Kevin Vance (weblog of)

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08:05 pm

A personal best

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I set a new personal record for the most ridiculous way to send text to myself today.

  1. Entered into an HTML form
  2. Saved to a database by the webserver
  3. Read from the database by a daemon
  4. Saved to PDF by the daemon
  5. Copied over a wireless network to another daemon
  6. The PDF is rasterized by that daemon
  7. And sent as a fax to an OS serial port, which is actually a softmodem
  8. The fax line is VOIP, so the fax noise is re-digitized
  9. Once it gets to the telephone system, it is converted back to an analog signal
  10. The signal is received by a fax-to-email gateway
  11. Who even knows what they do to it, but it ends up as a rasterized PDF
  12. I receive an email copy of my text.


I wasn't even trying to make a convoluted thing. I just needed to test something!

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01:52 am

IR Blaster

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
So when Comcast dropped a bunch of analog channels last month, my mythtv setup got a little less useful. They did unencrypt some digital channels, but I was still down to one tuner for most cable channels.

I got my converter box last week, a Pace DC50X. It works well enough. Even with the RF output, and the digital to analog back to digital conversion, it still looks better than the old analog signal.

Of course, the problem with a converter box is that mythtv can no longer change the channels. The converter comes with an external IR receiver port, a mono mini-jack. So my first thought was to have a sound card generate the electrical signal the IR receiver would make. But there are already established methods for communicating with IR, so I decided to just use an IR blaster.

There are plans for making your own, but I'm not really up for that. My electronics experience is limited to soldering broken connections, and some basic theory from high school physics class. I would not want to plug a circuit I built directly into my PC.

So I bought the serial port one from After actually installing a serial port (heh), it works as expected. MythTV can now change the channels, and I have a pretty good DVR again.

There is one thing that kind of bugs me about it though. When it's transmitting, LIRC masks interrupts. So for the ~1 second it takes to change the channel, the sound skips and the system clock drifts a little. I can probably live with that, but it might gradually drive me insane. I'm not sure which yet.

I'm not too familiar with multicore x86 or linux's IRQ handling, but I wonder if it would be possible to keep the LIRC driver on a different core, and only mask IRQs on that core. Otherwise... I have been looking for an excuse to buy an arduino...
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03:15 pm

There's a mouse living in my car!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
There were enough clues for me to figure this out earlier. A few days ago my cat, Will, was sniffing around the front of my car. He's not usually interested in the loud, rumbly death machines that take him to the vet. Eventually he got bored and went to do something else.

And then yesterday while I was driving my other cat, Sammy, back home from the vet, there was a loud thud and the blower motor stopped working. Yet another piece of my car needing repairs seemed normal to me, so I just made a mental note to find out how to fix the blower unit.

But while I was driving today, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Was that... a mouse? A minute later I saw it again, crawling around the windshield wipers as the car was cruising at 45 mph.

So I pulled over, thinking I'd pick it up by the tail and toss it out. (That's what you'd do, right? This is a new one for me!) But as soon as I got out of the car, the mouse crawled into a crevice. I looked around for it under the hood, but found nothing. After a minute of waiting for it to come back, I gave up and drove home.

At home I tested the blower, and it works again! So the unlucky mouse must have fallen in yesterday, only to climb back out to wreak more havoc today. I tried looking under the hood again, and checking behind the glove compartment (the blower stuff is behind it), but I still can't find the mouse.

I considered using the cats to catch the mouse after the car had cooled down, but I'm worried they'll leave half a mouse inside. Now I'm thinking about setting some kind of trap, but maybe the internet will know what to do.
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02:59 pm

Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Heh. I didn't do much announcing of dsmzx build 2, since it doesn't really have any exciting new features. I guess the DS community was interested after all, since I've been getting a ton of traffic on, and some bug reports from EZFlash users as well.

I'm also impressed with the anti-spam function in django's comments module. I noticed in the logs an attempt to post comments from a bunch of different IPs all at once, and none of them went through.
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01:51 pm

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Guybrush Threepwood reads Ron Gilbert's tweet about Guybrush Threepwood reading Ron Gilbert's tweets. The circle is complete.

Current Mood excited
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11:49 pm

Making a New JavaScript Thing

Saturday, September 19th, 2009
I've been coding like crazy lately. I just got the idea this afternoon to make Guybrush Threepwood Reads Ron Gilbert's Tweets. I did it (arr matey, before Talk Like a Pirate Day was over!) but it took the rest of the day.

I'm familiar enough with JavaScript that the main programming challenge was looking up documentation on the internet. I have a good enough idea of what's in the language (and the DOM) for my purposes, but I can never remember what anything is called!

The real challenge was getting the graphics. The background is two screenshots of ScummVM pasted together. Okay, that was easy. I managed to rip the sprites with Costume Ripper running in DOSBOX. Once I found the sprites, I used the utility's PCX saver, manually renaming the output each time.

I had real trouble with the fonts. Somehow I managed to miss Charlie and decided to try and capture the font with screenshots of ScummVM. I used SCUMM Revisited to find offsets of text in the game, which I edited to all the ASCII printable characters. But ScummVM doesn't render the fonts 1:1. They're stretched out to preserve the original aspect ratio. And I captured some of them over a dark background. It was getting annoying.

Luckily, I found Charlie, and ran it (also in DOSBOX). It wouldn't work on Monkey Island 1, but I managed to get it to detect Monkey Island 2. The built-in saver did not work, so I just took a screenshot.

Then, a happy coincidence occurred. Several months ago, I wrote a utility for Corner Office to take a paletted image of a multi-color font, squish the characters together, and save the result and a character offset table! EXACTLY THE THING I NEEDED FOR THIS AS WELL! I just converted the resulting offset table from a binary format to a JavaScript object.

Anyway I really need to relax now so no more programming today. Probably.

Other stuff I'll try to write about later: switching from PulseAudio to JACK, writing a JACK driver for mikmod, Corner Office animation editor.
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01:59 am

Corner Office Dialogue Test

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

dialogue video

That screenshot links to a video of my dialogue system in action. The example script being run is available if you're curious.

Yesterday (Friday), I abstracted the command screen boxes so you could make other kinds of command boxes. Today (Saturday), I combined the new command boxes with the old text printer and the dialogue parser, added an interpreter for the compiled scripts, and ran the example dialogue file!

It works on the hardware too, but it's really hard to film a DS. Anyway, I'm really happy I took the time to do more of this project, and I'm pleased with how it's coming together. I also need to display the character portraits, but I'll add that later. Displaying images is easy, and I don't actually have any character art yet.

The last prototype I need to do is the battle system, which is going to need an animation system (am I going to waste EVEN MORE TIME writing an animation editor?!) and a simple AI.
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02:49 am

Latest Games Roundup

Thursday, August 27th, 2009
I've been playing a lot of games lately. I don't really have time to, but they help me clear my mind at least. I haven't been writing down my thoughts though, so here's a big list of them in vaguely chronological order:

Ghostbusters, Monkey Island, Trine, etc!Collapse )
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01:19 am

4000th Post Spectacular

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

This is my 4000th LiveJournal post! It's time once again to look back at my last 1000 posts. They cover such a vast amount of time that I can't remember which ones were especially significant. So let's just look at 10 of them, in increments of 100:

Post # Date Description
3901 2008-04-18 I acquire an officially licensed plush Companion Cube.
3801 2007-06-03 I arrive in Carlsbad, CA for my second trip there. I also have a new laptop.
3701 2006-06-07 I describe a long-since-abandoned project to scan for suspicious files on windows. I also link to a Kari Byron photogallery.
3601 2005-11-24 I talk about all the TV shows I'm watching, but also about learning win32 programming in python.
3501 2005-07-14 I excitedly present evidence of a windows sync client for Handhelj. It would never materialize.
3401 2005-03-07 I share my thoughts on the first episode of the new Doctor Who series.
3301 2004-10-31 I complain about nobody being logged on to AIM, and observe the passage of time.
3201 2004-05-03 I talk about homework, impending doom, and a common problem I have.
3101 2003-12-31 I decide to post the last screenshots of 2003, then think better of it.
3001 2003-09-15 I share a tip on how to override a user's style on their LJ comment page.

FASCINATING STUFF. I can't wait until I'm celebrating another 1000 LJ posts in the year 2019!

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10:18 am

Monday, August 17th, 2009
With all the stuff that's been going on, I forgot to mention that I finally finished all of the Discworld novels! I started doing this over two years ago when my grandmother recommended them to me. She's too blind to read, but she listens to the audio books. So I started putting them into the rotation more and more frequently until I was mostly reading Discworld books. Now I can join the rest of the internet in eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

(The last book I read was Wintersmith, on the night of August 10.)
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