Sunlight, Costume Idea

So I put a sun in the sky and turned on shadows in the driving simulator. It looks a heck of a lot better than it did but we're working on fixing the car mesh so the shadows don't look all nutty. I'm thinking of making some simple buildings so we can have a small town instead of just a big flat parking lot. I'm also thinking of making a cop car for the simulator so rookie police can sit down at a computer in the Police Academy and practice stopping cars in simulated chases. Maybe something good can come of this other than just entertainment.

I have an inflatable Sumo costume for Halloween but I think instead of bumping into people I'm just not going to inflate it. All I need is a Subway T-Shirt and voilà, I'm Jared.


Stating the Obvious

In the course of three weeks I have completely lost interest in the election. I think it's because I'm not a republican or a democrat. The candidates are out at the extremes and they're trying to court me(the undecided voter). That means they have to lie to appeal and it's not pretty. I have the feeling that nobody really knows what's best for the country. It's a crapshoot. The guys that write articles in Foreign Affairs don't make absolute claims and they have PhDs in International Relations.

There are just too many variables to make a rational informed decision about who would make a better president. I think watching the debates with the people who are or could be the leaders of the free world constantly and knowingly using misleading statistics, effectively, made me a little depressed. There must be some reason for democracy given its massive flaws. The fact that it's better than any other system doesn't explain it. I think it promotes stability because it leaves the population with the impression that it has power.

Unregulated capitalism would lead to disaster because shareholders are concerned about their short term interests. Considering corporate status was considered a gift until fairly recently until corporate lawers hijacked the 14th amendment, it seems reasonable that certain rules could be setup to prevent the short sighted destruction of anything that prevents short term profit potential. Of course that'll never happen in a democracy. Seniors are voting for healthcare instead of education funding so I think it's fair to say that the assumption that democracy is sufficient to regulate capitalism is just that, an assumption.


More Simulator Stuff

Our driving simulator is very close to the first release, we're having some really interesting discussions with an engineer from a Forumula SAE team who's helping us out. It's really nice to hear some of the comments about our little project... "Interesting stuff indeed and all credit to those involved. It sounded like one hell of a task when it was first announced and to have come this far is something." Keeps me motivated remembering all of the people that said we couldn't do it. I keep looking at our unique position and wonder what's going to happen. Here's an interesting quote:
“A console designed to play PC games on a TV may find an audience among PC gamers looking for a unique and new type of game experience," said Schelley Olhava, IDC analyst, Consumer Markets, Gaming. "Historically serious gamers have shown a willingness to try new technologies, and if happy with the experience, will gladly spread the word among the mainstream gamer audience." Thinking about using advertising to pay for hosting services for development. We could include logos on track banners as an incentive to donate.

Creating a simulator is only possible because of its replayability, that just means that people tend not to get sick of the plot because there isn't one. Physics aren't changing any time soon so we just have to translate car specs into C++ and XML. We're one of the first open source game projects to make heavy use of third party libraries (ODE, OGRE) to ease the development process. A lot of that has to do with the fact that people that create games outside of the usual oversight of a publisher rebel against the status quo. Early on I saw a problem with that. We had to cede control of our graphics and physics engine or we'd be at least two years behind our current position in my opinion.

I mananged to get 3d acceleration working on my laptop in Mandrake 10.1 with the Nvidia drivers. It was a lot harder than it should have been. Everything is just gobs more responsive and I should be able to do some real testing of the driving simulator I'm working on now. I get the feeling that Xorg is somehow better able to take advantage of graphics acceleration that XFree was/is. My CPU is now idling at 0 or 1% and it was around 4 or 5% without the Nvidia drivers. It'll be nice when in Linux you aren't forced to recompile kernel modules and modify various text files to make things work. Actually, compiling kernel modules wouldn't be so bad if the user didn't have to deal with the guts of the process. If you've got Linux and you want 3d support, go the Nvidia route. Oh by the way, HP 1012 Laser Printers work in Linux but you have to turn them off and on every few days to avoid errors because of full PCL buffers.


