March 2006 - Posts

ZBuffer Games, LLC

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you what may be the next Google, Microsoft or Ebay.... ZBuffer Games.

Yes apparently sticking 'games' on the end makes the business name different enough that it was accepted (for the small price of a $20 refiling fee). Fortunately I already own so there is no worries about the URL (there's nothing there to see right now). For now its just enough of an entity that I can bill and pay taxes and keep things legal.

Of course now the rest of the fees show up:

  • Filing my initial annual report $10
  • Getting a WA business license $?
  • Getting a city business license$?
  • etc etc

Oh boy I can't wait to pay all the extra taxes that grown up businesses have to pay.


(Half) Marathon Man

Just to prove last Novembers half marathon was no fluke I did it again. 13.1 miles of pain and this time I actually felt some pain. There is a theory amongst my running group that in the Seattle half marathon I was on some running or Gu induced high because the I really don't remember the 2nd big hill being much of a problem. In fact I felt darn good at the end of the race and beat my 2:11 goal (2:11 is 10 minute mile pace) and ended up around 2:04 (9:30 mile pace)

Well yesterday I had the makings of a cold (that is still today waiting to develop) and a week at GDC with several late nights and lots of alcohol. The Mercer island course has no real big hills but it is pretty much up and down rolling hills for the entire 13.1 miles. Most of the race I felt like I was about to break into a fever and boy I really needed the break at each water stop. Amazingly given how crappy I felt I was still making good time and ended up at 2:00:14. Just 14 seconds over my 2 hour goal time. See that last little hill on the course profile that was easily 14s worth of slowdown. The last 3/4 of a mile were all downhill and easily the best part of the race.

My current training is up to 15.5 miles and I have 5 more weeks to get up beyond 20 miles ready for the full 26.2 in May.


Posted 27 March 2006 12:28 AM by zman | 1 comment(s)
Filed under:
ProjectX is complete and more bitchin'

The ZMan is slowly recovering from the shock of doing 3 full weeks of work. In fact more than full because I was doing 9-10 hours days on one project then coming home to spend a couple more on a second project which is starting up. Generally though I'm very happy with the lack of sleep, quality time with the ZChick and ZHounds because I just got paid to spend 3 weeks writing Managed DirectX code which is exactly why I quit in June. Customer seems happy with the work and I should be able to post about in on The ZBuffer soon.

My next paid project is also game related however not Managed DirectX :-( Still it will be good publicity for me and good money too. I'm not sure what I can say other than its for Microsoft but so I will have to wait till its done to talk about it just to be on the safe side.

Now its time for more bitching about inefficiency in the workplace (sorry NK).....

Now that I am making money I need to make sure my paperwork is in order so that the government etc doesn't come after me. So I filed an application to form an LLC. Washington State has a great website for doing this that walks your through the whole process. I was very impressed! I applied for 'THE ZBUFFER, LLC' (they always print it in capitals for some reason). The final form noted that I required 'special name processing' however there is no explanation of why, nor what special name processing involved. They show you a list of where you fit alphabetically with other companies which did show that there is already a 'Z BUFFER, INC' in Washington so *maybe* that is why. I also wondered if it was because ZBUFFER is not a dictionary word. Either way that was my obvious first choice so I went with it. The final form says 'we will usually get back to you within one business day' and since I applied online, they took my email address and they sent the confirmation to that email address I expects to hear back online.

Well No....

Today I got a rejection for my name in the mail and that's all. No indication of how I am supposed to respond. Its apparent I *can* respond because the note says I have to pay an additional $20 to keep my application expedited. There is no email address, web site of phone number, no form to fill in and no details of who to make the check payable to. Even worse no explanation of why it was rejected and how best to select a name. Can I apply for variations that include ZBuffer or do I have to think up something totally different. So I have had to guess and try a new name...

Project X

Though I can't say much (anything?) I thought people would like some kind of update on my current project since I just hit a happy pause point.

The company doesn't have a machine for me yet so I am still working at home. Given that I am 'on the clock' I've had to set IM to 'offline' and not run IRC since I don't like things breaking my concentration when I get in the coding groove. Working at home isn't bad - Visual Studio is set up just the way I like it, I have 2 nice big monitors and no distractions other than Dr Phil and Oprah.

