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Sorcerer's Place Happenings
by Taluntain

June 10, 2007 - SP Happenings #180 - 8 Years of Sorcerer's Place!

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, it's been a few months since my last entry in the SP Happenings blog. Truth be told, I didn't expect to make another entry until I had something site development-wise to post, but then a little reminder has gone off and I've realized that today marks 8 years of Sorcerer's Place's existence. Reason enough to write a few words.

To say that real life has consumed me would be a vast exaggeration, since I have never really left SP and have kept up its routine maintenance, as our message board regulars can attest. I have, however, found very little extra time to dedicate to the site and content updates, which are a rather integral part of healthy development activities on a site such as SP. I've slowly been getting back on track with this over the past few weeks (the transition to new message board software is now my priority), and once I'm done with my university responsibilities in a few weeks I should have enough free time on my hands to tackle the most pressing updates that SP urgently requires. In short, things should start getting more lively around here in the next few weeks.

Happily, our message boards are still going strong with over 10,500 registered members, forming a community of gamers where many stick around even after their focus has shifted from the games covered on SP. I have several new features in store for all kinds of our visitors, so everyone can expect something new in the near future.

Considering that it's also been a long time since my last call for screenshot submissions I am now in dire need of screenshots from ALL the games covered on SP. So if you're playing now, or have some good ones stored, don't hesitate to send them in - fame awaits! All of the submission instructions are available here.

As a small token of my gratitude to the current site supporters (SPS Account Holders) who have helped me keep SP and our small network of hosted sites out of the red for the past year, I have extended the subscription period on all accounts for 8 additional weeks to celebrate SP's eighth anniversary. Additionally, anyone signing up for a new SPS Account (or an extension!) via a donation over the next 2 weeks (up to and including the 24th of June) will also receive a free 8-week extension added to their account. If you've been waiting for a good time to show your support and appreciation for SP (again), this is it! You can make your donation on this page. Thank you also to those of you supporting SP via other means - every bit of help is very much appreciated.

January 20, 2007 - SP Happenings #179

I haven't written any SPH editorials in a few weeks, but I haven't decided to become an offline hermit, just in case anyone's been wondering. The long and the short of it is, there simply wasn't anything much to write about in terms of SP happenings, and repeating myself from week to week was rather pointless.

The Neverwinter Nights 2 review onslaught has virtually stopped (until the expansion is announced and a steady stream of news about that starts flowing in), but other front page news is in no short supply.

I've been working on that site content update on and off for a long time now (as much as free time would permit me), so I'll try to finalize and upload it all soon. After that, the plan is to get back on track with the other updates across the site.

December 26, 2006 - SP Happenings #178

A few days ago the artist formerly known as Jan Jansen (now Urithrand) has completed his trial period and has been promoted to a full member of the staff (news editor) here at SP. His job, like Chevalier's, will be to independently hunt down and report about the news relevant to SP on a daily basis. With both of them on the job, I expect to have a bit more time on my hands to dedicate to other parts of the site than the news, so I should be getting more things done faster in the future.

Now that I've had a bit of a break over the last few days, I'm back in the saddle and working on the site content updates, so you can expect SPS and regular content updates soon.

I'm slightly late with the merry Christmas wishes, so I wish everyone a happy remainder of the holidays and a fun-filled 2007! At this point I'd especially like to thank all the people who help me run, improve and support SP in various ways, from submitting content, coding, posting news, moderating, donating, buying through our stores, or just being here. As I've often said before, if it weren't for the dedication of a large number of people besides me, SP most likely wouldn't be around any more.

And here comes the traditional D&D carol 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, 2006 - SP Happenings #177

Well, it's been two weeks since my last SPH write-up, and site-wise, not much has changed during this time. The last few months of my life have been more hectic than ever, which sadly leaves me with little time to dedicate to improving SP in addition to the regular maintenance, which is a significant task in itself.

About a week ago I've finally managed to at least transition my own home working environment to the new computer I've bought nearly two months ago (yes, it's taken me this long...), so I'm pretty happy that I got this out of the way, at least. Not that it's gone without major complications most steps of the way, but in the end, I've managed to sort everything out, albeit it's taken me an inordinate amount of time.

Now that I've got this brand new system silently humming next to me I keep thinking that it's a shame that I can't put it to more work just yet due to my real life commitments. I expect to have a bit of free time to dedicate to the long-delayed site update in the second half of next week and a few days after that, but seeing how lately the times when I think I'll have a bit of a break have the annoying habit not to happen, I'm wary of making any kind of timed announcements. Still, keep your fingers crossed this time. ;)

One other thing that I need to write about is how well Chev and Jan have taken over the news posting duties over the last month. I'm really impressed by the dedication that both of them are showing, and our news is being done better and faster than ever. And with far less involvement from me to boot, which is saving me a significant amount of time every day. Well done, guys. Jan is also at the end of his "apprenticeship", so he'll be promoted to full news editor status over the next few days.

