Subcribing, dead@home and no Sim news

Egads! Sorry about the delay in getting the news post to you. Somehow I pulled a Rip Van Winkle and ended up sleeping most of the night. Go figure. Normally I only sleep a few hours each night (sleep is an inconvenience and there’s no way to code when I’m in la la land) but for some reason I spent most of the night doing zzzzzzzz’s. Oh well.

@home is officially dead. I can’t retrieve anything now from it (I was going in through a backdoor that my ISP had not posted publically) but now it’s gone too. My personal website is toasted so @home really is gone (instead of the gone it claimed a few months ago). All the servers are shut off and there’s nobody home @home now. I need to update a few more pages here and a few others (like the TSR Family Album site) to reflect this so your mail to me may bounce.

Also a bunch of people emailed me yesterday saying that the news posts coming to their mailboxes was looking fine. I think it’s just my email client (Outlook Express, I know, the evil Microsoft Empire rides again) that’s doing all the nasties. Stupid program but it’s the only email client that lets me read newsgroups without having to launch another program. Laziness reigns supreme. If you’re not subscribed to get my boring news delivered to your email everyday, then fill out the form below and leave a pint of blood for DNA reference. Thanks!


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Posted in CDX

Real editing and @home

Blergh. I had written this long winded thing earlier but as is the fate of the universe, the Javascooper stuff screwed up and left me staring at a blank screen (thanks Microsloth!) and I was too frustrated to rewrite it. I’m much better now (although pretty bagged for the evening so this isn’t going to be too coherent).

Essentially please write to me at bsimser@shaw.ca and not to the @home address. I can’t retrieve my @home e-mail and haven’t been for some weeks now. I know, it’s mushed all over the site here as @home. I just haven’t got to changing it all.

Currently there is no simple tool for changing the real values of objects (Comfort, Hunger, etc.) Tmog only changes the catalog value, that which is displayed when you’re browsing objects in the game in buy mode. Yes, there are some tools that might be able to do the job including the handy, dandy hex editor but the real one to get this done right is of course Edith, and we’re not there just yet.

Yahoo groups is still apparently truncating the posts delivered via e-mail. The only option is to switch to another mailing list but I’m still looking for one that does “newsletter” type announcements (where users can’t post to the board but the news service can). If you have any ideas please e-mail me with them. Of course, if you’re getting this message via e-mail you won’t be reading this because the news stopped somewhere around “I just haven’t got to changing it all…”. Sigh.

Okay. That’s it. You can go away now. Really.

Posted in CDX

Splattage

Hmm. Kind of odd. I was cruising through the newsgroups, reading the various discussions going on and zooming off to various forums (N99, SimFreaks, etc.) and noticed an increase in the number of fights, quarrels and general animosity going on. I also did some searches on my name and site and things would come up that I’ve never seen before. So a couple of things. If you’re going to post a news item to a forum or copy a forum message that I wrote to another forum, please do it responsibily. Don’t take things out of context by just grabbing the juicy parts and do provide a link back to the original source. I think this should be some kind of golden rule for anything. Forums tend to get batty sometimes and people start throwing around words and insults as much as I would like to toss dwarves around as an olympic sport. Fevers run high. Names are tossed around and all the time there’s poor schmucks like myself that just wonder why I get email from people asking me about something I’ve never read or taken part in the conversation on. I really don’t have time to visit all the forums I’d like (and believe me I’d love to be a regular contributor to most of them) so please tread with caution when saying “… but Bil Simser says…”. And above all play nice with t’other children. It’s a great sandbox to be in as long as you don’t go ballistic at the first sign of trouble.

Okay, enough words to the wise. I’m a silly man anyways. Site updates continue (although you won’t see them for awhile) and I’m still getting around to emailing all the testers, updating the pages and getting software out the door. Just hang in there (or don’t, your choice) and all will be revealed. Thanks!

Posted in CDX

List of new titles

Greetings blue fans. Okay, to round out the weekend I’m posting the list of new apps with a brief description of what they do. They’ll each have their own web pages coming along in the next week and will be sent off to the new testers (30 testers, not apps ­čśë for regular bashing, prodding, and poking. If you have any specific questions about the apps feel free to raise them in the forums. Here they are…

Simventory

Simventory is a utility that will help you keep track of all your objects, skins, walls, floors and other Sim stuff. It generates reports (based on HTML templates you can edit) that will give you complete summaries of your stuff, object information, compiled info like how many items of a particular group you have and allow you to export the whole thing to HTML pages (again using templates). Share you collections with others on the net or keep track of everything for your own creation website without having to manually enter anything. Complete information is extracted from the files but you control how much and what is put in the output. Separate reports are available for downloaded and stock content from the game. A very full featured reporting tool for The Sims.

