This made me laugh

February 17, 2007

This is really funny.

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The election debate

February 16, 2007

I just watched the debate between Morris Iemma and Peter Debnam held by the ABC’s Stateline. I have some thoughts.

  • Morris Iemma’s desal plant – no way. I would pick recycled water over desal any time. The $2bn plant will just waste electricity and produce not nearly enough water to justify it.
  • Infrastructure – Morris Iemma did introduce NSW’s largest ever infrastructure package, however I think it’s being spent wrongly. The transport system is still a mess. Public schools are still a mess. And Iemma has promised to fix these things after the election instead of fixing them earlier.
  • Peter Debnam getting rid of 20000 workers – If these civil servants are who Peter Debnam says they are, i.e. Sydney-based bureaucrats, then I say go for it. If they are who Iemma says they are, front line workers, then no.
  • Debnam’s spending spree – This is the big one. You can have all the right policies and ambitions but ultimately someone has to pay for it. Peter Debnam doesn’t seem to have a real plan – where will all these billions of dollars come from? Getting rid of 20000 workers won’t save *that* much.

In the end I think that while Debnam has some good ideas Iemma ultimately won the debate, and I’m guessing he’ll probably win on March 24 as well.


Why Current RTS Games Suck – Part 1

February 15, 2007

Below is Part 1 out of something of a big long rant about RTS games. It’s probably incoherent and not really worth reading. You have been warned.


I’m a computer enthusiast who generally doesn’t play too many computer games. Generally when I do play games they are real-time strategy or RTS games.

Recently I’ve found myself playing less and less games and have been trying to figure out why. I think I’ve figured it out. Nowadays I’m finding RTS games boring. I’ve seen MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have taken off and now I understand why…

Current RTS games are very inflexible. The game is played within a specific set of rules. There is little room for the player to really think of interesting new strategies.

Think about it. When playing many RTS games you create certain types of units to do certain things. You build certain buildings to do certain things. When it comes to actually doing something, you do things in a certain way.

Think about it… in most RTS games there is one way to attack. Select a military unit, select its target. Do that with a sufficient army in the right places and you can win.

But there are much more interesting ways of damaging the enemy than simply killing units and destroying buildings with your soldiers. In many RTS games you can’t do that.

There’s also a strange lack of real civilian things in many RTS games. In many games you can create military tanks to transport personnel, but what about a bus? A train system? A lot of RTS games lack these things. In most RTS games there is one main objective and only one: win by military dominance. (This isn’t always the case as there are usually quite a few missions involving economic or scientific advancement, but the main aim is to win by military means.) That gets boring. Economic development is fun as well. But having a strong economy doesn’t really help you (except for the fact that you can train a bigger army.) Only winning by military success counts.

You can’t usually mix things or combine things. You are stuck with the combinations chosen by the game developers. If you could make things up yourself you could do very interesting things.

Another problem is that many RTS games tend to treat people and vehicles as the same things, just units. They are not the same thing. People can’t just be created and suddenly know how to work, whereas vehicles can. Vehicles can’t just drive themselves, they need people. People can’t just be ‘built’, vehicles can.

Due to the military focus of most RTSs, it is difficult to win with a smaller less advanced army. Some RTS games I have played employ a very simple and successful AI that simply builds military units and attacks. These are very difficult to defeat and often players get bored of having to use the same old tactics and just build a bigger
army.

Overall, most RTS games just lack balance – they are too focused on the military and forget about the civilian part, they only provide one real path to winning, they don’t allow the player to change things and work differently, they don’t discriminate between man and machine. RPG games do that, and that IMHO is one reason they are so
successful.

It would be interesting to create a game simulating guerilla warfare, where civilian items are used out of necessity, new strategies must be devised, and the ‘army’ doesn’t consist of too much. Sure, it would be difficult to develop technically, but it would certainly be interesting.

Perhaps the open source/free software community can do a Project Orange/Elephants Dream type thing except developing a really great, commercial quality, free/open game.


My AOpen case really sucks…

February 3, 2007

Yesterday I picked up an old DVD-ROM drive that I had swapped out from a computer I was setting up for someone. “I’ll install this at home,” I thought. (I actually didn’t have any DVD drive at all in my system.)

I took it home and opened up my system to install it. Unscrewed the stuff at the back and took it off. So far so good.

Then I tried to figure out exactly how the drive was meant to fit in. Now, while I’ve installed new drives for others before, I’ve actually never done it on my own system. This is where the trouble began…

Firstly I wanted to remove the plastic plates that covered the 5 1/4″ drive bay. That involves removing the system’s front panel. This particular front panel, however, was secured by three plastic clips on the left and right and four (I think) on the top and bottom. It took *ages* to get off, I would guess around 20 minutes.

Secondly, only one side of the 5 1/4″ drive bay bracket is exposed. To get to the other side you have to remove the 3 1/2″ FDD and HDD bracket first, which is rather inconvenient as you have to slide it along before pulling it out.

So now, after removing the front panel and the drive bay’s plastic cover, and unscrewing my existing drive, I saw that there was a fair bit of metal covering pretty much where the drive bay is. I figured that that was supposed to be torn off when installing a new drive, although I don’t exactly see why it’s needed (none of the other systems I’ve seen have anything like it). Using various implements I managed to get it all off in a few minutes.

After all that, I was finally able to put in my new ancient 1999 DVD-ROM drive. I was rather happy…

Then THE STUPID CABLE WASN’T LONG ENOUGH… what exactly is the point of putting connectors for master and slave if you can only use the longer one? I thought about it for a few minutes then figured that the middle connector was closer to the motherboard than the drive and that if I unplugged the cable and put the other end in the board it would probably work. And it did.

So after what was probably an hour or more of work I can now play DVDs. Slowly…