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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let's Play Civilization 5 on Tamriel as the Khajiit - post-campaign retrospective

Biting the brother in the neck! by Tambako the Jaguar from flickr (CC-ND)

Unfortunately due to changing circumstances my Youtube channel is probably going to be somewhat less active for at least first half of the year.

My most recent and so far the only series on it was Let's Play Civilization 5 on Tamriel as the Khajiit, which is now slowly coming to a close, so it's time for some retrospective.

Balance between civilizations

I've chosen civilization based on a quick look at who seemed to have interesting gameplay potential - and also because I haven't played as cats before. I thought other civilizations are gonig to have comparable power level, but it's not ever close, and Khajiit are insanely overpowered. Here's what they do:
  • caravan range doubled
  • land military units (but not workers, settlers, great generals etc.) +1 movement and +1 sight
  • workshop replacement with +2 happiness, +1 culture, +2 science/jungle (stacking with University for +4 science/jungle), on top of the usual bonuses
  • caravansary replacement with +2 happiness, +1 culture, double trade range bonus, and the usual gold bonus
In other words:
  • ridiculously powerful happiness bonus (+4 per city), all available fairly early in game, making happiness maybe not quite irrelevant, but a secondary consideration even for highly expansionistic empires
  • ridiculously powerful military bonus (+1 movement and +1 sight is stronger than most UUs - and Khajiit get it for every land unit in every era.
    • To make it even more extreme, Tamriel map is almost all land, so lack of bonuses for ships matters little - and extra movement and sight is still quite effective at shooting ships with your missile units
    • Early game the Bosmer whom I was fighting built Great Wall - possibly the most obnoxious wonder in the game - that extra movement point more or less invalidated their wonder
  • fairly strong science bonus - requiring access to a lot of judge would make it somewhat situational, but guess what - that's precisely the kind of terrain Khajiit start with in every direction
  • fairly strong gold bonus - it's not that huge, mostly it lets you use caravans where others would use cargo ships, which on some maps would be fairly inconsequential, but Tamriel is basically Pangea, so it's especially strong on this map
  • modest culture bonus - +2 culture / city is very good value
  • and all of that requires very little effort - you start with military bonus and you'd be building workshops everywhere anyway - so now you just need to build caravansaries in places you wouldn't otherwise
This is all "way above Korea and Poland" tier.

It would be all right if everybody had comparable bonuses, but as far as I can tell, everybody else's are rather mediocre.

Back when I was playing Ravnica civs, half of them were really overpowered, but they matched each other reasonably well, and I don't think any of them were Khajiit tier.

This unfortunately means I'm not so inclined to give Tamriel another try. Other civs seem not only underpowered, but also rather boring.

Truce Breaking Bug

Civilization 5 won't let you break truces no matter how much you'd like to do so. However I ran into this bug:
  • I wanted to attack Orsimer, but they were a bit strong, so I asked Skyrim to attack them together
  • Skyrim said yes, but give us 10 turns
  • Well, I couldn't wait, so I attacked Orsimer on my own
  • They offered far less resistance than expected, so I took what I wanted and peaced them out
  • Next turn Skyrim came back to me with "10 turns is up, let's attack Orsimer together" dialog, and war started.
  • As far as I can tell, there were no negative diplomatic consequences of this truce breaking, because game didn't even consider truce breaking to be a possibility

Playing with 13 civilizations

The game had 13 civilizations on Standard sized maps (as opposed to the usual 8), so I expected a bloodbath fighting for what little land there was available. Three civilizations (Bretons, Orsimer, Hammerfell) had their capital so close I'd expect them to DoW each other before getting Composite Bowmen.

It turns out that number of tiles is Standard sized, but amount of land is much bigger, so there was plenty available for everyone - and map had a lot of strategically places mountains to slow down early warfare as well.

Unfortunately 13 civs on Immortal meant it was completely pointless to go after wonders, religions, or domination victory, while making research agreements and science victory a lot stronger.

I think I had 8 research agreements at one point, with +50% science from research agreement thanks to Porcelain Tower stacked on top of +25% from relevant Rationalism policy. That in addition to all my science bonuses, funded by my gold bonuses.

I think 13 civs is generally too many, and it would be better to play with a smaller subset.

Minor mods

I'm increasingly thinking that I should uninstall all promotions mods and just play with vanilla promotions. There's really very little value in it, and it replaces one optimal formula (accuracy/barrage 1-2-3, logistics, range) with another (unlock 1-3, range, unlock 4, logistics).

I'm less convinced that I should be playing with captureable settlers, as that makes things a bit easy with AI stupidity. I still enjoy capturing other great people a lot, so I'd need to customize that.

