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Archive for the 'games' Category

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Kelly, our 21 year old kitty, enjoying her heated blanket

Is YouTube making us smarter? I really thought it was silly when it first came out but we spend so much time watching tutorials on it I recently bought an additional monitor so we can watch a tutorial on one and work with software we are learning on the other. I guess you can teach old dogs new tricks because videos aside I’m constantly amazed at what we have been able to learn on the internet. Recently, just for kicks, we taught ourselves a tiny bit of Mandarin at this website called memrise. They have all kinds of lessons there and although I’m not sure I’m really committed to learning to read a menu at a Chinese restaurant, the format is fun, the lesson are short and they have quizzes to help you remember.

Without the internet, I would never have been able to do this.

A scene from a game we are starting to write.

Or this.

Inside the house. No furniture yet.

If you buy a Tardis PC, is it bigger on the inside?

Here just a cool picture taken from inside a hot air balloon.

I think I may have posted about this place before. It’s a park that is underwater for part of the year.

This is a town in Spain where the houses and shops are built into the rocks and cliffs.

Happy new year everyone!

And finally, something to make you say awww

 

Highways

Monday, October 1st, 2012

So I’m picking up apples. The old tree, the centerpiece of my yard, had produced a small number of mature apples for the first time in a very long time. This was probably because I’d watered that side of the yard before they banned sprinkling this year. I decided to take a break. I sat down under the old apple tree, sweat sliding down my forehead. I looked down. The hose I had used to attempt to keep my plants from desiccating in the summer heat snaked through the grass in front of me. Upon it, ants weaved to and fro avoiding the long trek through the jungle of grass which would otherwise be their path. I had a moment where I considered the intelligence of these insects and their use of the hose as sort of a superhighway and then it hit me.

squirrel highway in the sky

No, it really hit me. An apple had dislodged from the tree. As if it had been guided by the most perfect aim of a human hand, it landed squarely on the crown of my head. I was stunned.  I saw stars.  Far from considering Newton’s laws, the first thought which crossed my mind was only an idiot would sit under an apple tree that was dropping apples.

I thought of this place. This is a view from Google maps. It’s not easy to tell what you are looking at. It’s a metal pipe. As I recall it was about six feet in diameter and at its highest point over the water it was about twenty feet down.

the pipe

It’s not far from the place I spent my “Harry Potter” years. My parents moved there when I was eleven and until I moved away for college I spend countless hours in the swamp surrounding this area. This shot was taken in the winter and it must have rained a lot. This image gives you no impression of how lush the swamp was. It was filled with marsh marigold and smelled of skunk cabbage. There were reeds that made perfect spears. Not the kind that would do damage but the kind young boys would spend hours hurling at each other because they might as well been made of Nerf. I must have crossed the pipe hundreds of times. At first it seemed scary. Measuring it now it appears to be at least 160 feet long. All I knew then was once you were about halfway it seemed like you were a long way from anything to hang onto. It’s funny how later on we used to run across it. There was probably a good 12 inch “path” on top where you could get good footing without sliding. I vaguely remember one of my crazy neighbors riding a bike across at one point. I only fell off of it once. It was a very windy day. I was leaning into it and then it suddenly stopped. I readjusted my balance only to feel another large blast and I realized I was going over. I landed on my feet though and had I not sunk a good foot into the muck I imagine I might not have walked away from the fall.

Looking at it on Google, there is a house in what used to big a large open field on the other side. In the early summer I can remember spending hours picking and eating small wild strawberries from one end of the field to the other. They were sweet and busting with flavor unlike the seedy tasteless variety that grow where I live now. Later it was in that field I experienced what I consider to be my first ‘real’ kiss.

I have an iPhone I used when we wrote our game but I also have a Samsung Galaxy S2 which I use as my phone. I find it surprising one of the things I enjoy about it the most is sitting outside this summer listening to audio books. Recently my wife and I were out in the back yard late in the evening listening to Ready Player One written by Ernest Cline and narrated by Wil Wheaton. In these times where everyone is so involved in copyright legal issues, it struck me how you could write a book like that and not have to worry about it but if you tried to make an actual implementation of the OASIS much less a movie of it, it would be nearly impossible. The book is completely full of references to copyrighted material.

Anyway, it got pretty cool out. I ran a long extension cord out into the yard and we plugged in some electric throws to keep warm. It got pretty dark. When we decided to go inside I picked up the extension cord and commented to my wife how cold and slimy it was. As we got up toward the garage and into the light I realized the extension cord was covered in slugs and my hands were covered in slug slime. The slugs had found the electric superhighway through my yard.

