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Computer Pool

This morning the folks across the street were have landscape grading done. The machinery noise was just loud enough to distract and annoy me, so I walked down to our community clubhouse to shoot some pool.

I'm not a good pool player. I'm barely good enough to beat myself, and even that sometimes takes a while. The pool room was empty, so there was no one but me to be astonished at my ineptitude, but I still managed to raise my own eyebrows now and then.

It's not that I don't understand the physics. I had exposure to optics in high school, and knew when I first looked at a pool table that the same basic principles apply: angle of incidence equals angle of reflection, yadda, yadda. I understood how spin affects trajectory, and quickly realized that where the cue ball ends up is every bit as important as sinking the ball you are aiming at - sometimes even more important. I'm not short-limbed, either, so seldom need to resort to a bridge. No, the fact is that I just don't have any plausible reason to be as hopelessly bad as I am.

As I can't depend upon the pool room always being empty, I decided to search on-line to see what might be available to help me improve. I found that there are numerous books and videos available, some even free. That didn't surprise me, but I was surprised to find computer pool simulation games. Somehow I never thought of playing pool on my computer.

I quickly found two, one for Mac (Pool Shark 3D) and one for Linux ( http://foobillard.sunsite.dk/ (link dead, sorry) FooBilliard).

The Mac install install was simple: download a .dmg, open it, drag the folder to Applications. The only unexpected thing was that it launched iTunes when I started it - it wants to play background music by default. I shut that off instantly (yes, I really *am* a cranky old guy). Other than that, playing was obvious. You can adjust the strength of your shot and where you hit the cue ball (for spin). There's a "helper" you can turn on the shows the path of your cue ball, so there really is no excuse for missing shots (if you can think of a good excuse, please post it: I still need one).

The Linux wasn't so easy. The RPM install failed, complaining of missing libGLcore.so.1. According to rpmfind.net/ linux/RPM/sourceforge/f /fr/freespace/libGLcore-0.1 -1mdd.i586.html (link dead, sorry) :

Many contributors have nvidia GL installed on their system.
RPMs built on such a system will require libGLcore.so.1 which
is part of nvidia's driver package.

You only need this rpm if you either
     don't have an nvidia card or
     didn't install nvidia via rpms.

This RPM does NOT contain any files. It only makes a
PROVIDES libGLcore.so.1 entry in the rpm database so that
rpms that were built against nvidia GL will at least install.
Whether they actually run is a wholly different question.

My advice is to complain to the packager explaining that
rpms should not be built against nvidia GL or that two
versions should be provided (nvidia vs Mesa).

Unfortunately this type of nonsense is typical of Linux development. It's not Linux's fault, of course, just poor practice by the developers. I went looking for something else, but had difficulty with too many unrelated matches. I finally settled on trying GTKPool, a two dimensional simulation (do you *really* need 3D for pool?).

This rpm had dependencies, but the Fedora package manager resolved them and it installed easily. In one respect, this is more "natural" than the Mac game: you control the strength of your shot by how far you "draw back" the cue stick. However, I found it a little more difficult to adjust the angle - the Mac was much smoother and controllable. I'd like to use that as an excuse for still missing shots, but I screwed up just as many with the Mac game, so that's out.

Oh, well. I'm not a pool player, real or simulated.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Sat Feb 21 16:53:43 2009: 5478   anonymous

"angle of incidence equals angle of reflection, yadda, yadda."

As any experienced pool player will tell you, the "angle of incidence = angle of reflection" relationship will not serve you well for long. The rails are compressible, so the cue ball or an object ball hitting a rail will behave differently from a light beam hitting a first surface mirror. A ball hitting a rail can (and usually will) pick up some side spin when it compresses into the rail, rolls along the rail briefly, then gets pushed back.

The next time you're in the pool hall with a full-sized (4-1/2 foot x 9 foot) pool table, try this: shoot a bank shot cross side. Vary the speed at which you hit the cue ball. Hit the cue ball above center, below center, left of center, and right of center. Try the same bank shot at different angles.

Sat Feb 21 17:56:18 2009: 5479   TonyLawrence

I just stay away from it. Not my game :-)

Sun Feb 22 17:16:43 2009: 5480   BigDumbDinosaur

I played quite a bit of pool when I was in high school and while serving in the Navy, so I don't admit to quite the same level of ineptitude claimed by Tony. However, no one would have ever mistaken me for Minnesota Fats (at least not in the pool playing department) and I was never foolish enough to wager money over my pool playing skills. I mostly played just for the enjoyment of occasionally getting the balls to go where I wanted them to go.

Another shooting sport I used to do a lot in those days was pistol marksmanship, which skill I have continued to maintain over the years. Unlike pool-playing, where I wouldn't bet anything on the outcome of a game in which I participated, I would have been willing (in those days) to bet my life on my pistol marksmanship. Back when I was young, dumb and full of...er...fun, I could put a round from my Smith & Wesson model 10 revolver through a playing card at 100 feet. Needless to say, a human adversary, being orders of magnitude larger than the ace of spades, would have been less a challenge.

Thanks to approaching old age, deteriorating eyesight, etc., I can't shoot with that kind of accuracy anymore. However, since a handgun is inherently a close range weapon, I'm still not worried about the possible outcome of a pistol duel with most would-be assailants. I can easily group my shots at 50 feet, which sufficient accuracy to achieve the desired results should some criminal force me to exercise my second amendment rights and defend myself and/or my wife.

As for pool...who knows? <Grin>

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