December 3, 2006 - SP Happenings #176

It's the time of year for Christmas decorations again, so I've put some up on the site and the message boards. Regardless of your religion (if any), I hope that you are able to enjoy the festive spirit of the season, which for me is inextricably linked with decorations and a bit less pessimism than usual (always a good thing). It's also an inconvenient reminder that much of what I've set out to do with SP this year most likely won't happen before the next, simply due to my overwhelming real life obligations. But such is life, and if I could afford to work full-time on SP, I'd be very happy indeed.

Chevalier and Jan are still keeping busy with the posting of (primarily) Neverwinter Nights 2 news, while Ragusa and Darkwolf have now been allowed to post in the AoDA and AoLS forums again. I've also spent a couple of hours working out some issues with some of our hosted sites.

The long a-coming site content update should happen sometime next week, hopefully without any more unexpected delays.

November 26, 2006 - SP Happenings #175

Another week gone by with not many drastic changes from the last. Our diligent news crew is still posting tons of Neverwinter Nights 2 news, I'm getting a few more screenshot submissions than usual (I could still use many from older games covered on SP), the discussion about Ragusa and Darkwolf is still going on, and due to unforeseen issues in real life, I haven't yet had the time to start on the promised site content update. Still, it's my top priority now, so it's going to happen as soon as I can make it.

November 19, 2006 - SP Happenings #174

There's STILL a ton of Neverwinter Nights 2 news being posted. Just saying because I want to see how many more weeks I can keep repeating this.

In other news, one of our message board members by the name of Jan Jansen (any relation purely coincidental) has joined the ranks of the SP news editors. Stunning, I know, but that much more appreciated. Horrible as I am, I've made him start slaving away at the news shortly after the introductory niceties, but he seems to be bearing it with a smile thus far. He's proven to be a quick learner, so I believe he'll make a fine addition to the staff once his apprenticeship is over. Here's hoping he doesn't get scared of the responsibilities and run away before that happens. Wish him luck!

I've also been getting quite a few nice screenshots for the Screenshot of the Week feature, but I can always use more, especially of all the older games covered on Sorcerer's Place. Now that the Neverwinter Nights 2 screenshots have started coming in, I have noticed that for some reason incomprehensible to human beings capable of rational thought, NWN2 by default outputs all the screenshots a player takes as badly compressed JPG images. Needless to say, such screenshots look awful, since the compression artifacts are plainly visible. Leaving aside the discussions why Obsidian has decided on such a crappy output by default when no other game I know of does it, I have updated our Screenshot-taking Guide with instructions on how to make Neverwinter Nights 2 output your screenshots in high-quality TGA format, like the original Neverwinter Nights. I guess we should be grateful that Obsidian at least left the functionality for it in the game. Anyway, thanks to BTA for looking up how this can be done.

All of you intending to submit NWN2 screenshots to SP, please check the link above and follow the five easy steps to make your NWN2 output screenshots in TGA format.

Next thing worth a particular mention is my finalizing the move of the SPS direct downloads list from the message boards to the site pages. All the downloads have been reordered and recategorized, and the list is now very easy to navigate. Some 20 new downloads have also been added to it, with more coming up shortly. Those of you with SPS accounts, do check it out.

Not to be left out, there is activity on our message boards also. Our older board regulars in particular should not miss this poll thread which discusses the potential come-back of Ragusa and Darkwolf.

There's much more going on behind the scenes right now, so keep checking for updates regularly. My next priority is getting up a site content update with the most pressing content, hopefully before the end of next week.

November 12, 2006 - SP Happenings #173

It's only been 5 days since I've written the last SPH, but I'd like to get this weekly feature back on track as well, so here it is. There's still a large amount of Neverwinter Nights 2 news being posted, and until everyone and their grandmother gets their reviews posted, the load probably won't lessen by much.

The response to our updated help wanted sign and my call for game screenshot submissions has been less than stellar, but considering the significant amount of negativity in the air as it is, I don't really want to dwell on it. I'll think happy thoughts instead, which might not do anything much overall, but will keep me from brooding, at least.

In truth, I'm in quite a good mood since I've been getting a number of things that I've been delaying for ages done now, so the prospect of starting on the message boards transition soon is looking bright. However, since there so many other things to do besides that, I'm just doing them one by one in no particular order, so it's hard for even me to predict what I'll be digging into next. The direct SPS account downloads have been on the agenda for the past few days. I've been adding some 20 new downloads, as well as updating and rearranging the entire listing of downloads, which has grown to a size that is unmanageable on the message boards, where the listing currently resides. The whole thing is going to be split down into several pages, which will now be located on the site itself, so it will be much easier to navigate and find things. While I'm at it, I'll also be updating several existing SPS downloads.

I've also been debating with Catbert a lot about the future changes to the site, so we might actually be moving forward in the site redesign area too. Unless he pulls another vanishing trick on me, that is.

