Saturday, 29 May 2010

Things One Can't Do Anything About

The past week or so I have noticed something quite disturbing if true; apparently during some nights I have managed to inflict wounds on myself while asleep. At the very least I have woken up three times the past few days already to find fresh wounds, some more obvious than others.

The primary target appears to be my genitals, with painful open wounds which take a few days to close and stop hurting. Yesterday I also noticed a piece of skin missing on my forehead, apparently scratched away as it matches the size and direction of me inflicting such a wound with my fingernails. Today I noticed bloody scratches on my right arm.

If these are indeed injuries I have caused to myself during my sleep it would be the beginning of a disturbing new trend. Before I would mostly express my frustrations and pain by crying and by retreating into myself during a paralyzation attack. Self-mutilation was very uncommon and I was always conscious and aware of the event. Having read up on cases where people managed to become semi-awake and realizing the effects prolonged exposure to stress can have on this symptom, it's a worrying development.

I have had many occasions where I would wake up from my sleep drenched in sweat, even with the room being quite cool in temperature, sometimes with my fists tightly clenched across my chest. This would seem to suggest that my sleep is often restless, disturbed by night terrors. I really hope that I won't end up harming myself more than I already have, though. I have no idea what the limits are to what I can and will do to myself while asleep and whether it'll get any worse from now on. Maybe I'll just have to be restrained while in bed to prevent such things from happening again :(

Anyway, on a more positive note, Lilium Milestone 1 will soon undergo its unit testing. With some (a lot?) luck I could have it more or less working by next weekend. Then it's a matter of putting a good benchmark together, both in VHDL and THDL (the internal language for Lilium), and seeing whether Lilium can do better than 1% of the performance of the competition :)

I have been working on the Wild Fox project as well, together with the Mozilla developer (whose name I'm not sure I can use freely yet). I will be testing a build of Firefox with H.264 enabled, then if it works I'll backport it to the Firefox 3.6.3 code which will then be called Wild Fox 3.6.3. Wild Fox will follow the version numbering of Firefox. If the backporting works well an Alpha release of Wild Fox (WF) 3.6.3 will be released in one or two weeks time. This will be followed by as many Beta and RC releases as necessary to get it stable.

Within Nyanko I'm also still working together with Trevor on Even Cats Dream. The resource cooker utility app is done, we are now using the FBX resource format which will make the creation work flow more streamlined between 3D Studio Max, other creation tools and the game. The past few days I have spent putting some 3D models together for use in the first level of the game (to be recycled for other levels too, of course). Hopefully next week we can have something resembling the first level put together. Once we get the first one done things should go a lot faster :)

In other news, this week I ordered some new clothes and shoes from an online store and received them Thursday. Everything fit just fine aside from some shorts which - although marked as being size 36 - fit like a size 34. In other words a tight squeeze. Fortunately the return policy of the store allowed me to have it picked up and the money returned without any costs on my side. Sadly it's not possible to directly exchange the item, only to order it again, but I doubt I would do it for this piece of clothing anyway if they can't even get the size for it right. The rest of the clothes look and fit fine, though. I'm well-equipped for the summer now :)

Last Thursday Pieter went to a debate in Amsterdam on basically the issue of the downloading of copyrighted materials, currently legal for movies and music. The event included lots of politicians, lawyers, Dutch Pirate Party members and the Dutch RIAA/MPAA equivalent (Brein). He got to speak there as well, asking a question to the politicians on how they had imagined outlawing 'illegal' downloads could be enforced as methods like Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) are completely ineffective when it comes to detecting copyrighted materials, also because it can not determine whether it's a legal or illegal download. In other words, even if it could be made to work it would trip up on legal downloads from online music/movies stores just as often. In other words, it's utter tripe to think that a technological solution exists for this 'problem'. What would help more is actually making it possible for every online Dutch citizen to buy (legally) a digital copy of any music and movie (and games) currently available in brick and mortar stores.

