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M-m-m-monster post! (22 Dec 2006 at 13:07)
Hello friends! My brother and I drove back to Connecticut on Wednesday, and now we are having a relaxing time here getting sore throats and hanging out with the family. Some stuff I thought, at the time, I might blog about and so maybe I can wrap it all into a bullet-pointed blogdate. It's pretty much all about computer or game stuff:

The semester is over. At its end Jason and I spent a lot of time on our project for Logic Programming class, called "LFton". Basically the idea is to use the soul-splinteringly fast MLton compiler as a backend for the paint-strippingly slow Twelf execution engine. That would allow us a pretty short path to having reference implementations of languages that have been specified in Twelf. (We can already do that, it's just really slow.) Anyway, we almost got it working but didn't get time to do any of the optimizations that we had planned, so it's only about 1.5x faster than Twelf right now. We ought to give it another shot after the break, because I don't think it would be much more work to make it really fly and maybe write something up about it.

Right around that same time my laptop (Sony TR3A) started acting up: It would blue screen and then reboot immediately after using it for a few minutes. I think that this was due to overheating caused by the video card, which I hardly ever use for 3D stuff but Cortney and I were using to play Syberia, since we have recently gotten into playing adventure games together (BTW Syberia was pretty good, at least I want to say that because I don't want the adventure genre to die, although I will complain that the pace (by which I mean slow pace) of running around from screen to screen was totally maddening). Since we finished that and I uninstalled the game I haven't had any problems, which is good because I like my laptop despite its age, but at the time I was shopping around for new laptops in the eventuality and admit that the new Intel MacBooks were high on the list. Since I know the Apple product designers read my blog for insights into how to sell me Macintosh, I will say that there were three major turnoffs: (1) the lack of a two-button mouse standard on the laptop (I predict this will happen soon without any more complaining from me: They already make an external mouse that looks like it has one button but really has two, but they won't really admit it; the trackpad on the MacBook supports an awkward gesture where you can put two fingers on the trackpad and then click the one gigantic button to get the right-click effect, I mean, how could anyone think this is simpler than using one finger to press one button?); (2) the fact that the OSX still seems difficult to me to navigate by keyboard (is there any faster way to launch an application from a list than to alt-tab to finder, then hit the shortcut key for the Applications folder, then go to the app and Apple-O that thing? Why does the enter key try to rename applications instead of launching them??); but maybe I'd get used to that and (3) the just slightly unsvelte heft of the machines (it is painful to paradoxically be buying larger and large laptops since my first one in 1999. But other than that, I want! Cortney, whose laptop is actually dying of like the screen falling off, did in fact just buy a replacement MacBook and I find it to be pleasantly fast and well-built.

Right before we left for CT we had a games night at the Spopix residence... we played a card game called "Category 5" which nobody could quite figure out a strategy for until the last round, and then we played Apples to Apples and I wanted to relay to you the I think extra-funnifying twist that we came up with (you can stop reading if you don't know Apples to Apples because this won't make sense). Spoons complained that he often does better in the game when he just plays cards randomly, so in each round we added a "house" entry drawn from the top of the stack of red cards. If the judge picked the random card, nobody gets the Green. Otherwise, we go around the table (starting with the judge), each person getting one chance to guess which card was the random one. This is fun because we get a chance to guess what the other players would play, and it gives a natural disincentive to campaign for your card (so as not to give any of the other players information about which ones are legit). Anyway, good twist. Sorry.

Now that we're back in CT nursing our sore throats with like gallons of Peppermint tea, and looking for ways to escape parental friends parties, Mike bought an XBox 360 (partly to make it easier for for siblings to find presents for Mike and me since he was thinking of getting one anyway and also because we can't find the console we really want, the Wii). Recommendations for good games? We are playing Gears of War which is a delightful sequel to Halo 2, except with oddly crippled characters who can't jump for some reason (certainly not a lack of buttons on the monstrous controller). If it were Wii I'd just toss my controller up towards the ceiling to execute a grand cart en l'air.

