Archive for July 2008

Fixing Pathfinding

Published on July 28, 2008

I just finished reading an excellent article on how to fix pathfinding in games. The author presents a number of excellent examples of how today’s pathfinding can break (with examples from legendary games like Oblivion and Half Life 2), and offers a great solution: use a navigation mesh instead of a waypoint graph. Genius.

Default Startup Projects in VS 2005

Published on July 28, 2008

I ran across another weird and subtle bug in Visual Studio 2005. If you’ve got a solution with many project in it, you can set one of those projects to be the default project at startup (i.e. when you open the solution file). But this setting apparently resides in the user options file (.suo), which is something we don’t keep in our code repository (since it differs for every user). So how can you set a default startup project that affects anyone working with your code? Simple: hack the solution file.

Thankfully, the solution file is just plain text. Apparently, if there’s no user options file for a given solution, Visual Studio 2005 simply selects the first project it comes across in the solution file. Here’s a quick example of what a solution file looks like (wrapped lines marked with »):

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Unicode and the Web: Part 1

Published on July 25, 2008

Dustin and his wife recently uncovered an interesting limitation of my Monkey Album software: characters outside of the ISO-8859-1 (Latin 1) character set don’t render properly. This comes as no surprise, seeing as I didn’t design for Unicode. Being a rather egregious display error, I decided to set out and fix the problem. In the process, I learned quite a lot about Unicode, and how it affects web applications. This post will be the first of two detailing how to add Unicode support to a web application. I will only be exposing a tip of the Unicode iceberg in these posts. The ideas and practices behind Unicode support can (and do) fill the pages of many books. That said, let’s jump in.

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Troubleshooting VS 2005 DLL Issues

Published on July 24, 2008

Recently at work, I spent a fair amount of time debugging some strange run-time errors in one of our test tools (after having ported it from Visual Studio 2003 to VS 2005). When starting up a debug build of the tool, I would get the following error message:

An application has made an attempt to load the C runtime library incorrectly. Please contact the application’s support team for more information.

This error message turned out to be a red herring, though it pointed me in the direction of the actual culprit: a circular dependency chain of debug and release versions of various Microsoft DLLs. In trying to figure out what was going wrong, I ran across an incredibly helpful article on troubleshooting these kinds of issues. The author presents seven different scenarios that can arise with executables built in Visual Studio 2005, along with solutions for each one. It’s a great resource to have if you run into these kinds of problems.

Upcoming Stuff

Published on July 22, 2008

Apologies for the infrequent updates: my sister recently came back to the US for about a week (which was fun), then my grandmother came to visit (which I also enjoyed), and now I’m sick. So there you have it.

A two-part series on Unicode support for PHP web applications is coming, provided I can feel better and get rid of my writer’s block.

Zone Alarm and MS Update 951748

Published on July 9, 2008

Just yesterday, Microsoft released a ‘critical update’ for issue 951748, fixing a DNS security hole. It turns out that this fix completely hoses the Zone Alarm software firewall (which I happen to run). In essence, you completely lose your internet connection.

The folks that make the Zone Alarm firewall are aware of the problem. For now, they suggest two workarounds: either uninstall the MS fix or set the firewall security slider to medium (down from high). Hopefully, a true fix will be issued within the next few days.

Update: This problem has even made Slashdot.

Festival for the Eno Photos

Published on July 4, 2008

The Festival for the Eno kicked off today, and runs through Sunday in Durham. We visited the event, for the first time since the early 1980’s, and it was really fun. If you’re in the area this weekend, I highly recommend you check it out.

I’ve put up a small photo set from our outing today. Enjoy.

The Joy (and Misery) of Comments

Published on July 2, 2008

As I surf through various news sites around the web, I often enjoy reading user comments. On many of the sites I frequent, the comments truly add to the discussion and are a good for a belly laugh or two (or three). The feedback left on nearly every story at Gizmodo is hilarious, and visitors to Slashdot are often quite funny as well, making those my favorite tech news sites. Other sites can be hit or miss. Take Digg.com for example. Occasionally, some classic comments can appear on a popular story, providing some insight into the story, or more often, supplying a funny, sarcastic remark about the story as a whole. Other times, the comments are mostly juvenile and unhelpful.

Unfortunately, the comments on some sites are painful to read. Take my favorite gaming news site, Blue’s News. Nearly every comment on the site falls into one of these categories:

  • {Insert Game or Publisher Here} is Lame
  • {Insert Game 1 Here} is Better Than {Insert Game 2 Here}
  • Software Pirates Rule
  • Steam Sucks
  • OMG PONIES!
  • Yo momma!

The target demographic of the site is most likely males aged 13 to 21, but you’d think that someone would eventually have something good to say. Are there no civilized gaming websites in the world? This problem doesn’t just affect gaming websites. Places like CNN.com or our local news station WRAL are nearly as bad. It’s a shame that discussions vary so much. Do you read the comments at various news web sites? If so, what do you think?

Team Fortress 2 Stats and Blog

Published on July 1, 2008

I’m not exactly sure when Valve made them available, but player statistics are now publicly viewable on the web. You can keep tabs on my stats as I make progress on the various achievements recently added for the Medic and Pyro classes. If you click the “Return to jgbCodeMonkey’s Steam ID” link, you can view stats for a few other games (though not all games report stats).

In other related news, Valve has recently put up an official Team Fortress 2 Blog. Lots of behind-the-scenes artwork is being shown, and some explanations for decisions they’ve made are presented. While the blog isn’t the most active in the world, the nuggets of information they have provided so far are quite intriguing. Definitely a recommended read for fans of the game.

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