2001 Jul 2 (Mon), 09:25 Holy crap! It's full of stars..... Wait... no... my mistake...
Last week I took a test for possible employment at Loki... Here's hoping it (or one of the many many other jobs I've been trying for) will work out.

I just barely submitted my 1.0 dev roadmap and blocking issues post for Tux Typing. This really will be a very significant release (duh) so I really want us to do it right.

There's also been a lot of talk of internationalizing Tux Typing. We've actually talked about this before as well. While I'm not really opposed to the idea... I'm honestly not too hip to integrate it either. I've actually been promising myself once I got to Tux Typing 1.0, I'd cut back on the project and work on something else. But, when you have an Open-Source/Free-Software project like this you have to keep in mind that you are not in charge.... Your users and developers are... and if you want to keep them, and benefit from their help (which I do, I really appreciate all the help I've gotten) you have to remember they are the ultimate decision makers. If they really want something, there's nothing much you can do to prevent it.

Not that I'm complaining. I am thrilled that the project is doing as well as it is. It's exceeded any expectations I ever had for it. And with helpers like Jesse Andrews, Jacob Greig, Calvin Ardnt, Dave Marshman, and Olivier Dagenais, it's hard not to accept the direction suggestions they give for the project.

Let's see.... I've also spent much of this weekend playing rented video games. I really needed a break ;-)
  • Crazy Taxi 2 for the DC: I have to admit I haven't liked this one as much as the first game... but it is still very fun. The cities in part 2 don't have as much variety as the ones in part 1 had. They seem to have this heavy emphasis on highly urban areas... and much of what I found fun in part 1 (sparse suburbs and open fields, in addition to the urban areas) is gone. Honestly, it changes the feel of the game for me, and makes navigation very hard. I do like some of the new features... but HATE the new cabbies (I mean, honestly, would you get into a cab driven by this man?) Still, don;t get me wrong. This is a great game. I just liked the original one a bit better.
  • Twisted Metal: Black for the PS2: I actually wasn't expecting much from this game. I haven't liked the Twisted Metal games after the first one (they've been very repetitive)... and this one seemed to be just more of the same. And while it is more of the same, this time it just works really well. I have been playing this stupid game nearly constantly since Friday... and I am still having a blast with it. The levels are awesome, the cars are very nice, the graphics are spectacular, and the gameplay is (still) rock-solid. Plus, the Rolling Stones tune is kewl ;-) All in all, I do recommend this game, highly. I am surprised that I do... since it really doesn't do anything new... and it could stand a few more levels... But in spite of these shortcomings, I really like this game.
That's all for now...

2001 Jul 3 (Tue), 16:06 Bullocks and Brain-Fried Rice

Okay, I said before that I shouldn't ever write an entry in this thing while depressed... but here I am doing it again....

Why am I down? Well... for one, still no job... no sign of a job... and while I am (admittedly) not giving Loki a chance to respond, I'm just getting all desperate and upset. It's been a very long time since *real* work... and I am not doing very good. A company I did some consulting for back in Feb. just called me yesterday and wanted me to help them with something. You'd think I'd be thrilled, but the job will be hard, and wont pay squat. They need a complete LDAP/NFS/SAMBA solution for inter-office communications and file-sharing. They want me to come in and set it all up in two days, and only pay me $15 per hour. For one, I've already worked on their network, and they have some peculiar configurations. Furthermore, they have really old Macs (like pre-OS 7) that they want to partake in this little project. Furthermore, furthermore, they have these RH7.0 boxes they will want to power the whole thing, and these machines were set up by someone who (while a talented Java developer) is not much of an OS guy. At any rate, I'm certain what they want will take much longer than 2 days and that they should be paying much more for the work.

The problem is... I am desperate... I need money. So I am considering this work inspite of the fact that I would be setting myself up to fail (I can't seem to convince them that their expected duration is wrong). I know I don't need the headache... but I do need the work.

