Civ4 Computers Fighting

I was surprised that, by only raising the level of difficulty by one, the computer opponents in civ4 began to fight each other. In this instance, it was to my advantage because Washington of the Americans attacked Peter of the Russians, who I was planning to attack anyway. I think I will play my fourth game also at this difficulty level or I fear they may annihilate me. I’m not quite ready for that yet.

However, that may be quite some time from now. I’ve stopped playing civ4 pretty much because it keeps crashing. I can only play a few turns at a time and that’s just no fun at all – especially since it takes about 14 minutes for a game to load back up on my computer. I guess that’s what happens when you have the minimum requirements.

DSL

What does DSL mean to you? If you’re a technological person, it might mean Digital Subscriber Line, a way to access the internet. If you’re not a technological person….well, just ask my sister-in-law what it means to her. But to Linux users, DSL has even a third meaning, Damn Small Linux. What is Damn Small Linux? It is an entire Linux distrobution that fits on a 50 MB “business card” CD-ROM. It’s based on the Live CD technology devised by Klaus Knopper of Knoppix fame. He has created a phenomenon by perfecting the idea of having an operating system running entirely in the user’s RAM. This allows you to use Linux wherever you go, no matter what computers are available, and you won’t be touching the underlying system!

Well, DSL is based on the same idea, but much smaller. Why? There are two basic reasons: First of all, this allows the OS to run on Legacy systems that don’t have a lot of RAM. Second, it allows you to have an ENTIRE OS on a memory stick! How great is that? I’d heard of DSL for a long time, but hadn’t thought of a good reason to use it. Then I read this blog post about it, and realized it’s power. Not only that, but I learned about a new mode of using it – via QEMU on a computer already running windows. I quickly downloaded the ISO (for burning to CD) and the zip file for running in Windows. I must say that I was VERY impressed!

Damn Small Linux - 001
Damn Small Linux – 001
Damn Small Linux - 002
Damn Small Linux – 002

On my computer, which has 1.5 GHz and 1 Gb of RAM, it ran very well, even though an OS running emulated through QEMU runs 6 times slower than if it was installed on the computer! So don’t use it in QEMU mode on a 486, use the Live CD for that. The only annoying thing was the the mouse movements were a little off. Firefox also ran very slowly compared to other apps, but it is a much larger application. I think it was included mostly for being such a well known application.

Damn Small Linux - 003
Damn Small Linux – 003
Damn Small Linux - 004
Damn Small Linux – 004

I ran into a small problem when switching in and out of DSL in order to take these screenshots where I would lose the ability to type in DSL. After a while, the ability just returned, so I’m not sure of the cause. As you can see, Dillo did not properly render my blog, while Firefox did. I didn’t have the time to try out the ISO, but at least in the embedded version, run Firefox only if you REALLY need to be able to see pages correctly. If they are simple or have mostly text, you should be fine with Dillo.

Just as Knoppix gave birth to DSL, DSL has given birth to Hikarunix! This is a live CD OS based on DSL which contains all of the best Linux software related to the game of Go. I learned about it from this post by Techn0manc3r. And so you see, Linux doesn’t have too many distros, it doesn’t have enough of them! There’s nothing wrong with having a distro dedicated to playing Go or for any other purpose someone can think of.

Damn Small Linux - 005
Damn Small Linux – 005

Final Fantasy 7 End Remarks

I finally beat Final Fantasy 7, it’s what has been occupying all of my time this weekend. I never had a Playstation until College, but I really loved Final Fantasy 6, so as soon as I could, I bought a Playstation. Later my brother-in-law got me a PS2 so that I could play FFX and X-2. I wanted to play the games in order, so I started 7, but then came my wedding, the move, and a bunch of other things. So it dragged out for months. Frankly, I don’t recommend doing that for Final Fantasy or any story-based game. What I usually love about Square RPGs is the bond you feel with the characters. But with so much time between playing, I barely could remember what was going on, much less bond with them. However, as there was still a lot to do in the part I’ve been playing for the past week, I was able to get back into the game.

I think one of the most interesting aspects of the game, playing it in 2005 instead of 1997 (when it came out), is the fact that the main characters at the start of the game are ecoterrorists. I didn’t really notice it until late in the game when some of the characters were discussing actions that occurred earlier in the game. Although it’s been a tradition since Final Fantasy 4 for the main characters to be fighting against an evil and domineering empire, this was the first time they were overtly blowing up power plants and doing thing we would consider to be terrorist actions. That’s what I like about Final Fantasy games, they usually really make you think. I mean, it’s easy to root for the main characters, but what if they are killing innocents? Is it ok to kill others in order to save the planet? In fact, in Japan, a followon to FF7 has users playing from the point of view of the empire.

