"TimedAction is a library for the Arduino. It is created to help hide the mechanics of how to implement Protothreading and general millis() timing. It is sutied for those actions that needs to happen approximately every x milliseconds." Aha.
"NewSoftSerial is the latest of three Arduino libraries providing “soft” serial port support. It’s the direct descendant of ladyada’s AFSoftSerial, which introduced interrupt-driven receives – a dramatic improvement over the polling required by the native SoftwareSerial."
'"We have a real culture of thrift," [Kotick] said. "The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games." And then, to ensure there was no confusion in his message, he added that he has tried to instill "skepticism, pessimism, and fear" of the economic downturn into the corporate culture at Activision. "We are very good at keeping people focused on the deep depression," he said.' Bobby Kotick. What a guy. What a CEO. What a leader.
"Larva Labs proposes an intelligent home screen that creates a meaningful hierarchy out of a user’s information. Designed for an Android-based handset, our home screen is intended to appeal to Blackberry owners and people struggling with information overload." An interesting experiment; I like being able to vary the level of personalisation on the fly, but am not sure the screen is nearly dense enough for people with "information overload" – it only handles a couple of items in each category without drilling down. The Blackberry's appeal in part is due to its hyper-dense list of information.
"Fast-forward ten years, and I'm now using all those accessibility features on a daily basis. At some point during the dot-com bust it turned out that the written word was the payload, and regular people started using alternative (browsing) devices to access text from the web. Arguments about device-independent, semantic markup and graceful degradation suddenly have an additional halo of legitimacy because they affect everyone."
"LEDs pulse back and forth in the mantle to indicate roughly how many friends are on Xbox Live. It goes into red alert if anyone's playing Left 4 Dead." Nicely done; might poke something similar into life for myself, just for kicks.
Tim O'Reilly on what he learned from studying the classics at University. Simply because of competence at the languages, I know more of the Romans than the Greeks, but this is thoughtful stuff. I was often asked at school by peers why I'd study something of "no practical value"; O'Reilly has some smart answers.
"I think that there are really obvious reasons this isn't currently happening. Tech-oriented, web-trained, fast-paced, hard-nosed Silicon Valley culture is not really that similar to game developer culture. Outside of GDC Austin… I haven't seen a lot of opportunities for the two industries to mix. Most crucially, everybody's too damn busy trying to get their jobs done to really spend a lot of time or thought on the issue." That gap in culture is something that still fascinates me.
"Red dot fever enforces a precision into your design that the rest must meet to feel coherent. There’s no room for the hereish, nowish, thenish and soonish. The ‘good enough’." Dingdingding. +5 points to Taylor, as usual. Place, not location.
"TinkerKit is an Arduino-compatible physical computing prototyping toolkit aimed at design professionals. The interest in physical computing as an area in development within the creative industries has been increasing rapidly. In response to this Tinker.it! is developing the TinkerKit to introduce fast iterative physical computing methodologies to newcomers, and particularly design professionals." Standardised modules, standardised connectors, Arduino-compatible. I remember Massimo showing me his keyboard-emulating board ages ago. Nice to see Tinker productising the platform, too.
"If 2009 is going to see the emergence of high-quality browser-based games, then 2009 is going to be the year of Unity. It has: lots of powerful features; iPhone support; Wii publishing; a developing community; quality developers using it; and an upcoming upcoming PC version. In short, it is about to make a major splash. I feel compelled to jump in with it — the indie license is cheaper than the Flash IDE."
"Hackers across the country are buying up old old receipt printers and imaginatively repurposing them into something new. We call them microprinters." pbwiki site for gathering resources around microprinters. Nice! Still waiting on mine (from the same load as Roo's) to arrive, though…
"With that in mind, I present to you a gallery of paintings made by one Hoenikker J. Troll, hunter at large and painter at other times. He dragged an easel and paints all around this world. Of Warcraft." WoW screengrabs run through artistic filters. Some are really quite pretty, as, to be honest, is the source material.
"…video games are driven by the player, experientially and emotionally. Fictional content–setting, characters, backstory– is useful inasmuch as it creates context for what the player chooses to do. This is ambient content, not linear narrative in any traditional sense. The creators of a gameworld should be lauded for their ability to believably render an intriguing fictional place– the world itself and the characters in it. However the value in a game is not to be found in its ability at storytelling, but in its potential for storymaking." Some commentary on the scale of storymaking games offer, from Steve Gaynor. Also: I like the word "storymaking", as opposed to "storytelling".
AASM is "a library for adding finite state machines to Ruby classes. AASM started as the acts_as_state_machine plugin but has evolved into a more generic library that no longer targets only ActiveRecord models." And as a result, I might be using it a bit.
"MagiCal is a FREE menu-based clock and calendar. It features a huge range of configuration options for how the time and date are displayed, and can operate either in conjunction with, or as a replacement for the built in system menu clock." Quite pretty, and makes a nice companion for FuzzyClock.
