Saturday, December 28, 2013

Notes about installing Crouton on a Chromebook

I opted for the Unity interface for Ubuntu. HowToGeek has a great set of instructions.
At the end of the install, you have a very basic Unity interface. Everything useful is missing. The absolute easiest way to fix this is to get the Software Center.
Open Xterm by pressing ctrl-alt-t. Now type in sudo apt-get update. Wait. The next command is sudo apt-get install software-center. Wait again. There is no icon again, so go to lens and search for it.
That is all there is to it. Get installing.
My short list of software is:
Chromium (to match Chrome)
Stellarium (to match Chrome's Planetarium software)
VLC Player
Restricted Extras
Libre Office (Search for LibreOffice and scroll down a bit for the suite)
Document Viewer
At the end of the day, you will need to "reboot" Ubuntu to all changes to go into effect. Click the gear and click the restart option. This will eventually return you to Chrome. Go ahead and open the shell and type sudo startunity again.

Friday, December 13, 2013


A long time ago, in a computer store called CompUSA, I purchased a game called Zork.

Back in the dark ages, before the internet, it was possible to find games on store shelves for years and years. Zork is an old one, published in 1977. However, I didn’t obtain a copy until some time in the nineties. I bet they handed me a free floppy disk, as per the disk-of-the-month club policy.

I bought Zork in response to seeing my friend's copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game. We figured we could take turns playing each other’s games. The only flaw in an otherwise perfect plan was that he had DOS and I had something named after a fruit. For some reason, it never occurred to me to use Disk Copy and the free disk to give my friend a copy.

Surprisingly, I still have that floppy and a computer that has a floppy drive. How I loved that game. Pretty soon, I will walk through the whole series again.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Federation Space is back

Federation Space was my introduction to the Starfleet Battles universe. My original set was partially lost between the 1980ish purchase date and today. E23 and DriveThruRPG are the best services for old-school gamers.

The original set featured a 16-page rulebook, a map, one tactical display map, 5 organizational charts, 432 counters, and two dice. 

When printing out my new copy, I was instantly reminded why this is my favorite Task Force Game: the dense background information to the game system. Out of sixteen pages, the first three beautifully describe the game universe. “Shields flashed electric blue” reminds me of the smell of ozone and the rattle of dice.

While printing, I discovered that I still had my original counters, except the blue Federation.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing this game as a child. I can hardly wait to introduce this to my kids.

This game is very rich in background details while having simple rules. The beauty of this game is the breakdown of basic rules and scenarios that lead to more advanced rules, scenarios, and optional rules. Replay away!

Additionally, Federation Space can be used to supplement Starfleet Battles.

After spending the weekend rereading the rules, I plan to print up the cards and map, and get playing again this week.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Star Smuggler

One of my first experiences with role-playing and tactical games was a little game called Star Smuggler. It came with little cardboard tokens for characters, tiles for worlds, and a rich background of information on the Smuggler Mini-verse. I spent hours, days, and weeks playing.

Now you can too. 

Dwarfstar Games has contacted the author, Dennis Sustare, and arranged to host the game's digital files. Check it out here. Mr. Sustare was never paid for this game yet permitted digital distribution to Dwarfstar. Be kind and follow the generous agreement.

Update: I like to sketch up alternate ships for this game. Here is my Buffalo Class Transport.

Crew Quarters: 24 cu
Bay 1: 43 cu
Bay 2: 43 cu
Boat Bay 1: 40 cu
Boat Bay 2: 40 cu
Engineering: 16 cu
8 Hyperchargers, no secret compartments

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

xPud – How to Connect to Wifi

xPud is a nice little OS. But it has an issue with hidden ssid’s.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with the OS, it’s all you. No seriously, I mean it. In xPud, you are a super user all the time. That means the normal sudo iwconfig “fails”.
What true linux user runs in super user all the time? Well, you are with xPud.
What linux user radiates their ssid? No one, and with this information you won’t have to either.
So the correct usage of iwconfig for getting connected a hidden ssid is:
iwconfig wlan0 essid “insertnamehere” key “insertpasswordhere”
Easy, eh?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Windows 7 - Running Chkdsk at Start Up

In Windows, running a disk check can clear up many problems. Many small glitches can be cleared up with the chkdsk command.
Setting it up in the command prompt is easy, but counter intuitive. Open the Command Prompt by clicking the windows Icon and typing cmd and enter in the box.
Now type chkdsk /f C:
Windows does the usual thing and tells you can't do that here.
Type in y for yes and then exit the Command Prompt.
Now, reboot the machine and wait for all the checks to run. The normal "chkdsk C:" merely scans a disk, "chkdsk /f C:" scans and fixes problems, so you may be waiting awhile. Hopefully, it is worth it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kippers & Jam

Google+ Communities are wonderful. I joined the gaming community and was able to circle a score of gamers in just one go. 