Bold Prediction, Mandrake 10.1 Community Ed. Mini Review

I don't make many predictions but one thing is a near sure bet. You're probably reading this blog with some version of Windows and the rest maybe on Macs. There is a unknown, superdorky operating system that only a relative few of us computer people know about. It had heretofore been much too complicated to pass the drunken grandma usability test but in two years or so in my humble estimation it will be ready for primetime. I'm writing this post on it from a laptop running Linux. Click THIS LINK to see what I'm talking about. If you look closely you'll see that I'm doing a few things, browsing the web, editing the cat photo and listening to Eek-a-Mouse mp3s from a file server in my living room. So what's the bold prediction? You'll use Linux in the next 5 years and you'll like it.

One of the things I like about Linux is the graphical flexibility it affords those of us that like to constantly fiddle with things. Things you can't do with Windows. There are many flavors of Linux because it's free as in beer and anybody can use the code for free as in libre unlike Windows or MacOS. My current flavor of the month is Mandrake 10.1 Community Edition.

10.1 is currently in Beta so there are a few glitches yet to be fixed. Here's my brief review for those that know a little bit about Linux...

The installation is nearly identical to 10.0 Official. My wireless network card was detected and configured during startup but PCMCIA totally shut down after the first reboot. That probably has something to do with the switch from devfs to udev but I'm not totally sure. I'm using the integrated 3com NIC with no problems. The printer was detected and configured with no intervention unlike WinXP.

No KDE 3.3 yet but I'm happy with 3.2 for the most part. A big improvement is the list of mirrors now included when you add software. None of the provided repository mirrors worked but I manually fixed that with Easy URPMI and some command line hackery. I installed Xchat, Gkrellm, Firefox, Bittorrent + GUI all without a hitch after that fix. It'd be nice if Firefox was set as the default browser but it's pretty easy to go into KDE preferences and add it to the top of the list.

Other major changes are to the audio and video applications. Totem and Xmms have mercifully been dropped in favor of the surprisingly easy to use Kaffeine and amaroK. AmaroK is a worthy substitute for the Windows only Winamp or Xmms. Check out the screenshot above for an idea of the amaroK UI. Gkrellm worked fine this time around, no weird CPU hogging. Kaffeine warrants a special mention though because of the fact that it simply works. I had to compile Mplayer and fiddle with codecs for a long time to make it work. Kaffeine works with wmv, avi, mpg, you name it. Surprisingly low CPU usage using Kaffeine to watch Super Size Me. AmaroK also has no problem playing WMA files out of the box though KDE defaults to Kaffeine. You're going to need at least 256MB RAM as per usual. Tried it with 128 but after an hour or so of use it slowed to a crawl.

Bottom Line. It only took 3 hours of tinkering to make the system work correctly it used to take 6 or 7. Windows XP still has the edge in my living room as a Home Theater PC plugged into my HDTV but Mandrake and Linux in general are making serious inroads. The last requirements? 1280x720(720p) resolution support and better 3D support. 10.1 CE has Xorg as an Xfree replacement but I haven't tested it with the Nvidia drivers yet, fingers crossed...

Super Size Review, Miscellany

I just finished watching Super Size Me, the documentary about a would-be fat guy. Aside from the facts presented in the movie the thing that really disturbed me was the fact that I began to like our pudgy protaganist. Here's a likeable guy nearly eating himself to death against the advice of his doctors just to make a point. He clearly takes some cues from Moore with the cartoon outtakes but it's a pretty original effort. I started paying attention to nutrition a while ago for some reason. I think it was after I tried to go on a no sugar diet for a week on a dare and nearly collapsed in the shower on the third day. Supposedly god created sugar cane (and all plants for that matter) on the third day. Coincidence? See you in hell.

So we force kids to sit inside overcrowded classrooms taught by underpaid teachers. They can't vote, can't drink or smoke(legally) and perhaps the ultimate indignity, they can't rent cars. So why can't we mandate that they don't kill themselves with food? I remember eating Pizza Hut for lunch back in grade school. I'm sure the school had some reason to allow a corporate presence in a learning institution. I think I know the sinister motive... Subsidized pizza parties. Teachers get deals on pizza to reward the kids with because they allow said eateries on campus. Diabolical.


