Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Years!

In the closing hours of 2019 and the decade that is the 2010's, Happy New Years to everyone who bothers to visit my site and read my weird meanderings. 2020 is a bit more than 6 hours away as I write this and I am honestly looking forward to a better year for the first time in awhile. At the end of 2018 I said, "2019 is going to be a tough year for many many reasons, but I think I am much better equipped to face 2019 than I was to facing 2018." and I was wrong on one count, 2019 was not nearly as rough as I thought it was going to be, but I was definitely better equipped for 2019 than i was for 2018. This was a good year all and all and I am glad for it, I needed a good year and I got it.

I did not get to go back to Montana for Christmas as I had planned, I was disappointed, but I was not sad about it. I spent the night of the 24th with my wife and her little dog driving around town looking at lights and drinking hot chocolate. I was in fact where I needed to be.

I read 37 books this year, a bit fewer than I normally do, but a really good spread regardless. A couple of friends suggested some really books, which were the ones I enjoyed the most. Book suggestions from friends are the best, because it is a shared experience and when people live a long way away, sometimes those are the only experiences you can share. I think in 2020 I am going to ask each of my long distance friends for a suggestion and see where it takes me. I have asked each of my friends on FaceBook for a suggestion, I am hoping this leads to some interesting reading in 2020.

In the last couple of weeks I have been playing with FreeBSD. It is not as polished as Linux is and it really only installed cleanly on one of my test systems. However, I did enjoy tinkering with it to get things working properly. I also enjoyed working though learning a new window manager. Normally I use MATE, which is fairly straight forward and is not too unlike Windows. With FreeBSD I opted to try DWM (Dynamic Window Manager), which is brilliant in its simplicity. Rather than letting your windows float around freely, it tiles them on your desktop, which is both freeing and frustrating, but for a command line junkie like myself, it seems to produce a nice workflow. I may just try this out on Linux and see what happens.

Otherwise, be safe out there folks, have fun and have a great 2020!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Terminal Linux

As Christmas Eve comes to close, I thought I would post a picture of my no GUI Linux box.

Slackware vs Ubuntu

I spent a chunk of the day getting my command line only Linux system going. I started with Slackware mostly because it is a distribution well known for its preference for the command line. However, this afternoon I gave up on it and went with Ubuntu. In a discussion about it online, I was asked why I decided to flip like that. The obvious answer is, I am just more comfortable with Ubuntu, but the reality, is Ubuntu is easier to maintain and administrate.

Slackware really only allows you to do a full install, even when you try to pair down the install, you still end up with a 7GB install and a whole ton of stuff you did not want. Even after I stripped stuff out, I was still over 5GB. Then trying to install things that were not part of the main installation quickly became a serious pain in the ass. Slackware's package management is terrible and lacks any kind of dependency control. Absolutely none of the programs I downloaded and tried to install worked, even after I spent time screwing around with them.

Ubuntu on the other hand, was extremely easy to get what I wanted. I downloaded the 32 bit server install and when it came time run task select, I chose only ssh-server, once done, the install was just over 2GB. Then virtually every package I needed was in the commonly used repositories; Wordgrinder, sc, tpp, mc, Tmux, Cmus. MPlayer, Finch, were all readily available and easy to install. Ubuntu also seemed to boot faster, and recognized my ad-hoc system to system network I was using and set it up properly with no intervention on my part. When I was finished, I was still under 3GB.

Couple of things on my brain today

Well, I was going back to Montana this week to visit friends and family. Unfortunately Dallas got fogged in and my flight was delayed. This meant I missed my connecting fight and unfortunately all the other flights to Billings were booked solid until the 26th. I am bummed out about it, I was looking forward to going home for a bit and breathing the stench that is Billings air in the winter. Oh well, maybe next year.

I have two projects I am going to work on today. First is fixing the Infinite Christmas Music Player. At some point it stopped working while Shannon was using it. I suspect the SD card reader is not as 5V tolerant as it is supposed to be. So I will add another capacitor to the build.

I am also working on getting Slackware Linux installed on my Wyse Cx0. Once I got the one installed with FreeDOS and got everything working more or less, it did not take me long to remember that DOS is barely an operating system (I think I have said this before). Linux, even without a GUI on the other hand is still very usable, though not terribly pretty to look at. Web browsing and email are pretty easy, Lynx and Pine work just fine for basic tasks. MP123 plays music just fine and MPlayer, once configured properly plays most video formats. Tmux makes it easy to multitask by dividing the screen into multiple terminals, so I can have email, web, mp3's playing and working on a document without the overhead of a GUI. Obviously there are some limitations, but being able take advantage of all the actual memory and large disk partitions makes it worth it. I can even run most of those DOS programs through DosBox.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients Part 4

I think I have both of these Cx0 configured they way I want them. I decided to forgo installing Lubuntu on either of them. Frankly I was getting nearly the same performance when I was booting it off the network, boot time aside. Instead I went with install DOS on both, figuring if I wanted Linux, I would just boot off the network work.

Once I installed the SD2IDE converter, I found FreeDOS installed without a problem. Whatever problem it had with the original 128MB storage cards, was solved by using an SD card instead. FreeDOS was my preferred DOS anyway, because it adds a lot of useful extensions, like support for partitions larger than 2GB and better memory management. Now that I have them both setup, my plan is to give on to the wife, there are plenty of old DOS games she enjoyed playing; Civilization, Monkey Island and Lemmings to name a few.

The other one, I am obviously keeping for myself, where it will take its place among my retro battle stations. The C64 and such are pretty cool, but honestly DOS is where I really started and working on this project has really reminded me of my roots. I have some really great memories of spending evening with Ric (Army buddy) editing config.sys and autoexec.bat files looking for every upper memory block we could find to open up spots for TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) programs and writing QBasic programs. Almost the first thing I did was use FreeBasic to compile my D&D Character generator from a few weeks ago.

