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Saturday, November 30, 2002

8:38 PM - Tea-spewing quote of the day

"If your honour were to do as this dog did and nuzzle the defendant's genitals, it would be an indecent assault." -- from a Reuters report of an Australian court case involving a drug suspect who accused Rocky the police dog of impropriety.

However, Supreme Court Justice Barry O'Keefe ruled, "When a 'crotch nuzzle' ... is performed by a dog in relation to a human being, it may be no more than a conventional, friendly, social gesture with no hostile intent, and unlikely to constitute an assault."

I think it's fair to say that the drug suspect is going to have a really tough time in the prison showers.

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5:29 AM - Pussy pleasures

My feet are like an X-Box and a PS2 and a home entertainment centre all rolled into one.

I know this because the kitten we've (apparently) adopted is thoroughly fascinated by my feet. They are endless sources of entertainment to the little cat. They can be stalked. They can be gnawed. They can be batted. All this and cats can get a decent foot massage -- that's massage by a foot -- as well.

Kitty heaven.

Anyway, the kitten is pretty adorable. He's all white with striking violet eyes. He wasn't much when we rescued him, though. He had spent three days in a drain. He was bedraggled and shivering with a nasty cut across the face. I didn't expect him to pull through but he did. Never underestimate the strength of a mangy mewler. A shampoo and several square meals later, the little fellow looks to be in the pink of health.

The entire family has taken to the little bugger. He hasn't been introduced to the rabbit and I think we'll keep them separated. Don't really want to tempt fate. I'm not sure if I'm more concerned for the rabbit's safety or the kitten's. Honeybunny -- look, I didn't name her, okay? -- is quite feisty.

On a side note, a neighbour's kid named Ali is quite smitten by the kitten. He wanted to adopt the meowster but apparently his parents said no so Ali's been over at our place to play with the kitten. Today, the kid brought over another kitten he had found. He apparently intended to introduce the two and arrange a marriage.

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5:29 AM - Voodoo computing

Computers bug the hell out of me at times. And I consider myself fairly well versed with hardware and software. I am no hacker or proficient coder but I can do what I want to do efficiently and with minimum fuss.

Most of the time.

Anyway, I had planned to upgrade my RAM for some time now. I'm running Win98SE and the 128MB I had was more than enough for almost all applications I run. However, NWN is a real memory-hogger and the game functions best with 256MB RAM as it dramatically cuts down disk access.

So I get an additional 128MB stick of SDRAM from Exzee Computer. I return home and insert the stick in the middle bank. Turn the computer on and the additional 128MB RAM wasn't detected by the BIOS.

I was not suprised.

Every time I touch the innards of my PC, something bizarre crops up. I have come to accept this.

So I remove and reinstall the stick. Same thing. At that point, I was sweating and starting to gnash my teeth.

So I take the PC to the shop and ask him to check things. Maybe it's the RAM stick. He checks the RAM stick and guess what? The new stick was working fine. The old one was not.


The old one had been working fine all along. Why didn't it work when I inserted the new one? He didn't know, of course. He mentioned some hoo-hah about the old stick being an unrealiable brand. It was the cheapest brand of RAM in the market so there might be something to that but I refused to believe that the older RAM stick would die just when I had bought a new stick. Surely the universe wasn't that cruel.

I insisted that the technician kept testing both sticks on my PC and on another PC. We tested all three banks. We tried every combination I could think of. Twice. We checked the BIOS just in case.

After about half an hour of checking and head-shaking, both sticks were suddenly just working fine. Why? I couldn't tell you. The shop technician couldn't tell you. It's just one of those things.

Every time I hear "Computers save you time" I want to laugh hysterically.

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Thursday, November 21, 2002

1:45 PM - Magic in the Bubble

I think I've moaned enough about my problems playing MP NWN. It's gotten so that I dare not join a scheduled game because I just don't know if I will be able to connect to the server.

I have however had success -- despite frequent "Join Internet Game"/GameSpy client hangs and nwnmain.exe crashes -- playing with some servers. These successes are just about the only reason NWN is still installed on my machine at the moment.

The one server I head for whenever I'm in a RPing mood is The Magic Bubble. It's a persistent world server running HCR and I just love it. I haven't had this much RP-ing fun in a long while. It has single-handedly reaffirmed my belief in BioWare, NWN and RPing as a hobby.

It's a relatively small PW server as it's limited to 24 player slots with another two slot reserved for DMs. I like that.

It's small enough that there aren't any performance issues.

It's large enough and busy enough that there's almost always someone to talk to or to party with. And there almost always is a DM around to keep things lively and keep things under control. RP well and you may just find yourself rewarded.

