Friday, August 28, 2009

Just google it

Google makes life far too easy. A friend is getting reasonably good at some of the facebook games, so naturally I decide to wind them up by quietly posting slightly better scores. In the good olde days this would take skill - I'd have to figure out how to play the game... Hang on, [shudder], that's not what I meant - I meant I'd have to figure out how the game worked, where the score was stored, what form it was stored in, if there were any security checks and so on before hacking it to score whatever I wanted [phew]. This could involve several minutes of amusement...

In the really olde days you'd have to figure out their tape encoding schemes and fight off some cunning anti-piracy checks, but the days when programmers were that skilled are long gone; anti-piracy these days just means spelling your variables so badly that nobody else can figure out what the illiterate sod of a programmer meant, and it all happens by accident, not design.

But that's all moot, because now you don't hack anything, just google "bejewelled blitz cheat" and find the answer. Gah - where's the fun in that?

Pity I can't get it to score "xxx and a half", mind you. I suppose I could fake an accomplishment message... hmmm...

[later: A few days ago I found out that the wind-up worked... ]

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I've just put the finishing touches to some demo code for an ARM-based operator interface panel we've designed, and it's sitting in front of me as I type with a few windows bouncing about at frame-rate in the foreground and a Mandelbrot being rendered in the background. Every now and then another view of the Mandelbrot drifts past in a stately fashion (frame-locked, of course) and if I touch the screen it pops up another window that follows the touch about under my finger, with a ghostly lattice of lines being drawn overlayed on the background to show the outlines of the various regions of the screen that are being rendered as the window position changes... It looks beautiful, as graphics that change at frame-rate usually do.

I'd include a picture, but a static photo really doesn't do it justice and I can't be bothered to work out how to include video at my time of life.

The hardware is a Cirrus ARM processor that has a fair number of peripherals on chip, including the LCD display driver. That single chip and a couple of SDRAMs, a FLASH and some glue is all that's involved, hardware-wise. The software - a complete graphical windows system and enough of an OS to run operator interface style applications - (in total about 12,000 lines of C) was all written from scratch by yours truly in about five weeks...

Since all of this is written in C and compiled with GCC (unusually for me there's not a line of assembler in there, aside from the device boot code) and it still runs fast enough on a 200MHz ARM to look bloody impressive I find myself wondering how the hell programmers manage to take hardware like this and make it appear as slow and crappy as all the ARM-based personal organisers out there look.

What the hell are they doing to slow them down?

It's amazing how bloody awful the demonstration code that Cirrus supply for their own device is, it makes the thing look like a CP/M machine struggling to write to a terminal.

This particular chip has blitter and line-drawing hardware that I haven't used, since I wanted the graphics code to be pretty generic. The demo code from Cirrus uses the blitter and still manages to run like a slug that has overdosed on valium. Gah...

The incompetence that's endemic in this industry depresses me, it really does :(

Monday, August 03, 2009

"Hey, are your feet wet too?"

Saw this image on t'web ( ) and thought that there just has to be an amusing caption in there somewhere... Buggered if I can think of one, though for some reason I can't get the idea that one of the penguins is singing "I'm peeing in the river" to the tune of Peter Gabriel's "I'm feeding the rhythm" out of my head...

(Photo is by LichtenHansen

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mid wife crisis

There is an evil in the world and it targets middle aged men. I feel I owe it to others to warn of this insidious peril... They're small, they're sexy, they're hard to resist. You see one and you have to have it, the urge is overpowering, after all - what's the harm? Your wife/lover needn't find out. She won't suspect - with luck you'll get away with it. So you have one, but it's not enough. The thrill doesn't last and you come crashing down. Then you have to have another, and another, and soon you're spending all your money trying to maintain your addiction. You think you can control it, but it's an illusion, they're far too complicated.

I'm talking about radio controlled helicopters. Avoid them... One is never enough...