Other issues

Science victory is a bit boring, so I spent far too much time fighting completely pointless wars late game. I could have finished the campaign a lot faster if I just ignored everybody else and built space ship.

I only just realized I misspelled "Khajiit" as "Khajit". Oh well.

How to configure OSX 10.11 El Captain for software development

Cats by sokole oko from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

With every new Macbook, I'm updating the guide, previous version is here. A few thing changed - mostly some links which used to work have been taken over by malware. OSX is turning into Windows more and more.


  • Go to Settings > Security > FireVault, turn on FireVault. This will restart your computer.
  • Install some sensible browser like Chrome or Firefox.
  • Afterwards either sign up into your account on which you hopefully have your AdBlock setup, or install some. Most popular seems to be uBlock Origin these days, but pretty much any of them will do just fine.
  • Install whichever cloud sync service you're using like Dropbox etc. And start syncing your stuff.
  • Install iTerm2 for sensible terminal emulator.
  • Clean up all crap from dock. Other than Launchpad and System Settings, everything else should be gone. Add iTerm2, your browser, and your text editor, and any application you wish to install there instead of stock Apple crap.
  • It's also a good idea to disable Spotlight as soon as possible by running sudo mdutil -i off / - before it tries to index all of your dropbox and generally ruin performance of your machine.


Install some sensible text editor like Sublime Text (requires license key) or Atom (free, a bit slower).

Whichever editor you choose, you'll definitely need to configure it to your liking.

Then symlink it so you can use it from command line

  mkdir -p ~/bin
 ln -s "/Applications/Sublime" ~/bin/subl


Default Mac settings are totally awful, time to fix that.
  • Max brightness
  • Settings > Security > Allow apps downloaded from: > Anywhere
  • Settings > Mouse > Max out "Fast" setting on everything
  • Settings > Keyboard > Key Repeat > Fast
  • Settings > Keyboard > Delay Until Repeat > Short
  • Settings > Keyboard > Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function key
  • Settings > Keyboard > Text > Disable "Correct spelling automatically"
  • Settings > Sound > Disable "Play user interface sound effects"
  • Settings > Sound > Alert volume > 0% (for Terminal ping)
  • Settings > Trackpad > Scroll & Zoom > Disable "Scroll direction: natural"
  • Settings > Energy Saver > Power Adapter > Display sleep > Never
  • Settings > Displays > Built-in Retina Display > Disable "Automatically adjust brightness"
  • Settings > Displays > Arrangement > drag and drop your external monitors into desired order
  • Settings > Dock > enable "Automatically hide and show the Dock"
  • Menu bar > Battery icon in task bar > Enable "Show Percentage"
  • iTerm > Preferences... > Profiles > Terminal > Unlimited Scrollback
Press Ctrl-Up arrow, add a few desktops (or "spaces" as they were used to know), then go to Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Mission Control - and enable their keyboard shortcuts Ctrl-1 to Ctrl-6 or however many you have there.


OSX already includes drivers for laptop itself, but you might need some for peripheral hardware.

If you need any keyboard drivers like for Microsoft Keyboard (otherwise Cmd key is in the wrong place) or just about any external keyboard, get necessary drivers.

If you need any special keyboard layouts, get them too.

Standard paths

OSX renames a lot of directories. While in theory scripts could just use env vars to find proper paths, it's more reliable to symlink all the things:

  sudo ln -s /Volumes /mnt
  sudo ln -s /Volumes /media
  sudo mv /home /home-old
  sudo ln -s /Users /home

Development tools

First, you'll need Xcode. Run xcode-select --install from command line to install it.

Now it's time for a package manager. They're all somewhat disappointing if you're used to apt-get. homebrew seems somewhat more popular than others these days, so you might just as well try that. You need to tell homebrew to not spy on you with brew analytics off command.

You'll also need X11 server like XQuartz.

Create new SSH key pair

Before you do that, name your computer something memorable with sudo scutil --set HostName your_host_name command.

Open Terminal and run ssh-keygen to create ~/.ssh/id_rsa, then upload the generated key to any place that needs to know about it like github, bitbucket, or whatever else you use.

Checkout your dotfiles

Hopefully you're storing your dotfiles somewhere. If it's a git repository, or your Dropbox account, get them now and symlink them all properly.

If there are any other repositories you might need, checkout them too.