I haven't explored most of the areas in it. I've kept mostly to the areas surrounding the start location because HCR's tough for the neophyte. Wandering off with a gung-ho attitude is a sure invitation for, shall we say, a "regrettable incident". There's also the small matter of my poor judgment and suey-luck in combat. (Hey, how was I to know those two wolves would cause mortal wounds with their first bites?)

And to compound matters, the Magic Bubble servers have included a devious, frustrating and aggravating Hell sequence if you chose the respawn route. I'm not going to go into details but suffice to say it means you do not want to die and respawn.


The really nice thing about this is that a) it forces you to be cautious and pragmatic in battles (if the odds are against you, amscray!) and b) it encourages good RPing.

Let me explain b).

I've gone out of my way to get aid for my dying or dead companions because I wouldn't want them to go through the Hell sequence. Anyway, it led to some beseeching, some begging and some pretty cool RPing angles.

F'rinstance, my earnest and genial but all told, pretty poor fighter, Giob, felt awful about getting two of his companions killed while venturing in the dark forests north of camp.

This led to some neat RPing as the other two -- resuscitated by a generous stranger who my character found in camp -- convinced my angsting character it wasn't his fault.

It helps a lot that the folks there are into RPing. There's far too much OOCing at times. But that's me being rigid, if not anal.

I just believe that's almost always a creative way to avoid going out of character. Only the lazy or unimaginative should relying on "ooc:".

Ultimately, RPing all about suspending the disbelief and it's hard to suspend disbelief when another player goes, "ooc: what's your lvl?" (I don't know why but this happens to me at least once per session.)

(Note to builders: You might want to consider creating a OOC tavern close to the module start area where players can enter and speak out-of-character without distracting the players who are playing in character. It could be useful for players to work out stuff before venturing forth and it could be a place where players can discuss the adventures they've just had before they exit the server.)

But as I said, on the whole, the folks who DM and play there are very much into RPing.

There is a meta story developing from what I can tell with my limited time on the server.

There are intriguing elements, mysteries and fascinating characters running around. What more can a role-player ask for?

Technically, areas are large but generally sparse. But again, I haven't explored that much. I think I've seen six areas tops. (But that's because the RPing element alone is so satisfying I don't really feel the need to explore.)

I'm glad there aren't five million scripts executing all at once in an area which means no bog-downs on my low-end machine. Just about every area I've seen thus far has a scaleable encounter in it. These are small but challenging. (I dislike the way some builders overdo things by putting too much in.)

The harder areas are marked accordingly. But common sense should tell you to steer clear of buildings named "Tower of Doom" if you're just starting out.

The ping rates (for me anyway) are reasonably low, ranging from 400 to 800 mostly. I've seen some players have serious problems with disconnects. And I've had lags, jumps and a crash (and that infernal possession bug is getting to be a pain) or three but generally, I can play on the server for two or three hours at a stretch without too many technical aggravations.

(By contrast another server, Narfell, has an impressive town area, Norwick, but a lot of lags as five jillion scripts in that area are processed. Entering the town is usually an invitation for an eventual nwmain.exe crash on my machine.)

Anyway, if you do happen to enter the Bubble and if per chance you spot a garrulous blonde bladesman by the name of Giob gabbing away in camp, be sure to greet him and introduce yourself.

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Monday, November 18, 2002

1:08 PM - Batty in hell

I've been dead before but I've never been in Hell until yesterday. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

I should point out that I'm talking about the NWN PW world I'm playing in, The Magic Bubble. If you die, you can either wait for a companion to resurrect you or find someone who can. If you tire of waiting or your companion is helpless, you can opt to respawn. Respawning means taking an XP and gold hit but that's nothing. The worse part about dying and respawning is Hell.

You end up in this depressing area with lava all around you and screams of despair assailing your ears.

To exit Hell, you have to talk to six smart-assed imps. This involves clicking through six almost identical dialogue trees finding the one dialogue tree node that will aid you.

It sounds easy, doesn't it? Don't believe it for a second. I was driven to distraction and despair clicking through dialogue tree after dialogue tree finding that one optimal node while being mocked by those infernal imps.

I was this close to exiting the PW, giving up my Hell-crazed character -- and at this point, my character wasn't the only one crazed -- and creating a new character.

After about 30 minutes (maybe it was an hour ... time flies when you're dead), I gave up and thought I'd exit the game and try again when I was a little less agitated.

Upon logging on to The Magic Bubble an hour or so later, I found that my character was now out of Hell. I don't know what happened. Perhaps one of the DMs took pity. Perhaps it was a bug in the system. I don't know. I don't care.

All I knew is that I did not want to go through that again.

So kudos to the designers of the Bubble. They've given players a superb incentive not to die.

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12:59 PM - Toransufomaa!

