Category Archives: Culture

Geek culture

Diablo I (yes, Diablo 1) LAN play on Vista or Windows 7

- and presumably 8.

There’s various convoluted steps to get LAN play working on more recent versions of Windows.

Mount the ISO on your hard drive, and use the somewhat unstable Microsoft supplied ISO mounting program to fool the program into thinking you CD is in a CD drive.  Install Diablo from here.  This step is not strictly necessary, but it’s so much quicker and cleaner than the alternatives.

Fetch and apply the patch to bring Diablo 1.00 up to version 1.09.  It may also be helpful to pull up the properties of the .exe and enable compatibility mode with WinXP Service Pack x. When fetching patch, get it for the version you’re installing – much confusion is caused if you get the spawned Diablo patch and apply it to the full version.

Go and get IPXWrapper, and per the instructions drop the DLL files into your Diablo directory. If you have a heterogeneous environment, all machines need to use this wrapper – IPXWrapper is a translation layer than transforms IPX into UDP, and without it IPX aware OSes like WinXP won’t see the network traffic of the IPX unaware OSes like Vista.  Punch a hole in your Windows Firewall to allow UDP port 54792.

To fix the palette issue, you might want to wrap the exe in a batch script to kill Windows Explorer whilst you’re playing Diablo.

See?  Easy.  Doesn’t take more than a few hours if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Where did I take that photo?

I couldn’t find anyone extracting out the geolocation geotagging EXIF data from their photographs so they could pull it up on something like Google Maps.  There are stand-alone programs with embedded maps, but the bits and bobs lying around on the average system ought to be enough to just generate a URL to a mapping website.  The following bash script echoes the  URL that geolocates your JPEG.  Because my camera doesn’t emit it, I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the seconds part of a location, but I did detect that you don’t have a camera the same as mine.  Drop a line if you’ve used this and fixed it.

# emit a hyperlink to google maps for the location of a photograph
declare Seconds=""
Seconds=`exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x02 $1 | grep -oP "[\d|\d\.]+$"`
if (( $Seconds=='0' ))
  Seconds=`exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x04 $1 | grep -oP "[\d|\d\.]+$"`
if (( $Seconds!='0' ))
  echo "Script does not support seconds being specified"
echo -n ""
declare NorthSouth=`exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x01 $1`
if [ "$NorthSouth" == "S" ] 
  echo -n "-"
echo -n `exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x02 $1 | grep -oP "^[\d|\d\.]+"`
echo -n "%20"
echo -n `exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x02 $1 | grep -oP "(?<= )[\d|\d\.]+,"`
declare EastWest=`exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x03 $1`
if [ "$EastWest" == "W" ]
  echo -n "-"
echo -n `exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x04 $1 | grep -oP "^[\d|\d\.]+"`
echo -n "%20"
echo -n `exif -m --ifd=GPS --tag=0x04 $1 | grep -oP "(?<= )[\d|\d\.]+(?=,)"`

Allow more JavaScript, maintain privacy

I’ve long regarded JavaScript in the browser to be one of the biggest security holes in web-browsing, and at the same time the Internet works less and less well without it. In 2008 Joel Spolsky made the observation that for some people the Internet is just broken:

Spolsky:   Does anybody really turn off JavaScript nowadays, and like successfully surf the Internets?

Atwood:   Yeah, I was going through my blog…

Spolsky:   It seems like half of all sites would be broken.

Which is not wrong.  Things have changed in the last five years, and now the Internet is even more broken if you’re not willing to do whatever random things the site you’re looking at tells you to, and whatever other random sites that site links off to tell you to, plus whatever their JavaScript in turn tells you to. This bugs me because it marginalizes the vulnerable (the visually impaired, specifically), and is also a gaping security hole.  And the performance drain!

Normally I rock with JavaScript disabling tools and part of my tin-foil-hat approach to the Internet, but I’m now seeing that the Internet is increasingly dependent on fat clients. I’ve seen blogging sites that come up empty, because they can’t lay out their content without client-side scripting and refuse to fall back gracefully.

So, I need finer granularity of control.  Part one is RequestPolicy for FireFox, similar to which (but not as fine-grained) is Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome.

The extensive tracking performed by Google, Facebook, Twitter et al gives me the willys. These particular organisations can be blocked by ShareMeNot, but the galling thing is that the ShareMeNot download page demands JavaScript to display a screenshot and a clickable graphical button – which could easily been implemented as an image with a href. What the hell is wrong with kids these days?

Anyway, here’s the base configuration for my browsers these days:

FireFox Chrome Reason
HTTPSEverywhere HTTPSEverywhere Avoid inadvertent privacy leakage
Self Destructing Cookies “Third party cookies and site data” is blocked via the browser’s Settings, manual approval of individual third party cookies. Avoid tracking; StackOverflow (for example) completely breaks without cookies
RequestPolicy Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
NoScript NotScripts Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
AdBlock Edge Adblock Plus Ad blocking
DoNotTrackMe DoNotTrackMe Avoid tracking – use social media when you want, not all the time
Firegloves (no longer available), could replace with Blender or Blend In I’ve have had layout issues when using Firegloves and couldn’t turn it off site-by-site

Subtitling tries to make me dumber

I was watching Todd Sampson‘s Redesign My brain S1E1 Make Me Smarter and noticed the subtitling was annoyingly wrong. FMRI was subtitled as MRI. Baseline became based on – and there was more errors. My hearing’s not super-great, but even I could tell that these weren’t right.

Twice I’ve seen subtitling so bad that I’ve been prompted to find out who did it. Last time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI.

