comics Fiction Imported From Epistula media

A useless post

This post is entirely useless.

I mean, you already know that Warren Ellis is writing a free webcomic, issues released every friday, called FreakAngels, don’t you?

And you already know he wrote Transmet, and various other important things like the novel Crooked Little Vein which you should also read if you haven’t.

You know all this, so there is no point in mentioning it.

Is there?

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula internet Metablog MLP

Magic Trees, Level II

A while ago, I invented a concept of “Magic Trees”, named after the story of a vicar who chopped down a 140 year old tree and justified it by saying “A paedophile might have been hiding behind it”. This was later expanded to include invisible terrorists.

This morning a different story caught my attention. A social network site I’ve never heard of has recently banned a large number of its users over 36, possibly all of them, because:

Having discussed the use of our website with the home office and the police, and further some pretty serious crimes caused by older users, we were left with no option but to terminate a huge amount of accounts, and without notice, immediately. We understand that only a minority of older users are sex offenders, but you must understand that we cannot tell which – we can only delete all to make the site safe and we apologise for that. However, we are following the law and you cannot think we are wrong for doing that.

Basically, there is the the new legislation requiring sex offenders to have their details held by the government (Under the “But we would never let that data leave officialdom” clause we know so well) and there is a blindingly stupid proposal to require social network sites to validate against a pre-existing list of known email addresses belonging to sex offenders. The original database is scary in and of itself, I have enough trouble getting off SMS spam lists, and those have a documented legal procedure. If your address – physical or metaworld – is in that database you’re many degrees of screwed, but the blindingly stupid addition of requiring email addresses?

I have currently got three email addresses I look at on a day to day basis. Without thinking too long about it, I can think of a dozen that will get to me eventually, plus another few that won’t anymore (like my old uni address, or my Evolving Media or BrowserAngel addresses) I could have signed up for another dozen in the time it’s taken you to skim-read this article.

Not only that, but this proposal is just that, a proposal yet to go though the bad ideas filter. Now, the social network providing this story, which is known as “Faceparty” and I’m not going to link to, claims they were dived upon by “A gang of paedophiles” who attacked their younger audience. If I was uncharitable, and I’m tending towards so, I’d wonder if this actually happened, or is a pre-emptive strike, or – even less charitably – if it’s all an attempt to get people to realise they exist. Browsing their site as a non-user, it does appear that they enjoy pushing a reputation for “edgy”. Their front page featured article links though to a page using the current-most-forbidden word (Four letters, begins with C, Rhymes with stunt, as in “Publicity”) as punctuation, and it’s all… very…


Of course, it’s entirely plausable that this is a genuine over-reaction to a genuine problem they were having with paedophiles and my cynical analisis that it’s all a publicity drive under the pretext of chopping down a magic tree could be entirely off the mark, but I’m not linking to them anyway.

Computer Games Gaming Imported From Epistula

Fortress One

When we reached the cliff face, we knew this was where we were supposed to be. Around us was the green grass and trees, the freshwater lake, the clean path from the mountains for the caravans to come though. The rocks behind us were Jet, and there was clay to the south and – unless my faithful hammer tap decieved me – oynx in further down. So we stopped, and we layed out our belongings and broke down the wagon for wood. Our fortress would begin here.

I personally struck the first blow into the mountainside, an honour I won from Offla – our miner – in the game of stones the night before. The rock disolved at the crack of my axe and I could hear Dwalin behind me marking out areas for the spoil to be placed. Within days we had our entrance hall and some workshops, within a week the door was sealed. That spring passed me by in a maze of late nights in the workshop – at least until Flalin finished the beds – and early mornings in the sunshine. Dwalin (our leader, another stones game) was also our primary source of food, with his fishing line and net. Between his fishing and Catlin’s meals, we did well. Even Slalin, trained as the jeweller we didn’t expect to need for many moons, found her niche as a decent miner and farming our clay-based indoor fields.

Spring flows into summer, and the crops harvested. Our food stocks high enough to last us to the winter, hopes were high. One day, as everyone else toiled deep in the fortress and by the lakes, I made my own mark on our home. Our great hall, where we slept of a night, was a wonderful piece of dwaven sparcity, but I took my chisel and my hammer and covered every inch of it with the best engraving I knew how to. Our great hall was finally somewhere to go home to, and that night we drank heartily.

