Saturday, 19 April 2008


It's been a while, hasn't it? I must have a boring life or something, I don't know. Either way, my family has picked a student for the exchange. She is a Mexican girl. I won't reveal any more private details here, but I have faith it will all work out beautifully. She's supposed to send us a letter or e-mail sometime soon. So I'll get back to you by then.

Now on to the title. A while ago I landed a little job. I am to design a small website for a small family that runs holiday apartments in Greece. A friend of my mother belongs to the family, knows I am 'good with computers' and asked me to design a new website for them. Their current website, which can be found here, basically sucks.
The nice thing is they don't need something a lot more complicated than what they have now. That makes my job a lot easier, and it has convinced me that I'm up to the task. But that's not the best thing about this job.

The best thing is the payment: free stay in one of their apartments on a small Greek island called Nisyros. So provided I can afford the plane tickets, I'm going to Greece this summer! To pay for aforementioned tickets, I'll be working for my dad's company writing some python application.
It appears I have my work cut out for me.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Adventures in Mario Kart

This image (courtesy of originally dates back to Mario Kart: Double Dash, for the gamecube, But I have found that it applies equally well to the new Wii version of the game. I must confess that they have made this new game a lot harder, and that's not just the controls.

This makes the game a lot more challenging and fun, but also a huge frustration to play. The wii's wrist strap is actually a good measure to have, 'cause I had the urge to throw my remote against the wall several times today, after being pounded with red shields and squashed by giant bikes over and over, pushing me all the way back to last place right before the finish line.

Nevertheless, there is something about the game that just makes you want to keep on playing. Despite the back- and neckaches I've been having (My TV is positioned too low) I've been playing it pretty much non stop for the past few days, cursing, swearing, and generally having a good time. I just completed 150cc this afternoon, and now all that's left is mirror mode and of course the delicious online. It's more than enough to keep me busy for a long time, at least until super smash brothers finally arrives (why the hell that game is not out in europe is beyond me). And of course I'll be playing this with my brother and sister for months to come (just like with the last mario kart).

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Happy Birthday Simone

Today (well yesterday technically) is my sisters fifteenth birthday, so let's sing everyone. The real party starts tomorrow, so there's lots more fun to come! Happy birthday, Simone.

I also bought Mario Kart Wii today. I've been playing it all day, and I really do love it. The steering wheel is awesome (an awesome piece of plastic, how about that) and the online capabilities should really up the replay value. The rankings particularly sound pretty awesome to me. The competitions should also be pretty cool when they start coming. This game is a solid buy if you ask me (I advise you don't, though. I'm not unbiased at all).

I fixed the bug that made my library crash under windows. It turns out I was accidentally blitting an image onto itself, which under linux is perfectly fine, but windows starts complaining and segfaults for some reason. Either way, it is fixed now. Updated versions should be coming out soon.

Before I leave, I will give you this fine piece of advice: Don't ever try chinese rice wine. It's a warm alcoholic beverage that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike wine. It's also not at all tasty. So don't drink it. And consider yourselves lucky, because I had to find this out the hard way.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Not Much Going On

Excuse me for not posting everyday. It's not because I forget this blog or something, there's just not enough going on to be talking about at the moment. I'm taking a break programming games right now. I'll get back on that eventually though, don't worry. School results are in, and there's not much exchange related stuff happening right now. That doesn't leave a lot of stuff to blog about.
I have a couple of unrelated small things going on that don't really warrant a blog post on their own, so I'm just rolling that in one big thing.

I started typing with ten fingers. It's something I always thought would be pretty cool to be able to do, and it would really speed up my typing. I downloaded KTouch and the full text of the GPL v3, and just started practicing. My current speed is about 215 characters per minute, or 35 words per minute. I've also noticed that programming this way is not very efficient, since you need all the hard to reach keys like '(' or '*' a lot more than in ordinary texts, which slows you down considerably.

I downloaded pygame 1.8 and tried it on my machine. It works perfectly. I have had complaints of a 'Runtime Error' when attempting to run my library example, but since that is as much detail as I have, and I can't reproduce the error no my machine, I'm not pursuing the bug any further. Anyone has any further problems and can give me details, please let me know. I also started doing the python challenge. It's a fun challenge for those not quite mathematical enough to like the euler project. There's a lot more use of the standard library going on there. I'm currently on level 10.

The YFU called my parents, and they're going to look over files from possible candidates to come over here while I'm gone. I'm imagining them sitting in the living room, YFU lady with a big catalog in her hands, my parents looking at some chinese guy. Then the lady says 'I also have this Fin. I think he'd be a great fit for you.' It's got a sort of slave market feeling to it, doesn't it? It'll probably a lot different than this scene, though. I sure hope so. For the Fin's sake.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Results Are In

It's been a while since the last post, hasn't it? I've just been relaxing a bit since the tests. And preparing mentally for the final exams in May. Or something. Now though, results are in, and they are mixed. Let me put up a short list for you. The marks are out of ten, with ten being highest and one being lowest. 5.5 is the lowest passable grade.

  • Physics: 8.0
  • Latin: 5.4
  • Math: 4.9
  • Chemistry: coming in thursday. But it's definitely good.
So that's a mixed bag right there. I knew I screwed up math, so that mark was not altogether unsurprising, but I thought I did pretty good on Latin. I guess I didn't though. So I'm kinda bummed I only just failed that. That's totally unacceptable really.

I get a second chance on two of these by my choice, so obviously I'm going to try math and Latin again. Those tests will both be next Monday, so I'm not completely finished yet.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

More Stuff in Stdtools

There's more new stuff in the stdtoold package. The package cleanup has now been done (partially), and is available here. There is more coming, but that should do for the moment.

