Saturday, December 31, 2016

#MiniatureMonday

I know #MiniatureModay two days off, but I found these guys while cleaning the basement.


I only found five so far, but 5 minis a week, for 52 weeks is 260 figures a year. I'll never hit that if I don't start now. 5 a week isn't that hard to hit.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Hardware Review

I am parring down my hardware greatly for 2017. On the Macintosh side, I aim to get down to 6 machines. Let's review them in order: 

Macintosh Plus: 

This machine is a workhorse. It arrived in my hands back in 1986 and has worked nearly continuously over the past 30 years. Back in 1987, the machine has a meltdown which was caused by heat. As you can see from the picture, I equipped it with a fan. 

The Macintosh Plus is a 8 mHz machine with 1 MB of ram. I hesitate to upgrade it further due to the previously mentioned heat problem. The Mac Plus has a 400 K internal floppy drive, an external 800 K floppy drive and an 88 MB Syquest drive, all in working order. 

Since I have only one 88 MB disc, I intend to hack the Syquest hardware into a hard drive case. 

The Mac Plus is running system 3.0 and Finder 4.0. I plan on finding some more recent software for the system. In theory, it can jump up to System 7. 

iBook Tangerine:

This is a relatively new addition to my home. 

The Tangerine is running System 9.2, Finder 9.2 and has the ability to run OS X, but only up to 10.3.9. It has 32 MB of RAM, a 6 GB hard drive and runs at 300 mHz. 

Currently, it is loaded with educational software and is often used by my children, as you can see from the picture to the right. 

Ideally, I would upgrade the hard drive, but taking these machines apart is a monster. I think I will settle for a low profile USB thumb drive for auxiliary storage. It could also use an airport card and new battery. 

I hope to do a review of each and every piece of software on this machine. 

iBook Blueberry: 

My Blueberry iBook is my go to machine. It has been through a lot and it is starting to show. I have it paired with a Wacom Bamboo tablet for artwork. 

The CD-ROM no longer works, owning to the fact that the System has been borked twice with the wrong disc. I purchased this item off of eBay for all of $15.00. It appeared that someone attempted to load OS X on it and utterly failed. Additionally, the installed OS was a crylic based language. I managed to get it working, only to screw up and delete it. Since I lacked the original discs, it took some might big hoops to reinstall OS 9.2.2 and Finder 9.2. 

The machine runs at a peppy 366 mHz, owing to the 320 MB of RAM. It isn't worth the effort to turn on Virtual Memory as the machine only has a 12 GB drive. It has an Airport card which still works in a great number of places and Classilla for a web browser. I also have the ability to switch to OS X, but it is Kodiak, OS 10.0.3. It's weird, so I don't do it. 

Very often, this machine comes with me to camp. I have a relatively new after market battery and use a RAM disc to get the most of out a single charge. It will last about 5 days of light use.   

Power Mac Graphite: 

This is a stock picture of a machine very much like my G4. Currently, it has been pressed into service as a parts holder and media center. It has 5 hard drives: a 20 GB, 3 40 GB and a 128 GB drive. It has a 450 mHz processor. I have one 256 MB, 128 MB and two 64 MB chips in there for a grand total of 896 MB of RAM. Obviously, I this machine is holding too much stuff. 

The G4 is a Sawtooth, so unfortunately, it cannot run anything less than 9.2.2. One hard drive holds copies of old operating systems for my older machines. Another boots 10.0.3 and a second boots 10.3. The last drive is used purely for backup. 

I do like this machine a lot but don't have time to keep up with it as much as I would like. In the future, I may upgrade the speakers with something better than the standard one. 

Power Mac 7100/80:

Ah, Carl Sagan. I haven't turned this machine on in a decade. I mean to have this one up and running in 2017. 

