Saturday, July 19, 2003

That <i>specific order</i>? Oh, then that's okay.

Please tell me this is a joke. Metallica is claiming rights to the chord sequence E, F. Says Lars Ulrich:

We're not saying we own those two chords, individually - that would be ridiculous. We're just saying that in that specific order, people have grown to associate E, F with our music."

We're also coming to associate complete idocy. Keep it up.

Update: Probably a hoax. My bad. See the comments.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Only the integers really matter, anyway.

Buried in yesterday's Slashback on Slashdot was a link to an incredibly cool project. But I usually skip Slashbacks, so I didn't notice it.

Luckily, when I got in this morning, The Degree Confluence Project was on my officemate's screen. This project seeks photographs from every integer latitude/longitude intersection on the planet. They have all but a few in the United States, Europe is pretty well covered, and they have other interesting spots including 0°, 0°. Amazing.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Plummeting... Plummeting... Reload.

I've had a hankering for a new PS2 game recently, and a few days ago ended up buying Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. I seem to remember that I enjoyed the first game on the PC in college, so I figured I'd give the latest installment a try.

I've only had a couple hours to play, and so am not very far in the game. It seems reasonably cool, but I've found several glaring errors that make me hesitant to put much time into it.

First, within ten minutes of starting, I hopped over a little fence (at Lara Croft's request, since I was still in the tutorial phase of the game), and found myself trapped in Collision Volume hell. Lara was walking endlessly against a fence and wouldn't respond to any movement controls; I ended up restarting.
Then, a few levels later (in the Parisian Ghetto), I found a doozy. The level is broken up into several zones, each loaded separately. There's no visual distinction between the zones--the game just fades to black when you hit certain spots in the streets, loads from disc, then comes back in the same spot. You can see past each load point before you hit it, which suggests that each zone has some of the geometry from the surrounding ones. That way, it feels like one big continuous level.
However, at least one of the load points is buggy. The polygon (or whatever it is) that triggers a zone change is not big enough. As you run down the street, approaching the load point, if you happen to wander through the deep doorway on the right, you can get completely around the trigger. This allows you to enter The Land Beyond the Load Point. In this land, everything seems normal at first, but after several yards you suddenly fall through the floor, and then plummet forever into the blue abyss. The best you can do is reload from your last save point.
As far as I can tell, The Land Beyond the Load Point contains a fair bit of geometry from the zone beyond (to achieve aforementioned seamless effect), but very little of the collision geometry. Reasonable enough, as long as you can never get there. But I did, and not by doing anything tricky--I was just walking around, exploring doorways.
Ugh. I wonder if I can expect the whole game to be this buggy.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Can dogs actually get scurvy?

I've been vaguely aware that a movie called Pirates of the Caribbean was coming out, and though I know I've seen trailers for it on TV, it never registered in my mind as the sort of thing I'd ever need to see. You know, the trailers were sifted out by my visual system along with the commercials for herpes medication and whatever variant of Mountain Dew they're trying to sell these days. (XTreme Bacon and Chives!)

Then, on Friday, I found out they were screening Pirates of the Caribbean at work, and that several of my friends were going. Never one to buck a trend, I followed along.

Turns out it's a fantastic movie. I'm not sure how well the plot would hold up otherwise, but Johnny Depp really carries the film as a ridiculous badass/moron of a pirate. I had a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Getting the compiler to talk.

A year or two ago, I worked out a way to compute memory alignment restrictions for data types in C/C++. It's a macro/template trick, which is definitely the sort of thing that should make you wary in general. However, it's turned out to be really useful, and I've never seen a better way to get the same effect.

Every person I've shown the trick to has felt a vague sense of unease. “I don't think I'd trust that. Will that work in all cases?” Even compiler guys have said this.

Well, recently I worked out a proof that it really does work in all cases. Well, “all cases” being “all cases that do not involve a blatantly buggy compiler”. I worked out exactly what I'm requiring of the compiler, and it's not much. This proof makes me worry less about using the trick in real code.

Mostly for my own edification, I've written a little paper about the technique. I'd love to get people's input, either about the technique itself or the way I've explained it in the paper. If anybody's seen the trick before, let me know.

And if any of you know some compiler guys or language nuts, send it their way and ask if they buy my argument.

Here's the paper:

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

And I just made out with your girlfriend!

And now, some blatant link propagation. Noah points out an excellent Tom the Dancing Bug strip. I approve.

Even sneezing. I'm serious.

Today is one of those days in which I'm reminded how many of my daily activities depend on the participation of my lower back. (Answer: all of them.)

On a related note: If you're ever tempted to carry your 24-pound baby on your back in one of those carrying packs while you vacuum the apartment, don't.

Monday, July 7, 2003

Get it out of the way early.

I finally got around to reading the text of the Public Domain Enhancement Act, which was introduced by Lofgren in late June, influenced in part by the Eldred Act Petition.

Based on the original proposal, I'd been wondering about an apparent loophole. It occured to me that a copyright holder could decide, at the time of initial publication, to submit for extension immediately instead of waiting the 50 years. This would preemptively extend the term whether or not the work ended up being commercialy viable. At a cost of only $1, it's hard to imagine a self-interested copyright holder who wouldn't try this.

Thus, I assumed the Act would somehow prohibit early submissions. For example, the window for extension might be between 49 and 50 years after publication. But the Act as written only says "[t]he fee shall be due 50 years after the date of first publication," which seems to allow for submissions the day after publication.

Maybe that sort of thing doesn't need to be in the Act, and it would arise when the Register of Copyrights "establish[es] the procedures." But if it doesn't, then the Act is basically useless.

Even if they enforce a narrow submission window, there's the chance that a company will spring up which offers, for a low price today, to automatically extend your term 50 years from now. This too would make the Act effectively useless. Is there any way to prohibit that sort of thing?

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Maybe <i>that</i> would help me overcome my Fear of Plummeting.

As I sat in the cramped seat of a United flight last week, watching the LCD text on the AirFone™ embedded in the seat in front of me, I had trouble understanding the phrase "Send 12 emails a minute!" I mean, I understood the phrase, but I couldn't comprehend how they considered this a feature. I'm pretty sure I could transmit more than 12 emails a minute by waving semaphore flags out the plane window.

This led me to wonder why internet access from planes is so slow, and for that matter, why planes don't have 802.11b access points on them.

Well, it looks like my next flight will need to be to Sweden.