As Summer gave way to autumn, our council hinted at the problems to come. Offla reported that his deep-shaft to the heart of the mountain had failed to hit the iron ore he was expecting. He suggested, and we agreed, that we should buy some metal from the trade caravan due in a couple of weeks. We drank to this, and it fell from our minds. We hadn’t bought any metal with us – it was bulky in the carts, and prevelant in the world beyond – save an iron anvil upon which to beat.

The caravan had no metal.

No bars, no ore, not even an iron bucket we could melt down. The only metal thing in the entire cart was a steel cage containing a donkey, which we couldn’t afford. We picked up some food from them, traded some mechanisms, and went back to our fortress, and drank ourselves to sleep.

The lake froze early that winter, and our supplies of water and drink did not last long. Without metal, Slatin – training as our blacksmith – couldn’t forge a chain with which we could build a well. We tried wooden and stone chains, but they splintered or cracked. We had no cloth for rope and it was too cold to for-go our coats. We all went onto mining duty, every one of us. We dug though the mountain looking for ore, and down looking for water, but found nothing but more Jet and Oynx. We could buy a lake with the stone we’re shifting out, but no traders come at this time of year. Nobody will come.

Catlin died last week, Flalin shortly afterwards, taking his secrets of woodwork with him. Important for us, because none of us know how to build coffins, and so they lay on the stone floor of a storage room designated a graveyard in a hurry. Dwalin, or fearless leader, died trying to dig though the ice. Slalin quietly in her sleep two nights past, never saying a word. Offla took her death personally, blaming himself for failing to find the ore that must be here, and started hammering with reckless abandon, digging though the mountainside desperatly. I believe he has driven himself mad – the thirst having taken us all part of the way – and I could hear him screaming down the echoing stone corridors around my workshop. That stopped a few hours ago, and I believe I will not speak to my friend Offla again in this life.

His work – and mine – will echo on in the engravings I made long after the rest of this place crumbles to dust. This will be found in the spring, I suspect, when our liason to the mountain returns with the promised steel.

Our fortress fell.

And that concludes my most recent game of Dwarf Fortress, unsuccessfully

Gaming Imported From Epistula

Trends in game design

I got back from work this evening at about 7ish, decided I couldn’t deal with socialness at the pub, and so fired up Ikariam, a web-based Civ-type game, where I am playing on Eta. I’m currently saving up for a new palace so I can build a new colony, which is going to require 50,000 bits of wood. So I set some more of my colonists to slave away in the newly upgraded lumber mill on my capital’s island and shut it down so they could get on with it, I’ll check it in the morning.

In Lord of the Rings Online, my main character – an elf hunter – is saving up for a house (life immitates art), so I spent a little while battling around the outskirts of Bree towards the Shire, beating up the occasional bear and harvesting the Ash Branches, the latter of which I can sell at the auction house in blocks of 50 for about 200 silver or so. Or I could work them myself into bows and sell those, but they don’t sell as well. Nobody was around for the group quests I’m working on, so I headed out.

I’ve recently gotten interested in Dwarf Fortress again, due to a combination of Mr Cooke mentioning it and Mr Requiem documenting his latest game in a way that is making me laugh. Plus, they’ve started making Mac builds, which makes me happy. Anyway, having started a new fortress and relishing the wonder that is not having to build a whole sodding irrigation system for farming (new fortress is partially on clay) I am aware that I’m harvesting the last of the wagon that my dwarfs arrived in for wood to build their beds (Dwarfs will not sleep on rock beds. Pansy bastards). So, I send out a fair percentage of my workforce into the wider area to cut down as many trees as we can find.

I’ve read a lot recently about the tendancy towards violence in modern video games and, given the above, have to wonder how many dryads are now working in the mass media…

aqcom Imported From Epistula

Angle Brackets

Coding Horror – The Angle Bracket Tax vs. ESF, now coming up to its sixth birthday with no revision.

Coming up on Aquarionics:

* Dante 01
* GTA4 & XBoxes
* Pareidol
* Your Interface Sucks.

… as soon as I get around to writing this stuff.

2008 Computer Games Gaming Imported From Epistula RPG

GameCamp London 2008

I went to Gamecamp. It’s becoming quite common in reports of this event to wax lyrical about the location for a little while first, so I’ll do that. It was held at 3Rooms (I’m sixth from the left in that photo), which is a PR venue belonging to Sony’s PlayStation division. Effectively, it’s where they take journalists to demo new products.

It’s pretty.

