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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Subvert 'em all!!

I have been on the lookout for a decent version control system for some time now. Yes, I realise there are loads out there, CVS and Ms VSS being the most prolific, however I had some pretty specific requirements. I work on projects that involve remote collaboration with team members, and we do not have luxuries like always-on servers that we can use to install a version control server on. Also, since we're doing commercial projects, and we don't want to give everyone else access to our code, we couldn't really go the source forge route (well, not the free one, anyway).
Well, we saw a (conceptual) solution to this problem: google. More specifically, google's gmail, in tandem with the brilliant gmailfs shell extension that allows windows users to use their gmail account as a remote file system. We figured that if we could find an entirely client-driven source control system that could make use of a local drive, we would be able to fool it into using gmail through gmailfs.
Well, it would appear we have found such a system. It is an open-source source control system called Subversion. Besides having all the functionality of CVS, it is really flexible in it's implementation. Historically it could only use a BerkleyDB database for it's repository, but an update in mid-2004 enabled the use of standard (remote or local) file systems. The repository does not specifically require any sort of server process to run, everything is controlled by lock files, making it totally client-centric.
In addition to the standard command-line driven interface, there are a number of third party clients available for the system, including a Visual Studio .Net plugin and a windows shell extension called TortoiseSVN.
Unfortunately I have not been able to get gmailfs to behave today (apparently google have made a change to the gmail API again..), so I have not been able to test Subversion on gmail, but as soon as it's up again I'll do that. Even if that does not work out, however, the nature of subversion means we should be able to zip up the repository and send it back and forth to achieve what we need to if push comes to shove..

Oh well..

I installed the latest version of gmailfs, which gets around google's latest gmail API changes. It seems though that the way it's implemented, not all shell commands are available, so we can't use Subversion in that way. Pity.. I'll just have to try to create an http repository on our website. At least we have tried and proved it can't be done (yet). Let's hope that future versions of gmailfs will support extra shell commands added by different installed tools..

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Doing it at home

Continuing on the theme of 'useful stuff', I thought I would mention one of my current favourite sites It's a really great site that aims to get coders together with potential 'employers' that have small to medium projects they want completed. These do not involve any on-site work, meaning it's a great way to pick up some extra work on the side, and also to learn new skills. Unfortunately, due to the fact that PayPal doesn't support South African bank accounts, a chunk ends up being taken out of the money the developer earns for registered postage of payment, but since payment can be held back until a certain amount has been reached, this is ok.
The available jobs are conveniently sorted into categories including everything from standard web development to game and mobile development. Some people even post their homework assignments in the hope of some ethically challenged coder on the site doing it for them (for a fee of course-apparently kids in America make WAY too much pocket money ;)).
Another nice touch is the RSS feed that can be used to keep tabs on new jobs. It's possible to be updated on all new jobs, or to filter the jobs by the same categories mentioned above. And that filtering is definitely necessary! There are easily 30+ new jobs posted every day. So if you are keen on making some extra cash- or give up the day job totally and look for a home-based alternative, RentACoder is a great way to start!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Friendly Keyboard has posted an article discussing a new keyboard design being marketed to replace the good (or is that bad) old QWERTY design. With only 53 keys, as opposed to the standard 101, the New Standard Keyboard has a tiny footprint, measuring less than 23cm x 10cm.
The new keyboard, pictured above, is alphabetically arranged and places the directional keys in the middle of the other keys (I'm not too sure I like that design, but it will probably sit well with WASD players ;)), and it would appear that more focus has been placed on thumb usage than with the QWERTY standard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What I want after Christmas..

