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10/24/06

  04:21:08 am, by Nimble   , 855 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

More Delphi .NET Migration

Delphi (now available in free 'Turbo Delphi Explorer' editions for old-style Windows coding and new-style .NET coding) has a pretty good migration path from regular Windows to .NET.

Unlike Managed C++, which is one of the very few things that can mix .NET and regular Windows freely (though at a price), it's a relatively all-or-nothing deal. If you've been doing plain point-and-click programming, you may have to do practically nothing in the conversion. If you've been doing parsers and cryptographic algorithms, you probably have some work ahead of you. This is all related to the way .NET managed code works.

One option that playing around with Delphi has given me is converting old Delphi code to .NET form. Converting a scripting language engine is certainly a large challenge.

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10/22/06

  05:46:23 pm, by Nimble   , 198 words  
Categories: Books, Fiction, Religion

Testament : Akedah

Link: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic_novels/?gn=5387

DC's Vertigo line is a pretty reliable source of intriguing, dark, mythology-based graphic novels. Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp's Testament is no exception.

The approach is intriguing. The landscape is a 'twenty minutes into the future' type take, the world we know now tipped significantly more into authoritarianism for the sake of safety, taking concepts like RFID to almost ridiculous extremes. The timeline slips back and forth between ancient times and modern times, but the Biblical stories, such as they are, are not taken to be the source of authority for authorities and preachers, but rather from the point of view of the modern-day "Hebrew slaves".

The deities of the time, Jehovah, Moloch, Astarte, are shown outside the frames, occasionally with the mortal world shown as cubes. Old Testament stories and predicaments of the more modern setting of the graphic novel are set side-by-side in an intriguing manner. Like the story of Isaac and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Vertigo has the first chapter online free for viewing.

It's an interesting series so far; I'm looking forward to the next trade paperback to arrive. It looks like it is going to be part Biblical allegory, part... cyberpunk?

10/19/06

  09:38:37 pm, by Nimble   , 990 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Escape From the Entropic Provider

Nimblebrain has at last found a new home.

With quota problems and some troubles generating downloadable backups before we went on holiday, to the hacking after we came back that apparently lost all the backups, too, to a DNS problem that went unresolved for a week or more, I'd had enough.

I can say very little about web hosting company mergers that hasn't been said by many before me, but add this case study to the pile.

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10/17/06

  03:55:12 am, by Nimble   , 1358 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Religion, Science

The God Delusion : Richard Dawkins

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.ca%2FGod-Delusion-Richard-Dawkins%2Fdp%2F0618680004%2F&tag=thecerealkill-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=15121&creative=330641

I think it's a sign of the times that the number of books professing frustration with religion are on the rise.

In Dawkin's case, the times are ripe for a book like this. As an evolutionary theory promoter, he has witnessed galling inroads of attempts to throw out evidence-based science, particularly evolutionary theory, in classrooms. He has been heavily quote-mined (e.g. here) by the sorts of people promoting this Trojan Horse. Radical well-funded fundamentalist Islamist sects have taken the world stage with violence, and many developed nations have reacted with their own fundamentalist rise.

I suppose it's also a sign of the times that at the time of this writing, this book is the number one best seller on Amazon Canada, and at a mere number seven south of the border.

So what has Dawkins to say in this small tome, this time focusing on religion?

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  01:47:54 am, by Nimble   , 171 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Politics

Gritty Canadian Forces Ad

Link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=r_6vK_JSSTo

This ad for the Canadian Forces has been showing up on television of late.

I must say that the approach is intriguing. It's gritty, it's unglamorous, and it's tense, both in music, visuals and themes. One scene, if I don't miss my guess, even flashes by a homemade nail grenade, obviously not military issue. The forces are shown sneaking around buildings, throwing a flashbang into a room, rendezvousing quietly by boat, skydiving into an area, helping scared, injured and hungry people. The background noises sound like some of the creepier scenes in Half-Life 2.

The YouTube version of this is three and a half minutes long, which doesn't get the point across nearly as quickly as the television spot, but you get the general idea.

Apparently, recruitment is up in response to this, so the campaign seems to be working.

I'm glad we're stepping up our commitments in Afghanistan, though it does leave us more of an international target, in general.

CBC has some pretty good pages on Canadians' involvement in Afghanistan.

10/06/06

10/03/06

  11:26:21 pm, by Nimble   , 407 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Okami

Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000E991PC/thecerealkill-20

This is just the neatest damned game I have come across in a while.

