- Nov 12, 2017: Minecraft modding and how to annoy modders, with some background.
- I maintain some Minecraft mods. One of the "joys" of Minecraft modding is that the APIs, the frameworks, have a nasty habit of changing in unexpected and poorly-documented ways from major version to major version. This is because Minecraft was not designed for modding by outsiders. Modding is permitted and tolerated and, PR-wise, encouraged. However, for a long time, the internal code was simply not designed to encourage it. However, since the original Minecraft was written in Java, it was easy to decompile and possible, thought not easy, to deobfuscate. People did that. People originally modded by writing replacement classes for Minecraft classes, and then inserting them into the Minecraft jar.
Modding this way was not easy, either for the programmer or for the end user, who had to master the art of unpacking jar files and inserting the provided modded jars.... not something that gamers are normally encouraged to learn or do.
Eventually, some bright lads came up with the idea of a standard mod loader, that would automatically load those modified classes as Minecraft launched, so that the end user didn't to do surgery on their game executable. They also decided to solve the other problem, that if two different mods modified the same base class, you'd have a mess.
They created an API for modding, so that mods would play nicely with each other, and have a standard interface with which to mod Minecraft. That combined mod loader and API is called Minecraft Forge. Originally, you had to do surgery on your Minecraft executable to install Forge, though it would then handle all the other mods, but the Forge guys got tired of explaining how to do that, so they wrote an installer to do it automatically, and the rest is history.
So, I write mods using the Forge API. At some point, Mojang (the developers of Minecraft, now owned by Microsoft), decided to start cleaning up the internals of the game to make it easier to write mods and other add-ons. This necessarily required large internal changes, which made modding across major versions... interesting. Players who don't write mods have little-to-no idea about this, and just want to know "have you ported your mod to 1.8 yet?"
Repeat ad nauseum for every single major version change from 1.6.4 => 1.7.10 => 1.8+ => 1.9.4/1.10.2 => 1.11.2 => 1.12.2
Not ONE modder I've ever heard tell about likes being nagged about porting code. Not one. Fortunately most forum moderators figured out a long time ago that "When are you going to port your mod?" is 99% of the time, a passive-aggressive way of demanding that you hurry up and port your mod, and so forbid the question. One, it is rude and entitled to demand that modders work for you for free, and two, annoyed modders have been known to quit modding. Or put explosive bees in their mods.
So don't do that.
- Nov 6, 2017: sort-of Monthly Cybertron Reboot
- Cybertron has been rebooted, post-DST change. Carry on.
- Nov 1, 2017: Started NaNoWriMo
- I'd forgotten how hard it is to actually get words out in quantity. Writing feels like it's flowing along, but then I do a word count check after a few hours and find out I have a whole 600-odd words.
Good thing I'm only aiming to complete a short story, not actually complete a 50,000 word light novel.
- Oct 12, 2017: Corporate meetings...
- So our company is getting bought up/merging yet AGAIN, and we had a phone-in meeting about it. (That's where we all sit around the speaker phone in the conference room and listen to the head honchos yammer somewhere at the other end of the country). It was a pretty dull meeting; I made notes in my notebook about it to keep from making snide comments out loud... very often. Here are my transcribed notes, with the names changed to protect the annoying.
* The Big Boss repeats the entire contents of the announcement letter we got yesterday. I am not excite.
* Describing Power Point presentations verbally is even more boring than watching slides.
* Buzzword bingo fest.
* Do I get a share of this $XX billion business? If not, why do I care?
* We are merging complementary businesses. That's nice, but I'm not the Board of Directors, nor the venture capitalist that actually own us. It's not like I'm deciding anything.
* I get the impression they don't want people panicking about their jobs and jumping ship. *a few minutes later* CALLED IT!
* I have spent 26 minutes listening to Big Boss pat himself on the back and re-state the announcement letter. Oh wait, he started up again. But we can download the Power Point slides. 29 minutes now.
* Q&A session: Big Boss starts up again on the first question, which I could not hear. He assures us he's really humble about being the Big Boss of the new company, too.
* we will have locations everywhere--might make it easier to move somewhere else.
