The Comic Quiz!

following up on the hugely popular computer game quizes I made some months ago, I bring you… the comic quiz. How many of these strips do you recognize?

The list is mostly compiled on the basis of what I read every day. Yes, that’s a lot. No, that’s not even all of it. Click on the image above to get to the quiz. And let’s hear which strips you thought should have been included!

[ media | Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa – O Morro Nao Tem Vez ]

Windows 98 is sh%t.

Last friday I got reports that on Windows 98, my new patches for the longest journey don’t load their savegames. Somehow, the game didn’t seem to find them. I had one player send me his saves, and verified that they were healthy, so it was definitely the loading.

I found the bug this morning: Windows 98 doesn’t like doubel backslashes in a filename. So if I write C:\TLJ\\Save1, that won’t work, because it’s not the same as C:\TLJ\Save1, and although all later versions of windows seem to just collapse multiple backslashes if they aren’t at the beginning of a pathname, Win98 doesn’t. So yes, I’m guilty of adding that bug, and I feel slightly stupid for that, but not too stupid.

The interesting part about this was that it was nigh impossible to find a Windows 98 machine in the house. Noone has that stuff anymore, and frankly, I’d feel bad about connecting it to the network. So I installed MS Virtual PC, and in the Virtual PC I installed Windows 98. And in that Windows 98 I installed the longest journey for testing, and then Visual Studio and everything else I needed for debugging.

And I did all that through remote desktop, because I was sitting at home. Everything worked like a charm. That virtual machine stuff is pure magic every time I play with it, and so is remote desktop. Fun!

[ media | Corpse Bride Soundtrack – Victor’s Piano Solo ]

Small cosmetic changes

I made some cosmetic changes to the site. Most importantly, I hae a working blogroll now (see the “Blinkenlights” section on the right). Much better than the hand-kept linklist I had before, and easier to update, too.

[ media | A-Ha-Halfway Through The Tour ]

When your sister says you’re fat, you better believe h

When I visited Anke in Budapest, she said one thing that really got under my skin: “Enno, you’re getting fat”. There’s nobody like a sister that tells you the painful truth she sees. I love her for that. And it’s not like I didn’t know it already. I was dragging few too many kilos with me on the bike, up the mountains, everywhere. 5 kilos extra feels like a lot of weight when I climb, and compensating for it with strength or technique seems like such a waste.

So early in September, I started taking the gym more serious. I went more often, and in October even switched from my half hour of running to the hour-long cycling sessions. And it makes a difference. Being the geek I am, I have of course logged it painstakingly. And gnuplot is my friend:

My initial goal was to get to 74 kilos for Christmas. It looks like I’m going to miss that goal, but not by much. And more importantly, my system works. I am losing weight, not too fast, and I am neither starving myself, nor am I totally knackered from the exercise. In fact, I feel much fitter now than I did before I started this. I still want to get down to my ideal weight (which would be around 72-73 kg), which is what I weighed 5 years ago when I first moved to Norway. That extra weight is what you get from deadlines, overtime food and an office job, and I know I got hit less hard than some others.

I exercise 3 times a week at the moment, for between one and two hours after work. The gym is just around the corner, and while it isn’t the cheapest one, it’s nice, bright and friendly. I love to go there, and that helps a lot. When the alternative is working or going home, exercising most of the time seems more appealing, and that helps a lot.

And now that I’ve dared go out and share intimate details like my weight, I’ll probably talk about my whole “getting in shape” project more in future posts. Wish me luck with this.

[ media | A-Ha – Celice ]

How much fun at work is healthy?

You know you’re working in a job you really love when you never look at the watch because you’re waiting for 4 o’clock so you can leave.

Actually, in the almost 5 years of my current job, it’s happened to me once that I can remember of. It was fairly recently, and that day I stayed until after 5 anyway because I found something cool to do.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always just fun and games, and I’m not the kind of person that says “Thank god it’s monday”. Some mornings, staying in bed seems more inviting than going to work. And occasionally, I find myself having to do things that are boring. Looking for someone else’s bug in a piece of convoluteed, hard to track code. Most of the time though, the reason I don’t like doing what I do at that moment is that I’ve got half a dozen ideas for what I’d rather be working on.

There was a time when I couldn’t wait to get to work, and couldn’t make myself leave in the evenings. And more often than not, I’d be working on weekends. It’s definitely healthy that I got over that, but sometimes I miss those days. But today I can actually have several good things, and work is still one of them. Geocaching, working out, firends, movies and climbing are others.

Movies I’m going to see this week

It’s time for the Oslo Film Festival, and I’ve already got my festival pass and a couple of tickets. The rest of the week is booked. filems I’m going to see:

That’s more cinema than I usually get in half a year 🙂

[ media | Troublemakers – Fatigue Universelle ]

10 things I don’t miss about Germany

Jon Lech Johansen (most commonly known as DVD Jon) wrote in his blog about things he doesn’t miss about Norway, and while I know he’s right on some points, they seem minor. I’d like to see his list about the US when he leaves. It’s really only after you leave a country that you realize what you can do without.

