Friday, June 26, 2020

Lords of Conquest - A Commodore 64 Risk Like Game

Every now and then, my brain tries to think of the name of a game I used to play with my friends. I can describe it perfectly, but the actual name escapes me.

The game is laid out on a grid with very rudimentary landforms. It plays basically like Risk, where players take turns trying to attack/defend other players from taking over their land. It also has a cool feature where you can actually build your own maps!

I search and search on Google, trying to come up with the right phrasing that will expose the game and its long-forgotten name. Alas, one day, I am searching for "Commodore 64 risk like game" and nothing is coming up other than Risk or other like games but not the one I am seeking. I flip over to the image results to see if anything stands out. A few screens down, and there it is!


Unfortunately, the link to the image's hosting page leads to some weird Instagram curation page and the image above is nowhere to be found in the mess of images.

So, I save the image and do a reverse image search. Basically, you go to images.google.com and click the little camera icon to upload a picture. Google then tries to find your image compared to the rest of the internet. BINGO!

The game, as it turns out, is called "Lords of Conquest." Now, I have to say, I do not believe that is the name of the game I played. I am almost certain the game I played had to be loaded with the command:
LOAD"DELUXE",8,1

But, that doesn't matter! I finally found what I was looking for. Not only that, but I found a d64 disk image and fired it up on a C64 emulator (I didn't have easy access to my breadbin Ultimate 64 Elite at the time).


And there it is! The game plays like an overly complicated version of Risk. Players get resources (gold, iron, horses, weapons, etc) and they can use those resources to help with attacks and defenses.

The C64 Wiki has a great write-up on the game, so I will spare you the details.

The main reason I am posting this is so that in the future when I forget the name of this game, I can search my blog and find comfort in knowing the great mystery had been solved.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Force Zoom to QUIT Instead of Minimize!


Since the makers of Zoom don't play by the rules of 99% of the programs out there, I decided to make my own BAT file that will launch Zoom and provide a way for the user to force-quit Zoom after the session is over.

I have created a Windows batch file called "Quit Zoom." It has its own installer/uninstaller and it works very simply:

  1. Download the installer (qz-setup.exe)
  2. Run qz-setup.exe
  3. Once installed, double-click the "Quit Zoom" icon
  4. A window will open that launches Zoom
  5. Leave the window open until you are done with your Zoom session
  6. After the session, click in the window and press any key
  7. Zoom will exit (instead of being minimized to the task bar/system tray.)
  8. Quit Zoom will exit
 If you wish to remove the program, simply use Programs and Features to uninstall Quit Zoom.

Note, this program is a simple batch file. It doesn't collect data. It doesn't write anything to your computer other than the program itself. It's not elegant, but it works. I offer it for free. you can install it on all the computers you want. If you edit the file and/or share it, whatever happens from that point on is *NOT* my responsibility.

I will try to monitor this post for questions/problems, but I'm letting you know right now that you are more than likely on your own. I built this for me to use and am sharing it with anyone that wants it until such time the people at Zoom make their program work like 99% of the other programs for Windows: The X means EXIT!

Notes:
  • You may still see the Zoom icon in your system tray, but the program is not running. As soon as you hover your mouse over the icon, it will disappear. 
  • You may need Administrator-level rights on the computer in order to install or run this batch file.
  • This program invokes the "Taskkill" command in order to terminate Zoom. Access to that process may be blocked by your computer administrator. 
  • Terminating Zoom with this brute-force method may cause unintended consequences. Use at your own risk. Your mileage may vary.
  • This batch file will *NOT* run when clicking a link in email, calendar, etc. For what it's worth, it appears that the program exists normally when closing from a linked launch. Go figure.  
  • You can replace your Zoom shortcut by copying the command from the batch file to replace the launch command inside the program's shortcut. I am not providing the steps to do that here.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#WorkLife: HP LaserJet P1006 and other old hp printers on Windows 10


After upgrading to Windows 10, my HP LaserJet P1006 failed to work. The printer showed up in my printer list, however it would not process any print jobs. Technically, the queue would process it as if it were being sent to the printer (and thus disappear from  the queue), but the printer would never actually print the job.

