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     65 tons of balls
    Filed under: — David @ 11:00 am

    Some thought, comments, and facts about Flag Domination and the new UT2004 Editor’s Choice Edition content:

    - The new vehicles’ skins are done differently: there is a whole separate texture for each team color (not that they look very different to my eye). The old vehicles had a gray base with a color overlay, making it easy to do the gray neutral vehicle skins. The new ones will take more work.. and disk space. This also affects my Vivid Vehicles mutator.
    - ONS-Urban has a Cicada placed over a power node, where one of the flag bases gets placed. Getting bots to move vehicles that are blocking flags is a difficult task that I haven’t successfully solved yet.
    - ONS-Tricky has a built-in mutator that lets you pick up items while in a vehicle, and this includes flags. This doesn’t work right, though, because the GameObject class (which flags are based on) assumes it only gets picked up by regular players. It also doesn’t check whether your vehicle is supposed to allow flag carrying. I’ll have a workaround for this in the next release.
    - You can carry flags in the Cicada’s passenger seat.
    - Selecting a “Bonus Vehicles” variation of one of the standard maps doesn’t work. It’s a bit of a hack the way it works in Onslaught, so I basically just copied the hack to fix it in FD.
    - ONS-Arda will have a custom placement. The auto placement was putting the C flag off to the side, instead of the bottom center where the Hellbender appears. This would give one team an advantage because of the vehicle booster pads. ONS-Tricky works out pretty well already; my new placement algorithm even puts the C flag on top of the tower.

    On a side note, as I was reading the description text for ONS-Tricky, my brain automatically filled in punctuation to create the following sentence: “Two teams, and 65 tons of balls, to the wall-gun-slinging vehicular mayhem!” My first thought was, what the heck, is this doubling as a Bombing Run map?

     Working with installer software
    Filed under: — David @ 11:37 am

    I’ve started a short-term job working with ELLIS, an English language instruction software company. The task is to create an installer for the Mac version of their product, which is a little complicated because of the nature of their product.

    The two main third-party installers (since Apple’s doesn’t suit our needs) are VISE X (the OS X-only successor to Installer VISE) and StuffIt InstallerMaker. There was recently an update released for InstallerMaker; I checked out the comments on VersionTracker, and everyone seemed to agree that VISE was better, so I downloaded it.

    VISE did indeed seem to have all the features we need. It’s quite powerful, especially with its use of variables. But there were some bugs and odd things, so while I was waiting to hear back from their tech support, I decided to check out InstallerMaker more thoroughly. It lacks several features that we need, most notably support for long file names.

    One thing they both have in common is they both still have an interface that looks like it was designed for System 7. Neither one has 32-bit icons in the interface, and these are interfaces that are full of icons. Many of VISE’s hard-coded icons are pre-System 7 black-and-white things, and it uses black instead of the real hilite color. InstallerMaker doesn’t even have an OS X thumbnail icon for the application.

    InstallerMaker does do better on dialogs, though. They were obviously reworked to follow Aqua layout guidelines. VISE’s layouts haven’t been updated, and in some cases they mix all three types of text anti-aliasing - none, QuickDraw (old), and Quartz (new).

    What is it about installer apps that discourages their makers from updating them? Every moment I’m working with VISE I’m wishing I could instead be giving it a hard-core UI overhaul. I could do it, too. But I’m not too keen on moving to Nebraska. Some major city on the west coast would be ideal for me… and in this field, that doesn’t narrow things down too much. Watsonville is sort of near Silicon Valley, but the fact that Allume’s web site is looking more and more like the coupon booklets that get stuffed into my mailbox every day makes me wary.

     Took them long enough
    Filed under: — David @ 10:02 am

    I got my first blog comment spam today. My first clue that it was spam was that the text of the comment was some generic quote that had nothing to do with anything. The second clue was that it was on my first post, which was two months ago and isn’t anything worth commenting on. So I checked the URL - taking care to paste it into a new browser window rather than clicking the link - and sure enough it was an online casino. Deleted.

     Squeaky wheel, buddy… squeaky wheel
    Filed under: — David @ 5:43 pm

    You gotta keep these big companies in line, or you get stepped on. I had a charge on my Comcast bill for $21.99, supposedly for installing a new cable outlet. What actually happened was the house I moved into has two outlets, and one of them didn’t work, so I had to have a guy come out and fix it. There had been no indication that this would be costing me $22, so I called to complain, fully prepared to cancel my account if the situation wasn’t fixed. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary; after hearing my story, the guy took $16 off the charge.

    I was ready to cancel my cable service because I almost didn’t sign up for it in this new place. First, last year they kept calling me - about once a month - trying to get me to sign up for their Internet service (I already had DSL). Finally I said the next time they called me about that, I’d cancel my account. It worked.