Oh, I almost forgot. Something to make you say awww…

It’s Noisy!

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this article. As I’m trying to write and my wife is trying to nap, there is a lawn mower out there somewhere nearby. My closest neighbors have two Harleys. I’m reminded of the time I was doing contract work for a game company. I was really sick, really tired, and I had gone in on a Saturday to try and get caught up. They had a sound booth there which wasn’t nearly as sound proof as the one in that article. Some sound engineers had come in to work too and they were recording a woman screaming over and over and over…

I just need to relax, sit back and watch the Dalek relaxation tape.

I mentioned I bought a graphics tablet recently. I got to thinking how cool it would be to control music with it. It occurred to me someone probably has done that. After a short search I found a couple programs to do it. One of then I couldn’t get to work and the other one I can’t seem to pipe through anything other than the default synthesizer. My tablet senses gestures and has some other control features that Wmidi (the software) doesn’t take advantage of but it’s fun to play with. If you have a tablet, you can find the free software here.

I was laughing when I read this Wired article about the Navy making a real life laser cannon wondering what it actually sounds like. Because if you are going to spend a fortune on a laser cannon, it absolutely must sound cool.

This is another one of those ‘free energy‘  things that make you think if it were true it would completely change the world. There is a lot of discussion about whether it would violate the laws of thermodynamics in the comments. It’s kind of like these people. I’m pretty skeptical but it doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for somebody out there to make some sort of breakthrough. On the other hand, solar power in its various forms keeps advancing. You wouldn’t think about it, but making a better salt could make concentrated solar more affordable.

There seems to be a lot of nostalgia going on at kickstarter. I guess bringing back Leisure Suit Larry was to be expected.

When I think of Iran, I think of something desert like. I guess I’m not that well-informed. It’s a pretty big country. These pictures are absolutely beautiful and amazing.

And finally, something to make you say awww…

 

Smart Machines

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I was watching this TED talk today on machine intelligence.

It always strikes me how people say the singularity or omega as he calls it, is twenty or thirty years out.  I guess I should point out, that is when machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence (in case you didn’t watch the video). As he mentions, no politician is talking about it.  However, I think the impact will come much sooner. It got me thinking about the Jeopardy where the computer ‘Watson’ competed.

When I was looking for that video, I ran across this explanation of the really big mistake Watson made. Yesterday we were sitting outside after going to the vet to get more fluids for our cat, (giving them has gone very smoothly so far in case you were wondering). I said to my wife “Did we remember to get the needles?” She said “Noodles?” It was totally out of context, of course, as we weren’t talking about the vet or the cat. Anyway, humans do this too and machine intelligence has already progressed to the point where most of us could be replaced it’s just a matter of it being more cost effective.

Writing a game for Androids and iPhones really makes me think how odd it is that suddenly everyone is walking around with a supercomputer in their pocket. BashTheBankers wasn’t really the game I wanted to write. It was a game I felt I could write given the resources at my disposal. I think it’s a fun game but I haven’t yet published a free (advertising supported) version and there is so much free stuff out there. It’s hard to get noticed no matter what you do. If you have never seen kickstarter it is a site where people crowd source their projects. I suppose in hindsight I realized if you can’t get a large number of people excited and funding your project there, you might as well come up with another idea because people are not going to see your game unless there is some internet buzz about it.

Speaking of kickstarter I thought this was funny. [Edit] Oh well, it appears that link no longer works. It was a kickstarter project to buy kickstarter; maybe they didn’t think it was funny.

And, finally something to make you say awww…

 

Bash The Bankers

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We have published a game on the App Store! It’s a physics/cannon shooter universal app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Check out the website and play the demo here bashthebankers.com

Thinking Machines

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Unless you haven’t been on the web lately, you surely have seen one of these articles about a group of scientists at Cornell who developed a machine which was able to deduce the basic laws of motion from “observation”. While I don’t know much about their work, one of the questions which come to mind is how the A.I. is structured. I mean you have to give it something to work with and to get some sort of generic intelligent device you need to be careful not to ‘guide’ it towards the results you want. Not that machines can’t be terribly good at sorting through amounts of data no human could handle. I just wonder if you wouldn’t get a lot of  this kind of thing comparing lemons imported from Mexico with the U.S. highway fatality rate. As they point out, correlation is not causation. I can see where the lab robots they talk about later in the article would be very useful for doing a bunch of grunt lab work and summarizing the results. The other thing you would expect whether the thing is actually working or not is revealed later in the article when they point out after having it work on some problems of metabolism in biology, the machine kicked out some equations they are still trying to understand. I personally have always believed the day is coming when machines will be smarter than us and it will be a lot sooner and far more disruptive than people realize. Somewhere in one of its circuits that machine is just smirking and thinking “Stupid humans, don’t even try to grasp my wisdom”. Sigh, computers have come so far.

