Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

A Trip To Leavenworth

On Saturday, Nabila, Julian, Mum and I headed east over the cascades to Easton (near Cle Elum) to visit Gary (Maddy's groomer). Maddy was due for a groom (getting ready for a show in January), so we dropped her off and then headed over to Leavenworth.

LeavenworthI'd never been there before, but have heard great things about it. The place is basically a bavarian town picked up and dumped in Washington state - kinda fake, very touristy, but surprisingly fun. It being a very nice day, the place was packed with tourists (i.e. us), so we played the tourist part and visited all the gift shops. For some reason we seemed to be in a wind chime/mobile purchasing frame of mind and picked up two.

Then followed the eating of some of the best Bratwurst I have ever tasted (along with champagne Sauerkraut) washed down with a nice lager.

Then Nabila and Mum disappeared into a shop while Julian and I walked down to the town square to look at some art for sale at a street market. After a while, Nabila and Mum reappeared with a huge package which turned out to be a present for me (after I complained about the size of it and the fact that the car was already stuffed...)

LeavenworthWhen we got home, I unwrapped it, and wow! A huge copper, welded wind chime. The thing is about six feet tall and wonderful! Check it, and the photos from the day, over here.

On Sunday, we sadly took Mum to Seatac for her flight back to the UK. It was great having her here!

As an aside, there are new photos from Julian's birthday up in the photo library, and pictures from a sailing trip we took back in July.

A good weekend. We need more like that one.

Catching Up…

Well, that's the biggest break in blogging for a while, probably because there's not been much to report. A bit of a recap is in order though.

Mum's been here for a week now, which has been wonderful. She's been able to give me and Nabila a lot of help with Julian as well as cooking up lots of gorgeous food.

Band practice last night was great - we're just polishing up the six tracks we'll be taking into the studio in early September.

I was up a tad early for me today, due to an early meeting which is why I guess I'm so knackered now. So much to do, so little time - especially as we're trying to close down a milestone at work.

This evening was spent at Deb's for a very nice meal, though Julian started getting fussy, so off home we go around 8.30pm.

On the side projects front, I've been getting a tad annoyed with the third party site counter utilities (even though they are free), so I've been writing my own, to be hosted locally (keeping up with my effort to host everything useful on my own site rather than linking out, which can cause page load times to get way too long). This is also driven by my wish to be able to analyse the data in any way that I want. So, I wrote a little perl and all the CGI environment variables that are interesting (like DOCUMENT_URI, HTTP_REFERER, REMOTE_HOST, etc... are being collected and stored via the perl dbi into various tables in a sql database that the hosting company provides. For now, the only analysis I'm running is a simple dump of the stats.

Anyhow, it's been an interesting exercise so far (it's been too long since I wrote any perl code in earnest). Next step is to do some useful mining of the data. Once I'm done I'll probaly make all the code available to anyone interested.

Julian's First Birthday

Yay - I'm one today! Or rather Julian is ;-)

Gabriella and McKenzie came round (with parents) and we all had a great time. Parents sipped Champagne and Moyitos, whilst the kids froliced with balloons and toys.

Nabila did a great job with the Winney the Pooh theme - the cake from Safeways was outstanding - as was all the other stuff.

Julian just would not let go of his hellium filled ballon, it was his favourite thing, along with the Thomas the Tank Engine that granddad sent.

Thanks everyone - especially all the relatives in the UK who sent cards and presents.

A very good day - I'll post pictures very soon.

Update 8/30/04: Pictures are over here.

New Friends, Old Friends

Every now and again, someone that I've lost contact with stumbles across my website. This happened again today when Dave Edmondson added a comment to my previous post.

Wow. Dave and I were at university together, and then worked as systems administrators in the department. Dave left to go work at SCO (looks like he's now at Sun) and then I left to join the Press Association. Then RenderMorphics, then Microsoft. We sorta lost touch after that. This is a great day...

For Boring Historical Reference

My first ever Usenet post:

From: zmact58@tsun11.doc.ic.ac.uk.doc.ic.ac.uk (S J Lacey)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.amiga.tech
Subject: Fast/Chip memory
Message-ID: <1353@gould.doc.ic.ac.uk>
Date: 10 Nov 89 12:49:02 GMT
Sender: cshroot@doc.ic.ac.uk
Lines: 14

My problem basically revolves around asking AllocMem() for fast memory.
What ever I ask for (Fast/Chip/Public), I seem to get Chip memory. I
should point out that this is on an Amiga 1000 with 1Meg of ram. Ta.

Steve J Lacey.

---- Whatever I say is to be believed at your own risk...

 sjl@cc.ic.ac.uk                  Department Of Computing
 zmact58@doc.ic.ac.uk             Imperial College
                                  180, Queen's Gate
                                  South Kensington
                                  London SW7

This was written when I was working for Magnetic Scrolls whilst at university. I was porting Magnetic Windows (our runtime for the Magnetic Scrolls games) to the Amiga. This was written on a DEC MiniVax, and cross-compiled to the Amiga. This was fun stuff and involved getting the cross compiler running (based on gcc) writing the link loader for the Amiga when the only debug support I had was to issue an AmigaDos call that caused the current register status to be squirted out the serial port. Also, the Amiga didn't have a hard-drive. The assembler, source, etc... were all on floppy. Once the entire development system was running we could actually start on porting the game.

Sometimes I pine for those heady, low-level days...

Cool Looking New Smartphone

Found over here is some information on a great looking Smartphone coming to the US. I want one.

But my problem is that I'm a bit of a neophyte when it comes to celluar technology in the US. Can I just take my current SIM card from my Verizon phone and insert it in the new phone? Will Verizon allow it? Do networks allow you to use any old phone?

