Older blog entries for TheCorruptor (starting at number 352)

Work

Finally things have settled down a bit. Looks like this week won't involve more travel... :)

Life

Went up to Liverpool for the weekend. Had the usual lock-in, piss-up and general laugh that you'd expect when you go and visit friends. Even met up with Nikki, who I've not seen in months. Was good to catch up with her and her man woes again...

Civil

Finished the first draft of the Scenario Schema. Needs annotations and some optimisations of the attr groups and local definitions of some elements, not to mention proper enumerated types, but for now it seems to be valid and does the job quite nicely. Of course, things are bound to change...

Everytime I write a schema I swear I'll never do another one by hand again. 280 lines of overly verbose XML. God, sometimes I miss DTDs. I should hunt out a Schema Major mode for emacs or something...

I also finished off the artillery units. Well, finished off in the sense that "these will do for now". I'm bound to dislike them when I see them in game, but they look reasonable enough in photoshop.

Finally, I'm knocking things off my Civil TODO list...

NYE

Plans are already underway for this years NYE party. I'll be DJing again, and it looks like we're going to have a large turn out. I'm also going to setup a webcam so we can link parties with Pap's in Liverpool. That should provide an extra element of fun!

Work

Lots of travelling. Currently I'm home for half the week and away 'oop north' for the other half. Makes doing anything at home a real PITA as I tend to spend at least one day catching up on what I've missed. Ie: Emily! ;-)

Markup for Games

Had an interesting discussion with Tripix re: schemata for games. Looks like Seal Basher will use this a a POC and we're intending to develop a separate library to support (initially) platformers, S.E.U. and B.E.U. type games. Early stages, and I need to sit down and work on some example doctypes while he messes around with a light weight parser.

Should be fun though...

Games

RewiredMind have invited me to start reviewing Game Cube releases for their site. No money involved, but I do get to keep all the titles and promotional material they send me. More for the CV...

Security

Still on a crash course wrt security related issues for our wireless apps and infrastructure. Books are getting bought, and mucho learning is going on. Interesting, and challenging. Just what I like... :)

Life

Seems I've spent virtually every night this week drinking and seeing mates. Pretty good to catch up on the social life as it means I can bury myself away and code/pixelate...

YaSS2

I've just been through the XML file that CrashChaos is using for the level definitions, and considering his outright disgust at XML a year or so ago he's created something pretty close to a work of art. Background and layer GFX are all nicely defined, enemies and enemy groupings are in along with positional information.

Looks like a good base to start from...

This got me thinking about writing another article, as between YaSS and Civil I've seen some great uses of XML in games. Might be worth doing some research and punting about.

Something for the new year...

Wireless

I've been having fun in the office. Came in the other day and my TiBook suddenly connected to a wireless network. Turns out we've got two test networks setup in the office for some of the mobile toys we're playing with, so I got kisMAC , ettercap and ethereal down and started sniffing. KisMAC works pretty well, loads a Viha driver for the airport card and gives you monitor mode. Also dumps the packets it gets, but so far I've not had a great deal of joy running WEPCrack over them. Ettercap and Ethereal work as you'd expect...

Obviously a small lecture on WEP, locking down wireless networks and changing the SSID quickly followed to the two guys responsible for setting up the base stations. It's not everyday you can telnet to a Cisco AP and get straight in with no need for authentication. Unless you work here...

Microsoft

I've ranted several times about Microsoft's complete inability to create a usable interface for PDAs and mobile phones. Everything from dialog boxes that are too large for the screen real estate (requiring you to scroll them around to get to tabs), to stupid recompilations of desktop applications, in the vain hope that they provide the type of functionality required for the mobile user (they don't! Face it, you're not going to write a word document on an XDA).

Pocket IE has recieved most of my wrath of late, especially when compared to Opera on Symbian. However, all that aside, it's actually been a pleasure to witness their stumbling attempts at producing products with appeal and functionality, not to mention stability (I've lost count of the number of times I've had to hard reset PocketPC). This Register article is particulaly amusing reading in light of my recent experiences, and several things strike me -- the most important being Microsoft's complete inability to develop for markets that they are not already incumbants in. There's been abortive interactive TV attempts, shoddy PDA systems, and now seriously delayed, over priced and downright unappealing mobile phones. 600 squid for signing code? I'll be writing some Java for Symbian then...

I'm hedging my bets that Microsoft's abortive platform will die a slow and lingering death. Unfortunately, I suspect Microsoft will do their usual and keep on releasing crap until version 4, by which point they'll have finally figured out how to emulate the environments already popularised by the competition.

As a last comment, I've been wondering for a while why Microsoft, even with the raft of User Interface Experts, focus groups and testing have managed to make PocketPC's interface so appallingly bad. Why isn't there an option to flip to a landscape view? Is this something Palm is to blame for? I seem to recall landscape displays on Psions and old phones long before I got my Palm... PCs have had landscape resolutions for years, at the very least mobile devices should give you an option.

Now, if I can rationally argue for another PDA that will run Linux for a comparision I might shut up for a while. I've got a feeling things may be a lot better with free software.

