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“The preferred format is encapsulated postscript”

December 11th, 2006

Ignoring the issue of why anyone would use Microsoft Word drawings…

Here’s a solution to providing encapsulated postscript (eps) diagrams when the source material is drawings in Microsoft Word:

Openoffice.org Draw

That’s it really. Admittedly the diagrams won’t necessarily quite be arranged the same, but a few tweaks fix that (if you survive the interface and find the settings you need to change on each object). OO Draw has a nifty feature (one that Word should have) to export in a variety of formats, including eps. Loading up with gsview and Jasc Paint Shop Pro (which annoyingly doesn’t have much sensible options for saving its own vector art; PSP7 merges to a single raster layer for eps) pretty much confirms a successful eps file.

And now for the irony; you can test the finished eps file by importing it in Microsoft Word. Yep, it does have eps support. You can Insert->Picture->From file… Not much reason as far as I can see for not being able to do the reverse (export a drawing from MS Word as eps). You can even edit in MS Word the drawing you just added from eps!

I’d test printing from various apps but it’s not something I need to concern myself with at present. I’m reasonably certain that the diagram will be properly drawn when printed from any of the above.

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Titan Quest

September 30th, 2006

This game is just out and out fun. I do not think it can be criticised for anything beyond unoriginality (it is Diablo for 2006), linearity (this is a plus in my view – makes it simpler and an incentive to “clear out” areas), camera system (top down pretend isometric view of the 3D world – no camera rotate – just zoom in and out) and hardware requirements (well, this depends on whether you can be content with lower settings).

Everything I loved about Diablo is here – the character class/skills system, the equipment (the joys of juggling things with different attributes and ornamenting your armor for more), cool attacks and hordes of monsters. When you progress through the game, all of these areas get more and more impressive! The loot system is variable – but always you are looking for better items and acting as a cleptomaniac! Every item that the enemies wear or wield is dropped – but the bulk will be broken and worthless (you can still use it though). This allows you to just pick up the worthwhile items, and still have a battlefield littered with “stuff”.

The storyline is nice – the premise allows cool monsters based on real mythology, and the settings and scenery are beautiful to boot. The music is superb and adds to it all also. The game is every bit worth the money even if not groundbreaking, and will have longivity through its brilliant execution of all the best elements of the genre (or just Diablo!). There is an odd feel to it with the fixed camera angle – it feels partly like Diablo-era as a result, but anachronistically so with its intensive 3D graphics and physics engine (crowns dropped as loot will occasionally roll down a hill or such!) Finally; any game where you get to kill hordes of skeletons with ragdoll physics and breaking bones sounds wins!

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To what shall I compare Wikipedia?

September 27th, 2006

Edited from an email I sent to Wikipedia’s mailing list – on the subject of consistency and article standards.

“At present Wikipedia is like driving down the main Limerick to Dublin road (the N7); where along the same route you will have anything between spanking new motorway and aged narrow two lane (no hard shoulders) winding bumpy country road. Oh – except that in Wikipedia’s case – bits of the road are missing entirely.”

I don’t think I was being too mean to either Wikipedia or the National Roads Authority/Irish Government eh?

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Next-generation consoles

August 29th, 2006

If the DS (and particularly DS lite) is anything to go by, Nintendo may be laughing with the Wii (and ultimately the winner of the next generation). The Xbox 360 does not look like taking the world by storm anytime soon (although admittedly it is catching on in the US) – and once the PS3 is released, I can’t see the 360 having a bigger game library in the long run than the PS3 unless the PS3 really flops bigtime.

It seems certain the PS3 will not do anything like as well as the PS2. But I think the jury should be out on how it will go long-term. Those who mock the idea of its Blu-ray capabilities (e.g. “Who’s going to buy the same movies again as they already have on DVD”) are completely ignoring the “HD revolution”. Sure it is over-hyped, but the fact is that people are switching to HD TVs. People will soon enough want HD movie content.

It’s no foregone conclusion, but I think there is enough of a possibility of people getting a PS3 for combined gameplaying (and despite the nonsense, the PS3 will have plenty of games, and some good ones at that) and HD movie playing (in the same way people got PS2s partly based on the DVD playback).

