12 Mar 2001 jameson   » (Master)

Well, it's been a while...

FreeSCI
Slashdotted! Somehow, I had expected to rise to a higher level of awareness, or something like that. Well, can't have everything.
Anyway, we now have sound, tri-linear filtering (plus something I used to call bi-linear filtering which definitely isn't), alpha-blending on Alphas (see "Assembly" below- it's just a feature, so I didn't feel too bad coding this non-portably), and lots of bug fixes. I guess it's time to prepare for a feature freeze again...

Exult
Haven't touched that project in a while, but will get back to it soon- they're gearing up to the next release, so I'd better make sure cxx works.

Assembly
It's been the first time since roughly two years that I touched assembly again, and it feels quite weird. The Alpha instruction set is so much different from the ia32 one I grew up with. With all of its extensions, it's not quite as clean as the original MIPS one, but the core concepts are pretty clean and RISC. I definitely don't mourn my ia32 assembly days.
It's really a pity that we (well, most of us, anyway) are stuck on the ia32 architecture because of "binary compatibility" issues. Shouldn't it be possible to do a complete flow analysis of a program, transform it into a device-independant representation (java bytecode comes to mind, although I'd prefer something more functional and tree-like... maybe RTL?), and then re-assemble it on an arbitrary target device? Sort of a ia32 compiler frontend.
Normal compilers generally have to make some concessions towards code generation; specifically, they need to be reasonably fast in order not to slow down the development cycle (used to be a major problem before harddisks and compilers with few passes became common- those advances pretty much killed off research in incremental compilers, but that's a different story). However, a cross-assembler would typically be run on a program that is known to be working already; therefore, if the cross-assembler itself was fully operational, it would not be required to be run more than once for each program; consequently, it could be slow as hell (hey, it should be possible to get Prolog to do that stuff by back-tracking...). External functions (e.g. DOS: Int 0x10, 0xa000 memory access) would still have to be modelled in some way, of course, but I don't see why this shouldn't be possible if we accept a moderate performance loss. Has anybody heard of a project like this?
Anyway, this is too much work for a project for the evenings; maybe I should look into this (or the theoretical aspect of it, at least) for my Master's Thesis...

Work
Yeah, I'm back at work again. XPath, XSLT, Java, some business buzzwords, and roughly everything in between. This in itself would be pretty boring, but I just love the work atmosphere- being a research institute, we have enough time to think about things before we build them, and our bosses actually have some clue about the stuff they're doing (or, at least, are able to admit it and ask for help if they don't, which appears to be a surprisingly uncommon feature). Anyway, I got to install Debian/Sparc on a Sparc notebook (which didn't have working fd support). A rather fun and enlightening experience, until I got to the point where it turned out that 'sed' would segfault on complicated stuff, such as the stuff done in configure scripts. OK, NP, just grabbed the most recent release from the GNU ftp server, ran ./configure...
D'Oh.
OK, well, maybe it wouldn't be quite that easy. Still, a manual compile didn't really improve the situation- it built, but it segfaulted all the same. So I took the BSD sed and tried to compile that. This was the moment where I realized that the BSD people care for OS independance in their system tools about as much as the GNU guys do...
Anyway, it works now. Anyone who wants a copy of the ported BSD sed, just give me a call.

"Retro gaming"
(Warning: Rant ahead)
That phrase sounds pretty weird to me. It's implication is that the games it covers are "obsolete" in some way, that they're more of a historic curiosity than an actual game.
I beg to differ.
Don't get me wrong- I whole-heartedly agree that there are great games with much better graphics and sound than, say, Space Quest 3 or Ultima 7, and that some of those games are actually fun and challenging.
(Of course I've grown somewhat out of touch with the "gaming community", so I'll just assume that there are any new games which fit that description...)
Still, how does that obsolete those old games? I mean, chess or Go are ages old, however someone playing them is not considered to be "retro". Some games which are only a few decades in age, though, are looked down upon, people generally assuming that a WAFF might be the only reason to re-play them.
I guess this is yet another sign of how much power advertisement companies, marketing divisions, and mass media hold over us nowadays. They don't need to convince everyone, but if they convince enough people, those will convince others. In this case, they'll convince them that they need those great new graphics and surround sound, or they're stupid.
Dealing with this kind of mental enslavement is likely to be one of the greater challenges of our future (and no, I'm not just talking about "retro gaming" here...)

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