Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Weird Dream

It began with a news report of an island where a rare species of bird was rumored to live.  This bird was special because it was immune to bone cancer.  Naturally, science wanted to study it to see if its immunity could somehow be harnessed for humans.  The news report had one of those typical shitty CG flyovers of a 3D model of the island.  Since it was so shitty, the camera clipped the terrain a few times, and inside it looked blocky like Minecraft, even though the outside wasn't blocky.

Then suddenly, I was there.  I had a companion.  He had just gotten run out of the area of the bird's nest by the mother bird itself, and was trying to devise a tactic to sneak back in there.  Somehow it involved face paint, and me.  I painted my face green and went in.

Then suddenly shifting locations as my dreams often do, I was back at home, looking for something to help me remove the face paint.  I discovered that if I placed my hand on the dresser in my parents' room that I could lift my legs into the air and just hover.  After a while I started chancing the timing, pushing myself upwards, then clapping, then getting my hand back on the dresser to catch myself.

Shifting locations once again, I was now in an auditorium.  It was either a convention or a talent show, or the combination of both.  Up next was a two man metal band.  For some reason the guitarist had a really, really long audio cable that he plugged into his guitar, and for some reason plugged the other end into a keyboard that was offstage.  The other member was a drummer, who only had a snare drum.  The music they played was hardly metal.  For some reason I ended up on stage, but I felt really weird since I didn't belong up there, so I went back to the seating area.

This is when I met up with @akibastranger, who was just about to sit down and was wearing a white bathrobe.  We talked about stuff for a bit, notably who we were there to see.  Apparently I was there to see the Angry Video Game Nerd.  Then a friend of ours came up and sat down in the row in front of us and started talking to us.  I got a high five about something.  She asked me if I'd cut my hair recently, which I haven't.  Then she asked about the face paint and said "there's probably a story, I won't ask", but I began to tell her anyway.  "I woke up with this in my pocket", I said, pulling out a folded up piece of graphing paper that had a bunch of equations on it.  @akibastranger immediately recognized it and pulled a similar piece of paper out of his pocket (bathrobes with pockets?).

I then got a text message.  Opened up my phone and discovered that it was a blank text message, apparently from someone who had spam IMed me the day before and had somehow gotten my phone number.  Then in the process of trying to back out of that, I discovered my phone was in some weird mode that I didn't even know existed.

That's where I woke up.

And now, let The Day of Racing 2011 begin!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Minecraft 1.6

This was mostly a bugfix update, but did change a few things and introduce some new stuff as well.  I won't go through the entire list of fixes and changes, just because of how ginormous it is, but you can read all of them over on The Word of Notch.

I'll be focusing mostly on the things I was looking forward to, or that I'm glad they were fixed, as well as the new stuff and anything that affects me.

First, players looking to start wheat farms now have to go about it differently.  Newly generated chunks have a chance of having tall grass spawn on grass blocks.  Seeds can now only be found by destroying tall grass, the old method of using a hoe on regular grass no longer works.  A lot of people are QQing about this, but I think it's better.  In addition to adding some welcome graphical variety, seeds can be gained from tall grass without the use of a hoe, or through the primary (left click) action of a hoe, which won't reduce its durability.  So basically, you can make hoes out of much cheaper and more easily obtainable material now, since you'll only need them to till the soil of your farm.

I started up a brand new world to test it out, and found plenty of seeds in a patch of tall grass near my spawn point.  So in terms of how easy it is to get seeds, I don't think it changed very much.  Tall grass is also approximately everywhere, but it would make sense for it to be rarer or nonexistent in some biomes.

My one complaint about seeds is that the only use for them is planting them to grow wheat, which after a while of harvesting generates a huge surplus of seeds.  In most cases it's not feasible to continually enlarge your farm to accommodate all the seeds you get from each harvest, so you're left with chests full of seeds that you're never going to use unless you start a new settlement elsewhere, but even then a single stack of seeds is more than good enough to get started.

