solarbird: (made her from parts)

I built a Windows 98 machine out of our old nameserver, door; it was a P166 from 1996 and NO YES REALLY IT WAS STILL ON THE NET UNTIL TWO WEEKS AGO because we were just seeing how long it would hold on.

Anyway, it abruptly retired itself from service, and I had a new machine already built because I also had plans to restructure the network here at the Lair and it required new hardware, but that left me with a reasonably functional P166, and I like the ability to read archaic media and it had a drive controller that could talk to 5.25″ floppies. So.

(It’ll also run DOS games. But I digress, as I do.)

The power supply is a weird short-lived format between AT and ATX called ATB, and these are thin on the ground, so as I was swapping out fans because these old machines sounded like goddamn jet engines how did anyone put up with this ever oh right because we didn’t know any better, I noticed a couple of caps on the power supply had failed, and that I could improve the whole venting situation with a much more open power supply case. So I made one, out of bronze fabric and aluminium, and it is, as the title says, the single most original Star Trek thing I have ever built. To wit:


canna take much more of thi SHUT UP SCOTTY AND MAKE THE ENGINES GO

And now I’m leaving for Montréal and Festival Mémoire et Racines, and if I see you there – yay!

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solarbird: (tracer)

Remember that novella I’ve been writing, On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders? It’s finished. 32 chapters, a bit under 35,000 words (there is a canon digression linked at the appropriate time, but not contained within the primary volume, that boosts the word count), and I’m rather pleased to hear from a couple of readers who do not know anything about the Overwatch world that it makes sense even to them. They know there are emotional beats they’re missing, but it still works as a story.

I wasn’t specifically trying to do that, but I’m really quite pleased that it happened.

If you don’t know the lore at all, but are interested, here’s the original animated short introducing the world of the game, and here is the animated short “Alive” that featured Widowmaker. You’ll see the latter story in short form in Chapter 10, but in the cinematic, the chemistry between Amélie and Lena is absolutely smokin’, which spawned a lot of ships.

(If you really find yourself getting into the lore, here’s the official site, including the comic that confirmed Tracer – the literal face of the game, she’s on the cover of the box – is a lesbian.)

Also, you should know that in canon, in-universe, we ‘know’ that Amélie Lacroix was kidnapped by Talon and recovered apparently well but in actuality neurally reconditioned to assassinate her husband, the head of anti-Talon operations at Overwatch. After that, she went on to become a supposedly-emotionless assassin who feels only satisfaction at the success of her kills.

We are also given a lot of clues in both lore and game that this is at least in some parts a pile of lies, and that we are supposed to figure that out.

Anyway, this has been an experience like few others for me – it is literally more fiction than I’ve written, combined, before, in my life, and I actually tried writing fiction for real in college. I even got published once, in a little Ontario small-press magazine for a token $20 payment. But it was always like pulling teeth, whereas this was more like just trying to stay afloat on top of the tsunami as it carried me forward. I’ve had that feeling for individual songs before, but never for fiction.

I really liked it. I hope it happens again.

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solarbird: (tracer)
The Radio Shack "memorabilia" auction is about as random as you would expect. Acoustic modems and An Art, anyone? But (and?) there's also some vintage stereo gear from the 1950s and 1960s, and - no lie - if I was in the right mood and location and had time, there's a gorgeous FM-only 1960s receiver that would just be lovely to restore. (Basically, Radio Shack is dropping to like 70 stores, mostly in New England, but appears to plan to provide merchandise to remaining independent shops that carry Radio Shack product, which kicks the number up to like 450 mostly not Radio Shack branded dealers.)
solarbird: (pingsearch)

I’m not sure what Amazon thinks I’m building, but I’d genuinely like to see its plans.

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solarbird: (vision)

I thought this was a particularly pretty glitch, so I saved it. MacOS (OS X), Mail.app, photoshop, preview. Larger on Flickr.

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solarbird: justice rains on your face (pharah)

Okay, I posted this a couple of places, but! In response to the Livejournal TOS, I have like 400% cleaned up and dusted off my Dreamwidth account, which hasn’t even been idle, I’ve even been originating posts there, but still. It’s all shiny and buffed now.

Basically fuck yeah http://solarbird.dreamwidth.org is what I’m saying.

It is freakish to be on an LJ-style site and see stuff just… happening everywhere. Do you know how long it’s been since I said “jfc my friendslist is busy”? DO YOU? Okay, about two hours, but I mean before that.

I went and played a short round of Overwatch at 11:30pm. When I came back there were like five new posts. And a bunch of comments. And two friends requests. From strangers. Which were not bots.

I wrote a Fascist Watch newsletter starting around midnight. More new posts. Another friends request. Comments.

