Settling in with Boot Camp

I've been fiddling with Boot Camp on a MacBook Pro 2GHz since its release, and I'm ready to settle in: I can just expect games to work with all their gee-whizardry enabled and the highest widescreen resolution. Half-Life 2, Dungeon Siege II, Tomb Raider: Legend, and Oblivion: all working wonderfully. The one question remains: which of the zillion MMORPGs whose doors are now opened do I want to explore? (Yes, I play World of Warcraft, and yes, I do so only under OS X).

I've given up on the wireless connection for anything but casual online browsing or downloads (such as small patches) - various folks have suggested Windows XP's wireless capabilities are "flaky", and I've no real desire to fix it when I can wire into my router easily enough. Last night, I started a free trial of R.O.S.E. Online (which is at least entertaining enough to want me to play for a second day), and I'm debating City of Villains and this week's Auto Assault (though, fie!, do I wish there were demos).

My final notes on the Boot Camp experience (see my previous posts for more):

  • remapkey.exe, a utility that will allow you to remap keys (so that you can "Delete" on a MacBook Pro, where the existing Delete mimicks Backspace), isn't actually included in Windows XP, as I originally assumed. Instead, it's part of some Windows utility/resource pack, along with a bunch of other junk. Worried about hard drive space (see below), it's relatively easy to find a standalone copy of the .exe on Google, and I can confirm it does what it professes.
  • I originally chose 25 GB for the size of my Windows partition, so that I could read and write to it from OS X (where I'd be downloading demos and so forth whilst I accomplished real work). With three recent games installed, however, I'm already down to only 10 GB left, which is a bit less than I had hoped for. Granted, "how many games can you play at once?" and all, but still, a bit disconcerting. Hopefully Leopard has some way of writing NTFS filesystems.
  • Oddly, when I plug in my headphones to the MacBook Pro running Windows XP, sound will continue to spit out of the laptop speakers. I discovered this accidentally when I was kicked out of the local Borders - apparently, audio erotica is not appropriate whilst enjoying a tasty cheesecake at their cafe. Explanations that I was working on my memoirs, How I Learned Romance From Big Brown Riding Hoof, persuaded them little.

Any questions?


Boot Camp and Tomb Raider: Legends

With Boot Camp and Windows XP running fine on my MacBook Pro 2GHz, the next step was testing out a recent game. Before I ran out and dropped some hard-earned money on, say, Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, I headed over to to look for a demo of something "worthy". I found that in the Tomb Raider: Legend demo - not that I expected it to be a "worthy" play, but because it was new and, presumably, graphically demanding.

Now, realize I am a console gamer (and occasionally OS X) and by no means a mastah of Windows tweakage of any kind. With that said, the Tomb Raider: Legend demo ran jim-dandily under Windows XP on my MBP, defaulting to a resolution of 640x480. Gameplay was fluid, immediate, and didn't "look" bad. The real test was enabling every "gee whiz" graphics feature, increasing the resolution all the way up, and enabling widescreen. I can report that, with a maximum resolution of 1440x900, the game continued to run nicely with a refresh rate of 60hz (the only option available). I have a nagging feeling that 1360x768, the next highest resolution, "feels" better, though I lack the technical terms and know-how to describe it accurately (if I were to try, I'd say that it felt like frames were dropping and that movement didn't seem as "smooth", even though there were no actual hiccups of play).

Satisifed at my little test, I'm heading out today to pick up Oblivion and possibly Dungeon Siege II.

Besides games, some other notes:

  • There is no right click emulation under Windows XP. While you can certainly continue to do everything you need to do, if you'd like to do it faster, you should consider an external mouse. The Logitech USB mouse I use on my primary Mac worked immediately when plugged into Windows.
  • The Delete key on the laptop seems to actually be a Backspace key - thus, you have no ability to Ctrl-Alt-Del (which can be important if you need to login) or to enable Lara Croft's flashlight. The project has already reported on this, and a workaround: ... go to Start: Run. Enter remapkey. A nice GUI utility pops up to let you remap keys on your keyboard. You can use it to remap the delete key. I recommend using the Right Windows key (Right Command on MacBook Pro keyboards). After saving, reboot and you'll be able to use Ctrl-Alt-(Right Command) to do a Ctrl-Alt-Delete and logon to Windows domains and other useful things. I've not actually done this yet.
  • My wireless Airport connection seems flaky - besides not being able to use WEP, it seems to connect for 10 minutes, drop out for a minute or so, reconnect, ad infinitum. This isn't that big of a deal for an offline gaming experience, but not so much if I wanted to play City of Heroes (I do). I haven't tested a regular wired connection. Anyone else seeing this? It doesn't happen when I'm booted into OS X.
  • After Windows XP installation, updates, and the TRL demo, I have 20 GB remaining of my 25 GB partition. Not knowing the regular install sizes of Windows games, should that be alright? I don't expect to be running 30 games at once, but I do expect to be downloading user-created mods and so forth.