Moving right along, the next addition is dead shrubs in desert biomes.  These are brown plants that are, well, dead.  Punching them destroys them, and you can't pick them up to replant them.  So you'll have to inventory hack to get shrubs to place around your sandstone houses in the desert.  There are also living versions which I guess are more accurately classed as a variant of tall grass, that spawn in the more foresty biomes.  These have a chance of dropping seeds when destroyed, and once again cannot be obtained to be replanted elsewhere.

Now, the first new craftable item, and the one possibly more hyped, is the map.  By surrounding a compass with paper in a workbench, you can make a map.  Each world can have up to 65535 maps.  The center of a map is where you crafted it, and by default starts out unexplored.  You'll have to explore the area to get it to show up on the map.  When you select the map and look straight forward, you can only see the top of it, but if you look down, you'll be able to see the map.  This is both neat and disorienting at the same time, as you basically can't see to go down hills while you're holding the map.  Supposedly there will eventually be a way to clone maps, and to place them on walls.  Cloned maps in multiplayer will also supposedly show the locations of other players with that same map.

The next craftable item is the Trapdoor.  The recipe is the door recipe turned on its side, and only works with wood planks.  They get placed in the bottom of a block and open upwards, and are a little tricky climb through around ladders, which would be the primary place where you might want to have one.  They essentially act as a door in the ground.  They also work with redstone, so you can use that to make drawbridges and redstone controllable animal/enemy traps.  The only noticable difference between trapdoors and regular doors, aside from the size, is that you can't attack enemies through trapdoors.  Hopefully Notch will fix this, because otherwise, an underground base can become not safe to exit if a creeper decides to camp out on your trapdoor.  I was trying to kill a spider through one when I discovered this.

Now, some of the changes.  Apparently there are some bugs with occlusion culling (the Advanced OpenGL option in the Video Settings menu) that caused Notch to disable it, which is a shame because it greatly improves performance on my computer.

Also apparently Notch removed the ability to place blocks in the top layer of the map, which is a workaround method for getting rid of a ton of bugs related to the top layer of the map, but if you were building something up there, you might want to finish it before updating.  Kind of like we are on the multiplayer server that I host.  Which is the precise reason why I'm not updating the server to 1.6 yet.

A welcome change is a nerf to fire.  It now spreads less quickly and no longer spreads infinitely.  Hopefully this means that if a wooden structure gets set on fire, you'll actually have a chance to put it out, rather than losing the entire structure.

There were a whole host of multiplayer fixes, but none more important than enabling the Nether.  Now it's possible to legitimately obtain Netherrack, Glowstone, and Soul Sand on a multiplayer server, as well as, of course, entering the Nether and killing Ghasts and so forth.  Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I won't be updating my server until we finish our project which for some reason is at the top of the map.  This project is a really long minecart track so we can get the "Ride a minecart 1km" achievement.  I really have no clue why it's being built at the top of the map, I didn't start it.  I could update just to be a dick and force a one block downwards altitude shift in the structure, but I don't really feel like doing that.

That means that for the forseeable future I won't be updating my client either.  I actually did download the client update, but I made a copy of my 1.5_01 minecraft.jar first.  Hopefully in 1.6.5 or sometime similarly soon Notch will fix whatever's wrong with occlusion culling and re-enable it.

