Name: Alastair Rankine
Member since: 2001-04-09 11:31:19
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Recent blog entries by ar

19 Apr 2001 (updated 19 Apr 2001 at 00:03 UTC) »

Audiogalaxy is a kickarse music swapping system that I have been really getting into of late. I just recently upgraded to the latest version of the client software ("Satellite") which by default installs a bit of spyware called webHancer.

It's designed to measure certain performance- related characteristics of your internet connection (like RTT, DNS lookup time, etc).

[Aside: They go to great pains to point out that webHancer only send anonymous information, but at the same time they make it difficult to verify this (ie you need to packet sniff). Contrast this with the anonymous usage info requested by Eudora, which lets you review the information to be sent. Guess which goes a lot further at earning the trust of the average punter?]

This thing is supposed to be unobtrusive, but it turns out to conflict with Rational ClearCase. I found this out the hard way.

[Another aside: Lots of people dislike the complexity of clearcase, instead preferring CVS. Whilst this is nice, there is no source code control system out there with as much power as Clearcase. It really is an amazing product, albiet annoying at times.]

Anyway, the story is that my clearcase albd_server wouldn't start. This is bad, because it's the equivalent of 'init' for clearcase; the parent which starts all the clearcase child processes and manages communications etc. It started and then exited straight away with mysterious "file not found" and "UDP socket" error messages in the windows event log.

I initially investigated this as a problem with the UDP port opened by another process. Not so. The FPortNG tool is a handy way of mapping open sockets to processes (something that netstat can't do BTW). Using this I quickly found which processes were using the open UDP sockets and eliminated them as causes of the problem.

So, changing tack, I looked at the file not found error. To do this, I used the excellent ntfilemon utility from sysinternals. Set this up with a filter on "albd_server.exe:" (note the colon), and it quite happily spewed out all the file accesses for this process every time I started it from the services control panel (actually a MMC thingy in Win2k but who cares?).

Initially I was stumped because I was looking for error messages, and most of the file access showed successful completion. However purely by chance I happened to notice that the albd_server.exe process was accessing files in the webHancer directory (!). A quick uninstall, reboot, and all of my clearcase problems went away. Problem solved, at least as far as I am concerned.

Of course, after successfully tracking down the source of the problem, I report my results to the Rational support person I had been corresponding with. Naturally he response with "oh yes this is a known problem, here's the technote that describes it". Grrrr!

I also reported it to webHancer using their feedback form, but heard nothing back. Of course.

My view on this game has gone from white to black.

Micromanagement of the villagers is a PITA. I'm stuck on the second land, and whilst I was off busily getting the next village coverted to believe in me (which was kinda fun actually, with the creature dancing around and stuff), my home villagers all but died off! I'm left with 7 of the little buggers, and they were ALL worshipping me, none were procreating or getting food or wood.

So this led to me spending 15 mins playing the dating game. Pick a male villager and try to match him up with a female. Even finding a spare female was a task in itself! (Hey I can remember when this took a substantial proportion of my real life, why I'd want to go back and do it in a game is beyond me!)

So anyway whilst I'm doing all this, the silver quest that I triggered in the new village is counting down the seconds, and I cant complete it because there are no worshippers left for me to cast miracles with! Now they think I'm an evil god. I'm not evil, just overworked.

And if all this wasnt enough to contend with, you've got to think about training the creature. Not an onerous task, except when you're off doing something and the little 'whitey' guy pops up and says something like "from now on your creature will eat more of that kind of thing". WHAT bloody kind of thing? He could have barbequed half my village for all I know. This means you have to instantly focus on the creature and reward/punish him whenever he does something. Annoying.

So just too much micromanagement. I guess this is 'challenging' in some games, but I guess I expected more puzzle solving and moral dillemas rather than perpetually feeding worshipping villagers. Maybe I should be more of a vengeful god and avoid all the stress, the little bastards can fend for themselves!

Other minor annoyances. The gesture system sucks; I cant seem do it when I want to, and vice versa. Save game takes ages. Occasional crashes. Oh, and "We must conquor Lethys' villages ally!". Say no more.

Sometimes I just want to blow shit up. Is that too much to ask? Serious Sam looks like fun.

Anyway, think I'll give B&W another go, this time as an evil god. Hopefully the rumoured patch will come out and make the game easier to play. We shall see.

I dosed up on 'V' (the drink, not the classic 80s soap-fi series) last Friday night and dived into Black & White.

For the most part it's a great game that lives up to the promise of playing god in a virtual world. For example, on the first island there are lots of silver quests (ie side plots) for various things. A particularly satisfying moment for me was such a silver quest for a remote hermit mountain guy who said he wouldn't believe in me until he had seen my creature. I dragged the creature all the way over there, only to have him respond "is that it?" I smote that bastard by throwing him halfway across the island into a mountain. Quite amusing. Yea verily I am a vengeful god.

Does anyone else find it a bloody complicated game? Fortunately there's a great tutorial which flows nicely into the story, and is pretty fun to play, but I find myself reading the manual and all of the helpful signposts a fair bit also. Maybe it's because the entire thing is a combination of RPG/RTS/fighting games (plus more)...

The creature stuff is interesting, but to be honest I don't really see the point. It's a bit frustrating teaching the creature, as they don't always learn what you want them to learn. (It doesn't help that I was punishing my creature to get him to eat something!) I guess all will become clear as he becomes smarter and more able.

The combat system really has me baffled. I've never been very good at the mortal combat sytle of game, but it took me about 3 gos before beating that ogre (Skeg?) on the first island. I still don't know what they mean by pre- selecting moves during combat.... ?

On the second island the realtime strategy stuff really comes into its own, and I really liked it. I can imagine that building up a village and fighting other gods in this way would be lots of fun, if a little difficult. Was pleased to see that not all is lost after you cut down all the forests - as a god you can just make more (it's a miracle!).

What else? Oh yer, the graphics are absolutely stunning. Bear in mind you will need a grunty graphics card though. My G400MAX can _just_ cut it, but would be great to add a few FPSs here and there. Also, try to get a wheely mouse, makes the camera control a fair bit easier (though I still get lost sometimes). Anyone know how to make the thumb buttons on the MS Explorer mouse work?

Anyway in summary I really look forward to delving more into this game - it really is an excellent, genre breaking piece of work.

9 Apr 2001 (updated 9 Apr 2001 at 11:40 UTC) »

Just saw th is, bound to cause a flap.

Linus not known for provocative statements such as this.

Have to say that after seeing the performance difference first-hand between Mach-based Linux and monolithic Linix on similar hardware, I lean heavily towards the latter! The 7200/120 with LinuxPPC is a quite usable day-to-day machine, whereas my old 8100/80 with MkLinux is not really.

Hmm, this looks like a good place to post various nerdy opinions and exploits that might not get posted elsewhere.


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