Open source games?

All the recent issues with Digital Rights Management (DRM) have had various effects on the gaming industry. While on-line games and pay-per-play business models like World of Warcraft and recently Age of Conan are one popular way another recent addition is: give the games away for free! Some other MMOs allready use this model and instead charge for micro-transactions in-game to buy virtual items but now Electronic Arts and DICE are about to release a game in the popular Battlefield series for free, Battlefield: Heroes. The game is a simplified version of their original game, a more colourfull and “cartonish” look and to start the game you first have to log on to their website. If this is a new business model or a one time thing remains to be seen.

While we now have free operating systems and enterprise grade software (Open Office, Apache, MySQL, Firefox) we still do not have any “very popular” open source games. The only game programming I’ve tried myself was based on the open source C/C++ library called Allegro. Still no title coded in open source have made the gaming news to the best of my knowledge. Many open source games are “free copies” of exsisting games (Free Craft aka Star/Warcraft, FreeCiv aka Civilization etc), a list of examples can be found on the Wikipedia.

Firefox 3.0 follow up

After a few weeks of Firefox 3 usage I must say I now do not miss Internet Explorer at all. With the add-ons available I’ve managed to customize my web browser exactly how I want it (only a few innovative ideas I have myself are missing).

It’s proven it’s stable and fast, I’ve used it on a mixture of laptops and operating systems (Ubuntu 8.04 and several Windows versions) and everywhere it has worked as perfect as could be expected.

As I earlier argued it has several advantages over Internet Explorer and I will now go in depth on one of the advantages: AddOns.

Firefox AddOns are programs that extend the functionality of the web browser and I will rank the best I’ve come across so far.

Recommended addons
Everywhere I install Firefox I always install 2 particular AddOns, Adblock Plus and NoScript. These two make surfing the web safer and faster and despite NoScript requering some interaction when visiting new sites I do not find this bothers me at all. The ad-blocker works fantasticly with the EasyList subscription that contains some standard filters for ads.

After the two “essential” Addons I usually pick up the IE Tab addon.  With this addon you can choose to open sites or links in a tab that is powered by Internet Explorer. You can also write a filter so that some pages (like, and such) are always opened in IE Tab, this saves you from having to switch browser for sites programmed entierly for Internet Explorer.

If you not only just surf the web but also use FTP the FireFTP addon is worth a look. While being far from the best FTP client I’ve seen it gets the job done and is very easy to use. have been a great tool for bookmark handling and the latest installment of a Firefox addon does not dissapoint. Easy interface and installation, though a word of caution: if you run NoScipt make sure to have on the whitelist for scripts or the installation will fail.

Those where my recommendations for now, since I’m soon on a holiday I don’t think I will have time to check out all the developer addons available but I sure will when I get back to work.

Microsoft Open License

I have a Microsoft Open License, a developers license to many of Microsofts products. Today I wanted to evaluate Crystal Report for user at a customer of mine. While this seems easy enough it took me several hours to manage this “small” task. Here’s roughly what happend.

First off, my agreement with Microsoft recently expired and I had bought a renewal which had to be activated. Fair enough, according to the letter I had recieved I should visit a site at and so I enter the address and waited. Nothing. Was the server down? After waiting again some 20 minutes “for the server to come back” I realized that on the paper it said https and not http. I entered https and there was a reply! How could they not redirect to (or at least inform about) the secure site on the normal address/port?

20 minutes wasted.

Well into the site I found my old agreement, found an “add agreement” link and added the new one. Done and done… or so I thought. I switched over to where I downloaded software before but here I’m still met by a message telling me my subscription is out. The two systems don’t seem synced and after som frustrating clicking about on both sites I conclude that I must enter a “benefit access code” which I’ve never heard of before. I try my agreement number(s) but no success. I go back to the eOpen site and check my agreements and they are still there, one of them active until 2010. I randomly click on every link I can find (and there are tons) in hope of finding where to get my benefit access code and I end up on the most diverse places all over Microsofts network. After about 1 hour of frantic clicking and searching I found a page that obviously had a blocked pop-up window I had overlooked, turns out this pop-up contained a agreement acceptance that I had to sign.

1 hour wasted.

With the agreement accepted I found I still could not access my licenses but I still figured I needed that benefit access code. After some clicking in the menu I found that I could assign my agreement to an employee (…and since I’m self employed I quickly assigned everything I could to myself), I added subsription options and lo and behold, in red text, “benefit access code”! I jump over to the MSDN site, enter my name, e-mail and the magic code…. and it’s rejected. I spend some time trying to figure this one out and decide I’ll wait for an introduction e-mail I’ve been promised by the system (maybe the code wasn’t active yet?).