Originality is not usually the strong suit of videogames, and when originality comes into play, it's often coupled with either frustrating mechanics, mere confusion or repetition.

Against a beautiful calligraphic background with an artistic rendering technique reminiscent of XIII, you play a resurrected wolf with Amaterasu, a Shinto sun goddess on your back, and an annoying little bouncing bug on your head.

Beside the usual standard game elements, such as running, jumping, smashing jars to get their contents and the like, you use brush techniques. Yes, I wondered "how the heck would that work?!" as well, but it really does.

Holding down R1 freezes your entire world on a canvas (turning it sepia toned on paper for a moment). You then draw certain brushstrokes in ink, let go R1, and see what effects your brushstroke has wrought. For example, once you learn the technique, a horizontal slash can break things. Drawing in missing details on incomplete or broken items can repair them. Drawing a circle in some places can cause the sun to shine. There's a lot more to this, and it requires a quicker trigger finger than you might imagine, but I won't spoil the rest of the game.

Combat is against demonic critters, starting at monkeys with calligraphic faces, going to monkeys with musical instruments, and getting into worse creatures from there. You can either whack them into dying, or whack them until they lose their colour, and before they regain their colour, slash them horizontally with the paintbrush.

Add to this some quirky characters, rewards for being a little obsessive about things, a day/night cycle that occasionally shows you different things, the ability to have the wolf bark and set off our dogsbarking, being able to dig up treasures wolf-fashion in certain places, the nifty puzzles, the neat things you can do, and the entire "I'm in a Japanese painting" experience make for a very engaging, "I can't believe I'm doing this" (in a good way) experience.

I have complaints, and they are few. The cute Charlie-Brown-adults-esque talking gets very annoying in the spots where you cannot speed the talking up, and a few of the puzzle sequences (like Mr. Orange's dance) will just trap you there until you solve the puzzle.

We rented this game to just try it out, but I think this game is a keeper :)

  11:00:12 pm, by Nimble   , 555 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Science

The Trouble With Physics : Lee Smolin

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0618551050/thecerealkill-20

My old high school friend, Menwin, and I chatted about string theory around 1990. He'd done quite a lot of reading on it, and was powerfully intrigued. So was I, but I didn't get a lot of the promise of it. I presumed that the standard model would come out of the equations at some point, and hoped if they had something good in their hot little hands, that there might be some good predictions waiting in the wings.

We're still waiting.

My lingering distress over the progress of science, but physics in particular, was still lingering when I encountered Smolin's bright blue book on the shelves...

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10/02/06

  03:52:21 pm, by Nimble   , 32 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

GIF is Free at Last!

October 1, 2006, there will be no more worldwide patent impediments to using the GIF format for pictures.

People making their own gaudy animation software for MySpace users heave a global sigh of relief :)

09/30/06

  11:36:16 pm, by Nimble   , 52 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Ethics, Politics

Day Against DRM : October 3

Taking a subject more near and dear to Adam's heart, Defective By Design has October 3rd announced as "Day Against DRM".

That's a little better than the passive-aggressive I-won't-buy-your-crap I had planned; I'm impressed with social activism like this. "Those darned kids" are standing up for our rights.

From link at BoingBoing.

  01:53:08 pm, by Nimble   , 280 words  
Categories: Distractions, Languages

Esperanto Day: December 15

Okay, the warning is perhaps premature, but it could take a while to learn enough Esperanto to go along with the official 'day'.

Having encountered Esperanto a long time ago as one of the more durable 'universal language' attempts around, it was funny to encounter it last year at a booth at the big BUGA garden show in Munich.

Esperanto is fairly easy for Europeans. If you know English and French or Italian or Spanish, and in some cases German, you can puzzle out a lot of the vocabulary and the like.

The Wikipedia entry has a lot of amusing surprises, like having Shatner star in an all-Esperanto horror film called Incubus.

It also seems the fashion to have a "day" for everything, so it's no big surprise that there's an Esperanto Day. Perhaps I'll try to go along with the stated 'blog in your native language and translate to Esperanto' theme. That said, though, I'm very, very rusty. Someone may have to remind me, too.

I think my vocabulary stopped short at phrases like La hundo sidas sur la fajro - 'The dog sits on the fire'.

