Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Salad Fingers 8th episode

REACT! 
I have already written a post about David Firth's creations. I wrote about Salad Fingers which I hope that you watched and "enjoyed". The reason I post today is that the 8th episode of Salad fingers has been released! It's called the "cupboard" and I found out about it today. So if you haven't watched the previous episodes, do so and then watch the 8th too.

I also found a little secret. After Salad Fingers (on the 8th episode) gets electrocuted by the radio and puts his hands down, you can hear a weak sound playing for some seconds. Well I don't know if it is meant to be a stomach growl but at least that is what Firth suggests:


To see this picture yourself use the trick that I described in this post (read the important edit carefully).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

P2P Wars

REACT! 
I just read a post on Pirate Bay (an index site for Torrents and also a tracker) which says that the MediaDefender company, an anti-"piracy" company, in cooperation with major entertainment companies have been trying to harm trackers and other P2P networks even by using users' computers. This information was obtained from some leaked emails of the company that were published by the MediaDefender-Defenders group along with a phone call between MediaDefender and New York Attorney General's office.

MediaDefender denies everything and took legal action to remove the leaked emails from the sites that host them. But legal actions were not enough for them so they even performed DoS attacks to the site that hosted the leaked emails. MediaDefender had also previously vandalized the Wikipedia article about itself, probably because it revealed the connection of the company with miivi.com, a site that trapped people who uploaded copyrighted content.

You can visit this site and read the emails (which have been edited so that the identity of the employees cannot be revealed). Even in the case of the site going down you can still find the emails and the phone call in Torrents. Just search on The Pirate Bay for "MediaDefender".

For more information read the Wikipedia article on MediaDefender and this article.

DosBox - DOS emulator

REACT! 

If I had to sort the OS that I have used by how much I like them I think that I would end up with this list:
  1. Ubuntu Linux
  2. Windows XP
  3. MS-DOS 6.22
  4. Windows 95
  5. Windows 3.11
  6. Windows 98 (stay away from me!)
The third place is held by MS-DOS. A simple and fast OS. It would be at the second position if it supported Internet... But DOS is now completely abandoned. Even Microsoft Windows does not run old MS-DOS applications and especially games!

Thankfully some guys made DosBox so that everybody can play his/her favorite old-fashioned games. DosBox is a free, complete Intel x86 PC emulator; it emulates the CPU, the graphics card, the sound card and supports joystick, mouse and many other things! It is open source and free software and will run on Linux and Windows. To play a game simply mount a directory as a drive in DosBox but I won't tell you how to do this. Instead go to this page to download DosBox and then visit the Wiki for more information on how to use the program.

Some suggestions:
There is also another DOS emulator for Linux called DosEmu. I don't have much experience with it but I think that DosBox is better.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

STOP RAR (on file-sharing networks)

REACT! 
If you hadn't noticed there are many RAR files on all file-sharing networks. This is soooooooo STUPID! There's absolutely no reason to use RAR. I'll tell you why.

  1. If you want to distribute MP3 files you should not use compression at all! These files are already compressed! If you need to put them on a collection then consider distributing them as a Torrent and not inside a RAR file. But even if you need to distribute them on another file-sharing network then consider using a zipfile instead which is free and works on all systems (Linux does not support RAR until you install some programs and the same goes for Windows).
  2. RAR is not free. It is patented. 7-Zip is a great open source application using a much better algorithm than the one WinRAR uses which achieves better compression ratios. So, if you want to distribute something that is not already compressed, why not use 7-Zip instead of WinRAR???
  3. Some guys believe that they are hackers because they use RAR to distribute their files. Bullshit... RAR was useful during the Newsgroups' era but there is no reason to use it while there is a free alternative like 7-Zip.
Anyway. If you still haven't been convinced you should read this article. You might also read this clueless (in my opinion) article that supports the usage of RAR files.