More on the Oblivion install later.

Apple's Boot Camp Running Smoothly

Installed Apple's Boot Camp on my MacBook Pro 2GHz machine today, and everything went swimmingly: Windows XP and the Mac drivers (ATI video card, wireless, sound card, etc.) installed, and no difficulties along the way. I had some initial problems connecting to my wireless network, but that seems related to the WEP key - if I disable WEP encryption from the shared Airport connection, I can connect with little problem. I've grown used to doing this anyways when I connect via my PSP or Nintendo DS. Dunno why, and don't really care - if I walk outside I can't reach the network, so I'm not too concerned about interlopers and it'd only be off for a very limited time anyways.

And, really, that's the sole reason I've got Windows XP installed now: gaming. While I had every intention of attempting the same feat when the project hacked together a video driver, Apple just plumb ol' made them irrelevant. Since I'll still (naturally) be using OS X for Everything Else, I only set the WinXP partition size to 25 GB, which allowed me to format it as FAT32, which means OS X can read and write to it. And that it does: once I rebooted back into Tiger, there was the new partition already mounted, to which I started copying some files I had been downloading just for the occasion.

Games ahoy!


Primary Machine: Laptop or Desktop?

Received the MacBook Pro yesterday, and have had no hardware problems whatsoever. I do have a question, one I didn't think much about it when ordering: for people with a laptop AND a desktop machine, how are you handling which is the "primary" and which isn't? Where are all your files? Where do you keep your gigs of music (for me, having over 100 gigs of music, they'd have to remain on the desktop, but then I get all fashimmered about how I can't set ratings or increment playcounts from an iTunes share)? Do you keep everything on one machine, and work on the shared files when you're local to the network? Do you rsync back and forth? What if you don't have .Mac and thus can't use iSync? Are all your work files on the laptop, as logic would dictate they'd have to be when you're at a remote location? Do you ever care about syncing them back to the desktop machine? When you're home and you wake up in the morning to check your email, which machine do you go to? Do you have a desk for your laptop?


MacBook Pro 2GHz: 0wned

I just ordered a new MacBook Pro 2GHz laptop from Same price as from Apple ($2499), but there's a $150 mail-in rebate. I also have a Chase/ credit card, which means I get three reward points for each dollar: 7500 reward points. 2500 reward points are redeemable for a $25 gift certificate. Total cost of MacBook Pro 2GHz? $2349, with $75 worth of credit usable at Amazon.

Oh, and right, I'm quitting my job. More on that later. Hire me!


Dave Winer Clicks Link, Google/Firefox at Fault

We all know Dave Winer, the veritable mastah of the web that has invented everything worth inventing: RSS, podcasts, outliners, blogs, applescript, XML-RPC, push, pull, OPML, and, oh jesus, the list of gifts to humanity goes ever on. This force of graciousness needed to re-download Firefox and, instead of visiting or, Googles for it instead. In his infinite wisdom (for Mr. Winer does not make mistakes), he clicks the link that looks like no other ("Unique, like me!" he expounds). Instead of realizing he clicked a Sponsored Link, or that the page he reached looks pathetically like a Wordpress template ripoff, he goes nuts and rips into Google, Firefox, trust, promises, and paranoia:

Firefox started misbehaving, so I thought -- let's go download a fresh install. Guess what's waiting for me: no choice but to install the Google Toolbar. Remember what they said about their hack, if you don't like it, don't install it. Well, there it is. Where's the choice now. Back then I couldn't get anyone to listen.

