I’m a big fan of chess tactics puzzles of the kind found in the Chess Tactics Server, but what I didn’t know, after having Fritz installed on my PC for over two years, was that I could use Fritz to trawl through a database of games, spot blunders and turn them into Tactics problems.
A vocoder brings together two signals, a carrier signal and a modulator signal, and combines them into an output signal. If the modulator signal is a vocal recording, and the carrier signal is a synthesiser sound, then the result is a robotic effect, a bit like Cylons in the old Battlestar Galactica (according to Wikipedia, they used an EMS Vocoder 2000). Here’s how to do something similar using a vocal recording and a synth of your choice in Synapse’s Orion…
Back in 2008 Microsoft released a the code for a small Japanese-style RPG to help folks get started with coding their own indie games. If you have a little experience with coding/compiling and want to mess about with it, here’s how to get hold of the latest version and poke about with it yourself.
Download and install Visual C# 2010 Express
Microsoft released a free (as in beer), trimmed-down version of Visual Studio specifically for coding C# .NET programs and apps. If you already have Visual Studio 2010, then skip this step.
- Go to http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/express
- Download Visual C# 2010 Express
- Install it on your PC
You also have the option of downloading the whole suite of ‘Express’ packages, including Visual Basic and the Web Developer package.
Download and install Microsoft XNA 4.0
Microsoft built the XNA code library specifically for coding games on Windows and the XBox. It contains routines for 3D graphics, sound, handling game saves, sprites and so forth.
- Go to http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=23714
- Download the file ‘XNAGS40_setup.exe‘
- Run it
Once run, you can use the XNA 4.0 code libraries in Visual C# 2010 Express, and you will also be able to make use of game templates and compilation options that will enable you to export your code to an XBox 360.
Download the Role-Playing-Game Starter Kit
The starter kit comes in the form of a project that can be opened in Visual C# 2010 Express. All you have to do is download it and unpack the files to the correct place.
- Go to http://create.msdn.com/en-US/education/catalog/sample/roleplaying_game
- Download the file ‘RolePlayingGame_4_0_Win_Xbox.zip‘
- Unpack the zip file and copy the folder into your visual studio2010projects folder. You should be able to find this in your ‘My Documents’ folder. If not, just extract them to somewhere sensible where you will be able to find them later
Everything should be in place now for you to get nosing around the code, debug it, and generally hack it about to your heart’s content
- Start Visual C# 2010 Express
- Go to File -> Open project
- Navigate to where you unpacked the RPG Starter Kit
- Open ‘RoleplayingGameWindows.sln‘
- Visual C# will load in the files
- Click the green ‘debug‘ arrow at the top to compile and run the game
All being well, the game should start. Hit ‘Escape’ to get back to Visual C# 2010 Express.
This is as far as I’ve got with it so far, and I’ll be spending some time inspecting the code and classes used. I’m particularly interested in the methods used for rendering the environment, and also handling character interaction. I suspect though that my first job will involve rebinding the keyboard controls…
I make no secret of the fact that I like a lot of what Microsoft has done in the past, but occasionally they drive me nuts. I like the .NET framework, I like the free stuff, I like Windows 7, I like the old MS Flight Simulator and their keyboards and mouses seem to work well enough.
Whereas I fully support any iniative to get young people coding their own games, I do sometimes wonder if C# is really the right place to start, and whether or not kids would be better off with something similar but based around, say, Python. Maybe I just hark after the old days, where one would switch on an 8-bit machine like a BBC Micro or a Spectrum, and immediately have access to the BASIC programming language. I believe something like that would do wonders for computing literacy
|Adam Jensen, pondering the ethical and sociological ramifications of human augmentation within a free-market economic system yesterday.|
|Third-person stealth. Optional.|
|Not a screenshot.|
This one actually made me laugh. Here it is, complete with typos and batshit capitalisation:
ANTI-TERRORIST AND MONETORY CRIMES DIVISION
FBI HEADQUARTERS WASHINGTON, D.C.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
935 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE,
NW WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535-0001
Fax 0872 111 5935
Bank of Nigeria transferred 10,500,000.00 us dollars to bank of America in your favor as the beneficiary; bank of Nigeria used (secret diplomatic transit payment to wire this money. Secret diplomatic payments are only made if its Terrorist related. why must your payment be made by a secret transfer, if you are not a terrorist, then why did you not
Receive the money? Why did you instruct them to use a coded means to transfer your money? We have intercepted the transfer of $10,500,000.00 usd to you .we advise you to contact us immediately for directives on what next to do, as your money is In a suspense account in the bank of America, present to us your diplomatic immunity seal of transfer (dist) document
To prove this money is not terrorist related.
