Thursday Apr 15, 2010

I LOL'ed

You know how you come to a serious news site and, BAM, some big company bought all the ad space and there are no news left?

... LOL?

Sunday Feb 08, 2009

Figuring Out Battlestar Galactica

(... ... ... Spoiler warning, don't read if you haven't watched at least s04e13... ... ...)

I was thinking about the scene were the four Cylons reminisce about their past. Anders says something like "I used to play this song for a girl I loved" and Tory says "You played it for all of us".

So either Anders just had a whole lot of girlfriends. Or...

He was the Cylon Bob Dylon!

Let's follow this line of thought through: First add resurection technology to the picture (assuming the 13th tribe had it). And second, doesn't hearing the words "Cylon Dylon" make you wonder what became of Aylon and Bylon...? If you combine all of that, what do you get?

Yes. Samuel Anders was a Cylon boygroup!

(I think that was about when I woke up. But it all made sense for a moment!!!1!!1!)

Tuesday Dec 16, 2008

Google recommends: "Eat cookies now"

Friday Nov 14, 2008

Being a Java Programmer is Unfair in Finnland?

"Life is just not fair", sings the complaint choir, and "the employments agency only needs Java programmers!" (5:35) Where's the complaint here? Finnland, here we come. :-D

Listen to the whole song (in Finnish, with subtitles) here: On se niin väärin!! Everything sounds better in Finnish. :)

Sunday May 25, 2008

How to Fix the Eurovision Song Contest :-p

Last night I had this brilliant idea how to "fix" the Eurovision song contest. I only saw the last 20min or so of it, so you are spared my opinion on the actual songs. ;-) But well, the known problem is that certain countries favour each other -- due to a similar culture and musical taste, for political reasons, or due to immigrants -- those reasons are legal and you can't forbid viewers to vote for their neighbours; but it takes out a bit of the excitement if you know who will vote for who in advance. So here's my clever idea:

Every country sends a composition, singers, musicians, a choreographer, a tailor, what ever is needed. THEN they take each song and assign artists and performers to it randomly! :-D

So for example the Azerbaijani composition will be choreographed by an Icelander and sung by a Croat with Swiss dancers. etc. See? But of course they don't tell us who did what, and you cannot always tell the nationality from the looks or accent. I assume here that each song requires a team of the same size, so each country is represented evenly in different functions.

The voting for the songs proceeds as usual and one song wins. Now it is revealed who contributed to what. From that we calculate which country (!) has won, based on how many top songs it has contributed to.

For example countries A,B, and C contributed to the winning song (worth 25 points), and countries D, E, and B to the second (24), and A, F, and G to the third place (23), etc. So country A gets 25+23 points and country B 25+24, and C gets 25, and D gets 24, etc etc. (Or whatever values you want to assign, you might as well go back to the 12-10-8-7...1 system.)

So in the end you have a winning song and a winning country. The song stands on its own and wins for its quality and not for its geographical location. And the country wins because the artists they sent were the best team players.

Of course they won't implement that, because the performing teams are only assembled temporarily for the contest, and you cannot milk them for further money like when selling a band's CDs or sending them on tour... And this variant would also take more time and patience because the randomly assigned teams still have to practice together. But the concept would be fun to try, don't you think? It even adds a degree of excitement: Who makes the best of being thrown into a randomly assigned team? Leave a comment if I missed something obvious, I came up with this idea in a tired state and that doesn't bode well for its logic. ;-)

PS: I followed the voting part on a Swiss TV station, and there was a fun moment when the Czech lady announced her country's votes. She skipped a line or something and corrected herself, so she said something like "and ten points go to... uh sorry..." And the Swiss commentator burst out "Ten points for Züri!!! Oh, wait, she said 'sorry', never mind" -- Züri (Zürich) is a city in Switzerland.. ;-D

Sunday May 04, 2008

Drink Solaris

Guess what I found on my way to JavaOne? A wine bottle that says, "Solaris... celebrate the day!"

See you at CommunityOne's NetBeans day tomorrow. I'm off to the maker faire now. That's something like JavaOne, but for hardware only. Kinda Steampunk / MacGyver / Mentos-in-Pepsi / Babbage difference engine themed. You know? Allright I'll take pictures.

