The Animal Farm

August 27th, 2007

Eval

My current research requires something close to an in-depth parser, and one of the requirements is to be able to evaluate arbitrary math equations as parameters into functions. This may seem trivial, but taking a string like “10*(45-15)/3″ and finding the result is actually a bit tricky. I wanted to avoid bringing out Yacc/Lex just yet, because (a)it’s a pain, (b)I’m using C#, and I’m not familiar with the Yacc/Lex equivalents, and (c)I will not be able to use Yacc/Lex at all when I try moving my code into a geometry shader (which is going to be a whole new world).

I stumbled onto a neat little solution which doesn’t change (c), but shifted some of my immediate burdens. It uses the CodeDom compiler, which I’ve used for a scripting solution before. Basically, the idea is to create a string that holds the declaration for a class, complete with one function (Eval) which reads: “public static float Eval() { return ” + command + “; }”. Here command is the string you want to evaluate. Command need not be a simple math expression either - it can contain functions too, and with a little trickery (that I never bothered to implement) it can contain variables.

Oh, and regular expressions are an amazing thing.

[+|-]?[0-9]*[\.[0-9]*]?

August 21st, 2007

HD!

We made a midnight run to purchase an HD TV, which is currently casting a heavenly glow over the living room. I purchased the component cables for the Nintendo Wii and instantly noticed a marked improvement in the visual quality for Mario Strikers. There was also a significant improvement with Bioshock.

Bioshock. What an amazing, terrifying game. The demo was played in this apartment four times before I was able to pick up the full version today. Those 2K villains changed things between the demo and the retail versions, things in the beginning which I had grown to rely upon, things which made me feel safe. Imagine a carpet was pulled out from under you and then used to bludgeon you to death in the dark. Now imagine that carpet was covered in nails, each nail itself enveloped in tiny, spinning drills. You are on your way to feeling Bioshock fear, but not quite there.

The strength of the emotions I have for Bioshock could only be rivaled by my feelings for the Computer Security class which Zach had not yet experienced when writing his initial impressions. He fell asleep midway through, the lucky man, whereas my mind could not pry itself from an hour’s unendurable agony. I gather there are things in this world worse than that class, but they are no doubt hidden from view, obscured by laws of nature which prevent them from being perceived by mortal man.

Long live Atlas.

August 21st, 2007

Initial Impressions

I have currently been to two of my three classes and I really don’t consider the third class worth writing about, so I am going to give my first impressions on the classes now.

Neural Networks seemed interested before I even signed up for.  It is particularly interesting now because my Master’s Thesis is going to be on machine learning.  The big difference here is that I am writing my learner using a completely different school of thought from neural networks.  Dr. Menzies admits to not even knowing much about them at all, and he is a machine learning.. guy.. machine learnologist.  Anyway, there are no tests in the class which is nice because tests typically manage to worry me even though I typically do very well on them.  It is all homework and final project in the grade.  I approve.

I’ve had the professor before, but only in lecture-hall situations.  He doesn’t seem much different when there are 20 students as opposed to 200, but I do find myself listening more.  This could be because it is the first day, however.  Only time will tell.  So far though, I am liking this class.  Neural nets sound pretty neat and I may even try to get something with them into my thesis, if I could find a relation to what I am doing.

The other class, Fixed Parameter algorithms, both terrifies and intrigues me.  It terrifies me mainly because of the name.  I can handle fixed and parameter by themselves just find, I can even kinda tolerate algorithm, but combining them is terrifying.  I think I will like the class though.  It is also just homework and project stuff, so no tests there.  I approve of this.

Like neural nets, I’ve had the professor before.  She is a pretty cool person and a decent enough teacher.  I do recall my last class being ridiculously slow and  easy until the last quarter, when it got impossible hard.  I am hoping she can make it a nice and smooth nigh impossible all semester instead of a very hard for 3/4 then truly impossible for the last 1/4.  All in all I am looking forward to what I can learn there.

Computer Security is the third course.  I am mainly taking it as a cushion since the other two classes are going to be hard.  I am pretty sure this class will have tests, which is a let down.  Such is the nature of undergrad classes though.

~Zach

August 13th, 2007

C’mon Everybody to the Dance Floor

I am home.

I’ve spent enough time talking about my experiences at EA/Chicago, so I’m not going to thrust more stories opinions on you. If you want more information, you will have to ask. In a sweet, loving voice that makes me want to answer. Right now I am talking about what I’m doing now that I’m home.

Well, the first thing I did was… go to the Blue Moose. And wander around town a bit with Zach. And bought a few new video games, which I desperately needed because the other games I haven’t played are getting lonely on the shelf. Then we came back and Ricky showed me Strkers: Charged, which was an interesting experience. I don’t know how I feel about the game. My initial impression is that it isn’t quite as intriguing as the original, but I will have to play more to solidify the opinion.

I also played the Eternal Sonata, Blue Dragon, and Bioshock demos. I’m going to have to pick up all three. Especially Bioshock. I believe it’s Tycho that said, “you need to make getting this demo and playing it to completion your life’s goal.” He is correct.

