Monthly Archives: January 2008

Cool stuff for Python Coders

Today at Day 2 of LCA, I attened the Distro Summit for the first half of the day, and the Gaming Miniconf for the second part, this particular post is going to focus mostly upon the gaming talks, since it’s probably the stuff I was more technically interested in, and the parts that I can remember best.

LCA Observation of the day:

The current distros of choice to bag out are:

  1. Ubuntu
  2. Gentoo


The latter half of the gaming miniconf spent a lot of time dealing with Python, which is excellent, given that Python is one of the main reasons why I’m attending the conference.

The first talk given was for Pyglet by Alex Holkner (the lead/founder of the project) and Richard Jones, a game development/media processing library (which would therefore make it a suitable replacement for Pygame), is written entirely in Python, and allows for extremely rapid development of games in Python. It’s currently at version 1.0, but is soon to progress to version 1.1, which, amongst other things, introduces a proper event handling inner loop, which is something that is notoriously missing from libraries such as Pygame.

Pyglet is designed around the ctypes library that was introduced in Python 2.5: for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, allows developers to register shared C libraries within python, and call them as functions without needing to write full-blown Python extensions in C. Pygame uses ctypes to wrap basically every media-related libary imaginable (frequently multiple libraries for different operating systems) and presents them to coders as a unified interface, so developers don’t need to know whether or not their system is using Quicktime or OpenAL (for example).

Demos given included of an FPS and a full-screen Mandelbrot Set renderer, both of which were very fast (though the fractal did get a bit pixelated at high zoom, so there could have been a large amount of caching performed — I’m not sure as I haven’t really looked into it.

From a coding point of view, Pyglet looks like an excellent library, a worthy successor to Pygame, and could be extremely fun to code in. Which leads me to:

Richard Jones gave a talk about Pyweek, a twice-yearly Python Game Writing challenge; the aim is to write Python games, which must somehow link into a theme (for example “Energy” or “It Runs on Steam”), and the game must be written entirely within a week. You may code in teams or as ain individual. The next round will be in March, followed by September. I’m seriously considering taking part in the next one.

The final non-lightning talk I saw was on an interesting game system, whereby you draw a picture of the game you want to play, and it lets you play it. I can’t remember the name of it, and can’t find it on Planet LCA yet, so if anyone remembers the name of it, it would be great if you can let me know (such as via the comments on this post) — this looked incredibly cool, and I’ll definitely try it out at the open day.

In Melbourne Tonight (LCA Sunday)

LCA Observation of the Day

I can safely say that I’ve never been in a room full of people making unfortunate computing analogies in order to describe people bunching up closer together. I now notice the similarity between defragmentation, and shuffling down rows in lecture theatres.

Schwag Bag

The Schwag for LCA this year is really impressive (though I’ve not had the opportunity to judge it against previous years) — Google have provided an umbrella (which, though not the t-shirt that I’ve been wanting for quite some time, is probably more useful given Melbourne weather), and there’s a nice Aluminium (?) Drink Bottle; the bag itself is excellent, it’s a laptop-sized bag, which should do well for holding my laptop over the next few days — well done to whoever thought of the bags, they’re certainly appreciated!

First Timer’s Session

This afternoon, since I’m a first-time LCAer, I went to Kelly Yeoh and Rusty Russell’s LCA Newbies’ Session, which consisted of a 40 minute talk on what to expect from LCA, as well as a bit of a history of the conference. Rusty and Kelly spent the duration of the talk subtly referencing injokes from the history of LCA, whilst not referencing their context: this will probably have the effect of newbies making jokes about Dunk Tanks and Rusty’s Credit Card (the latter has already definitely happened, since I’m already doing so.

The “Well-oiled machine” that was the first-timer’s session was, despite it’s very casual tone, reasonably informative, and looks like something worth repeating. I certainly know a bit more about what to expect that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t go to it. Well done to Rusty and Kelly on it.

Ad-hoc Socialising

One important part of LCA (according to Rusty) is Ad-hoc social events, and to prove his point, organised one: the 50-or-so of us (not all of whom were newbies… interesting) went to a pub near U.Melbourne (I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large pack of nerds take over a pub — a sight to behold, if I do say so myself), and sat around chatting with people. Whilst as a student I generally hung around Students, we eventually got some interesting company in the form of Bernado Innocenti from the One Laptop Per Child project, who had some pre-release XOs to show off to us: whilst he stressed that they’re pre-release and therefore buggy, I was generally impressed by the quality, and the UI, although slightly annoying at the beginning (slow, foreign, and almost entirely pictorial, so my command of the English language was absolutely useless in this context), was quite interesting to see in action, and whilst I’m not entirely sure, I suspect that the hype that they’ve generated is justified.

