Older blog entries for Svartalf (starting at number 52)

17 May 2007 (updated 5 Aug 2007 at 04:22 UTC) »

Well, long, long time since I posted a blog entry... Fitting now that I'm getting home, working on getting a new day job gig (Heh... The work for AMD didn't pan out QUITE as planned... I was led to believe I would be eventually working on Linux support with the Orca project codebase for the ATI card drivers- that didn't even come close to happening... I'm going to refuse to broach my NDA, but I will say I hope they fulfill their commitment to the Linux community- but don't expect anything good to come from that for at least 12-24 months in the future...) But hey, can't have everything.

Ballistics:

Ballistics has gone GOLD- WoooHooo!!

Expect the official announcement from Michael Simms shortly, but it's out the door and I'm hopeful we'll see Bandits: Phoenix Rising and Disciples 2 out the door fairly quickly here.

Anyhow, I'm out of here for now- have fun folks!

Update on the white/yellow gold "story". Seems that Helzberg did an even 'cuter' thing with my wedding band... Instead of yellow gold accent inlays against a white gold (albeit grade 3) band, they took and used yellow gold on the crown, soldered a grade 3 white piece for the bottom where it'd normally see wear so it'd hold up better as a "white gold" piece and then Rhodium plated the pieces that were supposed to be "white gold". The reason why I say this is that upon closer inspection with magnification, it's very obvious now that it's just plated yellow gold on the crown and not white. Gotta wonder what's going through the discount jeweler's minds when they advertise this stuff- it's definitely a questionable practice (I'm not quite sure it's fraudulent, but it's awfully close if it's not...) to represent the work as "white gold" when it's like this. It's not THAT much more expensive materials cost wise to do this the "right" way- why be shaving a couple of dollars off of something that will definitely be found out and make for a lost customer that will tell other people?

If you're looking for a white gold piece of jewelry, one should watch out for the stuff- according to Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America site, there's three grades of the stuff out there, each grade happens to be yellower than the previous. If you can find grade one jewelry (Not going to be cheap or easy- and it likely won't be from some place like Helzberg Diamonds...) you'll be okay as they don't end up Rhodium plating the stuff. Most of what passes for "white" gold these days apparently is of the low end of the grade two or solidly in the grade three slot. And they have the unmitigated GALL to charge larger sums of money for "white gold" when in reality, they're selling paled yellow gold with Rhodium plating. If you've not figured it out, my wife bought a white gold wedding band back five years ago for my Anniversary present, to replace my original band. The crown of the band has a distinctive yellow glint (Grade 3 "white" gold) from wear and tear. Basically, it was a poorer grade of jewelry and she paid quite a premium for it from...Helzberg. No, I'm not going to say they "gyped" her- a lot of their other things are quite nice and worth the price- just NOT the stuff they're selling as white gold. I bought a replacement wedding ring for Her for her birthday (When I had money...) last December, from Helzberg and they gave me the story about the Rhodium plating and that all white gold does this so I've been wondering since that time. Well, that's flatly untrue- it depends on what they use to kill the color. Traditionally, it was Platinum that was used to make white gold- you don't need a Rhodium plating on that stuff unless you want it really bright and shiny and don't want to bother with the polishing effort on the work to get it there. However, they also use stuff like Nickel (which is where people come up with stories about "White Gold Allergies" and the yellowing comes from- it's a cheap replacement for the noble metal whitening agents, but it needs a Rhodium plating of some sort to make it that brilliant white we associate with White Gold. It's the cheap stuff, and many of the jewelers just don't have the guts to admit that while it IS still gold, and it is sort of white, that it's just not the White Gold that your mother had.

6 Jun 2006 (updated 6 Jun 2006 at 04:36 UTC) »

Well, It's the beginning of another month. Things are still a little tight, but the light at the end of the tunnel ISN'T an oncoming train.