Thankfully, I found a working solution (posted below) on the HP Forums. I am copying it here just in case the forums disappear one day and/or to make it easier for me to find the information. Hope it helps someone! (Solution written by Shlomi L)

  • First unplug the USB from your PC.
  • From the Control Panel select Devices and Printers, if you see your printer listed right click it and select Remove Device.
  • next restart your computer.
  • Next right click the start menu and select Run, the Run dialog appears.
  • Type printui.exe /s and press OK, the Print Server Properties opens.
  • Open the Drivers tab.
  • Select any instance of your printer and remove it, be sure to select the 2nd option to remote both the printer and its package.
  •  
  • Once you are done install the software below, only plug the USb once the installation prompt doing so:
  • http://ftp.hp.com/pub/softlib/software12/COL21058/bi-55362-7/ljP1000_P1500-HB-pnp-win64-en.exe
Original post:
https://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/LaserJet-Printing/HP-Laserjet-P1006-not-working-on-windows-10/m-p/6709444#M346167

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

DEC Pathworks on WFW 3.11 - Group Creation Tool



Way back in the day (circa 1994 or so, I would venture), I worked for a university where they were using Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) VAX servers. The workstations were a mix of Windows 3.1 and WFW 3.11, though when I arrived, we were moving everyone to WFW 3.11. As part of the general network installation, we installed DEC Pathworks (I believe it was version 4.x), which allowed Windows machines to have file storage access to the servers. While that's all well and good, the real her in this tale is a little program that ran during the installation of the software and drivers.

During the installation, Pathworks created its own Windows Program Groups - a common thing to do for program installations. For some reason, during one install, the creation routine failed with an error about a problem in a BLD file though the actual extension may have been different now that I am trying to recall). Being the nosy characters we are, the tech guys decided to investigate since we had never head of a BLD file.

Turns out, the BLD file, which I believe was called PATHWORK.BLD (or something similar) is just a text file outlining group names and the shortcuts to go into the groups. I have tried to locate the actual file, but can't at the moment, so here is the sample file from the program's webpage:

[CreateGroup(Test Main,TMAIN.GRP)]
[ShowGroup(Test Main,1)]
[AddItem(progman.exe,File Manager)]
[AddItem(control.exe,Control Panel)]
[AddItem(printman.exe,Print Manager)]
[AddItem(clipbrd.exe,Clipboard)]
[AddItem(command.com,DOS Prompt)]
[AddItem(setup.exe,Windows Setup)]

[CreateGroup(Test Accessories,TACCESS.GRP)]
[ShowGroup(Test Accessories,1)]
[AddItem(write.exe,Write)]
[AddItem(pbrush.exe,Paintbrush)]
[AddItem(terminal.exe,Terminal)]
[AddItem(notepad.exe,Notepad)]
[AddItem(recorder.exe,Recorder)]
[AddItem(cardfile.exe,Cardfile)]
[AddItem(calendar.exe,Calendar)]
[AddItem(calc.exe,Calculator)]
[AddItem(clock.exe,Clock)]
[AddItem(pifedit.exe,PIF Editor)]

As you can see, this file contains the structure to build groups. First, the CreateGroup command expects two arguments, the display name of the group ("Test Main") and the actual name of the GRP file for Windows ("TMAIN.GRP"). The next command tells Windows that the group is visible (that is, not hidden) and also expects two arguments: The display name of the group ("Test Main") and a 1 for yes or a 0 for no. Finally, the next series of lines build the items to be displayed within the newly created group. The AddItem command expects two arguments as well. The first is the name of the file to be referenced followed by the display name of the file. Note: If the filename is not available via the PATH statement, the full path to the file must be provided - ex: [AddItem(c:\games\duke3d\duke3d.exe, Duke Nuk'em)].

The BLD file is just the configuration, though. The actual program to run is BUILDGRP.EXE, though again I believe DEC used a custom name instead, if memory servers.

During setup, a:\BUILDGRP.EXE PATHWORK.BLD would be executed, with the EXE referencing the specific configuration.

As you might imagine, this suddenly opened a whole new world to us! We created a slew of custom group installations for the users, running the program from a batch file stored on a floppy disk or on the network itself. You see, once Pathworks was up and running, the WFW machine had access to the network. So, we could call a batch file from the workstation and tell our custom group(s) to install themselves on the client machines.

If you're interested in playing with GROUPBLD, you can find it (along with a help file and the sample configuration above) buried in this Windows 31 DOSBox package.