November 7, 2006 - SP Happenings #172

As I've predicted in the last SPH, the past week around here has been busy indeed. In truth, it's always crazy around here once a new game is nearing release, and on and after the release. There are dozens of relevant news pieces to post, ranging from interviews to screenshots and from reviews to patch-related news, as well as much more. All in addition to the regular stream of other news, of course. Before the release of Neverwinter Nights 2 I've also agreed to help Obsidian out with the mirroring of their NWN2 patches, which took a bit of coordination and effort to set up. Unfortunately, due to a security setting on our secondary server, where the patches have been mirrored, I have had to stop mirroring the patches after only a few days. Since our server wouldn't properly respond to ping requests, Obsidian's patch coordinating server misinterpreted this as meaning that the response came in 0ms (i.e. very fast), so the sorcerers2.net server was always favoured for patching. Needless to say, once we've figured this out, our bandwidth usage on the server was at around 150GB per day (around 1800 patch transfers per day), with no real way of limiting it. Since this situation didn't really work out for either Obsidian (improper patch server speed reported) or me (too high bandwidth usage), and the accurate responding to pings could not be enabled, the decision was made to pull down the sorcerers2.net patch server. So much for good intentions...

I've also made a few new additions and changes to the site and message boards over the last week, so here's a short list:

That you should read our interview and check the screenshots mentioned above goes without saying, and you'll notice the message board changes without particularly looking for them. However, a word or two about our help wanted page won't hurt (much). I've been complaining about this for a while now, but since it doesn't seem to have made much of an impact, I'll whine some more.

Sorcerer's Place is a big site. Too big for a single person to handle, even if this lucky guy or girl were able to run it full time. Due to the branching into various directions related to the games covered on SP, there is a relatively wide variety of areas where anyone with a bit of skill and preparedness to invest a small amount of time and effort could contribute significantly. And yet, even of those very few people who volunteer for doing something, over 90% of them never come through. While this is probably a recurring theme wherever online volunteers are relied on to do something, it does seem to me to be getting progressively worse with each passing year. There is a host of possible reasons why that I don't feel like getting into, but my message here is, SP could be a better place if more people would decide to help it in whichever capacity they can. I realize that the majority of our visitors come here for fun, and that anything suspiciously resembling work in any shape or form is probably the last thing they'd want to be doing. I understand this and I can't really do anything about it - maintaining high standards does mean that at least some work must be invested into everything that sees the light of day on SP. But none of it is impossibly hard to do for anyone with even a modicum of determination. Therefore I invite all of you reading this to look over the help wanted page linked above. If you find nothing that you think you can help with, no problem. But if you do find something, even if it means just writing one mod review, do sign up for it. The whole community benefits this way.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to emphasize again that I need more screenshots from pretty much all of the games covered on SP, so those of you reading this, do take some good ones when you're playing and send them over. All of the instructions are available here.

Oh, and much to my joy, Catbert has returned, so SP has a resident coder guru at hand again. Yet another reason to push me that much harder to get the new message board set up, so that we can continue with the redesign of the site...

October 29, 2006 - SP Happenings #171

I've had quite a busy week in real life and SP-wise, and the upcoming week is only going to be busier. The North American release of Neverwinter Nights 2 is coming up on Tuesday (Oct. 31), and I'll be busy with providing a certain kind of support for it (keep following the news for the announcement once I can make it public), and as soon as the flood of Neverwinter Nights 2 reviews and post-release news starts streaming in, both Chev and myself will be very busy indeed to keep up with the complete coverage.

A few days back I've also posted the first part of our extensive interview with Alan Miranda, the CEO of Ossian Studios, regarding their hit Neverwinter Nights module, Darkness over Daggerford. If you haven't yet, make sure to give it a read. I'll be posting the second part tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that as well.

As I will continue to do for the foreseeable future, I'm going through dozens of post-it's, reminders on pieces of paper scattered all over my desk, reminders listed on my computer's desktop, delayed tasks, delayed news, delayed sub-projects on SP... And then there are personal issues in real life, work, studies... Juggling all of this at once unfortunately requires a constant setting of priorities, which rarely coincide with that I'd like to be doing at that given moment. Still, I have managed to return to regularly scheduled updates of site features, so I feel that this is a good first step. Now I just need time in abundance for all the other outstanding tasks and projects. Wish me luck...

October 22, 2006 - SP Happenings #170

The good news: I got everything that I've complained about in the previous issue of SPH working by now. I'm actually relieved that some of it has turned out to be due to my own stupidity - if all of that had actually been due to crappy hardware, my faith in computer technology would really have been shattered.

The bad news: 3 weeks since my last SPH write-up is probably a somewhat obvious sign that something has seriously compromised my routine. Truth be told, I did my best to keep up with everything on SP, and changing the weekly screenshot and writing a new SPH article over the last couple of weeks aside, I've managed it. Unfortunately, an incredibly taxing and exhausting series of episodes in real life has manifested itself over the last few weeks, so my best laid plans for SP are still just that. Plans.

What little free time my personal issues have allowed me has mostly been spent on regular maintenance and managing the advertising on Sorcerer's Place and our hosted sites, where I've been weeding out the most horrendous and inappropriate ads that I've found (and that people have complained about). This task involves hours of painstaking manual checking of the ads in our advertising provider's system, and has to be redone every few days, because the ads I'm most anxious to get rid of have an uncanny knack of being enabled again a few days after I've disabled them. The "Groundhog Day" feeling is unavoidable.

