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Sorcerer's Place Happenings
by Taluntain

May 4, 2004 - SP Happenings #48

To say that the past week had been eventful would be a bit of an understatement. The first big news was Interplay's complete relinquishment of all D&D game titles and rights, followed by the removal of any mention of all published D&D games from the official catalogue on their website. What is actually going on behind the scenes at Interplay is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, but one thing is painfully obvious - Interplay is in very serious trouble. As far as D&D gamers are concerned, it is dead already. Whether Interplay will manage to remain afloat (or, better put, for how long), and in what shape, is anybody's guess. Certainly the leadership's incompetence is not doing it any favours. We will just have to have to wait and see how this drama plays out.

Coincidentally, right after the near-death of Interplay came another interesting piece of news. A real-time strategy game set in WoTC's new Eberron D&D setting is on schedule to be released in 2005. Developed by Liquid Entertainment under Atari's wing, it is quite obvious that while Interplay is finished with D&D games, Atari has merely begun to warm up. Since there practically haven't been any PC D&D games that wouldn't be RPGs, the title is bound to spark a lot of debate before (and after) the release. SP will, of course, be keeping tabs on it all.

Now, as far as the new site redesign goes, I haven't managed to make much progress this week, but due to circumstances beyond my control. I've had my primary hard drive replaced, which took a lot of preparation to back everything up from the old drive, and time to install everything back again on the new drive. Twice. I won't bother you with details, but suffice it to say, I lost nearly 4 days on this wretched exercise. Luckily, with two decently sized hard drives, I won't have to worry about the lack of space any more for quite some time.

Incidentally, with all the reinstalling I've had to do, I chanced upon a completely free virus scanner named avast!, which I recommend to everyone. With all the viruses spreading around these days, you really can't afford not to have decent virus protection on your PC. And when it's completely free (to use the avast! 4 Home Edition they only require you to make a free registration in 30 days, and then issue you a registration code valid for 14 months, freely renewable), you have no excuse not to download and install it. Previously I've been using McAfee VirusScan, and during my experience with avast! over the last 5 days or so, I have noticed avast! to be as good (if not better) at catching and blocking viruses, but much more configurable and drastically less system resource-taxing. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I really can't think of a single complaint over this software. If only all anti-virus companies had the conscience to offer free downloads of their programs for non-commercial use, we'd have to worry about viruses far less than we are forced to now.

April 27, 2004 - SP Happenings #47

I didn't get as much work done on the redesign this past week as I would have liked, but I still made some progress. I've been shuffling around some content placement, added a few new pages and started linking the pages together. Hopefully I'll have more time over the next few days to start tackling the rest of it.

April 20, 2004 - SP Happenings #46

Well, I can say that I've managed to progress considerably with the redesign over the last week. All of the pages of SP apart from the Games section have been converted, and I've also put together a number of new pages, required by the new design. At this rate, the new design should go up fairly quickly (a few weeks), provided there are no complications when it comes to testing everything. Of course, converting the Games section will probably take more time than everything else, because the majority of the content is there, and because most manual changes will be needed there. Stay tuned for updates.

April 13, 2004 - SP Happenings #45

A couple more reviews have been added in the Mod Reviews forum since the last SP Happenings, so check them out if you haven't yet.

I've been pretty busy with the site redesign over the last few days, and while it's tedious and slow work converting all of the existing content, reorganizing it for the new design, and adding new content at the same time, I'm making progress. Today I spotted a bug in the conversion script by pure accident, but I'm glad I did, because it was something which would require all of the pages to be re-checked manually later if left in. Hopefully BTA will squish this annoyance and I'll be able to go back to converting soon. In the meantime, I'll have my hands full with testing the content I've converted thus far, and adding new content connected with the optional Community Supporter accounts.

April 6, 2004 - SP Happenings #44

With the long-awaited site update now done, I should be able to go back to the site redesign and have something to show in that department shortly. Expect news on that next week. We've had some quite interesting developments on the message boards over the last week with The Sensorium and Mod Reviews forums opening, and old Whatnots getting archived. We now also have the first review in the Mod Reviews forum: Ascension/WeiDU. Check it out and post your comments.

Server Problems, Part 2: I've done all that I could in the attempt to bring memory usage on the server down, but it really helped very little. As the server will be hit even harder once the new design goes live, having to get more RAM is only a matter of time. For now, I've managed to stabilize the server, but the memory overload is noticeable in some areas. If it gets any worse, I'll really have no choice but to shell out that extra $270 a year for a memory upgrade.

March 30, 2004 - SP Happenings #43

A site update was due before this issue of SP Happenings, but circumstances beyond my control unfortunately prevented it. I've been doing my best to discover what the issues that have been bringing the server down for the last two days are, but have only managed to get near the root of the problem by now, with no practical (read cheap) solutions at hand. The fact is that the server SP and the hosted sites are running on is running out of the 512MB of available RAM. If I can't bring this memory usage down, the only solution will be to buy another 512MB of RAM, which will cost us $30 and raise the monthly hosting expenses for another $20. So, as you can imagine, I'm doing my best to find some way to deal with this problem that won't require pouring more money into hosting than we already are. I'll have more news on this next week, but in the meanwhile, please be patient if SP goes down now and then... I'll either be conducting tests on the server, or the server might go down because of the lack of memory. Either way, I'll try to get it back up ASAP.