Level 1 is white. It’s a large loft-style space, split into areas with screens and curtains and shelves, with textures and soft furnishings everywhere, bright splashes of colour, Huge Sony Bravia TVs everywhere (all with PS3s attached) sunken sofas, shelves full of interesting-looking tat, bright and airy and absolutely glorious.

Level 2 is black. It’s a dark bar with mirrored surfaces and a (non-alcoholic) bar, with a raised area surrounded by sofas and a coffee table with board games. There are huge jars of Jelly-Belly scattered around, and a large projection screen with a PS3 attached.

Level 3 is green. It’s is a roof garden with views over central London, wooden tables and chairs, sofas and plants. Relaxing and bright.

The entire building is exactly where I would live if I didn’t have limitations of money. I am not in any way kidding, it’s wonderful, and designed specifically for me.

Enough about the venue.

Reports about the event are around from mssrs Gillen and Curran, and are entirely accurate and worthwhile. It was an “Unconference” style thing, in the style of Foo & BarCamp and other such events. I ended up going to a session on “Indy tabletop RPG games are flourishing. We’re not competing with computer games. Really. We mean it. See? They don’t scare us with their billion dollar budgets. Not even a little” and another on how to play a russian card game called Durak. After that I kind of got distracted by Echochrome and Rock Band. I went to a session on “The Revolution” in which under-21 gamers got shot, the Wii didn’t, and mandatory installs did. The sessions I did go to were fun, and though them I’ve become more interested in indy roleplaying games – since that was the aim of my first session, that’s probably a good thing – including Dogs In The Vineyard, a game about Mormon cowboys. I should set one of these up at some point. Also there was the inventor of the game Baron Munchausen, which various people in Cambridge were playing while I was Maelfrothing a couple of weeks back. The entire event was wonderful, and I look forward to the next.

The (video) games that I played:

Echochrome, upon which I’ve splattered forth fanboyism before is quite good, but doesn’t live up to the idea. The controls are a little slow – often you’ll fail a level because you simply can’t rotate the screen fast enough – and imperfect (Sometimes you’ll connect up a ledge but it doesn’t connect because it needed to be connected at the edge 90o instead). It may have been that the demo came from early code, though. Either way, since I have neither a PS3 or a PSP, it’s all distinctly academic.

Rock Band Rocks. There is little more I have to say. I spent more time on guitar than anything else, simply because there were two of them. Drumming is hard, singing is easy, YMMV. Guitar is the most polished of the experiences, fairly obviously, but the ability to declare both players as lead guitar fails on 90% of the library as it simply randomly assigns one to be the bass line if it only has one guitar track. I sang Creep, by Radiohead. I do that a lot.

GTA4 also rocks, but you possibly don’t need me to tell you that bit.

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

They say we want a revolution

I didn’t expect Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson to be the new London Mayor. I hoped Ken would carry on, because I live in (the outer edges of) central London, and everything Ken’s done over the last eight years to join up the transport network has improved the live of me, personally. I am a fan of the congestion charge, and that it isn’t on account, because it means taking the car into London means you have to do admin, and so people don’t do it. It’s a simple tactic, but it’s made the transport network work, as the buses can get around.

I can’t help but wonder if Ken Livingstone would have been expelled had he remained Independent as he was when he first got elected. Whilst the righteous anger of the London suburb belt and South London waxed wroth, I’m not sure it could not have been overcome had Ken not also had to face the backlash against Labour’s first decade. The mayoral position, for all that Ken is a card-carrying classic breed Labour member, has never really been a party political one, until now, where the hopes and dreams of the Conservative Party now rest with the haystack who walks like a man. The London Mayor is now officially a beacon of politics for the rest of the country, where Ken’s strengths were always where he was just trying to get London to work properly. Capital though it is, the idea of my local government becoming a national issue, requestioning every little bikeshed decision to see if the Conservatives could possibly be allowed to run the country again.

I’d like to think people have a long enough memory to realise the parallels between now and ~1995, before we swapped the men with the blue ties for the men with the red ties, and tried something new. However, until either the Liberal Democrats tie their act together with a neat little bow and start actually getting press for policies, or another political party is formed somehow; we’re just going to flick back to blue in a couple of years mostly because we don’t like red anymore.

