Woohoo!

I came home for lunch and am now the proud owner of Civ4 Special Edition! The special edition is awesome! The cover is amazing and the …. wow! I’m installing it now. Look for in depth coverage when I play after I get back from work!

Has a human life become worth more?

Today it was announced that there have officially been 2000 deaths in Iraq. This has been called a benchmark by a lot of anti-war protesters and they want to have 2000 people meet up in Washington DC and act dead to show people just how many people are dead if 2000 people have died. I, as my readers know, am against the war in Iraq because I believe it was a war of convinience, not a necessary war. However, I am very surprised at the big deal over 2000 deaths. In the Vietnam War there were hundreds of thousands of deaths. In World War I there were millions of deaths in just the first few years. Countless wars have caused many more than 2000 people to die and in a much shorter period of time.

So I’m wondering, in the mind of the average American, has human life become more valuable? Whereas we would tolerate millions of deaths we now only tolerate thousands? Or is it because we feel that this war was unjustified? Maybe, with all of our amazing technology, we just figured that we wouldn’t really have that many deaths anymore. In truth, almost no one was killed during the actual war phase of the current situation in Iraq. It’s only been recently while we’ve been keeping the peace in Iraq that so many have died; due, no doubt, to the fact that we don’t know who the enemy is now that it isn’t Saddam’s army.

If I had to guess, based on my own personal views, I’d say that most people are angry not because they feel that a human life is worth so much but because they feel that their family memebers are dying without reason. If Bush hadn’t wanted to go to war with Iraq so badly, we wouldn’t be killing our 18 and 19 year olds. However, now that we messed things up, it would be quite irresponsible for us to leave. Remember what your mother used to tell you? If you can mess it up, you can clean it up.

Hopefully, we can speed up our process to help rebuild the infrastructure so that the Iraqis can have the country to themselves. What if they go through a Civil War? So what?!? I don’t know why that’s such a big deal. Does no one remember what happened in the United States in the 1860s?????? We already forced them to write a constitution in 1/20th the time we took to write our own constitution. Are we not going to allow them to have a Civil War? If that’s what they need, that’s what they need. Again, why are we trying to impose unnatural demands on them?

Fine Wine Takes time….

Wine, the program which allows Windows programs to run on Linux by implementing the DLL structure, has gone beta. How long did it take? Twelve years! That’s right! Twelve! Now, a lot of programs in the open source world are considered to be beta and they run perfectly fine (eg fluxbox and enlightenment). However, Wine has been in Alpha for twelve years! The reason? Windows is complicated as heck to emulate and it isn’t exactly out there and documented like open source projects are. They had to reverse engineer EVERYTHING! But, you may be saying, Beta still isn’t release quality! When I go to Winehq.org the version for download is 0.9. That’s true, but getting out of Alpha was a VERY important stage. You see, while in Alpha they would always fix one bug at the expense of functionality of another. In other words, if you looked on the program compatibility database you might see something like – This worked with 20030406, but does not work with 20040406. From now on, because it’s in Beta, those kinds of continuity breaks are not allowed. It should allow for a much faster development cycle as bug fixes will build on each other, not eradicate each other. I’m building from source as we speak and I hope to be able to post some test pictures later. Lets give the folks over at Wine a round of applause!

And now for something completely different…

While browsing Andrew’s pagethis post of funny news stories. The one I thought was the best was the one about Chairman Mao doing weddings. I went ahead and checked out the yahoo news story he linked to and I thought it was quite an interesting story. Apparently, there is a guy who looks exactly like the late Chairman and he performs at weddings for 500 yuan. I guess that’s the key difference between the way a communist/despotic country is run when compared to a democracy. Apparently people there idolize this guy enough that they would love to have him speak at their wedding. Could you imagine someone dressing up as George Washinton and performing at your wedding?

“I cannot tell a lie, this couple was meant to be together.”

Yeah, I can’t see it either! But I thought I’d share the news story with all the sad/devastating news that’s been going on recently with the hurricanes and Carl Rove. Speaking of Carl Rove – I heard on the news that when he was a young boy, he was beat up by a girl who was a democrat because he had a Republican party sticker on his bike. So that’s why he hates the dems so much!

In the front seat on the bus to heaven

Rosa Parks died yesterday of natural causes. As everyone knows, she was one of the most influential and accidental icons of the United States Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. As she herself has told others, she never meant to actually stand up for civil rights. She had just finished a very long and tiring day of work and simply took a seat near the front of the bus in order to just sit down. As nearly all American school children know, in those days if a white person asked a black person to get out of a seat near the front, they were required to do so. Just like you or I don’t think straight when we’re tired, she actually refused to move on account of being tired. There were, after all, other seats the white person could have taken. The end result? She was arrested and Martin Luther King Jr began the bus strike. Since so many blacks used the busses, their strike was devastating to the bus’ source of income. They caved and eventually blacks and whites could sit anywhere on the bus. Her actions contributed in a large way to the fame of MLK Jr and gave a large boost to the Civil Rights movement.

She made the news again thirty years later when Outkast made a song called “Rosa Parks”. It made vague references to her struggle with the busses, but was mostly just a club song which she found a tad bit vulgar. She asked them to change the name of the song, but it remained.

Rosa, thanks for all you did to change society. Change isn’t always the result of meticulous planning and thanks to you, the US is more tolerant of all races.

Fanatical Civ Playing (by others, not me)

If you want to play Civ4 in the most unique way I’ve ever seen, then head on over to Demogame.civfanatics.net. What do they do? They play a civ game where a group of people act as a president and cabinet controlling what goes on in the game. In other words, I play for a few turns and do stuff based on what we decided to do as a group. I’m guessing that they paint the broad picture and I get to do whatever in the details that gets us in that direction. It is certainly much more involved than the way my brothers and I used to play. It’s very neat and I suggest you check out their page to at least get a feel for how involved their rules are.

Civ-tastic!

Reading on the Civilization IV developer’s blogs, I gleaned the following great tidbits!

On Great People:

“Great People are created at the city level, as each city can generate “great people points” based on conditions and structures in the city. You can affect the amount of people points generated in several ways. One very dramatic way is through the creation of a great wonder. For instance, building the Pyramids will make it more likely the city will generate a Great Engineer, while building Stonehenge will make the city more likely to generate a Great Prophet. You can also generate more great people points by taking city population away from working the land and turning them into specialists. Certain Civics choices can work to make your specialists more productive and that can also have a positive effect on your great people point production.

All Great People share certain common abilities that differ somewhat based on the type of great person. All can be used to immediately research a new technology with the type of technology determined by the great person – Prophets would give you a religion technology like Priesthood, Artists may give you a technology like Literature, and Merchants would perhaps give Banking. All Great People can also settle in a city for a period of time and give a constant boost to that city’s production, based on their type. Finally, all Great People can be used to trigger extra golden ages for your Civilization, with each subsequent golden age requiring more Great People. Each use of a great person consumes that unit and it is removed from the game.”

On Religion (on of the facets I’m MOST excited about):

“Through our tests, it was determined that the optimal number of religions for gameplay purposes was seven (a number that seems to come up quite often when designing versions of Civilization). We then set about making a list of seven important and recognizable religions. After a lot of deliberation and more testing, we narrowed the list down to these: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism.

If you are the first to discover the technology associated with a religion, the religion is founded in one of your cities. Religion can spread passively throughout your cities and even into neighboring cities belonging to your opponents. Establishing trade routes can help spread your religion faster and farther. Certain religious buildings can also help this passive spread but if you want to move the process along, you will want to create missionaries. Missionaries are units that you can move to another city (your own or an opponent’s) and attempt to directly convert that city to your religion.

In addition, having cities that have converted to your state religion can give you monetary and happiness bonuses. You can also get some line of sight benefits, and provide yet another interesting decision in a game already filled with interesting decisions.”

Excellent!

On Civics (the Civ4 replacement for governments):

“In the game, when you first open the Civics page you will see 25 options divided into 5 categories. The categories are: government, legal, labor, economy, and religion. Initially, you will be limited to the lowest levels for each (making you a barbaric, decentralized despotism with tribal labor and practicing paganism), but you will unlock more of the choices based on your research. Changing to new Civic forms will have a dramatic effect on the character and success of your civilization. You’ll be able to boost or cut productivity, wealth, and happiness, make choices to increase/decrease the spread of religion, and even affect your ability to produce and maintain a large standing army.

Of course, it’s not just as simple as picking all the highest level Civic options. A monarch needs to make the tough decisions. Every choice has an upkeep level assigned to it and you could end up with a really great government that puts you in the poorhouse. In addition, your current circumstances might make it impossible for you to use some of the higher-level choices. The good news for all the leaders out there is that you will be able to play around with all the choices and get an idea of the costs and benefits before you have to “Start the Revolution”.