Tuesday Feb 19, 2008

New Spelling and More Aggressive Waitresses

Please stand by for a special announcement by John Cleese(\*).
Letter to America
Effective immediately. Thank you for your cooperation! :-P

(\*) PS: For completeness' sake, and in case anybody asks, it's a "John Cleese-style" letter, but I don't know who wrote it.

Friday Nov 30, 2007

A Wolf Named Beo

Prague has a pretty cool IMAX 3D cinema, so yesterday I went and saw Beowulf. I don't really know what to think of it. First I was positively surprised that it was indeed 3D. Not just one scene in the end as I had expected (like they did for one of the Harry Potter movies), it was 3D throughout.

Pretty fascinating, although it is hard to read 2D subtitles superimposed on a 3D image. I could never quite focus on them. Apart from the fact that the subtitles were in Czech. So why read them? Well, my Anglo-saxon is a bit rusty... But what Grendel said sounded almost understandable, English and German aren't that far apart from a common root.

Another thing I hadn't expected was, that they would shoot the whole movie with motion-captured actors. Does that make it easier to turn it into full 3D? Possibly, I don't know. You can recognized John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie. But still, they looked like Shrek's royal household with a RAM and CPU upgrade. And why the hyperrealism in some scenes? It made my hair stand on end.

OK, I don't want to complain, it was very well done, considering it's animated. 3D characters and rendering have come a long way in the recent years. When I watched Final Fantasy for the first time, I thought it was about dead people hunting dead animals while they themselves were being hunted by ghosts of, you guessed it, dead aliens. I was waiting for the characters to notice that they themselves were dead. Then somebody told me they were supposed to be alive. Oh well.

There are people who say, don't comment on the puny details of the animations and enjoy the ride. Yes, the landscapes and action scenes are indeed impressive (neither realistic nor natural, but impressive). But it feels shallow (shallow 3D...?) which makes it hard to enjoy: It totally breaks the immersion. As opposed to movies that grasp you and make you feel like "a little hero" at the end, this feeling immediately ended in Beowulf when the end credits rolled. It is difficult not to have an adrenaline reaction when 3D arrows keep flying into your eyes... It's not the movie that excites you, it's just your reflexes.

--- Spoilers follow ---

The depiction of Grendel was quite modern: He's not evil, he is just a poor baby monster, and nobody understands him. (Maybe because he spoke Anglo-saxon babytalk?) The designers did a nice job of making him appear strong and fragile, shocking and cute at the same time. He was also very similar to Gollum, which is not a very novel idea.

Another pity was how heartlessly they hollywoodized the original saga. Sorry, adding value by adding gratuitous (and at the same time censored!) naked scenes only works in the US. ;-) And these scenes were silly. Silly as in Bart Simpson slapstick! WTH?

Zemeckis' version also implies that Beowulf wasn't a hero, but a liar. In the original story, Beowulf brings Grendel's head, kills the demonlady (Grendel's mother) without witnesses, and nobody knows where the dragon is from. In the new version, Beowulf brings Grendel's head, but then he only claims to have killed the demonlady, and the dragon turns out to be his and the demonlady's secret lovechild... Okaaay...?

The idea is not that innovative that it required a whole new movie. Also, these three sentences I just wrote, that was the plot. There is nothing else of substance. Yes, 3D effects are cool if you have never seen a 3D movie before, but I see no reason why anyone would watch this movie in 2D? At the end you get a 30 second Ingmar Bergman moment -- watch out! Late incoming depth! -- and you wonder, will the new king commit the same mistake or learn from it? But then, sorry, at that point I got distracted by the realization that the wide sheet of melting plastic at the new kings feet was actually supposed to depict the waters of the ocean, and then the end credits already started...

Verdict: Can't really recommend it, but if you've never seen IMAX3D, you might as well start with something that does not distract your attention too much by having a plot. ;-) Did you notice those 3D movies never have any depth, content-wise? It's always "Sharks attack!", "Dinosaurs attack!", "Aliens attack!", or "Mars rover is attacked by alien sharks and dinosaurs! (On a rollercoaster!! And it's haunted!!)" \*tsks\*

PS: And now for something completely different: Google News now speaks Czech. Is that new? Never noticed that before.