Of course being a modern user of computers, going without a GUI, while not a show stopper, it does constrain me. I tried all the ones that come with FreeDOS, they either did not work properly with the modernish hardware or were just garbage. However, I did come across MCShell, which I used a little back in the day. It is basically a Macintosh System 7 work alike that functions pretty well, so that problem is solved.

Honestly, DOS in any of its forms is barely an operating system, but really, with a little scrounging around, it does become somewhat usable.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients Part 3

So this part of the project took the better part of a week and a half to figure out. Basically I had to setup a Linux Terminal Server that my Cx0 could boot off of. Really, this was the easy part, LTSP is pretty easy to get going even if you have a minimal amount of experience dealing with Linux, the install steps are about as easy as it gets.I setup the server in a Virtual Machine using Virtualbox. The reason I did this is so I could basically turn it into an appliance I could run anywhere, I just backup the image and I can use it on any system that runs Virtualbox. This also keeps me from having screw up my main machine.

The first thing to consider is you hot operating system, in my case the Cx0's are 32 bit machines, so the guest OS has to be 32 bit. You can use a 64 bit OS as host, but it is irritating in oh so many ways, and I found this out through trial and error.

 There are three ways to host OS's, first you can simply use your host OS for both, 2nd you can build a Virtual machine and use that image or you can use whats called a Chroot environment. The problem with both the VM and Chroot is you have to maintain two OS's, which usually entails some other more complex tools. Building a VM is not tough, but getting it to work right is. Building a Chroot is extremely painful in oh so many ways. Again I found this out through trial and error. For the record TinyCore Linux, Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux all make terrible thin client operating systems.

 The easiest method is to simply use your host OS as your guest OS. So for me 32 bit turned out to be the best option. My guest OS also needed to run on 2GB of RAM or less and a minimal amount of video memory, so I settled on Lubuntu as both my host and client OS. The client does take several minutes to boot up, but once it does, it seems to work ok. I have to stress that it is "Just Okay", it is not great. If you worked on computers in the 90's, this will probably not be too bad, but if you are use to nearly instant on web browsers, this will be frustratingly slow for you.

As a learning experience and an experiment, this was a lot of fun, but if you intend to actually do this in some sort of production environment, you are going to want better thin clients and better servers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients Part 2

Once I started receiving the hardware, I had to decide where to start. The easiest part of the project was really going to be setting up DOS. or at least I thought so. By today's standards DOS is an incredibly simplistic and uncomplicated operating system, but that does not mean it is easy to setup, configure and use.

The first thing I tried was FreeDOS, this was kind of a mistake in retrospect. FreeDOS did not like the 128MB flash drive at all and nothing I could do would fix that. When I tried to use expanded memory, the system would crash before it even finished booting, although extended memory seems to work just fine. I gave up on this and hoped I would have better luck with MS DOS.

The tricky part of MS DOS was the floppy install. Mind you I do have a USB floppy drive and a few disks laying around, but the idea of sitting there for half an hour swapping disks did not appeal to me. So just to get started, I booted to a disk I made from AllBookdisk.com and copied the few files that were there into the c:\dos folder. This gave me a limited set of utilities that was really not very useful. The it dawned on me that I had a full install on a virtual disk, so after a quick run back to my main system, I mounted the virtual machines image and copied all the files and folders from the virtual disk to a USB drive. The problem I had with this was MS DOS did not recognize my USB drive as formatted, even though I formatted it as FAT32. I ran fdisk on the USB drive and then formatted it again. I went back to my system and repeated what I did before and tried again, this time the process worked perfectly. I now had a fully functional install of MS DOS.

The next problem was networking, DOS networking was never good, at best it was barely usable. I spent the next 2 hours scouring the internet for drivers, specifically, I needed DOS Packet Drivers. I did find what I was looking for on a pretty sketchy website that hosted old driver packages. Fortunately this particular network chipset was used on a couple of old motherboards. Next I needed sound, so I repeated my driver quest and came with nothing, the oldest Operating System I could find for the sound was Windows XP. So, no sound. I could not even find Windows 3.1 drivers for either the sound or the video.

Next was to find some programs to run. I of course easily found my two favorite text editors of the time Boxer and Freemacs. But I also wanted something a bit closer to a real word processor. MS Word for DOS is available free from Microsoft, you can download it here is you really want it. I also installed DOOM and some other fun things. I also downloaded Arachne, a DOS based web browser. This worked well enough, but I would not suggest it for anything other than very basic browsing.

That was pretty much that. I might try spending a whole day using nothing but this machine, just for the fun of it. My next project is to take the other Thin Client and try to get it to boot Linux off my network.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients

I just discovered that old Wyse Thin Clients are dirt cheap. I am not talking about a couple of hundred dollars cheap, I am talking $12 cheap. Seriously, you can buy an old Wyse Cx0 for $12 on ebay. Mind you these are not old but reasonably powerful computers. They generally have very limited RAM and extremely anemic storage. When I saw some available at this price, tested and working, with power supply, I decided okay, this is something I can use, so I bought 2 of them.

The systems I bought come with 512MB of RAM and 128 MB (yes MB) of flash storage. Before I bought them, I did a bit of research and found I could upgrade the memory to 2GB. The system uses DDR2 SODIMM's, which cost $10 these days. I also found out the systems use a standard laptop IDE interface for the flash storage. Thankfully, there are these little devices called SD2IDE which allows you to mount an SD card on the IDE channel and use it as storage, these devices even allow booting off the SD card. Again, these cost $10 a piece. I already have a small pile of SD cards ranging from 512MB to 32GB laying around not being used. After all was said and done, I am in less than $80 for both machines.

