So what is a MUD? It’s basically a text adventure game where locations are described with text rather than pictures. It can be played in a browser or with a dedicated client which you can get for almost any platform.
Text only? That sounds dull!
For the younger readers here, they may not have an appreciation that at one time text adventure games were all the rage on home computers. We didn’t have Morrowind, GTA or Call of Duty.
I’m not going to look back at those times with some faux romantisism – I hated text only adventure games. I thought they were boring, one dimensional things which were not so much games but mind exercises – something I didn’t want to use my computer for at the time. When text adventures were at the hieght of their popularity I was about 9 years old (guess) so I think I can be excused for not remembering those times with excitement. I did however play Dungeons & Dragon’s – a MUD game is far closer to that experience than any 1 player text adventure.
MUD is a little more than merely a text adventure game, its a social experience with many people online playing the same game. Imagine Dungeons & Dragons – you have all the stats there for your character, you can do whatever you wish, want to side with a faction of users then betray them? you can in a MUD game.
Whilst I am not romantic with memories of 1 player text adventures, I am for D&D. The artwork, the dice. The DM (dungeon master for those who don’t know what we are talking about) these are my fond memories of older, happier gaming times.
There are many MUD games out there and MUD Connector does a fine job of highlighting the best and most popular of them.
It’s almost an interactive book!
Many MUD’s are text rich. Descriptions of locations seem to come straight out of a novel and you can interact with them. The advantage a MUD has over the traditional 1 player text adventure from yesteryear is that because there are other players interacting in the same environment it makes for a truly unique experience.
Many (but not all) MUD’s are heavily stat based which is something many RPG fans will love especially when more modern RPG’s are seeming to move away from stats and give a mainstream audience a more arcade experience.
As we move into an era of ebooks and web-based magazines, the idea of interactive story is even more appealing, as I say above, whatever your platform, there’s sure to be a client to play a MUD game – and lets make no mistake, as well as being a game and social experience, MUD is interactive literature. Recently I covered the works of Ms Rockefeller who was using QR codes within her books to enrich and broaden the experience of the read. This is another avenue to take for an interactive read.
Depending on the MUD, you’ve all the classes, races that you would remember from the days of Dungeon’s and Dragons. There are other MUD’s based on established litrature (DiscWorld springs to mind) and not all are set in times of swords/sorcery, but there’s sci-fi worlds too!
What do I need?
Linux, Mac and Windows all have a plethora of clients. Many MUD’s offer access to the game on their homepage too and run very well within the browser. Some MUD’s have a custom client dedicated for their game. Whatever MUD you chose, you will easily be able to access it.
Android has a very good client called Blowtorch, so if you can stand using a touch screen keyboard (I can’t) you can even play on your phone whilst on the train!
For those on a Chromebook there’s ChroMUD.
The other important feature of MUD’s is that the vast (and I mean vast) are free. They are run, maintained and cared for by enthusiasts.
I currently play Aardwolf, which has on average around 300 players at any one time in its world.
If you are reading this article then your PC will play a MUD game without difficulty. You do not need an expensive graphics card or a CPU that would make Skynet look like a calculator, so if online RPG’s interest you, dive in!
Many MUD’s also want volunteers to write locations/storylines for them. Fancy creating an environment that people interact with? MUD is your place and you won’t need to be an elite programmer to help out.
And finally…It’s social! Make friends!
As a MUD is a multi-player game you can chat to other players in real time. Most MUD’s operate two methods of chat. One where you are in character for the game and one where its “normal” out of character chat. Having these two distinct chat methods means that those people who are enjoying the game and taking on a role (it is an RPG after-all) will not have to read about the World Cup or Suarez unless they wish to.
Most MUD’s comprise of users who have been together for years, they are very welcoming of new additions and in return for adding to the richness of the game with your character, you’ll make friends and have a lot of fun.
All images are taken from Dungeons & Dragons, which is the original paper based role-playing and is still very popular today.
