Friday, September 30, 2005

Canon EOS 350D is already here!

...and the resolution seems to be great. This is Chucky:

My Linux seems to communicate with the camera using gphoto2 library with no problems. I only had to change permissions a bit so that I don't have to be root to mount the camera.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

They are already here!!!

If you look at the live satellite pictures of Czech Republic you can see immense Death Ray being focused to a point southwest of Prague. I hope you know what this means.

Where is Tom Cruise when we need him?

UPDATE: "Bob" notes that this is not satellite but radar image. Of course that makes the whole thing even more sinister!!!

Moving, Canon, Kirby

Sorry for not updating very often, we are in the process of packing everythin in preparation to moving, while at the same time, plumbing in the whole house is being reconstructed. Some choice photos of all this are here.

Also, we bought Canon EOS 350D semi-pro digital camera online, which should arrive any day now. Karolina says she'd like to go to forest at dawn and take pictures of wild animals (presumably deer, zebras, hippos etc.). And I am rather fed up that the results from my current pocket camera are rather random. E.g. you shoot the same scene 5 times and maybe one of the stills will look nice:


And Kirby: Canvas Curse for Nintendo DS is really nice, with great ideas, innovative control (100% stylus touch), cute graphics, instantly accessible for everyone and "innocent", reminding me of the greatest games 20 years ago.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005

God is cruel

These unfortunate people have the dubious distinction of being the first to burn to death while fleeing from hurricane.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

9999 levels

The problem I have with most of today's games is that they are SHORT. They usually have some sort of plot that unravels through several levels and after you finish the game, you usually don't have many incentives to come back revisit those levels. Although designers are doing what they can (e.g. allowing you to play through those levels again, with different characters or weapons), the fact is that level design takes time. How to make the game longer?

The first solution would be to generate the levels dynamically. I'm fairly surprised nobody yet came up with algorithm that would generate weird playable levels for example for Quake 3, Half-Life 2 or whatever FPS is currently fashionable (at least i don't know about it). Using this approach, you could have whole planets that you could run through in 3D! Of course the problem is creating the algorithm but I'm surprised no one even tried in the current-generation games (except some basic puzzle games).

The second solution is to make the game worlds so simple levels can be generated very quickly, either by person or by rather simple algorithm. Remember Sentinel with 9999 levels? See also Angband with its dynamically-generated RPG levels ("Champions of Norrath" for PS2 recently attempted something similar, with average success).

Enter Nippon Ichi, Japanese authors of turn-based RPG games for Playstation 2.

As you can see from the screenshot of their "Phantom Brave", they are certainly brave to use such a shitty graphics in Playstation 2 game. However, their games are not about graphics. They are strategy combat games for hardcore gamers who enjoy leveling their characters up to level 9999. Yes, I wrote "9999". After 10 hours of "Phantom Brave", my main character is somewhere around level 15.

To create strong characters in their "Phantom Brave" and "Disgaea" games (and probably also in the others), player has to revisit old (pre-designed) levels he already conquered, preferably with secondary characters so that they can also level up accordingly.

Their games also contain billions and billions of randomly generated levels you can enter to level up and get rare equipment (even levels hidden inside your equipment). It doesn't hurt that their games have weird plot and bizarre sense of humor ("Disgaea" is about cute little Satan's son), but you really don't play them because of the plot.

This might seem pointless to some people but it brings us back to the beginning: Why do we play games? Try telling "World of Warcraft" player that his levelling up is pointless. Nippon Ichi games just help you to realize that - even today - it can be perfectly satisfying experience just to see some numbers increase on the screen.

"Phantom Brave" is currently available in European stores, "Disgaea" (older and slightly better) is hard to get but you could find it in some bargain bin somewhere. (Their "Makai Kingdom" should be released in Europe soon.) Visit DoubleJump forums to get free downloads of strategy guides for both games. Those are REQUIRED if you want to grasp basic concepts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Moving stories

We are in the process of packing everything up before moving to the new flat. The most important story yet: I accidentally found out Karolina scheduled my Pikachu T-shirt to be given to Salvation Army (or whatever). Good thing I noticed that. No, I didn't wear it for many years. So what? This shirt will yet come handy.
Pikachu shirt

Also, Kryspin doesn't want me to pack my soundtracks. He is ALWAYS sitting there!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Grow me some more!

If you liked GROW and GROW RPG, you'll also enjoy GROW: CUBE.

HINT 1: The ball goes last.

HINT 2: The ball needs LONG tube to be completed.

HINT 3: The little people have to do lots of work, they have to go first.

HINT 4: Everything needs to grow - water goes second, right after the people.

