NEW BLOG ON THE BLOCK

18 02 2010

Wiz and Chips now has its own domain and a brand new geeky-steampunk-horrorific style!

Check it out at:

http://www.wizandchips.com/





BYD e6: Chinese Electric Car Hits Detroit Auto Show

15 01 2009

We’re knee deep inside a muddy recession and this is not new thing. One among the protagonist of this world wide “event”, the car industry is facing critics for harassing the governments to save their day. In the U.S. this is mostly true because the (in)famous bail out to GM. In the EU instead, the European Commission made it clear that aids to European car companies could be designed only in the scope of projects (cars) exploiting new clean non-oil-dependant energy.

e001lThey also say that this year’s Detroit Auto show isn’t that brilliant and several important auto brands are missing (Ferrari, Fiat, Renault, Peugeut, Opel, etc..). They also say that this year’s price are cheaper and so is a stronger presence of far east companies.

One Chinese company in particular caught attention because of the car they presented and the claims they issued. BYD (which stands for Build Your Dream) it’s a Chinese company which, despite most of us has never heard of it, lists the gigantic score of 7 production sites in China, 10 million square miles of show rooms and offices worldwide and 130 thousands employees.

BYD presented their revolutionary e6 electric car which they claim can run up to 250 miles per charge. This puts e6 a the top of electric cars performance board (should ever exist one :)) leaving behind Ford’s long range electric car -scheduled for 2011- of a full 150 miles. The e6 battery pack -which surprisingly is a some sort of old fashioned Fe type- is declared to be capable to be charged up of 50% in ten minutes (by a fast-charge station) allowing a 120 miles travel.

Battery are surely the core aspect of electric car which, thought as the major pro by some -because of the green side- can also be a big drawback or, more metaphorically said, smoke and mirrors. Sceptics argue that the energy used to produce the battery, plus the energy regularly used to charge up the battery plus the one that will be eventually used to dispose of the battery and its elements made the system energy inefficient and not worth of the big green badge lots of people and the media give to electric cars. Not being particularly in love with electric devices, I could argue that having around so many oil fuel powered cars is in its way energy inefficient as it pollutes directly urban areas and basically make people sick (so maybe medical reckonings should be included in the evaluation balance).

i001bAnyway, staying on track, this e6 it’s still a concept car, thus not a guarantee of a scheduled production. Maybe it’s just evanescent as many other concept cars, maybe it’s a big scream to draw attention on another aggressive Chinese competitor, but in any case it’s another proof of how alternative energy vehicles (methane, and liquefied petroleum gas first in the row) are taking more and more market share. Not speaking of electrics, I forecast that in ten years the balance we see today between oil-fuel cars and gas cars will be reversed.

What is your opinion on this subject?

If you’re interested in checking BYD e6 website you can find it here.

Pictures are from BYD gallery pack





The Linux Game Box #3: Secret Maryo Chronicles

17 11 2008

thelinuxgamebox1The game I’m about to present you for this instalment of The Linux Game Box, it’s just one of those title so polished, smooth and fluid that lets you think that yes, there is hope for Linux to be just a little more of a gaming platform. I say this despite the simplicity that marks every aspect of this particular game.

I don’t wanna waste more time so let me introduce you Secret Maryo Chronicles.

Title:        Secret Maryo Chronicle
Genre:     Platform
License:  GNU Public License v3
Website:  http://www.secretmaryo.org/

Secret Maryo Chronicles is platform game heavily inspired (someone could find it a clone) by Nintendo’s Super Mario series. The game is coded in C++ with SDL and OpenGL libraries and it’s really pretty fluid on my 4yo laptop. On January 2008 SMC has been awarded #1 in the 5 best (free) open source games chart by the Australian computer magazing APC.

lvl_1 overworld screenshot_1

screenhot-10 screenshot-02 screenshot-03

INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS 7

To install Secret Maryo Chronicles on (K)Ubuntu is sufficient to add the repository to your repository list with Synaptic or Adept.