"The microprinter is an experiment in physical activity streams and notification, using a repurposed receipt printer connected to the web. I use it for things like reminders, notifications, and my day at-a-glance, but anything that can be injected from the web and suits text only, short format messaging, will work." Tom writes up his printer in more detail.
"We’ve recently switched a number of projects to ThinkingSphinx here at Hashrocket. These projects were originally using SOLR or UltraSphinx. Today, we’ll explore the differences between UltraSphinx and ThinkingSphinx and why we chose to switch." Detailed explanation of the advantages of ThinkingSphinx over UltraSphinx or other alternatives.
"Compared to a standard web (un)conference where everyone knows their space, expertise and opinions, here lots (most?) of us were exploring stuff outside of our day job and business-as-usual. It was passionate and interesting and I felt completely out of my depth, which was was great. So in 2009, less of the comfort zone stuff please, and more like this." I can get behind that.
"Morph was sometimes supposed to copy Hart's own artistic work, but not perfectly. In this way nervous children were reassured that even their endearing hero Morph could get it wrong, which made them determined to pick up their pens and pencils and other objects and do better… He believed that most of the things he did could be done only [on television]: "I hope that by example, and by humour, children will start to make pictures for themselves. Show them, don't tell them!"" I was terrible at art, and most forms of drawing, but I could watch his hands work all day.
Leslie roughly captures a few thoughts I've had and some reasonably opinions. In a nutshell: the social value of tagging is broad, fuzzy, and a second-order effect. As a loose, freeform taxonomy for personal use, they're superb, and delicious captures that excellently. I tag for me; if it's useful for you, that's a nice side effect.
"These sketches should make Arduino-based web-controlled home automation, and remote-responsive spaces a lot easier. The advantage of working with an ethernet shield is that you no longer need to tether the Arduino to a computer in order to access Pachube and other network services!" Some useful examples, to be returned to.
"In one moment the game had broken the tacit agreement between us. It had failed to respect my character decisions, it had made a pretense of allowing me to define whether Faith violent or not only to pull the rug away at the vital moment and strip all control from me. It lied. Any actions I might have taken to avoid combat up to then were for nothing. It had failed to show me respect so had lost mine." Breaking the unwritten contract with the player is definitely a bad thing, and I didn't notice this – but only because I'd not been aiming for the "no kills" achievement.
Last Thursday and Friday, I was very lucky to be invited to the Guardian’s first internal hack day. Whilst it was primarily an internal event, they also invited along a few of their friends to see what we could do with some of their information.
It was a really stimulating two days – exciting to see just what the Guardian is doing with their data and their journalism, and the ways they’re trying to make it more open. A particular highlight was seeing Simon Rogers explain the process of researching infographics and data-sourced news articles, and offering his talent for hunting down data to anyone who needed it; he provided a lot of hackers with useful sets of information that were only ever going to be found through a series of tactical phonecalls. For those of us not requesting data to order, the Guardian’s new full-text RSS feeds came in very, very handy, let me tell you.
It was also great to meet some of their technical staff. Obviously, the Guardian developer programme is in safe hands with Matt McAllister, and I’ve known Simon for a while, but it was great to meet lots more of their developers, client-side team and QAs; they were, to a person, lovely and talented, and it’s clear that the Guardian has a deep culture of quality.
I orginally wanted to build something along the lines of CelebDAQ but for journalists. The idea would be that you invested in journalists and made returns based on the column inches they filed; the goal was to highlight a lot of the high-volume content on the Guardian website that goes unnoticed, whilst making the more prolific and “celebrity” writers like Charlie Brooker expensive commodities.
Unfortunately, it soon become clear that the volume of scraping and data-parsing I would have to undertake would take far longer than I planned, and I wasn’t planning on staying up all night.
So I scaled down my thinking, and instead of undertaking “real programming” I started thinking instead about “neat hacks”, and the result was this:
In a nutshell, it parses the Guardian’s publicly available politics RSS feed, counts the number of names of Labour MPs and of Conservative MPs (not to mention the words “Labour”, “Tory”, and “Conservative”), and then works out the “swing” of the page. That data is then sent over serial to an Arduino, which outputs the result on a little bargraph.
It wasn’t the hardest of challenges, but I did get to write some Wiring and learn how to send serial data from Ruby, and I had a lot of fun poking electronic circuits. I was fortunate enough to win a subscription to Make for my troubles, as were the other team of plucky hardware hackers in the room – a lovely surprise to end the two days on.
37 hacks were submitted overall – impressive given the short period of time and how busy everybody was – and they ranged from the entertaining to the remarkably useful, from the thought-provoking to the empowering. Jemima Kiss has written up a few of the stand-out hacks in her Guardian blogpost on the event. It was great to see what such a talented – and multi-skilled – room could produce in under 24 hours, and I hope that the internal team at the Guardian enjoyed it as much as I did.
Many thanks to everyone who organised the event, and I look forward to seeing what the Guardian do with their data – and their great hacking – on a larger scale.