Due to the heavy decline in donations and sales through our stores this year, SP is now primarily being funded by advertising, and despite the fact that advertising doesn't cover even half of our monthly costs, it requires a great deal of time and effort on my part to keep it as tidy as possible, and regular checking for better advertising providers even more. The sad reality of the situation is that I spend much more of my time micromanaging the monetary aspects of SP to keep it afloat than I do adding new content and features to the site, and I don't like it one bit.

So, in case you've been wondering, I haven't forgotten or given up on any of my plans that I've already written about extensively in the past. As much as I'm repeating myself, you've all probably got the idea now that I'm not short on exciting plans, but primarily the time to make them all happen. Running a community/resource/news site like Sorcerer's Place at a consistent level of quality simply requires at least one full-time person solely dedicated to it, as well as a number of helpers at the same time. My own free time over the last few months has been too scarce to allow me to fully start on the most extensive priority project - the transition of our message boards to new database-driven software - and I still don't want to start on this until I'm confident that I'll have at least a few free days in a row to work on it continually, so that there will be minimum downtime for our message boards and that everything will go as smoothly as possible. I might finally get this chunk of free time needed by the end of this month, but then again, I might not. I've been more certain of being able to pull it off when I wrote about it in the previous SPH, but real life priorities have come up, and I've had to abandon the previously set date as well. At this point, I'm not giving out any more promises. Like Duke Nukem Forever, it'll be done when it'll be done (probably sooner than DNF).

I want to thank all of you reading this and keeping up with what's happening here for your patience. I know that the last few months haven't been exactly encouraging, since development of the site has pretty much stopped in its tracks, and certain areas of SP urgently require updates (especially the Games and Fantasy Books sections). Work on neither of these has been stopped, merely suspended for a while. My priorities for SP are still setting up the new message boards, then finding some more people to help with the news posting (since I'm having a hard time hunting all the news down on a daily basis for Chevalier to post), then starting to catch up on the most urgent content updates. Probably several of these at once, time permitting. As for how well I'll be managing all of this, keep reading SPH, as always...

Oh, and if you haven't yet, check out Chev's Neverwinter Nights 2 character contest!

October 1, 2006 - SP Happenings #169

No luck with that new router still. I've wasted a few more hours of my time attempting to get it to connect to my ISP so the home network would have Internet access, but to no avail. The ISP's tech support was no help (big surprise there), so I'll be phoning the computer store where I've bought the router, and I dearly hope that some competent tech there is familiar with my type of router so I'll finally be able to get it working properly.

On top of the router issue, I've found out that the internal IR port that my new computer has isn't working properly for some reason. I've been trying to get my phone to connect to it without success, and when I've tried it with a different phone and it still didn't work, it became pretty obvious that the issue was with the computer's IR. It's a funny thing, IR - when I've been searching around for help on it, it all pretty much amounted to "it either works fine out of the box with no problems, or it doesn't and you're screwed". And the latter certainly seems to be the case in my situation. Windows detects the internal IR device just fine, reports no conflicts with it, and lists it as "working properly". Pretty much the only thing that's configurable with IR is the connection speed, and I've tried a bunch of different ones and it didn't make any difference. As far as I can tell, there are no drivers for the IR device, so I'm at a loss here why the thing doesn't work. If I hadn't already wasted so much time trying to get it work I'd just buy a cable to connect the phone, but it's personal now - no puny internal device is going to waste so much of my time and still not work. :D Not to mention that the amount of cables already on and under my desk goes beyond the limits of sanity. Tomorrow I'll see if the tech support can be of any assistance, for once.

I knew that buying a new computer and associated network devices is going to directly translate into hours of wasted time setting it up and troubleshooting it, but all this has gone far beyond my worst expectations. I don't think that I've had so many computer/router-related issues in all the prior years combined as I've had in the last couple of months. And this is 2006, when technical devices are supposed to work properly out of the box with minimum hassle, right? Eh...

As far as SP is concerned I've been doing some server tweaking and fixing up things here and there that I didn't have time for before. During all the delays in the transition to the new message boards software a new major version of it had been released, so some of the work on the import scripts that I've done previously has been invalidated (serves me right for taking so long), but at least it'll save us the hassle of an upgrade, since we'll be going directly to the latest version now. Unless real life kicks in too much (and Splunge jinxes it), I expect to actually have enough time over the next few days to start the transition.

September 24, 2006 - SP Happenings #168

I think it's about time we've gone ahead with the message boards transition to the new software... I'll see what I can do about that over the next week.

September 18, 2006 - SP Happenings #167

The fact that I've forgotten to post the results of the previous poll last Wednesday (now posted today), coupled with these SPH coming 2 days late, is probably a good indicator of how preoccupied I've been last week. Alongside working pretty hard, I've finally got that new system I've ordered nearly two weeks ago, so I drove home with a trunk full of PC stuff. I've replaced my mostly 4+ years old system (boy, time does fly...) with a brand new computer and an LCD monitor. The fact that the last time I've been computer-shopping, LCDs were just getting into the reach of mere mortals and CRTs were still the preferred choice, made me feel pretty old when I realized that no computer stores around here stocked CRTs any more. Yikes...

