PLATO@50 Conference

PLATO welcome screen

PLATO welcome screen
(click any photo for a larger version)

On June 2nd and 3rd, 2010 I attended a conference at the Computer History Museum called “PLATO@50: Fifty Years of Innovation”. The first computer I ever saw in person or used was the PLATO installation at the University of Delaware. My sister was taking a course in biomechanics at the University and brought me into the terminal room where I could login to PLATO and use a variety of educational courseware without needing a special account or paying any fees. The rest, as they say, is history. I spent quite a number of hours exploring all the educational courseware on PLATO. I was in this weird age range where the “kids” courseware was too simple and the University student courseware was too complex. However, I was immensely fascinated with this thing called a computer.

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“Law and Order” Run Amuck

What kind of country is it where the police beat up helpless 86-year old ladies?

If you’re thinking some tinpot dictatorship in South America, think again. Its Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Police Said to Taze Grandmother

I’m just speechless at this sort of behavior.

We Miss You, John

John Entwistle: October 9th, 1944–June 27th, 2002

If you look carefully, you might be able to spot me in the crowd just to the left of center stage. I’m standing behind my friend Lauren, who was standing right at the stage.


PLATO@50 Conference Video

The Computer History Museum has published all the conference video from the PLATO@50 conference. I think game developers will find the session on PLATO gaming interesting. If you only have time to watch one video, I would suggest the first one which is an overview of the PLATO system. For those with an interest in the origins of the plasma display panel, check out the hardware session. If you have an interest in social networking software, check out the online community session. Of course, if you’re a PLATO junkie, watch them all!

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UltraFractal Parameters RSS Feed

UltraFractalThe UltraFractal mailing list often has parameter sets posted to it. However, due to the vagaries of internet email, there was often a variety of editing or careful copy/pasting you had to do in order to get the parameter set in a format that UltraFractal liked. I created a script that processes selected mail messages to extract out the UPR file in a form that UltraFractal likes. Its much more reliable than what I was doing by hand. The results of the script can be seen at the UltraFractal Parameters RSS feed.

Update: The public feed has been turned off. See the comments below.

Zappa Plays Zappa

Zappa Plays ZappaRecently I had the chance to check out “Zappa Plays Zappa” at The Depot in Salt Lake City. This concert performance is Dweezil Zappa playing Frank Zappa’s music. Dweezil is Frank’s son. Of course he doesn’t do it alone and has a collection of very talented musicians and singers along with him to help him play Frank’s music. My friend Jason is a big Frank Zappa fan, in the same way that I’m a big fan of The Who. While I don’t know Frank’s music by heart, and to be perfectly honest I don’t even own any CDs or anything, I’ve heard quite a bit of Zappa music as Jason and I went on our little excursions into the western deserts of Utah to go rockhounding and I always enjoyed what I heard.

The crowd at the depot was very mellow and didn’t mind at all as I worked my way through them back and forth to the bar to bring beers to our little cadre of 4 people. I found the concert most enjoyable and I was very much impressed with the musical proficiency of Dweezil and his crew. After working through a long two hour set with no breaks, they took a little breather. When they came back on stage, Dweezil gave us a choice of which of three songs we’d like to hear for an encore based on the amount of audience cheering. It was a tough call between the top two, but they picked one and played it. Then, they gave us a little treat by saying “since you’ve been so nice and we’re not going to be back here soon, we’ll play the other one too” and gave us our close 2nd runner-up.

If you get a chance to see these guys in your town, I recommend it, even if you’re not a Zappa freak like my friends.

Iterated Dynamics Moved From SourceForge To CodePlex

No SourceForgeOver the past few years, I’ve become increasingly disappointed with SourceForge for my open source projects. It used to be the first place I would suggest for hosting open source projects; now I would never recommend it. As a result, I’ve moved Iterated Dynamics to CodePlex.

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Prototyping with XHTML

Recently I worked on a PHP application, where I refactored the HTML output of an existing implementation into my PHP implementation. At the time, the initial implementation was abandonware and the author had supplied us with a database dump but no source code. Eventually we got the perl source code to use as a reference implementation. Along the way I thought about the idea of using HTML as a general wireframe prototyping mechanism for web applications: start with some HTML mockup and when it feels right to the customer, start refactoring the HTML wireframe into the actual implementation.

At Agile Roots 2010 there was a lightning talk session where you could speak for 5 minutes on any topic you desired. Based on my experience of test-driven development in PHP, I gave a lightning talk on the idea of using HTML as a wireframe prototyping strategy for web applications. One of the people attending the conference was Anders Ramsay who had written an article in April titled Prototyping with XHTML. If you’re interested in this idea, I highly recommend reading Anders’s article.

