Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

The old crooner

Last night Nabila and I went to see Harry Connick Jr play at Marymoor Park's open air venue. I'd not really heard him before and wasn't sure what to expect. Happily I was pleasantly surprised - a mix of Sinatra-style stuff and New Orleans jazz with a bit of experimental Jazz thrown in for good measure. Great stuff. The venue itself is pretty cool, with beer and food tents, etc... Overall, a good experience if a tad expensive.

Today Dave and I cleaned out what was the music room/office downstairs and prepped it for painting. We're flipping the floor plan in our house and moving all the bedrooms downstairs to maximize the living space and usefulness of the the rooms upstairs as well as centralize all the bedrooms together. Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince Nabila of the need for a new TV (and even cheaper here) in the new office upstairs...

Ok. That's a weird challenge

So there's a competition for the fastest time to get around all of London's zone one tube stations. Read about it over here and here - written by two of the competitors.

Sometimes I miss London...

Handling mutiple windows

Since it moved to Windows back in 1995, Flight Simulator has had a great history of supporting newest innovations. Case in point our multiple window and multi-monitor support.

We aim to allow as flexible an experience as possible. When you're running windowed, you can create new windows with different views on the scene (cockpit, spot plane, etc...) and run this all hardware accelerated on multiple monitors and fullcreen multi-montitor.

I don't know of any other entertainment title (or non-entertainment for that matter) that allows you this flexibility. Of course, this flexibility comes with problems, most notably that the messages flying around can cause up to 7 device resets when switching from windowed to fullscreen mode. This usually ain't to bad unless you're running on ATI hardware with older drivers, which can cause lots of monitor clicks and flickering.

Also, of course, our users love to complain about idiosycrasies within the system (which there are many, and of course they should complain about the issues).

Anyhow, time to fix it. Last week I started rewriting the entire system. This should make the code easier to maintain, faster, and cause less instability during transition. We'll see how it goes...

Comments working again

So the comments are all working now and the style sheets are cleaned up.

The problem I have now is the text input boxes look odd in IE. Ho hum, time to did out some css docs.

I also added MTAmazon and MTBookQueue to the site. This is a cool plugin to MovableType that has a little interface where I type in the ISBN of books and it generates the images and links on the fly by talking to Amazon.com via their web api. Pretty cool. You can see my usage of this on the sidebar to the left.

Moving to MovableType

Today I moved this website over to MovableType. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It has more functionality (things like categories) than blogger
  • It's totally hosted on my site. I installed it, I administer it
  • It's written in perl
  • Because it is hosted on my own site, there is no upload, so rebuilds of the site are quick
  • It's free
  • It is actually pretty friggin cool

Of course there are a few problems. One, I lost the comments (but there weren't that many); and two, the comments system isn't currently working because I'm messing with porting my site design over.

Anyhow, that's it for now. I'm gonna keep hacking at it.

Julian just keeps me laughing!

So a couple of hours ago Nabila is in bed and Julian is sitting on the bed. I'm lying in front of Julian and we're looking at each other when I lean towards him and go Roooaaaarrr, whereupon he collapses in hysterics. Grin. Repeat this continuously until Nabila kicks me out so they can both go to sleep. Kids are fun!

Port Hadlock vacation

So, as I write this, I am sitting in our hotel room with my feet up, as the hotel has pervasive wireless net access. Cool huh?

The drive over here was very nice, we eschewed the ferries, and drove down 405 to 5 and then up through Gig Harbor and onto Port Hadlock. We found the marina where the hotel is, but had a bit of hassle figuring out that the building in front of us was actually our hotel. They're undergoing a bit of construction, so there was no sign out front. The construction didn't cause any hassles with our stay though.

MuseumOn the way up, we stopped off at the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport, near the Bangor Submarine base. A very cool museum and well worth the visit. I picked up a copy of Blind Man's Bluff in the gift shop. I'd been meaning to pick this book up for a while after seeing the Discovery Channel's special based around this book. So far it's a very good read.

After checking in, we drove into Port Townsend for dinner and then back to the hotel for the rest of the evening.

Friday morning we drove over to Port Angeles and then up 5000 feet to Hurricane Ridge. Way cool! Great sights of the Olympics and the glaciers.

Dungeness SpitOn the way back we stopped off at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and took a walk down to the Dungeness Spit.

Today we took our longest drive over to Neah Bay. On the way we briefly stopped at Sekiu so that I could visit the airfield. I've wanted to visit here for a long time as it's the airfield in Flight Simulator that I use for most of my testing when working on the graphics engine.

When we hit Neah Bay (the farthest north-west point in Washington State) I was instantly disappointed. It's a dump. The bay is beautiful, but the garbage dump that is the supposed town is a crying shame. The only pleasant looking thing there is the US Costal Guard station.

Ajax CafeThis evening Nabila and I went for a meal at the Ajax Cafe, not a stones throw from the Hotel. This place was great! Good food, good atmosphere, good music. In the restrooms they had a massive selection of fun hats that you were encouraged to wear during your meal. Most people took full advantage.

