I've been accustomed to the Internet as we know it: fire up a browser, read email, feeds, visit FB/G+/Twitter, buy something on Amazon with a Visa card. It is indeed convenient, especially if you don't care to look under the hood, or explore the limits of your freedom. And the fact is: there are big companies there (providers of "free" services) that gather all information about you.
One of the ways to use that information is to chose the advertising that you'll see. Honestly, I don't care about ads too much. Most of the time I block them anyway, and when I see them - I'll appreciate a featured anime figure more than some silly pills. But ads are just the tip of the iceberg, the only part of it we actually see. The real problem is the power you give them, the power that limits your potential, because no one cares about your weird habits until you become big.
In an ideal society, everyone can know everything about everyone. But we, as a species, are not ideal, thus making it a matter of protection to choose what information to share, and what to hide. Once your information can be bought, you never know who and when may turn it against you. Imagine a robber aware of your vacation schedule. The security question stands right near the privacy one. Your information is stored in a centralized manner: it could be denied of service, or it could be stolen - it's vulnerabile.
Now, how do we work around that, while still keeping it simple and convenient? There are several solutions for different sub-issues:
DNS. Generally provided by your ISP, thus may have some areas blocked (i.e. Wikileaks). They know wherever you go, and also redirect the "address not found" queries.
Solution: OpenNIC, any neutral DNS like Google DNS
File sharing. Exchanging music, books, and movies is prosecuted by RIAA & MPAA, even if you give it to your friend and delete it locally. They want you to rent things for an undefined period instead of owning them.
Solution: Torrent, private hosting if you can afford it.
Social network. This is where you expose the most of yourself. You need to preserve the rights to the content you create, and to share it only with those you care.
Money transfer. Your Visa/AMEX/Mastercard knows everything you buy, everywhere you travel, and steals around 3% for each transaction. Also, you never know when your government decides to print more money, making whatever you have less valuable instantly.
Those solutions will only become valid once they gain a critical mass of users. I hope that my post aids this goal a little, making Internet a better place in the nearest future.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Problems: Difficult to maintain due to bad granularity and monolithic approach. Unable to extend from the game side.
Alternative: Shader compositing. In OpenGL you can extend the functionality by either linking with different shader objects, swapping the subroutines, or by directly modifying the source code.
Problems: Very limited BRDF support. High fill-rate and GPU memory bandwidth load. Difficult to properly support MSAA.
Alternative: Tiled lighting. You can work around the DX11 hardware requirements by separating lights into layers (to be described).
Problems: Difficult to decompose into position/rotation/scale. Take at least 3 vectors to pass to GPU. Obligation to support non-uniform scale (e.g. no longer skipping invert-transpose on a 3x3 matrix to get a normal matrix).
Alternative: Quaternions and dual-quaternions. Both take 2 vectors to pass.
Problems: Bug-hunting is difficult because of bad problem locality. Assumptions over the context are easy to make, but if you decide to check it with assertions, why not just pass the whole state instead?
Alternative: Provide the whole state with each draw call. Let the caching work for you.
Problems: Memory management and safety. Compiler-generated copy operators/constructors. Pain dealing with headers and optimizing the compile time. Many many lines of code.
Alternative: Rust. Other "safe" languages (.Net family, Java, Python) are not as low-level and often trade performance for safety (i.e. global GC phase causes an unacceptable frame rate interruption).
All I actually know is that there is a thousand and one difficult architectural issues of the graphics engine, and there is no silver bullet to most of them. For the most common solutions I listed possible alternatives, but they are no near being flawless. I hope that one day the amount of experience I get will magically transfer into the quality of my decisions, and I will finally know the right answers.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Today's early morning I woke up with a single thought reflecting loudly in my brain: "Dart was a mistake, it was not made for me. I should look for some statically typed practical language instead". Even though my KriWeb project (written in Dart) was not actively developed, I agreed (with my dreaming counterpart) that the instrument I choose for this project iteration is far from perfect. Suddenly, I felt the urge to look for something ideal, something that seemed so real as if I was reading its specification the other day... And I just needed to recall its name...
I started looking for it on the web. There were many interesting suspects among new languages. Ceylon, for example, features immutability by default (which highly encourages functional style), which seemed very familiar and close to what I looked for. It is a very nice language all in all, but it's currently running on Java VM, and was heavily inspired by it, what pushed me off. Go sounded attractive due to the strong support from Google, however disappointed me by its lack of user generics. Zimbu looked too original, while Haxe seemed to pretend covering too much use-cases. I've reached the 5-th page in google search results, and there still wasn't any trace of it. Maybe it was a dream?..
