Richard Jones' Log Richard Jones' Log: News

Fri, 22 Jul 2011
PyWeek 13 (September 2011) is coming!

The 13th Python Game Programming Challenge (PyWeek) is coming. It'll run from the 11th to the 18th of September.

The PyWeek challenge:

  1. Invites entrants to write a game in one week from scratch either as an individual or in a team,
  2. Is intended to be challenging and fun,
  3. Will hopefully increase the public body of game tools, code and expertise,
  4. Will let a lot of people actually finish a game, and
  5. May inspire new projects (with ready made teams!)

If you've never written a game before and would like to try things out then perhaps you could try either:

  1. The tutorial I presented at LCA 2010, Introduction to Game Programming, or
  2. The book Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python
category: News | permanent link
Thu, 22 Apr 2010
PyCon Australia 2010 update

Here's some updates for PyCon Australia 2010, to be held at the Sydney Masonic Center over the weekend of June 26 and 27.

  1. Registration is now open
  2. Keynotes announced
  3. Call For Proposals proceeds
  4. Several sponsors confirmed

Please pass this message on to those you feel will find it interesting.

Registration Is Now Open

We offer two levels of registration for PyCon Australia 2010:

Full (Early Bird) - $165

This is the registration rate for regular attendees. We're offering a limited Early Bird rate for the first 50 to registration. Once the Early Bird slots are filled registration will increase to $220.

Full registration includes one seat at the conference dinner on Saturday night.

Student - $44
For students able to present a valid student card we're offering this reduced rate. Student registrations do not include a seat at the conference dinner.

Additional seats at the conference dinner may be purchased for $77 each.

All prices include GST.

Information about the registration process is on the PyCon Australia website.

Register here:

Keynotes Announced

We're pleased to announce the keynote line-up for PyCon Australia 2010.

Saturday: Mark Pesce

"Mark Pesce, one of the early pioneers in Virtual Reality is a writer, researcher and teacher. The co-inventor of VRML, he is the author of five books and numerous papers on the future of technology." - Wikipedia

Saturday evening dinner: Anthony Baxter

Anthony Baxter has been involved in the open source community for more than a decade, largely working in Python and on Python. He's working for Google now.

Sunday: Nick Hodge

Nick Hodge is a Professional Geek at Microsoft in Australia. Professional Geek is a polite way of saying he does stuff with software running on computers. Previously, he has worked for Adobe and Apple.

Call For Proposals

We've had a great response to the Call For Proposals but there's still time left and plenty of program to fill.

Presentation subjects may range from reports on open source, academic and commercial projects to tutorials and case studies. As long as a presentation is interesting and potentially useful to the Python community, it will be considered for inclusion in the program.

We're especially interested in short presentations that will teach conference-goers something new and useful. Can you show attendees how to use a module? Explore a Python language feature? Package an application?

Submit your proposal here:

Sponsors Confirmed

We have confirmed several sponsors for the conference:

Silver: Anchor <>
Silver: Thousand Parsec Project <>
In Kind: Linux Australia <>

Thanks to our sponsors for helping make the event a reality.

category: News | permanent link
Tue, 27 May 2008
The state of rational debate about art

Oh for fucks sake:

Victorian Premier John Brumby says he probably leans towards saying that Bill Henson's controversial photographs of naked youths "crossed the line" [from art to pornography].

Speaking on radio 3AW today, Mr Brumby said he had not seen the photographs.

Anyone who has seen the one (NSFW) image from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery exhibition available to the public (or any of his prior exhibitions, apparently) can attest that there's absolutely nothing you could describe as "sexualisation".

Fri, 28 Mar 2008
The 6th Python game programming challenge is upon us

The 6th Python Game Programming Challenge starts this weekend. Theme voting is underway and there's still plenty of time to sign up. Come along and join in the fun!

category: News | permanent link
Thu, 10 Jan 2008
Sorry, Google...

... but if you keep accusing me of being being a virus or spyware when I do searches I'm gonna use another search engine!

Also, my home Optus broadband connection is not in Germany! I should not need to be a web developer to figure how to convince you I'm not in Germany either! I still haven't figured how to convice you I'm in Australia, but the US will do for now. I miss localised searches though.

category: News | permanent link
Fri, 16 Nov 2007
Blade Runner times a bazillion

I was going to blog about the screening of Blade Runner last night, but Rachel beat me to it. What she said.

Wed, 31 Oct 2007
Yay for RAID, boo for grub (well, Ubuntu's grub)

One of the disks in my home Linux machine died a couple of days ago. Boo. After the last time I had this happen, I set up a RAID-1 volume for our data. Yay! No data loss, and got the RAID up and running with the new disk in very short order. Even after installing the latest Kubuntu release at the same time.