The Performas: 

I have two Performas. a 6300 CD and a 475 LC. Neither are in good shape. The 475 is my survivor. It met a terrible fate after being loaned to the Buffalo Museum of Science. It was left in an open top tote, in the back of a pickup truck from November to May, in Buffalo. It had been covered in mud, submerged and frozen several times by the time it came back to me.
Surprisingly, the 475 still boots. I don't know why or how, but it does. 

The 6300 CD is not so lucky. I don't know what happened to it, but it is actually rusting in some spots. I didn't think that could happen. It will be cannibalized for parts, as will my snow white iBook and white iMac. 

The iBook has the classic logic board problem and the iMac met a fate stranger than fiction. 

I took my daughter to see the movie Wall-e and Wall-e happens to make the same sound as the iMac on boot. My daughter decided to "go to the movies" and inserted her movie ticket into the slot drive. Surprisingly, the machine took it. What it objected to was all of the loose change she fed into it. 

There should be a service issue for this. The first time this happened, I found that sitting crosslegged on a bed and placing the iMac on my lap, then bouncing gently cause the offending movie ticket to fall out of the slot. You should not bounce so hard that the machine leaves your lap. The slot should be positioned over the space between your legs. (Did I just say that? I'm sorry, I don't have other words to describe something so stupid.) 

It worked for playing cards and credit cards and the odd coin. It did not work when my daughter put $4.00 in assorted change inside the slot. I would have to say bouncing the machine on my lap in this over-full state did it no good at all. 

In 2017, I will be saying "goodbye" to three machines and "hello" to six old friends. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

This is not the post you're looking for...

Today, I have the chance to see Rogue One.
I haven't been to a Star Wars film on premiere day since I was a child. I'm loving.
So I am AMC with their reclining chairs and student specials. This is going to be awesome!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Colorful Calendar

I've seen a few of these calendars made with paint chips and a cheap poster frame. I decided I didn't have the patience or space for a large crafting project and decided to just knock out a colorful Google Drawing.

You can grab the template here. Once you make a copy of the document in your Google Drive, you can change the colors, add numbers or vary the order of days.

It fits in a standard 8.5" by 11" picture frame and I used a dry erase marker to add in the numbers.

Friday, July 8, 2016

New NPC Character Sheets

I have been cranking out some characters for an upcoming campaign and decided to start with the villains and heroes around the PC's home base.

The Compass Rose Inn will allow the PC's easy access to a large town, a hunting lodge, a haunted mine and of course, the great outdoors.

The Compass Rose Inn is owned by Otto Lanskeep. He is rough and tumble former hunter, but is held on an even keel by his wife and daughters. Player characters will meet Otto's family, Hilda, Edwyna and Elma in addition to Otto's employees named William "Scribs" von Otto, Thomas and Delia.

A weekly patrol comes to the Inn to ensure the safe transport of goods and people to the border. William of Northmost (aka Scrubs), is the most frequently encountered guard and often spends the night at the Inn.

I will explain more about William aka Scribs and William aka Scrubs. William isn't such a strange name for two men to share, but Scribs and Scrubs comes from an adventure these two young men... survived.

I will be sharing their story and introducing the rest of the Lanskeep family and friends, in statistical form, in the very next post.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Google Fi and Nexus 5

I just received my Nexus x5 and started on Google Fi. So far, the improvement over my Sharp Aquos on Sprint is incredible.

While Google Fi probably is connected to a Sprint network, the end user experience is much nicer. Additionally, I opted for the 32 GB phone which is an incredible improvement over my Aquos' 8 GB.
I'm still playing with some features, but Blogger works much better.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Reading List

It's started already. The summer reading list is coming together. Neither book is in my usual comfort zone, but each is especially compelling.

First up, Josef Ferri's Trying to Catch the Wind. December of last year, I started working at a West Side school and ran into Mr. Ferri teaching at our school. His autobiographical story launches right in the middle of Buffalo's Westside, in the height of the 60's. Mr. Ferri's work is an atypical love story with humble beginnings and is driven across the county during one of the most tumultuous eras in American history.

