NOBLE APE MAILOUT - MARCH 2005
SCRIPTING THE SIMULATION
SCRIPTING THE SIMULATION
Over the past couple of years, I have sporadically written about the effects of a scripting language on the Simulation. Using the benefits of copious holiday time, I have written a scripting parser and interpreter over the past month.
Working through the needs and additional feature list of the scripting language, I came up with a very stripped down language that has elements of BASIC and elements of C. Rather than being a functional language, the script allows for variable definition on the fly and a subset of variables that have function elements. For example if you want to access an element in the ''brain'' array, set the three points of the brain;
brain_x = 14;
Then brain_value can either be an input or output variable depending on whether you want to set or get the brain value. At the time of writing the mailout the final elements of the scripting language are still being tested and ironed out. I hope to have the scripting source online within the next month and a detailed document online in a similar time frame.
A footnote to providing a scripting language is the vast array of potential bugs that can creep in through a plurality of possible handles for Noble Ape. The bug tracking for Noble Ape that includes both simulation stability as well as software stability will need to include tutorials and development of the scripting stability. With the freedom of scripting, comes a new kind of feedback and community. It is going to be interesting seeing how a scripted Noble Ape is received.
SOURCE CODE TRACKING
In the past three months roughly 200 folks per month have downloaded the Simulation source code. Whilst this number may sound small, it works out roughly 2,400 people per year. Who are these people and what do they use the Simulation for? If these people could be tracked in terms of communication and understanding, the community downloading the source code would no longer be such a mystery.
One model I have looked at is registering email addresses prior to download. This method is used with a wide variety of freeware programs already. Another method is to establish a yahoo mailing list or similar mailing list that requires subscription in order to receive the files. Now in the case of the mailing list, subscribers won't get posting options but it generates an idea that by downloading the source code you are being part of a community.
I am looking for feedback from the mailout on this issue. Obviously anonymous downloading works too. But as a developer, I'm not getting a sense of why people are downloading the source - perhaps as a development tutorial - or how to tailor the source to those who are using it.
WHERE'S DARWIN AT?
For the past month, since I have been in this part of the world, the DarwinAtHome mailing list has taken off. In fact, the DarwinAtHome mailing list has encouraged folks to join the mailout. I would like to welcome those who have subscribed to the mailout from the DarwinAtHome mailing list.
When I contacted Bruce Damer about DarwinAtHome two months ago I wasn't clear who was involved with DarwinAtHome. What is coming out of the DarwinAtHome mailing list is not a group of historical ALife names but a group of people willing to work together to develop something of benefit and discuss the potential direction of current and future ALife projects.
I thoroughly recommend all (even mildly) interested in the direction and maintenance of ALife to join the DarwinAtHome mailing list;
Now at http://www.biota.org/athome/
For some background on the posts to-date;
PLAN TO LAN THE APES
In the near future, through stabilising my locality, I hope to produce a Noble Ape local area development network including the first machine I have maintained dedicated to running the Simulation continuously. This has long been my dream with the Noble Ape development although the elements of the Simulation and the machines I have had access to, haven't always allowed that.
As this development and testing rig grows, I want to streamline the Simulation releases. Increasing the frequency, but also simplifying the release cycle. I would like to make a couple of releases through the most friendly download sites. This is a difficult and somewhat subjective choice. Almost all the download sites have pluses and minuses. As all download sites are subject to fashion too, the download sites that were useful in 2003, seemed more dull in 2004.
Now, who can predict which download sites would be best. Running on the nerd feedback, freshmeat for the Mac release would be the best location to test the new scripting. Although sometimes acidic, versiontracker may be a good place for the latest Windows and Mac release too. It was home of the original comment (which I am paraphrasing) - I start my day by running Noble Ape and thinking about what it means.
As I write this mailout, I have received an email from Mridul P who is on the east coast currently. For the first time ever, Mridul and I are on the same landmass. With him on the east coast for the next year, I'm hoping to arrange a Noble Ape developers confest sometime before March 2006. But I digress.
I have reworked the Windows source recently with the view that I want to add the threading benefit for Windows too. With a number of core and gui changes in the Simulation since I last touched the Windows code, I wanted to make sure that everything still worked together.
The new model for source release is the basic Simulation for Mac and Windows is in a reduced sim.zip. This version was formerly called the Ocelot version of the Simulation through the Ocelot interface;
For me personally, now maintaining a Windows and a Mac laptop with development environments and a dialup connection, a small downloadable source is critical.
Hope all is well with you all,
Tom Barbalet, 27 March 2005.