The next Transformers series in Japan will be the Japanese version of Transformers Armada. Its name? "Cho Robotto Seimeitai Transformer Maikuron Densetsu." (Apparently, it means "Super Living Robot Transformer The Legend of Micron".) I hope the upcoming JTF series lasts longer than its name.

While I find the larger figures unappealing -- I'm disappointed with the lack of articulation -- I want the Micron mini-figures. I'm looking forward to getting these 5mm port/peg-equipped figures. The only thing that has put me off getting the Armada versions has been the cost of shipping the figures from the US. Getting them from a Japanese source would save me a few bucks.

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Saturday, November 16, 2002

8:47 PM - Bubble bubble, orc and trouble

I played another good NWN session today. I made another new friend, this one was a small fellow by the name of Sigrin Pest. Small he may be but he proved to be stout of heart.

But when we first met, friend Sigrin was grieving because he had lost his friend Ivan after a battle. I tried to console him as best I could. The little one was convinced that death would come to all who would accompany him. I promptly resolved to prove him wrong.

I decided to enlist his aid in investigating a small orc encampment I had earlier spied northeast of camp. As neither of us was a veteran warrior, we resolved to be as cautious in our approach as we could.

Sigrin snuck up on the camp and reported back that there were only two orcs, ah, orcing the camp whereupon we planned our attack. Nothing too brilliant, I fear. Sigrin hung back while I closed in. Best to play to our strengths.

It was a short but fierce battle and between bolts from Sigrin's crossbow and quick thrusts of my rapier, our foes succumbed. We were still rejoicing over our victory when another two orcs materialised out of thin air right before our very eyes. We had no time to wonder about the hows and whys as we were quickly set upon.

Still, we persevered and ultimately secured our victory. This time, however, we searched for loot and quickly scarpered back to camp. We were both bleeding from wounds inflicted by our foes and it was best not to tempt fate. I do not think we would have survived another encounter.

Mere hours after parting ways with Sigrin after our splendid adventure, I met up with his friend Ivan. A small world after all. After assuring Ivan that his friend Sigrin was well and thinking of him, we parted ways.

I then spent the remainder of my time in camp talking to others. I learned some things and heard some tales.

And I had another encounter with that creepy worshipper of the Silent Lord. I do not care for him. Few do. Yet no one stands up to him as he goads, provokes, belittles, mocks and frightens those around him. I do not know what will come of this but I fear the worst.

Man, I love the multiplayer game. Especially when it's being played by folks who enjoy role-playing their character.

What new adventures will await me in the Magic Bubble tomorrow, I wonder?

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11:56 AM - Advocacy: Always good for a laugh

Fascinating interview with an architect in today's BizWeek section of The Star. The interviewee says, "You walk into a room where you've got 20 PCs ... I challenge you to recognise which brand or which make or what model or what generation. They all look the same ... there's no individuality or uniqueness. And that is not what humans are. But the Mac, I can actually recognise the machine when I see it."

I'm no Mac fan but I must concede that each and every Mac is unique just like all the other mass manufactured Macs.

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11:44 AM - Of new fruit and fruity flies

In important news that will have major repercussions on the way we see fruit flies, scientists in Los Angeles have discovered that an increase in temperatures will turn fruit flies gay. This means the homophobic now have an even greater reason to fear global warming.

In other news, scientists have discovered two new species of banana in the wilds of Sarawak.

No news as yet whether gay fruit flies dig the new species of banana but as a fan of Dave Barry, I can only say that The Hot Gay Fruit Flies would make an excellent name for a rock band.

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11:41 AM - In the Bubble

I had a great session of NWN yesterday. I logged on to The Magic Bubble server again and an absolute blast.

Failing to locate Kinthil, my companion in my previous foray in the Magic Bubble world, I hooked up with a character called "Nick Menders" who invited me to accompany him as he quested for the lost sword of his father.

Unfortunately, I wasn't much help to Nick as I kept dying with comical ease during battles. An opponent would take notice of me, take two steps in my direction, take one swing with his weapon and -- whomp! -- down I went.

So my PC, Giob Nathan, a neophyte bladesman, spent an inordinate amount of combat time lying face down in the dirt while the valiant Nick dealt out death and destruction to all that who would assail us.

If it weren't for the fact I was allied with mighty Nick Menders, slayer of fiends, kind of heart and friend to inept warriors, I would have been lost for certain.

After several encounters with the same outcome, mighty Nick decided that perhaps it would be best for all concerned if I were to hang back and restrict myself to letting loose bolts from a heavy crossbow.

Thus, I spent the final battles armed with a heavy crossbow -- a gift from the generous Nick -- which unfortunately I, lacking proper skills and training, couldn't wield effectively.