Finally – $600? Well, this is 2006, everything costs more. And really, people who buy at launch for most things are just asking to be fleeced. However, as for me? You’ve got to be kidding – I do not see the point in buying either a Xbox360 or PS3 at current/planned prices. I’m tempted by the DS lite (but it’s halfway towards a new uber-graphics card for my PC) and the Wii sounds like being interesting/good value (but who knows just yet).

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Mmmmm… I love the smell of melting tar in the morning

July 18th, 2006

Yes, it is rather hot compared to what we are used to. I realised just how hot when I unwisely walked in the sun for over an hour at around 1 PM. It was tough going for the last bit, and I realised just how little shade there is on two stretches of my most common route home. Having lived in Israel for a year, I remember the delicate scheduling in arranging things that one did not have to do anything, or more importantly, walk distances or around shops, anytime nearing midday. Not only that, but we would often take different routes depending on the time of day, in order that we could stay in the shade.

But you don’t expect to have to take such measures in Ireland.

Another thing is not opening windows during the day. I’d forgotten about this tactic also. Thing to do is open them overnight and early in the morning. Then most importantly, close the curtains as the morning progresses, at least on the sunny side of the house, and close the windows for the day. Having done this today, I’ve succeeded in keeping the house at least 10 degrees cooler than outside. Still quite warm though.

I only found out recently that asphalt and tarmac are not synonyms (I’d assumed the former was an American term for the latter). The reason so many of our roads melt in the summer is that they are tarmac, not asphalt – the latter has a higher melting point. I’m guessing that even here in Ireland, some of the new main roads, motorways, etc. have been paved with asphalt (the surfaces seem to stay good for years and not melt in the summer). As far as I can see though, tarmac is not so widely used in other countries anymore (in fact, the Wikipedia article erroneously stated that is was obsolete, and no longer used anywhere – the article having perhaps been written by an American). Anyways; even the recently paved Dublin Road into Limerick city centre was melting today.

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Experiments in sandwich making and cheese

July 13th, 2006

For the record, it seems Port Salut cheese is not the best suited for a sandwich with tikka chicken, lettuce, tomato and mayo. It’s too strongly flavoured.

Prior experiments with “Leerdaamer” (a Dutch attempt at Swiss cheese) were far more successful, both with the tikka chicken, and with turkey.

I’ve been experimenting, because I’ve found that Chedder, while indubitably one of the best cheeses there is, is a bit too strong for those meats. It’s good with ham of course, I haven’t seen the need to experiment with other cheeses for ham.

Port Salut is strange stuff – it comes in a solid wheel, but yet its a quite soft cheese. In fact, it seems nearly like a more natural equivalent (albeit a bit more solid) of the processed spreadable cheeses one can buy.

Yay for Dunnes Stores and special offers on random sandwich ingredients 🙂 I still haven’t made my mind up on the best bread of all time. B-soft from Brennans is one of the top runners, Kingsmill is nice, but seems a bit too “processed”.

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1001 things to do with a Playstation 2

May 8th, 2006

I bought a rather strange Playstation 2 kit that consists of a Network Adapter, Eye-toy camera and several DVDs. So, I’ve proceeded to poke at the following things:

No. 127: Connect a Network adapter to my Playstation 2.

No. 131: Stick a DVD into my PS2 without knowing what it will run/do.

No. 132: Listen to/watch annoying tutorial clips.

No. 133: Use annoying menus to configure said network adapter / Playstation 2 so that it can access the Internet. This allegedly fails (no connection testing steps after the first failed one run)… but then:

No. 134: Connect to Sony’s servers.

No. 135: Go through the delights of registering with Sony Central Station (for some reason that name sounds ominous – they could have called it something more innocuous like Vicki)

No. 218: Plug in the USB eye-toy camera.

No. 371: Stick in a different random DVD with no idea what type of software will execute.

No. 372: Watch annoying intro clips.

No. 373: Reach start screen for eye-toy chat – network configuration successfully found on the memory card.

No. 142: Log-in to Sony Grand Central Station

No. 390: Download a software update that takes up a quarter of a €30 memory card.

No. 376: Connect to the Eye-toy chat “universe”…

No. 379: Denied entry because Sony Central Station account needs to be verified with a PIN that is being mailed (snail mail) to my house.

—-

Anyways – I’m getting bored with this – so I think I’ll go and see what happens when I plug in the Eye-toy camera into my Windows box and run Skype or somesuch.

