Happy Memorial Day

or Happy Spring Bank Holiday if you are in the UK.

Today is the unofficial start of the Summer vacation season here in the United States, and a big day for having gatherings with friends and family. We do have some good friends coming for a visit, and the whole (immediate) family here, so we have that second part covered (for the day). As far as vacations are concerned, though, it looks like we will be so busy for the next few weeks, at least, that getting away from the office will be unlikely. The time when vacations are most needed are often the same times that one is least able to afford either the time or money (or both) to take them.

The weather is just about perfect today, although thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon and evening (which is par for the course for Summer in Michigan). Unfortunately, I begin today hobbling about due to a badly bruised left knee suffered in a soccer game last Thursday. The swelling and pain are subsiding a bit, so I do not think that anything actually broke. (I played most of the second half after the injury, only realizing the extent of the problem after the game ended.)

I have a large pile of technical notes, plus some anticipated announcements, ready for this blog. Similar to the vacation paradox, the point when one finds the most useful material is the time when one is being productive, rather than taking the time to actually compose blog posts.

Will work on that…

That New Computer Smell

or, Information Overload on Overdrive.

A couple of weeks ago, I got the first brand new primary development system I have bought in many years. Don’t get me wrong: I have purchased a large number of systems over the years as laptops, servers, secondary (Mac) development systems, and office/test machines. Through the years, though, the trusty dual-processor system that sits on (well, next to) the desk in my office has remained stable. Its last major upgrade was nearly six years ago, when I maxed out the processing capability of the motherboard. (There have certainly been several video card, hard drive, and disc burner upgrades in the interim.)

According to the PassMark CPU Benchmark Charts, the new system (quad core) processor should be approximately 10 times the combined speed of the processors in the older system. I could have assembled a crazy system that would be more than thrice this speed, but instead decided to opt for a pre-built computer from a major supplier, as I could not (right now) justify the extra time it would take to physically put together the hardware. Installing all of my development software would be time-consuming enough.

Speaking of software installation, I had planned to take several days to really get the new development environment tweaked to my satisfaction. The most basic functionality, the operating system, gave me the most difficulty, although it is probably due to one or more driver issues rather than the OS itself. I had to clock the processor below specification to keep any of multiple Windows installations (XP, Vista, and Vista 64) from blue-screening, although I restored the speed after installation and the system has been rock solid ever since. (That is “solid” as in does not crash, though Vista exhibits several reproducible bugs.)

The thing upon which I had not planned was the backlash of extra work and interruptions that come from taking a few days off to configure a new system. Wow! My last week really needed a time defragmenter, as it seems that I could never get more than 15 minutes on any single task before another issue demanded my attention. The fact that my projects build from 3.5 to 5 times as fast never really came into play.

Now that (almost) everything is working as I prefer, and with the trusty system just a double ScrollLock away, I should be able to take full advantage of the promised extra productivity… I hope.

Anniversary of first internet E-mail Spam

or, Never trust any Spam over 30 years old.

On (or about) May 3, 1978, a representative of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), THUERK at DEC-MARLBORO, sent an Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE), a.k.a., Spam message, though neither term had been coined yet. The message was an invitation to view a demonstration of new DEC hardware at a couple of locations in California, and it was sent to nearly every address on the West Coast.

There was, of course, a huge backlash against the message. Interestingly, not only were there objections to the commercial content of the message, but in the days of connection speeds being measured in baud and kilobytes/second, the size of the message header was a significant load on resources.

This event predates my first hands-on personal computer experience by several months, and it also predates the birth of many people now in the game industry. It is a shame that we still do not have a solution to the problem (which has reached levels as high as 4 spams per second for extended periods on our server here). Unfortunately, most attempts to stem the flow, however well-intentioned, tend to simply make delivery of legitimate messages less reliable.

The time is ripe for a sender pays (recipient earns) system. At an average of upwards of 3000 spams per day, that could be a nice bit of residual income for us.