One step away from stopping my search, I stumbled upon this Holy Grail of programming. Name is Rust, developed by Mozilla Foundation. Suddenly, I remembered this shining website interface, this clear language specification that I read a while ago. I found it, at last! Let me explain why I was so happy:
- Strong static typing with inference, only explicit mutability. This is so right and so rare to see at the same time. Unlike Dart, most of my mistakes will be found at compile time.
- No page faults while still compiling to native code. Memory model is protected and guaranteed to work without access violations under normal circumstances. It has a potential for C-like performance, hence being a better tool for various tasks.
- User generics with constraints, pattern matching (Haskell-style). Yes, it took the best from my beloved purely functional language.
- Less statements but more expressions and closures. This makes it even more sleek and functional.
- Syntax extensions. Hello, Boo macros!
- Structure compatibility with C. Using external API's (i.e. OpenGL) gets easier.
Overall, the language and its environment seem very nice. It is simple yet powerful, and feels very promising. I'm looking forward to work closely with this gem, and I'm very excited :)
Thursday, October 4, 2012
The ultimate goal of each corporation as well many organizations is to get your wallet. However, selling things and services directly may not be the best way to achieve it. Instead, they strike for your heart because it opens the doors to much more than just money. I'm talking about Hollywood, church, Apple, Google, governments and charity. They want you to like them, to consider them for your choice, to talk about them with your friends, to think about them at night. They want to be a part of your mind.
Humans are weird creatures. They consider themselves to be smart, but they barely understand how the environment shapes their minds. An average human does not even try to control the development of its brain, of its consciousness. And the brain just absorbs stuff chaotically, whatever happens to get in.
The story of Hollywood is simple. Long ago there was a cinema. Actors were servants, they didn't earn much, they were not recognized by random people, they were nothing at that point. And then a smart man came in and decided to change the role of the actors in the movie of life. From now on, he said, actors will be respected and well paid. He made people like them, love them and buy them. Clearly, he understood the "get into your heart" business model. As we see now, it turned out to be hugely successful. We have favourite actors, we know a lot of movies, and we pay insane amount of money to watch them at theatres. Movie business is blossoming, and every child now wants to be an actor in the future...
Let's figure out how we could protect our hearts. First off, don't watch too much of the TV. Try to evade any kind of advertising on TV, radio and on the Internet. Allocate a small part of your brain to be independent, to interrupt the flow of thoughts periodically with a simple question: "Do you really need to watch/listen/think about that?". Finally, pay more attention to stuff that really matters to you: science, art, family, philosophy, health, etc.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Render state. You are not in a full control of it. DX runtime may change it without your concern. In particular, this happens under DX10+ when you bind a texture resource that is also one of the render targets. Debug runtime will notify you in the log but the regular one will just do it silently. And then you wonder, where did the texture go? Unsurprisingly, PIX, the hammer of DX frame profiling, is not able to handle this behavior correctly, so debugging one of these little bugs may cost you a really long headache. In DX11 we can see a new flag that allows binding a depth-stencil texture as read-only, allowing to sample from it. As a result, you have to split the rendering paths: copy the depth for DX10, and use the flag for DX11.
In contrast, OpenGL gives you an undefined behaviour whenever you want to read and write at the same time. While it seems suspicious at first, in practice you don't sample from the texture being rendered to, so your program works as expected, and no state is corrupted. Moreover, your GL program doesn't need a new flag, or a depth texture duplicate: all you need is to disable depth/stencil writes, and you can read them. Concluding, while DX creates and fixes the problems of its own with new versions, OpenGL just works as expected.
Documentation. The official source of knowledge about DX is MSDN. Unfortunately, you are not able to track all changes that go there. I don't see any revision history. My co-worker was following the CHM documentation bundled with our DirectX SDK, and according to it, CopyResource() can not be used if one of the surfaces is multi-sampled. He ended up copying a surface using a full-screen quad with a designated shader... And only then I discovered that the online version is different: for DX 10.1 the function actually copies multi-sampled surfaces too.
Another example is D3D11_RASTERIZER_DESC structure. There is a MultisampleEnable member, which (surprise!) affects only line rendering under DX10+, while affecting all MSAA rendering under DX10 and below. Yes, I know there is also AntialiasedLineEnable flag, but how does this make it any less confusing?
The situation gets worse as you dig deeper. As an example, there is a texture object in HLSL. According to MSDN, you have to explicitly specify the number of samples in the template. Though, I'm not sure, maybe the page is fixed while I'm typing this. Anyway, in practice, under DX10.1+ you can skip it. That's where you end up scavenging all little details of these presentations, scanning the forums, and trying to guess logically. The DX knowledge is like a secret cave with treasures, where some companies (Epic,Crytek) know them better then others.
OpenGL, on the other hand, provides a strictly versioned document. You can download any version of it, see the changes highlighted, and find everything you are looking for. You don't need to scavenge the forums: if something works differently from the specification, it's most likely a bug, and not a feature.
