Born Geek
Archive for July 2005

Shuttles Grounded

July 27, 2005

It looks like NASA has grounded the shuttle fleet, which means that the sole ship remaining on the ground can’t fly. What a great way to motivate those astronauts orbiting around the planet.

Hey guys, if something really is wrong with the shuttle you’re in, we can’t help. We’re so sorry.

Man It’s Hot

July 25, 2005

We are experiencing some wickedly hot temperatures here in North Carolina. It’s forecast to be 99 degrees today (heat indicies of 105-110) and 101 degrees tomorrow (heat indicies of 110-115). And it even continues into Wednesday! With temperatures like this, there’s virtually nothing you can do except stay indoors. I’m sure plenty of people are heading to their local pool or swimming hole, but I prefer to stay in the A/C. Plus, I’ve been sick, so swimming around wouldn’t do me any good anyways. Thankfully, it looks like things will cool off this coming weekend. Autumn just can’t get here fast enough!

Version Numbers Are Bad

July 22, 2005

Recently, the Mozilla team changed the upcoming Firefox 1.1 release to version 1.5 instead. This got me thinking about version numbers in general, and how silly they are. I have gotten trapped in this kind of thing before, so I’m no less guilty than the next guy. Here’s what I think is wrong with version numbers:

Actual Numbers are Too Vague
As they are, version numbers are a little too vague. How is 1.0.3 different than Well, we put in a teeny-tiny change that didn’t warrant the 0.0.1 number bump. So why didn’t you name it if the change was so tiny? Well, it wasn’t that tiny. Sheesh.

Leading Zeroes
This is one place where I have been caught before. Typically, a leading zero (as in 0.8 or 0.9.1) indicates that the software is in a test or “pre-release” phase, and that is just fine. But there are far too many abuses of this numbering scheme. Firefox extensions like ForecastFox or Web Developer (both of which use leading zeroes as of this writing) are far too mature and stable to warrant the leading zero. Go to a 1.x release already, dammit!

Version Numbers Too Long
The maximum length of any version number should only ever be 3 positions long: “X.Y.Z.” That’s it. If you want some sort of date stamp for nightly builds, have that as a separate item; not as a part of the version number. I should not have to see versions like any more. And non-sensical stuff, like Adblock’s version of “0.5 d2 nightly 39” should be outlawed from the planet. Please, use numerals only.

Arbitrary Number Change Decisions
This kind of stuff irritates me, but I’m also guilty as charged. The Firefox team feels like the changes they’ve made are “worth more” than a 0.1 version number bump. I heartily agree. But this 0.5 version bump is a joke. Just bump the major version number! Go directly to 2.0 – do not pass Go and do not collect $200. What’s so bad about that? The next release, if it’s just as big, can be 3.0. And then we can go to 4.0 if necessary. Everyone is so scared of their version number becoming too “large”. Think about it: how many programs out there are version 12.0 or version 29.3? Not many. Once we reach double digits, we feel like we have to come up with a fancy name (like “XP” or “2005” or whatever else). The AutoCAD folks had it right years ago. “Buy AutoCAD 14.0 today,” they would advertise. Now it’s simply AutoCAD 2006. How cheap. What happened to AutoCAD 20.0? That’s just as “cool” sounding.

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My Take on GTA: San Andreas

July 21, 2005

Although I disagree with the ESRB’s revocation of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas rating, I can plainly see that Rockstar Games is at fault. If you aren’t going to make use of some material, why leave it in the game? That was data I spent time installing, wasting a few seconds of my oh-so-precious time. But perhaps we are pawns in their grand, evil scheme. Rockstar might have known all along that this would happen, that it would create incredible controversy, and would therefore increase sales. Whatever their reasoning, I think Tycho and Gabe hit the nail on the head about this story. It’s fairly clear that the guys at Rockstar aren’t thinking at all.

I picked up a copy of the game last weekend, and have been playing it sporadically ever since (I just don’t have the time I’d like to devote to it). All I can say is that this is, by far, the best game in the GTA series. Although the graphics don’t touch games like Half-Life 2 or Far Cry, the environment is highly detailed. And it’s the little things that make the game so interesting. You can play a full game of pool (8-ball) in a number of locations, placing bets on whether you will win or not. Or drop by one of the arcades in town, and play the video games inside (this is one of the weirdest levels of recursion ever: having your video game character play a video game). Or shoot some basketball over at your friends house.