My family PC finally took its last gasp last night. It’s GPU fan finally packed in, but then after about 4 years of being “always on” and used nearly every day, its done very well. I would have liked to have simply whipped the cover off the machine and replace the fan myself, its not an expensive repair and simply done. I couldn’t do that. Why? Because one of the caveats of a cheap desktop machine and an onboard GPU/card, there is no room to get access to the device without destroying parts of the PC. I suppose this is the drawback of “disposable tech”.
So with that in mind I went armed with my trusty debit card to our local store. What I found was a collection of Windows 8 machines, that didn’t offer particularly good specs for the price and I resent buying a Windows PC only to wipe off Windows and install a Linux distro before I get started.
My solution was to buy a custom built OSless machine with decent specs that will see the machine through its natural life. In the meantime I’ve decided to go 100% Chromebook and see if it made any difference to my computing useage. Its also a good time to show that despite what people claim, your Chromebook is just as flexible as your desktop and I challenge you to find many things at all that can’t be done on a Chromebook. Hopefully this article will show you that.
My Chromebook is a HP14″ Chromebook – I bought this a little while ago for its larger screen and I consider that a good purchase. Before I go any further, if you are a hardcore gamer who wants to run the latest Windows games, then stop reading now and save yourself time. Chromebook is not a gaming device (although it does play Angry Birds et al). If you are convinced that Photoshop is the best graphics package and not prepared to ever try anything else, please read something else too. And if you spend most of your computing time without net connection, then again, please stop reading.
Still with me? Good.
I want to perform Office tasks!
Since the Chromebook is integrated with Google Services, its a given that Googles suite of software is available. I can’t speak for your use, but I’d consider that for most peoples needs Google Docs will be more than they require. You want LibreOffice? That can be accommodated too, its available in the Chrome Store (free) albeit in a web based incarnation.
I want to edit Photographs!
There’s so much choice available here. There are many Photoshop pro’s who will frown at the reduced feature sets of these online apps, however what features do you use? Are you a professional graphics artist? Then you should not have read this article. For the majority of users we simply want to take and display the best pictures we can and with so many available on the Chrome Store, you’ll be able to reduce red eye, crop, increase contrast and saturation etc etc. I personally use Pixlr Editor, but there are many others.
I want Bit-torrent!
What? You think because your Chromebook is mostly in the cloud you can’t run a bit-torrent client? You can and in exactly the same way you would on any other desktop machine. JSTorrent is probably the best option and whilst its not free, its less than £2 on the Chrome Store.
I want to code!
Whats the language of choice? There’s so many IDE’s out there for a number of languages. I code in Python as a hobby, create a few scripts and try out a few concepts. PythonFiddle steps in here and runs entirely in the browser. This is one of many.
As I explained earlier, I am without a traditional desktop PC at the moment. Has the Chromebook hampered my productivity? Not at all. There will always be something which you can’t get from the Chromebook and for me, the lack of Mumble is an issue (which means I cannot give up a desktop rig entirely). I think my requirements step over the “average user” yet the Chromebook fits my needs perfectly and there’s IRC clients, MUD clients (and even a version of FreeCiv!) to keep me happy.
People make a big issue out of the Chromebook needing a net connection in order to be useful. Not entirely true, many apps will work offline and sync when they get a connection, however, ask yourself this: How useful is your PC right now if your connection was removed? I’d suggest the majority of people spend most of their time needing (and wanting) a net connection and the answer would be “not very”.
So when you consider your next PC purchase, give ChromeOS a consideration and when you look at the sales on Amazon, it appears many people are starting to do just that. I would suggest though if you are looking for a Chromebook replacement to a bulky desktop PC with features you don’t need, you go for as large a screen as possible. 14″ seems to be the best size and accommodates web pages, apps et al, comfortably.
with the blisteringly quick Sylpheed, a user merely requiring an Email client can’t go wrong – Its memory footprint is tiny, its faster than an MVP after a freebie and with a simple to use no nonsense interface probably the best solution for the vast majority of users.
Since I wrote about SeaMonkey, it seems only right that with the release of 3.1.1 I look at Sylpheed.
Sylpheed is an email client supporting numerous protocols out of the box including POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP as well as IPV6. The website text claims to offer an Outlook type look, which while the creators seem to think is a good thing, for me having been burned by Microsoft products in the past (and in particular Outlook) see this as far from a ringing endorsement, but I reserved judgement as I delved into what Sylpheed had to offer.