Ballistics:

One bug left. Not a show-stopper by any means, but we'd like to get that one cleaned before going gold- that insistence on quality sort of thing (Especially since it took as long as it has to get out the door...). It's nothing that is going to have us NOT ship at this point, but we're being picky at this point about it. Michael's got another nice game that is about to go out the door (Many will want this one- honestly... It's dead cool.) so there's a couple of weeks delay before we get serious about taking it to the duplicators for release- so I'm taking the time to zoom the last known issue and to evaluate the possibilities for PowerPC and AMD64 ports. They probably won't be included in the main CD and would be a follow-on installer of some sort- don't know how Michael will want to do it, but if we get a port going, I'll announce it here and probably in a few of the other venues.

It's nearly there, gang, honest. The upshot of all this is that Bandits WON'T take anywhere near as long, and we ended up with some tools that will be properly Open Sourced once we get them much closer to something usable by someone other than LGP.

NetEffect:

Not much to say (Covered by NDA, afterall... :-) other than it's working at paying the bills incurred over the period resulting from Nexa leaving me high and dry. They're tickled with me as best as I can tell- I'm getting access to hardware to test the stuff I've been working on tomorrow sometime. Three weeks, and I'm already where they expected me to be in about two months' time- that's not an assessment of what they thought of my abilities, that was an honest assessment of the amount of work. Doing 10-12 hour days (Overtime on contract pay is a good motivator, no?) will do that for you. I've got about another 2-3 weeks or so of the code crush before it lightens up a little for me and I get it code complete for the current hardware. Besides, they're making things I'll need if Coollogic gets it's funding and I'm getting paid to write code that I'd have had to contract out for if they weren't doing it right now- not too bad. (Did I say "if" there? I really meant "WHEN".)

Coollogic:

Major international contract that is expected to be closing all the way tomorrow. Can't say more on that one, but the work really begins closer to the ending point of the NetEffect work. We'll need interconnect hardware for the aggregation clusters, etc. NetEffect, if their silicon's decently stable (and it looks to be so far...) it's the front-runner for that right now. Funding is purportedly about to start the final stages at any moment- and I've seen enough to believe that this is very likely to be the case.

I'll get excited when I see that first draw-down in the operating account and I've drawn part of my back pay, but it's beginning to actually look good- and not in the wishful thinking sort of way. I just wish I'd not paid 5+ years of pain to get there.

20 May 2006 (updated 6 Jun 2006 at 15:59 UTC) »

Well, it's May... Soon to be June.

Ballistics:

Scratchbox WORKS well. We've got a version of our code that compiles clean, runs clean on Debian Woody and above (i.e. glibc 2.2 and above...). But... Well, I can't divulge what's the holdup this time, but we're only a week or so from gold (crossing fingers) as we've got only a few items left, and none of them are real show-stoppers. The delay's due to something cool that'll make everybody's lives just a little better in the game-dev industry. (We hope...) I'm waiting for the go-ahead from Michael to merge the non-network fixes I've done back into the main branch- while I'm waiting, I'm supposed to be vetting the new build environment I've cobbled together, and kick-starting Bandits and Disciples 2. I WAS going to do Bandits, but, because I've only my laptop to work with, it's going to end up being Disciples 2 instead, I think. (I'll explain that statement in a moment...)

NetEffect:

I've taken on a short-term contract doing Linux related support for one of the main iWARP players to help make ends meet until things gel with Coollogic (And they are going to, it's just taking longer than we'd envisioned- way longer than anyone had envisioned, in reality...). 10Gbit Ethernet. TCP Offload Engines. High Performance Computing. I get to play in that playground and get paid (well, at that) doing it. As a result, I'm down in Austin, TX for the next couple of months- so I'm only at my main setup for a limited amount of time (a couple of weekends a month...). This means I've got to use my lappy for the development of things after hours, so no high-end 3D because ATI's Xpress 200m doesn't perform all that well (At least 50% slower than an 9200 on an AMD64 machine in 64-bit mode as best as I can tell- it does about 10 or so FPS on Unreal engine games like UT 2k4...) because it's limited to UMA operation only right at the moment. Nice. Anyhow, I should be able to get a start on Disciples 2 once work settles in a bit (got a first week fire-drill...yeesh...).