The repository for (K)Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex is this:

deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ intrepid universe

The packages to be installed are called:

smc
smc-data
smc-music

The Ubuntu Package page can be found here. The download page on the official site is here

GAMEPLAY FUN 9

Of course Secret Maryo Chronicles is pure fun. Just like the old 2D Super Mario games you have basically to explore and travel through various levels running and jumping to crush enemies or discover goodies hidden behind bricks. There’s no more to say about it as this is a well tested formula of simple and mindless game fun. The sensation of running a Nintendo classic on your Linux machine is strong and, as far as I’m concerned, this is also a strong plus for this well done game.

GRAPHICS APPEAL 8

The graphics is simple but just perfect for the game. I would say it’s flawless either in concept or in design. The sprites and the world components are well refined with a great appeal. Again, main character apart all the graphics in the game strongly resemble that of Super Mario 2D games. This is not a drawback in my opinion but I must be honest and say that even if the guys in the wiki faq say they don’t want to clone Super Mario (that’s why they redrew the Maryo sprite) the sensation of playing a clone is pretty strong.

As already said the 2D engine runs perfectly fast in all the conditions I have been able to test.

SOUND DELIGHT 6

The sound is generally nice and does is job well.  The music is well suited for the game and again it reminds the Nintendo block buster. The sound effects are nothing special but they work sufficiently well.

STORY ENCHANTMENT → 3

You couldn’t expect the story to be a high score aspect in a game such as this one. The game ratio is all focused on the gameplay that, as I mentioned above, scrapes perfection. However even the Mario game’s attempted to sketch a story, at least as a sort of frame to give a “structured sense” to the action. Super Maryo lacks in this aspect. When you start the game you are presented with no introduction and no hints are shown during the games (at least during the few levels I played). At the beginning there’s just a map showing your progress in the world and that’s all.

A manual for the built-in editor can be found in the game wiki here.

BONUS POINTS 10

The game comes along with a built-in editor which is so simple and intuitive to be a valuable tool for enthusiast level creators. As a matter of fact by installing smc-data you are supplied with lots and lots of user created levels. To enter the editor you just press F8 when playing a level and you are allowed to modified everything with a drag and drop fashion by means of a side bar presenting all the game components. Creating a level with the SMC editor it’s really simple and fun. To prove this you can see a screenshot of my messing around and creating a dummy Wiz & Chips level.

editor

OVERALL SCORE 8.6

Here below you can see a video footage showing the game in action.

If you want browse more videos you can check the Secret Maryo Chronicles YouTube channel here






Open Source Commodore BASIC as a Scripting Language

17 11 2008

On October 28th Michael Steil announced on his blog Pagetable the release of Commodore BASIC as a scripting language for Linux, Windows and Mac (OS X 10.4/10.5 -Intel and PowerPC).459020985_ee46df88a9_o

What he has done is a simple recompilation of the original 6502 Commodore 64 binary which is 100% compatible and runs at a quite high speed.

So if you feel a bit nostalgic and in the mood of writing a few lines of code on behalf of the old times you can download the .zip package here

Inside the archive you will find the Windows and Mac binaries. For Linux you will have to compile it (why on Linux it’s always compile and compile!).

There are lots and lots of online resources to teach yourself programming in Commodore BASIC and the temptation for me to write a tiny, even insignificant, app just for the sake of my forever lost youth is very strong, but my workload so high to halt me.

However if you’re interested in retrocomputing you could start checking this interesting website (floodgap)and if you wat just have a glimpse of Commodore BASIC this page will introduce you briefly to this epic language.

For now, let me just do this:

10 PRINT "HELLO FOLKS"
15 PRINT "WELCOME TO WIZ AND CHIPS"
20 GOTO 10

Picture by:

ExtraKetchup





My PyQt Scribbles (Python and Qt) #0

13 11 2008

My intention is to write a series of posts discussing practical ways of working with PyQt. I’ve recently thought about the fact that blog posts can be a formidable way to note down things I may need to refer to someday in the future. This is a sorta rediscovering the meaning of a journal: an organic (or not) bunch of entries and annotations which, by growing in time, become a precious reference for the writer.