I have no idea what made me remember all this. Guess it just PoppedInMyHead!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Forgotten Realms: Angelica, Remembered #gaming

Note:The following article was originally published in April 2017 on my website davidinark.com. The link to that is at the bottom of this one.


While poking around online, I discovered that I was late to a very cool party. It seems that Good Old Games managed to hunt down and secure the licensing rights to the classic “Gold Box” games from SSI built around the Dungeons and Dragons world. Now, to many of you, this means nothing. To me, however, this ushered in a surge of memories from my youth.

I played the “Pool of Radiance” series (as I called it) on my Commodore 64 from the time the Gold Box Series came out until well into my college years. Holy smokes. Stopping to think about that, I just realized I played that series starting in 1988 (freshman year) up until a couple years after my wife and I got married. We married in 1991, but I played the game at least until 1993 or later.

I loved the game. It was based on REAL D&D rules, regs, characters, stats… It combined two of my favorite things: computers and D&D. When I got the game in 1998, I fired up the game and began creating my characters and building a party. The first character I created was a female fighter. She was awesome from the very start. She had pixelated flowing blonde hair, was a tough character through stats, and became the undisputed leader of the party. I named her Angelica. She led battles, did most of the speaking for the group when put into such situations, and remained throughout the entire series – though others had not.

I have to admit, the temptation to resurrect Angelica from the depths of memory and plop her down at the beginning of a new tale, a new adventure, excites the nostalgic kid in me like you would not believe. Thanks to Good Old Games, I could do just that. They took the games, reworked them a bit, and created virtual DOS machines in which to run them. Oh, to fire up the games again and create a new band of adventurers in all that 8- or 16-bit glory…

Alas, it is not meant to be. You see, if I do buy the revamped games, I don’t think I could bring myself to create a new lead female character bearing the name and likeness of the one I had grown so fond of, the one who survived each of the games into which we could move our characters, allowing them to keep growing as new challenges arose from the disks contained inside those gold box games.

No. You see, sometimes you play with a certain character in a game series so long that when the time comes for that character to rest (she never died, the series just ran out and time moved on and I eventually got rid of all my Commodore 64 stuff), you let the character rest. Creating another wouldn’t be the same. And, if the replacement didn’t live up to the same level as the original, then the memory of the first is forever tarnished.

Angelica lives in my heart and memory the way she was: a strong, fierce, pixelated beauty.

Get the games here: https://www.gog.com/game/forgotten_realms_the_archives_collection_two

Link to original article:
http://davidinark.com/2017/04/11/forgotten-realms-angelica-remembered-gaming/


Monday, March 25, 2019

Packard Bell Legend 316sx (386sx-16) - Memories of my first IBM-PC


Though my first computer was a Commodore 64, my first PC was a Packard Bell Legend 316sx. It had a 386sx-16MHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and I can't remember if it came with the 120MB hard drive or if I upgraded to that, but I believe it came with the 120MB HDD (A Seagate ST3144A, if memory serves). Installed OS was DOS and Windows 3.0. I got it for a combo Christmas/birthday gift and I am almost certain it cost around $1600. I also got a Packard bell monitor with it.

The very first thing I did with it was to go to the store (heck, it was probably Walmart since Walmart actually sold computer parts in those days) to buy memory so that I could upgrade it to 4MB. I distinctly remember this because each megabyte was $40! That is crazy to think nowadays where, in 2019 anyway, we can grab 16gb of RAM for that price!

The system came with a 5.25" floppy and a 3.5" floppy. There was NO sound, no CD-ROM, and only had a built-in Oak VGA video card. It worked well for what I needed when I first got it (typing papers for college, mostly, and some rudimentary gaming). But, it wasn't long before the upgrade itch really got me going.

I started with a Multimedia Upgrade kit from Creative Labs. Unfortunately, the only images i can find online are of a later version than the one i got. I am pretty sure mine had a short audio card, CD-ROM drive, software and related cabling. I believe the upgrade included Windows 3.1 or 3.11 as well, so that the user could take "full advantage" of the new multimedia offerings. I think the CDs had to be put into a special cartridge tray that would then be inserted into the drive itself.

