Old News

Archived news items from November 1998
Since this is old news, some links may be broken.

Saturday, 28 Nov 1998 [19:58 CST]

Hey, I'm back. Had a good time visiting all the relatives over the holidays. I got to see my grandparents, my great-grandmother (who turns 95 tomorrow), my second-cousin who's doing very well in his battle with cancer, his girlfriend, my brother and his girlfriend (a cutie, I can assure you) and lots of other assorted kinfolk. Plus, I ate way more cake and pie than I should be allowed to.

Got a chance to catch up on sleep though not on grading, which is what I'll be doing tomorrow. Anyway. Back when there's more interesting happenings to report.

Tuesday, 24 Nov 1998 [18:24 CST]

I'm off in the MitchMobile to see my folks for Thanksgiving. It's unlikely I'll be able to update the page while I'm gone, so I'll be back with updates on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, 23 Nov 1998 [20:24 CST]

I finally did it. I finally finished the jar of Dave's Insanity Salsa that has been taunting me from my refrigerator. And I can honestly say that I personally consumed almost the whole jar. Only a few friends had some, but I didn't pour any out or throw any away or anything. Yes, this is the same ten-ounce jar that I bought and was talking about in September. It is finished.

I think my head is paralyzed.

Sunday, 22 Nov 1998 [22:31 CST]

Spent a lot of today working on Pong. Got the physics code rewritten, so that now paddles can impart "momentum" to the ball. In addition, balls no longer get stuck on the paddle. Now the game is quite playable, without any gameplay issues at all. Added a bit more eye candy, some more options, and a friendlier interface. Newest build is up on the code page.

The only three things I really would like to add before I'm satisfied is a basic GUI for setting options, loading/saving of options from an INI file, and a computer controlled opponent. If I get those in, I'll bump the version number up to 1.0, let it sit beta for a week or so, and then stick a fork in it (it's done).

It's amazing how much I learn about all this stuff with each feature I add.

Also, I just noticed this page passed 1000 hits. Wow! Thanks for all your support. 2000, here we come!

Sunday, 22 Nov 1998 [01:04 CST]

Spent a lot of Saturday (today) working on Pong. Got the timing code rewritten, and I'm much happier with it now. It pleases me that the frame rate is still rock solid even with vsync turned off. Plus, there are a couple of toggles you can use to improve performance if you happen to be on a dog-slow system.

Currently, all the outstanding issues I had with it are fixed, and all that remains are further optimization and bells and whistles.

Grab the newest release from the code page.

Saturday, 21 Nov 1998 [00:41 CST]

Pong is now up on the code page. It's still in beta, so don't download it if you're waiting for a rock-solid, commercial quality game. But some of you may enjoy it anyway. It's quite playable, at least. I've learned a lot working on it, and plan to do quite a bit more with the framework I've got. Stay tuned.

I noticed that I haven't included the text of the GNU General Public License with the last several releases of RingWorm. Oops. That's now included.

Thursday, 19 Nov 1998 [21:44 CST]

I'm pretty much done with my first version of Pong. It hasn't really been playtested, but it has all the basic structure I want at the moment, and even features some eye candy. My students finally turn in their pong projects tomorrow, so I've been sort-of holding off on posting anything with source code until then. Plus, I haven't had a chance to get it GPL'ed with any documentation, so I probably won't stick it up until tomorrow night. But it'll give Mom and Dad a chance to see how my game coding skills have been progressing, as well as some more mature code for everyone else out there to look at.

There are several other things I'd like to experiment with using this code, so you can look for some feature/usability improvements over the next month. Probably. Especially I'd like to mess with some timing issues and get that rock-solid. I don't like calling using the v-sync to set the speed of the thing. It's just not portable and could potentially cause problems on some systems. Custom "levels" would be nice as well, plus a level editor or some such. Anyway. I'll keep you all posted.

Saturday, 14 Nov 1998 [17:25 CST]

Whoop! This page just passed 3 hits a day! So, to the twenty of you who are bored enough to check this page once a week, I thank you!

Again, I'll say it's amazing what a difference it makes to be putting up frequently-changing content. The old page got about three hits a month. Hope to have a solid version of Pong up soon.

I finally figured out how to appropriately write code so that you can handle dependencies with a Makefile. If I can get my students to do this as well, it'll speed up their compilation times quite a bit. Currently it takes five to ten seconds to wait on our Pentium 75s to blaze through the code. Here's hoping some Makefiles will reduce it to three or so.

