While I have something of a penchant for British rock bands (I’m biased, but I still think over the last 50 years a greater proportion of truly excellent songwriting has come from this side of the Atlantic than the other), there are still many North American bands I like. One that I’ve stuck with pretty much since I first had a CD player is REM - I own every one of their studio albums and on the whole have always enjoyed them.
Firefox 3 is about to hit Release Candidate 1 any day now, and beta 5 is supposed to be pretty stable now, and since it can co-exist with Firefox 2 on Windows (not on OS X or Linux, mind) I thought I’d give it a try. And hey, it’s pretty damn cool. Outwardly when static you won’t notice a great deal of difference - the back / forward buttons are a little more compact, the icons are a little flashier in places and you have quite cool things like one-click bookmarking on the location bar (the little star icon - it’s gold when you’re on a bookmarked page already, outlined when you’re not), but otherwise just feels like Firefox 2, which is no bad thing.
They’re not announcing the results officially until tomorrow, but it appears that enough countries have changed their votes since September 2007 for OOXML to become an ISO standard. Some of the key ‘switchers’ responsible include the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Japan (all from No to Yes) and France (from No to Abstain). We need document standards to preserve business data over long periods and thus as a core principle it’s a good thing to have an ISO standard used by Microsoft Office, the dominant business office suite - and for good reason, it’s been a great product over many years.
I’ve finally pretty much exhausted the games I got over Christmas and New Year; not being an ultra-completist I pretty much play until I feel the fun curve waning beyond what I consider worth my time, and the games I have are now firmly on the plateau. I completed Mass Effect and Super Mario Galaxy (although I only got to just over 100 stars, compared to the rest of this exemplary game, getting the remaining ones seemed more an exercise in frustration rather than fun).
I’ve just passed a concerning staging post in my life - I got a haircut today, and near the conclusion the hairdresser, gesturing vaguely towards the side of my head, asked rather politely whether she could trim ‘these’. After she saw my quizzical look, she clarified - ‘these little ear hairs’. Yes folks, today I had my ear hair trimmed for the first time - it might have been only a few small ones but I get the feeling this is the first step on a longer journey of discovery of obscure hair cultivation sites.
Some Boston-based friends introduced me to The Cheesecake Factory a few years back when I was over there, and I was impressed. Not by the cheesecakes - oddly enough both times I’ve been there, we barely made it as far as the dessert. No, there was one particular dish on their menu that made the place memorable for me, and it was an appetiser - their Avocado Egg Rolls. Personally, I would never have picked that off a menu unprompted - I like avocado well enough, but it wouldn’t necessarily be my starter of choice in usual circumstances given the cornucopia of options available, but my ever savvy hosts insisted I try them, as they were, and I believe I quote correctly, “to die for”.
It may be going on for 4 years old now, but GPU Gems is still a fantastic resource - in fact now that you can rely on being able to use the techniques it contains on a much larger array of hardware, it’s perhaps even more practically useful than it was on release. Graphical products outside the hardcore gaming space (and this is where Ogre gets used most) are increasingly catching up and using more advanced shader effects now, and so a resource like this is actually maturing rather well.
Everyone loves high-level shader languages. Well, most people anyway - it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy writing assembler language. They do have one disadvantage though - compiling them is not ‘free’, it does take an amount of time. For many things you might not notice, but if you have a lot of shaders, or particularly if you have long, complex shaders such as ‘uber shaders’, where you have one enormous set of code with precompiler options producing many variants, you might be surprised how long they might take to compile.
Ogre’s material system is pretty smart already, and one of its many features is to automatically switch techniques based on the supportability of certain hardware features you’ve tried to use in your material. Thus, you might provide an uber-fantastic Shader Model 3 lighting model for cards that can handle it, and provide simpler implementations that will be automatically used on lower end hardware. Other uses of techniques include ‘material schemes’ (where you can define alternate pathways for your materials and associate them with particular viewports, render targets or system options - useful for HDR paths, high / low detail options etc) and level-of-detail support where you can drop the complexity of your materials in the distance automatically - however hardware fallback is probably the most common use.
I have a confession to make - in my deep and distant past, I have an accountancy qualification - a legacy of a young man with too little focus about what he wanted to do in life and before it had occurred to him that someone might pay him to play with computers. Not that I think there’s anything particularly wrong with accountancy; in an island dominated by finance it was a safe bet for a mathematically / logically-minded individual with too many diverse interests and no particular clue which one to follow at the time - but I found out pretty quickly that it definitely wasn’t for me.