What a wiik

I've had 5 assignments due in the last week, and they were all tough, including a 15 minute presentation about my research project for CSC 482A. The presentation went really well, I thought.

My research topic is "Searching for the minimum number of givens in a valid Sudoku puzzle". This is an interesting open question in mathematics, and it's been a lot of fun. Professor Myrvold says we're making a lot of progress, so that's encouraging.

For my AI class, I had to write an interactive Hexapawn player - a web interface that plays Hexapawn with a human but is unbeatable. The software I wrote generated the entire state space of the game and analyzed it to find a winning strategy. Using the algorithms and techniques learned in class, the problem was surprisingly easy. I would have loved to do a nicer UI but I didn't have time so I made a very simple, but still usable interface. You can play it on my web site. Try it and let me know what you think. :-) PS: You lose.

The next question on that same assignment asked us to determine which player can have a winning strategy for a variant of Fort Boyard. I simply modified my hexapawn program to generate and analyze the state space for that game instead. It took me about half an hour to write the program and come up with the answer. The answer is: Player 2.

It was a great experience, and I think it gave me some needed confidence. I've been down on myself lately and this reminded me that I'm a damn good programmer, even when I have to do something I've never done before. The best part about this was that I was able to reuse the majority of the hexapawn software for the other question... that demonstrates a good design, something I wasn't doing consciously. That said, I am always very picky about software design, so writing reusable software isn't something new for me, it's just nice to see it happen even when I'm trying to "hack" a throwaway program together quickly for a one-off assignment question.

Since I've been so busy, I barely had time to get into the games since Sunday. Of course I've found a moment here and there to play Wii Sports with the kids and Cheryl... you can pick up that game and play a game in 10 minutes. We play Bowling more than the other games.

Last night I was finally done my homework and was able to play a complete level in Red Steel. I haven't played many games like that (story-driven first person shooters) so I don't have many games to compare it to, but I'm really enjoying it. It keeps surprising me.

Last night I also finally opened Call of Duty 3. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the game looks extremely well made, but with composite video cables and 480i resolution, there just isn't enough pixels to show all the detail needed to play the game well. If the enemy is far away it's very hard to tell them apart from their surroundings. Compared to Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360 at 720p, well there's really no comparison. I'll leave this game alone until I get the component cable for the Wii and can try again in 480p. I don't have high expectations unfortunately. However, let me say one thing good about CoD3 on the Wii - the controller scheme is very well done, and much more smooth than Red Steel. They deserve kudos for this for sure.

I'm going to wait on Zelda: Twilight Princess until I get the strategy guide. Sorry, I just don't have 100 hours to kill on a game. I'll try it on my own, but if I get stuck, I'll use the book to get things moving.

Also last night, I got Excite Truck. Cyan and Xavier got it for me as my anniversary gift. :-) Excite Truck is just as fun as it looks! The graphics are phenomenal, the controls are awesome, and it's just lots of fun.

Alex came over and he played Wii Sports and Excite Truck. I think he wants his own Wii now. ;-)

I also managed to send and receive e-mail with the Wii, that is extremely cool.

We're busy all day tomorrow, but hopefully I'll have some time on Sunday to play the Wii again with my friends. I'll try to get a Wii party arranged. :-) Then I'll be incredibly busy again until December 4th - I have 3 assignments due on November 30th and a final exam on the morning of December 4th. After that, my project is due on the 18th, and I have finals on the 14th and 18th of December.

Written on November 25, 2006