Not once did he think of clicking the "Back" button and looking for a second opinion ("Me? Dave Winer?! I need no second opinions! I am the second opinion AND THE FIRST ONE WAS WRONG!"). He follows up a bit later, but naturally it's no "I"m an idiot" and instead a further tirade about trust and Google spamming. Awesome, awesome work: the trust he has placed in himself is as dangerous as the trust he warns us to place in others (except for Dave Winer, natch). He asks "Why do you guys trust Google so much?" to which I can only reply "I can't go wrong if I use the same engine Winer does."

Automating Image Conversion in the Shell

In my map tests (final attempts here) for Drupal's game.module, I needed to convert hundreds of PNG images to GIF format, keeping the transparency relatively in place (though certainly dummied down). Normally I'd do this with OS X's Graphic Converter but I was unable to find the magic words to keep the transparency across conversions. I moved to attempting the feat with GIMP's batch mode and Script-Fu which was working quite well (nearly finished my first-evah Script-Fu) but eventually decided upon ImageMagick's convert utility, which brought me to something like:

> convert a.png -scale 24x24 b.gif

Which worked well-enough in my "ease" expectations, but not so much on the alpha to single-bit transparency that I needed for my GIF - I always had a black "halo" around the non-transparent parts of the image. I responded with the two command lines below: first we scale, then convert with some extra little flags:

> convert a.png -scale 24x24 b.png
> convert b.png -channel A -threshold 80% c.gif

But, after finally figuring out how to properly get PNG alpha transparencies to work within Internet Explorer, I no longer needed GIF images at all, and the final version of the command line became simply:

> mkdir conv
> cd source
> for i in *; do convert $i -scale 24x24 ../conv/$i; done;

Just an FYI to myself.

Morbus at DrupalCon 2006, Vancouver

I normally hate travelling, but I made it to DrupalCon 2006 in Vancouver.

World of Warcraft Quest Tracker Updated to 1.1

I've released a new version of my World of Warcraft Quest Tracker today, bringing it to version 1.1:

  • we now keep track of quests available per zone and total.
  • added initial support for Allakhazham's "Special Category" quests.
  • added support for some of the unlisted "Unknown" categories/zones.
  • print current zone to STDERR so we have a progress report.

You can see the latest output for my level 60 Troll Shaman, Morbulin, here. Today's update brings the quest count available to Horde members up to 2128. Unfortunately, due to some oddness in the Allakhazham backend, there are a large number of duplicate quests and, more disconcerting, a large number of unlisted quests (for example, Un-Life's Little Annoyances is in the database, and is even assigned to a zone, but you'd never find it by going through the Quests by Zone list, which the script depends upon.) I don't know how to solve this (how do I list a quest no one knows about?), and I'm attempting to contact Allakhazham's developers to see what I can do to help.

As you can see in the notes above, I've also added support for four or five of Allakhazham's "Unknown" categories. These appear to be categories that have yet to be "properly" inserted into the database, and are usually time-relevant, such as the Ahn'Qiraj War Effort or the Lunar Festival. Others, however, have been assigned to crazy categories (like Unknown (-367)). Regardless, these types of quests seem to have many duplicates and very little information (as evidenced by the ?'s in the latest outputs). It's becoming a bit of a problem, and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to solve it yet.

Drupal as Game Engine?

Last night, I wrote up a different approach to a long-running idea in my head:

[RFC] GameAPI: Embedding RPGs into Drupal: I am pregnant (woohoo!). In six short months, I will be disappearing from active duty in the Drupal community for a good long time. I'd like to discuss a desire I've had for years and years, only reworked for our beloved codebase. In short: an HTML based browser role playing game, though ultimately an API.

Shortly thereafter, it was blogged on The Escapist, one of the most popular "new games journalism" magazines, of which I'm a regular reader (for both the articles and the pictures):

Browser Wars: I was recently pointed over to this posting regarding embedding a game engine in Drupal. Which would make it easy for people to design content and get it up and running in the style of MUDs. Now, that is of course asking for a lot of random crap to be put out there, but it also opens the door for interactive storytelling with the addictiveness and ease of entry of a browser game. Of course I may just be thinking that turning a CMS into a game hosting system is really cool.

And yes, I am pregnant. And I'll be disappearing from far more than just Drupal.


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