NOBLE APE MAILOUT - MAY 2006
I ended the last mailout with a discussion on PodCasting Noble Ape. One month later there is roughly two hours of audio online talking about everything from the eccentricities of Mac OS 10.4 integration to why artificial life exists as a deconstruction of the science versus religion debate.
Producing a semi regular PodCast is producing a lot more experiential information than I originally projected. Those that have followed the project for a number of years will know my interest in creating theories on numbers and the direction that numbers of users are going to take through following a particular hypothesis.
PodCasting is no different.
When I am asked about open source, I always return to the fact that the stoof I release open source is stoof that I want to work on. If releasing software open source guarantees that I can continue to use and develop it, so much the better. The fact that other folks like the source code and the product, the fact that it makes people think, this is an added benefit.
PodCasts are a relatively new technology. Whilst the fundamentals have been in place for a number of years to produce personal internet radio, the methods of getting PodCasts to a small subset of the internet listener base is the current puzzle. All the estimates I see for PodCasts listener base are similar to the ridiculously over projected estimates for web logging and internet use - I can't trust the statistics. The actual statistics I have found seem to indicate that aside from getting pride of place in iTunes selected categories or through some major PodCast syndication, Ape Reality will have a listener base similar to the Linux version of the Simulation. Honestly, I don't really care. If one other person listens to Ape Reality, it justifies my time doing it.
An interesting footnote. Try as I might to get users to the PodCast, the best non software download from the Noble Ape site following the 0.680 release was the Quicktime movie associated with setting variables in the Simulation. Poor quality sound, jerky OS graphics and a generally glum narrative.
NOBLE APE 0.680 and MAC OS 10.4
It's been a few months since the last release of the Simulation and nothing with regards to the Simulation releases remains static. Although the major bug fix associated with 0.680 allowed Mac OS 10.4 users to open all text files (and other related files) through the Simulation, the underlying structure of the Simulation is changing, moving towards the elements discussed in the Moon Monkeys development. I released 0.680 over last weekend.
In reflection, I am going to do the next couple of releases on weekdays to see if it boosts the download numbers. They are still in the high hundreds, but I recall fondly when the Simulation received 1,500+ downloads on the first day of release.
Following the release, I was reading the comments on VersionTracker. One of the more recent comments from about six months ago, noted that Mac OS 10.4.3 has some serious issues running the Noble Ape Simulation. A few months prior to that Sanjay Patel (formerly of Apple Computer) had noted that I should beg, borrow or buy a Mac capable of running 10.4 because it produced more warnings that earlier versions. Until recently the most contemporary Mac I had access to ran Mac OS 9, so the lighter points of Mac OS 10.4 were not fixable in that development environment.
Mac OS 10.4 takes Apple developers in a similar direction in reduction of legacy API as the port to Carbon in 2000-2001. Moving the Noble Ape Simulation over to Carbon took roughly eighteen months, but was rewarded with Apple picking up and distributing the Simulation with every new Mac they sell. Large time investment and a relatively large reward.
My early review of the changes that are needed: the file handling should be relatively easy to change however the Navigator Services that provides the open and close dialogs may need some additional tweaking.
An interesting note on the graphics, 16-bit RGB indexed is no longer supported and there doesn't appear to be a comparable 16-bit per channel colour support. Whilst Noble Ape has always had a maximum of 8-bits of indexed colour it has maintained 16-bits per channel of indexed colour. In the greens, which Noble Ape is particularly dependent on, 8-bits is too little. My thought, if there is no penalty, is to render the Simulation's colour in CMYK. As the output bits are 32 in both CMYK and RGB, there should be no difference in time taken. I'm doing local indexing of the colours initially. I'm not sure if there is any real conversion time lost on CMYK to RGB on the final rendering end, but as the Apple mantra says this is all done through the GPU anyway.
As a majority of the Noble Ape Simulation users are Mac users, my plan is to do three extraordinary releases over the next five or six releases that cover the Mac OS 10.4 compliance issues. I have a general sense of the direction future Mac OS 10 releases will go, and additional time will need to be invested to add things like Carbon Events in the near term.
Four things have been weighing heavily on my mind of late. This mailout details the PodCast and the porting issues to Mac OS 10.4. In addition to these two points, the anticipated release of Will Wright's Spore and the ongoing issues associated with Biota.org. In summary on all these points;
The PodCast relates to actual numbers associated with the Noble Ape development and the level of interest a project like Noble Ape generates.
The Mac porting issues relate to the amount of time required to maintain OS compatibility versus time put into the Simulation development.
Will Wright's Spore shows the current maximum spec on the Simulation - Planet Noble Ape - is being trumped in popular culture. Although, as an aside, it looks like Wright is taking all possible shortcuts per his earlier Maxis developments, it will leave a subset of users wondering hasn't this all been done already.
The biota.org relates to the degradation of community development into fractured isolated projects. Spencerian Darwinism seems to be the paradigm rather than community involvement. Perhaps it is always a situation where radical individual developers and teams will always push this kind of technology. All I can see from this is a constant re-invention of the wheel and little-to-no productive community collaboration. I idealistically reflect on united we stand, divided we fall, as the true motto behind biota.org.
The biota.org issues are somewhat more convoluted too. Wright makes no reference to artificial life through any of his public discussion of Spore. I can't find, even through the historical biota.org contributors, any real reference to contemporary artificial life development. Perhaps community virtues shouldn't be factored in to any idealism.
Ironically, ten years from the start of Noble Ape, these kinds of reflective thoughts started the initial development.
My solution, and general interest, seems to be moving towards artificial life as a critique of contemporary science. Contemporary science as a commercial venture far removed from the ideals of community interdisciplinary collaboration and reflection. I don't see Kant referenced through contemporary discussions of science as it was referenced through the first half of the twentieth century for example. I regularly talk about the olive oil, red wine and egg problem - which are good for you at any given time? The popular view of science has been progressively degraded and I think there is a deconstruction element that can teach lessons on the current problems with contemporary science.
My interest is to develop a project that combines the current ApeScript definition and allows for a meta scripting of elements like physics and biology. This produces a simulation that is a compiler/interpreter. The only method, I can see for a coherent future artificial life development is one which is removed from all predefined construction. My sense is, in this environment, the ideas of natural selection and of evolutionary development should be implicit but explicitly found. I don't know how far such a simulation can return to first-principles. But in terms of the issues I have referenced, this is the only direction a Noble Ape simulation can take.
Hope all is well with you all,
Tom Barbalet, 29 May 2006.