Showing posts from July, 2008

Mac Min HTPC take two

I just bought another Mac Mini to use as a HTPC (home theater PC). I tried this a year ago, but was not happy with the results. But since then I've become more comfortable with using OS X, so today I thought I'd try again.

Here's my quick setup notes:
I'm using a Mac Mini 1.83 Core 2 Duo with 1 GB of RAM. This is the cheapest Mac Mini that Apple currently sells. I thought about getting an AppleTV, but I think the Mini is easier to modify, has more CPU power for advanced codecs, and can be used as a kid's computer in the future, if I don't like using it as an HTPC. I also have dreams of writing a game for the Mini that uses Wiimotes. I think this would be easier to do on a Mini than an AppleTV, even though the AppleTV has a better GPU.I'm using "Plex" as for viewing problem movies, and I think it may end up becoming my main movie viewing program. It's the OSX version of Xbox Media Center. (Which is a semi-legal program for a hacked original Xbox.…

ICFP 2008 post-mortem

This year's ICFP contest was a traditional one: Write some code that solves an optimization problem with finite resources, debug it using sample data sets, send it in, and the judging team will run it on secret (presumably more difficult) data sets, and see whose program does the best. The problem was to create a control program for an idealized Martian rover that had to drive to home base while avoiding craters, boulders, and moving enemies.

I read the problem description at noon on Friday, but didn't have time to work on the contest until Saturday morning.

The first task was to choose a language. On the one hand, the strict time limit argued for an easy-to-hack "batteries included" language like Python, for which libraries, IDEs, and cross-platform runtime were all readily available. On the other hand, the requirement for high performance and ability to correctly handle unknown inputs argued for a type safe, compiled language like ML or O'Caml.

I spent a half an …

Getting ready for ICFP 2008

The rules for this year's ICFP contest have just been posted. Although the actual problem won't be posted until Friday July 11th, the rules themselves are interesting:
Your code will be run on a 1GB RAM 4GB swap 2GHz single-processor 32-bit AMD x86 Linux environment with no access to the Internet.You have to submit source code.You may optionally submit an executable as well (useful if for example you use a language that isn't one of the short list of languages provided by the contest organizers.)Teams are limited to 5 members or less.
I have mixed feelings about these rules. The good news is:
It should be possible for most interested parties to recreate the contest environment by using the contest-provided Live CD. A computer capable of running the contest could be purchased new for around $350.
It seems that the focus will be on writing code in the language of the contestant's choice, rather than writing code in the language of the contest organizer's choice. This was…