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Mostly about computers, generally Linux-related

World of USO — The Chronicles. Volume 1

World of USO ended this week, and all culminated today, with a well-organised ceremony for awarding the prizes. The attendance was poor (the organisers and the contest winners), but I couldn’t have felt more at home; the geek per square meter concentration was through the roof. After a brief bit of roleplaying and short speeches from the original proponents (both currently involved in teaching USO — Usage of Operating Systems), most of the dev-team went for a drink; celebration was short but fun. Of course, those of us who felt they had nothing better to do stayed on a bit longer.

A bit of extra info on World of USO: It is the first major success of Rosedu, a browser game which involved competing with others in answering questions about the USO class. It also featured a Quest mode, which was more about ingenious solutions and googling skills. Three special quests were also launched, the last of which was quite brain-twisting — only two people solved it.

Read the gritty details (in Romanian) on the blogs of Alex and Mihai or check the pictures at the album.

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January 20, 2008 Posted by | rosedu | | Leave a comment

Up to Speed

Things have been busy lately and I haven’t really been in the mood to blog. A quick recap of what I can remember:

  • wrote a small part of World of USO (in Romanian, not open to the public). This was awesome — using C and flex to parse some data and then update a MySQL table. World of USO is educational software integrated with Moodle, but it’s really very closely linked to the “Usage of Operating Systems” course I had last year (approximate translation).
  • got my driver’s license. Hate every single moment while driving. Luckily I don’t own or need a car.
  • school started. Electronics is a pain, but otherwise things are all interesting. Assembly, Java, algorithm analysis, systems theory and electronics pretty much sums it up. Philosophy is the odd one and it’s nothing like it should be.
  • helped Răzvan with organising ACM 2007 Easter Europe contest. Things were insane — interesting people and new challenges.
  • trying to learn Haskell. It’s above all other programming languages I’ve seen. Simple, but far from easy.
  • starting Hammerfall (working title, partly Romanian, might not be online at the time of this writing). It’s an attempt for a graphic engine based on OpenGL; after finishing it, we pan a game. Things are now very uncertain — we don’t even know what language we will use.
  • almost forgot: cspay is fully working; a lot of work from Lucian got us spitting out xls files. Sure, it probably still has bugs, but things are pretty much on track with cspay.
  • Rosedu is getting things moving — freshmen joining, new project ideas, a facelift for the website, new forums, Planet Rosedu. The latter is an awesome idea. Be warned that most of the content on Rosedu is in Romanian and we intend to keep it that — only the software will (hopefully) be in English. Rosedu is education-, FLOSS-, and Romania-oriented. The latter speaks for itself.

November 10, 2007 Posted by | rosedu | | Leave a comment

First functional variant of libspreadconv

I took advantage of the upcoming exam in Data Structures (I didn’t study for this one) to get some work done on my part of cspay. Libspreadconv is the part that converts a data structure (which I have defined) into an ods spreadsheet. The current implementation is incomplete (even the final version will be incomplete, but this is a subset of the subset) and probably extremely buggy — I can’t read valgrind output, but it does say that a lot of bytes have been lost and this can’t be good. I’m starting to have second thoughts about the way I’ve implemented certain things, so I should probably change them while the library is still not used by anyone. I also want to learn a bit of valgrind and clean up things. Bottom line: the current version is sloppy, slow, buggy and incomplete, but it was quite amazing to run the output through a validator, see it turned out ok, then to actually witness OpenOffice.org display what I intended.

A large part of the code I wrote is actually comments, but I like the way Doxygen spat them out. Right now, however, I have a (repeating myself) small, sloppy library with few routines and clumsy comments. But it’s a start. I think.

I’ve also been playing a game these days — the Romanian equivalent of TribalWars[1]. Sure it’s silly and time-consuming, but right now I _have_ time. When things change (or the game gets harder), I’ll probably quit, like I did with Utopia and the Blue Gecko games.

[1] http://www.triburile.ro/43827.html

June 20, 2007 Posted by | cspay, games, rosedu | | Leave a comment

A busy week

I actually wrote my first lines of code for cspay these days, but they were mere headers for the library I am writing. I started reading parts of the standard and making a rough sketch of what will have to be included in an ods file; the standard is huge, but hopefully things can be simplified to a bare minimum, stock proto-spreadsheet. I am having difficulties deciding what to take for granted and what to expect from the user. libspreadconv has to strike a balance between being easy to use and widely applicable; so, while we have to be able to customise styles, they shouldn’t have to be specified if one wants a plain sheet. I will probably ask my friends for help on the mailing list.

In a totally different direction, I took part in some student things which I can’t really translate in English. One for Physics, about the quantity of information transmitted by measurements (again, translation may have ruined the meaning), and in Mathematics, about the coding of information by neuronal spike trains. The latter was slightly more interesting, but we only had to do a translation — and the professor practically forced it down our throats, but all in all both events were useful and failry exciting (intellectually, mind you).

I also helped RobyC with a very interesting piece of homework: compressing a bmp file into jpeg. Most of the program was already done, including the headers and file input and output, all we had to do was encode the information. This proved difficult because of not having read the homework specification thoroughly enough. We spent hours debugging, with hex editors and all, only to have someone suggest a detail which we had left out. Infinitely stressing, especially since I had an exam the following day, but also very interesting; you kind of get that warm feeling of accomplishment when you see it’s actually a stadards-compliant jpeg file.