Now, for the fixes and changes I'd like to see that didn't make it in:
  • Texture packs should be able to override the language file, so they can correct item names to more accurately reflect their appearance in the texture pack.  For instance, I'm using the Painterly bacon textures, and it looks weird pointing at cooked bacon and having it say "Cooked Porkchop".  I can (and do) solve this by editing minecraft.jar, but I shouldn't have to.
  • Fix lighting on Wooden and Stone Stairs when smooth lighting is turned off.  Smooth lighting doesn't belong in Minecraft in the first place.  It just doesn't fit with the intentionally low resolution, blocky look, and makes it harder to gauge block distances while constructing, and light levels when trying to make sure that an area is light enough to prevent monsters from spawning.
  • Fix the server-side lag issue that basically prevents me from playing on my own multiplayer server from time to time.  I know it's server-side because I'll open up the server console and send a chat message, and it'll show up in the console immediately but not be echoed back to me for at least 30 seconds.  Can you imagine what mining obsidian is like when the server lag is several times longer than it takes to break a block of obsidian with a diamond pick?  It's also confusing because mined blocks reappear client-side until the server catches up.  This also affects approximately everything else in the game.  Doors will reopen themselves, placed torches will disappear, etc.
  • Add a toggle for weather in multiplayer.  Just because rain is annoying and lightning can start fires, which will burn down wooden structures.  Yes, rain puts fire out, but it's still possible to start a fire in the rain if you do it right, and lightning can do that.
  • Add the whitelist commands to the server /help command.  Because I didn't know they existed and had to restart the server to add someone recently.
  • Fix right-side-hinged doors so that they don't let monsters in while you sleep.  Now I know why that was happening in my Quesadila adventure, which I never actually continued...
  • Make it so we can right click placed paintings to change the painting.  I'm aware that there's a mod to do this, but having it be official would reduce the number of clicks it takes to get the painting you want...  Either that or add a menu that comes up when you place a painting that lets you just flat out choose the one you want it to be.


So last Monday, @miki_sei and I got together and played some Rock Band 3 to break in the RB equipment he just got.

There's a little bit of relevant backstory here, but it can be summed up by simply stating that I like K-On! and have seen both seasons of it.

Since I'm worst at drums, I figured I'd start with them.  So we start up the game, I log in on my profile on his 360, and go to make a character.

He mentioned that there was some "Ritsu hair" available (Ritsu is the drummer in K-On!), and indeed, when I went to change the hair, it had defaulted to it.  I looked through the other options just to see what was there, but selected the hair it defaulted to.

I didn't really care about the rest of the clothing (I figure I'll go back and change that up later), so I changed her eye color (which didn't default to being correct) and then went to go enter a name.

It gives you a suggestion that's already in the input field with it brings up the 360's onscreen keyboard, and the suggested name was Juliet.

I start laughing, and end up explaining to him that Mio and Ritsu played Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in their class' production of, well, Romeo and Juliet.

RB3 defaulted to both the Ritsu hair and the name Juliet for the character I was making so I could play drums.

As a side note, it looks like we might make a regular thing of playing Rock Band.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Birch House: Inspiration Slowing Down

I built the two rooms I knew the house still needed, and now I'm left with a large, empty space in the basement that I filled with torches so Minecraft would stop making the creepy "unlit area nearby" noises.

The first of the two rooms I built was a laundry room with two washers and two dryers.  The washers and dryers are both the same essentially, except that the washers have water in them.  lol.

And finally, I built what I originally intended on being a "rec room", but it ended up just being a room with a makeshift pool table constructed out of cloth and signs.

So... now what?  I figure the floor needs a bathroom since there's a pool table.  The pool table is actually a bit close to the laundry room for my own liking, so I might end up moving the whole thing.  If I don't get any inspiration for anything else, I'll just fill the rest of the basement with bedrooms and extend the sleeping capacity beyond the current 13.  I really don't know what to fill the remaining space with.  The pool table does need some semblance of a bar nearby, but that's really simple and can be in the same room.

The rest of the stuff I have left to do is going around plopping beds down everywhere, and placing decorative items which will be incredibly texture pack-dependent.  The "home improvement" paintings from the Painterly Pack offer a range of nice things from liquor cabinets to drawers and even a grandfather clock, with extra paintings for the sides of it.  I do plan on using those at some point, but for now I've left them out.

Also, the bathrooms present another problem entirely.  How does one construct a decent looking bathroom in Minecraft?  As much as Notch wants all blocks to be 1 meter cubes, they're really, really not.  The scale is all messed up in Minecraft.  We really need a whole range of new blocks to facilitate making bathrooms.  End of story.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birch House Update

This time I remembered to turn smooth lighting on before taking screenshots.

More screenshots after the break.

