Love’s labour’s (and data) lost

This one goes out to all the kids who nearly failed that exam due to technical difficulties.

My sister and an exchange student staying with my folks both ran into this issue.  It was just before report hand in time and both suffered a major data loss.  My sister lost half of her 12 page report and the exchange student lost all of her French presentation. (Though since she was from France I think should should have just stood there and said ‘Volia!’)

Anyway here are two methods for the safekeeping of very important data.

Method #1: Email.
The email method is great but only works on files smaller then 10MB.  This is great for files that have lots of text and don’t contain video or a lot of pictures.

Start your document and save it on the computer under my documents.  Name it myreportname-date-time.  As you work on it, save it by clicking on the disk icon or pressing ctrl-s on your keyboard.  Now, every 30 minutes to 1 hour (set yourself a timer), make sure you go to Save As (under the File menu or under the odd windows bubble for Office 07).  Save it in my documents using the same formate (myreport-date-time).  The name will be different because it has a different date and/or time.  Now, email yourself the most recent copy.  You now have a back-up and you will loose at most the 30 minutes to 1 hour since your last backup.  Your computer could just blow up and you sill have a recent copy of the report.  The report is also named very nicely so you can always tell which is the most recent.  When you are done with the report, make sure you save your last copy and email it to yourself.  You may want to name it myreport-final so you know it is the last one.  Once you have handed in the report to your teacher you may then (and ONLY then) delete all the other copies of your report.  Hang onto that final one just in case you need to go back to it.

Method 2: USB drive
This method is very similar to method 1 but uses a USB drive which can handle the larger files.  Create your presentation as normal and save it in my documents using the naming format my presentation-date-time.  Copy that file onto the USB drive.  As an extra safety precaution you may want to remove the drive from the computer after each save so in case the computer decides to bust into flames you already have the drive in your pocket.  Two things to note, do NOT remove the drive until you are sure it is done saving.  There should be some kind of light on the dive that lets you know when it is in use.  The second thing to note is I have never seen a computer burst into flames so this is not something you should be worrying about.  If your USB drive starts to run out of space, you can delete some of your older saves but I recommend keeping at least the last 3 saves on the drive.  If you find yourself running out of space before 3 saves I recommend picking up a larger USB drive.  Again you can name your last save as final and after you have complete your presentation you can go back and delete the older copies of the file.

I hope that helps students and others handling important documents.  I felt really bad that I wasn’t able to help out my sister and although it is too late to save her report, maybe the next one will be safe.

Who are ubuntu?

So I did it.  I installed Linux on a PC.  Granted it wasn’t my PC but I did it!  I installed it on a PC I was setting up for a friend.  It was an older box and didn’t have a Windows XP licence with it.  All he wants it to do is run a few displays and I figured Ubuntu should be able to do that.

For those of you who don’t have a clue what I am talking Linux is an operating system (Like Windows or Mac OX) and Ubuntu is the flavor.  It is touted as the most user friendly version of Linux.

The install went really well.  You have to go to the Ubuntu website and download a CD image (called an ISO).  You then take that disk image and burn it to a CD.  I used a free, open source program called InfraRecorder.  The only thing I had to do was set the program to allow overburn.  Once I had the CD I dropped it into the CD drive on the machine.

I won’t go through all the details but the install went very smoothly and the operating system runs well on the old hardware.  Ubuntu automatically updated the first time I logged into it and much to my delight the entire update process took about 30 minutes whereas it took me 2 evening to finishing updating a new Windows XP machine.

So far Ubuntu has been very easy to use.  Anyone who has played around a little bit with computers should be able to find what they need.  The nice thing about this OS is it comes with everything you need.  It has a word processor, web browser, power point (like) program, spreadsheet, photo viewing and photo editing software, audio software and more.  All of these come with the OS and they are all free!

So far I have been very impressed and I am excited to keep playing with it.

Baby Updates Right to Your Phone!

As most of my very dedicated readership knows (readership.  Bah ha!) I am having a baby.  As it is getting close to baby time many people are asking how they can get information about what is going on.  While we will be contacting some people by phone it is just too busy to call everyone.  But now, through the wonders of modern technology, you can get breaking news right on you mobile phone.  If you have a cell phone that can send and receive text messages you can get the latest play by play about what is going on with our birth.  To do this you need to get yourself a Twitter account.

Twitter is this new(ish) thing on the internet and it does a bunch of amazing things.  For the purpose of Baby Watch ’09, we are going to use it to get messages from me as labour/birth progresses.  Don’t worry though, you will not be getting any graphic details.  So lets get set up with Twitter!

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First go to Twitter.com in any web browser.  Click on Sign up now.