I should also have the site update ready soon, but how soon now totally depends on when I get the server back in order. This is obviously my top priority at the moment.

March 23, 2004 - SP Happenings #42

So much for the site update slated for the end of last week. I've got some relatively free time on my hands over the next few days, however, so I'm confident that the site update will go up by the end of this week for certain. Work on the redesign has been temporarily frozen, though it will resume in about 2 weeks, after I wrap up a couple of exams coming up shortly.

March 16, 2004 - SP Happenings #41

Nothing really new since last week. With any luck, however, I should be able to put up a site update by the end of this week.

March 9, 2004 - SP Happenings #40

It's days like these when I wish I was able to run SP as a daily job. Apart from regular maintenance, nothing much happened this past week, as all of my free time was spent on real life issues. And sadly, the prospect for next week is no better, as I will be similarly busy in the foreseeable future. Oh, well.

Anyway, a site update is very much due, so I'll try to squeeze it in at some point soon, but I can't give you an exact date because it'll depend entirely on how much free time I can take away from other pressing matters (like my studies), and when. So - stay tuned.

March 2, 2004 - SP Happenings #39

I've been too busy with real life issues this past week to do anything much apart from the regular maintenance on SP, but with one important exception. It occurred to me that our resident programming wiz BTA could write a program that would strip the pop-up code from all the pages of SP directly on-server, which was something that could be done right away (unlike the other alternatives of me either re-uploading all the html pages, or waiting for the new design to go live). The whole process went smoothly, and we are now finally rid of those infested pop-ups. I just wish this solution had occurred to me sooner.

The problem now, however, is the subsequent significant drop in SP's income. I need about $150 every month to cover the server hosting expenses, and with the pop-ups gone, there is no advertising left that would pay just by display. As you can imagine, donations are crucial at this point. So until the new design goes up (whose extra subscription options should help alleviate at least a part of the monthly expenses), I'm putting out a call for donations. Thanks in advance to those of you willing to help keep SP up & running.

February 24, 2004 - SP Happenings #38

Over the last week I managed to finalize the look of the new random image logos, which will be a very visible part of the new design, so therefore quite important. I've created nearly 80 of them, so they shouldn't get repetitive for quite some time. This pretty much completes the outside look and feel of the new design, so apart from the actual site content, there isn't much else left to do. I'm having a few problems deciding where to put all the information about the new design's optional subscription system (I'll also have to come up with a more catchy name for that, heh), but it'll most likely wind up in a new, separate section.

February 17, 2004 - SP Happenings #37

The e-mail forms I've talked about last week have been finished since then, so that's one more step on the road to the completion of the new design. Real life has kept me pretty busy the rest of the week so I didn't get much else done on the new SP, unfortunately. Unless my uni work keeps me too busy, I'll try to get some more done this week.

February 10, 2004 - SP Happenings #36

Work on the redesign continues. We are currently in the middle of testing & implementing a pretty unique e-mail form. As those damn spambots quickly pick up any e-mails listed on SP, we'll do our best to have no e-mails listed anywhere in the new design in such a manner that spambots could automatically retrieve them. There are a few downsides to not having nice & easy mailto links listed, but at over 300 spam e-mails per day, which is the average of what I get, I'm really starting to get annoyed with it. Not because I would actually read any of them (since I always check the source code instead; easy to weed out junk that way without opening it), but because it simply takes time to weed all the trash out. And I really hate wasting my time on spam. It continues to amaze me that with all the technology at our disposal today, ISPs are unable to come up with solutions that would eliminate spam. Considering how easy it is for the spammers or viruses/trojans/etc. to fake the mail source, you would think they would be all for inventing a more secure way to deliver e-mail. But it just isn't happening. All you hear is "experts" talking about the dangers and ill effects of spam, and how it should be sanctioned, yet nobody introduces any practical plans of doing something about it. And by practical I don't mean "we'll fine or arrest anyone sending spam" schemes, which to anyone who knows anything about spam are an idiotic and laughable attempt doomed to failure. I'm talking about concrete technical, software and encryption solutions which would be implemented on the mail servers.

Although, granted, tarring and feathering a few spammers to set an example might give people some satisfaction as well. The only problem is, it wouldn't eliminate spam.

February 3, 2004 - SP Happenings #35

Work on the new site design is coming along nicely. I've come up with and tested the last finishing touches to improve site navigation (a simple text navigation bar to tell you where you currently are for every page) and some minor supporter template changes. The more that I looked at the new design, the more I realized that I have to write quite a lot of new content to go along with it (for the paid supporter system, and to fix/upgrade several things which could have been done better in the existing design), so I decided to write/compile all of this information before I jump into the conversion of the existing site content. This will enable me to still do one or more site updates in between, before I have to clamp down on any existing content changes and start with a wide-scale conversion.

I'd really love to show you all a few screenshots of how this new stuff looks like, but considering what a lengthy process this SP transition has been (and still is), I really don't want someone stealing any ideas from it at this point. At least when it's up officially, everyone can point the finger and yell "copycat!". So the new design will most likely be kept under wraps for the majority of you till right before it's ready to go up. However, a few select people have seen it already, and tested it, so I got a helpful dose of feedback, just in case you were worried. ;)

January 27, 2004 - SP Happenings #34

Well, now that the latest site update is up, I am free to proceed with the conversion to the new design. Getting back into it is taking me a while (I lost count how many times this project had gone through significant changes), but I'll get there eventually. I've decided to start converting/restructuring with the front page and its linked subsections (articles, site news, polls, archives etc.), and to leave the games subsections for last. Depending on how long it will take me to convert that much, another games subsection site update might go up before I start converting that part of SP. Thanks yet again to Blackthorne TA for keeping up with my requests to change things in the converter scripts to the last. Stay tuned for weekly reports on my progress.

