September 27th, 2009


Schoooooooooool's Out! For! Summer!

Either Barack Obama is the world's greatest In Real Life troll, or he's about to shaft another group of people who helped get him elected.

Obama is telling schools that they should add more hours to classes, stay open later, and cut back on summer vacation time.  Sheesh, why not just turn the places into boarding schools?  (I know, I know...don't give him any ideas, Peter!)

Obama pointed out how so many schools in foreign countries have more hours for their students and, as the national news is constantly reminding us, they test way higher than US students do.

Of course, this overlooks that fact that we have schools in the inner city with hopelessly outdated stuff (one Chicago inner city school had an encyclopedia set from 1937) and students that don't want to learn and don't care if they flunk.  I bet if you weeded those students out, we'd be a lot higher on the ladder.  And of course, anyone who thinks that education gets you ahead in the world and if you don't apply yourself, you'll never succeed, well...I think our last President might disagree with you there.

The reason I see this as fucking over the teachers is that there is no outline to increase pay for them.  They grade homework at home, have to prepare lesson plans on their own time, stay later on their own dime in classes larger than one person should have to manage, and here's Obama saying, "You're gonna have to do more with no help and no pay."  Niiiiiiiiiiice.

There comes a point where doing the right thing is laudible, but the way you set about doing it is a very bad idea.  Increasing school time is going to have the opposite effect.  But try getting him to stop covering his ears and listen to you explain that.  Logic is an enemy.

You Gotta Know When To Code 'Em, Know When To Modem....

I've been experimenting more with the Pascal programming language for my game designs, and I have to say, it is a very impressive bit of kit.

It feels pretty intuitive, almost like C++, but with a lot of the dirty work taken care of for you.  For example, if you want to do stuff with the text mode screen under C++, you need to find a Curses library like PDCurses (public domain) or NCurses (GPL), install it correctly, and deal with the extra, non-standard commands.  Pascal, it's under the CRT stock library that comes with the compiler, and you don't have to mess with anything.  I've only been doing some cursory testing with it, but already, I'm at a point where I can start making text-mode games like I used to make under BASIC on my IBM PCjr. from so long ago.  (The coders I hang out with have been giving me shit.  "Most people start with Pascal and work up to C++, not the other way around.")

I've noticed that a lot of the programming languages have evolved to a point of similarity.  They are all structured now instead of the line numbers that inspired so many bad habits in the days of BASIC.  Even modern BASICs have gone structured, can pass arguments between modules, etc.  The question, at least at the moment, is the syntax.  Pascal has a common mentality with C++, so it feels more like a sidestep.  FreeBASIC feels like a step backwards to me.

The biggest problem with FreeBASIC, and the reason I'm not giving it serious consideration at the moment, is how it lacks two things:  1) decent documentation (I eventually found a manual, but it isn't well organized and trying to print it out took over a ream of paper and it still wasn't finished, and that was after reformatting it with 6 point type!) and 2) clarity over the licenses.  The compiler is covered by the GPL, like Open Lazarus (Pascal).  The libraries, all but one are covered by the LGPL.  One library, for graphics, is GPL'ed.  And no one on the forums or IRC channel could answer my questions about what it would take to be compliant.

Fortunately, I ran into a guy online who was an expert on the GPL and LGPL and he explained how to stay legal with the licenses.  But he's not connected with FreeBASIC.  Tt's their project, they should know this stuff.  Lazarus has an entire section of their faq, with one of the first links pointing to it, to answer all your questions about being legal, what you have to do and what it means if you do whatever.  Python has an entire section on their site, with a link on the first page, telling you everything you can do and what you need to do to be legal.  Runtime Revolution (a.k.a. Transcript) has a section telling you everything you can do and what you need to be compliant.  RealBASIC does, too.  Not only does FreeBASIC have no such section of their site, but the people in the forums who will answer questions get quite a bit of it wrong.  One guy even said, "Don't worry about the GPL, the coder for the engine isn't going to sue you."  That's not good enough for me.  Considering how much I urge respect and support of the GPL, for me to simply use GPL'ed code and not care if I'm compliant or not would make me a total hypocrite, and I refuse to do that.

I've suspended development on Germ Warfare for a while.  Once I get the basics of Pascal down and can play with it, I'll seek out a frame buffer library and see what I can do gamewise.  If it works, I might just skip devving Germ Warfare on Game Editor and just jump straight to Pascal.  We'll see what happens.  Game Editor can still come in handy for demos, while Pascal is for when it's time to get serious (the bindings that let you incorporate Java, Python, and C++ is a huge perk, as well).

Like Velocity Girl sang, "Half the, half the fun is getting there...."

Get The Lead Out

A couple of months ago, I was out with family and they decided they wanted to kill some time at Wal-Mart.  I know, what a great social venue.  Realizing I was looking at a loooooooong time, I went and bought an art pad (actual bristol!  Wasn't expecting that) and a pack of Bic mechanical pencils.  #2 lead, 0.7mm lead size.  They were plastic, but they were cheap.  I was just looking for something so I could kill time working on concept sketches.  I wound up with rough versions of a few covers for Sound Waves, and seven of these stupid things left.  Not wanting to see them go to waste, I put my trusty drafter's mechanical pencil aside until I ran through the leads on all these plastic things.

Tonight, I use up another one.  I had been wondering how they got the leads inside, since there wasn't any way to unscrew the tips or open them as far as I could see.  Then I thought, doofus, look under the eraser, just like your regular mechanical pencil.  So I do.  Yup, that's where the leads go.

So I'm running on curiosity.  I take the other plastic pencils that I haven't used and pull off the erasers to see how many leads are in each one.  Each one has a lead already loaded in the path.  Tip it, and two leads come out.

Three.  Measely.  Leads.

The drafter's pencil I bought came with more than that!

I'm not fond of these pencils to begin with.  The drafter's pencil I use has a metal holder at the bottom that the lead sticks through.  The wall are very thin, so when I'm working with my circle templates (go ahead and laugh, but I need the structure, I'm lost without it), I get nice little circles to build my figures around.  The plastic ones, though, they have thicker walls around the lead, which shrinks the size and makes it tougher.  I've mostly been using the plastic ones for general stuff once I have the scene laid out or, primarily, for Sound Waves, since that has more room to fudge the numbers.  And to answer the obvious question, no, I can't just take the leads out and use them in my regular pencil.  It's a .05mm, and the plastic ones are .07mm.

Part of me wants to say, "They weren't even five bucks, just toss the stupid things if you hate them that much."  But the other part argues about being wasteful.  So I think I'll just use them up.  But the next time I'm out with the family, I'm bringing my own pencil with me.