NOBLE APE MAILOUT - JANUARY 2005
There may not be a mailout next month as I will be travelling. After nearly four years in the UK, my wife and I are heading westward. I have been tracking some of the move in my personal log. The UK has been very good for the Noble Ape development in terms of stability resulting in the generation of new code and documentation.
This mailout outlines some of the new developments which will shape Noble Ape over the next twelve months. Location is one of those factors. I hope to have regular mailouts resumed by March 2005, but due to the nature of relocation and setup, the next mailout may not be until April.
DARWIN AT HOME
I have long had an interest in pushing the Noble Ape Simulation into a peer-to-peer environment. This development would not only help the Simulation but also Noble Warfare.
Earlier this month, I was contacted by Biota.org's Bruce Damer about a new project he was going to launch called Darwin@Home. Loosely based on SETI@Home, Bruce's project (whilst in its formative stages) appeared to describe a peer-to-peer network specially designed for ALife projects like Noble Ape.
Twenty four hours following my initial contact from Bruce, I put online a document that represented my initial thoughts on the Noble Ape Simulation's integration with Darwin@Home;
This document also contains a link to the main Darwin@Home site.
Following the launch of Darwin@Home, Bruce contacted me and asked if I would be interested in editing and maintaining Biota.org as he was swamped with interest in Darwin@Home. Biota.org was a hub for ALife development in the mid-1990s, but it hasn't been updated over the past five years.
I've been visiting the site since it was launched and although it has taken a number of hours to update all the links and improve the look and feel of the site, Biota.org has the ability to return to its original status in the independent ALife development community.
My plan is to update the links and people on the site and start including current interviews and papers from folks wanting to contribute to the site.
One of the interesting feedback points in redeveloping an existing site like Biota.org is the reliance on uniform links and directional purpose. This is something that has been lacking in the Noble Ape site for a number of years.
For me, there is a lot of code on the Noble Ape site that I no longer actively maintain. Pointing people directly to that code along with currently maintained code, like the Noble Ape Simulation for example, seems counterproductive. Reworking Biota.org has made me think about that logic more critically. Like the co-development of Noble Warfare with the Noble Ape Simulation, working with Biota.org can only produce positive feedback for the Noble Ape development.
Over this month I have been working through a group of source files I am now referring to as the Noble Toolbox. This refers to four or so files that are shared between the Noble Ape Simulation and Noble Warfare. Specifically it relates to file IO handling with the Noble file syntax used in both the Simulation and Noble Warfare, as well as the low-level drawing which is used in both. There are some additions too like random number generation and Bresenham adaptive functions for line-of-sight as well as drawing lines.
Through this work I have been considering the point drawing code as it is currently versus piped pixel rendering. One has a series of entry functions writing pixels and the other has an array of coordinates written to pixels in a single function. I am still considering speed issues although there appear to be a number of optimisations in the latter.
Where could this be used in the Simulation? Drawing apes on the map for example, everything contained in the Meters window and similarly everything contained in the Brain window. I am doing time tests currently and I hope to have the faster method implemented in the Simulation and through the Noble Toolbox. In time frame terms, I am hoping this will be in the next version of the Simulation which I plan to release around April - all going well with the move.
Aside from the autonomous interchange of code between the Simulation and Noble Warfare, there is also a number of third-party uses for the Noble Toolbox. The file handling, for example, provides a lean alternative to XML. It is a simple, unified syntax that supports linked hierarchies and is order independent. Ideally, I will write an introductory document on the Noble Toolbox over the next couple of months.
Prior to the offer of updating Biota.org, I put a couple of evenings into updating the documentation section of the Noble Ape site;
This section of the site, in its previous form, didn't give the reader an introduction to the documents. Someone coming to the page with a series of blind links to documents wouldn't get a sense of what each document was really about past the initial title.
One of the documents I reworked briefly was Noble Ape Philosophic which provided the concise philosophical backbone to the Simulation. It was originally part of a series of documents about the various aspects of the Simulation written after the epic manuals that defined the development in 1996-1997. Whilst the manuals outdated quickly, the Philosophic document continued to be a personal reference on the direction of the Simulation.
Hope all is well with you all,
Tom Barbalet, 23 January 2005.