Friday, March 31, 2023

I got my Nabu PC

 I received my Nabu PC last week. I was very happy I went through the process of figuring out how to make all the software work with an emulator first, this saved me a lot of screwing around when all I wanted to do was mess around with CP/M. The first thing you are going to need is the RS 422 serial adapter and a DIN cable. There are several videos on how to make them, but really, it is best just to go buy one already made, they cost like $15, it is just not worth the hassle of doing it yourself.

The really interesting thing about the Nabu is, it was the first cloud based home computer to be released, predating Chrome OS by several decades. The Nabu was released in 1983 before anyone even knew what the "Cloud" was. Amazingly, it works pretty well, I would say it is right on par with the other 8 bit computers of the time, obviously its boot time was a little longer when compared to instant on machines like the Commodore 64, but once loaded it performs very well.

At this point, I am not particularly sure what I want to do with it, I was hoping to get some time to sit down with it while I was on vacation to do something cool with it, but I got busy with other things. I may just box it up and resell it in a few years when they are no longer readily available. Right now anyone who wants one can get them for under a $100 if they are will to wait a little while, but in a few years after the warehouse find is gone, I am pretty sure these will be selling for $500+ dollars, especially for a tested and working machine.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Mame-Nabu under Linux

I bought a Nabu PC, a new batch has went up for sale. I missed the first batch and decided I was not going to buy one, but as usual, I find my impulse control to be lacking. It is going to be a while before it arrives, so I decided to check out the Nabu PC Mame emulator, so I could check out the Nabu Internet Adapter software so I could sort that out before I got my machine and maybe do some programming on it. I am not going to go into how to set that up, it is easy enough to do. You can get it at

The problem I did run into was getting the emulator. The only pre compiled binaries were for Windows and there were no instructions on what you needed to get it running under Linux. It was not just a matter of install it from a repo or downloading the code and compiling it, Nabu support is new and is not available in the mainline code. I am going to assume you have some experience in using Linux, otherwise you would not be doing this.

Goto, click on the <>Code button and click on Download zip. Do not use git to retrieve the code, for some reason the nabupc code is not included in the git repository, but is included in the zip file. Once you have it downloaded, extract the file and cd into the folder containing the code.

To compile Mame, you will need some dependencies, install them using this command;

sudo apt-get install git build-essential python3 libsdl2-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev libfontconfig-dev libpulse-dev qtbase5-dev qtbase5-dev-tools qtchooser qt5-qmake

You can just type "make" at this point and it will build, however this will build Mame with everything and will take a while to do, we really only need it to build the Nabu emulator, so we start the compile process with;

make SOURCES=src/mame/nabu/nabupc.cpp REGENIE=1

Next go grab the Windows Nabu Mame file from here, This file has everything needed including the ROM files and disk images, this will save you a bit of time in figuring out what you need and where to put it. Extract it to where you plan to run the emulator from. Delete mame.exe, floppy-boot.cmd and nabu.cmd, you will not need these files. Next copy the mame executable you just built into this new folder.  Run the Nabu Internet Adapter, and start the TCP service, you must do this before you start the emulator, or it will crash. You can now run the emulator with this command.

./mame nabupc -window -kbd nabu_hle -hcca null_modem -bitb socket.

That is it, the emulator should come up and connect automatically.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Thoughts on Mastodon

 When Elon Mush took control of Twitter, a couple of million people went to Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter, built to be a decentralized platform that no single person controlled and didn't vacuum up your personal data or push advertisements into you feed. The hypothesis was solid, it is a good idea, so I decided to dip my toe in and see if reality matched the hypothesis.

My first issue was getting signed up, you have to find a server to sign up with, I did what any reasonably competent internet user would do, I googled the most popular servers and found several lists all nearly identical. I started at the top and tired to sign up. The first one was not taking any new users, same with the second and 3rd. The fourth put me on a waiting list and on it went. I found a few more, but the servers were either not accepting new users or simply did not exist anymore. If I were a Twitter refugee, i would have gotten very frustrated at this point and been done with it.

I am however, not a Twitter refugee, I am a nerd with home lab infrastructure, so I decided I would simply setup my own Mastodon instance. I am not going to get into the process I went through to build it. It was not particularly difficult and I had very few problems, but again, I already had everything I needed, I could fire up a virtual machine, I had a domain name with DNS redirection, so it was just a matter of following some instructions on getting the software up and running, it took me the better part of a Sunday to get everything the way I wanted, but it has been humming along perfectly since then. I provided an overview of this process just after I did it, you can read it here.