Gamespot has a great piece on their most anticipated games for the upcoming year (well, at least their various staff members' most anticipated games). I can certainly agree with a lot of their projections, especially the Xbox and mobile ones. If I had to compile a list some of those I'm most looking for, it would look something like this:
GTA: San Andreas (Xbox)
What can I say, I enjoyed GTA3 and Vice City, and there have been nothing but good reviews of the next instalment in the series. To be honest the crime theme really doesn't appeal to me, but Rockstar do an awesome job of storytelling through an amazingly well balanced game dynamic.Since I don't have a PS2, I'll just have to wait until the Xbox versions comes out-besides, then I can use the custom soundtracks feature ;)
Halflife 2 (Xbox)
Ok, this may be a wishful thinking, and one might have thought I learned my lesson with the shockingly bad Unreal 2 port, but not all PC-console ports are bad. I've been drooling over shots of the PC version for ages, and while the Xbox is definitely low-spec'd in terms of today's PC standards, it can hardly be compared to an equivalent PC. In addition to this, the HL2 engine is supposedly brilliant at accommodating comparatively low-spec machines.
Brothers in Arms (Xbox)
When I watched last year's E3 developer demo of this title I just about wet myself. Everything about it looks amazing. The commentary by the guys demoing the game was sad, to say the least, but that doesn't make the game any less droolworthy!
Destroy All Humans (Xbox)
It's like a videogame version of Mars Attacks! What's not to look forward to?I just can't wait to unleash the devastating (but comedic) powers of a stereotypical Roswell grey alien on the witless humans in Pandemic's open-ended reproduction of 50's USA. It's just a pity it's not a modern-day setting with George W Bush as the prime target.. I'd love to use a fancy laser weapon on ol' dubya's ass.
Doom 3 (Xbox)
Now don't get me wrong. I'm no Doom fan, but the screenshots just look so damn gorgeous! Xbox owners also get treated to co-op play,and co-op anything is good :)
Star Wars Battlefields (Xbox)
All the classic Star Wars battles, with all the cool vehicles like speeders, X-Wings a Tie Fighters. Again, what's NOT to look forward to :)
Wipeout Pure (PSP)
Ok, so I don't own a PSP, and it's not likely I'll get my hands on one this year, but when I do, this will be the first title I buy for it. I have always loved the Wipeout series, it was the first racer I actually enjoyed, and until NFS went Underground, it was the only series to give the player such a phenomenal sense of speed that eyelids became a very real liability (as the really cool ad campaign pointed out). It also had an incredibly cool control system that just felt so right that I'm sure the first real hover-sleds invented will use the same system. I'm also a sucker for a well-polished product, and every single wipeout title has had a level of polish that no other series in any genre has even come close to.
In hardware terms I will of course be keeping a close eye on what Microsoft is up to. I am a total Xbox fanboy (duh) and I can hardly wait to see what will be achieved with it's successor. I am really (naively) hoping for backward compatibility and that the rumours of the hard drive being dropped turn out to be wrong. But those are minor issues- as long as they give us another great machine (hopefully in a smaller box this time), I'll be happy. Oh, some top-notch games to play on it would be nice too, of course ;-)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Enough now

OK, there are more than enough whiney emotional blogs on the web. I don't need to become part of that trend.. and besides it's bad for my karma. So here's the first of (hopefully) many useful posts. The subject matter will most often be related to the games industry, development in general and other good. old fashioned geeky tech stuff.
So, what's so useful in this post? Two things:
Microsoft has thrown together a new DVD full of useful .Net goodies available to developers. It includes productivity tools and components from a number of their partner companies. You can check it out at:
Just a note though, I tried ordering it and they do seem to be out of stock at the moment.. But that can't last forever, right? Free stuff, free delivery. What are you waiting for. If nothing else you'll get a snazzy new MS coaster!
The other useful bit is Microsoft's new Anti-Spyware tool called (not very creatively) MS AntiSpyware. It's currently in Beta, but is rumoured to be due for official release soon. It is a free download that includes a pretty standard scanner that can be run once-off or enabled to check for runtime intrusions. In addition, it connects to a pier-to-pier anti spyware network called SpyNet. The idea here is that if one machine running AntiSpyWare picks up a new infection, it warns other machines and they automatically protect themselves.. Pretty nifty as long as someone doesn't find a weakness and use it to infect all machines running it with some nasty new bug..
Anyway you can get it from MS at:

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Ho Hum

Well, I have just returned from a two-week 'break'. I took leave over Christmas and New Years, with the intention of playing a lot of GTA 3, and finally finishing Abyss. If I got in two days of solid playing, it was a lot. And while we did work on Abyss for a bit, there are still those frustrating little creases to iron out. At least we're no longer running out of memory, and all the game play is basically in. Funny how plans never really work out. I did spend some quality time with family, friends and Natalie, which is great, but I just feel like I need another break where I can just do.. well, what I planned to do over the last two weeks.
Then there's coming back to work, hence the title of this entry. One would think that after two weeks of R & R, I would come back refreshed, revitalized, and full of supercharged motivation for work. Not so. By last Friday I was already dreading getting back to the horrors of Axapta. Now we're two days into the week and I just can't wait for the weekend to come along. And the best part? It'll be months before I can take leave again. This just can't be the life for me, can it?
I really do need to get back into a job that I actually care enough about to actually want to come back to work after a good break..


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