Back in a moment.
Thank you Santa.
Saturday, April 29
Friday, April 28
Morons. Leftists. Telstra. Possums. Grrrr.
Tuesday, April 25
I'm on the train to work (it's my day off, but computers are no respecter of holidays), and there are two teenage girls across the aisle chattering away as teenage girls are wont to do - about the Mars Rovers, and life on other planets, and President Bush's Mars initiative, and Fred Hoyle's panspermia theory (though I don't think they took the latter seriously).
Monday, April 24
I just finished watching this series again. I watched it when it first came out back in 2000, and I've been busy since then (seriously) so I just got around to taking another look at it. It's a charming little show, with a great opening sequence.
It also has a much more complicated plot than ten (or even eleven) episodes can comfortably hold. There are significant time jumps between episodes. This is noticeable not just in the character relationships - a startling development at the end of one episode has become part of the background at the start of the next - but explicitly in that the seasons change over the course of the series; the elapsed time must be six months at a minimum, and possibly more. So there are some things that are simply never explained.
Many spoilers follow. more...
Sunday, April 23
It's an open source subset of Virtuozzo, which is a virtualising system aimed primarily at hosting providers. Mughi, the latest addition to the mu.nu family, is a virtual server running under Virtuozzo.
The neat thing about OpenVZ (and Virtuozzo) is what it isn't: It isn't a complete system-level virtualisation. It's a user-level virtualisation. Under OpenVZ, you have one Linux kernel for the entire (physical) system. Under something like VMWare, you have a separate kernel for each virtual machine. The VMWare way gives you complete isolation (good), but it means that each virtual server ends up trying to manage its own disk caching and virtual memory (wasteful). With OpenVZ, you have a single caching and virtual memory pool, but you can restrict how much memory (and also CPU time) a single virtual machine can take up. This does mean that I can see how much physical memory the server has (8GB, of which 256MB is guaranteed to Mughi), but for many purposes that matters less than the efficiency gained by the sharing of that memory.
There's a 119 page PDF manual available if you want to know more.
It is only supported on certain specific versions of Linux (the manual lists Fedora Core 3 and 4, and Red Hat Enterprise 4), but you can run other distributions inside the virtual machines; it's only the kernel that must be shared. (It looks like CentOS, Fedora 5, and SUSE 10 are now supported as well.)
Ooh. And they also have checkpointing and virtual server migration, which is pretty neat for free software.
And then there's Xen. I really need to read up on that too.
Friday, April 21
Wednesday, April 19
I turned three last Friday. Almost forgot.
Susie, first citizen of Munuvia, has her third birthday next week.
Kei spends about half of episode five in her underwear. Including the scene where she is fighting the evil killbot.
There are two groups that know how to make a good computer role-playing game: BioWare and Japan.
Okay, let me unpack that a little.
Some role-playing games are criticised for being too linear, too focused on the main story. The best example I've ever seen is the final chapter of Hordes of the Underdark. Not only do you travel in a dead-straight line from your starting point to the goal, but you pass through a series of one-way gates so you cannot retrace your steps (or return to town for supplies) and there are arrows painted on the ground telling you which way to go.
Oblivion doesn't do things quite like that. There is a main quest: Go here, do this, go there, die. Well, the die part is optional, but it's not avoidable. If you follow the main quest without going and doing other things first - finding better equipment, new spells, and generally levelling up like mad - you will die.
On the other hand, if you wander around near where you start out, you will get bitten by a vampire, and contract vampiritis.
Assuming you don't want to have pale-skin and glowing red eyes and catch fire when exposed to sunlight, you'll need to find a cure. The local temple might be a good place to start - but the only thing they have to offer is to kill you on the spot. When you decline their kind offer, they suggest you try the Wizards Guild. The Wizards suggest you speak to someone at Unseen University. The bloke at Unseen University tells you that he has no idea how to cure vampirrhea, but tells you that the Duke of Dartmoor does. The Duke of Dartmoor (once you get in to see him) tells you to seek out Wendy the Wicked, Witch of the Western Wastes. Once you find her (getting killed only twice along the way) and break into her house, she tells you that she can tell you what the cure is, but first you have to bring her seven Greater Spotted Hufflepuffs. Since you've never seen one Greater Spotted Pufflehuff, much less seven of them, you decide to kill her instead. Or get killed by the monster she summons which attacks you from behind; either way works.
When you've only been playing the game for ten hours, being told you have to go on what sounds like a thirty-hour quest merely to rid yourself of a chance affliction is most unwelcome. Far easier to go back through your saved games to before your encounter with the bipedal mosquitos. But if you're just going to throw away half the time you've spent playing the game every time something like that happens, what's the point in playing it in the first place?
The thing is, it's not fun. There's no sense of accomplishment or adventure. The graphics are extremely detailed, but also thoroughly uninteresting. I think it was Might & Magic 7 that first presented us with a world that was - in the name of realism - the colour of mud from one end to the other. Oblivion is HD mud.
But it's a huge world! It's a huge, boring world.
But there's so many things to see! They all look the same. This town is built on a hill, and that town is... Okay, also built on a hill. Actually, all the towns I've visited so far are built on hills.
But there's so much to do! Perhaps. But do I want to do any of it?
But once you get past (some point involving two weeks of dedicated effort) it's much more fun! Don't. Care.
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