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SVG Tony 
Posted by: Tony at 8:23 AM EST on 8/29/2004
File Under: Misc Tech -> Computers

A few months ago I bought CorelDRAW Suite 12 and saw that it could export to the vector graphics format SVG. I did not pay much attention to this because I imagined SVG as a clunky version of Flash. However, at some point I felt inclined to try exporting one of my vector images to SVG and I was very impressed with the results. SVG is "lossless." Flash uses a variety of optimizations for performance and size reasons, and as a result its quality is worse than SVG's.

This is not a bad thing, because in the past, the domain of Flash has required these optimizations. For example, the Flash plugin is 500KB in size. Adobe's SVG plugin is 2.2MB.

In reality, Flash and SVG are incomparable. They have different goals. However, I have a feeling Flash will be devoured by SVG in the future. There are a few things I find notable about SVG.

1. Is XML.
2. Is an open standard.
3. Uses time-based animation.
4. Renders beautifully.

First, it is XML. This means it is readable, like this:

<rect id="pinkRectangle" x="1" y="1" width="12" height="12" fill="pink"/>

And it means it can be used like any other XML language. It can be transformed to and from other XML languages with XSLT, it can be read and written with XML parsers and generators, and it can be dynamically altered via the DOM - Document Object Model (i.e., you can use JavaScript to play with graphics.) Honestly, I do not know much about XML, so I probably do not have a complete grasp on its significance.

Secondly, SVG is an open standard. Because no single company owns it, companies are very likely to cooperate and this has been true so far. If I export a CorelDRAW graphic to SVG, it can be opened in Adobe's Illustrator, etc. There is already a simple open source SVG editor, Sodipodi.

Thirdly, it uses time-based animation. Those familiar with Flash recognize that Flash uses frame-based animation. The advantage of time-based animation can be seen from an example:

<rect id="pinkRectangle" x="1" y="1" width="12" height="12" fill="pink">
    <animate attributeName="width" values="12;200" begin="0s" dur="12s"/>

Very simple. So simple I don't have to explain it. 'dur="12s"' can be changed to 'dur="12.00323s"'. And watch this:

<rect x="1" y="1" width="12" height="12" fill="pink">
    <set attributeName="fill" to="red" begin="mouseover" dur="1s"/>

Settings and animations can be triggered by various events.

Lastly, the graphic quality of SVG is beautiful. Compare the Flash version of one of my comic pages to the SVG version. You will need an SVG viewer. Adobe's is probably the best at the moment.

Another neat thing is you can see SVG graphics' source. On Adobe's plugin, the option is in the right-click menu.

To finish off, I present a simple SVG example. The example's code is in two files, SVGExample.svg, and SVGExample.js. It is very simple. If you have not seen XML before, it might look frightening.

There are three versions of SVG. Full, Basic, and Tiny. Full is what you will find on your computer. Tiny is what you will find on your cellphone.

SVG has a future, and mebelieves it will go beyond the internet and in addition to consuming Flash and PDF, its usefulness will spread throughout the land. You may in the future open up a Maruchan Instant Lunch and be greeted by a holographic 3D version of their mascot, defined in MDSVG (Multi-Dimensional SVG,) floating above the cup and telling you to enjoy your meal.

I'm yet another automaton with a cell phone... Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 1:02 AM EST on 8/23/2004
File Under: Misc Tech

I used to be devoutly anti-cell phone. Their use seemed to explode a couple of years ago, and ever since, I've been subjected to the horrors of shitty ringtones in shitty MIDI quality of even shittier pop songs. They go off everywhere -- in class, at the movies, at the library -- they're inescapeable. Add to that the fact that so many people insist on shouting into their phones like the mic is 10 feet away, and you can see why I might have been irritated with cell phones. Then the worst of the worst hit -- those damned infernal Nextel walkie talkie phones. Now I'm stuck hearing both sides of a conversation when I didn't even want to hear one side in the first place! ARGH!

Anyway, I'm now one of them, and have been for about a year. I transferred schools and made lots of new friends -- all of them with long distance cell phone numbers. Like hell I'd want to rack up long distance charges on my room phone all the time. But now that I have a phone, I try to be polite about it. It stays on vibrate, unless under the most dire of circumstances. Additionally, I don't answer it at inapproprate times (I've had people around me answer their phones at work, in class, and at the movies... WHO ANSWERS THEIR PHONE IN THE MIDDLE OF A MOVIE!?) and will often send calls to voicemail if it is interrupting another conversation. (Why should someone on the phone take precedence over someone right in front of me?) I also refuse to scroll through my ringtones in a public area. Fuck that noise.

