Catchup: Code

4 May 2011

I mentioned in the last post there were 2 large things I’d been working on recently. Since February I’ve been busy trying to get my life back on track; I’ve felt a bit lost since leaving uni, struggling to find work and I kind of gave up on myself for a while. But I can’t live with that outcome. Specifically I’d like to get back into software development. I’ve dabbled with various languages and bit of web dev stuff on and off over the past few years since graduation, but this time I’m taking a visit back to where it all started; Java.

I’ve been working through the exercises in a textbook I found online, Introduction to Programming Using Java . It’s probably the equivalent of 1st/2nd year stuff but I feel that’s what I need right now. I need to stop taking the skills I have for granted, it’s one thing to always look for new things to learn but I have a tendancy to become overwhelmed by the volume of stuff I don’t know while thinking the things I do are insignificant and not worth taking credit for. Somewhere wrapped up in the last 10 years I picked that thought up and I haven’t been able to shake it since.

So back to basics. Some of the excercises I found really easy, so that’s reassuring. Not that I want to develop an ego either, there are others that I’ve struggled with. The Gomoku game in chapter 7 took me a whole day to figure out, and they provided the win-checking algorithm in the question so it really was just GUI layout and program flow stuff. I got there in the end, amidst much swearing and blank looks of confusion when I tried to handle too much of the problem at once instead of breaking it down.

But I guess this is that thing that we call “practice”. I can tell to myself you should know this stuff by now, 3 year course, yaddayadda but at the end of the day who learned anything by telling themselves off for not remembering it? I’ve started to forgive myself a little. It’s a habit that’ll take a while to shake, but it’s a start.

My biggest enemy is time, it’s taking a while to get through fitting this in around a day job . I’m on chapter 8 now but I imagine it’ll be a few more months before I see the back of the book.

In other java-related news, in March Brickfall got a Prehistoric makeover

Prehistoric Brickfall - WIP Screenshot

Yes I know I just made it look pretty, but it was a fun train journey home sketching that lot out. Not that it’s finished yet, it must’ve been a late night when I last put it down as there’s no way I’d let an ugly white pixel cutout mistake like that get past me usually. I’ll stick it up in an applet when I get it running properly. With 6 chapters of exercises to work through it might be a while though…

Why dinosaurs? Well it dates back to another code project I was working on in a few years back that never saw the light of day. I had a go at developing for the Nintendo DS, using the DevKitPro/libnds toolkit libraries that some bright sparks built so they could make their favourite toys do things they usually wouldn’t. And that game was Prehistoric Rebound

Prehistoric Rebound - WIP Screenshot

Or it would’ve been, if I’d ever finished it. For me, the lure of completing a project usually lies in its end use, and the thought of building a game which (let’s be honest) no one will ever play kind of made me lose interest and turn my attention to other web development things. Rebound is built in C, while it tastes like Java it isn’t all that familiar to me so it took a lot of work to get it into the state it’s in now.

I got the ball bouncing around and the bats colliding and then lost it somewhere around getting the ball to travel across both screens. I eventually found out the answer. The DS handles the contents of both screens separately so has a separate memory bank of sprite data for each. It’s impossible to pass one sprite between the two screens; instead it has to be stored in memory twice, once in each bank, and its’ visibility toggled as necessary to make it look like the sprite is passing from one screen to the other. But I never went in to finish that part or the scoring display, and it has gathered dust ever since.

That still didn’t answer the question “why dinosaurs?”. Easy. Because dinosaurs are just awesome.

Aside from continuing with the Java stuff, my next code adventure will be overhauling the image gallery into something that properly handles noscript, rather than the hack I chucked in at the last minute which looks like a total mess when the page is running slow. Maybe something like Lightbox.

Sunny Days and Sunshiney Rays

3 May 2011

Oh dear.

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that it’s been a bit quiet in here recently. I’ve spent the past 4 months working on large ongoing things… I suppose you could call them projects but they’re not really, not in the usual sense I’d use the word. Between all the reading and the studying there hasn’t been enough time for much else, which includes the kind of craft/ art related projects which usually end up on these pages. And thus, there have been no updates to this site either.

This bothers me. I built this site with the intention of displaying work in progress and all the things creative I’ve been up to. But after sinking 4 months into other things I’ve realised there’s far more to my life than pretty little trinkets. While they are all cutesy and fun I think it’s time I increased the scope of this blog to cover more than just things I’ve made or details of all the little things I did to get there. I feel there’s something missing, something human that doesn’t quite come across when you spend all your time just talking about beads and wire.

Time… it’s a funny thing. I’m writing form the far side of 2 long 4-day weekends, the kind where most people would plan days out, go away or spend time out in the sunshine with friends and family. But not me. Instead I’ve had 2 of the most productive weekends I’ve had all year. From the second came the new site layout you see before you now. Considering I’ve been putting it off since December, getting the whole thing illustrated and implemented in 2 days was a bit of a surprise. There’s still a lot of other structural changes to do, the gallery script needs a complete overhaul among other little tweaks but I think it’s best to spread those out into an ongoing thing rather than dedicating solid weeks to it. I’m glad I finally got it started.

For the next week I’ll be updating with a few large catchup posts of all the things I’ve been working on that didn’t quite make it on here at the time. Despite being busy I still have a few odd crafty bits and pieces I’ve made in between working on big important things, which will also get a post of their own. Because that’s just how I roll now.