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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
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
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 -
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
--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!
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!
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.