Fast spellcasting in Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession

code_174When you cast a spell in Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, the spells get greyed out for a brief cooldown period. That’s pretty normal.

However, there seems to be a bug allowing you to bypass the cooldown completely. If you cast a spell, then close the spellbook or holy symbol, and then reopen it, the spells are immediately available, regardless of the cooldown.

This bug is specific only to Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession; the other two games using the Ravenloft engine (Menzoberranzan and Ravenloft: Stone Prophet) have different spellcasting interfaces.

Ravenloft: Stone Prophet actually appears to have the opposite behaviour: if you cast a spell, then quickly close and reopen the spellbook or holy symbol, spells are indefinitely in cooldown until you close the spellbook or holy symbol again. My guess is that this is by design: the game stops keeping track of time when spell selection is active, just like in the inventory.

Meet .NET Native

.NET Native is an upcoming technology that can make .NET applications run with the performance of C++ applications. This preview technology is currently limited to Windows Store and Windows Phone 8 apps and can only be used on Windows 8.1 while targeting x64 or ARM architectures.

Normally, applications are compiled into MSIL and then JIT-compiled into native code at runtime. If .NET Native is enabled, then an additional step takes place which compiles the MSIL into native code through the Visual C++ optimizer.

You can download .NET Native from the .NET Native homepage; after that, enabling .NET Native compilation is simply a matter of ticking the “Compile with .NET Native tool chain” checkbox in the project’s Build properties.

As I mentioned earlier, .NET Native only applies to a very limited set of application types. Let’s hope that in future its benefits might be extended to a wider range of applications (e.g. desktop applications).

If you want to know more, check out Shawn Farkas’ 4-minute intro, or the longer Inside .NET Native video.

How Learning to Play an Instrument Makes You a Better Professional

I briefly mentioned the importance of experience in my recent article, “On Military Intelligence“. There are many skills which you can only learn in one specific way: by doing it a lot. Such skills include reading, writing, driving, art, programming, and music. That’s why “practice makes perfect”.

Music is a daily commitment, requiring lots of practice in order to learn and master the theory, practice, techniques and styles. One could even go as far as to say that it quickens the mind, as the arrangement of notes into various scales and patterns is almost mathematical in nature, and one learns to reason about them.

However, beyond the music itself, learning to play an instrument can help you develop certain characteristics that are particularly important at work. Let’s see what these are.

Patience

Music is like software: if you’re going to work on it, then it’s worth taking the time to do it properly, as I’ve written in my earlier article, “On Goal-Orientedness and Mediocrity“. Attempting to rush something will only result in poor quality. While such deficiency may go unnoticed for several months in software, it is much easier to realise when a tune you’re playing doesn’t sound right.

Music gives you the patience to take the time to do things the right way.

Confidence

Playing in front of other people, even if it’s just the teacher, can be intimidating. Aside from any possible confidence issues that one might have, there is the fear that doing something wrong in front of others will make you look stupid.

And that’s a good thing, because this pressure causes you to prepare well for when you need to do something in front of people. The next time you give a presentation at work, or you lead a meeting, you know you’d better know what you’re talking about.

And at the same time, playing regularly in front of people and getting used to the fact that you’re doing it right has the effect of boosting your self-confidence and helps you overcome any fear of audiences.

Humility

When you’re a 27-year-old who’s been playing for six months, and you’re in the same room with 12-year-olds who have been playing for six years, that’s a pretty humbling experience. They’re kids, so you should know more than them, right?

It’s also possible that there are people with less experience, but who are much better than you are. The same can happen at work – someone younger might have a lot more talent than you.

You can be arrogant, and perceive such people as a threat. Or you can accept the reality that they have a lot to offer, and try to learn from them, and in doing so benefit from their experience and become better at what you do.

The Windows 10 window style you never see

I am currently installing the Visual Studio 2015 Preview on the machine where I have the Windows 10 Preview installed, and since it’s an old machine with just 1GB RAM, Windows started hanging at times. The screenshot below shows what the installer looked like while it was hanging:

win10-legacy-header

See that tiny box towards the top of the screenshot? I guess that’s what windows actually look like before the clunky window style we’re familiar with gets rendered over it.

It’s nothing new – I’ve written before about legacy window styles appearing in Windows XP and this seems to continue that trend. The window style above has a very Windows 2000 feel to it, and I personally prefer it over what we have today in Windows 8+.