Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

Friday, October 25, 2019

City of Nace Update

I have been doing some updates to my City of Nace map. The software I am using is called Worldographer by Inkwell ideas.

When I first started with the software, I just started throwing stuff on a map all willy-nilly. If it looked vaguely correct, I went with it. Since this is a Roman themed campaign, I realized that I need Roman themed buildings. Worldographer comes with a solid icon set, which features hundreds of icons. This is overwhelming at first.

In the first iteration of the map you can see medieval structures blended with Romanesque structures. I thought it was cool, but then I learned to hate it .


I have been slowly updating and over writing medieval structures with Roman-like ones. In the image below, can see the difference. These two blocks are a mixture of villas and apartments. To get a sense of scale as to how large this city is, the villas have a footprint of 160 feet across by 80 feet. Each black grid box is 80x80 and each city block is about 800 by 800 feet to the middle of the road. I plan on having about 62 of these insulas or city blocks on the map, perhaps more. 


There are a couple of different villas, some with large stone block structures and others that are more plain. I did some sketches of villas based on some of the ideas I had for this city. Currently, I am working on inking some of the apartment like structures.

With the sense of scale, you should have a sense of density. The smaller, rectangular structures are apartments, which could hold 20-24 families. The Romans sort of had a nuclear family, but they also had a high mortality rate. Sometimes, families would include adopted family members, adult children (adopted or not), servants, in-laws, parents and slaves. A family of 4 plus, one parent, one in-law, a servant and a slave would be 8 people packed into a tiny space. Add in some cousins and such and the density swells. Each one of these structures would hold about 175-200 people in a 40 by 80 foot space.

Since this city is new and Romanesque, the town will have massive green spaces and broad roads because of the expected density. To be Roman was to be civilized and that meant your city was your home. Your apartment was merely were you slept.

Nace has two independent, but side-by-side agricultural industries going on. The first is the official state run gardens of magical herbs. The other is the hoppers and brewers black market. Due to happenstances of history, the city first had a minor environmental disaster that made some parts of the city undesirable for dwellings rapidly followed by two acts of war which made rehabing these areas impractical. The brewers moved in and started planting trees, flowers and herbs in the empty spaces of the city. Such activities in the city are illegal, but the Hopper's Guild is too strong to be confronted, mainly for the reason of beer. The other issue is that almost no one wants to live in these areas, so bringing the practice to heel is not practicable.

The villas with the stone block structures are silos for black market goods, mill houses or fake silos. Some people pretend to have access to black market sources to inflate their social standing and build these fake structures into their homes. Mill houses are animal and human powered grinding stations within the city walls. Both tend to hide the houses of  illicit business. Some of these mill houses are simply stone sitting areas where children and women sit with family and neighbors to gossip while using small hand mills. It could take hours to produce enough flour feed a family for a day, so these are social hot spots in the town.


The second type of villa house has a central courtyard, sometimes with a fountain or pool, memorial stones or other outside artwork. I have rendered all exterior features as "stone thingies". They could be standing stones, benches, flagstones, etc.

These villas are slightly more modern than a Roman villa, while maintaining many of the features. The roof covers only the sections around the walls with an open courtyard. The exterior walls are brick covered with stucco or perhaps marble depending on the owner's wealth. Some of the walls are not entirely closed. The most modern area is a smallish gable like structure on the south wall. Its is two stories tall and has two 15' by 10' wings which are independent of the main two story structure. The main space is about 20' by 30'. The front doors are vaguely like the large wooden doors on a stave church. This central structure serves many purposes, from storage to upscale apartments.

The two L shaped, roofed but unenclosed areas are work areas. In winter, the ends of the L's would be closed off by light wooden walls with doors. This area doesn't often receive snow. The southern two corners are bedrooms, while the center wings are offices and living spaces. In the open areas under the roof would be many tables and such to support the production work in the L shaped areas, whatever that might be.