Of course, FF7, which some call the greatest FF, seemed to me to be a bit repititious after FF6. If you replace espers with mako, it’s almost the same game, but set in more modern times. Then again, the game IS different enough and was even a bit confusing, although I probably owe some of that to the gaps in between my playing times. I really liked the ending a lot, it was much better than the FF6 ending – the CG movie was beautiful for the technology.

Also, after playing FF7, I see that the Final Fantasy movie that came out a while back is [VERY] loosely based on FF7. It’s almost the same except for the lack of ecoterrorists – unless you consider the main girl to be a very tuned down version. Also, none of the characters could use magic, which I think is why no one really liked the movie.

Now some disjointed stuff:
If you watch all the way past the long end credits you’ll get a bonus movie. It’s pretty neat and says a lot about how successful the main characters were.

Somehow I missed out on two characters: Vincent and Yuffie. I’m glad I missed out on Yuffie because it was spoiled to me some time ago that she steals the group’s materia. That would have made me pretty ticked. I wasn’t using a strategy guide until way late in the game when I couldn’t figure out where to go and was sick of wasting what little free time I have running around the map – that’s what makes FFs a great game for kids in high school and younger, but not so good for a working husband.

And finally, there’s a part where Cloud and Tifa are on a mountain talking. The game fades the screen implying that time has passed. We later find out that the others were watching and Tifa is very embarrassed. What happened? My strategy guide implies they got it on. What do you think?

a brief interlude because I haven’t had time to write that darned post yet…..

Galaxy Song – Monty Python
Whenever life get you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough.
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you’ve had quite enu-hu-hu-huuuuff!
Just – re-member that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
and revolving at 900 miles an hour,
It’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
the sun that is the source of all our power.
The Sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
are moving at a million miles a day,
In the outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,
of the Galaxy we call the Milky Way.
Our Galaxy itself contains 100 billion stars,
it’s 100,000 light-years side-to-side,
It bulges in the middle, 16,000 light-years thick,
but out by us it’s just 3000 light-years wide.
We’re 30,000 light-years from galactic central point,
we go round every 200 million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
in this amazing and expanding universe.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
in all of the directions it can whizz,
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light you know,
twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
how amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
because there’s bugger all down here on Earth.

Does anyone really know what is going on in Iraq?

I was watching ABC Family a few nights ago when I discovered that Who’s Line is It Anyway? was on right before I went to bed. Right after the second episode of Who’s Line, ABC family became CBN. I am not sure, but I think that stands for the Christian Broadcasting Network. I guess that meaning for the acronym because the show that appeared on my Tv was some 700 Club news program Co-hosted by Pat Robinson. We all know that Pat gives quite a bad name to televangelists everywhere, as if it were possible to give them a worse reputation. He calls for absurd things like taking down Hugo Chavez from power. But they were talking that night about myths involving the War in Iraq and I was intrigued to see what they would say. Some fellow was on who had written a book on the subject and basically made a bunch of claims contrary to what we’ve been hearing in the news. He claims we haven’t been hearing about it because of an agenda that news organizations have to discredit Bush.

The most interesting thing, in my opinion, is that he claimed the exact opposite of what John Kerry claimed, just a few days ago. I know that everyone has their own agenda. You can’t really write a great book unless you claim that everything the public knows is wrong. Kerry is probably going to try to run again for President and wants to show that the war isn’t going well. But can it be possible for both of these men to think they are telling the truth? Kerry says there was no collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Robinson’s guest says that he has proof Al Qaeda trained in Iraq. Does anyone know what’s going on? How can they both claim this?

I think the answer lies in reading between the lines. When Kerry says that Iraq didn’t help Al Qaeda, he means that the Iraqi government did not officially invite them into their country and allow them a terror-haven like Afghanistan did. What the other guy is saying is that training went on in Iraq, therefore it’s Iraq’s fault. I haven’t read his book, so I’m not sure what details he has to back himself up. However, I think that his argument, as it stands, is not really compelling. Because he is implying that Iraq should know what is going on in its borders. What if someone in the US was training for Al Qaeda, does that mean that the US was complicit in terrorism? Of course not!

What is a little harder to glean is how he claims that the war is going great while others view it with such pessimism. When it comes to a war you are winning or you aren’t winning. Either you’re killing more of them or they’re killing more of you. I think, again that they are not comparing apples to apples. I’ve love for a reporter to just have the guts one day to say – but comparing what the other guy says, do you have numbers to refute that? Because here’s a typical exchange:

“The war is going horribly – people are dying”
“Not so! The war is going great! Schools are being built!”

The second person did nothing to address the points of the first person and it just makes a mockery of the whole idea of having both sides present. If they are going to have a monologue instead of a dialogue, then just have one person at a time – there will be less time wasted with pointless yelling.

