NOBLE APE MAIL OUT - DECEMBER 2002
Welcome to the final Noble Ape Mailout for 2002. This mailout is a little earlier than usual to avoid writing it around the New Year. Although the time has been relatively short since the last Mailout, quite a bit has occurred in the past couple of weeks.
Two new documents were added to the Noble Ape Project documentation archive this month. The first document was on developing with the Generic Platform Interface, a general overview of the technology and how to implement the GPI.
The second was an introduction to programming the Noble Ape Simulation.
A document so fundamental it is amazing that it has taken six and a half years to produce. To be fair, the Noble Ape Simulation Manuals (both the 1997 version and the current HTML version) have provided information on programming the Noble Ape Simulation. But the development of dedicated texts on programming with the Noble Ape Simulation and related software is part of the modern Noble Ape Project.
The trick in getting documentation written and online is the time taken to write the text and convert it to HTML. Both the documents put online where written and converted to HTML within a three day period. I have a number of documents that are now totally out-of-date that took a couple of weeks to write. The Mailout is typically written over two condensed writing periods. Longer documents get tired very quickly and they work against the writing of software.
Within 24 hours of the Programming the Noble Ape Simulation document going online, Google had registered it and folk were coming to read the information in the document. Although the internet may be considered to be a visual medium, text drives the internet for information.
Aside from the documentation, Ocelot has been the primary focus of development this month. There have been a couple of major breakthroughs this month. The speed of the frame rendering was almost doubled with the removal of the trigonometric multiplications in the rendering loop. Somewhat unexpectedly, with a couple of minor code changes, the Ocelot code now runs on Mac OS X too.
There are a number of directions the Ocelot engine could go. I am going to develop a couple of demonstrations of different environments and applications - through the Ocelot web page. The speed of the engine and the application of independent colour and texture maps make it ideal for strategy games over large terrains.
Ocelot, a new colour interface and a central part of the Simulation, demands a new colour interface for the entire Noble Ape Simulation. I have been working on this quite a bit through the Project's source log as well as work offline. The colourisation of the Ocelot interface gives some background to the breadth of colour available. The main colour theme of Ocelot is continuous colour. It doesn't look as vibrant through 64k colour as it does through millions. This a find-the-one-call-in-the-documentation rather than a floor in the engine. The Simulation code now auto detects the compiler and the Mac OS type (something which should be supported through documentation from the OS and compiler manufacturers - you'd think!)
Within the next six months, Ocelot will become the only engine for the Noble Ape Simulation. Like Vect3 prior to it, Ocelot will be lost in historical documentation. Moving all the Noble Ape Project software into a colour/smooth interface is a central theme over the coming twelve months.
GENERIC PLATFORM INTERFACE
The document written this month, introduced the GPI in text, but not on favourite platforms. The platforms available are still rather limited. Creating a Windows version of the GPI is high on the to-do list. Developing a GPI compatible version of the Noble Ape Simulation was also a task discussed and started this month.
The lessons from Ocelot are plentiful with the GPI development. The original plan was to integrate Ocelot over time into a version of the Noble Ape Simulation. It became apparent that the way to move was to isolate what was needed to have Ocelot as a current interface to the developing Noble Ape Simulation rather than a clunky movement between an old version of the Simulation (with Ocelot) and the current development.
For the GPI, the lesson is to follow the code path. When difficulties are encountered, sometimes it pays off to follow the slightly longer route. That was the case with the multi window development of the Simulation too. So what in the future? More in the source log over the next couple of months.
Open Source, both in software source and documentation source have been central themes of the Noble Ape Project. The move to put all the source code associated with the Noble Ape Project online for continuous scrutiny has in many ways been equivalent to maintaining proprietary software in terms of contributive development or open source community scrutiny. To date, there has never been a source code contribution to the Noble Ape Simulation and the only feedback given about the Simulation has come through feedback on download sites.
Over the next couple of months, I want to explore the reality of Open Source through the Noble Ape Project website. What does Open Source actually mean? What are the implications of Open Source and what terminology should be used to describe the software of the Noble Ape Project if Open Source and Free Source have been sufficiently branded to make them no longer viable terms.
The Noble Ape Project has received mixed traffic this month. Last Mailout, I mentioned an increase to the website giving roughly 80 unique visitors per day. Within three days of the Mailout, the number of unique visitors dropped to the old average of 60. In the past week this has improved to 80, but it was somewhat amusing none the less.
I have expanded in the source log, the type of visitors that come through the website. With the two developer documents online earlier in the month, an increase in developer traffic has resulted. Google, and its many regional variants, still provide a majority of the traffic.
In the New Year I am looking to expand the Noble Ape Project. In particular I am going to release a sub-project from the Noble Ape Project for independent development. Also I hope to have quarterly press releases to generate a little wire traffic on the Noble Ape Project current development and the history of the Noble Ape Project. This is going to be an experiment more than a shift in focus.
I reflect on the largest publicity the Noble Ape Project has ever experienced. It reduced the Mailout list by about 200 (over time) and it set the Project back about two and a half years in development time.
More on the controlled press release experiment and the new sub-project in the next mailout.
Seasons Greetings and hope all is well,
Tom Barbalet, 16 December 2002.