I may not have hurt the foes I was aiming for but the trees in those woods have learned to fear me, by gum!

Anyway, I did manage to level up my character at the end of the session but truth be told, that was much less satisfying than just having a good in-character conversation with another player.

I take back all the bad things I said about NWN and BioWare.

Okay, most of them.

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Friday, November 15, 2002

2:08 PM - Online and in character

I had good NWN sessions these past two days. Not without its problems but hey.

I'm not sure of the name of the server I played yesterday. Magic something-or-other. It had a pretty low ping rate and it was running a HCR module.

I managed to hook up with a player playing an elven ranger who was quite in character. Coolness.

Unfortunately, Kinthil and I didn't get a chance to perform heroic deeds. We did slay two wolves. Does that count? Those wolves might have hurt a little child in a red riding hood. So it was a preemptive heroic act. Anyway, fun time. At least until I got disconnected by my ISP. Zounds!

Today's session was good as well. Role-playing wise, anyway.

I connected to the Anphillia server which was running a slightly odd module. The scenario had two factions, the Axfell, and the Cleaven going at it. No convincing reason for it. But I suppose any reason would have been typical RPG waffle anyway.

I enjoyed myself on the server, though. I spent my time at camp mostly. Hey, I was a lowly bladesman. I wouldn't have lasted long in pitched battle.

I did enjoy conversing with the other players. Lots of in-character coolness.

At least until I got disconnected from the server after badly lagging. Bah. Still, I had an hour's worth of fun.

It's disheartening how often players tend to resort to "ooc" to preface out-of-character comments, though. Can't those comments be relayed in character with a bit of creativity? For instance, intead of going "ooc - I'm a lvl 1 fighter", say "I am but a neophyte bladesman". It takes effort but it avoids suspending the suspension of disbelief.

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2:02 PM - They came from Inner Space

Well, actually a factory in China. Specifically, a factory with poor quality assurance.

In case you weren't paying attention, the Micronauts are back. These action figures from the 70s -- originally manufactured by Mego and based on Takara's innovative Microman line -- have been reproduced by Palisades and are aimed at older toy fans.

Unfortunately, Series 1 has some serious problems due to poor QA at the Chinese factory that manufactured them. Problems include loose fitting, easily broken joints and shoddy paint application.

It's a crying shame. I was really keen on picking up a Space Glider and an Acroyear -- they're equipped with 5mm pegs and ports which makes them outrageously cool in my book -- but the QC problems have put me off.

As disappointing as this is for me, it must be heart-rending for die-hard Micronaut fans. Imagine waiting for so long for new (well, sorta new, sorta old) Micronauts toys only to find your just-opened toy has broken. Even the exclusive figure created for the Micronauts fan group was not spared.

Palisades is aware of the problem and has switched factories. The Micronauts repros from Series 1.5 -- available through the company's web site -- and later should hopefully be of a much higher quality. Here's hoping, anyway.

I want my Space Glider.

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Thursday, November 14, 2002

10:04 AM - Back to Narfell

I managed to connect to the GameSpy server on my first attempt today. Those goats I sacrificed to the God of Role-Play must have done the trick. I am pleased. The goats' kin will just have to deal with their loss.

Anyway, I managed to log on to the same PW server as I did yesterday. It's called Narfell and the ping rate is low (less than 500).

Once again, I managed to hook up quickly with another player. This one was called "Sephiroth".

Anyway, he sort of wandered off and got himself killed quickly. Death didn't stop him, however. The whole town heard his shouted commentary from the fugue plane which resulted in another player shouting, "you can't shout in the fugue plane."

On the plus side, I did have a decent "in character" conversation with another player who's not only heard of the concept of role-playing but was willing to try it out. Coolness.

My main problem with the server is that the town of Norwick itself is extremely taxing on my computer resulting in horrendous lags and eventually nwmain.exe crashes.

I might try it out again, though. It looks very promising.

In other NWN news, it appears my connection problems may have something to do with the OS. A number of players using Win98SE have had the same problem and posted about it on the NWN Technical Support forum here and here.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

2:57 PM - Persistence

Being mule-headed, I tried playing NWN online today. I had horrible luck in the morning. NWMain crashes. GameSpy freezes. The usual pain.

I then went about changing settings. Whatever settings I could think of. ZoneAlarm settings, nwnplayer.ini file settings -- you name it, I tried it. Following that, I defragged both my hard disks. Couldn't hurt, right?

I don't know if my efforts paid off or I was just lucky but I did manage to connect to a server and play for awhile. This was a busy persistent world server with a reasonably low ping rate (about 400-plus) with players coming and going. I managed to quickly hook up with another player.

Unfortunately, the quality of the other player left something to be desired. I realised I wouldn't be in for a classic RPing session when things started off with this conversation:

"what class r u?"

