the real (6)


Seeking new opportunities….

So, the time has come once again when I’m looking for new job opportunities.  As of the 1st of June I’ll be available for any fantastically interesting permanent opportunities in and around Manchester (Uk) or remote working.

you can view my linkedin profile here for a quick history of my experience, and if you want any further details contact me at [email protected] for a copy of my resume.




Play spotify through a different sound device (windows)

Just a quick post today about how to solve a common (maybe) frustration…

My setup when I’m working is that I sit at my desk in the kitchen, with spotify open to have some nice background music going on. However, my nice amp with its decent bass levels and all the rest is sat in the living room. That’s not really a problem, since I have one of these which allows me to play music from my laptop via bluetooth to the amp. However, the standard setup in windows means that you have one ‘default’ sound device, and that’s the one that spotify uses. So if I want my system sounds to come out of my laptop speakers (rather than, for example, conducting skype conversations via my amp) it means I have to play music through the laptop speakers as well.

Until I found this:

http://www.equalify.me/

With the simple addition of this rather wonderful piece of (free update: equalify is no longer free according to comments from readers, it now costs $5) software I can happily play spotify through my amp via bluetooth while keeping everything else through my ‘default’ laptop speakers.

Here’s how it works. First, in windows select your default audio device. Remember, this should be the device you want everything except spotify to play through.

The easiest way to do this is to right click on the volume mixer icon in your taskbar and select ‘playback devices’. You should see a window like this:

Untitled

right click on the device you want to use as the default (if it isn’t already set as such) and select ‘set as default’. Again, remember this is the device you want to play everything except spotify through.

Now, download and install equalify from here: http://www.equalify.me/?page=download

Once it’s installed, fire up spotify and you should see a new icon next to your search bar, like this: 1

Click it, and the equalify window should open at the top left of your spotify window. Right click on the equalify window and wight click to activate the context menu. Select ‘options’ and then ‘change sound device’ like so:

Untitled

From the window that pops up, use the drop down to select the audio device you want to use and then click ‘Set New Output Device’:

Untitled

Now restart spotify.

And that’s pretty much it, spotify should now play through the device you selected.

As well as allowing playback through different audio devices, equalify also acts as an equaliser… if you like that sort of thing.




Pad Project day 2: a blast from the past.

Yeah, I’m going with ‘Pad’ project as the shorthand for my ‘post a day’ project.  Although now I’ve actually written it I realise it looks like I’m doing a project on feminine hygiene products.  Which is really not what I’m going for.  Anyway, for today’s little snippet of brain fodder I decided to revisit my past and lookup a project I’d released into the wilds of the internet many years ago.

First though, to pad this out and meet my self imposed 1000 word per post limit, some background.

In the winter of 2009 Relic entertainment, a fairly new games developer released their much anticipated debut game ‘homeworld’.  Although taking obvious cues from previous RTS games like command and conquer and total annihilation, Homeworld was a true innovator of the genre and even today hasn’t really been surpassed (in my opinion anyway) in the field.  For a start, Homeworld looked years ahead of anything else on the market.

This is command and conquer Tiberian sun, released in 1999:

And this is homeworld, released the same year:

Homeworld was a true revolution in RTS games.  It was set in space, something that I don’t think any other game of the genre had attempted.  As well as allowing the developers to not worry about rendering trivial things like the ground (which no doubt aided the gorgeous graphics engine) the addition of that third dimension meant that the tactics of playing homeworld were completely new.  In games like C&C much of the game would focus around tactical ‘choke points’ like bridges over rivers, or gaps in walls… places through which the enemy could be funnelled to meet your army.  Homeworld did away with that, the battlefield was truly open and enemies could come at your from all around.  In addition Homeworld also did away with base building, allowing you to turn your mined resources directly into new ships to deploy against your enemies.  The ships themselves where truly magnificent.  I can still remember the thrill of finally being able to produce a destroyer, a massive step up from the corvettes and frigates of the early game.   The addition of a compelling storyline which was a world away from C&C’s “bad guy tries to take over the world” ensured homeworld’s place as a true classic, and a game that any RTS fan should take the time to hunt down and play.

Another thing that made homeworld such a hit was the active community that sprang up around it.  There was a well populated multiplayer ladded (which wikipedia informs me had 18,000 players registered at its peak) and a hugely inventive modding community… and that’s where we finally get round to the project this post is about.

The way modding worked in homeworld was simple compared to todays’s games like skyrim, which come with a whole construction set for you to play around in.  All of the resources (models, textures, scripts) that make up the core game of homeworld came bundled in an custom archived file format.  Eventually, after a lot of hard work this format was cracked open (although the name of the guy who did this escapes me, he was massively popular in the modding community at the time) and people realised that any of the extracted files from this archive which were placed in the homeworld directory would override the archive, enabling you to edit the behaviour of ships, their models and pretty much anything else that took your fancy.  Soon editors for the various file formats were released and an incredibly active and inventive mod community sprang into life.

