Yet another Vista Beta 2 review

(June 13, 2006)

Testing, reviewing and ranting about Windows Vista Beta 2 seems to be all the rage lately. Normally I don’t like trends like this, but I’m into eye candy and wanted to see if the Vista Desktop really proves to be usable on my normal desktop system. And I had that 32GB empty NTFS partition on my hard drive that really needed to be filled :)
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Hype and Reality

(April 22, 2006)

In the last few days and weeks, it was rather hard to escape one »important« news: Tomb Raider: Legend, the seventh installment of the legendary Tomb Raider computer games series, is finally there. All the news media praised the game for its great graphics, story, controls … whatever. Finally there is a worthy successor for the venerable parts 1-5, after Core Design did most of its job wrong in part 6.

I decided to give all this hype a reality check (a playable demo of the first level is available). Read more …

A most credible movie

(April 4, 2006)

In almost all movies that have to do with computers or only show computer screens by accident, futuristic, animated or even 3D user interfaces are shown. Now there’s finally a movie that reverses this trend: Firewall shows that a computer-related movie can also work without absurdities. Most screens shown are commodity Windows XP installations, without modifications like alternate themes. One even had a standard XP Pro background image. Internet Explorer (OK, a real security expert like the hero wouldn’t use that, but I’ll let that pass :), Outlook and lots of standard Windows dialogs – everything’s there, and just in the right place. There are also some Unixish screens, of course: In a movie called »Firewall«, an Ethereal live capture is what you’d expect. There are some shells, but the stuff typed there vanished too fast to remember. Unix shells are generally shown in X11’s standard 10pt fixed bitmap font, yet in a rather unergonomic bright-green-on-black color scheme. In one scene, I also saw a menu bar that looked quite like the one from XEmacs, but as a strict Emacs non-user, I’m not quite sure about that :)

A hardware-related MacGyverism involved combining a CCD line with a little handmade controller board to scan images using an iPod. This may sound crazy, but if the CCD line has a low enough scanning frequency, it may actually work in reality. (I actually can’t wait till seeing that at hack a day :)

Oh, and not only the technical scenes are good – there are not too much anyway – the whole movie ist just plain brilliant. There are no unrealistic or unlogic parts and every scene has a meaning. On the whole, this movie is definitely worth a look.

I must admit, Xgl is impressive

(March 29, 2006)

Today, I finally took the time to download and test-drive the Kororaa Xgl Live CD. This is a Linux live CD made for the sole purpose of showcasing Xgl. And, what can I say, it does that job great. They even packed the latest nVidia and ATI drivers on the CD, so it works accelerated on commodity hardware without requiring to download and install the drivers first. Only two minutes after booting, I got a nice, clean GNOME 2.12 desktop that didn’t look special in the first place. But clicking a menu or opening a window starts to show the difference …
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(Almost-)Retro-Reviewing »Far Cry«

(March 20, 2006)

During my school time and in the first years of university, I used to play computer games about as often as I did programming. But with the age came the seriousness – if I do play today, it’s mostly one of the classic games I fell in love with years ago. The only exception is the tiny amount of about two single-player 3D shooters per year, not only because I like the genre but I also want to see how the graphics improve over the time. So it’s not surprising that there are almost exclusively »triple A« titles on my agenda: Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Quake 4 and F.E.A.R. are the titles I played over the last two years. You may have noticed that one important game is missing: Far Cry. I always wanted to play it, but I didn’t have a decent graphics card back than and hence, I somehow missed it when it came out. Now I do have a strong enough PC and last month, I finally found – by accident – a low-price re-release version in an electronics store. However, I didn’t (and still don’t) have much time to play, but yesterday, I decided that if I don’t have time, I have to take it.
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Sticking to the Anti-Direct3D camp

(February 21, 2006)

As I already mentioned some time ago, the 3D API of my choice is OpenGL. There are two main reasons not to use Direct3D, the only alternative to GL. The first reason is of course platform-(in)dependence, because I develop stuff for both Windows and non-Windows systems. OK, platform-independence isn’t really a crucial issue for demos as Win32 is the main platform for new-school demoscene stuff nowadays. (Nevertheless, a multi-platform demo still gets some additional appreciation, but that’s nothing you’re going to win a compo with.)

Reason number two: Direct3D is said to be much more complex. I don’t have seen much Direct3D code yet, so this part is mostly prejudice. Today, after a brief IRC conversation with a friend who codes D3D stuff for a living, I decided to give the DirectX Sample Browser (which is part of the SDK) a try. I really wanted to rethink my attitude towards Direct3D. Alas, it ended in disaster — instead of curing me from my aversion for D3D, looking at the tutorials reinforced my anti-D3D opinion …
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