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Following my post on Colossal Cave Adventure, I decided to record an episode based on my blog post for Hacker Public Radio (aka, “HPR”).  If you don’t know what Hacker Public Radio is, click on the link below.

http://hackerpublicradio.org

In case you were wondering, anyone can record an episode for HPR and they are always in need of shows.  While they tout topics that are “of interest to hackers“, anything you have to talk about will be of interest to someone so long as it’s nothing spammy.

As for my episode, you can catch it here.  I also have other episodes I’ve recorded on HPR which you can find by clicking on my name after clicking on the episode link.
Enjoy! 🙂

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Over the Memorial Day weekend, I came across the news that “Colossal Cave Adventure” was open-sourced.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on the link below and come back when you’re done.  If you do, continue reading on…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave_Adventure

According to Raymond (aka “esr”), he was encouraged by Crowther and Woods (the original authors of Adventure) to polish up the code and ship it under an open source license.  Esr gladly took on the task and, thus, Open Adventure was born.  I intend to download the source code and build it to test out.  As esr mentions, this isn’t the same version of Adventure that is provided in the bsdgames package available in basically all Unix-like operating system repositories.  This is the actual code from the very last version of Adventure that Crowther and Woods released in 1995, so it’s quite updated from the bsdgames version.

Nevertheless, I went ahead and installed bsdgames on my Fedora laptop this weekend with the intention of exposing my middle son to text adventure computer games.  Before I go into this, a little bit of history on my personal experience with text adventure games.

I grew up during the burgeoning home computer industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  My introduction to computer-based text adventure games was at a friend’s house on her Commodore VIC-20.  If I recall correctly, I believe it was called “Adventure 2: Pirate Cove”.  Below is a YouTube video of its gameplay.

Having been an Atari 2600 and Coleco-Vision kid (even though I did learn BASIC on a Commodore PET after school), I was quite intrigued by the gameplay.  No graphics whatsoever…the graphics were all in your mind.  Now, I was never one for reading, but this engaged me more than any book could.  I was a big fan of interactive books, but this took the concept to a more dynamic level.  I saw myself imagining what was being described in plain text and felt myself going through a range of emotions as my friend and I entered commands with unexpected results!  Since then, I delved into similar games from Infocom and the like.  I would be awake until the wee hours of the night engrossed in text adventure gameplay from when I had my Mattel Aquarius to when I upgraded to an Apple IIc.  No typical video game could come close to the experience of a really good text adventure computer game.

Time-hop forward to May 29, 2017:  I’ve just installed bsdgames on my Fedora laptop and invited my middle son to have a sit-down and play Adventure with me.  I even hit Alt-F2 to drop down to a console for the full text adventure experience!  At first, he was a bit hesitant.  However, as time passed and as I showed him how to navigate within the game, I could see him slip into the world of the Colossal Cave and text adventures in general just as I did when I was his age!  We both would go on this “adventure” and discover new ways of surpassing obstacles or die trying (a lot)….all the while having a great time together.  After some time, he even took the laptop away from me to input commands and wouldn’t give it back!  There was no doubt about it.  He was hooked!

That night, I had him install bsdgames on his laptop with a temporary Fedora installation and I’ve also installed it on the Fedora desktop at home.  As of this morning when I spoke with him on the way to work, he told me that he couldn’t go to sleep thinking of how to get past some of the obstacles in Adventure and he’s already installed the Android port on his phone.  I told him that I’d see about finding some other text adventure games like the Zork series from Infocom and others from that venerable company.  Frotz is already installed on the laptop, so it’s time to find me some story files and test them out before we embark on our next (text) adventure!

Oh, and I finally killed the Wumpus! 😀

Of course it does!

April 14, 2017

So, Spring Break has been upon me in in recent days and I’ve been relaxing and doing the things I love.  One of those things was download the recently-released NetBSD 7.1 ISO and install it as a guest VM in VirtualBox.

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The NetBSD logo, used with permission according to their logo usage guidelines.

Now, I’ve had a good amount of experience using FreeBSD (I consider myself a novice, though) and I’ve already tinkered around with OpenBSD in a VM (also enjoyable to use), but I never found the time to actually give NetBSD a go.  I did try to install NetBSD many, many years ago on an old Macintosh (NetBSD is known to run on practically everything….of course), but that didn’t go as smoothly as I expected (though I may tackle this one again in the near future).  I did give it another try some months ago, but a lack of hard drive space and a lot of user error made the experience on my laptop none the better.  In retrospect, however, I suspect that it was more an issue of user error in both instances than anything else. 🙂

This time, though, I decided to install NetBSD 7.1 on a more worthy host system: the desktop PC I passed on to my kids (AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, 4 GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive, Fedora Linux 25 x86_64).  I downloaded the ISO from the NetBSD website, configured VirtualBox, and began the installation.

