Personal site of Wouter Lindenhof


Fake full-screen

Today went well. My love for DX11 continues to increase and although SharpDX seems a lot harder to use than C++ implementation (be aware that I'm a C++ programmer) but the joy of C# balances it quite nicely.

Today I implemented something I always wanted to do: Fake full-screen.

Fake full-screen is the same as normal full-screen but with one slight alteration: You are not using the graphics card exclusively. All fake full-screen does is remove the border and maximize the form.

This has the following advantages:

  1. When debugging I can always access the debugger without losing the graphics context.
  2. Switching to and from full-screen becomes a lot faster
  3. I don't have to wait until the computer has changed the graphics context (that blinking black when you change resolution).
  4. It is easier to simulate various screen ratios.
  5. When the game crashes I can simply use alt-escape to make the task manager visible.

The major downside however is that you don't use the graphics card exclusively which means a performance drop but since that is not much of a difference compared to full-screen you can put that off until the rest is ready.

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It was just one word…

Sometimes the bug that ruins my entire night is just one word and for some reason I find that funny. It's like a crossword puzzle of which you only have to find one more word, but you can't find it.

The bug in question was the following C# code:

public class CrossWordPuzzle {
    private string word;

    public void SetDefault()
        string word = "Oh crap..."; // Doesn't set the member variable.

I'm a C++ programmer and the above would generate an error since "word" is defined twice. C# however only gives a warning that the member variable is not used. The reason why I don't like it is because if you do use the member variable (say in another function) you will never notice the above problem. It was only because I was at a dead-end that I decided to look at the output.

Anyway the code is now switched to DirectX 11 and I finally understand how buffers and shaders work. It feels as if DirectX 11 is easier and makes a lot more sense than DirectX 9 but like always I think it takes a bit of time before I'm used to it and have internalized the features.

Tomorrow the work will move on to repairing the scene graph and the GUI. Until then I'm stuck rendering cubes.

Filed under: SpaceMayhem 6 Comments

Becoming serious about the project

Last year I was in a Ludum Dare together with a few friends and in the end we have decided to try to create an indie game from scratch. After all: We have the skills. We have the technology.

Sadly we didn't make a great start. Mostly because each one of us had no time and had to focus on our day-to-day job. So starting this week I have decided that I will try to put no more than 8 hours of work in my day job and try to spend every evening at least an hour working on our project.

In addition I have made myself another promise: I will try to provide updates on a regular basis using my blog. It will be a good reason to start using my blog again.

The project is called SpaceMayhem.

Filed under: SpaceMayhem 7 Comments

How to clean up

Today I came across this:

Personally I thought this was awesome, because that is usually my preferred method of cleaning. Just put everything outside the room and then move things back in. Often the things I don't bring back in to the room are the things that are put in the dumpster. This is not only the way I do with cleaning up a room, but also with code. :)

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Fake it until you make it

At the office we are promoting test driven development which so far seems to pay off. For those who don't know what test driven development (hereafter TDD) I will provide with a quick introduction. TDD basically means that before you write any code, you write the test. So if you are writing a calculator you first write a test that calculates and then you start writing the actual "calculator" code. The advantage is that later when you need to change it you simply run all the tests and see if everything succeeds. No more debugging just to see if you didn't actually break anything.

This seems all fine when you are working on something simple, but when you start doing something complex that involves network, multithreading or anything which you have no control over it becomes a pain. Sadly I was working on some network code that didn't always seem to work and this I only noticed when I started running the application in a for loop. Ok fine, I was working with UDP and threading so there was a good chance, but how was I going to fix it?

For starters I just increased the amount of tests in the application itself (before I used the for command (MSDN) to do the same). Every test that was related to network code would run 10 times. To my surprise only a few failed. Running those all those tests only took me 10 seconds which if had done by hand would have taken at least a minute or so. At this point I had proof that something was wrong, but I still had no idea what was wrong, so how was I going to test that?

The first thing I did was abstract away the socket layer as that would remove the UDP failure. Just have two sockets which sends a command to each other. If the command is received the test succeeded and if it fails I could go back to the drawing board. Luckily all the tests worked which brought me to the conclusion that the problem was not in the socket part of the network code. The question remained how would I test that the problem was somewhere else. The UDP sockets worked (2000 tests in 4 seconds) so it must be something else.

And here is the answer: Fakes. We had already abstracted away the socket, so why not replace it with a data structure that we can link to one another copy? That way when it must send data it will just call the dataReceived handler of the other one. Now the server will receive data from his socket the exact moment the client would send it. Now that I had reduced my scope it was time to test it.

