Sunday, December 06, 2009

Winter's comming around

Well winter's finally comming around not much to report right now. I'm currently working part time for a casual computer game company. Being able to excerise more of your creative energy on your software projects is highly refreshing.

Along the side I'm also putting together a left 4 dead campaign. Currently we're in the final stages of the first map being complete. Were just retrofitting the layout and doing better lighting for some of the sections.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Finishing up Grad Studies

Well finally the end is in sight one way or another the graduate degree chapter will be over. Right now there's a lot of back and forth as final corrections are being thrown around and a committee is being put together.

I personally am a little bit panicky from time to time because I feel that I'm behind schedule but that is most likely because I like to finish things ahead of schedule so I schedule things in such a way that it will happen.

I'm hoping by next week I'll have a more accurate idea of when is the exact day I will be finishing. I hope everything is in order so schedules for post-graduate activities don't have to be pushed back.

I am looking quite intently at the beginning of my career post graduation a lot of exciting stuff coming up looking forward to it all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

RC Day Out

The more RC's you get the long it seems these RC days out get. Today's RC'ing lasted over 1 hour! I had a chance to run everything in my fleet once. This includes both helicopters (Blade CP, and Blade 400) and the RC car (Tamiya TL01 using aircraft lipo for insane power).




I finally learned nose-in hover today. The funny part was I've been able to nose in hover for over 1 year now in the simulator. But whenever I took it out into the real world I always felt like I didn't learn anything and chickened out. Today I took the "learn or bust" strategy with the Blade CP. Basically I was going to force myself to learn it or allow the Blade CP to be destroyed in the process. After a slight initial adjustment period of about 1 minute it turns out I could hover nose in semi-accurately for as long as I want without returning to a more comfortable orientation. I was very startled by how long I avoided doing it but at the same time not too surprised as I know I could perform the same skill for very long periods in the sim. After confirming my skills on the Blade CP with the training gear I decided to give it a go on the Blade 400 a much more scarier bird. The results were even more impressive since the Blade 400 is more stable to begin with I hovered nose-in for the entire pack with only slight periods of drift and correction.

I think the lesson is if you have been able to perform the same skill in the sim but always felt uncomfortable with it in real life and have been stuck. Sometimes just forcing yourself to do it and accepting that your heli might be sacrificed has surprisingly positive results. When your brain realizes it can't just retreat it steps up to the plate and performs amazingly.

I also had a chance to try out my RC car with a very modified power plant. It's a standard RC car but it runs a 200A aircraft lipo compatible speed controller. The speeds were spectacular off the helicopter power packs which have much higher discharge rates than the car motor normally runs off of. Today's test was several runs that would stress the speed controller and motor to find out if any of the components would burn up after prolonged use. Although the motor did go above 125 degC and the speed controller equally toasty at 80 DegC none of the components started smoking or failing so I'm going to cautiously give this configuration a pass for race use. The car can now reach speeds beyond 70Km/h and you will quickly run out of space in even football field sized parking lots at top speed. I've noticed with this incredible amount of power the 23T pinion is starting to show signs of wear, I assume that I will have to change the pinion out periodically if I still choose to run the car in "insane" speed freak mode.

I thought about selling the Blade CP before I'm glad I didn't I would never dare force myself to train with the Blade 400 under do or die conditions the Blade 400 is far to dangerous to allow a crash on purpose with it. The Blade CP is still an awesome trainer regardless of what everyone says.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Dual Speaker Setup

Theory: If speakers all have their weaknesses (High, Low, Midrange) then would combining speakers with different strengths improve things?




Logitech Z-2300 THX speaker set:

Strengths: Highs, Lows,

Weakness: Speech, Mid range, Rumbling bass



Yamaha MS201:

Strengths: Mid-Range. Accurate but weak bass

Weakness: Highs, Ultra low



Standard single 3.5mm to Dual 3.5mm splitter jack.




Result? Well I've yet unconfirmed a true result but I do notice slightly improved midrange when compared to the stock Z2300 setup the vocals come through clearer and are more center stage rather being drowned out by the accompaniment.