Shotgun

Shotgun is a object utility program that will “rifle” through your downloaded objects, looking for any GUID conflicts and checking the resource trees in each object. Basically a object version of the Sims File Cop, it will report (and optionally try to repair) any broken files or conflicting objects. This is an essential tool if you have a lot of downloads and want to zero in on the ones that are causing you problems. Generates a short report on the objects, walls, and floors you have for reference.

Rug Weaver

In the tradition of building custom content, Rug Weaver is a utility that will let you design your own carpets and broadloom for The Sims. A simple 3D interface lets you define how large to make the carpet (from 1×1 to 8×8) and allows you to import any 2D bitmap image for the rug design. View it in a “simulated” Sim environment (complete with your own floor and wall design) to see what it would look like. Great for creating loads of new rugs with little effort!

Simbar

This is an add-on toolbar for Internet Explorer, much like the Google Toolbar. It gives you quick access to popular Sim sites as well as instant access to parts of the official site (you must still be registered with The Sims.com). A search facility allows you to look for content right inside the main Sims sites out there and search newsgroups and other resources allowing you to find whatever it is you’re looking for. Full customization lets you choose the features you want and the entire unit resides as a toolbar in your browser. No extra program to launch. A separate toolbar can be installed on your taskbar if you prefer.

Jobby

This is, of course, the career editor I showed you a couple of months ago. It’s now HD compatible (soon to be SV compatible) and will allow you to alter the careers and jobs of your Sims. It also lets you create your own careers and 10 jobs for each one. Full backup support so you can always revert back to the “original” careers in the game. Also supports importing from other career editors. A great Sims customization tool!

Cabins

I’ll be honest in that I have no idea where the name for this came from anymore. Cabins is a utility that will run through all your CMX/SKN files and convert them to their binary formats. It also does the reverse, converting binary files that the game can use to text based ones that SimShow can. Quick processing lets you flip 100 files over in a matter of seconds. Great for customizing your skins and getting them into the game. Will also check CMX/SKN and their binary equivalents for errors and allow you to change them on the fly.

There you have it. Hope that puts a smile on your face. Enjoy!

Posted in CDX

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…

Oh wait. That’s not it.

Hiya. Okay, I’ll admit the last couple days were pretty crappy for news. So shoot me. I’ve been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off so I really couldn’t bring myself to come up with anything witty or informative. Sorry about that. Anyways, onto the real stuff.

It’s been about 2 months since I gave the testers the last beta. Basically they got one before Xmas and they’ve pretty much tested the poop out of that one. I’ve been trying to get them a new one but I kept running out of time getting it to them and stabilizing the new stuff being added. Anyways, the new one is off to the races and includes new animation support (for creating moving objects like the rocket and multiple images like tv sets and such) and some cool 3D stuff that should be useful. One discussion that came up was that of having 4 views. If you check out the preview image on the blueprint page you’ll notice it’s the single view. The current version of the program supports 4 split views (or 1 single zoomed view). However in our testing the testers were loading 3DS files with 30,000 polygons (which makes for some pretty sweet objects) but having 4 viewports showing this would mean pushing around 120,000 polys. Unfortunately this is not 3D Studio or Maya so I don’t have years of optimization in the code or hundreds of thousands of lines of code. Maybe in time but for now we’re stuck with a single display. One change I did make for this last beta was to switch to a true 3D perspective view for editing. There are also front, left, right and top views but most of the work can be done in 3D view and you can basically swing the camera around to any angle and work on the most detailed part of your creation in comfort. Anyways, there’s a whack of new stuff going in and the programs just getting better and better everyday. I’m not going to hold off the release much longer but we need to get it creating nice clean objects and still have some bang in the editing capabilities. Soon little grasshoppers, soon.

I have the final list of beta testers for the new proggies (over 30 of them!) and I’ll be sending out the beta test agreements and details about the program to them shortly. My heartfelt thanks go out to our beta co-ordinator Mike Stern who, without his help, I’d be in a real pickle. He’s done a bang up job of organizing and sorting through the applications that he really should get a pat on the back. I know he liked to keep somewhat low-key on the newsgroup, but hey, I’ve been known as a somewhat “speak-your-mind” kinda guy. Thanks Mike! You’re number 1 in my books. I’ll also be posting more info on the site about the new proggies with some screenshots and feature lists. Thanks to everyone who applied and if you didn’t get in this round, I still have plenty more apps in my brain to do after these ones hit the net.

They’ll also be some announcements later in the week about the site. Still working out some details and such so I won’t get into it just yet, but they’ll be a pleasant surprise coming along in a few days. Seeya tommorow!

Posted in CDX

Updates on the way

Hi guys. Some pretty cool stuff happening this weekend and over the next week or so. Will be back later with details. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Posted in CDX

Sims File Maid

Good morning! You know, I really shouldn’t do news posts that involve thinking before 9:00am. Yesterdays post was just chock full of spelling and grammar errors and parts of it just plain didn’t make sense. Oh well.

