Panflute for Lucid

The Panflute PPA now contains packages built for Lucid in addition to Karmic.

Mystery

The pilot episode of A Bit of Fry and Laurie isn’t particularly remarkable, except for this virtuoso performance by Hugh Laurie:

Man, Hugh Laurie sure looked different in the late eighties, before he started popping Vicodin.

Anyway, once you get past the pilot episode, the bits of Fry and Laurie on display are significantly improved. If you forced me to pick out a favorite from Season 1, I’d have to go with anything with Control and Tony in it, or, if you prefer your sketch comedy with a valuable moral, Doctor Tobacco.

Panflute 0.6.2 released

Panflute 0.6.2 has been released; all users are encouraged to upgrade. This release fixes several bugs, including a creeping CPU usage bug and compatibility problems with Banshee and Exaile. It also includes four new translations: Czech (cs), French (fr), Dutch (nl), and Portuguese (pt). See the release notes for more details.

Happy Pi Day!

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14, i.e. 3-14. Indiana, however, once came close to celebrating it on 3-20 exactly.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The text of the 1897 bill doesn’t come out and say it directly, and it gives several different derivations of pi, none of which are consistent with each other. Values include pi = 3.2, pi = 4, and pi = 16√2 / 7 ≈ 3.23. Who would have thought the mathematical crank who came up with it didn’t check his work?

The intro of the bill is also interesting, and tends to get overlooked in discussions about it:

A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897.

The crank behind the bill apparently planned on trying to collect royalties on the “correct” value(s) of pi, after giving Indiana a royalty-free license. Of course, this is nonsense, since you can’t copyright, trademark, or patent a fact, so there’s no way you can compel anyone to pay you royalties for it. Passing a bill to grant a state royalty-free access to a fact that isn’t even true is completely stupid in two independent ways.

Needless to say, it passed the Indiana House unanimously before getting shelved in the Indiana Senate, demonstrating the cluelessness of Indiana’s elected officials in both mathematics and intellectual property law. If not for the intervention of a Purdue mathematics professor, Indiana students today might be making funny-shaped circles to comply with state law.

The whole ordeal made the Indiana government a laughingstock, and since then all state governments have been careful to consult with experts before taking action to reject basic facts. Oh, wait.

Mega Man 10

Mega Man 9 was a great game. It took everything that made the early NES Mega Man games terrific and built on them, and avoided the traps that made the latter games me-too rehashes of the same basic gameplay. It played off of the player’s expectations of how a Mega Man game plays out, slipping in traps to trick and surprise anyone who grew up playing the original games. (And its increased difficulty modes in turn played off the player’s expectations from having played the game in normal mode, instead of just making enemies harder to destroy.) The weapons are nicely varied and often have dual uses, such as Tornado Blow hurting all enemies on the screen and boosting your jumps a bit thanks to the updraft. Mega Man 9 easily ranks in the same tier as Mega Man 2, one of the greatest games of all time, period.

Mega Man 10, on the other hand, is a good game. Not great, but good. It’s a pretty solid game, but definitely not as innovative as its predecessor.

The weapons are somewhat harder to use effectively. Several of them have a two-stage attack, and only the second stage deals significant damage. For example, the Commando Bomb‘s blast waves are more effective than hitting something with the bomb itself, and the Thunder Wool‘s lightning bolt is much stronger than the cloud that rises up from Mega Man’s arm cannon to fire it. It’s good to not have each weapon just be a differently-shaped projectile, but it can be tricky to aim for something near your target.

(Speaking of Sheep Man, I get the distinct impression from playing the game that he was originally supposed to be something like Thunder Man. They tried to make him look like a robotic cloud, but it wound up looking more like a robot sheep, so they ran with it. It would certainly explain why Sheep Man’s stage is electricity-centric rather than pastoral.)

