Archive for August 2005

GeForce Weirdness

Published on August 31, 2005

So I’m playing through Far Cry again, this time with all the eye candy turned way up. This is all thanks to the wonder that is the GeForce 6800 GT. It’s absolutely fan-freaking-tastic. But I digress…

I had just arrived at Rebellion, quite possibly the biggest map in the game. After clearing the first area of the map, I begin the long journey to the other side. As I round a bend in the road, the screen goes corrupt (in an incredibly wicked way) and my system hangs. Performing the three finger salute did absolutely nothing, so I was forced to perform a hard reset. So now I’m booting up my machine, everything is fine, and BAM – as soon as I reach the Windows desktop, I have the same problem. Complete and utter destruction of my screen. Again, keyboard control is highly unresponsive.

At this point I power down the machine and open up the case. Could the graphics card be getting too hot? I am pushing it rather hard. After waiting a few seconds, I power up again and all is well. I didn’t try loading up Far Cry again, but I plan to give it another go tonight. Has anyone ever seen this issue? I updated my chipset drivers last night (after the crash), and I also patched Far Cry (I was running 1.3, and am now at 1.33), thinking that might help in some way. Hopefully this problem isn’t an ominous omen of some sort. I certainly don’t want to replace this awesome piece of hardware.

On the Move

Published on August 26, 2005

(Apologies if this post jumps from one topic to another; I have a great deal on my mind).

For an incredibly long 13 weeks, my family has been trying to sell our house. Anytime anyone wanted to view it, we would end up having to go somewhere. It didn’t take very long to run out of places to visit so, needless to say, we quickly became quite bored of this routine. My mother is particularly tired of it, since she stays home during the day. So every time someone came to view the house, she would have to leave. Thankfully, we have just received our first offer for the house. The folks want to close in an incredibly short amount of time, so I expect things to get hectic around here very shortly. Please bear with me if my posts become erratic. I may not have internet connectivity for a few days (something I already loathe), so updates may be few and far between for a short while.

I continue to make excellent progress on Googlebar Lite 2.2. Just tonight I fixed a lurking bug that was recently reported, added a brand new option, and made several other miscellaneous changes. Some strings need to be translated, and a new feature or two may still need to be added, but this release is already shaping up to be a good one.

Various theme tweaks continue at this site. I located a very inefficient styling problem earlier this week (regarding the background rendering for each page), and squashed that bug. I’m not happy with the way comments are styled, so I plan to alter that in the coming days. I also hope to eventually get a contact page up on this site. Other general improvements are also planned.

I’d Rather Be a Cowboy

Published on August 25, 2005

Jessie went away last summer, a couple of months ago.
After all our time together, it was hard to see her go.
She called me right up when she arrived, asked me one more time to come.
A living on an L.A. freeway ain’t my kind of having fun.

I think I’d rather be a cowboy. I think I’d rather ride the range.
I think I’d rather be a cowboy than to lay me down in love and lady’s chains.

We were just beginning, it was such an easy way.
Laying back up in the mountains making songs for sunny days.
She got tired of picking daisies and cooking my meals for me.
She can live the life she wants to, yes, it’s all right with me.

I think I’d rather be a cowboy. I think I’d rather ride the range.
I think I’d rather be a cowboy than to lay me down in love and lady’s chains.

I’d rather live on the side of a mountain than wander through canyons of concrete and steel.
I’d rather laugh with the rain and sunshine and lay down my sundown in some starry field.

Oh, but I miss her in the morning when I awake alone.
The absence of her laughter is a cold and empty sound.
But her memory always makes me smile and I want you to know,
I love her, yes I love her; just enough to let her go.

I think I’d rather be a cowboy. I think I’d rather ride the range.
I think I’d rather be a cowboy than to lay me down in love and lady’s chains.
I think I’d rather be a cowboy. I think I’d rather ride the range.
I think I’d rather be a cowboy than to lay me down in love and lady’s chains.

A List Apart Redesigns!

Published on August 24, 2005

Jeffrey Zeldman, author of the incredibly eye-opening book Designing With Web Standards, has recently redesigned announced the redesign of the excellent web magazine A List Apart. This website has provided a wealth of knowledge for me as far as web design goes, so I highly recommend checking it out if you have not already. And bookmark it while you’re there: you won’t regret it.