Wednesday Oct 17, 2007

Rainbow Microsystems

The glass doors in the new Sun office in Prague come with built-in rainbow-enhancing prisms.

Beat this, IBM! ;-)

Wednesday Jul 18, 2007

Music Overdose (2)

Yupp. Got empirical proof now that Tori Amos > 128MB.

As a follow-up to an earlier entry where I mentioned I'll go to the Tori Amos concert in Prague: I did manage to shoot a few short videos with my camera, but since I wasn't exactly in the front row they are not really worth posting. Mental note to self: Buy a bigger memory card; 128MB are ridiculous when it comes to recording video.

Other audience members came with better equipment, and made better recordings that you can find on youtube. There even was a guy from Czech TV next to me with a camera, but he disappeared halfway through. I wonder whether he just went over to the other side, or whether he really missed recording the second half? (If any of you saw the show on TV, post a comment.)

I am mentioning the second half because Tori performed a unique "improvised" prelude to Velvet Revolution, "1989", with lyrics like "It was YOU, in 1989, YOU did something that we will sing about, in a thousand years YOU will be a fairytale"... (And something about how she was miles away at that time time, arguing with her &\*%$#@! record company about Little Earthquakes.) :-D Wow. It took the listeners a couple of seconds to get it. A song about "us"? Then a audible and visible motion went through the crowd and she got a lot of cheers.

This was special because, actually, there weren't many hints from her that confirmed she knew which town she was in, and that she knew there was an audience. ;) Doesn't exactly chat much with the crowd, that Tori, eh? Sure, she introduced the band at one point, and dropped a few words mentioning she was glad to have come "here" to "this magical place". But, well, she seemed to avoid stating explicitly where she thought "here" was... Until when she was about to play Velvet Revolution. Then it all came back to her, hence the special prelude.

Oh and if you look at the videos on youtube and think, "Ugh, ugly wig", then, well, better don't look at the current album cover... She's seriously into this "Meet two of my five split personalities" shtick, and I have to admit I didn't like this aloof cold look at all. \*shrug\* The selection of songs she played was perfect (a few were performed in a very agressive and disharmonic way though); the look of the stage and the lighting was okay too, apart from the fact that it was annoyingly blinding at times. Both the lights and her "fashion" eventually resulted in me keeping my eyes closed for half of the concert and just listening. :-P Serves her right.

Then in the end (when the band pretends to leave before coming back for an encore) all the hard-core fans jumped up and ran to the stage... A security(?) guy quickly emerged, glanced at the cheering crowd (now only 2m away from the holy piano) -- shrugged, and left. It was like: "Oh look, lots of Czechs. Weren't they, like, those velvet revolution guys? Why bother, they're not gonna bite her." ;-)

Monday Jun 11, 2007

Bad Avatar, No Physics for You!

Just when I thought I was making progress with my weekend project (a 3D adventure game) I find a serious flaw in my implementation: I cannot use the game engine's physics for the avatar.

Nothing is wrong with JME physics: They work perfectly well for e.g. ping pong, or vehicles in racing games. You assign a car a material and apply forces to it, and you'll get a life-like enough simulation of car behaviour on uneven ground. But cars are low and bulky. Avatars are tall and thin. And what happens if you apply a sideways force to a tall object? It staggers and topples over, naturally. It's not a bug, it's a feature! \*sigh...\*

So the problem is not (as I thought) that my avatar's physical properties are wrong. The problem is that I used physical properties for walking at all. Just think about it... When you walk, you don't just apply a sideways force to yourself. You shift your weight in a way that is so complex that you need to carry a whole extra CPU with you all the time (aka. cerebellum) just to calculate steps and balance... I think I pass on implementing a sense of balance for my avatars, thank you very much.

To give you a picture, the smooth kind of walking behavior that I want can be seen in this nice trailer for Spirit, a game that is currently being developed, using the same game engine (JME) as myself. Avatars in 3D games never seem to stagger, they walk like on rails, so what's the trick?

Well, drop physics, and code rails. Use terrain.getHeight(x,z) (which returns the terrain height (y) for any (x/z) position) at each step to set the avatar's (or cam's) y position to the terrain height + x, and ta-daa, smooth walking. In an advanced variation of that, you add extra "triangle picking" code to detect obstacles on top of the terrain (otherwise the avatar will not climb up on them).