I've also added a new slider bar element to the GUI. It's pretty elementary, but should serve nicely. I also have plans for a more general 'widget' element, that allows you to embed and organize other elements. Note that this goodie GUI stuff is not released yet. It will come out sometime in the future.

In the meantime, I still don't have the new pygame 1.8 yet. Ubuntu is (like always) a bit slow in getting these packages upstream. I'll just have to wait out a bit longer (and I'm a bit lazy, since apparently there's some issues with stdtools and pygame 1.8, and I don't want to fix them just yet).

Friday, 4 April 2008

Last Exam Day

Today was my last exam day, starring my physics test. It actually went pretty well, and I had no problems with any of the questions except for the last one (I couldn't remember formulas for calculating dosage equivalent). So what I did was just multiply all the data that was given to me and wrote that down. Such an answer is of course horribly wrong, but what do you do?

From now onto the final exams (in The Netherlands we have school exams given throughout the last three years and country-wide exams given in one week or so) Is about a month, and there's basically nothing in between. So Three weeks of pure relaxation. Except for the studying, of course. I guess that's important.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

stdtools update

stdtools, my pygame-based game library, is moving along smoothly. I have implemented a bit more sane GUI elements (buttons, menu's) that all work through my event system. The package structure is still a mess, but I will attend to that eventually. I also have plans for some documentation, which will require me to rewrite a lot of the docstrings and organise it in a sane way. I will do that shortly as well.

The new pygame version 1.8 came out recently, which means a lot of new stuff to work with. Of particular interest are the video and mask packages, the first one of which enables video playback (obviously) and the other one can be used for fast pixel-perfect collision detection. I haven't downloaded it yet, but the documentation is up and it looks promising.

I recently saw this google tech talk by Linus Torvalds, about the Git source control management system. I was intrigued, and wanted to try it out. So the stdtools package is as of now on a Git repository. The repo Isn't publicly accesible yet, since I don't have a good place to put it. I'll ask my father (who is in charge of the network here) if I can put on our server. Then everyone will have access to the latest bleeding-edge development code.

I've included a little screenshot of the pong game I'm developing with my library. It's main use is to test the features available, to see if the library is pleaseant to work with and get a better picture of necessary features.

P.S.: I should note that the menu is mostly there to show off the possibilities. None of the buttons work, except for 'new game' and 'quit.'

Second Test Day

Today was my second day of tests. Two tests were on schedule, chemistry and Latin. Chemistry went so incredibly easy it was almost a joke. I was a little worried about chemistry, because I really could not afford to fail the test. Not because of my marks, but because of my honor.

You see, I've always been quite good at chemistry. It's a shame I'm not really that interested in it, because I have some talent for it. Unfortunately, my teacher deems it necessary to explain subjects in such detail that I understand the problem within five minutes. The rest of the forty minutes of that class is then spent half asleep, or chatting with the guy next to me.

I do understand that for most people, chemistry doesn't come quite as easy. But after asking around in class, I have confirmed that almost everyone shares my opinion. The teacher simply doesn't get that the whole class understands the subject already and gets bored. He insists that we stay focused on the practice exercises he makes for us, and threatens to note anyone who doesn't pay attention as absent (too much absence can have serious repercussions).

You can imagine I was not altogether content in that class. Then, a few weeks ago, our teacher, in another one of his rants, said that either we should pay attention or leave the class forever. He was even nice enough not to note us absent, should we decide to leave. I saw my chance. I just raised my hand and said "I would like to leave, actually." He stared at me confused for just a moment, then managed a nod. He mumbled something like "talk to me after class." I nodded back, gathered my stuff and left, and that was that. I went back at the end of that class to talk to him for a bit. He had snapped out of his confusion and asked me if I was sure. He mentioned there were still a few subjects left to cover, which I would have to catch up with by myself. I said this would be no problem. I could see he didn't believe a single word of it.

So now, I had effectively dropped chemistry, except for the exams. I had a great time, doing all sorts of useful stuff in the hours others were hearing about boring amino acids. It was a wonderful decision. The only problem, of course, was that I couldn't fail the test without having to admit I needed the classes after all, so I was a bit worried about that.

In the end, though, that was all for nothing. I caught up with the amino acids the day before the test in about fifteen minutes, and the actual test was a walk in the park. My honor is saved, and life is wonderful. I have recommended my classmates they do the same thing and ditch class. No one has yet, but that may be the better option for them anyway.

If you wanted to know about Latin, it went fine. It wasn't quite as easy, but doable.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Math stuff

So, this morning I did my first exam, Math. I thought I did pretty bad, but after deliberation with my classmates, I found out they did almost equally bad. We collectively decided we all sucked, and that the test was hard.
Looking back at some of the exercises done, I realize now that I would hardly even understand what the paper was trying to tell me if I saw this five years ago. A good example is this problem:

What is the following limit?

Impressive, right? Well, not for the mathematicians among us, but imagine looking at this with just (the dutch equivalent of) a high school education. I have just that, and to me this looks pretty daunting. I managed to arrive at an answer on the test, luckily. However, upon arriving home I wrote a little python script to actually calculate the limit (well, something close to it).
n = 200
upper = sum((-4)**i for i in range(0, n+1))
lower = (-4)**n

print float(upper) / lower
Simple enough. The answer came out to 0.8, or 4/5. That's not exactly what I had on the test (zero), but I was close enough. I remember there was a 5 in the divisor at some point. I guess we can't get everything right. Here's hoping I get points for originality.