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Next, sign up for the service.  There is a one page form you fill out.  It is pretty basic.  Because it has been so long I can’t remember but you may have to check your email once you sign up for a confirmation email.  But regardless it will tell you what you need to know.  Now go back to twitter.com and sign in.  The sign in button is at the top right of the main page.

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You will now be at your twitter home page.  You first need to follow me.  Click on the Find People link in the top right corner of your twitter page.

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Make sure you are on the Find on Twitter tab along the top and then type nimrod108 in the search box.  A list of names will show up.  Look for me.  I am the funny digital face on the purple background.  It will also say Brad Nunes under nimrod108.  Click the Follow button.  Now you are following me.  Next we have to set up your cell phone to receive updates.

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On your twitter home page, click the settings link.  Find the devices tab along the top.  Enter your cell phone number in the mobile phone box.  Make sure you check off the box that reads ‘It’s okay for Twitter to send txt messages to my phone.  Standard rates apply.’  If you don’t check that box you will not get my updates.  Twitter will then ask that you send a txt message to a number.  This step makes sure you are the one holding the phone.  This prevents someone from setting your phone up so you get slammed with messages.  Once you get tired of getting my updates you can come back to this page to remove your phone from the service.  Twitter does not charge for txt messages.  Your cell phone company may charge you.  It depends on your plan.  Most of the time it is not more then about 25 cents per message but many plans include at least a few a month and I promise not to send hundreds of them.

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Now that you have a phone registered from Twitter you have to tell it to get my updates.  From your twitter home page, click on the following link.  In the list look for my name.

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Because I can’t follow myself we will pretend I am WilliamShatner.  You will notice a little phone icon across from my name.  It may be a bit hard to see on some screens but it looks like a little phone in a little circle.  If you click on it, it will turn green.

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Once the icon is green, that means anything I say on twitter will get sent to your phone.  Messages will come from a funny looking number (21212) but they should say my name at the start of my message.

So that is how you follow me on twitter and get those updates on your cell phone.  If you are friends with me on Facebook I will also be updating my status as things progress (twitter does that for me as well!) but you will have to refresh the page to see any new updates.  If you have questions or have any comments please post them below.  I do check them and it makes me feel special.

Streams of glory

Last night marked the inaugural delve night featuring players at the table and players joining via the internet.  Personally I think it went quite well.  As stated in my previous post we used Skype for voice communication and ustream to broadcast the video.  The only real technical issue was that ustream has about a 3 second delay from live so when asking where a player wanted to move it sometimes took a little longer to figure out.  I don’t think it really took much away from the flow of the game but it is something to be aware of if you plan to do something like this.  The audio was crisp and clear over Skype.  Skype lets you connect up to 24 people in one conference which is more than enough for any reasonable D&D game.  All in all from a technical stand-point everything went very well.  The only other glitch had to do with spectators.  With using ustream it gave us the opportunity for anyone who wanted to watch to log in and observe.  The problem is when we turned on the audio we got feedback.  We didn’t have time to play around and try to correct it but in the future I hope to be able to do something so that others who just want to watch can check it out.

From a gaming perspective I would have to rate the whole thing as a 7 or 8.  The players did great.  We had a few first time players and they were great.  They picked it up very fast.  I added complexity by making them 10th level and they still rolled with it like pros.  Great job.  We did have one glitch were one of our players didn’t have a character rolled up.  There was a bit of a communication breakdown and we thought he had one but in the end we had to roll his character up while we were playing the first encounter.  Not a big deal but the party was down a player and there was a lot of non-game related chatter that had to go on.  The second thing that distracted was the fact we had two leaders and a paladin.  There was so much healing power I didn’t know what to do with it.  On top of that both paladins and clerics use radiant power.  They mowed through the undead a barbarian through kobolds.  The encounter ended up being a bit too easy.  The last problem was with the enemy from the second encounter.  It was a vampire with regeneration and some other skills for gaining hit points.  Unfortunately most of his powers required combat advantage (i.e. he needs an ally to flank his target) and the party killed off his allies quite quickly.  He also was very hard to hit but wasn’t great at hitting the players.  So basically they spent about half the encounter fighting one enemy and both sides were missing most of the time.  It wasn’t the best scenario.  Again this wasn’t my own encounter, it was one I used from the book.  I also like encounters that have interesting terrain and this one didn’t have very much.

So to sum up from a technically stand-point I would give it a 9.0 and from a game play stand point I would give it a 7.5 (which was no fault of the players.  They were great).  This is defiantly something I would like to do again.  If this is something you might be interested in trying out let me know.  I will put you on the list for the next one.

Here is a quick rundown of what the party did:

The party, which consisted of a Dragonborn paladin, an Elardrin Wizard, a Halfling Warlord, An Elf Cleric and a Teifling Warlock, were hired by a town to rid them of a local vampire lord.  They descended into the tomb of the lord and encountered a bunch of vampire worshiping cultist and their three stone snakes.  The cultist fell quickly under the power of the party but the snakes managed to poison and blind the party (particularly the Paladin).  Through sheer force they smashed the stone snakes and ran deeper into the tomb.