Last night, I subscribed to Kippers & Jam, a blog mixing the best in RPG’s. In the most recent post called Bring Back the Magic, the author addresses the fun and the danger of introducing magic in to campaign. Ideas and tips abound. It is well worth the read and offers excellent advice for any gamer.

(2024 Update - Kippers & Jam is gone, but a little of it is still available through the Wayback Machine.) 

The One McGuffin

In RPGs, magic can be problematic, even chaos-inducing. A DM must carefully consider each and every spell and trinket given to the characters, otherwise he or she will break the campaign. The lesser magics are troublesome sometimes, but it is relatively easy to adjust for them. Let’s face it, DM’s can’t and won’t think of everything, every time.

Sometimes you just have to let things play out and laugh at the mistake. However, I blame many bad endings on The One McGuffin getting loose.

A McGuffin is a device to further the plot. It has no other function and DM’s are well advised not to create and define an item so that it is both a solution and closure to the campaign storyline.

In AD&D, artifacts were vastly overpowered magic items that really should have been left undescribed. Instead, they were tacked on the end of the magic item list, as if they were a viable option.

There is a temptation for all DM’s to use The One McGuffin as a solution to wrap up the scenario. Never, repeat, never allow characters to use an evil item for good. First, it doesn’t make sense for good to use evil for good ends. Second, as a wise man once said, “Power corrupts and absolute power is really, really neat.”

The second pen hits paper and the McGuffin is clearly defined, somewhere deep down inside, you have decided the magic needs to be used. In all cases, this is very much a Deus ex-Machina story ending. If you build the characters up to the pinnacle of power, yet even from that great height, they can’t make a good ending of their own, what is the point?

Beware of The One McGuffin.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Wizardry 1 Information

In the last Wizardry post, I said:
“Wizards, lords and samurai gain spells a lot slower than the pure clerics and mages. Wizards gain spells at the same rate as mages and clerics, but the spell levels are divided between the two types making them weaker but more diverse casters. Lords and samurai gain about half the spells of the two pure casters.”
Now that I have played for a bit more, I noticed the actual rate of spell learning.
Mages and Clerics earn one spell at first level and then gain an additional spell every two levels. The progression is 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. Roughly, your mage and clerics will have spell levels equal to their level minus one, divided by two. There is a limit of 9 spells available per level.
Wizards gain spells much slower. They gain 1 mage spell at first level and the next spell four levels later. Fun. Cleric spells start at level four and progress at every four levels. This causes you to alternate between mage and clerical spells.
Samurai and Lords gain spells at fourth level, then receive an additional spell every three levels. Lords gain clerical spells while Samurai use mage spells.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Annoying Wizardry Spells

 I dug out my copy of Wizardry – Proving Ground of the Mad Overlord and started reliving the magic.

Sort of. Wizardry has this odd way of naming spells. A few are easily memorable, such as Dios for heal, while others are totally opaque as in Milwa.

Mages and clerics cast only their own spells, clerics also have some physical ability to fight. Mages will die if they try to melee. Wizards cast both types of spells and are able to melee. They have the disadvantage of having to be good or evil, never neutral. Samurai are Fighters with mage abilities. They must be good or neutral. Lords are fighters who can cast clerical spells by their great goodness. They obviously must remain good.

The following characters are not spell casters – thieves, ninjas, and fighters. They may use magic items such as potions. Lords and ninjas are impossible to create at the start, while wizards are easier to create than samurai.

Wizards, lords and samurai gain spells a lot slower than the pure clerics and mages. Wizards gain spells at the same rate as mages and clerics, but the spell levels are divided between the two types making them weaker but more diverse casters. Lords and samurai gain about half the spells of the two pure casters.

Cleric level 1:

Badios – Harm. Injures one monster.

Dios – Heal. Restores some HP of one character.

Kalki – Bless. Improves the AC of all characters by one.

Milwa – Light. Increase sight range when in dungeon. Also increases chance of finding secret doors. This spell has a time limit and is canceled by entering darkness. Do not cast in the dark, it just burns a spell.