Windows Phone 7 Application Certification Requirements

Windows Phone 7

“This document provides the policies and technical requirements that a Windows Phone 7 application or game must meet to pass certification and to be eligible for listing in Windows Phone Marketplace.”

Download Windows Phone 7 Application Certification Requirements

June 2010 DirectX SDK Documentation Now on MSDN

The documentation for the Windows Graphics was already available, now the entirety of the documentation for the June 2010 release of the DirectX SDK is available on MSDN.

DirectX SDK Documentation on MSDN

Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 5.0

Commodore PETJack Rubin announces Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 5.0:

Vintage Computer Festival comes to Chicago!

The fifth edition of VCF Midwest will take place in Chicago (OK, Lombard is a suburb) this fall – join us on September 18 in conjunction with ECCC as we once again coax vintage electrons into motion.

The show will run from 8:00 AM on Saturday on into the night, coming to an official close at 1:00 AM Sunday morning. Early setup will be available on Friday evening from 5-6:30 PM, at which time the exhibition area will be locked until the show opens on Saturday morning.

In addition to exhibitions of eclectic electronica, we will feature speakers, vendors and a Vince Briel workshop (come ready to homebrew!).

Admission is FREE to all whether you come to show, look, build, talk or sell.

Exhibitor and session info to follow shortly, but save the date NOW!

Join us!

Jack Rubin

Rooms are available at a reduced rate at the adjoining Fairfield Inn. Ask for “ECCC” or “vintage computer” rates.

Anatomy of a Good Acceptance Test

FitNesseGojko Adzic writes a nice blog post about the anatomy of a good acceptance test. He starts with the qualities of a good acceptance test and an example. He then shows you how to refactor a poor acceptance test into a good one. All the examples are in FitNesse, an acceptance testing framework that can be used for a variety of languages.

GameFest 2010 Content Now Live

The GameFest 2010 content is now live on Microsoft’s site:

Internet-Enabled Applications with Windows Phone 7: Utah .NET User Group, July 8th, 2010

Windows Phone 7I’ll be giving a talk on Windows Phone 7 at the July 8th, 2010 meeting of the Utah .NET User Group. The meetings are held at 6:00 PM on the 2nd Thursday of every month at Neumont University. I’ve talked about the basics of Windows Phone 7 at the Spring 2010 Utah Code Camp, so this time I will be going into more detail about creating internet enabled applications for Windows Phone 7, with an eye towards consuming data through push services. Microsoft is sponsoring this event by helping us out with the cost of the food and providing a little swag to give away.

Peter Wonka’s Talk Moved to 10AM

Peter Wonka’s talk at the UofU has been moved up to 10AM.

Big Fractals RSS Feed Created

2013_01_08-Candy_Drop_TreeJim Muth has been posting a “fractal of the day” FRACTINT parameter set for a number of years now. Its always nice to have a steady stream of fresh fractal images to browse and I really appreciate Jim’s effort in posting the parameter sets. However, its not always convenient for me to run FRACTINT (it is still a DOS program, after all) and render the image. So, a while back I started running a cron job on XMission’s shell that ran the X11 port of FRACTINT to render out the images. I render them at 4800×3600 to achieve 3x antialiasing for a target size of 1600×1200. This really gives a nice image, even though FRACTINT is still limited to the idea that coloring a pixel means creating an 8-bit index into a 256 entry color lookup table. The results are published on my XMission account and updated about once a day, depending on the computation time.

Recently I discovered a bug in xfractint that caused it to choke on any parameter set whose name contained a dash (-). I’ve worked around the problem and started handling the older parameter sets that previously failed in my nightly cron job. However, it was now getting hard to identify which images were newly added because they weren’t the ones with the most recent chronological date anymore. So I created an RSS feed that shows the images added in the last 30 days. It doesn’t seem possible to include item thumbnails in an RSS feed, so for now it is just a link to the final rendered image and the name and rating of the parameter set as decided by Jim Muth. If you want to browse by thumbnail, start at the main Fractal of the Day page.

Thanks for your hard work, Jim!

GameFest 2010 Presentations

DirectX SDK June 2010 Release

The June 2010 release of the DirectX SDK is now available for download.

Release Notes

Of particular interest to me are the new debugging intrinsics added to HLSL: printf, errorf and abort. This should make it much easier to create unit tests for HLSL code as the unit test can now report back an assertion failure message instead of just true/false.

Test-Driven PHP Development

phpOK, so I have a little open source project where we agreed to use PHP as the implementation language. I wanted to practice test-driven development with PHP, so I got out PHPUnit and started coding.

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