But none of that is really the point of this post. Besides, cell phone rants have been done to death. The point is that I got a new phone a few days ago. My old contract was a one year one (since I wasn't sure I was even going to like having a phone) so I just got a crappy old phone that would let me make calls, and not much else. I was tempted to get a camera phone this time around (that'd be great for parties at school) but I decided that none of them were particularly good enough yet to make that investment. So, I ended up with the Nokia 3100.

For $50, this is a hell of a phone, and quite an upgrade from my old one (a 6230i? I dunno, something like that [Edit: 6340i]). It's much smaller and lighter, has a color screen, and very usable internet access. I've already racked up 40 cents in internet charges downloading the Invader Zim and Gir wallpapers that I made... I even taught myself WML so I could make my own little private image download site. I can't resist gadgets or web programming languages, so combine the two, and I just can't control myself. I'm a dork, what can I say? I don't think I'll be making much use of the IM or text messaging features, though. I don't understand why I would ever need to send 10 cent messages... I mean, I'm on a cell phone. Why not just call for free?

Oh no, a dilemma! I just checked, and it looks like they have free LG1200 camera phones and $50 Motorola v400 camera phones -- the same price that I paid for my current phone. I'm still within my 15-day grace period to return my phone.... What to do, what to do?

Well, if I come back and post about a new camera phone in a few days, you'll know the answer.

The Nokia 3100

F-Zero GX... Don't forget to blink! Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 2:27 PM EST on 8/22/2004
File Under: Games -> GameCube -> Quickview

Yeah, I know, I'm a little behind the curve on this one. In actuality, I've become something of a budget gamer these days. I don't think I've paid full price for a game in nearly two years. As a result, I mostly just buy bargain bin and GBA games. (or occasionally scam myself a free one... Shhhhh!) I have to say, though, I'm having lots of fun with the games I do buy. I'm guessing this is because they don't have to live up to a $50 price tag. Anyway, that's enough rambling from me (hey, this is an E/N site, after all)...

As a fan of the F-Zero series since its original SNES incarnation, I was waiting a long time for this one to come out. But then, as a college student steeped in bills for books and tuition, I decided I could wait a little longer. Now that I've finally picked it up, though, I'm left thinking "Hmm... Maybe this one would have been worth it." That, and "Holy shit, this is fast." Yes, F-Zero GX is fast. Really fucking fast. But then again, I'm sure you knew that. That's the whole point, right? What's so amazing is the obvious amount of attention to detail that Amusement Visions paid to this game, beyond just making it fast.

What F-Zero GX comes down to is that it's really what F-Zero X for the N64 was supposed to be. While F-Zero X is and always will be one of my favorite N64 games, it was obvious that a game as ambitious as it was needed a little extra horsepower behind it. Now that the series has made its way to the GameCube, all is well. The blazing speed, perfect control, and huge number of racers from F-Zero X are still here, but gone are the incredibly bland backgrounds and tracks, the pop-up, and the ship models that awkwardly changed poly-counts as the camera zoomed and panned. In other words, all the sacrifices that had to be made to make the old game as fast and smooth as it needed to be are completely gone. In place are fantastically detailed tracks, environments, ships, and special-effects.

There have been some cool additions outside of the races themselves, too. The Story Mode (which is fairly hard, so I've only played a few chapters of) and Garage are excellent additions. Story Mode adds some very cool depth to the game, and separates it from the host of other racing games that stick with the standard Grand Prix/Time Trial/Vs. formula. (Of course, all those modes are in this game, Story Mode is a nice bonus on top of them) Additionally, the Garage adds some excellent depth, too. If you don't like any of the 30-some-odd default ships, you can earn tickets to buy parts and build your own ship, tailored specifically to your racing style.

At this point, I've nearly completed all the Grand Prix cups on Expert (trying to unlock Master mode), but I've just barely dug into Story Mode, and have yet to beat a single Staff Ghost in Time Attack mode. This game is deep, and since I won't be taking my GameCube with me to school in a few days, it will give me plenty to do when I'm home for breaks and bored off my ass.

Initial Vibe: Excellent. Any fan of F-Zero X, or anyone looking for a deep game to spend $20 on should definitely pick this one up.

P.S.: Don't be like Karyn and forget to blink while you're playing this game. That tends to burn...

TechiE/N returns! Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 2:00 PM EST on 8/22/2004
File Under: Site News

After a brief hiatus, TechiE/N is back in working form. I didn't realize how much traffic this place was still getting, so I didn't allot it enough bandwidth. As a result, it hit its limit a few days ago. Despite the total lack of updates, traffic to this site just keeps going up. Weird. Anyway, that's straightened back up.

I think I feel like adding a couple other posts... So, I'll go do that now. Wow, real updates are coming! Funky.

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