Well, except for the frustrating 2 hours lost to grub. I ran into a problem I've previously run into (but clearly blocked from memory): under Ubuntu, grub doesn't order the disks the same as the BIOS, and thus the system can become unbootable in a most confusing way ("Grub stage 1.5 ... Error 15" and I'm on my own).

The solution for me was simple: make sure the disk you're going to boot grub off is the first in the list according to the BIOS, regardless of what grub or Ubuntu say. While Ubuntu was calling it "hd0", the BIOS knew it as "the second disk". When I re-plugged things so the BIOS saw the disk "the first disk", Ubuntu called it "hd2". Woot.

It's working now. Just. Unfortunately last night I had a transient boot problem (aka the system didn't boot but I reset and then it did) reminiscent of a previous problem ... I'm not ready to replace the damn motherboard yet, but if another connector dies I'll be down to two and I'll have to :(

I've also just installed the same Kubuntu release on my work Dell laptop - and everying works, even suspending etc. The screen setup stuff is a little annoying to deal with after using an OS X laptop at the last job (where the OS is capable of detecting screen plugs & unplugs, unlike X11).

Sun, 30 Sep 2007
Beware of Ubuntu Kernel 2.6.20-16!

A few days ago I noticed the Ubuntu updater saying there was a new kernel version for my Feisty desktop. Clicky clicky and it's installed. Reboot and everything's soooo slowwwwww.

Oddly enough, there's reports about this problem from way back at the start of May. I wonder why I was then prompted to install it in September??

category: News | permanent link
Fri, 24 Aug 2007
Friday silliness

Seen on the PyWeek message board:

from socket import*;s=socket();s.connect(("",80));s.send("GET /5/entries/ HTTP/1.0\n\n");x=""
while True:
False=sum([not True for a in x.split("<dt")[0:-1]])
print False or True

Code by neko.

By the way, the next challenge is a little over a week away. Have you signed up yet? Why not? :)

Sun, 22 Apr 2007
Another Python Game Programming Challenge concludes
Which way is up?
Bubble Kong

The fourth Python Game Programming Challenge (PyWeek) has now concluded with judges declaring the winners:

Individual: Which way is up? by Hectigo
Team: Bubble Kong by The Olde Battleaxe

Congratulations to them and to the other entrants. You may view the complete listing of entries and their scores over a the PyWeek website.

Before anyone asks, the next challenge will be in 6 months. There is no a date set.

category: News | permanent link
Sun, 08 Apr 2007
Last week...

I got a new job with Blue Box Devices. It's not web development! Yay! :)

Sat, 24 Mar 2007
Argh, more RAID problems :(

So now my RAID has decided to do something completely new: not work whenever I reboot.

When I boot up there's a message in my console saying that the superblock on /dev/sda4 (one of the two disks) doesn't match and that it's giving up.

This means that every time I boot up I have to edit the mdadm.conf file to remove /dev/sda4, run "mdadm -A /dev/md0" to have it create the array again, re-add /dev/sda4 to the config file and run "mdadm --manage /dev/md0 --add /dev/sda4". Then wait as it rebuilds the array (usually takes about 15 minutes). Then I can again mount /home and use my computer.

I have been unable to find anything about this on the 'net either, which makes me sad. I wish I knew why /dev/sda4 was getting out of sync...

category: News | permanent link
Fri, 23 Mar 2007
PS3 distributed compute farm?

So apparently PS3s are kicking butt in distributed protein-folding. According to the folding@home FAQ, "With about 40,000 such machines, we would be able to achieve performance on the petaflop scale."

Makes me wonder how feasible would it be for PS3 owners to lease their hardware to a distributed processing company...

Just so we're clear on this, the fastest supercomputer on the planet* as of November 2006 was the IBM BlueGene/L system with 280.6 teraflops. Now, the benchmark is different of course, but the PS3 contribution to folding@home is (as of today) 497 tflops (that's with 20,287 participants). Not bad for a video game console.

I can't find rankings of distributed computing systems... does anyone know whether such a thing exists?

*: OK, except the one the NSA uses to decode the brainwave patterns scanned from the heads of every single person on the planet using their secret laser satellites.

Thu, 22 Mar 2007
Not designed for me

They made the floor out of glass too!

(To those not in the know, I've developed a slight case of vertigo that I first noticed a few years back whilst travelling overseas -- standing over that little glass window at the top of the dome in St Paul's in London.)

category: News | permanent link
Linux fun with grub and mdadm

Last weekend I decided to upgrade to Ubuntu's latest pre-release, Feisty Fawn (release 5) via Kubunutu.