Linux News!

Some tidbits I’ve gleaned and where to get more in depth info:

KDE3.5 has been released! Hopefully this means that it will make its way into the Fedora Core 5, due out in Feb 2006. Or, if they’ve completely moved KDE to the extras packages, maybe it will be available even earlier! Lots of info here and screenshots here!

Speaking of Fedore Core 5, there is a review of the latest devel freeze to be found at this O’Reilly site.

Exciting!

New Capitalism

With all of the job cuts being announced right before the holidays, I was wondering if it might be time for a new capitalism. Here’s a rhetorical question, what if the board lowered their salaries and the CEO’s salary instead of firing people? A typical CEO for these big companies like Delta makes a few million. He or she doesn’t need millions – no one does! Somewhere around $50k can allow someone to survive in the US. $100k is very comfortable depending on the housing market. Certainly, $500k could be enough to live VERY well, even in New York. Let’s say they are firing white collar workers who each make $50k. If the CEO were to lower his salary by just $500k, he could save 100 jobs! If we’re talking about people who make less money, even more jobs could be saved! So why can’t they do this? Well, obviously, no one would ever lower their own salary. But why isn’t there much of a public outcry? People are losing their jobs right before Christmas and these CEOs are flying around in private jets. I know we have even more ridiculous things like basketball players making millions, but I would assume that people would say stuff. For the first time today, I heard them say something on CNN this morning. Of course, it was 6 AM and no one was listening – it wasn’t repeated all day like their typical stories. I know it’s a bunch of BS, but I had to get this off my chest – it’s really been bothering me.

Secret Prisons and other Shady Stuff

“Indeed, it has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.” – Winston Churchhill

There has been a lot of talk recently concerning the CIA and their interrogation techniques with Terrorism suspects. Specifically, the talk has centered around “secret prisons” in Europe and the fact that the UN can’t go and investigate the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, I suggest that the debate is centering around the wrong tennants. Most of the debate has centered around whether we have been torturing prisoners. I don’t want to minimize the evils of torture. We obviously don’t want to use torture because it undermines our message to dictatorships and it increases the chance that Americans will be tortured when they are captured.

However, I think a great deal of the debate has missed a very key issue. Why is the CIA allegedly using prisons in Europe and the Middle East? Why are they keeping prisoners at Guantanamo? Although they are very careful to stress that they do not torture prisoners, they say these prisons are needed for “innovative” interrogation techniques. If these prisoners were kept on US soil we wouldn’t be able to question them this way. (Forget the fact that it would be extremely bad if they were to escape from a US prison) This presents a key flaw in the way the international system of laws works. Why is it ok for us to do something overseas that would be illegal if done on our shores? Either we should do it or we shouldn’t – and sending them overseas to do what we wouldn’t do at home is just a severe case of hypocrisy.

If you argue that we need to interrogate them in different ways because they are terrorists, then that is fine. The laws in the US should be ammended so that we can interrogate them in this way no matter where in the world they are being interrogated. To say, we must interrogate them this way and therefore will send them to a place where we can do it, doesn’t look very good for our already shoddy public image. It’s just an exploitation of a technicality.

On a simplified level, I can illustrate it via a story I was recently telling my wife. When I was young – say less than 10 – my parents would sometimes punish me by saying I couldn’t play Nintendo. Then I would proceed to play with my Sega. Afterall, they said I couldn’t play Nintendo, they didn’t forbid me from playing video games. Of course, that excuse only worked the first time. After that, they were sure to say, “no video games” or “no Nintendo, Genesis, Game Boy, or anything else electronic.” So much for feeling so slick. And that’s what the US is doing!

That is the most important part of the debate to me. But, the other part is also very important. We need to decide as an American people what we are going to tolerate. How much of our purity are we willing to give up in the name of our protection? Shall we be obsessed with being blameless and therefore possibly allow more terrorist attacks to take place? Should we be tough on those we catch and, therefore, forfeit some of our ability to call on change from those who torture their prisoners? We can’t have it both ways.

Americans love to complain: if we are too soft and something happens there will be outcries for not having tried hard enough. If we’re hard on them and we lose face, people complain. There will always be complaints because it’s impossible to please everyone. What the lawmakers need to do is ignore the polls and just decide. No backpedaling – no changing your mind when it’s no longer unpopular. We’re talking about really serious stuff here! I mean, schools and taxes are important, but what we do with enemy combatants has very serious reprocussions around the world.

Waves

Life seems to be a series of waves that I ride until they crash on shore. Then I wait for the next one and have another go at it. I’m not talking about life fundamentals – those are on a much slower evolution and change much less often, but I’m talking instead about the fun things I do in my life.