This time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI. Either Jacqui does a lot of work for CSI and sometimes has bad days, or she does a little work and often screws it up. What are the odds that on the two occasions I notice very bad subtitling, the same person’s behind it?  Subtitling is a very specialized field, so there can’t be that many people doing it, but at the same time a lot of TV is subtitled. I know from personal experience that subtitling takes at least 5 minutes per minute of show, and can take more if it’s particularly speech-heavy. There are a few hours of TV a night requiring subtitles, and it’d take one person one day to subtitle one hour of TV, so there’s probably a few dozen people in Australia doing it; live subtitling is a different specialty. Perhaps work processes need to be changed; I know I proof my subtitling after having done it, and spot errors. Perhaps someone other than the original subtitler ought to do the final proofing? Proof-reading error rates would show whose work needed more attention.

Most of the subtitles that I’ve seen are great – precisely timed transcriptions of the spoken dialogue, either exact reproductions or well thought through précis, contracted just enough to be faithful to the words and the intent whilst also fitting on the screen. For some reason American stuff is all caps unless the character is off-screen. Given so many in this industry can get it transparently right, why does one person’s work repeatedly poke me in the eye? Somebody give Jacqui some training, stat!

Banshee: please, pick a version

Banshee is a cross-platform audio player built using Mono.

If you go to the official website and install Banshee for Windows, you're offered version 2.4.0 with warnings about it being alpha and all (as of April 16, 2013 the latest version is 2.6.1). Once you've downloaded it, when you then run it up, you get the following dialog:

Infuriating.  Why wasn't I offered that one by the website? Naturally, one selects “Hell yes, give me the current (actually, still behind the main branch, but more current than what I've got) release!”, which is then followed by

and no freaking explanation of what went wrong. How am I meant to fix this? Given that the project is built for a VM, why am I offered one version, then offered the chance to update to a different version, and both of these versions are behind the current release?



Christmas, already?

In Coles on the weekend, I bought (from an enormous stack) this season's Fruit Mince Pies.

At the start of August.

Only five months to go before this particular seasonal treat is only on the shelves for a couple of post-Christmas months as stocks are wound down.

This is getting ridiculous.


"Spaced" DVDs – volume problems

I've been re-watching the DVDs of Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright sitcom Spaced, and noticing that the volume levels go up and down all the time. I didn't remember that being the case from the first time I watched them… which was on a previous DVD player (a Pioneer).

Turns out I'm not the only one to have this problem — those reporting there noted it was an issue on some Toshiba players, but I'm currently using a Sony.

I also have a Panasonic Blu-Ray player I could use, but it's not multi-region, and these discs are Region 2. Damn. And I can't see any easy way of hacking the player to make it multi-region, alas.

That's okay though, because taking a cue from the forum led me to this post about DVD sound problems, and also to a Wikipedia description of Dynamic Range Compression — leading me to think this was causing the issue.

I found this in the DVD player's setup menu. Once I'd switched it from “TV mode” to “standard”, all seemed to be okay again, though in contrast, a newer DVD of Parks & Recreation now seems to have its volume fluctuate, so perhaps I need to switch it back for everything other than Spaced. Odd.


Subtitling now in the Suez

I imagine that Jacqui Mapoon from CSI (Captioning and Subtitling Australia… or International) is someone who helps them out very occasionally, judging by the quality of her work on The Doctor Blake Mysteries: Season 1, Episode 9 “All That Glitters” -  atrocious work.  The gaff that stood out most was the transcription of sewers, but there were so many problems.

Don’t these subtitling services get given the script?  There’s a job listed in the credits as “Post production scripts”, surely they’re able to hand the script over electronically, and it’s just a matter of timing, pagination and confirmation – no transcription, no transcription errors?  I doubt Tim Pye – the writer of the episode – would have got that wrong, nor made the other homophonic errors.


ePub html/xhtml (or chapter) upper file size limit is 300Kb

The size of individual html files — chapters — that make up an ePub should not exceed 300Kb, according to ePubPreFlight, and this thread. Presumably this is to deal with eReader limitations, which are unspecified.

(I’ve found tell that you shouldn’t make the html/xhtml files in your ePub eBook “too big”, but finding out what “too big” is seems to be hard. Now the Internet knows the maximum size, and you don’t have to know all the magic keywords.)

Ultimate geek nostalgia: help fund a doco about the origins of the UK games industry

Yesterday marked 30 years of the Commodore 64.

Meanwhile, a documentary about the origins of the UK games industry in the 70s and 80s, From Bedrooms To Billions is in the works, but needs pledges of support to be made.

If you donate, depending on the amount, you get some pretty cool gear including a digital or DVD copy, posters, your name in the credits, a T-shirt, and even a personalised portrait of yourself from ZZap64 illustrator Oliver Frey. Some of the higher donation amounts actually include vintage computers/consoles and signed (by the authors) copies of classic games for them. Zowee.

They’re aiming to raise the money by 17th of August.

From Bedrooms to Billions

Revisiting Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein 3D is 20 years old. To celebrate it’s been re-released as a browser game.

And as Crikey notes, a 1992 Sydney Morning Herald reviewer was “flabbergasted” with the game: The game, we are warned, is rated PC-13 – Profound Carnage. Good advice. There’s plenty of blood and guts, and the sound effects are blood-curdling, so my sub-13-year-olds won’t be playing.

I remember playing it at my mate Brian’s place back when it was first released — the ancient computer I had at home couldn’t cope with it.

I had a go of it again last night. Sure enough, it worked well in the web browser. After about half-an-hour of shooting Nazis (and Nazi dogs) I felt a bit queasy. I think it was due to focussing on the low-res 3D, rather than the blood and guts.