Mr. Ferri advises: "If people open their hearts, a new love is possible."

Having spend weeks in his graceful presence, I know that he lives these words, daily. It's more than a quote, they are words he lives by.

My second choice was selected in that open heart and mind advice. Esmeralda Santiago's Cuando Era Puertorriqueña is another autobiographical story of change and tension.

Again, we are taken back to the 1960's, this time lead by a young Puerto Rican woman and her family transplanted from the island to New York City.

I could have purchased this item in English, but I wanted to share the love of reading and literature with students at my school. The text and language is crisp and the learning experience is wonderful. I may struggle at times, but so far it has been well worth the difficulty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stupid Linux Tips - Disable Touchscreen Temporally

I have a touchscreen that needs a good wipe down. Touch screens are annoying when dirty and you only have three options:

1) Wipe it down and hope you don't click something stupid.
2) Turn off the computer.
3) Disable the touchscreen.

I want item three, but there seems to be no Unity control panel for the touchscreen. I couldn't find one so I opened the Swiss army terminal and typed xinput.


Reading down the list is simple enough, id=13 is my touchscreen.

The command is xinput disable 13 or whatever number you need. Turning it back on is just as simple with xinput enable 13.


Obviously, I am not the best Linux user, but I like to share tidbits that make things easier.

Now clean that monitor.

Quickly lookup Ubuntu info

Ubuntu is nicely consistent. So consistent that often you can't tell what version you have just by looking.

Two commands in Terminal can grab that info for you:

lsb_release -a

uname -r


Settings and Details does the exact same thing, in a prettier form.


Monday, June 20, 2016

#MechaMonday

I saw some posts for #MiniatureMonday and decided to share a few of my own. Obviously, I like mecha. 



Thunder

I love thunderstorms at night. It's the only time you can smell dust and water, flowers and lightning at the same time against a noble van Gogh blue and white sky.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Module Review - BSOLO Ghost of Lion Castle

Title: Ghost of Lion Castle
Code: BSOLO
Author: Merle M. Rasmussen
Rule Set: D&D
Year: 1984
Pages: 32
Number of characters: 1 - Solo Play
Levels: 1-3
Rating: ★★★★★

This is an impressive and iconic module, meant for one player. Crammed into just 32 pages is a solo adventure complete with special solo rules and sample characters. Lion Castle is a wonderful starter scenario for groups or an introductory game for just one.

The five star rating is for the expansive and creative writing and world-building that appears in this module. Lion Castle gives the player the ability to try out new things in a limited setting. The module pulls no punches, this place will kill you more often than not. Fear not, this module is also there every time you wish to play. In fact, it is suggested that you note where your last character died so that the next one can acquire his equipment.

This is one flaw in the game/scenario. If you run a series of character’s through the Castle and noted where the prior characters fell, you can break the game with equipment and magic items in quantities not ordinarily allowed by the rules.

All and all, this is an excellent module.

Where to Buy:
DrivethruRPG

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Module Review - S2 White Plume Mountain

Title: White Plume Mountain
Code: S2
Author: Lawrence Schick
Rule Set: D&D
Year: 1979
Pages: 16
Number of characters: 4-10
Levels: 5-10
Rating: ★★★★☆

White Plume Mountain is part of the Special series. It is meant for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and expects a large number of characters at relatively high level. Interestingly enough, the scenario spells out that many adventures into the dungeon will be required and may cause a rotation of adventurers through many sessions. That is a nice touch. I like the long term play and replay-ability.

This style of play is engrossing as early failures and setbacks to the player characters are muted by the ability to retreat to complete safety of the nearby town. This is very different than most dungeon crawls, where characters must horde limited resources. Instead, players find themselves on a quest to obtain 3 magical items: Wave, Blackrazor and Whelm, protected by powerful masters and inventive puzzles and challenges. Backtracking enables inspired progress, resupply and fairly realistic game play. This adventure takes the learning curve for games and makes it a positive. White Plume Mountain is more like The Moonshot than D-Day.

