Linkage 3.6 With Beta Backgrounds

September 15th, 2017

Download Linkage 3.x here.

Linkage 3.6 is now available. This new version has a background I mage feature that is “beta".” This means it is being tested and you can use it if you want to give it a try. but it is possible that the new feature could cause problems at any time.

imageThe new background image feature is available in a new tool bar tab called “Background.” You can open a file, remove the current background, and set the transparency of the background image.

The background image file is opened and used for the background but is stored internally (in memory and then in the .linkage2 data file) after that. The original image file is not needed once the background image shows up in the window.

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The background image shows up behind the grid. The image size is based on a 96-pixels-per-inch resolution. The image above is 3994 pixels wide so it is show being about 41 inches wide in the mechanism. There is no way to change the image scaling at this time. if you need to design a mechanism at a certain size and it doesn’t match the background image you might be using as a design sketch, design the mechanism to fit the background image and then later scale it to the desired size.

The background of the mechanism window is white so making the background image more transparent makes it lighter.

The background image is not part of the Undo feature so you cannot Undo a background image change!

Good luck with the new version!

Please report problems using my email address in the About box in the Linkage program.

Trials Fusion Custom Track

September 12th, 2017

I spent a few minutes making a track for Trials Fusion on the Xbox One. It’s a fun game that I never thought I would like… and I have loved playing it for years.

The video is not me playing the game. This is a far better player than I.

I like to add lots of small detail to the tracks I make. Because of that, they have to be hard so the player doesn’t ride past too fast. It’s difficult to make a track that is slow. And in this case, it’s even harder to make a track that is level. Most slow tracks are hill climbs and making a hill climb over water like this would be impossible to do with realistic looking structures.x

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The very first jump is actually really hard for me. It takes me about five tries to get it right.

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The difficult parts are the steep hills and then a few bunny hops at the very end.

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The scenery is what was the most fun to make. I tried to give the track some variety while still seeming consistent in the theme of it.

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Three-Connection Link Problem and Beam Engine

August 30th, 2017

The Linkage software still has a problem with three-connection links. I have described the problem before but to be clear, I’ll describe it again: If a link is held in position by three other links, it cannot be simulated. There is no way to find the end position of one of those three connections without knowing the end position of the other two. It is a cliché “chicken-egg” problem (the egg came first if you ask a sensible biologist, hence the cliché of it).

My Grasshopper Engine

Here is an image showing how I would like to design the engine:

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Grasshopper In Desired Configuration

I can’t run the simulator for the desired configuration of links. It just won’t work. So I am back to wanting a solution to this problem. 9 Simultaneous equations? Iterative algorithm to search for the link position? Maybe having ignored this problem for a few year, the solution will now present itself – I’ve had plenty of time to mull it over in my head. Maybe not.

15 Miles and Counting…

August 14th, 2017

I made it 15 miles in the kayak on Saturday (Aug 19 2017). It was really neat to go around Deadman Point and see Cave Rock and South Lake Tahoe.

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The Route I took went around and into Glenbrook Bay and included a small detour at the end to give me a little extra distance. You can see this trip and others on my kayaking/biking trip log page.

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Once around the point, I could see Cave Rock. It is the tiny outcropping to the right of center at lake level in the above picture. It looked huge and distinct in real life but looks tiny in the photo. I contemplated paddling to it but instead paddled into the bay that lies just around that point on the left.

Here is a close-up of Cave Rock taken from the above photo:

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I may go for a full 20 miles next week or the week after. The last five miles will be tough but so far, I have been able to keep up a consistent 4 MPH pace for any distance I paddle – the boat just seems to like that speed.

Games, Games, Games

August 10th, 2017

I bought a few new games. I wanted to try a few different styles of board games and I certainly found some that are totally different from my other games. In this post, I am going to list all of my board games with a short comment about each one.

image7 Wonders – This is a card set collection game that requires at least three players. It’s fun but requires trying to remember what was in a hand of cards as hands are traded from one player to the next. I enjoy this game although the strategy of sometimes taking a useless card to keep someone else from getting it, is tricky due to the passing around of the hands.

image7 Wonders Dual – This is a set collection card game similar to 7 Wonders but cards are picked/drafted from a common set on the table that is available to both players. Only supports two players. I like this a little better than the original 7 Wonders since there is no requirement to remember what was in a hand that got passed to another player. Strategies are about the same otherwise, except for some differences that only work for two players, like the military strength mechanisms.

imageAgricola – This is a resource collection game where players choices affect the available choices of the other players. Players try to collect resources that are used to build/buy/use other resources. This is a fun strategic game with lots of strategy choices. The theme works really well with the gameplay.

