Zagyg is dead

Yesterday, Mr Ernest Gary Gygax died. If you don’t know who Gary was, he was the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons.

My Auntie Viv, who quite recently passed away, bought me a basic D&D rule set many years ago, I guess I was nine or ten, and I guess at the age of 11 I bought my first AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) rule books, second hand. I always read a lot as a kid, and a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and these games were a revelation to me. AD&D is no more, since the basic game has vanished and now there is just D&D, which is just about to publish its fourth edition.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere lots of people regard role playing as anything between childish and devil worship. I don’t get that, because anyone who has actually looked at those first precious first edition rule books will see uncompromising vocabulary, descriptions of forms of government, siege warfare, and lots of distinctly un-childish challenging material. Personally, I always thought it was about, despite the image to the contrary, actually being together with friends, enjoying laughter both about the game and other things, this slashdot comment could have been written by me. There is also a great tribute on the absolutely excellent webcomic The Order of the Stick.

I’ve seen a fair few people talking about dusting off their 1st edition (or otherwise rulebooks), but the truth is, I still use mine probably twice a month, and it’s always been that way. Many of my dearest friends still play these games now, and we get as much pleasure as ever. Many times, if we haven’t seen each other for a long time, we get little or nothing done in the game, as we are too busy catching up with each other, but it doesn’t matter.

So, thanks Gary for all the great memories, for opening up new worlds, imagination and opening the doorway to new games. We’ll get the cleric to cast “rest in peace”.

Samurai Teen?

Today, the BBC News reported on a ‘Samurai teen out for revenge’.

It’s not at all clear who added the quotes and why, but the young teenager, from Newcastle, Northern Ireland, luxuriating in the ancient samurai name of “Rocco Burns”, took his ‘Samurai Sword’ out to wreak revenge on several people who allegedly assaulted him. His mother very prudently called the police, and when our hero Rocco spotted them he threw the sword into a nearby river. The best bit for me is that

Police recovered the weapon from the river, while its cover was tucked into Mr Burns’ trousers, the crown lawyer said.

leading to the great chat up line “Is that a saya in your trousers or are you just really pleased to see me?”. It would have been fun to watch Burns-san run. This of course will only add fuel to the fire for the incoming sword ban, which is to be brought into Northern Ireland in line with England and Wales.

We still don’t know the form of the ban, but we can observe some important facts:

  • it will be illegal to buy, sell and rent Japanese swords (apart from real ones, and we don’t know what other exemptions if any);
  • it is of course already illegal to brandish such weapons in public, and Rocco has been charged with this;
  • it is of course illegal to assault someone with such a weapon or otherwise;
  • it won’t be illegal, at least for now, to possess such weapons as already exist.

In other words, when the ban comes in April it will be no more, nor less illegal for Burns-san to have done this very silly thing. It’s quite bad enough that this sort of thing happens, but please, let’s not talk about “samurai teens” unless you’ve checked their family lineage write back to before the Meiji Restoration when the samurai class was effectively abolished and wearing swords in public in Japan was outlawed.

People who train in martial arts, and have any sense, don’t claim to be samurai, so let’s not attach this label to this misguided youth.

Marvell Technology 88SE6121 SATA II Controller

When I returned from the Christmas holidays to work, I found my computer there was showing signs of impeding disk failure, and shortly thereafter I could no longer boot it due to massive corruption of the disk sectors where the C library resides.

I decided we better get a SATA disk (noting there were SATA controllers on my motherboard) to future proof the purchase, but it took surprisingly long (around a month) to obtain a SATA disk from our suppliers at work. I then discovered that BIOS problems with the AOpen board meant it wouldn’t speak to the SATA disk, and found that the only way to upgrade the BIOS was through Windows. I put in a disk I keep for such purposes, and carefully checked the BIOS I downloaded was for the correct board. The tool flashed the new BIOS, but failed to verify it, and this happened on all repeated attempts. In the end I was left with a bricked motherboard.

Since I couldn’t obtain a socket A board, this meant we needed to get a new motherboard, memory and CPU (all of which was around 5 years old anyway). We got all that, including an MSI-7360 motherboard. But, I couldn’t get the thing to boot into anything. Continue reading Marvell Technology 88SE6121 SATA II Controller