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Mush stuff

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Wow, two weeks since the last update. That's gotta be some kind of record. Sorry about that. I'll try to keep you posted more regularly.

I haven't really done much on the games in the past couple of weeks, as I've had some extracurricular activities going on that you don't know about. My wife, the incomparable Shelly, passed her Professional Engineer exam (the engineer equivalent of the bar or CPA exam). It's now legal for her to market her skills as a professional civil engineer. She had planned to keep her day job until the end of the year, but she got some very strong leads from folks who wanted to hire her for their projects. She couldn't resist such pressure, so she put in her two week's notice. A lot of my time has been spent getting stuff ready for her.

I spent a lot of time looking for local office space, but we finally decided just to build more office space into the house. Since we don't keep the cars in the garage, we decided to gut the garage and build an office in there. It'll take quite a bit of effort, but it'll still be cheaper and have a better return on investment than leasing office space.

As for office supplies, we had to buy some, but we should be able to use a lot of my existing stuff. The main net-surfing machine (the one I'm using to write this) will be promoted to her main AutoCAD machine. We got a good deal on a 19" monitor over the weekend, and the machine's already capable enough to run AutoCAD. There are plenty of good plotting services in the area, so we decided not to spend the big bucks for an E-size plotter. We did buy a nice HP ink-jet printer that's capable of printing 11x17 pages (only $399 after a $100 rebate!). In Shelly's experience, 11x17 is great for draft drawings, and we can let the services to make the big plots for us. Looks like our biggest expenditure is gonna be AutoCAD upgrades and add-ons. Ugh.

We're also looking for office furniture. We lost our favorite used office-furniture store when they renovated their building, so we're scrambling there. We bought a couple of cheap tables that should do fine, and used file cabinets shouldn't be hard to come by. Our biggest worry was finding one of those specialty file-cabinets with wide flat drawers that are used to hold plots --cheap 5-drawer ones typically go for $500. Suddenly I got a call from my dad, who had found a ten-drawer cabinet in a government clearinghouse in Arkansas for $125! Good work dad!

Finally, we're looking for health insurance. We'll probably use COBRA (a way to buy your existing insurance when you quit) from Shelly's company for a couple of months, but we'll need to find a decent plan after that. Any self-employed folks out there have a plan that they like?

I found the news article interesting that MS is gonna be releasing Windows CE 2.12 with some DirectX components. Here's my take:

Good Things:

The Windows Media Player moving to CE

This didn't surprise me. The new Casio palmtops were released with stereo and MP3 support, and people are finding that CE palmtops make dandy little MP3 players if you endow 'em with enough memory. IBM's new 340 meg drive that's the size of a quarter and the new long-life batteries are gonna open up new avenues for pocket-sized computers, and I wouldn't be surprised to see CE-based palmtops that double as digital cameras, camcorders, and mini TV's before long.

OK Things:

The new 4.0 browser

Actually, I'm a bit mixed on this. Having a more capable browser is certainly a necessity as CE moves into the set-top box market, and stuff like the WebTV certainly could use a more capable browser with support for Java, RealVideo, and ShockWave. I'm worried, though, about putting such a big powerful browser on handheld machines. Palmtop screens are simply too small to view conventional web pages. I liked the AvantGo folks' idea of making news mini-pages that are one-column text with some very simple graphics, designed to work on palm-sized screens. I think I'd prefer to see the CE browser broken up into a collection of DLL's, so you can choose how much browser you want your handheld to have.

The DirectX components

I don't think any CE devices have specialty video hardware yet, so I don't think it's overly important right now. As CE gets into more set-tops, however, DirectX will be more important.

Bad Things:

The version number debacle

MS is completely messing things up with their CE version number nonsense. Here's how MS's version numbers went, as far as I can tell. . .

- Windows CE 1.0 - The original CE for H/PC (laptop fetus) computers.

- Windows CE 2.0 - Lots of changes to the kernel and UI to make it more Windows-like. Ran on basically the same machines as 1.0. Good so far.

- Windows CE 2.1 - Some bugs fixed. Runs on the same machines as 2.0. No problem yet.

- Windows CE 2.11 - A few changes for P/PC (pilot clone) machines. Essentially the same as 2.1, but with changes specifically for palmtops. Confusing, as 2.11 was only for palmtops.

- Windows CE Pro 3.0 - CE for improved H/PC machines (those new baby laptops like the Vadem Clio). Really not different from 2.1, but with some new apps like PowerPoint and Access for CE.

Now MS is preparing version 2.12 which has support for some DirectX and has newer features than the one they were calling 3.0! In addition to that, MS is working on a next-generation Windows CE with a friendlier desktop and real-time features, and they're calling it CE 3.0!

Confused yet?

I'm still waiting to see if someone will step up to the plate and make a CE-based handheld for games. It'd be awfully cool to have a toy that looks and acts like a Color Gameboy, but supports DirectDraw/DirectSound and can download games from the internet rather than storing them on cartridges.

Finally, I got to play a Dreamcast machine at Best Buys yesterday. I'd like to say I was impressed, but playing the new 3D Sonic game just didn't feel like anything new. Nintendo did it with their 3D Mario game. Playstation did it with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. The Dreamcast version might've had higher resolution and more polygons, but that doesn't make the experience any more interesting. They're gonna have to release something really interesting to get me to change from my 3 year-old Playstation, but I don't see anything like that on the horizon. Looks like Sega's just releasing some new racing and fighting games. Unless they've got something that'll change the world, I don't give it much of a future.
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