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Asking for Trobils – The game takes place in the O-Renj planetary system. Say it out loud a few times and you will get the joke. The same is true for the name of the game. I have yet to play it but it looks like a fun worker-placement game that is all about placement, collection, and scoring. Pieces are never moved, just placed on the board or removed.

imageBlack Fleet – Just got this and have not played it yet :(

imageCarcassonne – This is a tile placement game where players place tiles and meeples on those tiles to benefit themselves or to hurt other players. Played once and it’s a quick easy and fun game.

imageCastle Panic – This is a cooperative game that we played at home for a while then lost interest in it. Fun but cooperative games always lead to all players losing. The add-on pack didn’t’ change the game much and I would play it again without the add-on if I play it again sometime.

imageCatan – This is a resource collection and trading game with resources used to buy more territory to get access to even more resources. I haven’t played it yet but it’s a classic so I had to buy it.

imageDominion – This is a deck building game that seems a bit like a solitaire game. It’s interesting and sometimes complicated due to some cards letting you draw more cards in the same turn. There seems to be almost no player interaction with the cards that come with the basic game.

imageThe Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game – this is a cooperative strategy game where cards are used for various actions and the choice of action on each turn is critical to winning. Simple after the first game and interesting so far. I played it solo (three player hands get played by one person) and it was certainly interesting. It’s hard to win, like all cooperative games.

imageExploding Kittens – This is an entertaining survival card game. Try to collect cards that help you avoid losing due to getting an exploding kitten card from the draw deck. Fun party-style game.

imageExplorers of the North Sea – This is a tile placement game combined with a resource collection game. The “board” is built as the game progresses and players sail the seas trying to collect things (or claim territory) that count as points in the end. And if your Vikings die in battle, you get points for that too!

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Fiasco – This is a DM-less RPG of some sort. I just got it. it is the weirdest game in my collection so far. It looks like a book and I had to buy some dice and index cards to make it playable. I love the cover; although you could line up a few of these and each guy is shooting the next, I see it as the guy shooting himself because he doesn’t realize that the pictures wraps from one side to the other.

imageFirefly the Game – This is a do-a-job board game where you use the proceeds from a job (moving resources around the board) to get more resources in order to complete more complicated/difficult/dangerous jobs. It’s a long game with a lot of decks of cards but it a fun family game if not taken too seriously. There’s a bit of randomness that can sometimes be frustrating. It needs a lot of table space.

imageForbidden Desert – Haven’t player this recently enough to remember it. It is a cooperative game if I remember correctly, so no one ever wins :(

imageFury of Dracula Third Edition – This is a one vs. many game where players cooperate to find the location of the Dracula player. Cooperation is very important and there is a bit of deduction needed whenever there’s a clue as to Dracula’s whereabouts. Played once and it was fun; I was not Dracula.

imageGet Lucky – This is a card game based on the Kill Doctor Lucky board game. The game involves collecting small sets of cards to use for attack while also using the same set for defense (of Doctor Lucky). Easy, fun, and easy to forget to keep cards for defense!

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Harbour – This is a card-based worker placement and resource collection game. It’s in a small box and uses a small number of player and resource pieces to go with a bunch of cards. I only played a few solo turns so far and it’s sort of fun.

imageGloom – This is a weird card game where transparent cards are used to stack “abilities” onto a family of cards on the table. Whoever kills off their family first wins! Fun but a little hard to manage the cards and to also play quickly. Some of the story-like stuff on the cards is funny.