So, here’s my list of things I don’t miss about Germany (sure to be less widely read than his list):

  1. The weather. In northern Germany, winters are depressing gray affairs, with maybe one week of snow, tops.
  2. Dubbing. All foreign films shown on German TV or in the cinemas are dubbed. As a result, most Germans speak terrible English and they miss out on everything but the Hollywood mainstream. The same goes for other media, too: Foreign-language books, computer games or DVDs are rare, and you usually have to shop for them online.
  3. The Smokers. Not only do Germans smoke in restaurants, malls and other public places, but also in your office, on trains, in airconditioned buildings or even schools. Also, advertising for cigarettes is still legal.
  4. Church Tax (7% of Income Tax).
  5. Underpayed jobs in the Game Industry. There’s hardly any game industry to speak of, and everyone I know that works in it is getting about half what I’m paid here.
  6. 11.5% Unemployment.
  7. The Discounters. An often heard Mantra is “stingyness is cool” (Geiz ist Geil), and Germans will choose cheap over good. Not because they’re all poor, but because the idea of paying too much for something is shameful.
  8. Phone sex advertising on TV. These are openly pornographic and obscene. They also seem to be paying well, because there’s virtually no other advertising after 20:00.
  9. Two big political parties that are short on ideas for turning the country around, and apathetic voters that will vote for them anyhow.
  10. Bild.
[ media | Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd – Samba Dees Days]

Miranda and ICQ avatars

I had the damndest time figuring out why my ICQ avatar was not showing up for other people. Since it isn’t obvious, I’ll post it here, someone else might find it useful:

  • make sure your avatar image is less than 4 KB.
  • make sure it is no bigger than 64×64 pixels.

ICQ seems to take both these restrictions serious, and Miranda doesn’t give a hoot. Less than 4 KB means that JPEG is most likely the format you’ll want to use unless you have a simple drawing for an avatar.

Speaking of Miranda: I tried out some other messengers lately, and they all fall short on one of my basic requirements:

  • Full keyboard control (open contacts, open message, select contact all without mouse)
  • Avatar support
  • Clean look (Win2K classic, preferably)
  • Support for Jabber, ICQ and MSN
  • Compact, no-nonsense contact list

Neither Trillian nor Gaim were satisfactory. Gaim isn’t so bad, but I hate their UI controls, and the contact list needs to much space per entry. Trillian completely lacks keyboard controls, has no support for Gaim and I didn’t think I’d have to include “searchable history” in my list of requirements, but the fact that it hasn’t got one taught me to expect nothing and everything. Of course, if I chose to pay, I’d get the latter two, but still no keyboard shortcuts.

[ media | Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa-So Danco Samba ]

XBOX 360 preview night

Last night, Microsoft invited us to preview the XBOX 360. The whole thing was arranged in a big appartment, with couch space for everyone and 4 consoles with 2 controllers each. There was free pizza, chips, beer & soda, and we got to test a few of the launch titles. This sounded like a lot of fun.

I think the whole thing was mostly a demonstration of how to throw good money after bad in PR. The MS head office probably had the (good!) idea behind this event. “Let’s invite potential early adopters, let them play in a fun atmosphere, and they’ll tell their friends to buy a 360”. The idea is that we and all the other people they’ve invited over the past weeks are the kind of people that our friends look towards when making buying decisions, and that’s probably correct. So, good idea!

But: If you do that, you should follow it through all the way. The two guys that oversaw the event were not really trying to steer our experience there in any way, which, from a PR standpoint, is bad. For the same reason we do PR tours in AO instead of letting the press figure out the clunky interface and grind through a backyard, these people should have made sure we see the good bits, and gloss over the bad stuff. I mean, this is basic stuff: We were obviously all a bit disappointed with the oversaturation, and the excessive use of effects that try to show off the hardware, but end up making the games worth. They should have addressed that, said something about this being launch titles, whatever – and made sure we talked about something else. Focus on the good hthings instead: DoA 4 was extremely popular, they must have noticed that, so they should have focused on it, told us what the 360 did for that game, what new stuff we could expect, etc. that make us want to ditch the old one and buy a new 360.

Okay, so much for ranting about the PR work.

Kameo: I liked Kameo, becasue I’ve been looking forward to playing another Rare game, but I also found it more
confusing than their previous titles. That mayy just be because I got ditched right into the game with no level
in which to learn the controls.

Mutant Storm: This was the best title I played, although it was only a demo version, and they had not unlocked the full title through XBOX Arcade (why? the “buy this game!” nag screen was annoying as hell, and really didn’t
help in selling the console). Great game, though. If the XBOX arcade stuff takes off and produces quality titles like this, that might be the reason for me to buy the console.

Project Gotham Racing: There are bviously a couple of effects here (motion blur, car paint) that the 360 does better, but the game itself is lame. If this is the quality of the launch titles, in terms of gameplay, then it pays to wait half a year until the second wave of games comes out. I can kind of see why it’ necessary to artificially create the impression that they’ll sell out on launch day.

DoA 4: INot my type of game. I can report that button-mashing gets you nowhere, which is probably good news for the fans of the genre. Judging from the popularity of it, this seemed to be good, but I guess you need to judge for yourself whether a new console is justified when you compare it with DoA 3.

Perfect Dark: My initial impression was that in terms of photo-realism, this game is a step backwards. The graphic effects make the game look worse. Mickael said something like “good effects are like makeup: you shouldn’t notice them”. This game is a cheap 40-year old hooker trying to look 20 by putting on a bucket of makeup.

Conclusion: We can safely wait to see what the PS3 and Revolution looks like, there’s no rush to buy the 360. Which is the opposite of what this event was supposed to tell us, and I’d say in Microsoft’s book, the whole
should be considererd a complete waste of money.

The Good: Free food and beer, and a nice atmosphere to play games in.

The Bad: No vegetarian pizza (how hard is this?), bad PR, the free sweaters were all L or XL.

[ media | Bill Mays – An Ellington Affair ]