sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Well, not really. But it felt like it.

I downloaded and installed a GURPS character creation program, GURPS Character Sheet. My gaming group is talking about maybe playing GURPS when we're done with the current D&D 3.0 adventure. So I thought a program to help me generate characters would be helpful. A little Goggling led to this program, which was free, fairly well reviewed, and java based.

I downloaded it from Sourceforge, which is a trustworthy site. Extracted the archived files, and tried to run it. Kept getting the error message "Windows cannot find the file javaw. Please check the spelling and try again"...or words to that effect.

More Googling followed. Lots of people trying to run lots of programs have talked about this. Seems that Java isn't necessarily in the command path for programs you've installed, so it doesn't load. I Googled for how to fix this.

It's simple. Just open a command line and check the path statement. Then go into the innards of your operating system, modify the "path" setting in environmental variables so the java directory is included, and presto! You're golden.

Yeah, right.

One of the reasons I switched over to linux some years ago was that linxus (cleverly) segregates the various levels of the software. You can monkey around with desktop settings, for instance, or programs, to your heart's content, and it's almost impossible to fuck up your underlying OS. If you screw up, it's usually fairly easy to undo. (Not always, I admit. I made a few colossal mistakes over the years, but...mostly.)

Whenever I'm trying to modify the operation of my Windows machine, on the other hand, it feels like trying to defuse a bomb. One small mistakes and blam! I'll destroy the entire goddamn system and have to reinstall the OS from the DVD and redownload all my programs and re-set all my lovingly selected options.

More Googling. How, exactly do I do this? I watched several video tutorials on the process. Then, with bated breath, I did in fact modify the PATH statement for the environmental variables. And...it worked. The program runs now. And the system didn't explode or anything.

Still feels like I dodged a bullet. Time now to relax and wipe my sweating brow.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I'm trying to write, and I keep getting pop-up warnings that my hard drive could fail. I've only had this computer since January!

I keep all my files backed up off-site. Not programs--those are either on CD or can be downloaded from the interwebz if I ever need to reinstall. But all my files--documents, pictures, emails, etc. are all backed up. But still.

I bought this PC with a second hard drive. Originally I intended to (eventually) install some flavor of Linux on it. Instead, I've initialized it and I am currently doing a disk image backup of the main hard drive...just in case.

Not how I wanted to start my week.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Or you do if you've ever played X-Com: UFO Defense.

That game came out in the nineties. I loved it then, and I love it now. I'm playing it via the Steam website, which enables me to play it on my Windows 7 system despite the game being a fossil of days long since past.

In X-Com, you're tasked with defending earth from hostile aliens. You start with one base, two underpowered Interceptor fighter craft, a Skyranger (for delivering your soldiers to the battlefield), and a handful of soldiers, scientists and engineers. You have to: scan the skies; try to shoot down UFOs; send your soldiers to fight the aliens (and recover alien prisoners, corpses, and gear); upgrade and expand your base(s); research said corpses, prisoners, and gear; reverse engineer improved weapons, armor, and tools, and eventually take the fight to the aliens.

All on a meagre budget, which will be cut if the funding nations aren't happy with your performance. Fortunately, there are workarounds. Once you've developed the technology for building laser cannons, you dedicate a workshop or two to churning them out in trainload lots, and then sell them off. (Don't ask who's buying them all.) In short order, you'll have so much money (literally tens of millions) you can buy anything you want. Except the alien element Elerium (aka Unobtainium, Phlebotenum, etc.)

That you get from capturing alien spaceships and bases (mostly) intact. Speaking of which, I just discovered an alien base on earth. Which means I have to send my guys to attack it. If I'm lucky, it hasn't been there long and won't be a very tough nut to crack. If I'm unlucky, my guys will get slaughtered. (In which case, I shut down the simulator, yell at my soldiers to do better next time, and try again. That is, reload the saved game....)

It's fun. And being able to play this game again is, I have to confess, one of the advantages of going back to a Windows machine.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I'm posting from a PC running Windows 7 instead of linux. Alas and alack.