Robots v. Striking Workers --- Woody Allen v. Brad Pitt

I did my first automated grocery checkout yesterday. The machines mysteriously appeared in the same grocery store I wrote about earlier "Inefficiency prevents a massive impending wealth divide" in which the workers revolted over wage cuts. A lot of people complain about corporate greed and the fatal flaws of capitalism yet are they willing to stand in a huge line to keep the lower class employed? People scream bloody murder if someone in India gets their job but what hapens when an acoustically aesthetic android takes over? Customers are happier, prices drop, lines evaporate. Maybe my assumption of a wealth divide failed to take into consideration the ability of people to learn new skills and at the same time fear change. It's like we're all capabable of a hell of a lot but it has taken automation to force us out of our comfy caves (apologies for the excessive alliteration) an into the great outdoors. A lot of people join the military because their parents are unable to provide the discipline they need to succeed. Theory of the day: Robots are grocery store drill seargents.

Speaking of change... I'm thinking of moving to Manhattan. I fell in love with that town last week and I've been thinking about how my lifestyle fits into my current locale. I'm a cave dweller. I'm content with an obese cup of coffee and a comfortable chair with no wheels and sweat pants and computer, cable news on the TV, remote control on my hairy chest, buttons down for more traction and maybe a fat cat. Hmm, I like fat hairy things, maybe it's my destiny to become a mall Santa. This all leads to my post title: Woody Allen v. Brad Pitt. If I ever got really buff and tan I'd have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror and not laughing. It just seems goofy to me. I'm like Woody Allen hitting on Jennifer Aniston in San Diego. I go to NY and chat up some girls about Noam Chomsky and they're all over me. Then on the plane ride back from my trip I saw the trailer for Alfie, which is Jude Law as a womanizing philosopher in Manhattan. It was like a sign.

On another totally unrelated note: There is so much I want to learn: graphic design, writing, C++, 3D Modelling, shell scripting, Perl, guitar, philosophy, women... that I'm frustrated that there are only so many hours in the day. I guess I know a decent amount for a 26 year old man-child but that old quote rings painfully true. "The more you know the more you realize how little you know." I don't really enjoy learning as much as I enjoy applying something I already know to the creation of something new.



Bunch of ideas coagulating in my head. There are some new ads by a wireless provider which show people with signal meters hovering over their heads. It'd be possible with some not too distant technology to have a visual overlay put on a person with a combination of technology made using GPS, scanned beam displays and something like the technology they're using over at dodgeball.com to create a kind of expression that goes way beyond your standard anti-Bush T-shirt.

Here's the trendy acrony definiton from wired:
Acronym for mobile social software, a Friendster-like service for cell phones. Coined after the launch of Dodgeball.com, the first MoSoSo provider.

Unfortunately for now the look-at-me-I'm-a-huge-dork factor and price put it out of range but you could for instance have an elphant icon over your head if you were a die hard conservative or maybe a pink flower hovering around you if you were a single girl out on the town. The Hawaiians have something similar if less high tech. "In Hawaii, they say that a woman wearing a hibiscus behind her right ear is single, and a woman wearing a hibiscus behind her left ear symbolizes that she is taken."

Dodgeball.com is a hybrid of Friendster, text messaging and camera phones. The only issue is critical mass which they haven't addressed yet with tools like profile import, etc. I'm going out on a limb and guessing that friendster is going to figure out that they're out of the loop and snatch up the idea if they haven't already. I wonder if it could work using cell triangulation instead of GPS.

Here's an interesting testimonial from their website.
"Tonight night as I came up out of the basement of Lit (around 1:45am), my phone started doing some weird beepy ring I hadn't heard before. "Receiving Picture Message." Picutre Message?!? I was as excited as I was perplexed...who could be sending me a picture messate? While most of my friends have recently purchased phone-cams, so far they're all too numb-skulled to have figured out how to use any of the new features.

