Starflight: Freeform Game for the Win

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Fun Stuff, Gaming | 0 comments

Today we talk video games, dear reader!

As you may know, I’m far from a stranger to the car­nal plea­sures of…um…playing video games. Right, that’s what I meant to say, honest.

I’ve talked in the past about freeform gam­ing and sto­ry­telling in your head while doing so (some call this role­play­ing, oth­ers hav­ing fun, still oth­ers skulk away and call the nice peo­ple down at the funny farm for you).

But facts are facts — games are more fun when they let you do the telling.

I have a fancy-pants com­puter, self built for POWAAAAAAA. My video card alone pulls in more juice than your TV. No joke, the thing is almost as long as a loaf of bread, and it is all sim­ply for graph­ics in games. That’s it.

Yet I find myself play­ing older games as often as the newest, shini­est good­ies on the mar­ket today.

And games like this are why.


Starflight: Fly in the stars and stuff!

Let’s talk uni­verses here for a minute. Game uni­verses, fic­tion uni­verses, uni­verse uni­verses, etc. etc.

Some games talk about how big their worlds are. “ZOMG WE HAZ LIEK A MILE OF LIEK STUFF AND STUFF!”

Or about how ‘freeform’ they are. “ZOMG LIEK YOU CAN BE EVIL OR LIEK NICE AND STUFF!”

F. U. C. K. that.

Staflight lets you blow up plan­ets. Home plan­ets. Or make ene­mies of ALL THE THINGS and make it nearly impos­si­ble to com­plete the game. Or jack around while the uni­verse lit­er­ally burns in solar flares.

Strip mine plan­ets, flag them for habi­ta­tion and col­o­niza­tion, bully weak aliens, or trash talk the big bad­dies (who will eat your face).

There are 270 star sys­tems in the game, each with 0 to 8 plan­ets spin­ning around their respec­tive star. Each planet has its own grav­ity, atmos­phere, weather, etc. Some are gas giants, and you ain’t land­ing on any gas giant, but the rest are all fully explorable. That’s seven or eight hun­dred plan­ets, wait­ing for you to come visit!

Starflight Starmap

‘dems a lot o’ stars

And by fully explorable, I mean a whole lot of open land, moun­tains, crit­ters try­ing to eat your land­ing vehi­cle, and ancient ruins of long for­got­ten peoples.

There is a sto­ry­line, but you have to uncover it your­self. No open­ing video shows you what is going on, no scrolling text to hold your wee lit­tle hand. Nope, just plop into the space sta­tion and start read­ing your mail and fol­low­ing clues. The whole thing opens up to you as you play space sleuth.


BYONB: Bring your own notebook

To get full enjoy­ment of this open world — to even beat the game and save ALL THE THINGS — you need to be writ­ing stuff down.

Pen and paper, quill and the tanned flesh of slain ene­mies, a per­sonal wiki like Wikid­Pad, what­ever floats your goat.

But, like any good game, the story and the things you need to do are given to you in small bits here and there, often in con­ver­sa­tion with alien species. Rough up the right alien and he might tell you about some ancient doohickie on the sec­ond planet of 124,124. But­ter up a dif­fer­ent alien, and they might tell you of a magic device that can do some­thing way cooler than your toaster.



But if you don’t keep track of this stuff, you will be in for a sad, short run in space fol­lowed by the who uni­verse blow­ing up. And we are going to blame you for it. And you’ll deserve it, damn it!

It is very reward­ing, how­ever, when you group a bunch of your seem­ing unre­lated notes together and get that AHA! moment. “Oh,” you’ll say, “I bet there is some­thing in that sys­tem I need, since the strange bug men told me their fancy holy relic thingy is there…”


The legacy…

Starflight had a wider impact than you might think. In fact, you may find your­self sur­prised at what games you’ve played or heard of that owe some of their exis­tence to Starflight.

Mass Effect, for exam­ple. Casey Hud­son, one of the peo­ple involved in the cre­ation of the Mass Effect fran­chise, tweeted, “Starflight was a key inspi­ra­tion for the ME series.”

Also, Star Con­trol II, another famous (in nerd sci-fi gam­ing cul­ture at least) space explo­ration game takes its share of cues from Starflight — no doubt in part because one of the Starflight devel­op­ers worked on it.