One of the nice things about Sylpheed is its straight forward UI, even for the new user its going to be seconds before they have imported their email settings and are ready to go.
Filters are handled in pretty much the same way as Thunderbird, with a simple method of setting up rules for your email. Slypheed also offers simple to use features for junk-mail:
Sylpheed has a learning-type junk mail control feature which utilizes external commands. You can automatically filter junk mails without setting filter rules by hand, so you don’t have to worry about being buried in the flood of junk mail anymore. It also has high flexibility. Other than the bogofilter and bsfilter, which are the default, you can use any programs as the external commands. The standard programs can be easily used from Sylpheed by just installing them.
Source: Sylpheed Home Page
Sylpheed is very fast and stable. In those two respects it wins hands-down over Thunderbird. Whilst I would not like to belittle Thunderbird, Ive found that its become a tad sluggish over the years. I hasten to add that if you are a Windows user you would probably not think it sluggish at all, however in Linux land, it seems to lag behind the “punchyness” of my other applications of late. I have also had the occasional crash, but Thunderbird will be left for another occasion as we discuss Sylpheed.
So with speed and stability in abundance, Sylpheed should be my first choice? Unfortunately not. As was stated on the SeaMonkey review I am after improving my desktop functionality. Thunderbird only rarely iritates me and the fact that Sylpheed does not support RSS and Usenet is a major issue for me. If I was to choose Sylpheed now, it would mean going back to having separate clients for both, which is something I am not prepared to do. HTML Formating is also absent from Sylpheed, however for me, thats no real issue.
With that in mind though, with the blisteringly quick Sylpheed, a user merely requiring an Email client can’t go wrong – Its memory footprint is tiny, its faster than a MVP after a freebie and with a simple to use no nonsense interface probably the best solution for the vast majority of users.
Sylpheed is available for Linux, Mac and Windows although if 3.1.1 is not in your repo’s then you will have to compile from source to experience the latest version.
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
All in one solutions can be very appealing. Since I have multiple communication methods online and SeaMonkey is touted as an “all in one Internet solution”, I simply had to put it to the test against my browser of choice and the associated packages I use. With the release of 2.0.14 what better time?
I’m sure SeaMonkey will be available for many in their respective repo’s, but since I wanted the latest version and wanted it now, I downloaded direct from the site. The comparison for this review will be with Chromium 11.0.696.25 (and I suppose X-Chat & Thunderbird too) which are currently installed on my system. Presently I am also running Compiz with the desktop cube effect, I have 4 available desktop spaces with each desktop space being given to Chromium, Thunderbird and X-Chat. The remaining workspace is left empty for anything else.
Since the desktop cube displays its faces in realtime (and not merely a snapshot frozen at the point of invoking) I am able to manipulate my cube and keep an eye on multiple packages at the same time in a visually appealing way. There is to be a TechBytes videocast on Seamonkey so you can appreciate better what is meant.
SeaMonkey makes setup simple. It can import your Thunderbird mail preferences (including RSS feeds and Usenet groups) with a single click, the only work needed is that login/password credentials will need to be provided again. Within about 10 seconds SeaMonkey was in control of my online life!
For browsing, bookmarks too can be imported and in the case of Chromium exporting them to html is simple, as is importing them into SeaMonkey. No problems encountered at all.
SeaMonkey in action
The ease of installation must be remarked upon and is certainly one of the strongest features of SeaMonkey. For someone who has been a Chromium user for a long time and now used to a slightly different GUI, the whole process of migration was simple and I felt immediately at home with a return to a “Firefoxesque” UI.
Page rendering seemed fine, ordinarily its not something I make a conscious decision to make note of, so on first look all seemed well with the browsing experience.
