2016.05 minutiae

  • So it was only just recently that I learned that, in addition to offering virtually every arcade game ever made for free, the Internet Archive has now also made thousands of DOS games freely available as well.  And since by the time DOS was no longer the dominant operating system I rarely played computer games, the majority of computer games I ever saw in stores are on this list.  I have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks getting my DOS on.  Last month I played a lot of Rampart, which I bought when it came out and have finally beaten nearly a quarter of a century later.  In Rampart your goal is to preserve the integrity of your castle, trading cannon fire with a fleet of ships and then rebuilding the castle walls with Tetris pieces.  Thus I was amused when I reached the end and the victory text acted as though the game had a bunch of narrative content.  "Many lives were lost, including those of your friends and loved ones: you'll mourn them for years to come."  "You'll be remembered by your men as a great leader: brave, strong, and sometimes cruel. But when all is said and done, none will say you treated them poorly."  I have to admit, there was something mournfully cruel about the way I rotated that T-shape before clicking it into place.

  • Another blast from the past: I didn't watch all of The Day After when it first aired.  At school the next morning a bunch of kids were talking about the characters fighting giant cockroaches, so for years I thought that was part of the movie, and was mystified when I finally did watch it and discovered that there was no such scene.  Only now, thanks to a Youtube suggestion 32½ years later, have I finally found another piece of the puzzle.  Apparently they were talking about a different movie called Damnation Alley.  Now I just have to figure out which station was counterprogramming The Day After with the frickin' cockroach movie.

  • Puaj!  Great error!  So, this month I got socked with an enormous web hosting bill because of the Lyttle Lytton Contest.  But when I multiplied the number of hits by the size of the file (plus its background image), the result fit under my bandwidth cap.  Yet my web hosting service said that the actual amount of transferred data was ten times higher.  So I did some detective work, and discovered my mistake.  See, back in January I posted a writeup of a movie called Computer Chess, and I thought that since the movie was set in the early days of personal computing, it might be fun if the article used the IBM PC font I imprinted on as a kid.  So I found a freeware version of the font, but of course, it seemed pretty unlikely that any visitors to my site would happen to have that font installed.  Not too long ago this would have meant turning the entire article into an image, so that I could be sure that people were seeing the correct font, but I had heard that the @font_face command could solve the problem.  So I read up on how that command worked, followed the instructions, and voilà, up popped the PC font.  And then I thought, hey — instead of using stylesheets and Javascript to figure out which fonts each user had installed and adjusting the formatting accordingly (10 pt for Tahoma, 11 pt for Segoe, 108% for Georgia, etc.), why not just host some freeware fonts locally and use @font_face for every article?  The answer, it turns out, is that while the bandwidth cost of that is negligible for Calendar articles, it becomes stratospheric when a page like the Lyttle Lytton results goes up and gets hundreds of thousands of hits, serving the font files every time.  Urk.

  • Yahoo headline: David Hasselhoff: "I'm Broke"

    It's his own fault.  He had years to convert those deutschmarks.

  • This may be old news to a lot of you, but one trend that startled me when I got back into the world of test prep and college admissions is that all of a sudden pretty much every student in my classes is applying to Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington.  (Not Washington State — that's way out on the border with Idaho.)  Meanwhile, when I audit classes at Berkeley and the professors ask who's from California, a lot fewer hands are going up.  What's going on?  It seems that word has gotten around: it's a lot easier to get into a public university if you live in a different state, because colleges would much rather pocket that hefty out-of-state tuition than the comparatively meager fees they collect from the in-state students the schools were founded to serve.  Bleah, that's perverse.

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