Sunday, June 28, 2009

Administaff Observatory Open House 6/27/09

The Administaff Observatory had an open house last night. It was one of three scheduled open houses for employees of Administaff (a major donor for the observatory). It was also my "check-ride" as observatory manager; I'd had the training but this was my first opportunity to apply it.

Things went well, I think. There were a few hiccups with procedure. I used the laminated procedure charts and there were some steps that were out of sequence; other minor steps were missing. Wasps had made a nest near one of the external light switch lock boxes. For all that, it was a pretty smooth evolution.

By the guest book, we had 28 people show up: Administaff employees and their spouses and families. Aaron did most of the talking and object selection; he's very knowledgeable and knows the equipment inside and out. For my part, I drove the 20" Planetwave CDK instrument, fetched some visual aids, spoke one-on-one to a number of visitors, and smiled a lot.

I'm used to using "deck" scopes (personal telescopes setup outside an observatory on the "deck"). Mine are alt-az manual telescopes (no motors or computer-controlled drives). I have a lot to learn about TheSky software and about manually (well, joystick) laying an equatorial mounted telescope using right ascension (RA) and declination (DEC) controls; the 20" and 16" pier-mounted scopes in the observatory are driven that way.

I also need to review all the "cheat sheet" information, and I need to resume doing casual observations so I can become more familiar with the night sky. I've been very irregular lately, and I realized last night I had forgotten some of my constellations and objects. This review will help me select interesting objects to point the scopes at, and will improve my repertoire of things to talk about.

It was a blast, though. The attendees looked at the Moon, Saturn M3, M13, M57, M51 (very faint), Albireo, M6, and M7. Seeing was not particularly good. There was no cloud cover, but the high humidity and lack of rain lately meant there was a lot of polution and water vapor in the air. Light from the 35%-ish Moon and the Houston "nebula" tended to wash out a lot of detail, and the early evening viewing time also did not help. That said, everyone was delighted, and there were plenty of oohs and ahhs.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

PIC-Guam Progress 6/26/09

I'm continuing to test out the rules for PIC-Guam. Chris showed me a recent draft of the map and updated rules. I've been doing map exercises on the landing beaches. I've also been writing up design notes on an AI for a computer version of PIC-Guam. This has helped to generate rules questions on the board game.

I've been trying to min-max the Japanese side towards victory (for various definitions of victory). Chris has already had to change the setup rules for the "Recapture of Guam" main scenario, restricting the number of fortfication counters on beach hexes and reducing the number of free setup units. Chris wrote a good set of rules for PIC-Guam, but I'm really trying to explore the boundaries from the point of view of a programmer. My most recent questions include (in no particular order).

  • Can an Engineer company build forts on the same turn it reshuffles from 3 platoons?
  • Can a suppressed friendly unit be used to take a casualty resulting fromm a friendly assault?
  • Can a unit build up/break down in a ZOC? Does this provoke defensive first fire?
  • Does a retreating unit with no place to move take step losses instead/?
  • Can a retreat path look like a "J", or an "L"? Must the retreat path be in a straight line, or be directly away from the FEBA?
  • Does Banzai charge exploitation stop at ZOC's?
  • Can 3 Engineer platoons build a fort, or must they reorg into a company first?
  • Can arty, air, and naval units make attacks on their own? How? What limits? Just wonder if there is anything aside from interdiction.
  • Is it permitted to allow the US player to allocate all his naval support in one combat? If not, what limits are there?
  • Does the Japanese player get defensive first fire against units moving into adjacent lagoon hexes? (i.e. during Amphibious phase)
  • Does a US unit suffer any adverse effects from retreating into a lagoon hex from a land hex? Is this even permitted?
  • Can a US unit withdraw from a lagoon hex to a sea hex?
  • If the stacking limits are exceeded on the beach, in the lagoon, or in the sea hex for a landing zone, do follow on waves stack up and ultimately (possibly) delay later waves?
  • Can the US player voluntarily hold back some or all units in a wave to a later turn?
  • Do the Division and PMB HQs trace supply back to IIIMAC HQ? Do they trace supply back to the beach before IIIMAC HQ lands? If so, can it be any beach? (I'm guessing that it has to be through friendly controlled hexes, which argues against a unit cut off from the southern beach being able to trace supply to the northern beach before link-up.) If a regimental HQ from one beach fights its way through to the other beach, can it get supply there?
  • Can Engineer units be replaced? Can other units also be replaced? (I guess all non-armor units can be replaced, using the replacement pool...just making sure.)
  • 3.6 How many units, of what size, can be replaced for one point? (I guess one company, but I'm not sure.)
  • Typo: replace the word "beach" with "LD/Sea". Refers to placement of the next landing wave on the map.
  • In the optional reinforcements rules, does the reference to 9th Tank Regiment refer to the HQ unit?
  • Can naval units support amphibious fire and assault? (I'm guessing per 11.3 that CL/DD ships can.))
  • 11.9 Does shore battery fire apply only to units on the beaches, or can shore batteries target lagoon and LD/sea hexes, too?
  • Do the artillery/HQ rules apply to Japanese units? If so, what about the short range artillery units integral to battalions?
  • Does Supply count after exploitation? If I exploit out of supply range, do I suffer the effects of out of supply?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Administaff Observatory - NHAC Open House