We also went to K-Mart and got drinks while Ricky followed us playing his guitar. We half-expected to get kicked out, but nobody even turned their heads. The man has pressed them down hard.

C’mon, c’mon.

August 9th, 2007

I’m Missin’ You Like Candy

I’m writing this from Dunkin’ Donuts while the radio blares Mandy Moore, insofar as it is possible for her to be blared. The circumstances which lead me here are actually quite the story.*

I walked in to my room two days ago to realize that the bulb had blown. Which left me in what Lovecraft would call an indescribable abyss. I’m sure dark gods were involved, but that is not the crux of this story and I’m forcing myself to move on right now. One way or another, I have been prevented from reading or writing or doing other things which require sight. I proceeded to try and use the internet, and it proceeded to try and use me back. Don’t think too hard about that statement, because I’m going to explain it: the internet didn’t work, and I could see it coyly mocking me from the other side of the screen. For a while the Microsoft Wireless Client registered me as connected, a brazen joke between the two of us. When my stern expression did not falter, even It conceded and I was notified that not only could I not connect to my preferred wireless network - no such network existed.

I still don’t know where the connection went, perchance a digital River Styx beckoned. It has not returned, and I have no means of righting this damnable wrong.

Dunkin’ Donuts is interesting in Chicago. They are very rare in WV (do any exist? I wonder), but they are on every single corner here. I can turn and walk for ten minutes in any direction, even diagonally and sometimes vertically, and I will hit one. There’s a 90 percent chance I’ll pass a salon on the way, another of Chicago’s little quirks. I do not condemn it, it is useful. Wireless internet - an abundant natural resource which is hard to acquire since people have discovered “internet security” - flows freely from Dunkin’ like a river whose current summoned me in my dire need.

In two days time, I swallow my fear and get in a taxi. Should the trip meets its destination, should I not careen off a cliff in the driver’s haste, I will be on a train headed toward my castle. The next nine+ hours will be spent in high anticipation as I attempt to read, video game (a verb now), write, and sleep to occupy my mind before the glorious reuinion to follow.

Yes, the time of my return is nigh, ready to usher in the Final Morgantown Saga. There is one year left, after which Zach will no doubt join his beloved in DC, Ricky will return to school, and I will pursue my game development. There is a story that will be written, a glorious ode to our last triumphs and tragedies, and the words will be transcribed here.

*You know I’m a liar by now. It shouldn’t surprise you in the least just how mundane that story was.

August 9th, 2007

Rain

Brian mentioned the humidity in Chigago a few posts ago.  We here in Morgantown have that same problem.  The days are typically 90+ degrees and have been that way for 2 weeks now.  Even at night it is disgustingly warm and one gets the feeling they have to swim through the air just to get around.

With all this humidity we have had lately, the rain comes often too.  In fact I don’t remember the last time it rained as much as it has been lately.  We’ve had rain probably every day but 2 in the last 20 days.  It is horrid.  Not just small, annoying rain either, I am talking seriously scary thunderstorms.  I am sitting here now waiting for the 4 horseman of the apocalypse to come.  At one point lightning struck RIGHT NEXT to our apartment.  Power was out for 9ish hours that night.   So Brian might be standing in a puddle of sweat when he walks outside, but I am actually IN a river of rainwater most of the time.

~Zach

“Chocolate Rain.”

August 8th, 2007

Oh what a binge it shall be

You come home in just over 2 days. There will be much gaming. First off, we have Strikers Charged to play/curse at. The online component seems like something we could really get into as well. Don’t forget you happened to’ve bought a 360 Elite and barely played it at all before shipping it off to Ricky and me. That thing needs some play-time. By the way, Viva Pinata is being ported to the DS with some more pinata added among other things. They got rid of a camera and stuck it at isometric though, so that could be good or bad. Anyway, you have what, Gears of War, Dead Rising, Viva Pinata, Lost Planet and Phantasy Star [subtitle] to play? This poster is also hoping that you pick up Heroes of Mana so we can get some DS RTS action going.
I think you have your hands full. If that is not enough, I am kinda hoping we can at least get started on the guitar hero movie Ricky though of. There’s always podcast material to work on as well.

I can say with certainty that this week and all the weeks that follow it should definitely prove awesome.

~Zach

You see a wife? I see a widow.

August 5th, 2007

Sweating Puddles

The humidity in Chicago right now is unreal. I literally walked for two minutes and was drenched. It’s vile.

Damnation! Damnation and Hellfire!

August 4th, 2007

Mulholland

Mulholland Dr. is a very weird movie. I’m talking Donnie Darko weird. With a scene near the beginning that terrified me.

I went to see Potter again tonight. It’s better the second time around.

I’ve been writing. Short scenes to various stories, all titled by the main character who dominates the scene. Many of the characters fit together into larger stories, but I’ve opted to focus on the individuals right now. It’s nothing I’m prepared to show off, but if you ask very nicely I might consider it in the future.

Only one week left until I return home. Then I binge on video games and dark liquors for a week straight until school begins again, sans the liquor. Actually, none of that may come to fruition, but I will do something.

I’ll just leave you to your thoughts, then.

|