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Site News

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Revamping site...  (Jare)September 25th, 2011 - 23:14
This will be the last message in my old blog system. Refresh http://www.iguanademos.com/Jare/ to go to the new, Wordpress-based site. Also update your RSS links if you have them.
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Google+  (Jare)June 30th, 2011 - 22:53
Catch me there:
https://plus.google.com/109393462510769944302/
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Relinuxed  (Jare)May 12th, 2011 - 12:44
Time for that old laptop to receive Ubuntu 11.04!

Er...

Apparently, the graphics card is too old to run the fancy new Unity UI. Ah well, in any case, it's a good idea to have a working Linux machine.

Then, the same problem as before. And I hate myself for not detailing precisely what I did to speed up the HDD. I need to fix this ASAP because the system has started doing massive checks to update packages and the machine is completely unusable. So here it goes this time (DISCLAIMER: I don't really know what I'm doing and I don't care if I destroy the hard drive and its contents):

- See this link for instructions.

- The problem is that I can't do these things on a boot partition while happily running the full system on the Gnome desktop.

- Reboot in recovery mode (keep SHIFT pressed while booting), drop down to the recovery terminal.

- 'mount -no remount,ro /' to remount the file system in read only mode with. Ooops! can't do that while running services that have files open for writing.

- 'fuser -v -m /' lists which services have files open (look for a 'F' or 'f' in the flags) and get ready to kill some of these processes. Note that not all of them will need to be killed, so use some judgement and go one by one. Start with the 'F' ones.

- Try to kill them nicely first with 'stop servicename'. In my case, I just did 'stop rsyslog' and tried to remount, it worked even though there were other services (recovery-menu and root) with 'f' flags. We have a read only filesystem!

- 'tune2fs -o journal_data_writeback /dev/sda1'
- 'tune2fs -O ^has_journal /dev/sda1'
- 'e2fsck -f /dev/sda1'
- 'reboot'

- Upon reboot, I see that the system is now complaining about a missing disk but it then proceeds. Looking at the /etc/fstab file, the missing disk was used as swap during installation.

- In the /etc/fstab file, add the options 'data=writeback,noatime,nodiratime' for your / drive. Reboot.

- Go to the Synaptyc Package Manager to continue updating the system. Mine complained about broken files, and asked me to do 'sudo dpkg --configure -a'. That's all for now!

Well, I dunno what will be different for you.
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Web design  (Jare)April 22nd, 2011 - 00:44
I wrote a minimalistic photo gallery for my wife. It's a quick mix of php and MySQL on the server, css/html page, and some Javascript+jQuery for a still unfinished slideshow function.

The layout spec was:

- left-side navigation column
- picture to the right of the navigation, with a title centered underneath
- work with pictures of varying sizes
- a screen-wide footer
- as little else as possible

I wanted to make it as friendly as possible to screen sizes and form factors, so that even in the smallest or weirdest screen, you would see as much of the picture as possible. Therefore, I stuck the title in the nav bar rather than as a horizontal banner, so that the picture would not have wasted space above it.

As far as I can see, it looks great on everything from large monitors to an iPhone. The photo uses all the height available the device, the left bar will squeeze and word wrap in horizontally narrow screens, the photo will be pleasantly centered in wide screens, and it will adapt nicely to on-the-fly changes in screen size.

Being the old dog that I am, I laid out the page using classic html tables rather than the more modern css layout paradigm (of course, I still used css for styling). When I was done, I looked into doing it the css way; table cells and nested tables are hard to keep track of in html, and the design is so simple, that css should make it much easier. Conclusion?

It can't be done with css.

Separate elements in css can't have the kind of flexibility and influence on each other that table cells have. In essence:

- you can't dock two elements together with css, so if you have two elements side by side, in narrow screens the element on the right will wrap to the "next" line, ending up below the left element.

- to force elements to stay on the same line, you have to take them out of the normal layout flow, which means they can't influence each other anymore or dynamically resize to adapt to their content and the size of their container.

