Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lecture archives

So, I just found out that several of the lecture series I attend are also archived on the web. Now, I knew about the Von Karman lectures at JPL. They've recently started archiving their lectures and putting them on the web. But I just today found out that Caltech is doing it also! I've been able to spot some for their Watson series lectures, but I'm not sure about the other series. However, if you can't make some of these lectures, you can watch 'em online.

However, I don't think I'm gonna start doing that. Seeing it in person is an entirely different experience for me. Sure it might take time to get there, but I find that in front of my computer, I'll get really distracted and it generally won't be pretty. However, these are definitely good things to know, just in case I might have to miss one.

Monday, January 05, 2009

DOS Games

So, before I get to talking about more social issues that might get me attention, I decided to share the joy of DOS games. After discovering the numerous uses for DOSBox, it wasn't that long until I figured it was time for DOS games!

Now, I have some CDs from WAY back in the day. Some games I would play when I was six on my Windows 95 machine. In fact, just recently I discovered them and thought, "Would I be able to play these on linux?" I recently had success with a really old SEGA Genesis emulator I had, and playing the ROMS using dgen in Ubuntu.

Since I've been sick the past couple days, I haven't really been in the mood to do winter schoolwork, so I got started on this project. For this post, we'll do a REALLY popular and addictive game, Jazz Jackrabbit. Usually, if you have, or can find, the install files for a DOS game, DOSBox'll have you set. But for Jazz Jackrabbit, it's a little bit tricky. It's most commonly distributed in its shareware form, however PCLinuxOS has a package for DOSBox which includes the full Jazz Jackrabbit game, so we'll use that. If you could find the full game online, well... now you'll know how to install it! First, we wanna make a directory for our DOS games, with Jazz being our first, so do that either graphically or with
mkdir ~/dosgames
Now, fetch the PCLinuxOS package. You can do this either with your favorite browser, or with
wget http://spout.ussg.indiana.edu/linux/pclinuxos/pclinuxos/apt/pclinuxos/2007/RPMS.extra/dosbox-jazz-0-1pclos2007.noarch.rpm
When I initially tried this, I installed it via alien (which is possible. Though, I wouldn' t recommend installing packages through alien if they're actually programs instead of DOS games). However, this created permissions problems that didn't let me save any settings, so we're gonna install it so that you, the user, has the permissions! However, if you want every account on the computer to be able to play, you can do that, but you'll have to tweak the permissions a bit. We'll skip that in this guide.

So now you'll want to extract the files, you can do that via the GUI (right-clicking and pressing "Extract Here", which I recommend) or using this command (fulfilled dependencies not guaranteed):
rpm2cpio mypackage.rpm | cpio -vid
In either case, you should have a folder named "usr" now. Go ahead and descend into the directory: usr->share->dosbox. Now you should run into a folder called "jazz". It is this folder you want to move to your ~/dosbox folder. So you can either copy/paste it there, or use
cp -r ~/usr/share/dosbox/jazz ~/dosbox
Now you've got your files all set up, all you have to do is run 'em! But don't delete the usr/ folder just yet, it still has one more trick up its sleeve. But now, all you have to do is type in
dosbox ~/dosgames/jazz/JAZZ.EXE
But let's say you don't WANNA put that in, you want a menu option. Well, that's what we saved the usr/ for! If you go to usr/share/applications/, you should see a file called pclinuxos-dosbox-jazz.desktop. As the path suggests, you'll want to eventually put this file into /usr/share/applications, but we have to make a small correction. So use
gedit ~/usr/share/applications/pclinuxos-dosgames-jazz.desktop
to open gedit (using nautilus is tricky for this). And change line 5 so that it says
Exec=/usr/bin/dosbox /home/YOURUSER/dosgames//jazz/JAZZ.EXE -exit -fullscreen
Where YOURUSER is your username. Now, if you want, you can rename the file, so that you don't have something that says PCLinuxOS in your Ubuntu system (But make sure it ends with ".desktop". And lastly, move it to where it belongs with
sudo mv ~/usr/share/applications/pclinuxos-dosbox-jazz.desktop /usr/share/applications/
Now, you should have a nice menu icon in Applications>Games>Jazz Jackrabbit. And that should... be it! I hope you enjoy your new Jazz Jackrabbit game, and if you're feeling daring enough, try it with Jazz Jackrabbit 2. This method should generally apply to all distros, including OS X and Windows. DOSBox works for all of those, the main thing you need to do is get those Jazz data files. However, the technical stuff isn't done yet, I might have another guide I'll put up for you guys. But cheers for now, and I managed to make another post, YES!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Admitted, but still the same

Ok, so. I haven't blogged in the longest time. I don't know why. Once I get back into the loop, it'll probably be easier. So, we left off at me submitting my Caltech application. Though the title may be a spoiler, let me divulge the rest of the month or so to you.

So after the application was due, some fun stuff happened. There were a couple of lectures, and then an event at Caltech about the Siemen's Competition. It was the semifinals, so the top 6 individuals and the top 6 teams were there. One of my classmates were in the top 6 teams, so I was invited as a special guest since I was the one craziest about science at my school. And I have to tell you, going to Caltech for that event was possibly one of the biggest blows to my ego I could possibly ever afford. There were people like Eric Larson, who I will reference continuously and was just imaginably smarter than anyone I knew. But the thing that united all of these people was that they did good research, and contributed to scientific knowledge. My friend, Abhi, worked on studying the effects of carbon monoxide on pregnant rats. But there were many others, from studies on Alzheimers to new types of imaging, to Eric Larson's "Classification of Certain Fusion Categories". So, to move chronologically now, the first day consisted of poster presentations. Here, I got the general feel for the type of research that was being done, and got to meet some familiar Caltech faces. By familiar, I'm mainly referring to Denice Nelson Nash, the Director of Public Relations and the one responsible for putting together the public lecture series(es?). It was awesome meeting someone who I see every month introducing speakers. But more than that, I met...... Eric Larson, who ended up spending most of the session trying to explain isomorphic dual vector spaces to me. After that was a dinner which was very very good (and fancy). However, luckily I was a VIP and was included (yay!). And I met my group's Caltech guide, he was pretty cool and sat with us, while the other guides joined our table to talk with him. After that, it was over and time to drive back home.

On the second day, it was the oral presentations. This was fairly nervewracking for the contestants, and was just incomprehensible for me, as a layman. The presentations were incredibly technical and didn't have any sort of introduction, just delved into the details. Of course, except for Eric Larson, who had an introduction, but it was still incomprehensible. I still have no idea what a fusion category is. But anyways, after the presentations, I had to make myself scarce for about four hours because space was extremely limited for the tour of the new Biological Imaging Lab. I decided to spend some of that time practicing piano since I wouldn't be home, and my piano teacher lived like, 5 minutes away. However, I wouldn't be able to practice until an hour and a half later, so I just got myself a cheap hot chocolate (cheap for price, not quality) and read some of the Caltech magazines that people recycle for some reason. Once things got resumed, we had the awards ceremony. However, beforehand I got to meet the other contestants up close and personal, and turns out they're all just normal (normal according to my definition, which probably does not match the generally accepted one). We had a great time talking now that the competition was over. Eventually, they got us into the hall where the awards ceremony would be held. Of course, we had to eat first, which was an interesting experience altogether. The steak I got was so rare, I think it was still bleeding. However, I ate it anyways cause... we kinda complain about the service out loud. And speaking of saying things out loud, I noticed on the program that the president of Caltech was going to speak and I remember hearing the president give an introduction to Vicente Fox when he spoke. The one thing I remember about it was his amazingly thick French accent. Of course, when discussing it, I said out loud, "He has such a French accent, he's totally awesome!" I love it!" Only after he gave his speech and proceeded to his seat, that I realized that it was at the seat across from me at the table right behind me. So he probably overheard everything I said. While nothing I said was an insult, it definitely must have sounded weird. And I felt very awkward knowing that now. However, the results were in, and Abhi and his group didn't win, it was the group on Alzheimers, which is appropriate, their research is highly practical. And for the singles competition, well..... there was no competition. Eric Larson took the prize! He was going to New York for the finals! The nice thing about science is that everyone wins, and actually, the Caltech staff and everyone hammered that in pretty hard. Any of these guys who applied would pretty much be guaranteed admission; it was kinda depressing to see Caltech actively recruiting these guys, when I had submitted my application just the week before. Seeing this really made me cynical that I would get in.

The next few weeks were not much better. I basically collapsed to the notion that I was nothing compared to these guys, and at best I'd be deferred to regular decision. These weeks were.... interesting... I went from hating Caltech because of how they bent over backwards for these guys (even though it's not their fault. They want the best of the best; it's their job), and then to apathy. I came to a realization that I'll be happy enough not going to Caltech and to University of Arizona anyway. It went on like this until the afternoon of December 10th.

December 10th was special because it was the first day when I decided to tutor someone. Now, I know that I hate the idea of tutoring. I still think it's much preferable to do study groups or just ask help from the teacher. At my school, they'd be more than happy to provide it. However, the student was referred to me by a teacher, so I'm like.... OK. It was pretty fun; I would totally do this for free, just for the sake of reviewing trig. But, it would suck for the others in my class who need the money. Anyway, after that, I drove home, and things didn't seem out of the ordinary. My mom gave me my mail, which were just college solicitations that I'm really not that interested in and that went immediately into the recycling pile. I got into my routine until a couple minutes after, my mom said, "Oh, I forgot about this one!" It was a large orange-and-gray envelope which had the Caltech logo. Immediately I thought, "They must be crazy". And sure enough, the letter invited me to join Caltech's class of 2013. Figures, just what I was least expecting.

After that, I made the mistake of putting it as my Facebook status, and at school the next day, the news spread like a wildfire in California during the Santa Ana winds. And even worse, since Caltech is actually fast, and I live like, 45 minutes away from it, the news reached me the very next day. So, I had a decision before anyone else; therefore, ALL the attention was directed at me. I wouldn't say I hated it, but it got kinda repetitive after a while. So the point I'm trying to make is...

I get to be one of those special people who brings down the average SAT score for incoming freshmen. Since my highest scores were only 750 in math and 720 in critical reading, which is extremely low comparitively speaking. However, despite this, I still hate the College Board. They make things much more complicated and inefficient as they should be. You may have to play their game, but never ever capitulate; your college will definitely know what to REALLY look at.