Tag: Mac

School of Wizardry

I've been listening to Jeremy Parish's interview with Robert Woodhead, the co-creator of Wizardry. It's a great interview and recommended.

I think about Wizardry sometimes. I first played it on the Mac.

If you pull up the original Wizardry on archive.org, or if you go looking for screenshots, here's the kind of thing you can expect to see:

Wizardry for Mac with lineart dungeon graphics
Via Hardcore Gaming 101, which has a great comparison of the various editions of the game.

You can get more detailed maze graphics by maximizing the window, but at 512x342 that comes at the cost of having to move other windows on top of each other to fit:

Wizardry for Mac with detailed dungeon graphics
I took this screenshot myself.

Of course, if you want to get fancy, you can try emulating a later version of MacOS with a higher resolution, and then you'll have plenty of room. Like these madmen here:

At any rate, I've gone back and tried some of the other versions of Wizardry, but I still think the Mac version is the best, with its GUI and its more detailed graphics. It's not perfect -- look how small the maze window is, even at its larger size; and why does the Castle window need to be visible when you're in the maze? -- but the game is well-suited for a point-and-click, drag-and-drop interface.

The first five Wizardry games aren't currently sold for modern systems, but GOG and Steam both sell Wizardry 6 bundled with DOSbox. So why not sell the Mac versions of the earlier games and bundle them with Mini vMac? I guess I'm not sure what the legality is of distributing old versions of the MacOS; they might need a license from Apple in addition to getting one from whatever company owns Wizardry these days.

I've also often wondered why nobody's ever remade the original Wizardry for modern computers, taking the Mac version as a base and adding quality-of-life improvements. The closest thing I've ever seen is a Japanese remake of the first three games called Wizardry: Llylgamyn Saga that was released for Windows (as well as PlayStation and Saturn) in 1998.

Wizardry: Llylgamyn Saga for Windows
Via Hardcore Gaming 101

Llylgamyn Saga is not quite what I'm talking about; I tried it a few years back and my impression was that it was a Windows port of a console game and its interface felt like it. It simply didn't handle as smoothly with a mouse as the Mac version.

What I'd like to see? Remake the original game. Use touchscreen devices as the primary platform. Copy Etrian Odyssey's mechanic of using the touchscreen to map the dungeon as you go, the way we had to use graph paper in the old days.

Etrian Odyssey Untold 2
Etrian Odyssey Untold 2
Via Jeremy Parish -- him again! -- at USgamer

Using half a phone screen wouldn't be so different from EO using the DS/3DS touchscreen. The biggest immediate hurdle I can think of is fat fingers: Etrian Odyssey is designed for a stylus; drawing with a finger would mean the grid squares would have to be larger. Pinch-to-zoom would be a good idea, or just a toggle to zoom the map in or out. Build to accommodate different resolutions; there's no reason a tablet user should be stuck with a map that's sized for a phone. Of course you could hide the map during combat, menu navigation, in town -- anywhere where it's not necessary. Use a point-and-click, drag-and-drop interface similar to the Mac version; when you go into town, you can drag-and-drop characters between the active party and the reserves.

Add some modern quality-of-life improvements, too. Obviously the weapons shop should behave like it would in a modern RPG: compare a highlighted weapon to the weapon a character currently has equipped. (If it'll fit onscreen, show how it compares to the weapons every character has equipped.)

And allow users to toggle the oldschool rules. Let them play with original inscrutable spell names, or with simple, plain-English ones. Allow them to disable characters aging on a class change, or the possibility of a teleport spell going wrong and permakilling the entire party. Hell, allow a mode where players can navigate through the maps they've made and point to the square they want to teleport to, or even set waypoints so they don't have to do that every time. Maybe even allow them the option of seeing monsters, treasure chests, and other points of interest before walking into them.

Once you've rebuilt the first game in this new engine, it wouldn't be hard to do the second and third. 4-7 would require more work but would be possible. Probably not 8, as it abandons the grid format in favor of free movement.

Hell, open it up. Since I'm dreaming anyway, I might as well say open-source the whole thing -- but failing that, at least release a level editor.

Maybe the best way to go about this would be for a fan group to start by creating a game that's Wizardry-like but noninfringing -- similar D&D-style rules, similar generic fantasy races, classes, and monsters, but different maps, spells, enemy behaviors, etc. -- and then, once they've released a finished game, make an offer to whoever it is who owns the Wizardry copyrights these days to port the original games to the new engine.

A man can dream.

Ubuntu on an Old Mac Pro

So I spent the past few days trying to get Ubuntu Studio installed on my 2006-era Mac Pro 1,1. I can't speak for other Macs specifically, but here are some details you're going to want to know if you engage in that undertaking:

  • The Mac Pro 1,1 won't boot Linux from a USB stick.
  • It also won't boot it from a dual-layer DVD. Double-check and make sure you're not using dual-layer.
  • The LTS releases of Ubuntu (such as 14.04) have images that are specifically labeled "amd64+mac". Use those. Otherwise you might wind up stuck on an unresponsive "Select CD-ROM Boot Type" prompt.
  • You may or may not need to install rEFInd to help you boot from a Linux disc. If your disc isn't showing up when you hold the Option key at boot, give rEFInd a shot.
  • There's a useful guide at Ubuntu Community Help called Installing on a Mac Pro - Cylinder (Late 2013). As the title implies, it's not written for the older-model Mac Pros, but most of what it says is still applicable. (But it tells you not to use the Mac-specific ISO files. Don't listen to that part; you should use those on the 1,1 model.)