Everything went swimmingly except there were two hitches, both disk-related. My motherboard has a dodgy SATA socket resulting in the BIOS not correctly detecting a drive plugged into that socket about once in every three boots*. There's no subsequent problems with the drive - it's just on boot-up. The result of this is that the BIOS ordering of drives (boot ordering) is slightly different to how Linux sees the drives. This in turn confuses grub which can't seem to figure out what disk to boot from when it configures itself. In the process of solving this issue I discovered the "" file which solved my problem for a little while. Much rebooting and fiddling with grub ensues. I give thanks to the bright person who decided to make the Kubuntu (and presumably Ubuntu "proper") install disk a Live CD giving me access to both a terminal and a web browser with 'net access. Very, very cool.

* this has been a minor annoyance in the time I've had the computer but it's not annoyed me enough - until now with the grub experience - to try to solve it. Until now it just meant that I had to manually hit the boot menu in the BIOS to boot up. A minor inconvenience. The solution was pretty simple - just shuffling the three disks so they avoided SATA port 1 and used ports 2, 3 and 4. This solved my grub problem and as a secondary result I can now boot my computer without manual intervention ;)

It does bring me to my second problem: shifting the drives confused my RAID setup so I had to invoke the mystical mdadm to fix that up. Someone really needs to work on mdadm's interface... My biggest problems stemmed from two things:

  1. Trying to figure out the correct invocation to make it add both disks to my RAID array.
  2. Realising that if I got the command-line invocations incorrect I would receive no error, just nothing would happen.

Yes, if I invoked "mdadm /dev/md0 --detail" I would receive some output, but if I instead said "mdadm --detail /dev/md0" I would receive the detailed output that I was actually after. Also, if I "mdadm --manage /dev/md0 -a /dev/sdc4" to add my disk, nothing would happen. No error. Certainly no disk being added to the array. Changing the "-a" to "--add" made it do the right thing. There were numerous other times that I was scratching my head, chasing up false leads tryig to make the damn thing work all because I'd misread a usage statement, given mdadm the slightly wrong argument and it'd just ignored the argument rather than raising an error.

Mon, 05 Mar 2007
US tour continues

I had a wonderful weekend staying with my cousin Nat in Columbus, Ohio. We've not spent that much time together for ages and it was really great to catch up.

I'm at Mary and Bill's house at the moment (Bill's my boss at Common Ground) in Champaign, Illinois. We've spent pretty much the entire time here throwing around ideas about the OLPC, education, CGPublisher, continuous assessment, teaching programming, ...

More later - today is going to be a wild ride of meetings ...

category: News | permanent link
Wed, 25 Oct 2006
Shaun Tan's "The Arrival"

As Rachel mentioned, Shaun Tan had the Melbourne launch of The Arrival last night.

It's quite an amazing work that took Shaun four years to develop. It tells a story of migration in just over 120 pages of pencilled artwork. It's a "silent" graphic novel - there's no words. The images are incredibly evocative - very early on when the man is leaving his home there's a heart-breaking scene of him leaving his family. In particular, the image of the daughter looking up from her breakfast bowl to see the his packed suitcase has really stuck with me. It helps that Shaun has nailed the graphic novel format completely - his use of multiple panels is some of the best I've seen.

Shaun's website has sample images from the book, but as was said last night, you can't just flip through the book to random pages. Sure the artwork is gorgeous, but you'd completely miss the extra impact from the story itself.

Tue, 10 Oct 2006
My first youtube (gootube?)
Mon, 04 Sep 2006
PyWeek well under way

I usually post when PyWeek actually starts but this time around I was distracted because I actually had a game idea within minutes of the starting gun going off. I spent an hour or so working it through and pretty quickly had my first model in a game which could hop around the screen. I won't tell the whole story here - that's what the challenge diary is for.

category: News | permanent link
Sun, 27 Aug 2006 server issues

Sadly I'm having hosting issues with again. I think the whole thing must be jinxed. Apparently the machine I'm hosted on had disk problems yesterday. It was back yesterday afternoon (my time) minus about 2 days' data. That's bearable, since that means I only lost some diary entries and comments. Nothing critical to the running of the challenge.

My mailbox this morning had a slew of database connection errors from overnight, which seemed to be very temporary and certainly weren't around again this morning.

But now the machine's gone again. Totally. And theme voting for the challenge just started. My biggest concern is that there's people (including myself) who have booked annual leave for the challenge. Well, I guess it's time to look for backup hosting just in case... again :(

category: News | permanent link