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nameJakob Schmid
occupationComputer Game Developer

Schmid 12:31, 21 June 2008 (CEST) schtart

schtart v.0.1.1

For a few years, I've fought a slow battle against the standard way of doing things on Windows XP. The basic operating system is reasonably usable, but Windows Explorer and the Start Menu just don't cut it for my way of doing things.

So what's so bad about Windows Explorer? Well, on my hardware, it is horribly slow. The icon view changes depending on which directory you're viewing, which can be frustrating. Managing two directories at once (e.g. for copying from one to the other) requires a lot of resizing. It is also unhandy for navigation using only keyboard. Thanks to Lars Teglgaard Mikkelsen, I found out that Total Commander is an excellent replacement for Windows Explorer. It does everything Windows Explorer does plus more, and is lightning fast in operation. So that was one down.

So what's so bad about the Windows XP Start menu? If you're like me, you have hundreds of programs installed. That makes navigating the Start Menu almost impossible, and since Microsoft didn't want to sort the menu lexicographically, you either have to look through all the programs manually (eventually learning by heart where every program is located), or mindlessly pressing the first letter of the program name until you reach the right one. Moreover, you might want to start an executable that isn't normally installed in the Start menu (like PuTTY, for instance); this requires either browsing to the location of the executable and the opening it, or knowing the path by heart and entering it in the 'Run...' dialog (I've been doing that a lot, and it sucks), or adding the location to the %PATH% environment variable (I've also been doing that a lot, and it also sucks). I ended up making a c:\bin directory, adding it to %PATH% and dumping all the 'homeless' executables in there, linux style. This last approach works reasonably well, but starting the programs that were installed in the start menu was still a hassle.

The Windows Vista Start Menu is much more clever: you write the name of your executable, and it searches for it and runs it. It is a bit slow, but the idea works really well. I wasn't going to install Vista, because it seems to be a new Windows Millenium-like travesty, so I had to do something else.

I have created an extremely fast replacement for both the Start Menu and the 'Run...' dialog. It is called schtart and is a single 20KB .NET executable; you start it, it scans 'Program Files' and your path for all executable files, and voila: you can start any executable by entering its name. It shows the possible executables matching the name you're entering incrementally, and executes the one at the top of the list with the arguments you specify.

So, if you want to start firefox, you can probably just enter 'fire' and press enter, and firefox will load. If you want to load a particular page, you could enter something 'fire'. Nice, right?

Please download it, try it out, and mail any comments or bug reports to me.

Schmid 14:56, 14 June 2008 (CEST) iPod: Rockbox

Rockbox on iPod (zezayer theme) - screenshot from an iPod emulator which is part of the Rockbox project

So, I am having my summer vacation early this year, making time for the stuff I normally wouldn't have time for. I'm basically not moving outside this range:

57° 05' 13.11" - 13.47" N
9° 16' 29.74" - 30.46" E

Since 2004, I have been annoyed with my 4th generation iPod. Well, the iPod hardware is excellent, but the firmware is not perfect (gaps between songs, cumbersome menu navigation, too few features, and most important: no support for FLAC files). But the worst part is that you have to use iTunes to transfer songs to the iPod. iTunes is a huge and slow beast, definitely not suitable as a player (sometimes I think even my peeled-down version of Winamp without modern skin support is too slow to load). So, after 4 years of this horror, I finally decided to attempt installing something else on my iPod. As the iPod Linux website was down that day, I ended up trying Rockbox.

Rockbox was not just easy to install, but extremely easy: you basically download and copy a .rockbox directory to the root of your iPod and run an .exe file that installs the Rockbox bootloader. And that's all there is to it!

Your existing music database is retained, and can be used from Rockbox, but from then on, you can just drop files on the drive, and you can play them. And Rockbox plays FLAC, mp3, ogg vorbis, and even MODs and SIDs. Oh joy! How easy it is to add new music to my iPod. How easy it is to copy it to my friends (who will buy the music after listening to it, of course). Speaking of which, the new Venetian Snares: Detrimentalist is awesome - if you like breakcore, that is... Otherwise, you'll probably hate it. That guy fell into the cauldron of breakbeats as an infant, for sure.

