From The Erbo Files
Sunday, August 3, 2014

First, install the Technic Launcher, downloadable from www.technicpack.net.


Sign in with your Minecraft user name and password.


Select "Add New Pack" from the left-hand menu bar and copy in the following URL: 


http://www.technicpack.net/api/modpack/erbosoft-plus


This will install the Erbosoft-Plus pack alongside any other modpacks you wish to use (even vanilla Minecraft).

Sunday, July 1, 2012


  • A USB drive shaped like a tampon. Write your own punchline!  (Note the sizes it comes in, too: "Light Flow" (2 Gb), "Moderate Flow" (4 Gb), and "Heavy Flow" (8 Gb).  Via Bruce Schneier, who I think is just about as dumbstruck as most people that this exists.)

  • New programming language: Objectivist-C. Every object is an end in itself, not a means to the ends of others. (This is one of those jokes that walks a fine line. Hardcore Randites will probably start screeching "That's not funny!", while most people, who know nothing about Ayn Rand or Objectivism, will scratch their heads and go "Huh?" Via Eric S. Raymond on Google+.)

  • There's new malware, "Flame," infecting a number of computer systems, primarily in Iran and the Middle East, which may be part of a cyberwar effort against the outlaw nation. What's surprising is how big it is; it's 20 megabytes when fully-configured, and sports such advanced features as SQLite3 databases, a plug-in architecture with about 20 different plug-ins, and code written in the Lua scripting language. The fact that it can consume that much memory and storage (and, presumably, commensurate CPU cycles and network bandwidth), and yet go unnoticed, is just...mindboggling. (Via Bill Quick)

  • Airlines are imposing higher fees on families who want to make sure they sit together on flights. Honestly, at this point, are they just sitting around and brainstorming ways to make people want to actively avoid using their services? Between the Transportmittel Sturmabteilung, the nickel-and-diming to death, and the piss-poor-and-getting-poorer service, I know I wouldn't fly anywhere unless I had no other choice. (And the new Taurus will make road trips a bit more expensive...but also a lot more comfortable.)

  • I got a postcard in the mail purportedly from the Poway High Alumni Publication Office, asking me to call and update my information for an upcoming directory. The postcard turned out to actually be from a company called Harris Connect, which apparently gloms onto high school and college alumni associations and, when alumni call in, gives them the hard sell to buy very expensive directories...and, if you change your mind, good luck getting your money back afterwards. Any company that has Google Autocomplete adding "scam" after their name as the top search suggestion is probably not one you want to do business with. Here's an example. (Besides, the postcard had my last name misspelled. Trust me, nobody from Poway is likely to misspell my last name...) The postcard went straight into the shredder.

  • I haven't spoken up about some Internet assholes that have shown up recently, but if you want to read about assholes, Ken at Popehat has the scoop on them, particularly this asshole and that asshole. You're welcome.

  • Well, that about wraps it up for RIM. The Blackberry maker is laying off 5000 people and delaying the launch of BB10 OS to 2013. At this point, BB10 is about three years late already, and any further delay is just going to affect the depth at which RIM gets buried.

  • The bad news for RIM comes on the heels of a stunning development: A hacker has gotten (some) iOS apps to run on a Playbook. In an alternate universe in which RIM's executives didn't have their heads up their asses, they would acquire or license this technology (which is similar in some respects to the WINE Windows emulator for Linux, and is completely legal under the ruling just made in Oracle v. Google), open up to GAPPS for Android (which can already be done), and sell the shit out of these capabilities, saying, "Blackberry runs all your favorite iOS and Android apps...and runs them better!" That'd even be true, thanks to the underlying QNX kernel technology of Playbook 2.0/BB10. That would be a kick in the crotch to both Apple and Google, and might save RIM. Alas, it is not to be. (Karl Denninger, who has written extensively about RIM, mentioned this on his blog...after I tipped him off to it.)

  • Remember how I noted that Minecraft was, in some ways, like a primitive version of Second Life? At least one SL landowner, Desmond Shang, "the Guvnah" of steampunk community Caledon, has exploited these similarities with a promotion: rent SL land from him, get free access to a private Minecraft server. Hamlet Au of New World Notes describes the deal and details how other SL estate owners might do the same thing.

  • Also from NWN on Minecraft: If you're looking to replace the standard "Steve?" skin of your Minecraft "avatar" with something a bit more...feminine, here are three skins that show you can look girly even in a low-res world. (The Xbox version doesn't have downloadable skin support, though. It's coming...eventually.)

  • XKCD has an even simpler answer to Moon-landing deniers. Simple, true...and scathing. "That burn was so harsh I think you deorbited."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's been quiet around here this past month, because, unfortunately, I've found something new that acts as a pretty good time sink. That something? Minecraft.


Alpha 2, a Minecraft world


The game has been out for a while on PC, but I hadn't really seen it, other than hearing from Sabrina's friend Sheila about how her kids were obsessed with it. When they introduced it on Xbox, I had some MSPs lying around, so I downloaded it just to see what all the hubbub was about. Soon I was hooked. Sabrina complained, so I gave her the MSPs to get it on her Xbox. Soon, she was hooked. We then got more points for her friend Sheila to get it on their family's Xbox. And then she was hooked.


Are you starting to get an idea that this game might be, well, somewhat compelling?


