2001 May 1 (Tue), 21:28 Brainwashed Clams
Ugh... need sleep. I have been working these last couple of days pretty heavily on the korelib interface for SAMport, I have also been spending some time doing some web-design as a consultant. Add to these the fact that my pump has gone out on the evap cooler in my den (and computer room) and you have a very bad situation to work in (and it doesn't help that I live in Tucson, AZ and our high today was 96!). Hopefully this weekend I will be able to spend some time to replace the bad pump and get it cool in here again!

There has been lots of great things happenning in Tux Typing.... in spite of the fact that I have been so busy. We have a new developer helping (Jesse Andrews) who has shown some great enthusiasm, and has been eager to attack the bugs and problems with the code. I really appreciate his help, especially now during a time where my life is so hectic.

Other than these... nothing else is new.... Just needing some sleep and some cooler temperatures! ;-)

2001 May 8 (Tue), 10:50 van Ecking My Butt Into Oblivion

Not much of an update. I have been very busy with things, and the repairs to my den AC haven't gone according to plan (the damn anti-rust paint stuff still isn't dry, so I can't continue with the repairs until it is)... So I haven't been checking my e-mail as much as I should (it's hard when the only room with your internet connection feels like an oven ;-)

I have been busy, tho, I am working on a redesign of my Geekcomix site. You can see a preview of what I am going for here. Basically I am ready to admit that my comic strip is dead, and that all this site has become is a storehouse for my Projects and some other misc. content. I will still keep the automated Strenua Inertia Classics site, but I will focus the site content more to my projects.

Tux Typing version 0.8 should be released this week. What's in CVS now is fine for this release, but it's hard to think about packaging it all up in the hot den. As soon as I finish repairing the AC in here, I will make the 0.8 release.

2001 May 9 (Wed), 12:47 Happiness is a Soggy Iceberg

Well... I finally finished fixing the AC in my den! Wahoo! Yippee! Hooray! So I am now sitting here, at my desktop (which I hadn't sat at in nearly a week) typing this diary entry, with a vunderful cool wind blowing on me from my (now over-powered) den AC. As a matter of fact, now that my den AC is fixed, it seems the main house AC might be going out (it's blowing out only slightly cold air... and when I went on the roof, it looks like the pump for it is going south). At any rate... it's good to be back ;-)

Tux Typing will see a 0.8 release this week (probably friday), and should also see a website redesign (in keeping with my Geekcomix site redesign I mentionned yesterday.) The new site will no longer be powered by Noink1, but will instead be powered by what will become the components of Noink2. (For Noink2, I am moving more towards a modular approach to web content. Instead of one big monolithic app powering the whole thing [like Noink1] I will have a suite of small scripts which perform different basic tasks. This will actually return Noink back to its origins.)

Other than this, I have no news.... and I have mucho e-mail to catch up on, so I'll be signing off for today ;-)

2001 May 14 (Mon), 13:56 Netscape must die

I am so pissed off... this is actually the 2nd time I have had to write this diary entry thanks to Vunderful Netscape. All I did was check to see what version of the browser I was using... but that took me to a new page, and when I backed out, my entry in my diary was gone! YEARGH! Honestly, I really must upgrade my desktop so that I can use KDE 2.x (like on my laptop) and ditch Netscape to just use Konqueror....

TUX TYPING VERSION 0.8 IS OUT!! Joy! This last development cycle has been the most arduous and difficult one yet. Granted we became "feature complete" during this dev cycle, so all we have left to do is debugging.... and debugging is always less fun than adding new features! So this means that the future dev cycles till we hit 1.x will be even more trying.... but oh well.... Such is life!

Still, I am really stoked that we finally got this release out. It's actually been ready for about a week, but because of all the recent headaches in my life (largely centering around the loss of AC in my home) I just haven't had time to box it up and ship it.

This release also marks a massive revamping of the Geekcomix web-sites (and, thus, the Tux Typing web-site). It's unfortunate timing... but it can't be helped. It means that there will be broken links, and other buggy-wuggies. As a matter of fact, I have already noticed that when I browse the Tux Typing web-site using my older Netscape (4.72) instead of Konqueror or a newer version of Netscape or Mozilla, the site loads mind-numbingly slow. I will have to resolve what this problem is soon... because it's starting to piss me off...