Install homebrew packages

Your list might vary. Here's mine (fun story - order you install homebrew packages matters, every packaging system that's not apt-get sucks so hard):

brew install mongodb mysql postgresql rbenv ruby-build wget htop unrar mc mplayer coreutils libxml2 libxslt bash poppler redis qt youtube-dl trash rabbitmq pcre exiftool lame id3v2 sox jq git bash-completion p7zip imagemagick

Then enable all services you installed, unless you want to start them manually:

  ln -sfv /usr/local/opt/*/*.plist ~/Library/LaunchAgents/

And install non-system ruby, so you can install gems without sudo:

  rbenv install 2.4.0-dev
  rbenv global 2.4.0-dev

To make that actually work, you need to make sure ~/.rbenv/shims is in your $PATH.

Due to OSX limitations you'll need to run sudo htop if you want to use htop.

Sane bash and coreutils

bash version shipped with OSX is ancient and BSD utilities are all awful. In previous steps you installed proper versions, now you need to tell the system to use it.

Add homebrew version of bash as allowed shell by appending /usr/local/bin/bash at end of /etc/shells

Then set it as your shell: chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash $USER

Then make sure to add GNU coreutils to your PATH:

  export PATH="/usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnubin:$PATH"
  export MANPATH="/usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnuman:$MANPATH"

You'll also probably want to touch ~/.hushlogin to prevent some worthless spam on every open terminal tab.

Install gems

Again, your list my vary. Here's mine:

gem install beeminder moneta octokit term-ansicolor pry-plus rak objectiveflickr hpricot color nokogiri bundler

All other software

Sadly OSX window manager is extremely dubious for keyboard use. Fortunately programs to make it usable exist. I recommend installing these two:
  • ShiftIt - for tiling by keyboard shortcuts.
  • HyperSwitch - for sane alt-tab window switching. (there's also Witch, but it has issues with 10.10)
You'll need to give them necessary access. To do so:
  • Settings > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Allow the apps below to control your computer > enable them both
You'll probably need these or similar programs:
Once upon a time Open Source Mac website contained links to a lot of useful software, but these days targets seem to be malware infested crap a lot. Don't go there.


Once you go through this list, and successfully get everything going, I'd recommend modifying it to your liking and reposting your version on your blog. Everybody's needs are different, so guide like this is just a starting point.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Adventures with Raspberry Pi: RGB Led

I've done regular LEDs before, so I wanted to try RGB Led now.

RGB Led is like red, green, and blue RED in one package, sharing common ground (so 4 pins total), supposedly allowing any color.

Now your first idea might be to use analog output and set diode intensity to control red, blue, and green, and that would work with a regular lamp, more or less, but diodes are really just on or off, so we need to do pulse width modulation.

Unfortunately it turns out that Raspberry Pi, ruby and pi_piper gem are not fast enough for that. This code really ought to work:

class RGBLed
  def initialize
    @blue  = => 17, :direction => :out)
    @red   = => 22, :direction => :out)
    @green = => 27, :direction => :out)

  def display(r,g,b)
    while true
      @red.send(if rand < r then :on else :off end)
      @green.send(if rand < g then :on else :off end)
      @blue.send(if rand < b then :on else :off end)

  def on

  def off

led =

With iterations being done at a bit oven 1300 iterations per second, it should provide half intensity white light. Instead it's flashing all the colors randomly, so presumably something downstream from ruby is being really slow.

There's also minor problem of green LED component being much brighter than others (all use 220 hm resistors, and changing I/O ports or resistors around doesn't change that).

All that is a shame, as software PWM is a pretty useful building block for a lot of things, and if that doesn't work, I won't be able to do a ton of other thing. If anybody has any ideas, please tell me.

Fun and Balance mod for EU4 1.15.1

The Fox - Tranmautritam's Puppy by tranmautritam from flickr (CC-BY)

Fun and Balance is available updated for 1.15.1:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Modern Times mod for Crusader Kings 2 - Conclave release

The Devil Himself by inspiring! from flickr (CC-NC) Modern Times mod is updated for 2.5.x and Conclave DLC. (Steam WorkshopDirect download).

Changes are mostly just compatibility, but also include:

  • taking advantage of new character selection screen
  • Kazakh and Uzbek cultures, to get Eastern Europe / Central Asia a few more steps towards sanity (it's not there yet)
  • if you're playing with Conclave enabled, administration and status of women laws will be automatically determined based on your religion (Muslim or not) and starting technology. I could probably tweak it a lot more, and maybe even add some new interesting laws.
  • bug fixes for de jure map and holy orders
All my CK2 minimods on Steam Workshop got also upgraded to 2.5.x.

Unfortunately it seems that Conclave doesn't allow naming kings "presidents", "fuhrers", "ayatollahs" etc. based on laws as I hoped it would. It only allows changing what laws tab describes the realms as (like "Hereditary Despotic Kingdom" and such), but that's of fairly little use. Maybe next time with China DLC.