In fact, in the first activity report Major Nelson released for Xbox Live after Minecraft was introduced, it had grown to be, not merely the most popular Arcade title on the service, but the third most popular game of any type, beat out only by Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. One week later, it had surpassed Black Ops to become the second most popular game on Xbox Live...and it still holds that position a month later. This, mind you, only marks the popularity of the Xbox 360 version of the game...not for the PC version (estimated sales over 6 million) or the "Pocket Edition" available for iOS and Android devices (the iOS version still ranks as #21 on the "Top Paid Apps" on the iOS App Store, despite selling for a much higher price than most paid apps...at $6.99, it's the only app in the top 25 to cost more than $1).


So how can I describe it? Tycho of Penny Arcade has said, "I have heard [Gabriel] suggest that the game is crack, but it’s more like all of the ingredients and equipment that you need to make crack, which I’d say is worse." But that doesn't begin to describe it.


Physically, Minecraft is something like a "survival-adventure" type of game. Start a game, and you're dropped down in the middle of a very low-resolution world, with nothing but your bare hands. And you'd better get busy, too, because soon enough, night will fall...and that's when the monsters come out, including zombies, arrow-shooting skeletons, and the infamous Creepers, which sneak up on you and explode, taking part of the landscape--and maybe you--with them. To combat this, the game gives you the ability to mine the landscape for useful materials, and to craft these materials into other, useful objects (hence the name). You start by punching trees (literally) to get blocks of wood, which you can make into planks. With these planks, you can make a "crafting table," which gives you more options as to what you can make by using it. Then you can use wood planks, and sticks, which you make from planks, to make a wooden pickaxe. With this, you can mine into solid rock, turning it into cobblestone...and from that and more sticks, you can make a better pickaxe, allowing you to mine faster. You can also make axes, for cutting down trees more effectively, shovels, for digging into sand, dirt, or gravel, and swords, for when hiding from the monsters is not enough. Soon, you'll be making a furnace out of cobblestone, which you can fuel with wood planks or--when you find it--coal, and which can heat things to make other things (such as glass, from sand). Using all of these, you can build a shelter to keep you safe from the monsters at night.


As you progress, there are more things to find, such as, deep within the earth, not merely coal, but iron ore (which you smelt in a furnace to make iron ingots, which can be used to make better tools and other things), gold ore (smelted like iron ore, and also useful in crafting, though not as much as you might think), diamonds (which can be used to make powerful tools, weapons, and armor), and the mysterious "redstone" (the basis of much of Minecraft's "technology," such as it is). You'll also encounter hazards like underground dungeons full of monsters (and chests of goodies), pools of water (yes, you can drown in it), and pools of hot lava (deadly if you fall into it). Cool that lava with a bucket of water, though, and you get the nearly indestructible obsidian. Mine that obsidian with a diamond pickaxe, then arrange it into a rectangular frame of the right size and light it "on fire" with a flint and steel, and you've created a portal to "The Nether," a Hell-like dimension with its own hazardous denizens, weird materials, and rewards.


There is an ultimate goal--to visit another dimension called "The End" and defeat the mighty Enderdragon contained within--but I don't know if that's even accessible via the Xbox version yet, which lags the PC version by a number of revisions. But what you can do is make use of the game's crafting abilities to build many things, like a primitive version of Second Life. Build massive buildings, huge underground complexes, road and rail systems, even primitive computers with redstone-based logic gates. The ultimate limits are only time and your imagination. (And perhaps available space...though the PC versions offer a virtually-unlimited size world, the Xbox versions impose limits on the size of a world. They're still pretty large though.)


You can generate as many new worlds as you like and play around in each; this is what Sabrina has done, for the most part. I, however, have chosen to spend most of my time in one world, one I created pretty early on--hence its name, "Alpha 2." Alpha 2 now even has its own geographic nomenclature, both for terrain features and for structures. It has a road system (complete with bridges over water) and the beginnings of a rail system, a number of buildings, and a number of mines (most of them with many signs to point the way to the exit--getting lost underground can be a real problem!) And there's the odd sentimental gesture:


Stephen's Point, on the Eastern Peninsula in Alpha 2.


This is a monument to my late brother Stephen who died four years ago. Accordingly, this geographic feature is "Stephen's Point," at the very end of the Eastern Peninsula, past the Eastern Outpost and the "End-of-the-World Mine." I think he might have appreciated it.


Minecraft is a prototypical "indie game made good," similar to Angry Birds in that respect. Whereas Angry Birds came from Finland, Minecraft hails from Sweden, having been created by Markus "Notch" Persson and now being developed by his company Mojang AB. The PC version of the game is actually written in Java, which piques my interest as I'm not entirely sure how anyone would do that. (There are libraries involved, some of which go back to a failed Sun project to make a Java MMO.) The game, like any moderately-complex game, has its own Wiki to help explain everything, which makes me glad that my Xbox is right next to my desktop system.


What's playing it like? It can be rather relaxing to dig through the Earth, put something together, or just wander around and sightsee...which is enhanced by the soft ambient soundtrack supplied by German composer C418. It also sucks you in, kind of like Civilization...and those that know me should now be going, "Yikes!", as Civilization is one of my major gaming weaknesses, the kind of game where I can start playing at 6:00 PM, and next thing I know..."Oh, is that the sun rising?" This is especially true if both Sabrina and I are playing, as it's hard to stop either of us when we get on a roll. (Sabrina has contributed much to Alpha 2...among other things, she discovered the elusive clay blocks. Her friend Sheila has visited, too, and has her own "house" on Alpha 2, a wood structure in the middle of the Eastern Peninsula.) Take Yahtzee's advice, and give yourself a project; it helps you appreciate the game more.


Recommended...just don't blame me if you, too, get sucked in.  See you in the mines!

 
 
Copyright © 2012 Eric J. Bowersox, All Rights Reserved.
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