As always with JME, it comes with a great sample for this method included, which you find at jme/src/jmetest/intersection/TestObjectWalking.java. I thought about combining it with a ThirdPersonController (jme/src/jmetest/input/TestThirdPersonController.java) but presently I just set the cam loc to somewhere close to the avatar.

With the sample code at hand, it's easy to implement. I hope to be able to use the triangle's "normal" value at the player's loc to determine whether the avatar is walking or climbing (so I can change the animation -- or even stop when the slope is too steep). A few downsides: By getting rid of physics and turning the avatar into a non-physical node, I also have to rewrite the code I already had for jumping. Second, I haven't yet figured out how to make the fancy triangle picker look inside a building too ("Look ma, I walk on the roof! Look ma, I -- fall through the floor!") And the third bug not yet dealt with: \*drumroll\*... the famous walk-through walls.

Hmmm. I wonder, if I didn't fix the walls, how long would it take the average player to notice they weren't real obstacles? ;-) Leave a comment, and tune in again next week!

Sunday Apr 15, 2007

Music Overdose

This summer I'm gonna get an overdose of music -- for my means. Usually I don't go to concerts or festivals a lot, but this year, I'm gonna venture out to the Sziget together with my friend the konzertjunkie.

If you should go to the Sziget too, make sure to check out Kaizers Orchestra! And if you like weird ethno stuff, don't miss Värttinä. I heard both live before, and they are worth the money. Other bands I'm gonna give a chance to convince me with their live talents ;-) include Chemical Brothers, Faithless, Gogol Bordello, Pink, Sinéad O’Connor, Madness, Mari Boine... if you have seen any of the these or other Sziget bands live, why not leave a comment how you liked them. And what please is "!!!"? Whatever it is, it doesn't sound bad either.

Oh, and today -- Tori Amos posters! In Prague! They are everywhere! And this time I really gotta go see her, she'll be in Prague in June. I kind-a skipped her last two albums, but today I heard 'Big Wheel' from the new album, and yup, this sounds more like it. So I went to look for Prague tickets on an international online shop: The cheapest tickets were like 130 Euros. Hmmm... In a German online shop, tickets cost 100 Euros, and the cheapest ones 50... Hmmm. Tomorrow I'll go to the bookshop at the metro station. I would not be surprised if I could get a seat in a good category there for less than 50 Euros... I'll keep you posted. =-)

PS: Yup, indeed: 50 Euros is the max price. The Prague Congress Center (right at Metro B stop "Vysehrad", some place as the Sun tech days recently) may not be the must beautiful venue judging from the outside, but alegedly it has excellent acoustics inside, and the inside counts, right? ;) Is anybody going?

Thursday Apr 12, 2007

Two Worlds celebrating Yuri's Night

Just a quick mention that tonight (Thursday, April 12) is Yuri's night. Yuri as in "Yuri Gagarin", the first cosmonaut. There are Yuri parties in 124 parties in 35 countries on "two worlds" (if you count Secondlife as a world). Check the website for the address of a party close to you (In case you are wondering: Prague is listed under Afghanistan. Go figure.) -- or come meet space fans in Space Port Alpha on Second Life (clicking the link should magically open your second life client if you have one). See you there!

Friday Mar 09, 2007

Something Funny For the Weekend

Before I'm of for the weekend, here two cute links I found: Satai found this insane Apple-vs-PC ad cartoon on youtube. Steve Jobs finally loses it. ;-)

Another youtube find is this cuuute video game, Little Big Planet. It's like an arcade game version of second life. It scrolls left to right, but it's 3D with a backdrop and physics... The avatars look like beanie babies, muhahahaha... And why do the avatars' thinking bubbles look like iPhones?! There's a second part where you can see cool physics interaction and the actual gameplay while the characters run throught the level.

PS: What the...??

Saturday Feb 24, 2007

It's Like Selling 3D Games to the Blind

... or isn't it? Who says the blind never play 3D games? Listen to the alien shooter soundbite on Surreal Horizon's homepage to get a feeling for what 3D audio games are like. You really learn something new each day! (For instance, what a theremin is. Or that it's Sun Microsystem's birthday!)

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NetBeans IDE, Java SE and ME, 3D Games, Linux, Mac, Cocoa, Prague, Linguistics.

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