Review: Warzone 3

27 02 2005

It’s been a while since I found some new games to play, but rummaging around, I’ve come across Java Gameplay. They’ve got a series of nice games in the “Nice to kill a half hour” variety. What’s nice is they’ve kept older versions of the games online so you can see the sort of evolution of the games. Older wireframe games give way to texture mapped realistic landscapes, etc. Warzone is a first-person tank game that has gone through this progression.

This game is sort of “Battlezone 2000” – take the old Atari wireframe Battlezone game and take it into the modern age. You have multiple tanks to choose from, missions, complex landscapes, and a turret that can actually turn in a different direction than the tank is facing. The gameplay is good, sound and graphics are quite nice for a Java embedded app, and it runs along nicely on my IBM T40 laptop.

Java Gameplay has several other cute little shoot ’em up games available. I’ve found myself going back there a few times to just blow things up for a while to unwind from a busy coding day.

Moving into the next age of geekery.

26 02 2005

For quite a while I’ve been wanting to move into some of the more widely used methods for writing and deploying large-scale apps, particularly in Java. Sun developed a system called J2EE a while back that provides an environment where Java apps can scale to incredibly large installations. Up until now, I haven’t had the opportunity to really explore it

I recently started a 4 month project with a company in NJ to explore the feasibility of porting their applications from a Visual Foxpro base into J2EE. This is really a fantastic opportunity. I’m not only helping a great project move into an exciting new environment, but I’m also getting the chance to learn something I’ve been interested in for ages

One drawback though is that the J2EE environment is huge and fairly complex, and therefore there’s not ‘one way’ to do things. J2EE provides an object-based application server that’s designed to let you design and implement virtually any system and do it big. The steps I’m taking now are determining what aspects of this system are appropriate for us to use, and how to use them

This process is not helped by the fact that I don’t KNOW J2EE at all. I’ve never used these technologies myself for my own application development, and I’ve only brushed up against some of their technologies at a previous job. My work on CONGO used a hyper-simplified version of this concept, so there’s a heck of a learning curve here.

I am making progress though. Part of this project really requires the environment to be workable from someone who has traditionally been using Microsoft Visual Studio applications. That means a clean IDE, object editor and browser, etc. Tonight I successfully configured Eclipse to use a plugin to manage the JBoss application server I’m running on my laptop. Following some tutorials, I built and deployed a servlet to the server, and, via an Apache module used to connect Java servlet containers to web servers, I successully ran the servlet, and got those wonderful words… “Hello World”.

Seems like a lot of work to get 2 words on the screen, eh? But that’s the joy of learning a whole new environment. It doesn’t look like much, but it represents a big step down the road to understanding how I (and my client in NJ) may use this system to write and deploy applications. Personally, I’m okay as long as I don’t get stuck, and continue moving forward.

This coming week I hope to have enough in place to get a full JSP->Servlet->database process working, so that I’m familiar enough with the environment that I can start looking at designing how things REALLY work inside the appserver

LTSP Case Study – Orwell high School

21 02 2005

I’m sure eveyone knows that I’m a big booster of LTSP – The Linux Terminal Server Project. One of the areas where they’ve had a lot of success is in schools where budget issues severely limit their capacity to bring decent computing facilities to their students

I found a great case study of a deployment at Orwell Highschool in England where they needed approximately 120 workstations to service 4 labs for their 1000 student. They needed distributed print services, shared server resources, and high end office software within a very restrictive budget.