I must say, I like the speed limits on the roads over there. Country roads with decent 50/55/60 limits. It felt like I was driving back home in the UK.

Going on a road trip

We're off on a little mini vacation for the next 3 days. We're going to the Olympic Peninsular and staying here. Photos'n'stuff when we return.

Btw, yesterday was Nabila and my 3rd wedding anniversay, and had a really great meal at the Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in Bellevue. Thanks to CJ for recommending it.

Catch the tube

Surprisingly addictive, this little flash game has you racing to beat the computer to pick up passengers.

Go and Catch the tube!

Using Windows as a non-Administrator is good for you!

Pretty much all Windows users run with administrator priviledges. Stop doing that! This is the vector by which pretty much all viruses infect your machine (via email, web browsing, etc...). Because you're running as admin, when they execute they have the run of the machine.

All you have to do is take yourself out of the Administrators or Power Users group and become a Limited User (you'll also hear this called LUA or Limited User Access).

As a limited user, you can do everything you can normally do, except stuff that you need to be admin to do (like install programs, etc...).

In the UNIX world, people wouldn't dream of running as root (the UNIX equivalent of Administrator).

If you need to do an admin type thing, log out, then log in as administrator, or temporarily increase your priviledges to that of an admin via something like RunAs (right-click).

Aaron Margosis covers a lot of this from a technical standpoint in his blog.

Of course, there are issues that are still being resolved. Windows traditionally hasn't promoted the LUA thing, the soon-to-be-released SP2 solves a bunch of these issues. Also, a lot of software (unfortunately, including most games) require you to be admin to run (copy protection, dum programming). These are being addressed via developer education.

So, just do it. You'll thank me. And just think, as well as stopping the virus guys from nuking your machine, you'll stop little Johnny from looking through your personal stuff and finding all the porn (assuming you set the permissions on your stuff correctly ;-)

Another fun packed day

At the storm game

This morning we got up at 6am to drive the 70 miles, with the OES Club of Greater Seattle to Ewe-Topia in Roy, WA. Maddy was going sheep herding (photos here)! I admit I was a little unsure how this was going to go, but it was great fun!

When our turn came, I took Maddy into the ring and held onto her whilst the trainer let the sheep out of their pen. Then she was let go and he assessed her and she was great! Everyone was impressed with her natural ability (circling, turning back to coral the sheep towards him, waiting on command and when appropriate). He commented that she was working very intelligently.

Then, he handed the crook to me and had me control Maddy herding the sheep! This was, surprisingly, a huge amount of fun! It was interesting to think that Maddy and I were working together to control the sheep.

Maddy is an Old English Sheepdog, and naturally bred for herding, but apparently this is great fun and good training for all breeds of dogs. Highly recommended.

After getting back at around 2pm, we all took a nap and then this evening it was off to the Key Arena in Seattle for the Seattle Storm WNBA game - photos here.

Dawn is a director in the company that handles the catering for the Key Arena and arranged for us to get a box for the game! Way cool! Great seats, food, etc... Especially fun as we had Julian, Darwin had Gabriella and Darwin's sister (visiting from Arizona with husband Wade) had her four young daughters.

Much fun. Home around 11pm.

I must say though, Seattle traffic sucked. With the Storm game, Mariners in town, the National Governors Conference, the Bite Of Seattle and a triathalon, it was all a bit of a mess.

Phew. Busy day.

We did not vote for him!

Found whilst browsing another Brit's blog.

The photo is a clothing label from a small American company that sells their products in France. Here's the translation of the French part of the label:

  • Wash with warm water
  • Use mild soap
  • Dry flat
  • Do not use bleach
  • Do not dry in the dryer
  • Do not iron
  • We are sorry that our President is an idiot
  • We did not vote for him


Just added trackback support to this site.  Big up to the HaloScan folks for their free service.

It's Wednesday yeah!

Well, it was ;-) Wednesday is band practice night. Tonight was fun, but not our best - mainly because it is freaking humid here right now. Ok ok, so it's not normally like this in Seattle, but the studio is not air conditioned and I was sweating my arse off! Every time I bent down to look at a pedal, sweat poured into my eyes.

I'm just not used to this, goddammit!

Anyhow, we're signed up to go into the studio in September, so here's my list of stuff I think we should do:


Big Town, Lonely Heart


Silver Bullet


Ready Danny Boy

If time:



and there you have it..

Interesting article on DRM

I haven't quite made up my mind on Digital Rights Management. As a software developer and musician, my gut tells me that DRM is good and piracy is bad. But hey, when I rip music (from my own CDs, bought and paid for), the first thing I do is turn all the DRM stuff off. I don't download music and I don't fileshare it either.

This is an interesting take on the whole issue, based on a talk given to Microsoft Reseach.

Why DRM Is Bad For Society: A Briefing For Microsoft - Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings

I think this is me

We have a lot of talented artists at work, and many of them do great things outside of work - for example, Jason Waskey, our art lead. In one of his online sketch books, I think I found me!

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.