Now of course the question becomes, what do I do with these thin clients. The first thing that popped into my head was install DOS on it and use it to play old DOS games like Doom, Civilization and such. My second thought is to use one as an actual thin client so I can use the resources of my desktop computer in another room of the house. I could also just install Linux on it and make a small unobtrusive, quiet little computer for the bedroom or whatever. Who know what I will ultimately do, but there are at least a few interesting possibilities.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Post No Shave November

So I shaved this morning. It was much easier this year than it was last year. I used electric hair cutter to take off 3 weeks of growth first, then used a regular razor to take the rest off. This worked really well and my face does not feel raw like I washed my face with sand paper like last year.

As I looked at myself in the mirror afterwards, I was thinking to myself that I do not understand why almost everyone I know thinks I look better clean shaven. Admittedly, they gray beard probably made me look older than I really am, but I am 56, does it really matter if I look 60?

I am not a particularly vain person, I do not worry much about how I look or what others think about how I dress or groom myself.Although, being a polite person and a good husband, I try to take my wife's opinion into consideration, which is the primary reason I do shave a couple of times a week. However, I personally think I look better with a beard.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

No Shave November is almost over. Here is the final product, which will be shaved off on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

No Shave November 2019

No Shave November is upon us again. I am participating again this year. Since I am going back to Montana in Late December, I may keep it until I come back just for some added warmth.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Adventures in Manscaping

Okay so most people who know me would probably be a little surprised by me writing about this topic. Lets face it, they would be right. I am almost 56 years old and I have never even tried to do anything about my pubic hair. The only time I came close was when I had a vasectomy and then, all I did was shave my balls, 2 minutes and done. This is just not the sort of thing that a man like me has any interest in doing, ever.

So, what changed you ask. Well, I got out of the shower the other day and glanced at myself in the mirror and noticed the very tangled mess I had down there. I am a hairy old bastard, I pretty much have hair everywhere, I am pretty sure I am descended from Sasquatch and not too many generations at that. Anyway, I decided it was time to do something about it.

I don't know about anyone else, but this is a subject that has never come up between my friends and I, it was also not a part of that "Today you are a man!" talk every teenage boy is supposed to get. Consequently, I had no idea where to start. Considering the condition down there, I figured industrial grade sheep shears would probably be in order. However, after some research on the internet, I found that unless I was planning on becoming a groin hair stylist, I probably just needed an inexpensive body grooming trimmer. Jumping over to Amazon, I found many options ranging from $20-$50, most seemed to get pretty good reviews, so I just went for the $20 version.

Philips Norelco Bodygroom Series 1100

I am not going to give you step by step instructions on how to do this for two reasons, first I found I am terrible at this and second, there are several YouTube videos on this subject and of course WikiHowTo rarely fails to turn something up on any subject. So just go google it, you will find something.

All I am really going to say about the process is, that nothing really prepares you for it. It is weird, it is awkward and you are going to screw it up. Trim with a comb and scissors first and then go to town with the trimmers. Even though, as a general rule, I like my penis and I like touching it, this process was not in anyway masturbatory, I did not get aroused even a little in spite of all the tugging, pulling and other miscellaneous touching I did while attempting this.

Overall, I think this was neither fun or interesting, and I am not sure I am ever going to bother doing it again.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

One of my favorite pictures

I really have no idea where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there, but apparently I was not happy about it.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I had no idea what to expect. It was recommended by a friend, but she gave me basically no information about what exactly it was about, only that she found the parts about the Chinese Cultural Revolution fascinating. Her recommendations have always been solid, so I got the book and and started reading with zero information about the book.

The book started off extremely slowly. The plot burns so slowly I was more than half way through when the actual over arcing plot was actually revealed. If you prefer fast paced action packed adventures, you are not going to like this book. On the other hand, if you like strong character backstories, cultural introspection, thick plots, interesting mysteries and intrigue, you will love this book.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this book was the way science was handled. The book is essentially near future science fiction, but there is no weird techno babble or magic as science hand waving. Even the super advanced alien race can only obtain 10% of the speed of light when traveling between stars. All of the principles used in the book are reasonable extrapolations of current physics theory on how we think the universe works. The author is very clever and amusing in how he uses this understanding to do big things. Having said this, there are some things in the book that are on the surface silly, like the self dehydrating aliens, but I think it adds to the charm of the story.

The story is also very topical, it touches on the current concern for the environment on one side of the political spectrum and the science denial on the other. Interestingly enough, in the story, both are connected to the same conspiracy to hold humanity back from developing. Overall, a really good book with lots of interesting things going on, it is perfect winter read.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 13, 2019

20th level Commoner - Constable Remmy

Constable Remmy has been the chief law enforcement officer of Freehold for the better part of 20 years. Remmy is a veterans of the last great orc war, but does not really like to talk about it. He is serious about his job, but is a kind hearted man who has been know to give a guy a break every now and again.
This was one of the characters I built while expanding the Commoner Class. He is no match for a proper 20th level character, but he could take a 5th level character and might give a 10th level PC a run for his money.

Expanded Commoner Class

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Commodore 64 Update

Commodore 64 Update. I pulled the PLA from my working C64 and tried it. I still got the black screen. So I dropped in my dead test cart and I started getting memory error codes. I have compatible RAM chips in an old Commodore 128 I scavenged for parts, so I de-soldered 5 of those and started replacing them, I ended up replacing 3 before the memory error codes stopped. Now when I run the dead test, I get normal startup border, but screen full of garbage characters. The tests are running, they are just not displaying properly. At this point, I am thinking it is either the VIC II or the character ROM. My next step is to drop in my VIC II from my other system and see if that makes it work. VIC II's are about $40. If it turns out to be the character ROM, those are only about $10.