I flipped open the phone and it was a notification message from a new application I'd signed up for earlier in the day on dodgeball.com (written by my friend dens). it said "alyssa is at luna lounge. you know her through gregg." and there was a picture of alyssa attached to the message. the only thing more amazing than the fact that there was a pic attached was that alyssa looked super cute! (i tried to curb my excitement because pretty much everyone looks cute in a 100x100 pixel thumbnail).

since luna was only a few block from lit, i decided to stop by and see if i could pick her out in the crowd. i got there to find luna lounge almost empty - so it was easy to spot alyssa at the bar with two friends playing with her phone. i walked up and called her out on her dorkiness: "hey, you're a nerd too, eh?" i showed her my matching phone and we had a laugh. we're SO living in the future."

Better than google, Costume, New blog software

I found myself doing something repeatedly without even realizing it was becoming a habit. Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about using a combination of google and blogs for research. When I want to learn about something I google search for "blog monkey" for example which gives a very interesting list of responses. I think one of the most interesting quotes about the Internet and its use for research comes from Matthew Austern: "Of course, the best way to get accurate information on Usenet is to post something wrong and wait for corrections" I think blog comments work the same way, same goes for the moderation system over at slashdot.

There is a new jacket in development that promises to end the suffering of animals used in the production of leather clothing. "Using a biodegradable polymer as a base, the team coated it with 3T3 mouse cells to form connective tissue and topped it up with human bone cells in the hope of creating a stronger layer of skin. The jacket is being grown inside a specially designed bioreactor that acts as a surrogate body. The group hopes that once the polymer degrades, a whole jacket that maintains its shape and integrity will be left behind."

Here's a hypothetical discussion:
Random Halloween Partygoer: "Cool jacket, what's it made of?"
Me: "Me."

I'm thinking of switching blog software. Blogger is plagued by performance and other issues that are starting to get on my nerves. I'm looking at Word Press, movable type, Radio Userland or possibly just writing my own blog software in PHP or ASP.net. Now that mono is out and .Net is legitamately cross platform I won't feel guilty going that route though PHP is better able to handle MySQL in my hairy opinion. Suggestions welcome.

Next time: Mososo, Camera phones with FLAC support.


Nueva York

UPDATE: We went to a swanky bar last night. I think I drank more vodka than I've ever had before. Met another girl, she's from the Netherlands, smarter than just about any girl I can remember meeting. Also hung out with the girl that lives upstairs. Had another near death experience using the fire escape to return to my brother's house from hers this morning. I slipped and just barely managed to grab on to the rail which saved my ass but I've got lots of fancy bruises anyway. I think I shaved 6 months off of my life but it was worth it. To answer the question about women out here in the comments... they are way more agressive. The girl upstairs gave me a look at the bar like "your ass is mine" I don't see that a lot out in San Diego.

We were at a bar Friday and all of the TVs had the debate on. I got into a discussion with a guy from some small island country and a older Republican lady. It was a heated debate but I held my own. I thought she hated me but she grabbed me as she was leaving and gave me a sloppy kiss. Man I'd have lots of good stories if I lived here.
We saw the girl from the Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn DiScala at a Sara Fina, a funky little restaurant near central park. She looked me right in the eyes for a second, I should have winked or something, maybe given here the call me hand jesture.

Just arrived at my brother's house in Manhattan. It's pretty nice but $1500 a month for one room seems a little steep. I drank some Sky Vodka on the plane with the lady next to me. It was a fun flight but I haven't slept since Thursday morning. I'm headed to Central Park in a few minutes to roll around on the well manicured acres of grass and maybe curl up on a park bench to catch some shut-eye. I'll get some photos up when I return.


For Love of Monkey

I envy the monkey lifestyle. Maybe because we toil in cubicles the majority of our lives so that we might have a chance to go on a brief vacation and live like monkeys for a little while. I think they secretly laugh at our artificial banana flavorings and anthropomorphic arrogance. Like Adam Smith's "invisible hand" the remnants of our ancient poo hurling justice system are still reflected in modern movements like tort reform and the constitutionally protected mud slinging of modern political campaigning.