"I have some training in swordplay."


"I am but a neophyte, I fear. And yourself?"

"paladin see my char sheet."

So, the other player was a paladin. And his name? "Holy Avenger."

If the person playing this character was not a boy in his early teens, I'd be mightily surprised.

Still, he did try playing in character. I know this because "Holy Avenger" said, "just watched Lord of Rings dvd going to play in char."

Sample "in character" lines: "dude Im charismatic" (which was a little premature because two minutes later, he failed a persuade check) and "need xp not cash."

Suffering mortal wounds after an pitched battle with a bandit outside the town of Norwick, his last dramatic words were "sHIT dneeky bitch."

Nwmain crashed five minutes later so I didn't have an opportunity to hook up with other players and continue exploring that PW.

I'm guessing the crash had nothing to do with the death of "Holy Avenger" but you never know.

When someone that charismatic passes away, the entire world cannot help but be affected.

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8:29 AM - Lessons learned from students

Irony: Misspelling "careless."

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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

2:16 PM - Neverwinter Nights, Never Online Daze

I posted my NWN problem in the NWN Technical Support forum on BioWare's site. There hasn't been any acknowledgement from BioWare about it. But several others have had the same problems I did on Sunday. That's somewhat reassuring. Ah, misery loves company.

But things seem to have gone from bad to worse. I can't seem to get online to try a multiplayer session of NWN. The game hangs. The GameSpy client crashes. Or some other foul-up occurs. This after several patches.

I would love a job in Bioware's QA section. They apparently earn money for doing absolutely nothing.

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Monday, November 11, 2002

7:29 AM - Interplanar travel troubles

It all went horribly wrong.

I couldn't play the NWN MP session I had scheduled for yesterday. And I had been looking forward to it all week.


For whatever reason, I had problems immediately after selecting my character for the session.

Was it the character? I don't think so. I tried another character and encountered the same problem.

I could see the server. I could log on. But the game hung after character selection and I had to reboot. I tried another server with the same frustrating results.

I then spent several hours tweaking and changing things -- everything from firewall settings to BIOS to defragging hard disks -- and trying different servers on GameSpy.

After numerous GameSpy crashes and NWMain errors, I was almost ready to uninstall the game but I persevered mostly out of bloody-mindedness. Once I obsess, there are few forces in the universe that can stop me.

I somehow managed to get it to work. I don't care about the whys and wherefores. I'm just glad I managed to hook up. It was too late for my scheduled game, however.

After posting apologies to the DM and the other players for my absence and explaining the situation, I then spent two hours or so on a server running Amulet of Zeran. I had a good time with a bunch of other players.

(Shouts out to Gue and Aeldrannor. The undead have learned to fear us!)

I tried multiplayer out again early this morning with similarly positive results.

Multiplayer is so much fun. You come to appreciate and understand the NWN game engine.

But it's better with a group committed to role-playing. It's appalling how many players go out-of-character (OOC) at a drop of the hat.

"Stop, u canot pas becoz i m higher LvL than u" -- Gandalf as written by OOC folk.

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Friday, November 08, 2002

11:51 PM - Take note

I don't really have that much to keep track of but I do however keep a lot of notes here and there. I usually resort to using Notepad text files on the desktop for reminders and whatnot.

Anyway, I've been looking around for a PIM that allow you to store notes in hierarchical trees. I've tried a few freeware solutions namely Treepad Lite and Skwyrul Pro but neither was satisfactory. The former was somewhat lacking and the latter was buggy. I've downloaded another PIM, XDesk95, and it's not too bad.

The program was originally a shareware program retailing for 20 or so bucks but it's now freeware.

The download was less than 600kb and installation took up less than 1.2MB of hard disk space. Once executed the program resides in the system tray. The icon in the tray displays the current numerical date, which is a nice touch as it complements the system clock.

XDesk95 has three main features: a note tree, a diary and a calculator. It's simple and to the point -- something I like in my apps.

I mainly used the program to keep notes and XDesk95 did this adequately but it did have a few weaknesses

For one thing, there was no formatting option for text. No bold or italic text for you.

More annoyingly, there was no way to permanently keep word wrap on. I had to toggle it on manually every time I selected a node.

I was also disappointed that I couldn't move a child node up or down the parent because the tree was organised alphabetically. What if I wanted to organise by some other criteria? Well, I could have just renamed the node but that was more effort than I wanted to make. Hey, PIMs are supposed to save me time, not take up more.

Moving a node to another parent was also impossible. I had to create a new node, copy and paste the contents from the old node and finally delete the old node.

Another inconvenience was the inability to export entries. You'll have to resort to good ol' CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

The diary includes an alarm option to remind you of important and not-so-important tasks. I didn't use this feature much but it's there if you need it.