Moving away from the housing areas, there are two large areas for infrastructure. First is the termination point for the aqueduct, which comes over the walls of Nace. From here water, is directed around the city underground. There are three large pool in this area: the main reservoir (center south), the public fountains (center north) and the fountain of Neptune (northeast). The main reservoir is 8 feet above ground and rough stairs lead up to the water's edge. The public fountains are large attached to a 3 foot retaining wall. Neptune's fountain is a massive pool with a backing wall 10 feet high. All three are connected by tunnels under the insula.


Midtown is the Colosseum, just east of the northern gate. It is a massive 4 insula or city blocks. Around the southern edge of this image are the tavern houses. These are illegal business and are frequently burned to the ground by arsonists. These pyromaniacs have yet to be arrested. Sometimes people go to bed looking at the large green spaces around the structure, only to awaken to new, illegal bars and taverns in the morning.

The grounds of the Colosseum are public spaces and no buildings can be built there, except the 4 gladiator quarters. The city guard plans on not investigating their 3 planned arsons that will demolish the row of taverns on the southeastern side of the Colosseum. The citizens don't mind because of the cheap beer and the fact that the guard calls the fire brigade before it commits these unsolvable crimes. It's a game of flaming cat and mouse. 

Much of this history is based on David Macaulay's excellent book, City.

 I do receive remuneration for Amazon Ads, and if you purchase the Kindle version, I receive more. However, I strongly suggest you pick up the cheaper, paper copy because it is just better experience.

As an added bonus, David Macaulay partnered with PBS to create the film Roman City, which uses animation and live action show how his fictional city of Verbonia came to be. I have yet to find DVDs, but it is available on Youtube.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 29 - The Witch's Staff

A witch's staff is empowered by contact with owner. It is a personal magic weapon, which cannot be wielded by anyone other than the mage, while the owner lives. If the owner passes, the staff will attempt to reach their next closest family member. Failing that, it may pass into the hands of a dear friend.

The staff has several benefits. First, it improves the wizards night vision, so they may see and read more easily at night. It is more like low light vision than infra or ultravision. There must be some source of light, even if it is starlight. Second, it confers a bonus of one to the mage's Dex bonus, allowing a +1 even if they do not possess an ability score high enough for a Dex bonus. If the mage isn't entitled to use their Dex bonus, they lose this bonus, too. The witch's staff is a +1 weapon that will inflict 1d4+1 in melee or release a dart of energy up to 20 feet for 1d3 points of damage. The dart of energy is a once per round effect, they do not gain more darts per level, nor can the darts be fired as fast a mage could throw a physical dart. The mage may not swing and fire a dart in the same round. 1d4+1 and 1d3 are not typos. This is the cost of having a staff that does multiple things. If the mage is reduced to 4 hit points or less, the staff will heal them for one hit point a day, in addition to any natural healing. If the mage is tied up and is in contact with the staff, the staff will cause ALL knots within 10 to 60 feet (1d6x10) to unravel, freeing the mage and possibly others. It will do this at the time of the mage's choosing. It can and will unravel the knots on clothing, shoes, armor, nets, etc. and this function is all or nothing. It is not selective.

There are dangers to creating or owning a staff like this. If someone grabs the staff from the mage's hands, it will sting them for 1d4+1 points of damage and they will let go. The mage may swing at them in the same round. If the staff is left someplace and someone touches it, it will sting for 1d2 point damage. If the person persists in their efforts to pick up the staff, it will "bite" them for 2d4+2 points of damage. The wound will actually look like an animal bite, even though the staff has no teeth or mouth-like structure. This is normally fatal to average people and the law may take the staff owner to task over this. A person who is bit by the staff and survives will not willing enter line of sight of the staff ever again. The staff will not bite or sting animals, family members or dear friends.

The wielder of such an item cannot be multi-classed or duo classed, EVER. The witch's staff will not accept them and will not reveal any powers to such a person.

Domesticated animals, even hostile ones, cannot be harmed by the staff even if swung at them. If detected for, the staff has an alignment of true neutral. This has no bearing on the mage's alignment or their ability to use it. It's a tool.