Minecraft stuff

This post has two distinct subjects, both related to Minecraft.

Building Project

I'm constructing a massive beach house to be built on the multiplayer server I'm hosting at some point.  This thing is so massive that there's simply no way I would even bother to get the materials legitimately.  The total footprint is 65 blocks wide, 53 blocks deep, and not counting the ground layer that has blocks in it, 24 blocks tall at the peak of the roof.  I can try to describe it further through text, but fortunately I've already made some screenshots, so I'll just post those.

You can tell how massive it is here, given how far I had to back up to make the screenshot.  Also, I forgot to turn on smooth lighting, so the lighting on the stairs is a bit glitchy.  Hopefully Notch fixes that in 1.6, which he's previously stated to be a massive bugfix update, as well as enabling the Nether in multiplayer.

With a structure this size, lighting is a challenge.  Especially for the main hall, which is opened up to the floor above it and has a balcony.  Fortunately, my creative senses came alive and I built a chandelier to provide light.

Also, here's a view of the chandelier from up on the railing on the balcony.

The house is called the Birch House, primarily because I'm using the birch wood texture as a theme to accentuate things, but also because I can make a really bad pun about the house being on the beach.  The reason I made it so large is because I was trying to go with a roomy feel that would generate a casual and fun atmosphere among the structure's inhabitants and make it a great vacation destination.

Because I can, I'm going to talk a little about how I created this.  As I previously stated, it's so big that getting the materials to build it legitimately would take a prohibitively long amount of time and storage space.  I designed the exterior and floors in Minecraft Structure Planner.  I quickly discovered and came to not like some of the things it lacks, most notably such important things as stairs, doors, and torches.  I also quickly discovered that it would be terrible for doing the interior design, so I stopped at the exterior and just added the floors.

The next program I used was MCEdit.  It's a very powerful world editor with a rather steep learning curve.  Minecraft Structure Planner has its own format to save in, but it can export to the schematic format that MCEdit can load.  So I generated a world in Minecraft, thankfully got spawned on a large sandy beach (actually a desert biome bordering a large body of water), then saved, opened the world in MCEdit, and plunked down the house.

The next step was to build the interior, and to facilitate that, I used INVedit to put various materials and tools into my inventory.  The best way to build the interior was spawning into the world and walking around the structure.  Looking at it top-down in Minecraft Structure Planner just doesn't trigger the same creative impulse as actually walking around the shell of a structure in three dimensions.  I went in with a vague idea of what I wanted the top two floors to look like, and I think I've gotten pretty good results.  The structure is nowhere near done yet, as I still have to work out a couple rooms on the top floor where the bedrooms are (which will likely become bathrooms), figure out where to build the kitchen, dining room, entertainment center, etc., and then figure out what the hell I want to do with the basement.  The structure is truly massive, but once you add walls to the interior it feels a lot smaller.

Once I'm suitably satisfied with the interior, I'm going to use MCEdit once again to save the entire completed structure as a schematic file, so I can load up the server world and plop it down somewhere.  It needs a massive beach area just for the sand beneath it, and having the stairs dump you straight into the water would be lame, so I'll have to hunt around for a good spot to drop it.

Playing Around with Mods

For the past while now, I've been playing around with a few client mods for Minecraft.  I've been mostly steering away from the ones that massively change the game, add new monsters/animals, etc.  The ones I'm using for the most part just add graphical variety.  The first one I installed was actually Single Player Commands, though.  It's basically a massive infrastructure for cheating in single player, as it enables you to fly, become invulnerable, spawn creatures, give yourself items, and adds the server mod WorldEdit to single player, letting you change blocks and make giant structures with ease.  Along with that is WorldEditCUI, a client user interface that shows you your current selection area for WorldEdit, which is massively helpful.

The first graphical variety mod I added was FlowerCraft.  It adds six new colors of flowers, each craftable into its respective color of dye.  Rather than the vastly inferior MoreFlowers, it focuses on giving you easier access to the dyes that you have to craft from other dyes.  Anything that's obtainable directly elsewhere you still have to obtain from its original source.

