Best oldschool RPG ever: Exile III

4 03 2009

Exile III was one of the most amazing, nostalgic games which I still play. It’s based on old D&D character creation, but with some unique differences in skills, etc. The point is that you level up your party while you are exploring the surface world. You’ve been banished to the underground “pit” civilization called “Exile”.

You are an adventurer party which explores the surface, reporting back to your Exile coordinator about the things you find up there.

Things get complicated as the story progresses, but it’s very heavily open-ended in the game play style. You literally go where your little heart leads you, finding out more and more about the surface in a very non-linear way. There are tons of “side” plots that you can discover.¬† As time progresses, cities and towns literally become overrun and sometimes destroyed by the forces at work in the world, keeping you interested in the world you’ve become a part of.

The game came as a trial, which impedes you from travelling further north than an predefined invisible line. I won’t promote pirating a serial key or an EXE patcher, but let it be known that I have seen one of the latter once upon a time, and the game was remade as Avernum (which I didn’t like nearly as much, for several reasons) and so Exile III has been cast aside.

The game comes with a save-game editor, which is pretty sweet. Most of the good stuff is enabled only after registering, but you still get several freebies like “heal hp/mp”, or “make towns forget you” (for those times where you decided to lead an assault on those innocent citizens of the town, thereby invoking the never-dying wrath of the town’s guards). Of course, no game is fun if you cheat your way through it, but at the same time, no game is fun if it is mercilessly hard with no hope for success if you’re ever in a weird jam.

Some notes about the playing the game:

  1. The installer you download from the Spidersoft page is actually more like a self-extracting exe. So, when you run it, it will expand the *real* installer into the same directory, so make a temp folder first and place the “exile3v10.exe” file into it before running it. After extracting run the “INSTALL.EXE” program to begin.
  2. The installer is a bit archaic, and defaults to the C drive, no matter what your main drive is.
  3. The installer can’t install to a directory with spaces or hyphens in its name. It’s no problem though, if you install it someplace easy first, and then just move the installed folder to the spot where you want it (including paths with spaces).
  4. All of the graphics are just bitmaps in the local game directory, so you can edit them to be whatever you want! ūüėÄ This makes for some fun edits, like making one of the characters a giant Yoshi, or something. My personal idea for a character set will be posted soon for anybody to download ūüėČ
  5. Vista and Windows 7 sort of molest the game, so I just set it to run in compatibility mode for Win95, and everything got better.

I guess that’s all for now ūüôā

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Windows Hyper-V Server 2008: Part 1 Clarification

12 11 2008

So, the trouble with “Hyper-V Server 2008″ is that it, by nature, is pretty much a free version of one of the full/pay editions of the stripped down “Server Core” versions of “Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V“. ¬†In fact, it is so much like a server core version, that I’m just going to classify it right now as part of the server core family.

What are the implications of that accusation? ¬†Well, for starters, don’t go expecting to be able to use Hyper-V from the local machine. ¬†The concept of a server core is that it runs and runs and does its job like bread and butter, but it can only be managed remotely.

…And?¬†¬†you ask. ¬†Managing it “remotely” means that your Server Core can only recieve user interaction from another computer. ¬†This includes installing OSes on top of Hyper-V, and also running those OSes. ¬†In other words, even if you use a nearby computer to install the OS and do the basic setup, the computer that Hyper-V is installed on is now dead in the water if you expected to use the machine locally. ¬†Even though Hyper-V is running your Virtual Machines, there is no way to connect to those VMs visually while sitting in front of your Server Core.

So, if you were a misled hopeful of Hyper-V’s application to you as a virtualization groupie for your sweet desktop at home to run Windows Vista and Ubuntu side by side, then I’m afraid you’ve made a blunder ūüôā ¬†There will be no Visbuntu for you, laddies. ¬†Your only other options are to download and crack up one of the full versions of WS 2008 w/Hyper-V (so that you have a GUI and the management tool right there on the local machine, thus allowing you to run your VMs and interact with them locally)¬†or, alternately, you could use the free edition of VMware Server (I’d recommend 1.x, since version 2 got a little goofy with the interface– it’s webbrowser-based only)¬†or something free like VirtualBox, by Sun Microsystems.