Yes – I probably need help.

Just wait till I acquire a cheap IDE HDD for the PS2…

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Guild Wars

March 14th, 2006

You know you’ve been playing Guild Wars too long when you attempt to scroll web pages by right-click dragging.

Seriously, it’s a beautiful game, but the amount of camera work one has to do (by right-click dragging) while playing, fighting, etc. is a bit too much!

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The railway of the West awakes

February 6th, 2006

More rustlings on the rails of the West of Ireland. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, there has been a lot of lobbying, political discussion and promises, and plans with regard to a railway line running north-south through Connaught. This line connects Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Limerick, with junctions on the Dublin-Sligo line, Dublin-Westport/Ballina line, Dublin-Galway line and the railway out of Limerick station. The recent term coined for this line is the Western Railway Corridor.

The only part of the line in use, is that from Limerick to Ennis, which for the last two years has boasted 8 trains a day both ways (with almost all connecting to Dublin services). The Ennis to Athenry section and Athenry to Claremorris sections were in use occasionally for freight and rolling stock transfers up until a couple years ago. The connections at Athenry were severed in 2003 with the upgrade of the Dublin-Galway line. The section north of Claremorris (known as the “Burma Road” after the infamous railway built by prisoners of war in the far east) is a wild, meandaring line with many road crossings (it’s the reason for something like three level crossings across the N17 in quick succession). It hasn’t seen traffic in decades, and although track was never lifted, had been reclaimed by the wild.

Now that the scene is set, you can understand why it is quite extraordinary that just this past week, vehicles technically travelled again on the rails of not only Athenry to Claremorris and Ennis, but also Claremorris to Sligo. These were of course, JCBs with the addition of conventional off-road tractor tires, but nevertheless, they have travelled the routes once again. Vegetation has been cleared, hedges hacked back, and a vast corridor reopened.

The intention for Claremorris to Athenry is simply to fence off the corridor to prevent it being “claimed” by farmers or local councils. This means it can be used in the future if necessary. (Reopening a railway line from Cork to Midleton has required a Railway Order despite it still technically being owned by Iarnród Éireann/the State!) From Tuam to Claremorris is also likely just to be fenced off – south of this to Athenry will likely see work in the months ahead with a view to reopening.

Athenry to Ennis is to actually be relaid very shortly. Apparently the plans for Limerick-Galway railway services within two years are quite serious.

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I went to America, and all I got was High Fructose Corn Syrup (with lard)

February 5th, 2006

What a trip. The healthiness or not of the large quantities of food aside, there was much on the trip that was well worth experiencing. One of the earlier sights was the Harvard area. It was pretty cold, but nothing too untoward for walking about in. The (science building?) at Harvard had an interesting section of an IBM “Mark I” early digital computer. Lots of switches and dials, and the photos of the machine in use showed the ultimate in cable spaghetti hell at the back of it.

MIT was very interesting to visit. The campus is enormous! Apparently there are about 10,000 students, 3,000 undergraduate. Now admittedly there are 10,000 staff, but I had expected there to be more students. The facilities and campus are wildly extensive for the number of inhabitants. We had a tour around some of the more central buildings, fairly basic, but it gave an idea of the environment for those studying/working at MIT. The particular item of attraction was the MIT museum, with a fascinating exhibit on robotics (with many of the actual definitive robots encased in the room!). There was a number of other items of particular interest at the museum, for example, a quite impressive display of large holograms with various effects. Various machines were displayed in another room, including the gearing system with a drill on the end that won’t turn for a couple trillion years or such despite the motor running (by the third cog, the system is geared down so much one can’t note the movement – and there are a half-dozen or so more cogs gearing it down further!)

We spent a lot of time too at the Science Museum in Boston. The interactive displays were a major attraction in the main exhibit. For all that some of the content was geared towards kids, nice practical exhibits demonstrated all sorts of principles (particularly in Physics). The 3d theatre featured a documentary on the Mars rovers, and showed off the 3D images the rovers captured to good effect. A Star Wars exhibit was also prominant at the museum, although it too featured experiments to link the theme-park aspect to an actual science exhibition. All in all, an interesting experience, not least in showing off a quite different way of showing off science to the general public.

And as a final note, I want “Barnes & Noble” and “Au Bon Pain” to set up shop in Ireland!