2006

Tales Of The Self-Indulgent: The American Zone by L. Neil Smith
originally posted: 2006-12-08 01:22:07

It's time for another new feature here at Momentary Fascinations, what I'm calling "Tales Of The Self-Indulgent".

I like fiction. It carries you away from the worries of your world, aloft on fanciful tales of other people's lives. A momentary respite from the worries of the day. That is why I find it so thoroughly off-putting when an author throws in self-indulgent passages. It's like a deluge of cold water, snapping me out of the trance, slapping me in the face saying "Hey! ...

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Spyro Soundtracks, Part 2
originally posted: 2006-11-30 04:37:16

Since my original posting, I've learned even more about the Spyro soundtracks. Specifically:

  • I've uncovered seven new Spyro 1 tracks.
  • I've found three new Spyro 2 tracks.
  • I've discovered three new tracks that I don't even know which game they came from, though I suspect they're from Spyro 3.
  • I've learned that we US citizens are lucky with regards to Spyro 3. (And Spyro 2 too, though less so.)
Read on, for a treatise in...

Continue reading Spyro Soundtracks, Part 2

A Thought Experiment In Morality
originally posted: 2006-11-26 03:11:15

Scenario One

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

Is that moral? No, it's stealing, and it's wrong.

Scenario Two

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

He says the money isn't for him; he needs the money to pay for treatment for his sick mother.

Is that...

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Unreal Tournament And The Moderne PC
originally posted: 2006-08-03 00:51:20

The original Unreal Tournament, from 1999, was a classic—a milestone in multiplayer gaming. There are those who debated which was better, Quake 3 Arena or UT, but for my money UT was always the superior animal. The "theme" arenas were fabulous, the bot AI was a marvel, the "mutators" were amazing.

Happily, it was engineered to last; seven years later and it's still playable (and fun!). And no wonder: it was designed to run well on computers a tenth as fast as what...

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The Spyro Soundtracks, And The Inscrutable XA Format
originally posted: 2006-07-23 07:42:31

Last decade, three fine games came out for the Sony Playstation: Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, and Spyro 3: Year Of The Dragon. They were all well-crafted, with excellent graphics (for the time), a captivating art style, plenty of professional voice acting (including Tom "Spongebob Squarepants" Kenny as Spyro in the second two), and hours of fun—and occasionally challenging—gameplay.

The soundtracks for these three fine games was created by...

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Trampled Liberties: The Federal Reserve Bank, And Fiat Currency
originally posted: 2006-04-23 15:03:32

Ah, finally, the bane of blog readers everywhere: American politics. I never said I would resist its siren song, never said I wouldn't blat out my opinions on this most overwrought of topics. That said, my opinions and conclusions are different from most. Does that make me an original thinker, or a marginalized crank? By all means decide that for yourself—my only hope is that you read, and think.

In point of fact, this posting is the first in a series I've been mulling...

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The Kitchen Sink Is Not A Garbage Can
originally posted: 2006-03-16 09:50:56

In the movie Bachelor In Paradise, Bob Hope is the only person in his suburban community with a garbage disposer in his kitchen sink. As a result, his neighbors often drop by with large bundles of garbage which he laboriously feeds into his kitchen sink.

Silly? Sure. In truth it's a plot contrivance, a device used in the movie to get characters together so they can interact. But it got me reflecting. I grew up with a lot of seemingly-arbitrary rules about what should and should not...

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My New Business Cards
originally posted: 2006-01-27 08:18:35

There are two main ways I organize my to-do lists: for large projects with lots to do, I'll use a text file or HTML file. For everything else, I generally use plain white 3x5 index cards. I go through 3x5 cards like a paper shredder; on a busy day I'll burn through ten or twenty.

Organizing yourself with index cards is nothing new; in fact, there's a whole category at 43 Folders on organizing with index cards. (I know, I know, that's nothing special, there's a web site for anything and...

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64-Bit Color... And 16-Bit Floats
originally posted: 2006-01-24 21:37:38

Have you seen the HDR rendering in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast? That is possible because of the next big thing in graphics: going from 32-bit color to 64-bit color. But this revolution in color isn't as simple as just making everything twice as big.

32-bit color uses four 8-bit integers to represent red, green, blue, and alpha. (Alpha means whatever you need it to mean; most commonly it's used for opacity.) Thus, each of the four values can go from 0 to...

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Unbrick Powerup Icons
originally posted: 2006-01-19 21:55:01

This is the first of what may be a series of good ol' "developer blog" entries. I'm working away in relative anonymity here, and there are some parts of this project that may be interesting to read about. Let's find out!

The game I'm working on is an "Arkanoid-style" game. That's like a "Breakout" game, but with powerups.

I'm in the middle of overhauling the entire look of the game, because I finally realized the game looked too busy. I've sent the game to two other indie...

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Nintendo: In The Race To Be #2
originally posted: 2006-01-19 01:00:22

Nintendo's entry into the Seventh generation consoles is the Nintendo Revolution. Few details have been released about it. But, from what we know based on official statements and reliable rumors, it will be nowhere near as powerful as the other two Seventh generation consoles will be (the Microsoft XBox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3). The best estimate so far—and this is from a Nintendo spokesman—is that it will only be about twice as powerful as the four-year-old...

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Why Games Won't Be Much Better On The New Generation Of Consoles
originally posted: 2006-01-16 23:29:59

Every couple of years or so, the home video game console makers conspire to make a new "generation" of consoles. As I post this, a new "generation" is upon us; the Microsoft XBox 360 is already out, and the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution are due to be released this year.

While I am keen to see them—and will, in all likelyhood, buy all three—I can't help but think that this will be a less exciting step forward than previous generations. Why? Two reasons:...

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ReplayGain
originally posted: 2006-01-12 23:13:11

From the "good idea!" department.

If you listen to a lot of music, surely you've noticed that some of it is very quiet, and some of it is very loud. Classical music can be very soft, wheras modern pop hits are engineered in the studio to be as uniformly loud as possible (using a technique called "compressing" the signal).

That's all well and good, but what if you've got both queued up in your MP3 player and you listen to both tracks in a row? If the volume is loud enough for the...

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FLAC
originally posted: 2006-01-12 10:14:11

I have a lot of music. I genuinely don't know how many CDs I own; it's been a long time since I invested the time to count them. I'm sure it's over 2000, and it may be as many as 2500 or even 3000.

Over the years, I've ripped most of it to MP3s. I've used various quality levels over the years, and re-encoded my archive a couple of times. Most recently, starting on New Years's Day 2001, I started over using 256kbps-average VBR "quality zero" joint stereo. These music...

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Shrinky-Dink Python
originally posted: 2006-01-11 22:25:08

About eighteen months ago, I realized that my plan for level creation for my game was just not going to be feasible. I'd planned to write all levels as FORTH scripts, and... well, not only is that a totally un-visual way of designing fun levels, but I was constantly tripping over the programming differences between FORTH and C (between FORTH and every other language under the sun, really). I'd wanted to use Python for scripting in my game, but the runtime was just too big. The Python...

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New For 2006
originally posted: 2006-01-11 15:41:59

Finally, an update! I kind of munged my old blog system (Firedrop) sometime last year, and never fixed it, and anyway I'd grown disillusioned with that system. I've now switched to the clumsily-named PyBlosxom, and am much happier... at least for now. I have quite a backup of articles for Momentary Fascinations, so here's to turning over a new leaf in 2006 and letting 'er...

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