Archive for October, 2010

Blizzcon 2010 with friends

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

This year once more I was really looking forward to Blizzcon. Although there wasn’t a new amazing announcement since StarCraft II is out, Cataclysm is imminent and Diablo III has been announced for a while, there was enough going on that was cool to celebrate for a couple of days. Also, Skye and her son Paris (StarCraft II fan) stayed with us over the weekend, and her sister Courtney (WoW fan) was also in town for Blizzcon. So I was ready to show them all the cool stuff at Blizzcon and introduce them to some Blizzard people.

I always like the opening speeches and this year was no exception. Chris Metzen’s “Geek is…” speech was really cool and set us up for the whole show. And finally everyone got to see the new playable Diablo III class, the Demon Hunter.

Once the openings were done, we headed for lunch at the Hilton. Randomly we ran into J. Allen Brack (Production Director for WoW) outside the restaurant and I took the opportunity to introduce my guests, which was cool. After lunch we went to a couple of panels about quests and lore in WoW and StarCraft II, and I swung by recruiting where I talked to some potential hires. Then the costume and dance contests, and the Fruitdealer vs SlayersBoxer StarCraft II match. That was an incredible match! We scoffed some pizza for dinner and headed home at a reasonable time.

So on day one we’d covered a lot of panels. On day two we wanted to mooch around the show a bit more and see the third party booths and other stuff. But we started by getting in at 9.45 ahead of the general crowd and playing Diablo III. A lot of fun! Once we were done with that, we headed to the cinematics panel, which was great. It was really interesting to see how the Cataclysm cinematic was put together, and to see the Worgen level 5 cutscene too.

Shortly after that we were wandering the show and headed to the art gallery area. Skye, Paris and Courtney were busy looking at some art together while I was looking at something else. I turned around and saw Mike Morhaime there, so I introduced myself (he can’t be expected to know everyone at Blizzard) and then went over to my guests: “Come over here, I want to introduce you to someone…” To Skye’s credit, she managed not to be dumbstruck and complimented Mike on the show and his opening speech. We chatted for a minute or two before his PA had to drag him away.

We got some time to look around the show and do a couple more panels and a bit more talking to recruiting folks. After watching the StarCraft II tournament finals, we decided to skip Tenacious D (weren’t really thrilled about it) and take the time to see a bit more of the show while the crowds were watching the concert. Then we chilled out at the Hilton for a while, regaining our strength. Then dinner at Coco’s and home to bed.

Skye and Paris headed to Skye’s dad’s house on Sunday. Then on Monday, before flying home in the evening, Skye, Paris and Courtney visited me at the office. Once again I was able to show off! I actually took some hours of PTO to give them the tour so that I could do it properly because I knew they’d want to take everything in. We took a tour of the World of Warcraft team area, where they got a demo of some cool behind-the-scenes tools that the WoW developers use, and got to see some nice animations. But just walking around the office and the dev areas is a pretty cool experience anyway. There is artwork everywhere, both framed prints of stuff and just in-progress art for the Diablo III class armour sets, for example. Like a lot of games companies, we decorate our dev areas with all kinds of geek stuff too.

So that was that. We finished the tour at my office and had a twenty minute rest and chat before they were picked up for the airport. And that’s it for this year’s Blizzcon. Roll on next year… I’m sure we’ll have a bunch more cool stuff to show off then!

Twelve times table

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

It is puzzling to me that in the US, that holdout of the Imperial system of measurement, schoolkids learn up to the ten times table only. When I was at school, I learned up to 12, even though the UK had been metric for a decade already. But apparently nobody of my generation in the US learned beyond 10.

As easy as the metric system is to deal with, I have to say that I think a system based on 12 is better than a system based on 10. 12 is an abundant number, but 10 is an accident of biology.

It works!

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

A quick trip to Radio Shack, and I got the components to hook up the Symbolics keyboard with Teensy. I didn’t even alter the keyboard itself as Hans Heubner did: rather I just used a standard 6-pin RJ25 socket and connected the Teensy to that, then plugged the keyboard in, and put the connection assembly inside a little project box. Then it was as easy as recompiling the Teensy firmware for my Teensy version (2.0).

Cult of the Keyboard

Friday, October 15th, 2010

We’ve got a bit of a keyboard cult going on at work. Of course, I’ve been a fan of decent keyboards for years and a strong believer that keyboards (and mice) generally get too little thought when buying a computer. Ergonomics are important: everyone recognises the value of a decent chair and a decent monitor (or two). If your job involves typing, it behooves you to get a decent keyboard too.

At home I use a black Unicomp model similar to this but with a UK keymap and no Windows keys. At work I use an old IBM Model M (also a UK keymap) that must be 20 years old if it’s a day, and still going strong. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Recently a couple of my colleagues have been exploring their keyboard options. One got hold of a black Filco model with blank keys. Another recently bought an Alps keyboard for use with his Mac.

Today (after a long wait) I finally received this:

Symbolics keyboard

Back before I went to the UK in September, I contacted Peter Paine and made a deal with him for this Symbolics keyboard. Unfortunately there was a mixup in delivery timing so I didn’t get it while I was in the UK and my Dad had to send it on to me. But today it finally arrived. As you can see, it has some interesting keys and I’m going to have some fun hooking it up (need to do some hardware hacking with Teensy) and trying it out.

I’m still alive – here’s the latest

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Hi there, so much to report since the last update.

First, we had the single-car garage (which was being used as a junk storage space) converted into my office/cave. The contractors did a really good job for less than we were expecting. I uploaded some flickr photos of my new cave. You can also see that I got a new monitor, a Dell U2410. I flipped my other monitor to portrait mode for the extra height for text applications.

Office

Next, mini-Elbeno and I took a trip to London! (Leaving Mrs Elbeno and micro-Elbeno at home). We had a flying visit (Thursday to Tuesday) for my sister’s wedding. It was great to see all the family and have a good time. The chap dealt pretty well with jet lag, and we just took things at our own pace as far as bedtimes. Of course we were partying the night of the wedding and in general the jet lag worked in our favour, keeping us up into the night.

The ceremony itself was pretty traditional Anglican: 1 Corinthians 13, Pachelbel’s Canon and Ave Maria all made appearances; and I’m sure ministers are required by law to start by saying that Jesus was a guest at a wedding (in Cana). Mini-Elbeno was the ring-bearer and I ushed, which gave me a good chance to hobnob with old friends and fam.

While in Blighty, we also got to visit some old friends in Brighton, ate fish and chips and “proper” Indian food, and finally met my brother’s GF who we’d only seen before on the webcam. The flights were long of course but we got by with the in-flight entertainment (e.g. Outnumbered and Playhouse Disney) and the food was actually edible, even quite good! Air New Zealand – would fly again.

Soon after we got back, the next event was the school social: the annual get-together and campout that mini-Elbeno’s school does. Each family is invited to do a short skit, presentation or similar to tell everyone about themselves and what they did over summer. Our chosen effort (old movie fans that we are) was a rendition of Make ‘Em Laugh, that tour de force from Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain. Here’s our take on it.

That’s about all I have to bring you up to speed on today except to mention that it’s October again and that means the Interactive Fiction Competition is underway. I’m enjoying the first one I tried although it went in a different direction than I first expected.

More soon. Blizzcon is nearly upon us, and it’s going to be awesome. Plus, I have a special keyboard coming to me by mail; I’ll let you know all about it when it arrives.