Thursday, March 20, 2008

Environment Variables I need for CAD

This is just a list of variables I find that I need to use to allow AutoCAD profiles to be copied into "Default User" profile on Vista, supposedly (I haven't figured out how to get it to work)...

%programfiles% = C:\Program Files
%userprofile% = C:\Users\[username]
%appdata% = C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming
%localappdata% = C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local
%temp% = C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Temp

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fruit Salad Card Game

Kyla and I were over at some friends' house last night, and they introduced us to a fun card game called Fruit Salad. It's similar to Hearts, but with some substantial twists. The rules are hard to find, so I did a little research, and here are the rules, as best as I can make out:

-The goal of the game is to finish with the fewest number of points
-Each "set" is comprised of the number of "tricks" as every player has cards. (a trick being the time in which play has proceeded completely around the table every player has played a card).
-The dealer rotates to the left after each set
-The player to the left of the dealer begins each set
-Aces are high, followed by King, Queen ... and so on to 2- the lowest card
-Jokers are not used in this game
-Each player should have the same number of cards, so remove the number of lowest cards possible as necessary in the following suit order: Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, Hearts

A set is played by:
-The player to the dealer's left begins by taking any card from their hand and placing it face up on the table. The play proceeds to the left from there.
-Each player must play a single card on top of the original card by removing it from their hand and placing it face up on the table. If they have one or more cards in the same suit as the original card, they must play one of them. If they have no cards in the same suit as the original card, they may play any one card from their hand, but may not win the trick in this case.
-When everyone has played one card, the trick is over. The 'winner' of the trick is the person who played the highest card in the same suit as the original card, even if the winning card was the original card.
-The 'winner' of the trick removes the cards from the table and keeps them stacked for scoring at the end of the set. If desired, they may remove the cards worth points and keep them in a separate pile to make scoring easier at the end of the set (see below).
-The winner of the trick now begins a new trick by playing any card from their hand, and play continues as above to the left.

When each set is over, scores are recorded for each player as follows:
-In the first set, only each trick won is worth 10 points
-In the second set, only each heart suit card won is worth 10 points
-In the third set, only each queen won is worth 25 points to the players winning them
-In the fourth set, only the king of spades is worth 100 points to its winner
-In the fifth set, only the last trick won is worth 100 points
-In the sixth set, ALL of the above scoring rules apply

At the end of the game (a game being six sets), the scores are totaled for each player, and the player with the lowest score is declared the winner.

-Especially on the last set, scoring may happen after each trick, if desired.
-Instead of removing low cards to ensure each player has the same number of cards in their hand, you may add low cards to the game from a second deck, in reverse suit order as above (that is, first add the 2 of hearts, then spades, then diamonds, then clubs). That lets you have one more trick per set, and adds low cards to the game to mix things up a bit.


Ribbon interface in AutoCAD 2009

Found a site with screenshots of the upcoming release of AutoCAD 2009, and it looks like they've taken advantage of Microsoft making the Ribbon interface freely available to anyone! I'm so happy about this- I love the ribbon in Office 2007, though I'm interested to see how well it integrates into AutoCAD's environment.

Unlike Office, though, you have the option of customizing it extensively, as well as turning it off to go back to 'classic' AutoCAD. I hope we don't do that at work just because it's familiar...

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Vista SP1 publicly available

It's finally here: Vista SP1 for x86 and x64 versions of Windows Vista, in the primary 5 languages.

Though I've been waiting since they announced RTM, I actually appreciated the way they were distributing it; they found some drivers that weren't compatible with the SP1 install process, so they gave the manufacturers a heads-up and worked with them to release updated and compatible drivers. (Hence the nearly month-and-a-half delay before public availability). Now that all the manufacturers have updated drivers, they've released SP1 and configured Windows Update to check and make sure you don't have any of the problematic drivers. If you don't, no problem, here's SP1. If you do, here's the drivers you need to update, THEN once they're installed, here's SP1. And according to an article by Paul Thurrott, the compatibility of the bad drivers wasn't even all that bad to begin with. They're just keeping the lowest common denominator in mind- those users who wouldn't know that a visit to the Control Panel would have gotten them their soundcard working again. Very smart.

