Monday, October 31, 2005

Deep in the Caribbean...

If you can't believe what you're seeing, then you're not alone. I couldn't either. But it's true! It's Monkey Island on a mobile phone. On my mobile phone! I can actually walk around with this classic in my pocket and play it any time I want. It might take some time getting used to, but I think this giddy feeling of euphoria might help me tide it over.

The porting of ScummVM to EPOC/Symbian has been in the works for a while now. I've known about it since the first EPOC patch was applied to the ScummVM CVS, but I never dared hope that they'd actually target the S60 platform. Surely, it had to be impossible?

Apparently, not so. The crazy genius who ported this made it work on my phone, and today the executables were released to the public. Well technically, it was yesterday, but time flies when you're having fun.

Now, this is ScummVM we're talking about, so suddenly I can play all sorts of games on my phone, not just LucasArts classics.

The screen is smaller than 320x200, so everything is scaled down to fit. Surprisingly, that's not at all noticeable for the graphics, but it quickly becomes painfully obvious that legibility is adversely affected. Basically, this means I can't read what anyone's saying in Beneath a Steel Sky. The font is rather narrow, and a lot of the outlines on the letters are missing. The strange love of ALL CAPS that the Revolution team exhibits in this game doesn't help matters; caps aren't exactly known for their readability.

LucasArts had a better font to start with. Their big blocky font has a nice and wide kerning. Apparently they weren't scrimping on screen estate, so their font doesn't suffer that much when it's scaled down. There's still the odd unreadable letter, but you can understand every word from context, especially if you've played the game before. On the other hand, that kind of goes for Beneath a Steel Sky too. I understood the intro dialog in BASS, since playing it again jogged memories of my three or four runs through it on the PC.

Unfortunately, the sound only has one volume setting as of yet: ear-piercingly loud. I'm hoping they'll fix this, because now I have to connect my headphones and use them as loudspeakers, which is not a great solution. On the plus side, it's sound! I can hear Michael Land's brilliant iMUSE music on my phone! I'm running out of exclamation marks!

Minor issues aside, the games work flawlessly. I can't understand how much processing power and memory my phone actually has. That these games even fit on my memory card is fantastic, and that they run without a hitch is amazing. It's ScummVM, for crying out loud! These guys know what they're doing, and it works so well you'd think the games were written for them, not reverse engineered by them.

Well... I guess it's simply a miracle.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cat again

Here she is again, by popular demand, now in video! It was recorded with my mobile phone, so please excuse the rather low resolution.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


"I can't stand it, I know ya planned it, I'ma set it straight, this Watergate." - Sabotage, Beastie Boys

Friday, October 14, 2005

Autumn visit

Although I'm not particularly fond of the cold Swedish winter, I do love the season that ushers it in. I like everything about autumn, from the colours of the trees, and the fresh moist in the air, to the dark and misty evenings. It's a season that can be both relaxing and exhilirating. 'Tis the season to sit in your favourite chair, put on a Soundgarden album and read a good book.

It's also the season when small furry animals start running around in your backyard.

Can you see the squirrel? If these were mobile phone photos, this would probably have marked the end of today's squirrel hunt. Luckily I happened to be outside with our best digital camera, with optical zoom and everything.

Peekaboo! There were actually two squirrels, jumping from tree to tree, playfully hunting and chattering. This one was the more curious of the two, and actually had to come down and look at me.

After a while, it decided to observe me from a safe vantage point halfway up the tree. I guess I have the inventor of the telescope to thank for getting this shot.

It ended up calmly sitting there for quite a while, posing for a couple of more photos before it scurried back up the tree to play with its friend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I've mentioned my job several times now without actually showing it to you. Feels like things are out of order in my blog now, but I guess it can't be helped. Things don't happen in an orderly fashion in reality, and everyone has to deal with that.

Here's the main building of my job. That's where my boss has her office, and where my boss's boss has his office. It's also where the make-up girls, the TV students and the 3D artist students go to class. Not the game programmers though. Nope, we're the only ones who are banished to another building, or blessed with our very own building, depending on how you look at it.

This is the building in question. It's kind of a weird building, because it's connected to a bus repair shop. That's the yellow thing sticking out of the left side. Sometimes I hear weird noises coming from over there, or maybe I'm just imagining it.

I'm sure keen readers have by now noticed all the trees, but if you haven't, let me point out that I basically work in the middle of the forest. That's Sweden for you. The trees are everywhere. I sometimes feel like telling them, "Hey, tree! Back off! You're encroaching on my personal space!" but I don't think they'd understand me. Eh, who am I kidding, I love trees.

So, this is the entrance of the building I work in. Not a very exciting picture, but it's good for reference in case you want to visit me. If it's lunch time, you need to go left through the blue doorway to Valle's Coffee. I'll be the one eating a texmex pie and drinking yoghurt. Any other time of the day, take a right.

This is the hallway where you can sometimes find tired programmers shuffling around looking for coffee. There are two classes here, one who's been around for a year (let's call them seniors) and a new class (juniors). At the very end of the hallway you'll find the senior classroom. They are broken men, shadows of their former selves, with all their hopes and dreams crushed by the sheer amount of stuff they need to learn.

Directly to your right is the junior classroom. This is where I work right now, since I'm teaching them C++ and Windows programming. We switch around now and then; I taught the senior class 3D math earlier. Look, you can see my briefcase again, and the laptop that the school has lended me.