XDesk also has an option to keep sticky notes with brief one-line messages anywhere on the desktop. I thought this was a neat feature but I can't say I used it much.

To round things off, XDesk95 has a calculator with some intimidating features. The program was developed by an Australian engineering company so that explains the souped-up calculator. I hadn't seen some of those math symbols in a long time. There was even an option for engineering notation. I can see the pocket protector brigade going wild.

It may have its drawbacks but for the most part, XDesk95 did okay. I've uninstalled it and reverted to Treepad Lite, though. Like I said, I mainly keep notes and Treepad Lite does this better than XDesk95.

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8:38 AM - Bard of course

I've got a multiplayer NWN session with a few of my fellow guild-members scheduled for Sunday. I can't wait. We're testing out a module created and DMed by a fellow guild member.

While waiting, I've been solo-ing a user-created module, Grail War: The Beginning, of late. It's a toughie. Primarily because I'm using a neophyte Bard as my PC. The guy has died more times than Kenny from South Park. He's pretty ineffective in combat and I really need to rely on my henchman, Grimgnaw.

But my Bard is a fun character ("I can tell you really like my music by the way that vein in your forehead keeps throbbing in time") and I think I'll have quite a bit of fun using him in a multiplayer session.

(I'm going to have to use my Lvl 9 Monk PC for Sunday's multiplayer session, though. The module being tested is recommended for PCs who are Lvl 8 and higher.)

Anyway, the module itself is nice. The main problems so far are the typos and the large areas. The latter tends to bog down on my low-end machine. I think I need more RAM.

I hope my multiplayer session tomorrow doesn't suffer.

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Thursday, November 07, 2002

7:18 AM - "I've been waiting for you, OB1"

(Another entry originally posted in my Blurty journal.)

I've been looking around for a freeware Windows web browser that's compact and fast for some time now and I found one in Home Page Software Inc.'s Off By One (OB1). It may not have fulfilled all my requirements but it has become my main browser.

The first thing to impress about the program is its system requirements, which are quite modest. As long as you've got Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP, you're good to go.

The installation file can be as small as 400KB in size. I downloaded the larger version which includes the optional SSL files. Total size? A "massive" 950-plus kb. Compare that to the bloated downloads for IE, Navigator and Mozilla which are usually in the 10MB to 30MB range.

Once installed, the browser takes up less than 2MB. That's with the SSL files necessary for surfing HTTPS sites. (You'll need some form of SSL support to access a Yahoo mail account, for instance.)

Without the SSL files, installation takes up about 1.1MB of space. You could store the browser on a floppy and still have leftover space for bookmark files and whatnot.

But what if you still want to access your Yahoo Mail account? No sweat. OB1 has an option called "Fake SSL" that allows you to access Yahoo Mail even without the SSL files.

Its compact nature isn't going to mean much to most folks. After all, 30-plus GB hard disks are not uncommon these days. I don't have much hard disk space to spare, though, and most of the current batch of browsers have hefty space requirements. F'rinstance, Mozilla's default disk cache alone is a whopping 50MB. Yeesh.

(There are some slimmer Mozilla-powered browsers available -- the two I'm keen on are K-Meleon and Phoenix -- but I'm going to wait till the developers release a few more milestones.)

OB1's most interesting feature is that it has zero JavaScript support. Depending on how you feel about JavaScript, this could either be a great feature or a crippling deficiency.

I don't care much for JavaScript because I tend to associate it with pretentious web design, annoying pop-ups and browser crashes.

In most cases, the lack of JavaScript support isn't a hindrance to me. It usually results in wacky formatting when some pages are rendered but I can live with that. I'm interested in content rather than frou-frou.

However, some web sites absolutely insist that JavaScript be turned on so don't go uninstalling your other browser(s).

OB1 is also a little unusual in that it stores cached pages, images and cookies in RAM rather than on the hard disk.

(Persistent cookies are stored on hard disk in the HPSW.CKI file, which can be deleted if you're worried that evil red lectroids from the fifth dimension are keeping tabs on your surfing habits.)

The nice thing about a RAM-based cache is that retrieving files is going to be faster when compared to a disk-based cache.

The bad thing about a RAM cache is that it's a lot smaller and pages gets flushed or overwritten a lot quicker. OB1 seems to store only a couple of pages worth of files in its cache per session so returning to an older page in your browser history is going to require retrieving the page from the server.

The biggest shortcoming of OB1 is the fact you can't browse some web sites with it. They simply won't load. Or perhaps the graphics won't load. Or something else goes wacky.