Owning a witch's staff will reduce the wielder's hit points by one per level. A third level mage will have a max hit points of 9, plus a Constitution bonus, if any. If the staff is lost, destroyed, etc. the hp loss is permanent. Replacing the staff with second staff will drain an additional 1 hp per level from the mage. A third will do the same, leaving the mage with but 1 hp per level. Taking up a fourth staff will transform the mage into a green slime, even if they had a Constitution bonus or some other magical means of boosting their hp over 1d4 per level. They cannot be resurrected or reincarnated, as they aren't dead. Nothing short of a wish will allow them to recover. If wished back into their normal form, they will be unable to wield a Witch's Staff.

This weapon was designed for old school D&D and AD&D campaigns, but should be usable in other systems. The terms "witch" and "mage" has been used throughout so that users could be an actual witch, an illusionist or a magic user. It is not appropriate for druids and clerics.

This magic item steals heavily from R. A. MacAvoy's Damiano Series of books.

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H. M. Hoover's The Delikon Review

Title: The Delikon
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1977
Pages: 148 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ten year old Atla, 12 year old Jason and 307 year old Varina are children in the palace at the time of the coup. H. M. Hoover likes hooks like that, and this hook is fabulous.

Not all that is described is as it is. Hoover weaves a tale of an alien teacher guarding her charges as the world turns upside-down. Her prose is sanitary, succinct as is the world these characters exist in. As a Young Adult book should be as it is meant for children.

The focus of the story is the many dilemmas faced by Varina as she tries to guide her charges to safety. Varina's people have reshaped Earth's society and reshaped Varina to navigate between these societies. This creates a number of problems as Varina protects her charges in a place between two worlds-gone-wild.

This book holds itself against progress as the technology described is either utterly fantastic or totally pedestrian, with solid plot and story reasoning for both.

The Delikon is a drama, pasted on top of a world that could be utterly violent. The reader, like Alta and Jason are effectively screen from the violence of the world, while still being touched by the urgency and import of such events.

The Delikon is a wonderful read, a quick page turner. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

STA Pigment Liner Pens Review

A set of ten pens for $10.95? Probably not a good buy, but I went for it. I had a coupon code, free shipping, blah-blah-blah. Amazon got them here in 2 days, which was a surprise. I used the slow method of shipping, so that was nice.

On opening the package, you can't help but notice that these pens are cheap. I gave them a try, and it was better than expected. The set comes with 2 brush pens, a 0.8, and 0.6 to 0.1.

I don't general use brush pens and they felt odd to me. Actually very bad. The nib or whatever was very soft. The 0.8 to 0.5 felt pretty good. The 0.4 felt like the nib was bent, but all visual inspections showed it to be straight. The smaller pens felt really good. I could see using these a lot.


I returned to the brush pens and felt that maybe with a little practice, they would be ok.

So how do they rank? I'd say a solid 3 of five stars. If they last a long time, I could see bumping them up one star.


I can't say it'd stop using my Faber Castell pens, but these would do in a pinch. If I had something experimental to work on, I would totally use these pens to save the good ones. Realistically, the F-C pens are $25.00 and these are $11. It isn't a horrible set.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Latest Book Find - Glyn Davies' A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day

My latest find for reading is Glyn Davies' A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. As near as I can tell, in the United States, this is a textbook. In the UK, it seems to be a casual read. I am taking it as a casual read.

My intent is to take some of Mr. Davies' observations and plug them into my role playing games. I haven't gone far into the 741 page book, but it's great so far. Once I'm done, I'll throw up a review.

I can't wait to get through this. So many games rely on money, gold, credits, but I really have no idea how an economy develops money in lieu of barter. Barter is such a pain in the butt that I can see the drive to cash and coins, but how that happens in the real world is mystery to me.




Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review - Population of Loss

Title: Population of Loss
Author: Michael DiBaggio and  Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Illustrator: Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Year: 2014
Pages: 46
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

I hate big screen or small screen characters render in novel form. It's always horrible, little better than the second Star Wars book, Splinter in the Minds Eye. I want to tell future readers that this is a mashup of comic book characters set in the science fiction worlds of 1880s and 90s.