Basic Program for making a D&D Character

20 GOSUB 150
40 GOSUB 150
60 GOSUB 150
80 GOSUB 150
100 GOSUB 150
120 GOSUB 150
140 GOTO 200
150 DICE1% = INT(RND * 6) + 1
160 DICE2% = INT(RND * 6) + 1
170 DICE3% = INT(RND * 6) + 1
180 TOTAL% = DICE1% + DICE2% + DICE3%
270 PRINT "Choose your Class:"
280 PRINT " 1 Cleric"
290 PRINT " 2 Fighter"
300 PRINT " 3 Magic-User"
310 PRINT " 4 Thief"
330 IF CHOICEC% = 1 THEN CLASS$ = "Cleric"
340 IF CHOICEC% = 2 THEN CLASS$ = "Fighter"
350 IF CHOICEC% = 3 THEN CLASS$ = "Magic-User"
360 IF CHOICEC% = 4 THEN CLASS$ = "Theif"
370 PRINT "Choose your Race:"
380 PRINT " 1 Dwarf"
390 PRINT " 2 Elf"
400 PRINT " 3 Halfling"
410 PRINT " 4 Human"
430 IF CHOICER% = 1 THEN RACE$ = "Dwarf"
440 IF CHOICER% = 2 THEN RACE$ = "Elf"
450 IF CHOICER% = 3 THEN RACE$ = "Halfling"
460 IF CHOICER% = 4 THEN RACE$ = "Human"
540 DICE1% = INT(RND * 4) + 1
550 DICE2% = INT(RND * 4) + 1
560 DICE3% = INT(RND * 4) + 1
570 DICE4% = INT(RND * 4) + 1
580 DICE5% = INT(RND * 4) + 1
590 GOLD% = (DICE1% + DICE2% + DICE3% + DICE4% + DICE5%) * 10
600 PRINT: PRINT "What is your Name"
630 PRINT "D&D Character Sheet 1.0"
635 PRINT "------------------------------": PRINT
640 PRINT "Character Name: "; NAME$
650 PRINT "Character Race: "; RACE$
660 PRINT "Character Class: "; CLASS$
670 PRINT "------------------------------"
760 PRINT "Hit Points: "; HITPOINTS%
780 PRINT "Gold: "; GOLD%
790 PRINT "------------------------------"
800 PRINT: PRINT "Save Character?"
810 PRINT "1 Yes"
820 PRINT "2 No"
840 IF YN% = 2 GOTO 1060
860 PRINT #1,
870 PRINT #1, "D&D Character Sheet 1.0"
875 PRINT #1, "------------------------------": PRINT #1,
880 PRINT #1, "Character Name: "; NAME$
890 PRINT #1, "Character Race: "; RACE$
900 PRINT #1, "Character Class: "; CLASS$
910 PRINT #1, "------------------------------"
920 PRINT #1,
930 PRINT #1, "STR: "; STRENGTH%
950 PRINT #1, "WIS: "; WISDOM%
980 PRINT #1, "CHR: "; CHARISMA%
990 PRINT #1,
1000 PRINT #1, "Hit Points: "; HITPOINTS%
1010 PRINT #1,
1020 PRINT #1, "Gold: "; GOLD%
1030 PRINT #1, "------------------------------": PRINT #1,
1050 CLOSE #1
1060 END

Retro Battle Stations: The Twins

So at lunch today, I setup both the Mac Plus and the Mac SE on my desk in the bedroom, this is where I plan to work on them, away from cat supervision.

The Plus does power on, but as I was unpacking boxes, I found the floppy for it had been removed, the previous owner said it was bad, so this does not bother me much, although I may put it back in just test it myself. I also found an Apple 300 external CDROM, I plugged it into the Mac SE, it powers on and takes discs, but the system did not see it. All I have is a startup disk rather than the complete operating system. so it may mean I just need drivers for it.

I also found an unopened copy of HyperCard, this was an early attempt at a way to collect and present data, sort of a precursor the the World Wide Web, minus the network support. I do not know if I have the heart to actually open it and try to use it.

Edit: The events described in this post occurred Friday Oct 11th 2019. 

Retro Battle Station: Commodore 64

So I did a slight bit of testing on the Commodore 64 I picked up. When I power it on, the TV gets a signal, but the screen is black. This can be caused by one of three things, the CPU, the PLA (Programmable Logic Array) or the VIC II video chip.

I took my multi meter to the board to make sure I was getting the correct power throughout the board, everything checked out, I seemed to be getting power to all the places power needed to go. I put my dead test cartridge in and still got a black screen. The cart will usually run even if the memory is bad or the VIC II is not working. This kind of narrows it down to the PLA or the CPU, of the two, the PLA is far the most likely to go bad than the CPU. Fortunately there are some cheap replacements out there for around $20 so I have ordered one. In the meantime, there is a key missing, so my plan this weekend is to repair the keyboard, I already have everything I need for that.

In this picture, I have pulled the PLA. Looking at it, I probably need to clean the board as well.

Edit: The events described in this post occurred Wednesday Oct 9th 2019.  

Retro Battle Stations

A few days ago an acquaintance at work, who shared my hobby of restoring old computers, told me he had moved into a smaller apartment and needed to get rid of some stuff and offered to sell me some of the stuff he had not gotten a chance to restore. Seeing a long cold winter ahead, I jumped at the chance and bought a Macintosh Plus, a Macintosh SE and a Commodore 64 from him for $50.

On the night I first had my projects, I booted up the SE. It booted fine from the floppy drive, but the SCSI hard drive is not being recognized.

I looked on Ebay and some other places, I can probably replace the drive for $50 to $60. The problem of course is any drive I put in there will likely be 20 or 30 years old and prone to eventual failure. I have a couple of options, like a SCSI2SD adapter or a Floppy EMU, both of those options will probably cost me $100 or so.

