Monthly Archives: December 2009

the princess and the frog

So, I went and saw “The Princess and the Frog” last night, mostly out of desperation to find something to do for the night.  I had heard it was good, but I wasn’t expecting much … it was Disney, after all, and their latest animation hasn’t been anything to write about.  This movie, however, was amazing.  I haven’t seen anything like this put out from the studio since Walt Disney himself produced it — in fact, if he were alive today, this is the exact movie I could see him making.

You seriously have to forget the past twelve or so releases that Disney has had that does any animation (not counting Pixar, of course), and go see this movie, because it is a serious throwback to the Walt Disney animation pictures of old.  The animation was top-notch, mixing art styles both old and new, and I could see influences from a *lot* of classic Walt Disney films, like Pete’s Dragon, The Rescuers, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, and more.

pfrog3

Everything about the film just blew me away.  It was hilariously funny with original characters and stories — I won’t spoil it for you, though.  The story was great and it deeply used the local culture to a completeness that, again, I haven’t seen since Walt himself made the movies.

pfrog1

I cringed every time a song started up (and there were a *lot* of them, even for a Disney animated film) since I was afraid it would suck, but they were all really good.  I found myself tapping along to them in the theater, I was getting into them so much, which *never* happens with me.

pfrog2

The art style was incredible.  There were some really, really cool sequences with the songs and some of the scenes.  The ones with the Shadow Man just totally made the movie.  And this movie was *not* nubbed down for little kids, either.  It was authentically creepy and scary in parts, just as it should have been.  Extremely well done.

pfrog4

If I had to rank this thing, I’d say it would probably fit in the top five or so of animated films I’ve ever seen.  I’d say it rated up there with Beauty and the Beast, for me.  That seems like a pretty accurate rating — not my #1 favorite, but pretty darn close.

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So, suffice it to say, I was incredibly surprised … and the best movies are always ones where you’re totally blown away by your limited expectations, I think.  This movie is an animated film in a class all by itself.  Just an awesome treat, to see Disney put out something good again.  From the very opening title sequence, with the Walt Disney Animation Studios opening, I figured I was in for a good treat, and I was right. :)

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packages site: alpha testing

The new Gentoo packages website is coming along quite nicely, and the old one was taken down (again).  The feedback from the testers so far has been invaluable, and I wanted to publicly thank them for their help.  The craziest part of it is that I’ve gotten so many good ideas and feature requests, that taking the site live is going to be pushed back a bit while I implement all the new changes.  I had originally hoped to have it online last weekend, but now, I have no idea!  I’m thinking it might take all this week just to get the new stuff in there.

The new design is in place, though, and it looks awesome, in my opinion.  I can’t wait to show it off. :)  Right now, only the testers get to see it — if you’d like to do some as well, just lemme know.  In the meantime, here’s a little preview:

icon_znurt

Now who is that little guy? :)

I’ve also got a Twitter feed set up now where I’m sending updates about the site progress, if you’re interested in following.

I would cover a list of new features again, but this time I think it’s embarassingly short since I’ve been just fixing bugs for the past few days.  I did get really basic RSS feeds added, but that’s about it.

Here’s some of the planned new features, though:

  • display changelog with syntax highlighting
  • display ebuild source inline
  • show use flags, dependencies, reverse deps on ebuilds
  • show open bugs on ebuilds (thanks to Mike for his help on this one)
  • RSS feeds: new packages, version bumps
  • Compact, verbose views
  • Text-friendly design, for CLI browsers (elinks, etc.)

Like I said, no idea how long this stuff is gonna take, but it should make the site much more friendly and usable.  Yee-har.  Lemme know if there’s something else you’d like to see, and I’ll fit it in if I can, and it’s reasonable.  Thanks, guys.

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new packages site coming … real soon now

So, the word on the street is I’m jobless … and that’s true.  I got unexpectedly laid off last Friday along with a bunch of other people at work.  In looking for work now (systems admin and/or web development, here’s my resume), I decided the best place to start was to get my portfolio back online so I can actually show companies that I’m capable of doing.  What that means is, the packages website!  Whee! :D

I have been working on this thing almost non-stop all week, because this site is by far the most complex one I have going for me.  Well, that’s a personal project, at least.  I forgot how much work goes into this thing, as I’ve still got small laundry list of to do items.  But!  The good news is it should be ready and online really, really soon now.  Hopefully this weekend if I can squeeze more blood out of me.

I got to see the new design this morning, and I gotta say, I am absolutely floored by how amazing it is.  My brother-in-law was kind enough to do an original design for the rewrite, and I gotta say … it’s just spanky.  I love it. :)  He also redid the design for Planet Larry if you want an idea of his skill level.  Thanks, David!

Anyway, I’m not gonna open up the site just yet, but I do wanna start getting a list compiled of people who are interested in doing some beta testing for me.  Just send me an email if you’d like to help out.  It’s not really a big deal if you wanna do it — I just need you to poke around, use it like you normally would, but (and this is important) actually send me feedback about any bugs you find or suggestions you have.  Lemme know.

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packages roadmap and feature requests

I got pinged yesterday on IRC (I hang out on Freenode far too often) about putting together a roadmap for what’s left to getting the new Gentoo packages website live …. so here it is.

This is an incomplete list, and I’ve just started jotting it down yesterday afternoon as I started working on the site some more.  Also, it’s a brain dump, so excuse the randomness.

Roadmap:

  • package masks
  • website; new design
  • load testing
  • bash script w/import options
  • expanded versions
  • options to use find all ebuilds updated recently
  • status column for updates to happen in background
  • db classes to access properties

I’ll explain quickly what some of those mean.

Finding out whether a package is masked or not is a real pain in the butt.  The reason is you have so many ways a package can be masked.  I’m not gonna go into the coding required to checking it.  It’s possible, and it’s nice when it’s done, but it’s painful to write out.

New website — yes, I’m rewriting it from scratch.  Well, the backend.  The functionality is going to be there 100%, so nothing is going to be lost.  If anything, there’s gonna be a lot more stuff.  I’m also hoping to get a new design done before launching it.  Also, I’m probably going to do a closed testing invite session before launching it, so I can get some serious feedback first.

Okay, the status column thingie — that’s gonna eliminate one really annoying feature of the last website.  It would shut down for about 5 minutes while the site was updating, because it would delete stuff and add stuff all over the place.  The new one is just going to insert all the new stuff in the background, but won’t flip it on to be actually visible until the import is completed.  So, it’ll be completely transparent to the user, and the site will always have populated data, and any updates will just show up all of a sudden.

Now, some of the feature requests:

  • RSS feeds
  • XML API
  • import all metadata
  • parse changelogs
  • profile masks
  • tags
  • track deleted ebuilds, packages
  • screenshots
  • user ratings
  • twitter feed
  • GLSA integration

A quick disclaimer — no idea if and/or when any of those are going to be done, because they are all unnecessary to the actual launch of the site itself, which is what I’m working on now.  Another quick recap on what I’m planning, though.

The RSS feeds are going to be much better this time, and I’ll have a larger selection: new ebuilds, recently updated ebuilds, per-arch feeds, etc.  And they’ll have all the same info on the website too.

The XML API, which I’ve mentioned before, isn’t really going to be that fancy to start with.  You’ll just be able to do something like browse to website/app-admin/foobar/xml and it will have an XML printout of all the data that I have on that package.  Same for category pages, too.  Nothing fancy to start with.  Oh yes, I’ll also produce database dumps as usual.

I need to import all metadata too to get GPNL back on its feet.  I already *have* it all in the database, but just as the raw original strings.  I need to sort through it and get it into its individual tables.  Again, I’m just doing the bare minimum right now to get the site up and running.

Parsing the changelogs, ugh.  That’s a new feature I tried adding in the old website, and it never quite worked out exactly how I planned.  I’ll get that one in eventually.

Profile support is one feature I’m really excited about, and one I wanted to keep a lid on for as long as possible.  Oh well.  Now you know. :)  Basically, I’m going to add support to the site to browse the keyword statuses for a specific profile instead of just the default one.  Once you change your profile, it’ll affect package masks … and, that’s about it for now.  Still I think it’d be a handy feature.

Tags, screenshots, user ratings — just some features that I’ll eventually add to make the site actually accept user input.  That’s gonna be a long way off because of all the work involved in user accounts and preferences and uploads.

Tracking deleted ebuilds — I’m still debating whether I want to do this one or not.  I mean, I’ll track them in the database, but it could be inaccurate for a number of reasons.  Not sure if I’m going to have a display for it on the website or not.  Would be kinda nice, though.

GLSA integration will hopefully be easy enough, I haven’t looked at it at all.   Just track what GLSA notices there have been for a certain package and display them when you view it.  Nothing really fancy.

Alright, so that’s about it.  I know I’ve gotten some feature requests from people, and if you don’t see it listed here, then I’ve forgotten about it.  Please do me a favor and ping me on IRC or email and let me know, and I’ll get it added to the list.

I still don’t have a timeline to get the old site back up and running.  The good news is it is using a lot less CPU than I thought it’d be, so that expands my options for hosting.  The coding for the original roadmap is coming along at a clipped pace.  Everything I need to do has either already been done and just needs to be rewritten for the new backend, or is possible without too much problem.  In other words, there are no major roadblocks.  I still see it taking a few weeks, though.

I’ll keep you posted. :)

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dragon age

Right before Thanksgiving, I picked up a copy of Dragon Age on Amazon so I’d have something to do during the holiday weekend.  At first I wasn’t sure whether to get it for the PS3 or for Windows.  I’m trying to phase out my gaming on Windows boxes so I don’t have to dual-boot as much, and it’s so nice having a console system dedicated just to playing games where I don’t have to worry about patches randomly breaking old games.

Buying it for PS3 had me a bit unsure of what to expect though, because this was a full-blown RPG, and I’d only ever played those on my computer.  One thing I know about them is that there are a *lot* of commands you can issue, and I couldn’t imagine not having a keyboard to do that.  Still, I decided to go with the PS3, and hope for the best.

dragon_age_ps3

When trying to describe this game, the first word that comes to mind is bloody.  Man, do these guys love absolutely destroying people and making blood splatter everywhere.  Even the backgrounds and maps use blood with an artistic effect.  It’s pretty crazy in that regard.  Generally speaking, I hold off on the M-rated titles, because I’m somewhat sensitive to gore and violence.  Not to mention I’m not a big fan of nudity and swearing in games.  In fact, I think this is probably the only M-rated game I have.  There’s probably another one, but I can’t remember what it is.  Generally speaking, though, I usually make wide reservations for fantasy RPGs because I love them so much.

Anyway, I’ve been playing this game for a while, and it’s taken me a while to understand what the heck is going on.  At first I totally expected something more along the lines of old school RPGs, where they just dump you in an area and you clear it out of monsters (a la gold box games).  That’s not the case here at all.  There is tons and tons of dialogue and story to go through.  It had me surprised and confused, really, until I realized that’s how the game is *supposed* to be.  It’s more like Knights of the Old Republic where the fun in the game is the character interactions and the story.  I made it through 20% of the game already before I figured that, out, though.  Before now, all I kept thinking to myself was, “man, there’s too much talking in this game.”  Like I said, I’ve never had a real RPG on the console before — I’m used to general hack and slash games.

The controls aren’t as annoying as I thought they’d be, either, which I’m glad to report.  In fact, it’s quite easy to use and I never get stuck.  Sometimes I forget which button to push to change characters in which menu, but most of the time I’m okay, and that’s seriously my biggest complaint anyway.  There is so much info available to you, but the menus allow you to easily access it quickly.

Another thing I really like is how it lets you save the game anywhere you’re at.  This has always been a nitpick of mine in console games, and one reason I was always slow to adopt to using them — I hate the idea of having to reach a checkpoint or kill a boss before you can save your progress.  Thankfully, with consoles having harddrives in them now, it makes them much simpler to use that space liberally so save points is becoming less of an issue.

As to the game itself, it’s really interesting.  I buzzed through the first part of it so fast, expecting to just run out and kill things endlessly, that I totally didn’t pay any attention to the storyline, and so now I’m a bit confused as to what’s going on and why it’s important.  That’s okay, though, since it’ll just make my second run pretty fun. :)

I’m just *now* starting to get really addicted to the game.  The story is starting to pull me in as I pay attention, and I really love the simple controls when it comes to fighting.  And battles on the big screen TV are a lot more fun than on my comparatively tiny computer monitor.  I think I made the right move getting it for PS3.

There’s a lot about the game I don’t understand yet that I’ve been kind of ignoring.  Things like crafting and weapon … specializations or whatever they are.  I’ll figure it out later.  As is, when I usually start a new RPG, I’ll just create a dumb-as-bricks fighter and pound my way through the adventure as a method of trying it out.  My favorite character to play, though, is always an incredibly annoying and fun thief that can just do whatever he wants, generally roleplaying as chaotic neutral.

One really cool thing about this game is that there are very real consequences to the game depending on your decisions.  I’ve heard about this, but I’m not sure how deep that vein runs.  For instance, there was one town I visited that was getting slaughtered by creatures at night.  They wanted my help, and I decided to come back later.  Well, once I left, they got attacked again at night, and the town is wiped out.  Whoops.  Now I can’t go back there.

That is actually a really cool feature that I like — your actions have actual consequences in the game.  You can’t just say, “Uh, I’ll be back later in the game when I’m stronger.”  You either do it right then or not at all.  Craziness.

I do have one small caveat about the game — levelling.  They give you so many points to attribute when you level, that it makes it kind of hard to know what to do with them.  And for a fighter that is just sword and shield, I’m not interested in a whole half of the skills they offer since they have to do with archery and two-handed weapon fighting.  I haven’t really seen any penalties for lack of attributes, either, other than strength, so that’s what I’ve mostly been dumping my points in, and spreading them across other ones that look low otherwise.  With the other characters, I usually just auto-level them up since I really don’t see much advantage to picking them myself.  Still a bit lost in that area.

Fun game, though.  I think there’s also some DLC, I’m not sure, which could really add some potential for add-ons.  I can see myself getting really hooked on this game.

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