I wouldn't recommend you go out and buy a setup to get this effect though the reality is that the Logitech Z-2300 does a pretty good job already. The Yamaha's do a very good job of filling in the mid range which was lacking in the Logitech. In particular the bass is now not only loud and thunderous but also accurate and fast which would be impossible with the vented setup. But now with two subs one vented one unvented I get the best of the mixing.

The satellites are more interesting it takes a bit of adjusting to get the mix right depending on your preference the mixing is about 40% Yamaha 60% Logitech now.

Do I see a sizable gain?: A slight gain yes, a sizable gain no certainly not if you didn't have the extra equipment on hand. However if you do have 2 speakers that you both like different qualities to it might be worth a shot to bring them together.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

iTunes Monitor


iTunes on the PC is quite popular but iTunes has a nasty habit of more often than not eating up way too many resources even while it's not running.

The culprit?

iTunes needs several services that it doesn't shutdown when it closes these are:





(and a few others)


I found this unacceptable so I wrote a little program I call the iTunesMonitor. It's sole job is to set all these services to manual so you don't get them on startup and to launch them when it's started and then launch iTunes once all the services are up.

The program then sits idle in the background checking every 5 seconds to see if iTunes is closed. When it sees this it will immediately clean up any remaining services.

What about the media keys they don't seem to work one you don't have iTunes in focus. Well since my program has to sit in the background and wait for iTunes to close anyways I felt that I should fix the way media keys behave. Now iTunes will respond to media keys regardless of if it's in focus or not and the media keys are unregistered when the program is closed.


Try iTunesMonitor for yourself. It requires no configuration other than an installation of iTunes. It will automatically detect your installation of iTunes and launch it along with the supported services. No configuration is required however it is recommended you replace the iTunes icon in your start menu with the iTunesMonitor for transparent operation.


Download iTunesMonitor 2.5

Thursday, May 07, 2009

ToJam 2009

Tojam 2009 concluded last Sunday. By far ToJam is the craziest most fast paced game development competition around. Teams and individuals try and put a game out from scratch in just 3 days.


Most teams work around the clock forgoing sleep to nurture their creations.


Team AnyKey pictured here this year went with a very ambitious project, and some members including myself are still spending a few hours a week tuning the final result for the arcade.


There were many days where we went from Extreme coders to musicians to artists in a way ToJam is less about what you know and more about raw talent. To anyone thinking of going to ToJam but fear they won't place, come anyway! Part of the joys of ToJam is being around great people doing what you love and learning in the process.



There were plenty of awesome games to be seen many of them way too good for you to feel like they could've been created in 3 days.


I can't credit these pictures above they were taken by David Vanvliet, another participant at the event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Better Game Sound Engine For AnyKey tojam#4

Today I had a thought about something quite interesting leading up to our game competition. Since none of us are music experts and all music loops are quite short and designed to be connected to each other I'm proposing a very interesting change to our game music engine.

Our original music engine was monolithic as in it only played one massive track.

< Level >

We could in simple terms switch to a basic shuffle system

< Level >

But then I thought of a much better idea which I hope to be able to be able to implement today or tomorrow. Each song data will consist of 2 parts the track itself and a linked list reference to another part. Music then becomes a sort of directed graph with cycles. Edges then can be taken randomly. This kind of thing is better explained with a picture.


Sound Engine

The advantage to using this system is that we can prevent one obvious section from continuously looping and we can enforce tracks that sound better after each other to happen. The end result is a pseudo-random music that will make the listener think it's more intelligent than it is.

Auto-generated in game music

Today I had a thought about something quite interesting leading up to our game competition. Since none of us are music experts and all music loops are quite short and designed to be connected to each other I'm proposing a very interesting change to our game music engine.

Our original music engine was monolithic as in it only played one massive track.