Porfic – Shield. Affects only the caster with an improved AC. Drops AC by 4. Critical if your cleric is in the front rank.

Cleric Level 2:

Calfo – Detect traps. Allow the cleric to see which trap is on a chest… most of the time.

Manifo – Stone. Turns some monsters to stone, affects all creatures in a group.

Matu – Blessing. Lowers the AC of all party members by 2.

Montino – Silence. Prevents the casting of spells and affects the whole group.

Cleric Level 3:

Bamatu – Blessing. Improved party’s AC by 4.

Dialko – Curing. Removes paralysis, manifo (silence) and katino (sleep). Of course, if you are sleeping or silenced, you can’t cast this spell. Remember, casting while silenced will burn a spell.

Latumapic – Identify. Reveals what type of monsters.

Lomilwa – Light. Continual light spell. This spell has no time limit but is canceled by entering darkness. Again, do not cast in the dark, it just burns a spell.

Cleric Level 4:

Badial – Pain. Blasts one monster for a good amount of damage.

Dial – Heal. One character recovers 2-16 HP.

Latifmofis – Cure Poison. One character only.

Maporfic – Shield. Lowers the party’s AC by two and has no duration. Cast this one on entry into the dungeon.

Cleric Level 5:

Badi – Death. May kill one monster instantly. It does not do damage if it fails.

Badialma – Pain. Causes 3-24 HP damage to a single monster.

Di – Life. Non-combat spell. Heals one character to 1 HP. It causes damage to Vitality and can accidentally turn a character to ash.

Dialma – Heal. Restores 3-24 HP to one character.

Kandi – Locate. Give the cardinal direction to a lost person. It is relative to where you are in the maze.

Litokan – Kill it with fire. Strikes a group of monsters for 3-24 each.

Cleric Level 6:

Lokotfeit – Recall. Teleports the party to the castle, but causes the loss of all gold and equipment.

Lorto – Ginsu! Creates a tornado of blades that slashes whole groups of monsters to pieces. 6-36 points of damage.

Mabadi – Pain. Reduces a single monster's HP to 1-8. It does not kill all on its own.

Madi – Restore. Heals all damage and removes all status effects. It does not raise the dead.

Cleric Level 7:

Kadorto – Resurrection. Restores a character to full health outside of combat, even if the character is ash. If it fails, the character is gone forever. Sorry.

Malikto – Death. Causes 12-72 HP of damage to all monsters. A real crowd pleaser.

Mage Level 1:

Dumpic – Sight. Gives the coordinates of the party, relative to the castle stairs. Should have been called “dumbic”.

Halito – Bad breath. Singes a monster for 1-8 HP.

Katino – Sleep. Causes one or more monsters to fall asleep. Affects one group of creatures.

Mogref – Armor. Reduces the caster’s AC by two.

Mage Level 2:

Dilto – Dark. Lowers the AC of one group of monsters.

Sopic – Armor. Reduces the AC of the caster by 4.

Mage Level 3:

Mahalito – Fireball. Cooks a group of monsters for 4-24 points of damage.

Molito – Lightning. Zaps a group of monsters for 3-18 HP. Very unreliable.

Mage Level 4:

Dalto – Ice Storm. Causes 6-36 HP damage to a whole group of monsters.

Lahalito – Big bad breath. Burns whole groups of creatures for 3-36 points of damage.

Morlis – Shock and Awe. Causes the group of creatures AC to drop by 4.

Mage Level 5:

Madalto – Ice storm. Causes 8-65 points of damage.

Makanito – Poison cloud. Kills most monsters less than 8th level.

Mamorlis – Terror. Causes fear.

Mage Level 6:

Haman – Change. Drains caster of one level, so if this is the highest level you can cast, you won’t be able to do it again. Can have the following effects:

  1. Augment all magic cast by the party.
  2. Cures the entire party of all status effects.
  3. Silence all enemies.
  4. Teleports enemies away.
  5. Heals all party members as if Madi was cast.

Lakanito – Suffocation. Kills monsters, but doesn’t affect certain monsters.

Masopic – Armor. Reduces AC by 4.

Zilwan – Dispel. Will destroy one undead creature per cast.

Mage Level 7:

Mahaman – Change. As Haman, except more. Remember, you lose a level so it is unlikely that you will be able to cast it a second time.