Anyway.... did some internationalization/theming work for Tux Typing last night. Already have some contributed Dansk (Danish?) and French word files... hope to see some more coming...

2001 Jul 6 (Fri), 09:00 Asking For Cheese, Getting Chicken

I will be spending this upcoming weekend re-installing Progeny Linux on my Desktop. I have had RH for far too long now, and the recent hassles over the 6.2-7.0 transition has just soured me beyond all repair. Not that I'm really badmouthing RH. I actually think a lot of people are too harsh on them.. and I do like their distros (all things considered). I just have gotten to a point where I want an even easier upgrade method than RPM (how hard is it to set a cron job to "apt-get update && apt-get -y --download-only dist-upgrade && apt-get autoclean" while I am sleeping? ;-) I know I really ought to just go with pure Debian... but, I'm a lazy bastard these days ;-)

Let's see... Tux Typing is having growing pains. We now have French, Dansk and (soon) Spanish support.... And I don't really know how to handle all the various languages! These have almost doubled the download size of the CVS tarball, going from 4megs to 7megs! Add a few more languages, and you have a rather nasty download which includes several languages you may never want. Someone on the dev list suggested that we try something like WinAMP Skins or XMMS Skins and allow the individual language contributors take care of maintenance of their own languages/themes. It's a good idea, I just don't have the energy to come up with my own software for this. Anyway.... I know I bitch a lot... I just really had planned on cutting back on Tux Typing after 1.0.... but everyone is just starting to gear up for it..... After 1.0 I think I really need to get a co-maintainer so I can focus on other things.

I am also doing a small bit of web-consulting for UnitedFinancial.net... which will bring in ever so slight a bit of income.

2001 Jul 9 (Mon), 13:26 apt-get install my_butt

Success! I now have a completely rebuilt desktop! Joy! I even have the screenshot to prove it! My desktop was in dire needs of an upgrade... I still had Linux 2.2.18 on it, XFree86 3.3.6, KDE 1.x, etc., etc. (essentially what you get with RH6.2 as well as a bit of upgrading). I was not willing to upgrade to newer RH's, though, because 1) 7.0 saw many many package screw-ups [hmmm... let's take the most important package for a Linux user, gcc, and introduce a hacked up CVS snapshot of it into our latest distro], 2) I was really getting sick of RPM and wanted something that allowed me greater control as well as a higher degree of automation. This second concern was the thing that had been holding me back for the last few months (oh, and the fact that I also wanted to switch to a journaling FS like ReiserFS, which would make upgrading a chore). Anyway... these concerns led me to install Debian.

Now I have had mondo Linux experience, including Debian experience. I have worked with Linux for the last 5-6 years, and had it on my desktop for 4-5. However, I never really got much into the whole APT deal, and never really explored what it can do. I've used RPMs primarily since RH4.0 (back in the anals of ancient history ;-) and had been very happy with them up until about a year ago. Needless to say, coming from an RPM-centric world I really had no idea what APT is. I had this vague, preconceived notion that APT (specifically apt-get) was very similar to rpm. Boy was I ever wrong. APT is actually this powerful suite (sweet?) of automated and non-automated system package tools. apt-get is this faboo little front-end to a lot of them that allows quick, simple, and painless installation and upgrading of packages. Comparing apt-get to rpm is like comparing a laser scalpel to a wooden club.

Anyway, I rebuilt my desktop by starting with a very basic Progeny install, and then proceeded to go through the tedium of hand installing pretty much every other package I wanted from the Debian testing branch (soon to be "Woody") and some from the unstable branch (primarily for Gnome 1.4 stuff). This took me all of this last weekend (and I started working at the crack of dawn and worked into the wee hours of the night). Why did I do this? Couldn't I have just let apt-get (or even Progeny) pick what to install? Sure, but I wanted complete and total control. My desktop has been a mess for a long time, and I really wanted to do it right! The great thing about APT is that you can choose your level of control, and automate what you want when you want. While I was building my system, I wanted complete control!