This module also features wonderful artwork. My personal favorite is the fighter on page 6. It isn’t the best, but captures the character's reaction so perfectly. The fighter’s “WTF” look is classic: “Who jumps platform to platform over hellishly hot mud? Everything in fighter school trained me not to do this.” The images for Blackrazor, the Mountain itself and Keraptis are iconic of classic Dungeons and Dragons.

Where to Buy:
DriveThru RPG
As a part of a set, S1-4. or as a stand alone product. I really must by this. I really need to stop impulse buying. I'm am so gonna buy this.
DriveThru RPG also has Dungeon Tiles and a new version for 3.5 Adventures.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Module Review - B2 The Keep on the Borderlands

Title: The Keep on the Borderlands
Code: B2
Author: Gary Gygax
Rule Set: D&D
Year: 1979 and 1999
Pages:
Number of characters:
Levels: 1-3
Rating: ★★★★★


This is one of my favorites, the star rating says it all. The Keep hovers on the edge of sandbox wilderness, one that is your to explore. The Keep is the perfect place to kick off an adventure, the players can obtain all they need to fully explore the environs.


As a carryover from B1, the advice sections are present and highly valuable. There are also handy details such as gossip and the willingness of the lord of the Keep to provide the player characters with man-at-arms and magical items.


Where this module shines is in the tactics provided for each group the characters encounter. Some of them are embryonic or silly, but in keeping with the intelligence level (or madness) of the inhabitants of the Caves of the Unknown.


One of the better things about this adventure is the player mapping is logically constrained, allowing them to make mistakes, but not so bad as to create a mapping nightmare like In Search of the Unknown.  


Where to buy: DriveThru RPG

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fun Pictures at the Buffalo Zoo




Panama Rocks!

Located in Panama NY, this private park is a wonder of New York. The rock formations are millions of years old.

416 million years old to be precise. At that time, America was a part of the Euramerica supercontinent and was rotated 90 degrees so that the north of Canada was facing east and Mexico was in the west. Euramerica was located on the equator and a vast sea covered the continent from Utah in the west to deep into what would become Southern Canada in the east. The formation called Panama Rocks was a shoreline of a rocky island in the southern reaches of this inland sea.
Euramerica
Plants (and fish) dominated the Earth in this era, to the point where plants completely changed the CO2 and O2 levels, resulting in an Ice Age. Euramerica drifted north and westward and the sea dried up. Drifting east over millions of years, great upheavals and earthquakes lifted the shoreline to its current height of 1500+ feet over current sea levels. By the time of dinosaurs, Euramerica was no more. It had broken in two and formed the continents of Europe and North America, with Greenland in the middle.
Within the last 20,000 years, the last ice age ended leaving New York and Panama Rocks in their current state. What a wonder!
In modern times, the park has been in the ownership of several private groups. Approximately 100 years ago, the park was a Honeymoon getaway spot. After a period of inactivity in WWII, the park buildings and environs were renovated and improved by a series of owners. The most recent improvements occurred in 2011.

Rotary Rink - Downtown Buffalo

Rotary Rink in Downtown Buffalo is a wonderful day trip for the kids.

The rink offers skating for free and skate rentals at just $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for children. Skating is causal, but attendants make sure everyone follows the very simple rules - Skate one way, not to fast, don't bump or charge people.



Periodically, the rink closes for the Zamboni. This is a natural break point to go inside and warm up or pop over to Tim Horton's. These pictures were taken in 2013, and we decided on Coffee Culture as a resting spot. Unfortunately, Coffee Culture is no longer located there. It was a beautiful place. 