Edit: The events described in this post occurred Tuesday Oct 8th 2019.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Don't Panic, I moved my hosting

I have been hosting my own server for several years. It was fun, but maintenance has just gotten to be too much of a pain. Plus it was costing me $100 a year. If I were doing more than running my blog, it would probably be worth it, but lets face it, I am barely blogging these days, so the cost and trouble was just not worth it.

I moved everything to Blogger and for $12 a year, google can do all the maintenance. I did my best to move everything, there are still some broken links, but I think I fixed most of them yesterday. There are still some YouTube links that need to be updated, but otherwise everything should be good to go.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Fall Vacation

I have been on vacation this week, as I stated in previous posts this week. I painted the living room and made a cake for the wife's birthday. On Wednesday and Thursday, I tried to get some writing done and I did, although not nearly as much as I wanted to. I started out thinking I could punch out 5000 words, but it became really obvious to me that I was just not in the right mood and brought my bar down to 2000-2500. Well, I did not even make that, I think I finally got 1000 at some point.

One of the things I did accomplish was I made a cable for my Commodore 128 that allows me to access 80 column mode. To do this you have to be able to plug a monitor into the RGB connector on the back of the computer. The problem with this is, no RGB monitors have been made for probably 25 years. You can buy them on ebay, but they cost a couple of hundred dollars with no guarantee as to how long it will last. There are basically three ways to convert this output to something a modern screen can display, a $15 solution, an $80 solution and a $200 solution. Someday I may invest in the more expensive solutions, but considering I actually use my C128 only very rarely, it seems a waste of money to use those methods. The $15 solution does require a bit of work and will only display in gray scale, unfortunately, no color.

For this project, you need two things, DB9 Male D-SUB Adapter Plate Connector RS232 Serial to Terminal Board Signal Module and an RCA video cable. Both of these things can be had on Amazon for less than $8 each.



The first thing you will want to do is cut off one end of the cable and strip the insulation off. With these cables, you have two layers of wire, so genitally strip off the first layer of insulation. There will be wire wrapped around an inner wire, covered with more insulation. Twist up the outer wire, so it is out of the way, then strip the inner insulation and twist the inner wire. Make sure these two wires are separated and not crossed with each other.

The next thing you are going to do is connect the outer wire to pin 1 (or 2 if you like) of the DB9 connector and then connect the inner wire to pin 7. This picture shows the solder side of the connector, I would suggest using the connectors I linked to above, it uses screw contacts instead of soldering, it just saves time and energy.

That is pretty much it, plug it in to the monitor and the C128, depress the 40/80 Dis[lay button and turn your C128 on, if all went well, you should have a monochrome boot screen.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Lancelot and Genevieve

I like this picture, I am not sure if it is meant to be Lancelot and Genevieve or not, but it certainly invokes that feeling for me. The world has turned against the lovers, the happy times are behind them and the road ahead is nothing but darkness, but still he protects her the best he can for as long as he can.

Edit: Yes, he is totally looking at her cleavage.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Yearly baking of the cake

I am on vacation this week. Yesterday was my wife's birthday. I promised her I would paint her living room for her, which is what I spent Monday doing. Yesterday I baked the annual cake, here are the instructions I followed. It was a pretty tasty cake.

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 Devils Food Cake Mix
  • 1 21 oz. Can of Cherry Pie Filling
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tsp. Almond Extract
Cake Instructions:
  1. Place all ingredient in a bowl and beat for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Pour batter into 9x13 buttered pan
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
Frosting Ingredients:
          • 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
          • 1 Small Box (3.3 oz.) of Instant Vanilla Pudding
          • 1/3 Cup of Powdered Sugar
          Frosting Instructions:
          1. Pour Whipping Cream into a large bowl, using a mixer, whip for a few minutes until peaks form.
          2. Add Powdered Sugar and continue whipping to mix on high.
          3. Just before you get stiff peaks, add the Pudding Mix and continue to mix on low speed for another minute or so.
          4. Scrape down the sides and check to make sure nothing has clumped at the bottom, mix for another minute.
          5. Frost cake.

          Sunday, September 15, 2019

          The world in pictures

          I don't just look at porn on the internet.

          Summer's end

          Well summer is over. I am told Montana is getting the first signs of fall. Here in Texas it is still a hundred degrees and probably will be for a few more weeks.

          Tuesday, September 10, 2019

          Hello Darkness My Old Friend

          I can't sleep, I hate it when I can't sleep. I have no idea why, I just woke up at 2AM and could not go back to sleep, I laid in bed for a good hour before finally getting up, hoping occupy my mind with something for a bit. That really didn't help, I just wandered the internet aimlessly, not really doing anything useful or even interesting. Even Reddit and Pintrest have failed to amuse me. This has been happening to me a lot in the last year or so, I think it is a side effect of when I was working the graveyard shift, when my peak functional time was around midnight. I think I just never quit bounced back from that experience. In some ways, living life like this is not a bad thing, if you think about it, you have half the world to yourself, no one bothering you with the useless drama that is their lives. On the other hand, it is also lonely and things you normally enjoy, like music, can become irritating, because it breaks up the quiet.

          Sunday, August 25, 2019

          Quote of the day

          "In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you." - Buddha's Little Instruction Book

          Saturday, August 10, 2019

          Cyberpunk 2020

          Back in the day, meaning the mid to late 80's, we played a few games of Cyberpunk 2020, I still have a copy sitting on my bookshelf. It is interesting to look at and think about what we thought the future might be at the time and how far away 2020 seemed to be to us. Now of course the idea of virtual reality being streamed directly into our consciousness is kind of far fetched, considering how much processing power we now know we need to render reasonably good graphics. But back then, it seemed like a real possibility. Never mind the ludicrous idea that people would willingly have limbs amputated and replaced with bionic ones. Thankfully the dystopian part of it never really materialized either, but it was easy back then to see how it would come about. I think most people have an idealized vision of what the 80's were really like, all they remember is what a wonderful president Reagan was and how the economy was booming. The reality was, we lived nearly the whole decade on the brink of nuclear war and if you were not a Yuppie, the new economy probably did not benefit you very much. There was a lot of anxiety about the future, I think pretty much everyone I knew had given up on any sort of golden future for humanity. Somehow we managed to live decent lives, in spite of the darkness that surrounded us.

