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    Filed under: — David @ 11:04 am

    We went to the Century City Apple Store (because we wanted to do some other shopping at that mall). There were 50 or so people in line when we got there, and the line nearly doubled by the time 6:00 came. As we walked in, the store people cheered us and handed us t-shirts. We did little besides wait in line and buy Leopard.

    Like many people I’m sure, I’m trying to decide on how to set up a Time Machine backup drive. The Apple Store sells LaCie and Western Digital drives. The Amazon reviews show that there is a failure rate to worry about, but it’s hard to gauge. Unfortunately it seems to be worse for the terabyte drives, so for the moment I’m leaning towards a 500GB LaCie drive.

    At first the installation was supposed to take 3 hours, but as usual the first couple of hours went by really fast and the last “about a minute” took much longer.

    When I launched iChat, it asked me for my AIM password, which it normally doesn’t. I typed something in, checked the box to store it in my keychain, and got a message that it couldn’t find my keychain.

    Further poking around revealed that my keychain was broken. The Keychain Access app couldn’t unlock it, display its contents, or even show a proper icon for it. There were no error messages to be found, either. Not in dialogs, not in the console log.

    I tried re-importing my ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain file and deleting the old keychain. This left me with a keychain named “login” instead of “uncommon”, and apparently you can’t rename a keychain. But it’s working again.

    Some other initial thoughts:

    At first I thought the menu bar was opaque after all, but it turned out it was just that my desktop picture lacked detail at the top.

    The help viewer is now a floating system window instead of a separate application. This is a pain because the window is big and stays in front of everything else. I had already complained about this in the original WWDC seed.

    The same folder icons are there, with their spots and monochromatic badges. I still don’t like them. I’ve started working on converting some Paper Folder icons to 512x512. It’s harder than it sounds. If you want them to look good, that is.

    The window title bar controls look shinier than in Tiger, which is odd since the rest of the Aqua UI is heading towards duller gradients.

    Unfortunately, installing Leopard also installed iTunes 7.4.2, which threatens to kill my ringtones. Fortunately, I did an Archive And Install which preserved my old iTunes 7.4.1, and it still runs.

    I think Mail is getting bloated with its notes and RSS (I use Sage for RSS). I can see how, with the notes feature, they’re trying to accommodate people who were trying to use Mail before for things it wasn’t designed for - sending yourself notes by email. But people were doing that just because Mail happened to work well enough as a kind of document database. Making it an official feature turns Mail into something it’s not. I think this is a missed opportunity for innovation.

     A peek at UT3 UnrealScript
    Filed under: — David @ 10:52 pm

    If you open Unreal Tournament 3 Demo/UTGame/CookedPC/UTGameContent.u in NotePad or some such text editor, and scroll about halfway down, you can get a good look at what kind of UnrealScript lives inside of UT3. Unfortunately it’s all a bunch of relatively minor classes - status messages, weapon effects, and some vehicle weapons. The real good stuff, like the game types, is hidden somewhere else. Darn. It would have been great to have some reading material so I could be a little more prepared for the final game.

    It’s disappointing to me that Epic chose to have such a narrow selection of game types in UT3 (just CTF and Warfare) because as a modder it gives me less to work with. For example, in the UT2003/04 version of Flag Domination I was able to use existing announcer sounds like “Red Team dominating!” I made two game types (Bombing Spree and BR4) based on Bombing Run, building on its game elements, models, sounds, and so forth. Now there is less to build on, and making my own content is even more complicated as the engine gets fancier. Plus I have less time, but that’s my fault for having a life.

     Second batch of UT3 beta demo thoughts
    Filed under: — David @ 9:53 am
    • The Hellbender has only two seats, with the driver controlling the skymine cannon like with the SPMA. They must have figured more seats aren’t needed when there are hoverboards.
    • The SPMA finally has an interesting name - Hellfire. It took me a while to figure out what the bots were talking about.
    • The Hellfire is now a one-seater. You use the skymine cannon normally, then stop and hit the space bar to deploy and use the artillery cannon. This makes it harder to use the skymines to defend yourself.
    • From the Hellfire’s floating camera, you now aim your shells with the mouse instead of the keyboard. Why didn’t they think of that sooner?
    • The handling on the Scorpion is very different, and I’m still unclear on what the main gun is supposed to be. In UT2004 I was doing 180° spinouts all the time, but I can’t seem to pull it off in UT3.
    • The UDamage platform on Suspense hardly seems worth it. How do you get down fast enough to make use of it? I tried jumping down and using the hoverboard to soften my landing, but that ended badly.
    • Also, surprisingly, the hoverboard can’t get you all the way to that top platform. The last part of the walkway is too steep.
    • I upped my video settings to 1280x1024. There was a slightly noticeable performance hit, but it still looks good.
    • If I summon a Paladin, its shield is opaque white. Presumably the shield texture is just missing in this demo. The projectiles are smaller - in fact I think they look like skymines, so hopefully it’s just a placeholder.
    • As I noted with the Dark Walker, the mouse wheel doesn’t move the camera in and out from the vehicle, and I now find this applies to all vehicles. I hope they bring that feature back.
    • The new vehicle health bar is fuzzier and harder to read.
    • I hope the full, non-beta demo has more bots. Hearing the same voice over and over in VTCF gets a little old.
     UT3 Demo thoughts
    Filed under: — David @ 11:47 pm