Code

I've been working on an OpenGL water effect for a while. After talking to the coder on YaSS we've decided this might come in handy for lava in YaSS2, so it looks like I'll have to finish that off in the next week or so and get it compiled on linux. I'll head off to RH over the weekend and download some ISOs and cruxify the spare laptop...

I also noticed that one of the more frequently asked questions of late on the SDL list is how to fade to black. Considering how easy this is, I had the thought that it might be nice to make a thin library (well, four functions really! ;-) I could easily fade to black in 8,16,24,and 32bpp. Extending this to fade between arbitrary surfaces (ie: between pictures) wouldn't be a hard extension either. There's a couple of ways to do it that spring to mind...

Hmmm, food for thought, although I suspect someone's already done it by now...

GFX

Finished the partial mock for YaSS that I mentioned earlier. This sparked some discussion for Bosses and ships that the level could contain, so it looks like I've signed myself up for a monster boss at the end. Won't give much away, but it should be quite impressive... :)

Weekend is lined up for Civil stuff. I heard a call for finished artillery GFX so this needs to be done, and I might try and finish some buildings as well... You never know.

Civil

Looks like we've broke the 100k hits barrier and download numbers are going up (despite us not getting another release out in the past couple of months.) I'm impressed! Never thought our little game would get so much attention. Although, it's not exactly little anymore...

chakie, msa and co. have done some sterling work to get us this far...

Work

It's been good to do some XSLT again and getting this interface complete for PDAs has been mildly interesting. Shame it's all so easy really (as are most XSLT apps). The only difficult bit has been remembering HTML markup that I've not used in years. God, I miss CSS2 ;-)

Looks like we'll also be getting deep into portlets and more server based Java code over the coming months. This is good as it piques my interest levels, but my CV is still out and about.

Might be nice to write a portlet that groks the stats/playlist from a ICE/Shoutcast server. I also fancy doing one for my ftp server...

Hmmm, setting them up as JSP elements might be the charm, and Kochanski is crying out for more load! ;-)

Panzers of Steel

Checked out chakie's tank game. As expected the auto* stuff didn't work out of the box on OS X (never seems to when I try it) so I'll probably throw the source in Project Builder and compile from there. I'm dying to see this in action for real. The screenshots have been too tempting...

Does highlight exactly how lame I am though. I hate going through the automake, ./configure, make path now. Some projects (normally *BSD) work a treat on OS X but Linux applications always need handraulic control. Even Civil gets on my tits when I have to make the install prior to building the OS X package. This is pretty sad isn't it?! I was going to force myself to use the CLI for building my own source, but PB makes it so easy that I've resorted to making projects for everything I want to port over.

I should go on a diet...

GFX

Spent most of last night working on some background mocks and ship sprites for YaSS2. Very exciting to see how it's shaping up. Looks pretty nice IMO. Plus, I'm a complete sucker for shoot-em-ups. First game I ever did GFX for was a shooter...

Civil

Started doing some buildings (again) for Civil. Couldn't seem to find the ones I was working on ages ago, but as they were crap anyway I figured I might as well start again. Might get time to do these over the weekend. Depends on my other chores...

Amiga

Note to self: please finish getting the A1200 back on the network!

Sorry, but I need DPaint, and the machine keeps staring at me folornly...

Code

Started playing with texture-coord effects in OpenGL. not sure if these will be any use, but it's worth looking at. Once done I'll probably begin doing a simple particle class that I'll use to handle the blood effects I want in Seal Basher.

Guess I should finish off the toys and start working on the engine.

Work

Things are very mobile here atm. We have JavaMidlets on Nokia 9210s, XDAs and Palm Pilots (very cool), Marketing movies running on Nokias and a new interface for webservices that works on PocketPCs. Fairly cool, except for working with Microsoft's PDA "operating system", which I have to say is the worst experience of my life so far. One of the PDAs here has enough spec to run full blown NT (64MB Ram, 300Mhz processor) but PocketPC (or winCE, whatever you want to call it today) is unreliable, prone to crashing and above all *slow*. Would love to cruxify it and install Linux instead, but my hands are tied. (I'd love to see how fast it ran!)

There's a reason PDAs are a minority market IMO; things haven't moved on since Palm Pilots. In fact, I'm more curious than ever to see what Palm 6 brings to the party. If it's good and the hardware's fast I don't see why they shouldn't reclaim market share from M$. Certainly PocketPC is worse than useless, and no where near "Prime time".

Of course, I may be in the minority as many people seem to love their iPaqs. They're good for war-walking, but I'm struggling to think of much else... ;-)

Weekend

Spent the weekend in Devon, partaking in a belated Halloween party a collegue of mine organised. Was a lot of fun, for all the obvious reasons. Photo's are up at the usual place

Servers

Z'Hadum finally kicked the bucket on Friday. I'd previously mentioned it's flaky nature, well, I tracked the problem down. The SCSI drive was failing slowly. By Friday evening it was terminal so I proceeded to install an OS on the spare IDE I'd left in there. This didn't work so I figured now was as good a time as any to get a new machine. I needed a bigger case to hold all the drives nicely anyway (my self-justification!)