If you don't have an iPod, you may still be able to run Rockbox, 'cause it's cross-platform

Schmid 14:21, 1 June 2008 (CEST) reStructuredText

reStructuredText example

Wauw! I just found out about reStructuredText, part of the Python package docutils.

Basically, its a document typesetting system, comparable to office suites like OpenOffice, or to markup languages like HTML/CSS or LaTeX.

Like HTML/CSS and unlike OpenOffice, it based on source text files, which you can create in your favorite editor (like Vim or Notepad).

Like OpenOffice and unlike HTML/CSS, it is 'What You See Is What You Get', which in this case means that the source code looks like the resulting typeset text.

Let me give you an example - the following text is reStructuredText:

               The Wonders of reStructuredText
 :Author: Jakob Schmid
 :Date: 2008-06-01
 Structuring your text is *really easy*. You just write headlines
 with lines beneath them, and the **reStructuredText parser**
 acknowledges them as section headings.
 Paragraphs are separated by blank lines, and it is simple
 to enumerate or make bullet lists:
 1. First item
 2. Second item
    * Sub-item a
    * Sub-item b
 Other features
 Lots of other features are possible, including URLs, tables,
 images, sidebars, admonishments, etc. See the `reStructuredText
 Demonstration`_ for a more advanced example of what you can do.
 .. _`reStructuredText Demonstration`:

This text can then be parsed by to create a HTML/CSS file. The result can be seen in the image on the right.

You can of course make your own CSS style to make it look cute. LaTeX output is also possible, and you can even make some very cool slideshows. Much better than beamer slides, because beamer depends upon LaTeX, which, frankly, has become too old and strange to be bothered with anymore. Yes, you heard me. I hate LaTeX and I'm not afraid to admit it. HTML/CSS is better.

If you want to start using reStructuredText, you should read the introductory tutorial material for end users in the docutils documentation.

Schmid 14:03, 1 June 2008 (CEST) The Fall of Pollux Gamelabs and the Rise of Tonic Games

Pollux Gamelabs went bankrupt (through no fault of mine :) just after the release of Lost Empire: Immortals. It is sad, as it was a good team full of nice and funny people, but at least we got to finish and release the game. I hope that sci-fi strategy nerds all over the world will have fun with the game.

The good news is that I have been employed by Tonic Games (Aalborg) as programmer for their 'Free Musica' project. I won't be moving to Aalborg, as the company opens a Copenhagen division for me and Camilla Volkersen, who got the job as lead artist for the project. Of course, I will be going to Aalborg once in a while to meet up with the other guys, notably Tom and Bo (SilentBoom). We will be using Unity during the project, so I'll have to get used to using 3 different operating systems at once, Mac OS X, Gentoo Linux, and Windows. Mac OS X makes a lot of sense, but I have real trouble getting used to the strange mouse acceleration curve and the alt, ctrl, and command keys being all swapped round... Silly that this is the main concern of switching to a new operating system. Everything else seems to be OK once you get used to it.

Schmid 23:38, 29 April 2008 (CEST) Nordic Game Award Nomination

Lost Empire: Immortals nominated for a Nordic Game Award

It seems that our game, Lost Empire: Immortals, was nominated for a Nordic Game Award. How cool is that? However, World in Conflict is amongst the competitors, so, well, you know... :)

Schmid 17:21, 19 April 2008 (CEST) Gimle

Sound-Tjek Electronica (from

I'm looking forward to playing at Gimle in Roskilde tonight.

Schmid 11:30, 7 April 2008 (CEST) Portishead

Portishead - picture by Thomas Jauert
Portishead - picture by Thomas Jauert
Me, Bidda, Biddas friend, Jeppe - picture by Thomas Jauert

At Friday the 4th, I went to see the High Lords of trip hop: Portishead at KB Hallen in Copenhagen. This was a rare opportunity to experience a style of music that has been all but extinct for almost 10 years. My love for the genre is unspoiled and just as warm as during the nineties, and it seems that Portishead feels the same way. They had a extremely poor warm-up act (the name of which I still haven't been able to dig up), but they played a kind of atonal synth-rock, which might have been good if it they could actually play the stuff. However, the drummer was painfully untight, and the whole thing sounded kind of lame. Fortunately, Portishead was well worth the torment.