For those of you who want to press forward, you’ll find only minimal documentation on the matter. ¬†You’ll be adding Windows Firewall rules from the command line, etc (the Windows Firewall is on by default in a Server Core installation, and there’s no easy GUI to turn it off with). ¬†And make sure you’ve got a copy of Vista with Service Pack 1 on it. ¬†You’ll need it to do the remote management, once you’ve got the Hyper-V configuration done.





Multiple RDP sessions in Vista

7 11 2008

Hello there, all.

This time it’s short and sweet: Logging into Vista using Remote Desktop (RDP) without kicking the active user off of the machine.

This also means you can log into the machine multiple times with the same account, with multiple RDP sessions.

http://mjwii.com/prog/termsrv.zip

This zip file is composed of various files put together by the good citizens at http://www.greenbutton.com , who fixed this to work with Vista Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate editions, x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) versions, with or without Service Pack 1.

Installation requires ¬†NO restart. ¬†It’s just a batch file that automates the following process:¬†¬†

  • Kills the svhost service, to allow some funny business with a system dll (which will be back’d up, of course).
  • Disables RDP entirely.
  • Backs up the %SystemRoot%\System32\termsrv.dll file to *.bak
  • Replaces the dll with an old Release Candidate version which supported multiple RDP logins concurrent with the active local login.
  • Imports a registry key which simply flags Terminal Services that multiple logins are acceptable.
  • Makes sure that blank passwords are not an acceptable login criteria.
  • Makes sure that the Windows Firewall has the right exceptions to let RDP requests through.
  • Starts Terminal Services back up.
  • Makes sure Terminal Services is listening on the right port (3389)

And there you have it. ¬†To test this, I was running Windows Vista Buisiness Edition 32-bit in VMware. ¬†From my native operating system (Ubuntu 7.10), I used the pre-installed “Terminal Server Client” program to log into my VirtualMachine of Vista, and performed operations on both the VMware console (my “local” login), and in the RDP program. ¬†It worked flawlessly, and I had the little thing set up in one minute, tops.

Happy RDP’ing from multiple locations with multiple users or the same user, without bumping the local login into the Windows’s “Locked” screen.

PS- There’s an XP version of this floating around greenbutton.com as well. ¬†Upon finding it, I began looking for the Vista version. ¬†Just google it and I’m sure you’ll find it within moments.





Vista Service Pack 1

29 10 2008

I’ll be making use of this link in a future post about setting up Hyper-V.¬† It’s the stand-alone updater for Windows Vista to bring you up to Service Pack 1.¬† I’ve been trying to make Vista update all by itself, but it will NEVER freakin’ let me download SP1 through the integrated updater in Windows.

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=b0c7136d-5ebb-413b-89c9-cb3d06d12674&DisplayLang=en

In the Microsoft update world, the update is known as “KB936330”.





Windows Hyper-V Server 2008: Part 1

27 10 2008

As I’m sure some of you geeks out there know, Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 recently.

Here’s the Wiki on it:¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyper-V

To ‘wow’ us all, they released a free distribution of it as well, specifically called “Windows Hyper-V Server 2008“. ¬†This is different from the other versions of WS 2008. ¬†How?

Let me explain.

Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V (not the free one) comes in 3 flavors: Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter. ¬†But let’s be honest; when does Microsoft ever just release fewer versions than we can count on our hands? ¬†Here’s the real product list, for those of you interested.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that since it’s only been a short while since Hyper-V has made its d√©but, that you already know what the benefits to using it are, and thus you’re Google searching like crazy to figure out how to make use of the free version of WS 2008 and to utilize virtualization “on metal”, as it’s being called; virtual machines that run on hardware emulation instead of just software codebases.

So how do I set it up? you might ask. ¬†After you install Windows Hyper-V Server 2008 (the free one, which I shall generally refer to as “Hyper-V” from now on. ¬†Blast MS and their mile-long titles.) you’ll quickly notice that although it comes loaded with enough libraries to run a basic Vista-esque welcome/login screen, you’ve got nothing but good old cmd.exe to work with.

Here are the basics about what you’ll need:

  • A 64-bit processor is a must for Hyper-V. ¬†Although remote management tools come in x86 (32-bit) and x64 versions, Hyper-V itself will only let you use a x64 processor.
  • Hardware virtualization is also a must. ¬†That’s a hardward thing, of course. ¬†You either have it or you don’t. ¬†If you don’t, Hyper-V won’t be allowed to visit your box.
  • DEP (or, Data Execution Prevention) will also be a requirement. ¬†I’m not going to bother explaining what it is. ¬†You’re computer needs to have it.