HINT 5: No more hints. :)

UPDATE: WTF? You can switch the last two items (i.e. the ball goes second-to-last) and you also get "perfect ending", the same as I did (see talkbacks). This shouldn't be right...???

Saturday, September 17, 2005

No need for sine (and cosine)?

If you have slightest interest in geometry, you have to read this. It's the first chapter of a new book called "DIVINE PROPORTIONS: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry" in which the author proposes new system to handle Euclidean geometry without need for angles (and sin, cos, tan etc...). Lengths and angles are replaced by "quadrance" and "spread", which might seem like crazy idea at first, but has the effect of anyone being able to calculate trigonometry problems by hand, using rational numbers, without need for tables or calculators.

Not only is it "interesting bold idea", it could also be applied to computer software, possibly making things like realtime raytracing more feasible (although most in-game trigonometry today is done using pre-computed tables, I'm afraid).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nintendo still in control?

You might not realize it but both videogame controller revolutions in the last 20 years (control pad and analogue thumbstick) were invented by Nintendo and everyone else copied them. (And this is also true for rumble feature and shoulder buttons.)

Today, Nintendo presented the new controller for their new Revolution console (to be available in 2006) which was held under wraps for a very long time to prevent the idea being stolen by Sony and Microsoft.

The main innovation is that the "remote control thing" is position sensitive, i.e. the game knows (wirelessly) where and how you point it. You really have to read this article to get all the interesting ideas Nintendo came up with.

Of course I am not sure if this catches on, but I like to see Nintendo innovating while others are increasing polygon numbers...

UPDATE: You can see video of controller in action here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Attack of the clones

If you absolutely, positively, can't get enough of Albert, click here. You've been warned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

F*cking solved!

That's it. Our f*cking housing situation has f*cking finnaly been f*cking solved. That means we will be moving to our new f*cking flat at the end of the the month.

Moral of the story? Never ever trust anything the realty companies tell you unless you also have it in writing. Moral 2: Never trust the realty company which employs Operating Thetans even if they give you something in writing.

P.S: The heading and the first paragraph are encrypted. Please substitute the letters "U" in the place of the asterisks.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Find your inner Albert

I took a photo of a kids' toilet paper packaging which features a dog that very much resembles not only Albert's appearance but also his cheerful disposition and life philosophy. Except, in real life, he doesn't play with scissors very often.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Geek hierarchy

As a movie translator, I always had problems with finding the Czech equivalent of the word "geek", often having to resort to "obsessed" or "crazy" or other "cheap way out". I was unable to explain to non-English-speaking people what is the exact meaning of this word. Now, at last, I found this handy chart of geek hiearchy which explains lots of things. Also, I am now sure I conform to at least a dozen of geek stereotypes.

What exactly was my father doing in 1975?

Yesterday, I was invited by my former girlfriend to see "something really amazing". What was it? It was a concert of a band called Kalvados, whose frontman looks exactly like me! At first, it didn't seem like it. But later it became evident that he not only resembles me when I was younger (he is only 30) but his various quirks, gestures and expressions are very similar to mine. And his name is "Frantisek"!

Left: Frantisek Kalvas' photo from yesterday. Right: Me when I was 30.

Here is short clip (AVI) of Frantisek Kalvas in motion (really interesting if you ever saw me in motion).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Happy birthday to him

Chucky birthday

Chucky shares his birthday with Henry Ford (of Ford Motors). Although Henry Ford is older.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Jabba The Hutt

Nice lady in the Prague tram. Taken with inconspicuous cameraphone.

Jabba the Hutt

Friday, September 02, 2005

Two dogs, Pamela Anderson, Ali G and the Four Horsemen

For a natural progression of my previous post about the upcoming Apocalypse, here is another proof.

The small Wiki that could

First of all, click here to visit TiddlyWiki homepage and play around a little bit. Then return here.

OK, did you get all that? Great stuff, isn't it?

I needed some sort of small Wiki (for my personal project), which could be run on my local computer, preferably even without Apache (i.e. with its own embedded server). TiddlyWiki is exactly that and more - it does not need any server. In fact, it does not need any server-side logic at all!

Everything you saw at was the contents of SINGLE HTML DOCUMENT. Yes, everything gets loaded as a single page and JavaScript is then used to manipulate and edit the "Tiddlers" (information snippets). After the page loads, there is absolutely no traffic between your browser and the server where the page resides.

Can this even be called "Wiki"? How do you save changes? Basically, you just use "Save as" option in your browser (although that poses some problems and you should use the built-in save mechanism). You can easily carry whatever Wiki you want with you as a single file on USB stick or you can create and edit it at home and then upload it on your server (with editing controls disabled, so that you don't confuse the visitors).


UPDATE: If you want something more traditional, server-based, but without need of standalone server or database, try Instiki, written entirely in Ruby.