This isn’t really a game, it’s just a physics simulation of sand that is fun and fascinating  to play with. You can make barriers to the sand flow as well as make it flammable and so forth.

Yesterday we were sitting outside watching a squirrel walk down an electric line towards some birds. I joked to my wife maybe I should grab my camera in case it turned out to be a “YouTube” moment. I didn’t have time but instead of what we expected; the birds giving way to the much larger squirrel, the birds started dive bombing the squirrel nearly making it fall before it scampered off. This photo reminds me how you just never know how animals will interact.

If you read the comments at the bottom, apparently a number of these beautiful wildlife photos aren’t photos at all. Oh well, they are still striking.

While we are on the subject of illusion, check out this amazing magic act.

You may have to be a bit of a scientist to get this one. Light behaves as both a particle and a wave.

I guess Mythbusters will be coming back on the air this Wednesday. If you have ever watched the show you know they often blow things up. Apparently one of their ‘experiments’ was a little more intense than they realized. Kids, don’t try this at home.

We did a lot of things with liquid nitrogen when I worked in a lab but we never made ice cream using it. That’s one pricey ice cream maker.

Great, another way we could all die; from a massive sun storm that wipes out just about everything electrical.

I’m not sure why I found this description of a 40 year long experiment of breeding tame foxes so interesting. By the way, NOVA is available on Hulu now but not the episode about dogs mentioned in the article.

This is pretty cool. It’s a shot of the space shuttle lifting off taken from the International Space Station.

I got a laugh out of this.

Who would have thought bats could be cute?

This is just another silly dog photo.

Just the other day I was thinking about a program a friend of mine once wrote to generate names and I ran across this.

Here are some very stunning examples of infrared photography.

I would love to eat at an underwater restaurant. Seafood anyone?

I was completely blown away at how colorful crabs can be. O.K. now I’m hungry.

And finally, usually when I walk with my cat Kelly she takes the lead and I follow but if it has snowed she lets me lead and then jumps from one of my footprints to the next. Here is a cute little photo essay of a cat dealing with 15 inches of snow.

The Creative Commons

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I imagine most of you have heard of  Flickr a popular photo sharing site. I have been learning Flash lately and although I have a couple of games in mind which are essentially re-writes of some small games I’ve written in the past, I keep thinking about writing a graphical point and click adventure. I suppose I was somewhat inspired by some of the ones I’ve played lately. Last week I spent a fair amount of time exploring the Creative Commons area of Flickr. The Creative Commons license specifies you can use an image or a derivative work and you only have to give credit to the submitter. I was very impressed by what I found there.

Actually what got me thinking about it was this article on ways to advance your photography skills. I think the article was well written and presented some interesting ideas. However, the other thing that struck me was the awesome images accompanying the article. I mean it’s a lot easier to take a nice picture when you are standing outside the back of the Taj Mahal during a summer sunset or near an ancient Hindu temple at sunset in the jungles of Indonesia. My travel plans are somewhat limited in accordance with my budget. I suppose it’s a lame excuse but I used to live in a very scenic area and now not-so-much and though I often look at my limited view of a nice sunset off to the west there is really nothing but laziness that prevents me from getting in the car and driving somewhere I can get a clear shot.

Also if you follow the link in the article to the more interesting photos from the last seven days (again at Flickr) and keep hitting the reload button. You will see tons of interesting stuff, some of which you likely may have been able to shoot in your local environment.

Getting back to the idea of writing a game though, most of those impressive graphical adventures involve really nice art which either has to be rendered in a 3D graphics program, drawn, or photographed. It occurred to me if I wanted a shot of an animal from say Borneo and they didn’t have one at the local zoo, I could search the Creative Commons and get one at no expense other than crediting the photographer in the game. There are some terrific exotic settings available there as well.

I get a lot of hits on my blog from search engines on Megan Fox because I mentioned her originally in some post about robotics and Transformers. Just for kicks, I typed “Megan Fox” into the Creative  Commons search at Flickr. I got this poster from a sequel to the original Transformers movie. I also found this photo and this one where she is covered but it may be a little too sexy if you are at work. It all reminded me of an old, slightly naughty, joke. I wish I could remember the comedian but he was comparing National Geographic with Playboy magazine and said they both were full of picture of exotic places he’d never get to go.