Failure to produce the dist document, we shall impound your money and prosecute you for criminal offense, but on the Contrary the money will be released immediately we receive the dist document. The dist document guarantees the following
60t your transferred money is genuine
61h you are empowered to receive the money without further scrutiny
62j your receiving bank account can either be in usa/uk/outside or anywhere you wish
Reply immediately with this dist document if you want to receive your transferred moneys we intercepted Respond within 24 hrs upon receipt of this mail
Assistant director in charge
James w. Mcjunkin
Robert s. Mueller, iii
Federal bureau of investigation
United states department of justice
Washington, d.c. 20535
I’ve been using Synapse’s wonderful Orion for a few years now, and it’s my main staple for my secondary hobby of making electronic music. Simply put, it’s the most easy to use and versatile thing out there. Recently (Christmas day, actually) I found out how to connect my old Yamaha RGX110 guitar to my PC, and record it in Orion complete with effects.
- Plug your guitar into one of the first two inputs on your breakout box. No pre-amp should be required.
- Open Orion
- Go to Options -> Audio Input Settings…
- Set Audio Input settings to be the Same As Output Device
- Tick the following boxes:
- ‘enable audio input’
- ‘monitor input’
- ‘mono’ (because the guitar produces a mono signal)
This will allow you to hear what’s going on!
- Click OK
- Go to Insert -> Audio Track -> Stereo Input 1/2 to add an audio track using inputs 1/2. You can rename the resulting ‘Audio Track #1’ track to something more sensible like ‘Guitar’ by right-clicking on the label in the Playlist window.
Orion is now ready to accept your input. What I’ve got into the habit of doing at this point is adding a simple drum line to play over. You may already have a load of synths, drums and samples already.
- In the playlist, you’ll notice that the track has MSR buttons. Hit the ‘R’ button to queue it up for recording. The Record button light, up at the top of the screen, will light up red
- When you’re ready to record your section, hit the Play button. Orion will count you in
- When you’re done, hit the Stop button
It’s worth noting the following:
- You can rename each section, or ‘chunk’, that you record
- If you record over a section, the original is still there and intact, you just have to slide it about a bit
- Don’t leave two audio tracks with the same audio input, or they’ll double up and make a terrible din!
- You can chop bits up and clone them using the song editing tools
- Right click a section to edit it in your chosen sample editing software
- You may well need to experiment with a compressor/limiter a bit to get the signal at a reasonable level.
Orion 8 has three insert effects, four sends and if that’s not enough you can use a MultiFX plugin which can hold four effects. This means you can experiment around with various arrangements of compressors, flangers, echoes, distortion units, EQs to your heart’s content… The only limit appears to be the spec of the PC.
[Fetches pipe and slippers] Hehe, kids these days have it easy. Back in my day I had one flanger and couldn’t afford a delay pedal or a four-track recorder. Nowadays all you need as £500 worth of PC plus £160-odd for Orion (which is less than an analogue Fostex cassette-tape-based four-track recorder cost back then) and you have as many blimmin’ digital effects as you like, plus multi-track recording, drum machine, some awesome synths (Toxic III, Wasp, Screamer, WaveFusion etc.) and the ability to upload your stuff to MySpace. Damn I wish I had had this stuff back in 1995…
Having done my present shopping early, avoided shops, turned the TV off and made plans to not travel anywhere, I found myself spending the Christmas weekend largely on my own in my cavernous flat.
It’s amazing what a difference the ‘No TV, Travelling or Shops’ thing makes to the whole experience of Christmas. I actually had a splendidly refreshing long weekend completely free of any kind of pressure to do anything. It was almost like having a week’s holiday.
Joolz and Mr Ian popped by on Christmas Eve, and it was lovely as always to catch up with them and set the world to rights about life, the universe and everything. After they tootled off I went back to my study, and woke my PC up to do a bit of gaming.
A while back I had downloaded Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and had got quite a way into it. After a good solid play through, I finally finished it at 1.30am on Christmas eve. And so to bed, a bit bleary, and still playing the game in my head. Boy I had some funny dreams that night…
Christmas morning I managed to get my guitar hooked up to my music software, Orion v8, meaning that I can now record live guitar playing through a variety of effects on to my tracks. I’ve yet to try it with vocals, but seeing as I cannot sing (and so tend to leave vocals to the Dogsolitude_uk Singing Robots) it’s a bit of a moot point.
I cleaned the kitchen and tidied up a bit, and did some weeding in the front garden.
