Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nostalgia: Namespace EnterpriseBeverageSystem

Speaking of classic posts--of which I have very few--remember the one about programming the Enterprise to dispense the right tea for Picard, and the out-of-control geekfest discussion that ensued? For some reason we ended up re-reading this tonight and laughing about it.
(And just think, we still ended up getting engaged anyway.)

Tragedy / Comedy

The other day Limelet was in a rare mood of hyperness.  He galloped over to his Lego box and tore the lid off, throwing it across the floor to crash noisily on the opposite wall.  TheLimey and I both shouted "Limelet!"* at once. He looked cowed.  TheLimey prompted him: "What do you say?" expecting a brief "Sorry." 
Instead Limelet answered, "Thank you."  TheLimey and I stared at each other, paralyzed with equal parts horror and mirth.  Before we could correct his misapprehension, he continued, "Thank you for shouting."
It was such a smartass thing to say--if he meant it that way, which I'm sure he didn't--that it was really funny.  At the same time, it was so pathetic that it was mortifying.  "Please sir, may I have another?"
With our genes, it'll only be another six months or so before he says stuff like that and means it.
*Not his real name.  I hope this is obvious.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Love / Hate Again

Amazon.com, what the heck is with your search "algorithm"? 
Why is it that you lead me to your subscribe-and-save section, only to subsequently show me a shipload of items that are not subscribe-able or in many cases are not available for purchase at all?  And you have no way to search solely for subscribe-and-save items!
I am frequently forced to use Google to search you for almost anything I want.  It's just too bad that you do, in fact, have many of the things I want, so I keep coming back.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

That's right, the invitations to pay thousands of dollars to attend a vanity conference must be hitting the mailboxes of academia once again, because my Poxford post is once again getting tons of hits.  That's right, like, twelve.  Or something.
It's kind of funny that that post has been the most popular thing I ever wrote. 
Well, that and the UTI treatment one.  Maybe the sweatpants baby carrier one, too.  There is just no continuity in my contents!

A Low Wreck

Please, people. 
It's not "low and behold," it's "lo and behold."  Also, for the eleventy-xillionth time, one does not "wreck havoc," when one can "wreak havoc."  Wreak!
For Pete's sake please stop it--it's killing me!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Changing Email Address and Stuff on Monster

Just FYI, as of this post, every site in the flippin' WORLD says that to change your email address or password or whatever with Monster, you have to go to "your account" under "your profile".  Or some dang thing like that. 
However, I couldn't find it; it must have been like that before. 
Anyway, currently you have to click on "preferences" which is up at the top of the page near the right when you first sign in.  That's where all the good stuff is.

How to Get Old Windows Games (Like Putt-Putt the Car) to Play in XP - Step by Step

Last week when I picked up my son from day care, he and another little boy were playing a little game on the center's computer. It was such a hotly contested activity that tears ensued. The game was one of the Putt-Putt the Car Games, in which a little car goes around and does little activities. It's easy, and there are lots of items to click that do something entertaining and have cute sound effects, so the kids love it.

I decided to see if I could get a copy for home use, and ordered some used game disks on Amazon.com for cheap. The descriptions stated that they would play on Windows or XP.

However, when I tried them out on my laptop, there was no sound no matter what I did. This was a problem, because at least half the fun is the sounds that things make in the game. Also, it's how you know what to do in the game. However, it's not surprising that some things won't work, as the disk states "copyright 1992". (I'm writing this post in 2010.)

I tried lots of things to make it work, including trying compatibility mode, which I guess doesn't stretch far back enough in time for a prehistoric game like this.

However, after spending hours and hours clambering through the tubes of the internets and experimenting with stuff, I found something that did work and is pretty easy once you know what to do.

Basically, you install what I think of as a "viewer" for old games on your current computer, and play the game "through" it. If that makes any sense to you, you probably think the internet is tubes like I do.

If, like me, you may be technologically very ignorant (but not technologically stupid!) you can still do this. The application you want is called ScummVM and is freeware or maybe shareware...actually open-source freeware or shareware. (But I was so excited when it worked that I donated some money to them anyway in thanks.)

Their description of the procedure can be found here. Anyway, hang on with it: we'll get to that in a minute.

The descriptions of what to do were confusing to me, as they were written for people who know what the heck they're doing, and I had to figure it out piece by piece. For example, it may say "copy the blah blah files into your hard drive." What does that mean, exactly? What are those files, and where are they? And where in my hard drive do they go, in what form? And how does one do all that, anyway?

So here's my step-by-step translation of what I did. If something's unclear, please comment and I'll see if I can clarify. But unless you're doing pretty much what I was doing, I may not know either. My PhD's in another field!

I'm sure there are other (and probably better) ways to do a lot of these procedures, but I'm just going to tell you what I did that worked for me. So here's what I did to get Putt-Putt up and running:

1. Have the disk of the game. I'm using "Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon" for this demonstration.

2. Go to this page and look up the game you're using. You must do this part in order to know what files to copy. [Note: I used ctrl-f to search the page for "putt" since the page is so huge.]