So tables it is. How disappointing! If you know how to solve this, please give me a shout. (And no, solutions that include any sort of hardcoded position or size are not acceptable)
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MySQL  (Jare)April 17th, 2011 - 13:33
In the previous post, I made references to MySQL but didn't say anything about a quick local setup. So here's what I did for mine:

- Download MySQL binaries from http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/. I chose the huge 64-bit Zip archive.
- I unzipped the /bin/, /data/, /docs/ and /share/english/ folders into my destination MySQL folder. Then I deleted all the *.pdb files.
- Start the server via start mysqld. You can later stop it with mysqladmin.exe shutdown -u root.
- By default it has a root user without password, and an anonymous user.
- Run the client with mysql -u root.
- Delete the anonymous user or it will mess up with your ability to connect using other users you create: DELETE FROM mysql.user WHERE user=''; FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
- Create your database and your development user: CREATE DATABASE MyDatabase; GRANT SELECT, CREATE, DELETE, UPDATE, INSERT ON MyDatabase.* to MyUser@'%' IDENTIFIED BY "MyPassword";
- Now you can connect as your development user with mysql -u MyUser -pMyPassword.
- I recommend downloading MySQL Workbench from http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/workbench/ to perform database maintenance.
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nginx 1.0  (Jare)April 16th, 2011 - 01:56
Since I started working on Pyro's server backend for its social games, I have grown to love the nginx web server. Compact, efficient and fully featured, it's a great alternative to Apache if you are in full control of your web server and apps.

A few days ago nginx came of age with the release of 1.0, so I did a refresh of my simple web dev setup at home:

- Download nginx 1.0 Windows binary here
- Download thread-safe php Windows binary here
- Unzip them to their own folders
- Copy php.ini-development to php.ini. Edit php.ini and uncomment the lines containing extension=php_mysql.dll and extension_dir = "ext".
- Start php by running php-cgi.exe -b 127.0.0.1:9000. You can later stop it with Ctrl-C, taskkill /IM php-cgi.exe or with your favourite process killing method.
- Make the following edits to conf\nginx.conf:
- If you are running Vista or later with IPv6, change the line listen 80 to listen [::]:80. This makes nginx listen on both IPv4 and IPv6. Even if you are not doing any work related to IPv6, your Windows hosts file will probably contain the IPv6 loopback entry for localhost (::1), and your browsers will try to use that IPv6 address for localhost. Enabling IPv6 in nginx lets you use all three loopbacks (http://127.0.0.1/, http://[::1]/ and http://localhost/) intercheangeably and without problems.
- Uncomment the block lines starting with location ~ \.php$ to enable php scripts.
- Change the fastcgi_param line to eliminate the hardcoded "scripts" folder path. It should be fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;.
- Add index.php to the index line so it looks like index index.html index.htm index.php;
- Remove all the root html; lines and leave a single root d:\dev\mywebdevfolder line at the server scope. I usually put it just below the server_name localhost; line.
- Start nginx by running nginx.exe or, since it can't be killed with Ctrl-C, start nginx.exe.
- use the command-line signals to control nginx: nginx -s quit to stop it, nginx -s reload to reload the configuration.

That should be it, nginx+php in 5 minutes or less!
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Ping  (Jare)November 14th, 2010 - 12:02
Still alive... cleaned up some of the hacks I did with dates a while ago. Now I must test them. :)
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Linuxing like it's 1993  (Jare)May 9th, 2010 - 12:37
Well not exactly, Linux distributions these days are much more organized and documented than in the wild west days before 1.0 hit. But I have installed Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 on my old Laptop, a 7-year old thing with 512Mb RAM, some Centrino CPU and a slow-ass ATI 9200.

Windows XP on that laptop had slowed down noticeably over time, especially since I installed an antivirus, but back in the day it was a decent PC. I used to play World of Warcraft on it shortly after it was released. I was hoping that Linux would infuse some new life into the machine, but I was in for quite a surprise!

The laptop's hard drive is horrendously busy, and it seems to interfere with everything else in the system, so under heavy HDD activity, even the mouse pointer barely functions.

