Dev Environment

This post describes my current web dev environment for a friend that was curious about it. I had these requirements when coming up with it:

  • it had to be fast and light on memory and disk space - my box has a 1.33Ghz quad-core Atom, 2GB of ram and 32GB of space of which Windows and friends take up a big chunk
  • it had to be fully featured and $EDITOR must be or have Vim bindings

I based the environment on running Arch Linux inside VirtualBox. I prefer Arch because I love pacman, out of all the distro package managers its the only one I feel that, I’ve never got it into a critically broken state (hello aptitude, yum), and allows me to stay on the bleeding edge with new updates. Arch is also minimalistic, you pay for what you get allowing me to keep the virtual image small. A nice bonus about running a VM is that you can save the exact state of the machine before you shutdown your real one. So at night you just stop the VM and in the morning when you start up you are right back where you left off, no need to startup your editor and open the files you left off at.


For my editor I use Vim currently with powerline and vim-surround. I can’t not use Vim anymore, I keep learning new things to improve my experience. For example: sometime after starting some HTML5 practice, I learned about the tag blocks at and it. Adding at to a command selects the entire element from the beginning tag to the ending, while it selects everything except the starting/closing tags. So with the following html:


and the cursor is on the beginning div line,

  • >at and <at increases/decreases the indent respectively of the entire div
  • plus the standard yank, put, delete and change operators (and all the rest) give you a lot of control, say you wanted to change everything in the div: just type cit in normal mode and the inner contents are deleted and you are put in insert mode inside the div

With vim-surround you can do things like surrounding/changing/removing things around things. So if we wanted the <p> and <form> to be inside a div we could do ysj<div>, or if we wanted to switch the <p> to a <div> we could do cst<div> with the cursor inside the <p>. For the yank/put/delete/change ops I originally wrote them as (y)/(p) etc but then decided to switch to use highlighting so with a simple cs) ` they changed to `y` /`p`.


I’ve been using bash for years, so I picked zsh to learn something new. Zsh has some cool features, like:

  • extended globbing (grep "foo" **/*.js will recursively search all .js files in subdirs)
  • zmv, zcp are replacements for mv/cp that you can define patterns to rename many files at once
  • autocompletion (of arguments (git st<TAB> will show you all args that start with st), paths (ls /h/p/d<TAB> could expand to /home/patrick/downloads), commands)

Searching “why zsh” will bring up a number of good sites with examples. Along with zsh I use powerline. It basically makes the prompt look cool and configures it to show useful information, along with a second prompt to the right of the screen. Finishing up the trifecta comes Tmux, a terminal multiplexer. Basically it allows you to split up the screen to have multiple shells running in splitscreen mode, among other features. In the screenshot below I split the screen vertically once then split the right side horizontally. The large left pane hosts Vim, the top right is running a jekyll server that rebuilds this blogpost as I change it, the bottom right is for misc things, wc -l * in this example.

Dev environment screenshot

Runners up

Choices that didn’t quite make the final cut but are still very nice are listed below.

Visual Studio Code + MSYS2

VS Code is really cool. It runs on Windows/Linux/Mac. Its open source using the MIT license. Intellisense and debugging and extensions everywhere! Stop reading this and go check it out!… But, when using the vim extension (which we know is essential) on my mighty tablet, I could type out a line of code, take a sip of coffee, look out the window, look back and the line might just finish showing up. Maybe someday.

Windows Subsystem for Linux

Special mention goes to WSL or informally Bash on Ubuntu on Windows. With it you have the entire Ubuntu user space natively accessible on Windows. Once WSL is setup you can go to bash and apt-get something, it will get the native binary from Ubuntu’s servers. So you could in theory run an old 16-bit Win/Dos program inside wine inside bash on windows - Windows on Linux on Windows… we need to go deeper. Caveat: it only works on 64-bit editions of Windows. Who cares, its $CURRENT_YEAR! Well this cheapo tablet I work on is limited to 32-bit Windows, even though it has a 64-bit cpu. Which is why I opted for the above VirtualBox config. WSL has some teething issues (still limited to 16 colours, and support for inotify hasn’t been released yet but is coming soon) but its something I am very much looking forwards to using when I can.