Software RAID 10 on OSX

Well, as mentioned, after several years and many a misadventure, I've given up on RAIDZ for Mac and decided on good ol' dependable RAID 10. Today I finally got around to building the array...and realized I'd forgotten how to do it.

Fortunately, it's well-documented on Apple's site. The trick is that you build all 3 RAID sets (two RAID 1/mirrored, one RAID 0/striped) at once; you can't build the two RAID 1 sets and then add them both to a RAID 0 set afterward.

Course, the next step is to copy all the files off her old drives onto the new array, and that is going to take a lot longer -- especially since I don't have a spare FireWire 800 (or even 400) enclosure and I have to use USB 2. It'll be at that copy all night, and that's just the first drive. Which means no rebooting to play The Walking Dead like I'd hoped.

So it goes -- my wedding's in three weeks and I need to get this done so Gran can put a video together for it.

RAID Project

My grandmother makes home movies on her MacBook Pro.

About three years back she was low on space and got a stack of 500GB LaCie drives. I wanted to arrange them as a software RAID 10 array for a bit of redundancy, but I realized that 4 500GB drives arranged in RAID 10 comes out to only 1TB -- not that much in the scheme of things.

So we ordered 4 2TB drives to swap out.

About this time, I read about software in development by an organization called Ten's Complement. See, Apple had been planning to switch to ZFS as its primary filesystem a few OS releases ago, but the project fell through; its former FS head left and started his own company and was still working on bringing ZFS to Mac. So I figured I'd wait for the imminent release of the product so I could use RAIDZ instead of RAID 10, and not have to give up so much space.

There was delay after delay. Finally the software was released as ZEVO Silver Edition; Gold and Platinum releases were slated for the future. (I guess calling your software Silver, Gold, Platinum is kinda like those pizza places that have Medium, Large, and Extra Large pies.)

But the forecast release dates came and went, with no Gold or Platinum and no word from Ten's Complement.

Months later, there was finally an explanation -- ZEVO had been bought out by Greenbytes -- but still no Gold or Platinum (or even Silver anymore). There was a free-as-in-beer command-line-only Community Edition, and...that was it.

Now, I don't want my grandmother stuck using the command line, but I figured I could use the Community Edition to set up the array on my computer and after that it should run fine on hers.

The problem? The documentation says ZEVO only runs on Macs with 64-bit kernels.

Now, I've got a Mac Pro 1,1. It has 32-bit EFI. To run a 64-bit kernel requires a third-party bootloader.

And I've chronicled my experience with 64-bit OSX already, in October and again a couple weeks ago. tl;dr it boots but it's so unstable as to be useless.

Only this week did it occur to me to check whether my grandmother's computer can run a 64-bit kernel.

It doesn't. So ZEVO looks like a moot point anyway, because God knows I'm not going to subject her to the kind of hoops I've had to jump through to try to get 64-bit Darwin working.

I figure I'll still try it, just in case it works despite being unsupported -- but I'm not holding my breath. Guess it's back to RAID 10 after all. I guess on the plus side, 2TB hard drives haven't gotten any cheaper in the 2 or 3 years these have been sitting unopened waiting for use.

So I went to take a crack at setting up RAID 10 today, and it looks like one of the LaCie power supplies has gone and died on me -- this is not the first time this has happened. So, one more setback while I order a replacement and wait for it to come in.

Too bad the RAIDZ thing hasn't panned out so well. And of course it's a double-edged sword that Apple's as aggressive as it is in discontinuing support for old hardware.

But hopefully I'll finally be able to wrap this thing up sometime next week.

Today's Barrier to Productivity

I was recording today and the damn power started flickering.

One of those weird little things where the lights go down for a little bit and then come back up, and some stuff goes off and some doesn't. The clock on the oven got reset; the one on the microwave didn't. The Mac Mini I was using stayed up; the external hard drive I was recording to (plugged into a different surge protector) did. Pro Tools hung; fortunately I didn't lose any recording but some of it wasn't stored in the .ptf file and I had to drag-and-drop the WAVs from the Audio Files directory.

So I got started and it happened again. This time I didn't lose anything but it started throwing permission errors. So I restored from an earlier .ptf and then I managed to finish.

Always something new and exciting to impede progress. But ultimately I got two good auditions recorded. Fingers crossed...

ownCloud

My post on Unison remains one of the most popular things on this site. (The FF7 Trilogy remain my most popular posts, the ROM Collection Browser post is far and away the most popular hit on the site this month, and a number of people seem confused, as I was, by Netflix's reorganization of Doctor Who -- but Unison's still way up there.)