I found some notes on the ext4 about disabling journaling and access time writes, which improved things a lot, but it's still barely usable as soon as I have more than 2-3 programs open. I don't know if I will have patience to tweak it, or maybe such a fancy Linux distro is just too heavy for this old machine. I may try the lighter xubuntu and see what happens. Besides the performance issues, I must admit that the system was very nice to use.
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Replies and Captchas  (Jare)May 2nd, 2010 - 02:17
Hey gang,

I have inserted Google's reCAPTCHA widget to validate user registration.

The Captcha is a bit annoying right now because pressing Enter after typing it in will default to Login rather than Register, forcing you to manually click on the button. I think I don't really need two separate buttons anymore, so I may fix that soon.

I'll probably wipe the user database because by now everyone who ever posted here may have forgotten their password. :)
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Taskbar vs Tray  (Jare)April 30th, 2010 - 08:23
Dismayed to find out that MSN's and Skype 4.2's lack of a proper tray icon in Windows 7 is by design. According to this: "This icon pattern is no longer recommended for Windows 7. Use regular taskbar buttons instead if your program has desktop presence."

I think the taskbar is not the right place for icons that we use very rarely, but what do I know... For now the best approach if you don't like this feature is to set the programs to run on Vista SP2 compatibility mode; in the long run I guess I'll just have to get used to it. A pity, I love everything else about Windows 7.

Oh, and I still think there's a bug with MSN showing two separate taskbar buttons.
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RSS Fixes  (Jare)April 29th, 2010 - 22:20
At the insistence of Cesar, I took a look at the date issues in the RSS Feed generator. It should be fixed now. The timezones used are not correct and the time shown in the RSS is different than the time shown in the Blog itself. Ah well.
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Ping!  (Jare)April 24th, 2010 - 23:02
Hey!

Yeah I'm still alive, and so is the site. For some reason, posting here got completely sidetracked, I guess I just ended up doing my "social updates" via Facebook instead. I don't know if that's going to really change, so no promises.

Whew, 2009 flew by and what a great year it was. Then 2010 came with some surprises early on: Activision laid off my entire team at Radical. I was already considering coming back to Spain after finishing the project, so this just sped things up. I sold or gave to charity most of my household items and furniture in Vancouver, and some three weeks later I was landing in Madrid.

(Speaking of Facebook, I'll be doing some quick tests integrating this page with the new and simplified Facebook integration social plugins blahblah. We'll see.)
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3D Movie craze  (Jare)April 8th, 2009 - 00:33
I recently watched Coraline, a charming fairytale. I was mildly excited to see it in 3D and find out what all the craze was about. Back in the 80's I watched Jaws 3D using the same technology, and being less than impressed after the first 3 or 4 gimmicks.

The result? I liked Coraline but didn't enjoy the experience. I found the 3D distracting at times, and generally tiring. This article describes many of these symptoms and possible causes much better than I can try.

Oh and let's not forget the minor detail that 3D movies cost more to watch. Here in Vancouver, the regular price of a movie ticket is $12.50, but 3D movies add another $3. Now, 3 bucks is not much, but paying $15.50 plus assorted popcorn and drinks for a movie that you may or may not like, and which will leave my eyes strained and tired, is too hard to justify.

So yeah, this past weekend we decided to pass up on Monsters vs Aliens, and watched Gran Torino instead. Great decision. But I fear that CGI studios (and if Katzenberg has his way, regular movie productions as well) will continue pumping 3D until we have no choice but to accept it or give up and treasure our DVD collections.

Other movies I've watched recently: Knowing, which is a love or hate affair (I loved it); The Day The Earth Stood Still, which goes from meh to downright bad; and Rocknrolla, which is crazy, fun and more than a bit over the top.
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Jammin!  (Jare)January 9th, 2009 - 08:43
Happy New Year!