The phenomenon of remembering dumb phrases best really abounds. I still remember stupid phrases like:

* Mes cheveux ont la mine d'un écureil repassé - [French] my hair looks like a pressed squirrel
* Mi pelo tiene el aspecto de una ardilla planchada - [Spanish] my hair looks like a flat squirrel (couldn't find the word for 'pressed' at the time)
* Ni pà bú pà dà hei yu - [Mandarin Chinese] are you afraid of the big black fish?
* Mekula watoto wote nyumbani - [Swahili] I have eaten all your children at home

09/29/06

  09:56:02 pm, by Nimble   , 258 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Politics

Guy Fox Attack

I haven't been particularly interested in politics apart from the past, okay, it's approaching a decade. In particular, though, anything that makes international travel less safe (I specifically told the travel agent to avoid all US stopovers for our honeymoon travel plans), gives irrational people more power over political process, or has our bordering neighbours starting to resemble dystopian fiction, gets my dander up.

Most of the techniques the U.S. administration uses to get their way are barely concealed, from their founding philosophies to their media techniques.

The FOX network, which we get only the entertainment, and not the right-wing news side of up here, is firmly in the administration's pocket. It doesn't take a lot of research on Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes to see how.

So it wasn't a shock that they'd ambush Clinton a little bit in an interview. What surprised me a little was Clinton's cut-the-bullcrap reaction (here through the mildly comic filter of The Daily Show).

Keith Olbermann had a nice, long, nasty, honest commentary on the administration in reaction to this. Given recent events to rewrite history like the Clinton interview and The Path to 9/11, it seems that rage is required.

It's shocking, but refreshing, and although it still only partially makes up for the media essentially hiding during the worst administrative abuses, it's good to see.

It's strange to contemplate that, as centrist a position as Olbermann is taking on this, I'm sure it will come across as 'leftist' to many, so far to the right the seesaw has dipped.

  01:15:33 am, by Nimble   , 321 words  
Categories: Distractions, Programming

Retro Classics: 99 Bottles of Beer

Link: http://www.99-bottles-of-beer.net/

Sometimes, there are sites that bring back waves of memory to crusty nerds such as myself. There is a site, which I believe has been around for quite some time, giving code examples of how to count down "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall..." etc.

This is a relatively simple exercise, but different computer languages handle it somewhat differently, and even the same language can technically handle it multiple ways.

What makes http://www.99-bottles-of-beer.net/ different is that they have such a wide variety of programming languages used as samples.

I didn't think Draco would be on the list, but it is. Its claim to fame for me was appearing on one of the free Fred Fish disks, and having one of the provided sample programs make falling snow (piling up in letters like U) in your active window.

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09/24/06

  01:15:44 pm, by Nimble   , 429 words  
Categories: Reviews, Television

Fullmetal Alchemist

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullmetal_alchemist

This anime series seems a lot like many other anime series to start with. Many of the typical anime drawings, character reactions, exaggerations and the like are present. There's a strength of story and characters that show up as you continue watching the episodes, though, and it becomes rather intriguing.

The show is based loosely on the mythology behind alchemy, such as the search for the 'Philosopher's Stone', the alchemical 'holy grail' which allows things like transmutation of lead into gold, as well as other incredible things. There is a "principle of equivalent exchange" in the alchemy in the show, loosely based on "value" (of human lives, of metals) that the Philosopher's Stone would help violate.

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  12:49:11 pm, by Nimble   , 257 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Half-Life: Episode One

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Life_2:_Episode_One

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this when I saw it in the store. If it was different from Half-Life 2 itself, wouldn't it be episode two? Is Half-Life 2 actually episode zero?

Well, it is a sequel to Half-Life 2, and picks up pretty much at the very second that Half-Life 2 leaves off.

You get your white-charged gravity gun (I love that thing) for a while until you escape, then you're back to normal weapons. There's not much 'new' per se in the matter of gameplay, save for flinging cars into ant-lion holes and having to deal with grenade-carrying zombies.

It does have HDR, though, as demonstrated in the Half-Life 2: Lost Coast demo, so if you've got a good video card, you'll experience the light adjustment and visual 'bloom' as you go into and come out of dark areas (the reactor area demonstrates this pretty well).

Main complaint: it's short. It's three times cheaper than Half-Life 2, and it feels three times shorter.

There's new technology alluded to, but which does not appear in the game.

I liked bits of Doctor Kleiner's televised speech. You can listen to the entire thing if you wait for it at the main menu once you get far enough in the game.

There is a "black hole grenade" available if you turn cheats on. I haven't checked that out yet.

Episode Two ought to be a little more interesting, but we'll see. I'm looking forward more to Team Fortress Two, though it looks awfully, awfully cartoonish, like a big 3-D Popeye episode :)

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