Image result for hive board gameHive – A tile placement and movement game with bugs on the tiles! Fun but my daughter doesn’t like bugs so we don’t play much :) Maybe a bit of a checkers-chess combination. The lack of a board makes it easy to carry around the game in a bag.

imageKill Doctor Lucky – This is a strategy board game where players positions on the board (in a house) affect the possible actions of other players. Try to kill Doctor Lucky first to win. Fun easy game. This is the first game and one of the only games that I’ve played where an NPC (Non-Player Character) moves automatically.

imageLanterns The Harvest Festival – This is a tile placement game. Fun, easy, and one players tile placement can also affect the scores of other players. It’s a tiny bit like dominos.

imageLove Letter – this is a quick easy card game with very few cards. Hands never have more than two cards in them so decision making is quick and easy. This is a fun game and our go-to game when nothing else seems interesting. A round of play takes only a few minutes so players usually play to get the best 7 out of 13 wins (if I remember correctly).

imageMetro Paris 1898 – This is a tile placement game that involves trying to make long paths through as many tiles as possible. It’s easy and fun but takes a bit of forethought to score high.

imageMunchkin – I haven’t played it yet. Looks fun but the instructions were not at all clear about how to play. I had to watch three videos before it was clear.

imageOne Night Ultimate Werewolf – This is a party game where players discuss which player is a werewolf to kill (because werewolfs need to be killed for the non-werewolfs to win). There is some lying and some not-lying-and-trying-to-convince-everyone-that-you-are-truthful in the game because the werewolf players want to stay alive to win.

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Orléans is a deck building game using tokens instead of cards. It is also a resource collection game. Strategies and tactics can be complex and subtle and this is a really fun game to play. Player interaction is fairly minimal in the first few rounds of the game but competition heats up as the game progresses due to various resources running out and also because there are some prizes that get claimed by the first player to reach various milestones. At the end of the game, competition is fierce as players try to get a few remaining high-scoring items. The game is more competitive with four players than three and we have not tried with two yet.

imagePandemic – Cooperative board game. Like all cooperative games, it’s hard to win. It’s fun but frustrating to always lose. The premise is cool and the gameplay works well with players moving around the world trying to cure and eradicate diseases.

imageSantorini – This is a strategy stacking game. Players take turns moving a worker and then building a building.

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Set – A card set identification game where players try to find sets of three cards that have something in common without that same set also having something almost but not quite entirely in common. If the set has just two of the same shape, color, shading, or count, it’s not a set!

imageSherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – This turned out to be less of a strategy game and more of a story telling game. We don’t play this because there is no obvious way to do better at the game. Scoring high requires luck or genius. So much circumstantial evidence is needed to solve a case that we could never get enough of it for a solution without losing tons of points getting it. But maybe it’s just that we are not good at the game that made it un-fun for us.

imageSpy Alley – Item collection and bluffing game. Always fun and doesn’t take too long to play. Players try to gather resources that let them win while also gathering resources that keep other players from guessing their identity.

imageStar Realms – This is a deck building game (like Dominion) and also a hand-playing game with a lot of player interaction. I like it more than Dominion because of the player interaction.

imageSushi Go – Card collection game involving trading hands around the table and trying to collect cards based on what will be available in other hands. Fun family game. This is sort like like a super-simple version of 7 Wonders because after the players all take a card from their hand and play it, the hands are passed around the table.

imageT.I.M.E. Stories – This is a cooperative story game that involves making decisions that seem to alter the order of the story elements but doesn’t seem to help get through the game more quickly (with a better score). Like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, this game seems to not have a way to play strategically to score higher; players can only accidentally stumble onto more effective paths to the end of the game. It was interesting the first time but just frustrating the second time (we never finished The Marcy Case). Interactive stories are just not that much fun, except maybe on a computer where the story is more rich and vivid and there’s no pieces to move around constantly.

imageTakenoko – This is tile placement combined with taking actions to achieve semi-random goals. You can pick the type of goal you want but you can’t know what the exact goal will be until you pick the card. This is fun and fairly easy but still takes some strategy and work to win.

imageTicket to Ride – This is a strategy game where taking more risk can lead to a bigger win or a bigger loss. Lots of card drafting is done to get sets of colors in order to claim routes on the map. This is a fun easy game. It takes a bit of luck and a lot of strategy to win. We have played this game a lot, especially back when we only had a few board games at home.

imageTiffin – It’s been a while but what I remember is that this game is a card collection game where sets of cards are collected and then used to claim resources (lunches). It had a Ticket-to-Ride vibe to it. The two-player variant that required a fake third player, sort of sucked, But all games that can’t be played normally with two players suck a little when you have just two players. I am a friend of a friend of one of the guys who designed the game, so I had to get it! And it was good enough that I would play it again.

imageTokaido – This is a set collection game with only a little ability to pick a winning path through the game. This game is fun because strategy is subtle and it’s hard to win big. Making a  very beneficial move often leads to losing a turn or even two. This is also a very pretty game and the deluxe edition is super nice to look at!