So, the choice is up to you. Will you be a despot or a king? Will your people respond better to a democratically elected ruler or a theocrat? Will you have a free market or is everything state property? Make the best choices and lead your people to their rightful place in history!”

I have to say that I am very excited for the prospects of this game. I love how wonderfully complex it has become to enable a better modeling of reality. However, I just hope that it hasn’t become SO complicated that it won’t be fun to play. Suffice to say, because of all of the interesting features and the way they interact, I may never get to do what I did in Civ3 – develop a strategy that always works. Afterall, the personalities of your enemies are determined by their leaders, something which may change each time I play!

Tomorrow is a great day for war!

Just reserved my copy of Civilization IV Special Edition at EB. You can bet I’ll be all over that sucker tomorrow after work. Hope to have a more substantial blog post later. q;o)

Oh yeah, people are coming back to my blog! About four hundred unique visitors have come in the last couple of weeks.

Cinelerra – Making Movies on Linux

As some of you know from having been to my drop the bomb productions site you can see some of the stuff I’ve done. Of course, I haven’t done much serious stuff yet, but have mostly just done work for others to showcase my editing abilities. However, I am constantly making videos for different reasons. For example, I just completed making a two DVD set video of my own wedding. I also made a graduation video for my brother, Dan, a couple of years ago. So I love to keep up to date with the latest in video software. Other than photography (and lite gaming), it’s my biggest reason for using a computer.

Two things have brought me to decide to explore Cinelerra, a video editing package available on Linux. First of all, I have a commitment to open sourced and free software. Idealogically, it is the type of software I have chosen to support. Therefore, I try to use OSS wherever I can because by supporting the software through use and reporting bugs, I will allow it to get better and better until no one is forced to use Windows just because Linux can’t do task A or task B. Thre is also another reason, which should appeal to a lot of people: software for video and photography editing is VERY expensive. Why? Because usually people use them to make blockbuster movies or photos to sell for advertising. If they’re going to make all that money then Adobe, et al figures they can charge a lot. And that works fine, unless your’e a hobbyist like me. I don’t have the thousands of dollars to buy the latest versions of Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, and all the other programs. So open source helps people like me out. It also helps poorer people who could be the next Tarantino but can’t afford the programs the big boys use.

On Windows I use Sony Screenblast Moviemaker to create my movies. The name sounds like a Mickey-Mouse program, but it literally is the closest anyone can get to professional level software at a fraction of the price. It costs ~$100 vs $600 for Premiere. It used to go under the name of Video Factory when it was owned by Sonic Foundry. Moviemaker is a consumer version of the professional program Vegas Video. Vegas gives the user unlimited video and audio tracks while Moviemaker gives three of each.

Cinelerra is completely free of cost and gives unlimited audio and video tracks as well as the compositor function of Adobe’s After Effects. It’s a VERY good deal. I just have to figure out how to use it at the same proficiency level with which I use Video Factory. In fact, I have a movie script Andrew and I wrote way back in high school which I’d like to produce. I’d like to practive what I preach and not only release it under the Creative Commons License, but also create the film using only open source software.

So, the main purpose of this post is, not only to communicate all this, but to say that I am going to be giving back to the community! That’s right, I know there are Cinelerra tutorials out there, but, frankly, I haven’t found any good ones. So you will get the chance to learn as I learn. The tutorial will be a newbie’s look at Cinelerra. I will posting screenshots and everything! So get ready!

WOW!

I finally had an awesome enough computer to run Gnome and KDE! I was so excited and downloaded Super Karamber, gdesklets, and all the other eye candy I could never enjoy on my old Linux box. (which is now serving as a debian print server) However, having used Fluxbox so long on the old computer caused me to long for fluxbox. There was something I just liked about it. Perhaps it was the inobtrusivness which comes from a lack a large program menu or maybe it was right-clicking for programs or the way I did almost everything in a term window. So I was getting a little tired of having Gnome in Spanish, as I had switched it to about a month ago for fun so I decided it was time to end my session and start a new one. I always wanted to take advantage of having a GUI with a low memory profile since I wanted to begin working on Cinelerra (see my tutorial tomorrow), which takes up quite a bit of RAM.