IRC was painless to access with the remaining internet suite found in the Window menu. Whilst I had to “/msg nickserv” my password (due to me having forgotten to set up the IRC side of the software) I was taken aback by the mother of all fonts which it seemed to default to, rendering the #techrights channel in a font so large that a Mr Man book would seem like it was printed on microfiche. This maybe some fault of mine and my system default font, but I doubt it since no other package has exhibited this behaviour. Other than that the IRC experience was just as expected. I am not sure I like the default username listings on the left-hand side of the client but maybe that’s because Ive been using X-chat for quite some time.
I could delve into details regarding email, RSS and Usenet, but I don’t think its needed, suffice to say its all working out of the box and no issues have been experienced.
Benchmarks / Testing
Before we move into this section, I must remind you that the basis for these tests were for the viability of me moving from my current multi-faceted online communication methods, not as a definitive conclusion for every possible permutation of solution out there. I am constantly looking for improvements to my experience in every area of computing, so SeaMonkey is being looked at from a position of possible migration. I would ask you again (to get a more accurate picture of the results here) to look back at the specs of the test machine before studying my findings.
The first test I ran was SunSpider 0.9.1, Ive summarised the results and for chart simplicity have rounded down. The results between SeaMonkey and Chromium were so strikingly different, it makes little difference to highlighting how far apart these two really are:
I also put both SeaMonkey and Chromium through an HTML5 test, with Chromium scoring 293 & Seamonkey scoring 143. The test can be viewed in detail here.
The ease of installation is a major plus here, with your online life being imported painlessly. All the packages which make up the suite work as they should and stability wise I would say that there were no issues at all.
I have to admit being very disappointed with the test results. I focused on Java because that is something I have need of and the best possible rendering performance is a requirement of mine. As you can see from the test results on my setup, Chromium left SeaMonkey behind and also far excelled in the HTML5 test.
That being said, to have SeaMonkey defaultly packaged with a distro would be no bad thing, it performs as expected and does indeed provide a “one stop shop” for a suite of Internet apps.
As I stated earlier I use a combination of Chromium/X-Chat/Thunderbird and I would challenge anyone who said that the SeaMonkey suite was preferable to that. Agreed, my solution requires the execution of three separate apps, but I am able to switch between them just as easily as the “internet suite” of SeaMonkey, which for me offers no obvious benefit.
For the purposes of this review, the test machine used was: AMD Athlon II Quad Core , 3gb of DDR3 and an Nvidia 9200 integrated gfx card.
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
On the 26th February version 2.3 of this popular emulation package was released over on Sourceforge.
Since I am a keen Commodore user (and still own working original hardware) I thought I would take a look at the latest version to see how things have progressed.
Providing emulation for the Commodore family of computers (C64/128, Vic20, Pet, Plus4, CBM-II), Vice is known as a solid emulator and a great addition to the library of any Linux user who has an interest in emulation, the machines supported are a valuable and integral part of computing history and whilst most users will merely want a trip down memory lane, there is an active homebrew community which still actively supports these old platforms.
Probably of most interest to myself in Vice 2.3 is the cartridge support, which the site states: Action Replay 2, Action Replay 3 , Capture, Diashow Maker, EXOS, Final Cartridge Plus, Freeze Frame, Freeze Machine, Game Killer, MACH 5, Magic Voice, MMC Replay, Prophet 64, Snapshot 64, Super Explode V5, Super Snapshot – have all had fixes and/or been added. There has been numerous other fixes and additions which can be read about here.
Whilst Vice can be run from the command line with options, it has a very comprehensive GUI which allows all manner of tweaking to whichever member of the Commodore family you are emulating.
Look for Vice in your repo’s, but failing that (or should it not contain the latest version) 2.3 can be downloaded from here.
Vice should not challenge even the most basic of systems, I think we are now past a point where performance issues impact on emulation of an 8bit platform.
You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
I have received a few emails asking about emulation on the Linux platform. These questions were mostly by Windows users who enjoy running retro titles and don’t know much about Linux and its thriving emulation scene. From being active in many forums I think retro gaming is one of the most popular pastimes of the hobbyist computer user and I think that mainstream gaming of the latest modern titles is moving away from the PC and to the consoles, where patches and workarounds are a thing of the past with consoles really being “plug in and play”.