At any rate it's a debate which will take much longer to settle, if it ever will. I do not believe that people will stop choosing for the easiest (and cheapest in terms of time and money) solution, whether it's downloading a movie from some not-so-legal Bittorrent site, or from a fully legal online store. It's often about instant gratification. If the user has to jump through a dozen hoops to find a legal digital copy of some song or movie, gets burdened with DRM which requires him to be online while playing the movie, disallows making any copies and uses a stupid video format which only plays in some proprietary player provided by the store, and many more inconveniences, then it should be clear that only the insane will opt for this method of self-torture.

Technically this debate isn't new with the arrival of P2P on internet, though. Even with VHS tapes there was already this affliction to put stupid trailers, FBI warnings and heavens know what else on the tape before the movie started, forcing people to fast forward through this junk before they could watch the movie. Copying the actual movie to another tape allowed one to skip this bit, even if the movie studios hated it when you did it.

Then when DVDs came along, which theoretically would allow one to skip directly to the main menu, they came along with a new 'feature': unskippable content, forcing one to yet again fast-forward through the same old trailers, FBI warnings and retarded anti-piracy clips. Yes, I would like a copy of that car, please. Thus people began to rip their DVDs to make it more convenient to do what they bought the DVD for in the first place: watching the friggin' movie. Insert DVD, play movie.

The application of crippling DRM to digital copies of movies and music is just a continuing trend in this regard, and equally doomed to failure. Things should be made more convenient for consumers if they'll even want to look at what you're offering them. Recently Ubisoft tried a new experiment with super-restrictive DRM on its games, basically requiring the player to be online to play at all, with any hiccup in online connectivity resulting in the game pausing, throwing one back to the menu and maybe saving your progress. This means you can not play games with this DRM while your internet is down, during an 8-hour long flight on your laptop, during a vacation to Middle of Nowhere, Somewhere, or when some jokers feel like DDoSing the Ubisoft servers. In other words it is a stupid idea which hasn't found much positive feedback among gamers.

In stark contrast there are companies like Blizzard who have never used severe DRM implementations in their games, which includes hits like Star Craft and (World of) Warcraft, and have even denounced the use of such crippling DRM. Star Craft II will require one to active the game online one time after installation, which is at least a plausible proposition, even if I despise any kind of 'activation' on a software product I just bought.

Nyanko's own games will not have any DRM. What ECD for example will have is a key which doesn't unlock the game or anything, but can be used to gain access to online features on the ECD website. This way one can play the game anywhere, any time, with or without paying for it, but for the full experience you will have to pay for access. We also accept that piracy exists, but will not attempt to sue our userbase into submission. Instead we hope that being customer-friendly will make people want to buy our games. You know, instead of forcing people to pay up, such as what for example the 'three-strikes' laws in France, Ireland and the UK are attempting.


Monday, 24 May 2010

Milestone Joys And Frights

A few weeks ago I finished reading an interesting fantasy book in the Forgotten Realms novels range by Clayton Emery titled 'Star of Cursrah'. I mention it because it's one of the few books which has left a significant impression on me. Note that the following section will probably contain a few spoilers, so skip it if you want to keep it a secret :)

The thing which isn't immediately apparent when you start reading this book is how the two storylines the book starts off with are related. Both have a head-strong girl with two male friends who would not be counted among those her parents would like to see her associate with. Both girls and their companions head off on their own paths, ignoring their wishes and desires of their parents and environment.

The first storyline can be considered to be the present day, with the titles of the first two chapters indicating that the second storyline is situated many thousands of years before the first. The relation between the two storylines doesn't become apparent until the present day girl, together with her friends, discover the ruins of a lost city in the desert. As the story develops it becomes clear that this city was the city of the princess in the second storyline, a city which has been razed to the ground, but which isn't dead yet. In a sense both girls, very much alike in their looks and attitudes, meet there in that city and the princess begs the other girl to prevent the city from awakening and do what she didn't all those years ago.