< Level >

We could in simple terms switch to a basic shuffle system

< Level >

But then I thought of a much better idea which I hope to be able to be able to implement today or tomorrow. Each song data will consist of 2 parts the track itself and a linked list reference to another part. Music then becomes a sort of directed graph with cycles. Edges then can be taken randomly

ToJam 09 (pre-event info)

ToJam #4 is taking place this weekend from Friday to Sunday. I always enjoy this event but there are currently a few lingering issues:

1. The organizers via twitter have already stated that there is no wired internet and there might not be wireless.

When someone says might not be wireless, what they mean is some fool forgot to secure their open wi-fi and it's now going to be bombarded by 100 participants of the event. The organizers are looking into tethering but I doubt one device will be able to support the rates required for things like downloading art assets or free soundtracks.

For that reason our team is considering also having a tethered option for this event.

I'd personally imagine teams by now will have their game idea done, and I'm hoping there won't be any of that "tape giant sound blaster posters on the sun facing window" fiasco we had last year.

Hopefully mickey the mouse was cleaned up too.

At the same time team Any Key this year will probably not bring a mountain of snacks making us by far the snack team.

Currently I'm debating if I should bring my linux box to the event with it's sole purpose to act as a GIT repo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pork + Apples

Today I tried an amazing recipe (which was franken adjusted to my tastes)


Take pork chop steaks boneless butterfly it, then take dill apple and onion chopped with a little butter for good measure and stuff the steaks in it. Finally finish with a dash of pepper.


When cooking the steaks in the oven be sure to add 1/2 cup of apple juice to the bottom of the cooking sheet to keep everything moist.


It's delicious!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dell Laptop Owner's Beware

If you have an Inspirion 9400/e1605 chances are you video has went on you. It's not new news anyone with an nVidia card either be Go 7800 or 7900 GS will fail. The 7900GS has a far higher failure rate with most of these cards dying from artifacts that look like lines going up and down the screen.

If Dell offers to extend your warranty DO IT! I'm already on my 4th card.

My first card was a Go 7800 by far this card lasted the longest as it worked fine in my system for the first 2 years.

Upon failing the Dell service depot did not have any of the parts in stock, so they substituted it with a Go 7900GS video card. I was happy that I got a free upgrade to a slightly faster card but unfortunately after 2 months this card failed.

The third replacement was again a 7900GS this by far was the shortest lifespan as within 1 month and 1 week it also died (you can confirm this by searching the archives).

Now I'm on my 4th card, I'm a bit disappointed that Dell replaced my last fancy Go 7900GS with the older Go 7800 which generates a lot more heat and performs weaker. That said after contacting Dell several times to get this remedied I just decided it was too much hassle and most likely this Go 7800 judging from how much heat it generates will just go up in smoke before the 1 year warranty is up anyways.

Video cards for the dell Inspiron 9400/e1705 are becoming ridiculously expensive on ebay now with prices now well into the $400 CDN range. If you were to upgrade to a 7900 GTX or a 2500M be prepared to shell out at least $500 now. That said I've heard that the 7900 GTX has much better cooling and will not go up in smoke like the Go 7800 and 7900GS.

For those that are interested I'll be sure to update the blog the next time this video card goes up in smoke, I'd also like to hear any horror stories you might have had as this is very a very common design flaw. Maybe if anyone has a solution to this it would be nice as well.

Right now I just needed to get this down for those of you wondering if you just got a lemon of a laptop. Let's just say all Inspiron 9400/e1705 are like this and you should expect to have to have your video card swapped out regularly.

Long Weekend

Back in Toronto for the long weekend. Not much to do, had a chance to give the car a quick clean and wax for today while the weather was slightly nice. Still very chilly though.

1. Clean (with mitt)
2. Initial wax layer applied with orbital buffer <-- step just applied today
3. Inspection (will be done tomorrow not enough light today)
4. Post-inspection touch up (re-wax missed areas and non glossy areas)
5. Interior recoat (F303 aerospace protectant)
6. Glass recoat (Rain-X)
7. Glass final spotless clean (with Stoner's Invisible glass)

(obsessive much?)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Washroom Humor

One problem with symbolic information is how it can be interpreted in different ways take this for example.