Take, for example, my recent fascination with haikus. I don’t even have an event I could pinpoint as the cause. I just saw the snow and remembered how I always loved seeing it fall at night at Cornell. Then, for some reason, I thought the best way to express myself would be a haiku. Now, it seems they are coming to me for all sorts of reasons. And so it will be for a while, until they suddenly stop.

It’s the same with photography. One week I’ll be inundated with ideas for pictures – so much so that I have to write my ideas down if I want any chance of remembering them. And I work on them and post 10 or even 15 pictures to my page on flickr. Then, as quickly as the urges arrived, they are gone and my camera will lie unused for days or even weeks at a time.

Even civ4 or any other video game I have ever played follows the same patterns. I play the game until I can’t take it any more and then don’t play for months at a time. It doesn’t matter if it’s my favorite game (and I don’t have too many of those), I just have no desire to play.

The good thing about the patterns is that I’m never just caught up with one thing. I’m always into another one of my passions and it makes life fresh and new. But sometimes it can be a real pain in the butt. I’ve had some days which were perfect for pursuing my hobbies and I just didn’t feel like doing a darn thing. In fact, it seems that I only ever want to do things when I can’t. During the school year, I couldn’t wait to play Sims 2. I haven’t touched the game since the end of my Senior year at Cornell.

I wonder if other people feel the same way or if this is just a sign that I have found a lot of things that I like to do or even love to do, but have yet to find my passion. Or did even Picasso sometimes feel as though he didn’t want to paint another painting or he would kill someone. Even my blog post format goes in waves. Sometimes I feel like writing posts about my personal life, other times it’s politices, Linux, civ4, or whatever else I want to talk about. Well, at any rate, get ready for the photographic wave coming soon. I play to take some pictures this Thanksgiving holiday – including some I have been planning for a while.

Xbox 360 in trouble

Apparently, MS’s new $400 console is having a lot of problems. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be happy if I plunked down enough money to buy a cheap computer and my video game console didn’t work correctly. However, the real problem for Microsoft is touched upon in this blog.

In the past, such a faux pas would have taken weeks to get attention. One person would have a broken box and think maybe it was just them. After a few weeks of reports, someone at a store like EB would leak the problem to the press and THEN it would be a big deal. That’s how things used to work. Unfortunately for MS, that’s not how they work anymore.

Take, for example, the Sony malware debacle I was following on my blog. Just a little over a week after a hacker figured out the problem and reported it on his blog, Sony was recalling the discs and making all sorts of apologies. This sort of speed is unprecedented! Usually companies spend weeks denying and then playing down the risks. However, when people can be vocal on their blogs, things begin to add up. Especially when sites like Technorati provide a gauge to how much a particular topic is being discussed.

I hope that MS realizes that, while they may be kings in the OS department, they are relative tyros to the console market and didn’t even do that well with the first xbox. They would do well to take a lesson from the Sony incident and just apologize. They are also extremely lucky that we live in such a connected age. If the problem happens to be software related, they can simply release a patch via Xbox Live and fix their user’s systems. In the past they would have had to have boxes shipped to them to be fixed.

I can’t say that I’m suprised at the reports of the boxes. In addition to the fact that it’s very hard for any manufacturer to keep their products from having defects, MS has two things working against them. First of all, the Xbox 360 was rush-delivered to stores to get in this Christmas season and get a leg up on Sony and Nintendo. This type of situation almost always leads to a shoddy product. Second, look at the crap job they do on Windows. They release a product that’s halfway done and reason that they’ll fix it via patches later. That’s not the way to do things! Oh well, I’m just glad I’m not one of those who has to have the latest thing right when it comes out. (I didn’t get a PS2 until they were $150 last summer) If I ever get an Xbox 360 or PS3, it’ll be a few generations down the line – after they have fixed all (or most) of the bugs.

Viruses and Virus Software

As I spoke with my in-laws last weekend about viruses and anti-virus software makers, they voiced a thought everyone has had at one time or another- perhaps the viruses from Norton and McAfee. After all, why would you spend $40 a year to keep your computer safe if there weren’t any viruses? As I explained to them that, actually, most viruses nowadays come from Organized Crime in an attempt to steal identities, I thought about the fiasco it would be for such a thing to occur. It would be like Microsoft purposely creating a virus for Linux.

But then I read this story and began to wonder if Norton and the others really had my best interest in mind. If they really ARE looking to protect me from spyware and all that crap they use to scare us into buying the products, why didn’t it catch the Sony malware? In the end it all comes down to money. Sony can afford to pay them to keep quiet about things and let the malware be installed. It certainly ISN’T about user convenience as Norton bothers me enough, asking about each and every program who wants to use an inbound or outbound port on my computer.