One possible reason is that OB1 identifies itself to web sites as a Navigator 3.0-compatible browser. Some web sites refuse to have to do anything with pre-4.0 browsers. To circumvent this, the developers suggest editing the OB1.INI file (instructions are on the developer's FAQ page) to fool the web site into thinking you're using a 4.0-compatible browser.

But even then, some web sites may not load. That may be caused by OB1's lack of support for current fancy-schmancy web technologies. OB1's got HTML 3.2 support as well as support for frames but that's about it.

I keep Navigator 4.79 for times when OB1 falters (and l have IE in the extremely rare event Navigator falters) but these occasions are few and far between. Most of my regularly visited sites work fine.

I've also found that images seem to load ever-so-slightly slower in OB1 when compared to Netscape Navigator 4.79. However, I haven't run any benchmarks so I can't tell you for certain. But OB1 does seem sluggish when rendering a image-intensive site.

With those drawbacks in mind, I mainly use OB1 as a text browser and only load images when there's something I want check out. OB1 works great this way and surfing becomes an enjoyable, speedy experience. Speed is of the essence when you're making do with a 56K dial-up connection and paying for it by the second.

In terms of stability, I've had little to complain about. I've had very few crashes and I think most of those were OS-related.

The "Enable New Window" option (which launches a new OB1 browser session when pages request it) seems to lead to crashes. It could be my imagination. But I suggest turning off that feature. Doing so means pages are displayed in the current window instead.

Fortunately, recovering from a crash is simple since each OB1 window is treated like separate session. Crashing one session doesn't affect the others. The not-so-nice thing is that cached data isn't shared with the other sessions.

Another turn-off is the lack of support for foreign language fonts. I occasionally browse Japanese language sites and without Japanese language support, you usually end up with indecipherable gibberish.

Granted, this isn't going to matter to folks who don't read Japanese since they would be faced with indecipherable gibberish even when the Japanese characters are displayed correctly.

In terms of user interface, OB1 is inflexible. An example: OB1 is unable to "remember" my default download directory. The program defaults to the directory which it has been installed in.

What if I want to make my TEMP directory the default for saving or opening files? Thanks to the way OB1 is set up I have to switch directories every time I save a file. That's about four more mouse clicks than should be necessary.

To change this, I have to first open a file from the TEMP directory before OB1 "gets" that this should be the new default directory.

So, problem solved? Hell, no. OB1 forgets this between sessions so I have to reset the default directory every time I fire up the browser.

OB1, you forgetful twit.

Okay, that may have been a tad harsh. But no worries. OB1 -- forgetful twit that it is -- isn't going to remember that anyway.

Tweakers aren't going to find much joy in this program. Being small and compact, there's almost nothing to tweak. I really wish I could modify the toolbar, though. I want to add the "Load Images" option to the toolbar and remove some of the rarely used options. Can't do that. I would also like to change the amount of RAM that OB1 uses for its cache. Can't do that either.

OB1's inflexibility extends to the way it works with bookmarks. While IE Favorites work just fine, there's no option to import Navigator bookmarks. I guess with IE being so dominant, that's only to be expected. Still irritating, though.

My solution was to save my Navigator bookmarks as a HTML file, add target tags to it to avoid extended mousewheel scrolling and then make this file OB1's start page and home page. It's clumsy but it works.

The program does include an option to save frequently used URLs in a hotlist but it isn't that useful as it only accommodates 8 entries.

Bottom line? Considering its inflexibility and shortcomings, OB1 isn't a browser for everyone. It's definitely not going to replace your current browser but it may very well complement it. Those of you looking for a simple, compact and fast Windows browser would do well to check this one out.

And here's the clincher: It's got a really cool acronym. C'mon, which would you rather browse with? Something that sounds like "Aaiiee" or a jedi master?

Link  | 

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

9:52 AM - "... a good name for a rock band."

(This was originally written for my Blurty journal but since I've shut that down, I'm going to repost some entries here. Y'know, for the hell of it.)

I'm going to ramble about my favourite columnist, Dave Barry.

Now, I can't imagine anyone not knowing who Dave Barry is. Actually, come to think of it, I can. After all, I only heard about him after I got on the Net in early '96. My local dailies never carried his articles. Thus, I was Dave Barry-less during my formative years.

I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Once you read Dave Barry, you'll never see the world in quite the same manner again.

But who is Dave Barry?

Well, Dave Barry is a fiftysomething Miami resident who, despite the odds, has managed to keep a full head of hair.

He's also the world's greatest living humour columnist. (Generally speaking, humour columnists aren't all that funny after they're dead.)

So what make Dave Barry Dave Barry? Well, he's a libertarian and I think it's fair to say that libertarians make the best humourists. They start out thinking Big Government is Stupid and of course, they're frequently proved right.

You can always count on Dave Barry to point out the sheer absurdities of some of the conventions we take for granted.