SpaceYYZ is now live

SpaceYYZ is now hosted on github. SpaceYYZ is a single page application for the fictional company SpaceYYZ that they would use to manage their transportation services. I created it so I could learn about web development and apply concepts I learned. The sourcecode is hosted on my github. Feel free to browse the code and post issues on the public tracker.

I am interested in a career in web development, so I was looking for an interesting project I could continually work on to develop my skills. I also wanted something that I could apply my existing skills from different development fields. SpaceYYZ uses AngularJS along with Angular UI and Angular UI Router, with some Bootstrap to taste, and Firebase for the database and authentication. My background in WPF turned out to be useful in quickly learning Angular since I already had experience structuring apps using MVVM and using databinding.

I’m currently using vanilla ECMAScript 5, with an eye on either using ES 6 via Babel, or Typescript in the future. Coming from a purely statically typed background, learning Typescript is appealing as I’ve noticed on a few occasions that I’ve made type errors where variables were assumed to be one type but were actually another. One case in particular was sneaky, where I assumed a vehicle’s capacity was a number but was actually a string, and due to the numbers I used for testing they just happened to sort the same way lexicographically as they did numerically, so I didn’t notice the error until later. Being used to compilers pointing out dumb mistakes spoiled me, thats something I’ll have to pay attention to now.

I’ll be continually working on SpaceYYZ for the near future and may post some updates on the status or what I’ve learned on my blog here.

Aitu is now on github

Aitu is now hosted on github. Aitu is an extract of the AI portion of Wooden Sphere. It uses a combination of Hierarchical Task Networks and a Utility system to allow AI characters to decide on a goal and create a plan to achieve their goal.

Tasks and plans

Tasks are the building blocks of this system. A Task is something that an AI character can do. They can have an Action enum which your code can switch on and perform some action. They can also have three std::function objects which get run at different times and can manipulate a WorldState object belonging to some character. Tasks have pre and post conditions which look at some WorldState property to determine their truthiness.

Plans are a list of tasks to be completed in sequential order. When creating a plan for some goal task, the planner looks at the preconditions for that task and see if any other tasks can satisfy those conditions. That is, for a goal task G it looks for any task T where T’s postconditions match G’s preconditions. Then if T has preconditions it looks for tasks that can satisfy those, etc. A plan then is a chain of tasks starting with something that has no other preconditions/can be started right away, and each successive task does something that allows the next task to be run, until finally reaching the goal task.

I chose this design because I wanted a flexible AI with the possibility of emergent gameplay. Since I never explicitly define dependencies between tasks but instead just expose their requirements, its easy to add in a new independent task which the planner can then pick up and use so long as it meets their requirements. No need to modify other tasks to make use of the new one, just define the task and the planner figures it out. And because of that you can get scenarios where the planner chose something unexpectely, since it just looks for anything that satisfies some condition. So some task that you added for one reason might find itself being used in a way you (or the player) didn’t predict.

Utility and considerations

So that covers what plans are and how they get created, but how does the AI choose a goal in the first place? Enter considerations. A Consideration is something that looks at some aspect of the character’s WorldState and gives it a score. Tasks can have multiple considerations associated with them, each one looking at one particular aspect of the world state. The task with the highest score becomes the goal. To calculate a consideration’s score you pick some function (linear, exponential, log etc), define the constants for that function (the ABC’s in ax^2 + bx + c) and select the input source that gets evaluated by that function. Currently you can pick any value in WorldState, as well as other sources such as the number of tasks run since some target task (to limit repeats). To make it simple to edit considerations I made the ConsiderationEditor for Unreal Editor.

So that wraps up the summary for Aitu, feel free to take a look at it on github.