Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mint 13 XFCE - Save HD Space with backdrop file resizing

Mint has always had gorgeous backdrop images for the desktop. The photographs by masterbutler are incredible.
But if you are on a small machine, like my ASUS eee PC, you don't have a lot of hard drive space.
You could just delete a lot of things, such as the backdrop files, but that would be a shame. Instead, I choose to resize them to fit my 800x600 screen. To be honest, I am not missing anything. The images surpass my monitors ability to display them in all their glory.
Since Mint comes with Gimp, this is an easy task. The directory is /usr/share/xfce4/backdrops. I hesitated to "undo the beauty" by reducing the size until I opened the credits file. Masterbutler has thoughtfully provide a link to 80+ pages of wonderful images at
Go ahead and scale those images. You may find yourself using the space to enjoy more art by masterbutler.

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