The Universidad Complutense team is organizing a Game Jam in Madrid around the end of January 2009. Check it out! It's the same people who organized the Master in Games Programming with which I collaborated as a tutor a few years ago, so I know you will be in good hands. (thanks Bak, I had totally missed this one)

<<insert New Year's Resolution about blogging more often>>

By the way, the movie The Spirit is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I expected it to be inferior to Sin City level of goodness, but nothing had prepared me for such a piece of crap. Hopefully I'll watch Changeling and Gran Torino and regain some faith in good cinema.
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Games  (Jare)October 19th, 2008 - 23:42
I've been playing lately:

LEGO Batman: Just like all the other LEGO games. Funny, forgiving and with tons of stuff to do on the side. I love the idea of playing the missions from the point of view of the heros and then the villains.

Braid: Irritating but creative and ultimately very rewarding. Most of the puzzles have relatively easy to execute solutions, but they can be hard to figure out, while the more obvious solutions are jolly hard to do. I youtubed a few of them to get to the end, and the final sequence is just great.

Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty: a nice short episode, if you liked the previous R&C games you'll enjoy it. The only issue is that weapon collecting and upgrading is pretty much non-existent, and that was always a staple of R&C - I hope they improve this for future episodes.

Too Human: JCAB lent me his copy, and after sitting on my shelf for a few weeks (the demo had been meh) I gave it a shot. Once I got used to the controls the combat is great, and there's loot up the wazoo, but while figuring out the proper way to fight each type of enemy, I died dozens of times. Then the game bombed with a "disc unreadable" error and I was oddly grateful for that.

Dead Space: Perfectly executed sci fi survival horror. I'm surprised at the positive reviews considering it's basically Doom 3 with more configuration and slower pace.

Age of Conan: Initially interesting MMO but too clunky and unpolished, I didn't renew and I seriously doubt I'll ever try it again.

Warhammer Online: Much better than AoC, PvP is great but PvE is quite poor and leveling feels grindy. I love the idea behind Public Quests, and some of them are very well done. Server populations are a very important factor, anything less than high population and you'll be bored to tears.

World of Goo: I love these guys and the game is absolutely cool... but graphics are messed up on my PC, and I personally don't have fun with it.

And of course I'm back to playing World of Warcraft. With patch 3.02, leveling from 60 to 70 is much faster, so I will have my hunter ready for the expansion pack. Since I'm playing on a US server without a real guild, I doubt I'll continue after I play to 80.
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Updates  (Jare)August 17th, 2008 - 21:33
After the Activision Blizzard merger thing, a lot of people have been laid off at Radical Entertainment, but thankfully I'm not one of them. I wish the best of lucks to those who are no longer in the company, and I hope they land on their very capable and knowledgeable feet.

When the final details of the layoffs were announced, I was on holidays in Alaska. It's weird to be hiking, trying to catch sight of a bear or moose, and generally having a great time, while you know that at that precise moment you may be losing your job. The trip was lots of fun, filled with jawdropping vistas, and included many kilometers both walking and driving. Here's Mount McKinley:



Carrier Command is being remade. The 1988 original was fantastic, and I often still refer to it in game design discussions.

The Dark Knight is destroying box office records, and with good reason: it is a fantastic movie and deserves all the success it can get. I also hope it serves as a wake up call to all those studios that insist on filling action movies with childish and puerile crap.
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Dude, where's my loot?  (Jare)July 15th, 2008 - 00:42
The Diablo 3 announcement got my loot-whore juices flowing again. Loot in WoW is a grind to get, Titan Quest hadn't done it for me, AoC didn't even register, Robokill is nice but small, and I am fighting the urge to buy the Diablo 2 battlechest. But then I remembered that the Too Human demo was coming out soon. Today, in fact.

I like what they were trying to do with the game, I like it a lot. Odd combination of Norse mythology, sci-fi, action-packed combat against hordes of enemies, and the level ding and loot thrill. However I'm left fairly underwhelmed by the execution. Like most of the game, graphics alternate between neat and clunky. Combat needs a lot of getting used to, and I only started to 'get it' by the time I finished the demo. A lot of exploration was taken away from me because, being the methodical type, I like to wipe the place then look around, but here after you kill the boss they teleport you to cutscene world. And the cutscenes range from meh to pretty bad.

People in the forums talk about all sorts of neat gear they found in the demo, but I finished it with half white half green stuff, not very exciting. I died a few times and failed two of the three tests I ran into, whereas other people have breezed through it, so my problems may be partly my fault. Summary: ok game but I doubt I'll buy it.