They then encountered a room of vampires and two huge zombie brutes.  Most of the vampires were young and weak but the party had to face the vampire lord Nexull.  The party thought they had dealt with the zombies but after falling over they managed to get back to their feet and keep on fighting.  Nexull danced around the party with his spiked chain and even charmed the Paladin to swing at his allies.  After using magic to slow him down and relentless attacks to drain his hit points, the party defeated the vampire lord.  Unfortunately there are more doors to this dungeon.  Perhaps one day the heroes may return to find out what lies beyond them.

Delve night v0.9 (beta)

So tonight I am mixing technology and roleplaying.  I am hosing a D&D session (like I do most Tuesdays) but today we are mixing in some folks from out of town via the internet.  I am using two technologies.  First I am broadcasting the game via ustream.tv.  This way the remote players can see the board.  We are then communicating over Skype (skype.com).  There will be three of us at the table, one guy in Calgary and another on Powel River.  There were supposed to be a few more from Nova Scotia but we lost contact with them.

The other interesting thing is that because I am using ustream, anyone can log in and watch!  Just go to http://www.ustream.tv and search for nimrod108.  There should only be one show going on.  There is one problem.  There may not be any audio via ustream as it caused feedback when using it with Skype.  I will work on the issue and try to resolve it.  Otherwise we can apparently have up to 24 people in one Skype channel so if you are interested in hearing what is going on then just send me an email or post a comment and I will try to accommodate.  I may have to kick people off if too many people means a significant drop in sound or video quality.

I will also post about how it went after the fact.  For those of you who like to know these things I will be running them through the 10th level delve from the Dungeon Delve book.  There are some first timers as well so it could be interesting.  Also note that because this is one shot delve you will not see any of the familiar characters that I normally post about. (Ok lets be real, no one could name a single one anyway.  But I still dream…).  The game should start around 18:00 Pacific Time.  Wish me luck!

The simple matter of testing

So the organization I work for is moving data centers.  The role I play is I need to test the application I support once the move is made to make sure no pieces are left behind.  Here is the fun part.  Just to log into the system I have to follow these steps:

I am testing from home (because the move is happening at midnight) so I need to go to a website and log into a remote software.  I then have to identify my work computer.  Once I get to my work computer I have to log into it.  Then I have to open my email, find a link to another website.  That site links me to a virtual machine emulator running on a server in the data center.  I have to log into that virtual machine.  This creates a virtual computer.  That means it doesn’t physically exists, it just appears to exist.  I then have to LOG IN to the virtual computer using a testing user name and password.  Once I have done that I still have to log into the application I support before I can even start my testing.

So to sum up, I turn on a computer, go to a site, log onto that site, go to another computer, log onto that computer, go to another website (on the second computer) log into that site, log onto a fake computer (using a different set of credentials) and finally log into my application to start testing.

The funny thing is that this all makes perfect sense to me.  As I was going through this process in my head it all clicked but when I stepped back and had a look at the whole mess it made me laugh.  I hope it makes you laugh too.  Post comments about things you do daily that are simple for you but might seem crazy to others.

Roadblocks

Well my attempt at installing Linux hit a bit of a snag the other night. Two things conspired to stop me; bad CDs and my laziness. I found some CDs in the bottom of our laptop bag. There were a few scratches on them but they were minor and I thought they might work. So I grabbed them and headed downstairs to start burning them. I wanted to make sure everything worked well so I turned on ‘check for errors after burn.’ This option is used to make sure that every piece of data you told the computer to put on the CD gets there. This isn’t really key if you are just whipping off an audio CD as the missing information will most likely just show up as a little blip in a song. When installing an operating system however, that missing data could be part of the core of the system and cause a problem in the middle of the installation. If an operating system installation fails halfway though the installation, it means you have to start the hour (or longer) process all over again.

So I try to burn one CD and the error check fails. So I take another CD and this time I shine it up using my t-shirt (being careful to avoid the spaghetti stains I am sure where there after dinner) and dropped it into the tray. This one gets almost to the end and fails again. This explains the first reason I did not start the project.

The next obstacle was my laziness. I had a spindle of brand new CDs. The problem is that they were all the way back up stairs. This would mean I would have to un-cuddle my wife, get off the couch, go all the way up one flight of stairs and come back down to try again. As I am sure you can agree that it was a big inconvenience. Anyway the point I am trying to make is that I really have little to post about.  I have had dinner provided for me the past few nights (so no recipes to post) and have made no progress in my project. Please feel free to leave comment about what you didn’t get around to doing.