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The WoW, EQ2, and other MMORPG topic Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 6:47 pm View latest post
By popular demand, here is the blog thread on MMORPGs. To be honest, I've been so busy with zApp that I haven't played WoW in about 2 weeks. I still have loads of fun with it when I have time to play and currently have a level 43 Human Paladin character.

I joined a guild with some friends in the local area and that has added even more fun. People who claim that WoW isn't for groups or guilds are totally wrong. Having a good guild to play with really opened up whole areas of the game that I hadn't experienced as a solo player. There are some really amazing "instance dungeons" for groups that I'd never survive solo.

I've probably only visited about half the world so far. It really is huge. One of these days I'll create a Horde character just to experience parts of the world that are hard to access as an Alliance character. I've still got my entire quest log full of quests, so the content has continued to be very rich, even at level 40. I've never felt the "level grind" at all, although sometimes I fight in easier areas just to collect money and items.

I've made it to Artisan Weaponsmith and am working on the weaponsmith quests. I'm still able to make stuff that is useful and that sells for a reasonable price in the auction house. The economy seems to have stablized and I find myself spending a fair amount of time in the auction house looking for good deals or better equipment.

I still don't find that WoW has the role-playing aspects of the best MUDs that I have played, and I'm playing on a role-playing server (Feathermoon). I couldn't stand the annoying general chat on the normal WoW servers, but the RP server is much better. But it's still not what I'd call "role playing". I have found that the quest design brings out more role-playing than the "fetch this, fetch that" quests in EQ2. But there must be something about typing text on a MUD that encourages more role playing.

So, while WoW is a lot of fun, I still find it very different from MUDding. But it certainly has put a dent into my console game playing. I haven't touched my XBox or PS2 in many months now. Of course, since I'm only playing for a few hours every two weeks or so, I'm a *very* casual player. Might be different for "hard core" players.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 51    Last comment: Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:09 am by Zugg View latest post
Time Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 3:03 am View latest post
Today I'm reminded of the song by Pink Floyd: Time.
Quote:
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

So how'd it get to be nearly the end of March already Question

It's hard to believe how fast time is moving. I'm working more hours than ever before, and yet there is still so much to do with zApp, even before I start focusing on eMobius.

I keep thinking that I should just stop working on zApp, but I will need a lot of these zApp features in eMobius itself. So it's not like I'm wasting time. Even documenting is helpful since it will help me remember how zApp works when I'm in the middle of eMobius.

But some days it gets pretty depressing. On the surface, eMobius is actually worse off than it was a couple of months ago, because I haven't yet added some of the column features to the new DevExpress grid that I'll need for eMobius.

I still need to evaluate and buy a full-text-index component (I have one in mind, but haven't had a chance to spend much time with it yet). Much of the backend message store stuff is complete, but the synchronization with the local cache database still isn't working as well as it should. I've probably got at least a week's worth of work just tweaking this backend stuff.

Not to mention implementing all of the user option screens, the spam filtering engine, the attachment handling, the contact interface, etc, etc. Once again I'm starting to get a bit overwhelmed by the size of this project. I've got the design all figured out, but each day that I program I only seem to get a fraction of what I intended to accomplish.

Somebody just needs to go turn down "Time" so that it doesn't run so fast!
[Post your comment]   Comments: 4    Last comment: Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:46 pm by Kiasyn View latest post
Email clients revisited Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 7:24 pm View latest post
The topic this week is: Email clients!

After my hard disk crash, it was time to reinstall some "other" email clients to see just what eMobius is up against. The 3 email clients that I downloaded and installed were: Eudora, Thunderbird, and PocoMail (actually their new Barca product).

First impressions: Wow, these web sites make all of these products sound like the best mail client in the world. I wonder how true they are? [Edited later: How can they get away telling such lies?!]

OK, let's start with Thunderbird:

Installer is pretty simplistic, but it gets the job done. It asked if I wanted to convert either Outlook or Outlook Express. No other clients were listed. Selected Outlook. It opened it's Importer window and sat there for quite a long time.

My first problem with ALL of these clients: They want to automatically import ALL of your previous email. I don't necessarily want this yet. I just want my account settings. I don't want to convert all of my email until I know that I'll be switching to this client. After all, I have over 50,000 emails in my folders. This takes a LONG TIME to import. I don't want to wait for this.

At least Thunderbird gave a progress message. Although it was stuck without responding for a while.

Once the program loaded, it looked decent. Probably the cleanest user interface of the bunch. When fetching messages from an IMAP folder on the server, it was really slow. First it did something called "Compacting folder", then it started transferring the headers. One at a time...very slow and tedious. I know IMAP is faster than this...Outlook is faster than this!

Turns out that Thunderbird did *not* import all of my email accounts. It grabbed the first account (the IMAP account), and imported the local folder structure of my personal mail, but all of the folders were empty! Bad bad bad. If you are going to say "Importing" then you sure better actually import something!!