The XOs attracted Casey Schaufler, a developer of Smack (a Linux Security Module), who was very interesting to talk to: during the conversation, he made me feel very young on multiple occations, mostly by mentioning first releases of products, that he’s had something to do with (he was at SUN when the first release of NFS came out, he was at the X11 release party (1987 by my reckoning).

Rusty was certainly right in the newbies session: you get to meet really interesting people at LCA, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a student, or an accomplished kernel hacker — people will talk to you. I was sceptical about whether or not I would find my place at LCA, but if this first session is anything to judge by, I’m confident that the conference is going to be excellent.

LCA Continues tomorrow; I’ll be attending part of the Debian Miniconf, and part of the Security Miniconf

Other Planet LCA2008

If you’re the sort of person who likes reading planets that contain general interest meterial (as well as subject-specific stuff), then you may want to register yourself at Russell Coker’s OTHER Planet LCA2008 — this is an alternative planet that contains entire blog feeds (as opposed to just the LCA stuff). I’ve done so!

News, Movie Release News

Big news overnight is that the Bond flick to be released this year is to be titled Quantum of Solace, after one of Ian Fleming’s short stories from For Your Eyes Only.

The film gets its release in the US and Europe on November the 7th, and locally a week later (which happily places it after the conclusion of exams)

I’m excited!


Hello Planet LCA2008!


This would be my customary welcome/test post for Planet 2008, and if this shows up there, then it would indicate that everything is working as planned, in which case: Hello to you all!

In relation to setup, it appears that getting PyBlosxom‘s Tags Plugin to output an RSS feed is slightly more trouble than it’s worth: the plugin doesn’t obey the URL extension as an indication of the output flavour, and instead places it on the end of the tag (so in this case, searching for a tag lca2008.rss20), so instead the less-desirable “flav” querystring is necessary. I suspect that this is one to fix on a rainy day.

I look forward to seeing everyone here at LCA: it should be excellent (I hope).


NCSS Part 1 (Sydney part 2)

So here begins my comprehensive wrap-up of all things Sydney, since I conveniently neglected to do so whilst I was there.

Come on, Aussie!

Friday’s main purpose was to watch Day Three of the Second Test between Australia and India at the SCG; which therefore meant that the early part of my day was concerned with getting myself safely to USyd, and then getting myself out to the SCG. So, I arrived at the Women’s College at the Uni only to find myself not booked in at all, and with the reception staff oblivious as to what to do. This was mildly annoying, so I left my bags at the college, and found my way out to Central to catch a bus to the ground.

Getting out from Women’s to Broadway consists of a trek through the oldest part of the main USyd campus, and this time also implied a trek through the Quadrangle. This is the quintessential “Old Sandstone” building on the USyd campus, and if you’re ever in the area is well worth a look at. Walking down from the campus and to Central was generally nice. Bus fares from Central to the SCG were cheap (hurrah), so all that left was a walk from ANZAC Parade and into the ground.

The SCG entry is set up like a maze; there is one central entrance for bag checks, and then a massive detour to get to the stands — all in all, I suspect that due to approaching from the angle that I did, I walked an extra 2KM to get to the ground than I would have at a ground with a sensible entry setup.

I met up at the gate with Ben Vance, a friend from my ISSC’05 days, and we proceeded to find our seats — they were good :). Highlights of the match included Brad Hogg becoming the irrational crowd favourite, missing Adam Gilchrist’s 400th Dismissal due to getting food, 50s from Ganguly and Harbhajan (“Hop-along”) Singh, and seeing Sachin Tendulkar achieve 150, which, admittedly is exactly what I wanted to see when I first decided I wanted to go to the match. It was also amusing to see Kevin “Oh-seven” Rudd get booed when his picture appeared on the Big Screen — clearly Sydney appreciates its life members.

At the close of the day’s play, I walked from the SCG back to the USyd campus (which wasn’t all that far, despite what it looks like on maps), in anticipation of meeting James Curran (the main organiser of NCSS), who needed me to meet a teacher (who was attending NCSS) at Central… I won’t continue that story, as it involves running a minute late, and missing the person I was due to pick up. Oh well. Such is life. I finished the day by settling into St Paul’s College, which ended up being where I stayed (not Women’s), and slept, ready for the chaos that would be Saturday.

