After watching the Martian (and reading the book) I see potatoes in a whole new light. A fridge is cold and dark, and this potato just single-handedly grew a plant. The biggest gardening success I’ve ever had, in my fridge! Just think what could happen if I put potatoes in soil! And gave them light! And maybe even… water! They’ll probably, like, grow a tree or something! ;-o
That was a few months ago. I put the sprouted potatoes in the largest balcony flower pot I had (~30cm deep), and covered them with a thin layer of soil. They grew right through it, and I added more layers of soil over a week, until the pot was full and the plants broke through to the surface again. Somewhere I read that this was a good method to increase the potato plant’s size and thus its ability to grow tubers. *shrug*
From then on, the plant grew green leaves quite enthusiastically. Usually when I grow plants on my north-facing balcony, that’s all I get — leaves. There is not enough light for anything more sophisticated than water cress.
So imagine my surprise when I wanted to remove the yellowing potato leaves and found a fresh potato. :-D It worked! Mars, here I come.
And what do I see in my RSS feed the same day?
Sorry, not sorry: This is a clear case of “Send to colour printer first, ask on which floor the dang thing is later”!! :D
Um. So. Yeah. Last weekend, I might have become a (temporary stand-in replacement) admin on a minecraft server… I swear I have no idea how that happened!
I was in IRC asking something about Minecraft adventure maps, and something I said prompted another guy to invite me to his multiplayer server. Might it have been the “I don’t like griefing” part? ;) Nobody else was playing, which was fine by me. I just ran around and played the first in-game week of Survival, expecting that the server would be reset soon anyway. I set myself the goal to build a modern-looking house inside a mountain cave with glass facades that use all dyes.
The server seemed to have only a handful users. Later, the owner logged on, talked to me a bit, saw my house, and declared me server admin. Um, okay? :D I’ll totally try that at work next week: “Hi!” — “Hi.” — “This is my minecraft house.” — “INSTANT PROMOTION TO SENIOR VP BOSS, DUDE!!1!1” — “Really?” — “NO.” — *sadface*
After you have explored and looted everything, the next level of Minecraft addiction has been reached, when you start refilling treasure chests, and building fossils and fortresses with hidden passages, for other Survival players to explore.
Part of a crazy fun 2-player village building session in Creative. If you have built a house as crooked as a crashed Warbird, simply attach a sign saying “Embassy of the Romulan Star Empire”, et voila! In other news, we built a huge library. Out of bookshelves. *brain explodes*
So, I died fighting this skeleton, right? And I respawned and tried to get my inventory back, and a zombie picked up a creeper head, and wore it on his head, and then he got caught in the skele’s friendly fire, and turned against the skele, armed with nothing but a piece of dirt, but then the skele picked up my enchanted bow, and… ugh. Just another day in Minecraftia. X)
Another player built this automatic wheat farm in Survival, and I helped plant the seeds. After the wheat has grown, you pull a lever, which releases water, that flushes the wheat into chests at the bottom of the farm. The second half of automation is finding a wuss to plant seeds for you. … … Hold on a second!? ;-)
When chatting with some game masters about flawed dungeon and dragons characters, I remembered my first MUD character at uni…
For people who don’t know what a MUD is: A Multi-User Dimension is a free MMORPG, text only, with a command line. The map is split up into “rooms” with descriptions of what you see and where exits are, and you walk by typing “north”, “down”, etc. You interact by typing “put 3.key in 2.backpack” or “take all” or “wield dagger”. You fight by typing “consider dragon” and “backstab dragon” and “dodge” and “cast heal self” etc. Apart from that, it’s just like any MMORPG. :-)
Pros: Extremely low bandwidth and system requirements — As long as you have a terminal with telnet, you can play MUD on a potato. It’s multi-player, so you can group and chat with others all over the world.
Cons: Navigating without visuals takes getting used to. The game’s pace is slower than in MMORPGs. Your survival depends on your reading and touch typing speed.
The DikuMud was called Imperial, and my (flawed) character was a Lemyrian Bard. It had great constitution (I was the backstabbing tank for my fellow students’ mages) , I could solo early on, I stole so many coins from “hidden” thief NPCs that I could pay out stipends, and I could explore the under-water parts of the map with ease. On the other hand, the game did not let me train some important skills (e.g. the mana regeneration song) to 100%, and those skills were what high-level groups were looking for in a Bard. The flaws only became apparent in higher levels, and I had fun playing and exploring the map anyway.
Did I tell the story were I naively pick-pocketed a shop owner accidentally on purpose? I didn’t know how low the odds were, but I succeeded in stealing a valuable, overpowered warhammer. The game had a flight mode, so that, if your character’s health was below a certain value, it would immediately flee in a randomly chosen direction. In that random direction could be a solid wall, or a death trap, or one of the room’s exits — so depending on the environment, you either died anyway or got a chance to escape. In the shop-owner scenario, there was only one exit. The merciful Randomizer let me escape after the shop-owner’s wrath reduced me to 1 hp in one round. A shop-owner usually hits a lot harder, but… well, he didn’t have his warhammer… :D Don’t try that at home, kids.
Of course I don’t remember my password, and there’s no reason they would have kept my inactive character… But inspired by that related conversation, I dug up the old MUD links (and handdrawn maps). Imperial was the typical Dungeon&Dragons like “medieval” RPG with warriors, rogues, mages, ivory towers, and dragons. My old MUD server doesn’t exist anymore, but I assume it moved to
telnet://imperial.modeemi.fi:6969 now, because the immortals’ names sound familiar.
I know what you are thinking: MUDs are so last millennium! Time to create a new character! No 1000-Euro gaming PCs is complete without a telnet game from the nineties! Wait, that wasn’t what you were thinking? Well, too late. :-P I went to http://www.mudconnect.com, looking for scifi or cyberpunk games.
The first one whose description I liked was http://www.iconoclast.org/. The web page has tabletop RPG rules (can’t vouch how good they are), and shortstories to describe their original dystopian Cyberpunk world (relatively well written, with lots of tragic internal conflicts). The characters are humans, mutants, cyborgs, vampires, werewolves, or a mixture. And did I mention that everyone is very tragic? Iconoclast.org gets a growny point for naming their world’s mutant program something that smoothly abbreviates to G.O.T.H. :D [A growny point is a brownie point, awarded for making a bad pun, I just decided.] Alas, the server no longer accepts members, and the last blog entry is fom 2008. Oh well.
Long search story short: Eventually I chose
telnet://CyberAssault.org:11111. This server still runs, there are a few players online, and they are friendly. That’s the best you can ask for in such an old game type. The commands are a variant of the dikuMud commands that I am already familiar with, so it’s easy to learn. The Immortals answer questions, fix typos, and literally add help files for questions while I’m asking them. They still add a bit of new content every day (for example crafting). The play style is simple hack&slash with some quests.
The CyberAssault.org world is an apocalyptic futuristic hightech wasteland with some civilization left in crumbling cities. Characters have many slots to install various cyborg implants. There are flying cars and kevlar and guns and scifi laser weapons and robots… If you meet someone who is, say, level “Remort x4”, it means he’s so advanced that level counting has rolled over and started at 1 again, four times. I myself am still low level, and I kept getting lost, but if you want to try a scifi MUD in 2016, Cyber Assault is a good place to start.
What happens… if you hold the IKEA furniture instructions upside down… and build something completely different by accident??! ;-o I’m sure this is what it would look like. This new piece of Swedish furniture sounds… better than expected!
I watched some episodes of this Space Engineers video series by LastStandGamers, and now I went back to watch it from the beginning. It’s good example of the typical Space Engineers gameplay, watch it to see whether you’d like it. The series starts out like a tutorial that shows the “how to survive in Space Engineers” gameplay.
(Spoilers ahead.) The players banter about the meaning of “turn left” and “turn right” in general, and in space in particular. While the camera pans out, and we see the destroyed ship, halfway crashed through an asteroid. Yup, happens to me too, all the time!
They proceed to show how to dismantle the ship wreck and use the parts: You need to build tools to process materials, produce missing machine parts and building blocks, so you can build a base and drilling ships. (This was recorded before oxygen and meteor showers were introduced into the game.)
Up to part four, the gameplay feels quite slow, like minecraft without creepers. From part four on, the pace increases. “Sage? Come over here. Have they added gravity to asteroids?” — “They didn’t put that in. I checked the patch notes. You’re just paranoid.”
So when Aron casually mentioned earlier that he is adding support beams to his asteroid base in zero-g, due to his paranoid fear that the developers will implement more realistic gravity, they were actually foreshadowing. Nah, the only source of 1g gravity would be a gravity generator, which needs an energy source, like a ship or base — “Dropyourname dropyourname! Therespeople! Savemesaveme!” Yup, Sage is a good choice for the role of the panicky voice without being too annoying. ;-)
This is a very simple story, but it’s fun to watch. They stumble upon a hidden base, sneak around, and watch a stranger from afar… “Is he hostile? He can’t be that bad, he’s wearing bright yellow.” X-)
By the start of episode five, they have been spotted, and a thrilling chase scene ensues. An unseen enemy, bullets fly, a lot of running through mining tunnels and badly lit hallways, shouting and looking over shoulders, while trying to loot as much as possible. “Barricade the door!” “He’s cutting through!” “Oooh look, nickel ingots!”
The abandoned base was excellently built for this scene. Many partly welded blocks, ominous crates and pods, machine parts and rubble strewn about. And the ghost of the yellow astronaut opening and closing doors… :-o Or isn’t he?
I like this way of doing Let’s Plays. Design adventure scenarios for each other, and explore them! We all know the storylines are scripted, but they don’t take themselves or role-playing too seriously. “What are you doing here?” — “I was doing… my thing… with ships… in space… and may have been under the influence of… gummy bears… And woke up in this cryo pod? Where are we?” It’s natural enough and clearly tongue-in-cheek, and we can enjoy going along with it.
We all know Herobrine is a myth, and we know that no faceless astronaut secretly builds bases on our multiplayer servers. … Right…?
Latest news from my DIY PC adventure: My spiffy gaming PC had been running without a hitch for a month. Then, in the last week of January, games started crashing. :-C
First an error beep, then the screen goes blank (“Energy Star”) as if someone had ripped out the HDMI cable. I checked, it was well attached. Then another, different beep (reminded me of the ones you get if a new device is ready?). The game’s background music kept playing in a loop, but the fighting NPCs etc. fell suspiciously silent. Was the OS was still working, but I couldn’t see what I was doing anymore (e.g. I could not force-quit the game via the task manager)? I can’t tell. If I had two screens, I would have attached the second screen to the on-board graphic card to check whether it would stay on. Without this option, all I can do is a hard shutdown.
I have the nagging suspicion that I should not have tried to install Windows 95 games in Windows 10… Instead of simply telling me that this is not supported, a Windows 10 wizard helpfully suggested it could try some unspecified fixes and workarounds. Frigg knows what that wizard actually did, but those old games never ran. (UPDATE: I reinstalled Windows 10 later, so these Win95 workarounds are gone.)
I installed two monitoring tools from a trustworthy source to see how the GPU temperature was doing. I chose “Open Hardware Monitor” and “CPU-Z”, which logs values in a file that you can check after a crash. In the worst cases, it went up to ~70°C, then my super sexy quiet fans came on, and kept it at that. Nothing looked out of the ordinary.
The Event Viewer contained several warnings and errors:
The previous system shutdown was unexpected.
No, dear PC, I pressed that button on purpose. You switching off my display was unexpected.
The description for Event ID 56 from source Application Popup could not be found.
The message resource is present but the message is not found.
No idea what that means. I kinda picture a dialog box popping up on my currently blank screen, informing me: “Error displaying error. Error not found. Please install better errors. Hello? Are you listening?” Likely a side-effect and not the cause.
Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered.
Really, that’s what a display driver looks like when it successfully recovered? What does it look like when it fails? This message appears often, but not everytime.
Let’s have a look at the driver:
I also have a Linux partition, and Linux does not blank out, so my bet is on the Windows video drivers. (Installing Linux drivers for GeForce is a whole different story…) Note on the other hand that I have no demanding 3D games for Linux, so I cannot reproduce the problem anyway. If I could reproduce the crash under Linux also, I would blame hardware.
The page http://www.geforce.com/drivers tells me that NVIDIA had released new drivers on January 25, but my first crash was before that. I updated the drivers, but that made it only worse. Instead of crashing once per day, it now crashed once per hour.
