April 2006

Long time, no post…

I haven't written anything in the last week because I have been slammed at work. I moved to a new team and I am doing more development work. This is good because eventually I want to be a full time programmer. Right now I am working in the high level languages like Perl and Python but I do have C training and I think I would like to do more lower level stuff.

I also am getting my first taste of what it means to be a programmer. Being a system administrator is fun because you can program when you want to - if I ever got bored of a script I was working on I could do something else. Its another story when your primary role is to write that script. Getting bored? Too bad finish it.


My first project is a Perl script about 2,000 lines long with lots of mySQL interactions. This also marks the first time I have worked with databases in any meaningful way. Took me about three or four days to get to the point where I was comfortable writing SQL queries. The Perl DBI layer makes a lot of this easy.


I am also now writing code that other people depend on which is a lot different from the system administrator scripts I usually write. Now my code needs to do the right thing under a variety of circumstances. I am making liberal use of Perl's eval statement so I can have some sort of deterministic behavior.


Recently I read a Damien Katz blog entry called
Error codes or Exceptions? Why is Reliable Software so Hard? which really spoke to me on my current plight. I am doing a combination of his three error handling styles - including the travel back in time one (I have rollback queue that gets poplulated with the actions to undo a step, in the case of an error I just run through the queue and have gone back in timeHappy)

Writing a Perl script this big has really made me appreciate Perl more in its flexability but has also made me yearn for Python more for its cleaner syntax and excellent exception handling.


At this point I am on the fence whether I want to be a full time programmer but this experience is a great way for me to get my toe in the water without jumping in.

New DVD player is the cats meow

On the advice of a friend I picked up a new DVD player this weekend. Up till this point I have been using my PS/2. I recently downloaded some videos from the internet and and a heck of a time transcoding them to DVD. I tried twice on my PC and finally succeeded on my MAC.

My friend at work explained that new DVD players could play PC/MAC videos burned on a disc.


I got the
Toshiba SD-3990 from the evil empire (no not Microsoft - Best Buy).

Sure enough it played everything I threw at it:

  • MPEG

  • DIVX

  • WMA


(I haven't tested Quicktime yet)


UPDATE: No Quicktime.


The best part - it only costs $59!


I also picked up
Top Gun to add to my 80's action movie collection.

Third week anniversary of exercising

Well today marks the third week since I started exercising six days a week. I only missed two days (Monday and Tuesday of this week) because I hurt my back last Saturday.

Well so far it is not getting any easier. I still have to will myself out of bed and I still don't want to exercise every morning.


I am still going to do it of course but I really thought it would be automatic or habit by now.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Been playing Oblivion most of the weekend since I hurt my back Saturday morning.  Wow this is a great game.  I play World of Warcraft for a while but stopped because I didn't like having to team up with people to do certain quests - of course the $13.95 a month after paying $50 for the game was hard to swallow as well.  One thing I miss from WoW was exploring and fighting creatures in the wilderness.  You never knew what you were going to find.  Oblivion, for me, is like WoW offline.  Its perfect for me.  Recently my character was bitten by a vampire and so now I am one.  My face has changed, I am stronger and faster, I can't be in the sun without taking damage.  I keep having nightmares about "feeding".  I am really impressed with this game.  Though I said I didn't lilke Morrowind due to its look and feel I think after oblivion I am going to give it another try.  I have the gold edition and one of the exansions lets you be a werewolf!  The down right sexy engine of Oblivion pulled me in but its the great gameplay that is keeping me there.

If you like RPG games at all you must get Oblivion.


Oh, I am about 6 hours into the game and I have only done the first part of the main quest which by itself is like 40 hours.

My response to the AT&T/NSA debacle

Tonight I setup my Linux box to be a Tor server - a network of virtual tunnels to aid in anonymous internet use. I encourage you to do the same if you have some spare bandwidth (you can rate limit).