To test your processor, I *HIGHLY* recommend using SecurAble (click for the download), a tiny little download that will tell you very directly if you have all of the above things on your processor. ¬†For extra information about what each of these 3 attributes are, just visit http://www.grc.com/securable.htm for details. ¬†Keep in mind that if SecurAble tells you that you don’t have Hardware Virtualization or DEP, you¬†might just have it disabled in your bios. ¬†Just restart you computer and at the first little graphic, start wacking F2, F10, Del, or some other hotkey to get you into the bios options. ¬†Enabling either of these options won’t damage anything… it can only help!

For Linux users, SecurAble also runs under Wine or Crossover, so you can download the tool just like anybody else.

Chances are that if you’ve bought a decently new system in the last 6 months, you’re running 2/3 of these things already. ¬†I tend to think of DEP and the Hardware Virtualization as a 2-for-1 deal. ¬†An x64 processor would almost surely have these things, assuming you didn’t buy your box from a cheap vendor.

So, let’s move on.

This is how to get it running:

  • Download it. ¬†It’s 900-something megabytes, so no CD is going to do the job. ¬†If your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive on it, then your box likely is a little too behind the times.
  • Lauch the DVD. ¬†If you’re only experimenting, the last thing I’d do is nuke your system to install Hyper-V. ¬†Try it on a single partition first. ¬†Dear goodness don’t nuke the whole system yet. ¬†This is hardly a robust process. ¬†I’m going to assume that you’re taking my advice:
    1. You could run the installer from your existing operating system, and just install it to an empty partition. ¬†If you do this, then I guess you won’t need to burn it to a DVD.
    2. Alternately, you could boot from the DVD, which will eventually ask you for a partition to install on.
  • Install Hyper-V. ¬†It doesn’t take very long. ¬†After all, it’s what we call a “server core“, not the full-blown product.
  • Start up the computer in your new “Windows Server 2008” installation. ¬†For me, I deleted a Linux partion and consequently nuked my GRUB bootloader. ¬†Windows OSes always overwrite the bootloader, which is normally bad for Linux; it orphans the partition and you have trouble booting up into it. ¬†For me, the new bootloader installed by WS 2008 was a good thing, since it restored my options to boot the computer!
  • Log in with the “Other User” account. ¬†This was confusing for me at first, as there was no default account to log into. ¬†All you have to do is log into “Other User” with the username “Administrator” and a blank password. ¬†It will welcome you and tell you that you need to set a new password. ¬†Leave the original password field blank, of course, and then type a new password twice.
  • You’re in! Hyper-V will tell you for an unusually long time that it is “Preparing your desktop”, which is extra odd since there is no desktop in a “server core” version of WS 2008, which Hyper-V is. ¬†Eventually you’ll get to see two things:
    1. A command prompt, which is in the background.
    2. Another glorified command prompt, running the built-in utility which can be accessed from any command prompt by typing:
      hvconfig

Now, as promised, Hyper-V is running.

So how do I install operating systems on top of Hyper-V?

Good question. ¬†The process can only be performed remotely, via a “Hyper-V Remote Manager” update found on Microsoft’s download pages. ¬†The program is downloaded as a standalone windows updater. ¬†It is only available for Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, though they offer x86 and x64 versions of the utility. ¬†Hyper-V itself will be running on x64 architecture, however the remote tool can be in either version.

Here are some links to the Hyper-V Remote Manager tool, and a couple of documents about setting up Hyper-V. ¬†I’ve downloaded these files and uploaded them here. ¬†I found broken link after broken link finding these things, so I’ve posted them here. ¬†These were up to date as of the time of this post. ¬†Note the “.jpg” extentions. ¬†Remove those. ¬†Wordpress only lets me upload visual media ūüėČ

The links look broken. ¬†They’re not. ¬†Wordpress thinks that they are images. ¬†The x86 and the x64 versions of the Vista remote manager tool need an “msu” extention, while the other two are information documents that had a “docx” extention.

The annoyances you will face will be covered in my future posts about this process. ¬†Trust me.. you’re far from happily running your favorite OS installations side by side.