Edit: After reading the article discussing the new design of A List Apart, I realized that Jason Santa Maria is the actual site designer, not Zeldman. My apologies.

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Code Overload?

Published on August 23, 2005

Before I ever began my programming career, I had a sneaking suspicion that an abundance of coding at work would lead to decreased programming activity at home. And I fear that this is indeed becoming the case with me. I write a mixture of C++ and Perl all day long, five days a week. This level of productivity really taxes my mind, and it has recently resulted in an increase of non-computing related activity each evening. I’m reading books more often (Prince Valiant has certainly helped in that arena), and I’m watching more TV than I used to. I even occasionally go outside! Things like Googlebar Lite and my toolbar tutorial are slipping as a result. I dislike it, but my motivation for programming after 5:00 PM has dropped greatly. Weekends provide some level of salvation, but is that enough?

A Valiant Book Listing

Published on August 21, 2005

As I previously promised, I have created a web page that conveys my humble Prince Valiant book collection. (This page has been removed, since I now own the entire collection.) There are a total of 50 volumes in the Fantagraphics line, and I have but 11 of them (4 more should be arriving by mail in the next 2 or 3 weeks). Adding on to this sort of collection is part of the fun, and is a bit like hunting for Easter eggs. I’m just amazed at how much the early volumes sell for on eBay. I have seen several of the earliest volumes (1-7) go for as much as $70 a piece recently, so obtaining this entire collection will eventually cost me. However, I suppose it’s good for a man to have some sort of hobby, and these books have certainly been an enjoyable way for me to spend my time. And it’s a welcome departure from programming and computer gaming!

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Fun in the Sun

Published on August 20, 2005

I did something today that I rarely do anymore: I spent time in the sun. Although a great portion of my childhood was spent in the great outdoors, I have since become an indoor creature. The result is my characteristically geeky, pale skin tone, which can’t hold up to those pesky ultraviolet rays like it once could. Needless to say, I am thoroughly cooked on my shoulders and neck. Hopefully that won’t give me too much of a problem in the coming days.

My reason for actually going out today was a pool party for the tenth grade Sunday school class I co-teach. Tomorrow is our final time together, as well as the final time I will actually be able to be called a teacher (I’m stepping down from that role for a while). I have taught a Sunday school for a number of years now (somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 years), so I will miss it a great deal. The class we have now is by far the best I’ve ever taught. If any of them happen to read this, they should know that I love each one greatly and will miss seeing them each week.

On a rather sour note, I have apparently been re-infected with whatever viral infection bothered me a few weeks ago. From the highly annoying cough to my joint aches and pains, I can truly say that I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Oh how I long for no more tissues and cough drops!

Got My Prince Valiant Books

Published on August 16, 2005

I received my Prince Valiant books in the mail yesterday, and they are fantastic! The book paper is high quality, the colors are unbelievably vibrant, and each one is in surprisingly good condition (I bought them used on eBay). Being the geek that I am, I plan to create a little web page; a table listing all of the available books and the ones I currently own. Then I (and anyone else who takes a look) can keep track of the volumes which I still need to buy. Yes, these books are that good. 🙂

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Open Command Window Here in Windows 2000

Published on August 15, 2005

The “Open Command Window Here” power toy for Windows XP is an excellent tool that I use all the time. I run Windows 2000 at work, however, so I don’t have access to this excellent computer aid. But I recently found this article, which discusses how to add the feature to any flavor of Windows. Method number 3 was my preferred choice, and I will reproduce the steps I took below.

  1. In Windows Explorer, open the Tools » Folder Options menu item.
  2. Select the File Types tab.
  3. Press the letter ‘n’ on your keyboard to scroll to the N/A section.
  4. Select the entry labeled Folder.
  5. Click the Advanced button.
  6. Click the New button.
  7. In the action field, type “Command Prompt” (without the quotes).
  8. In the application field, type “cmd.exe” (without the quotes).
  9. Save all your changes (click OK on each dialog) and exit the Folder Options dialog.

Once you perform the above steps, you’ll be able to right click a folder and select the “Command Prompt” menu item to open a command window. How cool is that?

