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Flash on Linux finally fast
2010.12.05

Flash on Linux finally fast

I don’t like much Adobe, but their commitment to Linux is above average. Flash for Linux never was great, but at least was close to their pairs on Windows.

The problem was with Flash videos, which is now the vast majority of its usage. The problem relies on pure CPU processing. The Linux version does not use the video card to decode the highly compressed videos used today. The result was a slow computer when seeing videos. The situation was really dire when you attempt to see more than one. The crash is almost certain.

But finally my days of browsing Youtube or porn sites only on Windows (which is a quite risky) are over! The new beta version of Flash (10.3) finally uses the GPU and is several times more stable. On KUbuntu, i added the repository ppa:sevenmachines/flash and installed the flashplugin64-nonfree package.

Hallelujah

Unity 3D 3
2010.12.03

Unity 3D 3

The new version Unity 3D engine was just released and Im really excited.

All the previous features continues there: great asset integration (several 3D, 2D and sound file formats), programming scripts, grate IDE. But know the visual performance is better, even with the new features enabled.

Pre baked lightning is now included by default. It allows to create amazing scenes that most of the lights pre rendered. It allows the video card to work on other stuff, like shaders. Speed is also better the inclusion Ambient occlusion package. It analyses the scene/map previously and checked what parts of it will not appear depending on where the camera is and saves the information to be used in realtime. The performance gain is huge.

The animation manager is also a great plus. It seems very much like video editing, with curves and keyframes. It is now very nice to program the animations, specially for designers.

UDK (Unreal Development kit) is also gaining a lot of attention of the media, but with a feature set somewhat similar (again, 99% of the game makers are not even capable of using the engine fully), it is quite a irresponsibility to accept the license that makes you give 25% of the profits to Epic (and after paying your distributor, marketing, etc…).

Development cycles
2010.12.01

Development cycles

just saw the news about the Drupal 7 Release Candidate. I could not be more perplex with the length of its cycle. The code freeze was announced in September 15, 2009, so its more than a year!

I’m perplex mostly because of the nature of this software: a internet application. Because the internet environment changes in a incredible pace, its really counterproductive to stop accepting deep modifications for so long time. NoSQL databases are getting more and more used, JavaScript techniques getting more refined and the whole HTML5/Video is dominating news. Two years to launch a new version is quite a lot.

I have a hunch: Drupal 5 was a true revolution but had a quite short life cycle, coz Drupal 6 was released soon after. I believe several developers got pissed with that as they were forced to make a long conversion process from Drupal 4 to 5 and than from 5 to 6. Drupal 6 took quite some time to actually be used by old sites, because several important modules (Views and CCK mainly) delayed the port to see what direction D7 would take. The result is that Drupal 6 was coined “Drupal Vista: wait for the 7”. This might be forced Drupal core guys to extend the cycle.

The whole problem is now gone since most sites are now ported to D6. But I really believe that was not matter of the short-cycles-that-pressure-developers, but the lack of clear support from project managers. I say that because some even more complex programs are getting big supporters, despite the apparent paradox.

The most enlightening example is Google. Google’s most popular softwares adopted the strategy of the “fast iterations”. The idea is not to aim “quality at all cost” (typical for projects that release when it is ready) but “to fix as soon as possible”. Chrome is 3 years old or so and it is in version 9! The adoption rate is even bigger than Firefox! Android is in version 2.2 already and gaining more and more support of developers. Can you imagine a more complex software with a faster release cycle?

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Faster cycles have several advantages:

  • Gain easy testers with the early adopters
  • Avoid that small enhancements being postponed for years just because is a “new feature”
  • Avoid the proliferation of hacks-as-plugins that implement the small enhancements i just mentioned
  • Revert wrong decisions often
  • Encourage more people to participate to the core development, since their suggestions might be implemented soon after
  • Avoid analysis-paralysis loop of each change
  • Reduces the possibility of forks (what is the advantage of Pressflow if Drupal 7 was released quite after?)

I think Drupal community still is somewhere between The Cathedral and the Bazaar. They are still in CVS mentality of a centralized control and serialized development of features. We have to make features in parallel, not in series. So no more “feature freeze”, “guys, lets think about the next version… ideas?”. Every time is time to release a new features. It has to create several forks (and not only patches) that will work on each features and, when any of them are ready, commit into mainstream and launch as a new small version, like 7.1, 7.2, 7.3…

One last comment for those that think several people want stability over cutting edge stuff. Its just to maintain a similar concept used by Ubuntu: time to time a given release will be considered “long term support”. And if Drupal 7.2 is LTS, for example, it could be released several other “features-releases” like 7.3, 7.4 and several “bug-releases” for 7.2, like 7.2.1, 7.2.2, 7.2.3… Fixed time support also gives business and people the right information for a proper planning.

ePAD
2010.10.21

ePAD

I just bought a Zenithink ePAD tablet. It’s a generic iPad tablet made in China that runs Android as the OS. Please, consider from now on that it costs less than half of the price of the original.

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I must say that despite the whole “generic” label, its quite a nice piece of machine. It has a 10 inches screen with resistive touch sensor, which is great to navigate thru internet and reader ebooks and pdf. The processor and memory don’t rival Apple but i don’t feel it is big lack, except, of course, games.

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The Android used is the 2.1, which is good one. With Google Market fully enabled, its possible to transform it into a quite comprehensive computer. Zenithink US, the american distributor are releasing often versions of its firmware, so its possible that 2.2 “Froyo"or even 2.3 “Gingerbread”.

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The only two things that i was disappointed (which i should not be because i knew about them before buying) are the short battery life (4 hours if WiFi is off) and the ridiculous short range of its internal WiFi. If the tablet is not less then 2 meters, it simply not work! Its better to connect the net cable at this distance! There are several minor things here and there, but hey, as i said at the very beginning: it cost me less then half of the iPad price*. I really believe that tablets are going to be the next world desired toy. Apple is in grand advantage, but this time their advantage for being the first in the market is not to last long. Chinese companies are going to flood the market with generic inexpensive hardware until they acquire experience, scale and courage to face these big guys. That is what takes in trying to create simple and copyable products with a premium status. Apple woke the dragon.

The City and The City
2010.10.15

The City and The City

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Masterpiece. The crazy style of China Miéville is notorious. He specialized into a science fiction sub genre called weird fiction, which mixes the real world with some out-of-the-place elements that are common of the characters, somewhat like Lovecraft. Almost all his books are great. But The City and The City is really really great.

The story is a noir murder investigation. The main character is the detective Tyador Borlú and the story is first person point of view. Borlú is a great character, clever but not a Sherlock and a little sarcastic about his job.

One curious thing is that I “read” the audiobook. At the beginning i was completely lost because the name of the characters and places: Besźel, Ul Qoma, Tyador Borlú are just unusual.. I had to check the names on internet to see how they are written. After some time, they become familiar.

{SPOILER ALERT begin}

It’s basic concept is fascinating: two cities that occupy the same physical space, at the same time. People that live in one have to “ignore” the existence of the other. “Trespass” this is a crime worse than murder. Crazy crazy concept. That is just one element that stick you to the book.

{SPOILER ALERT end}

As of September 2010, the novel only won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, tied with Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, the BSFA Award for Best Novel of 2009, as well as the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

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My Rating:9★★★★★★★★★
Goodreads: 3.89
Bruno 𝕄𝔸𝕊𝕊𝔸