Well, I rebuilt my computer a few months ago, and I've opted not to go back to Unison. The main reason is that I don't just have Windows/Linux/OSX machines in the house now -- I've got a phone and a tablet both running Android now, and I'd very much like to be able to sync to them, too.

(Yes, okay, so Android is also Linux; good observation, gold star. It is technically possible to run Unison on Android. It is also, as far as I can discern, as big a pain in the ass as you would expect.)

I've decided to take a crack at ownCloud, and set my overworked G4 Mac Mini up as a server. It was a quick, easy setup, and a lot less fiddly than Unison (though it took a little bit of fucking around on the command line to enable SSL), but it's got its tradeoffs -- oddly, near as I can tell the desktop client can only set directories to sync, not individual files, while the Android client can only set individual files to sync, not entire directories.

And speaking of syncing with the Android app, it took me a day to figure out how to get it to sync in the first damn place. The sync toggle is under the system Settings menu, not, for some reason, anywhere in the app's interface, and it turns out that in order to set a file to sync, you have to upload or download it first, and then tap it in the ownCloud browser, and then there's a "Keep file up to date" checkbox. It's not exactly what you'd call discoverable, and the closest thing I can find to documentation is a damn YouTube video. (Can we talk for a minute about tutorials that are only available as videos? For my money, that trend fucking sucks. I mean, videos are great for some things, like showing you how to take apart a piece of equipment, or shave, or otherwise do something that's easier to watch than read about -- but much of the time, step-by-step instructions with the occasional illustration is a far superior method of walking someone through how to do a thing.)

So, not quite perfect. And there are some other pitfalls -- the filebrowser in the Android app can't seem to access the directory with my World of Goo save to sync it, SNESoid save files use a different extension than desktop SNES9X...plenty of rough edges that aren't actually ownCloud's fault but the fault of developers who didn't consider that users would want to sync save files across multiple systems. (It looks like you might be able to sync a file under a different name on the Android client than on the server; I'll look into that but I'm also thinking of switching from SNESoid to SNES9X EX on my phone and EX+ on my tablet. So far it looks like it's a lot more flexible than SNESoid, and while EX+ is too burly for my phone, EX runs all right once I turn off graphics filters, set scaling to integer-only, and turn on the GPU Sync Hack. Save states aren't compatible between versions, but of course save RAM is. As for World of Goo...maybe I can whip something up with symlinks or something; I'll look into it.)

And it's a pity there's no way to set up an automated wireless sync with my PSP.

TestDisk

I guess I was overdue for doing something monumentally stupid and sloppy, because Friday night I went to format an external 1TB hard drive and accidentally formatted my internal one instead -- the one with Windows on it.

Now, after a moment's panic, I realized that I didn't have anything vital and irreplaceable on there -- I had backups of my resume, my password wallet, things like that. I hadn't backed up my financial spreadsheets or work search log in a couple weeks, but I could reconstruct those if I absolutely had to from my bank statements and E-Mails. And I had a Mass Effect 2 save that was maybe an hour farther along than my backup.

So, nothing life-or-death. But I'd still just as soon not have to take the time to reinstall Win7, reinstall Win8, reconstruct my spreadsheets, and replay that last hour of ME2 if I could avoid it. And I knew it was just a quick format, so my data should all still be intact on the drive -- it was just a matter of getting to it.

I was booted to OSX at the time, and the first piece of recovery software I found was EaseUS. It was a free trial for a $90 piece of software. Now, I knew going in that there was no way my lost data was worth $90 to me, but I figured I'd see how far I'd get with it.

Not fucking very.

You'd think a trial for a $90 piece of software would be designed to make you think the software was worth $90. Instead the fucker just kept hanging -- I might, might get as far as it displaying all my disks and partitions, but after that (or, just as frequently, before that) it would just lock up, static unresponsive window, Spinning Beach Ball of Death, all that shit.

So then I stumbled upon TestDisk. I missed the part where it said there was an OSX version, so I rebooted to Linux to see if I could install it.

And found that my OpenSUSE boot had somehow become hosed too. (I would later find out that this was not a coincidence and that OpenSUSE actually goes into Emergency Boot Mode if it fails to load a filesystem in its fstab. I did not consider this at the time because (1) I was very tired and (2) Linux failing to boot because it can't mount a Windows drive is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.)

But fortunately I still have my old Kubuntu drive onhand, and it was not only able to boot, but it already had TestDisk installed, with no worrying about having to fuck with repos. I think it may even be part of the basic Ubuntu installation.

Now, there's a lovely step-by-step guide at the TestDisk site called Recovery of Reformatted Partition.

The bad news: I spent yesterday trying to recover the drive and never did get it to work, and I'm finally giving up the ghost because it's just not worth fucking with it any longer. But I figured I'd put this up here just in case you have better luck with it than I did. I had a hard time, in my initial search, finding a good listing of Linux software to use to try and recover an NTFS partition that has accidentally been reformatted. Maybe somebody will stumble across this page in a similar search someday, and find TestDisk as a result.

Again, it didn't work for me -- but it looks like a solid piece of software, and it's worth a shot. (Unlike EaseUS, which is a piece of crap you should not waste your time with.) Good luck.