Portishead has an extremely well-defined sound, and a uses interesting dissonant harmonics. The music is felt, as much as heard, and the pain and sadness conveyed by singer Beth Gibbons is supported by the music. No song from the studio albums was missed during the live performance, and every song was carefully live-engineered to sound exactly the same as the studio version. The drum/bass sound was often uncannily similar to the studio albums, with extremely crisp cymbals, monotonic beats, and basslines played so expertly precise that the whole thing sounded like a sampled loop.

Everything was played without backing track, which required a lot of instrument changes for the musicians; the guitarist had to play keyboards now and again, the two drummers switched between percussion, sample pads, and drum kit, and the bass player had to switch basses to get just the right sound. Music was king. When not singing her songs of sadness, Beth seemed very happy with the response of the audience, which was as enthusiastic as anyone could expect from a Danish trip hop audience, with powerful applause, shouting, and stomping on the ground.

The new Portishead tracks are just what they should be: they are new indeed, with a new rhythmic feel and a different sound. The attention to sound and the depressed trippy atmosphere is the same as ten years ago, as is the intensity and the dissonant harmonics. Buy the album here - you get a neato P-shaped USB key with the music along with the vinyl :).

Schmid 11:30, 7 April 2008 (CEST) Kid Koala / DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist

Kid Koala tour dates - from

At Monday the 17th, I went to Vega to hear DJ Shadow and Kid Koala. I expected Kid Koala to be amusing and DJ Shadow to be coolness itself. It turned out to be quite the opposite.

Kid Koala opened the show with a DJ set, the likes of which I have never seen. The skills of that man is beyond comprehension. He threw records onto his 4 turntables, beatmixed with studio-perfect accuracy in seconds, and scratched as a seasoned musician plays his instrument. That guy is simply a genius. Unfortunately, he didn't play for very long (which is understandable, as the tempo of the thing was out of this world).

Shadow and the Chemist started their set with a long spoken introduction that explained why they were so cool, why their choice of only mixing 7" records was cool, and a half-hour film in all-american 50's documentary style that further elaborated on their coolness. On that canvas of self-hype and on the background of having a genius DJ as a warm-up act, they could only dissapoint, and they did, most spectacularly. Their DJing was not all that tight, the music was too varied to represent any sense of style (they mixed hip-hop classics with Aaliyah, and surf-rock), and the whole thing was musically uninteresting. Finally, they just went all out and scratched heavy metal on portable (toy) turntables. Crappy. Shadow is a good producer, but not a good DJ.

Schmid 22:18, 5 February 2008 (CET) Lost Empire: Immortals

At the time of writing, our turn-based strategy game 'Lost Empire: Immortals' is completed. It features sound design and music by myself, as well as a custom music engine I wrote especially for this project, enabling the ingame music to be generated randomly, such that the soundtrack never really loops, it just changes fluently while playing the game. I can't wait to see the box on the shelves. Until then, here's a few relevant pages about the game:

Schmid 16:33, 28 January 2008 (CET) Urlyd Germany Tour

Alte Meierei in Kiel
Sturmglocke in Hannover
Veb in Lübeck

I'm going on Urlyd Germany Tour together with:

  • Kiloton
  • SilentBoom
  • SuneP
  • Tone
  • Yngvesin

We're playing at:

  • 2008-02-03 Sturmglocke in Hannover
  • 2008-02-02 Veb in Lübeck
  • 2008-02-01 Alte Meierei in Kiel

I'm quite sure it will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Schmid Blog Navigation

gamelog literature log
- see Talk:Schmid blog for
maintenance information
(edit blog header)
Personal Information
nameJakob Schmid
occupationComputer Game Developer