Monday 3 August 2015

Day of the Tentacle History Lesson: Part 2

Part two of my little guide to increasing your enjoyment of Tim Schafer's and Dave Grossman's seminal adventure game classic DAY OF THE TENTACLE. The game makes many a reference to a somewhat mythological version of American history, which is great if you're an American. But what if you're not?

Here's a bunch of completely true, and no way wrong, commonly held American historical myths that are referenced to in Day of the Tentacle. Ok, so maybe some of them aren't actually true (of course Benjamin Franklin didn't discover electricity), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use this website as a reference to back up your next pub argument.

Part one is here!

Thanks to the awesome people at the Double Fine forums for helping out with this list!

Betsy Ross

...and the American Flag

Betsy Ross, a modest and self-reliant seamstress, is approached by the founding fathers to see if she could produce a national flag for the new country, based on their design patterns. She was apprehensive, but willing. "I do not know but I could try; I had never made one but if the pattern were shown to me, I do not doubt of my ability to do it." It took the founding fathers a few attempts to get their designs right, but Ross was successful, and so history was made.

Key takeaway: Betsy Ross made the United States national flag from the founding father's designs.

Benjamin Franklin

...and electricity

Benjamin Franklin did something with electricity with a kite that had a key attached. It's all very complicated and weird, and nobody really understands it, but basically by flying a kite in a storm, with a key attached, Franklin discovered electricity.

Ok, while that does appear to be the general understanding on this myth, here's a little more information that makes it make more sense: Franklin's experiment was actually an attempt to prove that lightning and electricity (which was still poorly understood at the time) were one and the same thing. To prove this, he sent a key up into the air on a kite during a storm. Eventually lightning struck the kite and Franklin brought the kite down to earth. If his argument was correct, the key would have a ton of static electricity stored in it, just waiting to zap the next person who decided to touch it, and lo, if he wasn't right.

Key takeaway: Benjamin Franklin "discovered" electricity with a key tied to a kite in a thunderstorm (leading to the kite being struck by lightning)

...and the National Bird

Benjamin Franklin was not convinced that the United States should be represented by a bald eagle, and believed the national bird should have been a turkey. He wrote that he found the bald eagle to be of "bad moral character", as it lazily poaches its food from other animals, and is a "rank coward" as it can be driven from an area by a bird no bigger than a sparrow (the kingbird).

He concluded from this that, "the bald eagle is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest America", and instead looked at the turkey more favourably: "The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and additionally a true original Native of America, and a bird of courage."

Key takeaway: Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the United States national bird

The Pony Express

The Pony Express was the fastest mail service in the United States, and became legendary for the speed of its delivery across the country.

...and the red flag on the mailbox 

Don't forget, when the flag it up on a mailbox, it means that there's outgoing mail inside waiting to be picked up.

This I've missed something? Comment and let me know! And don't forget to read Part One!

Sunday 2 August 2015

Day of the Tentacle History Lesson: Part 1

Fans of classic LucasArts adventure games will know that Tim Schafer's and Dave Grossman's seminal adventure game classic DAY OF THE TENTACLE (which is due for a Special Edition some point soon) makes references to a slightly-exaggerated (but still very popular) version of American history. There are some great references to get if you're American, but what if you're not?

With that in mind, here are a bunch of completely true, and not in anyway exaggerated or simplified, commonly-held American historical "facts" that are referenced to in Day of the Tentacle, for us non-Americans.

These are the stories you would have heard growing up as a child if you were raised in the US (that you'd later learn as adult were a bit more complicated). They are the shared folklore of the United States, and they are referenced to heavily in Day of the Tentacle.


Some basic scene-setting

During your time in the world of Day of the Tentacle, you'll meet some founding fathers of the United States; George Washington (soon to become the first President), Benjamin Franklin (famous inventor), Thomas Jefferson, and John Hancock. They've declared Independence from Europe, but now they're trying to write a Constitution for their new country.

See also: Part two!

Thanks to the awesome people at the Double Fine forums for helping out with this list!

George Washington... 

...and the Cherry Tree

A six year old George Washington was given a hatchet to play with (hey, it was the 1700s, things were different back then), and it became one of his prized possessions. He would enthusiastically hack at just about anything he could get his hands on, but usually his mother's plants.