Boy am I glad I went to Fluxbox! It was always VERY fast to load, but on this box (512 ram 2 Ghz AMD) we’re talking INSTANTANEOUS! Usually Gkrellm had the unfortunate task of telling me that I have 28 MB of RAM left, this time 318! (after opening thunderbird, xchat, gaim, and gkrellm) And that’s another thing! All the programs have been opening fast on my machine, (faster than equiv windows programs in some cases) but all these opened a LOT faster in Fluxbox than Gnome or KDE. I’m glad I came back “home”.

21oct_fluxbox

Save often and Save Well

Linux Uptime: 21:46:52 up 25 days

“Save often and Save Well” that was the motto of one of the best pioneering games of the 80s and 90s, King’s Quest. They spouted that advice because it was easy to make the wrong move and have your character die. If you hadn’t saved, you could lose hours and hours of game play. As anyone knows, it’s just too frustrating in those circumstances to play the game over. The same shoud go when writing a blog post. I had about two paragraphs I had been writing about how I kept forgetting what I had wanted to write so badly while I wasn’t home. One click too many in Firefox killed that sucker. Just like the video games, I don’t feel like writing it again. I’ve always felt that way about writing – unless it’s ridiculously important to me, I just will let it go. On to some of the other things I wanted to write about.

I will be saving often and well in the new Civilization IV which will hit the shelves in four days once this post is available for reading. As I said on my post in Binary World 1.0, I am really looking forward to this latest game in a franchise I’ve been playing since the beginning. One feature of the game that really interests me is the fact that religion will play a much greater role than it has in the past. I think that when the first Civ was created, Sid Meiers and the others gave religion a backseat for two reasons. First of all, it is pretty complicated and the game was already complicated enough for the computers of the time. If you played Civ back then you were pretty impressed with the AI. The second reason I think they left is out is because they probably felt at that point in time that religion had been important in the ancient days, but was now on the back burner. Although I haven’t followed up too much on the Civ developer interviews, I am sure that recent events such as the recent islamo-terrorism have made people question that idea. In previous games, a lot of the religion was tied to Euro-centric religions with things like Artemis’ Temple, Zeus’ Temple, Cathedrals and other such things. In Civ 4, the first Civ to discover a religion becomes the “Mecca” for that religion with others coming to visit. You can create missionaries and other civs of the same religion will be friendly to you while other religions will be more hostile. I am very excited about it!

Another thing I wanted to talk about was a recent move by Google where they updated their maps on Google Maps to no longer listed as a province of China. This put China into an uproar because, as they always assert, Taiwan is just a renegade province; never mind that Taiwan happens to think it’s a country in its own right. Personally, I think China is full of crapy, but don’t tell them that! They get pretty peeved. I’d like to follow this and see if Google bows to the pressure or not.

Life

In our recent move, my wife and mother were on a mission to get rid of as much junk as possible as I’ve been labeled by them as a pack rat. I saved this poem from destruction. I don’t remember anything about it, not even the circumstances in which I wrote it. But here it is for you.

Life
It’s no longer yours.
You can’t do what you want with it.
That’s like coming back to live in/remodel a house you’ve sold.
You see, the owner dictates what happens to his property, as demostrated in Merchant of Venice.
But what do you do if you’re caught in the moment?
Especially with the other being so tempting, so manipulative.
To give in is a breach of contract.
At the same time, you know the judge is forgiving.
As far as you know, there is no limit to the forgiveness.
Do you push it?
Test the limit?
Is one moment worth eternity?
Especially one quickly forgotten.
But…that IS the main question….
the one up for debate.
We have access to law books, but they are written in confusing jargon.
If only the judge would answer you directly.
Yet, he is a witty man.
His favorite means of communication is through metaphors and analogies.
So I stumble through the books looking for the answer.
How do you confront the other without risking it all?
It almost seems like one or the other.
There must be a compromise…
somewhere…
But right now… right now somewhere is as good as nowhere.
Patience is not my strength.
If it is wrong to do it directly, then can it be done indirectly?
Is it now right?
Half as wrong?
Still fully wrong?
I really need to know for I fear jail almost as much as the side effects/penalties.
In such a “now” world, it’s hard to consider eternity.
So now I continue to wonder…
I hope that I will somehow find the answer in the books.
Until that time I simply dreak making the decision.
Which will it be – the moment or eternity?

Eric Mesa