It is, but it really isn't. The prose reminds me of the classic adventure of The War of the Worlds, which it should because it is implicitly set with in that world. Each of the four short stories captures that time period perfectly, no accidental or intentional anachronistic parts at all. The Signalman does remind me of Iron Man, but he is not remotely a superhero in that vein. In fact, I know that he should be a comic book character because that is what he was designed to be, but somehow, he isn't. Nor are any of the other characters.

Its hard to describe what the Celestial Paladin is, but I can tell you where these characters came from. There are hints of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien fused with H. G. Wells. The story "In Hoc Signo" starts in Well's world of Tripod invaders and ends with a taste of Lewis's Out of a Silent Planet. The writing is more than strong, it is powerful. Reading older works is often difficult due to the changing of styles. But Mr. and Mrs. DiBaggio do not struggle with this. They capture the flavor of these works, but also give it a style all their own. The easy comparison is to the past, but the authors manage to infuse this style with a more modern frantic-ness, in the vein of Dagberto Glib ("Love in L.A.") or Louise Erdrich ("The Red Convertible"). Perhaps it is the vignette style of these 4 short pieces that capture a tiny bit of introspection by the authors, which echos through each piece.

Regarding the illustrations, they are from a very different artist from the Shell "Presto" DiBaggio, who engages with her audience on social media. They have tiny reflection of the work of Kahlil Gibran. What is most interesting about the images of the Signalman and The Cyclone Ranger, is that they show an evolution of style over 2 years. The second is more like Mrs. DiBaggio's current artwork, but still reflecting the style of that old era. Like the writing, the illustrations have a touch of modern, frantic energy, while still embodying the works of arts from the past. Instead of being caught in between eras, they are great enhancements to the stories told. They fit perfectly.

I was only vaguely aware that the book contained artwork, and I would suggest to the reader that they obtain a paper copy as paper will always render the artwork closest to what the artist intended. It is an inherent flaw in all ebook technology.

I will give this book one more read, maybe two before purchasing the next title. It was an excellent primer for the world of Ascension Epoch.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

New Year, New Plan

This year, my goal is to be up at 6 am everyday. Between 6-8, I will read for 20 minutes and listen to one podcast.

Today's choices were Astronomy Cast's Stellar Collisions and Alastair Reynold's House of Suns. I picked up the Kindle version of the book, but I also found the Audible version appealing. I might upgrade to the that next and combine the idea of listening and reading.

If you have any suggestions for books or podcast, leave them in the comments. 


Monday, September 2, 2019

Raspberry Pi Fall Challenge - What do I have?

I have a Raspberry Pi 3, 1 GB of Ram and a Canakit.

So the Pi itself has the following ports:

4 USB
1 Mirco SD card slot
1 HDMI port
3.5 mm Audio and Composite Video
Ethernet Port
40 Pin Header
CSI Camera Connector.

It also has a WiFi antenna and 1 2.5A/5V USB port for power. I also have a Pi comparable case, USB power cord and two heat sinks.

Now, for outside sourced parts, I have 16 GB MircoSD card, a Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard, a Wii Controller, a PS4 Controller, a 125 GB USB external drive (with power supply) and a 4 port powered USB hub.

Ideally, this item would connect to the TV in the living room, which has about a dozen ports. I suspect I will got straight HDMI to HDMI. One wire, one problem, one solution.

My first task is to download and install the software to the SD card from the website. One further constraint on my activities is, I only have a Chromebook with Ubuntu as a computer. That will create some funkiness I am sure.

To start, I will use NOOBS. I want the full experience, so this might not be optimal for what I want, but I want to see a vanilla Pi in action. This will allow me to evaluate my abilities and goals to see what is actually possible.

The temptation to order a newer Pi is incredible. But this project is meant to declutter my workshop, not bring in more things. But there is nothing stopping you from ordering a CanaKit.



Wish me luck, and if you have an advice, please let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stealing Monsters

Some of the best monsters are people. And some of the most intriguing people are villains.

Jon Wilson, of Appendix M put the bug in my head to steal a villain with his post on The Rival Party. These characters are decidedly different, with incredibly cool powers and abilities. I love the idea of a rival party as adversaries.

I immediately thought of a character I want to steal for a campaign. He is the Monomach from Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need series.