Many users without experience of Linux will not know how well catered for Nintendo, (or indeed most system) emulation is. The is one of a few articles I will be writing on the subject as I think a barrier that prevents people from running Linux will be area’s like this.
Of course FOSS/Linux does have its own gaming scene with many FOSS titles looking very modern and being a lot of fun. Example (which was featured here a while ago) was Alien Arena – an FPS which has a massive following. Other titles include Eternal Lands (RPG) and a plethora of those fun mini games that everyone has installed on their desktop from time to time.
That being said, this article is specifically about emulation of the Nintendo family of consoles and with that we will press on.
Before we go into this article, it is worth noting that there are copyright issues with running Nintendo Roms through an emulator. Make sure you have any permissions required. This article will not link to where you can get roms, its merely a showcase of some of the best software required to run them. Of course it goes without saying that if you are using these emulators to run homebrew software (or indeed develop your own) then thats slightly different.
NINTENDO 8BIT (NES)
The NES was Nintendo’s offering from around 1983 (in Japan) to current day where via emulation there is still a dev scene for it! Running on a Ricoh 8bit processor at 1.79 mhz however the UK version ran off the Ricoh 2A07 which had a clock speed of 1.66 mhz.
One of the best NES/Linux packages I’ve found to date would be FCEUX. It is currently in version 2.1.1 and offers a plethora of features ontop of the most important one (NES emulation) FCEUX allows you to configure up to 4 controllers, openGL rendering and CPU/memory wise has very low requirements using less than 8% of a 1.8ghz AMD Sempron CPU and less than 10mb of ram (in OpenGL rendering).
Speed wise it has low requirements and I’ve had this running quite happily on low-spec machines at full speed. If you are a fan of 8bit consoles then the NES was one of the more popular choices of the time.
compatibility wise, I can find no issues with FCEUX, every title I have tried works flawlessly and at full speed. Sound emulation is complete and both full screen/windowed modes work effortlessly. I have tested the latest source on the following distro’s: Wolvix2(beta) , Mepis 8, Zenwalk 6 Gnome, Ubuntu 8.04, Fedora 11
You can visit the homepage of FCEUX at: http://fceux.com/web/htdocs/index.php where you can download the source or a .deb build.
SUPER NINTENDO (16BIT) (SNES)
The SNES was released in 1990 and was a major upgrade to the NES. Certainly in the UK it was in direct competition with Sega Megadrive. In Japan it was called the Super Famicom. The SNES sported a Ricoh 5A22 processor (16 bit) running at 3.5mhz.
ZSnes is probably the best emulator available for the Linux (and others) platform. It supports full emulation of the CPU and even the SuperFX chip found in titles such as StarFox. I have yet to find a title that does not work within Zsnes, and the software also offers the feature to engage in online play (something which was not present for users at the time of the Super Nintendo) Emulation with Zsnes is, as far as I can tell, flawless. I have yet to find a title that doesn’t work, homebrew or not and even on a relatively low spec machine the original frame rate is more than matched.
1996 was the year of the N64, which promised much. The N64 was in direct competition with the massively popular PS1 and the fact that the N64 was still cartridge based and the PS1 was able to cater for the craving for cut scenes et al, IMO made the N64 on a looser from day one. That being said there were many great titles available for it and the N64 version of Mario saw his first steps in 3d. Running off a NEC VR4300i processor it was a far more powerful system than its PS1 counterpart at the time (IMO) and the first true 64bit console clocking in at 93.75mhz
Mupen64plus is the emulator of choice for the Linux platform (IMO) which full frame rate emulation on the rom files I have thrown at it.
Theres a large list of titles compatible with the software.
You can find Mupen here: http://code.google.com/p/mupen64plus/
The Gamecube saw Nintendo break away from its cartridge past to DVD (albeit mini) which enabled larger and more multimedia rich titles to be developed for Nintendo’s console. Unfortunately on the back of disappointing N64 performance (IMO) and the fact that the PS2 had continued with the legacy started by PS1, the Gamecube had much the same reception as it predecessor the N64. Released in 2001 and running off a 486 MHz IBM “Gekko” PowerPC CPU it unfortunately fell behind the Xbox and PS2 mainly I believe, because of the legacy created by the N64.