I've spent the entire weekend cleaning up the mess of cables, old wiring and tons of dust, installing decent new extenders, and disconnecting and reconnecting more devices and cables than I cared to count. So, at last, the gargantuan task of cleaning up that out-of-reach mess that's been gathering dust for years was at an end. But that was only the beginning...

Reconnecting everything back in such a way as to not result in a big mess of cables again took a lot of careful planning. It also turned out that marking those 10 or so RJ-45 and UTP cables going into the house's router, NT box, splitter, ISDN phone, dial-up modem and computers would have been a very good idea indeed. It'd have saved me about 2 hours of random reconnect attempts if I had known exactly which cable goes where, without having to guess where those damn two remaining cables were supposed to go. Eventually I've figured it out while waiting on hold on the phone to my telco. Priceless.

Of course, it'd be just too darn easy if this was the only setback. Once I've installed Windows on the new box, the new wireless router I've bought wouldn't work. Or rather, no matter what I plugged into the computer's LAN jack, Windows wouldn't detect it, or so it seemed. I've actually reinstalled Windows three times, even reverting back to an older version, just in case, and still nothing. I've even gone so far as to bring back my old router (which I knew to be working) and connected that, and still nothing.

At this point I was beginning to think that, unlikely as it may be, the integrated network card on the motherboard had to be malfunctioning, so I was just about ready to pack up the new box and take it back, while a friend of mine suggested I look around and see if there were any motherboard drivers included along with the new system, and install them. Of course, this was the last thing on earth that I'd think of doing. I mean, come on... my 5 year old motherboard didn't need any drivers, and had automatically detected anything plugged into the LAN jack. My latest, 3 year old one, also never required any drivers. In fact, if it had (and as you can guess, this new one did), it would mean that you couldn't go through the last part of Windows XP installation, which conveniently does nearly all of the networking/Internet set-up required on its own.

Anyway, much to my dismay and disbelief, as soon as I've installed the drivers for the network card, the thing recognized that a cable was connected to it. In short, the integrated network cards on Nvidia's K9N Neo motherboards are completely Windows XP unfriendly until you install the drivers for them, making you go through the network and Internet set-up manually, because you simply can't go through the automatic setup during the installation of Windows XP, because you can only install the drivers after you're done with the said installation. Brilliant. A brand new motherboard needs drivers for the network card installed before it'll work, while my two previous old motherboards didn't. No, this still doesn't make sense to me.

After finally getting to the bottom of this, I was sure it'd be smooth sailing from there on. Was I ever wrong... while I've managed to reconnect the home network now, the Internet connection on the new semi-wireless router wouldn't work. No matter what setting I tried, using the exact same settings as on my old router, it's gone through the automatic installation just fine, announced that all it needed to do was to reboot the router, and the connection would work.

You've guessed it, it didn't, and doesn't, after a number of failed attempts where I've exhausted just about every option I could think of. Good thing that at least the new monitor I've bought works as it should... I'm writing this right now using that, and my old computer, and my old router. I guess I have a couple more days of "fun" ahead of me, getting all this sorted out. Just in case you're wondering what some of the things that are keeping me busy are...

September 9, 2006 - SP Happenings #166

That long-delayed site content update has finally gone up a few days ago, so that's one load off my chest. Dwelling on all the other stuff around here that's been silently awaiting my attention for the last few months makes these little victories far less enjoyable, unfortunately. Working full-time coupled with all my other real-life responsibilities simply does not allow me to spend as much time developing and expanding SP as I would like. Still, I make progress where and when I can, so at least the most pressing things get done. It's just everything else that is taking way too long...

Anyway, site milestones aside, we have reached and passed another one on our message boards today. A few months ago we've reached 500,000 posts there (it'd be far more by now if people were able to reply to their own posts before someone else does, like on the vast majority of other message boards), and today we've officially seen the 10,000th member registration. In truth, our 10,000th registration was nearer 10,100th, since about a hundred accounts got deleted, corrupted or lost over the years, but I'm nitpicking here.

The point is, our community is only getting stronger every day, and that truly makes me happy and the work invested into it worthwhile. Our next round-number achievement on the message boards will be 40,000 forum threads, so there'll be another reason to celebrate in a few months. I hope that all of you reading this now will still be here with us then, joined by the ranks of many new board regulars. The SP staff will certainly do our best to maintain the level of quality we've established over the years, and our visitors have grown to expect. Here's to the future, and to the thousands of members of our message boards who continue to influence and enrich Sorcerer's Place as a whole. Good going, guys and girls! I can promise you that there'll be plenty of exciting changes and new features available to you all soon... ;)

September 2, 2006 - SP Happenings #165

3 words: site update tomorrow.