So now I had a Mastodon account, so what to do now. Well I needed to find people to follow, so once again I went to google and found some lists of interesting accounts to follow. Once again, all of these lists were nearly identical and I was only really interested in a couple of them. I also found a couple of Youtube content creators who use Mastodon. Once I had some posts coming into my feed, I found some other folks who were posting mildly interesting things, so I followed them as well. Then I got to where I was following about 20 accounts and I had a steady stream of posts, but I was not seeing any new people to follow.

I had no trouble finding other Tech nerds interested in Retro computers, Linux, home labs, that sort of thing. What I found difficult, was finding people interested in Science Fiction/Fantasy Literature, Dungeons & Dragons, Comic Books, or any of my other interests. The problem is, to get these things into my feed, I need to know who to follow. There are of course lists of people by subject matter floating around and I even found one for RPG's with a good 30 accounts listed. When I started going through those accounts, many were just flatly gone, hadn't posted in months/years or were posting cat pictures and nothing else. I am use to being able to curate my feed, which I can do easily in Facebook and Twitter, it seems nearly impossible to get a nice balance of posts about a variety of topics unless you already know at least a few people already on Mastodon.

Now for the BIG problem with Mastodon, and this is not Mastodon's fault really. No one I personally know uses Mastodon. Sure, my wife signed up on my server when I was testing it and I had 1 friend also sign up, but neither of them use it. The reason I use social media is to interact with friends and family. If my Nephew was not using Twitter as his only social media platform, I probably would not have a Twitter account. On Facebook, I have maybe 40 friends, all of whom I know personally and have an active relationship with. By comparison, my Mastodon feed is very flat, there is nothing personalized about it, there are no people I know post about their lives or sending me messages. It feels like I am reading a blog written by multiple strangers. Yes, there are interesting posts, but there is no personal connection or depth.

All in all, I don't really think setting up my own instance is worth the trouble, simply because if you don't have a built in group of followers, it is just too difficult to get an interesting balanced feed going. If you can get onto a big server with lots of people, you get access to their local feed and better access to other large federated sites. Otherwise, I think you will just be wasting your time.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

My Atheism

 Officially, I have been an atheist since my early 20's. I grew up in a Christian house hold, my Mother took us to church every Sunday, we sang in the choir and went to bible study during the week. My Mother did not have any of us baptized, she felt baptism was more meaningful if it was done as a teenager with acceptance and intent, rather than being forced on an infant. I was the first and only of her children to refuse to be baptized, she was disappointed in me and asked me to reconsider, but she abide by my decision and never said another word to me about it.

I bring this up because recently online I was told "You were never a true Christian!", and I had to agree with the person making the statement. I think even at a very young age, I knew the god concept was incorrect. I remember one Sunday morning in Church School, the instructor was telling us about Noah's ark and at the end they had us draw pictures about the story. I drew a picture of Superman saving innocent people from drowning in the flood and taking them to another planet where they would be safe. When asked about it, I said Superman would never let people die if he could do something about it. I could not have been older than 8 at the time and even then, I understood that mass murder was morally reprehensible.

I hear stories from other atheists about how difficult their deconversions were, how they struggled to let go of these life long deeply held beliefs. It was not like that for me, I am not going to say it was an overnight experience, it took a few years, but it was not at all a difficult transition for me. I think it started in Bible Study, the Minister challenged us to read the Bible over the summer. He knew damn good and well we wouldn't. What he didn't understand was, I can and will read anything. This was the beginning of the end.

When the Bible is spoon fed to you, it is easy to make it all sound just the way they want it to sound. It is easy to gloss over contradictions, by talking about those things months or years apart, so no one questions them. It is easy to lift those passages out of the original context and add your own meaning to it. But when you read the whole thing yourself and the Bible itself is its own context, it becomes very clear, or it should become clear that these stories were told by bronze age people trying to make some sort of sense about the world they lived in. It is much easier to see contradictions, when you are reading a passage and realize this contradicts a passage I read a couple of days ago.

