brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


New iPod, Same Old Trouble

As part of my weight loss plan, I decided I needed/deserved some form of MP3 player, and with my upcoming birthday, asked the wife that it would be a 20GB iPod. I reasoned that Apple makes excellent computer hardware that just works, it integrates well with iTunes, and it would just work.

Silly me.

I realized before it arrived that to use it on my cheapy HP laptop (2ghz AMD, 512M RAM, Combo Drive) that I'd need a firewire card. Rather than go with a
cheapy one, I decided to get an Adaptec DuoConnect card, which has ports for both Firewire and USB2.0.

The iPod arrived yesterday. The packaging is very cool. I installed the Updater software and iTunes (again), and tried to sync it up.

Here begins the total lack of fun. Upon connection, the little iPod whirs for a while, then I get a popup claiming that it needs to be restored since it isn't responding. After doing so, it asks to be plugged back into the wall, so that it can finish reflashing itself.

Repeat three or four times. Cue Mark's ire level.

It appears that PCMCIA firewire cards don't put out power, and the iPod may not work reliably with Firewire adapters that don't. Digging around on Adaptec's website yielded this explanation.

Curiously enough, I did get the transfer to work once, so I do have a day and half of audio on my little iPod. This will tide me over until the $25 power supply gets here.

Why can't things just work?


Build your own Steadicam

Cute and useful project: build yourself a $14 Steadycam. Or you could look at this plan for a camera stabilizer from the Guide Book for Guerilla Filmmakers. Or look here, here, or here.

Filed under: General Comments Off

Two Short Subjects

Just a short blurb to inform my readers about two interesting bits of code that I've looked at in the past week.

The first is a voice-conferencing system called Skype. Skype is made by the same guys who brought you Kazaa (of which I am distinctly not a fan), and is exactly what it pretends to be: a great little free application that allows you to immediately do voice conferencing over the Internet with end to end encryption. It seems to work very well, with excellent sound quality, and they even have a PDA version for the Pocket PC. I used to use Yahoo Messenger, but Skype is much slicker.

The second is something you'll have to compile yourself: Olithink, a chess program that is only 1600 lines long, but plays quite reasonably. It uses bitboards, alpha-beta search, transposition tables and pondering. It makes me rethink the idea that chess programs are too complicated.


Do it yourself Board Games

I ran across Games and Tools - The Deck of Boards
while reading The author designed a way to create boards for many interesting boardgames by using a magnetic board and various marbles, washers and easily available pieces. Kind of neat, and a good way to get boards for games like Hex.


An aside into Fonts…

I have begun work on a program to play checkers, tentatively called Milhouse. I'm mostly doing it to keep my programming and research skills tuned up, but also because I've always enjoyed working on game playing programs. To make it more interesting, I've decided to write it as a literate program using Norm Ramsey's simple noweb system.

But to do a good job, I wanted to be able to intersperse diagrams of checkers positions into the source code. That doesn't seem too difficult, since I have some experience producing documents using LaTeX. But the one thing that was lacking was a font to use for checkers positions.

So I made one.

Or at least, I've prototyped one. The diagram on the right is the starting position at checkers, rendered in 22pt using a Postscript Type 3 font that i coded up by hand. It's not perfect, but it looks more of less like I imagined it would.

Unfortunately, you can't use type3 fonts directly in TeX/LaTeX, so I still have some work to do. Still, kind of a fun way to waste some time while waiting for frames to render.

Filed under: My Projects Comments Off