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Page Collection for ^2008-05

2008-05-02 Firefox Font Setup Broken

On my laptop, I’m using OSX (10.3.9) and Firefox (2.0.0.14). Today I noticed that the font setup is totally broken. Fonts are too small, whitespace is off, and when I try to configure fonts, I get to choose between AppleGothic and AppleLiGothic. Everything else is gone.

This must be a Firefox bug. I’ll try downgrading (to 2.0.0.13).

Update: Well, that fixes the font family problem, but some of the sites are rendered using an incredibly tiny font. WTF? 2.0.0.14 seems to be working fine on my Mac OS 10.4.11.

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2008-05-02 OpenID and Oddmuse

I’m trying to figure out how to use this OpenID thing. I followed the links on the OpenID site and reached Sam Ruby’s OpenID for non-SuperUsers.

I then added the following to my site’s HTML headers:

  <link rel="openid.server" href="http://www.livejournal.com/" />
  <link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://kensanata.livejournal.com/" />

And then I did the OpenID check using my blog URLhttp://emacswiki.org/alex. The check correctly read the OpenID server, but the response must be broken. What is LiveJournal’s server URL?

I decided to try with my LiveJournal identity – http://kensanata.livejournal.com/. It said that my server is at http://www.livejournal.com/openid/server.bml. Cool. I’ll try that instead.

  <link rel="openid.server" href="http://www.livejournal.com/openid/server.bml" />
  <link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://kensanata.livejournal.com/" />

Works! And login works, too. Awesome.

Now let me take a look at Net::OpenID::Consumer – a Perl library that would replace the current login dialog.

I wonder whether the OpenID record somehow indicates my nick or real name… That would be required for Oddmuse. And perhaps I’d reuse the homepage parameter in the cookie. Hm… That should work.

Writing non-functional login page… Done.

Using Net::OpenId::Consumer to do the login… Damn. When it should verify the login it just crashes. Perl crashes – no error. This sucks.

I just realized that Net::OpenID::VerifiedIdentity will not provide you with a nick or real name unless you’re lucky. :(

I also realized that this is going to be trickier than I thought with redirects to the remote site and “return to” URLs. Yikes!

Without really good caching, this means that I will have to introduce sessions. I can’t store the key in the cookie or anybody can fake it. Thus, the cookie only holds a session ID. I would have to store session information on the server. That also means that I have to “expire” sessions. This sucks.

Combined with aforementioned problem that OpenID doesn’t allow me to retrieve a username – I only get to guess it – I conclude that it is not worth the effort.

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2008-05-05 Oddmuse has no OpenID support

A few days ago I started exploring the addition of OpenID to Oddmuse via a module (→ 2008-05-02 OpenID and Oddmuse). I realized that I would have to store some sort of secret in a session variable, because I cannot hit the authentication service for every hit I’m getting. Now, the obviously stupid idea is store some sort of flag “validated url X” in the Oddmuse cookie. Then everybody can fake it. The less stupid idea is to implement a server side session saying “validated url X” per user. That also incurs a lot of maintenance problems: Sessions are persistent, ie. stored in files. They need to be expired on the filesystem. CGI::Session is also yet another dependency. And anybody can listen in on the traffic, steal the session ID, and thus circumvent authentication.

The only way to circumvent that is by using an encrypted connection. But once you’re using SSL, you might as well be using a webserver plugin that solves your authentication problems: mod_auth_openid for Apache 2!

That’s the only real solution to the problem. Everything else is just window-dressing.

Based on that premise, it would be possible to build a little module for Oddmuse that implements ACLs based on OpenID using the environment variable REMOTE_USER.

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2008-05-06 To Porto

I’m planning on attending WikiSym 2008. Yay! :)

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2008-05-07 Die Brücke von Arnheim

Yeah, I’ve seen several WW2 movies by now. A Bridge Too Far (1977) is a good war movie, but did not touch me in particular. The characters are flat, what remains is a few cynic comments by some of the big shots and some war impressions. I thought the destruction of Arnheim was particularly scary.

What really impressed me was how some of the scenes so closely match what I played through in Medal of Honor: Frontline. It’s scary how similar video games and movies have become in some ways. The game designers and visual artists must have seen all these classic war movies.

I still recommend the movie because of these Arnheim scenes.

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2008-05-09 Encoding Problems

Encoding problems are not yet gone. These I have seen yesterday and today.

  1. Twitter: “about 2 hours ago” turns into “vor ungef?hr 2 Stunden”
  2. CouchSurfing: “Güterbahnhof” in the directions turn into “Gäterbahnhof” when you insert them into messages

And I think there’s a bug in Perl’s CGI module that is related to non-ASCII info_path and messes up URL self detection. And there’s another strange bug that keeps overwriting Oddmuse:Letzte Änderungen. Damn.

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2008-05-09 Moved

I’m moving the pages for our ShackledCity campaign to a new site!

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2008-05-09 Ontology of Twitter

I understand people who know each other following each other. That’s like RSS, right?