And do not forget to download 7-Zip.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Revised FuckBrainfuck Documentation

REACT! 
The current version of the FBF compiler is 1.7.0 and came along with the second revision of its documentation. I recently noticed that the documentation was full of mistakes and I also had forgotten to list some commands so I corrected it and now you can download the zipfile with the new documentation. The zipfile contains the compiler, the documentation, seven example programs and the Lua interpreter for Windows and Linux which is needed in order to run the FBF compiler.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Image Analyzer

REACT! 
Have you got any old photos that need retouching? If you don't want to use expensive and hard to use applications then you should try Image Analyzer. It might not be open source but it is high quality freeware that runs on Windows and on Linux with Wine. It has some great features like texture synthesis which will cover holes and other defects of old photos. Just keep in mind that it is not a drawing program, it is clearly a photo editing program focused on having many different filters.

But apart from enhancing photographs you can also do more funny things with it. Take a look at this cow which I made using the texture synthesis tool of Image Analyzer:


Image Analyzer can also be extended with plugins, so if you are a developer you might consider writing one for it. Currently there are about ten plugins.

The only bad thing about Image Analyzer is that it has no documentation. There is a short tutorial on its website and a nice support forum though.

I hope that it gets open source soon... ;-) (some older versions are already open source)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Infon

REACT! 

Infon is an online multiplayer game. You program the brain of little bugs witch try to survive in an arena by eating food, evolving and multiplying. To play you only need a telnet program. To watch the game though you will need to download the graphical client. Using your telnet program you upload the brain on the server and it executes it. Of course there other games like this like Droidbattles but what makes it different is that it is an online game and it uses my favorite language. Yes, you program the bugs in Lua!

I made a simple brain today which worked quite well. If you know any programming language then it will be easy to learn Lua and try this wonderful game! Click here to go to the website of Infon.

Have fun and if you create a nice brain, challenge me... ;-)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pocket Computers

REACT! 
I think that most people like pocket computers (not Pocket PC's necessarily) and so I do. It's nice to have a device that fits in your pocket that enables you to keep notes and write programs anywhere.

I currently own a Palm Z22 and I also have my still-working Zire and a broken Palm Tungsten C. The oldest is my Zire which now has a worn out, thanks to Plua, digitizer making it almost impossible to input text without using the on screen keyboard. After the Zire I bought the Tungsten C which I managed to break in a month :'-(. The Tungsten C was far better than any other palmtop at the time. Finally I decided after some years of grief for my dead Tungsten that it was time to buy a new one and continue making some Plua programs. So I bought my Z22 because it was then the cheapest palmtop, so I wouldn't be shocked if I would ever break it like my Tungsten. The Z22 met my expectations in most areas. There are only a few things that I dislike. I will explain the most important in the next paragraph but you can skip reading it if you do not plan on buying a Z22.

Z22 has some differences from the other two palmtops. It has non-volatile memory as well as volatile (aka dynamic memory). It uses the faster volatile memory for buffering data that should be written on the non-volatile memory that is used as the storage of the Z22. How do I know that??? I know that it has two kinds of memory because there are even programs that show you the amount of used memory for both of them. And I suppose that the volatile holds unwritten data because if you reset the unit you will lose the last edited data. It is not a filesystem error because it also happens if you close the program that edits the data before resetting. So it must be that there are unsaved data in the volatile memory that are cleared with the reset. This is really annoying if you program on palmtops, because it's easy to crash the system and loose many lines of code! I found a way to avoid this. I installed FlushIt, an application that flushes the contents of the volatile memory when an application exits or on other system events (I also just noticed that it has been updated since I installed it).

I haven't said a word about Microsoft and Pocket PCs, now it's time. I never had one and do not intent to. Why?
  • I do not want to carry Windows with me. I want something different.
  • I prefer Palm to Microsoft. Those guys managed to create an extremely easy and powerful OS while ignoring some basic features! Palms, initially, didn't support multitasking or directory trees in their filesystem! The latest versions of Palm OS support multitasking although it is not that prominent as in Windows and other operating systems. Support for directory trees on external memory cards (secure digital) is also available on any model that has an expansion slot (my Z22 and my Zire don't have one).
  • I do not want to pay that much for a pocket computer. Any Palm is the only company that offers some cheap palmtops.
While Palm used to rule the palmtop market it seems that Microsoft made more clever moves. Or maybe it didn't, but the world prefers a palmtop that has "Windows", believing that it will be easier to learn. Of course Windows Mobile is completely different from XP. And Palm OS is much easier to learn, it can't get any easier in fact. But Palm is moving too slow; there are very few devices and they are quite expensive (except some low end devices like the Z22). The number of independent developers (who used to make quality freeware) is decreasing, and Palm isn't doing much to prevent this.

There are also some palmtops with Linux but do not know much about them. Maybe sometime I'll try one.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

David Firth's Animations

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David Firth is a very talented flash animator. I find his animations really interesting. Most of them (maybe all of them) are surrealistic and, usually, resemble dreams or nightmares.

One of the best animation series that Firth has made is Salad Fingers. Salad Fingers is a creepy green masochist man that loves touching rusty spoons and other rough surfaces with his oversized fingers. He lives in a strange world that seems to me like the earth after a great nuclear world war. I won't say more. Just click here and watch the 7 episodes that have been until now released. It will give you the creeps but watch all of them very carefully. Salad Fingers is really well done and is one of the best animations on the Internet. It is just NOT another violent and disgusting flash animation.

(IMPORTANT EDIT: It seems that Firth changed the structure of his website and the following trick will not work correctly. To view the flash animation on it's own and not on a webpage you find it's name in the source code of the corresponding webpage and then copy paste it's address manually in the address bar. Another solution would be to save the page. This will save an HTLM file and a directory with files. Find a file with ".swf" extension inside this directory and open it with Firefox. Then follow the instructions bellow. The text in the square brackets [] was working with the previous structure of Firth's website, ignore it and do what I told you instead. If I confused you then please leave a comment and I will try to explain it better to you.)

Here is a trick that might reveal strange things or even easter eggs in some of his animations. While you watch an animation on fat-pie (Firth's website), [change the ".html" ending of the current page into ".swf" so that you view the flash animation not embedded in a webpage]. Now by resizing the browser you will also resize the viewport of the flash animation and therefore you will be able to see things which normally would be out of sight. Try resizing your browser into a short and thin window and then view this animation. After the kid that smelt funny is burned you will have to pause on the point when the headmasters door is shown. Now, look at the board on the right. It will be like this:


Normally the right part of this board ("DON'T READ THIS BIT YOU LOSER") wouldn't be visible. ;-) Please note that I tried this with Firefox on Ubuntu Linux. I do not know if it is possible with Internet Explorer or Opera. I would be pleased if I had some feedback on this.
Anyway, back to the point. Go now to fat-pie cartoon section and watch everything. They rock!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Globulation 2

REACT! 
To be a good RTS game player you have to be good in micromanagement as well as commanding your nation as a whole (macromanagement). This is true for most RTS games. Although some game titles focus on micromanagement and other on macromanagement, micromanagement exists to make things more difficult and unreal.

When I say that things became more unreal I mean that you can control every single unit that you own. That never happens in reality as units are not stupid robots that will always do whatever you say. And when I say that thing became more difficult with micromanagement I mean that you have to spend time to control individual units instead of focusing on your strategy.

Thankfully some guys decided to make Globulation. The first Globulation was shareware and had many features missing compared to the Globulation 2 which is free software.

Globulation 2 makes micromanagement unnecessary because tasks are automatically assigned to units. You only have to set a number on every building that indicates how many units will have to work there. Then the unit will start transferring goods to this building when it is needed. Some building also have other settings. For example the Swarm, which is the building that created buildings, accepts some values that indicate the ratio between different unit that it produces (eg: 1 soldier/2 scouts/4 builders).

Another unique but very realistic characteristic about this game is that you do not collect resources. The units simply take them directly from the nature to the place that they are needed.

You may wonder how you can attack the opponent without the necessary micromanagement. Flags are the solution to this and to other things as well. A war flag for example attracts a number (you set how many) of soldiers of a specific level (you set that too) into a radius around it (guess who sets that...). There are other flags too but I am not going to say anything more.

The DRAWBACK: there is no sound effects. Nice, comic-like graphics, nice multiplayer, nice AI (try to play against Nicowar) but no sound effects. If you can make some sound effects then please do and send them to the game developers, it's a pity for such a nice game to be mute. There is some music but I prefer turning it off and listen to some Blind Guardian instead. ;-)

Click here to go to the official website of Globulation 2. There you can find anything related to the game: tutorials, the game manual and of course the game itself.

Here is a video of a game:

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