Ahhh, this is comfortable.

I got a laugh out of this.

I also got a chuckle out of this anti-theft lunch bag.

Who wouldn’t want a water-powered jetpack? Ouch, look at the price!

Apparently aerogel a super insulator, works well to clean up oil spills. They didn’t point it out but the aerogel is that fuzzy thing below the brick in the picture.

Heavy science warning; string theory may be experimentally testable after all. Even if the subject is over your head there is a cute picture there.

If you read that last one, you will probably find Is Time an Illusion interesting.

This next one is sciency (a term a friend of mine once used to describe my blog) but not real complicated. I first heard of the Lagrangian points when I was writing a paper in college on space colonization. They are places in space where the gravitational tug of the bodies of the solar system cancel out. So if you wanted to build a really big space station they would be a good place to put it. I guess it never occurred to me; there may be a bunch of stuff there already.

When I saw this photo I wondered if someone really shot it or it’s like the one I made in my 2D gallery of the woman dancing on the seat of the motorcycle jumping a cliff.

An electric company in Florida made a mistake and appliances exploded and sparks shot out of the walls of people’s homes.

Now that is a big rat!

This is a pretty cool machine which makes 3D images out of levitated ball bearings. Unfortunately the video is poor quality, at first especially; it’s difficult to see what is going on.

Modern Cave Painting.

A cat / lizard meeting.

I saw this article about politicians should wear the logos of their sponsors like NASCAR drivers before I found this image of what they would look like.

Batteries wrapped in solar cells; as they point out, that was obvious.

First I had floppy disks all over the house. Then it was CDs and now it’s DVDs. If they build a quarter size device which can hold as much as 250 DVDs, I don’t think I would need many.

I wonder where this otter got a video camera.

This is just strange.

You think you are having a tough day at work?

Here is a video on the science of cute.

And finally, also on the subject of cute, there is this and this.

Flash Physics

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Over the weekend we played with this Flash physics game called Roly-Poly Cannon. One of the things about physics simulators is they can be so open ended. That is what makes them fun but since you can’t totally predict what a user will do. I imagine you have to be pretty careful about writing your code so unexpected bugs don’t come up. After charging though all the levels of Roly-Poly Cannon, I went searching for other physics games and found this one called Flash Physics. It’s a very simple game with very simple graphics but we played it for quite a while until it just got too hard. There is a strange bug in the third level where the chain ‘breaks’ occasionally.

This is an interesting application which uses a web-cam and turns any brightly colored object into a controller for gaming. It’s called CamSpace.

Here is a collection of pictures of creative bench advertising.

Speaking of creativity, someone was full of it when they created this.

Having trouble keeping your baby in its playpen? I wouldn’t recommend this.

Matt sent me this link. It’s a compilation video of some extremely close calls and lucky events. Some are simply amazing.

There are more silly cat pictures here and here.

What’s cuter than a bunch of baby pandas?

I liked this dramatic shot of a horse statue in Las Vegas.

This was interesting. Scientists stop the aging process in mice livers.

Entropyman talks about thermodynamics. When I’m cleaning, I often think somewhere the universe is getting more disorganized to compensate.

My, what big ears you have!

This is a video of a bird catching a fish but from the perspective of the fish.

If you have learned to cross view you can see this illustration in 3D.

Here is a nice collection of Macro photographs. I think the ones with the water drops are really impressive.

This is another example of painting with light during a long time exposure.

That is one big bug!

Look at the teeth on this fish!

This is what video games were like in 1936.

Here is a very large collection of computer repair tools. My older machine used to be so stable but now it reboots when I go to back it up.

Not that this Earth isn’t cool but if there are one hundred billion trillion other ones out there, it’s a shame we won’t get to visit them.

The TED conference recently ended and the talks are online. In this one Woody Norris does some pretty interesting things with sound.

They don’t quite have the hang of it, but I got a laugh out of this video of foxes jumping on a trampoline.

And finally here is a collection of baby animals from National Geographic and also this collection of mothers and babies made me think even baby hippos are cute.

Thaw

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

We are finally getting a nice break from winter here in the Midwest. It’s funny how just not having to bundle up or watch your footing can seem so nice.

We spent part of the weekend playing this physics game called Perfect Balance. I can’t say I cared much for the sound track so I just turned off the audio but it was a good example of how a simple balancing game can get your puzzle solving skills fired up. We also played a game at the BBC called CDX. It’s the second game we have played from the BBC and in both cases they were terribly disappointing. It’s painful to see a game with a lot of professional video production but such terrible game play.

