Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Sunday 24 August 2008

Microsoft Labs Photosynth - got any tips? [Beej]

Photosynth from Microsoft Labs has been viewable for about a year, but this week it went live and users can now upload their own 3D synths.

You'll know Photosynth from that 2007 demo when the smart chap from MS wowed us with Venice.

After excitedly browsing Photosynth, I found that it's all pretty lame. Like a guy who did St Pauls Cathedral from the same spot on the street and took 9 photos. So it being a bank holiday weekend, I've given it a swizz myself!
  • I chose MINI as the subject... couldn't think of a small enough local landmark
  • I took nearly 400 lores (1024x768) photos walking around the car and inside the car, and of the tree and low moss-covered wall beside the road
  • Processing took nearly an hour on an E6600, and the app said that more than 300 photos is not necessarily good.
  • It has not gone well, though... the synth was 47% "successful" ;-(
My first test synth can be viewed here: Beej's MINI Cooper S (2003)

One of my problems with Photosynth is the interface, so some tips:
  • press P to cycle viewmodes of points/images/both
  • mousewheel to zoom in/out
  • the leaf icon with three dots (in the corner) is very useful - it jumps to areas where it made good matches - press it once to jump to the stick that was near the wall
  • the grid view icon is the only way I can find to get to the tree on the right side of the car. It has done an incredible job at mapping the tree in 3D! Make sure you view it in points mode :)

So, it's not really gone as well as I had hoped. Admittedly, a metallic reflective two-colour car... a building might well be the ideal subject.

IMO the UI is not helping Photosynth though, nor is the basic navigation in the virtual environment. How is it not possible to get from the front to the back of the car?

Zoom out in points view. All the way. It's quite interesting. it has done the side of the road better than the car!

The RTFM, which I'd read beforehand, recommends at least 9 photos for the corner of a building. It also recommends stepped close/far linear shooting for going along a flat object like a wall. In both cases, a lot of overlap.

It was hard to break the habit of shooting for a digicam panorama - not enough overlap - and also shooting for texture maps. Both are bad practices AFAIK.

Photosynth seems to be better suited to a public space with public harvested photos - like the Venice demo - where the photos were taken from flickr. Next test - a building - but look forward to one of you trying an inside room!

Friday 22 August 2008

eBuyer? eShit more like! [Brit]

I've really cut down on the amount of computer related stuff I buy these days, pretty much because I've got everything I need and frankly don't have much time to spend building mexes, sniping or generally using a mini-gun and a hearty laugh to mow down unsuspecting peons. Such is life.That said, I do occasionally purchase little things - an upgrade to my powerline homeplug things for example. Indeed, I've literally just tried to use to purchase a new gigabit switch as my current 10/100 router (albeit the excellent Draytek) is struggling under the demands of file shifting across the network.

Simple enough - 8 port gigabit switch please with a few newly minted CAT6 cables. Everything in stock, select 'deliver next week in 5 working days' option (so no delivery charged as this stuff isn't urgent) and use Google Checkout - a service that makes Paypal look complicated. All done. 10 minutes total elapsed time. Happy Brit.

Email number 1 arrives: receipt from eBuyer.

Email number 2 arrives: confirmation from Google Checkout.

Email number 3 arrives: confirmation of order received (but not payment taken) from eBuyer.

Email number 4 arrives: 8 port gigabit switch is OUT OF STOCK.

Email number 5 arrives: confirmation that my order is now suspended unless eBuyer have already taken cash..

So two things annoyed me here:

Firstly, clearly shows that the product in question has 833 in stock. 833! I only want one of them please, and I very much doubt that there has suddenly been a run on these things in the last 5 minutes.

Secondly, what is with email number 5? Surely know if they've taken payment or not?

Anyhow, I cancelled the order. Google Checkout rules for this. Fuck eBuyer. They've spent so long arsing around with their new website, but its clearly just papering over some fairly fundamental issues around inventory reporting and transaction status management.Chances are they'd eventually ship via ShittyLink as well, meaning it'd never turn up anyhow.Just how on earth can they get this stuff so fucking wrong eh?

Monday 11 August 2008

All praise! [Beej]

To cut a long story short...

...God I hate missing deliveries!

UPS this time, and the UPS phone system is pure evil. It asks you to READ OUT your tracking numbers. It's quite a long number. It basically doesn't work and that's no surprise because it's a fucking retarded idea to read the number out. Of course you can't type it in using DTMF, that would be too easy. Then today I have a flash of inspiration - use saynoto0870 to get their real phone number and bypass the shit computer!

Works first time. Phone rang once then got picked up by a UPS human, no waiting in queue and no reading out of 12 digit numbers!