  1. Augment all magic cast by the party.
  2. Cures the entire party of all status effects.
  3. Silence all enemies.
  4. Teleports enemies away.
  5. Heals all party members as if Madi was cast.
  6. Restores characters as if the Di spell was cast on them.
  7. Reduces AC by 20 for all party members.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Years ago, I purchased some of my favorite modules in PDF format from DriveThruRPG. Once again, I could relive "The Ghost Tower of Inverness", "In Search of the Unknown", and "Ghost of Lion Castle".

The PDFs were wonderful. About two weeks ago, I received an email advising me that new editions were available. What could have changed in just a few years on modules written decades ago? 

One quick download was very informative. Scanners have changed. File compression has changed. The first-generation documents are washed out, blurry, and big by comparison.

I know I raved to my friend about how great the modules were the first time I downloaded them; this time, I am going to rave about Wizards of the Coast and DriveThruRPG.

After years, they remembered me and asked me to re-download improved documents for free. The improvements are incredible, and I'm very happy with my purchases. If you have downloaded from DriveThruRPG, check your email or account to see if any of your past purchased items have been updated.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

CentOS and ISO Recorder

Yesterday, I covered creating a USB boot drive for CentOS. Today I will walk through making an .iso disc for CentOS using ISO Recorder.
Working with .iso is both easy and frustrating on Windows. Very often the software that comes with the computer is not up to the task. To solve this basic problem I suggest ISO Recorder. This software does not create a desktop icon or a selectable program in the Start/Windows menu; instead it adds options to the menu.
Time to get started. Download your .iso image and place all files in an easy to find directory. I am using CentOS which requires two DVDs. Insert a blank DVD and cancel out of any pop up box Windows 7 displays. Right click the desired .iso file. Select "Copy image to CD/DVD".
The burning software will open and display ISO Recorder on the left hand side of the screen. The Source should default to "Image File".
Click next.
Wait for the burn...
No seriously, wait and wait and wait. The status bar may hang out on 100% for a very long time. This is proportional to the amount of data on the disc. My first CentOS disc uses the whole DVD and took several minutes to complete. The second disc is relatively tiny and took only a moment.
Don't forget to label the discs. CentOS has a built in disc check in the install process, I would suggest using it on BOTH discs to avoid headaches.
**This post was moved from to

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mint 11 lxde glitch - Can't delete uninstalled program icons from the menu

Mint 11 lxde is old, but I like it for my Asus EEE PC. It does have one annoying glitch. If you attempt to remove software such as gnumeric, the uninstall process leaves the program's icon in the menu. Annoying but not exactly critical.
There is an easy work around. Go to a convenient location and create a new folder called "deleted icons". Next open the /usr/share/applications folder. Go to tools and select "Open current folder as Root". This displays a new window. Find the offending software and select cut. Go to the deleted icons folder and again, select tools and open as "Open current folder as Root". Paste in the offending program and close all windows.
By shifting the icon via cut-paste, you retain the option of reinstalling the program.

Reblog - Tricky Unetbootin install – CentOS

This post originally appeared on Pretender to the Power on June 5, 2012.
Unetbootin is a wonderful piece of software. It will create a bootable USB drive of your favorite Linux flavor.
Well, most of the time.
CentOS is a special case. The files needed for CentOS* reside on mirrors and not the support website. So, Unetbootin cannot reach them. Obviously there are ways around this. The most obvious is to download the files from the mirror, but let us forget about planning and forethought, shall we?
Step one, download Unetbootin.
Step two, open it.
Select the desired flavor of Linux. Note: If you do not choose CentOS this is the wrong guide for you. Be 100% sure about your drive letter. This step can cause all sorts of file deletion and badness.
Now wait for the OS to download. There are no files on the CentOS website, so this will not take long.
The last step is to reboot. I would recommend against using your one and only computer for this. Take the USB drive to a different computer and boot that one.
The installer is very user friendly, so I will skip everything up to the ftp address. The installer requires two pieces of information: the ftp site name and the Red Hat Directory. The example of this data is from the University of Chicago.**
FTP site name:
The Red Hat Directory: /5/os/i386/
Select ok and watch the magic happen!
* CentOS does have the option for a live disc, however I have not found a way to install using those files. To be honest, I didn't try very hard.
**The FTP site listed has CentOS 2-6. Choose wisely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Random Wizard

Anyone who has DM’ed a campaign has partnered the characters with a random wizard to save their bacon if things go south.

I had no idea that Random Wizards existed in real life, but here’s one. His latest post brings back classic D&D modules with news on the latest offerings from RPGnow. 

(2024 Update - This website is long gone, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, you can still access some of the content.)