On first inspection it's just a normal hand dryer, but if you look closer...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Laptop Revived

Well the laptop arrived back 2 days ago after some more through tests I can confirm that the new video card is working fine.

Unfortunately I do feel like I can't endorse Dell anymore 2 times failure is now a pattern. I've ordered some thermal gap fillers from the other side of the world these are the same ones that go over some laptop IC components in order to dissipate heat. I'm hoping I can replace my current pads with these ones which are suppose to perform better.

When these pads arrive I will also put a new layer of OCZ freeze on which is generally 5 degrees better than my current Xigmatek brand thermal compound.

I also have another GPU I'm bidding on with a dual slot cooler provided the bidding doesn't get out of hand this will become my primary while the current card becomes the spare.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laptop Video Dead

It would appear that after my recent laptop video replaced under warrenty this new one also died.

I'm starting to suspect nVidia QA issues with my GeForce Go 7900 GS as well. What's strange is both GPU cards died from a vram related issue. I suspect that the cooling pads for the vram are not sufficient to cool down the chips. Unfortunately I don't really see a way of correcting this issue.

Perhaps with my next unit I will put better thermal compound between the GPU core and the heat shield but I doubt that will fix the issue because the ram chips are the ones that are dying no doubt due to thermal expansion and contraction of the solder joints.

if you have a Dell Inspiron 9400/e1705 with an nVidia or ATI graphics card and suddenly get a BSOD with a NMI: Memory Parity/Check error, you can be pretty sure your video card is starting to go bad and the memory in question is vram.

For my next mod once the video card is back I will try and replace the thermal pads with a solid aluminum block along with buffing the surface to hopefully improve the thermals just enough to prevent another premature failure. Failing that my only solution is to continue buying new video cards off ebay as they are a "hot" item (excuse the pun) for this model of laptop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SpeedStream 4200 Cooling MOD

After having the SpeedStream4200 around for about 2 weeks I decided that the tiny diminutive DSL modem has serious cooling issues. Under normal conditions when it's allowed to lie flat on the table the bottom will get too hot to touch.


The problem became more serious when the modem was taken apart, the main processor on the board was hot enough to give you a burn.



Although I have no doubt the modem is operating within operating ranges it's still inexcusable how sometimes a simple heatsink that would've cost less than a dollar would've remedied the situation and greatly reduced the number of these modems that have been known to fail.

An easy fix for those of you DIY'ers is to take some aluminum thermal duct tape and to fold your own semi-pro looking heat sink.



Remember the trick when trying to create your own is to start with an accordion fold. The higher you can get the cooling fins the better your cooling will be. The denser you can pack them together likewise will help as well. Passive cooling is a function of surface area so when designing your heat sink try and maximize that. Although I haven't done it another good idea is to mount a cooling fan nearby to encourage airflow over the chip.

I hope in the future manufacturers won't take shortcuts after an hour of testing temperatures appear to be dramatically reduced.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Source Dedicated Server On Linux

Here's a quick guide to how to get any server up and running on linux from scratch.

  1. Go to the steam website and download the "hldsupdatetool.bin"

  2. Make a new directory for your steam install mkdir steam

  3. hldsupdatetool.bin is actually a self extracting executable it extracts the executable steam into your new directory

  4. Now you need to execute steam auto-update to grab the binary files
    ./steam -command update -game [gamename] -dir [installdir]

    The [gamename] can be:

    • tf: Team Fortress 2

    • l4d_full: Left4Dead

    • esmod: Eternal Silence

    The [installdir] is where you want it to put the game for modular installs you should place sub directory so each game will live in it's own directory.

    ./steam -command update -game l4d_full -dir .

  5. To run your server you navigate to your server directory and execute the following command
    ./srcds_run -autoupdate -game left4dead +maxplayers 4

Have fun!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This seems to be the week that everyone works overtime. Me I'm starting my T.A. stint for the year and everyone else I know is in hyper busy mode. I hope that this rough spot subsides.