The installation itself is pretty straightforward.  It is a text-based menu installer, similar to something like Windows XP or even FreeBSD’s bsdinstall, and definitely easier to follow than OpenBSD’s installer (though that’s not too hard if you pay attention during the installation process).  After configuring my partitions (I just selected the defaults) and choosing what disk sets I wanted installed, I was off to the races.  After the installation was complete and I finished some post-installation configurations (root password, new user creation, etc.), I rebooted the VM and logged in.

After logging in, I was presented with a shell, one that I configured right after it was installed.  You have the choice of stock sh, csh, or ksh.  I decided to stick with the stock sh shell and continue my system configurations from there on.

One of the many things I liked about NetBSD was the new (at least to me) pkgin package manager.  Apparently, it’s been around since version 6.x but I didn’t know about it until now when configuring my installation before rebooting to the installed OS.  You have the option to use pkgin instead of the usual pkgsrc tools like pkg_add, pkg_delete, etc.  Pkgin does a good job at being just like apt or yum/dnf for those still in the Linux world (specifically Debian/Ubuntu and CentOS/RedHat/Fedora, respectively).  Thanks to pkgin, I was able to install many of the tools I use both in Linux and in FreeBSD.  I had considered installing the tcsh shell (which I use in FreeBSD), but I decided to stick with what NetBSD provided me for the time being.

Since Xorg was already installed from one of the disk sets during the installation process, I was already up and running with a GUI, albeit with twm as the window manager.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love twm and I have used it in the past since it’s the default once Xorg is installed, but it is a very basic window manager.  I decided to install IceWM (for nostalgia) and I also installed JWM (Joe’s Window Manager) which I really liked.  After a few tweaks to my .xinitrc file which I had to create in my home directory, each of them worked wonderfully and as expected.  I also installed Midori so I could browse the web without resorting to my host OS.

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My NetBSD 7.1 VM running IceWM as the window manager and Midori for browsing the web.  I also SSHed to my host OS so I could access my Irssi IRC sessions from within NetBSD.

There were some niggles, though.  As you can see, Midori is using the default “Raleigh” GTK+2 theme since I hadn’t set a preferred theme, and it’s ugly as sin. 🙂  I also tried running LXDE as my desktop environment, but I’d get an error saying that “it couldn’t connect” to some service when I configured it in my .xinitrc and ran startx (I imagine it might be some “Linuxism” that LXDE was looking for, but I’m not quite sure).  Finally, Firefox was a bigger issue altogether.  While I was able to install it using pkgin (latest version as of 2017-04-12 was 52.0.1), it would eventually crash when accessing certain website and the only way to get it somewhat working again was by deleting the .mozilla configuration directory.  Even launching Firefox in safe mode wouldn’t stop it from crashing.  Oddly enough, while the package repo for NetBSD identifies Firefox as “firefox-52.0.1”, the “About Firefox” option shows it as “Nightly” 52.0.1.  I suspect this has a lot to do with why Firefox (or “Nightly” in this case) was so unstable.  Needless to say, I uninstalled it (along with LXDE and other problematic packages) and stuck with Midori which was more stable here than it’s ever been in FreeBSD or even Linux.  Hopefully, the NetBSD team will change this so that it upgrades to the stable rapid-release version of Firefox in the near future.

So, after all of those issues, I decided to trick out my little NetBSD installation by going with one of my favorite window managers from back in the day, Window Maker.  I also installed ePDFview, PCManFM, LXTerminal, Leafpad, both GTK+2 and GTK+3, and the MATE Desktop themes package for both GTK+ versions.  I created my GTK+2 and GTK+3 configuration files with a little help on the web, and installed screenfetch to display the OS and system information with the NetBSD logo.  Along with a desktop wallpaper I found on the web, I’m quite proud of my final setup if I do say so myself. 😉

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My tricked-out NetBSD 7.1 installation running Window Maker.  LXTerminal is using the BlueMenta them provided by the MATE Desktop themes package which goes well with the Window Maker style I had selected.

All in all, I have to say that I was very pleased with my NetBSD experience.  In spite of the issues I had, I was able to get a working NetBSD system in no time and was able to be productive as a user (for the most part, anyway 😉 ).  If you get a chance, give NetBSD a try in a VM sometime and get your hands dirty with this great Unix-like OS.  Of course, if you have spare hardware, rest assured that it will run NetBSD. 😉

Here’s a great interview by Bryan Lunduke with Haiku developer Augustin Cavalier.