Apparently over the next few months they will upgrade the classification of the updated drivers to important, so someone who doesn't even realize they have the old versions will be automatically upgraded, then SP1 will be offered. I don't know yet if SP1 will be installed automatically or not. My computer at work is set to install any available updates automatically at 3:00AM, and I made sure it's aware of SP1's availability, so I guess if I come in tomorrow and it's SP1, it'll install automatically. My guess, however, is that you'll have to click a button that you accept the installation of SP1.

So the first thing I did when this became available was to burn the install on a CD, wipe out my lab machine and install vanilla Vista on a empty hard disk, then install the service pack as soon as I logged onto the desktop for the first time; the process that's supposed to be the 'worst' upgrade path, since vanilla Vista doesn't have any of the prerequisite installs for SP1. However, I was pleased with how they pulled this off; it told me it might take an hour or more to install (!), and that I couldn't use my computer during that time. It offered me a checkbox to have my computer restart automatically. What that allowed it to do was that, when it did restart for the first time (5 minutes or so after I began installation), it never came all the way back to the welcome screen or desktop. It finished installation in the screen I refer to as the "Pre-welcome screen" WinPE-looking screen. So even if a user has a password to log onto the machine, they don't have to enter it each of the three times it restarts. Very nice. And only about 20-30 minutes for it to install, too. I guess that's the benefit of over-estimating; it's a pleasant surprise when it turns out to be shorter.

Now that this is out, as soon as we get AutoCAD 2008 with multi-seat licensing at work, I can image an installation and reformatting a computer will suddenly become a 20-minutes process! I can't wait. I just wish that, as a 'home' user, I could pay a nominal fee and get a slipstreamed SP1 Vista disk, either as a download, or in the mail. Preinstalled Service Packs just tend to be better than one installed after the fact. Even though WAIK blurs that line quite a bit, I just can't get over wanting a bundled disk straight from Microsoft.

Update: According to my observations on several computers last night, as well as comfirmation from Windoes IT pro, though the updated drivers will eventually install automatically, Service Pack 1 will NOT. It will download automatically, but then prompt the user to install it. Just the way it should be, with an update this significant.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

IEBlog : Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8

This is great news, for everyone:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously.

Our initial thinking for IE8 involved showing pages requesting “Standards” mode in an IE7’s “Standards” mode, and requiring developers to ask for IE8’s actual “Standards” mode separately. We made this decision, informed by discussions with some leading web experts, with compatibility at the top of mind.

In light of the [new Microsoft] Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we’re choosing differently. Now, IE8 will show pages requesting “Standards” mode in IE8’s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8’s “IE7 Standards mode” will need to request that explicitly (using the http header/meta tag approach described here)..

Every computer user will benefit from this decision-given that the new Firefox (FF3) is reported to be standards-compliant as well, this means that the web should (slowly, over a couple of years) become a place of uniformity, which is good for both developers and users. As non-compliant websites slowly get phased out and replaced with standards-based websites, the amount of code required will be drastically reduced. Large corporations such as banks can be reassured that, though they're having to upgrade their banking sites to be compliant (if they're not already), it should be easier than previously since the same codes will work nearly uniformly. As IE6, IE7, FF1 and FF2 get phased out, the old codes can be scrapped entirely and replaced with a "Your browser is too old" message-reducing maintenance, troubleshooting and even file sizes.

A win for everyone, and a pat on the back for Microsoft for this move. Their (legitimate) concern previously was backwards-compatibility: they didn't want to "break the existing internet" by having many sites just stop looking right on the majority of computers (those Internet Explorers as the primary browser...yes, it's still a vast majority). But sometimes such a move is necessary, and this is one of those cases. It's just drastic enough to really make developers sit up and get standards-compliant. It makes sense too, from a business sense; some people that stop using Internet Explorer, do so because of the poor standards. Now that problem is gone, and browser choice can be purely personal preference (other than the fact the IE is installed by default on every Windows computer, and Firefox has to be installed).