Hmmm.... anything else? I guess not.

2001 May 17 (Thu), 12:38 Torn by Bubbles

Alright, this is not much of a project update... but it is a good diary entry. I am going to mention some of the goings on in my life lately.

For one, I have been playing quite a few games these last few weeks. I have been between consulting gigs, looking for something a bit more permanent (please please please), so I have been dividing my time largely between a few open-source projects, and playing games.
Zone of the Enders for the PS2 by Konami.

Purchased this game on Mon. of this week.... Beat it by Wed.! Total game time: 6:06. Yup, this was a very short game. The game was awesome. It was very fun. It was produced by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, and it has a demo disc of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Hideo Kojima is a very talented producer, and this game really shows it. The game has incredible graphics, a pretty engaging storyline, and excellent gameplay. But its length really left me cold. It's one of those games where you spend the whole game trying to get to a goal, only to have the game end part-way through the story (very much like Shemue, except not as long). Honestly, I did feel robbed. $50 for this?! Sure it was very fun, but I would like more playtime for my money. A recent article on EP talked about this, saying that producers are focusing more on "Quality over Quantity"... and I think this is bunk. Producers are just using that as an excuse to get lazy. I really enjoyed the few weeks I was able to get out of Oni (PS2), and the several months I got from Dark Saviour (Saturn).

At any rate, I still enjoyed ZOE, but would recommend anyone else interested in it to wait until its price comes down. The MGS2 demo disc does not make up for the fact that ZOE ends only after a few hours of gameplay.

SUPERmagnetic NEO by Crave Ent. for the Sega DC.

I have been a fan of Crave Ent. for some time... but I wasn't expecting that much from NEO. It's got this goofy character, wierd animations, and was just under promoted. When I picked it up for 8 bucks at my local Toys R Us, little did I know that this really is a great game.

It plays very much like the Crash Bandicoot style games (3D platforming, but still very linear) except with the gimmick that NEO has this magnet thing on his head which he can change the polarity to at will. What does this do for the game? Well, like real magnets, opposite poles attract and like poles repell. You use these properties in the game to attract or repell objects, enemies, etc. or even move yourself around on magnetic items. This makes for some very unique gameplay.

If you have a Sega DC, and aren't morally opposed to Crash Bandicoot style platformers, then you should look into obtaining this game. You wont regret it.

Descent 3 from Loki for Linux (Intel PC).

It's amazing to me how much I have gotten into this dumb game! It's not a big blockbuster hit like Q3A, UT, Tribes 2, or HG2, but I have had much more fun with it than any of these others. I am presently working on my own little review of the game which I will post sometime in the future.
Here's a brief project update:
  • Tux Typing: I have layed down (on the dev list) what I feel are the blocking issues we should resolve for a 0.9 release. I have also made a little roadmap for what I'd like to do with the project in the future. I am still holding that I want to stop working so hard on it once we hit 1.x, but we have been recently discussing internationalization, at least in the word files. I think it's a good idea, but want to wait until we hit 1.x. Other than a lot of talk, nothing much has happenned since our last release (on Monday of this week). I have been taking some time off to focus on my site redesign, as well as the Noink2 coding. I want to release some Noink2 items ASAP.
  • Noink2 (no web-site up yet): I have gotten what I call "noNews-lite" up to version 0.8.2. It currently powers my personal web-site as well as keeps my Advogato page current. I just need to release it. I also am working on removing the site archival routines worth saving from Noink and placing them into a seperate Noink2 archival module. As soon as I get a page up for Noink2, I'll announce and release everything I have. Hopefully I can find the same kind of support for Noink2 as I had for Noink.

2001 May 18 (Fri), 10:15 TUSD Teachers Sick Out

I just want to step in and post my little commentary on this whole TUSD teacher sick out happenning today.

My wife is a teacher in TUSD. She has been a teacher for seven years, five of which have been in this district. During that time, her yearly salary increase promised by TUSD was supposed to be 3% (a paltry ammount by anyone's standards). However, TUSD has consistantly failed on that promise district wide. Some years they have given 1% salary increases... but most years it has been no increase whatsoever.