I also went for a bit of a bike ride up past one of the country-ish areas near where I live. This is where I learned that a Barbour Moorland Jacket may be wonderful for dog-walking or generally traipsing around in the drizzle and wind, but it’s bloody dreadful on a bike. After a couple of miles I noticed a bit of a chill, and noticed that the jacket had started coming undone from the bottom as my legs pedalled, thanks to the two-way zip. I also accidentally reset the numbers on my bike computer.
Most of my relatives, when I called them, seemed to want to know if I was having Christmas dinner, and if so what I was having. I ate plenty (a quiche, honey-roasted parsnips and potatoes, a hot apple-and-blackberry pie were the more sensible things I consumed) but there seemed to be something a bit Samuel Beckett about making a Christmas Dinner for one, so I waited for ms rhapsody9 to come back before doing any stuffing etc.
Later in the evening, being a bit too full and rather too physically fatigued to do anything strenuous, I watched Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the Father Ted Xmas Special, and a few episodes of Family guy. Later on, I booted up Steam and bought a sort of expansion for Deus Ex called ‘The Missing Link’. A bit of shooting and sneaking later, I tootled off to bed.
From what I can work out, a lot of people find Christmas to be a terrible time to be alone, and it truly must be dreadful if you want to be with your family or other half. However for me it was a much needed respite from the demands of the rest of the world, and a wonderfully refreshing opportunity to rest and recuperate that generally left me feeling cheerful and well-disposed towards my fellow wo/man.
Which is sort of the whole point, IIRC.
I finally, after many years, discovered that Christmas is actually quite easy to deal with, and need not be the turgid cauldron of stress that it’s often made out to be in the MSM. It only takes a few small adjustments to one’s behaviour over the period, and suddenly everything will be swimmingly easy.
1 – Avoid shops
Shops and shopping centres around Xmas are a Dantean circle of hell, full of the sharp-elbowed middle classes, wailing children, the elderly (who for understandable reasons move at restricted speed), people with buggies (FFS) and the generally lost and bewildered who dawdle and stop, gawping, at window displays at random moments.
The solution here is to order stuff online and give our postal service a much-needed boost. If you’re prone to getting the Red Card of Absence due to being at work, catch your postman and come to an amicable informal arrangement about dumping stuff in the recycling bin or something. Alternatively, have it delivered to you workplace, or the home of an understanding stay-at-home friend. Or just get on your bike and cycle to the depot. Or drive if you have a car.
If you really must go shopping, minimise your exposure to the commercial arena by planning purchases beforehand, working out which shops to go to, and doing a quick hit-and-run job during your lunch hour. This approach has the added benefit that it’s easier to think about someone and what to get them from the comfort of your sofa with a notepad in hand, than amidst the throngs of consumers.
2 – Avoid Xmas Music
Another reason to avoid shops at Xmas is the wretched music. The crowds are bad enough, however in an inspired attempt to make everyone happy, every single retailer in the land is playing the same selection of roughly twenty ‘Xmas’ songs. From November onwards, you can hear sleighbells, churchbells, children’s choirs and various other noises and lyrics commanding you to be happy (and, by extension, buy more tawdry crap for your loved ones).
Well, most Xmas songs seem to be musical instructions to make merry, apart from the John Lennon song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” which somehow makes me feel like opening a vein with it’s sickeningly mawkish attempt to make you feel guilty for not having had your house bombed and your family shot (“Hey guys, it’s Christmas, and I hope you don’t, like, nuke each other, glass each other, stab each other, plant landmines on each other’s territories, bulldoze each other’s homes, commit racially aggravated assaults on each other, torture each other, carpet-bomb cities or generally be nasty ‘cos, like, life’s really tough and that, for old people and kids too, so stop being scared and I really, really hope you can overcome any negativity for just this one day a year, oh and I’ve got some kids singing to really make you feel shit about being a monstrous warlike creature who through slothful inactivity is directly contributing to the growth and influence of the military-industrial complex, you dig?”).
3 – Turn the TV off
Again, this measure gets rid of the ‘forced merriment’ thing. If you avoid shopping malls and turn the TV off you need never hear bloody Slade for the entire duration of the season (I’ve heard ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ precisely once this year, and that was because someone in the office thought it would be great to use it as their mobile ringtone. Mercifully the resulting ridicule forced the poor chap to change it).
Killing the TV also means you don’t have to put up with the seasonal adverts that stations put on, the seasonal trailers for seasonal programming, endless graphics of snowflakes, santas and reindeer, and earnest Celebrities urging you to have a ‘very merry Christmas’ every fifteen minutes.