VS2010 parallel stacks

2000 tests later only 98% of the checks had passed. Now I could argue that 98% is nothing, and that I might be able to get away by having a resend functionality to cover up UDP, but this test proofed there was still something else wrong and because of the randomness there was a good chance it would be in the threading part. Because of the way that it was designed I was not able to abstract away further so the only thing was left was actually grab the debugger and go through it and try to

At the end of the day everything of those 8000 tests was working and no further problems. This was the first time I was working with fakes and frankly they are probably the reason why I did not decrease the resend delay (which would then solve the problem). figure out why exactly a race condition occurred. And frankly here VS2010 saved me. The parallel stacks window showed me a lot. In the end it turned out that I was adding something to the wrong list which would then not cause the right wake up event causing the worker thread to continue sleeping.

Knowing for certain that everything works and is tested (and protected by the tests) allows me to focus on my next task without having to worry about breaking something. I will get a warning the moment it happens.



Debugging is bad

When you encounter a bug, what do you do? You debug. The last months I have been busy getting the hang of Test Driven Development (hereafter TDD) and I love it.

TDD is all about making super small steps in which you do the following:

  1. Write a test (which won't compile since you haven't written the code). And once you have written the test you will not touch it unless you absolutely must.
  2. Make it compile as quickly as possible. You can forget about good design, all we care about is getting the code to compile.
  3. Make it link. Don't even bother writing the correct implementation just write a single line which returns a value. Once this step is completed the test can be run although it most likely fails
  4. Make the test succeed, again, make it succeed as quickly as possible. If the function add two numbers, just return the right result to make the test work.
  5. Refactor (no modifying the test)

Since I have been using TDD I noticed that the amount of bugs has been reduced a lot and that when I encounter a situation that doesn't work I prefer to write a new test over having to debug.

This got me thinking: Why do I even debug? It is time consuming, I often lose track of what is happening (recursive functions are a pain) and there is nothing that protects me from reintroducing the bug (a so called regression).

Granted TDD is not easy. Especially when the bug is caused by concurrency (threading, network) or by an external component (gui, graphics, database) in which case you are often forced to debug. But for the rest of it is easy.

The coolest thing was when I run the test for an list implementation being certain that my change to the delete code would affect the insert code. The test however told me everything worked as expected. So although TDD cost time when creating (10%~20% more then without) it even saved me time. TDD strength however comes when you need to maintain code (which is most likely 90% of the time).

So with all the above I have been teaching myself to no longer inspect variables and let the test do the debugging for me. Why do it manually if it can be done automatically.

Image is from:


Hexagon versus Quads in games

Just some notes I had written.

| 7 | 8 | 9 |   
| 4 | * | 6 | 
| 1 | 2 | 3 |

Normally moving from "*" to 7, 9, 1 or 2 would cost 2 movement points.

+---+   +---+
| 7 +---+ 9 | 
+---+ 8 +---+
| 4 +---+ 6 |
+---+ * +---+
| 1 +---+ 3 |
+---+ 2 +---+

In a hexagon moving from "*" to 1,2,3,4,6 or 8 would cost only 1 movement point. Moving to 7 or 9 would still cost 2 movement points.

Normal quads have only 4 attached quads. Hexagons have 6 attached quads.


| A | D | G | J | M | P | S |
| B | E | H | K | N | Q | T |
| C | F | I | L | O | R | U |


+---+   +---+   +---+   +---+
| A +---+ G +---+ M +---+ S |
+---+ D +---+ J +---+ P +---+
| B +---+ H +---+ N +---+ T |
+---+ E +---+ K +---+ Q +---+
| C +---+ I +---+ O +---+ U |
+---+ F +---+ L +---+ R +---+
    +---+   +---+   +---+    

Shortest path from B to T in quads is B->E->H->K->N->Q->T
Shortest path from B to T in hexagons is B->(D|E)->(G|H|I)->(J|K|L)->(M|N|O)->(P|Q)->T

Even though the cost is the same, the possible routes in hexagons are not shortest if drawn.

The reason for this is because horizontal movement is always done in steps of 1.0 unit. Moving
vertical however is more tricky because steps can be either 1.0 (for example D->E) but also 0.5 (A->D)

Moving from A to E is however always two steps. Hexagon (A->(B|D)->E)

Moving from A to I is however 4 steps in quads but 3 steps in Hexagon (A->(B|D)->(E|H)->I)

Using coordinates A would [0,0] (both quad and hex) while "I" would be [2,2]
Moving from A to I in hexagon however lets you visit D which is [1, 0.5] Which can then move
to H which is [2,1]. These are both two steps with a distance of 1.5 where a quad is always limited to 1.0.

So Hexagons allows of steps that must be in distance either 1.0 (vertical movement) or 1.5 (horizontal movement)

So a hexagon doesn't only modify the allowed movement and cost, but because of the inherit properties it
also allows modifies the coordinate system (as adjacent nodes are at different distances).

