Month: September 2009

Um…where’d the posts go?

I moved some recent posts over to GameDevDad, since they seemed to be more appropriate there.

Need a Laptop

Okay! So I’m taking a trip to Michigan. (Still don’t know when; the Stardock folk are probably still recovering from PAX.) It is traditional upon taking such a trip to bring along a laptop so that you can a) stay in touch, b) cram it full of your demos to show your interviewers and c) play World of Warcraft in your hotel room.

But I can’t seem to find one I like. My friend Ryan Clark (who I’ve mentioned before) gave me an old (VERY old) laptop of his called a Panasonic Let’s Note CF-T4. As you might can guess from the website, he imported it from the ancient shores of Nippon.

Now, to me, this was nearly the perfect laptop. I liked the form factor (10.5 inches by 8 inches). I liked that the screen was big (12.1 inches diagonal), was 4:3 ratio and was a standard resolution (1024×768). I liked the fact that it did not have an internal CD or DVD drive, since those things only get used occasionally while they add weight, generate heat and suck up power all the time. I liked how light it was (about three pounds) and how long the battery lasted (about five hours). I liked that it was more than capable of development – indeed, this is the machine that CrazyBump was written on.

The only, ONLY thing I didn’t like was that its 733 megahertz processor meant that it was just a little too slow to play WoW.

So basically I want a laptop just like Ryan’s, only with a slightly faster processor and maybe more RAM. And since Ryan’s is five years old, I shouldn’t have to pay too much for one, right? Right?

Well, in this case, they don’t make ’em like they used to.

Laptops at this point have diverged into two paths: either expensive, big, heavy, full-featured “desktop replacement” models, or cheap, adorable, super-light, super-small “netbook” models. Neither fits my bill. A netbook of any type would be perfect…if it were just a little bigger! I can’t be constantly backspacing to fix errors due to tiny keys and I cannot peer into one of those things’ tiny screens.

I’ve looked ’round the internet a fair bit to try to find a suitable one, but companies tend to drop older models of laptops like hot bricks once the new ones come out. I wouldn’t mind a used one as long as I could make sure everything worked…but I’d really like a new one (or rather, an unused one). At this point I’m tempted to start cruising pawn shops.

Anyone have any ideas?

Windows 7

Yes, once again, I’m coming to this very late. But just in case anyone hasn’t tried it…

Short review: It looks like Vista, but it doesn’t hurt like Vista.

Shorter review: Awesome.

Longer review: I downloaded a copy of Windows 7 Release Candidate version 7600 off of Bittorrent (which is perfectly legal; while Microsoft is no longer providing downloads, they do still want people trying the software and are still handing out free activation keys). I burned the ISO to a DVD with no problems, then restarted and booted from the DVD.

It’s nice that you no longer have to deal with a text screen at all when installing Windows now, but you’re still doing the same thing – waiting for Windows to scan your computer’s hardware and copy the compressed files it’s going to need to install from the DVD to your hard drive. A couple times I thought the install had wedged but it hadn’t; a particular step was just taking a while. When installing Windows, patience is still your watchword.

I figured this was going to be a better experience when Windows 7 detected and installed appropriate drivers for my network card, my sound card and my video card automatically – my computer was fully capable as soon as the setup was finished. This was especially impressive since my network and sound hardware are built into my ABIT motherboard.

So I immediately started installing the most critical programs: Visual C++ Express, TortoiseSVN, Paint.Net, Google Chrome and Google Talk…and World of Warcraft and Left 4 Dead. I also had to get my SVN server linked to a folder on my local computer so I could do an initial pull-down of my repository. All of this went great, I had no problems downloading, installing, updating, etc (though of course it took forever; World of Warcraft is now about a seven gig download).

If you’ve looked at any screenshots of my XP desktop, you may have noticed that I like to keep my taskbar on the left side of the screen. I like lots of vertical space both to view web pages and to view source code. You’ll also notice that I’ve got lots of quicklaunch icons – basically everything I actually use on the computer on a regular basis. Also notice below the quicklaunch toolbar that there are icons for every program I’ve currently got open.

As I mentioned in my Mac post, the Mac doesn’t do this – all the programs on the dock simply get dots next to them when they are running. Microsoft has implemented their own version of this: there’s only one taskbar. You “pin” programs to it that you want quick access to. And when you run one, it gets a box around it. Hovering over the box shows you a small preview of what that program is doing and clicking the box (of course) switches to that program. Because of this I haven’t felt the need to move my taskbar from its default position.

One other thing is that the default ZIP extractor works well…and automatically opens an Explorer window showing you the extracted files when its done (this is another thing the Mac was already doing). This is going to make it much easier for people who sell software over the internet to support it (see the “Behind the Dumb” videos on this channel for an instructive example).

And this may sound stupid, but I like the name. Windows 7. Why? Because it’s the seventh major version of Windows. I’m getting kind of sick of companies naming their software in such a way that you can’t tell which version is more recent than which (and Apple is quite guilty of this). And don’t try to tell me what I’m supposed to think (or worse, feel) when I use the software, just tell me what goddamn version it is.

Things I don’t like? The Search function is too much like Vista’s for my liking, but I can live with it. Um…let’s see…anything else…uh…I can’t think of anything else right now. That’s how good it is – I’ve got exactly one minor gripe so far.

So (sigh) I guess I’ll be upgrading when it comes out.

Things Get Complicated

So. Back on July 16th I wrote a post on my professional blog about Brad Wardell and the history of Stardock. Dave Shramek, a friend of mine, pointed out that Stardock was actually hiring a bunch of developers. So I sent in a resume.

Then, on August 3, I started working for Warped Productions. I thought my job search was over, and I’d won.

And then about two weeks ago, I got a phone call from…uh…Brad Wardell. He was doing a 15-minute pre-screen on candidates and, despite the fact that my voice was shot (possibly from yelling at chilluns) I guess I passed.

Because today I got a phone call from Cari Begle and Jesse Brindle. Cari was the lead developer on Galactic Civilizations II and Jesse Brindle was the 3D programmer responsible for creating the battle sequences. They grilled me on my past projects, what games I like to play and some technical issues.

And now apparently I’m going to take a trip to Michigan to see them in person. Stardock is interested in me. Glee!

Needless to say, my bosses at Warped already know about all this. I’ll continue to work hard for them for as long as they employ me, and since Stardock has a huge number of excellent candidates, there’s a darn good chance I won’t make the cut and I’ll continue to make iPhone games for Warped (which, frankly, is not a bad thing at all).

Still, we’re in “it’s an honor just to be nominated” territory, and it will leave me with a very tough decision should Stardock say yes.