The next one, which I've seen in Season 2 of ArchmageMelek's Let's Play, is the Coral Reef mod.  It adds, as one might infer, large underwater coral reefs.  Some species of plants that grow on the coral do different things.  The green ones will replenish your oxygen when you swim through them.  The brown ones are spiky and actually hurt you if you touch them.  The blue ones provide light, which lets you see the reef glowing when you look down at it from the surface, and especially so at night.  There are six different plants that grow on the reefs, as well as the reef blocks themselves.  All the plants are craftable into dyes, or can be replanted on coral underwater.  You can use this to pick up a few blue coral plants and redistribute them underwater so that you can see stuff.

The final one, by the same author as the Coral Reef mod, is the Scuba Gear mod.  I installed it because Minecraft desperately needs some method of increasing breathing time underwater.  It's fairly balanced, actually.  It adds three crafting recipies.  One for a scuba helmet, one for the tank, and one for an air compressor.  Crafted scuba tanks are empty by default, and must be filled in the air compressor, which operates similarly to a furnace except that it requires redstone dust for fuel.  One redstone dust will fill two tanks.  In order to use the tank, you have to have both it and the helmet equipped in your armor slots.  It's important to note that the tank will deplete even if you're not in the water, so long as you have the helmet equipped.  When a tank empties, you can refill it with the air compressor, and annoyingly enough you can't refill a partially depleted tank.

One massive oversight/bug that I've found with it is that when a tank runs out, you get zero warning before you start drowning.  Your air bar depletes immediately when the tank empties.  If you're quick, you can swap out for a second tank without taking any damage, but there's only a very tiny time window to do so.  Another, less annoying bug is that the air compressor doesn't face you when you place it.  It always faces east.

I was thinking of installing More Trees, by the same author as Coral Reef/Scuba Gear, but it requires a mod to modify the tool usage tables that causes incompatibilities with all other mods that don't use it.  Which is a shame, because I really wanted to explore and find apple trees, cherry blossom trees, and the elusive hollow sequoia tree.  All the trees added by it, with the exception of the sequoia, drop their own individual saplings that can be used to regrow that specific tree.  It would add a lot more graphical variety, but I can't have it breaking tool usage with other mods.  That won't do.  Which is a shame, because I totally wanted to build a tree house in a sequoia tree.  I mean, I can construct one with wood blocks and hacked in leaf blocks, but it just wouldn't be the same.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

teh moniez

You may or may have not noticed this, but the progress bar indicating my progress saving up money for a Cooler Master HAF 922 case is sitting at 100%.

Yes, indeed, I currently have enough money to purchase the case.  I will be doing so in the next few days.

The case is destined not for a new computer, but to replace the shitty case I built my current computer in.  The case I'm currently using is total shit in terms of air flow, which I think is contributing to how my hardware no longer acts like it used to.  Actually, right now, both of the replacement case fans I got a while back are dead.  I'm running the computer with the side of the case removed and a box fan blowing air away from it.

The progress bar only reflects the cost of the case.  I'm planning on getting some more thermal compound to replace the old stuff on my CPU, that should help things as well.  To be honest I probably have enough money for that, but we'll know for sure by the end of the weekend.

Furthermore, there's a slight upgrade that could be happening.  A while back, a friend of mine who moved away put all the random computer hardware he had up for grabs.  A few of us rooted through it and I found an nVidia GeForce 8800 GT, which I promptly claimed.  My current graphics card is an nVidia GeForce 6800 GT, so it would be a small but noticeable step up.  Who knows, I might even be able to run games fullscreen again.  The only thing that could be a problem is that I haven't tested the card to make sure it actually works.  But, being that we found it in an antistatic bag and the friend who had all of this was pretty good at taking care of computer hardware, I expect it to work.

