[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Friday, 2008-11-28

Are PBEM roleplaying games dead?

Filed under: Gaming — bblackmoor @ 13:02

Remember these?Once upon a time, people used to participate in role-playing games played through email. These were called, appropriately enough, PBEM games. They were great.

Then Internet-based computer games came along, and PBEM games slowly withered away.

I run a site devoted to helping people who want to play PBEM games find each other: PBEM News. As the years have passed, I have seen a trend: fewer games are being advertised, and the few that remain have gone almost entirely to being forum-based or wiki-based rather than being genuine email games.

I just don’t understand why anyone would run a game on a forum rather than use a venue like YahooGroups, which allows you to read on the web or read in your email, which lets you reply on the web or reply via email, which archives everything on the web and sends it to you so you have a local copy, which provides file space for documents and images, etc., etc. Rather than use YahooGroups (or a site with similar functionality), people running the few remaining straggling online RPGs have nearly all opted to host their games on a forum, which offer less than half of the functionality of YahooGroups and are often more complicated to use.

Here is how bad it is: I run a site devoted to PBEM games, and I can’t even find one superhero PBEM game looking for players. Not one.

Is PBEM roleplaying, like disco, dead? An artifact of a previous age, like channel dials on televisions, mourned only by Luddites and old fogeys?

I don’t know. Maybe play by email games are just… over. Like Usenet, and doctors who make house calls, and gas station attendants who pump your gas.

I feel really old.

Wednesday, 2008-11-26

Another reason to avoid Apple

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Technology — bblackmoor @ 20:44

DefectiveByDesign.org brings us another reason to avoid Apple:

Starting this Black Friday and over the next 35 days leading up to the end of 2008, we want your help in promoting a consumer boycott of Digital Restrictions Management. […] For today, we’ve chosen the first product to be avoided this holiday season — Apple’s MacBook computer. Apple have pushed their DRM agenda even further, with the release of the latest revision of their MacBook laptop computers. The new MacBooks contain a hardware chip that prevents certain types of display being used, in an effort to plug the analog hole.

Tuesday, 2008-11-18

What is a pirate?

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Movies,Music,Society,Software — bblackmoor @ 21:16

This is a ship -- the target of real piratesI am so sick of the Digital Rights Mafia and the media robber barons depicting ordinary consumers as “pirates“. A college student who buys a CD and then shares it with her friends is not a pirate. A single mother who earns $15,000 a year who uses an unlicensed copy of Adobe Photoshop to eke out a living is not a pirate. A gamer who pays good money for Bioshock and then hacks it so that it won’t install a rootkit on his computer is not a pirate. Have they violated a license? Maybe, maybe not — but they are definitely not pirates.

Enough of this “pirate” bullshit. Enough.

Friday, 2008-11-14

Whose family values?

Filed under: Family,Society — bblackmoor @ 19:06

You may have heard about “Proposition 8“, the California ballot to enshrine “marriage = one man and one woman” in their state constitution, and how the citizens of California ratified it in November 2008. By itself, I do not find this so surprising. People are really quite stupid, by and large, and California is no exception. Still, it makes me a little sad.

The New Yorker has an interesting article which examines some of the social trends behind efforts like Proposition 8. You might enjoy reading it.

Tuesday, 2008-11-11

Animated safe-sex ads (NSFW)

Filed under: Entertainment,Fine Living,Society — bblackmoor @ 23:09

I really enjoyed these animated French “safe sex” advertisements.

Wednesday, 2008-11-05

Migrating from Outlook to Thunderbird

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 20:54

T-Mobile G1I have wanted to get away from Outlook for a number of years now — ever since I dumped Microsoft Office for OpenOffice. So why haven’t I? For the first few years, it was simple expediency: there really was no functional alternative to Outlook. Then, it was convenience: between myself and my spouse, we keep the calendars and address books of three or four desktop machines synchronized by hotsyncing them through my Palm. For the last few years, this task was not feasible with Thunderbird.

However, I recently got a T-Mobile G1, and with its ties to Google, I thought surely that I would find some way of replacing Outlook while still keeping our contacts and calendars all in sync. As it turns out, I did, thanks to some very clever programmers.


First off, I installed Thunderbird, Lightning, Enigmail, and gContactSync, and set up Enigmail to use my GPG keys (I won’t go into all of that here, but the Enigmail folks are very helpful getting that up and running).

I then needed to import our contacts from Outlook to Thunderbird. That was fairly simple. I set up gContactSync to synchronize our contacts with Google, and that was that — for the contacts, anyway.


Setting up our calendars was a little more complicated. First, I needed to get to get our calendars into Google Calendar. I exported the calendar to a PST file, and then attempted to upload that file to Google. Every time I attempted this, it failed about mid-way through. I kept having to delete the items from the Google Calendar and start over. What finally worked was exporting specific date ranges. I did it year by year, and then individually imported each of those PST files to Google Calendar. This worked perfectly.