August 27, 2006 - SP Happenings #164

This unavoidable thing called real life has been successfully keeping me away from SP for most of the past week as well, and you've probably noticed that the catch-up site content update that I expected to have online last week is still not up. The nature of SP's design over the years has unfortunately always left the burden of checking, preparing and posting submitted content to me (along with mostly everything else), and busy as I've been over the last few months, this complete reliance on me has started taking its toll in the form of vastly overdue updates.

One way or another, I hope to be in a position to rectify this situation soon, because having so much unpublished content (my own and user-submitted) sitting here and waiting for better times is annoying me as well. However, since merely writing about it isn't going to help, I'll conclude this week's SPH here and get cracking on that content update again.

August 19, 2006 - SP Happenings #163

Over the week I've been catching up on a number of smaller things around here that have been waiting for my attention for months, and since I've managed to get most of them done, I've also dedicated some more time to the site content update. It's not ready yet, but with a bit of luck it should go up in the evening tomorrow.

August 13, 2006 - SP Happenings #162

After I've cleared the backlog of directly downloadable content for SPS account holders yesterday, I'm finally back to work on the other areas of Sorcerer's Place that need immediate attention, namely the user-submitted content waiting to be published. When I checked yesterday I couldn't believe that it's been over 3 months since the last site content update... time has obviously been running fast for me over these last three months. My work schedule now is a bit less crowded than before, so hopefully I'll be able to catch up on things around here in a timely manner.

Due to the disappearance of our head coder I'm in a bit of a jam as far as further development of SP goes, though in truth I need to get the new message boards software installed first, since my plans for the integration of the site with the new message board won't be possible until the latter is in place and fully functional. But once I start working on that, I'll be looking for a new coder at the same time...

August 6, 2006 - SP Happenings #161

The UPS I've ordered last week has finally arrived yesterday, so tomorrow I'll have lots of fun plugging stuff into it... particularly due to the fact that given the odd desk set-up I have here, I'll have to disconnect all of the computer, monitor and speaker cables, as well as about 15 other devices plugged in, separate the desk from the supporting metal shelves behind it, and wade into a mess of ancient dust and cable spaghetti that is otherwise unreachable unless you were to crawl there under the table...

A bunch of electronics have been piling up in this little Borg corner of the house for years, so there are now 4 or 5 extenders randomly connected wherever I could reach the previous one when I ran out of outlets to plug things into, so it's high time I took a couple of hours to clean up this mess, sort out and bind all the cables, remove the unnecessary extenders, and try to move the router and ADSL modem somewhere where I can reach them without having to crawl on all fours. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do...

Which brings me to the point where I have to admit I've forgotten to mention our latest mod review last week, so if you haven't read the BG1/BG2 EasyTutu mod review yet, make sure to check it out now.

Alongside working on the long-delayed site content update last week I've also been catching up on a ton of bookmarked articles I haven't had the time to read in the last few months, a number of real life things, like getting another A/C unit installed here, and making plans & potential arrangements for the redesign and recoding of Sorcerer's Place. As far as tangible results go, you can check out SP's overhauled Game Store, which is now much more user-friendly, as well as better organized and stocked. Buying products from our game store helps support SP, so if you do buy games online, please make Sorcerer's Place your first stop!

As always, there's a lot more in the works (getting all those content submissions up is now a priority), so stick around for regular updates.

July 30, 2006 - SP Happenings #160

So, I'm back from vacation and back in SP-action. After a few days of post-vacation catching up I've started working on the upcoming site update again, so one part or another of that should be going up soon. Since I'm really far behind on pretty much everything I'll try to make a few smaller updates to get the most important content up, and then go ahead with the message boards switch.

Unfortunately it's the time of year again when we get nearly daily thunderstorms here, which has cost me a few hours of work in the past week alone. Power here starts failing pretty much as soon as a few dark clouds gather, and while those one-second failures are usually merely an annoyance when it comes to other electric appliances, we all know how frustrating they can be when you're working on something on your computer (most likely not recently saved), and the power goes out...

Consequently I've decided that it's high time I got a decent UPS, which I promptly went ahead and ordered. Or rather, attempted to order online, because the first time I was doing it, the power went out in the middle of the ordering process. Needless to say, it has only strengthened my resolve to get an UPS, and fast.

July 15, 2006 - SP Happenings #159

The site content update I'm putting together is not quite ready yet, so it'll wait until I get back from a short break to recharge my batteries. Over the last couple of months I've accumulated a boatload of fresh ideas I'm eager to put into practice (besides catching up on everything that I've been talking about here for far too long), so I can't wait to get started on it all.

Most of the regular updates around here will continue more or less on schedule over the next week, except for the Screenshot of the Week and SP Happenings, which will be updated again the week after the next.

July 8, 2006 - SP Happenings #158

I'm repeating myself with this pretty often as of late, but here it is again. I don't have a single screenshot from Pool of Radiance: RoMD, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone, Dragonshard, Icewind Dale series or Baldur's Gate 1 (and the expansion) left for the Screenshot of The Week feature. I also only have a handful of Planescape: Torment ones left. I know there are many people visiting SP who still play these games, so please, take a look at our screenshot submission page (which also tells you exactly how to take screenshots), make some good screenshots, and send them in. Instant fame & fortune guaranteed. Well, ok, eventual fame once your screenshot goes up (we're all out of fortune), but that still counts for something!