30 minutes wasted.

An e-mail arrives with the access code, the exact same one I tried before. I hit it again and still I’m rejected. I try a couple of combinations only to find myself locked out of the login-system for entering the wrong information to often.

10 minutes wasted.

During my 10 minutes time-out period (it said 5 minutes but I was by this time furious with the system and had also recieved a survey from Microsoft to evaluate their website which I was delighted to take… I think I answered at least a couple of questions with something other than the worst possible option) I read my mail carefully and found that somehow, somewhere, my first and last names where switched. I entered MSDN again and entered the information again, but with my first and last names switched. Success!

5 minutes not entierly wasted, I did get in now!

Finally into the system. Now, let’s download Crystal Report which is a tool often used with Visual Basic. I search for Crystal Report. No result. I search for Visual Basic and get several options. I choose to download one of them and the download manager installs on the computer (this was not my regular computer so it did not have the downloader installed). After the installation the downloader starts… and stops… and freezes the machine. Reboot. Logout. Go home.

Only a few minutes wasted in the sense that I gave up and went home.

From home I have my work laptop connected and finally manage to download Visual Basic 6.0. I burn the two ISO-files to CDs and I install Visual Basic. All through the installation I search for options to include Crystal Report but find nothing. When the installation is complete and I search through the program options but can’t find it there either. Finally I go back to searching the Internet and find a Knowledge Base article describing it’s position. It feels like a treasure map. On one of the CD’s (though different one for every distribution) 4 levels down in a folder structure an Crystl32.exe is found! I double click it, install it and … where did it go? Poff. Gone? Re-reading the instructions I find that it does not create any shortcuts (why would they start now?) rather I either find it in the directory structure of Visual Basic or in the Add-in menu. Finally… and this last bit only took a little over an hour but at least there was steady progress all the time.

In conclusion… Microsoft, seriously: SIMPLICITY please!

Worse is Better

I recently found an article of an outdated development philosophy called Worse is Better. The term was coined by Richard P. Gabriel in an article about LISP and alludes to the “Less is more” slogan.

In Worse is Better-design simplicity is held above all other traits of development. Wikipedia summerizes the traits:

the design must be simple, both in implementation and interface. It is more important for the implementation to be simple than the interface. Simplicity is the most important consideration in a design.
the design must be correct in all observable aspects. It is slightly better to be simple than correct.
the design must not be overly inconsistent. Consistency can be sacrificed for simplicity in some cases, but it is better to drop those parts of the design that deal with less common circumstances than to introduce either implementational complexity or inconsistency.
the design must cover as many important situations as is practical. All reasonably expected cases should be covered. Completeness can be sacrificed in favor of any other quality. In fact, completeness must be sacrificed whenever implementation simplicity is jeopardized. Consistency can be sacrificed to achieve completeness if simplicity is retained; especially worthless is consistency of interface.

There have been many development methods that have been hyped lately but I’ve never heard about this one before and yet I think that I’ve been involved in several projects where the values of this approach have been used. I dare say many website projects have had this overall strategy. Most of all I think this is a valuable approach while learning a new programming technique (such as a framework or programming language).

HTML 5.0 Interesting changes

On a slow day at work I finally got time to browse through the changes in the propsed HTML 5.0 standard (Editor’s Draft 6 July 2008). The fith version of HTML will come in two flavours, standard HTML and XHTML. More or less the significant difference is that XHTML will not allow any errors in the XML-structure whereas the HTML-version will render the source as best as it can.

There are some interesting new features incoming by the looks of it, many of them seem influenced by what up until now have been solved using scripts. A quick look at the changes in elements shows us that we are handed the tools to further differenciate between layout and semantic.

Removed Elements
Almost all “legacy”1 layout elements are removed such as BASEFONT, BIG, CENTER, FONT, FRAME, FRAMESET, NOFRAMES, S, STRIKE, TT and U. Most of these are hardly used anymore anyway but I guess there are a few sites out there that will miss the FRAMES-support (allthough IFRAME is still around).  There are a few other removed elements as well; ACRONYM (which is replaced by the aptly named ABBR), APPLET (replaced by EMBED like all other embeded material), DIR (replaced by CSS or simply UL/OL), ISINDEX and XMP.