- Aug 19, 2017: New Orleans Museums being cool (pun intended)
- Three New Orleans museums are admitting people free of charge to their air-conditioned buildings on days forecast to be 95°F or above. Details:
Bravo for Fine Arts and basic decency!
- Jul 5, 2017: Recommended Reading: The Gunpowder Age
- Now and then I read something really interesting, and never think to tell anyone about it. This time, I'm telling you about it.
The Gunpowder Age, by Tonio Andrade, Princeton University Press 2016, ISBN 978-0-691-13597-7.
From the Introduction:
Historians have long studied gunpowder's revolutionary effects, but they've paid most attention to the West. Indeed, you've probably heard the saying, false but often repeated, that the Chinese invented gunpowder but didn't use it for war. This meme is still widely circulated, appearing in scholarly works, and even in China itself. But in fact the Chinese and their neighbors explored gunpowder's many uses, military and civilian, for centuries before the technology passed to the West. These Asian origins are often glossed over, and most studies of gunpowder warfare focus on the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800). This was, historians have argued, when the first gunpowder empires were born, and when the "gunpowder revolution" and the "military revolution" helped transform Europe's feudal structures, laying the groundwork for Western global dominance.
But the gunpowder age actually lasted a millenium, from the first use of gunpowder in warfare in the late 900s to its replacement by smokeless powder around 1900. Examining its full sweep can help us answer--or at least clarify--the question of the rise of the West and the "stagnation" of China.
The book is a study of the history of the development of gunpowder in both Chinese and Western warfare, and refutes or attempts to refute many of the classic theses for China's so-called "stagnation". (Answer: it wasn't what most people think). The author is a professor of history at Emory University, who specializes in Chinese/European contact history, among other things. The book is clear and straight-forward to read, not bogged down by academic jargon, but it is a well-documented academic work--everything is footnoted and referenced in the extensive bibliography. The author does not rely on regurgitating other English-only works, but uses and cites original Chinese sources. I approve. Always go to the original source if available, because other people's interpretations of a source are just that: their interpretation.
I learned a LOT from this book, including the fact that I had a lot of misconceptions. I'm one of those people who was taught that the Chinese never did anything significant with gunpowder. Oops, wrong as wrong can be. They did bombs, rockets, guns, incendiaries, and other fun things like "fire lances", which were an early predecessor of the gun that shot fire (burning gunpowder) out of a tube at people. (It took them a while to work out good enough powder and barrels to use gunpowder as a propellant rather than an incendiary. However, it worked as a short-range anti-personnel weapon. I suspect that being set on fire by burning gunpowder was at least as unhealthy as catching a bullet).
I also learned that medieval armies were using early cannon starting in the 14th century--you know, during the Hundred Year's War, that classic late-medieval war that brought us Joan of Arc and those classic demonstrations of English long-bow awesomeness, Crécy and Poitiers. Speaking of which... did you know that Joan of Arc was a skilled artillery tactician? Apparently one of the things that made her armies dangerous to the English was her knowing how to deploy cannon in a siege. Did you know that there were volley guns deployed to protect the longbowmen from any charging knights? Their arrows would kill horses and did a number on the crossbowmen, but they didn't actually penetrate plate all that well.
A tidbit for people looking for an historical, multi-ethnic setting for adventure:
The period from the 1540s to the 1560s was a golden age of East Asian piracy, and the pirates were a motley and multiethnic lot. Most were Chinese, but sources make clear that they worked with Japanese, Portugese, Siamese, "black Malaccans", "black barbarian demons", "white and black mixed types," and various other "barbarians". They exchanged ideas, techniques, and technologies, creating what one scholar has called a "hyrbrid maritime culture." Although arquebuses weren't widely used by the pirates, they were certainly present, and Ming officials took note. According to one source, a pirate band led by brothers surnamed Xu "lured the barbarians from the land of the Franks... and they came in a continuous stream." The Xu brothers established an island outpost, Shuangyu Harbor, which, according to one scholar, "became the stage for the dissemination to all of East Asia's maritime realms of every kind of gunpowder weapon." The Xu brothers worked with many other pirates, including Wang Zhi himself, as well as a man named Bald Li. Some sources suggest that among Bald Li's adherents was "a barbarian chief who was good at guns." -- p.171.