All good screenshots people send in are archived, so even if you send several, they will all eventually be featured if they are good enough. And, of course, the fewer screenshots I have of a certain game, the more likely it is that your screenshot of that game will be the next Screenshot of The Week...

As for the message boards transition that's been dragging on forever, well, it's going to take a while longer. I've decided that a site content update right now is a bigger priority since some of the stuff sent in has been waiting for over a month, so I'll try to get a content update up as soon as possible, and then return to the business with the message boards.

July 1, 2006 - SP Happenings #157

I'm beginning to catch up on all the SP stuff that's piled up over the last month, so I'll be digging into the new message boards software documentation tomorrow and set a new board up. I'll need to make a test import of our current data after that, and if everything goes smoothly, we'll be switching over completely shortly after that.

June 25, 2006 - SP Happenings #156

Well, it's been another week, and I'm still just catching up on real life matters and work to do around the house for the most part. To make things worse, my computer has started shutting itself off randomly, or not wanting to boot up... which is making me urgently consider buying a new one a bit sooner than I've intended to. So, to add to the list of not having the time to go hunting for a new (used) car, I now have to schedule a PC replacement too. Too bad there's no Time Stop in real life!

June 18, 2006 - SP Happenings #155

Happenings? What happenings?

But seriously, this new project management job I've started last month has meant such a complete drain of my time every day that I'll have to set some limits of normalcy, like working 8 hours per day instead of 11-12 on average. Otherwise I'll have to start looking for someone else to take over running SP, and I'm sure neither your nor I would be overly happy about that.

I haven't made any progress on anything SP-wise since last week, which irritates me to no end, because things keep piling up... but I simply didn't have the necessary time available to dedicate to SP. However, I plan to change that quite soon, so hopefully next week will be better in this respect. Keep your fingers crossed!

Oh, and for those of you who haven't been paying attention last week, the SPS Accounts Special is still going on until the 24th. 6 extra months added to every SPS subscription or extension completely free of charge. Get it while it lasts!

June 10, 2006 - SP Happenings #154 - 7 Years of Sorcerer's Place!

A new job I've started last week has been keeping me very busy and away from home for most of the week, so the majority of my previously near-future plans for SP have a more long-term perspective at the moment. I'll try to squeeze in time for SP when I can, but as it is, I hardly have the time to keep up with things around here, and to post the regular (bi)weekly features. Since I have so little time available for SP at this point, I'll try not to make any timed promises, since they'd be nearly impossible for me to hold. Things that depend on me will simply get done when I have the time to do them.

Consequently, I'm moving the weekly feature schedule around a bit. I'll post SP Happenings every Saturday from now on, and the Weekly Wizards of the Coast News Round-up every Sunday.

As luck would have it, today also marks the 7 year anniversary of Sorcerer's Place. Yup... hard to believe, but SP has been around for that long. Most of you reading this now haven't been around long enough to feel waves of nostalgia washing over you, but some of us old-timers could reminisce for a while...

If I had more time on my hands I'd put together something overly grandiose to mark the occasion, but since I don't, I've decided to hold another SPS Accounts special, extending all Sorcerer's Place Supporter Account subscriptions made in the next two weeks (ending June 24, 2006) for 6 months. In short, every account bought or extended over the next 14 days will get additional 6 months added to it completely free of charge. So, for example, if you go for the cheapest, $15 account (normally good for 3 months), it will be extended to 9 months.

If you've been holding back on getting an SPS account, or simply want to renew your existing account, this it the time to do it. Click your way to the sign-up page to take advantage of this limited-time offer!

As you probably know by now, the SPS accounts are my way of saying thank-you to those SP visitors who decide to support SP with a donation, which is always welcome. Regardless of the site traffic, bills connected with running SP keep coming in every month, and donations help greatly to keep SP out of the red. Thanks in advance to all of you who decide to help out!

By the way, we've posted an interview with Jason Compton about The Broken Hourglass a few days ago, so check it out if you haven't yet.

June 1, 2006 - SP Happenings #153

Real life has been keeping me very busy over the last few days (and HotU a couple of days before that), so I've barely had time to check my mail, news and message boards, let alone do much else around here. The good news is that we're good to go on the UBB side of the message boards to import to the new message boards software, but I'll have to run another test to import the data into the new database to see if everything looks ok once the final step is taken. Hopefully I'll have enough time over the weekend to catch up on this and a few other SP-related open issues.

May 25, 2006 - SP Happenings #152

We're still proceeding with the message boards transition, albeit a bit more slowly than expected. There was a relatively large number of things surrounding this to coordinate, but we're nearing the pre-transition test now. With some luck, the new message boards should be up in time for the next SPH.

We also have another excellent new Baldur's Gate 2 mod review this week, posted in our Mod Reviews forum - a review of the Saerileth NPC mod. Be sure not to miss it!