Gamecube emulation in Linux is surprisingly advanced. The title currently being developed is called Dolphin, which already is boasting an impressive list of titles working on it.
Unlike the N64 emulator (and below) the Gamecube emulator needs more powerful specs, full details of this can be found on the website.
You can visit the homepage of Dolphin here: http://www.dolphin-emu.com/news.php
2006 saw the release of the Nintendo WII and despite the previous sales issues of the Gamecube/N64, it seems all had been forgotten, which massive sales of the WII console on its launch which (IMO) blew both Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s 360 out of the water. With its more interactive style of play (through its controllers and various addon’s) The WII introduced a new innovation into the gaming market for the masses.
It is alleged that the WII clocks in at 729mhz and unlike previous Nintendo consoles it seems that they are realized that their own “custom” media was not needed this time and have opted for DVD (like the other “players” in its class)
Surprisingly WII emulation has already begun and is coming along nicely. Dolphin (see above) not only offers support for the Gamecube, but sucess with WII emulation is also present in it.
Again requirements for running WII software will be higher than the older Nintendo consoles.
NINTENDO’S HANDHELD OFFERINGS
Since 1989 Nintendo has offered handheld consoles (although there were single game handheld devices before this). Emulation of these systems requires relatively low specs since two of the three are now rather old. There were some real classics available for these systems and even today theres more than one hobbyist who enjoys making homebrew titles for these systems.
GAMEBOY / GAMEBOY ADVANCE
Released in 1989 the 8bit Gameboy was a brick of a handheld console (although still quite comfortable to hold) running on a 8-bit Sharp LR35902 at approximately 4.5mhz it was a hugely popular handheld that outsold the Gamegear and had a plethora of titles available for it.
It then progressed onto Gameboy Colour and subsequently the Gameboy advance. VGA (Visual Gameboy Advance) caters for the entire range and is a very good, compact and fast emulator for Linux.
You can download Visual Gameboy Advance here: http://vba.ngemu.com/downloads.shtml
At time of writing this is the current handheld offering from Nintendo. Its now just been revamped into a smaller (and to quote the MS faithful’s favorite words “Feature Rich” system) The DS runs off two processors, a ARM946ES and ARM7 co-processor. It has two screens with the lower one being used for the touch screen.
Released in 2004 it is still going strong with a massive software catalogue. I don’t think its unfair to say that in my opinion the Sony PSP never stood a chance. Emulation is obviously on-going with success on many titles to date. You will need a reasonable spec machine to get a decent emulation experience out of DeSmuME (imo the best DS emulator on Linux) but then “reasonable spec” in the world of Linux is far lower than that in a Windows world (IMO).
You can download DeSmuME here: http://desmume.org/
This section is more general and it will highlight equipment that Nintendo probably doesn’t/didn’t want you buying. Certainly in the UK, since the release of the SNES devices were sold (in some of the independent stores) that allowed the backup/running of Nintendo software.
For me these kits had another purpose, to enable the coding of homebrew titles (a little side hobby of mine) and I recently wrote a review on the R5 (for the Nintendo DS)
The Super Nintendo had a device which was commonly called a Super Magicom, this allowed the copying of a cartidge to HD floppy disk from which the game could run. Later, the N64 had the diskdoctor V64 which ran titles from CDROM in very much the same way. Of course these pieces of equipment were not approved nor condoned by Nintendo if used to copy material which you didn’t have permission for, however in the case of the SNES and N64 at the time the internet/filesharing was not an issue to be concerned about and certainly in the UK, market penetration of these items and their bootlegs were limited at best.
The many copying devices for the Nintendo family have many names and whilst (IMO) the Magicom and diskdoctor were generic names for their many clones.
The following links may be useful if you are interested in development on any of the above mentioned system. This is not a comprehensive list but will prove a starting point for anyone wanting to get into the scene:
For those of you interested in the rather good DS Demoscene (and the Demoscene in general) , look no further than:
and for those who don’t want to download and run (or maybe don’t have the specs for) the demanding Demoscene, check out DTV which has streamed footage of demo’s on many platforms: