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Am I Hardcore?

Ok, so that was my first ride in some kind of snow. It's wasn't the best thing ever (imagine having your face, hands and front of your legs doused with water barely above the freezing point, then hanging out in the wind outside), but it wasn't the worst thing ever either. Icing snow accumulating in my glasses and my brakes having less and less effect (the pad themselves weren't gripping, the tires seemed all right, surprisingly) was probably the worst, but I guess that's more a factor of the precipitation. My gloves are not nearly resistant enough to wind and water, I'll have to see to that.

And I still have to go to the bike shop before the end of the month for a free tune up.

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(Almost) Got a New Bike

Today, I apparently felt very optimistic.

You see, Monday I went to Cycle Technique and asked them if they had some used bikes, having in mind of getting a rain/winter bike. Turned out they did, their summer rental bikes, they were pretty nice, and (allegedly) they had a large one that would fit me. I figured I'd give it a thought, then decided it was a good idea, and went on the Tuesday. I figured I'd walk there, pick up the bike, then ride to work. Except that large was actually a medium. So I walked to work instead.

Today, I figured I'd head over to Beaudry metro, check out Vélo Espresso and Revolution Montreal, for sure I should be able to get a decent used ride between the two of those, right? Well, no. Well, maybe. But mainly no. I had forgotten that Revolution mainly does custom built bikes, meaning that, no, they did not have anything for sale right there. Vélo Espresso had a used bike, but while it could have done, it was quite used. On their main floor, they had this rather weird bike, a Norco VFR 3 Internal. It's a fairly sporty frame, although not too aggressive, and it actually has space and lugs for fenders and racks (although I hear that it's not always the best fit ever), but it has an internal hub and a chain cover. An internal hub and a chain cover, but no fenders? I keep seeing utility bikes that have fenders, racks and lights, but no chain cover nor internal hub, and this bike has the reverse? Well, uh, it so happens that this is the exact set of things that you can't add, so I guess that's cool? I tried it out around a few blocks, and while it's not nearly an upright riding position, it's still surprisingly relaxed. It also comes with clipless pedals and clip-on platforms like those I already have?!? What a weird bike!

After that, I went to ABC Cycles & Sports, but it was closed (only on Wednesdays, argh!). I stopped by Brakeless, since it was just down from it, but they only had the one fixie, it seems more trendy than a place I'd actually want to get a bike from. I then headed over to Le Yéti, where I had a rather informative chat, and saw a ridiculously fancy German bike (I think? don't remember the make/model), which, while complying with pretty much all my requirements, and piling on disc brakes on top (because I really like brakes that work well), is also almost three grands, although it's now on sale at a bit past two grands. Uh, tempting as it is, I'll have to pass.

After that, La Bicycletterie JR, Sport Dépôt, and Pignon sur Roues. The latter had an interesting bike, the Louis Garneau Cityzen One, but is oddly missing just a chain cover (even though a blurb about the bike in Vélo Mag claims there's one?). Why is there almost no bike with chain covers?

I ended up going back to Sport Dépôt, and after some pondering, getting a Marin Belvedere. I had already spotted that bike from some research on the web, and while I knew they had Marin bikes there, turns out they pretty much only had this one, 20% off, so it was a happy coincidence. But... Their mechanic was off today, so they couldn't prep the bike, so I did not ride to work, once more.

Tomorrow, I shall ride home on my new ride! There's no stopping me! They may try, and Jeff might try to jinx me (I beat his Space Invaders high score to ward it off), but I'll be riding back tomorrow, rain or shine, and there'll be no stripe down my back if it's raining!

Old Fogeys

I've become a member of Communauto last week, and combined with getting my bike back, means that I'm at what is going to be my peak mobility for the next little while.

Used Communauto a couple of days later to go to a Quadra hackfest at Rémi's, with slajoie as well. I've had a surge of interest in Quadra, but it is a delicate thing to do: we need to release a new stable version before we can hack on the "next generation" version, and while we're getting very close now, there is definitely a momentum thing that can be lost just too easily. And now the kind of things left are packaging related, which isn't the most exciting (so help us out, dgryski!). We've got interesting ideas for future development, but we can't really do any of this for now, since it would make merging from the stable release very annoying (and it already isn't too wonderful at times)...

Getting my bike back meant going to work on bike, and that is ridiculously quick, on the order of six to seven minutes. That's faster than the metro, by a lot (that's only a bit more than the average waiting time, and I don't have to walk to Lionel-Groulx). In my opinion, that's not even good exercise, I hardly have time to break a sweat even if I go fast, so I might end up taking detours on good days (the Lachine Canal bike path is nearby).

Related to Quadra, I've been looking at SDL (which the next version of Quadra uses instead of its internal platform) and SDL_net. It's funny how game developers are so conservative sometimes! I don't know much about 3D games, but in 2D, people seem to develop more or less like they did on DOS more than 10 years ago, which was very limited back then, due to DOS not having much of a driver model. Because of that, since anything more than page flipping and waiting for the vertical retrace (using polling PIO, of course) is specific to every video chipset. A game wanting to use accelerated blits had to basically have its own internal driver model, and when a card was not supported, either the game would look bad (because it would use a software fallback), or would not work at all. In light of that, most games just assumed a basic VGA card (the "Super" part is made of vendor-specific extensions), using 320x200 in 256 colors (like Doom), or 640x480 in 16 colors (ever used Windows' "safe mode"?), with maybe a few extra extensions that were extremely common and mostly the same.

Then, DirectX appeared and all the fancy accelerations became available to games (window systems like X11 and Windows had their own driver model, but could afford to, being bigger projects than most games, and were pretty much the sole users of the accelerations, so they existed). What happened? Game developers kept going pretty much the same way. Some tests by Rémi back then found that using the video memory to video memory color key accelerated blits (with DirectDraw), getting hundreds of frames per second, where the software equivalent could barely pull thirty frames per second on the same machine. About an order of magnitude faster! You'd think game developers would be all over this, but no, they weren't. They were set in their ways, had their own libraries that did it the crappy way, and didn't bother, overall. The biggest user of 2D color keyed blitting is probably something like the Windows desktop icons.

Then, 3D acceleration appeared, and they just didn't have the choice. The thing is, this hardware still isn't completely pervasive, and especially for the target audience of a game like Quadra, who like nice little games and won't have big nVidia monsters in their machines, so using the 3D hardware for that kind of game would leave them in the dust. Nowadays, DirectDraw has been obsoleted and is now a compatibility wrapper on top of Direct3D, so oddly enough, we're back to 2D games having to avoid the acceleration.

Thankfully, in the meantime, the main CPUs and memory became much faster, so you can do pretty cool stuff all in software, but it's kind of a shame, I see all of this CPU being wasted. Think about it: Quadra pulls in at about 70% CPU usage on my 1.5 GHz laptop, so one could think it would "need" about 1 GHz to run adequately, right? Except it worked at just about full frame rate (its engine is bound at 100 frames per second) on my old 100 MHz 486DX! Something weird happened in between...

Game developers seem to be used to blocking APIs and polling so much, it spills over in SDL_net, which uses its sockets in blocking mode, and where one could easily lock up a server remotely by doing something silly like hooking up a debugger to one of the client and pausing it. Maybe unplugging the Ethernet cable would do it too, for a minute or two, until the connection timed out. How awful...

Crane Lifting a Jackhammer

So, there finally was proper partying at our place, which was quite the housewarming! Thanks to our guests for an awesome evening!


Crane Lifting a Jackhammer
Originally uploaded by Pierre Phaneuf.
Some people were a bit incredulous of the, uh, interesting method that the demolition crew has been using on the other buildings of our complex, but you can see a picture of them in action right here. No one seems to have been hurt up to now, but when swinging a jackhammer from a crane, it can't be too long...

I discovered that a new add-on to our garbage can that azrhey picked up shares a trait with Superman: it gains its powers from the Sun! Add that to the list of our home appliances that are candidates to take over the world.

After hosting a gaming night (we don't stop for nuthin'!), now it's one of those times where we stuff ourselves with chocolate and other things, as azrhey's parents, my mom and my sister come to visit. Hopefully, our toaster oven won't kill them or something...

It's Coming Up...

In case you forgot, daylight savings aren't only a huge pain in the ass, but also a big waste of money. That's $8.6 millions for Indiana only.

Just the amount I'd save on Advils would be worth it for me.

New Year 2008

So, a new year again, eh?

There was (in alphabetical order) Apples to Apples, Doctor Who, drinking, flashing (getting to be a NYE tradition!), kissing, making out, and so on. This can't possibly be all that bad, now, can it?

I went to the party of maery, Patrick and iangurudata with azrhey, liberation_now, obskura, scjody and tygrbabe, which was pretty cool. There was this thing with a clove orange going around, which was kind of fun, but provided me with ample occasion to face my shyness. I tried to do good, but I mostly fumbled and ended up feeling rather dorky, it seems. I reflected on the delta of going from partying in Barcelona to partying in Verdun for NYE, but while the venue might be a bit sketchier, being in good company more than makes up for it!

azrhey and I went back to liberation_now and tygrbabe's place after the stroke of midnight, for a nice evening of hanging out and playing games (Apples to Apples!). There, it was eventually discovered that Bailey's and wine are actively evil when mixed together. Very evil. As in, we all ended up sick, to various degrees. Eurgh. Still, a pretty awesome night.

We were going to go to my dad's for dinner the next day, but as it turned out, the snowstorm (combined with a nasty hangover) put a stop to that.

Invasion of the 450

Whew, I slept really well these last two days: 23 hours in two nights! This was making up for a week of bad sleep, and was quite welcome!

Saturday, after shopping for some items for our soon-to-be new apartment (w00t! I can't wait!), we headed over to the Maison de Jade, in the evil place that is Boucherville. There, we had a gathering of the evil members of the former Club Info of the Cégep de St-Hyacinthe, ate (quite!) evil food and laughed evil laughters with our bellies full. This was (as usual) organized by pdage, evil space burger overlord (retired).

The next day, I shot a bunch of people to celebrate, and also found out that slajoie is now on LiveJournal (better late than never!).

Flying In, Flying Out

My Sunday in New York was fine. It was rainy, but I had excellent coffee (Gimme! Coffee, and also accidentally tasted someone else's coffee, oops!), excellent pizza, played games all afternoon (Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is fun, I was hilariously bad at Guitar Hero), and had most excellent italian food at Pô (white bean ravioli in a butter balsamic sauce, yum!)) in the evening.

But the return... Oh, the return. I couldn't get any taxi that wanted me for a JFK ride (there was a smell of rush hour coming up), so I decided to be brave (the risk here being getting lost) and take the train. That worked out all right, thanks to another passenger who made me realize I was on the wrong train, which I could fix before it became too annoying.

Arriving at Terminal 2, the check-in hall I was directed to was so amazingly full of people, it was ridiculous. Thankfully, I arrived plenty early, because the place was packed with people queuing for whatever reason, and it was just pandemonium (when I left the place, the queues were extending outside, and this building isn't exactly small!). There, I was told that the booking for my return flight had been cancelled when there was some issues with my first flight. But I'm in New York, not Montreal, get me home!

I ended up on standby for the flight I was supposed to be booked on, and after some delays, didn't make it. They actually called my name by mistake, as the attendant thought there was one more seat, so it was a pretty close call. In fact, it was so close that my checked-in luggage was in the plane, and I couldn't get it back!

So I ended up in an hotel in Jamaica, because, you know, that'd be cool. Jamaica is colder than I thought it'd be. Big thanks to azrhey and tygrbabe entertaining me, so that the accidental murdering rampage didn't happen (this would have hindered my return trip even further, I suspect). The hotel was just about full, and I got an "Elite" room or something, which was pretty cool, and I slept very well, strangely enough.

That next flight went just fine, no delay, my luggage was given to me quickly, there was very few people at the security check lines. Whew.

Thanks to my hosts, andukar, a_chatterbox and dreamage for having me over! Also, some photos from the Saturday.

Three Word: Deterministic Is Good

apenwarr: No kidding. Ohh, C++ is so complicated and messy... This is so much easier... Except... Yaaaarrrrghhhhh!

People, if Perl, of all bloody languages/runtimes can do it in a less complicated way (pure reference counting with weak references, deterministic finalization), you're doomed.

Perl. Simpler. Think about that.

A Counter-Example

Related to my previous post, I would like to use MySQL++ as an counter-example: it's "result set" object does not have a "no more rows" method, it simply throws an exception when it is at the end.

See, this is a good example of something that is not exceptional at all.

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