January 20, 2004 - SP Happenings #33

I now finally have a few weeks off (uni holidays), so I'll see about getting the SP redesign back on track. First, however, there will be a site update - you can expect that by the end of the week. By then I should also have everything ready to start with the content conversion. No other news this week, so I'll just get back to work now.

January 13, 2004 - SP Happenings #32

We've been having some problems with the message boards lately; namely problems indicating that we've pushed the current board software (UBB.classic) to the limit. While I could archive the biggest forums and solve the problem that way, I don't really want to do that. People often revive older topics with valid new ideas or questions, and I want the trend to continue. So, as soon as the final version of the new vBulletin becomes available, we will be switching to that.

The next site update, along with the beginning of the conversion to the new site design, should occur near the end of next week.

January 6, 2004 - SP Happenings #31

I've been occupying myself with the new SP design lately, trying to make sense of all the planned (sub)section restructuring, and it's proving to be quite a task. The whole thing is especially problematic because it all needs to be done as I go along with the site content conversion to the new layout. Still, once I have all the bases in place, the rest of it should follow pretty quickly.

Chevalier, the guy who's been more or less single-handedly doing the news reporting here on the front page for the last month, has been promoted to full News Staff status a few days ago. Here's hoping he doesn't get tired of his job - I have to search way too long for good news posters whenever they're in short supply.

As far as the next site update's concerned, it's probably going to be in around 2 weeks' time.

December 30, 2003 - SP Happenings #30

Considering I haven't been doing much else all week apart from spending time with the family and going out to dinners and lunches to meet with the relatives, literally nothing got done on the SP front, so please excuse the lack of material to write about here. Maybe next week, after the holiday theme starts wearing off, I'll have more for you. That is, if I manage to get rid of this infernal cold which barely allows me to get up in the morning, let alone do anything productive... *sigh*

December 24, 2003 - SP Happenings #29 - Season's Greetings

Since I won't be around as much as usual the next few days (and I presume neither will most of you), I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy, successful New Year on behalf of the whole SP team. SP got its own Christmas present in the return of our sorely missed team member Extremist (in case you don't know, he survived a bad car crash), as for the rest of you, I hope you each get what you wished for.

I have to especially thank everyone helping me with running SP; people who help me pay the SP bills, the news posters, board moderators and admins, people helping me with various SP-related tasks behind the scenes, chatroom ops, people who submit content to SP and many, many more. Cliche or not, it's the truth - I couldn't keep up the superior level of quality on SP without you all. I'm very proud to be in the company of such excellent people who helped me make SP what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow.

While 2003 has been a transitional year for SP in many aspects, 2004 is going to be evolutionary, if not revolutionary. Much will change - SP is finally going to get a new look, and we will also change the message board software our community is currently utilizing. Both of these changes are going to be major for everyone involved with SP on a more technical level, while the user experience is going to improve as well.

So here's to a bright, successful 2004, and many new D&D games! Though the current prospect of that looks bleak (no new PC D&D CRPGs announced), I hope the situation is going to improve in the following months. In the meantime, you can join in on the traditional song of the season:

"Ring Their Bells", or "The Munchkin's Carol"
--by the Sea Wasp
(to the tune of Jingle Bells)

"Slashing through the Orcs
With a good two-handed blade
Over corpses we go
And through the gore we wade
Mace on helmet rings
Making bodies fly
What fun to sing our SLAYING song
And watch these suckers die!

Chorus:
Oh, ring their bells with swords and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We're brave and bold for fame and gold
We'll make a lot today!
Oh, ring their bells with swords and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And blow these dudes away!

Crashing through the door
Into the dragon's nose
Our mage whips out a Cone of Cold
And out its fire goes!
Elven bowstrings sing
Making balrogs fall
And our thief finds a secret door
Into the treasure hall!

(Chorus)

Then appears the Lich
With his demon guard
Our wizard yawns and wishes
We'd run into something HARD...
He begins to cast
His 19th level spell
That damn Lich throws a Gate at us
And drops us all in Hell!

(Chorus)

We appear in Hell
In front of Satan's Throne
Our cleric waves us out the door
And takes him on alone!
Satan's legions don't
Want to let us go
Our Techno pulls a bazooka out
And NUKES 'em 'til they GLOW!

Oh, ring their bells with prayers and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We're brave and bold and CRAZED, we're told
To think we'll live the day!
Oh, ring their bells with swords and shells
Don't let 'em get away!
We'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And blow these dudes away!
Yes, we'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And drag our loot away!"

December 17, 2003 - SP Happenings #28

Apart from the fact that the belated site update finally went up today, I don't really have much to write about here. It's been a busy week for me in real life, and when that happens, all non-essential SP things are put on hold. I've got a bit more free time now so I'll spend it by working on the new design some more. I'm really just polishing the details at this point and doing minor corrections, so that next month I can start the conversion in earnest. Yes, we're getting close now...