Thou shalt not kill. —Exodus 20:13

Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side. and slay every man his brother…companion…neighbor. —Exodus 32:27
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. —Proverbs 12:22

The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee. —I Kings 22:23


Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. —2 Kings 24:8

Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem… —2 Chronicles 36:9  

These are just the contradictions I remember off the top of my head, there were dozens more. Added in to that mix, there were passages that simply do not comport with reality as we know it today. in Genesis 1, God created the Earth, Genesis 2 says he created Light. This is not how planets are formed, the stars always come first. Over the last hundred years, we have watched many stars form and planetary objects forming around them. In none of these instances has a planet appeared first and then a star. The Bible also speaks about firmament, a dome that covers the Earth, we have put satellites into orbit, we have been to the Moon, we have sent drones to mars and we know for a fact the earth is not flat and is not shrouded in a firmament dome.

Anyway, after reading the Bible, I became an agnostic theist. I still believed there was a supreme being, but I no longer claimed to know what said supreme being was. It was at this point, I stopped going to bible study and refused to be baptized. I often wonder if that minister regrets challenging me to read the Bible. Just a few years later, I simply stopped pretending. So yes, I was never a true Christian, I think even as I child I recognized that god does not exist and we are all just pretending that he does.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

OGL Controversy

 Apparently a copy of the new OGL (1.1) has been leaked and there seems to be a large backlash going on. If you do not know what the OGL is, to put it as simply as possible, the Open Game License (OGL) is a license Wizards of the Coast (WotC) provides to 3rd party creators so they can create content for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). For the last 20+ years this license has been used widely to create a shit ton of content that WotC could never have or would never have created on its own, it has been the backbone of the hobby. The new version of the OGL takes away a lot of the power creators had and sets up a royalty requirement, which never existed before. Needless to say, a lot of people make their living doing this and it is now going to be infeasible or a lot more difficult to make a living doing it.

I can understand the frustration of these creators, having the carpet pulled out from under them has to be rough. My question here is, why is this becoming apparent only now? This license has been around for 22 years. During that time I have seen it said over and over, the OGL cannot be revoked, this license has to have been looked over by dozens if not hundred of lawyers by now. Why is it only now that these creators are being told that yes in fact it can be revoked and yes WotC can force you to comply with the new license. This seems weird to me that not a single lawyer in 22 years has popped up and said, this is not a good idea. But apparently, here we are.

From my point of view, very little changes. I have never used the OGL for anything I create and I don't use anything WotC can claim as their copyrighted intellectual property. Everything I have created is mine and mine alone. Of course I also do not sell anything for profit, I pretty much allow anyone to use what I create for whatever purpose they choose and the only time I would step in is if someone tried to keep another person from using my creations. I don't care if someone steals the Gauntlets of Zardon and uses it or a variation in their own book, even if they intent to sell it at a profit, but the second they try to block someone else from doing the same, I would claim prior art. Certainly the Hand and Eye of Kevin is derivative work and WotC could make a stink about it, but unfortunately fro them, this would be protected as satire and parody and I would tell them to go fuck themselves.

As for the next version of D&D, known as OneD&D, I don't know yet. I am not taking part in the beta test and I have no real interest in what is going on with it, so I am not following it at all. I have no plans to switch over to it when it is released. Like D&D 5E, I will probably take a year or two to consider the move and in fact I may never move. 80% of what I run in my own campaign is my own home brewed stuff. I have collected enough 5E stuff, both WotC and other creators, that I could probably run 5E campaigns for the rest of my life, even if I never wrote another adventure.

If for some reason, giving money to WotC became so distasteful that I could no longer even look at those books, there are a ton of other games out there that could easily be drop in replacements. Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades or I could go way out in the field use Savage Worlds, Dungeon World or Blades in the Dark, not to mention all the old games I could go back to like Call of Cthulhu, GURPS or HackMaster. The best part of this hobby is that all I really need is my imagination and a few friends to put up with my shit for a couple of hours a week.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The conservative slide

 I think this is an interesting chart. It shows how people in general become more conservative as they age.

I don't think this is a function of people changing, I think this is a function of society changing. I know I am painting with a broad brush here, but most people get locked into their worldview in their mid to late 20's and change very little throughout the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, as each generation passes, society changes, things that use to be okay, become not okay and things that use to be not okay, become okay. The side effect of this is, a person can move from being fairly liberal at 20 to being fairly conservative at 50 without changing a single idea.