I don’t quite get how Twitter spam is supposed to work. Assuming some idiot start following me – how does that help them? Perhaps I click on their feed which is essentially full of ads and follow a link elsewhere? Perhaps.

What I also don’t get is apparent interests starting to follow me. What is @emacs doing following me? Is it a person? A name stealer? A topic? Something communal? Do we have shared ownership?

Weirdness.

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Comments on 2008-05-09 Ontology of Twitter

Spammers use Twitter because all those people they follow boost their Pagerank. That’s it, really. It’s one of the (many) abuses and loopholes in the way Google works that Google needs to fix, and soon.

What makes Twitter so special is that it’s very, very easy to Follow other folks; in effect, you’re listening into conversations in a crowded room and can jump into topics (and out again) at any time, including with folks who are complete strangers. Some of whome might later become friends. Think of it as a pre-social network :)

Add to that it’s ability to merge real folks with rss-like automatic feeds and tools and you’ve got something that’s both simple, and one of the cleverest, most ingenious sites I’m ever used.

GreyWulf 2008-05-09 19:41 UTC


I’m just looking at @rms and shaking my head in laughter. This fake uses RMS’ portrait and spews insults left and right. That has to violate a law somewhere…

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-09 19:58 UTC


Are you sure it’s not really Stallman? :D :D :D

GreyWulf 2008-05-09 20:35 UTC


I created the @emacs account, mainly to ensure that a community member had it, so if someone in #emacs or wherever thinks of something to do with it, I can make it available for that.

Any ideas what we should do with it?

Edward O'Connor 2008-05-09 21:12 UTC


I guess if we really wanted to, we could build a bot that follows us and collects statements mentioning #emacs somewhere – PlanetEmacsen or something related.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-09 21:21 UTC

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2008-05-10 Time

ClayShirky is still alive! He wrote a book, too – Here Comes Everybody. And recently I found a link pointing to an article on the book’s blog, and the article was a speech transcript, and in it he has an a little numerical thought on the time wasted by people writing and editing the Wikipedia – all of that prompted by a TV journalist asking the rhetorical question: “Where do people find the time?” And Shirky tells us that we get the time by no longer wasting it all on TV:

So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project—every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in—that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.
And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus.

Indeed! And there’s more food for thought in the article.

Via Gin, Television, and Social Surplus, via Monte Cook’s blog post on Shirky’s Thought Provoking Speech.

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Comments on 2008-05-10 Time

Great quote. Naysayers and cultural grumps argue that the internet is stealing time from traditional book reading. I’m more inclined to believe that it’s stealing time from television—and thus produces a net gain for reading of all sorts.

– Matt 2008-09-29 13:03 UTC

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2008-05-10 Tomatoes

I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve become allergic to tomatoes. I think that two things seem to happen an hour or so after eating a salad containing a tomatoe:

  1. Itching in my pharynx that makes me want to either drink lots of water or act like Gollum.
  2. Hayfever symptomps including lots of sneezing and a plugged nose.

Damn.

Update 2008-08-08: Well, it seems like I survived summer with nothing but a few extra sneezes. I tried to avoid large numbers of tomatoes. We’ll see how it goes next year. :)

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Comments on 2008-05-10 Tomatoes

Habe noch nie davon gehört, was nicht heissen soll, dass es das nicht gibt. Am besten weiter in kleinen Mengen prüfen, bist du sicher bist.

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-05-12 15:30 UTC


LOL! Gollum is my favorite character in LOTR.

v 2008-05-14 20:55 UTC


Hah, there’s a saying in German: “Schadenfreude ist die grösste Freude.” More or less: “Gloating is the greatest joy.” :)

In the books, I was very much taken by the elves – both Glorfindel and Galadriel where my favorites.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-14 22:55 UTC

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2008-05-13 Changes In Music Playing Gadgets

Several factors came together:

  • Summer has come. We spend more time on the balcony. I wanted something that can play soft music on the balcony – I don’t like the idea of turning up the music in the living room.
  • The SqueezeBox requires the Mac Mini to be up and running – I don’t like the idea of having a computer running somewhere in the house just so I can hear music elsewhere in the house.
  • I did not listen to a lot of InternetRadio on the Squeezebox. It was tricky finding new stations, and often bookmarks for radiostations would expires because the bookmark apparently stored something ephemeral instead of the real thing.

And so… I bought a new gadget! A Pure-Fi Elite by Logitech. How’s that for a craptastic name?

Anyway, the thing is that it easier to sync my iPod with iTunes, and then just use the iPod instead of the Mac Mini as music server. Plug the iPod into the Logitech thing, and instant access to 33G of music.

The Logitech user interface is elite pure-crap, by the way. Press this or that, then up and down to pick the play list. That’s as far as I got. The Squeezebox was at least somewhat better. But here’s the good part. I can just grab the iPod, save the old On-The-Go playlist, collect a new one, plug the iPod, and I’m done. Yes, the On-The-Go playlist thing has turned out to be a major feature!

Anyway, that leaves me with two gadgets:

The Tivoli Model One I bought two years ago – a simple radio – and the Squeezebox.