December 9, 2003 - SP Happenings #27

The Sorcerer's Place Merchandise Shoppe has been updated again with a few new items, so take a look.

Aside from doing some minor corrections on the SP merch (and adding a few items), I didn't really get around to doing anything very progressive on SP. The site update promised for the end of last week is hereby rescheduled for the end of this week. I just love it when a ton of worthy content shows up just before I decide to do a site update. Mmm, yes.

If you have been following the news here lately, you have undoubtedly noticed that there is quite an uproar going on at the official BioWare forums regarding the Hordes of the Underdark campaign being single-player only. Though admittedly, the problem probably wouldn't even exist had BioWare provided warnings about this early on, I am 100% supportive of BioWare's decision. It is clearly evident that the time that would otherwise have been spent on adjusting HotU to be multiplayer-friendly has been well spent on making HotU more of a CRPG we came to expect from the makers of the Baldur's Gate saga, and not just a quickie hack & slash fest with a rather shaky story. Don't get me wrong, a healthy dose of hacking and slashing every now and then suits me just fine, but I think the original NWN and SoU had more than enough of that, so I can only applaud the direction BioWare has taken with HotU. It just might help bring some disappointed fans of the Baldur's Gate series to give NWN another shot.

The other historical event is yesterday's shutting down of the Black Isle Studios division of Interplay, and the almost certain end of Interplay looming on the horizon. To the D&D fans, the end of BIS means nostalgia for the Icewind Dale saga and Planescape: Torment. To others, much more (Fallout 3 etc.). Grasping at straws now, Interplay will only produce console titles from now on, since profit-wise, even a completely shitty title released on the console market usually does better than a number of good titles on the PC market. Whether this will keep Interplay alive (or, better, for how long) remains yet to be seen. As far as the majority of gamers are concerned, however, Interplay died along with BIS. Rest in peace, old friend.

December 2, 2003 - SP Happenings #26

I have added some half-dozen new items to the Sorcerer's Place Merchandise Shoppe, so if you haven't yet, now is a perfect time to check it out.

Though my urge to keep redoing some parts of the new SP design is definitely strong, I believe that with the final adjustments made this week, the whole thing is more or less capped (for real this time). I have received some helpful feedback on the look and fell of the new design, and all of it has either been implemented already, or is on the to-do list. The design will probably be kept under wraps for the majority of people until it is all ready, as I don't want people to criticize an unfinished work, and to maintain a bit of a surprise for the time when it actually rolls out. Kudos definitely goes to Catbert and BTA for not going insane with all the changes I keep doing to the new design, and for keeping up with the requests I keep making of them.

In other news, we have a new moderator on the boards, a rare event on Boards O' Magick. You can congratulate Beren in the Moderator Changes thread in the Sorcerous Sundries forum, in case you've managed to miss his inauguration.

Next site update: hopefully by the end of this week.

November 25, 2003 - SP Happenings #25

Believe it or not, the SP merchandise package I've been waiting for for so long finally arrived last week. I'm quite happy with the overall quality and really only found one thing that bothered me, and I think that was the printer's error, so I'm looking into it (nothing tragic, only a slight misalignment of the prints on one of the items).

Most of the people who applied for the online walkthrough writer positions on SP the last time the call was put out have disappointed me (either by failing to write the walkthroughs, or by disappearing completely), so a few new online walkthrough writer positions are available. Veldrin, the news poster who did general news from time to time, as well as Neverwinter Nights forum news, has disappeared as well, so I'm also looking for substitute news posters. Anyone interested in any of the mentioned positions should check this page to learn what the requirements are.

In light of Microsoft's plan to integrate a pop-up blocker in the next version of Internet Explorer, the ad positions in the new SP design had to be reevaluated. Since currently pop-ups are the only real source of advertising income for SP (and they've been removed from the front page and the forums already, so they bring in little as it is), we had planned to use the same approach in the new design. However, if this proves impossible (or too hard to do) in the future, we will need a viable alternative. This is probably going to be the 300×250 medium rectangle ad, since the size would work with our new design, and be still less annoying than those jumbo banners some sites are using.

Though this long delay in getting the new design up has some bad sides, there have certainly been plenty of good ones as well. Over the course of the last few months, many more changes had been made to the otherwise complete code that will make my life much easier in the future. Changes like the ad one described above affect the code on all pages, so implementing them from the start is much easier than going around replacing parts of the code later.

Incidentally, the next site update will probably occur by the end of next week.

November 19, 2003 - SP Happenings #24

Well, if I forgot to say anything important last week, it sure doesn't come to mind this time either. My tooth is much better now (only hurts when I eat), but I'll still try to get rid of the nuisance first chance I get. Things have been very busy for me in real life over the last week, so apart from taking care of the current SP matters, I didn't get much done on the new design. Slowly, but surely, the thing is shaping up, but the main problem is I can only work on it from time to time, so you can imagine this means not getting much done in any reasonable time frame. Along with the current upkeep that SP demands, the redesign unfortunately always comes second. The next month and a half will be especially busy for me at the university, so I can divine that the redesign certainly won't be finished in this time.