Is it a completely original story? Of course not, yet it felt to me that the story avoided the easy shortcuts and went for a proper experience, in which the reader has to figure things out much like in a detective story. I'm fairly sure it'd be a pretty awesome movie as well :)

Moving on, I'm fairly sure many of you have already read the news that a German court has upheld a software patent which the German patent office had initially rejected. There's also the news that the MPEG-LA, including Apple, has announced that they're putting a patent pool together for the VP8 codec which Google had previously open-sourced. This would give VP8 the same patent-encumbered status as H.264, pointing out yet once more that where there are software patents there can be no 'free' software and especially no innovation.

Meanwhile I'm making fair progress with the Wild Fox project, with a lot of help from the Mozilla developer. I hope to have GStreamer patched into the Firefox 3.6.3 code by next week. It's still fairly involved but with the pointers I'm getting from the patch maintainer it should be relatively easy going.

A major milestone I'm getting awfully close to is the completion of the first prototype of the Lilium FPGA/ASIC simulator I have been working on part-time for the past few years. Its design has gone through a number of rethinks and redesigns, and the code has seen a few rewrites, but with the work I have put into it the past few days it's finally nearing completion.

As a first prototype it won't be able to do that much. It supports enough instructions to for example simulate a simple AND gate. It is therefore primarily meant to test the foundations of the simulator in a simplified implementation, making debugging easier. The next prototype will feature innovative features such as a VHDL compiler, expanded instruction set and some GUI tools. For now I'll just be happy if the darn thing compiles and runs the way I want it to. Some nice benchmark figures compared to the competition would be a real gift :)

It's somewhat frightening to get this close to what could be a breakthrough in the Lilium project, though. When I initially started it it seemed fairly easy, turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, got nearly abandoned and restarted a few times and basically has become something which is now such a big part of me that I'd loathe for it to turn out to be a waste of time. My mind tells me that I did everything I could, that it is going to work, that I didn't overlook anything. My heart tells me that I missed something crucial in the design which will invalidate all my work and will make me look like a fool. Sometimes my heart really sucks.

Still, if this prototype works as expected and the analysis shows that all bottlenecks are where I expected them and are easy to resolve, it'll mean that I'll basically have a friggin' homerun on my hands as it'll soon turn into a product which hundreds if not more companies will want to pay tens of thousands of Euros a year in license costs for. If it works.

Forget bungee-jumping or skydiving, software development is where the real thrill is at ;)


Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Controversy Feeding Frenzy

I'd like to start off with a bit of personal good news: I received a call from my lawyer earlier informing me that my official first name change to Maya has been approved and that after a 3 month complaint period I can begin changing all official documents to my new official name.

Now, on to the big, global news: a few days ago I launched a new Open Source project called 'Wild Fox', which aims to release builds of Firefox with features such as HTML 5 H.264 (AVC) video support added, as well as other features which the Mozilla project does not wish to add due to software patents. As the Wild Fox project is based in Europe where (pure) software patents do not apply, we can safely add such features without having to risk a patent infringement lawsuit. You can find more information on the project site at which will soon redirect to the permanent site at, a German government-funded forge for open source software.

Naturally, no one in a software patent-encumbered country can use Wild Fox unless he or she pays the license costs associated with it. So far this affects everyone from the United States of America and South-Korea. As far as I can determine Japan doesn't seem encumbered, though I don't speak legalese well enough to call that one. It will have to come down to each individual to research the patent law in his or her country before downloading a copy of Wild Fox as I or my fellow developers can impossibly determine this for each single country in the world.

Since Slashdot first published a story about the Wild Fox project I have received a barrage of emails from people wanting to help, criticizing, asking for interviews and to tell me how much they admire me for having a medical issue like mine and not giving up. Two developers seem to have stuck for now, I'll see what they can do the coming days. A Mozilla developer has also pledged his assistance, specifically with the GStreamer framework which Wild Fox will be using to replace the existing rendering backend with. I got a few dozen more potential developers to pick from.