The students! They're a lively bunch. Three of them are from southern Sweden and like to joke around a lot. Those three are so full of crap, it's wonderfully amusing. One day during lunch they were playing a pretend game, making up rules as they went. One of them would say a word (often meaningless compound words), and the next had to counter it with a new word, sometimes thinking long and hard and commending the others for playing so well. Then they actually pretended to win and lose. They nearly fooled some other students into thinking it was a real game.

The very next day, two of them seemed very happy to see me after lunch. They claimed that they had been looking everywhere, even got my boss involved in their search. Eventually, they had called the police and gone searching the woods. Apparently they had had a question for me, but now they'd forgotten what it was.

You can tell from this photo what kind of mood we have in our classrooms. People feel right at home, leaving out their cups, cutlery and... chopsticks? OK... sure, why not?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Some notes

My lectures are often so packed with information that they can be rather hard to digest. Therefore, I take a few breaks sometimes to let my students get a breather, lest they fall asleep. During one of those breaks, I walked past a student's notes, and something caught my eye.

Huh? A drawing?

Another one! Apparently, some students are so advanced that they don't need to take notes. They've decided to work on their creativity. I hope for their sake that their prowess will be reflected in their results. Come to think of it, this guy has his project completed, and we're not even through half of the course. He can certainly afford practicing his superdeformed grafitti style.

Of course, some students move at a normal pace and need to take their studies seriously. Here's one who has everything neatly organized on his desk; the recommended literature plus actual lecture notes.

It says "Indian Pixels". I have no idea what that means, but the drawing does seem to represent pixelated feathers.

This guy has managed to combine study with creativity, using both halves of the brain. Upon closer inspection, he hasn't taken any notes of what I've said, just what I've written on the whiteboard. A common oversight, which may haunt him come cram time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Made up

I had lots of fun at work today! I haven't written much about my job here, so maybe I should start with what I do. I teach game programming, which is basically computer science geared toward game development. There are other courses at my job, such as the TV programme production course and the make-up course.

At this point in their education, the make-up students needed to practice their skills on male faces. They were learning how to mask or enhance stubble, as well as doing the make-up as neutral as possible. Around 11 AM, my boss interrupted my lecture to tell us that the make-up students needed test subjects. Considering that all the game programming students are guys, and all the make-up students are girls, it's no surprise that my students and I were happy to volunteer. Especially since it meant getting an afternoon off. Double win!

Ah, the glamour! Seriously, it was fun to be pampered by the make-up artists in training, despite sometimes accidentally getting make-up in the eye.

Those lights make it so much easier to imagine you're a movie star or a supermodel. I bet all my geeky students were doing that, provided that they weren't scared half to death by being closer to a woman than they'd ever been.

It's like an episode of Beauty and The Geek.

Oh look, it's the two nicest people in the world! Karma must have brought them together. She's nice because she's the only girl at my job who's said "hi" to me a few times, and he's both my best student and quite possibly the happiest and nicest guy I've ever met. Look at them, they're both just radiating positive thoughts! Although he does look kind of weird, probably because of the make-up. Look how smooth and silky his skin looks. Lookit!

All done! Time to go to the TV studio for the screen test.

OK, not quite done yet. This girl stayed behind a bit to put some finishing touches on the first guy she worked on. The second guy was me. And look, she's smiling! Actually, spirits were pretty high today. I think my students did rather well in the social department. Everyone seemed to get along. I'm... so proud... *sniff* (Got some make-up in my eye again, sorry.)

Here we are, waiting in line for our screen test, looking better than we're ever going to look. Well, unless the girls decide to practice on us again! One girl is on her way out from the TV studio looking kind of dissatisfied, but my make-up artist has a smug look on her face, so I'm not worried.

She's a stickler for details. Now she's adding a few last-minute touches. You may have noticed that it looks like the guy has shaved off half his beard. That's because she was practicing masking and enhancing his stubble. It's pretty convincing, even off-screen. She must have an eye for colour to find a shade that matches his skin that well.

It's the TV students! See the small square window? That's where the production team sits during broadcasts, and today the make-up teacher sat there and told her students what they had done well and what they needed to work on. The TV monitor shows what's being recorded/broadcast. Hm, I just realized that they may actually have recorded us to review their work later. Yikes.

Here's Mr. Nice Guy, facing the camera squad. If you look closely at the monitor, you can see that the nametag says "Torulf Hårfot". That's certainly not his name; sounds more like the name of a hobbit. Turns out that it was the TV teacher having fun with the equipment, giving us all silly names.

The make-up teacher asked everyone to make some on-stage adjustments. I'm guessing this was both to correct mistakes, and to get their first on-stage make-up experience. I had my nose powdered; it looked like this guy got something done to his neck. There were lots of talk about matching skin tones on neck, hands and face.

Finally, the first real photo of me in the whole blog. It's a crappy photo because I suck at taking self-portraits, but you can kind of tell that my skin is unnaturally smooth. No blemishes or blotches or anything. In broad daylight, it looks almost like I'm a dead person mimicking the living, or an alien pod person made of some organic plastic. In the right lighting conditions, like in the TV studio, it looks perfectly natural.

Lots and lots of pictures today, since it was such a fun day. I hope I can be a test subject again some time. :)