The natural first place to look was Microsoft, but high requirements for client machines, prohibitive software licenses, and very complex system management procedures made them look elsewhere

LTSP was the solution they settled on. They are currently driving all 120 workstation from 5 central servers, distributing application load across 4 IBM Blade servers, sharing a central RAID drive array. There was an inevitable need to access Microsoft-only packages for legacy school applications, so a Windows Terminal server was installed, and the students and faculty can access it via a Linux RDP client from any of the workstations

John Osborne said:
“I can’t believe how easy it has been to move to Linux. The systems were installed and working within a week and it has been a revelation how simple and painless the process has been. I have saved thousands of pounds per year and got a brand-new ICT infrastructure at the same time”.
He added:
“Without switching to Linux, I would have been forced to cut back on our ICT hardware and software provision. There simply wasn’t the budget to upgrade to the latest versions of the software nor to keep replacing suites of PCs on a three or four year cycle. Now I have no licensing costs to worry about for the Open Source parts of the solution. We shall be moving to a complete Open Source basis as quickly as is practical and hope to start working with other schools interested in this type of development to share ideas and best practise”.

The entire case study is available. Highly recommended reading and sharing for any business or school considering deploying workstations in their environment

Checklist for Living with Americans

18 02 2005

I saw this come across a mailing list I’m on, and I asked the author (Bill Yerazunis) if I could re-post. The topic came up with someone who would be sharing space with a dozen or so North Americans shortly, and wanted to know what was socially acceptable behaviour…

10 rules for living with North Americans

  1. if it’s not yours, don’t eat it or drink it.
  2. Shower every day. Whether you need it or not. Use soap. And your own towel. same v. toothbrushing. And underwear.
  3. clean clothes every day is not *required*, but doesn’t hurt. Don’t go more than two days on a shirt or three days on pants.
  4. Politics are not off limits. One of America’s most precious rights is the right to diss the government. The president in particular is fair game.
  5. replace the toilet paper.
  6. Stay out of rooms whose owners are not there.
  7. If you leave a mess, do not be surprised to find the mess placed on
    your bed. This is the ONE exception to Rule #6.

  8. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
  9. leaving an offering of sweets (especially chocolate) will never get you in trouble. Put a note on it like “Free! Eat!” to assure that Rule #1 will not be assumed.
  10. Don’t assume ANYTHING about a North American. They are definitely the MOST VARIED population on the planet. Everybody’s family is from “somewhere else” (including the Native Americans; they’re actually from Siberia). So, if you’re worried, ask honestly. Honesty is almost as prized a right as dissing the government. Conversely, don’t be offended if honesty is returned, even if the truth is not pleasant.

Life Daily Snapshot #100

18 02 2005

There’s some cosmic balance that makes it necessary that, on a day when I really should get up early and get working, our cat decides that this it’s a good day to wake me up by dumping a glass of water on my head.

A Pleasant Car Dealer experience

17 02 2005

How’s THAT for an unusual topic?
I bought my VW Golf TDI from Bernardi VW about 2 years ago, and I’ve been pretty pleased with the service and support they’ve been giving me. I had a broken FM antenna they fixed under warranty with a minimum of hassle, and have basically been pleasant to deal with.
I needed to get my rear center brake light fixed, as well as get the car inspected, so I gave them a buzz. They happily said I could come right over and they could do it on the spot. Excellent!
I drove over, and pulled into their receiving bay, handed over the keys, checked in, and with some trepedation, headed toward the traditional dull waiting area.
This time, however, I had my trusty IBM T40 Laptop with me, so I figured I’d get a little work done while waiting. Fortunately, there was a comfy table and chair set there, so I set up shop on the table, planning on doing some coding while I waited.
But, whats this? My little wireless indicator was on full green. “Huh!” – and lo, I was on the net! Bernardi has free wireless access in their showroom / waiting area. How cool is that?
I was online with no hassle, able to do mail, irc, and other goodies while waiting for the car to be done.
Of course, they did need to order a part, alas, so I’ll need to go back tomorrow to finish things up, but at least I know I’ll be able to geek while waiting.

Where’s Dave?

15 02 2005

I’m spending Tuesday through Thursday at Linuxworld Expo in Boston, helping to man the LTSP booth with rest of the folks from the project.
We’re going to try and keep a webcam going during the show, feel free to peek in on us and see how things are going. 🙂