Command Line

Posted on March 5, 2011

As any College of Computing student at Georgia Tech will know, we are really brainwashed into loving Java. I love Java. That said, we are also somewhat brainwashed into using the Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment… think Photoshop but for programming) to develop Java. That’s all well and good, but last week my Eclipse installation decided it was through with all of the abuse. I had it set up to develop Actionscript 3 (the programming language behind Flash) and had plugins for several different utilities for my current Java class. Suddenly, I was completely unable to access my projects. That was obviously unacceptable and I took the opportunity to dramatically shift my programming environment to a text editor and command line.

I’m sure everyone (at Tech at least) has heard someone talk about programming in notepad and that’s basically what I am now doing and enjoying. Instead of notepad, however, I’m using MacVIM: a very powerful text editor with plugins for syntax coloration, formatting standards, and color schemes, among many others. I love it and I’m nowhere near using the full extent of its capabilities. Furthermore, this means learning to use the command line (Terminal, in my case) for version control (Subversion is all that I’ve used thus far), compiling (javac, mxmlc, ant), and file management. I have actually found this to be much more intuitive and sensible for managing several projects at once. The Eclipse environment is very structured but I always felt as if I was doing something wrong. MacVIM + Terminal has been very fun to use and I think it’s safe to say I enjoy programming more since abandoning Eclipse. Well, I can’t quite abandon Eclipse because one of my classes is calling for the use of some Eclipse plugins, but I appreciate not being dependent upon it, great as it is.

Irony of ironies, I have just started a new job with Radiant System’s MyFavEats(.com) and they are a Microsoft shop. I had used Visual Studio before to develop for the Gameboy Advance last semester, but this is a very different beast. In reality, developing this C#/Javascript/SQL/ASP.NET beast from Vim and the command line would be an absolute nightmare. In using Visual Studio I’m beginning to rely upon features that I know exist in Eclipse but that I had just never used. Someday when the scale of a Java or Actionscript project escapes my micromanaging ability I’m sure I will return to Eclipse. For now, leave me to my pretty text editor and my streamlined (if crude) command line. Does anyone have any suggestions or experiences to share about Eclipse/Terminal/Visual Studio?

Nathan

The Sub-Creation

Posted on February 20, 2011

I wrote this on July 15th and, for some reason, never posted it. Enjoy.

I really love my wife. Like, really.

Yesterday evening we ran the Pi Mile at Tech, as we try to do at least once a week. It was a really good run by our terms: we actually ran all except for a flat .17 mile stretch near the middle, we felt totally whipped when we finished, and we’re in pain this morning. Nothing held us back save lack of oxygen on North Avenue and some side stitches. Being able to run together and spur each other on is really awesome. After our run we returned home and had an easy dinner of chicken salad… anyways, this is supposed to be about pillow talk.

We spent the latter part of our evening reading the first installment of the Lord of the Rings (Lori) and playing the second installment of Mass Effect (me). I regret not playing the original Mass Effect first now that I’m getting into ME2, but I’m certainly not stopping now. I realized that both of these activities boil down to engaging in, being edified by, and enjoying alternate realities (or sub-creations, as I’m fond of calling them). Lori presented the idea of a sub-creation to me a while back during a discussion on the merits of video games and it certainly opened my mind about what a video game can be and do. I’ve been jaded for a while after playing World of Warcraft for over a year: I got to the point where I insisted that I was wasting my time altogether and there was no real merit in playing the game. While it’s true WoW turned into a too-serious hobby for me, I certainly don’t believe it is without merit. Blizzard has created an astonishing world in Azeroth (the world of WoW, yes) and exploring it, discovering it, and conquering it is challenging in a fairly unique way. Azeroth reflects the glory of the creation we live in and, therefore, its Creator.

Mass Effect also does this effectively but it is a far more philosophical experience. I’m finding that this particular sub-creation is deeply concerned with people. The lore builds on strange beliefs, differences between alien races, mistakes on a cosmic level, and deep grievances. I initially expected to be bored by the extensive (and excellent) dialog found throughout the game and separating the (also excellent) firefights. Far from being bored, I’m being sucked in by the believability of the characters and the newness of their situations, opinions, vendettas, etc. I’m certain that when I’ve completed the game multiple times I’ll still be left wishing for more,* but that’s by no fault of the game.