Now, after seven years of teaching, my wife is actually making less than she did when she first started teaching. She has to spend approx. $1000 per year for district required teacher development. She also spends around $6000 per year for district required medical insurance. After all is said and done, she brings home less than $15,000 per year. Her work requires her to leave in the morning at 6am, and not return home until after 5pm. She used to teach summer school to help augment our income, but for the last two years her school's budget has not allowed summer school to even take place.

The conflict between TUSD and the TEA today is because the tax payers voted to give the parents a pay increase in addition to the 3% one they should already be getting. However, TUSD saw this extra money as opportunity to squelch even more and take two years off from giving teachers a pay increase. In the interim, TUSD management salaries have gone up every year. Add to this the fact that next year, the $6000 insurance requirement will go up by $500, and you can see that there is no way TUSD officials can reasonably expect their teachers to survive. I'm sorry, $15,000 per year just doesn't cut it for my wife and I living in Tucson, AZ.

TUSD schools are ranked 48 of 50th in the nation, because of horrible administration at the district level and teachers who don't stand up for their rights.

Last I checked, only 836 teachers are participating in the sick-out. TUSD has an average of 230 teachers out sick everyday! 836 is a scant over double that! WTF? This means that the vast majority of teachers in TUSD are total idiots and either don't know or don't care they are being screwed!

My wife (who is out sick today) and I were talking about this this morning. She said you don't go into teaching for the money. You'd have to be a complete fool to think that teachers weren't underpaid. But you do hope to be able to survive....

With me being in between "real" jobs these last few months, we haven't been surviving on primarily a teacher's income. We've had to borrow from parents, and rely on our tax returns to make it this far. But come this summer, my wife is going to have to find other work (work for the summer) just so we can get by! Anyone who thinks teachers are just whining and should just get back to work doesn't have a clue.... They've never seen how my wife and I have had to eat Top Ramen for months just to survive... or go for two months in hot, hot Tucson AZ with no air conditioning in our home because we couldn't afford a lousy $20 pump. Teachers are underappreciated and underpaid.... especially here in TUSD... and I challenge anyone out there who thinks differently to convince me otherwise.

2001 May 19 (Sat), 14:09 Carnivorous Duplex

Okay, today's entry will be far less incitive. After some nasty news coverage where the TUSD's current superintendent made some rather idiotic comments (on one program he said that the only teachers who should be worried about their jobs are the ones who were picketing.... guess he hasn't heard that lawful picketing is protected under the First Amendment) things pretty much calmed down.

This morning saw some flurries of project action, so let me get right down to the nitty-gritty:
  • Tux Typing: This morning I woke to a patch that fixed the "yellow outline" problem with the images. This problem has been around since version 0.2, when I scaled the screen down. The problem arose from scaling down images that had already been indexed and not keeping the originals. It had been a problem I had been putting off because it would be quite laborious. The same guy (the dude's a machine ;-) later on submitted a patch which allowed us to ditch the use of GIFs (patent concerns) in favor of PNGs. I really appreciated it, he was a great help. I've also applied Jesse Andrews' patch fixing the congratulations bug but haven't yet closed the bug in tracker. This is because we all recognize there is likely a better way to fix this, but until anyone is willing to dig through that section of code to find out, at least we'll have something.
  • Noink2 (no URL yet): I really need to start up a site for Noink2 so I can distribute code. We have noNews-lite working very well, and have a beta version of noForum. I also would like to start something I'm calling NWWM (Noink2 Web Window Manager) or maybe NoWM (to keep with the current naming scheme). This wil be a way to dynamically created Window Manger-like environments within JavaScript compatible browsers. It will integrate with the other Noink2 modules, but will allow the developer to create some very neat looking and acting web-sites. I wish I could say the idea was originally mine (because it's very kewl), but I have been inspired by quite a few nifty sites out there. The website for 5DWM is just one example of the functionality I want from this Noink2 module. When I next get a chance, I will begin hacking away at it.
Other than these... no real news. My parents are coming down in a couple of weeks and my wife and I have been tidying up.