Jolyon Brown

An experiment with 30 minute sprints

There’s some advice I’ve read which says to become successful you should really work on what’s important and just write off the stuff that you’ll never get to. Paraphrasing wildly of course, but while I recognise that’s probably the right way to go about things, this hasn’t stopped me from getting annoyed at those dangling threads of things that never get finished. So sod the advice. For a bit anyway. Given the current circumstances in our household where it’s looking like we’re shielding until the end of June, that gives me some time to experiment with trying to tie off some of these projects.

C64 - Installing Vice on Ubuntu

I’ve picked my C64 Nethack project back up again after switching back to Linux as my day to day desktop. And hey, August is C64 month! I’m slowly getting my development setup sorted out, but the first step was to get VICE up and running. It’s pretty simple, but took me half an hour to get the info together, so hopefully these steps save someone else a bit of time (and this blog is mainly to jog my memory anyway).

How to get screenshots in the Sway Window Manager

I recently began a slow migration from using a 2014 Macbook Pro to a new 2019 Dell XPS 13. There’s probably another post there but basically, overdue a replacement, didn’t fancy the new keyboards and wanted to switch back to using Linux 100% of the time. Of course Apple then announced new keyboards on their latest model. D’oh! But I’m happy with the XPS so far, running Ubuntu. I also wanted to switch to a tiling window manager, and chose Sway (I wanted to run Wayland) as I had some experience with i3.

Formula Pi Winter 2017/18 - Update 4

The Winter 2017-18 season of Formula Pi is over! Unfortunately Limilo had no chance of making the final, but as per the previous post I had high hopes of getting a win in the final heat. After a great start (leading the first lap, slipping into second place after finally avoiding another car just after) the robot hit a car going the wrong way around the track. After getting out of that scrape, the robot decided the best course of action would be to beach itself on the racetrack wall:

Formula Pi Winter 2017/18 - Update 3

So the last challenge round of the season didn’t quite go to plan - Team Limilo now sits back in 13th place, after yet another zero point haul from an obstacle avoidance based heat. Simulation testing had gone pretty well, but this was a reminder that nothing can subtitute for running code in the real world. I’d taken a chance on reducing the threshold for triggering an overtake which didn’t pay off at all.

Formula Pi Winter 2017/18 - Update 2

After the last couple of Formula Pi rounds Team Limilo sit in ninth position on the overall leaderboard. The second challenge round was a disaster with zero points scored (the least said about that the better, but basically the robot managed to hit every obstacle on the track, ironically clearing a path for it’s competitor to sail round without a care in the world). The second race though was a much better affair with the robot coming a close second in it’s heat with 29 laps completed - the joint highest of the round.

Formula Pi Winter 2017/18 - Update

After a miserable starting line failure for the first event proper of the Winter 2017-18 season, last week the Team Limilo robot finished a creditable third in it’s heat, clocking up 14 laps. I say creditable because on the first corner it ended up in a crash (of it’s own making - the draw saw it placed on the outside lane and it tried to cut across to the inside without a care for who got in the way - oops) which saw it stranded up on the barrier while the frontrunners clocked up a few laps.

Formula Pi

Something else I’ve been looking at since late on in 2017 is Formula Pi. I’ve been interested in machine learning/artificial intelligence for a while, so coming across a competition where you can program a Raspberry Pi based robot to race against competitors (and have the organisers handle literally everything else) was appealing right from the off. I managed to grab a slot for the winter season just before the closing date for entries.

Nethack64 Part 1

So far on this project I’ve done a bit of background reading and information gathering. is the first place to go for all things Nethack code related of course. One thing I spotted early on was the news that the current version - 3.6 - is relatively new and includes a lot of additional code and tidying up of the venerable 3.4 branches. The development team also took the decision to no longer worry about optimising for older, memory constrained platforms (which I guess includes the aforementioned Amiga).

Converting Nethack to the C64

2018 has started off pretty well as far as time management goes. I’ve actually begun to make some progress on hitherto stalled projects which I’ll talk about in my next few posts. Its amazing the amount of time ditching idle browsing and keeping up with Twitter frees up. Thanks to being born in the early seventies, my middle childhood and teenage years coincided with the eighties British computer revolution. I can’t emphasise enough the impact of this on me at the time.