Monday, March 12, 2018

Upgrading from XBOX ONE to XBOX ONE X

For unexpected reasons, I got to buy a new Xbox One X this month...i.e., it basically cost me nothing. Otherwise I probably would not have.

So Microsoft wised up re XBOX ONE the past few years, with several things:

1) you can finally attach an external disk and install games onto it, so that you aren't space-limited to the internal drive it came with that cannot be upgraded. So there's also disk-management tools in the XBOX OS now, to format, transfer, and delete games. Yay! I did not know this, but it was a long time coming, given that the One had 3 USB ports.

2) somewhere 2-3 years ago the finally released a 360 emulator, so that you could continue to play your 360 games. Well, some of them, anyway...after saying for some time that there would never even be such an emulator, all of a sudden there was. Yay! Fallout 3/FNV come back. Oblivion does not.

3) with the release of the One X, now there's built-in help for new owners to be able to upgrade from old box to new one. This would be me.

Unfortunately, it's not as smooth as it should be.

It should not take an Advanced Degree to figure this out.

But you have a bunch of things you need to do.

1) Update the entirety of the Xbox One. If you're me, this could be a problem--it requires a real no-data-cap internet service, which is not what I have. So I didn't even BUY the X until I could time it with a visit to mom's house where she DOES have such a thing. It still took several hours. First I updated the OS on the One, then all the games that wanted it. (Mom's internet speed is decent but not extra fast.)

2) You copy the "personal profile" (aka login & prefs) from the One, onto an external hard drive. This takes maybe a minute or so total, incl power up/down. There's a size minimum on external drives, so you can't do this with a thumb drive (which is stupid, since your profile is tiny).

3) Attach that external to the One X. Start the One X. It will copy your profile from the external disk. There will be some login monkeying around, some prompting about little things, but you will quickly have a profile on a new, but empty, machine.

4) You need to have the One X update itself. This turned out to only be 800 MegaBytes for me, so reasonably fast.

5) OK, not a step, per se, but it was nearly 10 pm by this point, so time to go home.

6) Next day--power up the One. You have to find where you can tell it "allow game transfer" in Settings. The reason you want to do this is that you want to copy all the games from the One to the X, over ethernet. This should be fastest. You could also pop that external disk back on the One, copy all the games to the external, move that external to the X, and transfer them off the external; I didn't try this. You have to be online to do this.

7) Power up the X. Also online. Go to Settings/Network something, where it will say "Transfer", and let you see the One. Clock on the One icon, and you will get the list of games that can be transferred. Click all you want, then Go.

8) Wait until done. My two machines ran that at about 300 megabits/second the entire time, but it did still take a while, because we are talking about 275 megabytes.

9) Power down the One.

10) Restart the X. Somewhere along here it is going to ask you about changing your home machine to the new one. This will log you out of the One, which is fine, because I'm going to wipe it and sell it anyway.

11) Try things out. Every single one you transferred. Because some of this won't go properly.

12) I lost my game saves for FNV. Granted, that's a 360 game, I've no idea how those work internally. But my FNV saves are gone. The game does start up ok. But there are zero saves. I don't know if the Dishonored 1/2 saves are there or not, but not important: if I touch that again, it will be to start over. Grow Up seemed ok. Just need Skyrim and Fallout 4 to work. Wolfensteins aren't here yet. Diablo 3 looked ok--did I test if far enough?

13) Oh crud. Fallout 4 wants to do ANOTHER UPDATE, 17 GB this time. Ouch. I can't do that. Skyrim wants to do a 7 GB update; small enough that I let that go, but it does mean data will be a little tight the rest of the month. F4 is not getting that update yet.

14) Try out other games. Mostly that worked, I didn't try everything, but you need to, to be sure that all online sync gets done ok.

15) Bad discovery: my Skyrim game saves won't load. Apparently they are not portable, somehow. I can see them, incl the little screen-capture for each one, but if I choose one, it starts to load, then the screen goes black and stays there. If I press the "Home" button, I get a seg-fault crash that is so hard that the machine powers down--and I don't see any of it: screen stays black until the power light goes off. Wow. This equals a loss of, um, how many hours was it? "a lot" comes to mind.

16) Tried "New Game" in Skyrim. That works fine, but I really didn't want to be throwing away the old character. No idea what is going on.

17) I wonder if the Fallout 4 saves are broken too...I'd be ok with starting over there

18) Try loading Oblivion. The box says "Xbox One and 360" but no, it won't even allow the attempt. Power up the One--same deal. Not going to be doing that...I was willing to keep the One around for Oblivion, but no need.

19) Fire up the One and wipe it clean (well, except for the two Assassin's Creed games that came with it.

20) EBay. 

