This is what XML was made for.
I’ve been wanting to post about a lot of stuff, so why haven’t I? There are three reasons: Far Cry, Metal Gear Solid and Doom 3. A week and a half ago I finished Far Cry. The gaming experience was good (if not excellent), the graphics were phenomenal. Like Filipe pointed out, the view is often breathtaking. I even got to hunt (translation: pick off helpless animals with a powerful rifle - and I don’t mean the mercenaries or trigems). The sound (both sound effects and music) contributed to the almost perfect atmosphere the game created. And tough the game was long, (Filipe disagrees) it never seemed repetitive in spite of the fact that it boils down to ‘clearing’ a small area with enemies and moving to the next area - possibly thinning their numbers on the way with the help of a scope-equipped rifle. I begin wondering if a well written elaborate storyline instead of the simple one would’ve made the game better (more enjoyable) or worse by complicating something simple. Since the best example of a good elaborate story I’ve ever seen in a video game is that of Metal Gear Solid (which I consider the number one game of all time) and MGS 3: Snake Eater is nearing its release date, I decided to play the original MGS again (for the… herm… 8th? 9th time? probably more - I lost count). It is amazing to see how much progress games made in the last 5 years or so. I remember considering the AI in MGS impressive (like everyone else) and know I find it lacking and the genetically enhanced soldiers are incredibly short-sighted. Sure the mercenaries duck and call for help (it would’ve been nice seeing mortally wounded enemies beg for their lives but I guess not everyone is a sadistic bastard) but as you can see here, game AI has a long way to go. Here’s two examples of what I would like to see:
- While shooting at mercenaries, I was usually ducked behind a rock or shooting from a corner, to that i could take cover while reloading or when they fired back. Since I was usually outnumbered, a simple tactic would’ve been for them to keep my position under constant fire by alternating fire (while one fired, the others reloaded) while one (or more) of them approached my position unseen, unhurt.
- The image I posted also shows a typical case of the lack of intelligence in games. I had already killed three or four enemies in that placed when they started coming in carefully (showing that they were no longer sure I was there). I still managed to kill a few (four perhaps) more in precisely the same way. What they should’ve done (and I’m no military or swat expert) since they saw me entering the building and saw their fellow mercenaries die would’ve been to throw a flash bang (smoke grenade or any other type of grenade) and then enter and to enter the building from both doors simultaneously. Alternatively, since the building was made of material that was easily permeable to the bullets, fire a few rounds at the places in which I could be hidden before entering - again from the various entry points available instead of just the front door.
- Use Team Tactics - it feels better killing something that is acting intelligent.
The first is relatively easy to implement compared to the second example which would be somewhat more complex - for a good implementation in a game such as far cry that is.
Moving on to a different subject, I’ve also began playing Doom 3. So far the game is much less hardware-intensive than far cry even tough the graphics are more detailed. This is due to two reasons: far cry plays out in extremely large shinny open spaces with a lot of freedom and those spaces are often filled with dozens of enemies - with a few rather large battles occurring occasionally between mercenaries and trigems. On one of such battles (near the entrance of the volcano) I noticed the game slowing down significantly after using the binoculars to mark the position of the bad guys. Doom 3 on the other hand is claustrophobic, dark and your rarely face more than three or four (big) enemies at the same time (or so I’ve been told and so far I can confirm this). I’m still at the beginning of the game (comms tower or something like that) but it seems to be building up a nice plot and I like reading other people’s email (I’m gonna buy one of those “I read your e-mail” T-shirts). This might also explain why I’ve never been allowed to perform a software installation (as root) in a chefax server unsupervised. That and a few ‘incidents’ with root alias, backdoors & stuff…
In a previous post, I mentioned my decision to drop Gush as my news reader and IM client. Today, Wes Carr, co-founder of 2Entwine, emailed me:
”(…) You mentioned that you did not like how Gush manages your feeds. We would love to hear your comments on that if you could be more specific. Unfortunately Gush does demand a good bit of processing power, but we can’t blame you for that :) As for file sharing, it’s scheduled for our next release. (…) we greatly appreciate any feedback you have to give.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned file sharing as a reason to drop Gush - at beast I would’ve dropped Gush as an IM client for it but not as a news reader. I’m pleased that file sharing will be supported in the next release. The ‘response times’ are also not critical - they can be somewhat frustrating tough. I wouldn’t be too quick to blame on a slow/overburdened CPU either - given on the fact that I used gush on a dual 2.4GHz Xeon box and now use it (well, not anymore) on a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 (both with 1GB of memory - so that’s not an issue). I mean, Doom 3 and Far Cry don’t complain (much) why should Gush? I think it could probably be better optimized, at least make it seem more responsive even if under the hood it’s actually being slower ( I believe Machine Learning will shine in the future doing this kind of stuff - more on this in another, dedicated post). What made me stop using Gush is more complicated. I said “I don’t like the way it manages read/unread feeds”. I obviously need to elaborate if I want anyone else to understand.