I seem to be an exception to this general trend. I was very conservative in my youth, in the first election I could vote in I voted for Ronald Reagan. I remember very clearly when my leftward slide began, it was while watching Oliver North and John Poindexter testifying before Congress, then later Reagan's speech address the scandal. I realized during this time that these people do not have the best interests of the nation in their hearts or their minds. I woke up and realized that tradition is peer pressure from dead people, religion is holding humanity back and conservative politics is about conserving the power of the wealthy. Each passing year since then I have become more and more liberal in my thinking. These days I am so liberal, I make Gandhi look like a war mongering fascist.

Happy New Years!

 2022 was a good year, not great but good. I got some writing done and I built out some self hosting infrastructure. On the other hand, I did not do nearly as much reading this year, clocking in at only 32 books this year. Of course work was just work, it was what it was. I am going to call it a win.

Happy New Years Everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Playing the Sandbox Part II

 In January of 2020 I wrote a post about starting a sandbox game. This was in reaction to some posts I saw in a Facebook group I was a member of at the time. Recently, this came back to the foreground for me when I was watching a Youtube video about the shortage of DM's in 5th Edition D&D. The point the video made was, that in modern times, DMing is a difficult task, virtually all of the responsibility for having a good fun game is on the DM, players have no responsibilities beyond making it to the game. Added to that is the various Twitch and Youtube streams of people playing D&D. Many of these streams are high production value shows featuring professional actors as players and DMs whose sole job is producing interesting content for viewers. This sets the bar very high for other DMs the games they are trying to run.

If I just started playing D&D in the last couple of years and my first exposure to the game was the Critical Roll game run by Matt Mercer, I would be terrified of DMing a game, because there is no way I could run a game of that quality. This is prevalent throughout the D&D community, I see Reddit posts written by players who are mad because they cannot find a DM of Matt Mercers quality and all the groups they join suck.

In this day and age you have to run a session zero for your campaign, even if everyone has been playing together for years, so the players can do all their prep work and the DM can layout expectations for the game. Back in the day, you know how our campaigns started? We sat down, rolled 3d6 in order, spent 5 minutes equipping them, then I would start randomizing a dungeon straight out of the Dungeon Masters Guide. If your character died, you rolled up another one and the game continued.  It became a running gag that players did not even name their characters until 3rd level. In case you think all we did was play one shots, this was certainly not the case, once the core set of characters was established, we would move on to modules or whatever crazy idea I had for a dungeon.

I am not saying everyone needs to stop watching Critical Roll, all I am saying is, lower your fucking standards, chill out and just play the game. If you want to DM but you are afraid, relax, I am here to tell you, if you run a game, players will come. Some will not like what your do, but others will. Even if you start with just one player, run the game. Even if you get six people to start a group and five of them drop out, keep playing. Find five more players and yes, four of them will probably drop out, but then you will have two players. Find 4 more players and continue on until you have four or five good players who show up to the game. Before you know it, you will have been playing with this group for three or four years and you will have a lot of cool stories that will put Matt Mercer to shame. Run the game, players will come.

When running your first game, throw out all the damn books, don't start with everything. Download the basic rules PDF, and limit your players to just the races and classes in that book. I would also download the 5E SRD, this contains more monsters and such, which will be helpful later on. Now get a sheet of hex paper, preferably 1/4 inch per hex, put a dot in the middle, that is your starting town, name it something stupid like Moosebreath. Each of those hexes is five miles, your first dungeon is going to be five miles (one hex) to the north of town. Now get a piece of standard graph paper, each square is ten feet, in the center, draw a cross road, 10 feet wide is plenty big enough. Now on one corner is a tavern, where the adventure will start. On the second corner will be a temple, make it a pantheon temple that covers several deities, don't make it hard on anyone, just make it the Greek or Norse Pantheon, most everyone is familiar with those deities and you will not need to explain Thor or Zeus to anyone. On the next corner is a general store, where the characters can buy and sell stuff. On the final corner is the Constables office, the local sheriff, if you will. You will add new buildings later, but this is all you need to start with.

Each of these buildings will need two NPC's each. Each NPC will have four 10's, one 8 and one 12 for attributes, assigned as you please. Give them names and assign them 4 Hit Points each. Assume each of these NPC's have the skills needed to do the jobs they have with a +2 proficiency and possibly the attribute modifier for the 12 they have. Give each one an appropriate simple weapon, which they also have a proficiency in. Yes, a group of four 1st level characters will be able to kill everyone in town, don't worry about it, they probably won't.

