The dim-witted gamer

I have been playing Charlie II, the sequel to Charlie the Duck, for almost ten years now, on and off, mostly off. My own highscore only progressed slowly during that time, a thousand points here, a few hundred points there, until last week when I realized that I can chain the effects of power pills.

Sometimes I really am that slow a thinker.

(Chaining power pills is something that is as old as power pills, i.e. at least as old as Pac-Man. In Pac-Man it’s just not that useful. Note that the high-score shown here is of the shareware version, which only has 6 levels. The full version has 18 levels.)

Installing Caesar III on Windows 7 and Windows 10

A long time ago in a land far, far away I had a game called Caesar III installed on Windows 98 (or XP). Actually it wasn’t that long time ago, and it definitely was not far away. But I digress.

And lo, I bought a new PC which ran on Windows 7, and forgot all about Caesar III. Until I cleaned out a cupboard and the found the game again. Long story short, Caesar III refused to install. It would prepare for running Installshield, and then do nothing.

I scoured the internet for solutions, but nothing gave. Most people apparently happily installed their third Caesars on Vista and 7.

So here’s the trick I used: I just waited a long time. Apparently Installshield needed that. After a minute of five or ten, out of the blue Installshield started running.

(Note that you need to run set-up in compatibility mode.)

Update 31 December 2016:

The Windows 7 PC has been replaced by a Windows 10 PC a couple of months back and I decided to dust off ye olde Caesar III again.

And lo, the same problem occurred during installation. The setup.exe just sat there and it looked like I would have to wait a bit again. But being slightly less patient this time around, I decided to do some random prodding of the system.

After cranking up the priority of the setup process (which frankly didn’t seem to do anything), I started clicking around in the Resource Monitor to see if setup was stuck on a particular resource. That’s when I stumbled on a very promising menu called “Analyze Wait Chain…”. So I clicked it, and the resulting dialog said that setup was waiting for another program, one I wasn’t even aware was running – it did not show in the task bar, for one thing. I terminated the process that was holding up setup.exe and the latter immediately went to work on installing the game.

I don’t know why a crashed program (I imagine that is what it was) would hold up the installation of ancient software, but there you have it. Nor do I know why waiting helps – I guess Windows does some sort of garbage collection?

So if you want to repeat the process, simply type Resource Monitor in the Windows 10 search, start the program, look up setup.exe, right click, choose Analyse Wait Chain and see if there are other programs listed in the resulting dialog. If you know what you are doing (and feel safe in doing it), you can click the checkbox next to the offending program and then click the End Process button.

Note that if you do this, precious work may be lost. That would be on you. Don’t terminate processes you don’t know.

Here’s a mockup of a screenshot of the resource monitor to get you going:

[Screen shot with edits of the Windows 10 Resource Monitor]

Something similar may work with Windows 7, but since I no longer use Windows 7, I cannot say for sure.

Idea: plenoptic assist for traditional DSLRs

This is cool: a company called Lytro is taking orders for its plenoptic (or ‘light field’) consumer photo camera, which it expects to ship in 2012.

A plenoptic camera swaps spatial (2D) information for distance information. See it as a grid of thousands of miniscule-resolution cameras all pointing straight ahead, with software combining the miniature photos back into a single exposure. (You used to have something similar in analog called a Lomo camera, but since that lacked the sophisticated software required to make something of the extra information it recorded, it was basically something only used for the cool effects.)

The extra information can be used to focus on a specific plane or object, to remove objects or visual artefacts, to create stereo images and many, many things more.

As they say, a grainy, shaky Youtube video with an idiot acting the straight man can say more than a thousand words:

(See also this for a demonstration of more applications.)

But because you’re swapping different types of information, you also lose a lot of information. I read somewhere for instance that the Lytro uses a 20 megapixel light sensitive chip to get to a 1 megapixel image. The result is that this type of camera will be mostly useful for photography where you cannot or will not control the setting. The Lytro will be used for snap shots, where otherwise you would use a regular (read: slow) pocket camera and miss the funny face your toddler pulls. Other uses of similar cameras would be surveillance (where beforehand you don’t know which details are important), or medical imaging where you want to separate planes of say tissues or cells.

All other types of photography have great use for the extra information plenoptic photography has to offer, but cannot afford to give up all that spatial information (i.e. resolution).

So I was thinking: what if you put both a regular sensor and a micro lens array with a dedicated sensor in the same camera? Now, you would not want them to occupy the same space, but as it happens the ‘camera’ (Latin for room) has plenty of space, and many professional cameras use a mirror to reflect the incoming light to a viewfinder. If you’re building a mirror camera using an electronic finder, you could put the micro lens array in front of the viewfinder’s light sensitive chip.

This method does of course also have its draw backs in the form of trade-offs. You could not use this for video for instance, or anything else involving most forms of motion. What my idea solves is mostly an engineering problem. It transforms a problem of unknown variables to one of mostly known variables, which means throwing a lot less cash at the designing the camera and allowing a manufacturer to be early to market.