Taxi from the Airport

Saturday was a standard, uninteresting morning, brightened by the fact that I had to begin it with my first experience of College Breakfast since my experience of it in KXT312 (those conveyor toasters are sooooo cool!). I followed that with a cup of “coffee” (read: emulsion of sugar, milk powder and Nescafe), and a walk around the campus, making a point of actually finding out what all of the buildings were, and making myself familiar with a campus that I would need to appear “at home” with — given that by the end of it I was already giving people directions, I suspect that I’d done a decent job. My second offical job with the summer school was to hang around International Arrivals of Sydney Airport in order to await another student — his flight schedule read “Osaka/BNE”… strange. Due to the nature of the arrival gates of International, as well as the fact that I had no idea whom to look out for, I was slightly nervious about missing a second passenger (after what had happened on the Friday night). Happily, only 40 minutes after the scheduled arrival time, he arrived, and we caught a taxi back to USyd (incidentally, he was from Queensland, and needed to travel with a passport, and proceed through customs on both ends of the flight — I’ve since decided that Queensland is worthy of being considered another country).

The rest of Saturday afternoon was a bit of a blur, due to the amazingly large amounts of work needed to be done to set up the opening night. Happily, we succeeded, and right on schedule, the summer school began.

Newspaper, Mama


As past NCSSers would know, the “team-building” challenge each year is to build a structure out of newspaper — in past years, the criterion was to make it as tall as possible — this year, instead it was to build a free-standing shelter, judged by how many people would fit under it. The returning group (who I tutored) certainly won on a Per Capita basis, but not overall. Saturday concluded with writing the first (and only) copy of the Daily Hack.

There, that’s it for this installment of my NCSS story — more to come later.

Back home

Well, I’m back home (and have been for the past few days now) after my trip out for NCSS. The trip was fantastic, I made heaps of new friends, revisited lots of old ones (some unexpectedly), and otherwise had a wonderful time.

NCSS itself was definitely worth the trip up for, once again, James Curran and Tara Murphy outdid themselves in the organisation, and put together a truly fantastic programme that I will write about eventually.


Finally, I’ve signed up for Flickr, in order to keep the photos from my new camera online — hopefully you’ll see a whole heap more photos upon this site, and there is also a new page on my site where you can view my most recent photos uploaded to Flickr… of course, the ones up there are from NCSS.

More to come


Sydney Day 1

Get me a ticket for an aeroplane…

Thursday began with an unusually early wake-up time for myself, due to my need to get myself to the airport by 6AM. Once I got there, the general airport trudgery began, with the bag drops, screening, and boarding the plane. I got a window seat on the left-hand side of the plane, which, in most cases is not the side of the plane that you want to be approaching Sydney in from the south (as you don’t see much).

That is, until I checked Virgin Blue’s remarkable Where the bloody hell are we? channel on the TV in front of me, and noticed that our flight path was very inland, and for some odd reason, we were approaching from the north. What this meant for me is that the plane approached on the western side of the city, which meant that I got sweeping harbour and city views on the way down. That’s a fantastic way to start the day 🙂

Drop my bags, see who’s in

Getting out of the airport proved to be a right-royal pain in the arse, due to the slackness of the baggage handlers (we touched down at 8:50, I left the terminal at 9:20), but once I did, I met up with the Bruces (Eddie and Julie, friends of my father from his days in Keith) who are hosting me for the nights that I’m not at NCSS. Nice family :). The trip from the airport was interesting, as it meant I got to see all of the interesting tollways and suburbs that you generally don’t get to care about as a tourist (I’m still not quite sure if that’s a good thing or not)

The Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay

I caught a ferry into the city from Manly in the afternoon, which Julie said would be a good way to acclimatise to the city. Conveniently, it was. I made my way to Darling Harbour, and waited for people.

People, in this case, meant Stephen Merity (Smerity), and a bunch of his friends, since we decided that it would be a good idea if we met before I become his tutor at NCSS (which is certainly going to happen). We made our way to lunch, which consisted of Yum Cha at the Regal on Sussex Street. From casual observation, it seems as though how Yum Cha is served depends greatly upon which Australian City you find yourself in. Whilst in Hobart, it’s a sit down and order process, in Sydney, Yum Cha consists of multiple Chinese women running around with large trollies, stopping only to smother your table with food on a regular basis. Or so it seems, anyway. Either way the food was still good.

After that, we saw I Am Legend the latest movie starring (and notably only starring) Will Smith. It’s a fairly standard suspensful-thriller-come-zombie-movie. Unfortunately, the movie wastes close to 45 minutes on seemingly random activities, and I personally didn’t see any point to the plot until late in the movie, that said, it was still enjoyable, and probably warrants three stars from me.

The day finished with me catching a ferry back to Manly, and having dinner with the Bruces at Dee Why.

In with the new!

And so 2008 begins! May it be successful, prosperous, and a whole lot of other adjectives that people find desirable when discussing new years.

I’m starting 2008 off by heading up to Sydney, unfortunately not in time to see their wonderful fireworks display (Hobart’s had to suffice, unfortunately), but in time to see the New Year’s test match at the SCG, and in time to tutor at NCSS. I’m certainly looking forward to it!