Draw more roads behind these four buildings and add several more buildings. I would not bother deciding what is in each of these buildings just yet. I would wait for the players to ask "Is there a blacksmith in town?" and then reply why yes there is, its this building. "Is there a wizard in town?", why yes, there is a hedge wizard, he is in this building. If they never ask for it, it is probably not important.

Next go to Donjon 5E Random Dungeon Generator, make the following changes;

  • Party Size: Set to party size
  • Motif: Undead
  • Dungeon Size: Small
  • Polymorph Rooms?:  No
  • Corridors: Straight
  • Remove Deadends?: All
  • Stairs?: No

Leave everything else alone. This should give you a random dungeon with 30-35 rooms designed for 1st level characters, already stocked with monsters and treasure from the SRD. This is the dungeon that is five miles north of town. Download the PDF of your newly minted random dungeon. Now you are ready to play, begin your campaign with "You are all sitting in a tavern in Moosebreath, you are having a quiet ale, when the priest and the constable walk in and say we have a problem, a golden chalice was stolen from the temple and the culprit was spotted headed north to the old ruins, we will pay you 100 GP each to recover the chalice.". 99% of the time the players will go for it and off you go. 1% of the time they will be dicks about it and not take the job, in which case ask them what they want to do and roll with it, if they want to flirt with the waitress, fine she will let them buy her expensive drinks until closing time. If they want to find another town, fine send them down the road and give them some random encounters, have them get lost and end up at the old ruins anyway.

Your total prep time for this game should be less than an hour. However, you now have the bare bones of your own home brew setting. You can add buildings and NPC's as needed to the town, you can place new adventure locations on your regional map, maybe add another town with different NPC's. Each 5 mile hex can be an adventure all in and of itself. You could probably play all the way to 20th level with the characters never leaving this area.


Here is a link to a quick and dirty sandbox I setup using this method, total prep time for this was 45 minutes.


Sunday, December 11, 2022

More D&D Magic Items

 The Gauntlets of Zordon:

When worn, these gauntlets give a +3 to hit and +3 to damage to any attack (melee, ranged or spell). Additionally, on a critical hit, in addition to the normal critical hit damage, the attack does an additional 2d6 damage of the type listed. The target of the attack must also make a DC 16 saving throw of the type listed, a failed save gives the target of the attack the condition listed for 1 minute

  • Red - Fire - Frightened (Save vs Wisdom)
  • Orange - Thunder - Deafened (Save vs Constitution)
  • Yellow - Radiant - Blinded (Save vs Constitution)
  • Green - Poison - Poisoned (Save vs Constitution)
  • Blue - lightning - Stunned (Save vs Dexterity)
  • Indigo - Psychic - Paralyzed (Save vs Intelligence)
  • Violet - Force - Charmed (Save vs Wisdom)

Monday, November 21, 2022

New magic Items for D&D

A couple of weeks ago I ran "Don't say Vecna" for my player. When I was reading through the adventure in preparation for the game, I could not help but notice the keys to access the portal to Vecna's lair were the hand and eye of one of the inhabitants of the tower. Of course these were not magic items and the persons name was not Kevin, but I thought it would be hilarious if these items were watered down versions of the real thing. This is what I came up with;

The Eye of Kevin

  • You have Darkvision for 120 feet, if you already have Darkvision, the Eye doubles the distance of your Darkvision.
  • Any spell requiring an attack roll you make deals an extra 2d8 cold damage on a hit.

The Hand of Kevin

  • Your Strength score becomes 16, unless it is already 16 or higher, then you receive a +2 to your Strength score up to a maximum of 20.
  • Any melee weapon attack made with a weapon held by it, deals an extra 2d8 cold damage on a hit.

Both the Hand and Eye of Kevin

  • You gain proficiency in Intimidation, if you already have Intimidation, you gain Expertise in Intimidation.
  •  If you start your turn with at least 1 hit point, you may roll 1 Hit Die to regain hit points.
  The Hand and Eye of Kevin requires separate attunment. Attunment takes place upon touching the item and causes 2d6 psychic damage and 2d6 necrotic damage. The items integrate themselves into the characters body and retain the look of the item, which will disturb most people unless effort is made to cover them up with an eye patch, glove or illusion. The character can remove attunment at any time, in which case they once again take 2d6 psychic damage and 2d6 necrotic damage, but otherwise return to the state they were in prior to attunement.