Dawn and I went to the Administaff Observatory for the NHAC open house night. Members were treated to the full tour of the facility.

Administaff Observatory
The observatory is located on the campus of Jack Fields Elementary School. It's a roll off roof design.

Administaff Observatory
The telescopes (pictured, left to right) include a 16" Meade Lightbridge dob reflector, a 20" Planetwave instrument, a Meade 16" SCT (I think), and a Coronado Solarmax 90. The Planetwave and SCT are computer controlled by a couple of Dell desktops.

Administaff Observatory
There is also a whiteboard, a projector, red lights inside and out, a ramp providing wheelchair access, an equipment storage room, and (thankfully) a restroom.
Administaff ObservatoryAnother view of the pier-mounted instruments. Planetwave, Meade SCT, and Dawn in the background.

Administaff Observatory
Aaron Clevenson, right, in the bandana, holding forth on subjects astronomical. Other NHAC members are in the background. Note the wall in the background. The Administaff Observatory received significant funding from donations. The oval plaques represent large donors; some of the major stars are also named for donors.

Administaff Observatory

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Monday, June 22, 2009

CppDepend Beta Detailed Eval Notes 6/6/09 - 6/16/09

I'm happy to report that my laptop is back up on the home network. Here are the notes from my first eval on the 6th and 7th, along with some pictures I blocked out on the 16th.

I downloaded and installed the CppDepend beta on June 6th. I had to install WinRAR eval to do so, as the Beta is distributed as a RAR file. I extracted the files the to C:\Program Files\CppDepend directory I had created for the Alpha test; I backed up and cleaned out the Alpha files first. Visual CppDepend worked the first time I tried it, using the icon I had already set up on my desktop for the Alpha test.

I tried to analyze the GSITK project first. It worked! I was able to browse to, and then add the vcproj file. This had previously had problems. The analysis also ran successfully. The GSITK project is rather trivial, so I moved on to the main
LaBat Eylau project. This too ran successfully, though it took to run on my laptop: a 1.5 Ghz single core machine with 512 Mb memory running XP SP2.

The results were worth the wait, though. The Visual CppDepend IDE displays the analyzed data in a number of compelling ways.


This first picture shows several of the views that help to organize the analyzed data. The Class Browser (upper left) shows a standard treeview that allows you to drill down into your project and other assemblies referenced by your project. Clicking on classes and namespaces in the treeview updates the Info window (lower left). The Info window shows counts of the number of methods and fields within the selected node that are used by the project. Expansion of the node for a namespace reveals exactly those methods and fields.

Right click on a method, and you can run a CQL query to find out where that method is called. You can also view the results of the CQL query in the Dependency Matrix and the Metrics view.

The level of integration between the views is excellent. Clicking on some data in one view updates all the others. You can export CQL query results to Excel, XML, HTML, or text.

