30th October, 2006
Martin, the only other PHP developer at Joshua, brought my attention to the excellent Half-Life 2 inspired comice Concerned a couple of weeks ago. I've faithfully been reading it ever since, particularly enjoying the CS themed sections. Inspired by the graphics taken in-game, I went and bought HL2 thinking I'd see if I could get it to run on my MacBook Pro through WINE based CrossOver.
Installation of both Steam and Half-Lfe 2 went flawlessly, but the required online activation got stuck halfway as Steam failed to recognize the CD. Thanks to the help of the Beta Forums, I managed to activate my copy with Parallels and then launch the game in CrossOver.
I've only managed to get Half-Life 2 to run in DirectX 7 mode, which severely limits the graphics quality, anti-aliasing is completely disabled and movable object like crates are incorrectly shaded. Nevertheless, the game is an immense pleasure to play. The game runs very well at full resolution (1440x900) with all available settings (some disabled due to DirectX 7) set to max. If CodeWeavers/WINE manages to get Half-Life 2 running close to flawlessly with the features that my graphics card supports, I'll surely pay for a license. For now I'm using the 60-day trial.
All in all, it's been quite incredible to run one of the most acclaimed Windows only games on my architecture of choice. Here's a compatibility list of windows games.
I played around with the settings some more and managed to run it in DirectX 8.1 mode, improving graphics and speed. The lightning bug is still there and a new one appeared - light sources have a white X on them, like the ones in 3D apps, visible through walls. These are my launch options (set in Steam):
-console -heapsize 512000 dxlevel 81 -novid width 1440 height 900
I've managed to get some much needed work done on Tape5. I've cleaned up the code (it can be an advantage to get away from the code for a couple of weeks), seriously improved security (don't worry, it was never meant to be released as it were) as well as a bunch of other improvements.
Working in London is obviously putting some strain on our self-imposed deadline of 'fall 2006'. Should we slip into 'winter', so be it. Andreas and I are both working on this in our spare time and we won't go live until we feel we have a complete product that others will enjoy as much as we've enjoyed building it. There will be no official beta. Still, we are very keen on getting it 'out there', getting feedback and improving it.
I've told the agency handling my potential contract with Tired and Tested that I won't be available before 13 November. I really want to finish my current project properly, not feeling I've forced it through and left Joshua with a mess, even if T&T are eager to get started. I was told they might hire another freelancer, which really would be disappointing as I believe the project would be interesting, challenging and fun to work on. We'll see how things evolve.
Whatever happens next, I've really enjoyed my stay with Joshua Interactive as senior PHP developer. The people there have been friendly, competent and trusting and the projects I've worked on have been both interesting and demanding.
One interesting outcome of building website backends for a living is the realization that I have much easier seeing myself continuing to do this than working as an (electrical) engineer. Not that the thought is completely new to me. I suspect part of the reason is that I'm much more familiar with the world of software than with that of hardware. I've definitely come to the conclusion that I will be taking as much programming related courses as possible when I get back home (I've actually spoken with Jacob about this before and we were both pretty clear that we probably should've studied software engineering rather than electrical. Fortunately, the system at DTU allows for great flexibility).
Another reason that the developer role seems a better fit is that I truly enjoy building software. The power of being able to translate an idea or thought into reality, into a real, functional object (as much as software is real anyway) in a process involving only logic (and pen and paper), not bricks and metal is almost magical. It is, in some regards, very close to the art of writing and as such a god-like act, capable of creating entire new worlds (e.g. computer games).
I have a similar enthusiasm when writing fiction (though it's been a long time since I've done that) or having an associative conversation with someone (one not constrained by a specific topic), or even making up a situational joke. I enjoy seeing patterns, having (sometimes crazy) ideas, the feeling of suddenly understanding a topic on a whole new level.
Being paid to do what I (also) like is a tremendous privilege.