          Thursday, July 25, 2019

          Caldoom as it was

          Recently I wrapped up my latest D&D campaign, it lasted over 2 years and I was planning for a year before that. The PC's all made 20th level, which is a record for us. The story itself actually started 35 or 36 years ago when I decided I wanted to merge some game worlds together, mine, Bruce's and Stomper's, so characters from all those places could play in my campaigns. That campaign ended with on of the characters blowing the horn of destiny which merged all three worlds into a new Caldoom. This latest campaign ended with another PC blowing the horn again, this time splitting those worlds out separately again. Below is my original map, that I drew in 1979 or 1980 side by side with a new updated map I made a couple of weeks ago. I am thinking our next campaign will begin with the 5E update of Into the Borderlands, which was the first module we played back in the day, a good kick off I think.

          Wow, I have went a long time between postings

          June 5th was the last time I posted anything and that was just a short "I hate my life" post. I kind of feel guilty for neglecting it for so long. On the other hand its not like I have been all that consistent about posting for a couple of years now. Anyway, I will try to get better at this.

          I know, I know!

          I realized a couple of days ago I have not written in my blog since June 5th, which is much longer than I normally do, especially when I go someplace like Billings, I usually post some pictures or something or have something interesting happen in a D&D game, which several fun things have happened in the last two months. I am not sure why I have it go so long, I really rarely let my life pass without some sort of comment. Looking through my FaceBook posts for the last couple of months, I really do not see much there to get excited about

          This is not to say I have not written at all, I have written several things, but that stuff is not the things I am inclined to write about and allow others to read. No, its not porn (Jeeze), but rather, inner thinking, observations about some of the things that have went on around me, thoughts on my own actions and the actions of others. Some of it, written in the darkness of 3AM, deals with my demons, but mostly not. I have even pushed out a short story, so its not like I am not writing at all or that I have writers block

          Maybe I am just being overly introspect right now or maybe I am saving my energy for the moment when something truly creative will make the leap from my head to the written word. I don't know, but I do know this, my 2nd processor has been fairly quiet since I came back from Montana, I'd like to say maybe I have just found some sort of balance that is working for me for the moment, but I am not sure that is it either, because I am still fretting about things, I am still having those mild anxiety attacks (thank god I am medicated or those would be much worse, I am sure) and I don't think I am anymore happy or unhappy than I was before Montana

          I suppose it could be that I am putting so much energy into work, I am certainly working much harder than before, I am not on autopilot for 80% of my day. While my new job is not as intellectually challenging, it is more emotionally challenging because it requires me to interact with far more people and helping them deal with their problems. Now days instead of unfucking computers and software, I unfuck people and processes.

          Wednesday, June 5, 2019

          Nuff said

          Some days I really fucking hate my life.

          Sunday, May 12, 2019

          Weekend Update

          Last weekend I tried to install Arch Linux, which I have done before, but ended up having several issues with it. The Arch Linux kernel build is trash, sorry, but its the truth. So I went back to Ubuntu, although usually I use long term support versions, I decided to instead use the latest version 19.04, simply because it is using the most current kernel version 5.x.

          The reason I wanted to go to Arch Linux was it is supposed to be the best distribution for using GPU pass through. For those who don't know what that is, it is basically isolating a 2nd video card for exclusive use with a virtual machine. The reason this is done is because you get 95% of a bare metal install of Windows, this is useful for running games or any application that requires serious video rendering. I spent 6 hours last weekend trying to get this done in the midst of my system locking up, including recompiling the kernel from scratch.

          This weekend after installing Ubuntu 19.04 last week, I decided to try to get GPU pass through working on Ubuntu. It literally took me an hour to do, and most of that time was spent installing Windows 10 into a virtual machine, and the whole thing works flawlessly.

          Now if I could just remember what exactly I needed Windows 10 for.

          Wednesday, May 1, 2019

          Nurseferatu Podcast #5

          In this week's episode we start with Viagra and end with hemorrhoids.


          Just as an insight into this weeks show, I literally made up those questions 5 minutes before we started recording, Leigh had no idea what I was going to throw at him.

          Sunday, April 28, 2019

          Roll20 and The Fantasy Trip

          I spent some time building a character sheet for The Fantasy Trip on Roll20. At this point it is pretty crude and only really supports Melee and Wizard.
          • Download TFT_html.zip from the link below and extract it.
          • This should give you a file named TFT.html, open it in a text editor.
          • Now goto Roll20 and create a new campaign, type in the name you want and under Choose a Character Sheet, choose custom from the drop down menu and press the Create Game button.
          • Once at your new games home page, click on the Settings drop down and click Game Settings.
          • On this page scroll down to Character Sheet Template and you should see a black editing box, make sure you are on the HTML Layout tab, copy all of the text from TFT.html and paste it into the editing box.
          • Click Save Changes, then you can click on the Preview tab and if you did everything right, you should see the character sheet.
          • You can now launch your game and add characters.
          I am not sure how much time I am going to have in the future to improve this, but I will certainly take feedback. Eventually I will make it available on Roll20's github. I make no claims to this code, do what you want with it, all I ask is if you make improvements, you give back to the community.