This means that moving from A to U (whose coordinates are the same in both quad and hexagon)
The distance would be [6,2.0] covering the horizontal movement first we go

[1,0.5]  => A->D   [1,0.5]
[1,-0.5] => D->G   [2,0.0]
[1,0.5]  => G->J   [3,0.5]
[1,0.5]  => J->N   [4,1.0]
[1,0.5]  => N->Q   [5,1.5]
[1,0.5]  => Q->U   [6,2.0]
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Testing wordpress scheduling

One of the things I like of wordpress is the fact that I can schedule my posts. That is until it breaks.

I had a post scheduled at 1200 today but when I checked it at home I noticed that it hadn't updated yet. It even said that it had missed its schedule. Calling the cron job a few more times didn't do anything so this is just a quick post to check if it does work now.

Update @ 2012-02-02 00:06: It seems to be working just fine :)

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Precision, precision…

One of the things I have been writing for Flexposure is the RAPI which is short for Remote API. The RAPI (which you should mispronounce when you are among the opposite sex) is nothing more than a thin communication layer which can be used on virtual any other protocol like UDP and TCP but also on some industrial standards which are used by hardware (even my worst enemy: RS232 AKA comport).

Even though I'm not racist I hate the diversity of compilers and OS so I decided to use Boost for all the timing relevant functions. Within boost you have two types of clock:

  1. boost::posix::second_clock
  2. boost::posix::microsec_clock

Thinking which one I wanted I decided not to go for the high-performance clock. I only want to know if a message had timed out and if I should send another one.

A basic example of the code would be this:

class SendTask : public IClientTask
        : m_SendTimestamp(boost::posix::second_clock::universal_time())
        , m_SendInterval(boost::posix::seconds(1))
    void Tick()
        auto currentTime = boost::poxix::second_clock::universal_time();
        bool sendAgain = m_SendTimestamp < currentTime;
            // ...
            // Send message again
            // ...
            // Increase the next timestamp.
            m_SendTimestamp = currentTime + m_SendInterval;
    boost::posix::ptime m_SendTimestamp;
    // The default delay is one second (decided by constructor)
    boost::posix::time_duration m_SendInterval;

Timing the above code I was surprised to see that sending a message using UDP over the loopback took about 0.5 seconds, which was at least ten times more than what I had expected. After checking my code multiple times and not finding anything I could only come to the conclusion that somewhere in my code I made a wrong assumption. So I wrote a little test to at least ensure it had nothing to do with boost and to ensure it was my code.

int main()
        std::cout << boost::posix::second_clock::universal_time() << std::endl;
    return 0;

Removing all the duplicate entries that were printed I found out that the time difference between each timestamp was around 0.5 seconds. This would explain why it would take so long before it would send again. I told its resend delay is 100 milliseconds it would take at least 0.5 seconds because of the problem with the resolution/precision.

But I was using the loopback (sending to and although messages can get lost there it should not happen that often. Sure I could replace everything with a faster clock but I wanted to know why this delay occurred. Taking another look at the send code I noticed that the following line:

bool sendAgain = m_SendTimestamp < currentTime;

If the send time is in the past it would send and this is also true for the very first time. Changing the code so that it checks if the next send time is less or equal than the current time fixed it and the performance increased to 0.005 milliseconds since it no longer had to wait for the first time out.

Sure I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by replacing the clock with the higher resolution variant (after striking concurrency of my list this was my next guess) but I rather spend a few hours on figuring out what exactly is going on. It takes time now but in the end it should save me time when I come before the decision which clock to choose.


Invalid code: from wstring to string

Before I start let me make one thing clear: I used to do it like this as wel. :)

When you need to convert an std::wstring to an std::string you should not simply do the following:

std::wstring input = L"Hello World";
std::string output;
output = std::string(input.begin(), input.end());

The above code is valid, but incorrect. A string is nothing more than a fancy array (just like a vector) but who is specialized for our basic usage of text (which is concatination and using the stream operators). If you look at std::wstring as a std::vector<wchar_t> and a std::string as a std::vector<char> then you should come to realisation that the above code performs an implicit cast (from wchar_t to a char).

If you use std::wstring to store UTF8 then there is no problem, but if you use it to store UTF16 then you do have a problem as you might lose some information. Also keep in mind that it is perfectly fine to store UTF16 in an std::string but then you should realize that every 2 elements in the string is one single character.

More correct (but still incorrect) would be:

    // Just making certain that wchar_t is 16 bits.
    assert(sizeof(wchar_t) == 2);
    assert(sizeof(char) == 1);

    std::wstring input = L"Hello world";
    std::string output;
    std::wstring::const_iterator it = input.cbegin();
    while(it != input.cend())
        output += ((*it) & 0xFF00) >> 8; // Add the most significant bits.
        output += ((*it) & 0x00FF) >> 0; // Add the least significant bits

        // Going to the next wchar_t

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