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lexin: (Default)
Sunday, July 5th, 2015 03:04 pm
What I’ve done is to fall madly in love with a purple laptop. I don’t need a second computer, I already have an iPad after all, but it is so beautiful.

So, I ordered it.

No thanks to my bank, who managed to block both my cards in the process and I had to unblock them.

It should be here Tuesday, after 5pm. Fingers crossed and Currys permitting.

It’s more logical than is sounds (yes it is, stop giggling at the back) even if it is the most expensive solution to the problem that I outlined the other day that [personal profile] doire has been helping me with, that was ever thought of in the history of history itself.

It even beats the time my sewing machine went belly-up in the middle of making a frock for someone, meaning that she and I headed out to Bluewater (posh shopping mall) and bought a new machine from John Lewis to finish it. I would have gone somewhere local, but it was a Sunday. It would be. Just call me three sewing machines Lexin – I bought an overlocker not long after that. Now I’m to be two computers Lexin, too.

What I mean about it being more logical than it sounds, is that the iPad extender apps that I was whinging about should work from the laptop as that won’t (presumably) have dual graphics switching and will be intended to operate external screens in a way the desktop is not. Windows 8.1 on laptops has something called Wi-Di, which my TV has natively. Desktops don’t seem to have it, or if they do it’s not accessible.

Worst case scenario is that I buy the Player version of the Realm Works program and put that on the laptop separately under an assumed name and let the players use that.

Like I said, most expensive solution to the problem ever, ever.

But it does give me a laptop to take to HeroMeet in Wales in August to extend my capabilities.

The background…

What I have is a thing called Realm Works which is a program for writing up role playing games and sharing (or not sharing, as the case may be) information with the players.

There is a Game Master screen (which only I should see) and a Player Screen (which is what I want visible on the other monitor/iPad/whatever). You can run Realm Works on as many computers as you like if you have a licence. What you can’t do is open your ‘realm’ simultaneously on two computers or you’ll corrupt the database.

Looking at the screen options from inside Realm Works, it clearly expects that there should be two screens attached to the computer for this sharing to work optimally. Alternatively there is a ‘players’ version of the software for players to use on their own equipment, for a fairly nominal cost – it’s $5.99 or about £4.00 and I could load that on the laptop.

Meanwhile, if none of that works, I’ve checked the back of my computer and there are currently two HDMI slots unused, one which looks to be on the motherboard and one on the graphics card, so I’ve ordered a 7m HDMI cable just in case, and will try that option before investing in Miracast solutions.

I do think that I have ‘dual graphics switching’ on the desktop, and this may be why the iPad solutions don’t work properly there. They are great for cloning your screen, and I can see uses for that like operating my desktop computer from the comfort of my sofa (laziness FTW) but won’t extend.

Plus, Win 8.1, which is what I use, doesn’t identify anything as a second screen, it's all a mare's nest. I think that what “Display Settings” under “Control Panel” is seeing as a second screen is actually not – I think it’s the fact that there must be native graphics controllers on the motherboard and actually the graphics card has taken over operation but the motherboard graphics are still there, hidden - there isn’t really a second monitor there, even if Display Settings thinks there is. Plus, that is an indication that I do have this ‘dual graphics switching’ thing that is such a problem.
lexin: (Default)
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 09:36 am
Yesterday I was caught by new software.

You will recall that I play RPGs? Well, yes, it’s no secret. I was reading File 770 for an update on the Hugos situation when Mike Glyer posted the nominations for the nominees for the ENnies, the Gen Con EN World RPG Awards.

I didn’t even know there were awards for excellence in RPGs – though logically I suppose there must be. So being a gamer I had a look through the websites he linked to and I was drawn to three things.

The first thing which I got curious about is the D20 system for running tabletop games online. This looks as if it could be very good for any time when my group can’t get together for some reason but need to play on. We’ll be playing in our retirement homes yet! I was invited by a gaming friend to take a closer look, which I am. One thing I did notice that while the system itself is free (though the paid-for options look tasty) artwork can have varying costs. All of them look quite small per set of items, but I’d think they can mount up fast if you’re not careful.

The second and third were two software options from WolfLair called Realm Works and Hero Lab.

Realm Works is a very powerful bit of software that allows a GM to create and keep track of their game world. It also appears to allow the GM to send the information to a nearby screen (such as a TV). I haven’t explored that bit yet to see if it works as described but the possibilities attract me. It has a sister bit of software which is a player’s version, allowing the players in a game world to see what the GM lets them see – handouts, background information, lots of things. I’d prefer to see that on an iPad rather than a computer, I would think that even a laptop would get in the way of the players’ faces but maybe the screen version obviates that.

Hero Lab allows GMs to roll up characters on the fly and in advance of a game, and insert them into the Realm Works engine, as well as print them out for use by players. It works with several game systems including Pathfinder, various flavours of AD&D, Call of Cthulhu and a couple of other things I hadn’t heard of. You have to pay for each system separately due to licencing issues, but none of them are expensive. On the other hand, if your chosen system is Pathfinder you could be in for an expensive time – there is a positive plethora of Pathfinder stuff, masses of it, but each bit is separately priced. None are expensive, but it could mount up fast if you use their sources.

On the other hand, the ones I wanted were $20 each – Call of Cthulhu, AD&D 3e (nearest I could get to 2e, which is what we play) and the ‘authoring’ section which should allow me to adapt what’s available to close to 2e.

Learning this software is…interesting. The learning curve on Realm Works is challenging, even with video support – but then it was late at night and I was tired.

On the other hand, I love software like this and couldn’t leave it alone. I finally went to bed at 03:30 having played with it for hours and hours. I love filling in the little boxes on Hero Lab and seeing the other numbers move around. It’s so cute. I also love filling in information on Realm Works and watching the software link it all up. It’s amazing.

So, yes, I recommend these if you’re a GM or a gamer in general.