Finally, I have been taking some time to work on projects. You may know that some of my friends are doing a "50 book challenge" this year in which they try to read a grand total of 50 books throughout the calendar year and blog reviews on them. (I don't think anybody is actually going to get 50, but I think they're at something like 40 which is pretty amazing.) I am a slow reader and don't do it very often so I was working on my "0.05 book challenge" (not 0.05 page) in which I try to complete 0.05 of Infinite Jest mostly while in the bathroom. Turns out 0.05 of that book is still only like 3 pages, which I completed easily the first day, and I also technically read another book—the first in the Griffin & Sabine trilogy that Cortney got me for Christmas in like 45 minutes, so while home I decided I could mindlessly wade through the 5th 'Arry Potta book, which is also like 1000 pages but all of the words cost 10 or less. I was really annoyed by the length of the previous book and especially its repetition (it seems that every time something happens or it is going to happen to 'Arry he needs to then mull about it for a chapter and then talk to each of his friends and teachers about it for another chapter). This book seems no better but I hear it gets a bit tighter starting with the 6th. But my favorite projects are the creative ones: I am working again on my Flash adventure game engine and the humorously shoddy demo "Let's Adventure!" (don't bother playing that grimy old version; there will be a new demo soon). That is fun. See you soon!
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Don (dynamic-acs-24-154-191-51.zoominternet.net) – 12.22.06 14:14:21
I tried playing Syberia a few years ago, but about halfway through the game I just couldn't force myself to watch that woman's walk cycle anymore.
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Adam (charm.diamond.cs.cmu.edu) – 12.22.06 14:26:12
How do you play adventure games together?
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Moira (cvo-cr1-200-211.peak.org) – 12.22.06 14:39:29
You can use spotlight to open apps quickly on the mac: Hit apple-spacebar and type in the first couple of letters of the app name. Down arrow to select it from the top of the list and hit Enter. Glorious Enter.

There are also a bunch of custom programs for assigning shortcut keys to applications and commands, but I don't use any of them. I do wish the same shortcut key combos I learned for Photoshop and Fireworks worked on the mac, but there's no easy way to, say, Apple-F to open the file menu. (Fn-Cntrl-F2 then right-arrow twice (or "F") does it, but how awkward is that?)

Oh, but my favorite part of my Mac is that I can have ten-ish apps open at once without any performance problems. I just apple-tab between them.
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jcreed (h75-100-88-50.75-100.unk.tds.net) – 12.22.06 15:18:13
That sounds like a nice A2A variant. Also, if you keep the "house winnings" in a pile, you can compare your score to the random player. It's like a "control group", a thing I learned from Science!
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Karthik (mcduff.its.yale.edu) – 12.22.06 15:36:24
got into CT a little bit ago... if you're bored gimme a call!
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Anonymous (x42072e13.ip.e-nt.net) – 12.22.06 15:50:54
Or use Quicksilver (http://quicksilver.blacktree.com/) for quick launching (works a bit better than spotlight and does a bunch of other handy stuff too).

Lastly, two-finger scrolling/clicking is great. Once you are used to it you will never want to go back - when I use a windows laptop, I'm constantly clicking the right key by accident. Having the one big button gives you a little more flexibility in making your hands comfortable using the trackpad.
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allison (68-234-10-28.clvdoh.adelphia.net) – 12.22.06 16:33:17
I have a sore throat too! Get a mac.
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Nels (adsl-6-123-104.msy.bellsouth.net) – 12.22.06 22:22:46
Hey T-Diddy! When we were having our great adventure game rundown the other night, I forgot to mention one of my favorites, and the last A-game I played seriously before basically giving up on games; Grim Fandango. You probably are aware of it, but it's this clever adventure based on the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. It's funny and has very nice, stylized graphics. Good stuff!
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Tadbot (c-68-81-169-87.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 12.23.06 00:01:36
My roommate recently went Wii60 and bought a couple consoles, and I bought a wiimote and a 360 controller for me to use with them. I haven't played Zelda yet (waiting til we get component cables for the Wii), but I started playing some coop Gears of War. However, I've really gotten into Dead Rising for the 360. Zombies zombies zombies! You can download a demo of it on Xbox live.
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jetfuel (c-24-15-35-54.hsd1.il.comcast.net) – 12.23.06 01:07:20
Yeah, Quicksilver or LaunchBar makes the Mac very usable from the keyboard.
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Marius (c-67-168-26-89.hsd1.wa.comcast.net) – 12.23.06 02:38:43
I use LaunchBar. Makes finding/launching files/apps on your computer a matter of 3-4 keystrokes, as long as you can sorta remember their names.
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Sophia (c-24-218-59-63.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 12.23.06 10:32:44
Yeah, I usually use Spotlight for launching apps too. Or if you find yourself in Terminal often, you can do:
open -a "Application Name"

Moira: For accessing the File menu, there are a couple of ways to make it quicker. One is that you can toggle the Fn key behavior in System Preferences (whether F keys default to F keys Fn key lets you access computer controls, or the reverse). Then you don't necessarily need to use Fn key to access the menubar. That's how I have it set on my laptop, I prefer that. And then instead of hitting the arrow key twice, you can just hit the F key once. In general, you can begin typing names of menu items to select them.