Technology wise I have had to get familiar with Flash which has been 'interesting'. If you've never done flash before imagine crossing PhotoShop with a programming language. Most of the animations are done by an artist creating animations and everything is hooked up together with a C based language called ActionScript. Picking up a new language, especially one that looks familiar is not usually a problem for me but in Flash its not always obvious what bit of code will run next or if there is an animation running which will at some point kick of the next code. I'm not sure I am even competent yet but I'm finding my way round.

That's all I can say for now other than it is keeping me busy and it will continue to for the next 2 weeks at least. I miss chatting to (some of) you and I'm sorry I'm not so active in the newsgroups and forums but I'm trying my best.

Off to give the ZChick 5 minutes of lovin' before I come back to more coding....

Oh and last night I watched My Date With Drew and much to my surprise (I accidentally got it due to a badly sorted Blockbuster online list) it was funny, unique, cute and entertaining. I hope the guy who made it (for $1100) makes a fortune.

Oh and one MORE thing I'm currently reading Neil Armstrong's biography First Man and as I read the dust jacket I realised than he was 38 when he landed on the moon - the same age as me. I guess I've really not achieved much compared to him :-)

Sorry ZChick - I used up your 5 minutes with my rambling......

How big is *your* texture...

Well I can't talk about the project, but I *can* talk about stupid things I do.

We all know that switching textures while you are rendering is a bad thing so last night I did a quick calculation of all the textures I need and realised that they would all fit in a single 4k x 4k texture. Great - no switching at all. I even tried taking the 1k x 1k texture I was working with and making it 4k x 4k. It loaded just fine. 4k seemed like it was the sort of thing that modern cards should support.

Just to make sure I asked someone who knows more about this than me. He agreed that 4k should be fine so I told the artist to put the graphics in a 4k format. Turns out we were both making some assumptions - this is manager speak for "we were wrong".

This evening I got the 1st sample of the graphics. The effect was quite odd. Some of the textures were black. After some experimentation I discovered that after loading I was getting the top left 2k just fine. The remainder of the texture was the right and bottom edges being clamped. Doesn't make sense does it. Well yes it does - my card only supports 2k textures even though its an ATI 9800 (pretty modern right!). Of course in the great DirectX tradition you get no errors. After looking in the SDK document that lists caps for a pretty decent set of cards I discovered that 2k is the DX9 minimum and there are more cards that *don't* support 4k than *do* support it. Even worse there are no ATI cards that support it - which might piss off future customers. "Sorry we don't support ATI!!!".

The artist won't be too happy - he has to move things around. Still at least I tested it when he was less than 1/8th through the graphics.

So today's lessons learned:

  1. Never assume anything especially when there is a perfectly good document in the SDK that would have told me the answer
  2. Always check your caps they may not be perfect but they are a better than guessing
  3. 4k textures are still a thing of the future
  4. The documentation for graphics cards caps is *not* in the documentation directory, it's in 'Microsoft DirectX SDK (February 2006)\Samples\C++\Direct3D\ConfigSystem'. Yeah that's obvious....
MSDN subscriptions - Media Overload


When I quit Microsoft I knew I was about to lose my access to all the Microsoft software I ever needed or wanted. For work purposes you can have just about any software for free and for personal use the company store is very reasonably priced. Fortunately Microsoft employees can get MSDN subscriptions at equally good discounts - so 2 weeks before I quit I got the full universal subscription.

December 2005 I am named a DirectX MVP - one of the benefits is an MSDN subscription. Its not the premier (which is what Universal turned into but its free and I like free). I wait and wait and this week I got a big box of DVDs. Yes an entirely duplicate set for what I already have. Even worse I get 2 sets of the March update. Combining both sets and eliminating the duplicates ahas sent about 40 DVDs to the landfill (according the this CDs are not hazardous but they do take 450 years to break down!). You can't give them away (well you could but I like my relationship with Microsoft) and there is nowhere round here that will recycle them for free.

So I called the MSDN subscriber line to get this sorted out - according to them I just have the original subscription - I have to talk to the MVP folk about the other one. Yeah like there are 2 places and Microsoft packaging this stuff up. You would think this happened often enough that they knew what to do. They also could not tell me if I would get a refund for the unused part of my paid subscription. In other words the whole phone call was a waste of my time.

The real pisser is that when you get an MVP award they ask you if you already have an MSDN subscription and you give them your ID. What the hell do they ask for that information for if they don't use it to switch over the subscriptions automatically. Aaaaaarghhhhhh.



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