Oh, and that devel­oper? His name is Greg John­son and he also worked on the Toe­Jam and Earl games on the Gen­e­sis. Any­one remem­ber those?


Sounds good. How do I get to play it?

The orig­i­nal Starflight was made in the 80’s. It was quite the achieve­ment at the time. Since then a few other ver­sions have been made.

Here are your options:

1 – The orig­i­nal PC ver­sions. Not too pretty, but fully func­tional. The one issue I have with the PC ver­sion is it actu­ally saves the game back to its own exe­cutable. Back in those days of yore, all you had were floppy dri­ves, and this kind of thing was not abnor­mal back then. This can cause prob­lems, though, if it crashes in mid play or you quit with­out saving…

Starflight DOS

The DOS ver­sion. It ain’t pretty, but it has that old game charm as far as I’m concerned.

The best place to get this ver­sion is – Good Old Games. The best part of GOG is the thing will come ready to play, all set up with Dos­Box, which lets you play old DOS games. And the GOG ver­sion auto­mat­i­cally backs up your saves for you, help­ing to mit­i­gate the crappy save system.

Get it here, or read on.


2 – The Sega Gen­e­sis ver­sion. Sadly, only the first Starflight was ported to the Gen­e­sis, but what a port it was! In my opin­ion, this is the best ver­sion of Starflight you can play. The screen­shots in this post have all been from this version.

The graph­ics are revamped to a totally accept­able level even today, the min­ing of min­er­als (the best way to make $$ in this game) was improved and made a lit­tle more inter­est­ing, and the menus and save game sys­tem are up to par with 16 bit games.

Starflight Genesis

To play this you will need a Gen­e­sis and the game car­tridge, or a Gen­e­sis emu­la­tor and the game ROM.

The best Gen­e­sis emu­la­tor for Win­dows and Mac is Kega Fusion, and the best emu­la­tor for Android devices (a great way to play this game, BTW) is MD.emu. The legal­ity of emu­la­tion and the down­load of game ROMs is all over the place, but be at peace, young padawan. No one in the his­tory of the world has ever got­ten in trou­ble for down­load­ing a Sega Gen­e­sis game from 20 years ago. To find the ROM, Google “Cool­ROM”, and search for it there.


3 – The Amiga ver­sion. Another great port of this game (and its sequel) was to the Com­modore Amiga. This one sticks real close to the orig­i­nal, and is really the PC game with minor tweaks to graph­ics and mouse sup­port, plus a good save system.

Like I said, the save sys­tem is a real stick­ing point for me in the PC ver­sion, and the Amiga ver­sion has 5 save slots and no issues.

Starflight Amiga

The Amiga ver­sion is basi­cally a reskin and slight improve­ment over the orig­i­nal PC version.

This takes a lit­tle more setup, to be sure. If you’ve never used an Amiga before, under­stand they are a dif­fer­ent type of com­puter entirely.

Get your­self a copy of the best Amiga emu­la­tor out there, Win­UAE for Win­dows, and var­i­ous other UAE ver­sions for Mac and Linux. Then you need the kick­start ROMs, and the Starflight disk images (easy to get, just Google Starflight Amiga ADF).

Like I said, this one is tech­ni­cal, but if you want to play it this way it is worth it.


Go forth and play!

Let me know if you give this game a whirl, or if you have fond mem­o­ries of it yourself!









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Another Story for Your Reading Pleasure!

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Flash Fiction, Patreon | 0 comments

Another flash fic­tion story lives in its happy place at! This one is called Ques­tion Day, and I think it is quite inter­est­ing. It’ll only take a minute of your time, so please swing by and take a look! Question Day cover     And if you missed it, feast your eye­balls on the other sto­ries there: Late to the Party covermarscarpatreon.jpg                 kthanxbai!

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A Problem with Mavericks

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Rants, Stuff | 0 comments

If you have an older Mac, you may be notic­ing some­thing funny.

Some­thing odd.

Something…sinister <insert thun­der­clap here>


Apple release its most recent incar­na­tion of OS X known as Mav­er­icks (10.9) a while back, and of course, it being free and all, I jumped right on it.

