31 March 2006

My solar panel cellphone/pda charger

For a long time I was fascinated by the solar panels, and how they can, and most likely will, change the world.
When I'll have a house, I plan to get some big ass solar panels, and power the whole house with them. Unfortunately, for the time being I have to resort to smaller scale experiments, such as having 2 solar powered radios (moded them myself), a small solar panel RC car, and charging the batteries for my souround sound system with, surprise surprise, solar panels.

A while ago I got some 75 mA @6V solar panels, and last week I had some spare time so I glued them together with a plastic ruler (for support), then using some adhesive copper band I've connected their output together. There are 7 of them conencted together, so under optimal conditions I can get about 500 mA @5V (close circuit). This happens to be exactly the output of an USB port, when set to provide electricity to a device.

My new PocketPC Cellphone has an option to be charged from an USB port, so I've decided to make use of this feature.
I had a hybrid USB cable from an UPS, which at one end it had an USB connector, and at the other end it had a network kind of connector (UTP).
Since I had no use for that cable, I cut off the UTP end, and using some alligator clips (this is a prototype, I didn't want to solder it yet) I connected the USB cable to the solar panels.

The output was about 400 mA (didn't have the optimal illumination), but it was enough to charge my device if it was turned off. While it was on, the CPU+screen + WiFi was draining most of the power, so there was not enough to charge it.

30 March 2006

Forking the client for a single player game platform.

Yesterday I've got sick, I think I have some form of flu, and after sleeping for almost 18 hours, I feel slightly better, but still not good enough to code.
However, I am taking the opportunity to work on something else, that, for the time being, does not involve coding.

I wanted to do this for at least 1 year, but I've waited for the right time. And I think now is a good time as any.
What I want to do is split the EL client, and remove all the EL stuff from it (GUI, client/server communication) and embed the Pawn (former Small) scripting language, in order to allow people to make their own games.
While our engine is not as good as the commercial engines out there, I believe that the quality of a game is not given only by its visuals, but by it's story and playability.

For example, Ultima 7 is still a great game, even though it was written almost 14 years ago.
Fallout 1&2 are also great games, and some people still play them.

This is exactly why I am starting this project. Hopefully, if I manage to finish it, the result would be an engine where people with not so much programming experience can make their own games, with as much effort as making a mod of a commercial game.
I have not yet decided on a license for this engine, but it will be some pretty liberal license. Maybe BSD, but I am not sure yet.
Our artwork will not be available, as we want to keep some unique feel to EL, but the tools to make your own artwork will be provided.

If you are interested in this project, please let me know.

28 March 2006

The IRS policing MMOs

This Wired article is quite scarry.
Especially this portion:

American gamers aren't likely to face dictatorial decrees to limit their play time, but within the next few years the courts will begin to examine how laws relating to taxes, copyright, and speech will apply in virtual worlds. In the near future, the IRS could require game developers to keep records of all the transactions that take place in virtual economies and tax players on their gains before any game currency is converted into dollars. "It's utterly implausible that it won't happen," says Dan Hunter, who has coauthored law review articles like "The Laws of the Virtual Worlds."

Personally I don't think it will happen, but then again, I wouldn't be too surprised.
If such a thing does happen, I have no plans to cooperate with the IRS. One option would be to make a company in Romania (or possibly some other country in Europe, after Romania enters the EU). This could be also a good idea in order to reduce the taxes, but I'll have to talk with a few accountants first.

Meanwhile, let's just hope that there will not be such laws, afeterall the very purpose of a MMO is so that you evade the real life. Imagine how much players would enjoy knowing that they have to give part of their gold to IRS. Especially the hard core Role Players :)
Imagine selling a sword to an NPC for a 10K gold, and getting a message like: "Your sword was sold for 10K gold coins, and 1K was witheld from you and transfered to the IRS" :D

27 March 2006

Some more downtime for today

Yesterday and a large part of today, our server, along with all the servers in the datacenter, was running on Diesel generators.
When the datacenter guys started to fix the problem (switching back to the main power supply) our hosted shut down all the servers, as a preventive measure. The 'switching back to normal power' process took longer than expected, so our players were forced to see the outside world, for about 6 hours :)

Learner has implemented a nice feature where the EL server detects a SIG TERM signal and saves all the data, then shuts down gracefully. This new feature has been extremely useful today, because not only it saved the work of a lot of players, but it prevented possible items duplication.

And on a totally unrelated note, here is a very nice and addictive live stream. Just seen it on Digg today, thought you might like it as well.

26 March 2006

First post

I have decided to move my journal from gamedev.net for various reasons I will not get into.
I am new to this interface, but from what I've seen in other's blogs, it should be much easier to format my messages, which is always a good thing.

Last night, around 4 AM, the data center which hosts the Eternal Lands server lost it's power, again. Last time it happened was about a month ago. This is really annoying, especially because that data center is bragging on how they have Diesel generators and UPSes and they guarantee the electricity will never go down.

Our players weren't that thrilled either about the downtime, and they managed to post 522 comments on the "Omfg server is down!!11" thread. That thread has been viewed more than 11K times. In addition to that, the server went down without saving the players data, which is always bad. Not only that some players can lose their progress since the last time they logged in (or traded), but in some cases it allows item duplication. Of course, without knowing when the server will crash, it is hard to exploit this issue, so the item duplication is relatively minor, but still, it's not good.