    Then when I was calling about having my service transferred to my new place, I was told it would cost about $30 to have that done. I balked at that. Not only was I already on the verge of ditching them, I didn’t know if I was going to be here long enough to get my money’s worth out of that transfer change. The woman I was talking to took the issue to her supervisor, and got it knocked down to $9, which I accepted.

    These are minor victories to be sure, but satisfying none the less. So this post’s subject is a quote from the latest episode of Justice League Unlimited, which I wouldn’t have seen if those Comcast people handn’t been so accomodating.

    Filed under: — David @ 12:40 pm

    Nathillien’s new map ONS-Perimeter looks pretty cool, though it performs poorly on my machine - about 10 fps most of the time, way below average. Anyway, I had to test it out in Flag Domination. It gave me an A flag and a C flag, but no B flag. So I fixed it. I put in a custom flag placement for good measure, too.

    My original plan was to have the A flag captured in the bases, but there’s a bot pathing problem. Various RoadPathNodes around the cores have forced paths to the core, even though in most cases you can’t walk in a straight line between the two, so bots end up walking back and forth endlessly. So all flags are captured at the forward power node locations.

    My PC has developed a nasty habit lately. It usually happens when I’m playing: the computer (not the speakers) emits some low-pitched beeps, and then the keyboard stops working. If this happens during a game, there’s nothing to do but hit the reset switch, since you can’t exit the game using only the mouse.

    Filed under: — David @ 6:48 pm

    Three years ago, I woke up and checked my e-mail, and there was this message from the Kaleidoscope mailing list:

    Just wanted to mention that I was over a mile away when it happened, but we all got a truly unsettling live view of events from the roof of our building. I have a couple of very close friends in an office about three blocks away from the site, but I’ve just heard from them and they’re now at a safe distance as well. Whew!

    I didn’t know at this point what “it” was. My first thought was of the earthquake that had recently happened in Los Angeles, but later on the message mentions New York City. So I went to the CNN web site. The first thing I noticed there was that their front page was all text: no images at all. This suggested that they were getting swamped with hits, so something important was obviously going on.

    Then I read the articles, about the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon being attacked by planes. I didn’t understand at first that these were commercial airliners; I was thinking of military fighters swooping in and shooting at the buildings.

    Then I turned on the TV… and left it on essentially for the rest of the week.

    It’s hard to know what to do at a time like that. I made a donation to’s Red Cross fund. I felt like showing some consumer confidence, so I went out and bought an AirPort base station (more of a symbolic gesture than anything, I suppose). I edited the flag image on the front page of my site to take it to half mast.

    Partly because the first news I got was by e-mail, I have a mail folder in which I kept every message I sent and received concerning the attack. Every once in a while I review those messages. Although the subject is a sad one, it is also encouraging to see how many people are willing to make some sacrifices and do some good in the world.

    Filed under: — David @ 7:08 pm

    Like probably everyone else, I downloaded ONS-Dinora, and was duly impressed. Great atmosphere. My only complaint is that I tried to go over one of the ramps on the beach in a Scorpion and got stuck. Apparetly you have to hit the ramp’s support beam to make it.

    Anyway, I naturally tried it in Flag Domination, and found that the flag placement needed work: the C flag base gets put right next to the blue base. So I tweaked the flag placement yet again, and it now finds a much more suitable place under the cliff. I’ll have to check out some more maps to see what other effects this change might have.

    Another thing I’ve been wanting to change is to make vehicles and turrets always active around capture points when playing Scavenger or Incursion. I also want to make it so,in those modes, at the end of the game the camera focuses on the player making the winning capture.

    Then there was a weird bug: I was playing in Rounds with flag points (5 of them), the blue team was ahead 4-0, then the red team scored.. and the game ended, with the blue team winning. I haven’t figured out how that happened.

     The mud keeps on flying
    Filed under: — David @ 9:37 am

    Political campaigns always irritate me. I seldom feel motivated to vote because all I hear from either candidate is “don’t vote for my opponent.” Okay, I won’t.

    Just now I was reading an article in the New York Times about the latest back-and-forth over Iraq. Kerry seems to spend more time criticizing Bush’s handling of the war, rather than giving details on exactly what should have been done instead (he’s mentioned some broad things, but I want to hear specifics). Bush, on the other hand, responds by calling Kerry a flip-flopper - criticizing the criticism rather than actually responding to it.

    My real problem is this: when a candidate focuses his campaign on pointing out someone else’s weaknesses, what am I really supposed to expect from him in office? That’s not the kind of attitude I want in a leader.

    Normally I don’t like getting political because, from my observations on other sites, it’s all too easy to start a pointless, nit-picking flame war, so I’ve tried to criticize both sides equally :)

    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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