Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Use Gmail?

Google created a video demonstrating why you should use Gmail (uploaded to YouTube, of course). It presents the four best reasons (also the four features other webmail services don't have), while also showing off some typical Google spirit.



Hotlink

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A New Way to Learn Code

So many coding guides follow a step-by-step nature. First, you make a "Hello World" program. Then a countdown. Then a countup. And so on.

But I always find myself wanting to work on my own projects. Who cares about "Hello World"? I'll never actually use that. I'll figure out some code syntax rules, but I can do that in other ways.

Unfortunately, these step-by-step guides aren't very experiment friendly: they just aren't set up to allow the user to flip back and forth looking for specific details.

That's why Learning by Coding is so revolutionary. Finally students can learn at their own pace, and learn what they want to learn. While geared towards the intermediate programmer, the guides have good learning curves for beginners as well.

What's really exciting is that anyone can contribute! As stated on the website, if you'd like to write a guide, go for it! Email it in and it'll get all set up so you and everyone else can benefit from it.

The site is very clean and easy to understand, and a handy glossary page keeps key terms clear.

So what are you waiting for? Start learning: start coding!

Full Disclosure: The author of this article is also the founder of Learning by Coding.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Miyamoto on Game Design

Talk Asia recently had an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and more Nintendo series, and several of the things he said are worth quoting here and expanding upon.

First, a startling revelation of how Mario was designed:
We had to draw Mario as a small character and at the same time, we had to make him look human. To do that, we needed to draw a distinctive feature for him, such as giving him a big nose. We gave him a moustache so that we didn't need to draw a mouth. It is difficult to show facial expressions with small characters. We gave him big hands. Since we were trying to create something distinctive in the character, it was natural to draw something like that. First, we created Mario with dots, putting together these distinctive features. Then I finalized with a drawing to show a final image of the character. So I didn't have any special theory behind the making of Mario. He evolved over the development process, followed by a final drawing of what I wanted him to look like.
Strangely, this is how design is supposed to work. Find the limits of the application and fill the creative space.


Next, Miyamoto talks about the Wiimote and what it means for gaming:
Interviewer: You know computer games have always been about sitting at home on the sofa, eating chips, drinking coke and basically being very unhealthy. All those coach potatoes are going to recoil in horror at the idea of getting up, standing up, moving around. Are people going to go for it you think. Is that what people want?

Miyamoto: The games will change. The whole family will watch the game and they start saying "I want to give it a try."

Interviewer: Do you think people could get hurt doing this. I mean you're running around all over the place?

Miyamoto: Be careful.
This was exactly the experience I have had. Instead of playing games and having people say "let me know when you're done" and walk away, they want to watch, cheer, and scream with you. It's fun.


And about being active: duh. Let's get those fatties off the couch, and get their blood running! Forget sweaty hands, you'll have sweaty brows when you get done playing.

Continuing on, talking about the Wiimote again:
Interviewer: So it involves a motion sensitive wireless console. Some have said that this is nothing but a gimmick and something else in the next couple of years is going to come out and supercede it and it will have been a waste of time and money. What do you say to those people?

Miyamoto: First thing I would say is "Give it a try". If you use it you would know that you had the wrong impression about it. I became more and more confident in the Wii since I started to make the software for it.
That's exactly what I have told skeptics: try it and you'll see, it really is that good. It isn't just a passing fad; it completely redefines gaming.

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Truth in Congress Ratings

So Senator Brownback (R) wants the ESRB to play every game all the way through before giving it a rating. Sounds reasonable, right?

No, it doesn't. Think about it: video games have hours and hours of gameplay. Think about the Final Fantasy series: they had hundreds of hours of content. Can a committee be expected to play the entire game all the way through to its multiple conclusions? And what about sandbox games, that have no conclusions?


The problem here is that Congress has no idea what is different about video games vs. movies or TV. These entertainment mediums have one ending, and it's between 30 and 180 minutes away. You can expect a committee to sit through that.

But playing hundreds of hours of gameplay multiple times, or (in the case of sandbox games) for eternity?? No way.

What will happen if this passes? The ESRB will be dissolved.