Next, I needed to synchronize Thunderbird (actually Lightning) with Google. The way I chose was to use GCALDaemon. GCALDaemon is a cross-platform application that keeps a local iCal repository on your computer, and then periodically syncs that with your Google Calendar. Then, you point Thunderbird at the local iCal file, and there you have it: synchronized calendars.

Once I had my laptop set up, it was very easy to set up our other computers the same way, as well as setting up the G1 to connect to the same Google account (I do not use Gmail for email, but that does not prevent using a Gmail account’s address book).

At last, after far too many years, I have eliminated Outlook from our desktops. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.

Tuesday, 2008-11-04

My new favorite text editor, Notepad++

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 22:16

I have been using TextPad for years. Many, many years. I have been looking for a replacement for nearly that long, for two main reasons: TextPad does not have Unicode support, and it isn’t open source. I have kept it for this long because it truly is a fantastic text editor. It offers macros, block select, smart indentation, regular expressions, and a host of other features I use on a regular basis. I have tried editor after editor after editor after editor, and none have measured up to the standard set by TextPad… until now.

Meet my new text editor: Notepad++.

Monday, 2008-11-03

Electing a US President in plain English

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 12:09

We are so screwed.

Tuesday, 2008-10-21

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Filed under: Gaming — bblackmoor @ 21:13

Star Wars: The Old RepublicThe official announcement has arrived at last!

Star Wars: The Old Republic

OCTOBER 21, SAN FRANCISCO – LucasArts and BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), today announced the development of Star Wars®: The Old Republic™, a story-driven massively multiplayer online PC game set in the timeframe of the Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic™ franchise. Star Wars: The Old Republic, being developed and published by BioWare and LucasArts, represents an innovative approach to interactive entertainment, featuring immersive storytelling, dynamic combat and intelligent companion characters.

In Star Wars: The Old Republic, players will explore an age thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader when war between the Old Republic and the Sith Empire divides the galaxy. Players can choose to play as Jedi, Sith, or a variety of other classic Star Wars roles, defining their personal story and determining their path down the light or dark side of the Force. Along the way, players will befriend courageous companions who will fight at their side or possibly betray them, based on the players’ actions. Players can also choose to team up with friends to battle enemies and overcome incredible challenges using dynamic Star Wars combat.

“Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the most critically acclaimed Star Wars game in LucasArts history and a preeminent example of our company’s interactive storytelling heritage,” said Darrell Rodriguez, President of LucasArts. “For a long time, we’ve long wanted to return to the franchise in a grand way, and we felt that the best setting for it was an online world that would allow millions of people to participate in the experience together. We knew that the developer capable of working with us to deliver an engrossing story with a fully-realized online world was BioWare.”

“Traditionally, massively multiplayer online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars – combat, exploration and character progression,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO of BioWare and General Manager/Vice President of Electronic Arts Inc., “In Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’re fusing BioWare’s heritage of critically-acclaimed storytelling with the amazing pedigree of Lucasfilm and LucasArts, and adding a brand-new fourth pillar to the equation – story. At the same time, we will still deliver all the fun features and activities that fans have come to expect in a AAA massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a very exciting, dynamic period in the Star Wars universe.”

Added Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co-Founder and Vice President Development Operations, BioWare and Vice President, Electronic Arts Inc., “Star Wars: The Old Republic is set roughly 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic, a timeframe that is completely unexplored in the lore. BioWare has been able to add to the Star Wars history in developing the game’s story and has created an overarching narrative that players can enjoy, regardless of their play style. Our goal is to offer players an emotionally rewarding experience that combines the traditional elements of MMO gameplay with innovations in story and character development.”

Additional details on Star Wars: The Old Republic features, gameplay and release date will be announced at a later time. For more information about Star Wars: The Old Republic and to sign up for future product updates, please visit www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com.


Tuesday, 2008-10-14

OpenOffice 3 rocks

Filed under: Society,Software,Writing — bblackmoor @ 20:23

There is a reason that the OpenOffice.org 3.0 servers are struggling to keep up with demand. OO.org 3.0 really is a serious upgrade over version 2.4 and makes NeoOffice irrelevant for Mac OS X users (previously, OpenOffice only worked within X11; While NeoOffice did a great job porting OO.org to native OS X, OO.org 3.0 works out of the box in OS X as a native Aqua application).


I had never liked the OpenOffice equation editor; this version brings a very nice graphical and text-based hybrid editor to us math teachers. Mail merge was clunky in OO.org; this version brings a mail merge wizard and improved label templates. Outline numbering tended to be a bit kludgy for notetaking in OO; this version improves the stability and interface of outlining.

Annotations are now incredibly easy to add (Insert, Note) and Office 2007/2008 formats are supported across the board. While Microsoft has dumped VBA support in Office 2008, OO.org users can run Visual Basic scripting, as well as Python and Javascript.

(from ZDNet, OK, now OpenOffice is definitely good enough)

Are people still debating whether to switch to OpenOffice? Seriously? Are these same people still debating whether to switch from dial-up to broadband? Are they still debating the merits of aspartame over saccharine?


OpenOffice was “good enough” to replace MS Office at least five years ago. Any individual or company that is still using MS Office is just… sad.

See also:

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