From: https://books.google.com/books?id=a2YTCyIAwwIC&pg=PP168&dq=sound+blaster+multimedia+upgrade+kit&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjGuujwxJ3hAhVBG6wKHQZfAdUQ6AEILTAB#v=onepage&q=sound%20blaster%20multimedia%20upgrade%20kit&f=false

While that sufficed for a while, allowing me to play and experience games in a way I hadn't before, I soon wanted more power under the hood. Rather than shelling out another $1500 for a newer machine, I looked into upgrading the CPU itself.

Since this was a 386SX, I had several options: 1) Upgrade from a 16MHz to 25 or 33, 2) Add a math coprocessor (the motherboard had a socket for that), 3) Upgrade the CPU with an adapter kit.

Yes, that's right! Back in the early 90's, there were adapters you could buy that would sit directly in top of your 386 CPU. The adapter would then house a 486 CPU piggybacked onto the 386 chip. Now, since my 386 was an SX variety, I had to stick with SX versions of the 486 (no DX for me).


I bought the Make-it 486 SX upgrade kit for about $100. This was quite a bizarre arrangement. In addition to the CPU upgrade sitting on top of an adapter socket, I also had to install a 486 CPU fan on top of that. Now, look back at the case for this computer. It's a small form factor, especially for those days, and this stacked-up CPU made for one VERY tall apparatus inside. Nevertheless, it worked flawlessly! Er, well, as flawlessly as Packard Bells could perform, anyway.

I also upgraded the modem several times over the years, and added a network card for local gameplay via IPX (Doom, etc). Heck, I think I even upgraded to windows 95 before it was all said and done.

Packard Bell became synonymous with low quality, cheap components that would fail completely, or worse, provide intermittent issues that would leave users frustrated, dazed, and confused.

In the meantime, though, I used my Packard Bell Legend 316SX from 1991ish when I got it until about 1994/5 when I was afforded the opportunity to upgrade to a newer machine through my employer.

The 316SX holds a fond place in my heart because it was the first IBM-Compatible PC that I ever owned. I can remember putting it in a backpack once to carry it on to the airplane for a trip. The airport security made me plug it in and turn it on. Of course, I didn't have a monitor, so the fans whirred, the lights came on, and the system speaker chirped to let me know there was no keyboard attached, but it passed security (much more lax in those days, pre-9/11) and I carried onto the plane with me (I wasn't about to let it suffer the agony of checked baggage).

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#Ransomware Attack at School Triggers Best Practice Reminders

 
Recently, there was a ransomware incident at a nearby school district. The event occurred through a Remote Desktop Protocol Session (RDP) running on the Technology Coordinator's desktop. His machine had a publicly accessible RDP IP address so he could work from home, etc. Unfortunately, his computer was compromised and subsequently used to attack their servers.

If you are using RDP to get access to your network from outside, I recommend the following:
  1. Kill all RDP sessions accessible from outside your internal network. This may require editing your firewall settings to remove the public IP address(es) to your RDP computers.
  2. Change your password on any accounts used for accessing public RDP. The current en vogue system is to use passphrases rather than passwords.
  3. If you must have remote access, set up a VPN to handle that instead of RDP.Several companies offer secure VPN access.
  4. Do NOT put your own login account into the Domain Admins group.
  5. For internal RDP sessions, do *NOT* save the logon credentials. I know it is a pain, but better safe than sorry. :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Blocking/unfollowing the malicious cowards of social media.

Blocking/unfollowing the malicious cowards of social media.

 “Social” media has given rise to the most impersonal public whining in the history of civilization. Never in time have we been able to so readily make a complaint against an individual or individuals with nothing more than general, noncommittal rhetoric and nonspecific public shaming. Disappearing are the days when one would speak directly to the individual(s) for resolution.

Many have lamented the effects of anonymity online in respect to the author of posts, but it seems the same anonymity applies to the recipient of posts, even when said recipient cannot possibly be aware that s/he is the target because the person posting hides behind the ability to be nonspecific. Often, when pressed for details, the posting offender hides behind just enough information to garner support for the nonspecific post from the poster’s “friends,” but not enough to allow the “offending” party any recourse.

It is with cowardly malice these individuals post these tirades and diatribes to social media. There are steps to take to rid timelines of such drivel. 1) Unfollow the poster. 2) Block the poster if unfollowing isn’t enough 3) Unfriend the poster if the negativity brought by that person only serves to affect one’s own well being.

Share your thoughts below.