I take it back... The month's been waaay problematic, but not QUITE a wash. I just got something going with Ballistics.

Ballistics:

Yow. Like night n' day, it is. I've got some cleanups to do, but it's now largely working like it's supposed to be. What did I use to accomplish this? Scratchbox and elbow grease. Didn't get to do Hyena's this Friday, but the end result of that was that I got to the place I did today. Either we will use my fork of the codebase or the one they've been working on up to this point in parallel with me- but we're almost there. This means that I'm going to be starting the code work on two other games. Bandits: Phoenix Rising and Disciples 2. Should be short work on both of them- magic words there, mind.

Well, this month's been a wash...
No day job (got laid off for "financial" reasons...hmph...), Ballistics is still being a pain (almost there, though...), ended up with what is very likely to be a Rogue Outlaw with one of the horses I let my wife buy. Nice. I can only hope that I'll get a new day job while I wait on the close of funding with Coollogic, I'll have another great night at Hyena's (so I can forget this BS for a little while at least...), etc.

Just got in from going to Hyena's over in Arlington, TX. (One of the main Comedy Nightclubs in the area...)- by and far the best experience I've had seeing comedians to date. Chad Miller opened up the night- calling him VERY funny man would be a major understatement. The Headliner was none other than John Bizarre; damn, that man is hillarious. I don't think I laughed as hard in ages as I did in that show tonight. If it ever gets back to you guys, again, THANKS for the laughs!

Ballistics

UGH...

Different problems (i.e. It's segfaulting in completely other areas when it's compiled with 3.4.5- and GDB appears to be less than helpful because it's handing back nonsense. I've seen this before in the past and even things like TotalView couldn't tell me much of anything useful- which is problematic... Had to debug things the old-fashioned way, with printf's the last time I had problems like this one.). Still looking for what gives with all of this. I'm still hopeful for an end-of-month solution, but it may be middle of February before we're into final beta at the rate things are progressing.

Ugh... What fun...

GCC, of late, is something of a pain for cross-compile people. Later versions (3.4 and above) strictly enforce the rule about -I include path inclusion. If it detects that it's something that "duplicates" one of the directories (okay, HOW do you guys "KNOW" that it's duplicating it??) it ignores it outright. If you do an -isystem to override some of the problem -I includes, it works just fine (okay, why add a new flippin' flag?), but you've got to be careful what you include via -isystem as some of the paths won't be found correctly (What? You mean to tell me that this path's not found even though I can 'cd' to it?) and you have to guess at which it will and won't balk at. I finally got the cross-compile environment to work to compile Ballistics working without resorting to Scratchbox (which is a little more cumbersome than what we're doing with LGP's setup.)- which is a win. Now, to see if I can get away with 3.4.5 or if I need to do 4.0.2 or 4.1 to build Ballistics.

I thought this was all about programmer responsibility and choice- not the developer of the tool knows best. That's what MS does, for goodness' sake- if I override the search order with a -I, that means just THAT. If it causes problems with things, that's MY problem, not yours.

16 Jan 2006 (updated 16 Jan 2006 at 04:32 UTC) »

Wow... A new year. Too bad I'm still fighting aftershocks from the previous 4-5 years. My hope is that things WILL be better VERY shortly (Can't say for certain- or even the what, for that matter- YET.) and I'll be in a much better position, financially, etc... Haven't signed the papers on the note refinance on the house (ugh...) but they finally got 'em to me- so I should be getting those back to the Mortgage Company shortly.

Things are looking up. And then, I find out that there's not going to be a Linucon 3 (Yep...) this year... Sigh... Well, good thing I managed to attend the inaugural one- it was a BLAST. (You know that little piccy of the Con Chaos machine being threaded through the chandalier of the hotel? Well, I was one of the several lunatics that did that! Boy that was fun...) Seems that Rob's moved elsewhere (Pittsburgh...) and they can't seem to score a ConCom Chair in time and don't want to go and push themselves through the fun they put themselves through last year with Linucon 2. Perhaps next year, they say... Well, yeah, but it's kind of difficult when you lose momentum like this. I'm hoping that they find a ConCom Chair (Hm... If only I was in Austin or they chose to hold it in DFW... :-) so that they will come back like the Phoenix from the ashes.