It’s not 2004 anymore, but it sure as hell isn’t 2015 either.

Basically, I think what’s happening is that all the scattered people who were still actually using LJ, plus all the people who weren’t but were kind of serious about going back to it at some point, are the ones actually migrating. And they’re all going to the same place, and they’re all looking for everybody else moving over. (Particularly in this community, which was set up when all this started happening.)

One thing I’ve said many times in running shows: an overstuffed smaller room completely beats a half-empty larger room. And what I mean is: for energy. Of the crowd, of the show.

Dreamwidth is smaller than LJ. Post-migration Dreamwidth – even including the active people there already – will most likely still be smaller than LJ was even four months ago. At least, on the Latin-character-set side.

But it’s a smaller room. You look out, you don’t see lots of empty seats and tweet repost botjournals. You see people trying to figure out where they are, and get set up. And going, “..uh… hi!”

It’d be hilarious if the long-considered (and oft-mocked) Livejournal revival actually happened – but on Dreamwidth. And entirely and only because Livejournal finally augured itself in.

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solarbird: (korra-smug)

We got our new hero – Orisa – in Overwatch yesterday, which means unlimited-selection-hero game mode is all-Orisa-all-the-time. She’s a robot centaur so basically it’s Cylon Wars: Equestria in there now.

There’s a skin called “Twilight” that has more or less Twilight Sparkle colours and you cannot tell me that’s not on purpose.

she even has a cutie mark SHE EVEN HAS A CUTIE MARK

And Janai and I were laughing about ponies everywhere when she said WE NEED A COWBOY THAT’S ALL WE NEED so for this I was willing to play McCree on purpose.


Back in the saddle again

He’s 120% laughing into his hat during this victory photo. I insist.

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solarbird: (pony-dj-pon-3)

It’s very strange to start learning the violin (or, in folk terms, the fiddle), just because it’s an instrument that anyone around me actually plays. Honestly not entirely sure what to do with that. Everything else I’ve learned it’s been me and THAT’S ALL (for the most part) and so I’m all kinda “…huh” and not sure what I think about it.

The other people at the Qualicum Beach workshops were pretty much “…well you’re jumping straight into the deep end, aren’t you?” at me, and I’m all YES BUT IT’S OKAY I AM A SHARK. A SHARK WITH A FIDDLE. APPARENTLY.

I have a few photos, but not that many, because the weather on the way was pretty terrible and I like rain and stuff so you know I’m not fucking around. But right as we were docking in Nanaimo, it cleared up a bit, and I took a few pictures.

Of course, the best picture I got of Andre – who was leading the workshops – was on guitar. Go fig. Still, it’s the best shot I got that wasn’t video. (I took a little video for technique study later.)

I broke a bow string! MILESTONE ACHIEVED! Very, very small milestone. Still. Also, a vaguely album-covery picture from Saturday night, after dinner but before the ceilidh performances, of the workshop stage.

Oh, yeah, there was a stage because everyone at the workshop gets up and does a piece or two. Anna and I went up as a band and did the entirely-unrelated-to-the-event “King of Elfland’s Daughter” and “Elf Glade.” They were not expecting that, and Andre was all “now I get what you do.” It was pretty metal.

Bigger versions on Flickr, as usual.

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solarbird: (assassin)

oh look, it’s a top-of-post eta: All of Bandcamp’s profits today are going to the ACLU, so that’s awesome. Go cruise around, check other bands not just us, see if there’s anything you like, buy it. Doesn’t have to be our work, just go do the thing, eh?

Anyway, so, yeah. It’s been more than a little bad-crazy and it shows no signs of stopping. Hell, just staying my current degree of sane these days involves a lot of Overwatch, so let’s talk about that.

I’m a Tracer main. I play a good bit of Pharah and D.va and I’m not a half-bad Ana or Zenyatta, but the outright majority of my playtime is Tracer.

One of the things I drive for is damage efficiency. And by that, I mean no “trash damage” – damage done that does not lead to a character elimination. So if I gold medal in damage, and don’t gold in kills and/or objective kills? I’m not playing well, even if we win.

It’s not like with Junkrat, who has so much splatter weaponry, right? Splash damage is part of his game. There’s enough of it that even “trash damage” has impact, just by tying up enemy support. My area of effect, by contrast, is tiny, and therefore, it needs to be effective.

There are four primary offensive stats in Overwatch games: total kills, objective kills, time spent on the objective itself, and total damage. If I get golds in all four, that’s good! But if I gold/gold/gold/silver or gold/gold/gold/bronze (total kills, objective kills, time on objective, total damage)? That’s great. It means I’m not wasting my shots. It says my damage output is disproportionately effective, and says better things, to my mind, then four golds. (And I kind of wish Overwatch acknowledged that.)