The individual stages aren’t bad, though the gimmicks in them aren’t quite as fun to play through as they were in Mega Man 9. The disappearing blocks (heh heh) in Sheep Man’s stage are neat, but the see-saw thing in Blade Man‘s stage is more tedious than anything. Some stages have branching paths, which is then taken to a bit of an extreme in Wily Castle 1, where the branches themselves have branching paths.

I don’t think pointing out that Dr. Wily turns out to be the villain warrants a spoiler warning.

Wily Castle is the high point in the game. The bosses in particular are pretty great, riffing on past games and, in one case, a minor Internet meme? I really like the music for the Wily Castle bosses, and I think it goes particularly well with the first one. I also suspect that anyone familiar with Mega Man 2 will do the exact wrong thing out of instinct when they first encounter Wily Castle 3′s boss, like I did. That’s the subverting-player-expectations thing that Mega Man 9 did so well. And the final battle has a decent variant of the requisite fight against Wily Capsule.

By the way, Dr. Wily has tried to take over the world nine, or maybe ten, times already. Who keeps issuing him building permits for new Wily Castles? It’s not like he could build his latest Wily Castle in secret.

Why do I say nine or ten? Mega Man & Bass is a classic-series but unnumbered Mega Man game, so technically Mega Man 9 is the tenth in the series, and Mega Man 10 is the eleventh. Mega Man 9 supports this by referencing each of its nine predecessors in its ending. However, Mega Man 10 only calls out to the nine numbered classic-series games before it, completely ignoring Mega Man & Bass. And it’s not as though Inti Creates isn’t aware of Mega Man & Bass, since they developed both Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. It’s odd.

The plot makes no sense, even by the low standards of Mega Man games. Ostensibly, Dr. Wily needs Mega Man and Proto Man’s help to recover the components of the Roboenza cure machine from the infected robot masters who stole it from his lab. And it is reasonable to think a mad scientist who spends all his time making killer robots would be interested in not having them infected by a virus. But it turns out that Dr. Wily was behind Roboenza all along! So… why wouldn’t he already have the cure stockpiled somewhere, or design Roboenza so infected robots didn’t steal his stuff? They were his robots, too, since they have DWN-series numbers. Any why would he give Roll a functioning cure capsule, if he wants to trade the cure for robots’ loyalty? Or why not just use his close access to Mega Man and Proto Man to infect them directly? Was Dr. Wily just hoping that Mega Man and Proto Man coming into close contact with the infected robot masters would cause them to catch Roboenza? It seems needlessly indirect, especially when he’s right there in Dr. Light‘s lab working on the cure machine.

Dr. Wily’s plan here makes the whole Mr. X thing in Mega Man 6 look downright genius by comparison.

Mega Man 10 does have an easy mode, which apparently has some people up in arms. Normally I’d say “if you don’t like it, don’t play it”, but you do need to play through it to unlock some of the challenges, without which you can’t get 100% completion on those. Easy mode also counts for the in-game challenges, which I’m not entirely sure I like. My second play-through was on easy mode to unlock some of the challenge stages, and without trying too hard I passed the challenges for beating the game under an hour, beating the game without dying, and beating the game without using any E-, W-, or M-tanks. (Granted, though, I did go through a few Shock Guards — even easy mode can surprise you with spike traps.) I’d like it better if the in-game challenges distinguished which difficulty level you beat them at, just like how some of the challenge stages distinguish between getting through the stage and getting through without taking damage. But beating the game without taking damage would be difficult even on easy mode. Doing it on hard mode… wow.

The challenge stages are a good way to practice fighting the game’s bosses without playing through the appropriate stage first, and they also give you a chance to practice with each special weapon and explore the full extent of its capabilities. I wasn’t aware, for instance, you could use the Wheel Cutter to climb walls, until I went through the challenge stage where it was needed.

If Mega Man 9 is on the same tier as Mega Man 2, I’d say Mega Man 10 is somewhere between the original Mega Man and Mega Man 4: still good, but a bit disappointing, especially when compared to its predecessor. I’d be apprehensive about the prospect of a Mega Man 11, since it doesn’t look like they’re going to top Mega Man 9 anytime soon.