This thought of mine got stuck to another mental post-it I had about learning PyQt which eventually lead me to shape this column.

qt_logostrap_cmykQt is an application development framework mostly used to create graphical applications (and also non GUI apps). It’s created and maintained by Qt Software (formerly Trolltech), a Norwegian company acquired by Nokia since June 2007. Qt is know to be a cutting edge library designed to supply advanced features which can be implemented with flashy code and deployed on several platforms like Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Windows CE and Embedded Linux. Qt has been used to create well-known apps like KDE, GoogleEarth, VLC, Skype, Photoshop Elements, Qtopia, Virtual Box, etc…

PyQt is the Python binding of the very famous library Qt and it’s created and maintained by the British company Riverbank.

python-logo-master-v3-tmPython is a high level, interpreted, object oriented (even if it supports other types of programming paradigms), open source programming language. It’s a fairly young language which is getting more and more consensus among the developers  mainly thanks to some features which makes Python the most desirable choice for a wide range of tasks. Python focuses on simplicity and elegance; the syntax and semantics are minimalistic: something which lead to an increased productivity and a less painful code maintenance. Python gets rid of twisted structure and useless fripperies like brackets, thus enhancing readability. Despite its minimalism Python offers a huge standard library.

Beyond all this it’s worth saying that Python’s also my favourite programming language.

For sure Python hasn’t the power, in terms of CPU squeezing, of languages like C or C++, but unless you are developing the engine for a real time 3D graphics application, like a cutting edge video game, then my opinion is that for 90% of your needs Python is simply unbeatable.

Stay tuned on this channel to read the first installment of My Journey Into PyQt

Note on licensing:

The Open Source Editions of Qt is freely available for the development of Open Source software governed by the GNU General Public License (GPL). For more information…

PyQt v4 is available on all platforms under a variety of licenses including the GNU GPL (v2 and v3). If your use of PyQt is compatible with the GPL then you do not need to buy a commercial PyQt license. Similarly you do not need to buy a commercial Qt license. For more information…

Python is licensed under The Python Software Foundation License (PSFL) which is a BSD-style, permissive free software license compatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL). For more information…





The Linux Game Box #2: UFO: Alien Invasion

12 11 2008

thelinuxgamebox

In this installment of The Linux Game Box I will discuss about UFO: Alien Invasion (U:AI), a turn based strategy game in which humans must fight back aliens attempting to invade Earth.
You play both the head of PHALANX, an agency whose aim is to fight and study the alien invaders, and the several soldiers members of the tactical teams.
The game is heavily influenced by the well known and appreciated X-COM and especially by the X-COM: UFO Defense episode.
U:AI is licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The project is alive and very active. The team is well coordinated and always looking for help in various aspect of the game production. Help is needed in many fields ranging from coding to 3D modelling and animating, translating, etc…
This is indeed one of the most interesting aspect of open source games which give the chance to common people to be part of an amazing project in the area where their skill can be more of help. As a matter of fact, giving my chronic lack of spare time, I found an ideal way of helping this project by translating part of the game text (which is quite massive in this case) to Italian.
If you want to get involved in the project you may refer to the wiki for the full list of areas you can contribute to develop. The easiest way to meet up with the community however is perhaps joining them at this IRC channel (irc://irc.freenode.org/ufo:ai).

geoscape_01_595 aircraft_team_595 colon04_595

crashsite_595 ingame003_595 ingame004_595

INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS 10

U:AI is already present in the repositories and can thus been easily installed via Synaptic or Adept. If you run (K)Ubuntu you will also find the game inside the list of the add/remove tool.
Apart from Linux, the game runs also on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

However instructions can be found here and the download trunk can be found here.

GAMEPLAY FUN 9

There are two main gameplays sections that compose the game: a strategy/management part and a tactical/action part.
In the strategy/management part you take the role of the head of PHALANX and must take high level decision like arranging the base facility, hire personnel, start researches, schedule equipment and vehicle production and send squads to intercept alien fighters and engage alien troops on the ground. The time management system for this phase is based on the calendar in the way of other famous games like Sim City or The Sims. You can adjust the time speed in order to increase or decrease the chance of an alien ambush to take place during this phase (thus pushing you to the tactical phase).
In the tactical part you command the privateers and specialists of the tactical team to perform the mission objective. The action is split in turns and every character has a defined amount of Time Units (TU) to perform each desired action (i.e. walk, recharge the weapon, throw a frag grenade, etc..).
If you like strategy games you will find the gameplay mechanism of U:AI well calibrated thus providing a large amount of fun.
There’s also the possibility for multiplayer game either via LAN or Internet connection.