There is hope, however. In the middle of January and extending for a month or so, my uni holidays will come up, so if not before, I'll be able to work like crazy on the redesign at that point, and should be able to finish it in the time available. This, of course, means pushing even more content to wait for the redesign (everything but the most important stuff), so by the time the new design goes up, I'll already have a ton of stuff piled up, waiting for site updates. Which should keep me busy for the next few months after the new design goes up. So much for having some extra time to actually play games after the new design goes up...

November 11, 2003 - SP Happenings #23

Let me tell you the tale of my day... To begin this day of hell, I got a parking ticket early in the morning, then at one of my English seminars, got a lousy schedule for a presentation on a dead boring topic. After I got back from uni, I went to my dentist because one of my wisdom teeth is growing sideways into my other teeth (talk about a scary x-ray), and was told it'll have to be removed... After that, Satan's Bride (my brute of a dentist) gives me three injections and starts cutting up the flesh around the tooth and jolting it around. At that point, I didn't really feel anything yet. Of course, after I came home, the injections started to wear off... I was lying on my bed for 5 hours thinking I will literally go crazy because the pain was so excruciating I was crying for the whole 5 hours. Finally, over the last couple of hours the pain started to subside a bit so I could eat the first thing today... or better, drink. Soup. Because my mouth is still so swollen I can't even properly close it, let alone chew anything. To top this wonderful day, a package I sent to someone got returned because the ****** wouldn't take it and I had to pay for the postage there and back. Also, carrying some wood I got a splinter in my right index finger that went in so deep I had to cut open half of the finger to get it out. In short, I've had better days.

The screenshot of the new design that I promised last week has been delayed for a while longer at least, since we have made some last minute changes to the design and unfortunately it is not ready for public presentation yet. Due to my suffering from terrible toothache yesterday (continuation of that is described above), I was not really able to put the SP merch store up as promised. I still haven't received the samples myself, but as I was assured they look great, I'm confident enough to open the store now. Be sure to check out the Sorcerer's Place Merchandise Shoppe, and leave your feedback in this thread on our boards. Huge thanks to Gopher for his exceptional work on designing all this stuff according to my wishes.

Well, I'm sure I'm forgetting some things which I still wanted to put in this week's Happenings, but my tooth simply hurts too much at present for me to be able to concentrate on anything, so whatever I've missed now will be dealt with next week.

November 4, 2003 - SP Happenings #22

With the latest site update up, I am now able to start the process of conversion to the new design in earnest. By next week I should be able to come up with at least a rough estimate of how long the conversion will take, and plan for the future accordingly. The long-awaited package with the samples of the SP merchandise is still missing, so I have decided that if it doesn't get here by the end of the week, the SP merch store will go up on Monday anyway. The samples have been checked out in USA, but I also wanted to see them myself before the store went live, so this is a bit of a disappointment to me. Oh well.

October 28, 2003 - SP Happenings #21

While I still haven't actually started with the conversion to the new design, I've spent some time this week testing the content converters BTA so graciously provided. We've managed to really perfect them now by making some last-minute tweaks to their code, so they're about as good as they can be. After some dissatisfaction on my end with having to redo a huge number of title tables to make them look good in the new design, Catbert managed to come up with a solution that didn't occur to us before in weeks (figures), and the whole problem was eliminated in 5 minutes. If for nothing else, it paid off to wait this long for this, since it will save me from spending dozens of hours on tedious manual code replacement.

I'm still waiting for that bloody package with the SP merchandise samples to arrive, so no news on that. I just hope the whole thing didn't get lost somewhere. That would make me *really* mad. In any event, a site update will most likely go up before the next SP Happenings.

October 21, 2003 - SP Happenings #20

Well, I'm back on track with the SP Happenings, but without much news to report. Practically nothing has changed since last week. I'm still waiting for the SP merchandise to arrive, and still haven't really started with the conversion to the new site design. I've simply had so many real life issues to deal with over the last few days that I'm still planning ahead, making the time for the conversion. Depending on the amount of content I gather, I might do another small site update and start on the conversion right after that.

October 16, 2003 - SP Happenings #19

I'm two days late with the latest Happenings, and to tell the truth, I've completely forgotten that I needed to write it. With the start of the new uni year I've been thrown a bit off the course established over the last couple of months, so I need to adjust to a new routine. In any event, the past week has been largely uneventful in terms of SP stuff. I am now finally ready to begin the conversion of SP content to the new design (thanks to BlackthorneTA who keeps supplying me with converter scripts which will do the brunt of the work), so I will try to start with that if I have the time today.

I'm still waiting for the SP merchandise to arrive, so no news on that front. Watch for more news next week.

October 7, 2003 - SP Happenings #18

It's funny how when unpredictable things start happening, they keep on coming... I thought last week was going to be pretty uneventful, so I would be able to finish the promised site update early, but think again. In the middle of the week I read about the Circle of Eight site (leading ToEE modding community) having problems finding a host able to support their amount of traffic, so I offered them hosting on our own server, and they accepted. The next couple of days were spent setting them up on our server and tweaking the preferences of their message board for optimal performance, but now they're more or less settled in and running nicely. So, if you are playing The Temple of Elemental Evil, be sure to pay them a visit, because they've already produced a number of fixes and cool tweaks/hacks for the game.