May 19, 2006 - SP Happenings #151

Due to the crazy last 48 hours, I'm a bit off-schedule with things around here (the Weekly Shot will be changed again next week), but I'm getting to it slowly now. The donation drive I've announced in the previous SPH has been a success, and we've gathered enough funds for all the upgrades and new things planned for the near future. Thanks again to all of you who have contributed - I couldn't have done it without you.

The first result upgrade-wise has been the upgrade of our server's hard drive (which is now twice as large and has the latest system installed). It was actually a switch of the old drive with a new one, so the system had to be configured from scratch again, and SP and all our hosted sites had to be set up anew on the new drive, and all the files and databases transferred over and reconfigured to work on the new system... So there was a great deal going on behind the scenes, which has resulted in a few hours of downtime over the last couple of days. Unfortunately, given the extent of the work on the server going on, it couldn't be helped.

In any event, the brunt of the work is done now, and there are no future interruptions planned aside from 10-20 minutes of downtime later today when the legacy hard drive will be disconnected. I'm counting on smooth sailing from there on.

The next step is going to be replacing our current message boards software with a new one, which I'm also planning on doing in the next few days. Once everything is ready there will be a period of rather extensive board downtime (hopefully under 24 hours). The reason for this downtime will be importing all of the data from our current message board into the database that the new software will use. Due to the size of our message board (nearly 10k members and over half a million posts, not counting private messages), the import process will most likely take around 10-20 hours. Of course, during this time the existing message boards will have to remain shut down (for the proper operation of the importer, as well as in order that we don't lose any posts that would have been made after the beginning of the import process).

I intend to do as much advance testing as possible before starting this for real, so that hopefully there won't be any surprises once we're ready for the final shutdown and import.

As always, keep checking the Sorcerous Sundries forum regularly for site developments between these SPH articles.

May 11, 2006 - SP Happenings #150

Wow, SPH #150. I guess the profound accompanying thought right now would be "dear lord, has it really been nearly 3 years since I've started writing these?". Since numbers don't lie, I guess so.

It's the crazy E3 time of the year again when we gather and post heaps of news that hardly anyone cares to even look over, let alone read in full, but our devotion and sense of duty are strong as ever, so have no fear that we'll stop getting you the latest scoops, even if you don't really care about them. It'd be nice if you did and dropped a comment or two on some of the stuff that we report, just so that it doesn't feel like we're doing this for our own benefit, but we're not forcing anyone, of course!

This year is actually pretty light in terms of E3 gaming news that SP cares about, since Neverwinter Nights 2 is the only D&D title that we'll be covering in much detail (unless that D&D Tactics game for PSP gets ported - are PSP ports for PCs ever actually made?), but still... there'll be news aplenty for anyone interested in reading it.

The cozy feeling of familiar surroundings message boards-wise around here is going to get slightly shattered, since the preparations for the transition to new message boards are already under way (YES, finally!). The software will be entirely different (though the concept is the same, of course), it'll have tons of new features that we'll put to a good use and that I know you will all enjoy, and it will also enable SP to grow in other aspects, since we'll be tying the message boards and the website more closely together once the new boards software is in place.

Fear not, I've made sure that nothing will be lost during the transition (or as close to nothing as we can get in our case), so besides some inevitable off-time on the boards during the transition, there should be no other major interruptions. There will be a period of adjustment for everyone (the board administration included), but I'm confident that we'll get everything up & running smoothly as ever pretty quickly.

The transition will most likely take place next week (I'll post notices when we get closer to the actual date), along with a major server upgrade prior to this (some site unavailability is to be expected here), so the next few weeks will be very busy for me around here, and there will be a lot going on.

I will also start a donation drive later today, since all these improvements and upgrades will require additional funds, so I'm hoping the community will chip in and help offset the costs. More details on this will appear in the Sorcerous Sundries forum later today. You should also keep tabs on this forum over the next couple of weeks, since all boards-related notices, announcements, warnings, etc. will be posted there.

May 4, 2006 - SP Happenings #149

Nothing much new around here for the past seven days. Lots of maintenance, work on the server, dealing with our hosted sites, etc. The site content update is coming along nicely, so it'll probably go up in a couple of days.

April 27, 2006 - SP Happenings #148

I'm thinking of patching Neverwinter Nights with the spiffy new 1.67 patch and finally finishing Hordes of the Underdark... I need to hurry up, or the sequel with catch me before I've finished all of the original. I keep delaying playing NWN because there's not much point in even starting it if you don't have a few hours of interrupted game play at your disposal, and that's rarely been available to me in the last couple of years. Though frankly, the other major factor is that I'm just not that drawn to NWN as I usually am to CRPGs... sure, HotU finally is what the NWN OC was supposed to be upon release, but I think it's come too late for me. Still, I want to finish it at least once. I hate having played games and not making the effort to get to the end - same as with books.

I'm not taking any long breaks between site content updates, so I've already started (slowly) on the next one. If all goes according to plan, this one will come sooner than the recent one.

Finally, if you haven't been checking our news or our Mod Reviews forum lately, you might have missed our latest Baldur's Gate 2 mod review - Return to Trademeet. Check it out!

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