In other news, I am now officially part of the largest videogame publisher in the world. Sounds great but at the moment it doesn't feel like much. :)
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Movies and stuff  (Jare)July 5th, 2008 - 20:16
Age of Conan came out, a promising MMO from veterans Funcom. It promised gore, nudity, great graphics and a few twists to the classic MMORPG genre. Even though it delivered in those areas, the game is way too buggy, unfinished and, well, unpolished. I reached level 43 and stopped playing. As a developer, I can endure normal bugs, but there's just not enough variety in the game to make me want to play further. I started playing WoW again, leveling a Hunter so I can enjoy the expansion pack in a few months.

LEGO Indiana Jones is great. More of the same if you have played the previous games, but I love it the humor, the gameplay and the original trilogy. The new movie was decent but rather forgettable.

Blizzard announced Diablo 3. YES!! A while ago I felt the Diablo urge again, so I bought Titan Quest; it was good but I just didn't find the excitement and raw "just one more" quality of Diablo 2. People are debating if the more colourful and cartoony graphics of Diablo 3 are appropriate for the series, but after watching the extensive gameplay video, I couldn't care less. It's at least a couple of years away, but I'm sure the wait will be worth it.

I rarely play Flash games, but Robokill is sort of a Robotron/Diablo little game that's a blast to play.

Pixar did it again with Wall-E. While not the absolute masterpiece that was Ratatouille, it's one of the best animated movies ever made. Kung-Fu Panda was surprisingly good and fun, but it's still not in the same league as Pixar.

Other recent movies: The Incredible Hulk acts like Ang Lee's vision never happened (a wise move), but while an ok action movie, it's nothing special. Iron Man was a lot better in every way.

Last weekend we went camping to Vancouver Island. Wonderful weather, and we even managed to watch Spain win the Euro Cup! Here's a view from Mystic Beach:


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Movies  (Jare)April 7th, 2008 - 00:09
It's been a while since I updated this, so let's at least recap a few movies I've seen lately. From better to worse:

In Bruges: Unique film full of strange situations and unforgettable characters and dialog. Despite being so weird, it still manages to be very entertaining.

Charlie Wilson's War: interesting characters and excellent dialogs in a very entertaining and thought-provoking movie. Very good acting except for Julia Roberts, who for some reason is not believable at all in her role.

Hotel Rwanda: tense, gripping and immensely enjoyable story, despite the tragic setting. Realistic and free of the melodramatic excesses of similarly-themed movies like Schindler's List.

The Descent: reasonably standard survival horror movie that actually works quite well. It takes place inside a giant but oppressive cavern, which adds a lot of atmosphere. Lots of nice details made me very interested in the writer / director's next movie (but see below).

No Country For Old Men: at times surprising, funny, thrilling, but also boring, pointless, artificial.

Superhero Movie: a spoof movie that's actually decent! Not as good as the classics (Airplane, Top Secret, Naked Gun, Hot Shots) and too focused on Spiderman, but certainly not as bad as most movies of this style coming out in recent years.

I Am Legend: Not too bad, not too good either. As many horror/action movies, the concept and setting in the first half are quite interesting, but once the monsters show up it's a steep downhill.

There Will Be Blood: Lots of hype for this movie, and many people love it. I found it pretentious, messy, and ultimately boring. Characters are neither interesting nor believable (which is a serious problem in a character study movie), and the story it tells is for the most part forgettable.

Doomsday: From the same director / writer as The Descent. This... thing tries to recapture the essence of 80's action films like Escape From New York and Mad Max (the 2nd & 3rd). I was never a big fan of those movies, so perhaps there's something here to be enjoyed, but I don't know what it is. Ok, Rhona Mitra looks beautiful, like Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. Guess who's going to star in Underworld 3?
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Evil Spam  (Jare)March 28th, 2008 - 19:35
Spammers have caught up with the site. For now I have disabled anonymous posting, a more permanent solution will come soon. And hopefully more interesting news.
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