Today two things. First I found a pretty slick program that works like Maxis’ SimsZip. It’s called The Sims File Maid and basically lets you drag’n’drop files onto itself to unzip into your game directories. It has a few advantages over the Maxis one in that it supports more file formats and personally, I think the interface is cute. Just drag the files onto the lawn next to the maid and whooosh, off go the files. Clean and simple. I like that. You can check it out here if you’re interested in giving it a whirl.

Sims File Maid

Also, the forums have been upgraded to Gold CSC status (or whatever the term is) so no more popups! Argh that was peeving me off in a big way. Loads fast and there’s some neat features that I’ll be turning on shortly. There’s also a feature, and given the sad state of some people that post there, that I might enable. It basically puts all new users into a limbo state until you vote for them. Enough votes and he’s in and can post messages. Considering some people are just jerks and morons in the forums, this isn’t as bad an idea as it might sound. However we’ll see how things go before I enable it. It’s been pretty good in there so please make use of the forums as much as possible so I can get my moneys worth. One thing to note, they don’t seem to like frames much. I’m constantly having to refresh the page when I launch it normally on the site and most of the time I’m just staring at a blank screen. If you load the forums up into their own window, it works much better so just SHIFT+CLICK on them until I get that fixed. I’m doing a site overhaul that will remove the frames and make this problem go away.

Have a day!

Posted in CDX

The complexities of programming

Hi ho. I figured I’d spread my less than divine knowledge about programming to you. With various discussions going on about testing and programming I thought I’d offer some perspective on what goes on during software development. These are general rules and most corporations tend to follow them, although there are exceptions.

Okay, first off programming is not new. Not really. Back in 1946 Konrad Zues, a German engineer, developed the worlds first programming language: Plankalk├╝l, while hiding in the Bavarian alps waiting for the war to end. He uses it, amongst other thing as a chessopponent on his Z3 computer. The language has even tables and data structures. Plankalk├╝l is however buried in some German archive now. Still the first instance of software engineering. It wasn’t until about 1954 when IBM created FORTRAN that real programming (using a readable high level language) with COBOL following in 1959. Various other languages are created (including BASIC in 1964, yup it’s older than I am) with the “C” language coming along in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie. Okay, enough of the history lesson.

So what goes into programming is essentially a co-ordination of efforts anywhere from one to several hundred people. Yes, even I have some co-ordination when I write software. Of course everything begins with a design. An idea. A thought. This manifests into software by writing code to form the application (or applications). There are dozens of methodologies as to how to code, how to write software and nobody follows only just one. Some people just jump in and start writing with no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. Others follow a precise plan and follow it to the letter, filling out dozens of forms just to requisition a single line of code change. Sometimes I feel like this at work, but usually we all fit somewhere in the middle. There usually is a test plan that is followed (at least by the programmers) and sometimes QA (Quality Assurance) is included and gives the program a whack or two. A cycle of life as it were, test, code, compile, repeat. For the most part what you end up with is a stable, complex piece of art. Sure you can argue the stability question and not everyone calls it art but generally if it starts up on at least one persons machine it works (or at least worked at the time). Theres an old joke about blaming QA on something while programmers just look innocent saying “It worked on my machine”. Never seems to work for me.

Anyways, it’s a complex beast, especially when it comes to something like The Sims that has millions of lines of code. Dozens of people have had their hand in it, everyone is trying to navigate around maintaing or enhancing it. There are deadlines from suits that have no clue how long it takes to completely test something. There are 10 million combinations of hardware out there to make sure the system runs on. And on and on. No, I’m not making excuses for anyone here. Programming for the Apple platform is a cakewalk compared to Intel development. You know exactly what hardware you’re dealing with and the operating system is pretty much rock solid. Windows, well that’s another story. I’ll put something in perspective here. Train control software I write takes 6-8 months to completely test everything. That’s top to bottom, 4 full time testers. Sure, if we screw up in programming we can kill someone being safety critical and all. 6 months however is impossible to justify to the business. You can’t tell them they have to wait that long for a product or an update to a product. Okay, game programming isn’t safety critical. I don’t think anyone is going to drop dead playing The Sims, but there are sometimes unrealistic deadlines imposed, strained resources and just plain mistakes. Software is inherently buggy. With all the configurations to support and the complexities of the application, mistakes are bound to happen or slip through testing. It’s not an exact science. What worked yesterday might not work today on exactly the same machine. Programming is not a magic bullet that is 1, 2, 3. It’s a series of complex motions all arriving at a common end. Hopefully that end runs as smooth as it was planned, but there are bumps along the way. Just relax and ride with the bumps and don’t jump out of the car at the first sign of turbulence. It’s a tough job and the guys that write software as monolithic as The Sims have done a great job so far.

Posted in CDX