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§ Linux and me

I mentioned in my last post that I was downloading Mandrake Linux. The reason why I'm doing so is that I want to check out the issues with VirtualDub's DirectX display code and recent releases of WINE. Users are reporting full-screen blackouts, which indicates to me that the DirectDrawClipper is hosed. Some of the bug reports on other DirectDraw-capable programs imply that this is a WINE problem, but WINE has exposed bugs in my code before so I'm willing to find out. I downloaded Fedora Core 3 yesterday, but found out that it doesn't run properly under Virtual PC 2004; after I installed it and rebooted, every process launched by init basically died and got suspended for cycling, so I couldn't do anything.

It's been a loooong time since I last used Linux. The first time I used it, I had installed Slackware 3.0. Slackware is basically the hardcore Linux installation; it was broken apart into floppies, used .tar.gz for its package format, and had a relatively simple (and clean) startup configuration. The installation was a bit rough though because you had to carefully choose the right boot/root floppies -- which took forever to write because RAWRITE 1.2 did a sector at a time. Then during the install, you had to hold down the down arrow key for five minutes while waiting for the installer to scroll all the way down to US/Pacific for the timezone (they later moved US/Pacific up to the top in a later release) and select a subset of disk set A that didn't install too much junk but could still boot. Then you realize that disk set A doesn't have the man pages.

Ah yes, I remember Linux like it was yesterday....

(Read more....)

§ VirtualDub 1.6.4 released

Never try uploading large numbers of files by FTP while Azureus is running. I tried uploading a new copy of my website while my other machine was pulling down a Mandrake Linux DVD, and I kept getting failed connections. I think my hardware firewall+router is hitting its limit with respect to rapid-fire incoming connections. (I'm a neanderthal and still use command-line FTP, which does not have PASV support.)

1.6.4 is out on SourceForge. It has some general cleanup of issues in 1.6.3, and more importantly, thanks to some persistant users has a couple of critical fixes for Windows 95/98/ME users -- a GDI handle leak fix, and a GDI region double-free fix. It also has a workaround for the capture problems on the SAA713x-based boards. There are still some issues; video timing becomes wonky when audio playback is enabled, and for some reason the tuner has a habit of randomly dropping out of the crossbar, but at least basic capture should work.

(Read more....)

§ Windows 95/98/ME and large amounts of memory

I still manage to find people that try running Windows 95/98/ME on modern systems. As a user, I understand that there is some software and hardware that only works on this OS series. As a programmer, I cannot wait for the day when users stop running it. The fortitude of Win9x as a protected-mode operating system ranks marginally higher than AmigaDOS and classic MacOS; it has process address space isolation, but the process databases are completely exposed at 64K-1MB and system DLLs and memory mapped files in the shared arena at 80000000-BFFFFFFF, so it's still easy to screw up the system by accident. In addition, there are a lot of useful features, such as full Unicode API support, that are only available on Windows NT based platforms. To be fair, the Windows 95 team had the Mission Impossiblesque task of bridging Win16 and Win32 on a 4MB 80386, and the success of Windows 95 had a great part in encouraging people to write Windows NT-compatible applications but there is only so much room for duct tape in a code base.

In case you haven't heard me mention it before, those of you who have large amounts of memory (>512MB) and are still running Windows 98, 98SE, or ME may be interested an article in Microsoft's Knowledge Base called "'Out of Memory' Error Messages with Large Amounts of RAM Installed." Basically, the problem is that on a system with a lot of memory and an AGP video card, the dynamic disk cache and the AGP aperture may consume an unreasonable amount of kernel address space. Since there is only 1MB of it under Win9x, this can cause kernel space to become critically crowded. The solution is to add entries to SYSTEM.INI to limit the size of the disk cache, thus preventing the problem.

(Read more....)

§ I hate NetHack

Yesterday, I got a craving for playing Hack-style games again. By "Hack-style" games, I mean old tile-based, turn-based, Un*x-heritage games that are loosely based on D&D rules and simulate battling through hordes of monsters. The king of these, of course, is NetHack. I've played NetHack before, and it's a very deep and well thought out game. The main problem is that I hate NetHack. The reason is that the game continually finds creative and interesting ways to kill my poor @ avatar, like having me starve while in the middle of a room of killer bees, or levitating me up into the previous level where I accidentally left a very large dog behind, or putting a shop in the level where I'm practicing kicking doors down. So I went in search of other games.

I used to play Larn on my Amiga, but I it's a rather simplistic game in comparison and I finished it already. Angband looked interesting, since it has ways to jump back to town temporarily, but I was disappointed to find that it too has permanent death and food, two things I find annoying. (These don't exist in Diablo II, but I can only play so much D2X, even with mods. I already conquered Zy-El.) What really turned me off from Angband was that a stupid cat kept scratching me and some elf kept stealing my stuff, even though I hadn't even left town yet! Next I tried Crossfire, which appeared to be a promising Hack-style game, especially since it's multiplayer (!). Unfortunately, the game's first 5min. experience is terrible I accidentally dropped one of my essential starting scrolls, which immediately vanished, found that the programmers decided to use the same command for everything (apply), and then discovered that the game is virtually unplayable without a middle mouse button. Then I tried Slash'em, which turned out to be a modified version of NetHack.

Finally, I just gritted my teeth, and launched the latest version of NetHack again.

(Read more....)