I decided to move the radio near the balcony. Whenever I’m sitting outside, I can move the radio and listen to some music outside. And for those few hours I do enjoy the sun, I can plug the iPod into the radio using the ordinary audio cable. It works. I like.

But what to do with the Squeezebox? I’m not sure.

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Comments on 2008-05-13 Changes In Music Playing Gadgets

You could probably convince someone to buy it from you…

(is it compatible with windows?)

– Marco 2008-05-15 09:23 UTC


I’m sure it is. :) I think I have an earlier version from this one: http://www.slimdevices.com/pi_squeezebox.html

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-15 10:47 UTC


iiiiinteresting. I’ll come check it out on sunday.

– Marco 2008-05-15 12:52 UTC

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2008-05-13 NPC Design

I remember spending some time designing NPCs. Then I remembered using NPC Generator 2. Then I read How to Build a D&D NPC in 15 minutes and shook my head. I skimmed some comments. Then I found this gem:

In 3E I have discovered one essential truth that for the longest time I resisted embracing.
Rules are for players.
When I make NPCs & monsters that are intended to be fought by the PCs with little to no chance of negotiation I build them however the hell I want. He needs 200hp and a +15 will save? Bam, he’s got it. Needs to be able to take 2 standard actions a round? Okey-dokey he’s doing that too. In high level, high powered play it is very hard to challenge a party without overwhelming them. I have been working on doing this for 3 years (since my groups passed 14th level) and I actually am starting to feel I have a grip on it. Trust yourself first and rules a distant second. of course all this falls to pieces if you don’t know the PCs strengths and weaknesses inside and out.
– Holy Bovine

With a nick like that you can’t be wrong. :)

That’s what I’ll be using if I’m not falling back on published material.

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Comments on 2008-05-13 NPC Design

Works for me.

It’s nice to be able to say “this NPC is a 7th level Wizard”, but the number of times that comes up in actual play is very rare. Much easier not to worry about it.

GreyWulf 2008-05-13 21:59 UTC

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2008-05-13 Save Or Die

Justin Alexander posted an article talking about Save-or-Die effects. First he establishes a sequence of such effects: from Hold Person (save every round), to Sleep (others wake you), to Paralysis (others cure you if you have the right resource handy), to instant kills such as Finger of Death. He proposes a solution that translates most of these to something closer to hit points: Ability Damage. He proposes to that when the ability reaches zero, the effect mentioned in the spell description effectively happens, and the ability damage represents your gradual sliding into that zone.

I like it, but to be honest I would sort of like it even better if this meant getting rid of saving throws. :)

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Comments on 2008-05-13 Save Or Die

Get rid of saving throws? You mean have static defenses instead, or get rid of any resistance mechanic altogether?

– Adrian 2008-05-14 11:20 UTC


Yes, I like the concept of static defenses.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-14 14:07 UTC

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2008-05-14 Pidgin and Twitter

I was trying to use twitter.pl from pidgin-twitterstatus according to a blog post by Daily Gian but had some problems. Here’s how I solved them. I’ve sent this stuff to the plugin maintainer; I’m not sure what he’ll do with this.

Anyway… Gian says the following:

  1. Install Pidgin. Done. ok
  2. Install Perl. Done. Twice. ;)
  3. Install XML::XPath. Done. But as it turns out, not ok. warning
  4. Launch Pidgin and check Help → About, scroll to the bottom of the page. You should see a line saying Perl: Enabled.
  5. Download twitter.pl and put it into your Pidgin plugins folder.
  6. Restart Pidgin and go to Tools → Plugins. There will be a new plugin named “Twitter Status Feed”. Enable it and click on Configure Plugin. Enter your twitter user name in the dialog box that pops up.
  7. Done. Soon you will find that your Pidgin status bar reads the same as your last Twitted message.

When I check my Pidgin About box, I see that Perl is enabled. I have a Cygwin Perl and an ActivePerl installed. When I run perl from the command line, I get Cygwin Perl. I don’t see the Twitter plugin in my list at Tools → Plugins. :(

When I switch to C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins and try to run Perl on twitter.el (just to check that everything works fine) I get the following problem:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>perl -I ../perlmod twitter.pl
Can't load '../perlmod/Purple.dll' for module Purple: No such file or directory
at /usr/lib/perl5/5.8/cygwin/DynaLoader.pm line 230.
 at twitter.pl line 1
Compilation failed in require at twitter.pl line 1.
BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at twitter.pl line 1.

:(

Try again:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>set Path=C:/Perl/bin;%Path%

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>perl -I ../perlmod twitter.pl
Can't load '../perlmod/Purple.dll' for module Purple: load_file:The specified mo
dule could not be found at C:/Perl/lib/DynaLoader.pm line 230.
 at twitter.pl line 1
Compilation failed in require at twitter.pl line 1.
BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at twitter.pl line 1.

Plus I get a message box about failing to start because libglib-2.0-0.dll was not found.

I find that Gimp comes with this library.

