Friday, June 29, 2007

When Crazy Fundies Attack

This is an outrage! Stupid fundies think they can ignore the First Amendment. A candidate's religion is her own business, and should be irrelevant to the political arena.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Game Review: InSpectres

My gaming group has some dead time coming up, as our current campaign draws to a close and the next GM in line is out of town. That leaves us with 2 or 3 empty weeks - plenty of time for a game of InSpectres.

My first experience running InSpectres was a little over a year ago. I'd never GMed before, and none of us were familiar with the rules. Thankfully, InSpectres is really easy to pick up, and even easier to GM.

The game's premise is essentially Ghostbusters. The party is a group of paranormal investigators for hire. The starter rules are only 3 pages, covering character creation, game flow, and the core check mechanic.

Each character has 4 base stats: Academics, Athletics, Technology, and Contact. In addition, each character also has a Talent, a special ability that grants them a bonus on checks under certain circumstances. This can be pretty much anything - subject to the GM's approval, of course. For example, my character had the Occultist talent, which granted an extra die to my check rolls having to do with the Occult: this included casting spells and identifying entities (say that three times fast).

In stressful situations, the GM can call for a Stress check. If you fail, you take penalties to your stats. These can be repaired by spending Franchise dice at the end of each job, on a one-to-one basis.

Franchise dice are the currency of InSpectres, and are used to upgrade the party's equipment. Each job has a dice rating, and the job isn't over until the party earns that many Franchise dice during the job. Players earn Franchise dice by rolling 5 or 6 on check rolls - except Stress checks. A 6 there lets you repair stat penalties from earlier Stress checks, or gives you a Cool point, which is essentially a point of immunity from stat penalties. Cool points can be used for other things, much like Action Points in D20 Modern or Eberron.

One last thing: the Confessional. Once per scene, a player may "step into the Confessional" to narrate something about the scene. For example, say the party is sneaking up on a ghost they've never seen before, and one player decides to use the Confessional: "What we didn't realize at the time was that this particular ghost had humongous ears. We must've sounded like a herd of elephants to it." The mechanism is a fun way to add twists to the scene, or add detail to a character, or just about anything else. "It turns out that we weren't chasing a ghost, but a baby albino elephant the zoo had lost in transit that morning."

The system is simple to get the hang of, and doesn't need much preparation time. The Ghostbusters genre is zany and random, so if you play with a group like mine, it'll probably almost run itself.

DRM group vows to fight bloggers

...tracking down everyone who had published the keys was a “resource intensive exercise”. A search on Google shows almost 700,000 pages have published the key. Mr Ayers said that while he could not reveal the specific steps the group would be taking, it would be using both “legal and technical” steps to prevent the circumvention of copy protection.

What the AACS says sounds like bollocks to me. If the key really isn't important, then why are they so worried about its dissemination? If it's because it compromises all of those "in the clear" discs, then the system wasn't "designed to cope with breaches" very well then, was it?
Encryption will always be broken eventually. HD-DVD DRM is poorly designed if it relies solely on that, or even that and litigation. Of course, if they'd just play nice with OSes other than Windows and OS-X (especially Linux/UNIX), people probably wouldn't complain quite so much.

Bah. Old media has one foot in the grave already, and here comes the other foot...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cool, I'm Zen: My Set-up

Leo Babauta has some nice tips for Zen-ifying your workspace.

On the subject of simplifying your computer: normally I run Linux, which tends to have a cleaner windowing environment. At work, though, I have to use Windows because it's what I need to support.

So I use BBLean on my computer instead of the normal Windows shell. It's a port of Fluxbox, and a lot more functional to me. BBLean has a simple plug-in infrastructure, skin support, multiple virtual desktops, and has much less visual clutter (no desktop icons). BB4Win has links to info, plugins, and variants.

It's nice to have the option of Explorer occasionally, even if I despise it, so I use Carapace to give me a shell menu at login. This is also a good way to have LiteStep or SharpE available too.

With no icons on the desktop, I need an alternative way to quickly run things. I use a combination of Launchy, StrokeIt, and RocketDock.

Launchy is a hotkey-activated launchbox with incremental search and plug-ins. It's also easily skinnable. It's great for finding something when your hands are already on the keyboard, so you don't have to reach over for the mouse and dig through a menu or find an icon. (Yes, this is a problem, especially on large screens - mine is 1600x1200 and set to small icons. Screen real-estate has a price...)

StrokeIt is a universal mouse gestures utility. It's something like a hotkey, but triggered by holding a mouse button and drawing a symbol. You can define custom symbols and custom triggers separately, and with varying contexts too. The program also learns how you draw the symbols over time. I really wish Linux had something like this...

RocketDock is essentially an ObjectDock clone, but freeware instead of shareware. It's compatible with Yz Dock and a couple of others, too. Eye-candy aside, I like having somewhere to put a few icons and have them both out of the way and easily accessible. The bubble-zoom effect alone makes it far superior to Windows Quicklaunch, because larger icons are easier to click quickly.

I've found that, with the exception of StrokeIt, any operating system has similar options available.