So last night, I got gold/gold/gold/NO MEDAL in a victory, which means like no junk damage. Led team in total kills, objective kills, and time spent on objective, despite being no higher than fourth of six in total damage done.

That is some goddamn efficiency.

I don’t think I’ve managed gold/gold/gold/NONE before, and I’m really happy about it.

I’ve got a song I’m writing, “Manic Pixie Murder Machine.” It’s very much not together yet but I think I see where it’s going, and of course, it’s about Tracer. And that is the kind of Tracer I want to be in-game.

Surely some of you have to play Overwatch. Who do you main?

i’m not your goddamn limey waifu honey
i’m a manic pixie murder machiiiiiiiiiiiine

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solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

This is the best song you’ll ever hear about a small and dumpy Vancouver mall. Yes, it’s a low bar, but I used to shop there sometimes because it was convenient (it’s in Mt. Pleasant, on Kingsway, I had friends living around there), and this really does kind of capture the place.

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networking

Jan. 16th, 2017 08:30 am
solarbird: (music)

Met a few friends of Leannan Sidhe’s, from Shoreline – other musicians with their own band(s) – this weekend, dropping by a joint recording session for a big school project. (They’re all in SCC’s audio engineering and music programme.)

Turns out they know SJ and Betsy and Alec and all of that crowd, which was great, and we shared stories and jammed a little, which went well. I didn’t stick around too long, for supervillain reasons (and also, they had a lot of tracking to do in their studio session and a limited number of hours in which to do it), but it was fun.

Annnnnd maybe, with a bit of luck, something might come of it this summer. Maybe. Y’never know.

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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

The Digital Reader has an article up on how the new Nook Tablet 7 comes preloaded with some of the most complete rootkit/malware/spyware packages on the planet, which is a tough competition.

Here’s a more complete technical overview on Linux Journal, but the short form is burn it with fire, or, to quote page three: “Realistically, the only safe way to use the BNTV450 would involve a format of the eMMC, and the installation of a third-party ROM, should one become available.”

For bonus points, it’s still vulnerable to the utterly amazing Stagefright exploit which made such news last year. Nice.

So, yeah. If you have one of these, or receive one of these, do not use it at all. Don’t even turn it on. Take it back for a refund immediately. Sorry.

ps: I am no longer surrounded by floppy diskettes. Thank the gods. But check out this floppy diskette that, perhaps unsurprisingly, I could not recover:

That’s not reflection: that’s light showing up through the diskette. Is that nuts or what? This is a 5.25″ floppy diskette pulled from its envelope, showing that somehow, on both sides, the media in those tracks got scraped off down to the clear plastic underneath.

I now have a little collection of media I refer to as ULTRAFUCKED, and this one is their god.

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solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

Seriously, this is like the canonical hard drive head crash. This should be some sort of textbook photo or classroom example piece. It’s goddamn beautiful in an elegant-termination way.

If the canon Widowmaker from Overwatch made a hard drive crash, this is what it would look like. Pow.

I’m just glad this was not a studio hard drive. It was one of the old laptops, and had failed a couple of years ago – did I mention that I am dead serious about cleaning out acres of old junk going into the new year? Well, I am.

But… damn. This is almost worth keeping.

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solarbird: (Lecturing)

All this old computer stuff I keep talking about is going up on eBay in various forms. Those auctions will be over here, and all the starting bids are way low, because the whole point is to clear all this out. I’ll be adding more items hopefully daily.

But! That Amiga 500 I’ve been talking about… that’s a bit tricky. It’s better as a unit than it would be as pieces, but the weird wooden case is a problem, and there is no case anywhere else that could be used and keep the system intact. I could take it apart and sell the pieces, and that would probably get me the most money, but frankly, I’d much rather keep it together.

You can probably see where this is going.

I have a highly-customised Amiga 500 with ECS chipset, FlickerFicker/deinterlacer/scandoubler card, 3.5 megs of memory, 14.3Mhz processor (double-speed) with cache, a two-slot Zorro II card cage, SCSI/memory expansion card, third-party high-quality power supply… and a completely goofy wooden tower case made out of lumber, because there is no mass-market case in the world that would hold all this. The hard drive may have just died, but the rest is still fine.

Does anyone out there know any collectors or retrocomputing enthusiasts who might be interested in this monster as one big piece? Seriously, you will not find many Amiga 500s with detached keyboards and Zorro II slots.

Shipping it isn’t a question. Just… no. And you don’t have to take the case, but you won’t find one that will deal with this configuration – you’ll have to build something.