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Digg Clone? Not Really

It seems Digg users are in a big fuss over the new suggestion site that Yahoo launched to gain feedback from users, simply because it implements a digg-like voting feature so people can show that they agree with a suggestion.



However, the fact that you can vote up a submission in no way makes Yahoo's site compete with Digg. Digg is a news service (one I use quite often, and enjoy very much), but Yahoo's site is simply for Yahoo to gain feedback, probably so they can improve their services. And yet Digg users are arming themselves and preparing to sacrifice Yahoo to the web gods.



This is like a donut shop owner getting mad at a bagel shop owner for stealing his business.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Free 3D MMORPG is Open Source

PlaneShift is a full 3D fantasy MMORPG that looks like it could be the next RuneScape. I ain't kidding. It's amazing.


However, I do have some thoughts about it, and some feedback for the dev team (which is everyone, since it's open-source):

Stuff I love:
  • Few n00bs around
  • Good roleplayers online often
  • Nice graphic quality and level design
  • Lots of character options (and I mean lots)
  • On-demand advice from real people
Stuff I hate:
  • No tutorial
  • No items to start with
  • Steep learning curve
  • Death Realm (more on this later)
  • Server unreliability
  • MASSIVE download required



Now, about that death realm thing. It seems the dev team, instead of having your character spawn somewhere when killed, decided to make a "realm" known as the death realm where you go when you die. You then must explore the realm and find a skull portal that takes you back to the land of the living.

Certainly an original idea, but that doesn't make it a good one. I explored that place for almost an hour and found nothing. It was enough to ruin the game for me.


Needless to say, however, I was impressed. I highly recommend PlaneShift for any avid MMORPG player, but don't expect it to easy.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Viacom Sues Google over Gravity

I'm sure you've all heard the dispute going on between Viacom and Google; for those who haven't, here's the rundown:

YouTube purchased by Google
Users upload copyrighted content to YouTube
Google does not remove content
Viacom sues Google



So you see it's all Google's fault. An out-of-control user uploaded some copyrighted content and Google didn't remove it until they were specifically asked to. Therefore, Google should give all their earthly possessions to Viacom.

Come on now, Viacom. Here's a basic lawsuit primer, quoted from "When You Should Sue and When You Should STFU":

Simple question: Did Google break any laws?
Simple answer: No.

Therefore, Google can't be convicted of any crimes.



This case should be treated the same way P2P software debates have been. Whenever a P2P program was sued for allowing users to transfer content illegally, the courts just said this (reworded in plan English):

Nobody can govern how their software is used.
Therefore, the person at fault is the one who uploads or downloads files illegally, not the person who wrote the software.

This makes perfect sense, because if you think about it, you can share music by email. Does that make email applications liable? Of course not.

This same principle should be applied here: Google cannot decide how their services are used. Therefore, they are not responsible for the use of their services. They should discourage illegal acts, and they should certainly have a legal disclaimer that says that they are not liable, but these are technicalities.

To Google: Every decent person who loves their freedoms is standing behind you.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gmail No. 1? No way!

That's right kids! Out of Gmail, Yahoo Live Mail Beta, and Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail was ranked #1 by TechCrunch, the leading technology news source. What a surprise!

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Wanna See My Wii?

Apparently a news reporter in Milwaukee, MI thinks he has a big scoop: the Nintendo DS has a graphical chat application that could be exploited by child molesters! Even more, he has proof that it happens:
  • He found the range of the DS's Wi-Fi to be 300 feet
  • He chatted with two children a floor above him in his house
Wow, it must happen all the time! Your child is at risk!

No but really. I join the Pictochat channels every time I'm not playing games: is anyone ever there, ever? Nope. I have never actually chatted on Pictochat, simply because nobody uses it.

This guy is crazy. Who will he expose next? Skype? AIM?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sign Up Today!

Tired of having to sign up for an account every time you want to use a web service? It seems inescapable, but it really isn't: consider the number of websites that don't require signing up.
So this guy created a spoof site that has one feature: account editing! That's right, you sign up, and all you can do is edit your account. And forget your password.

You can't even view other profiles: that's how useless it is.

Sign up today!