Whew. Harder than it should have been.

Upgrading a Mac is simpler than this. You do it entirely over the wire--just did it last week. Coupla mouse clicks and that's it.

This is probably the first time MS has actually done this, really.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

How to get your sounds into High Sierra for custom use

I have had a custom "new mail" sound for years and years.

A new machine arrived recently...well, ok, new to me. I have a 2011 IMac 27 inch. Same screen as I had at old job 5 yrs ago. Very nice. Very inexpensive, $650. Has High Sierra already.

So can I use my custom sound(s)? No, apparently not. Or not anything like the same way. Used to be that you could start Mail, go to Prefs, click the little menu for New Message Sound, there would be the standard list, and also a choice to add something to the list. So I had used that "add something" previously.

High Sierra: No such animal.

Finding the correctly explained solution was harder than it should have been, but the solution itself is pretty easy.

You have to have a sound file. It has to be ".aiff format". A tool like Audacity (free) will do the conversion for you, where ITunes will not. (Did it used to? Could swear that was once a possibility...)

You have to move that file into ~/Library/Sounds.

You can do this via Finder, with "Go To Folder" (aka "command-shift-G"), and enter ~/Library/.

You will then see the list of everything in Library. This folder used to be visible for you all the time, now it is not. This is Apple locking down things so you don't shoot yourself in the foot.

Find the Sounds folder, double click on it. Now drag your .aiff sound file in there.

Quit and restart Mail. Open Prefs. Click on the New Message Sound menu. Viola! Your sound is at the bottom of the list. Hooray!

I think this same approach is true for Sierra, and probably going backwards a while, altho previously you could also use the "add something" choice.

So I now have my new-mail sound back working again. And maybe I'll do some others now too.


Ringtones are a different beast, but a similar process.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Skyrim interesting discovery...

Small, but interesting. Learned this from a friend.

If you have the Solstheim expansion, there's a location called Kohlbjorn Barrow a short distance SE of the dock you land at. There's guy there who needs help because draugr keep killing his archaeological dig crew.

It takes several rounds of dungeon delving to get this all resolved, but at the end is a "Black Book" in a greenish room on a pedestal in the center. You read the book, you are transported to wherever (Hermaeus Somebody's realm), you have to do a quick run to the far end, where there's another book you want to read. The Black Books have some options for a "power" that you can choose. Here you want to pick "Secrets of Arcana".

Why? The power is that once a day you get a 30-second window in which you can cast a spell and it costs zero Magicka.

Not actually that useful, unless you have a super-expensive spell you want to cast.


you can cast a spell that is a continuous spell rather than a point spell. i.e., a point spell is like Fireball and a continuous spell is like "Flames" where you hold down the key until the opponents are all dead or  you are.

OK, that's not actually useful here. What IS useful: there are a few, and only a few, spells that do not require actual targets in order for you to get skill point boost. Those spells include Telekinesis, Detect Life, Detect [Un]Dead. You just hold the "hit" key/button down and away they go. So with Secrets of Arcana, you can launch that power, then select Detect Life somewhere there are plenty of people (like Whiterun town square, or maybe Riften), and cast the spell. Keep holding down the cast button/key, and if there are plenty of Live or Dead things, Alteration will race to 100 pretty quick. (Later: I was hoping I could use "Clairvoyance" to boost Illusion, but no go; the spell has to have an actual target to act upon in any category to do any boosting. Detect Life doesn't have a "selected" target, just bodies in detection range.)

I did this by finding a skeleton that wouldn't see and therefore not attack me, telling my companion to go somewhere else and wait, then launching spell as above. I held it down for a bit, then I went and got a fat rubber-band to do that holding for me. Went from level 32 to level 90 on the rubber band.

Remember that I'm on an Xbox One here, so the controller is possible to do this way. Friend came back and said I could get Detect Life from Tolfdir so I did that...then I could go to Whiterun and do it again. I think that from 32-90 took about two hours on Detect Dead with just the one skeleton, but going from 90-100 on Detect Life took about 5 minutes because Whiterun town square has so many folks walking around.

The speed of level-up on these skills is based on how many creatures are in range. Same deal with Sneak--more people walking around nearby, the faster your sneak skill goes up. I suspect you could go from 30 to 100 in Alteration in 15 minutes, with those first ones going by ridiculous fast. Didn't occur to me to measure it, so I don't know.

The only flaw in here is that you will probably gain 4 overall levels at the same time, and you can't pause in the middle to go find someone to buy training from, so you lose that oppo.

You appear to only be able to do this in Alteration (grabbing and holding a something with TK works just as well, and you can do that anywhere), and Illusion, all the other spells/categories require targets of some kind and aren't continuous or they have "ends", like healing.