Try again:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>set Path=C:\Program Files\GIMP-2.0\bin;%Path%

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>perl -I ../perlmod twitter.pl

Same output but now I get a message box about failing to start because libpurple.dll was not found. This one comes with Pidgin!

Try again, this time in the same directory as purple.dll:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin>perl -I perlmod plugins\twitter.pl

Same output but now I get a message box about failing to start because perl.dll was not found. This one is in the plugins directory.

Try again, adding all the paths:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins>set Path=C:\Program Files\Pidgin;C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins;%Path%

Now we’re getting somewhere:

C:\Program Files\Pidgin>perl -I perlmod plugins\twitter.pl
Can't locate XML/XPath.pm in @INC (@INC contains: perlmod C:/Perl/lib C:/Perl/si
te/lib .) at plugins\twitter.pl line 4.
BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at plugins\twitter.pl line 4.

I probably installed XML::XPath for the other Perl installation. Using ppm3.bat to install XML-XPath and trying again…

Now I finally get no output.

So now I’m prepending this to my system’s Path environment variable: C:\Program Files\Pidgin;C:\Program Files\Pidgin\plugins;C:\Program Files\GIMP-2.0\bin;C:\Perl\bin attention

And I get a Twitter Status Feed 0.1 plugin listed! vee

I configured it by setting my Twitter name, added myself as my own buddy just to double check, waited for a minute, but apparently my latest Twitter status is not showing up. I check http://code.google.com/p/pidgin-twitterstatus/downloads/list again and find that there is a 0.2.1 version listed that doesn’t match what I downloaded. Weird. question

I close Pidgin, copy the new one into my plugins directory, delete the existing twitter.pl, restart Pidgin, reenable the plugin, check the configuration (my name is still there), and it works! My Pidgin status message is changed to my latest Twitter status message. shaka lightbulb

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Comments on 2008-05-14 Pidgin and Twitter

I could add twitter in gtalk and aim without much problem. Did you try that? http://twitter.com/devices

v 2008-05-14 20:52 UTC


Well, I don’t use separate clients for GTalk and AIM. I use Pidgin on Windows (at work) and Adium on a Mac (at home) for all my instant messaging needs. Both are multi-protocol clients based on libpurple (formerly libgaim).

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-14 22:52 UTC


Apparently this no longer works with the latest Active Perl which uses 5.10 – I wasted way too much time on this other Windows box trying to get it to work. Gaaah!

Also note pidgin-identica-status – which I also can’t get to work on this Windows box. Damn.

After tracking down all the stuff I still get this:

c:/Programme/Pidgin $ perl -I . -I perlmod plugins/identica.pl
Can't find 'boot_Purple' symbol in ./libPurple.dll
 at plugins/identica.pl line 1
Compilation failed in require at plugins/identica.pl line 1.
BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at plugins/identica.pl line 1.

AlexSchroeder 2008-08-13 10:20 UTC

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2008-05-15 Eben Moglen vs Tim O’Reilly

JanneJalkanen links to an interesting conversation [1]. Tim O’Reilly wants to talk about Web 2.0. Eben Moglen wants to talk about freedom. [2]

I didn’t like Moglen’s apparent lack of tact. Who knows, maybe you need that kind of stubborness, the quality that keeps you talking while the other is trying to interject something.

What I really liked was the following thought:

The GPLv3 doesn’t force service providers (like Google or EmacsWiki) to make their source code available. This is a problem because in the old days, users of Free Software had that right because software was always a local thing. So people ask: Why isn’t this a requirement?

Moglen says that this is a conflict of rights: People have the right to make private modifications. People have the right to study the software. It’s a conflict. Concentrating on the second right by eliminating the first right is not a good solution, he argues. The correct solution is to treat this as a public policy issue.

And he provides and example: Corporations can protect their dirty secrets from the press by keeping the press off their private premisses. This is a conflict of rights: People have a right to privacy, and they have a right to uncover the dirty secrets of others. Abolishing privacy in order to prevent crime is not the correct solution, he argues. The correct solution is to treat this as a public policy issue, take it to the next level, and find a more complex solution. A gazillion details govern this conflict of rights: Search warrants, whistleblowers, public interest, privacy – all these issues are part of the solution.

I assume that Moglen would like a similarly reasonable and thoughtful regulation for the conflict of interest regarding freedom and computation.

Interesting.

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Comments on 2008-05-15 Eben Moglen vs Tim O’Reilly

Didn’t listen, yet. Recently ran across a profile of Brad Kuhn on Linux.com that has some related background information and commentary about the SaaS and/or freedom conversation.

AaronHawley 2008-05-16 18:16 UTC


The Brad Kuhn interview talks about licensing and incorporation, but when Tim O’Reilly asked Eben Moglen to speak about the licensing challenges ahead in the Web 2.0 era, Moglen refused saying that the challenges ahead were not licensing challenges but matters of public policy, ie. society figuring out how to handle all freedom issues surrounding the use and development of software. I think that was an interesting way of seeing it, and clearly O’Reilly was struggling with this turn of events – specially since Moglen never stopped accusing O’Reilly of having wasted the last ten years by refusing to push the freedom agenda and instead squandering it by talking about Open Source Software all the time. The refusal to see it as a licensing issue, the assertion that software service providers are under no obligation to publish their source, and to underline the conflict of rights nature of the issue was an interesting rhetorical move, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-16 23:13 UTC

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2008-05-15 Regenerate Keys

DSA-1571 openssl – the bug that forces you to regenerate all your keys. Gah!

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2008-05-16 Playlists

I mentioned how I’ve been creating a so-called “On-The-Go playlist” on my iPod. [1] Plus I’ve had other playlists for particular occasions, too. Here’s the one I’ve been listening to today:

Rocken wie früher (Rock like in the old days)

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2008-05-17 Street Kings and Definitely Maybe

I went to see Street Kings (2008) and Definitely Maybe (2008) with a good friend of mine. We always have a hard time picking movies to see because our tastes are so different. Obviously I think I have excellent taste, thus she must have … a different taste. ;)

Both movies were ok entertainment. Neither movie was worth paying CHF 18 per person (about USD 18 at the moment). Better to join a DVD sharing arrangement at work or via a local association.

Definitely Maybe had a child that was way too wise. This plot element – providing spontaneous insight from the perspective of a child – doesn’t really work for me. I have a demystified view of children, I guess.

Street Kings had a predictable plot about LAPD corruption. It’s scary to realize that so many movies are made about police corruption that it is probably true. I also didn’t like the premise that sometimes we need cops that operate outside the law in order to uphold the law. This is a slippery path to take. I hate it if checks and balances in our political system are cast as random obstacles. They are necessary obstacles to prevent us from turning into the very thing we’re fighting against. Because if we do, “winning” has no value.

Update: Later I watched The Hidden Blade (2004). That was a good movie. I liked other Yōji Yamada movies, too. These I recommend wholeheartedly. ;)

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Comments on 2008-05-17 Street Kings and Definitely Maybe

Yeah, the Hidden Blade was great. It’s got something for everybody. ;)

– Marco 2008-05-20 10:03 UTC


There are three movies:

  • Twilight Samurai (2002) – very similar to Hidden Blade
  • Hidden Blade (2004) – the one we saw
  • Love and Honor (2006) – recently in cinemas

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-20 10:43 UTC

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2008-05-18 Gorl

Using Corian’s Dimension Door and Bluff skill, the party manages to steal the last key to the vault from under Gorl’s nose.

All these sessions, Corian had a high Bluff check and never used it. This session it all came together.

At first they saw a few bugbears in the distance. Corian turned invisible, Flax and Belflin hid in the shadows, and Aurleva cast Barkskin on herself. The bugbears ran. They found a piece of leather armor with a drow inscription saying “Hairy Fang Scout Battallion, 3rd Squad” or something the like. I’m assuming their dark elf masters know at least some of the party’s strengths. And the drow have had various other contacts with them: The drow party confronting the orcs at the underdark lake, the drow wizard living with the Crushed Skull orcs, the bugbears that ran when Belflin startled them at their camp fire near the ogre cave… Random encounters are forcing me to add a significant element of drow elements to the campaign’s future.

Later they saw two of the bugbears slain and one of them with pieces of grey dessicated flesh on his morningstar. The enemies must have used bows. Weird.

Finally the party met 13 gnolls lying in wait for them. Did the bugbears order this attack? Maybe. On a whim I decided to add a hidden hill giant to the mix. The two flying invisible archers were surprised to find the hill giant there, but within seconds the fight was over, the gnolls and the hill giant ran, the gnolls carrying torches for the hill giant, illuminating the target for Belflin. The last gnolls finally dropped the torches… The party found 1000 gp and two scrolls. Nice.

To bad Silas the cleric wasn’t there when the party met three wraiths. Two got Constitution drained and they decided to try something new: Cast Fly on themselves and use Dimension Door to get to the surface. I ruled that this was no problem.

Some healing in Bostwick, and they returned by the same route. I let them have 1d6 damage for missing the tunnel by a bit, but nothing serious. They found the wall accross the tunnel and the two towers. A flying invisible language comprehending Flax went ahead and discovered the goblin archers. The party decides to bluff their way in – as gem traders! They have enough jewelry on them, excellent Bluff checks, and Corian knows the Tongues spell. Excellent choices in order to avoid combat. They meet Gorl, show them their gems, ask for the hexagonal gem, are shown the statue of Belphegor, and learn that it is not for sale. The party leaves, holes up in extradimensional space using the Rope Trick, and the next day they use two Dimension Door spells to get to the gem. The first Dimension Door took them into the kennel of the hell hounds, but Corian uses the surprise round to cast the second Dimension Door which takes them to the statue. The giant wakes, but on the second try Corian’s cohort Flax has retrieved the gem from the statue, they all link hands, and use a third Dimension Door to get out. As they prepared by using Fly on themselves, no problem.

The session really allowed Corian to shine.

All that remains is to get the gem hanging around Winifred Baum’s neck. Corian tries to talk her out of it, but she gets a +15 circumstance bonus unless he tells her a “spectacular” story. They failed to convince the poor woman and now they really need to think of other ways to get to the gem… We already established that an equivalent real-looking gem was probably worth around 10’000 gp. Quite a lot…

Generally speaking the party is now very famous in the valley. People believe they’ll get rid of the green dragon of Twain for them, that the priestess of the temple of the everlasting sun, Jeffar, has been gaining in power and grace ever since she raised Belflin the elf from the dead, and with Corian talking about “his party” to Winifred Baum I think it won’t be long until people will wonder how Crus is going to react to this all.

XP

Challenges overcome: Thirteen gnools CR 1, Bog the hill giant CR 7, the poison needle trap on the chest CR 2, four goblin archers in the tower CR 2, Gorl the fire giant and cleric of Belphegor CR 10.

Corian
36855 + 2175 = 39030 (Sor-9)
Belflin
36062 + 2175 = 38237 (Rng-9)
Auroleva
31938 + 3500 = 35438 (Drd-4/Clr-4)
Silas
31985 (Cle-8)
Flax
11910 + 2175*5/9 = 13118 (Rog-5)

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2008-05-19 Between Melancholia and Dancing

Currently listening to a playlist called On-The-Go 4 which is short for “Melancholia and Dancing”:

  • Folklore by 16 HorsepowerSamRose says “psychedelic hillbilly music with a crazy southern hollerin’ revivalist twist”; personally I find that it is melancholy country music by people torn between Sin and God. A terrible place to be.
  • In Rainbows by Radiohead – that’s the album that was legally available for download for a donation [1]; I guess some would call them psychedelic, too. I remember my boss hearing them and shaking his head: “This is dreadful. It lacks beauty!” I replied: “Beauty has nothing to do with it.”
  • If You're Feeling Sinister by Belle & Sebastian – apparently their best album [2]; they play uplifting music, but unfortunately I only understand various text fragments that hint at darker lyrics – I should check before nodding happily along.

A short playlist with but 30 titles in it.

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2008-05-20 Calendar Limits

I’ve been using the Google Calendar to organise my private life for a few months now. It has worked admirably. Today I had my first problem, actually. In April I forgott to register a D&D game for coming Friday. Two weeks later I registered another D&D game for coming Friday. Today I got reminders for both games.

Noooooo…

Such problems no software can solve.

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2008-05-20 Gardens of the Moon

I got Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson from Daniel and enjoyed it. Unlike many fantasy books I had read when I was younger, this one didn’t assault me with a gazillion ideas that seemed lifted from the Lord of the Rings.

The book was hard to get into. The first hundred pages were confusing because various scenes from the character’s past are jumbled together, leading to two dozen names and confusing jumps in time. Later the storyline stabilizes and I enjoyed the various parts.

What I really enjoyed was that this was not a fight against a great evil but that there are interesting people on all sides. I was also relieved to find practically no sex in the book. Such scenes are very hard to pull off and I hardly ever enjoy them. What made this book particularly enjoyable was the power the various sorcerers wielded. Again and again, I enjoyed reading about the effects of sorcery and never did it fall flat.

Recommended.

Fair warning: Apparently this is going to end up an endless series much like the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Perhaps you want to wait and see whether the author actually manages to finish the series. The thought troubles me.

I bought volumes one to three in German so Claudia can read them, too. It has been a long time that I read a translation of a Fantasy book from English to German. I’ll try and read volume two in German. Wheeee! :)

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2008-05-23 Scanner Gone

I have a Canon LiDE 25 scanner. Today it stopped working with OSX 10.4.11.

Grrrrr! :(

Weird. Maybe it never worked on my Mac Mini? I just tried it with the iBook and OSX 10.3 and it worked.

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Comments on 2008-05-23 Scanner Gone

I think I have the same using OSX 10.5.2. Just works using vuescan software (http://www.hamrick.com/)

– 2ni 2008-05-24 10:44 UTC


Hm… I feel bad spending more than USD 30 on something that should just work.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-25 18:35 UTC


I just discovered that installing the very old version of ScanGear will work! How amazing is that.

The details: I’m using OSX 10.4.11. If you follow instructions online and get the latest driver you’ll end up with a file called lide25osx11030en.dmg sucks; installing it will result in “no driver found” errors whenever you try to scan something (eg. when using the Gimp). If you get a really old version of the software you’ll end up with a file called s5703enx.dmg ok; installing it will result in a working CanoScan LiDE 25 scanner.

Yay!

Hah, now that I no longer need my laptop to scan images, I have one more reason to install Ubuntu on it. :)

Well, to be honest, the TWAIN interface still doesn’t work such that Gimp and the CanoScan Toolbox 4.9 will still complain about a missing driver. But at least you can run ScanGear Starter 1.1E and get something scanned.

But then, greatest surprise of them all: If you installed the old driver first, you can then install the newer driver on top of it, and then everything works. This is amazing.

And it goes to show how tricky accurate testing actually is. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-02-15 20:44 UTC


Hm. Running Mac OS 10.6.8, I find that I get the following error:

Cannot communicate with scanner
Cable may be disconnected or scanner may be
turned off. Check status.
Scanner driver will be closed.

Damn you, Canon! Damn you!

Let me go through the instructions again… The download center has two files that are supposed to work with 10.6:

  • Deldrv (1.5.1.0)
  • ScanGear CS (11.031X)

Let’s install them both and see!

And… it worked! I’m surprised. Yay!

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-02 14:58 UTC

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2008-05-23 The Price Of PDF

I’m intrigued by the SinisterAdventuresIndulgences. I’m comparing prices with KoboldQuarterly, however. Each KQ issue costs USD 4. Four Indulgences cost USD 8. Hm…

I think I’d really like to run Sinister Adventures Razor Coast mini campaign. I’m hoping that it will turn out to be pretty “open” in the same way that Vault of Larin Karr by W.D.B. Kenower allows players to move through the area and pick their own challenges.

Naturally that also means that the party meet challenges that are way over the top while they are at low levels, and later other challenges turn out to be cakewalks. But that’s ok, I think. In our VaultOfLarinKarr game, any orcs, bugbears or hobgoblins the players meet by now are scared shitless by the party. :)

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2008-05-25 Harddisk Space

So we’re running out of space again. Claudia had another show for her students, and I recorded it all on tape. The Saturday show resulted in around 20G of raw material, and with that the “DVD” harddisk is full. No space for the Sunday show. There are a few other projects with raw material that we haven’t converted to DVD images, yet. Strangely enough, DVD images is what we’re using as file format for video material these days.

So here’s a breackdown of what I want to backup:

Alex Home 1.62G
Claudia Home 2.03G
Music 52.3G
Audio 3.11G
Books 18.91G
DVD 189.41G
Old Stuff 1.14G
Pictures 11.54G

Yeah, it sucks. “Old Stuff” includes old home directories from my GNU/Linux days and the like. Nobody cares.

The difference between “Audio” and “Music” is that Music is on the primary disk (and thus can be used without any ventilators). The Audio stuff includes audiobooks and WW2 news samples. Now that we hardly use iTunes and the SqueezeBox anymore – using the iPod and a dedicated system where the iPod plugs in – I might get away with putting the iTunes Library on to an external disk and merging Audio and Music. That would be interesting.

The “DVD” stuff that really wastes space is raw material. Incredible. 10min of video take about 1G of space. Yuck!

My external harddisks are 250G each. No matter how I try, I cannot reduce one set of backups to a single disk: Those 190G of video material will prevent that. What I can do, however, is to stop splitting backups along the Alex/Claudia line and only split along the DVD/other line.

Damn. I’m not sure this actually saves anything, since all the complicated stuff is taken care of by the Backup command line.

I’d also like to burn some stuff to double layer disks. Whenever I insert them into my Mac Mini who is supposed to know how to handle them, nothing happens. I’m expecting an empty disk on my Desktop that I can fill with some video files, but no luck. I’ve tried five of them, and I keep getting no result. It’s hard to believe that they should all be defective. When I check my system properties [1] I see that it should be possible to burn DVD + R DL disks. And that’s exactly what my DVDs are labelled with. But when I create a “burn folder” and click the burn button, it tells me to insert a disk of size X and presents me with the Cancel button.

Investigating the command line:

Pyrobombus:~ alex$ drutil status
 Vendor   Product           Rev 
 MATSHITA DVD-R   UJ-846    FM3J

           Type: DVD+R DL             Name: /dev/disk4
      Cur Write:  2.4x DVD          Sessions: 0
      Max Write:  2.4x DVD            Tracks: 0
   Overwritable:  927:30:74         blocks:  4173824 /   8.55GB /   7.96GiB
     Space Free:  927:30:74         blocks:  4173824 /   8.55GB /   7.96GiB
     Space Used:   00:00:00         blocks:        0 /   0.00MB /   0.00MiB
        Layer 0:                    blocks:  2086912 /   4.27GB /   3.98GiB
    Writability: appendable, blank, overwritable

Hm, that sounds about right!

Testing drutil burn /Volumes/Extern/DVD/foo/bar – seems to work! Well, at least the process starts… Waiting…

Cool, apparently that works.

Strange to think that Mac OS 10.4 doesn’t have GUI support to burn double layer DVDs.

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Comments on 2008-05-25 Harddisk Space

Good luck! You can never have enough disk space, that’s for sure. Sounds like it’s time to invest (an immediately fill) a 750Gb external drive.

Remember the good old days when a 20Mb hard drive seemed huge?! I do. Darn, I’m gettin’ old :)

GreyWulf 2008-05-25 22:39 UTC


Hah, I’m younger than you are, apparently, for my first PC had a 40M disk!

Then again, I remember using my ZX Spectrum 48k with tapes and playing Elite on it… Those were the days! :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-25 23:39 UTC

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2008-05-25 Zwei Schülershows

Claudias zwei Schülershows sind endlich über die Bühne gegangen. Hoffentlich lässt der Stress nun etwas nach. Selber muss ich ja die von mir gemachten Videoaufnahmen nur noch zu einer DVD verdingseln. Das ist natürlich vor allem ein Festplattenplatzproblem bei der Menge Rohmaterial…

Bald sind wir ja für ein paar Tage in Frankreich. Mein Hirn stellt sich langsam auf Ferien ein. In der verbleibenden Zeit kann ich im Geschäft nicht mehr alle Probleme lösen. Und sobald man sich das einmal eingestanden hat, fällt es viel leichter, vorzeitig Schlussstriche zu ziehen, Nachfolger zu suchen, und so weiter. Ich freue mich. :)

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Comments on 2008-05-25 Zwei Schülershows

Wo geht es denn hin in Frankreich?

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-05-26 14:01 UTC


Wird werden nach Céret gehen. Claudias Eltern waren schon mehrmals dort und es gefällt ihnen ausserordentlich. Die Leute dort sind ziemlich katalanisch orientiert und bei unserer Ankunft findet ein Kirschenfest statt. Da bin ich ja gespannt. Wir werden mit dem Flugzeug nach Barcelona fliegen und dort ein Auto mieten.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-26 14:27 UTC


Habe schon einige Fotos mit Google Earth gesehen von Céret. Gefällt mir gut. Im Languedoc haben wir schon Ferien verbracht, aber so nahe an die spanischen Grenze sind wir nicht gekommen. Das ist schon langer her, daran wirst du dich nicht erinnern.

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-05-27 13:46 UTC

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2008-05-26 Cut Up Lyrics

When I listen to Belle & Sebastian or Portishead lyrics these days, I am reminded of something I realized about twenty years ago: The lyrics I like best are the lyrics that keep their sense of mystery. That usually means that they must be unintelligible but suggestive.

That reminds me of William S. Burroughs cut-up technique. The resulting novels were not readably. I tried reading excerpts of Naked Lunch. Weird wasn’t even the beginning. Unintelligible. But suggestive.

Update: Actually, now that I’ve written these paragraphs and followed the Wikipedia links as I often do – ie. I follow the links after having written the text – I find that Radiohead is mentioned explicitly: “Thom Yorke applied a similar method in Radiohead’s Kid A (2000) album, writing single lines, putting them into a hat, and drawing them out at random while the band rehearsed the songs.”

How could I forget. Another excellent example: Radiohead.

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2008-05-29 Holidays

I’ll be in France for ten days, so keep an eye on everything. :)

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Comments on 2008-05-29 Holidays

Will do!

Have a great time. I hope the weather is good and the food is even better :)

greywulf 2008-05-29 21:56 UTC


Don’t worry, I’ll keep everyone in line while you’re gone.

– Adrian 2008-05-30 12:08 UTC


Ich wünsche euch schöne Ferien. Wie schon gesagt, ich habe Bilder von malerischen Strassen und Plätzen der Stadt in Google Earth gesehen. Steht ein Stierkampf auch auf dem Programm?????!!!!

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-05-31 00:34 UTC


Uns geht es gut. Wir essen wie die Koenige, trinken Wein vom Feinsten, ignorieren den Regen und geniessen die Auszeit. Stierkaempfe sind keine vorgesehen… :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-06-03 19:48 UTC


Fühlt euch von mir geknuddelt :-) Schule geht in die letzte phase. Habe noch unmengen zu korrigieren, und meine armesehnen tun mir weh. Das einzige was mir wirklich freude macht, ist, dass ich eine yoga-lehrerausbildung mache und auch offiziell wieder meine arbeit als therapeutin aufnehme, mit werbung usw… bin gespannt wie sich das entwickelt: meine traum: so viel verdienen, dass ich in sicherheit die schule reduzieren kann. :-) bussis, mama PS sukalt ist es auch noch :-(

– mum 2008-06-05 19:12 UTC

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2008-05 Book Club

Second Meeting in May

What: Sky Burial by Xinran.

When: Wednesday May 28, 19:00 @ Hotel Glockenhof courtyard

Nanda: “I read Good women of china a few years ago and it was great. She has a new book out Miss chopsticks but that’s not available in small paperback yet. […] It’s been quite a while since we’ve read a Chinese book….” The book on Amazon. Supporters: Nanda.

First Meeting in May

What: American Gods by Neil Gaiman – modern fairy tale stuff. Neil Gaiman is famous for his Sandman comics.

When: Tuesday May 6, 19:00 @ Starbucks.

Wikipedia: American Gods, Neil Gaiman. First proposed in September 2007. Supporters: Alex, Nanda, Uli, Arantza, Chrissie.

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Comments on 2008-05 Book Club

I liked American Gods. It was the first thing I read by Neil Gaiman (the only other thing I’ve read is the far more whimsical Good Omens, written by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett) and I liked the eclectic mix of his modern mythology.

– Adrian 2008-02-28 08:31 UTC

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