One morning, however, he got a little bit carried away with his hacking, and, while nobody was watching, chopped down a beautiful young English CHERRY TREE in his family's back garden.

As it turns out, the tree was a particular favourite of his Dad's, and when he saw what befallen (heh) it he was very angry. He called over his favourite hatchet-happy son, and began the interrogation.

"George," said his father, "do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree in the garden?"

George realised he was in serious trouble, but braced himself for punishment and told the truth anyway: "I can't tell a lie, Pa ; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet!”

His Dad was so surprised and impressed with his son's honesty in the face of inevitable punishment that he immediately forgave him. "A son's honesty is worth more than a thousand trees!", he said, and gave him a big hug.

Key takeaway: George Washington likes cutting down cherry trees.

...and Valley Forge

Later in his career George Washington commander of the US Army, and things weren't looking good. The British had just taken control of Philadelphia, and were close to victory. Washington's troops were so close to collapse that he had no choice but to retreat to Valley Forge in the hope of getting them some much needed supplies and rest. Unfortunately they found anything but.

Congress had been unable to get supplies through, so his men suffered an incredibly harsh winter at Valley Forge without clothes, blankets, or appropriate food.

Washington refused to give up, however, and forced his men to stick together through the cold, hard winter, despite the terrible conditions. If he hadn't, it's considered that it might have been the end of the Revolutionary War.

Key takeaway: George Washington can handle a bit of cold weather

...and his wooden teeth

George Washington had false teeth... made from wood. Yes, really.

Thomas Jefferson

Hey, it's that guy from the nickel!

John Hancock

...and his massive signature

John Hanock's signature on the Declaration of Independence (and other documents) is always so damned big.

Remember: All of the information here is completely true and in no way a simplified or exaggerated version of history.

Read part two now!

Saturday 1 August 2015

This just in... from 2050

A few years back the BBC started a season of speculative fiction called "What If?", and these funny short news reports, purported to be from 2050, were part of that broadcasting.

I think they're rather brilliant. They feel very real (even if, aesthetically, they've already dated), and I can believe the reports coming true at some point in human history. They just ring true, but with a bit of a cheeky wink. Very clever and amusing.

Will they be loosely accurate, or will they say more about today than about 35 years from now? I hope I live to 2050 to find out!

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Windows 10: Here's what I see when I see the new Start Menu...

Thankfully someone alerted me to the fact that you can make the Start Menu full screen again :)

Tuesday 28 July 2015

The voice on the page: Do internet comments ruin everything?

Something has bugged me about internet comments for years, and I've never been able to put my finger on exactly what it was... but I think I've just figured it out.

I saw Jerry Seinfeld talk about the relationship between the comic and the audience, and how critics, no matter how they may try, cannot get in between their bond. The comic has a direct link, artist to audience, that cannot be interfered with. In the moment of the performance, two people are connected.

Charlie Kaufman has talked about the importance of this same connection, about how hearing a voice revealing some shared truth makes us feel less alone. (You might even argue that's the function of art itself.) Stephen King has also written about what he sees as a genuine form of psychic communication, an almost magical connection, between author and audience, that allows for the sending of ideas from one brain to another.

That connection, the one we all feel while experiencing a piece of art that touches us, is sacrosanct. It's important, holy, ancient. It's the deepest parts of two people having a conversation that can't be put into words. At that moment artist and audience are connected.

And then someone forces their way into that conversation, sharing their opinion before you've had time to fully appreciate the experience.

Imagine going on a date with someone. The two of you are hoping to find a deep connection with another. Now imagine having a third-party sat nearby commenting after every sentence. Unless it lead to mutual frustration and the desire to go elsewhere, that person would completely prevent any chance of connection forming, and to me, that's often what internet comments do.

Don't get me wrong, debate is important and it's healthy, but it has its time and place. Do we really need the ability to comment on everything? Do we really want people interfering with our deeper connection to things? I think we need time to find our own thoughts and opinions about what we've just experienced, our own connection with it, and only then can we enter a debate about it -- should we feel the need.

But I worry that all this superficial conversation is just making us more lonely for a deeper connection.