The iMac I use for writ­ing is fairly old — think 2009 — but was the best of the line at the time, and as such, still hold up quite well today. It is stuck at 4gb of ram, which makes me sad, but hey, whatever.

How­ever, as well as it works, some­thing was imme­di­ately amiss once Mav­er­icks was installed.

Every­thing crawled.

Apps bounced on the dock for min­utes before opening.

Nav­i­gat­ing the disk became a chore.

Chrome with a few tabs open swal­lowed the computer’s very soul.


This was a real prob­lem. Being a writer and web designer and gen­er­ally unor­ga­nized oaf, there are few times where I have less than ten tabs open in Chrome, a piece of writ­ing soft­ware open (Byword, iA Writer, Scrivener, Aeon Time­line), my per­sonal wiki (in Wikid­Pad), maybe a git repos­i­tory doing some­thing in the back­ground, Thun­der­bird wait­ing for emails that never come, Pho­to­shop CC doing what Adobe prod­ucts always do (eat all avail­able RAM), etc.

Keep in mind, this was hap­pen­ing with both an upgrade and a clean install. Same prob­lem. All. The. Time.

If you are notic­ing this issue your­self, I sug­gest drop­ping Mav­er­icks like the screw-up it is.


Wot I fink is goin’ on

Here is my per­sonal opin­ion, backed by a lit­tle sci­en­tific explo­ration of the issue as well as ram­pant, uncon­trolled guess­work via a magic 8-ball.

The major dif­fer­ence between Mav­er­icks and prior OS X ver­sions, at least when it comes to RAM, is a new­fan­gled mem­ory com­pres­sion dohicky thingamabob.

Basi­cally, so Apple can con­tinue sell­ing com­put­ers with 4gb of RAM in an age where bud­get Wal­mart lap­tops come with 8gb, they worked up a com­pres­sion scheme that shrinks the size of pro­grams you aren’t using at that moment in mem­ory. This keeps those min­i­mized apps from hog­ging up all the RAM and pri­or­i­tizes the app you are using at that very moment.

This sounds nice and all, but here is the catch.

Com­pres­sion takes pro­cess­ing power. It take mem­ory. It takes time.

And if you have an older machine, well, it ends up tak­ing away from per­for­mance rather than improv­ing it.

Last, but not least, I noticed Mav­er­icks seemed to always want to keep the RAM topped off. I sup­pose that is part of how the new sys­tem works, but all it did for me was kill my machine.

And, of course, since Apple knows what’s best for you and I, for­get dis­abling this fea­ture. You have Mav­er­icks (and, I would bet, the future Yosemite), then this fea­ture is on and there is noth­ing you can do about it.


How to “fix” it, sorta…

What I ended up doing is rolling that screw­ball Mav­er­icks down the hill and into the ditch where it belongs, and rein­stalling 10.8. And guess what?

A dozen Chrome tabs? work­ing fine.

Scrivener and Aeon Time­line open? Yep, A-OK.

All the issues have gone away, files are load­ing fast, and noth­ing is amiss.

So, if you are in the same boat as I was, do your­self a favor and roll back.

Basic check­list:

  • Back up via Time Machine. You should be doing this any­way, but if not, do it before you go any further.
  • Pro­cure OS X 10.8. But, good luck buy­ing it if you are already on Mav­er­icks as it is hid­den in the app store.
  • One issue to remem­ber with 10.8 is it was sold via the app store, and not on DVD. In fact, it is not easy to make a 10.8 DVD, as the files are just large enough to require a dual-layer 9 gig DVD, which are more expen­sive. But a quick googling will net you a mil­lion ways to put 10.8 on a USB stick, or even, for the brave, a sin­gle layer DVD.
  • If you can­not get 10.8, most mod­ern Macs can be restored to the orig­i­nal OS X via inter­net recov­ery. Read about it here. Then you can upgrade to 10.8 via the app store or any other method.
  • 10.7 may be a lit­tle too old, so 10.8 is your best bet. But Scrivener, iA Writer, and most other writ­ing apps (not Byword, though) work just fine on 10.7, so if that’s what you got and you don’t want to deal with upgrad­ing or find­ing 10.8, just do it.
  • Once you’ve rolled back, cre­ate a dif­fer­ent user than what you nor­mally use. Some­thing tem­po­rary is fine. Tem­pad­min, some­thing like that. The rea­son for that is it makes restor­ing your old user pro­file and apps eas­ier since you are con­sid­ered some­one else for now.
  • Once in the older ver­sion and things are work­ing, run Migra­tion Assis­tant located in /applications/Utilities and restore every­thing from your Time Machine backup. When it gets done, your Apps, your set­tings, your dock, every­thing should be exactly as you left it.
  • And always remem­ber the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy slo­gan: Don’t Panic. As long as you have a cur­rent Time Machine backup, all your files are safe. If you restore, and then log in only to find the Appli­ca­tions not installed or your doc­u­ments folder not exactly right, sim­ply restore again. They are all there, but some­times if some­thing inter­rupts the restore you may not get every­thing back the first time.
  • Last but not least, if you can­not get this to work, just go to a pro. It will cost money, but it is a hell of a lot cheaper than a new Mac.

Now, keep in mind, some apps will only work with 10.9. Some­times for no good rea­son, in fact. They were sim­ply com­piled to work with 10.9 and that’s that. Sun­rise cal­en­dar is one exam­ple. But most apps work on 10.8, at least for now, includ­ing Scrivener, iA Writer, Byword (will not work on 10.7 or below, how­ever), Aeon Time­line, etc.

OK then, bye bye now.



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Submit! Submission Trackers for Writers

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Tools, Writing | 0 comments


Mmk. So. You write some stuff, right? Some sort of My Lit­tle Pony erot­ica, or Yeti romance, or a space opera with an actual opera album included. Now you want to send that bad-boy out to mag­a­zines, or e-zines, or pod­casts, or a ran­dom neighbor’s house wrapped around a brick.


And now it comes back, rejected. Or, if the gods of luck smile upon you (or you hap­pen to be writ­ing fan-fiction erot­ica of some boy band, that seems to work as well) the story may even be accepted. Now you need to track the his­tory of this, and the other thou­sand sto­ries you have written.

Where have you sent this story?

What was the reply?

Did it sell? It isn’t a good idea to send out sold sto­ries to other outlets…

Has it been to every­one, and maybe should sim­ply be trunked for now?


You could track these via pen and paper, I sup­pose. But I know my hand­writ­ing. I would be lucky if my chicken-scratch hand­writ­ing didn’t require an Egyp­tol­o­gist to deci­pher in a few months.

Nah. Let’s do this dig­i­tally. And I’ll tell you, there are a lot of options.


First up, my cur­rent favorite

It is sim­ple, runs on any computer/smartphone/browser/internet-enabled blender you own. And it’s free.

Using a Google spread­sheetJamie Todd Rubin has crafted a fine lit­tle sub­mis­sion tracker. The power of tabs allows the spread­sheet to be divided into sec­tions — one for enter­ing in the mar­kets and mag­a­zines, another to enter info about the works, etc.

The impor­tant tab is the sub­mis­sions tab, which looks a lit­tle some­thing like this:


The Google spreadsheet

Oooh, rejected!


You can see just how sim­ple this is. The green fields are cal­cu­lated for you, so all you have to do is input the names of the mar­kets and works, enter the date of sub­mis­sion, etc. and it takes care of the rest.

And since this is a Google spread­sheet, you can access it on any­thing with a half decent web browser.

Go get it!


Y? Because we love it!

Next up is Sonar, a great piece of soft­ware by the cre­ator of yWriter — which you should be using if Scrivener isn’t your thing.

Sonar is like a per­sonal data­base for all your sub­mis­sion track­ing needs. A slick lit­tle inter­face lets you track sub­mis­sion dates, con­tact info, how much you made per sale, etc.

Sonar 3

Sonar 3 in action, and OMG I hate Win­dows XP’s blue theme!


The prob­lem, in my case, is it is Win­dows only. And this is com­ing from a tech guy — the kind of guy who runs Win­dows pro­grams on his Mac, and Linux pro­grams in Win­dows, and… Well, you get the pic­ture. But even with the var­i­ous tricks I know for run­ning Win­dows apps under OS X, I couldn’t get Sonar to behave.