Anyway, after I was done setting up Co8 I got around to playing with the advertising script and adding Co8 to the system, making a "hosted by Sorcerer's Place button" and sending the new code to all our hosted sites to implement (temporarily dropping the pop-ups). Apart from all this fun stuff, I also had to do some preparations for my new uni year, which started this week, and hunt around for a new car door because I had a minor accident in which the passenger door got thoroughly smashed... The repairs should be done by Friday (here's hoping), and if anyone wants to donate to help me pay off the bill, you're very welcome.

Even though I've been pretty busy, as you can see, I still managed to start working on the site update yesterday, so I expect it to go up in the next few days.

Oh, by the way, here's my current pet peeve: after I installed Windows XP I couldn't get my UMAX Astra 3400 scanner to work no matter what, so I checked out UMAX's official site, and since I didn't find anything useful there, shot a mail to their support. I received a prompt reply that indeed, with my version of the bundled drivers & software, the scanner would not run on XP. My only option of getting it to run is to pay UMAX $15 for a new CD with the drivers & software. And this is for a scanner I bought like 2 years ago. I couldn't believe my eyes at first, but once I managed to suppress my anger, I wrote a calm reply back that since UMAX is obviously not interested in properly supporting the products they sell, I will rather get another scanner than pay them for this type of extortion. It's not that there's a great deal of money at stake, but it's the principle of the thing. Imagine NVIDIA or ATI decide not to provide Windows XP drivers for any but their latest graphic cards, and charge everyone else for drivers. No serious company should be able to afford to pull a stunt like this, so consider this a warning if you ever intend to buy an UMAX scanner.

September 30, 2003 - SP Happenings #17

Boy, this sure has been an eventful week for me, even though I didn't get to do a single thing that I actually planned on for the period. Shortly after I wrote last week's Happenings I had my computer upgraded (replaced the motherboard, graphic & sound cards, CPU and RAM), and thought it'd be a relatively painless process. How wrong I was. After the install was over, my sound was dead, I couldn't get the graphic card to work with a higher resolution than the safe mode 640x480 at 60Hz refresh (ugh), my ADSL modem wouldn't connect... In short, my Windows 98 installation was beyond repair. While I was planning on eventually switching to XP, here I was, forced to do it straight away, in a barely operational OS to boot.

I was able to get a backup dial-up connection working so I was at least able to check my mail (though not much else), and then I got to work, backing up 5 years' worth of accumulated software, settings, mail, files... in short, this alone took me two days. Then I converted my primary hard drive to NTFS, installed Windows XP, and started from scratch again. I have to say I took an instant liking to XP, because it established my ADSL & LAN connections all by itself (via another computer on the LAN 's settings), so I got my high-speed Internet back the moment XP finished installing. I then carried over some of my old settings via the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard, which also went through almost without a glitch. Imagine my surprise.

After that was done I had to reinstall about two dozen programs that I regularly use, reset all of their settings and, finally, finished the whole switch to XP yesterday. Oh, and not to forget, I also downloaded and installed a bunch of XP fixes from Microsoft. Considering I only really got my working environment back today, everything I planned for in the previous Happenings got shifted down the schedule for a week. I haven't even had the chance to start with the conversion to the new design yet, so another site update in the current one is forthcoming (probably by the end of this week).

Oh, and just in case you're curious what my newly installed components are: MSI KT4-VL motherboard, AMD Athlon XP 2200+, 512MB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200. Certainly nothing very impressive, but the best I could do on my budget. And coming to this from a 750Mhz Duron, 256MB RAM and a GeForce 2 MX 400, the difference is substantial. At least I should be able to run Neverwinter Nights and The Temple of Elemental Evil decently now. ;)

September 23, 2003 - SP Happenings #16

Tomorrow I'll be starting with the conversion of the existing SP content to the new design. Considering this latest version of the design is structured completely differently (though it will look the same to the end user) than the previous version, I don't even have a vague estimate on how long the conversion will take. I'll have more details on that next week.

Depending on the time necessary for the conversion, another site update might go up before the new design does, but again, I won't know for sure till next week.

There have been quite a few complaints lately over the pop-ups that display on SP and our hosted sites RPG Codex and WeiDU.org. I am very much distressed and angered by the occasional appearance of invasive pop-ups, and determined to change our pop-up advertising provider as soon as possible, since they have no intention of stopping slipping in offensive ads. Unfortunately due to the inflexibility of the current design this will not be possible on SP until the new design goes up, but I will try to come up with an alternative for our hosted sites sooner.

Although pop-ups are a necessary evil for the survival of SP, I would never willingly allow anything even remotely invasive to be displayed on SP as long as I can help it. The problem is that finding an honest pop-up provider today is a formidable task indeed, so it's quite possible you'll be reading about it here again in the near future...

In other news, a position on the SP news team is still open (ToEE forum news coverage), so if you are interested in doing it, please check the sticky in the Sorcerous Sundries forum on our boards.

September 16, 2003 - SP Happenings #15

Some good news is one the menu for this week's Happenings. The new SP design and adless subscription system is finally complete (thanks to Catbert), tested, and ready for implementation as soon as I can fully dedicate myself to it (hopefully by the middle of next week). I should be getting the samples of the SP merchandise in a week or two (first reports say the items looks great!), so that project is nearing completion as well.

This week a new Temple of Elemental Evil forum news poster by the name of Elessar should start posting, and hopefully he'll prove capable of taking over Gopher's front page job.

As far as the next site update is concerned, I can't really give out any predictions for it yet. If I get many submissions which would require putting them online right away, I might do another site update before I actually start implementing the new design. However, if not, I'll rather try to get the new design up as soon as possible.