          Download link:


          I have updated the sheet over the last couple of days. I removed all the obsolete table tags and replaced it with more modern CSS code. It looks more or less the same, but it should make maintaining it easier going forward. I have placed it on GitHub, the download here on my website is now obsolete, I am leaving it there purely for historical reasons.


          It has been accepted into the main branch, this post is completely obsolete.

          Wednesday, April 3, 2019


          Leigh Sampson-Seitz invited me to co-host his podcast, to add a laymen view point on medical healthcare. While I know nothing about healthcare, I do have an opinion on just about everything, which makes me at least as qualified as Jenny McCarthy to talk about such things, so I readily accepted the invitation.


          Sunday, March 24, 2019

          Sigh! Bored Now!

          WOW, it has been over a month since my last post. I have not really been doing much, which is probably why I have not posted much. Today is the last day of my spring vacation. I did absolutely nothing of value. I spent most of the week on my computer wasting time. I did get a little writing done and I added a 2nd monitor to my computer, not really because I needed to all that much, but more like, I have these 3 monitors laying around not doing anything.

          My next vacation I am going back to Montana, that will be in June. I decided to go back during the summer this year, because holiday travel kind of sucks and I do not really want to risk being exposed to a lot of snow, I got lucky the last few trips back. I am also going across a weekend so no one has to take time off from work. We can have a family get together over the weekend, then I can spend time with some old friends and make a day trip to Bozeman.

          I wish I had more to talk about, but I don't.

          Sunday, February 17, 2019

          Stranger Things + Dungeons & Dragons

          I suppose it had to happen, this spring Hasbro (the parent company to Wizards of the Coast) is releasing a new version of the D&D starter set. This version will be tied into the Netflix original series Stranger Things. The new set includes revised rules for the game, although you will still need either a Players Handbook or the downloadable basic rules to play and some dice. More interestingly, the adventure included is "The Hunt for Thessalhydra", the adventure Mike Wheeler is running at the beginning of the 2nd season and the Player Characters being used by the group in the show. Oddly, the miniatures included with the set are of neither a Thessalhydra or Demogorgon from the first season, but rather the petal faced demon. I get it, TV show tie in, blah blah, I just found it odd is all.

          I think this is a great idea for a couple of reasons, first because it will attract new players. Hopefully some fans of the show will decide to check it out and some percentage of those fans will continue to the game long after. Secondly, this shows Hasbro is interested in building a long term strategy for D&D and bring D&D into the mainstream by occasionally printing these tie in products. I would not mind it at all if starter sets became an evergreen product as a gateway to the more complex game.

          Who knows, I may even use this to kick off my next campaign, due to start either later this year or early next year. It really depends on the level of the module, I suspect it will be a 1st level module, but judging by the TV show, it may be a mid level adventure for 5th plus level characters, it is hard to say.

          Tuesday, February 5, 2019

          Review: The Power of Now

          The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual EnlightenmentThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
          My rating: 3 of 5 stars

          The good: There is a lot to like in this book. It puts a modern spin on some old ideas. I like the idea of not letting the regret of past actions or worry for future actions take you out of what is important right now. I really do think we spend a lot of time and energy worrying about things we really have no control over and it is a good thing to concentrate of the things we do have control over, which are all in the here and now.

          I would dearly love to be able to shut down my thinking, at least occasionally and just be happy with where I am and what I am doing. I have never been able to meditate, more because i never understood why I should, but this book gives a good clear answer as to why meditation is good and can help you, although he does not go into meditation directly, I can see where it would be helpful. It also explained very nicely why some processes I use seem to work so well for me. Like when I have a problem I cannot solve, setting it aside and doing something else allows the answer to come from somewhere deeper inside me. I knew this worked for me, but I did not understand why it works for me.

          I also really liked the idea of listening to yourself talk in your head and separating yourself from it so you can judge if what it is saying the correct thing, or if its just going off into directions that may not be the best option. I have always known there were two voices in my mind, the loud one and the one that is much softer and is often more like feeling than conscience thought. Reading this book, I realized the loud voice is basically a hammer I use to pound on problems with, while the other is more nuanced, that I often ignore.

          The bad: I kind of felt like he was talking down to me throughout the book. I felt he expected me to "Just Get It" and when I did not, I felt myself resisting what he was trying to teach me. I also felt he was trying to sell me on something, which also caused some resistance in my acceptance of his message.

          The ugly: The author is really not a very good writer, besides the above mentioned condescension, he also tended to repeat himself and towards the end of the book I found the repetitive nature of his writing style to wear thin. I also did not care for the question and answer format of the book, it made it feel like I should have already been familiar with his work and that I was missing something important, like I had not done my homework so to speak.

          Overall, it is a pretty good book, it was well worth the read. However, if this is your first book of spirituality, I would suggest going for something a little simpler, perhaps a good book on meditation. This will help you understand some of the concepts he kind of expects you to have already grasped. He does have a book he wrote later Practicing the Power of Now, which I have not read, but is supposed to give you a basic framework and help you integrate his ideas into everyday life. In retrospect, I should have read that book first.

          View all my reviews

          Sunday, February 3, 2019

          Review: Station Eleven

          Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
          My rating: 5 of 5 stars

          This is one of those books I knew I was going to love in the first chapter. Most post apocalyptic stories these day tend to be dark and grim, even when the hero wins all they have done is survive another day. This book, in spite of the "End of the World" story line, is pretty up beat, it is not just about people trying to not die, it is about people who are genuinely trying to make the world a better place. Not through defeating some evil villain or by trying to bring back the old world in some grand gesture style quest. But rather these people are doing small things, like going from town to town playing music and performing theater, or building a museum in an airport terminal. Don't get me wrong, there is some action adventure going on and there is plenty of grittiness, it is just not the overall theme of the book. I am 100% sure I will eventually read this book again.