    I’ve poked around a bit with the demo. Just a short tryout with VCTF, and then exploring the DM maps without bots.

    • It runs fine on my Mac Pro, though I’ve only tried 1024x768 so far. I bet it can handle more. It defaulted to 800x600.
    • Not only do I miss the death messages like everyone else, I’m not a fan of the weird visual distortion that happens when you die. It looks too different from the rest of the game experience, making it less immersive.
    • Unfortunately I’m not a fan of the layout of VCTF-Suspense. Flag placement seems like an afterthought, making it difficult and non-intuitive to figure out for the first time where the flags are. The AVRiL seems to be a pain to get at. It also focuses mainly on a single choke point, the bridge, and I prefer maps that spread the action out. I think that’s part of the reason why I like Flag Domination.
    • Among the other missing options in this “beta” demo, there’s no option to disable “mature taunts”, which I would have taken advantage of.
    • The mouse wheel didn’t zoom in and out while I was in the Dark Walker, so I couldn’t see the legs walking. I haven’t tried it in other vehicles yet.
    • The driver’s weapon in the SPMA is now the skymine cannon. That’s an interesting reversal, though I always thought copying the Hellbender’s weapon was a bit of a cop-out.
    • The Hellbender’s turret doesn’t seem to charge anymore.
    • I like how the pickups periodically flash different colors (green for link gun, red for rockets) to make them more recognizable. It helps counter-balance the near overload of detail in the game.
    • The game says it’s “logging in” somehow even when I say to play offline.
    • A quick glance through the folder structure didn’t turn up anything that seemed to be analogous to a .u file. I was hoping to get a peek at some UnrealScript.
    • Has anyone tried using the RoboBlitz editor?

    At first I read that UT3 would include multi-team support, maybe even for more than four teams. But I’ve seen more recent statements that seem to contradict that, so it’s unclear what the future of CTF4 on UT3 might be. I’d love to be able to get started on Flag Domination right away, but who knows how much time I’ll be able to devote to such things now.

    Filed under: — David @ 9:21 pm

    There’s just a lot of stuff I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months.

    Number one, of course, is getting married in just over a month. That and all the related preparations and festivities have been occupying most of my time since… well, let’s just say “free time” has become a foreign concept.

    On top of that, we have Mac OS X 10.5 supposedly before the end of the month, Unreal Tournament 3 with its demo due in the next couple of weeks, and lots of Blu-ray movies coming out for the Holiday season, such as a few Pixar films, all the Harry Potter movies so far, the Spider-Man trilogy, and various others.

    But sometimes I feel like the thing I look forward to most is actually having time to enjoy all those things. I think that’s due to happen some time in January maybe. We’ll see.

     Free stuff I don’t want
    Filed under: — David @ 3:46 pm

    Since the high def disc format war is obviously going to drag on for quite a while, I have toyed with the idea of getting an HD-DVD player to complement my Blu-ray-playing PlayStation 3. There have been some promotions lately where you buy a player and get some free movies with it - up to 9 free movies in the latest Best Buy promotion.

    But then I took a closer look. Two of those nine are in the box: The Bourne Identity and 300. I have zero interest in 300 (I actively avoid movies with that level of violence), and I’m ambivalent about the Bourne movies. (An amnesia story with no twist? What’s the point?) Five of the nine free movies are chosen from a list of fifteen titles. Nine of those are either rated R or unrated. Of the remaining six (of which I get to choose five!) only two hold any interest for me: Hulk and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have the former on DVD, and the latter, being from Warner Bros., will eventually be available on Blu-ray. The final two free movies I can choose off the shelf, so at least there is some hope.

    So that leaves effectively five discs, and not all of them are really exciting. Technically, it was a great deal - subtract the price of all those discs, and the player is almost free. But in the end it’s another lesson in reading the fine print.

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

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