Monday, June 14, 2004

Why blog?

From an item on the BBC web site:

"Weblogs are sometimes criticised for being the self-obsessed ramblings of people who have little to say and too much time on their hands in which to do it."

Well, I can't comment about anyone else, but in my case that's certainly true. Hey, why not? What's wrong with that? Personally I find self-obsessed ramblings interesting, at least sometimes.

I wonder if anyone might find my self-obsessed ramblings interesting ...

Writing games at home

The reason why I was installing Linux was because I recently felt inspired to have another go at writing a game at home. Like anyone interested in games, I have two or three ideas for computer games which I at least would love to play, and have never managed to find. One of them I had nearly 15 years ago. The idea now, as always, is to take one of these ideas and actually turn it into a playable game.

The problem is, writing a whole computer game (at least a strategy game like the games I like) is a big task. I know, I used to do it for a living. It took a team of a dozen or more of us working full time for over a year. Now in practice a lot of that effort went into flashy 3d graphics, FMV, and other things which don't make the game any better to play. But still, I don't know how long it would take me just to do a simple version of one of my games.

I don't get much time to write games. The odd hour or two each day can be squeezed in between work and home life, and usually I can't be bothered to do anything harder than just playing.

As if that's not enough of a problem, I'm not the kind of person who can stick at a project over a course of months. I've started working on each of these ideas many times, got some little bit working (or not), then gone away. When I come back I invariably want to start from somewhere else.

I guess maybe I just don't have the "drive" to complete a large project like this in my own time. Although I could say I have too much imagination to work on a single idea for too long. (Anyone reading this and thinking about offering me a job, bear in mind it's a lot easier working full time on a project for months on end at work where it's your job, as I've done in the past - home development is I think a uniquely difficult environment). I wonder if there are any software development methodologies designed for people in my situation, where work time is bitty and continual motivation is critical?


I installed Linux on my PC at the weekend. It was "interesting". It took a long time and a lot of effort. At each step along the way I found things didn't work as I expected, and it took me a while (and sometimes some web trawling) to find out what I needed to do.

To be fair to the Linux installer, half my problems were to do with backing up and re-partitioning my hard disk before I even touched anything Linux.

Once I'd managed that, I had to work out how to create all the correct partitions on the hard disk for Linux. To do this I had to guess the names of the appropriate Linux commands.

At times the process was frustrating, but in the end I think I quite enjoyed the challenge and the sense of achievement. I certainly haven't been put off Linux. The positive thing I've found is that pretty much any Linux question can be answered using Google (just like anything else in life, but that's another story). And it seems easier to find appropriate help than with my current operating systems.

I was surprised, though, that the installation was harder than I expected. I guess that says something about my expectations about software. I found it challenging because I didn't know what I was doing; I'm used to software which is designed to be easy for people who don't know what they're doing. Still, I think Linux will suit me. Ultimately I prefer software which just does what you tell it to, right or wrong; that's how I expect computers to behave.

Friday, June 11, 2004


I voted in the European elections yesterday. That puts me in a minority (nothing new there then) - only 40% of people bothered.

The EU parliament which I helped to elect is responsible for passing laws which affect all sorts of things across Europe. It's not as if they are things no-one cares about; a common theme of British life is people complaining about the latest EU directive. But it seems that here as in so many areas, British people would prefer to whinge about the situation than to actually do something about it.

I've voted in every election here since I've been eligible. I feel it is not just a privilege but also a duty. I owe it to myself and everyone else who lives in this country, since the election affects everyone.

Moreover, though, I feel I owe it to all of the people in the world who have spent so much effort trying to get what we take for granted: a vote.

At the last elections, my wife didn't really like any of the candidates. But nonetheless she felt she had to go cast a vote, even if only to spoil her ballot paper. She remembered the story of Emily Davison, a member of the suffragette movement. She threw herself under the King's racehorse and was killed. That's how important voting was to her.

And in South Africa, elections are still a matter for national celebration, because so many people there were not allowed to vote for so long.

So as I walked from the polling station, I closed my eyes and pretended I was in South Africa.

I wonder what Emily Davison would say now. She gave her life so that half the population here could vote, and now half the population aren't even willing to give up their seat on the sofa for ten minutes.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


There is talk in the news here about the possibility of more petrol protests. A few years ago there was a huge scandal when petrol reached 84p a litre. Petrol depots were blockaded and no-one could buy petrol. Then everyone started going to shops and panic buying bread and milk.

Personally I totally opposed the fuel protests: I totally object to the idea of a bunch of truckers holding the country to ransom. Moreover, I don't have a problem with paying 84p a litre or £1 a litre or more for petrol, and I strongly support increases in fuel tax. My car gets 10 miles to the litre (45 miles per UK gallon) and I drive less than six thousand miles a year. I know it's hard on people who drive 50 miles a day in 4x4s or luxury saloons, but that's their choice.

The few days of the blockades were a very interesting time. People started sharing lifts to work. Mothers started walking their children to school instead of driving them. With fewer cars on the street as well, it made walking into town a much more enjoyable experience.

So here's hoping that fuel duty will continue to rise.