XIII – The Game

My beautiful wife really understands how to make her husband happy. For Christmas she gave me a copy of the game XIII by Ubi Soft. It’s based on a comic and has been converted into a first person shooter (like Quake). However, the conversion has retained all the style of the comic, with the whole world being rendered as comic scenes, and with “inset” sequences to show off-screen action from things like grenades, or enemies walking around. Explosions are also rendered with a “BOOOM”. While this may seem like a really campy way to develop a game, it’s just awesome.
The cut scenes are fantastic, the story is great and more importantly the game-play is really good. The story is dragged along by a solid sequence of red-shirts followed by the occasional “boss” monster. The only down-side (for me) is the save-game feature is based on reaching milestones rather than being able to save the game at any time. While some might revel at the need to play a level perfectly to finish it, I’m more interested in continuing on, and on one particular level (involving a submarine in a bay) I fell to my death after dispatching all the bad guys. It was rather annoying to have to go back and kill them all again.
Favourite weapon: Crossbow. Mostly for the really cool headshot scenes that show in 3 frames the death of the enemy. And what’s more the frames are rendered each time differently showing the bolt sticking out of the bad guys head. Woot!
Go and buy it. It’s great.

Apologies to U2, but this really is the sweetest thing

I’m going to start this blog with a big thanks to all the guys at Myretsu for including me on their beta program for their new project. This project is Majitek. Basically, it’s a software infrastructure for building distributed co-operating systems. Think things like Jini, but with development environments and a runtime container that does all the hard work, allowing developers to build the behaviour, and people to plug the behaviour together. As an example of what can be done, check out this MajikHouse.
Now, back to the cool bit. As part of the program, I ended up with some X10 gear. A control box, some switches for lights, appliances, lamps and a remote control. This stuff rocks, really rocks. I’m a device nerd at heart and to be able to turn off the Christmas tree lights using a remote control or my computer just rocks my world. Now my next plan is to build something like this and try and integrate it with Cthugha.
I need to get out more….

RSS Readers

Now that I’ve entered the world of blogging (<sigh>, another kewl internet term for people with attention spans of goldfish) I’ve found that actually trying to read a blog is a real pain in the butt.

So, I downloaded FeedReader.

There are a whole bunch of hotkeys to do things, but I couldn’t find any documentation so I found a bunch. Here are some highlights :

^M - opens the currently selected item in your web browser
^R - marks everything in the selected feed as read
^H - opens the "Home Page" of the selected feed (*new*)
F3 - opens search box
F5 - updates everything
F7 - create "list view" mode for unread items
F11 - toggles between 3 pane and full screen

It’s an alpha, but it seems to work well apart from a few quirks relating to screen repainting during network operations.

Learning in the heat of battle

I was having a discussion recently with a cow-orker about how the Lean Development Book was looking at the process of development using very military type terms.
In particular, the teams were very much like SAS, Special Forces teams. Highly skilled, highly trained and highly motivated. This can also be applied to sporting teams with similar characteristics (and less guns).
Great, that sounds like a good analogy, software developers tend to display similar characteristics. However, when looking at this analogy a little further, one really startling revelation came to light. The military and sporting teams spend 90% (or more) of their time training, and only 10% (or less) of their time performing their duties. All the training is done to set up their skills and techniques so that when the time comes and the heat is on, they will react appropriately, with good cohesion.
They’re not learning on the job, or in the heat of combat. They’ve done all their learning, and they are adjusting, using their knowledge to make good decisions, reacting the changes in the flow of the situation and working out new plans. I want to make it clear that it’s not an automatic response, but rely on good judgement and good decision making. However, the bulk of the knowledge,skills and techniques gained is during training where making mistakes and exploring the problem domain is a safe experience.
Now, contrast that with software development. We learn primarily on the job. I mean, how many people have organisations that allow for “project simulations” where you run a project and can explore what happens when you change parameters ? If so, tell me about it.
How can out industry sustain itself when the majority of the skilled workforce is not only trying to extend the total knowledge base of the practice, but do it within the confines of during project work where delivery of product (or service) is paramount, and mistakes and exploration will tend to lead to costly delays.
Does Open Source projects have a place to play in this arena ? Are these projects the training that is needed to do our best work for paying customers ?
I’m not sure I know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.

Changes to the website

I’ve finally got around to installing Movable Type (v2.64) onto the eaves.org site. Hopefully now that I’ve done that, I’ll be a bit more active in posting things. I’ll also clean up some of my website. That will make me happy also.