That site rules. While UPS clearly suck.

Friday 1 August 2008

What's in a number? [DrDave]

When I was a wee bairn we used to go on our annual holiday to the Lake District. It was pretty cool when I was younger, but when I grew up and got too-cool-for-school (relatively speaking) I found spending time with the family playing Frisbee to be several storeys beneath me. As a youth, I was never part of any particular "scene" (unless "smart casual" is a scene, and I'm pretty sure it isn't) but I did like videogames. So when the Frisbee came out, I'd wander off to the camp site arcade and stick my football sticker money into whatever game was around at the time.

One particular summer, I remember a battle of wits with an old Slapfight machine. Or, more specifically, the holder of the high score on the Whitecross Caravan park Slapfight machine - "SPU". I don't know who SPU was, I never met him (or indeed her), but I fancy that SPU was tall, broad shouldered, popular with the opposite sex, as adept with a football or cricket bat as he was with a joystick.

I took it upon myself to best SPU, to score a pyrrhic victory that would disrupt the fragile social strata of 80s emo-teens for years to come. I had a Roland Rat wallet full of old ten pence pieces, the luxury of time that only family holidays can provide and the furious purpose of a nerd gone wild! I was ready.

In my mind, I remember that time as a tightly edited sequence of training montages: scenes of despair, desperation, fightback, set to the building crescendo of a soft metal, cock-rock classic. In reality, it was a week of heartache - low scores, endless deaths to unseen bullets - SPU's imagined athletic visage grinning at me from the faint CRT glow of the Slapfight cab: "back to chess club Poindexter, nothing for you here... AHAHAHA".

Then finally, on our final day in the Lakes, something happened. Something inside me clicked, a moment of pure clarity as man and machine melded into one perfect entity. I actually felt something that morning, something bigger than me, some unique resonance with the universe. My score ticked up, 100,000; 500,000; 1,000,000. I was vaguely aware that if I considered my actions, if I attempted to harness this power or invoke some strategy other than blind instinct, I would fail and all would be lost. I held my nerve... SPU was in my sights, my score reaching parity with the on-screen "High Score" that had mocked me so. Then BOOM!, I passed SPU and the High Score began ticking up with each extra kill that I achieved. At that point I lost it, concentration crumbling away with the collapse of neurons and synapses firing in perfect harmony. But it didn't matter, SPU was beaten and I had the top score.

I don't know how long the score lasted. I fancy that maybe, somewhere in the Lake District, that machine still remains plugged in. The high score preserved as a testament to the grim determination of a bored teenager. Maybe even a plaque commemorates the achievement.

Okay, it's a long telling of a short story. One that serves to hint at the unique power in the simple mechanic of high scores. Anyone who has played WoW and visited Molten Core every week for 6 months, purely on the off chance that a random number generator will come good and a particular set of magic pants will fall can testify to this power. But WoW is an evolution of this mechanic, an abstraction that adds a visual component to your achievement. What I'm talking about is the simplistic, repetitive accumulation of arbitrary numbers - the pure "High Score".

Geometry Wars 2 on Xbox Live is a game that captures this power in a way that touches on every base instinct present in every nerd. It is a simple game of hidden complexity, an apparently mindless shoot 'em up, heavy on psychedelia and pulsing beats. But the devil is in the details. See, the scoring mechanic is such that to achieve really high scores, you need to collect "geoms". A geom is a multiplier, each one collected adds one multiplier to your total, so shot enemies provide more points. The strategy comes in deciding whether to kill or collect, to risk your ship to pick up two or three geoms or stay safe and preserve a screen full of enemies ripe for the blasting.

The truely evil part of GW2 though is not the game itself though, it is the Leaderboard. Or more specifically, the presentation of the Leaderboard. Other games chose to hide the Leaderboard away where you can safely ignore the progress of your peers. GW2 slaps it right there on the game selection screen. Every time you select a game mode, you are presented with your position in the pecking order, a constant reminder of your skills or lack thereof. Possessing this information, knowing that Slim or Beej is a mere 20,000 points away, it is simply not possible to turn away from the quick-repeat gameplay. You simply must climb the ladder.

Compulsion is a powerful narcotic to give to a nerd, a dangerous substance that can lead to failed marriage, obesity or ill-advised mailing list posts. GW2 ignores this danger like a heroin pusher in an infant school. It grabs you, it hooks you, it won't let you go.

At the moment, I stand higher than Dunford, but beneath Beej. Unless Dunford logged in after I beat him last night. I bet he did, it's just his style. The scumbag. Maybe I can squeeze in a couple of games over lunchtime? Maybe I could take the afternoon off...?

I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there, SPU is laughing at me.