NOBLE APE MAILOUT - FEBRUARY 2004
Welcome to another instalment of the Noble Ape Mailout. So much has changed over this month, that I have ditched my mid-month Mailout draft, in favour of a new version.
I saw the layout for the IEEE article last week. As you read this, thousands of issues of the IEEE article are filtering through the US Postal Service. It is difficult to predict how it will be received, but assuming only 5,000 people read the article, it is still on par with a major release of the Simulation in terms of getting eyes on the site.
Aside from not being able to accurately predict how the article will be received, you can never be prepared enough for the effects of an article in terms of the viewers to the site. The site will never be ready for this kind of scrutiny. I am hoping that most of the viewers will take something positive away. I have put the original Nervana manuals online - in a somewhat foolhardy move. I hope the site searchers will aim for the more recent documentation first.
When I came to re-editing the IEEE article in January, one of the first things to be cut was the reference to SourceForge. For the past two years, the Noble Ape Simulation has been hosted on SourceForge. However the past three months has seen a somewhat disturbing change of direction for SourceForge with the introduction of a donation skimming system and a subscription service.
The developers I have spoken to and emailed seem split by the SourceForge directional shift. Personally, I feel any resource that claims to support Open Source needs to be clear about it's motives. If the motive is to make money from developers in a pyramid selling system, this needs to be stated explicitly and SourceForge appears to be doing this. Open Source is very susceptible to commercial exploitation. I have removed all the active development of the Simulation from SourceForge and I am slowly updating the site to allow for code contributions online and daily source (and potentially executable updates) online.
There have bee two major advances with Ocelot this month. The first was the introduction of colour and height independence. For the Simulation, this means the Map window information can be fed over the top of the height map in the Ocelot window. You can see the Noble Apes moving around you through the Ocelot window!
In this change, I also introduced the graphical representation of trees. Both these changes feedback into the Noble Warfare development. Detailed overlays and colour information different from height information is critical for Noble Warfare. If you would like to see an example of both changes, the combined image is shown in the Source Log;
In addition to this work, Mridul P is continuing the Windows development and reports good progress in the functional implementation.
Through this month two additional documents have been added to the Noble Ape documentation section;
The first deals with the education of users about the benefits of Open Source. It was written as a quick essay, but it makes a number of subtle points which seem to be missed in the politics of Open Source development.
The Noble Ape website has been subtly modified this month to produce a couple of random results with each view. Through this implementation, I noticed the somewhat dated state-of-the-development from May last year. I have written a brief follow on for February.
In addition to these two new documents, I have re listed the Nervana Manuals and the Source Log archive locally. This had previously been hosted on SourceForge.
The code clean-out equivalent of the documentation clean-out is ongoing. Part of this clean-out is looking at old source code like the HTML-C utilities that were developed with the old Nervana source code base and Ecosim. Ecosim is a remarkably simple concept - an easy user interface for creating a biological simulation. Ecosim could be written through Java or an object oriented language. But the current implementation is through 'hobbyist' C.
There hasn't been any serious development of the code since it was first written in 1998. As with the original Simulation there were both Mac and Windows 3.1 versions available initially, the Windows version source was lost in the 1997-1998 timeframe. The Mac version was lost in similar circumstances until a single 3.5 inch disk arrived from Australia with the original code a couple of years ago. The code was briefly reworked and put online.
Ecosim isn't a development priority like the Simulation or Noble Warfare, but it is fun software to play with occasionally.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a PowerBook 1400c on eBay. The 1400c was the machine I purchased with the Australian Film Commission grant in 1997 and the machine I picked up on eBay was in mint condition. It is a perfect machine for the Noble Ape development and documentation. The new laptop has raised the general productivity of day-to-day development no end. Working on the floor sitting cross-legged is now the norm again. The original Shed development lives on!
Hope all is well with you all,
Tom Barbalet, 29 February 2004.