I'm in the lucky position of being good friends with the gent that runs an indy computer store in the city, so a quick phone call later and he'd spec'ed up a nice machine for 300UKP, cash. 1.8 celeron, 256MB, nice Intel Mobo, chunky PSU and a case with 8 drive bays. Pretty sweet. The shocker came when I got it home and found a Radeon 7500 in there. Dual head with S-video output. Now, this is a real arse as A) the machine is a server and B) I don't have an Intel PC that I use or have located next to a TV. Real shame.

It took about 3 hours yesterday to install, configure, patch and harden the machine (Kochanski), then another hour to get the FTP server's paths and users reconfigured. I've still not setup the port-mapping between the router and Kochanski, but I have at least got all the services on her. Apache and Tomcat included.

This will be my new dev toy methinks...

I have to admit, given the money I'm tempted to get another one built a similar spec (more RAM, large LCD monitor) and have a permanent Linux dev machine. I'm just not sure I'd use it now OS X is doing everything I need. Still, might be nice for cross compiling my little Games. Hmmm...

Code

Emily caught Tripix war-driving our network yesterday, so we set a nice trap and scared the pants off him. Consequently he was hanging around most of the afternoon, porting some of my SDL/OGL stuff to win32. He found some nice bugs that don't appear under OS X, but he couldn't get it running anywhere near as fast on windows as my TiBook seems to manage. Probably down to his GFX card...

Hopefully I'll be able to put up the win32 build and source on my website in the next few days.

PocketPC

I've been tasked with creating a front end for PocketPC enabled devices for work, and have been given an XDA to dev/test against. All well and good, except I've now had the pleasure of using Pocket Internet Explorer for the first time.

Call me stupid, but given the general ability of IE4, I was expecting something similar from Pocket IE; HTML 4 support, some CSS, maybe even XHTML support. Bear in mind there's 32MB min on this device and GPRS as standard...

Imagine my surprise to find an incomplete HTML3.2 implementation, some random XML support (it can load XML from SQLServer. Handy!) little or no DOM to speak of (innerHTML can be scripted) and possibly the most diabolical rendering of HTML to a small screen that I've seen. The "Fit to screen" functionality is a joke...

I'm shocked by all this. Given mobile 'net access is seriously byte critical (given the cost of GPRS connections) it's slightly annoying to realise that you can't just throw a super skinning [X]HTML file at Pocket IE and a single site-wide CSS file and have pages render. Oh no. You've got to embed all you font and colour information in every element that requires it. That's gonna make for some seriously large HTML files if you want things to look nice on such a small screen.

Seems like the next two weeks are going to be fun!

In general I'm not impressed with O2's GPRS network, PocketPC or the XDA. The device is nice enough, but it lacks Bluetooth, is quite slow, is unable to switch the phone on automatically when you try to connect, has a serious lag switching between apps, and the transfer rate over the GPRS connection is pretty comical. Especially when I run my t68i over Orange head-2-head.

Basically, it's just not worth the money. At all. In fact, I'm struggling to find any reason why an XDA is a better solution than my t68i. The t68i can't read xcel spreadsheets or word documents, but it's tasks and calendar work just as well as Microsoft's efforts, and I don't need to put my phone in a cradle to syncronise everything with iCal etc...

You pays your money, you makes your choice I guess... :)

OpenGL

My "Retro Cube" is nearly finished. Each face on the spinning cube is now a different "old skool" demo effect. I've got plasma, interference circles, 3D stars, roto-zoomer and unlimted sprites. Last face will be a sinus scroller.

The point? None really, but it does look very cool already. I'd like to extend it into a proper intro and commit to a compo for a laugh...

Servers

Z'Hadum died last night. Looks terminal for one of the HDs in there. I didn't have time to check it this morning, but I suspect the SCSI drive (or card) has given up the ghost. Best case: quick reinstall to another drive. Worst case: try and cram another drive into moria.

To be honest, I'm inclined to look for a second hand PowerMac, slap OS X on it and bung all the big drives in there. For the first time in my life I'm actually desperate to get rid of machines. Consolidation is the way forward here...

OpenGL

Yes, I'm still having fun with OpenGL. Lighting and blending modes have been explored and I'm just trying to decide what I want to do next.

I think I'll write some more cheap 2D effects so I can have some textures to play with...

Virusdot

Just done another T-Shirt for the merchandise collection. Hopefully these will all go up pretty soon...

YaSS2

After much fannying around I've finally done a basic ship sprite that I'm happy with. Also done some tests for ground textures and lighting. CrashChaos seems happy enough, although I don't think he's going to have time to do much for a while. Which is good, I've got some more things for Civil that I'd like to do...

OpenGL

So, my adventures in OpenGL continue. Managed to get live SDL surfaces mapped onto a cube, although this took longer than I thought. Mainly because I was being thick, and not converting the surface to the correct pixel format prior to binding the texture. In the end I had to google the web to find out how to do it properly, and found some nice example conversion code which was OS and free for use, so I changed that about to suit my needs and everything fell into place...

Yet another example of why Open Source is good. You can learn from it!

The new code is up on my website for anyone that's interested. I have to say, texture mapping a cube with a plasma effect looks pretty cool :)

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