September 9, 2003 - SP Happenings #14

Rather unexpectedly, we've been thrown back on track with the SP redesign, which has slightly altered my plans (i.e. delayed the site update till later today). This time, however, we are making good progress on it and at least the whole layout should be finished soon, so I can finally start converting the content to it.

As far as the SP merch is concerned, the samples should arrive any day now (actually, they already should have), so hopefully I'll be able to check them out soon as well.

In other news, a position on the SP news team has opened (ToEE forum news coverage), so if you are interested in doing it, please check the sticky in the Sorcerous Sundries forum on our boards.

Anyway, back to the site update. People have a nasty habit of sending in a lot of content just before it's about to go up, so I'll probably have to leave some of it for the next update, otherwise this one won't go up for another two days...

September 2, 2003 - SP Happenings #13

The SP merchandise is finally complete, and samples have been ordered so we can verify the quality of the print. If all goes according to plan (i.e. the prints are ok), the shop will go live in a couple of weeks.

Falstaff, our newest content contributor, has been busy writing reviews of various fantasy movies (Harry Potter 1 & 2, The Two Towers...) so our fantasy movies section will see some new life with the next site update (which, incidentally, should go up by the end of the week).

Blackthorne TA (my co-admin on the boards) is on vacation this week (water-skiing), so if you miss him, you can be sure he's having more fun than you are. ;)

August 26, 2003 - SP Happenings #12

The flood of SoBig infected mails has lessened a bit to "only" a few hundred per day, which is a good thing. After this, I consider all the spam I get quite a refreshment and a much lesser nuisance than the SoBig flood. Funny how a few thousand infected mails can change your perspective...

Things around SP are shifting back to normal. The SP merchandise is very close to completion, and we should be ordering samples in a few days to verify the print quality. Work on the redesign continues, though at pretty much snail's pace. Still, I'm confident we'll get there eventually.

The next site update will be sometime next week.

August 19, 2003 - SP Happenings #11

Gopher has finally returned from his holidays, so you can expect to see The Temple of Elemental Evil forum news posted regularly again. As soon as he got back we fixed the merchandise images, so now the SP merchandise project is continuing at full speed. Most people are obviously enjoying their holidays since the content contributions to SP have lessened considerably in the last few weeks, so another site update won't occur for at least two weeks. Hopefully by then this summer monotony will be over and I will have more interesting things to write about here.

August 12, 2003 - SP Happenings #10

Nothing much has happened since the last edition of SP Happenings. Infopop (the makers of the message board software we use) had a look at the Sorcerer's Place community in their latest newsletter, which you might want to read in case you missed the post about it on the message boards.

Mollusken, our Head Daily News Editor, got drafted (for a year, no less), so Veldrin will continue to cover daily news while he's gone. Hopefully he won't forget all about SP and CRPGs during his service to Norway. ;)

In any event, I wish him luck. His daily service to SP has been invaluable, and I couldn't have got a better person for the job.

August 5, 2003 - SP Happenings #9

The heat here is really determined to break new records... At the time I'm writing this, it's 37° C outside, with no indication of the temperature dropping anytime soon. I'm stuck inside most of the day long, since every trip out in this heat feels like going on a safari (thank heaven I have a/c inside). It's only safe to crawl out in the evenings when the temperature drops at least a few degrees.

As far as SP is concerned, things are more or less in limbo. A site update went up a few days ago, so we're good there for a couple of weeks. Sprite will start work on updating and finishing the Baldur's Gate 2 Online Solution, which has been incomplete for ages now, so it's about time we brought it to closure. Aside from some moderate work on the new design here and there, that's about it for the week.

July 29, 2003 - SP Happenings #8

So much for the idea of going straight to the new design without another site update in between. As it turned out, I will need to run all the content through the converter again (since Blackthorne TA did another welcome modification to it), so I concluded that another regular site update is inevitable. I will also be busy studying in RL for the next month or so, so the new site design will have to wait till I'm done with that. I will work on it in the background, however, as much as time permits. Now that we are nearing finalization of the new content engine, all sorts of issues are popping up (like site navigation) which seemed trivial until we actually got around to taking a closer look at them. But we are close to capping the new layout, and once that is done, things will be much easier.

Gopher is gone on a 3 week holiday, so the SP merchandise will also have to wait until he gets back. When I thought we were already done with it, such an incredibly big blunder was discovered, that it still amazes me how we managed to miss it with staring at the images for literally weeks. (In case you are curious, it is just one character in a word that is misspelled, but it completely alters the meaning of the quote. And it will have to be fixed on a number or merch images, of course.)

The upcoming site update should go up in the next few days.

July 22, 2003 - SP Happenings #7

Yet more complications with the site redesign. Nothing drastic that couldn't be done, but it adds to the delay of the final launch, which I was hoping would be nearing completion by now. (It isn't... yet.) I've also had to deal with some real life issues that needed my attention, and this blasted heat (35° C) isn't helping to strengthen my dedication to spend most of the day doing the tedious content conversion needed to bring the new layout online.

Looking on the bright side, the SP merch store item design is practically finished, now all that remains is for me to write the item descriptions, set the item prices, check out samples of what will be available and then let all of you check it out for yourselves as well. Kudos to Gopher for working tirelessly on this with me.