TGT-1415C-1 Embark 9 Person Tent by HKD International

For Christmas 2012, I received the HKD Global 9 Man Tent. Due to a noticeable lack of information on the web, I had wait until June 2013 to set it up to see what it looked like. UPDATE - it looks like this tent is discontinued. If you have one treat it well. If you need one, try the Embark 8 man tent

It’s great. I couldn’t ask for a better tent, but like all tents, the instruction sheet is poor. The condensed instructions on the inside of the carry bag are handy, but without seeing the assembled product, they are too sparse.

Setup is easy, but does require time and two people. Start by opening the bag and the cardboard box. Do not use a knife, just peel the tape away. Find the envelope with the instruction pamphlet.

The first step is to spread the whole tent out. Remember, you have both a tent and a rain fly. The tent is largely screen mesh, the fly is blue and solid. Put the fly aside for now.


Next, stake the four corners at the metal rings.  There are six rings total, you will skip two of them.


Next, find the A poles. These are long fiberglass poles with 7 sections. Assemble them and slide them diagonally into the sleeves. Next pick up the reddish orange five section B pole and slide it into the sleeve from front to back. All fiberglass poles have sleeves.


There are six plastic elbows, two red and four black. Make sure that the elbows are facing the right way by checking that the nylon strap is not twisted. As a double check, the small fiberglass poles fit into side with smaller internal diameter.


Now you will need some help. Assemble the 6 black steel poles and insert into the elbows. Metal poles do not have sleeves. The stake ring has one or more pins. Place a pin inside of the pole to secure it to the ground.

I found it easier to stand the posts up in the elbows, then work my way around the tent putting the pole on to the pin. Now use the Vecro straps to secure the tent edges to the metal poles.



Now spread out the mesh entryway and slide the last grey fiberglass pole into the sleeve and then the elbows.


Now for the grey steel poles. Insert them into the elbows and then use the remaining pins on the ground. These poles also have Vecro straps. With this step complete, work your way around all of the steel poles and snap the plastic clips together at ground level.



This is the step requires help. Lay out the fly in front of the tent and make sure this logo is furthest from the tent:


Now gather the whole fly together and lift it on to the top of the tent.


When this step is done, again check to make sure the logo is on the front left side of the tent. Next grab the remaining stakes and find the orange tie downs.


Unwind and pull the tie down into a loop using the plastic slider.


Stake them down about 2 or 3 feet from the side of the tent. Location will determine the distance. Once this is complete, use the last two stakes to secure the back and front center ground rings.
Walk around the tent and check the Velcro straps to be sure they didn’t slide on the poles. Also check the orange tie downs for tensions.

The total assembly time was about an hour for the first try. Now that I have done it once, I would expect to do it in about half the time.





















Module Review - B1 In Search of the Unknown

Title: In Search of the Unknown
Code: B1
Author: Mike Carr
Rule Set: D&D
Year: 1978
Pages: 32
Number of characters: 3 to 6
Levels: 1-3
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In Search of the Unknown is a classic dungeon crawl, the true value of this module is in the open ended nature and guided tour aspect of the adventure. The DM is provided with rooms and descriptions but no monsters. The opening Notes for the Dungeon Master are masterful, great advice for every DM every when and where. The notes cover everything from background to hirelings. The last 7 pagers are for players, including henchmen, hirelings, sample characters and tips.

This is a rough module, no monsters are provided, nor are there any thematic clues as to what sort of beings should be found. This is great for someone who has a preset world, the module is ready to be plugged in. However, as a stand alone product the lack makes running the adventure cumbersome for the DM. Additionally, the upper level map is weird. It reminds me of Zork’s “you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”. Player mapping is often a disaster, thanks to the twists, turns and goofy angles scattered around the upper level.

All and all, this module ranks a solid 3 stars of 5.

Where to buy:
Click for DriveThru RPG

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rosewell Park

Roswell Park has been here all my life. It something you don’t think about, like the former child star living next door. Until you see it, until you need it.


Roswell Park is truly a Wonder of New York.