Speaking of the Brits, the following interview is actually from Australia and it’s a real interview but if you have ever seen Monty Python you’d swear it was one of their skits.

I have Matt to thank for that little gem; he also sent me this rather amazing video of dolphins.

Last week I created my first hand draw animation in years. I can’t say it was very good. It was just a stick figure walking and I’m just trying to learn some tools. While searching the web for animation resources I ran across this page on claymation. Most of what it says is pretty obvious but one of the tricks it mentioned was putting magnets in the feet of the characters and placing them on a cookie sheet. Years ago when we did a very short claymation, we did have problems with the characters falling over and that would have helped.

Speaking of stop action, here is a simple stop action video done by a couple kids.

I got a laugh out of this.

This is another one of those street painting perspective illusions. This one is of a glacial type ice age scene. I wonder how large the painting was.

Ever wonder how cats purr? Skip down towards the bottom for the simpler explanation.

I have seen fractal zooms before. This one is just a lot longer than most.

Darpa is funding a project to reverse engineer the brain.

A company called Jovion Corporation has been issue a patent for a zero point energy device. I’m a little skeptical useful energy can be extracted from the Casimir effect but I hope the thing works.

The RepRap 3D printer can finally make a copy of itself!

Here are some pretty cool pictures of an Alaskan ice festival.

If I saw one of these crossing the road, I would definitely stop.

I have seen pictures of these monkeys in a hot spring before. I think this is in Japan.

This is a funny bear cub shot.

Here is a cute story about a hot koala.

And finally, here are some very cute pictures of a kitten and a bird.

Installation Issues

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I’d probably not purchased a new computer except my parents were having trouble with the one they had. Don’t get me wrong, my new one is going to be awesome but right now I don’t have many apps installed. Some time back my Dad mentioned their computer was emitting a strange smell. In retrospect I suppose that was the first indication their power supply was going. Last week I finally got around to setting up one of my systems for them. After resolving some strange disk issue I finally got their old system to boot but it wouldn’t stay on long enough to back it up. I wasn’t able to follow the recommended procedure on moving their old drive. I considered replacing the power supply but decided to just move their drive and do a repair install. That’s when things got tricky. You know you are in trouble when you google the problem you are having and other people have had that problem but no one seems to have solved it. After spending 3 days doing something that should have taken an afternoon, I gave them their new system last night. The system seemed to  be running OK but I suspect skipping over some of the installation files because Windows couldn’t read them is going to come back to haunt me.  I’m looking forward to working with computers this week as opposed to working on them.

This is one of those pictures where you wonder what happened right after it was taken.

I got a laugh out of this story of a cake gone wrong.

This story about places having names that well, you would be glad you are not from might offend some people. If you are in the mood for some juvenile snickering about naughty words click here.

Some of these entries in a Photoshop contest about you are what you eat are pretty good.

Speaking of image editing done well, I liked this one.

When our van was running we used to take it camping. We would set up a gazebo outside the side doors for extra living space. Since we used to backpack a lot it didn’t seem like we were roughing it much. When we would walk around campgrounds, I would look at those big trailers with the expanding rooms and think it would be cool to make something van sized that became really large once you got where you were going. Well this thing is truck sized but it expands into a two story structure.

I have seen pictures of these Margay Tiger Cats before. There is something so strange about the way they look.

Here is another silly cat picture, and more cute cat pictures are here.

Speaking of silly animal pictures, here is a collection of animals drinking. It kind of makes you think twice about using an outdoor water fountain.

It’s funny how sometimes animals really look like they are smiling.

I have been trying to learn Flash and rewrite a small game I created years ago. This is the home page of a design company who created the Samorost series. We played their Questionaut game the other day. It’s a cute little point and click game for kids where you have to answer questions to complete the game. In spite of my education I got a little careless and missed one or two.

It’s interesting how the interest in casual games has grown so much lately.

If you have never seen the TV series Dr. Who, there is no point in clicking here.

Here is another very cool lenticular cloud photo.

This photo of what I think are salt piles seems surreal.

Bad dog! Bad dog!

So you think you have a lot of snow?

When I took my first computer graphics course, the professor hung our assignments up outside the classroom. I had created a picture of a simple but  impossible (MC Escher style) crate.  It was fun to watch the expression on the faces of the people change when they ‘got it’. Some of these what would happen if everyday objects were designed by MC Escher pictures require a little study before you see it.

These are the most elaborate watermelon carvings I have ever seen.

This guy is planning to cross the Atlantic in a one-man pedal powered submarine.

And finally, if you enjoy cute animal pictures it doesn’t get much better than this.