Sloppiness. You can do many things incorrectly, and DX runtime will still try its best to let your application work. For example, you can sample from a multi-sampled texture bound as a regular one. DX will automatically resolve the pixel before sampling, if it's possible. Or you can assign a float3 to a float in HLSL, and it will still work (can probably be fixed by a strict flag in HLSL compiler). Such robust behaviour is very welcome on the end-user side, but developers need to be sure the code is valid. I would prefer it to crash hard on the first error encountered, or at least return some error code (hello, OpenGL). I understand that, again, one can use the debug runtime, see the error log, and figure this out. But the truth is, most development goes with a regular runtime, because the debug one is damn slow. And even on that you would have to trace through the suspicious instruction to see the new error in the log - that's not how exceptions should be handled.
All in all, DirectX makes an impression of being made by amateurs, who got the power to talk to hardware developers. It's not developer friendly, it's not blazing fast, it's not something to compete with OpenGL. I admit that's a bit of an emotional over-statement, and one could expect something like that from me. I will continue learning DX technology, and I hope to discover some real gems there, if they exist at all.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
IntroductionKriWeb is my hobby 3D engine, the 4-th incarnation of KRI technology. I've been working on it for the last half a year in my spare time. Recently, I finished implementing the heart of the concept - shader composing pipeline.
TechnologyIn short, shader compositor was designed to decouple rendering technique code from the material and mesh modifiers. The material provides a set of functions to the pixel shader, which are used by the technique shader code. The technique knows how to apply an arbitrary stack of geometry modifiers (e.g. skeletal animation, morphing, displacement). without knowing anything about the actual modifiers used by the entity. The shader compositor assembles all these parts together in a linked shader program, that is associated with the entity.
As an example, we can imagine a material that provides a pure BRDF function. A technique knows about scene lights, and uses this BRDF to evaluate lights contribution to a surface point. An underlying mesh gets modified by, to say, a skeletal animation. These pieces of functionality will be glued together automatically to display a shiny animated object for you. While the Demo already shows it working, a better one could be made to harness the full power of shader compositing.
FutureNow it is time for me to evaluate the path I made, and to figure out the vector of progression for the nearest future. With all KRI incarnations (as with most of existing hobby engines), there was always a big issue chasing me - the lack of application. I was dodging it as I could, but in the end the engine dies without an application. I don't want to see KriWeb old and weak after several years of development. If it is to die, let it die young, and remember its technology shining brighter than the sun.
In other words, I don't want to continue the development of KriWeb until the real application is found. It may be either my own new project, or a cooperation with someone, but it has to be something good. It's not like I have a lot of free time now - working at Rockstar is pretty close to a dream job, and my skills are needed there in full while making the next big thing. Cheers!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Hardcore gamers have been struggling to see good games in the past 10 years. With each new release, each new title, or a demo, I've been looking with hope that it can be something incredible. But, generally, there wasn't a single great game, just a couple of good ones instead. Today, all big titles are targeted at soft-core audience, because it's easier to make and sells good. Fortunately, this is going to change in 2013, and the roots of the revolution are visible now.
2013 will be the beginning of the next golden age of gaming. The epicentre of the last one was around 1998, and I'm sure there was at least one more before it in 80th. The reason for games to change is the revolution in relationship between the developer, users, and the publisher on the way to extinction. The key concepts of the new era are digital distribution and crowd funding. This revolution is happening today, and the leaders have already shown up:
1. Steam (2002): the flagman of digital game distribution built by Valve. Steam helps PC developers to sell the game, and advertise it, without having a publisher. Steam has also shown us that games don't need to be so expensive, and the price can go down faster after the release, especially if the game turned out to be not as good as advertised.
2. Humble Bundle (2010): demonstrated the effectiveness of pay-what-you-want business model applied to indie games. Plus the fact that copyright protection is undesired: both Humble Bundle and GOG service provide only DRM-free content. An interesting discovery was that Linux/Unix users are ready to pay more than Windows gamers. 3. Minecraft (2009): an original game that became popular in the open alpha state. Minecraft was not the first, but it was the brightest and incredibly successful example of the game sponsored by the live user community. People realized that they can not only pay for existing games, but also influence the future by investing in the ideas they like. 4. KickStarter (2008): a portal that connects game developers with gamers, who are ready to invest their money. Millions of dollars are gathered around ambitious projects, exceeding developer expectations by a large factor. It is the final link in a chain that leaves no place for big fat publishers. Well, except for console games... for now.
I'm calling everyone to sponsor the games you would really enjoy! This revolution will make 2013 a wonderful year of games, which would be able to compete with veterans of 1998. For a complete picture, here are the games I'm proud to support: