Thursday, June 30, 2005

After years of threatening to do it, I've finally gotten around to creating an independent Web site for The Griffin's Crier, the site for my long-running Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The new site can be found at

I'm still working on converting the site over from its old home on Nuketown, so not all the database hooks are in place yet, but it should be done by the end of the week. I've also implemented a new online discussion forum for the site.

All of this is important to Nuketown because I'll be moving the ol'thermonuclear burg to the same host as the Crier later this month, which will finally allow me to do things like implement a robust, threaded online message forum (the same kind, in fact, as what's on the new GriffCrier). The move will also save me about $30 a month, which means I can finally give in to my impulse to subscribe to World of Warcraft...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Back East

After nearly two weeks in Idaho visiting my wife's older brother and family (along with her parents and younger brother, who traveled with us), Sue, Jordan and I are finally back home.

Idaho's a great place to visit -- beautiful vistas, nice people, great terrain. But it is nice to be back home, where I'm two blocks from a coffee shop and high speed internet access is as common as water.

I figured out my Nuketown problems just before I left; apparently my hosting provider changed something on the server, and as a result the PHP includes that had been working just fine for the last year were suddenly broken. That in turn caused a series of unending queries to the database.

It's all fixed now: the includes have been changed to something the server likes and I revised my code to fix the query stall problem. My D&D campaign web site, the Griffin's Crier, is still down, but should be up later this week.

There may be a few other Nuketown snafus in the near future, as I'll be switching to a new hosting provider, and that's always something of an adventure (particularly since the DNS entries have to change). But bear with me -- in the long run, this is all for the good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Temporarily FUBAR'd

For reasons I don't fully understand, Nuketown is currently down. I think it has something to do with my Web server suddenly having issues with the various PHP includes on the site (non-PHP include pages for stuff like my old Pirates campaign are working just fine). I'm not ruling out a database problem, but the includes seem the likely suspect.

When I contacting my hosting provider after getting an error logging into the MySQL database, their initial response was "What MySQL database? We're not showing that account has one ..." This despite the fact that several minutes before I got their response, I was able to get into the database.

Hopefully things will be back normal sooner, rather than later, but with tech, you never know.

Later ...

So it seems to be a combination of things. Partly me being stupid for not closing out some of my "mysql_query" strings properly, partly my hosting company for messing with the server config without telling me, thus causing all of my PHP include files to melt down.

The result? Well, on the home page, lots of SQL errors. On the sub pages, lots of nothing. On the plus side, now that I know what the problem is, I can start fixing it.

It's going to be a damn long night.

Much later ...

It's done. With the exception of the troublesome Links section, Nuketown is fully functional. I still need to restore the sites for my D&D and Spycraft campaigns, but at least the ol'thermonuclear burg is back online. And it only took me four hours to fix it...

Monday, June 13, 2005

iPodderX Headaches

I recently upgraded to iPodderX, and I don't know if it's me, my preferences, my Mac, the software or some combination of all of these, but it's not working that great. Some podcasts it downloads and inserts into iTunes, just the way its supposed to. Others it appears to download, but not move over. And some feeds it simply ignores, even when I know the feed is correct.

I need to mess around with my settings some more and after that it'll be over to the iPodderX forums to see if I can get some help, and to find out if anyone else is having these headaches.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Book Posters?

I have been searching, without much luck, for some place that sells posters of book covers. I would love to get my hands on a poster of one or two of the Dark Tower novels, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and maybe a Harry Potter novel. Unfortunately though, I haven't been able to find any place that sells such things -- the closest I've seen is the wall posters you see at Barnes & Noble, but after asking the clerks at the store, it seems like they don't have any policy for selling those posters if/when they get rotated out.

It would seem logical to me that B&N would offer such posters on their Web site, but alas, no. Their old "Prints & Posters" section had the occasional odd book-related print, but none of the posters they had on the walls in their store. Still, there might be hope -- B&N says they're overhauling that section so maybe we'll see those posters yet.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Madness in Audio

It's been a long hard road, but Radio Active #8 is finally online. This is the Atomic Swindlers-focused podcast, in which I do an audio review of the band's album Coming Out Electric and play two of the album's songs.

I originally recorded this poddcast back in late May using my normal GarageBand 1 setup, but when I listened to it I was horrified to find that the songs sounded like crap. After mucking around and actually reading some of the documentation, I discovered that GarageBand only allows you to have one "tempo" for a recording, normally 120 beats per minute. If you try and import something with a different tempo, then GarageBand alters the song to match the default GarageBand tempo, effectively speeding up or slowing down the song (depending on what it's tempo was relative to GarageBand).

You can change the tempo in GarageBand, but since the Swindlers had several different tempos for their songs, I would have only been able to match the tempo on one of the two songs I played.

Annoying eh?

Frustrated, annoyed and a little panicked -- I was trying to keep Radio Active on a regular schedule -- I decided to fire up Audacity, an open source sound recorder and editor. That led to a series of abortive podcasts which I thought everything had worked, but in fact, portions of the podcast -- particularly the songs -- kept dropping out. Turns out that my great plan of using generated "silence" to space out the audio clips was causing all kinds of havoc during the export; that's when I discovered how to use the "align to cursor" function to line up the segments.

After about two weeks of work on the podcast, I finally got something useable up. More than useable actually -- I think the podcast sounds pretty good. Heck, although it was much harder to use than GarageBand, I think Audacity produced a better sounding podcast. For Radio Active #9, I think I'm going to try Audacity again, and see what folks think.

Geek Culture

During a random bit of Web surfing I turned up "Geek Culture: An Annotated Interdisciplinary Bibliography" that details a variety of reports on aspects of geekdom, including gaming (pen & paper and computer), online interaction, and various social stereotypes. A good resource for anyone finding themself in an unexpected cultural flamewar.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hell is Humid

The air conditioner went in our home office, on the third floor, in what is probably the second hottest, if not the hottest, room in our house. I tried installing a back-up AC unit I got from a friend last summer, but it just can't keep up with the heat that this space generates. So now I'm on a virtual quest to find an air conditioner as soon as possible so we won't drown in our own sweat while working in the office.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I just found SpellbookMaster, which is a d20 spell management program for the Macintosh. I haven't tried it out yet, but its definitely going to be added to the MacRPG page.


After lingering on death's door for the last year or so, I finally decided to ditch my G3 iBook's faltering battery (which was nearly 4 years old) and replace it with a new one. The electrical goodness is now flowing to the iBook's circuits, and it has gleefully informed me that it has 5:35 hours worth of battery time left. Given that it used to hold a 20 minute charge -- if I was lucky -- this is quite a change.

On a somewhat related Apple note, I got my letter yesterday detailing the terms of Apple's iPod battery settlement which -- if I read it right -- entitles me to a $25 cash rebate or $50 store credit. My second-generation iPod has held its charge fairly well -- after two years I end up needing to charge it about every other day, but I usually hook it up every night to drink deeply of the ionic elixer and to download my daily podcast fix. I'll probably take the $50 store credit, and perhaps put it towards an iPod shuffle...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Poop Emergencies

I nearly snorted coffee out my nose listening to Mur Lafferty recount her recent Very Bad Day on Geek Fu Action Grip this morning.

Of course, the experience -- involving a toddler, potty training, a coffee shop and unexpected poop incident -- wasn't at all funny when it happened to Mur, but listening to it, well, let's just say, I've been there. Or at least, in the vicinity of there, as I expect that most parents of two-year-olds have.

We're still at the very beginning of potty training with Jordan, but I could all too easily see this happening to me (or Sue, or both of us), and combined with some of the experiences we have had, well, I had to laugh.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Shadow of the Hegemon

This is the sequel to Ender's Game I've been waiting for. While the original sequels (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, etc.) told Ender's continuing story, they didn't address what I was really interested in: the fate of Earth and Ender's Dragon Army after the victory over the Buggers.

Shadow of the Hegemon does exactly that, telling the story of Ender's fellow Battle School graduates, and following the rise to power of Ender's older brother, Peter, and his rise to eventual power as the Hegemon of Earth. Once again Card drops us back into the minds of these brilliant, too-mature children as they struggle to evade the control of the governments who seek to use them to conquer the Earth, while at the same time trying to figure out the best way to bring about a lasting peace.

It's a fascinating read, delving into the political manipulations that were integral to the planet-side portions of Ender's Game that were so missing from the original sequels. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the book, but I'm already enjoying it immensely. Not as much as Ender's Game -- it's a classic in its own right, and not Card could easily match with a sequel -- but still a damn good read.