I’m also – too many paragraphs beginning with “I” – not a fan of a number of Boris’ policies. The idea of building 50k affordable homes is a nice one, but given that he’s mayor of London and not, say, the Home Counties, where does he intend to build them? And with what money? As I understand it, any excess budget is – rightly – going to make sure the city doesn’t collapse under the weight of the Olympics; during the run up to which the administration will be running their reelection campaign, a fact which amuses me. He wants to put the congestion charge on account also, which misses the point somewhat. The money the congestion charge is – £5 to bring your car into the centre of London – isn’t much more than a token, really. It’s more the fact that you have to pay on the day or within a few days. It’s administrative faff, which puts people off more than the charge does, otherwise the city-boy types will just set up a direct debit to take the money out and ignore the thing completely. The reason the congestion charge is important to me, personally, is because it means that buses are suddenly able to get from A to B without a traffic jam, meaning they’re a viable form of commute. I’m in favour of people who actually have to go into London with a van and cannot justify a “Fleet” account (And here I mean things like plumbers, rather than those who cannot be bothered to drive to the nearest tube station. They can pay for parking with the money they save by living far from where they work. I’ve little sympathy for the people who complain that they cannot have their outer-suburbs cheaper housing/rent and keep their inflated London salary) getting a discount or something, but the point of the exercise is not so much to charge people to get into London. This is not to say that the outer-London transport network doesn’t need a great deal of expansion, it does, but inner London transport was actively broken and the money to fix outer London did not go – as the suburbs appear to think – to upgrade the Jubilee line with gold plated fire alarms, but to bailing out the private companies that almost caused the entire underground network to go bankrupt.

None of which is actually Boris’ fault, but his campaign policies did seem to mostly focus on capitalising of feeding money into the areas the previous administration didn’t have enough money to give to, balanced against mass-populist whitewash. Neither of which contained any reference to where they were going to get the money to spend on this thing. What’s the betting the rise in my – already high – council tax is higher this year than last?

If I sound panicked about this, it’s because almost all of the policies thus far explained are either going to require more money from taxpayers, or a poorer quality of transport inside the capital, or another inconvenience for me; all of which starts to drain on my ability to remain living in the city. And if I, an engineer with a reasonably good job, cannot afford to live on the outskirts of the city I work in, something somewhere is drastically wrong.

All of which ignores the other issue, which is Johnson himself. For – more than once – referring to Africans as “Picaninnies”, for being banned from various other cities any other person would have been shot at dawn. I see Johnson’s election as a triumph of celebrity over talent or policy or politics, as much as Schwarzenegger’s election was, and I’d prefer for this city, and this country, to be less of a laughing-stock than it already is.

Ideally, we’d also win the cricket, and while I’m wishing I’d like a pony.

aqcom Imported From Epistula Personal


London has elected Boris Johnson mayor of London.

This is Not Good. However, I am – from now – reserving judgement until he actually manages to screw up. Clock starts in three and a third hours.

New design is New, and is light and airy and calm, which is nice. It’s also simple, which is even nicer. I’ve still got to fix the right hand column, which is a bit texty and stark. I’ve also got to fix my admin system, which is displaying all text boxes at 40 characters wide, which is annoying. New things include the replaced Gallery (Well, part of it. Actual viewing of sets and pictures is still handed over to Flickr, but that’ll change when I get another burst of arsedness)

As I mentioned, I have bought GTA4, and a 360 to play it on. I fail at resistance to shiny. However, I haven’t had much of a chance to play on it due to going places and doing things. I shall fix this now.

I went to GameCamp London, which was fun. There are photos on Flickr and in the gallery.

