Monday, April 21, 2008

PCGen vs Vista: An Epic Battle

There have been many great battles over the ages.  The 300 Spartans standing against the armies of Persia.  The defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English in 1588.  Napoleon's crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

Well, gather round friends because I have a tale to tell.  A tale of hardship, loss, and eventual triumph in the face of adversity.

Like many such events it begins simply enough.  A young man (well perhaps not so young) purchased a laptop.  It was shiny and new, and was bedecked in the latest version of the Windows Operating System, named Vista, to invoke the beautiful panoramic scenes you might find in a secluded glen or after climbing a mountain.  The latter proved especially apt, for you will see a mountain was to be climbed!

When the man went to transfer his files and applications over, one of the first was the program PCGen as it was needed later that day.  PCGen was downloaded and installed.  At first all seemed well.  A simple double-click and the program ran much as it had on Vista's predecessor.  The man then went to the reclusive Code Monkeys to install the data sets needed for the campaign that evening.  That is when Vista decided to wreak a terrible vengeance! 

The monkeys' data had come zipped up for ease of transport.  However, when the man attempted to unzip the sets something most unusual occurred.  Whereas the operating system know as XP had always unzipped these in a minute or less, tricky Vista projected well over an hour to accomplish the task.  Curious, the man decided to let it run.  To his surprise Vista was telling him no lie as it took an hour and a half for it to complete its labors.

Perplexed, the man decided there had to be an easier way for the remaining data sets.  He searched far and wide, and was rewarded with the open source program 7-Zip.  7-Zip accomplished the task that took Vista an hour and a half in less than a minute.  The man smiled, figuring his trials were over.  Little did he know, they were just beginning.

It should be known that for him to truly use the data provided by the monkeys the man needed to make some slight modifications to the sets.  After all, it is well known that monkeys are sometimes useful they are not always accurate.  The man navigated to the PCGen Directory, and from there to the location where the data was stored.  When he opened up the data with humble notepad, he was asked to confirm his right as administrator to modify the data.  The man gladly did so, and made the changes required.

He then launched PCGen and was quite astonished to find that the changes he made had not been reflected.  Figuring that Vista had merely prevented him from saving the changes, he went back to check them out.  Imagine his amazement to find that the data file had been changed, but that PCGen had been befuddled not to see them!

Clearly Vista was a trickier opponent then the man had given it credit for.  But the man did not lose heart for he had been schooled in the ways of Vista's master.  Thinking back, he remembered that Vista was capable of maintaining Shadow Copies of its files.  Perhaps it was using this aptly named ability to keep PCGen in the dark?

Although tricky, the man realized that Shadow Copies could be easily defeated with a simple right-click!  Eagerly the man attempted this solution... for naught.  The interface was not there!  A dark foreboding fell over the man.  His fears were quickly confirmed: Since his Vista was known as Home Premium, power over the Shadow Copies was denied to him!

Vista was proving to be a worthy foe.  The man had heard of its abilities to confound users and lower productivity, but clearly it's aptitude had exceeded his wildest imaginings.  Still, the man refused to lose hope.  Surely others had encountered the devious power of Vista's Shadow Copies before?  The man researched the problem, tracking down every scrap of information no matter how obscure.  Finally, he stumbled upon a page with the knowledge he sought!  Here was the hiding spot of the Shadow Copies laid bare.  With a decisive [Delete] the Shadow Copies were vanquished and the man was left free to use PCGen in the manner he desired.

Quite a tale, eh?  Alas, it is not over yet.  For though the man one the battle, the war rages on.  Vista knows time is on its side.  Someday soon, the man will stumble into one of its traps, and this time it will not let itself be undone so easily.


Scafloc said...

Goddamn Vista. Good call on 7-zip, I have been using it for some time now on my vista machine, and it is by far the best free solution I could find.

Also, nice prose.

Bronz said...

I enjoyed it myself.

Glad that I have not taken the new laptop plunge as of yet. If I did, I would actually seriously think of going with a Mac, as my fiance is nothing but happy with hers and any Vista user I know is simply fuming every time they touch the stupid thing.

Good thing though that PCGen will simply become obsolete for DnD fairly soon, so the war against it will end in surrender.

Chadarius said...

Forsooth I will say nay to thee Vista. Thy brand is weak and faultering! I will merrily run the magics of the Internet with yonder Kubuntu 8.04! It hath treated me quite well in the past and is free to all thru the wonderments of yon open source! Thus I shall never be confounded such by the likes of the evil underworld of Microsoft.

I've recently taken to PC Gen myself and have to hack a ton of stuff for my character Nailgus. While 4th Ed will be far simpler at first, I am still very weary of whether D&DI will be able to handle even just character creation properly at first. I hope it will but I'm fully prepared to get back to filling out a character record sheet by hand or using an Open Office spreadsheet.