Friday, 13 Nov 1998 [07:20 CST]

It's been a long week. Finished grading all the projects, which were some good and some bad. Went with the LHS choir and AcaDec kids to see a dress rehearsal of the Austin Lyric Opera's performance of Otello, which was very good. Lost so much time and sleep and the beginning of the week that I'm just now coming up for air.

My classroom is pretty cold. Something has been wrong with the heating/cooling in the school for a while. I've been dressing warm.

Don't have much else to say at the moment. Still waiting on a price quote for all my backup hardware that I'm going to buy. I've waited over a month combined (on several different vendors, all of which have so far turned up empty). Anyway, off to school (yes, I am up early this morning).

Sunday, 8 Nov 1998 [23:59 CST]

Been grading projects all day. My brother just sent me a stupid email, and I'm just tired enough to gripe about it publicly. In his defense, he a) usually doesn't do such things b) knows better than to fall for such an obvious trick, and c) is probably up late also. But anyway, here goes. Here's the original message:

Okay, now I'm going to gripe about it with maybe just a touch of sarcasm. For the record, this is not directed at my brother but at the original moron who wrote this message with the intent of getting a million people to further clog up the already-choked bandwidth by forwarding it ad infinitum.

This is a dumb math trick to take avantage of people with enough math skills to work the problem but not enough to see how it's rigged.

Pick some number. Multiply it by 2. Later, multiply it by 50. Guess what? You've multiplied it by 100! Soon, you'll have a three digit number with your original number as the first digit!

Add five to something. Multiply that by fifty. Hey, you've added 250! I wonder if there's any connection between that and 1748+250 = 1998? Nah, couldn't be.

What, subtract the year I was born from 1998? Will that give me my age? Surely not...

Wow! I'd better hurry and mail this to all my friends! There are only two months left on this once-in-a-lifetime trick!

At least I can console myself that when 1999 rolls around maybe this message will die a quiet death. At least for a couple years until everyone forgets and then they send around a new one telling you to add 1751.

"Wow! We'd better hurry and mail this to all our friends!"

Saturday, 7 Nov 1998 [17:21 CST]

My computer science students took third place as a team, though we would have been fourth if one of the other schools hadn't been removed from the rankings (since it was their invitational meet, they weren't allowed to compete). We took fifth and sixth place with individual scores. (Congratulations to Kristina Felfe and Robbie Sternenberg.) None of the teams that beat us will compete against us at district competition. So, not a bad showing overall.

I'm going to school to grade projects.

Friday, 6 Nov 1998 [21:55 CST]

Wow. Where's the week gone? My students turned in all their six weeks projects to me on Thursday. I will be grading them this weekend. Had lots of fun during the last week. I must be crazy to assign these things.

By the way, my solution to the programming problem I discussed last time takes about fifty lines of code. It runs in about one second. I was telling the friend mentioned in the last update about my victory over that old problem. Of course, the first thing out of his mouth was a solution that took only one line of code and would run in about a microsecond... Just goes to show there's always someone out there better than you.

Taking some students to compete in UIL computer science competition tomorrow. This is just a practice meet, so no biggie, but it'll be fun to see how they do. Hopefully they won't get real stressed about it. I'll let you know when I get results back.

Also, was messing around with some compiler flags and the DJP executable compressor today, and I was able to reduce the size of the RingWorm executable by over 75%! However, since it compresses, it steals some on WinZip's thunder, so the distributable is only 34% smaller. I've uploaded the smaller one, though there are no code changes; it's still version 1.2. Download it if you really need to save the 450K of disk space... ;)

Pong is harder than it looks. I may have some version of it to post here pretty soon.

Monday, 2 Nov 1998 [21:20 CST]

Well, the server is now playing, ripping, and encoding .mp3s. It doesn't encode very quickly, but it plays just fine. One of my friends from college just mailed me some code to capture stdin and stdout for a given process, so I can start putting a cool front end on it pretty soon.

Today I was able to write a program that was originally assigned to me in my first C++ class in college, but which I never did (I didn't turn in that homework assignment). This makes me happy. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this programming thing... ;)

In case you were wondering, the assignment was to determine the range of unsigned long on a given system without using the sizeof() function. Turns out it's a very simple while loop, though it takes a bit more ingenuity to get it to finish in under three seconds.

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October 1998
September 1998
August 1998