Suffice to say, I’m beginning to discover the merit and joy to be found in the sub-creation.

*Fortunately, there will be a Mass Effect 3!

Winter!… Winter?

Posted on February 11, 2011

Right, so. This morning my wife (using the voice that says “I know this isn’t reasonable right now, but seriously”) asked me “Can we move somewhere with weather that isn’t crazy?” Kirk Mellish had just announced that we would see 70-degree temperatures before the end of February, leaving us feeling like the playthings of Georgia’s often-baffling weather.

Fortunately, the high in Forsyth, GA tomorrow is a compromising 57 degrees. This is a big deal because this weekend is RUF’s Winter Conference! That means leaving tonight to drive down to Camp Kaleo for worship, teaching, and fellowship (a.k.a. dodgeball) with other students from around the southeast. Unfortunately, I’ll be joining the students from Emory in doing schoolwork during our free time, but even that counts as something special. RUF Conferences are always fun and encouraging and I am thankful for the chance to escape from Atlanta for a time: my lungs tire of smog.

Global Game Jam 2011

Posted on January 31, 2011

This past weekend I did something I’m not particularly prone to do. Instead of taking it easy and enjoying time with my wife and family I participated in Global Game Jam 2011 at SPSU, conveniently just minutes away from home. This meant gathering with artists, designers, and a lot of programmers to take a theme (“extinction”, in this case) and, in groups, build a video game in 48 hours.

I ended up in a group with several other Techies and a very talented artist from UGA who did all of the art for our game with her Macbook’s trackpad. I came in as a designer/programmer and, after the concept was decided on, spent much of the weekend learning the Unity game engine (and C#… a trivial task with Java and AS3 experience) while the other programmers worked at breakneck speed (our lead programmer, Vu, actually worked himself sick). In the end, my contributions totaled to one script, some simple fixes for other scripts, and design participation. I’m thankful for a talented, well-spirited team who didn’t mind me taking the project and weekend as a learning opportunity.

The final project can be played here (Unity web player required, it will link you if you don’t have it) My high score is 17,926. I’m definitely interested in hearing of any higher scores.

I learned many things this weekend other than Unity and C#. This was my first beginning to end experience working with a team to produce a playable video game. The distribution of roles and responsibilities (probably determined before the weekend, when I joined) worked very well to keep the project moving and enjoyable. It is important, especially with an accelerated timeline, to know who is ultimately responsible for each part of the game to minimize conflicts and confusion. I will end this semester having been on a team for at least three games and at least one other software project (a healthcare organization platform) and I count the experience invaluable. I don’t know how I’ve managed to go so long without learning the ins and outs of team software development (every interviewer asks about it with good reason).

This weekend was an excellent precursor to this semester and the next 18 months for many reasons and I am thankful for all of them. Now, about all of the homework that I didn’t have time for over the weekend…

Snow Bummer

Posted on January 12, 2011

I’m really looking forward to this semester at Tech. Unfortunately, we’re already out three school days due to snow/rain/ice here in the south. Most people seem happy to blame southern drivers for being terrible, which is true, but they also forget that it just doesn’t make sense for governments here to spend money on heavy winter equipment. It is for this reason that Georgia Tech has been closed for the first three days of class and I’m bored and wishing for the sun to come out.

I’m excited about RUF, intramurals, the videogame development SIG, and (surprise) my classes! For the first time in my life I have an idea of what I want to do and, although I’m still somewhat uncertain and hesitant, this semester is an excellent opportunity to jump in up to my knees or so and give video game development a try. I’ve been doing a bit of exploration on my own but more than anything else I want to meet like-minded people and start working towards a publishable game. One of my classes features a semester group project that culminates in publishing a game to Kongregate or other online game portal. This is exactly what I need and want and cannot wait to get started on this semester. Hopefully school will be in session tomorrow and I can attend that class for the first time!