GRAPHICS APPEAL 8

U:AI’s game engine is based on a heavily modified version of ID Software’s Quake2 engine. The graphics quality is thus quite high and there’s clearly the evidence of an effort to give the game a touch of professionalism. As the matter of fact the open source team has the target of producing a game which increases and surpasses, in all aspects, the game experience and overall quality of the original 1992 title. The updated OpenGL graphics shows well polished 3D models, several detailed environments, special effects, high resolution textures and nice characters animations.

SOUND DELIGHT 9

A big attention is given to the music and sound effects (more to the first to be honest) in order to create the right atmosphere for the game. This is another aspect which tells you how much care the team puts into this project.

STORY ENCHANTMENT 10

This is the game’s strongest plus.
U:AI takes place in 2084 in a planet Earth with a geopolitical configuration pretty different to the present real one. The various countries around the world did solidify and unify in huge blocks, with The Greater European Union and The Asian Republic being the most powerful and rich ones. Humanity is on the verge of welfare and peace at a level never experienced in its whole history. In this idyllic scenario aliens come out of the blue and attack the Indian city of Mumbai causing thousands of casualties among civilians and
troops of The Commonwealth . The new UN meet and Earth declares war to the unknown aliens. Standard army approaches show poor results thus leading to the creation of PHALANX: an secret agency, established under UN banner, which summons the best of the best of Earth resources to eliminate the alien menace.
Every aspect of the game is rich of detail. The story literally rises from the player’s progress in the game. For this reason every mission performed contains a cliffhanger, in the shape of an upcoming research on alien specimen or equipments, or story developments resulting from the mission accomplishment.

OVERALL SCORE 9.2

here below you can see a video trailer of the game






Verical Scrolling on (K)Ubuntu touchpads updated to 8.10

8 11 2008

Not so many days ago my good friend Carlo posted a column on his blog court of misanthropy with the instructions to enable the Mac flavored vertical finger scrolling on Ubuntu and Kubuntu laptops. You can find my plug of his article here.

Anyway since the updated Xorg 7.4 running onto the freshly delivered 8.10 Intrepid Ibex version of the Ubuntu and Kubuntu distros those “old” instructions aren’t valid anymore.

But Carlo’s a smart guy and has already provided a new procedure which he tested and should therefore run smoothly on your laptops.

As far as Carlo’s concerned it seems that the problem is the enabling of SHMConfing within an untrusted environment which is share among different users. It follows that the safest way to enable the two-fingers scrolling is use an XML file for the Hardware Abstraction Layer with the setting for this function.

The file must contain the following code:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
<deviceinfo version="0.2">
  <device>
    <match key="input.x11_driver" contains="synaptics">
    <merge key="input.x11_options.SHMConfig" type="string">On</merge>
    <merge key="input.x11_options.TapButton2" type="string">3</merge>
    <merge key="input.x11_options.TapButton3" type="string">2</merge>
    <merge key="input.x11_options.VertTwoFingerScroll" type="string">1</merge>
    <merge key="input.x11_options.HorizTwoFingerScroll" type="string">1</merge>
  </match>
</device>
</deviceinfo>

And it must be saved as:

/etc/hal/fdi/policy/11-synaptics-options.fdi

If you’re no Linux overlord just follow these plug ‘n’play instructions:

1- Download this file already cooked by Carlo and save it in your home folder (i.e. /home/TheOneElectronic)

2- Open up the console, check you’re in your /home and type:

sudo cp 11-synaptics-options.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/policy/

3- Restart the computer (it’s not enough to restart X)

The two-finger scrolling should now be working

Further option: how to enable (Q)GSynaptics e SHMConfig

If you happen to be the only user of your pc you could anyway enabling GSynaptics (QSynaptics for KDE) you must create the file /etc/hal/fdi/policy/shmconfig.fdi containing the following code:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
 <deviceinfo version="0.2">
 <device>
 <match key="input.x11_driver" string="synaptics">
 <merge key="input.x11_options.SHMConfig" type="string">True</merge>
 </match>
 </device>
 </deviceinfo>

And here’s the simplified version:

1- download this file already prepared for you and put it in your /home

2- Open up the console, check you’re in your /home and type:

sudo cp shmconfig.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/policy/

3- Restart the computer

4- search and install (Q)GSynaptics with Synaptic or Adept

That’s all folks!








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