Metrics DropDownList

I noticed that the Metrics view had some filtering controls, so I started playing with them. I was pleasantly pleased to find I could change the metric the view was based on easily. To find complex code, I selected the Cyclomatic Complexity. SLOC, #methods, #fields, and other metrics are available.

Note the Select Top X control. This allows you to select the top methods based on the selected metric. Select the # of lines of code, then select top 10 to highlight the 10 largest methods in your project.

The end result of this is that you can rapidly cycle through different kinds of code smells in your project, finding the worst culprits to be the focus of your maintenance efforts.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

CppDepend Beta Test - First Impressions

I downloaded and installed CppDepend this weekend and ran it on the PC Eylau source code. It works fine aside from a few very minor fit and finish issues in the UI. I found out a number of things about my code I was not aware of, and I can see how CppDepend will be a very useful tool for developing code smells.

If you're doing serious software development, your team needs a tool like this.

This is just a place holder entry for laptop is not talking to the network here at home and I refuse to sneakernet JPGs in this day and age. I am posting this from my wife's laptop. I'll write up a better entry with more detailed observations, plus screen shots, in the next day or two. Scout's honor.

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PIC-Guam Progress

I am continuing to playtest the PIC-Guam game. I have been reviewing the rules, particularly from the point of view of writing a computer "AI" opponent. My latest set of questions includes

  • Do landing units have to stay in their lanes? For example, the way the lanes are drawn it looks as if Red 1 can land in either 2712 or 2711.
  • Can you add a note about the lagoon half strength rule to the CRTs?
  • Is a lagoon hex considered to be a non-clear hex? Can I cause X fire casualties by firing into a lagoon hex?
  • Which hex is the "sea" hex? Is the sequence properly sea-lagoon-beach, or really lagoon-beach?
  • What happens if landing units are stuck on the lagoon or beach? Do stacking limits prevent further entry to a lagoon or beach hex, delaying further landing waves? Do stacking limits apply in a lagoon hex?
  • 3.4 What is the size of an HQ unit? Should there be an exception to 3.4 Stacking that permits a regimental HQ to stack with its regiment in violation of the stacking rules?
  • Can a landing unit move from one lagoon hex to another? Can a landing unit move outside the designated lanes?
  • 3.6 Can Japanese replacements be chosen for an HQ unit that was destroyed?
  • Are Naval units placed at the "start of each turn" per 11.2, or are they placed in Movement phase? In other words, when are ships placed on the map?
  • Can 6.2.4 Air-Ground suppression take place if the Japanese unit is in a fortification?
  • Does 5.5 Japanese infiltration apply to all Japanese units, including armor?
  • I think the last sentence should be removed. It seems to me that per, a unit in a lagoon is obliged to either move to a clear beach hex (see my first question above), or is obliged to perform an Amphibious Assault against an enemy controlled beach hex. There appears to be no logical way for a US unit in a lagoon to perform an Amphibious Assault against a non-beach hex.

I think this is a great set of rules. It is pretty easy to play, very easy to develop an AI for, and reasonably faithful to what I have been able to learn about the Battle of Guam in 1944. I am very happy to be participating in the playtest.

I'm currently putting together a proposal to develop a PC-based game for this title. I don't know whether GSI of TX will be interested in it, but I certainly am: I think I can build the entire game, including multiple play modes and an acceptable AI opponent, in less time that I can complete the work on PC Eylau.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

NHAC Open House Night at the Administaff Observatory

Dawn and I attended the
NHAC open house night at the Humble ISD's Administaff Observatory. We had a great time. We arrived early enough to see them roll the roof back, and got the nickel tour. We observed the moon, saturn, and M13 through the two large telescopes there, and met some other astronomy enthusiasts. This looks like a great facility, considering the budget and the location close to the greater Houston "nebula". I'm looking forward to running a deck scope there.

I seem to be having some trouble with my laptop today, so I've borrowed Dawn's to make this entry. I'll see about updating this entry soon with the pictures I took tonight.

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