Let’s that a look at my news reading habits. I subscribed to a huge amount of feeds: blogs (most of which are linked to in my blogroll), tech news sites (such as slashdot), Computer Security sites (such as SecurityFocus), hardware sites (such as engadget) and many sites from many other categories. Unfortunately, the time I dedicate to reading them is very limited. What this means is that on any given day I won’t be able to read every single post I get on my news reader. I will often read only the ones with the most interesting titles. On weekends however, I have more free time and I often read some posts from certain preferred feeds that I didn’t have time to read during the week. There are also certain feeds I always read whenever they have a new post (such as Relax’s Presence and The Tao of Mac). Since I’m going ‘back to school’ soon (in 8 days) and therefore the amount of free time I have will decrease significantly, I predict that searching my feeds for specific words will become far more relevant.
Now, let’s get back to Gush. Whenever you have new items on a given feed, the number of new items is shown next to the name of the feed. Most news readers do this; it’s a way to know what you have and what you haven’t read. They also (usually) make unread items bold. Unfortunately, the way gush is designed means that you read a feed not an item. This means that even if you’ve read only one post on my blog and you had a total of 4 unread posts, Gush will assume that you’ve read them all and the other 3 wonât be marked in any special way to show that they werenât read. Thus, I’m unable to easily keep track of which posts I’ve read in feeds that I didnât read completely. Gush also lacks ‘filtering’ capabilities (like those of SharpReader). And so far Gush has lacked the ability to search for content on online feeds (feeds which you’re not subscribed to) through sites like feedster. This is however about to change and gush will soon become know for its search capabilities. And an easy way to import/export feeds like FeedDemon has would also be nice. In fact importing/exporting feeds in Gush is not easy at all. The only way I know to get the OPML out of it is to copy it from C:\Documents and Settings\rei\Application Data\Gush\Profiles\firstname.lastname@example.org\RSS\subscriptions.opml (for me).
Another thing that is missing in Gush is the ability to flag an item. I flag the posts I want to blog about later.
The sad thing is that in spite of all this, Gush is so damn sexy that I’m tempted to use it! It is definitively a lesson in UI design.
So, what would my ideal news reader look like? It would have 3 panes (like MS Outlook 2003). The leftmost pane would be the Categories pane, the Feed pane in the middle and the Items pane on the right. It would be able to search downloaded feeds as well as searching online with the help of various services. Blogging from it sounds nice. And flags would make their appearance. Iâm going to learn python (Iâll blog about it latter) and it might make a good first project.
Conclusion: Gush is a fantastic news reader but, at this moment, itâs not for everyoneâ¦ well, at least not for me. I started this post convinced that I wasnât going to use Gush again any time soon, now Iâm trying to make excuses to use it again: âmaybe I can use just for my favorite feeds, the ones I always fully readâ?. Regardless, Iâm sure to keep an eye on it; I believe it will be greatly improved in future versions and will continue to innovate.
Microsoft’s greed and stupidty has killed Sender ID. I suspect that SPF won’t die tough - it has a lot of supporters. It won’t solve the spam problem either - not even by a longshot. Neverthless, it is a step in the right direction. The only way to stop spam is to make it unprofitable. Right now there isn’t a single measure or technology that can do that. So what? Why not implement several measures and technologies to do it.
SPF, Bayesian Filtering, Blacklists, Whitelists, etc. More about this later.
Acclaim filed for bankruptcy. I’ll never forget the countless hours of Mortal Kombat 2 I played in my loyal Sega Mega Drive. The training. The tournaments. The challenges. The matches that got out of hand and into the real world. The simple fun of fatalities, seeing the look on your opponent’s face as that final humiliating move ripped out the last shred of pride he had as a gamer - along with his character’s head.
In case you’re wondering, my character of choice was Sub Zero.
I haven’t blogged for a while but now I have a lot to blog about. I’m going to start with the changes to my ‘working’ environment.
I bought a 21.3” monitor, the Samsung 213t (review) and cranked the resolution all the way to 1600x1200. I can’t remember how I lived before it. It’s one of those things you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. With some much space I decided to dump samurize and install Desktop Sidebar on windows and gkrellm on linux. Also dumped gush (which is still the most beautiful program I’ve seen) because I don’t like the way it manages read/unread feeds or the fact that it is somewhat slow (at times blatantly irresponsive). The limitations of the IM client (send/receive files from my MSN contacts) were also annoying. I installed SharpReader again - my previous windows news reader. It’s not perfect either, most notably is the lack of tabbed browsing. But for now, it will do. I also installed the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager - first thing it does? Crash. It’s working fine now. All my current virtual desktop wallpapers are from Digital Blasphemy - they are quite impressive, even tough the ones I have are 1152x864 and not 1600x1200.
When I fired up firefox I saw immediately I needed to ‘waste’ some space. Googlebar seemed like the answer but it wasn’t enough so I decided it was time for a few tricks, such as making the search bar wider.