Browsable bzr repository

I’ve finally set up a browsable web interface to my bzr repositories. Now you can more easily track what’s going on in my various software projects without having to actually check out a copy of the repository. In particular, there’s also feeds that track the latest updates. I’ve also added those feeds to the sidebar of my blog, thus letting you keep tabs on what’s going on with almost no effort on your part.

If it breaks, let me know.

ur doin it wrong

Pew Foundation on Religion and Public Life: 8% of atheists \"absolutely certain\" God exists.

Source: Study by the Pew Foundation on Religion and Public Life, as pointed out by Improbable Research

On On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

Last weekend I bought Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode 1, and spent entirely too much time this past week playing through it.

I was curious about the game for two reasons. First, I like Penny Arcade, which happens to be the very first webcomic I was introduced to, way back when I was a freshman. Second, they actually produced a Linux version of the game, which you see pretty rarely in the world of commercial games. It seems like the sort of thing I should encourage.

Since they had a free demo of the game, I was first able to see if the game would actually run on my four-year-old laptop, which meets the minimum specs, barely. It does, albeit with swapping everything else out of RAM on startup and taking a long time to switch between areas. But doing the game itself, performance is acceptable, at least one you get used to the slight amount of lag in areas where timing is important. (Most noticeable in the Vandalism minigame, where I’d need to hit the space bar when the meter was centered over the left or right stack if I wanted it to stop over the center one.) Of course, this is more the fault of my old, ill-suited-for-gaming hardware; the game is indeed entirely playable.

The demo got me hooked, and the rest of the game didn’t disappoint. The battle system is nicely done, encouraging you to do more elaborate things than just “attack enemies until they die” to get the bonuses. There’s no random encounters — in fact, enemies never respawn, period, so there’s no grindiness to be found. Plus, you get to beat up barbershop quartets, which is always fun.

Really, the game is largely devoid of the typical set of annoyances you find in games. No random battles. A “Case Log” that reminds you what needs to be done to advance the plot. Auto-saving after any significant event (including battles). Automatic healing after battles. A tutorial level (the demo) where the tutorial content is both entertaining and skippable. You can tell the game was designed by people who play a lot of games, and decided not to put in the things that make games stop being fun.

But where the game really shines, naturally, is the humor. All the cutscenes are filled with precisely the sort of dialog you’d expect from Penny Arcade. My favorite, for some reason, is when the player tries to get a reaction out of The Silent Pope by singing The Name Game for “mime”, pausing after each line to wait for a response.

The game is fairly small in scope, but the level of detail is impressive. Loads of things on each screen have a humorous description or two to be found when you click on them. It turns out there’s a lot of things you can say about trash cans, or ice cream cones dropped on the boardwalk. It’s also a nice touch to have the little robots — you know the ones — say “01100110 01110101 01100011 01101011″, which means exactly what you think it does.

And for the record, the cat is not worthless. It is possible for its attack to do non-negligible damage, and it happens with greater than the roughly 1-in-2,000,000 probability claimed in-game.

Now they just need to come out with the next episode. My character needs revenge. And a house.

Music Applet 2.4.0 released

Music Applet 2.4.0 has just been released. The main change is that it now supports the recently-released Banshee 1.0, in addition to older versions of Banshee. There’s also improved support for debugging crashes, as well as an updated Czech (cs) translation.

Unfortunately, the new version of Banshee doesn’t provide a way to manipulate song ratings. Once that gets fixed in Banshee, I’ll update Music Applet accordingly.

A few technical notes on Banshee 1.0 support: since this new version of Banshee completely changed its D-Bus interface, there’s now two plugins for Banshee: the old one and the new one. While it’s inelegant to have two plugins for what the user sees as one program, it’s the only reasonable technical solution, given that the two versions of Banshee are completely different as far as Music Applet is concerned. If you have problems with Banshee support after upgrading the applet, check to make sure the new plugin (now called “Banshee”) is enabled. The old plugin has been renamed “Banshee (pre-1.0)”. I have no plans to remove support for old versions of Banshee any time soon.

Dead Duck Day

Somehow, I think some of you might be interested to know that today, June 5, is Dead Duck Day. No, not to worry, the little guy is fine, perched on my printer with that stupid little grin of his and constant shilling of insurance.

In case you aren’t familiar with the historic scientific event that Dead Duck Day commemorates, here’s the abstract from the Ig Nobel Prize-winning scientific paper it spawned, courtesy of the author:

On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.

Moeliker, C.W., 2001 – The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae) – DEINSEA 8: 243-247 [ISSN 0932-9308]. Published 9 November 2001


Old, but not dead

Wow, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted something here.

Old Lady, my fledgling open-source bridge game, has finally been seeing some updates lately. The main blocker had been me hitting the limits of my knowledge of bridge strategy augmented with the information readily available on the Internet. While Old Lady follows the rules of bridge just fine, it’s absolutely horrid at playing well. And since the computer plays not only your opponents but also your partner, this isn’t as nice as a novice might think.

Anyway, during a recent trip to the library I found an introductory bridge book that does a pretty good job explaining basic bidding and play, along with the rationale behind it. I started implementing its guidance in Old Lady’s Prolog code, but didn’t get very far into it before having to return the book. And since the copy I bought off of Amazon hasn’t arrived yet, things are once again on hold. Briefly, this time.

Old Lady is still pretty much unplayable, but if you’re really curious you can grab the latest code out of its bzr repository at At least now the configure script actually checks to make sure you have SWI-Prolog installed, though it still pretty much assumes you have all the modules (both Prolog and Python) installed. That’ll be fixed eventually.

I tentatively plan the next tarball release for when enough of the bidding system is implemented to make at least that phase of the game playable.