Still, it's gone pretty well so far. I brought the machine home from the computer shop Thursday morning, then promptly put it aside while I dealt with other chores. I was able to spent an hour or two on it that afternoon, doing New Computer Housekeeping. Which in my case, meant:

Plug in the ethernet cable. Open Internet Explorer. IMMEDIATELY download the latest Firefox. Close IE and consign it to the dustbin of history. Add Password Exporter, then import my passwords from the old machine. Import bookmarks. Redeploy AdBlock Plus, NoScript, etc.

Then it was off to pick up my lovely and talented wife and head out for a night of playing D&D (she's joined my regular Thursday night gaming group). We had fun. Once I'd put her to bed at home, I spent hours more on the computer. I downloaded Seamonkey and ran through the same housekeeping chores for that program.

Why two web browsers? Well, I'll tell you. I have two online identities. This one (Sinanju) and Gail Roarke, my erotica/romance pen name. I frequent a lot of the same internet corners (Yahoo, LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, and numerous websites) in both identities. Using one web browser for both IDs requires signing in and out all the damn time. It's a pain in the ass. So I segregated Gail Roarke to Seamonkey. Now I can remain signed in as me on Firefox and as Gail on Seamonkey. It's much easier.

Anyhow, I then installed Xmarks, to keep my bookmarks synched between the desktop PC and my laptop. And then Jungledisk, to back up my files.

Then it was time to tackle the wirelessness. I'd tried when I first got the machine home, but couldn't manage. I didn't know why, and didn't have time to mess with it, so I just plugged in the ethernet cable from the router and used that. After gaming, I went at it again. I spent two or three hours trying to get that damn wireless card to work, to no avail. Seeing as how I'd given up my linux box in large part because of the need/desire to go wireless, I was...aggravated.

This morning I called the computer shop to ask for help. It went something like this:

Me: "Hi, I picked up my computer from you guys yesterday."
Computer Guy: "Yes, how can I help you?"
Me: "When you assembled the system, you checked that the wireless card worked--right?"
CG: "Yes."
Me: "That's what I figured. So maybe you can help me. I can't get the wireless to work."
CG: "Are the antennas attached to the wireless card?"
Me: "....what antennas?"
CG: Tells me that there are a couple of antennas (that screw onto the wireless card) in a small box (which held the wireless card originally) inside the box that contained the motherboard. [It also contained boxes holding the Windows 7 and Microsoft Office DVDs, which I knew.]
Me: "Well, that's probably the problem, then."
CG: "Yeah. It worked in the shop without the antennas, but you might need to use them."

And so it was. I found said antennas (yeah, yeah, antennae), screwed them into place and--presto!--suddenly the wireless card connected to our router.

I felt pretty silly. Not entirely silly, mind you. They never said a word yesterday about any antennas, or the possibility that I might need to attach them. I assumed that the system was ready to go.

But the important thing is, the wireless works. The whole system works...so far, he said darkly. It's Windows. I don't entirely trust it. But it's what I'm going to use now. And so far, so good.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
On the writing front, I've gotten eight stories back into the (e)mail. One got rejected the next day and resubmitted elsewhere, but it still only counts for one point. The seven stories I haven't resubmitted are candidates for self-publication. I'm currently working on that. My score to date:

Stories published online: 7 (1 point each)
Stories submitted to editors: 8 (1 point each)
Novel query packages: 2 (5 points each)
Total: 25 points (plus 7 from the last report)

I'm doing a lot of driving these days, and it looks like I'll soon be doing more. I drive my lovely and talented wife to work every morning, and pick her up every evening, as I've done since getting laid off. It gives us time together to talk, forces me to keep to a daytime schedule*, saves us having to pay the exorbitant downtown parking rates**, and saves her having to drive herself.

Now that we've moved to the new apartment, what had originally been a 10-15 minute commute is now a 30-45 minute commute, depending on traffic conditions. One way. So I'm spending considerably more time in the car these days--between two and three hours all told. Still, it's not bad. I talk to my sweetie when we're together; I listen to the radio when I'm alone. And I still have plenty of time during the day to run errands, do chores, and write, now that I'm back to writing.

Once I start driving Twoson to or from school (he's starting massage school shortly) two evenings a week, it'll be even more. He's learning to drive, so eventually I'll be off the hook for that, but the daily commute to Snippy's office won't change. It's just part of the new normal for us.

And speaking of chores--I had to be here between 10 a.m. and noon today for the cable guy. See, we got phone, internet, and cable service from Comcast in the new place. We'd rather have had DirecTV (which we loved for years), but our apartment faces north, not south. So no dice. We also got DVRs for the living room and master bedroom.

Comcast DVRs (by Motorola). They sucked. We can live with cable rather than satellite. But after being spoiled by Tivo, the Motorola DVRs were bigger, slower, and crappier in every way. They were slow to respond, sometimes failing to respond to the remote at all the first time you pushed a button. You could turn them off all too easily***--and a DVR that's been turned off doesn't record anything...which is the whole point of having a DVR. Worse, they had an aggravating habit of turning themselves off at random, or losing their tiny electronic minds and turning into paperweights until we called Comcast and got them reinitialized.

Even the remotes were bigger, clunkier, and less user-friendly than the Tivo remotes. In short, they sucked. So we bought a couple of Tivos and signed up for Tivo's service. We had to have the Comcast tech come out to provide the cable cards to allow them to work with the cable system. (When I called to arrange that, and to cancel our DVR service, the customer service gal didn't ask why. I suspect we're far from alone in our assessment of the Motorola DVRs.)

The Comcast technician turned up on time. He was friendly and helpful. We started up the Tivos, he installed the cable cards, and then went through the start-up procedure on one--the one wired directly into our network router. The other was supposed to connect via a wireless adapter we also bought from Tivo. We couldn't get it to work--it couldn't connect to the network. Eventually I figured out, by reading the router manual, and the Tivo website, how to make it connect. Then it worked fine. All in all, a painless customer service experience.

Once the Tivo in the living room was fully functioning, I played with it a bit. Ah, it was so much better than the Motorola DVR. Until four hours later, when Twoson alerted me to the Green Screen of Death. Yes, four hours after we set it up, the Tivo in the living room suffered a complete hard drive failure. There followed much swearing by Yours Truly. Hours later, all efforts to reboot it (in the vain hope that it wsa simply a data corruption issue, as sometimes results in the GSOD) had failed. I called Tivo customer service, which was an adventure in itself I don't care to dwell on.

The short version: that Tivo is really most sincerely dead. So we've ordered a new one, and will be shipping this one back to them for credit. So we're without a DVR (or cable box) of ANY kind in the living room for the next few days. Fortunately the Tivo in the bedroom is working properly, so we can at least record our shows in the interim. I'd say "so much for the vaunted Tivo brand," except that nobody's perfect. Hardware failures may be rare, but they're not impossible. We had years of reliable Tivo service in the house, and I expect years of reliable service now. Once, you know, we get another Tivo....

In still other news, I think I'm going to raise the white flag and buy myself a new Windows machine. I love my linux box. I really do. But the cumulative issues of working with it have simply become enough--in aggregate--that I think I'll be better off going back to Windows. Between the .rtf format issues in OpenOffice (a known and unfixed problem that is unacceptable when some markets for my writing insist on .rtf submissions), my inability to read Word notes in OpenOffice, my inability to get any sort of wireless networking to function on my machine, the possibility of playing some of my old Windows games again, and the ability to use various other programs available for Windows but not linux...well, I think the handwriting is on the wall.

It feels like a defeat, but I'm trying to think of it as a compromise instead.

*Left to my own devices, I'd develop a nocturnal schedule.

**We're buying more gas, and putting more mileage on the car, but not as much more as you might think. It's not distance so much as traffic that lengthens our commute. And even so, I think we still come out ahead.

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sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
sinanju

August 2017

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