When it was all said and done, I had version 2.4.6 of the Linux Kernel (unstable), XFree86 4.0.3, KDE 2.1.2, Gnome 1.4, etc., etc., running on ReiserFS filesystems (actually, /boot is ext2 still). Everything's zen.

Actually, not everything is exactly zen. My vanilla MS Sidewinder gamepad is no longer working. I am aware that this is due to the radical change in the Joystick drivers in 2.4 (now part of the Linux Console project, I think). I still need to fix this and get it working again (I'm sorry, I refuse to play Tux Racer with the keyboard). Also, supposedly my Micro-Solutions Backpack CDRW now has direct kernel driver support (since 2.4.4)... but I'm yet to get it to work either. I'm soon I will get both of these issues resolved shortly.

Anyhoo.... I'm tired now... and need to rest.

2001 Jul 9 (Mon), 17:51 rpm -Uvh my_butt

Just wanted to make an addendum to my dairy entry today...

Don't get me wrong... I don't hate RH. As a matter of fact, I personally feel that a lot of people are entirely too harsh on RH. I don't think they were trying to dominate the Linux market by any of the packaging snafus they've made. I actually am impressed with what they have right now with their distros.

Also, don't think I hate RPM. It's a fine package format, and can be very versitile. Plus, its biggest strength is that (as a format) it is ideal for the novice users.

All I was saying before is that I have grown. I am at a point now where I like to tweak and tamper with everything on my system. It's been a gradual process... and has taken many years... and will likely continue. It's one of the big reasons I originally gave up MS products (though, not the main reason I continue to stay away from them today). I have just gotten to a point where RPM based systems aren't cutting it for my needs. That's not to say that RPM based systems blow and everyone should stop using them, nor is that saying I think there is never a situation where RPM based systems would be better (on the contrary, for the systems at my old sysadmin job RPM based systems were/are/will-be ideal.)

2001 Jul 10 (Tue), 19:56 Rememberance of a Crash

Apparently, yesterday was the one year aniversary of the horrible car crash my wife and I were in. In case you haven't already read about it in this diary, what happened was we were driving to visit family and friends and I was courting an out-of-state job at Intel when our car met a large semi-truck above an open-pit mine just north of Safford Arizona. The semi-truck (which was restricted and was not supposed to be on the road there) pushed my wife and I (in our car) over a cliff.

The accident was horrible, but my wife and I survived. We were hurt quite a bit, but our car was really damaged. This was essentially the beginning of the rather hellacious year we've had since then. First, we got some idiotic lawyers that gave us horrible financial advice about both our trip and our car repairs. This bad advice plunged my wife and I into terrible debt. Then, after this whole economic downturn hit, I found my technical skills were no-longer needed... and have been out of work essentially for seven months now.

Now, we are constantly hounded by creditors, can't afford groceries, and are on the virge of losing our home.

Why? All because Schneider hires bad drivers, gives those bad drivers poor advice (the Schneider dispatch allegedly told the driver to ignore the size restriction signs), our lawyers were bafoons.... and no one has been willing to hire me for the last seven months.....

Am I bitter? Am I pissed off?...... Tell me... would you be?

2001 Jul 12 (Thu), 16:33 He's a Vampire! She's a Werewolf! Together they fight crime!

ACK! PBBTH! I am trying my damndest to figure out what would be the absolute best way to handle theming in Tux Typing, but so far, I have nothing concrete. While I do like the idea of having theme authors maintain the themes, I still am left with how to impliment theme installation on the various platforms we support. I mean, I can easily figure out how to set up an easy way to install these themes/languages under Linux. Win32, that ought not to be too hard. BeOS, erm... Idunno. Perhaps we ought to just not worry about installing, and let the user worry about it. The only problem is that we don't have simple ZIP or TGZ file support (and I don't know if there is a platform independant way to impliment that anyway) so instead of one simple file, the user will have to worry about an entire sub-directory tree filled with files.

