Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Painting some Space Marines

On Saturday, with not a lot to do, I thought I would sit down and paint a couple of Space Marines. I have posted before about my Warhammer 40K painting, which I do as stress relief.

I haven't done much in a while, and I've had three Space Marines undercoated and sitting on the shelf. The miniatures are only about three inches high, and some of the detail is quite fine. I still don't quite have the brush control to make them look as good as I would like. While nowhere near good enough to put on display, I like to think that they would be acceptable enough to use in gameplay.

I have only done a few miniatures, and all have been using the Ultramarines colour scheme. Next, I would like to branch out and try some others.

It was quite annoying trying to take a photo of these two miniatures. My $90 Cybershot camera would not focus for me, and I could not find an option to do a manual focus. I almost pulled out the old Nikon SLR, but for a lack of film. I suppose you get what you pay for with digital cameras.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Date Claimer

Mark your calendars. July 12, 2011 is an auspicious date. This is the day that the planet Neptune will complete its first full orbit since its discovery on September 23, 1846.

Neptune has an orbital period of 164.79 Earth years, so it will be nudging back into the place it was when it was sighted near where Le Verrier predicted it to be. It won't be in the same place in the sky as that night, though, as the Earth will be in a different point in its orbit.

Things move slow out where the Sun is weak and things are cold.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Bit of a Delay

It has been a while since I've posted. Things were busy last week with helping with organizing the Carnival Parade, and Mum and Dad are staying with me for a few days. I will have a longer post sometime soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

David Mitchell on the Act of Giving Flowers

I think David Mitchell's Soapbox is great. I identify with quite a lot of what he says. Maybe that is a bad thing? A shame about the adverts that top and tail the videos, but someone has to pay the talent. He is on the telly after all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Open-Source Documentation

So I am sitting in the office. I've spent the morning reading documentation on the Shibboleth middleware I am implementing while I wait for another department to build my hardware. Outside it is a cool, clear day.

In here, my levels of frustration have waxed and waned through the morning. Why is open-source software so poorly documented? Especially open-source software that relies on other open-source software. Implementing this thing has been like trying to put together a jigsaw, only all of the pieces come from different puzzles with different pictures on the boxes.

Change one piece and you need to trim that puzzle piece with a pair of scissors. Now I am a fine one to talk; I am sure that more that a little of my documentation is sub-par. But my expectations were higher than that when working with this product.

Were my expectations unrealistic? I went back and forth on that for a while, but what amazed me was that thinking back on the commercial software I have used in the past, I realized that more often than not, their documentation sucked, too. I am most familiar with Cisco products. Before my exile to project Siberia, I used CatOS, IOS, WLC software, Cisco ACS, CiscoWorks and so on. Invariably, the documentation for the software sucked. Especially if you wanted to do something which is not quite turn-key. Not that the products had limitations in the area I was investigating, mind you, just that the documentation was geared towards the turn-key solution.

Thus the realization dawned that the documentation didn't so much suck, it was just that I wasn't the audience for the easy-to-find documentation. The documentation needs to address the majority of cases, not the exceptional outlier. This is fundamentally different from internal documentation often demanded by management - highly specialized to the specific implementation you are doing, so that systems can be replicated. In some cases documentation so detailed that the network could be rebuilt by the last surviving janitor after the nuclear holocaust.

So after lunch, I am going to cut the documentation some slack, and lower some of the expectations. Sometimes you have to do the heavy lifting yourself. And maybe I'll put my implementation notes up on the web for someone else to whine about.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cricket Down the Drain

Once again, cricket is plunged into scandal and controversy by a betting scheme. The game whose very name is a byword for fair play is once again maligned. Gideon Haigh as always is insightful in pointing out the endemic problems in the administration of the game and the social inequities that lead some teams to be more susceptible than others.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that cricket has never been sullied by poor behaviour or poor sportsmanship. A hundred years ago, W. G. Grace was quite a rotter in many respects; as money-hungry a specimen as any modern-day gouger. And I am sure that some of the poorly paid cricketers who gave up jobs to go on tour were tempted by the bookmakers' chequebooks.

What makes me wonder is the phenomenon of spot fixing. That this ball will be a no ball, or that player will come in earlier in the order in a 20-20 match. Obviously a game like cricket is ripe for this kind of side-betting, and quite often it seems that this kind of thing can be done without affecting the outcome of a game. It is apparent to me that so many other sports could be prone to this kind of thing, too.

In baseball, the third pitch of the second inning will go in the dirt, or be a change-up. The pitcher will try a pick-off at first 3 times in a row, not two. In snooker, instead of clearing the colours, a player will miss the blue. The green will be potted at least once in the top left corner. In American football, the offensive team "accidentally" lets the clock run out on a play.

It goes on and on. I can conjure up dozens of examples like this, and in places where people will bet on two flies crawling up a window, I am sure that this kind of thing goes on. Thus, how easy is it to convince a player to cooperate for a cut of the action? Now a major-league pitcher on millions a year would usually not be vulnerable. But how about a first-year rookie on minimum wage? "Come on, you aren't throwing the game. You are just going to do the following small thing, nobody will know, and you are in for 20%". And indeed, how do you detect things like this? Unless a participant gets stupid, or somebody talks, that wild pitch, that unusual call will sail on by, unremarked, while somewhere, someone gets swindled.

I suppose in a jurisdiction where spot betting is legal, so be it. People are free to throw their money away, and bet on whatever they want. But it seems to me that spot betting is so open to undetected manipulation, that an honest punter has an even chance that they will get done over as comprehensively as if the croupier had handed over a pair of loaded dice.