The Lunduke Hour had me on as a guest to talk about Haiku

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My Haiku installation on a Dell Optiplex GX620.

What is Haiku?  Well, watch the video in the link!  Or, if you want to read more about it, check out the following links.

https://www.haiku-os.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku_(operating_system)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeOS

 

A little over a year….

January 25, 2017

OK, I know.  I’ve been bad.  It’s been a little over a year since my last post.

So, what have I been up to?

Well, I’m still tinkering around with FreeBSD and I’ve given some other BSDs a try.  OpenBSD has been a nice experience and I do need to get back to it.  NetBSD still left something to be desired, but I blame myself more for that than NetBSD itself since I do need to dedicate more time to it.

I have also finally tried TrueOS on my old Toshiba Portege M400 tablet PC.  If you’re not familiar with TrueOS, it used to be called PC-BSD, which itself was a FreeBSD “distribution” focused on the end user (aka, graphical tools and environments, etc.).  TrueOS has changed to a rolling release system (similar to Arch Linux) based on FreeBSD-CURRENT.  While the experience wasn’t the user-friendly experience that I expected, I’m sure the TrueOS team will be polishing it up so that it runs as stable as PC-BSD did.  I may give DragonFly BSD a go on this system sometime in the future until TrueOS stabilizes enough to move over to it.

Aside from the BSDs, I’ve been playing around more with Haiku (the open source continuation of BeOS).  I finally managed to get a nightly build installed on a Dell OptiPlex GX620 and it runs very well.  Haiku finally has a package management system (pkgman) and you can even upgrade the nightly to a newer version with just a few changes (see here).  Hopefully, multiuser logins will be supported in future releases.  Since BeOS was originally a single-user system (if you read the link above on BeOS from Wikipedia, you’ll learn why it was this way), it boots straight into the desktop and you have full access rights to everyting.  Haiku is the same way, but gone are the days of single-user systems with full root-like access, especially if you’re on a network.  That said, it does show a lot of promise and I’d like to use it as a multimedia workstation at some point in the future.

I’ve even tried some obscure operating systems, but only in VirtualBox.  TempleOS was one that caught my attention, and it’s….interesting (to say the least).  Even more interesting (or disturbing) is the history behind TempleOS and its creator.  Not your usual OS as it seems to make even DOS a simple to use OS!  Still, it’s worth checking out just for the experience.  You’ll appreciate your preferred OS a lot more. 🙂

Well, that’s pretty much it for now.  Until next time!

Talk about Longevity!

January 14, 2016

FreeBSD_10_Bootloader

I’ve recently been getting more and more familiar with FreeBSD and I’m enjoying it quite a bit, especially coming from years of using Linux.  I’ve already set up a few FreeBSD systems at work and they have been running well for little things here and there (I had one joined to the Active Directory domain at my work for some time now and it was a fun learning experience).  I’ve also got a laptop set up with FreeBSD, though I personally think that Linux is still far ahead in that area.  So far, all of these FreeBSD systems have been running quite well and I look forward to testing out other BSD flavors like DragonFlyBSD.

That said, I can only wish my FreeBSD setups would last as long as this one!  The Register has a story about a FreeBSD server that has quite the uptime…18 years and 10 months, to be exact!  The server is a homebrew 200 MHz Pentium PC with 32 MB of RAM running FreeBSD 2.2.1 and was recently retired.  If anything, I’d say that’s a testament to how robust the OS is (or how technically experienced the person is who set this box up!).  You can read more about this at the link below.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/14/server_retired_after_18_years_and_ten_months_beat_that_readers

Happy 2016!

January 12, 2016

Happy New Year to one and all!  Hope everyone’s 2016 is a great one.

So, thanks to a Hackaday article on the smallest MIDI synthesizer, I was reminded about my own personal blog here.  Yeah, I know it hasn’t gotten much love, but with my personal life taking priority over everything else, this and other things tend to fall in the backburner for a while until I remember them (darned old age 🙂 ).

Back to the Hackaday article, it’s about the smallest MIDI synthesizer (or so it’s claimed) by Mitxela.  I can’t help but be impressed!  A synth inside a MIDI DIN connector!  Combine this with one of those mini keyboard controllers from Monoprice and a decent netbook running an audio-centric Linux distribution and you’ve got a nice portable music setup IMO!

http://hackaday.com/2016/01/08/the-smallest-midi-synthesizer/