I searched inside Windows for “check for updates”. In the Update panel, I clicked “advanced options”, and then “view update history”. This showed me that a recent attempt at updating NVIDA drivers had silently failed! The GeForce Experience app had not told me that. To be save, I went to the GeForce Experience settings and disabled auto-update for video drivers.
Long story short, after trying a dozen different things unsuccessfully, I thoroughly uninstalled everything that had the word NVIDIA in it, twice. (Plus some poor innocent oversized Blizzard games that had failed to download because my SSD was full, sigh.) Then I reinstalled the driver from December that had previosuly worked fine. It was still in my Downloads folder, but I could also have re-downloaded it from the GeForce page. (UPDATE: Half a year later, this driver version has fallen off the bottom of the list. Keep your own copies!) That fixed it for me for another month…
(UPDATE) Other things I tried after the problem reoccured: I took out the graphic card, and I reinstalled Windows 10 with only the on-board graphics card. Then I stuck the GeForce back in and installed its drivers. This had the nice side-effect that the bootloader (the thing that lets me choose between Linux and Windows) now appears within seconds after booting, and it no longer hangs in 50% of the cases! I also moved an SSD and some cables, and I didn’t fully close the PC case, to test whether any weight or pressure had been randomly dislodging the card. That worked well for another 2-3 weeks, now we’re back to crashing again. :( Next step: borrow a friend’s graphic card for a month. If that works, the GeForce is defective. If that crashes too, then the motherboard or something else is defective.
Some general Windows 10 debugging tips:
- I was shocked that for each error message, Windows-related forums contained at least one fake post saying “Download and run this .exe (link), it will magically fix everything”. Uh thank you, I’m cured! I now have a strict “no toolbars, no plugins, no speedtesters, no cleaner-uppers, no free games, no email, no nuthin” policy on this gaming PC.
- Windows 10 hides advanced settings and tools. Search your Windows settings for “view event logs”, and pin the Event Viewer to the taskbar for future reference.
- Searching the web for anything plus “Windows 10” plus “64 bit” brings up a surprising amount of completely unrelated advice and downloads, even on microsoft.com. After a search, double check that what you are doing truly applies to your version.
- You can only use logs for debugging if you compare them to normal conditions, so look at logs from times when it worked well, too. Otherwise you waste time hunting down irrelevant warnings.
- If you use advice from forums, make yourself aware of the context. Is this problem being discussed mostly in Microsoft forums, PC hardware forums, graphiccard forums, specific game-related forums, PC or Mac related forums? Who talks about it gives you a hint what sources of error to include or exclude. It makes a huge difference whether many games are affected or one, or all platforms or one, or all graphiccards or one, etc.
- Also, how old is the forum advice you are reading? If the same error message has been discussed for 5 years, and various forums are filled with contradictory advice that works for some but not for others, your alarm bells should ring. It means that this error message is very generic, and does not point to one specific problem. If you try all the different advices given, you will mess up your PC even worse.
- Speaking of which: Write down (or take screenshots of) all the fixes you try, so you have half a cance to undo them.
- Try to reproduce the problem after each fix. Don’t apply several fixes at the same time, because then you can’t tell what the actual problem was. In a case where crashes re-appear only after a month, this is tedious.
Oh, and, fun fact of the day:
If you install Windows in one language, and then switch to English later (say, to be able to quote English error messages), your event log will be bilingual… for ever. :,-(
Unable to find Verbindungsschichterkennungsprotokoll. The Anwendungsspezifisch permission settings do not grant Lokalaktivierung from address LocalHost unter Verwendung von LRCP. The following corrective action will be taken: Neustart des Dienstes. Windows failed to install Sprachpaket für Englisch. Nicht verfügbar. Microsoft, are you kidding me?
I finally did it: I built a gaming PC. I know, the eighties are calling, they want their IBM compatibility back — but they can’t get through, they’re on pulse dial, and we’re on tone! :-P
Honestly? I’m a lifelong Mac user who learned about Linux at uni. Windows PC? That’s the thing for Excel sheets and 3D games, right? The sum of my PC hardware knowledge fits comfortably into /dev/null. I saved up 1000 Euros, and asked several people for advice, and then decided what to buy.
I prefer energy-saving and quiet over noisy overclocked high-performance. Obviously I want to play Windows games on “ultra shiny” settings, but the only Windows games I have are Skyrim (4 years old), Space Engineers, Kerbal Space Program, Star Trek Online, and Minecraft. Let’s just say I haven’t succeeded installing the Minecraft Shader Pack. Seriously, none of these need overclocking.
Here’s the hardware I chose:
- GIGABYTE GA-H170-D3HP H170, main board
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, GPU
- Intel Core i5-6600T, CPU
- Arctic Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2, CPU cooling fan
- Crucial CT250 MX200 250 GB, solid-state drive
- Kingston HyperX DIMM 16GB DDR4-2400 kit, memory
- Be Quiet STRAIGHT POWER 10, 400W power supply
- Cooltek X3, tower case
- Pioneer DVR-221LBK, DVD burner
- Windows 10 and Ubuntu
Okay, folks. Let’s buy shiny stuff, unpack, and perform the ritual of touching the heater pipe to placate the gods of electrostatic discharge. All set? Go.
Step 1: Stay cool after cutting finger on cooler’s plastic wrapper. Check!
One important piece of advice I got was that the order of plugging components together is determined by reachability. Sockets will be hard to identify and/or reach after you screw fast the mainboard, so orient yourself before doing that. The tiny cables that connect USB and audio sockets to the main board are well labled nowadays. Mine even came with a “needle threader” thingy that keeps the tiny plugs in place! Try to get one of these.
Step 2: Leave cool fingerprint on thermal cooling paste. Check.
I expected the CPU to have centiped legs, but apparently, that’s so last millennium? Today’s CPU sockets come with a sandwich-maker lever construction (silver frame) that holds the CPU (white) firmly in place. Suddenly, even a total newb can install a CPU.
Four square centimeters of CPU need a cooler the size of a pint of beer. Impressive. … Now I suddenly want a beer.
I slotted the RAM and screwed the mainboard into the casing.
Next up: graphic card. Looks easy, the backside fit perfectly.
Step 3: Encounter stupid problem. Check.
What? The GeForce doesn’t fit into the Cooltek case?! There is an unused hard drive cage in the bottom right. And it doesn’t leave enough room for the thick fans of a pcie x16-size graphic card!
The cage edge pushes the card up a few milimeters, and the card cannot reach its slot. Grrrr. :-C
Our motto has always been, if it doesn’t fit, make it fit. Just drill out the headless screws with a hand drill, and the whole hard drive cage comes right off. Who needs hard drives anyway. Hard drives are for wimps. When we were young, we chiseled our data into clay tablets! In cuneiform! Uphill, both ways! Where was I? Ah.
Thanks to Uli :-) for finding this efficient drill solution while I was downtown begrudgingly shelling out 100 Euros for a USB stick with Windows 10 on it, ugh.
You: “Oh, why didn’t you upgrade for free?”
Me: “Because I don’t have Windows.”
You: “But didn’t you know, you can upgrade Windows 7 or 8 to 10 for free!”
Me: “Yes, I know. I simply don’t have Windows. Not 7, not 8, none. I never had one. I’m a Mac user.”
You: “What. But. Free… Upgrade? … Mac?” *head explodes*
A related issue: The SSD cable and the graphic card cables just so barely fit next to each other into the case. *eye twitches* It’s painful to look at. How do experienced builders prevent issues like that, how do you tell whether a specific combo of mainboard and cards fit into a case? From the size values we saw when we ordered, we thought it would fit.
First booting. Installing Windows, ethernet driver, graphic card driver, Steam. And finally, games. How do you say Ultra High Quality in German? Sehr hohe Qualität, baby! … That sounded less impressive than expected.
While I do enjoy looking at other people’s translucent DIY PC cases (you know, watch the night-glow cooling liquid pipes spell out the current time and date nixie-tube-style, and what not!) I don’t really need one myself. The case I chose is minimalistic brushed alu black.
I may or may not have put happy robot stickers on it.