That's all I have to say right now.... Any input/ideas is/are welcome.

2001 Jul 16 (Mon), 01:46 Drooling Like An Idiot

I must be getting old. It's only 1:30am, and I am exhausted! When I was younger, I did my absolute best programming in the wee hours of the night.

Tux Typing is almost ready for 1.0pre1 release. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't have another release before 1.0, but some more testing of some of the recent stuff (Jesse's clip/blit bugfix, my alpha-blended fish, and our themes support) would be really keen. I'd wager we are within a week of a 1.0pre1 release (actually, I think we're ready, I just am waiting back for some word from some of our other platform porters).

Speaking of Tux Typing and themes, I have placed the beginnings of a Tux Typing Themes site. Please note this is only for the CVS Snapshot of Tux Typing at present! The previous release (0.9) doesn't support alternative themes at all. The theme site may very well change over the next few weeks/days, as we are still hashing out exactly what we want to do for theme support right now (later, in the 1.1-1.2 dev cycle, we can go back and make the support better.)

Uhm... I saw Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within with my wife this last week. I honestly don't know what Katz' problem was... I thought the movie was breath-taking to behold and had a nice storyline (granted, it was very much a Final Fantasy storyline... so perhaps that was what Katz didn't get). My wife and I also rented The Lady's Man.... hated that peice of crap....

2001 Jul 17 (Tue), 23:11 The Full Montgomery

Well, I just finished up my own theme for Tux Typing. The theme is an American Sign Language (ASL) based theme which replaces the letters in the game with their ASL "finger-spelling" equivalent. The theme will be part of an upcoming Tutorial/HOWTO for making themes for Tux Typing. (Keep in mind that in order to use this theme, you must be using the latest CVS builds!)

Tux Typing 1.0pre1 will be released this Friday (barring anything unforseen). Hopefully I can make time to write up the Theming Tutorial/HOWTO by then (at least a preliminary draft, that is ;-)

The ASL theme I just made actually replaces quite a few of the graphics in the game. The main menu has several differences (I even took a screenshot of it here), and I've made a new "-hidden" background (it's actually a pretty kewl image ;-).

2001 Jul 19 (Thu), 12:44 QWEST MUST DIE

I have a new goal in life.

I must elliminate Qwest from my life once and for all.

Avid readers of my diary (heh, like there are any ;-) will know that I have been having a really bad time with Qwest ever since they became Qwest.

Last year, they ruined one of the phone-jacks in our home, never fixing it, and charged us $80 for them breaking it.

There was also a period last year where I was working at Intel and my home in Tucson, AZ (where my wife was) went without the phone lines working for 3 months. We called, and called, and rarely did a serviceman show up, but when he did it was either 1) to say he needed other equipment he didn't have, and would have to come back tomorrow, but no, he doesn't need into the house so no one needs to be home, or 2) leave a note on the door saying "I came back to fix the problem but you weren't home, so I am cha rging you $60 for the visit".

Then, of course, there's our whole billing problems which have been recurrant for a year now. Basically we keep getting over charged, under charged, never billed, and then our account goes delinquent (sp?) and our phones are deactivated. THEN we have to s pend hours on the phone with some rude and snide billing jackass just to get them to reactivate the service we've already paid for!

The most recent problem is still a billing one. For our cell-phone, we keep getting a bill saying we're late with $90 in charges. Well, we sent that $90 THREE MONTHS AGO! And the kicker is that according to their accounts department, we are current with o ur bill.... But their billing department is not current and they are the ones who are constantly sending us these notices!

Okay, barring the absurdity that they have two departments, Accounts and Billing, which basically do the exact same thing, but don't communicate with one another, do you know what their remedy is? They want US to call Billing and fix the problem!!

No, no, accounts can't call them and say "Hey, we already have this bill paid, quit harassing these people", WE have to call them and try to convince them that this is true!