After Slashdot broke the story, it got picked up by,, and a few others. I just did an interview for The Register and another site wants to interview me as well. The comments on these stories seem to be split along the same lines as in the whole HTML 5 video debate, with one side complaining that I'm giving in to the evil conglomerates by adding a software-patent burdened codec to Firefox and should stick to 'open' codecs like Theora instead. The other side applauds the project and thinks it's a great move which could save Firefox.

As Pieter puts it, it's not the browsers which determine which codec will be used, but the sites people visit. If sites like YouTube only offer HTML 5 video in H.264 format, people will use a browser like Chrome, Opera or even Internet Explorer 9 once it comes out. The browser is just the tool one uses to visit a site with, after all, and if Firefox doesn't allow one to view video on a site due to some idealistic point of view, they will drop it for another browser. Maybe if they had 90+% marketshare like IE once did they could have pulled it off, but not now, not like this.

So it's about letting people decide which codec will be used the most, without trying to force anyone's hand. What it is also about is fighting the at least in my eyes ridiculous notion of having to pay license fees for the use of particular pieces of software. When people claim that I'm selling out to the MPEG-LA, the organization collecting the license feeds for H.264, they seem to miss this point completely. I do not intend to ever pay the MPEG-LA even one cent, nor to have them collect it from anyone else. As long as only people outside software patent-encumbered countries use H.264, MPEG-LA will never see a dime from their patent pool investment. Ergo the companies which form MPEG-LA will have wasted their investment in software patents.

How things will really work out I'm not sure, but I do believe that this is the right approach. Software patents are an evil which can only destroy innovation and progress in more than just the software industries. My own company, Nyanko, would be wiped away due to software patent lawsuits if they were valid here in the EU. I'm grateful to the European Parliament for taking a stand against software patents, despite juggernauts like Microsoft lobbying for allowing them.

The article at The Register just went online:

The coming weeks will be interesting indeed.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Torn Apart

Yesterday I found out what happens when I receive a message from the UMCG hospital welcoming me back, but only and only if I follow their rules and protocols: a nearly continuous paralyzation attack. It evoked such impossibly strong feelings inside me that I virtually shut down.

It also forced me to question a number of things, such as what I really want regarding my body, and why I did decide to move more towards a female role instead of leaving things as they were. It's still very clear, though. I can't become or know what I want to become at this point as I don't know what I am now other than some intersexual one-person freak show. A medical resolution is required there.

Further, I did move towards a more feminine role not because of some silly desire to become female or anything, but to become more like what I feel my body and I are like; I have a feminine body, so pretending it's masculine as I have done for 21 years prior would be stupid, foolish and suicidal, as history shows. I still don't give a damn about 'male' or 'female' at this point, just 'me'.

What yesterday's attacks showed is how severely the current disconnect between my rational and emotional side has become. Only through actively suppressing, basically tearing off parts of myself, have I been able to more or less function normally lately. It would be hard for those who have never been forced into such a situation to really understand how much of a horror it is to have to live like this. It's akin to having to bite off your own leg or arm to survive, just without the blood and gore.

So now I'll probably be going to the UMCG in a few months from now to have a little talk during which it will probably be concluded that they'll gladly help me pretend to be a pretty little filthy, disgusting transsexual freak, but won't lift a finger to deal with the real issue at hand. This is what has happened before. This is what will happen again. At least I will have given them their last chance.

Is there really any help for a case like mine? Will I only get this help ten years from now when I'll finally have the money to afford it? Will I even live that long? Just living is becoming so bloody tough.

What only keeps me going right now are the things my intellectual side occupies itself with. Tidbits such as Pieter's new supervisor expressing interest in the FPGA/ASIC simulator I'm developing when he mentioned it recently was one thing which kind of put me back onto track. I must feel like I am in control, like there is something to live for. Not just a list of things I can't or never will do, including sexuality, friend- and relationships and other 'normal' things, or things I'm about to fail on, but some real, honest-to-god solid foundations to build a life upon.