Overall first impression 6/10.

OK, then I turned to Eudora. It has an "old fashioned" installer (Install Shield based it looks like). When I ran it the first time, I got another Import wizard kind of thing. Selected Outlook again. This time, I didn't even get a progress bar! Eudora just became unresponsive, started taking up 100% of the CPU and just beeped if I clicked on anything. Finally it said it was completed. It took about 15 minutes, during which time I got no user feedback!

For my IMAP server, for some reason each folder is listed twice. I have no idea why. When I double-clicked a folder, it displays the folder in this small little box. I had to maximize it to see the mail list and the mail preview window. Bad user interface. And I'm totally lost in the huge menu system. It's not at all obvious what any of this stuff does. Certainly isn't very friendly for people converting from Outlook.

Overall First Impression 4/10

OK, now to PocoMail/Barca. I was most interested in this because they have recently mail Barca more of an Outlook replacement by adding the Calendar and Contacts. With the scripting language, it sounds a lot like eMobius. So I was a bit excited.

They use the Nullsoft installer, but overwrite the Nullsoft information with their own. I dislike this. They should be giving Nullsoft credit for their great installer. But ok, whatever.

The first dialog screen I see asked if I want Pocomail as my default mail reader. Now, all of the previous products asked this too. But in PocoMail, the dialog box looks like something from the old Visual Basic days! Ugly window with misaligned buttons and the checkbox for not asking again right up against the bottom edge of the window. Very unprofressional.

Then it asks me if I want to import Outlook email. At least this time it makes it clear that it is going to import all of the actual mail. I unselect the import mail option this time (I'm tired of waiting for it to convert 50,000+ messages) and just tell it to import the other settings.

It askes me for my account info. Apparently it didn't actually import any account settings from Outlook. Oh well. So I enter my IMAP server and account info and let it continue.

Where are my IMAP folders? I can't find them anywhere. In fact, the screen is incredibly cluttered. And with the default window size, the options on the toolbar extend past the right edge of the window!

Sure, there might be power here, but it isn't organized at all. Lots and lots of clutter. And the biggest problem is that I can't even figure out how to look at my folders on the IMAP server. The Inbox is empty.

First Impressions: 2/10

OK, I'll admit that this was the "FIRST IMPRESSIONS" of all 3 email clients, from someone that is pretty familiar with email clients. I'm sure that after learning more about each program it will probably improve.

But overall, I was pretty disappointed in the quality of what I found. And most interesting was that the free program (Thunderbird) came across the best, which isn't at all what I expected. I used Eudora about 10 years ago in Los Alamos, and it looks about the same, with some newer icons. Definitely not what I expected from a well-established company like that. And PocoMail had some great stuff on their web site, but it wasn't reflected in the design of the actual program.

So, I still feel that there is a big need for eMobius. It is obviously going to be hard to get it noticed in such a crowded feel. Will I need to lie on my website too in order to sell it? I hope not.

And, of course, first impressions are in the eye of the beholder. But it's at least obvious to me that none of these programs spent very much time actually testing their import features in "real world" situations. A *real* import wizard would let me choose what folders I wanted to import and would give me a *lot* more feedback on what it was doing.

In fact, with the MAPI support in Outlook, I plan to have the existing Outlook mail completely accessible as just another folder in the main user interface. Only when Outlook has been uninstalled is it really necessary to actually import all of the messages from the PST file.

Well, now that I'm well-motivated again, it's back to programming for me. I have a *lot* of work to do, and a lot of expectations (mostly my own) to live up to.

If you have your own first impressions of email products, feel free to post. I'm interested in starting a discussion of what makes a good first impression, and what doesn't.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 4    Last comment: Tue Mar 01, 2005 7:59 am by Zugg View latest post
Greedy Developers Posted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 7:29 am View latest post
One of my jobs today was to automate the build process for zApp. This is something I've wanted to do for a *long* time (even with zMUD). By setting up a nightly build, I'll always have the latest version of zApp, or other products, ready to upload at any time.

The steps in the automated build are:
  • Compile the project using the Delphi command line compiler
  • Wrap the resulting EXE file using eLicense
  • Run the WISE InstallMaster software to create the installer

Pretty easy? Well, it gets complicated if you want to automatically update the version resource in the resulting files. I found a free command line utility called STAMPVER that will increment the version resource in an EXE file. Next, the trick was setting up the WISE installer to read this new version and change the install script.

Well, my version of InstallMaster is a bit old (version 6.0). Wise is up to version 9.0 now. Who knows if they've added the functions that I need. All I know is that they want about $1200 for this program, or even about $600 to upgrade my existing version! This is outrageous! This isn't even their Enterprise product aimed at modern MSI installer generation. It's just a silly scripting language for creating install wizards. This kind of software shouldn't EVER cost more than the compiler that I'm using!!

