Thursday, September 28, 2023

RE: Disposable Computers

 I got the Wyse 5470 today. I have to say, it really is not as bad as I thought it would be. The install of Debian 12 went very smoothly, especially since I was prepared for what needed to happen and pretty much scripted it. After all was said and done, the base install was 4.7 GB, this left me with 7.6 GB of free space, slightly less than I was expecting. What was unexpected, was sitting at idle, the operating system was consuming about 600 MB of RAM, a far cry from my daily driver that consumes 5 GB on a good day.

I am also not dissatisfied with the performance of the EMMc drive, I was expecting it to be bog slow, but it seems to be running just fine. However with just 7.6 GB of disk space, I am definitely going to need to install an NVMe drive into the system. While i think that is enough for this stripped down Debian install, it is really not enough room for any sort of personal data. I suppose I could use it as a sort of Chromebook, I do have a copy of most of my data stored in the cloud, so it would probably be trivial, but that is a risk, since it is not always a guarantee I will have access to a wireless connection. It really is best to have what you need on the system, even when travelling.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Disposable Computers

 The Dell refurbished site had Wyse 5470 mobile Thin Clients on sale for $79, this is a pretty good price, but early this week, that price dropped to $59 and I figured it was time to get one. The technical specifications are not all that good;

Dell WYSE 5470 Notebook:

  • 14-in FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Webcam
  • 1x Intel Celeron Quad Core (N4100) 1.10 GHz
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 16 GB SSD
  • Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Backlit Keyboard
The 16 GB SSD is probably the most worrying thing, especial since it is most likely an EMMC drive, which is really not much better than having a SD card as a boot drive. It does however have a NVMe slot that will handle up to a 128 GB drive. Putting the NVMe drive aside, I am kind of curious just what I can install on this decidedly small SSD. Windows 11 is never going to fit on it. There is no doubt I can fit Linux on it, but a normal install of Linux for me is right around 15 GB. I can whittle that down, but it means making sacrifices, like not being able to use a nice feature filled desktop environment and probably no LibreOffice.

The nice thing about modern technology is being able to build virtual machines to almost any spec. So before this machine arrived, I decided to see what I could do as a stripped down install of Debian 12. I built out a VM with 4 cores, 4 GB of RAM and a 16 GB drive. The goal was to get a reasonably functional install of Linux in under 5 GB and not have to give up too much in the process. To start with, I did a bare bones install of Debian 12, with no desktop environment at all, this came in at just over 1 GB of drive space. The easy part after that was installing the odd text mode applications I use, so when I logged in for the first time as root, I ran a quick;

apt install sudo mc links cmus htop neofetch tmux ffmpeg lame zsh ufw -y

I then edited the /etc/sudoers file and added my user account so I ssh in and finish what I was doing.

Now came where I needed to make some choices. First was a web browser, I use Google Chrome, so I went and downloaded that, I will install it later. I also made a list of the other GUI based applications I would likely need; audacious, flameshot, thunderbird, cheese, vlc, abiword, and gnumeric. These should cover most of what I need. I also would need some tools I am use to having; synaptic, tilix, and gdebi.

Before I can install these apps though, I need to figure out what desktop environment I am going to use. Gnome 3 and KDE are straight out, both are 5 GB by themselves. Mate is my usual choice, but even it is an easy 3 GB install. The next tier down is LXDE and its sister LXQt, both of these are better, but I was looking for something that would consume around 1 GB of drive space and that pretty much left me with Xfce. This one is not optimal, it is very lightweight, but is missing features and is not as polished as the others. The whole idea here is to test it out and see what happens, I can always remove it and install one of the heavier ones if I need to. So with my list gathered, I ran;

apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies synaptic tilix audacious flameshot thunderbird cheese gdebi vlc network-manager-gnome abiword gnumeric -y

I added network-manager-gnome to the list, because I knew from experience that Xfce does not have a network app, so I needed to borrow one from Gnome. When it was all done and I rebooted, I installed Google Chrome and then did a bit of house cleaning. The entire install came in at 4.3 GB. I do have a bit of room in my 5 GB limit, so I may add VS Code as well.