I could probably just Google for the answer, but last time I tried, the signal to noise ratio was just too low...

Well Hello There

As everyone seems to be getting in on the action, I thought I would set up a feed from my website that can be syndicated through Microsoft's Communities Portal. Hopefully, only entries in the MS Feed category should get through to it.

Anyhow, a little introduction. I'm Steve Lacey, the graphics engine lead and software architect for Microsoft Flight Simulator. I've been at Microsoft for a little under 10 years, and have been involved from things from DirectX through games. And nothing to do with .Net...

Google's Future

You've got to wonder about Google's chances for long term success. I used to be a massive Google fan, and I still use them for search almost exclusively, but they seem to keep dropping the ball. If the fiasco that is their current IPO offering is any indication, how successful do you expect their long-term business to be?

Take their news offering news.google.com as an example. It's been marked as "beta" for what seems like forever and doesn't seem to be getting any enhancements. I think MSN's new Newsbot is going to eat Google's lunch. It's adaptive and looks better. I'm sorry but stripped down look'n'feel is great and all, but sexy and sleek stands out better and looks more professional.

What about all the patent infrigements, or the fact that they were just plain lazy in trade-marking GMail?

I dunno. I'd like Google to succeed, but I see them screwing the pooch like Netscape or becoming another has-been like AltaVista or Excite.

Ah ha! A New Blogger

One of the guys that works for me, Sebastien St-Laurent has just started a new blog over on blogs.msdn.com. Check it out. Sebby has just had a new book released on shader programming.

Playing Doom 3 As A Non-Administrator

As you already know, I like to run as a non-admin. What were iD thinking? The only reason the game doesn't work as a non-admin is that they try to write the config file and save games to \Program Files\Doom 3\base\, which you don't have access to as a normal user. Would it really have been that hard to save it to \Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Doom 3\? No, it wouldn't have been hard, but due to this little bit of laziness, you have to be an admin and everyone on the machine gets the same settings and save games. Sigh.

Salon on Six Apart

Over at Salon, there is an interesting article on Six Apart, the company that built the software upon which my website is based - MovableType.

The full article requires a subscription, but Salon has this cool feature whereby if you're willing to look at a quick advert, you get full access to the site for free. I really like this feature and wish more subscription based sites would employ it.

Building, Flying, Eating

Another busy day at Casa D'Lacey. Up early and at 10am Dave and I joined a few other neighbours to pour the foundations for the new neighbourhood notice booth at Everest Park. We got back around 11.30am, which was cool because it's Seafair this weekend and we got to watch the Blue Angels both on TV and out our front window!

Then it was off to Bellevue Square to find a car seat that'll work in the M3. Not sure yet, but I think this is the one. This evening CJ, Dawn, Darwin and Gabriella came around and we had a barbeque. I made my first attempt at Mojitos, which weren't half bad.

Next week is busy. Gotta finish off the new multimon stuff.

Idle Thumbs

What a great article! This is a great take on the current state of the games industry and the games that we produce. The article kinda hits both sides of the FPS fence and tackles the "My son killed his friend ’cos he played your game" issue. I like the question he posits:

And, in a separate case that also occurred only a few days ago, a mother recently killed her 15-year-old daughter because she claimed God told her to. Why isn't religion taking any flak for this, when this crime may have been averted had the woman never heard of God? Because religion isn't at fault - and neither are games.


Politically Motivated Terror Alerts?

Here's a good one over at JuliusBlog which claims that the timing of the terror alerts shows striking correlation to dips in Bush's popularity ratings. Although it does seem a tad farfetched, I guess I wouldn't put it past the old boy. Especially with the last one appearing just after the DNC conference and based on old, pre-9/11 data that has "suddenly come to light". Ahem.

Anyhow, make your own mind up.

Personal Manifesto

So in this election year, I thought it was time to publish my personal manifesto.

  • I will strive to make Nabila and Julian's lives as wonderful, happy and fun as I can to the best of my abilities.
  • I will strive to make my own life as wonderful, happy and fun as possible, both personally and professionally.
  • I will attempt to make gobs of cash for the family, in a socially responsible manner.
  • I will drink beer.

Sounds good to me.

The Beast

Back in 2001 when I was Development Manager for the now defunct IronWorks studio in Microsoft Game Studios, we put together an interesting web based game experience as a tie-in for the Spielberg AI film. One of the writers has posted his thoughts over here. The secrecy around this project was kinda amazing.

Found at GrumpyGamer.

It's a shame that this concept of gameplay didn't really catch on. I had a blast playing Majestic - a game with a similar gameplay mechanic.

On Creativity

A wonderful article on creativity.

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, "I'd like my crayons back, please."

This really hits a home run. Everyone has the skill and desire to be creative, and a lot of people are; be it through music, coding, writing. People should spend more time making stuff.

Company picnic

Nabila, Dave, Julian and I went to the Microsoft company picnic today. This was loadsa fun - good food, great atmosphere, and loads of things for the kids to do - if any Julian could walk ;-) Ah, next year will be amusing... I'll stick pictures up when I can. The event was huge. Theres are probably over 20K people working for Microsoft in the Puget Sound area and the event was held over two days at Mountain Meadows in North Bend, WA. Must've been expensive...

Anyhow, I particulary enjoyed one band that was playing - The Geoffery Castle Experience. Led by a guy playing electic violin wirelessly. Very, very cool, and good entertainment. He played guitar solos on the violin run through what appeared to be a typicaly guitar pedal board. His Vooodo Chile was great!

Update 8/8/04: Added pictures to the gallery.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.