3. Within the "Putt Putt" title I'm looking at, there are several section headings: 3DOS, DOS Demo, Windows Demo, and Windows. We want to know the names of the files listed under "Windows." As you can see, for this game, those would be:


  • 4. On your start menu, open "my computer" and then open Disk C. Create a new folder (right click, new, new folder) right there in your C drive. I called mine "puttmoon files".

    5. Put the disk in your computer's drive. Select "quit" not "play" if the little screen comes up.

    6. On your computer's start menu, select "search." (Heck, use the search companion if you want--I did!) Search under "all files and folders" within the drive where your game disk is. Probably Drive D or Disk D. I searched for all files with "puttmoon.he" in the title, since most of the required files for my game started with puttmoon.he.

    7. Some files came up in your search box, right? Called puttmoon.he or whatever your game requires? Good.
    a. Okay, now under the edit menu of your open search box, select all the files that came up by using "select all", then--
    b. --copy them using "copy". If there are doubles then copy both--it won't hurt anything. (And I don't know which ones you're supposed to use, do you?)
    c. Now paste them all into the empty folder you created ("puttmoon files"?) in your C drive. Answer "yes" if it asks to copy over any doubles or whatever.

    8. There was one other file the list mentioned that was not a puttmoon.he (PUTMOON.BRS), so I repeated the procedure with that one, searching for "putmoon.brs". Make sure you've got ALL the file names in your new folder that are listed in your game listing.

    9. Now we need to get the "viewer" or virtual monitor, which is ScummVM (description here.)

    10. Google "download scummvm for xp". (What came up for me was Softonic.) (I hope you have a virus checker installed so you know if the page is safe!) Click on Download Free. Softonic gave me a choice to download a $2.99 version (from their guaranteed source or whatever) or a free version; I risked the free version and it was fine. There may be lots of pirated ScummVM out there, but I doubt it, considering its attributes. Anyway, an install wizard should come up that will install it pretty easily. Just run it all when it asks, and make sure it IS pinned to your start menu when it asks.

    11. Once it's installed, open your start menu and you'll probably see "new program installed." Go to "all programs" and open the folder. I copied the shortcut (a green "S") and pasted it on my desktop, because I like easy access.

    12. Okay, we're almost ready. Run ScummVM (click on the shortcut if you made one). A little ScummVM black window will come up, and then a yellowish one with actions.

    13. Select ADD GAME.

    14. It will probably start looking for games by opening Drive C, but if it doesn't, then browse to Drive C. Select your folder name ("Puttmoon".) Then click CHOOSE and any other acceptance button that comes up.

    15. There will now be a window with names of the games you've loaded into ScummVM (maybe only one game if this is your first.) Select the game you want, and click START.

    16. Putt-Putt is going to the moon!! Yippee for old-game geeks!

    17. If you're as happy as I was with the results, then give the nice geeks some well-earned support in their hard work here at this page, bottom right ("Support this Project").


    I played with the options a bit. I tried making the game window bigger as it seemed small to me, but it just created screwy and also huge graphics that wouldn't allow me to escape the window. I had to turn off the computer to get out. I also tried fullscreen mode*, which had different yet similarly bad effects. We now use the small window and it's fine.

    I tried the sound options, and turned down that loud background music (but not the speech and sound fx), and that worked great.

    I had to get a kitchen timer like they had at the day care to limit game play to 15 minutes at a time, because my son is already addicted and would probably not eat, sleep, or go potty if I let him play as much as he wanted. (What have I done?! Such a bad mother!)

    *Update: you can use alt-enter for fullscreen (on Putt-Putt anyway). Just make sure to toggle it off before you let your computer sleep, or your cursor will have disappeared when it wakes up.

    Also, for some people (including me) the topiary creatures song is not triggered when the hedge animals are clicked. However, it does work at my son's daycare, so...not sure why. Could be a licensing issue or something like that.

    Monday, February 01, 2010

    Anony Mouses

    You probably know that it is a point of honor with me to keep my anonymous blog comments function open. 
    After all, I am annoyed when I have to go through various sign-ins and also swirly-printed passwords just to make some tiny inconsequential smartass comment on a blog. My comments are of such little value that it's not really worth it.  I get most annoyed when a given sign-in looks simple but ends up in some weird technical loop that won't allow me to comment anyway, which happens more often than you might think, thanks to the cross-wired perambulations of Google and Blogger and LiveJournal and so forth. 
    So, I'm sorry, but it's true.  I'm annoyed by it, and think you are all paranoid.  All of you!
    Nevertheless, perhaps there are people whose blogs truly are well-read and who really do get so many irritating anonymous spammy comments that it takes a lot of time to delete them, in which case it's understandable. But for me, it's usually one or two spammy robot comments a month, if that. However. Lately, I've been getting weird dumb spam comments like [read using DUH voice] "Nice fill someone in on and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information."  That was to a post in which I complained about Mensa, and it couldn't possibly have "fill someone in" on any dang thing at all.
    Sometimes these comments are obviously spam and have a link in them, but a lot of times it's just some general comment about how fantastically great that particular blog post was, which is obviously complete BS.  I'm not sure what they are doing with those comments; possibly trolling for blogs that allow anonymous comments?  I can't think of anything else.