Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Using my Slug as a Mercurial Repos

I've bought a slug inspired by the now defunct Linux Reality podcast. It had been hanging around for a while but now I've found something worthwhile to use it for. I've been using Mercurial for distributed version control and the slug makes a great central repos. I've got Debian etch running on the slug and mercurial was a simple apt-get away (actually I use aptitude to manage the packages). With mercurial installed and a little setting up of ssh keys I'm good to go. I simply have a single mercurial user on the slug and make sure for any files that I edit I first pull from the mercurial user and when done push back. I can now edit the same files from work, various computers at home and at the inlaws and keep the whole thing under control. Now, if only I could get a symbian S60 version of mercurial going...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Age of Empires

My oldest son loves Age of Empires II, so I decided to see what fun we could have hacking with the game.

Before kids I spent too much time playing Age of Empires II. Since kids I've been a recovering adict, keeping well away from temptation as I feared that one hit would lead me down a slippery slope to the AOE monster eating my free/sleeping time. Recently however my oldest son has started playing AoE2 himself, influenced by his mother I should explain. He started out on the scenario levels becoming a great fan of Gengis Khan, Joan of Arc and friends. It was his idea to start hacking with AoE2. We went on a visit to Warwick castle and the next day he suggested that it would be great if we could play a Warwick castle game on AoE2. A little playing with the scenario builder and we had a passable map of Warwick castle with the forces of Ricard Earl of Warwick lined up against the Duke of Hastings and Edward 4th. My son was in charge of deciding the sizes and composition of the various forces and, being only five, he made quite sure they were heavily biased in the human player's favour. We got this set up and ran the game. At first we couldn't get the two sides to fight each other. Then we found the dipolomacy settings and with the help of drawing up the grid of who was with who, got the correct forces to engage.

My son seemed quite happy with the set up we had. He'd get his huge band of troops, march up on the hapless enemy and win decisively. I was disappointed with the way that the computer controlled forces did little to defend themselves. They just stood about and waited for the enevitable anihilation. A little digging and I found that AoE2 has a scriptable AI language and there are lots of people writing AoE2 scripts at So now I have my next hacking mission: learn the AoE2 scripting language and start coding some things in it. Meanwhile, my son has this idea for a "build the Great Wall of China" scenario.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Working with the Grain

Re-reading my previous posts it occurs to me that I was assuming that spending time with my family was taking time away from doing cool hacker stuff. I've missed a trick there. What I should have been looking for was the win-win. If the things you do with your kids are cool hacks at the same time then the hours are not zero sum. So, shifting focus, my search changes from looking for ways to hack in the spare moments around the kids to looking for ways to hack with the kids.

What would constitute a hack with the kids? Well it has to be something to do with problem solving, being creative, and getting immersed in a topic. The difficulty is finding the topic. Its got to be something where both me and my kids are interested. It seems patronizing to get the kids to repeat experiments out of kits without some wider motivation.

So that's what I'm going to try to do. If you have an idea for a topic then post a comment.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Chess Griffin Becomes a DadHacker

Chess Griffin, presenter of the fabulous Linux Reality Podcast, has announced that he's stopping podcasting after 100 shows to have more spare time to spend with his family. This is the classic DadHacker dilemma -- doing something technically cool just takes up so much time. I can't even keep posting to a blog up to much speed never mind a podcast. If I can think of a answer that allows both family and techie things to happen simultaneously I'm sure I'll make my fortune somehow.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Update on DadHacking

So I've been busy on the "Dad" side of DadHacker recently. Baby v.3.0 arrived before Christmas. Seeing as writing blog posts fitted under the "Hacker" remit, things have been somewhat quiet here recently. No time for hacking, but at least some time for thinking. What I've been thinking about is a return to Smalltalk. Smalltalk was my object-oriented roots more than fifteen years ago. Recently I've discovered the Seaside web-framework and it is really intriguing. Being smalltalk development, it is tied to a full-sized machine rather than my phone. There is hope as seaside has a web-based development UI. I wonder how that would run on my nokia symbian opera web-browser.