I should also mention that the game map is way bigger than GTA 3 or GTA: Vice City. I have yet to leave the first city (there are a total of 3), and I’ve barely even scratched the surface in exploring it. Los Santos is the name of the first city and, whether it’s inner city slums, high-priced villas in the mountains, or a farm out in the country side, the level of detail of each is incredible. You could quite literally spend hundreds of hours exploring this game. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing over the next several weeks.

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Firefox 1.0.6

July 19, 2005

The latest official release of Firefox is now available on the Firefox product page.

I’m highly excited about version 1.1, which draws nearer every day. The fixes that have been going in to 1.1 keep piling up, as evidenced by the nightly logs over at The Burning Edge. Some of the coolest features being included in 1.1 include:

  • An improved automatic update system
  • Fast back / forward
  • Better cookie management
  • Better extension management

Stay tuned to sites like MozillaZine, The Burning Edge, and others for the latest in Firefox news.

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Going Back to NVIDIA

July 17, 2005

I’m all for healthy competition in the video card industry, and I think it’s a good thing that both ATI and NVIDIA are slugging it out to see who’s on top each week. But I’m seriously considering going back to an NVIDIA based graphics card. The last NVIDIA card I owned was a GeForce 2 MX, the budget model of the GeForce 2 family. I never had issues with drivers, and the card was as solid as a rock.

Then I made the switch to ATI (they had become King of the Hill at the time). My current card is a Radeon 9700 Pro, and I have had nothing but problems with it from the beginning. Whether it’s a corrupted boot up screen, crashes with various games I own, or just plain flaky-ness, this card has left a bad taste in my mouth for ATI. The NVIDIA card I’m looking at going to is the eVGA GeForce 6800 GT, one that has been getting rave reviews. The price is a little hefty, but I can afford it. Besides, my time and frustration have to be worth something.

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Get Serious, Sam

July 14, 2005

Over the past few days, I’ve been playing through the first two Serious Sam games again. I had truly forgotten how much action is packed into these two games. Having to wade through 1000 enemies in the course of only one level is quite a tension-inducing feat. All this action is making me hungry for Serious Sam 2 (an odd title, considering that it’s the third game in the series). Fun new items are going to be introduced, my favorite of which so far is what I will call the Ball of Death, essentially a human hamster ball. Running over enemies with that thing has to be incredibly amusing!

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New (Used) Monitor

July 12, 2005

I picked up a used 22″ NEC monitor tonight for $200. Not a bad deal, considering you can’t find new CRT’s that size on the web for less than $550. The color isn’t 100% (it’s more like 95%), but I think I can get used to it (and I might be able to tweak it some). What’s more irritating, however, are the front buttons. The plastic bezel around the front is placing some tension on these buttons, causing the monitor adjustment menu to show up at inopportune times. Perhaps I need to disassemble this thing to see what’s causing the tension.

Anyways, I can finally run my desktop at 1600 x 1200. How glorious the web becomes at that resolution! Screen real estate is freely available now, and I couldn’t be happier.

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C++ is Broken

July 11, 2005

I do a fair amount of C++ programming these days, thanks to my new career at IBM. C++ is my strongest language, and the first language I picked up when I began programming. As such, it’s fairly special to me. However, the more I time I spend with C++, the more I come to see how broken it is.

For instance, why are strings not a base type? Character arrays simply do not suffice. I am aware of the STL string class (and I make use of it), but adding on this capability after the fact seems cheap. Strings should be a first-class object, and should have all the associated operators directly available (==, +=, etc.). And regular expressions should be directly available for strings, since they are so incredibly useful. There are tons of places in my code where access to regular expressions would make my life profoundly simple. For example, take Perl’s match operator (m//). How many Perl programs out there do not make use of this operator? My guess is that the number is very low. It’s no different in C++; reg-exes could be used all over the place.

Other glaring omissions also crop up. Where is the foreach loop construct? Why use #include instead of packages or modules? Where are the array operators (shift, unshift, pop, push)?

There’s no question that C++ is a robust language. It’s fast, gives the programmer complete control (both a blessing and a curse), and it has an incredible user base (which results in excellent support when you need it). But it’s clearly dated. Will we still hold on to this language in 20 years? Or will something innovative finally come along to push it aside? Let’s hope for the latter.

Deer Park Alpha 2

July 10, 2005

Firefox 1.1 rolls closer and closer. According to the Mozilla Quality Blog, the latest trunk builds are now officially Deer Park Alpha 2. Fast Back is now enabled, bringing a welcome new feature to the greatest little browser on the ‘net.

Update: I’ve been informed (in the comments below) that this is not an official Alpha 2, but that they are very close. Apologies for the incorrect statement.