Instead of the TV burbling away in the background, I’ve had the radio on, and Radio 3 have been broadcasting various classic and devotional works throughout Christmas Eve. I may be one of those odd agnostic types when it comes to God and whatnot, but give me the Westminster Choir belting out ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ over ‘Mistletoe’ by Justin Bieber any day (or worse still, Little Mix singing about oral sex – for crying out loud you don’t have to do it if you don’t like it, and FYI Polos are available from most streetcorner shops).
Please, don’t get me wrong: I’m not a ‘grinch’ or a ‘Scrooge’ or any of those other thought-terminating cliches. I’d hate the thought of banning Christmas, I just think it gone too far. Rather like Football around the time of the World Cup, it invades everything from the end of October onwards in a desperate attempt to claw as much money and attention from us as possible.
I’d far rather people were given the option to switch off and opt out of the apparently socially-mandatory, media-prescribed festivities. This may seem rather difficult to do, until one recognises that the source of much of this festive stress and ballyhoo really just comes from two sources: shops and TV.
One reason why I like the BBC
This may well sound like an advert for something that does not need advertising, but since upgrading my phone to the HTC Desire S a couple of weeks ago I’ve discovered a number of wonderful things.
Quite apart from Shredder Chess, O2’s free Cloud wifi service, the ability to create/upload web pages to a remote server and wirelessly move files from PC to phone, I’ve found having a smartphone to be a surprisingly culturally enriching experience.
With the podcasts, one can download as many 30-odd minute audio programmes as one has storage space for. Once you have them on your device, you have them for good. They’re just .mp3 files, they can be moved from PC to phone to laptop, they won’t expire, and you can listen to them on a long coach journey, or plug your device into a little speaker and listen to them at night before you go to bed.
Of course, you can do this with an MP3 player as well, but I found that using my MP3 player was mildly spoiled by the faff of turning on PC, starting the Creative Labs Media Centre (or whatever it’s called), downloading files to one’s PC and syncing via USB. The wirelessness of my phone means that I just have to let the podcast software update itself whilst it’s in range of my router, and it will happily update and download any podcasts I’ve subscribed to. It’ll also (optionally) delete old podcasts to save space as well. I’m currently using Doggcatcher on my phone, though I’ve been working on a podcast streaming application for Windows on and off in my spare time.
Digging through the archives
There’s a lot out there. The BBC have archived their Composer of the Week programmes, for example, and so one could potentially download the whole lot and learn about obscure composers from A-Z (the other day I listened to the programme about Scarlatti on the way home from Sainsbury’s). They also have documentaries, science programmes, nature programmes and so on. I found an interesting podcast from a few days ago from Radio 4, ‘In Our Time’, which I’d never otherwise have stumbled upon (let’s face it: few of us read the radio schedules on the off-chance of finding something interesting, and the Beeb doesn’t exactly advertise the presence of such programmes). In a recent episode Melvyn Bragg was discussing lunar exploration, and in yet another podcast from the same programme they discussed the divergence of European philosophical thought between the Frege-influenced, formal-logic philosophers and the wilder, more romantic ramblings of the likes of Nietzsche. Great stuff.
With these podcasts, taken together with iPlayer (which allowed me to listen to a Radio 3 performance of Wagner’s ‘Flying Dutchman’ at a time that suited me) one effectively has an extensive pick’n’choose, portable and on-demand version of the BBC.
And so here’s something I’ve been wondering: does the BBC compile usage stats for iPlayer and podcast downloads? The reason for asking is that viewing figures for TV will also include passive viewing. People often just turn on the TV for background noise, or will watch something specific and then just leave it on. With podcasts and on-demand, the user has made a more conscious decision to access the content. If so, do these figures go towards informing future programme content?
Skyrim, the latest role-playing adventure game from Bethesda, just arrived on my doorstep today. For those who neither know nor care about computer games, this is an event sort of on a par with the release of a new Star Wars movie, and has been greeted by the gaming community in a similarly mixed way.
Most folks are unanimous in praising the game itself, it's depth, graphics and sheer size. However one thing's been bugging a hell of a lot of PC gamers: the interface.
This is the thing that allows you to sort through your loot, fiddle around with your character, buy and sell items from other characters and so on, and it seems it's been ported straight across from the console version to the PC.
Bethesda appear to have forgotten that PC games are played with a mouse and a keyboard, rather than a little controller thing.
I'm not letting this put me off, it's currently installing on my ancient PC, and so I'm going to have some dinner and read the (rather thin) manual whilst waiting.
A cat, yesterday.