So if you know any Amiga enthusiasts, have them talk to me. I’m not asking eBay parts price, but particularly things like the scandoubler actually do draw some money, so I’m hoping for a couple of hundred dollars. A lot less than you’d pay to assemble it, but well above zero.

Most of the other pieces, I’ll be eBaying. But this… I’d rather find somebody who can take it all in one piece. Thanks.

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solarbird: (music)

Sorry for no blog posts – it’s end of the year cleanup, and archiving, and I just found another old hard drive of dubious origin, so old the ichor of elder days has dried to dust, so I am of course trying to image it, because where else are you going to get ichor powder in this market?

Something has to drive the eldritch wheels of creation, after all.

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solarbird: (korra-fruck-out)

This is what’s left of the rubber feet of my 1994 Commodore Amiga 4000/040.

Yep. That’s a viscous tar-like residue that ran along the bottom of the case and into the gap between the bottom case and the cover. It’s very sticky and resistant to detergent, but, fortunately, not to citrus-based sticky tape removers. Isn’t it gross? I mean, seriously, doesn’t this look like some sort of OOZE OF SATAN special effect?

Oddly, the stickytape used to hold the rubber feet on was intact! And, as far as I can tell, fine. This actually saved me a lot of cleanup, because the cores of the old feet were pretty solid? The further I removed down, the more like rubber it became. The thickest material had an actual rubber-like consistency.

Fortunately, all the rubber that ran could be cleaned up pretty easily with an old spudger and a lot of orange oil. But goddamn.

I’ve repaired tube equipment from the second world war and this is the most bizarre materials degradation I’ve ever encountered.

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solarbird: (music)

We’re going to the movies tonight, so here’s a question that was fun on Nick Mamatas’s account: name three movies you love that “everybody” just hates. Or loathes or whatever.

My three: Brain Candy (tho’ that’s at least partly “nobody saw it” I think); it’s a bit of a stretch to say “love,” but I do at least legitimately like The Magic Christian; and Speed Racer. Absofuckinglutely Speed Racer.

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solarbird: (shego-rule?-you?)

I wanted to make a Pharah (from Overwatch) helmet for Halloween. I’ve never worked with armour before, so I went to a workshop at VCON to learn the basics, and started trying to find a design online.

This … sort of exists? I one person who would let you download their pattern for “free” if you signed up to back their Patron for some level, which is not free, and kind of annoyed me. And I found another non-authorised pattern being listed for sale at £35. (Kind of smelling a scam there.)

So I started poking at it myself and wow yeah this is not easy, which explains the paucity of Pharah cosplay I have seen, because damn. I went through a couple of complete-failure papercraft attempts and decided, “okay, I’m gonna wireframe this, by which I mean, with actual wire.” And that got super-frustrating and SOLARBIRD ANGRY! and I kind of quit and then I picked it back up a little later and suddenly it kind of started coming together.


Wireframe

The liftable mask isn’t really right and also wants to be both larger and smaller to be correct at the same time, because fuck you CGI, but it’s… in the neighbourhood. And even wearable! It fits on my head! And stays on!

I cut a couple of papercraft element pieces using the wireframe as a pattern and they are very different to my straight-to-paper attempts, so I wasn’t even close before. I just don’t have an intuitive grasp of how bends in 3-space affect projections into 2-space I guess. So this really is how I’m going to need to do it.

Obviously it’s too late to finish this year, but I think I’ll keep working on it. I’d like to at least get the helmet together, right? That’d be neat.

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solarbird: (korra-excited)

Ever wanted to hang out in the Slytherin common room, or Gryffindor’s, or any of the other houses? Or, maybe, on a balcony in Rivendell? Madam Vastra’s arboretum, perhaps? Or maybe a snowy day in Skyrim?

Well, y’can’t. But I did just stumble across an ambient sounds site that will let you make the room you’re in feel a bit like those places might, by creating the right audio environment. It’s called Ambient Mixer, and it lets you set up your own environmental soundtrack, as well as both play and modify those set up by others.

It’s pretty neat – it works by playing public domain sound samples that you can set up to loop, with things like placement and randomisation so it’s not just the same 120 seconds or whatever over and over again. So occasionally you’ll hear someone through the room, or pages in a book might turn, or the fire might make occasional other noises, the wind will pick up outside, or you’ll hear a hawk – and so on.

In some cases, it works really well to turn off any of the specific instruments if present (like the ‘spirit cello’ in Skyrim) and play it along to the soundtrack album, if one is available. I’m doing that right now, combining the Skyrim snowy day ambient audio with the OST, and it’s astonishingly effective.

It’s fun to play with, and certainly soothing. Also, it’s reminding me real hard right now about how much I miss Skyrim and am looking forward to the PS4 remastered version coming out soon. Because damn, that was a great game.

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