Added Elements
As previously noted the added elements often reflect semantic structures in HTML. HEADER and FOOTER are two examples, these display as their names implies header and footer information in their current context. This can be used to display chapter headings in a document and other similar information. Also new are the elements ARTICLE and ASIDE which are used to define areas of information in the current document. For example ARTICLE could refer to a single post, a blog entry, a written article or similar and has the ability to stand alone from the rest of the content. An ASIDE is used within an ARTICLE to add information related to the article but to be displayed seperately like in a column next to the main article.

NAV is a new element to mark the navigation of a site. For example “previous” and “next” link are typical navigation elements and should be enclosed in a NAV element.

There are many other new elements in HTML 5.0 but those are beyond the scope of this small review I’m afraid. Read the full HTML 5.0 document for further information.

Changed Attributes and Events
The attribute ACCESSKEY is the only one removed and this is likely due to the addition of the KBD element which replaces it’s functionallity. An interesting addition is DRAGGABLE which is a boolean value which makes an element draggable by the user, this attibute is also followed by several new event types (onDrag, onDragend, onDragenter, onDragleave, onDragover, onDragstart and onDrop). This element togheter with the attribute CONTENTEDITABLE  makes a great couple for future on-line applications.

Other new useful events added in HTML 5.0 are for example onMousewheel, onScroll and onResize which all do what they sound like.

All in all HTML 5.0 is no revolution but adds some convenient elements for more detailed semantic structures within HTML. It also takes out legacy formating elements and suggests the use of CSS to solve all the layout issues. Hopefully the drafts will soon become a new standard because of what I’ve seen so far it looks promising.


1. Wow, this is the first time I’ve used the word legacy in a HTML context! The only other (in)famous element I can think of that was removed is good old BLINK.

Featured picture on

Lone HouseTodays featured picture on is a lone house in sunset. Now there is nothing special about the picture in itself other than that it is pretty beautifully set. What is special about it to me is that it was rendered using an open source 3D rendering software called Blender. Images like these used to be rendered by Silicon Graphics dedicated machines running programs nobody would ever have access to, at least not outside of very large companies. Now I’m not saying it’s easy now, but at least it is possible, for almost anyone to start using software to create whatever comes to mind. This can be programming, music, art or possibly just about anything else that people can think of using the computers and Internet for. This is a time of great oppertunities and I hope that everybody who has an idea can use the tools available and create something that will be in museums or history books in one hundred years.

OpenSolaris 2008.05 – interesting but not yet for me.

I downloaded and tried OpenSolaris 2008.05. I had high hopes this would be “as easy as Ubuntu” but with the stability I rememberd from my days at the University or the few Unix boxes I’ve come across during my work. I downloaded the CD to try out on a virtual VMWare machine (latest version 1.0.6).

Downloading and burning a live CD posed no problem and booting it up was as easy as any other LiveCD. A slight dissapointment was the text-interface for choosing keyboard layout and locale, even for being a text-layout which I could accept it was a very boring text-layout.

After bootup the problems began. First thing I noticed was that I had no network. Apparently the Network Auto-Magic (NWAM) wasn’t magic enough to understand my network card. After some digging on the Internet I found the reason was not the network card but rather some other drivers in VMWare that OpenSolaris had problems with. This issue will most likely be gone in a future patch of either VMWare or OpenSolaris.

The first thing that struck me, before the network errors above, was how Linux-like the installation was with Gnome as desktop manager. I of course expected it to be very similar but not to this degree. Much of the “standard” Linux software was included. I was a bit dissapointed that Gnome was the only window manager found on the system, I had hoped to see the “old” look and feel from my University days (allthough I quickly switched to Gnome at the University when that was opened up as an option on the UltraSparcs we where using).

Next I tried to install the distribution to my virtual machine, and not run it as a live CD anymore. This was a very easy procedure, just add all the information needed and then start the installation. Having asked all questions first the installation then completed on it’s own but to me it felt quite slow.

Overall the impressions was mixed. While not impressed by the “first try” I am impressed about what I’ve read about OpenSolaris. The Zetabyte File System (ZFS) available and the support for high end machines with high availability (or so they claim but they are Sun so I take their word for it!). However since it has current legal problems with full integration with the Linux world (OpenSolaris is released under the CDDL license while most of the Linux world are distributed under the currently non-compatible GPL license). I hope in future versions this operating system will bring about a stable open source platform generally available.