Of course, the problem is that the market leader, Install Shield, charges just as much for their product (which is crappy in my opinion and many others...see the Joel on Software forums for details). These two companies think they have a lock on the installer market and that they can charge as much as they want. I've got source code profilers that do a lot more complicated and important functions that don't cost half this price.

Well, along with many others, I'm not going to take it anymore. I've dumped Wise Installer from my system. Hear that Wise? You just lost a long-time customer with your greed.

Instead, I've joined the many fans of the FREE NSIS installer system from Nullsoft ( http://nsis.sourceforge.net ) This is a wonderful product and has more scripting options that the version of Wise I was using, and produces a much more modern installer, in my opinion.

You can take a look and let me know what you think. I've uploaded the daily build of zApp (End-User licensed version) to http://www.zuggsoft.com/files/zappuser.exe and it uses the new installer. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

I'll be putting this file somewhere more accessible and will probably upload it once a week or so. I'm not going to automate the FTP process each night because I want a bit more control of what goes out to the world (in case the eLicense wrapper fails or something). But my daily build script is now working great. It automatically updates the version number and propogates that into the NSIS installer script.

And I think I have a new mission in life. After eMobius is done and I'm making enough money from sales to pay my bills, I'm going to start writing more free software. I'm going to find some company that thinks it has a market-lock and is charging outrageous prices for software and I'm going to make a cheap or free competitor.

Even though eMobius won't be free, it has a similar philosophy...quality software at affordable prices. It will be a lot less expensive (especially in overall cost of ownership) than Microsoft Outlook. These companies just need to learn that software shouldn't be this expensive.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 26    Last comment: Thu Mar 17, 2005 2:36 pm by theNerd View latest post
An SQL and ADO rant Posted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 5:35 am View latest post
Actually, this is a rant about modern database designs in general...

So here is what I was doing. I was playing with some of the new database components in zApp along with a Grid component. For fun I tried connecting the grid to my customer database...wait...wait...wait...wait. OK, the database only has 50,000 records or so, so what's the slowdown?

Well, I remember some of this from the ADO days with zMapper. If you have an ADO Recordset with CursorLocation set to adUseClient, then ADO reads in the ENTIRE DATABASE as soon as you connect to it. Doesn't matter what your query is.

Now, when you set the CursorLocation to adUseServer things are a bit better. But the GRID component still causes the entire database to be queried and downloaded.

This is a huge step backwards. With the old non-SQL databases, the GRID component in Delphi was smart enough to only fetch the data needed for display. But in this supposed "modern" age of networked databases and multi-tier applications, it seems to be impossible to only fetch a small number of records from a database.

In ADO there is a property called MaxRecords that is supposed to limit the number of rows returned from a query. But none of the OLEDB providers seem to implement it (at least not Jet/MSAccess or MySQL).

There isn't even a STANDARD way to do this using SQL! Some databases use the syntax of SELECT TOP nn whereas MySql uses the syntax LIMIT nn at the end of the SQL statement.

So, when trying to write a GENERAL SQL application, you can't do it. There is no way to limit the number of records returned from the database server. After all, you should NEVER want to query more than a couple of thousand records at most.

No wonder all of the database servers in the world are getting bogged down. Do the vendors do this on purpose so people will buy more servers?

Sure, I've seen the arguments on the Web..."Force your customers to limit their queries". Yeah right. Like a customer care about the exact SQL syntax of their query and knows in advance how many records are going to be returned. Or maybe they make a typo. No matter what you try, a customer is always going to end up accidentally querying for more data than they thought. And then they get to wait and wait and wait, along with any other user of that same database server.

This is just insane. Why couldn't the idiot developers implemented the MaxRecords property that was put into ADO for this very purpose? Or why doesn't SQL itself have a standard way of limiting the number of records returned from a query.

I also noticed that .NET doesn't solve any of this. Their grids have the same troubles. The problem is the underlying database components and not even ADO.NET fixes this. In fact, there still isn't even any way to query whether or not a provider implements MaxRecords. The Supports method doesn't have any option for this.

Displaying record sets in "pages" is one of the most basic database methods that is used. You see it all the time on the Internet. When I do a Google search, it only fetches what it needs for the page of queries I'm looking at. It doesn't try to fetch the entire result. Because they have optimized their backend server and are not using crap like ADO.

I surely wish there was an alternative to ADO that would allow you to write general-purpose database applications without worrying about the backends. That's what I want to do with zApp and eMobius. No wonder every company feels the need to develop their own database or file structure when there are no decent standards that are worth using.

I you have some experience in these kind of issues, let me know. What I'd *love* to see is a grid component that can connect to most any database and only fetch the data needed to be displayed in the grid itself. Is that too much to ask? Apparently in this multi-tiered world of Enterprise applications, it is.
[Post your comment]   Comments: 34    Last comment: Sat Feb 19, 2005 10:59 am by Kiasyn View latest post
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