Also, you don't need add-ons to change system keyboard shortcuts. Most of them can all be set in System Preferences.

Tom: I'll be bringing my MacBook to Hamden, so when we're there (I'll be arriving Christmas Eve), I can show all of the keyboard accessibility maneuvers that I know...
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Tom 7 (c-67-186-132-96.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 12.23.06 11:32:40
Don: It doesn't speed up (unless you never figured out how to run?) so don't bother...

Adam: Actually I think adventure games are some of the best to play cooperatively with others. I used to play the *Quest and Monkey Island series with my brothers when we were young. Only one person control the action, but you can take turns on that and most of the fun is figuring out what to do and watching the story, you know?

K: Cool! Well, I think I'm booked through Christmas, but I'll be here afterwards for a few days. Will you be around? (Unfortunately I am feeling pretty wiped out right now from this illness..)

Nels: I haven't played Grim Fandango yet (except for the demo many years ago), I'm kinda saving that one for adventurpocalypse since I've heard it's very good.

Tad: The (wired) 360 controller is a good buy because it uses a USB connector and works on the PC without any drivers. Even the headset works! But I'd rather be able to plug in my wiimote...

Apple fans: I like how spotlight works and its globality but it doesn't seem very responsive; like, I have to wait for the search results to pop in before I can hit enter. Add-ins sound good. But I forgot the most annoying thing was when some dialog box came up and I couldn't say yes or no with the keyboard. I tried like every key... is there something I'm missing? I'm sure macmaster Sophia will show me ... how long you in town?
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Sophia (c-24-218-59-63.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 12.24.06 10:23:23
I'm not sure yet how long, but probably until Wednesday or something like that. As usual, until I get tired of being there...
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Jute Gyte (206.246.1.45) – 12.29.06 13:12:32
This might be a reason to not go with Apple: http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=5273
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-71-93.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 12.29.06 23:55:42
Interesting!
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Don (dynamic-acs-24-154-191-51.zoominternet.net) – 01.02.07 10:36:16
I don't even remember if I was running or not--I probably was, but failing to see the run button is a very Don thing to do. Where's the button for the Sonic-esque Spin-Dash move?

For some reason the kids today like to consume their interactive epics in rpg rather than adventure form. I just wish those whippersnappers would quit playing WoW on my lawn.
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-70-236.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 01.02.07 11:21:48
Insistently double-clicking makes her run, though it helps to not click on your objective but on the ground in front of it. Still she is the most careful person I've ever seen board a train.
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Cortney (h-72-244-70-236.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 01.02.07 12:08:22
I don't know what the game developers were thinking, especially given the number of times she boarded the train. I would say that was my only complaint with the game.
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Tom 7 (gs82.sp.cs.cmu.edu) – 01.02.07 13:45:13
Siberia II is on the list!
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Cortney (cmu-211462.andrew.cmu.edu) – 01.02.07 14:36:55
Your resolve lis? Or just "the list"?
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Tom 7 (gs82.sp.cs.cmu.edu) – 01.02.07 14:50:51
List of games for us to play! =) (It only has one thing on it!)
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Cortney (cmu-211462.andrew.cmu.edu) – 04.12.07 12:23:34
Someone just passed along this link to me (guide to switching to a mac from a PC) ... it seems like a pretty handy reference.

lifehacker.com/software/mac/hack-attack-a-guide-for-switching-to-a-mac-224674.php
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Cortney (cmu-211462.andrew.cmu.edu) – 04.12.07 12:25:03
Also, apparently Janice really likes the program Quicksilver, which is what the Apple people copied when they came up with Spotlight. It's supposed to be faster.
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Tom 7 (gs82.sp.cs.cmu.edu) – 04.12.07 12:41:07
Yeah, that doc would have been pretty helpful, but I think I've learned pretty much everything on there... (the command-` thing and apple-O being the biggest stumbling blocks for me)
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