          View all my reviews

          Monday, January 28, 2019

          Review: Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

          Ralph Bakshi's Wizards is one of my favorite movies. It is a classic heroes journey tale told by a 1970's stoner. The movies detractors complain that the animation is awful, the story is uneven, silly characters and it is terribly dated. I agree with only one of these things, the movie did not age well at all. However, I do not think this is a bad thing. Many movies made decades ago are now dated, but still considered classics. The animation of this movies was and is actually very good, it has bright colors and made good use of the tertiary color schemes. The retroscoping was definitely a low point, but really only because it was so different from the rest of the movie.

          The story on its surface was simply about good versus evil, two brothers hashing out their differences. However under the surface, we see a world that has been devastated by war, pollution and excesses of greed. A world which is once again on the brink of destruction. While much of the movie is in fact a bit goofy, but there are many iconic scenes that pointed to deeper issues. For instance the scene where Blackwolfs army goes to the church and asks the priests to take the prisoners of war, the priests say "Patience. We must first observe sundown and pray." and then promptly danced and prayed for hours before the soldiers finally killed the prisoners. This draws attention to how often religion does nothing in the face adversity, preferring instead to pray and let god sort it out, rather than taking action. The classic "They killed Fritz" scene is another good example, it is a satirical look at soldiers dying from friendly fire. The whole movie is a commentary on the dangers of war and unrestrained industrialization.

          While I am talking about iconic things, many of the characters are very iconic. Avatar, the wise cracking, cigar smoking hero. Weehawk, the brave and fierce elven warrior. Blackwolf, the most evil man in the world. Necron 99/Peace, the assassin turned good guy. Then of course there was Elinore, I am pretty sure Elinore played a big part in my life during puberty. I can remember at least one conversation at the time about how sexy Princess Leia was and my comment was, "Yeah, I'd do Princess Leia, but I would be thinking about Elinore.".

          In spite of what anyone says Wizards is a great movie, every time I watch it, I see something new and laugh at gags I have seen a dozen times, because they are still funny.

          Friday, January 18, 2019

          Things you see in museums

          I came across this on FaceBook today. If I ever play a Bard in D&D, this is totally going to be my instrument.

          Saturday, January 12, 2019

          Character Development in D&D

          Let us bow our heads in a moment of silence for Anorak, my War Domain Cleric 1/Wizard 6. He was lost to a bad draw on a Deck of Many Things in tonights game. He drew Donjon and is now imprisoned somewhere unknown. He was kind of a dick, so he will be missed by no one.

          I enjoyed playing Anorak, he was a proof of concept character I had been working on to resolve the "Wizard AC is supposed to suck" problem. The proof of concept worked really well and for awhile there, he had the best AC in the party. As he developed as a character, he became the party strategist who successfully turned the tide of three important battles. In spite of that I was kind of uncomfortable playing him, because he had also developed into kind of a jerk. I had not intended for him to be as such, but went in that direction anyway. Don't get me wrong, I did not hate playing him, in fact just the opposite. Yes, he was uncomfortable to play him, but he was also a deeply interesting character to play.

          Sometimes characters develop in ways you really never intended, sometimes this is fun , and sometimes its uncomfortable. It could easily be argued that I had total control over the character and could have made him not a jerk. I don't agree with that entirely, a good roleplayer allows events to change the character, the character should react and respond as events unfold. Like people in real life, characters in D&D should respond to those changes. In real life, when bad things happen to us, we either rise up to the occasion or we sink into the swamp. I have had many characters rise up to the occasion, in Anorak's case, he was sinking into the swamp, not unlike a soldier with untreated PTDS. He was doing increasingly dangerous things, and at one point he coldly unloaded a Wand of Fireballs into an enemy with one of his team members standing right next to her, with no regard for the other characters life or safety, yeah he was being a dick and this ultimately lead to his removal from the game as karma took its toll.

          While I am sure the other players are not sad to see Anorak go, I kind of am. Not only was he an interesting experiment in game mechanics, but he was an interesting experiment in how being a professional dungeon crawler might adversely affect someones emotional well being. Not all adventurers are cut out for the work, not all characters are meant to be the hero of the story, even if at the beginning, it looks like he is.

          Friday, January 11, 2019

          The Lost Boys

          Wendy reminded me last night that I want to be a Lost Boy. No!, not the ones from the 1980's vampire movie, I mean the ones from Peter Pan.

          I want to never grow up. I don't want to have a bedtime, I want to live in a tree house, I want get into sword fights,  and I want to fly.

          Tuesday, January 1, 2019

          Zen Moments

          I had to read this three times before I understood what it really meant. It is kind of confusing. Essentially it is a zen like saying about how we should try to live our lives more fully. Instead of letting our minds worry about everything all the time, we should take those moments where we don't need to be thinking, we don't need to be worrying and instead, find peace within ourselves. While you are waiting for the elevator, don't think about the email your boss sent you yesterday, just relax, clear your mind and just BE!

          A friend sent this too me yesterday, she is trying to rewire my brain I think, maybe not be quit so intense. Thinking is what I do, it is what I do at work and its what I do for fun, heck sometimes I am thinking about 2 or 3 different things at the same time. This will be my struggle for the year I think, I am use to living a life of doing, maybe it is time for me to slow down and think less, live less inside my own brain.

          Internet quote of the day

          JC DENTON: I don't see anything amusing about spying on people.

          MORPHEUS : Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.

          JC DENTON: Some people just don't understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.

          MORPHEUS: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

          JC DENTON: Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.

          MORPHEUS: God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.

          JC DENTON: No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.

          MORPHEUS: The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.

          JC DENTON: You underestimate humankind's love of freedom.

          MORPHEUS: The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization. The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands. I was made to assist you. I am a prototype of a much larger system.