Friday, July 31, 2009

Monthly Polynomial Update - version 00c


  • Arenas have names now.
  • Random selection of arenas for demo, instead of first 10.
  • Improved the 'Dynamic Reactor' effect. Now, bullets and explosions imprint onto background. You can also customize background's update speed.
  • Booster bonus (lets you fly 3x faster). [of questionable goodness though - it seem to make things feel smaller, for me :/]
  • Bonus icons improved.
  • 'Insane' is more difficult now (autoaim lasts less long, enemies shot faster and thus harder to dodge).
  • Added death effects - when you're killed, image 'loses synchronization', stretches, and/or whites out, in random combinations.
  • Free demo has 11 levels now (numbered 0 to 10), full has 33
  • Configuration stored in your home folder by default now (if you want to make portable install, see readme for instructions).
  • Various bugfixes
If you bought full version, click on "check updates" to get onto update downloads page.

Todo: I'm going to make a new gameplay video sometime soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Polarized light in.... beetles

From BBC

Under left circularly polarised light, which matched the direction of the helices, the beetles appeared "super-green", because, as Dr Srinivasarao explained, "there weren't that many other wavelengths of light reflected back at you".
That's just amazing. (see the post below for less natural example of colors from polarization of light)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Strain patterns in plexiglass.

Polynomial: I am still working on multiplayer, and there is not much to show off. I made a science video, though.

Using regular polarizing sunglasses as a filter (I do not have real polarizing camera filter).

How it works: Light waves are not like sound waves, but more like displacement waves in a stretched rope - the light "waves sideways". Usually light is waving kind of randomly, in all directions. When the light is waving in just one direction, that direction is said to be a 'polarization direction' for the wave. LCD displays emit polarized light, which is usually waving in approximately diagonal direction (I do not know if direction is same for all displays or just for LG displays); polarizing sunglasses only pass vertically polarized light. So when you look through polarizing sunglasses on LCD display, at right angle, no light goes through, because display gives out \ diagonal polarized light, and glasses at that angle only pass / polarized light.

Crystals of various sorts, strained plastics, and similar materials act in a very interesting way. The light waving along the stretch direction moves at slightly different speed in such materials, from the light waving orthogonally to the stretch direction.

If plastic's strain direction is at angle to the polarization direction, the polarization of light appears to flip as light goes through the plastic. Polarization of different wavelengths (spectral colours) of light flip at different rate as light goes through such material (it is flipping again and again). In result, for some wavelengths (colours) the polarization is completely flipped(flipped odd number of times) and the light passes through sunglasses, and for some wavelengths, the polarization is not flipped (flipped even number of times) and no light goes through. That's where colours in this video come from. The colours remind of soap bubble film, and indeed, the spectra of those colours is pretty much identical to thin film interference that you see in soap bubbles or a thin layer of oil/gasoline/etc on water.

For more precise details, see Wikipedia:Birefringence.

(By the way, LCD display itself uses flipping of polarization in liquid crystal (which is put under electrical strain rather than mechanical strain, i.e. electric field) to form the image, but I digress)

Todo: sometime I'm going to make better video with narration and pictures how polarization works.

For now, I recommend simply trying it yourself and showing it to some friends!
Just get some polarizing filter (I'd recommend linear, though circular will work. The polarization in material is actually flipping like horizontal, right circular, vertical, left circular, horizontal, right circular, and so on. Circular polarization is like swinging rope in circle pattern - a rotating wave moves through the rope). Stay away from those uv polarizing filters, those are probably totally irrelevant. You can also get polarized sunglasses, those are better for visual observation.

Actually, you can do this experiment even without buying any fancy stuff. Look in the reflection of display in piece of glass, at approximately 50 degrees angle. Tilt the glass to the side while maintaining reflection angle, until reflection becomes 'dark'. (I did not manage to get a good picture of this with my camera, due to lack of third arm, but it works very well). At some angle, only one polarization of light is reflected. That's why polarizing sunglasses help filter out reflections from water or ice - the glasses let other, orthogonal polarization direction pass, but I digress.

In fact you can even do that without LCD display. Light from blue sky (at the 90 degrees angle from sun) is polarized! So you can impress your friends by showing that off with piece of broken glass, and some plastic garbage. The hidden beauty of everyday things. (Practice first, the good angle might be hard to get right at first)

[BTW. As you can see, I'm still experimenting with ads. I'm very interested in efficiency of ads, naturally, as the time will come when I'll be possibly paying for ads for The Polynomial]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amarok again.

Looking at it again, 2.1.1 seems somewhat better than 2.1 (a huge, massive, ground breaking improvement: you can disable context thats in the middle and gets in the way of drag)

[edit: installed 2.1.1 . How the fuck do I actually disable that damned panel and get 1 splitter here? A shame, such huge disappointment, I thought I was wrong in my rant. Paranoya: RIAA probably would love that context thing. ISP stores logs for a while and it can potentially be useful as evidence in a court case if they can get logs from isp. Not that I personally care but anyway. Pirates better watch out.]

Upcoming amarok 2.2 (with dockable dialogs, if those will work) look kind of promising on the video, even though the way features are listed (docking just last, not even 'last but not least') doesn't look terribly great if it is any indicator of views on usability or priorities.

