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Showing posts from February, 2009

Erlang Text Elite

This last weekend, I somehow came to think about the wonderful old space trading game Elite, and the way it managed to cram a vast universe of planets with names, stats, and fun descriptions (along with the 3D space flight simulation, which was an amazing feat in itself) into the tiny 8-bit home computers of old. Only minutes later, I had found Ian Bell's Text Elite web page, where Ian, one of the two original authors of the game, has published a reconstruction in C of the main universe-generating algorithm, along with a simple text interface to actually let you "play", i.e., buy, sell, and jump between planets. Great! So I rewrote it in Erlang . And had a lot of fun doing it. Apart from the nostalgic kick, there were two points with the exercise: First of all, I just wanted to see the main algorithm as cleanly implemented as possible. But second, I wanted to see what it would be like to rewrite a piece of classic game code that was very clearly not written with functio

Archaeonerdology

Lately (well, for almost a year now), I've been watching a whole lot of the British TV series " Time Team ". If you've never heard about it, it's a show about archaeology. Before you fall asleep, let me assure you that it is as far removed as possible from any boring documentaries you have may watched (you know, the ones with a voice that drones on and on about some kings and battles with a slideshow of still pictures for illustration). No, this is a show about digging. Also, the fact that it's been running since 1994 should tell you something of its popularity. The idea of the show is to follow a "crack team" of professional archaeologists over three days, as they attack a particular site of interest. The sites are chosen based on various sources, from previously known places where some finds have been made before (but no proper investigation has been done), to the back garden of some family who found something strange when they were buring their c

The times they are a-changin'

Recently I got a call from my dad, who was having some problems with his computer, along the lines of "there's something wrong with the damn internet again". Since I was the one who set it up for him, I don't mind fixing problems when they occur, but I find that the hardest thing with these debugging sessions over the phone is to get him to quote the exact messages he is seeing. It's kind of interesting, as if the words and concepts are so alien to him that he zones out after only a second, and is actually unable to read them aloud. A typical exchange goes like this: -So, dad, what does the error message say? -Oh, something about the Internet. -OK, but what does the text say, precisely? -I dunno, Microsoft and Internet something. -Dad, can you please tell me exactly what the text says? -I just told you, it says it can't find the Internet. -Where is the message, I mean, what program does it come from? -Well, dammit, it's right here, on the screen! And so o