Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.

Fun with SSNs

(Some days there's really nothing to write about... To get those old blog juices flowing again, here's a boring story about SSNs.)

A couple of years ago I was assigned a social security number. Even though I am not an American, it should have the same status as anybody else's SSN. As such, it can be used without problems for employment, tax, banks, etc.

However, for some reason it seems to be rejected by certain stores. Nowadays you can get a credit card through these stores, offering additional discounts etc. We tried this a few times; as many times, I was refused on the spot because of my SSN *only*. The last time we tried it, the Target sales guy said that the system would not let him enter SSNs starting with the number 7.

Is there something special about that number? Yes and no. The first three digits of the SSN indicate where the number was applied for. There's a nice list of these "area codes". At first I thought that the 7 might be for non-US citizens, but that does not seem to be the case. It's just that the 700 block is relatively new. (Older lists state that the 729-799 block is "for future use".) My number is perfectly valid and has nothing to do with my status as a permanent resident or my nationality.

So, next time this happens at a store, it's probably safe to tell them that their software might need to be updated to accept contemporary social security numbers. emoticon:smile

Further reading:

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-03-05 22:06:05   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: general

God hates shrimp

(via Pug's Place) God hates shrimp. Bad news for Red Lobster...

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-03-02 22:34:45   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: general

Amiga emulation, revisited, revisited

More and more games seem to work. It took a while to get WinUAE to this point, though. For example, in the configuration that I first tried, I could not set mouse or keyboard layout, which complicated things greatly. Amiga-In-A-Box to the rescue... it creates a number of configuration files for different purposes, e.g. play floppy games fullscreen with sound, etc. This also "unlocked" the mouse/keyboard options screen.

It's interesting to see how some games are different from their C64/PC counterparts. I don't mean obvious differences like graphics, but things like playability, or how a game is set up.

  • Fire & Ice is a great little platform game. The Amiga version I'm using has a trainer (as opposed to the PC version I played in the days of wayback on my 486), which makes the game a lot more agreeable. A benefit of using an emulator is that you can save & load game states at will, so even if the game doesn't allow you to save at a given position, the emulator will. This especially comes in handy with action games.

  • Revenge of the Mutant Camels: Also available for PC and C64 (and probably a bunch of other platforms), this is a simple-minded yet fun game... but most of all it's weird. You walk with your mutant camel through zones, where you are assaulted by birds dropping weights on your head, clouds raining cats and dogs, Manic Minter, and much more. There are also lots of strange powerups to collect... what to think of a joint 1) that makes your movement really slow, or an effect that reverses your moves.

  • Llamatron: By the same author (Jeff Minter), this is a game in the same spirit as ROTMC, shooting lots of strange baddies (telephones, brains, cherries, you name it). As expected, there are some interesting twists and effects... for example, the brains turn the (otherwise harmless) llamas into zombie beasts.

  • Blues Brothers: Another platformer that I played on the PC. Kinda fun, but difficult.

  • California Games: Unlike other Epyx games that I tried (Winter Games, World Games) this one works well. Compete in 6 events (skateboarding, surfing, etc). [What happened to Epyx?]

  • Buggy Boy: Racing game. IMHO, not as good as the C64 version. On the C64, this game was special because the buggy stays in its lane, as opposed to other racing games where you have to break your joystick to keep the car on the road, especially at high speeds. This allows you to concentrate on avoiding obstacles and grabbing points and powerups. In the Amiga version, however, the buggy does move; not as much as in other racing games, but it moves nonetheless, making the game less fun. (At least to me...)

  • Katakis: Cool shooter, like R-Type. If I recall correctly, the C64 version of this game was somehow illegal in the UK... don't know why, and don't know if the game was true for the Amiga version.

  • Shufflepuck Cafe: Silly but fun game. Basically it's air hockey, with opponents of varying strength. I played this on the PC, ages ago, and defeated most (all?) of my opponents... I'm not sure I can achieve the same feat on the Amiga, where most of them seem terribly strong and fast.

1) It looks like a cigaret, but the effects suggest otherwise.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-03-01 01:08:45   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: games, nostalgia

Amiga emulation, revisited

After a few tips from concerned readers, I got some more games to work on WinUAE. emoticon:smile I'm not sure if this makes me lean more towards buying a real Amiga, or less...

A few ultra-short reviews:

  • Arkanoid: Works, but difficult to play with mouse. I should try the "B" keyboard layout.
  • BattleChess: Cute but *very* slow, for some reason. Not just the thinking, but also the moving of pieces.
  • Dungeon Master: Works fine, but maybe not as great as it seemed back in 1989. :-)
  • Gauntlet 2: Again, I should try a different keyboard layout. Clumsy to play.
  • PacMania: Has everything a good game needs. Easy to play. Nice and colorful. Based on a well-known concept with a new twist. Addictive.
  • Paperboy: Not quite as good as the C64 version, if only because it doesn't have the great C64 music. Also seems less playable somehow.
  • Pengo: Cute, good music too, but not much lastability.
  • Prince of Persia: Good game; I played the PC version (using EGA) in 1991. This version plays exactly the same.
  • Ultima 4: Has some graphics problems. Can maybe be fixed by using a different Kickstart ROM.
  • Winter Games: Has some serious graphics problems also. Solution: ditto?
  • World Games: Haven't gotten it to work yet.

If nothing else, you should get the emulator for PacMania... it's really very good. Simple, but good.

Posted by Hans "aciiiiid" Nowak on 2004-02-28 23:03:51   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: games, nostalgia

Extracting Windows file properties, revisited

This piece of code extracts the properties for Excel files. I'm assuming a similar solution is available for Word documents. Thanks to Ian Bicking for the BuiltinDocumentProperties tip.

def inspect_excel(filename):
    app = win32com.client.Dispatch("Excel.Application")
    app.Visible = 0
    workbook = app.ActiveWorkbook
    for i in range(1, 16):
        bidp = workbook.BuiltinDocumentProperties(i)
            value = bidp.Value
            value = "?"
        print i, "->", value

...But what about non-MS Office files?

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2004-02-28 22:57:05   {link} (see old comments)
Categories: Python

Generated by Firedrop2.