But! If you are a Win­dows user (or Linux, as I have got­ten Sonar to work under Ubuntu just fine) and don’t like the idea of the Google spread­sheet above, well, this is the one for you. And it’s free.


Online, free and fine

You may want a place where you don’t have to do most of the work — mar­kets are already entered, response times tracked, and you just put in you work (My Amaz­ing Story About Cheese) and select pre-populated mar­kets and gen­res from handy drop down boxes.

The (Sub­mis­sion) Grinder fits that bill.

Like Duotrope, but with­out the monthly fee (Duotrope is $5 a month, not ter­ri­bly expen­sive, but this stuff adds up). A sub­mis­sion tracker with a mar­ket search includ­ing aver­age response times (really handy), you plop in your story info and let the site do the rest.

The Grinder

Just look at those handy stats, folks.



Frankly (my dear) I like it. It has a very sim­ple stay-the-hell-out-of-my-damned-way inter­face which, while not super pretty, is very func­tional. I signed up (free) and slapped in my recent rejec­tion from Escape Pod within sec­onds. The genre drop-down box had all the gen­res you would need, even erot­ica (for you yeti love folks) and every­thing was slick as butter.

Mmmm, but­ter…


And, now some NERD TIME!!!1

Alright, I have a con­fes­sion to make. I really, really like to use old soft­ware for mod­ern things. Like writ­ing in ancient-assed word proces­sors from 1980. So it should come as no sur­prise that I found a great piece of old soft­ware for track­ing submissions.

Known as SAMM (here is the site, but the down­load links don’t work BECAUSE IT IS SOOOO OLD!), it was a fine piece of soft­ware writ­ten for Win­dows and DOS that had all the bells and whis­tles one needs in sub­mis­sion track­ing software.

Now, this stuff will not run on a mod­ern sys­tem, but that’s OK because DOSBOX for the win!




I’ll tell you, if you ever get stuck in a time machine and end up tele­ported to the 90’s, this would be the bang-up pro­gram for sub­mis­sion track­ing. Much like Sonar, you enter in your works and mar­kets and gen­res and then use the info to track all of your (failed) attempts at being published!

Now, the SAMM page itself is full of bro­ken links, but through the magic of the Way­back Machine we can see the site as it was years ago and even down­load the programs.


The end result:

In the end, it doesn’t mat­ter what pro­gram you use as long as you use some­thing. Once you have a few sto­ries out there wait­ing there turn for rejec­tion and humil­i­a­tion, things get hec­tic. Keep­ing a log of this stuff in a way that lets you search and exam­ine the data will keep you from send­ing the same story to some­place twice, or a sold story out my mis­take, etc.

My two cents: Use one per­sonal, unshared tracker (the Google spread­sheet, Sonar, the tanned flesh of an enemy) and one online, search­able tracker (The (Sub­mis­sion) Grinder, Duotrope, etc.)

It doesn’t take more than a few sec­onds to enter the info into 2 places, gives you a sort of backup in case one or the other shits the bed.

I mean, why not track your fail­ures in mul­ti­ple ways!





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My Patreon Page Lives!

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Patreon, Writing | 0 comments


So, today I finally got my Patreon page up and run­ning. It took a whole heck of a lot longer than I expected — these things take time, and there is a lot to it. Rewards, goals, sum­mon­ing the old ones for their favor, etc.

At the Patreon page you will find sto­ries — flash fic­tion, short sto­ries, novel chap­ters — posted at least once a week. There you can, if the spirit takes you, sup­port my efforts via patron­age, or just read away free of charge!


Patreon, for those who don’t know, is a rel­a­tively new thing as of this writ­ing. A sort of cross breed­ing of Kick­starter and Flattr/Paypal dona­tion but­tons, Patreon lets cre­ators give you con­tent, and in return, if you feel it is worth it, you can drop a dol­lar or two per story/cartoon/video, what­ever they are making.

In my case it is fic­tion. I’ve been work­ing hard on a num­ber of ser­ial sto­ries and story worlds. I’m talk­ing build­ing wikis of this stuff. So there are a bunch of tales ready to be put down on dig­i­tal paper and con­sumed by your hun­gry eyeballs.

