Monday, November 21, 2005

For Crying Out Loud

I recently decided to install the newest version of Apple's Quicktime. Now, first of all, I can't really say I've always had a love-hate relationship with Quicktime. Frankly, it's mostly just hate. I hated the way it used to assign itself as the default application for a bunch of file types without asking permission (and then continually check to make sure you hadn't changed any of them back). I hated the fact that, previously, you could end up with multiple mutually incompatible versions of it on your system, none of them working properly as a result, simply by having several different games installed simultaneously. I hate the way it just never quite fits neatly into a Windows system.

So, I downloaded the latest version. I logged in to my administrator account, installed Quicktime, and played a quick video to verify that it was working. When I logged out and logged back in to my regular limited-user account, Quicktime no longer functioned in this user account. At all. Gives an error message saying "Error 46: Could not find or load activex control". Funny, the previous version worked just fine.

Further investigation revealed it was a problem with some DLL's not being automatically registered for this user. Now, as you may know, you can register DLLs manually using a console command, regsvr32 . Tried that, didn't work. Error message provides no useful information, it just says registration failed. I next tried uninstalling, setting my user account temporarily as an admin account, and installing under that account. Quicktime now functions under this account, but not in the normal administrator account. In other words, Apple's installation package installs Quicktime in such a way that it only functions at all under the actual account you were logged into when you installed it. That's a problem because, following recommended best practices, I do most of my work logged in to my limited-user account, but some games only function when run as administrator, and since games often use Quicktime video, I need to make it work under both accounts.

Here is what I ended up having to do to fix it:

1) Log in as administrator, and temporarily set the limited user account to another admin account.
2) Switch to User account, install Quicktime.
3) Switch to true Admin account, start running a registry monitor program, and attempt to manually register the first DLL.
4) When that fails, examine the registry monitor trace to find where regsvr32 tried to change a registry setting with an "Access Denied" result, to determine what registry key needs to be changed.
5) Switch back to temporarily-admin User account, open the registry editor, find the registry key from step 4. Edit the registry key's permission settings, adding the Administrators group with full read/write permissions.
6) Switch back to the true Admin account. Repeat steps 3-6 until the DLL registers successfully (there may be several registry keys that need to have their permissions changed before it will work).
7) Repeat steps 3-7 for each of the 4 DLL's that need to be registered.
8) Reset the User account back to a limited-user account type.

Here's the problem: Apple seems to have set up their Quicktime installer under the assumption that you, the end user, use a single account for everything you do on your Windows PC. But Windows XP, especially the recent service packs, encourages you to set up a limited-user account for everyday use, and stay out of the administrator account unless truly necessary. This has always been the way serious geeks behaved, and XP now encourages regular folk to adopt the same habits. In this environment, in this day and age, why would Apple apparently not even bother to test Quicktime installation in such a system configuration? It's just baffling.

Now, it's also possible that there was something peculiar to my system that caused the problem. But since the root of the problem was a permissions issue with some registry keys specific to Quicktime, which means the registry keys themselves must have been created by the Quicktime installer, I can't imagine what there could be about my system that would be so different than what they developed/tested the installer on. The registry settings may have been created by the installer for a previous version, but surely they would have tested installing the new version over an existing install, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Video Game Proposal

Working title: "Play"
One-line pitch: An FPS based on kids playing with action figures.

In basic play style, this would be mostly a standard FPS - run through corridors blasting monsters, collecting power-ups, opening doors, etc. Visually, the design would be based around the concept that you are an action figure in a kid's game, and, as kids will do, he/they are making use of everything in their collection of toys.

So the environments may look like any kind of toy at all - a Star Wars-like playset, or playsets from any other toy genre for that matter (military, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.), or build from Lego bricks, or even made out of pieces of cardboard masking-taped together into rooms and corridors. Some levels may just take place on the floor and furniture of a kid's room.

Enemies would also be toys drawn from any style. Any moment you may find yourself facing bad-guy action figures, or rubber spiders, or perhaps the occasional Barbie doll (gigantic, in proportion to a standard action figure) or stuffed animal. Or even those rubber monster finger-puppets (complete with a visible finger emerging from the bottom and disappearing into the floor). Most of them should probably move in that peculiar bouncing puppet-gait children playing with toys always use for "walking".

Other than the visual style, the concept allows for some other unique points. One "power-up" possibility would be for the player to be lifted up out of the level, getting a "birds-eye" view of the playing field. Certain enemies might have a special ability, when killed, to come back to life immediately by yelling "Nuh-uh, you missed!" Somewhere in there should probably be a "Christmas" level, in which a bunch of completely new enemies appear, sequentially, accompanied by obstacles of bows and wadded wrapping paper. I have no doubt other such ideas will emerge during development.

If I had the necessary modeling/animation skills, I'd do this myself as a mod for one of the existing FPS's.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This Just Gives Me A Pre-Headache

Two Million U.S. Teens Are Pre-Diabetic
"The average level was 89.7, within the normal range, but 7 percent of the children in the study were in the pre-diabetic range" [100-125].

PRE-diabetic? There weren't enough of them with actual diabetes to frighten people, I guess, so they had to start calling essentially normal kids "pre-diabetic" in order to scare the public.

This could be the start of a whole new trend: Smokers can all be called "pre-cancerous". Anyone whose blood pressure is 125/85 or so is "pre-heart attack". It might be difficult to distinguish between the "pre-anorexic" and the "pre-obese" - probably best to just flip a coin, there.

Or maybe we could save time and just start referring to everyone as "pre-deceased".

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Horror, The Horror! It Burns My Eyes!

First, a dilemma. Or at least, it may be a dilemma for open-source GNU/Linux fanatics with no social lives: "Hmmm. I enjoy masturbating to pictures of Japanese women in bondage, but unfortunately this one is all covered with Windows logos. What am I to do?"

If you're curious as to, um, "what in the hell?" it might help to look over this Wikipedia entry. Make sure you watch the video. The list of characters might come in handy for that.

Oh well, surely it's only a matter of time before someone produces something similar just for Linux geeks, right?

Now, as if all that wasn't already bad enough, in the process of putting together this post, I accidentally ran across a page full of H. P. Lovecraft entities, depicted as cute Japanese anime schoolgirls. Remember, kids: Some things, once seen, can never be unseen.

There Are No 14-Year-Old Girls on the Internet

Xenia nabs No. 82 in sex sting
"McNeal is the 82nd suspect arrested since the part-time Xenia Internet crime unit started in March 2000."