Computer Games Imported From Epistula linux

Hate Technology

  1. Thursday, 22:00: Accidentally buy an XBox 360
  2. Decide it needs to talk to the network (before playing any games on it)
  3. Current Network: Desktop (“Tsunami”) & 360 plugged into Belkin Wireless Router, laptop and Wii talk to it remotely. Cable modem is upstream on Router.
  4. 360 cannot phone home due to closed ports.
  5. Open ports
  6. All ports not documented.
  7. Fuckit(1): 360 in DMZ
  8. 360 can talk to home for twenty minutes, then cannot anymore.
  9. Reboot router
  10. Reboot modem
  11. Another 20 minutes
  12. Fucket(2): Play GTA4 for a while, ignore the network. (Friday, 02:00)
  13. Saturday, 06:00: Up early, decide to fix network.
  14. Fiddle around with ports for a while, decide the route is at fault.
  15. Attempt to reroute everything though just a hub.
  16. Realise that takes away the single point of entry for the cable modem, which can therefore not connect.
  17. Also: No DHCP server. Things complain at me.
  18. Fortunatly, I have a spare firewall box (“Boilingpoint”) which still has IPCop on it from when it was my firewall in Bedford (and, before that, in Reading and Cambridge)
  19. Boilingpoint has a network card and a PCI ADSL modem. On-board motherboard has no network. Turn out boxes of hardware looking for spare network card to use for upstream connection.
  20. Fail. Find old desktop machine whose motherboard does have onboard networking, and cobble together bits of it and Boilingpoint until it works. (07:00)
  21. (07:10) Machine stops booting (Fans spin, nothing happens), fiddle with connections and reseat ram to fix it.
  22. (07:20) Machine stops turning on at all.
  23. Transfer everything back to Boilingpoint, which at least boots, for fucks sake.
  24. (07:45) Get tea, shower, email, clothes.
  25. Find spare network card in sock drawer.
  26. Install network card into IPCop
  27. Attempt to reconfigure IPCop as GREEN/RED instead of GREEN/RED
  28. Discover I can’t remember the root password for boilingpoint (Installed ~2003 and has Just Worked since then)
  29. Decide to screw this for a game of sontarians, and install Smoothwall instead (IPCops website is down. Brand loyalty is strong within me. Plus, Neuro’s been recommending Smoothwall instead forever)
  30. Realise I can’t install Smoothwall for the same reason I can’t bypass root on boilingpoint: because the reason it became a firewall box was that the PS/2 ports don’t work anymore, so cannot access it locally.
  31. I don’t have a USB keyboard.
  32. Plug the hard drive and network cards from Boilingpoint into Tsunami (Desktop) and install Smoothwall onto hard drive on that
  33. Transfer everything back over.
  34. This doesn’t work due to hard-drive naming.
  35. Cannot SSH into new box because default smoothwall install doesn’t have SSH.
  36. Cannot access web interface either. Don’t know why.
  37. Resolve to borrow a USB keyboard from someone.
  38. Now have to leave for Gamecamp London. Do so (10:00)
  39. Gamecamp is awesome. I’ll write more about it soon.
  40. After Gamecamp, go to party. After party, borrow USB keyboard from friend. Get home (02:00)
  41. Discover that Boilingpoint predates having USB ports on the motherboard.
  42. Search for PCI USB card we used to put a USB ADSL modem onto boilingpoint before we got the PCI modem.
  43. Fail
  44. Swear. Go to bed.
  45. Have another thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, and didn’t get up until the following morning.
  46. This morning: Decide to fix this once and for all.
  47. Search for ages. Find USB card in box with university diploma in it, on top of a book case.
  48. Repress momentary flash of optimism.
  49. Install PCI card, configure Smoothwall
  50. Access web interface.
  51. Configure SSH!
  52. Configure DHCP!
  53. Connection to cable modem (RED) doesn’t work.
  54. Swap network card roles a bit to see if it is a driver issue.
  55. Isn’t.
  56. More tea.
  57. Remember that ex-NTL Virgin Media customers will still suffer from the fact that once Virgin have a MAC address for the connecting machine, they won’t accept a connection from anything else.
  58. Put network back together. Access interwebs.
  59. Discover that Smoothwall corp count MAC spoofing as a premium fucking feature, not to be fucking included with the free fucking distrifuckingbution.
  60. Am a little put out by this.
  61. Find out how Smoothwall works a bit, and hack the config file to run ifconfig eth0 hw ether 00:11:22:33:44:55 to set the mac address when the RC script sources the file.
  62. There are more elegant solutions than this, including paying for the software.
  63. Get a DHCP address!
  64. Get a connection!
  66. Boot Xbox 360. Remember the Xbox 360? This is a song about Xboxes.
  67. Cannot connect to XBox Live.
  68. headdesk
  69. headdesk
  70. headdesk
  71. Find a guide to opening up all the required ports to make an Xbox 360 work though Smoothwall
  72. Assign the open ports to a static DHCP record
  73. Xbox refuses to pick up the DHCP record.
  74. Cut all electricity to the network, TV & surrounds and everything for a while.
  75. Bring up everything in the right order.
  76. Xbox still picks up a standard DHCP address. Same one, in fact.
  77. Give in and move all the port forwarding to the address it wants anyway.
  78. Connect to XBox Live.
  79. Play GTA4.
  80. Get stuck.
  81. Write up all this.
  1. Hate technology.