Windows programming is nasty

I’ve spent two days trying to figure out how to send an ATA command directly to an IDE hard drive from Windows. I’ve finally succeeded, but with an undocumented and unsupported IOCTL call. It turns out that’s the ONLY way to do what I want, at least until Windows XP SP2 is released when the documented and supported version of a similar IOCTL will be made available. That’s nasty. By the way, C’T (an extremely technical German computer magazine, fortunately now with a Dutch edition as well) rules in more ways than one.

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A slightly improved perspective BTF ordering

Finding a single BTF (back-to-front) ordering for perspectively rendered volumes without sorting is more difficult than it sounds. See what happens when we make use of a traditional BTF (Frieder et al., 1985): it breaks badly. Ed Swan came up with a super-elegant constructive proof for a perspective BTF ordering that works (Swan, 1998). However, his “PBTF” rendering and its proof assume that voxels are infinitesimally small. As is very often the case, voxels can have significant size, and volume resolution is often lower than screen resolution, which results in disturbing rendering artefacts.

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The Visualisation and Image Processing Platform Formerly Known as DSCAS3

The current marketing conditions and long-term strategy dictate a name change. The new name should contain at least the words “Delft”, “Visualisation”, “Image [Processing]”, and then one of “platform”, “framework”, “[software environment]”. I’m currently looking at “devise” (Delft Visualisation and Image processing Software Environment), “devious” (“ou” not used, the rest you can easily guess) and perhaps “divine” (or “devine”, which I like more, because of the infamous Devine Brown and the fact that I would be able to use acronyms like “PIMP” for Parallel IMage Processing”) which would stand for Delft Visualisation and Image processing Network Environment, which is not an entirely correct description (the network environment is just one aspect) but acceptable nonetheless.

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Mark Shuttleworth NOT the first African in Space, but likes Python

Contrary to popular belief and idiot marketing droids, Mark Shuttleworth is technically not the first African in space. This of course is dependent on your definition of “African”, but if that definition is “person born in Africa”, the title of First African in Space should go to Colonel Patrick Baudry, a French dude who was born in Douala, Cameroon on March 6, 1946. Colonel Baudry was part of the 1985 space shuttle Discovery crew.

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Toshiba 2.5″ HDD power management

Urgh… the Toshiba MK3018GAS 2.5″ hard drive in my laptop keeps on spinning down every so often in spite of Windows XP being configured only to spin it down after 30 minutes of idle time. This is extremely frustrating. Under linux, hdparm -S with a suitable time-out did the trick just marvellously. After having investigated this issue with several different diagnostic utilities, it turns out the disc has its own power management as well.

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Back from ZA 2003

What a lovely holiday… I got time to party with many of the friends, spend quality time with the family, drink many Windhoek Lagers and eat too much red meat. Unfortunately, I missed Goof’s bachelors’ party. Next time! ;) On a totally unrelated note, it seems my Tungsten E is working with Evolution 1.2.4, gnome-pilot DEBs from http://www.madhack.com/debian and some spit. The whole volatile combination seems to be dancing drunkily on the edge of a very sharp Minora blade though…

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The Tungsten E and Linux

There are a few things you have to remember when trying to keep your pilot synchronised with your Linux workstation. Most of these caveats are due to general Gnome 2.2 shittiness. My opinion that many open source programmers should rather go back to school has just been enforced by this opinion. :)

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