Further Thoughts on San Andreas

Published on August 11, 2005

Over the past several weeks, I have spent virtually all of my gaming time in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As I previously mentioned, the game is so large that it has taken me this long to complete it. And now that I have completed the main story line, I feel I can better point out the game’s highs and lows.

What I Liked
My main praise for this game is the story line. San Andreas weaves an interesting tale full of twists and surprises. Character development is decent, but it’s the voice acting that pushes it over the top. The developers of this game cast each character to a tee (Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as Officer Tenpenny). Likewise, the game environments are impressive. Not only is the game world gigantic, but it’s well developed with plenty of detail. The number of vehicles available to the player is much larger than in previous GTA titles. This variety really adds to the overall experience. And finally, the game soundtrack really fits the overall ‘gangsta’ theme.

What I Disliked
San Andreas is far from perfect, however. A few game missions are poorly designed, making them unnecessarily difficult. Several of the racing missions are near impossible, and the various driving schools contain tests that rely on pure luck to result in a perfect score. Enemy AI exhibits some severe flaws; often times during a gang war, the enemies will flee from the war zone. You inevitably have to chase them down, but then get penalized by leaving the war zone. Likewise, recruiting gang members to fight for you is an exercise in futility. They often get in the way of your line of sight, so you end up killing them instead of the rival gang members.

A number of people have slammed San Andreas for its graphics (and they are indeed sub-par). But given that the world is so large, and that there is so much to model, I can see why the developers chose to go with simpler designs. Fortunately, running at 1280 by 1024 with all the eye candy turned on helps in this regard (thank you GeForce 6800 GT).

So do I recommend the game? Absolutely. Just make sure that you are mature enough to play it (the ‘M’ rating is clearly warranted due to extreme language, intense violence, drug references, and sexual themes). If you are old enough, welcome to San Andreas. Grove Street baby – holla!

Prince Valiant

Published on August 10, 2005

The Prince Valiant Sunday comic has recently become a favorite of mine. I sadly ignored the comic for a number of years, considering it too “wordy” a read. Had I known how elaborate the story lines are, I would have followed them much more closely. I recently came across a collection of Fantagraphics books, cataloguing the entire strip history. I was amazed to learn that the strip started in the late 1930s, and continues today (obviously not by the same artist). If you enjoy swashbuckling adventure and superb artwork, I highly recommend checking it out.

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Kayaking for Fun

Published on August 7, 2005

This weekend, my father and I tried out kayaking for the first time at Raleigh’s Lake Johnson. For only $4 per person, we were able to rent a kayak, a life vest and the paddle (all you need). Having never taken part in this activity before, we were woefully unprepared, but have since learned several valuable lessons. The kayaks we rented were the “sit-on-top” variety, and took quite a bit of getting used to. I’ve never sat in that sort of position for very long, and my legs certainly felt it once we were done.

What lessons did we learn? Actually, quite a few. Interestingly enough, the kayaks have holes in the bottom of them, so you end up getting fairly wet. Our jean-shorts were ill-prepared for such an endeavor, so we’ll remember to wear bathing suits next time. Likewise, sandals or flip-flops are a must (we left our sneakers and socks in the car and went barefoot). Sunscreen is also a must, and a sleeveless shirt would certainly help with temperature control. And I need some sort of kayaking gloves, as the blisters on my hands indicate.

Other than these minor problems, the trip was a blast. We are definitely going to try it again, and I may even spring for a kayak of my own if we continue to have as much fun as we did this weekend. If you’ve never given it a try, I heartily recommend it. Now if only we could give some whitewater kayaking a try…

Toolbar Tutorial

Published on August 5, 2005

According to site statistics, my tutorial on creating Firefox toolbar extensions has become rather popular again (it originally surged in popularity after Asa Dotzler commented on it in his blog). It has shown up on a number of web sites recently, for reasons I do not fully understand. Regardless, I’m always appreciative of such linkage (so keep it up!). The more people that can benefit from the article, the better.

It has been quite some time, however, since I have actually updated the tutorial. I hope to remedy that in the next week or two. Since writing the article, I have improved my knowledge of Firefox toolbars a great deal (as evidenced by my Googlebar Lite extension). I think it might be interesting to add some information on how to move a toolbar item around, how to get notification that the customize toolbars process has ended, and other useful tidbits. I also intend to eventually zip up the article itself, so that people can view it offline. Good times.

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