The Monomach is the villain's right hand man, the most skilled swordsman in the lands. As a villain, he is totally one dimensional. He's given a target and then the target dies. Or at least that is how he should work.

He is actually simple enough to build an AD&D character class with little adaption. First, he is a fightman so he has all of the abilities of a Fighter. Second, he has the disguise abilities of an Assassin. Third, he has some ability to heal himself like a Paladin. Finally, he will gain the damage bonus of a Monk. His prime requisites are Strength, Constitution and Intelligence. To get a +5% bonus to exp, he must have at least a 12 in each of those skills. To get a 10% bonus, he must have a 15 in each.

In framing the villain as a character with a class, he can scale with the Player Characters. He can start relatively weak with the PCs and grow from there.

Let's assign those abilities by level.

On creation - +1 to Strength or Constitution regardless of race.
Level 1 - Disguise as an equal level Assassin.
Level 3 - Laying has as Paladin of equal level.
Level 5 - Damage adjustment as per Monks +1 per 2 levels.

What is the Monomach characters limitations?

They are limited to two magic items plus one magic weapon and one magical piece of armor. They are limited to only equipment they can carry, even at home. They cannot backstab as Assassins do. They do not fight weaponless as Monks do. They do not have the variety of weapons of a fighter, they tend to stick to one main weapon and one back up. They don't often use bows. They can ride horses, but can not care for them. They work alone and are likely to strike a "friendlies" as they get in the way like a berserker. This berserker tendency is not a special skill or ability, it is just a ruthless and bloody methodology. They are relatively poor in day to day skills, unable to cook, care for animals or hunt making them reliant on their master's staff for self-care.

This lack of people and daily living skills prevents them from having followers, retainers or constructing a keep, tower or other base of operation. When assigned to retainers by their master, they tend to follow the retainer until a target presents itself.

What would make this type of character too overpowered? A crystal ball and a ring of teleportation. Yeah, I would totally give my evil Monomach a ring and crystal ball.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Macaulay - Great Books, Lousy Pictures

I'm tired tonight. I glanced over at my bookshelf an noticed a set of books by Dunder Mifflin.

On closer inspection, that was wrong. Very wrong. These books are by the amazing David Macaulay, published by Houghton Mifflin Company or HMCo. Each one illustrates a historically themed location, such as Castle, City, Mill and Pyramid. The pen and ink drawings are spectacular.

I received Castle from my parents as a birthday present. The other three I picked up on Amazon, very cheaply. I plan on buying one every few months to complete the collection. I perfer the black and white editions, on paper, but he has updated the series in color and also has many titles available for Kindle.

Fast forward to something I didn't know. Some of them were adapted to documentaries by Unicorn Productions. Even better, they are on Youtube.

I have yet to find a better streaming source, but if I find these elsewhere, I will let you know.

Cathedral:



Castle:



Roman City:



Mill Times:



Pyramid:



I was going to watch a little Netflix, but this is much better. That and order the few books I am missing from the series.

David Macaulay
On Amazon
Kindle or Print
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago, my kids killed our TV. I think it was a dog toy to the middle of the screen, perhaps followed by a large dog. After about 3 days of searching for a replacement, I found this great TV on Amazon. 50" for less than $400. I bought it.


Then disaster struck. Our cable bill arrived with a new price increase to $233 a month. Thanks Spectrum. I could buy a new 50" TV every two months, forever for less than the price of cable. Hmm. That is some bad math. I canceled everything but the internet which was a $178 savings.

But what to do about this brand new TV? Well, most of the time our TV is used for our PS4 and all of the games and videos we have for that. My wife, Kitty hated that answer. As for other movies, we already had Netflix. $54 for internet, plus $11.99 for Netflix. And then I remembered that the PS4 also could show Amazon Prime Videos which was another couple of bucks. Now, I had two different sources of movies and was still saving over well over $100.

Click here to try out Amazon Prime. Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering

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Kitty pointed out that we didn't have local TV channels. What if the schools closed? What if there was bad weather and we didn't know? Ok. I was about to order an antenna and digital converter from Amazon, when someone told me about CBS All Access. It will show your local affiliate's programming, including the news.