The only problem with this rather simplistic method of overriding game assets comes when you want to switch between multiple mods… you need some way of bundling up the assets into one directory and swapping between them as required.  Which is where I came in.  In the summer of 2000 I released ‘ModMan’ a tool for doing just that… it kept track of which files belonged to which mod, and allowed you to swap between them with the click of a button.  I wrote it in Borland Turbo Pascal, in the days before I (and just about everyone else) switched to the .Net framework for windows development and to my suprise you can still find copies of it online now.  A google search for ‘homeworld modman’ turned up this page which has a link to the latest version.

And here it is in all its 13 year old glory:

Capture

Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of homeworld (and it isn’t available on steam 🙁 ) to try it out with, but it runs and you can get a vague hint of its capabilities.  As well as the core functionality of swapping mod files around, it also includes a series of configurable buttons for launching other modding programs, options for binding filetypes to programs and…well, that’s about it really.  Still at the time I was hugely impressed with myself.  Unfortunately ModMan never really had the uptake in the community I would have liked, mostly because I didn’t even have a website to distribute it through at that point…I was reliant on word of mouth and people sharing the program with each other.  Still it’s the first program I ever really wrote for other people to use and I seem to remember there were tens if not dozens of people who used it at the time.  It also taught me a lot about software development, error trapping and so on that’s stood me in good stead since then.

Since I’m still a few words short, here’s the readme file as written by a 21 year old me at 23:20 on the 30th of November 2000…obviously I was much more passionate about software development in those days… now I think I’d leave writing the readme file til the next day.  Maybe that way it wouldn’t have quite so many typos in it:


Modman 5.1
Heres the latest version of modman for you. This improves quite a 
lot over previous versions. Unfortunately I haven't been able to write 
atutorial for it yet (University work interfering again!) but if you have 
any problems E-mail me (use my hotmail address -
[email protected], not this one). Heres some of the new 
features:-
-Filetypes
 Modman now allows you to associate filetypes with several 
applications, so you can perform any number of operations on a file 
using a simple right-click sub-menu. You can set these options by 
pressing the 'options' button and selecting the 'File types' tabbed 
page.
-auto generate ignore list
 The ignore list is a list of files and folders that you want 
modman to ignore when moving mods around, deleting mods etc... 
You can now edit this list from the options page.
-Homeworld + cataclysm support. 
 You can now switch between homeworld and cataclysm with 
one mouse click and keep a seperate set of mods for each.
INSTALLATION
unzip modman to a new folder (eg c:\modman) and run 
mmsetup to select which games you have and setb the paths 
accordingly. Homeworld mods go in the homeworld directory, cat 
mods in the cataclysm directory
eg:
c:\modman\homeworld\mod1
c:\modman\homeworld\mod2
c:\modman\cataclysm\mod1
etc...
have fun!



The ‘post a day’ project

So, new year new start and all that.  For 2013 I’ve decided I’m going to try and kick start some writing by using the ‘write something, doesn’t matter what it is but write something every single day’ method.  So from now on I’ll be making sure to post something every day.  It probably won’t be very interesting, sometimes it will be techy and sometimes it won’t.

Today’s post is going to be about DIY, and what I hope to do to my front room.  The house I currently live in is still decorated in the style it was when I moved in, and doesn’t look like it’s been touched since the early 80’s.  Here’s a shot of how it looked before I started doing anything (more on this later):

The cute kid didn’t come with the house by the way, that’s my daughter chilling out in the 80’s haven that is my house.  And not the ‘good’ 80s (danger mouse, fraggle rock etc).  You can’t really see the full horror in that rather dingy picture, so here’s some close ups of the carpet and the walls.

hmm, not too bad…. I mean, it’s not going to win any ‘best home’ awards, but it’s reasonable I guess.  But wait, what’s that on the wall?

 

Holy Jesus.  That’s… not good.  What you’re looking at there my friend is artex, probably the worst thing to come out of the 80s (and yes, I’m including hairstyles in that assessment).  The fact that this covers every wall (and the ceiling, because bad taste apparently isn’t limited to 2 dimensions) means that I’m going to have to either strip all the walls back to the brickwork and get them replastered, or smooth them over (and lose about 6 inches of space in the room).  However, then I started thinking about what I want the room to look like.  This is seriously new territory for me, I’ve never really paid much attention to decorating or anything even remotely related, but I started hunting around for things that looked good.  I decided I liked exposed brickwork, and wooden floors so I narrowed my search a little bit and then I found this:

I can’t even remember where I got that picture from now (if you know, give me a shout so I can include some credit) but it’s pretty much exactly what I want.  Except for the deers head mounted on the wall… that would seriously freak me out.  But the general concept of exposed brickwork on the chimney breast, simple plain coloured walls and wooden floors really hit a nerve with me.  So I decided to start working towards that.  The first job I took on (because it didn’t cost anything to do) was to have a look at the brickwork around the fireplace.  So I started chiselling.  And then chiselled some more.  Seriously, whoever put this plaster on wasn’t fucking around, this stuff is literally 2 inches deep.  But I persevered and finally, after a couple of days (well, a couple of hours spread over a couple of days) here’s the result:

Well…it’s more of a work in progress than a finished article.  The 3rd wall of the chimney breast (the one you can’t see due to my artfully angled picture) isn’t done yet, since it will mean taking down the bookshelves which itself entails a whole load of fun… but I’m reasonably pleased with the effect so far.  There’s some areas need touching up, and maybe a bit of repointing (can you even repoint interior walls?  I have no idea) but other than that I think it looks pretty good.  I’m not entirely sure what to do about the top of the wall, where it currently meets the (rather hideous) edging that runs around the room.  I’m going to have to replace all that at some point I guess, but I’m not entirely sure what with.  Also still left to do is removal of the current gas fire.  I’ve had the fire off, and the original coal…pit?  is still there behind it, but I need to get the gas supply capped off before I can permanently remove it.

Once that’s done it’s on to the floor.  I’m slightly torn on what I want to do about the floor.  I know I want wood flooring, and the cheapest / easiest way to get that is some kind of laminate…. but laminate always looks vaguely plasticky to me.  Even the fancy end of the market still has that telltale plastic sheen to it.  I do have a couple of other options though.  The first is to just go with the original floor boards… sand them down and varnish them.  There is an added complication with that though…. let’s take a look at what’s under the carpet:

Oh lovely… you probably can’t really make it out from that picture, but those are individual tiles of lino that have been glued to the floor.  That top corner that’s broken off is my attempt to level up one of the tiles.  It didn’t go well.  So going for the original floor boards would require chiselling off each bit of tile, then sanding the floor, then varnishing.  Something that would take a huge amount of time and effort, and at the end of it I don’t even know what the floorboards will look like.

The final option is similar to the laminate, but real wood flooring.  The only problem here is cost. My room is 4.5 by 3.7 metres…so something like this for example, ends up costing me over £500 for the room.  Which might not seem that bad, but is more than I can really justify spending on it.  So… it looks like the ‘chisel each little bit off’ approach is the only way forward, and I’ll just have to hope that the boards are in decent condition once I actually get down to them.




Google Glasses: ‘Rainbows end’ is coming.

After a lot of rumours, and some imaginative concept art Google finally announced the latest idea from the Google-X labs yesterday:  Google Glasses. Touted as ‘terminator glasses’ as a callback to the onscreen display seen in the Terminator films (why terminator?  Robocop would be a much better example of this) these glasses are the first step down the road to google’s vision of a truly augmented reality. Here’s the video showcasing Google’s future palns for this technology:

Someone at google has obviously been reading Verner Vinge’s superlative ‘Rainbows end’ (yes, the missing apostrophe is intentional).  In it he describes a future in which reality augmenting contact lenses are as ubiquitous as the mobile ‘phone is today and everyone is used to constantly swimming in a sea of information that overlays and enhances the everyday reality we’re used to living in. The glasses that Google are currently working on are obviously a long way away from something you’d want to wear all the time, however researchers are already working on contact lenses with displays built in, I’d be suprised if we don’t see a reasonable (say SVGA resolution) contact lens display reaching commercial availability in the next 5 to 10 years.  That may seem optimistic, but if you look at where smartphone displays were 10 years ago and compare them to  today I think 10 years is being conservative if anything.

The video from google showcasing what Google Glasses will be able to do is only a taster of this new way of looking at the world, but this is one of those rare concepts that really does offer us a glimpse of the future and I for one can’t wait to see where google goes with it.




A New start

Wow, it’s been quite a while since my last update.  I’ve recently started a new job which has rekindled my interest in blogging about some of the interesting and geeky things I get up to.

First off, I’ve launched a new site: MipsDroid.com, dedicated to Android on MIPs devices.  I’ll be focusing on the Novo7 Paladin initially (since that’s the MIPs device I have) but I’ll be keeping an eye on this up and coming architecture and hopefully covering more devices as and when they appear.  At the moment one of the problems with the MIPs architecture is that, despite Android apps being ‘mostly’ write once, run anywhere in the Java tradition there are some ‘gotchas’ to do with how the apps are compiled that result in MIPs devices only being able to run a subset of Android devices.  Hopefully this will change as MIPs becomes more mainstream, but for now there’s a definite shortage of apps available out of the box so I’ll be keeping up to date with what’s out there and sharing my findings.

At work my main areas of focus are Fuse ESB which is a pretty nifty Java / Spring XML based enterprise messagign framework and Magento, a PHP ecomemrce platform.  So expect to see some posts in those areas coming soon.  In particular I’ve just completed my first project in Fuse, which was a really interesting learning experience so I’ll be posting some of the things I found in the coming days and weeks.

jNag is still dead as far as I’m concerned… however I may release another ‘final’ version soon incorporating the latest version of jQuery Mobile (which had a 1.0 release since I last posted).

Also, I’ll be migrating the site to my new shared hosting package this week, probably tomorrow so don’t worry if the site goes down briefly.