I don't even remember the name or manufacturer of my current case.  All I know is that I bought it solely based on looks.  Lesson learned, that's a horrible idea.  From now on, I'm considering airflow first, then looks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jury Duty

I just finished up my most recent involuntary obligation of jury duty, and actually ended up on the jury for one case after being excused from another case earlier in the court term.  I was excused for reasons that weren't mentioned because it was during the phase of jury selection where the attorneys can excuse people without having to give a reason.  Since the case I actually served on a jury for is over, I can talk about it.

It was a criminal trial involving the sale of cocaine.  With the way criminal cases work, burden of proof is on the prosecution, and the jury has to figure out beyond a reasonable doubt if the defendant is guilty, otherwise they're innocent.  Between a really poor defense and some evidence from the prosecution that was iffy at best, we couldn't say beyond a reasonable doubt that the guy was guilty.

It left all of us on the jury with more questions than anything else.  Why wasn't the wire transmission recorded?  Why were there 7 months between the alleged incident and the arrest being made?  Why was so much of the video that the prosecution was depending on for evidence missing?  Why were we first told not to rely on the informant's testimony, but then later told to take it into consideration?  Why did the suspect in the picture (which was a still from the video) look nothing like the defendant?  Why did phone records show that no calls had been made or received by the number that the audio recording said they called to set up the drug deal in an entire three day period surrounding the date in question?  How did the officers know that the guy their informant talked to on the phone was indeed the guy they charged with the crime?

All those inconsistencies really hurt the prosecution's case.  But still, why did the defense not even try to establish an alibi for the accused?  At least call him to the stand and ask the classic "where were you at this date and time" question.

All the things that would have answered a few of those questions for us were settled while we were ordered into the jury room where we can't hear anything happening in the court.  At one point the prosecution even mentioned wanting to move to declare a mistrial, but the ensuing argument was also settled with us in the jury room.

Overall, the legal system is weird.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Negima ~Mou Hitotsu no Sekai~ OAV: Magical Girl Yue

After a while of waiting for Aquastar's subs, I finally broke down and watched Mamiko's subs that I'd already downloaded.  I've had thoughts of doing the QC that Mamiko obviously didn't do (spelling and grammar errors all over the place!) and releasing a patch under my [subfiXT] tag, but I think I'll just wait patiently for Aquastar's release and watch it again at that point.

I must say one thing.  These OAVs recently have all been based 100% off of the manga.  No filler, no deviations, nothing but the original source material in animated form.  Even though we have eight of these manga-based OAV episodes now, they're easily far better than either TV season.

Even though I'd read the relevant chapters already, the OAV was still quite enjoyable.  Negima has been in need of a proper animated series for a while, and as previously mentioned, neither TV season really does the job.  The Magic World arc, which is where these recent OAVs have been set, could easily be turned into several TV seasons' worth of material if given the same level of attention that has been given to the OAVs.  While the arc hasn't yet ended in the manga, it's moving towards it quickly, so even if they started with a 100% true-to-manga TV series next season, it'd take a while for it to catch up, and the arc would probably have ended by that point anyway.

For anyone who hasn't been reading the manga and is trying to follow these OAVs, you're missing out.  Basically, in the Magic World arc, Negi decides to go to the Magic World to look for more clues to his father's whereabouts.  Naturally, some of his students want to go as well, since the trip is disguised as a trip to his home country of Wales.  The stronger, more magically-inclined students (basically anyone Negi has a pactio with) actually get to go into the Magic World, whereas the rest just get a vacation in Wales.  Of course, shit happens as soon as they get to the Magic World, and that's where the most recent OAV picks up.

This arc has revealed a ton of information regarding the back story and certain people's identities.  I really can't say much without it being a spoiler.

This last OAV episode, as you might infer from the title of this post, focuses on Yue.  After shit happens when they get to the Magic World, she loses her memories and gets taken in at a magic academy, where she studies magic while trying to get her memories back.  The episode centers on the competition to determine who gets to go to New Ostia as guards, and I could delve deeper but it would be directly into manga spoilers.

All I can really say is, the episode is great, and if you're a fan of Negima you should be watching these recent OAVs.  Especially since the manga's on a bit of a break right now...