Same friend suggested that perhaps for Restoration if you could use Greater Ward in conjunction with one of those soul-gem-based lasers you occasionally find, if the laser is less powerful than the Ward that you could do Restoration too. But that requires finding a really weak one of those lasers, and I haven't seen one in quite a while...I tried this, with Steadfast Ward which is not strong enough, and when it has shield failure which is almost instantly you have to recast, which doesn't work with Arcana.

If you know of another spell this works with I'd like to find out.


Later: OK, there's another way. You can boost Restoration interestingly to the top, and it doesn't involve the Solstheim thing above.

I'm sure there are some variations on this that will work.

Find the "Atronach Stone" and accept the blessing. This blessing is that magical attacks on you convert 50% of damage back into magicka. Then you want to find one of those bird-beak things that shoots fire continuously and stand in front of it. Note that I do NOT mean the soul-gem based things.

Now you are taking damage and gaining Magicka. You probably want to wear some enchanted armor pieces that do magic damage reduction, and maybe boost your magicka regeneration. Then, on top of all that, you want to choose "Healing" as your active spell and run it continuously. Healing takes a target, i.e., *you*, which means it works for skill-leveling. You want your magicka regen to be more or less the same rate as Healing uses it up, 8 pts/sec, and you want the actual fire damage to be about 8/second, so that these things balance. A little more complicated, but you can then run Restoration to 100. You might need to step out of the flame for a bit to heal full up on occasion, so it's not as easy as Alteration was. And you can do it without having to drink potions.

Watched someone do this for a couple minutes. Again here you'd want to stop when your character levels up so that you can go buy 5 training levels.

There's another blessing of Atronach you can get, worth about 20% attack=>recover_magicka that might help.


So these things are of course a little bit game-destabilizing, when you combine them with the rollover you can do by claiming "Legendary" on, say, Alteration, resetting it back to 15, letting you take those skill points and apply them elsewhere, run the Detect Life routine again, all the way to 100, declare Legendary again, etc. If you have the $, you could train up along the way, etc.

Or at least train things that aren't, all the way to 50. That's reasonably inexpensive; after 50, the price is quadruple, so you probably don't have that much cash.


A generically similar approach can be taken with Blocking, and Light/Heavy Armor. You want to let a rat bite on you, but not really take health damage. Rat continues to attack, you cast heal. I found that holding a shield in left hand and Healing in the right did well. Block can be run to 100; again, you want to stop for training oppos. But if you did this with the Atronach/Heal-Self combo, you could stand there forever letting the rat work on you until Light and Heavy Armor are at 100, Block is at 100...


Back in Oblivion, you could run Sneak to 100 without even leaving the initial training area, same basic deal. There's that point where you are told to sneak behind that goblin. Turns out there's a location opposite where you enter his room where you can aim yourself at the wall, lean on the move-forward key, and go AFK. If you selected Sneak as a Major skill, you can level your character up to 10 after a while; this will actually take several hours, but does not involve any danger for you, the goblin will NOT look backwards. The only trick is getting yourself aimed properly, and then managing the 25/50/75 perk points.

You couldn't really do the rat-bite routine, because getting attacked damaged your armor, too, which meant you needed repair hammers or spare armor. I can't recall if you could do repairs while in combat...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


A separate project has forced me onto Facebook.

What a piece of garbage software.

I'm trying to find the marketplace, in order to buy a small amount of office furniture. I'm kinda wanting to be able to use it like Craigslist, but I can't even find the start page for Marketplace.

Someone sent me a link to a Marketplace item, I was able to look at that. And I can do a search from there. And I get returns that look a lot like Craigslist. But I can't click on any of those returns to look t the item--brand-new search results and I get told "item not available"--every time.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Health Care business

This is an enormously complex problem, overall.

My experience is not extensive, but I have had to use several "providers" over the last 40 years.

Kaiser Permanente was superior. Also, the most expensive. KP is the most computerized HC provider that I am aware of. This means that their knowledge and planning and efficiency is highest, and that they can be proactive about various things, like telling you when it's time to do this or that (just like the Ford dealer sends you an email when it's approx time for an oil change).

The rest of the industry seems a lot less data-efficient. There's no good reason for that, other than lack of willingness to spend the money to be better, and a fear on the part of some employees that computerization will put them out of a job. That is of course, true, but is like a buggy-whip manufacturer in 1910 saying "automobiles will never replace horses" -- yet here we are.

So today I have read an announcement that Warren Buffet (of Berkshire-Hathaway fame), Jeff Bezos (creator of Amazon), and a guy from J P Morgan Chase (CEO?) will team to create a brand-new Health-Care service to tackle the US HC-provider cost issue.