Click here to try CBS (one month free): Prime Members Start Your Free Trial of CBS All Access with Prime Video Channels

I wish I could tell you that saving money was my Prime (see what I did there?) motivation, but what I was actually thinking about was CBS's new Star Trek show. My daughter was pleased that we could also watch Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory. We loved all three shows.

This was getting pricey, I figured I might as well go all the way. I asked Kitty what TV show she'd miss from cable. She answered, "Golden Girls." A quick search showed me that it was available on Hulu. Another monthly charge, but still under the price of cable.

Another problem entered the mix. My wife asked about the TV in the bedroom. How would that work? How would I fix that? I had a refund coming to me from Google for a broken phone, so I used that to purchase a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast. Why not? If I was going to cut the cord, I wanted to make sure everything "just worked". A laptop or a phone could control the Chromecast in the bedroom and the PS4 in the living room would do everything else. The Home Mini was just bonus.

Service or Item Price
Netflix $11.99
Hulu 7.99
Amazon Prime Video 10.99
CBS 5.99
Google Home 39.00
Chromecast 35.00
Cable54.99
Total$165.95

My figures ignore the cost of a new TV because I had already bought it. It also ignores the fact that I had Netflix and Amazon Prime from the get-go. Two pros and one con are tabled, so to speak. The Home and Chromecast were purchased with found money as I used a refund credit for them. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also has a music selection which had gone unused to this point. Kitty can control that from her laptop and display it on the bedroom TV. One more feature go on the positive side of the list, which is free benefit of Prime.

Click to try Amazon Prime Music: Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

For less than $175, I managed to get the home A/V system I always wanted and I am now using almost every feature of every service. My monthly cost is a mere $91, down from $230+.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of Daniel K. Richter’s Ordeal of the Longhouse

     Daniel Richter did not set out to write a book about the Iroquois. In taking on the daunting task, he constructs a compelling history of people who “found themselves caught up by economic, political, and demographic forces over which they had little control”. Richter explains how the Iroquois met these challenges or ordeals, often with unique geographical and cultural advantages, with adaptation and changes unlike other people in the region. These were not unique advantages to the Iroquois. What set them apart from others was their ability to hold on to these advantages for so long.
     Richter treats the Iroquois as if they were newly come to North America, placing them on the same footing as Europeans. Additionally, he cautions the reader against reading the phrases “the Iroquois” or “the Five Nations” as a singular or uniform entity but as a leader or collective of leaders and persons working within their self-defined political authority. Richter’s premise was to re-envision the Iroquois’ creative adaptations to situations by highlighting what he calls “a double trio of geographical and cultural advantages”.
     By Richter’s own admission, the seventeenth and eighteenth century politics and policies of the Iroquois descended into a confusing array of system, people and points, all in flux. While he authored a survey of primary source materials, he sought to maintain the flavor of the thoughts and ideas of the Iroquois. Throughout, Richter stays true to making the voice of the Iroquois audible in his work.
To this end, this book is punctuated with 22 plates, 7 maps, methodological comments, 104 pages of notes and 26 pages of biographical information. At one point Richter labels his own work “slim” and “pedantic”. He could added “humble”. The Ordeal of the Longhouse is well paced, excellently reasoned and designed, while remaining accessible to the average reader.
     Richter's “slim” book is rich in detail, wonderful in exposition of the plight and firmness of the Iroquois culture against the wave of European forces arrayed against them. Richter weaves an excellent story of historical facts and apt observation and analysis.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Research for Pio

Pio is a novel set in Italy before Mussolini's rise to power. It has sat on the back burner for a while and there it will remain until I do some more research.

To that end, I am reading How Fascism Ruled Women. While it is set at some point after this novel's timeline, the effects of fascism were already becoming a powerful force on society. Reading the end point is kind of backwards, but helpful.

I order a physical copy from Amazon, which was a little pricey but worth it.

What I have found is that I need to back up in time to really capture what and why things were happening in Italy between the World Wars.

I love research!