And actually, we aren't the only people with problems with them! According to a study, Qwest is ranked among the 10 worst companies for customer satisfaction in its class. Furthermore, my mother-in-law who works for UVSC tells us that Qwest has managed to lose a bunch of UVSC's phone bills for the last few mo nths, so many that UVSC has managed to get out of paying them.

At any rate, as soon as our cell-phone contract is up with them (in October) we will cut all ties with them, get a different cell carrier, and get ourselves something like a Cricket for local calls.

Uhm.... other than that bit of venting, I have been trying to figure out what is causing the Tutorial Crashing Bug reported by Olivier Dagenais in Tux Typing. Note that this is ac tually not the old tutorial screen bug since it seems to deal with memory allocation problems. Also, it is a bug that none of the Linux developers seem to be able to duplicate (so it is likely a compiler discrepancy). Needless to say, this new bug will delay the 1.0pre1 release for a bit.

2001 Jul 22 (Sun), 18:03 I am Jack's complete lack of surprise

I just wrote a little SDL & KDevelop mini-HOWTO. I'm pretty pleased with it, but already have several modifications I am going to have to make. Expect to see a revision within a few days.

Uhm... finally resolved the Win32 crashing issues for Tux Typing. Now we can finally have our 1.0pre1 release. I am planning for this release to occur on Tuesday. After this, prov ided our open bug report page remains unpopulated, we should be able to squeeze out our 1.0 release within a couple of weeks (just in time for the new school year ;-)

Began working on something I call "Tux Reader". This will be a glorified text viewer with nifty graphics which children can use to help their reading skills. The child reads whatever text is loaded into the app, and when they find a word they don't know o r otherwise can't read, they click on that word and the app speaks the word aloud. This all sounds like it will be more complicated to create than it will be, since I plan on using Festival for the speech synth backend. I will also be using SDL_ttf for TrueType font support (so we can hopefully reduce the difficulty if anyone ever wants to make it international like what has happenned with Tux Typing). I am yet to make a web-site and post what I ha ve so far on this project.

Other than these, I took some time off yesterday to watch Fight Club with my wife. I wasn't expecting to like that movie... boy was I surprised. I was expecting this testosterone ridden Hollywood slug-fest, but what I found was this engaging, well-written , thought provoking film with an Indy flare. Both my wife and I loved it.

Also saw Werner Herzog's georgious Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht again on IFC this morning. The cinematography in this film was breath-taking. I highly recommend this movie to anyone.

2001 Jul 26 (Thu), 19:14 I am Jack's abject rage.

Tux Typing had its 1.0pre1 release this week. I announced it, but haven't written anything in this dairy so I never announced it here. This will hopefully be our last development release (it's our 1.0 test release). Provided our bugs page remains relatively empty, and this bug is or has-been resolved, we expect to have a release by August 1st.

Speaking of Tux Typing, our dev mailing list has been kind of quiet lately.... I'm hoping everyone is just busy or has nothing to say and that I didn't say something to piss everyone off ;-)

Uhm... I do have one minor beef to talk about (very minor). Apparently, LinuxGames.com didn't include Tux Typing's homepage in their posting... as I have already gotten a number of messages from people looking for our theme pages (which you can get to from the homepage). It's not really LinuxGames.com's fault, tho, as I failed to include Tux Typing's homepage in the header of the announcement.

Been working on lots and lots of stuff lately... been very busy. Tux Reader has pretty much been neglected all week because of it. Just read today about the generalized copyleft for general copyrightable material s. This license is kind of a heaven sent for me, as I have been wanting a license just like this for my images in Nodin Grand (a project I am still committed to doing... just need to find time ;-)

Let's see... no new games to review... no new movies I've seen recently (but I did rent Ingmar Bergman's classic, The Seventh Seal and will probably watch it tonight or tomorrow. I really want to rent Through a Glass, Darkly as well, but can't find it at my local rental place.)