At James Gosling’s Toy Show at JavaOne 2007, Sun Microsystems showcased the latest hip Java-programmable device, the Wowwee RS Media robot. Attendees were asked to program a little dance for the robot, and the coolest dance would be shown on stage on the final day. Maybe the best ones even got to keep the robot? It’s quite a while ago and I don’t recall the details.
In any case, during the conference, people were queuing with their dancing code to test it on the provided robots. Which of course limped along miserably after a week of hard dancing work, but hey, I can’t dance any better… :-D It sounded like a cool idea, but alas in reality, the demo was less awe-inspiring than expected. There was music. And Robots moved their arms. Out of sync with each other. Meh? Robots just don’t have any sense of rhythm! And you couldn’t program these to have one, for the life of it!
In that year, I was at JavaOne, mostly backstage. If I had been an attendee, I would have chosen the song “Love Don’t Roam No More” by Murray Gold from the Doctor Who soundtrack for this demo. Why? It’s a “crooner” — here a performance by Gary Williams, so you see what I mean:
The tune is electrifying, but at the same time, the performer does not have to dance in rhythm. Of course it would be best if the robot could subly tap or sway, but one can forgive a robot for not having fine-motor skills like that? Just slowly raising a finger up or pushing the open palm down, slowly nodding forward or looking up with the head leaning backwards, slowly turning the upper body from one side to the other looking around, pointing the palm to his chest at the word “I”, or pointing at the audience at the word “You” — any combination of these moves would be enough to pretend to be “dancing” to this song.
In this more recent video, some NAO robots dance Gangnam Style relatively well. But you notice how often the video had to be cut, sped up or slowed down, to make the movement just barely fit the rhythm:
Under Oracle, programmable robots (here another NAO) were recurring guests at JavaOne in recent years. So I still have a chance: Someone in San Franciso, please write a dance routine for “Love Don’t Roam” (the audio version sung by the The Divine Comedy guy) for next JavaOne? :-)
“Cowboys in Space? That’s gotta be stupid.” These are often the first thoughts that many (including myself!) had when they heard of the scifi show Firefly. Then I watched the first episode, and got hooked…
People have certain negative assotiations with “cowboy” movies: Lacking depth of characters, old-fashioned stereotypes, heroes we no longer identify with. Firefly is the opposite of that — Whedon truly made it “the best of both worlds”.
If you are curious which aspects of Western and Scifi make up Firefly, watch this short amazing analysis!
Check out the current Space Engineers gameplay in the dev build from September 2015!
You’ll see a large player-made ship with a great looking interior and functional components. The game supports modding, which means that players can download the sources and add and share new content! The ship approaches a planet — planets are the new feature that was added. Since this space ship isn’t aerodynamic, some of the decorational pieces and landing gear is “torn to shreds” by the physics simulation. :-o
The player manages to land the ship impressively well with the remaining landing gears, although he forgot to switch off the ship’s gravity generator. :-P After a (ho-hum) minor elevator accident he gets out of the airlock and onto the planet surface. The development version of the planet doesn’t have any content other than soil, grass, trees, and mushrooms, but minable resources will surely be added. (I notice the current version doesn’t have any bodies of water yet, either.)
Since you can’t have a Space Engineers video without “a large explosion that can be seen from space!”, he proceeds to crash the test ship into the test planet… Which looks spectacular and leaves an appropriate crater in the voxel planet. Somehow, the poor astronaut gets catapulted into the air. Next he downloads a cool scifi buggy from the Steam Workshop, and drives around on the planet surface a bit.
If you don’t know Space Engineers yet, the video also shows you how creative building works in the game. All ships and vehicles and space stations in this game are custom-made out of functional components with physical properties! Despite the growing lag (too much debris nearby?), he builds a working Miner, and proceeds to drill straight down into the planet. Nice! Planetary mining works surprisingly well already, the dev build is just lacking ores. Be aware that this game is a physics simulation, so every time your Miner collides with the sides of the cave, it will be damaged, and you have to you repair it — or it falls apart.
This is going to be great, you will be able to build planet-side settlements, supported by orbital factories, military space fleets, and asteroid miners… We can play “king of the hill”, coop, or conquest tournaments in multi-player… Every player can bring in their custom designs and compete to see which one is most robust… :-)
See also the list of Space Engineers features.