Busy as I was, I got into some serious Armagetron Advanced with the boys these days, causing me to see coloured walls in my sleep and to miss this mornings Data Structures course, which I heard was surprisingly interesting. Heading home tomorrow, with that guilty feeling of leaving Roxi behind and skipping two days of school, but also happy I’ll finally get to see my family (6 weeks is apparently quite a lot by my standards). I’ll have a lot of work to do for Numerical Methods and other projects when I return, but I have to get it over with somehow.

Damn anal wordpress added extra line breaks and my text (pasted from vim) looked like shite.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | cspay, games, programming, rosedu, school | | Leave a comment

Subversion troubles

Because cspay planning is advancing steadily (or so it seems to me), Razvan installed Subversion. It proved to be quite tricky though. It’s probably a security measure, but a “plain” Subversion repository (in that just a plain svn create was run) cannot handle multiple users. So we spent about two days experimenting with it, until Razvan finally set the right permissions for the folder (his time is even more limited than ours, obviously). I wrote a quick post-commit email notify bash script (wow, suprisingly, I could do that); all that remains right now is to actually start coding; I should write the base for libspreadconv, the bottom library which creates an OpenOffice XML spreadsheet from a generic structure (which should be decided upon). There is a lot of reading to be done, and quite little time, with late mid-terms and all.

Exciting, yes. Tiresome, you bet.

May 10, 2007 Posted by | cspay, rosedu | | Leave a comment

Further planning

We now have a name for the previously-unnamed-project — cspay. I prefer not to capitalize it, although some of my friends write it as CSpay or CSPay. The meeting today was fruitful and quite fun, with delightfully opposing opinions between the C guys (me, Razvan and Luci) and PHP folks (Alex and Mihai). Roxi and Andrei (andrew, whatever…) took a strategically quiet position, probably snickering at our endless quarrels. However, had we agreed on things from the start, it would surely have been a wrong design; hence the long discussion about the inner workings of our project were beneficial, or so I like to believe.

I got the task of designing a structure that represents a spreadsheet, and then writing the lowest of the libraries, converting that structure to an XML file. Not a particularly challenging task, algorithmically speaking, but interesting nevertheless. After the aforementioned hour-long discussion, we settled that the PHP scripts would also read the master cinfiguration file. Thus, we will write code that does the same thing twice: in PHP and in C. I’m not quite happy about that, but the alternative was getting really complicated; not complex, but complicated. And that I want to stay away from.

Once the name had been decided, Mihai wrote a simple and suprisingly functional IMO sketch, and Razvan quickly provided the space for it and a development wiki. Things are getting going, with most of the initial setup in place, save for a RCS. But we haven’t written any code yet (and will not do so at least for another week probably), so that is a non-issue.

We found an ini parser for C, there is a link for one in PHP on the wiki, so we are looking towards simple ini file for the configuration. We also found xmlindent, which is unmaintained (apparently died at 0.2.17 a couple of years ago), but functional and useful; we are thinking of adopting or perhaps forking the project as a side-task, maybe on the long run.

Things are exciting, and I hope they will stay that way — I am close to the usual “screw it all” phase of any project I start working on, but hopefully everyone will motivate each other.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | cspay, rosedu | | 1 Comment

Starting the Yet-to-Be-Named Project

I got rejected for Google Summer of Code, but that was to be expected. As easy as Plan 9 is and as much as I loved working with it at the beginning, such matters ar too serious to be covered within a week. Perhaps next year I will be better prepared in a field; I would of course like to try my hand at it again.

But Razvan (my Operating System Usage teacher in the first semmester) came up with a proposal to write a system that generates spreadsheets for hourly paid course assistants in our faculty. I naturally agreed and a team was quickly formed. We met today for the first time. While the project itself doesn’t sound like much, we decided to do it properly. We are using Razvan’s server for the entire development process (I got a new IMAP email address courtesy of him), including mailing lists, RCS (to be decided), web page, wiki and testing.

Everyone is very excited and we’ve already outlined a brief design: a C library for reading a configuration file and actually outputting the spreadsheets, a (probably PHP, which I’m not happy about) web interface, a minimal, console based program, which will be called by the web interface, and classic, offline programs for both Windows and Linux. We are considering GTK or wxWidgets. The latter looks better, but I’m reluctant to use C++ and it has no C bindings. The spreadsheets will be XML-based, using ODF and Open Office XML, but we’re planning to keep the config file simple (no XML, as parsing it would probably be harder than generating the documents).

For the moment, we still need to find a name, although a mailing list is in place. A wiki and versioning system will follow. I’ve chosen to read up on creating dynamic libraried and to think of the configuration and console program format. Razvan also suggested using a lexer, which is an entirely new concept to me (actually it was until a couple of hours ago).

Amazing how much a little planning can save; we probably would have switched ideas a lot of times and still wouldn’t have come up with a design close to this one. Still, as good as it seems, it will probably be subject to change once coding gets off the ground.

April 17, 2007 Posted by | cspay, programming, rosedu, school | | 2 Comments