This is great.

I have no idea who the JPM guy is, and let's not pretend that the banking/financial industry in the US has a good reputation (the seemingly endless parade of scandals based on the industry being greedy goes back as far as you can read).

But we know who Warren Buffet is, perhaps the epitome of good guy who is really wealthy.

Jeff Bezos is the guy who is revolutionizing the retail industry. Amazon is the business to be afraid of if you are in retail sales--aka brick-n-mortar stores. He bought Whole Foods last year, and while we haven't seen "organic food delivered by quad-copter drones" yet, we will.

So this combination is really interesting: you won't go to CVS for prescriptions, NewCO-HC will delivery them via drone. Well, KP sent me pills in the mail, so this isn't too far-fetched at all. The only reason to use CVS is when you get a prescription and need the pills immediately. KP had its own pharmacy in-house, so you could see a doc and then go downstairs for the pills. Refills I always got in the mail.

The initial story on this is that the service will be for their employees, but of course 20 years ago Amazon only sold books.

This will be interesting.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A little political humor

Stable genius:

On the left...

Stable genius?

It ain't this guy:

The Very Model

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Advanced Sci Fi and TV

Watched new X Files last night. Hadn't really planned to, but there it is.

Just as crazy as before…hope this time it will move the main plot a little faster. I lost interest last time around, and missed a few things like "CSM" being Mulder's dad. Scully/Mulder shoulda killed him years ago. But no, everyone is back, and in classic form, no one can be trusted.

But one thing that got mentioned, in passing, clearly as an aside to the SciFi fans, was "Dyson Sphere".

Read about it here:

A clever idea, and probably sort of true, but in no way practical. "W" article talks about some of this.

Eventually it says "probably not enough material in the solar system to actually create such a thing" Nor is the material we have actually innately strong enough.

Why not? It'd have to rotate to have "gravity", there'd be coriolis tension and compression and shear, drift around the star…

Imagine a large balloon enclosing a baseball, both perfectly spherical. How thick, how much reinforcement/bracing, and other clever crazy stuff would we have to have so that it didn't disintegrate…

Where would enough atmosphere come from to "fill it" let's say 10 miles thick? Oh, no, you wouldn't do that at all. You'd make a flat layer whose inside surface is glass, and the air is trapped between that and the outer layer, so that you stand inside the outer layer and are looking up through the glass inner layer; maybe it's 20 feet thick. Well, there's plenty of sun, then, and the air is contained. Lots less air needed. Still…a lot of air. I don't think we have enough. We'd have to mine air from…um…we'd have to make it.

A test case, avoiding any thought of the coriolis aspects:

The earth is 8000 miles diameter. Let us imagine it is solid iron. How thick an outer surface do we need? Other aspects will determine that, but let's say it's one inch.

The Dyson radius always used is 1 AU, or 93 million miles. You probably wouldn't actually build it that distance, but for convenience we'll say 100 million.

The surface of the sphere is 1.7E26 square inches. 

Earth = 8000 miles sphere of iron = 268082573106 cubic miles = 7.5 E18 cubic feet = 6.8E25 cubic inches. A little short. 

But only a little. That's interesting, and less damning than I thought. 

We could only build 1/2 inch thick shell. We probably really need more like a foot thick, but we aren't making tall buildings, no point; that, and they'd be unsafe to create. And the sphere would be one billion times more square miles than the entire surface of the earth, of which we currently use very little. We'd still be all bunched together because of the need for fresh water. We'd end up distilling the entirety of the oceans into fresh water. And managing the location...that'd be weird because we couldn't build oceans (the "depth" would create other impossible tension stress forces that would be totally destructive: a half-inch-thick shell couldn't "handle the weight".

Huh. Not so bad as I thought. 

Of course, it'd be vulnerable to things from the outside.  Earth's atmosphere prevents the surface from looking like the Moon, but the outside of a sphere would have no equivalent thing--there would have to be huge team of people and "somethings" whose job was to continually deal with attacks. We'd have to clear the stellar vicinity and the Oort cloud. 

There are a variety of smaller/simpler things also discussed, where we don't actually build a full sphere, but rather a close-in constellation of power collectors. Similar vulnerabilities, of course, but no catastrophic failures likely.

The "W" article give a brief mention to "Niven Ring" which is of course Ringworld. It's a 1AU strip around a star. Much more doable, not that wide and not subject to coriolis shear forces. It rotated, so it has gravity. There's no "roof" so you could fly up/out. Still vulnerable: remember how Ringworld had a "mountain" in one place where a large asteroid had punched through from the back?

We still aren't doing it, tho. The engineering of such a thing is beyond us. The materials are beyond us. Maybe carbon nanotubes would be the thing.