Chemical weapons are bad because they kill people in a cruel, unacceptable and illegal manner and that's why killing people who might use chemical weapons with conventional munitions is A-OK because conventional munitions kill people but in a nice, appropriate and acceptable manner.

Dave Barry came up with that insight in an April '98 article about Saddam entitled ""The Ultimate Weapon"". The really funny thing about the article is how much of it is still relevant today.

(I sure wish the Miami Herald would make that particular article available again. I can't seem to find it in the paper's archives.)

But he doesn't restrict himself to political commentary or international affairs.

He'll often introduce his readers to important scientific discoveries about mutant constipated worms or examine controversial historical issues like whether the Lone Ranger went "Hi-yo, Silver," or "Hi-ho, Silver."

You just won't get that from Andrew Sullivan.

Don't underestimate Dave just because he frequently ponders about exploding toilets and combat sandwiches. He's very influential. This man was responsible for getting the punch line "There's a weasel chomping on my privates," on a survey about the funniest joke in the world. I doubt William Safire could have pulled that off.

Despite Dave's vast talent, I thought he was coasting for quite some time but he made a triumphant return to form in his articles this year. Check out his brilliant treatise on the War on Tobacco.

He also does some mostly-serious stuff. I liked his thoughtful 9-11 anniversary piece. His look at the Ms Universe pageant and the Anthony Robbins phenomenon were good reads as well.

It should come as no surprise that the man was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in '88 for social commentary. There's also a sewage pumping station in Grand Forks, North Dakota, named after him. Can Nelson Mandela boast the same? I think not.

So, in summary, Dave Barry is better than Andrew Sullivan, William Safire and Nelson Mandela combined.

Anyway, I usually check out his latest column on the Miami Herald site every Friday. Click on the link and dig through his archives.


Warning: Don't take a mouthful of your favourite beverage when reading his articles. Computer monitors do not enjoy being spit upon.

Link  | 

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

11:36 PM - Party hearty

I signed up with a Neverwinter Nights Guild dedicated to NWN players in the Asian region. It's got players from Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Malaysia.

They're been playing now for a few months and it sounds like they've been having an absolute blast. I want in and badly. I've been dying to try out party-based multiplayer NWN. The game is really meant to be played in multiplayer with a DM present. The official campaign is tedious. The user-created modules are a bit of a hit and miss. Yeah, there are 1500-plus modules available online but even the highly-rated ones were only okay-lah.

Anyway, I've applied for my first session. I hope all goes well.

Link  | 

10:52 PM - Pain and anguish: HTML style

I spent over an hour trying to fix a major formatting problem with the Blog template. It was especially frustrating because TMNet, my ISP, kept dropping my connection.

I had pain.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. It turns out my formatting problems were caused by a missing ".


Link  | 

9:29 PM - Wrestling with templates

It took me a while but I think I've finally got a journal template style I like. It borrows a lot from my Blurty journal style, Punquin Elegant with Sidebar. I still need to tweak a few things here and there, though.

Link  | 

7:18 AM - Ads

Interesting ad in The Star today with a picture of an attractive woman who's apparently about to break into a run. In the background, there's a Land Rover. Tag line: "Her mantra: To be ahead." It's an ad for Primax lubricant ("Maximus Performance Maximum Protection") from Petronas so I guess the message is the woman uses Primax lubricant to ensure she gets to the top.

But that raises the question of what she uses for the Land Rover.

Link  | 

4:27 AM - Four years later ...

Greetings, folks.

You may have had this site bookmarked. Why, I wouldn't know. Perhaps you were thoroughly impressed by the sheer length of time it took me to update the site. Is 4 years a record? (Note to myself: Call the Guinness folks.)

Regardless, as of now, this web site will no longer be my homage to Microprose's conversion of Magic: The Gathering for the PC. This is probably going to come as a bitter disappointment to many, I'm sure. As Confucius says, "Tough titty."

This is now my space to rant, rave and ramble. Read if you like. Ignore if you don't.

I'm not sure how frequently this site is going to be updated. However, I assure you the next entry isn't going to take four years.

I don't have any idea of how long I can sustain this. My Blurty journal lasted less than two weeks, if memory serves. It wasn't Blurty. It was me. Blurty is more than a weblog site, it's a community and I was starting to get sucked into that community. And I shouldn't. I can't. I need to participate more in my real-world community. That's why my Blurty journal is no more.

But I still have stuff to say. Stuff I can't discuss with the people in my life. They're just not interested in some of my interests. I mention, say, action figures and most folks in my life would just roll their eyes. I mention a new browser and they're going to think "that guy from Sha Na Na."

I need an outlet. This is going to be it.

Read if you like. Ignore if you don't.

Link  | 

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