Update on Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

I am about two hours into the game. It is still fun but not as fun as I hoped. There is a lot of repeat play such as:

  • Avoid these guards by sneaking (over and over again)

  • Keep seeing monsters but the narrative keeps saying "Something strange is going on..." - Yeah like your seeing monsters

  • Have about 100 rounds of various ammunition but no gun

  • Hear the AI speak it's three or four phrases (over and over again)


The atmosphere is very dark and creepy but I think the Gamecube's Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was better.

Nostogia for 80's action movies

This weekend I had to watch 80's action movies so I went DVD shopping. I picked up


(Okay so Total Recall is from 1990 but its pretty close to the 80'sHappy)


Yum. All of these movies impacted me when I first saw them so they will always have a special place in my movie-viewing heart. This is also the first time I have seen them in widescreen with 5.1 surround sound and uncut!.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Rocks!

I finally got Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth but not from EB Games. The game was supposed to be release March 27th. Then March 31st. It is now pushed back to April 17th and there are rumors of it being pushed back again until May. Since the developer is basically going out of business I personally think it might not be released in the US at all.

When I saw it got pushed back to April 17th I started hanging out on the
forums and reading about people playing the game already - seems it was released in the UK earlier this month for the PC (the developer is in the UK).

So I decided to order from a UK game site,
game.net, and got it last night.

The game looks fantastic.  I just started so I can't comment on the play as of yet but will in the future.

No more Tor

I shut down my Tor server this weekend. I ran it for about 10 days. More than anything it was really messing with my interactive performance when I worked from home so I guess I couldn't spare the bandwidth.

Emerald City ComicCon and Oblivion IV

I went to the ComicCon on Sunday instead of Saturday. It was a lot of fun. It was my first time going to one. I thought it was going to be like the Con featured in Chasing Amy and it was.

I saw two very cool things:

SoftWire (Rings of Orbis)
In the future a ring system in controlled by a massive computer. A boy has been born that can link with computer using only his mind. This represents a problem for the five or so alien races vying for control of the Rings of Orbis.

What is really cool about this is the author has teamed up with a software developer to create a free MMORPG to promote his books! Very cool.

The Looking Glass Wars
Alyss is fighting against her aunt, Red. She finds a portal to our world and meets up with Lewis Carroll who is fascinated by the girl's tale. Soon Alyss will have to go back.

I got a signed copy of the book and will blog about it when I am finished with Digital Fortress
The one other thing that was strange was the amount of copyrighted material for sale. I couldn't believe it. Movies, TV Shows, Cartoons, Porn. There were at least four booths selling this stuff. I can understand if the shows are not readily available and in fact support that but they were selling stuff that was available. Of course I didn't let that feeling get in the way of buying the entire Seaquest DSV series on 12 DVD's for $45 dollarsHappy I had just season one in my Amazon wishlist alone that alone was $44.99. Now this set was basically burned to DVD from SciFi channel but that's okay. I wanted Seaquest but not enough to pay a premium for it and have the nice transfer and sound.

Based on how much fun I had I am going to try to go to Norwescon 29 April 13-16. One of my favorite authors, Robert J. Sawyer, is the "Toastmaster" (not sure what that means).

I also got The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from Direct2Drive this weekend as well. On a side note Direct2Drive is great if you have a fast internet connection. I have 7Mbits down and download the 4.3GB oblivion in about 90 minutes. I then burn it to DVD and its mine. No going to the store. Price is the same but the instant gratification factor too awesome to pass up.

Anyway back to Oblivion. I never got into Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind but I wanted too. I think it was the clumsy graphics. I am probably too superficial when it comes to gaming but if it looks good it helps me enjoy the game more.

Oblivion looks fantastic. The engine uses HDR lighting and it is well used. The game feels faster pace and right off the bat there is a lot to do. I felt in Morrorwind, at least in the beginning, you wandered around too much just talking to people. Within 15 minutes of starting Oblivion I was fighting baddies and getting better equipment.

Lazy Saturday

Slept in today but I still exercised (weights). Later today I am going to the Emerald City Comic Con and may go to Fry's as well.

Fry's is like Toys-R-US for geeks.