Sunday 19 April 2015

"Grand Theft Auto V has stopped working" - Potential Fix

Like millions of others, I 've recently purchased Grand Theft Auto V for the PC, and unfortunately like many of those the game kept crashing no matter what my settings were. After looking through Windows Event Viewer, at the Application Error list, I saw the following:

Faulting application name: GTA5.exe, version: 1.0.331.1, time stamp: 0x552e6cfd
Faulting module name: ICProxy64.dll, version:, time stamp: 0x5297da23
Exception code: 0xc0000417
Fault offset: 0x0000000000043430
Faulting process id: 0xfbc
Faulting application start time: 0x01d07a1d9a56e133
Faulting application path: X:\SteamLibrary\steamapps\common\Grand Theft Auto V\GTA5.exe
Faulting module path: C:\WINDOWS\system32\ICProxy64.dll
Report Id: fc235624-e610-11e4-bfa7-10bf48b8b8dc
Faulting package full name:
Faulting package-relative application ID:

After a quick Google I discovered that ICProxy64.dll belonged to a program I'd installed many months prior called "Identity Cloaker".

I never used this program (I can't even remember why I installed it), so I decided to get rid and uninstall it. I then loaded GTA V and reset my graphical settings. The game crashed.

Luckily, it was just a one off. Since removing Identity Cloaker the game has worked flawlessly. If you're having problems playing Grand Theft Auto V (or Grand Theft Auto Online), and have this program installed, you should probably remove it... It may be just the thing that's causing all your problems.

If not, make sure you open a support ticket at Rockstar Games. They should be able to help you, eventually.

Good luck!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Becoming a billionaire in Grand Theft Auto V using BAWSAQ stock market!

I'm super pleased to announce that my latest pet-project has gone live; It's a simple website designed to help players of Grand Theft Auto V become billionaires using the ingame BAWSAQ stock market (it's fun, you know). It began as a project to re-sharpen my coding skills after an extended break and turned into a bit of a labour of love.

It's still early days, but I've designed it to be as simple as possible, and hopefully it will be very useful to players of Grand Theft Auto! New features will continue to be added, too.

Visit the site:

Let me know your thoughts and feedback if you use it!

UPDATE: The API has broken, so the site no longer functions as it should :(

Monday 2 February 2015

All the WINGS episodes missing from Netflix/Hulu

Sitcom junkie that I am, I've been watching WINGS each night to fall asleep to. It's an amusing series from the creators of the FRASIER that never found the popularity of that show (or its predecessor), but I've grown to really enjoy it. Yes, it may not have been edgy or boundary pushing, and the differences between the characters were sometimes ill defined (or subtle?), but whatever its faults may or may not be, it's still a very underrated and enjoyable show, and I was a little miffed when I discovered that Netflix doesn't have every episode on its service.

In fact, it turns out that 23 episodes are missing, an entire season's worth(!), and unfortunately, due to music licensing issues, there's very little chance of them being added. The biggest shame is that they frequently feature important story-changing episodes (and WINGS was mostly very careful about keeping its backstory -- although don't ask what happened to Budd, or Lowell's kids).

While watching on Netflix, did you wonder where Helen's sister, Casey, suddenly appeared from? How Brian, Casey and Antonio got a house together? Where Helen got a new cello from? What Brian did with his insurance money? It's all explained in episodes that were cut. You also missed Craig Bierko's cameo in Season 2, Kirstie Alley's "Rebecca Howe" from CHEERS in Season 4, and The Monkees's Peter Tork in Season 7 (if that's your bag). Often these were some of the best episodes, too.

So here's a list of each of the episodes missing from Netflix:

Season 2
01 - The Puppet Master
11 - A Terminal Christmas
15 - My Brother's Back and There's Going to Be Trouble

Season 3
09 - Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered

Season 4
11- Exit Laughing
15 - The Gift: Part 1
16 - The Gift: Part 2
17 - I Love Brian
21 - Another Wedding

Season 6
02 - Twisted Sister
07 - All's Fare
18 - Gone But Not Faygotten
21 - The Love Life and Times of Joe and Helen

Season 7
06 - She's Gotta Have It
10 - 'Twas The Heist Before Christmas
17 - Lynch Party
20 - A Tale Of Two Sister Cities
23 - Life Could Be A Dream

Season 8
03 - Maybe It's You
07 - Olive Or Twist
15 - Fay There, Georgy Girl
16 - Escape From New York
17 - House Of Blues

Unfortunately the only place these appear to be now available is on the DVD releases. Shame! (It's especially a shame because sometimes the music in question is only incidental and could be changed to anything else.)