As far as site updates go, there probably won't be another till the new design goes live. Now that I have run all of the content through a partial converter and started modifying it, I would either have to do it again after a site update, or do it twice (once for the old layout and once for the new), which would not be very productive...

July 15, 2003 - SP Happenings #6

Another uneventful summer week. The site redesign is coming along, albeit with a little more complications than I expected. Depending on my evaluation of how long it will take to go through it all, I might do another site update before it happens. The SP merchandise store is also nearing completion, so soon polishing and product testing will come into play. It will be worth the wait.

July 8, 2003 - SP Happenings #5

Right after last week's site update I started preparing for the new site redesign in earnest. It involves an incredible amount of tedious link checking, fixing of errors going back years into the early history of SP, and a lot of creativity when it comes to rebuilding parts of the site in a more coherent manner this time around. Catbert, the resident PHP guru, is doing a great job with the new layout and with coming up with a solution for practically every problem that I encounter. Luckily for me there are many competent people around SP that I can rely on to get things done.

At this time I don't have an ETA for when the new design should go up, but probably not before next week or later. Simple as it might look when it will go live, there are literally hundreds of hours of planning, thinking, rethinking, implementing and fixing behind it, so it is certainly a major project taking due time to execute.

By the way, I have updated the Staffers Wanted page with the positions which are currently open, so anyone interested in joining the SP team should check it out.

July 1, 2003 - SP Happenings #4

I'm currently working on getting the long-delayed site update together, so hopefully it should be up by tomorrow or in the next few days at worst. (There's A LOT of stuff here waiting to see the light of day on SP.) Work on the new design for SP is proceeding steadily, so after this site update goes up, the next one will hopefully already be in the new layout. Kudos to Catbert for his work on this.

Gopher and I have also been very busy with the upcoming SP merchandise (mugs, shirts, mousepads etc.), which, if I can say so myself, looks really cool. But, of course, until we have it all ready, and I've inspected a sample of each item myself, the merchandise will not be publicly available. So you will just have to wait a while longer to see it, until we are 100% sure everything looks as it should.

June 24, 2003 - SP Happenings #3

A week rolls by so quickly it makes my head spin. In terms of SP happenings it was a pretty quiet week. Mollusken (our head news poster) is having some problems with his computer so Gopher and Veldrin will be covering the daily news for a while. I have quite a pile of content contributions sitting here so when I finally get the next site update up (sometime next week), there will be a lot to see. And download.

I'm still looking for a programmer interested in helping with a SP-related task. It would involve writing a program which would run on a Linux platform and have a web interface, but otherwise would not be very complex. Anyone interested can drop me an ICQ message at UIN 1508832, e-mail me, or talk to me in the chatroom.

June 17, 2003 - SP Happenings #2

Nothing much has happened around SP since the last SP Happenings. The only major news item till next week will probably be tomorrow's release of Shadows of Undrentide, the first Neverwinter Nights expansion. Since there were practically no decent, free walkthroughs made for the original game, Slappy will be making an online one for SP, so keep an eye out for that if you get stuck playing SoU. We will, of course, be posting links to the gazillion sites which will be posting SoU reviews here on the front page.

My last week's pet peeve has finally been resolved, so time is ticking properly on the server now, and self-correcting if needed. It might seem trivial to worry about time so much, but many things on the server depend on the time being correct. Most notably the message boards, where people start PMing me when they see the time on their posts 5 hours behind the time when they posted... And if a day's worth of time gets lost and is corrected (something which happened to us once), all hell breaks loose on the boards.

Incidentally, if there are any programmers out there reading this, I could use some help with a SP-related task. It would involve writing a program which would run on a Linux platform and have a web interface, but otherwise would not be very complex. Anyone interested can drop me an ICQ message at UIN 1508832, e-mail me, or talk to me in the chatroom.

Next site update is still on the schedule for start of July.

June 9, 2003 - SP Happenings #1

I recently got an idea for a short column, and this is it. SP Happenings will be a more or less weekly blurb from me on what is going on with and around SP, approximately when you can expect the next site update, my current pet peeves and things like that. It should also give people a bit more insight into the mysterious operations of Sorcerer's Place which are, more often than not, quite trivial. I welcome any comments and suggestions. (For which you can utilize the handy Comments link at the bottom of this post.)

Now then, what to talk about... Well, let's start with the recent addition to the SP family of websites. Besides RPG Codex, everyone's favourite unbiased RPG news website (you wish), SP is now also hosting WeiDU.org, Westley Weimer's mod site. Even those of you who are not into Infinity Engine mods have probably heard about the Solaufein romance (and many more of his mods), so hosting Westley's site is both a privilege and an honour for me.

On to the pet peeves... Well, my biggest one at present is time. Yes, time. Something so trivial and yet when it goes wrong, oh-so-annoying. The server SP and all the hosted sites are running on has been losing several hours a day lately, and I'm sick of correcting it manually. I have tried a couple of solutions which would automatically fix it and save me the bother, but for various reasons none of them worked. So I'm hoping to come up with something which WILL work soon, because it seems I'm not doing much else than fix the bloody time all time now.

As far as site updates go I don't expect to do another till the beginning of July, because the last exam I have before September is on July 1st... So all of you who are sending content in, sorry for the delay, but this is unavoidable. July has also been designated the SP Redesign month. More next time.

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