What made 2.1 particularly annoying (and prompted lot of ranting everywhere, myself included) is that in case of Mandriva (and, I heard, Ubuntu), after routine update we just find 1.4.10 removed without any straightforward way to revert. I'd blame packagers if it was 'Amarok 2.0.2' or 'Amarok2 0.1' or something else labelled unstable - but as it is labelled stable, it is entirely reasonable for a distribution to have it default.
On Mandriva in particular, you need to get 1.4.10 from 2009.0 repository - you are not supposed to do this (and it may fail to work for people whom did install 2009.1 afresh. 2009.0 RPMs are not supposed to be used on 2009.1 install. It's a luck when that works).

All the problem stems from how "rewrite" retained the name but entirely lost what the name used to stand for. It is not "excellent player 2.1", it's "average player 0.1", and pretty much nobody wants to overwrite "excellent player 1.4" with "average player 0.1".

Link, see comments for how Ubuntu users generally feel about amarok 2

Amarok 2 sucks.

Amarok 2 (new version of a Linux music player) sucks just as much as old Amarok rocked. A lot of major functionality regressions, not to mention screwed up, less configurable user interface (as of 2.1, you can't even fully disable this stupid 'context' panel in middle, let alone use system skin).
That's really sad. It takes intelligence to fix or improve something that's broken or missing. Fixing other people's bugs is not easy, as well as addition of new functionality. Whereas fucking up user interfaces is very easy and every moron can do that; partial 'rewrites' with lot of regressions are relatively easy as well. So when morons take over when transmissible zombie-like insanity takes over the developers, naturally, there's always huge user interface redesign, lot of fixing of things that are not broken, and lot of regressions in functionality, all while nothing that's broken gets fixed. If I were more paranoid, I'd think KDE4 in general is being sabotaged, but as it is I think it's just got damaged by it's own popularity. (edit: Sorry for the harsh language, but that's how development looks from outside when there is a huge usability regression in a 'stable' release; I don't mean bugs and lack of support for various things [evidently ipods are supported now], I mean craziness like, for example, not reimplementing quite successful layout, but rather trying various totally weird stuff like putting 'context' in the centre, in the way of drag and drop path. Rewrites for new frameworks do not have to result in SO massive usability regression; there's no reason not to reimplement old layout at least until new layout is designed)

Instructions for getting Amarok 1.4 back, for Mandriva:
  1. Set up repositories for mandriva 2009.0 , via easyurpmi
  2. Install Amarok 1.4.10 through package manager
  3. As root, edit /etc/urpmi/skip.list , and add /^amarok/ to prevent auto'updates'.
Similar instructions may work for other RPM based distros.

Version bump.

Version bump to 00b (I improved the sales related scripts, so I can versionbump freely without going through 10-item checklist).
Check Updates button (in full version) should work as well.
Important changes:
  • Editor, by user request: In full version, you can now save images of any size (limited by video card). My 512MB geforce 9800 GT works fine all way up to 8192x8192 ; pretty much all cards that run Polynomial should allow that resolution, newer cards may allow even larger. Various glitches happen though when exceeding max resolution, that is to be fixed & workarounded.
  • Various small fixes, mostly for older cards.
  • Further reduced video memory usage.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Even more fixes.

Added a workaround for Radeon 1950 (and possibly some other cards). If you have ugly pixelation issue, go to Visuals tab, then enable the workaround. With the workaround, it looks almost as good as normally on recent cards.

In other news, network multiplayer is progressing, but not ready for release yet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some more fixes.

Fixes for the above(i.e. below) - mentioned fixes. Shouldn't crash under Mesa 3D anymore, though i dunno how it looks, with pretty much minimal quality.
Important changes:

  • Fixed broken reverb (should sound lot better).
  • Fixed segfault in shipped openal-soft.
  • Fixed a bunch of segfaults on older graphics hardware, it should draw at reduced quality now.

Some fixes for Linux.

Updated the binaries but did not versionbump. Some fixes for crashes on certain Linux distributions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thoughts on Google PageRank and relevancy.

Firstly, pagerank is a great algorithm, when applied to a web not influenced by pagerank.

The problems however lie in how pagerank and relevancy ranking influence the Internet and its own input. Let's use my game The Polynomial as example. At the moment, the top result for "polynomial demo" is gamespot page about my game. These guys do not link to my website at all.
In result, some people whom searched for 'polynomial demo' do themselves link to gamespot instead of my pages even though they would prefer to link original author. That is turning high pagerank into form of self-fulfilling prophecy. It could well be how gamespot managed to get high pagerank and relevancy in first place. I cannot compete. I cannot pay for ad links to artificially inflate search engine ranks - and even if I could, I would not. I do not have time to bother reorganizing links on my website as to focus pagerank on a single page. Neither can most independent developers.
I do not mind gamespot much. They have nice user opinions about my game, and my game contains "get full version" button that is opening my page. I only wish they would play fair and link to original author, or not require registration for download.

In retrospect, I should have created a lot of well-interlinked pages covering all the expected keywords, but well. I'll try to think up something for the final release, as well as write an article about it if I have time.