As of now, there is one story wait­ing for you there. Go and check it out, and see if my style suits you. Read up on what my plans are, and what kind of rewards you get for sup­port­ing my efforts. Or sim­ply book­mark that bad-boy and check in once in a while. Most of the con­tent will be free for all, with some locked off for patrons only — but the bulk will be there for every­one to see.


If you like sci-fi, fan­tasy, and bizarre sto­ries you should head over to my Patreon page and take a gan­der! Or not, if you want to see me cry. And trust me, I don’t get any bet­ter look­ing bawl­ing like a child, so spare your­self the visual.

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The Wild and Tangled Paths of Conan

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014 in Reading | 0 comments

Have you ever done some­thing so crazy, so mad, that in hind­sight it makes you ques­tion your sanity?


You know, like that time you woke up wear­ing an ape suit and cov­ered in jelly? No judg­ment. Just remind­ing you. I have pictures.


In an incred­i­ble lapse of judg­ment I decided it would be inter­est­ing to check out the his­tory of everyone’s favorite bar­bar­ian, Conan. And not the Arnold Swartzen­ham­mer Conan, the biter of poorly made pup­pet buzzards.

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Windows Users Don’t Need No Stinking Twitter Client (I Guess) (Edit)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Rants | 4 comments



Am I the only one who thinks Win­dows users are get­ting shafted when it comes to (every­thing) Twit­ter clients?

I don’t ask for much from a Twit­ter client — but I do ask a lit­tle. Mul­ti­ple columns, a damned spell-checker (I mean, really — it’s 2014 foks! We haz teh tech­molo­gie!), the abil­ity to view lists either as columns or woven into the feed (or what use is a stu­pid list?)

Android? Check! iOS? Check! OS X? Check!



Here are your choices — Twit­ter or Tweet­deck. And, maybe, Hoot­suite if you don’t mind the crazy inter­face and lack of real­time stream updates.

MetroTwit was nice. For a while. ‘Till Twit­ter shafted 3rd party programs.

Seesmic was con­sumed, its lit­tle furry legs kick­ing, by Hootsuite.

Oh, and Tweet­ium which looks good except:

  1. It is a Win­dows metro app, mean­ing it runs in the lit­tle dum­b­ass part of Win­dows 8 no one uses and can­not be used with reg­u­lar desk­top apps.
  2. I can’t get it to con­nect to Twitter.

And since Tweet­deck seemed to allow peo­ple to do funky things to your com­puter via spe­cially coded tweets (bravo, guys! Way to secure things!) that leaves…


Janet­ter for Win­dows can’t con­nect any­more, MetroTwit has gone the way of the dodo, Tweet­Deck leaves you pants­less, Hoot­suite is good but isn’t stand-alone (though you could do the old “make short­cut” trick with Chrome), and Tweet­ium is designed for Win­dows Baby-Mode-Wish-I-Was-An-OS metro.

It’s like a Twit­ter desert out here. Some­one throw me some water, will ya’?



I was able to get Janet­ter to work on both my Win­dows machine and my Mac. The trick may be to first log into, then use Janet­ter to ‘con­nect account’. If you look at the address bar of your browser you will see, at the end, some­thing like ‘forcelogin=true’ or some­thing to that effect. Copy the whole address up to that point, start­ing at ye olde http and end­ing right before the amper­sand (&) before the force login bit.

Now, with that bit copied, see if you are still signed into, and if you are, paste that bit in to the address bar and hit enter.

The force login part makes Twit­ter drop you and force you to log in again, at which time it will tell you Janet­ter can no longer add new tokens. But if you are already logged in and don’t allow it to log out out on its own, some­how it lets it work.

This is alright for now, as Janet­ter is a nice client — you can view lists as columns, see info on tweets, fol­low con­ver­sa­tions, etc. But, in Win­dows, there is no spell check­ing which sucks for the spelling impaired (like myself). The Mac ver­sion has spell check­ing, but only because in OS X, every field can have it (right click in the field, go to spelling and gram­mar, select ‘check spelling as you type’).

Mmmk then.



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