The 16 GB drive I assigned to this VM actually turned out to be more like 15, once a chunk was taken out for swap space and I ended up with almost 10 GB of free space, just enough to spare for some MP3's and a movie or two.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

RE: Shadowdark RPG Review

Last night I ran my second game of Shadowdark. The first game was a pretty normal session zero, with the players rolling up characters and then introducing those characters to the setting. We did 3d6 in order, it had been a couple of decades since we last did that and we were apprehensive about it, but with the roll until you get a character with at least one 14, worked out pretty well, after Class Talents were rolled, we even had one 18 and no one ended up with a useless character. The second half of the game, I introduced a bunch of NPC's and conducted a typical bar fight, just so we could get use to combat and such.

Over all, it was a fun session, my players enjoyed it and said it was a nice diversion from 5E and they were surprised at how squishy they were compared to 5E. I think the only disappointment was the limited number of ancestry and class choices they had, so I think if I decide to run a full blown campaign, I will need to include some mix of rules from Unnatural Selection and Into the Shadowlands to bring the game into parity with D&D 5E.

The second game, was a rats in the cellar style game. It was designed to be a pretty easy scenario, the main purpose was to familiarize the players with the system, get them use to the 1 hour torch concept and the always on initiative mechanic. This scenario was not designed to be lethal, nor even especially challenging, it really just a test drive before diving into the deep end. Now I am glad I decided to run the game this way, rather than dumping them into a gauntlet or something similar.

The major problem that turned up was the roll to cast mechanic. When it came time for the priest to cast his cure wounds spell, he failed his role. No problem, they have two priests, number two charges into the fray and he fails his roll too. Now neither of them can cast cure wounds again until they have had a rest. The two other characters that were down to 1 or 2 hit points in the middle of a fight, were not especially amused. This did not cause excitement, it did not instill fear, what it made was frustrated players.

I know what some of you are thinking, well you guys are just Gen Z 5E players who have been coddled by the 5E no one ever dies style of play. Anyone who knows us, knows this is not true. The majority of us have been playing since AD&D 1E was a thing. We remember when Magic-Users were one and done. So now I am going to say one of the things we grognards are not suppose to say out loud. Having a character who was more or less useless after doing the one thing they are suppose to do, really sucked. It sucked back then and it sucks now.

So this for us is something that needs to be house ruled. When the problem became apparent, we stopped the game and had a discussion about it. We asked what was the base problem and what was the best way to address it. Now obviously, I don't want players spamming spells like 5th Edition cantrips, there does need to be some limit on what they can do and how often. Out of this conversation, three possible house rules emerged;

  • Idea 1: Give 1 free casting of each spell per rest, after that roll to cast is in effect.
  • Idea 2: If the roll is failed, they loose the ability to cast the spell for 10 rounds or perhaps just until the end of the combat.
  • Idea 3: If the roll is failed, reduce the numerical effects of the spell by half.

Personally, I think I am leaning towards #2. There does need to be a limiting factor, but #2 help mitigate the problem by allowing for a shorter recovery time. I think #3 goes against the one of the core tenants of the game and that is, magic is cruel and fickle mistress. There is nothing stopping a player from spamming half powered spells. #1 seems like a reasonable option, but also just seems like a band aide on the real problem.

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Question of Morality

I have given this a little bit of thought, no a lot, but a little. Here is what the real difference between Christian Morality and Secular Morality in stark contrast.

Lets assume for a moment that God truly reveals himself in such a way as no one can deny his existence. God has come to earth and shown beyond any reasonable doubt that he is in fact the God of the bible and he exists. He then promptly issues the following command;

“In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them, the Canadians, and Mexicans, as the Lord your God has commanded you.”

With no other information available, other than what I have provided, what do you do?

  • The Christian response should be, "Yes master, let me go get a baseball bat and a couple of guns.".
  • The Secular Humanist, Atheist if you will, should respond with; "Hold on a minute, what the fuck!, NO!"

Don't give me any bullshit about "God wouldn't do that!", the guy has a track record, he has done this in the past, since he is timeless and unchanging, there is no reason to believe he would not do it in the future. Lets be real, Revelations points to a very bad end for humanity. So the real question is, what is the truly moral thing to do here? Does faith and obedience justify the deaths of millions of people? Is defying the ultimate authority really a good idea?

My thought experiment for the day.