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Monday, January 16, 2017

Clamshell iBook Hard Drive Replacement Alternative

My aging Blue iBook is suffering from a lack of space. This machine shipped with a 10 GB hard drive way back in 1999. Since I launched theseoldgames.com, the need for installation space has gone up noticeably.

Ifixit.com has wonderfully detailed instructions for repair of a variety of consumer products, including the iBook. They are my "go to" site for most repair projects. However, replacing the iBook drive has 10 sections, 36 steps and no time listed for the upgrade. It is also marked difficult. Since I trust them, I believe that this is within my skill range, but will exceed my patience for the task.

When I upgraded my old computers hard drive the task took all of an hour. This is a much bugger project, one I am not convinced that I ready to start.

I had been using a USB thumb drive as an alternative to upgrading the drive, but having a little dongle sticking out the side of the computer was always a recipe for disaster. What if I broke the one and only USB port?

Well, that is where the SanDisk Cruzer Fit USB drive comes in. It's a tiny USB drive with more than adequate storage. This 32 GB drive was less than $20.00, on Amazon. Now you can get several of them for a less than $20.

The SanDisk Cruzer would not be my first pick because I am clumsy and forgetful. Under normal circumstances, I would lose this thing in less than a day. However, once it is plugged into the iBook, it's sleek, small form is perfect for this machine. As you can see in the next picture, the SanDisk Cruzer doesn't extend past the edge of the case.

Perfect! Drive problem solved, no particular downsides other than loosing the use of the USB. Aside from a floppy drive and Wacom Table, I have nothing that uses that port. To be honest, I won't need to use either one for this laptop.

One caveat when plugging any drive into a OS 9 Mac - Sometimes the Mac will want to initialize the disk into a flavor or form it can use. Most modern machines do not have this problem, so plugging the drive into the Mac first, formatting if needed, then putting information on it using a different machine is the route to go.

In a perfect world I'd upgrade the hard drive, but this solution is so handy compared to the real fix, I'm gonna run with it.

Pros: Cheap and easy.
Cons: Can't boot from USB. Utilizes the only USB port on the machine.


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Martian by Andy Weir

Yesterday, I started reading The Martian by Andy Weir.

This is a gripping novel about biologist and astronaut Mark Watney surviving Mars after an accident leaves him alone and stranded. Watney must overcome challenge after challenge, none of which seem contrived to hold on until... What?

No one back home knows Watney is alive, there is no rescue coming. He has supplies for a 50+ day mission for six, machinery that isn't designed to last more than 30 days and no hope. Watney has to make his own way, with only his know-how and the equipment left behind.

Watney comes to us via logs and down to Mars first person narratives, which are heart pounding, humorous and chilling by turns. No hands are waved on this techno-thriller, the story is pack full of details and observations that could right from NASA. No surprise here, Andy Weir is a life long programmer for a national laboratory and space enthusiast.

Pick up a copy today; Audable, Kindle or Watch on Amazon Prime.




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Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Docs Templates for D&D

Google Drive shared files and templates are a rich find for gamers of all types.
Under templates, you can find a ton of D&D resources.
My personal favorite is Benjamin Connell’s 3.5 Character Sheet. I plan on making the standard for my 3.5 campaigns.

As time permits, I will be loading pre-genned characters in the top bar. Right now, I have characters for D&D and AD&D. I also have a link to my own AD&D character sheet for Unearthed Arcana. Additionally, if you like having secondary skills for PCs or stat'd up NPCs, try my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.

If 3.5 isn't for you and D&D or AD&D are tired, why not try the New e5 Edition? The starter set is wonderfully priced.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fire 7"

Oh, did the family score this Christmas. We each picked up a Fire, 7" Tablet.

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These little devices work with almost any computer. I tried it on a Windows 7 and a Chromebook and both worked well. I was able to make some magic and install Google Play and Google Drive without too much trouble.

Here we have DoubleTwist from the Google Play Store displaying Matt and Kim from Amazon Music.

Between the native Amazon app and the Play Store, I have the best mix of software available on Tabbies today. Below you can see my new favorite NewsHog, available from the Amazon store. It beast the heck out of Google News.


In the coming days, I am sure I will be adding more great software. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this thing.