Two strange things have recently happened, life expectancy is dropping for the first time and birth rates are declining in first world nations. From http://www.taipeitimes.com "Twenty years ago, the US, the richest nation on the planet, led the world's longevity league. Today, American women rank only 19th, while males can manage only 28th place, alongside men from Brunei.

These startling figures are blamed by researchers on two key factors: obesity, and inequality of health care. A man born in a poor area of Washington can have a life expectancy that is 40 years less than a woman in a prosperous neighborhood only a few blocks away, for example."

People are dying young because of our ability to make cheap unhealthy food. People aren't having kids because we're smart enough to use contraception and question the logic of bringing a kid into a world comprised of corrupt politicians, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, pollution, WMD, etc. Who the hell can afford to have a kid anyway? You need a two income family to survive these days which means there is the inevitable lifelong guilt associated with not being there for the kid.

Hairy backs used to be what kids would cling to when we wandered the forrests eating nuts and berries. Now people with back hair are condescendingly referred to as bears. Reverse anthropomorphism as criticism proves my earlier point. I refuse to shave my hairy chest, it's a silent tribute to our furry brethren of the forrest.


Wind, Near Death Experience, Women

I drove to Arizona this weekend. 360 Miles one way. Not surprisingly the Arizona Highway patrol pulled me over. I was going 81 in a 75 zone. The cop and I had a long conversation about the housing prices in San Diego and how 100 people a day are moving to Arizona from California, I think they get reallly bored out there, patrolling the desert. Anyway, he let me off with a couple of warnings and I was back on the road again.

Monotony will do strange things to a person. I stuck my arm out the window doing 80Mph and started to wonder what it's like to be in a major hurricane. The odds of getting pulled over twice are pretty slim right? Well my car will go about 135Mph. It only does 130 with the roof down as I found out. The overriding sensation of 130MPH winds is the noise. It's deafening. I also realized that although you're going twice as fast as normal, you use more than twice the gas which I guess isn't all that surprising. I averaged 73 MPH on the way back with a couple of pit stops.

I don't have a death wish, I race my car every once in a while and I'm pretty good at it so going fast isn't completely maniacal. I almost drowned once in some big surf when my leash broke. It's not a lot of fun being convinced you're going to meet your maker. I have a funny feeling that my "maker" would just be a primordial bowl of amino acid soup. My life didn't flash before my eyes but I did get very calm and relaxed before someone dragged me out of the impact zone.

And on another completely unrelated note, I was thinking about how I never have relationships longer than 6 months. That's right about when I decide that I need my space back and I head for the hills. Part of the problem is that I tend to date the wrong women. When I go to the local dance club I typically get inebriated and stagger to the dance floor and flail about until the alcohol and exertion conspire to erode my sense of balance. Keep in mind that I'm a quirky uptight white guy. I sometimes with someone would video tape me out there so I can see if I'm making a total ass of myself but then again there is the old Mark Twain quote: "Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth." While I'm writing about dance quotes, here's a good Leno observation " Scientists are complaining that the new Dinosaur movie shows dinosaurs with lemurs, who didn't evolve for another million years. They're afraid the movie will give kids a mistaken impression. What about the fact that the dinosaurs are singing and dancing?
--Jay Leno

So I met this girl a while ago while "dancing". She told me she didn't want a serious relationship which was good because I figured that when I inevitably moved on I wouldn't feel as guilty. So the time comes for us to go our separate ways and I just assumed she didn't have any feelings for me so I told her over the phone that the time had come to seek greener pastures. I heard silence then screeching tires and then CRUNCH. She crashed her car on the freeway seconds after I broke the news to her. She wasn't badly injured but I still feel like a jerk about it months later. I think I'm going to take a college class, something other than computer science, something like philosophy where I might meet someone I can talk to without focusing on not slurring my words. I'd prefer to know someone a little bit before jumping through the bizzare hoops known as dates. That's impossible in my current situation.

I need to grow up, get over my shy tendencies and try my hand at a non-dysfunctional relationship. Even if it's just to figure out if I'm cut out for that sort of thing.