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Tortuga – A 2 to 9 player game of card handling, pawn positioning, and deception. We played it with two players and the game was less about deception and more about timing moves in order to be in a good scoring position at the end of the game. It comes in this cool book/box with a roll-out “board”. It is one of the best looking games that I own.

imageUnfair – This is a  recent Kickstarter game that is mostly card collection and some amount of card playing game. I really like this game with two players and even playing in a way that minimizes player interactions, the game is still very fun. The amusement park theme, the quality of the game and instructions, and the interesting mix of possible actions, makes this game one of my favorites.

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Welcome to the Dungeon – A bluffing card game. We played a few times with two players and it was fun. I thin that it would be a great 3 or 4 player game since turns can be taken quickly.

That Book Idea

August 7th, 2017

I tried to write the first few pages of the first chapter. Holy cow, what a pain in the ass. Trying to cover multiple programming languages in a single book will be a seriously difficult task!

Kayaking Across The Bay

August 3rd, 2017

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Starting at Sand Harbor in the evening. The point, just above the boat being launched, is the destination four miles away. I hope to get there in an hour.

The pictures were taken through a phone dry-bag so the quality is not quite great.

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The destination has been reached. It got a little breezy out about half way across but nothing worth worrying about. In fact, it was a blessing since it was dang hot at Sand Harbor.

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About to paddle back. Sand Harbor is on the far shore just to the left of the tip of the kayak. The three scars on the mountain point to the right side of the Sand Harbor park area and make for a good target.

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A few days later, I played in the surf! It got super windy and the beaches cleared out and there were no boats on the lake. I didn’t try to paddle more than a few hundred feet in any direction and instead just tried catching waves for a while. The place was a ghost town when I left – only the park ranger was left.

Linkage Software Review

July 31st, 2017

I just got this great review of the Linkage software:

“Too cool man, whoo, beautiful….” – Anonymous User

Programming in Breadth – Introduction

July 17th, 2017

All common mainstream programming languages work essentially the same way. You the programmer write instructions that eventually get executed or processed by the computer. The majority of instructions are declarations, computations, tests, and loops.

For now, think of declarations as instructions that define specific individual things. For instance, a piece of software might declare that Tom is a male human being. Once that declaration is done, Tom is known to the software in some meaningful way. And as is the case for all things in this book, each programming languages facilitates declaring things in its own way.

Computations are math or math-like operations and are fairly similar in most computer programming languages. All data in a computer, even letters of the alphabet, or represented by numbers. It therefore follows that all manipulations of the data is done on those numbers. To change a letter of the alphabet from the letter A to the letter B, simple add 1.

Tests are a common thing in all programming languages. Simply put, the software will constantly be comparing things to performing different computations based on the results of those comparisons. A test might be as simple as “if Tom is older than Jane then fire Tom.”

And finally, there are loops. A loop is a set of actions that are done repeatedly until stopped. In almost all cases, there is some bit of information that changes while the rest of the steps are repeated. When a human reads a book, they are doing the same things over and over in a loop: “Read Page” is followed by “Turn Page” and then repeated over and over while “Read Page” actually entails repeating “Read Sentence” and that itself is a loop of multiple “Read Word” actions. Looping is just repeating.

This book will attempt to describe basic computer programming ideas while showing these ideas in various programming languages. And whenever it seems important, a deeper comparison of the various languages will be included. Since this is a computer programming language book, the information here will be presented as in other programming language books with the simplest and most necessary features of the languages described first and more complex or less common features described later.

Computer Programming in Breadth

July 17th, 2017

I have an idea for writing a programming book. The book would cover basic programming concepts and instead of focusing on a single language, the book would include information on at least seven different programming languages. They might be:

C
C++
C#
Java
JavaScript
Swift
PHP

I’m not sure about C since C++ is a superset of C. Then again, the string handling of C is significantly different from the other languages. I am purposely excluding Objective-C and there are no other languages that I am familiar with enough to write about in a book.

I’m also unsure about including more languages. Python is popular right now and Objective-C, something I want to avoid, might be important for historical reasons. Perhaps I can include quite a few more languages and just learn those other languages as I go. I’ll give it more thought.

I’m going to try writing some blog posts with information that I would include in such a book. It’s a work-in-progress and since I have no idea how to write a book, it is likely to suck. All of the book posts will be in the “Programming in Breadth” post category.