, I loved the idea of getting a used album so cheap, so I poked around my music wishlist that I usually ignore to see if I could pick up any other sweet deals. I bought a copy of Cristofori’s Dream (David Lanz), and then Tempest (Jesse Cook). I’ve been meaning to get the first one for a very long time since I first heard it on Rhapsody about a year ago. Great stuff. And I absolutely love my Vertigo album by Jesse Cook … I never imagined I’d love flamenco so much, but it’s the guitar that gets to me.

So, I’m pretty excited to get some new music soon. I’ve been needing something new for a while now.

extra mythtv themes

I saw a bug in Gentoo’s bugzilla the other day to add some user-contributed MythTV themes to the tree, and I thought it’d be a good idea, so I did.

I just barely committed mythtv-themes-extra which adds a few new themes that I think look pretty nice. I’m going to be bumping it again soon, to grab some other ones that I saw on the MythTV wiki. I just wanted to see how these would work out first before doing too much.

I also upgraded today to the latest unmasked MythTV in portage, 0.20.1_pre13344. So far so good, though I haven’t even looked at it for more than two minutes. The last version, I’d been using for a few good months now without touching it, so we’ll see what happens.