Anyhow, on to various topics...

Ballistics

Sigh...

Ever have one of those projects? You know, the one that just doesn't ever go away? Well, this is MY current project of that nature...

Don't get me wrong. The game's great and the bulk of the code is, while perhaps not as efficient as I'd like it myself, clean. I keep fixing things only to have OTHER things break on me. I fix the network problem by wedging in RakNet on a moment's notice only to have a severe crash-bug on some of my machines, and not others- because of a GCC problem. Now I'm going through cross-compiler hell to get this all straightened out. Hoping to have something out before the end of the month.

RakNet

If you've NOT heard about RakNet, and you're doing games development with a GPLed game, or a commercial game, you might want to go over to Rakkarsoft's Website and kick the tires a bit if you're needing network code. It's dual licensed, GPL for those who're dinking about with code to make Stallman's eyes light up and put a smile on his face, and a free of cost license (Requires an application to be sent in and approved so they know you're using it, etc...) for Commercial and other Open Source licensed projects. It's easy to work with (I got it swapped in on my OpenPlay based port of the network code for Ballistics in one night.). It's better, capabilities wise than DirectPlay and OpenPlay (It includes things like Voice Chat and Reliable UDP (OpenPlay doesn't DO RUDP...)). It handles SIP STUN-like boring tunnels through firewalls (if you've got a master server to handle the exposed IP's like SIP's STUN does it...). It's completely cross-platform to any platform that supports BSD sockets or WinSock2.

Basically, there's no good reason for someone to be doing DirectPlay code these days (Not to mention that MS themselves have been telling people that they're deprecating it- and to roll your own network layer or license a 3rd party one...). If you don't want to roll your own, there's several different ways to go- RakNet, Torque Network Library, Quake3's code, etc. RakNet stands out because the classes are clean, the code simply snaps in place, and it just works- and it's quite cheap to use... :-)

Verizon FiOS

Ah, what it's like to have Broadband...again... I won't bore you all with the details, but suffice it to say that Verizon oopsed on my DSL service in a way that left me without high-speed connectivity for a little over three weeks at the house while I waited for FiOS to be installed and lit at my house. However, with how things work now, for what I spent on DSL service, a single fixed IP, I now have about 10+ times the speed from start to finish to the Internet and 5 fixed IP's. Not bad, eh? I won't tell you all that it's the best in the world, but it DOES work nicely and people generally seem to think it's good. I wasn't happy with how it went down, but the performance, so far, has mostly made up for the comedy of errors that went down over the holidays.

The Laptop

Well, I got NDISwrapper to load the right firmware for the onboard Broadcom WiFi- after a rather long search for the right firmware image for MY adapter. It's not the one you'd think. Got the ATI support working; sadly it's not QUITE what they made it out to be- or what it's like on Windows (At least with the Laptop chipset, that is... I've got serviceable games play (i.e. It will render Quake4's demo without any real fuss...) with my work machine.). It's not stellar, but it wasn't supposed to be. However, for some things, some games, it's decently fast. For others, it bogs down evilly. I don't know if it's due to my needing to turn on the extra 128Mb of UMA memory use to be able to use the drivers- something that Windows doesn't seem to have a problem with. I've already logged a problem report and a general complaint with ATI, not that I'm thinking it's going to be of any use there. No, I don't think they're not listening or trying to improve support- they just aren't allocating enough people to the task in question if the Team lead for the Linux driver is to be believed. This is one of those things that probably shouldn't have happened in the first place. I should have been able to use the SidePort integrated RAM by itself- there shouldn't have been this little problem where X.org hangs hard if you don't have 128Mb of UMA RAM set on. Windows doesn't have this issue. There really IS no reason why it should be any different under Linux- unless they've done something stupid to get there under Windows. If that's the case, don't bother with it next time, guys. Stick with onboard/integrated memory or UMA, but not some ersatz combo of both.

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