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    • The shape shifters in their usual form.
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Customization

One of the great things about some software packages is the immense amount of user interface and even behavioral customization one can perform on them. While not as desireable as a program that works exactly how you want it to out of the box, customization is really the only way to go when a more complex software package becomes sophisticated enough to be used for a variety of purposes. It is the only way to possibly please everyone.

I have been very impressed with the customization available in some programs recently. Just now, getting Microsoft Outlook to display messages exactly how I wanted them took a little bit of searching, but all of the customizations I wanted were available, and I am quite happy with their layout now.

Another program that has consistently impressed me with customize-ability is gVim, the graphical version of Vim for Windows. I really need to make an entire write-up on this one because I have been working at getting its layout more to my liking for several months now, making slow but very real progress. Since I use gVim extensively both at home and at work, I probably have some reconcilliation to do to make my editing experience more seamless. All that gVim needs, in my opinion, to be the perfect editor, is slightly better integration with the Windows Paradigm (ie, better knowledge of things like the user’s home directory), and real support for tabbed editing. However, even without these features, gVim is still so much better for me than the next best I’ve tried (Programmer’s Notepad and Notepad++) that it remains my preferred editor for almost all situations. Think macros, and no other editor stands a chance to Vim. And I’m certain that I’ve only scratched the surface.

Finally, the mother of all customizable music applications has been my preferred computer music player for at least a year now – FooBar2000. Check it out.

Best. Headphones. Ever.

Sennheiser PX 100

Props to Erik for the heads up.

GPSing!

A couple of weeks ago, I Ebayed an OEM GPS module for $25, including shipping. Then about a week ago, I picked up a Mighty Mouse II from Tri-M Systems. Today, I finally got around to hooking them up. Using a breadbaord, a 5-volt regulator, a 6-volt power supply, a wire wrapper, and a good supply of wirewrap and other wires, I finally hooked it all up today. The result: incoming NMEA data words at 4800 Baud!

I quickly found some free (as in beer) software to help me make sense out of it. VisualGPS showed up in Google, and is working well. See a screenshot below.

This is all in preperation for an entry to the Seattle Robotics Society‘s Robo-Magellan.

Here are some pictures of the setup:
The Setup
The Breadboard
The GPS receiver – look at the pretty wirewrapping!
The Mighty Mouse II Active Antenna (first location)
The MMII (second location)
The result in Visual GPS

Redemtion in 30 Minutes: Star Wars Episode III

(warning: if you have been hiding in a hole for a while, the following may contain spoilers)
The second (or is that first?) Star Wars Trilogy had the potential of being something truly amazing. An epic with love, war, death and betrayal – what could possibly go wrong?

Well… the dialogue for one. Read the rest of this entry »

Gigabytes

I finally broke down and learned how to get rotating logs and web statistics working. For ease of use, I recommend cronolog and webalyzer. AWStats provided more information, but it is not fun to set up, so I put it aside for me. Webalyzer just works, and outputs the info in a nice form. Well, getting to the point, I was quite surprised by the results of the analysis. Since mid-October, 2004, sf2 has served well over 23 gigabytes of content. Thats averaging around three gigabytes a month. Thats hardcore. And thats just web content. sf2 is also a heavily used mail server, and sports a few other less-used daemons as well. In the same time, the sites powered by sf2 have seen almost 100,000 visitors viewing more than 270,000 pages, with more than 500,000 files requested, for a grand total of 760,513 hits. Silverfir.net has been up since sometime around March, 2003. So, I imagine that in reality, the various forms that silverfir.net has taken have surpassed one million hits. Not too shabby for a web site that looks like this.

Half-Life 2 Part 3

I just “beat” Half-Life 2, if thats what you can call finishing a game with an ending like this. It was one heckuv a ride, but I think the whole Citidel thing was way too repetitive and way too short. One omnipotent weapon, and a fast-forward to the top of the place didn’t really make for a challenging or climatic end. I’ll be the first to say that the end to the original Half-Life was probably too challenging (I never really completed that one on the level). Nevertheless, there’s never any real time decision making going on towards the end. Its just right-click left-click right-click left-click. And in the end, it feels like they could have raised the whole game to another power and really had a spetacular ending. So in the end it was a somewhat disappointing finale to an otherwise incredible game.

Don’t get me wrong – the game really was incredible. It’s hard to forget the first descent into the Citadel, the first time bringing down a dropship, or the vehicular rides through expansive outdoor landscapes. Indeed, this is where HL2 really shines – it’s engine, source. That a masterful, though imperfect game was put on top is a bonus, for sure. How incredible the engine really is struck me again when, a couple of days ago, I saw a combine soldier swinging back and forth pinned to the ceiling by a crossbow dart. All rendered real time, perfectly.

If I could return Doom 3 to buy another copy of HL2, I probably would, just because its that good. And because D3 sucked so much. Oh well.

Repercussions

All choices have consequences – this is an eternal principle that cannot be overcome. While we live in a generally free society, one in which you and I are free to go where we want, talk to whom we please, seek gain with many diverse scheme, we are still not free from the consequences of our actions. This is a good thing, generally, as it encourages one to make decisions carefully. Today was one of those days where I wish I had chosen better.

It started, as it so often does, with procrastination. A paper I had due for my English class today, put off until last night. Then I found out that the CEO of the TRC was expected me at a meeting that I had not been planning on attending. Since I had a night class, I had previously been expecting to be able to write the paper after work today. However, with a meeting in the way, I decided I had to write it last night. Well, I put that off too – not getting started until well after midnight. By the time I was done, it wasn’t worth going to sleep before work. But I did anyway, and ended up missing most of work – which usually is ok, excpet today, because I missed an important meeting. So while the TRC and school were covered, I’m now feeling pretty terrible about letting down my coworkers and friends at work. I do hope they’ll be forgiving, and even more that I can learn from this mistake.