I can't live my life in isolation, and yet this is actually the situation I find myself in. Maybe I'm just not good at being horrifically selfish like virtually everyone else and should have opted for something which is easier to sympathize with, such as horrific physical injuries or so. It's so stupid to only have people realize what the heck was going and express their regrets after one has committed suicide already. That's what makes it so pointless, and physical mutilation the more attractive option.

No threats, just observations. And a desperate cry for help.


Sunday, 2 May 2010


Thursday I suddenly got an offer from an American guy to have him send me some replacement screws for the Sennheiser HD 437 headphones I'm repairing without any reimbursement from my side.

Friday it was Queen's Day here in the Netherlands, which is a holiday. Part of this day is the traditional flea market in each city and town. Pieter and I went to the flea market in Almere Stad, not to buy anything but for the fun of looking at the junk people were trying to sell and to eat something at the Subway near the train station. I did look around a bit to see whether anyone was selling inline skates, but didn't see any which were nice and which would fit me, plus it was kind of rainy weather so not very inviting to try on some skates.

After we returned home Pieter prepared to leave for his grandmother's birthday party together with his brother and his two young children who arrived to pick him up an hour before they had to leave. This left us with enough time to eat lunch together and for Pieter to show off his organ. His brother's two daughters were crawling around during this time on the floor, chasing the dogs, two of which were on the verge of crawling into my shirt to get away from those tiny petting hands. I have never seen those dogs act like this before.

I had promised the neighbours to take care of their cats while they are away on vacation. After Pieter had left with his brother one of the neighbours asked me to show me around so that she could tell me what my tasks were and give me the key. I left with three borrowed Playstation 3 games including Final Fantasy 13 and a pair of inline skates which weren't being used anyway. Now I just need some fair weather so that I can go skating.

Before I could go to bed I started feeling really nauseous and weak, with some of the symptoms of previous paralyzation attacks, like reduced control over my limbs and speech, resulting in Pieter having to help me downstairs and prepare me for bed. I did take a sleeping pill and slept well that night.

Saturday Pieter and I did the weekly grocery shopping, except that he won't be eating at home for three days straight as he'll be in Italy for his work. The rest of the day was quite uneventful, aside from me studying up on how to use CORBA and Sony Vegas Pro 9.

Today I spent the morning at the swimming pool as usual. After an hour or so I suddenly saw a couple kissing, which triggered something ugly inside. I could feel that the countdown to another paralyzation attack had started, but tried to suppress it by distracting myself while I was spending time with the two Chinese children I see every week at the pool, as well as their mother. Aside from an inability to swim properly any more and surges of pain I was holding up relatively well, though the counter was still counting down.

I could think of no way to gracefully suffer the attack without alarming everyone. I really do not enjoy the thought of suddenly losing control over my body in public. I have always shown myself to be strong and independent to others and I loathe the thought of suddenly appearing weak and helpless due to something which isn't physical. This ruled out most spots at the swimming pool. I could suffer the attack in private in a single-person dressing room after closing the doors, but it would probably alarm Pieter and the others if I vanished for 20-30 minutes.

So in the end I did nothing except attempt to keep suppressing the attack until the Chinese family moved closer to the location where Pieter and the others were playing with a ball. As I swam slowly and less than gracefully towards Pieter he asked me whether I was okay and at that point I pretty much couldn't hold the attack back any longer. Pieter ended up carrying me to the side of the pool where I was placed in a plastic chair. At this point I could no longer move my legs.

One of the girls who work at the pool, with whom I have talked many times before, offered me something to drink so she left to get me some tea. Meanwhile the Chinese woman was asking what had happened and when she heard that I was suffering from paralyzation symptoms she taught me some traditional Chinese relaxation and reflex methods which quickly caught on. I still think it was completely awesome how she showed so much care for me even though we know virtually nothing about each other. Heck, I don't even know her name, only those of her children.

There's no way I can sufficiently thank her. I do hope there are many more people like her around, however. It really gave me a much-needed boost.