Monday, November 23, 2020


I've built a Xeon workstation, and had a lot of issues with the NVMe drive not being found by the BIOS. It would take roughly 3 reboots, before the WD SN550 would be found.

I've replaced that drive with a Crucial NVMe drive, and since I did that, the boot issue went away. Unfortunately, the Amazon return period has passed, so now I am test-driving the suspect WD SN550 drive as a secondary drive in a PCIe extension card.

With two drives in my system, I can do some comparative performance tests.

The Crucial P1 M2 2280 1000GB:
The Western Digital SN 550:

I will report back with an assessment of reliability as a non-boot drive, for the SN 550. It's read-performance does seem better than the Crucial drive. As I am using the Crucial as boot and root disk, I have not been able to compare the write performance between then. The Crucial does indeed feel slower.

UPDATE 1: The SN 550 is reliably detected as a 2nd drive by linux.

Compared to a rotating drive, IronWolf NAS TTB (HDD):
Compared to PNY XLR8 CS3030 1TB:
IronWolf 6TB (HDD):
WD Black SN750 with heatsink:
Seagate Barracuda 510:
Samsung 970 EVO Plus:
WD Caviar Blue (HDD):
Crucial P1 on an old Haswell system:
SSD EVO 860:
OCX VERTEX3 has a slow seek:
Kingston SH103S3120G:

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Setting up a new Ubuntu box.

This is for my own benefit... when setting up a new Ubuntu distribution, adjust the following...

  • Choose minimal install, and the create an EFI partition, a Swap partition, and a Root partition.
  • After reboot, pin the terminal to the bar.
  • gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface enable-animations false
  • apt-get update ; apt-get dist-upgrade ; apt autoremove
  • Make it accessible: apt-get install openssh-server
  • Booting should not be silent, edit /etc/default/grub
  • Copy over .ssh/ directory from another machine, so that I have my ssh keys.
  • Copy over .vim/ directory from another machine, so that I have my vim setup.
  • Add to .bashrc file: export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=$HOME/lib/pkgconfig:/opt/lib/pkgconfig
  • Add repositories for dbgsym packages.
  • To allow fan control: sudo nvidia-xconfig -a --cool-bits=4
  • apt-get install psensor traceroute imagemagick
  • apt-get install vim git cmake clang-10 libsdl2-dev opengl-4-man-doc
  • apt-get install inkscape gimp wings3d
  • Install CUDA
  • Set git identity: git config --global "EMAIL" ; git config --global "NAME"
  • Get rid of Gnome's indexing by tracker.
  • Create a file /etc/modprobe.d/nsight containing: options nvidia "NVreg_RestrictProfilingToAdminUsers=0"
  • usermod -a -G video bram
  • usermod -a -G dialout bram
  • Add kernel parameter intel_pstate=passive in /boot/grub/grub.cfg file.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Screen Recording and Ubuntu.

Recording gameplay videos on Ubuntu can be a big frustration. Here are some lessons learned.


Compositing window managers are garbage. Get rid of the default window manager 'Mutter' and go with 'Openbox' instead. GDM3 refuses to launch a different windowmanager, so replace that too, with lightdm. *sigh*

  $ sudo apt-get install lightdm
  $ sudo apt-get install openbox

Log off, select openbox, and log on again. Good riddance to the crapfest called compositing. You don't need it. Eye candy and transparent windows are for noobs.

Simple Screen Recorder

So far, the best results I get with Simple Screen Recorder, but with caveats: The docs say OpenGL recording is best. Well, it most certainly is not. It is choppy, glitchy and unreliable. It also causes OpenGL errors. Instead, record the window. Make sure to select superfast setting, otherwise the encoding will cause hitches in the framerate, especially so when trying to make 60Hz videos.

In the end, I got there, and managed to record gameplay for my video, I made with Openshot:

How Open Can You Make an Open World Game?

This is a one-man's quest on making an Open world game, with a capital-O.

It seems ages ago, that I was playing an Elder Scrolls game. It was big, and it was open. What impressed me most about it was the following:

With a hundred settlements on the map, and dozens of houses per settlement, you canvisit any one those settlements, enter a random house, and check out its book shelves. You could take a book from the shelves, and then, for instance, drop that book underneath a stairwell. Then, after doing all sorts of quests, fighting legions of foes, slaying of dragons, traveling far and wide, you could return to that house. And guess what? That book you dropped, at what seems to be ages ago, is still there under the stairwell.

In short, there is permanence in the world. A permanence of detail. (I remember reading that the developers did put some limits on that to cut down on the size of saved games, but in essence it did achieve this permanence.)

I thought about how to push this openness even further. What is not possible in that particular game, but would push the amount of influence a player has on a game world?


In real life, I can dig a ditch in my yard, and even if I leave the country for a year, that ditch will still be there when I return to the yard. Heck, even if a ditch gets filled in by erosion, or human interference, the traces of a ditch will be there two millennia later, when Time Team archaeologists excavate it looking for a Roman villa.

I don't think there are many games that let you dig a hole anywhere in the world, and have that persist. Although, thinking about it, Minecraft would qualify.

Considering that my indie game is a one man effort, I can't create a huge authored game world. Which means that I will, like Minecraft, rely on procedural generation of my universe. But, after that procedural generation, I want the player to be able to dig anywhere, and everywhere.

Enter The Planetary Ring

As a setting for my game, I have chosen space. More specifically, a whole bunch of rocks orbiting a planet. Procedural generation using 3D noise fields are well suited to create amorphous blobs in space. There is of course the whole problem of a 10,000 bowls of oatmeal, but still, it is easy to create a scene in which the player will experience the vastness of space.

18 billion billion

A side note here: even though the world is presented as a ring of rocks around a planet, I decided to make this ring infinite: As the player hops from one rock to the next, I keep generating new ones at the far end, causing the player never to reach the other side of the planet. With a 64-bit seed for each rock, 18 billion billion different rocks can be generated. This guarantees the player will never see the same rock twice, regardless how long they travel for.

Every planetoid in the game approaches a billion cubic feet of rock. Each and every cubic foot in there, can be dug by the player. This enables the "Tunnel To China" where you can dig to the other end of the planetoid, for instance.

To add permanence to the player's influence on this world, we have to store the modifications by the player of course. Only that terrain that was modified by the player is stored to disk, leaving the virgin grounds represented by the proc-gen algorithm alone. So, even though the game world is infinite, the amount of digging is limited by the disk space of the player's computer.


About the generation of the space rocks: they are defined by two large 3D noise fields. One field defines the density, and by using the Marching Cubes algorithm, a surface is generated to define the shape of the object. The other field defines the material type. This enables me to define veins of mineral ore inside the object.

Standard functions, like Open Simplex Noise, will create smooth terrains and never show steep cliffs. To add cliffs and ragged shapes, we can employ a technique called domain warping: Instead of sampling the noise function with straight x/y/z grid locations, the sample positions are perturbed with another noise value. See Sean Murray's GDC presentation on noise for more info on this.

Results So Far

So, what are the results so far? Well, that little space rover can dig holes in any rock, fly for ages to other parts of the world, and when it returns to the original space rock, those holes are still there. Permanence achieved! Next up: gameplay.

Gameplay is of course the part that matters, but it helps if you can set it in a world where the player has a strong sense of agency. Go anywhere, and leave your permanent mark.