• "Sycorax is a Twitter client, written in Python, that choreographs the online behavior of fictional characters. Other tweet schedulers make your personal Twitter stream look like a clockwork robot is behind it, posting tweets at the optimal time for penetration into your social network. Syxorax lets fictional characters use Twitter the way real people do. Your characters can post at odd hours and talk to each other, taking their lines from a simple script you write, but without any ongoing work from you." Very nice.
  • "Use and create Delicious bookmarks from the Safari web browser" – with a single keyboard shortcut. My main reason for sticking with Firefox was its Delicious integration, but if this is any cop, I think I'm save from terrible memory leaks for the future.
  • "I tend to see them as having much more in common with the approach of an architect or landscape designer in terms of shaping and creating flows, confluences and possibilities for enjoyment… As a result I really do think that critical appreciation and commentary from the world of architecture and design could be illuminating and progressive." Jones on the lack of perception – outside games criticism – of games as design objects (rather than media objects). It is excellent; I agree with it all.
  • Card-based dungeon-crawling game. Basically: card-driven roguelike. Should print it out and take a squint sometime.
  • "Taps is a temporary web service you run on a server that has access to the database you want to export. You can then run the client to connect to that service and pull data out of it in chunks. It works through firewalls, doesn’t require a direct ssh connection, and – best of all – it’s database independent. So you can export from a MySQL database and import to PostgreSQL, or vice versa."
  • Vast, detailed CHUD article on an older treatment Cameron wrote for Avatar, which does sound more interesting than the version we got; sadly, it also sounds very sprawling – there's even more world-building going on. Still, some elements cut from it – notably, Hegner – seem like a real shame to have lost.

What’s Schulze Listening To?

20 February 2009

So we listen to music on speakers – not headphones – quite a bit in the studio. Or at least Jack does, because they’re in his batcave.

And sometimes, I’m not sure what’s playing from next door, but I know I like it – and it’d be good to know what it is. Fortunately, Jack mainly listens to last.fm radio (and even if it’s not radio, his iTunes would still be scrobbled).

So I wrote wotlisten.rb. You can see it (and get it) as a gist on github. It doesn’t use audio recognition, or the last.fm API, or RSS; it uses plain-old screen-scraping.

(Somewhere near the top of my list of coding tools is Hpricot, because it’s a lovely HTML parser that you can scrape with as fast as you can think. Or, at least, as fast as you can write selectors. That was the case here.)

So: you throw in a username, and wotlisten.rb tells you what they’re listening to. Or what they were last listening to. It doesn’t distinguish between the two – and why should it? This is Situated Software at its most useful: I assume you can hear the music that’s playing, and that you know the last.fm tag for the user playing it (and: until very recently, I assumed that person was Jack Schulze; this updated 2.0 release lets you pass in any username).

It’s unremarkable code in the extreme, but notable for the fact it took ten minutes to bang it out; it came out as fast as I could think it. I’m getting to the point where, especially with Hpricot and similar, this kind of tools is second-nature to write. It’s taken a long while to get there, though.

The script proved useful upon several occasions that day. More to the point, it paid for itself handsomely a few hours later, when we discovered that Schulze was playing Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero.

  • "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.
  • "The buttons are designed to look very similar to basic HTML input buttons. But they can handle multiple interactions with one basic design. The buttons we’re using are imageless, and they’re created entirely using HTML and CSS, plus some JavaScript to manage the behavior." Dark, dark voodoo, but very impressive – and excellently explained by Doug Bowman. It's nice to see Doug blogging again.
  • "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."
  • "bash completion support for core Git." Ooh. This looks really, really nice.