archive for November, 2004

Google Scholar

I finally got around to checking out Google Scholar. It’s pretty cool. I wish there was a “random search” page or some other way to find cool papers without knowing what to look for.

The Long Tail

Last October, Wired Magazine had a great article called The Long Tail. It’s really interesting, and if you have some free time I suggest you read it.

Wario World

WarioWorld.com is Nintendo’s software development support group. I think it would be a lot of fun and really interesting to try developing applications for the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, it looks like Nintendo is pretty picky about who they let develop for their platform.

I have a feeling this is pretty standard in the industry, but I think it’s a really bad idea. As soon as someone (Sony maybe?) opens up a little and lets amateurs develop for their console, we’ll see a huge explosion of applications like what’s available for the Palm platform.

Wiki Game

The Wiki Game (found via slashdot) is a game played on Wikipedia. It’s sort of like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but instead of using actors you use articles. It’s a lot of fun, and is somewhat more informative. Here’s an example you can use to get started. Find the links from Evil Knivel to Traffic Jam.

Finished Half-Life 2

I just finished playing Half-Life 2. I’m not going to write up a detailed report, but let me just say that I loved it. I’m really not sure how much time I spent playing it, but I’d guess that it was between 20 and 30 hours; all of them were really fun.

I did have some problems with bugs. The biggest is that I couldn’t get surround sound to work. Hopefully this has been fixed, or will be fixed soon.

What I liked most about the game was how the style of game play changes so much from chapter to chapter. They had enough new ideas to fill six normal games. This, along with the new environments, kept the game feeling fresh the whole time. I’m seriously thinking about playing it again because so many of the sections were so fun that I didn’t really want to move on.

I’m really looking for the mods (new games based on the same engine) that people are going to develop. Listing all of the mods that I’m looking forward to is going to have to be another post, but I will say that I think it would be cool if someone made a duck hunting mod. Not that I’m a big hunter or anything, I just think it would work really well with this game engine.

Nintendo DS

The new Nintendo DS is out. Even though they’re not marketing it as a Game Boy replacement, this is Nintendo’s next generation portable gaming system. It’s currently selling for $150, which I think is really reasonable considering it’s brand new, and comes with a game. I’ll probably get one eventually. At this point I’ll have to wait for the price to drop, but it’s very tempting. Heck, I’d love to get two so that I could play with Jes. One of the most surprising things about this new little gadget is that it’s packed with so much new technology.

It has two screens instead of one. I guess one can show a regular 3D forward looking view and then the 2nd can show a top-down, map type view. One of the screens (the lower one I think) works as a touch screen. They’ve already figured out some ways to use this in games, but I’d expect to see some new ideas in the future. I think it’s currently used like a laptop touch pad, but it can also be used with a stylus (like a PDA). It has built in wireless networking — both P2P for connecting directly with other players and WiFi for connecting over the Internet. It comes with a built in chat program, and some games are muti-player that use the wireless network. The DS also has a built in microphone. There are rumors that this could be used with the wireless features for making phone calls over the Internet. It’s also backwards compatible with the Game Boy Advanced, so there is a huge catalog of games available for it.

This platform could (if enough people buy into it early) be huge for future applications. Wouldn’t it be great if you could browse the web and send email from it? How about listening to Internet radio stations? I don’t know if it’s possible, but if armature software developers could create their own applications for the DS it could become a breading ground for innovative ideas.

New Email Address

My new email address is aaron at apejet .org.
(It’s written like that so that the spam bots don’t find it.)

This is a good start at leaving EarthLink. I’ll probably give it about a month to transition, but please update your address book right away. Once I drop EarthLink my current address will stop working.

Why Don’t You Blog?

If you already blog, feel free to skip this post. It doesn’t apply to you.

I’ve been doing some more thinking about how to attract more readers, and get a better ranking in Google. It should have been obvious to me sooner, but Google scores pages primarily by how many links they have pointing at them. The best way to get more links to my site is to write interesting posts, and then let my readers (that means you) link to me. Of course, this is totally futile if you, the readers, don’t have web space or a blog. So, here’s my challenge to you: If you don’t have a blog, get one and use it. Hop over to Blogger, and within five minuets, you can have a First Post of your own.

Still here? Let me guess, you have some excuse why you don’t want to blog. You might be thinking “I don’t know enough about the web to have a blog. If you found your way here, you can use Blogger. It has been designed by experts to make it easy for beginners to create and run a blog. Maybe you think “I don’t have anything interesting to say.” I don’t buy it. I bet you call your friends and family on the phone and chat. I bet you have opinions on politics, movies, sports, hobbies, art, books, restaurants, TV shows, and everything else. I bet that if you give yourself a chance, you’ll find something interesting to talk about. Maybe you’re thinking “No one will read my blog, so there’s really no reason.” That’s definitely true if you don’t have one or you don’t write in it, but if you do have a blog and you do write in it, then eventually people will find it and read it. Start now building up some content so that when people wander across your blog, they’ll have plenty to read. If you think you don’t have time, think again. A lot of people say that the best blog posts are short and to the point. It should only take a few minuets per day to maintain a healthy blog. That’s enough excuses. If you still think you shouldn’t have a blog, write a comment telling me why.

The real reason I’d like to see more people blogging isn’t because I want to see my Google ranking climb (though, that would be cool), it’s because It’s a great way to create more democracy. “How’s that?” you wonder. I’ve been reading Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. In it, Lessig reminds us that we (American Society) used to talk about all sorts of things in public. Nowadays (yep, it’s a real word — I checked) people are so worried about offending someone that it has become taboo to talk about politics, religion, and abusive monopolies.

Blogs help cure this social weakness by giving people a platform to speak their mind without fear of offending someone or worse, breaking social norms. Blogs allow a free expression of ideas, and allow debates to happen in a safe environment. Blogs form channels for ideas to grow and improve. It’s not all seriousness though. Blogs are a lot of fun, help friends and families keep in touch, and like an old photo album are great for strolling down memory lane.

If you still think you shouldn’t be blogging, drop me a comment or email. We can have one of those old fashioned discussions.

New Guids

I noticed that Google isn’t indexing my individual blog posts in the archive. There are are few possible reasons for this. It could be that they have too low of a Page Rank, or it could be because they are dynamically generated. The strange thing is that some of my other pages are dynamically generated, and they’re getting indexed.

Google suggests “to keep the parameters short and the number of them small”, so that’s what I’m going to try here. I’m changing my guids (unique ids for each blog post) from md5s to a series of lowercase alphanumerics.

I doubt this will actually get Google to start indexing more of my site, but it’s worth a shot. The only other options I have are to recode my blog software so that it doesn’t use dynamic pages, or to get higher Page Ranks for my pages.

Update: I did some more searching. It turns out that a few of my post are indexed. Hopefully a few of the tweaks I’ve made to the site will help to increase that number, but for now I think I’m going to get back to focusing on content.

Half-Life 2 Released

Half-Life 2 is one of the most anticipated video games ever. Its predecessor, Half-Life was released in 1999. That’s right, five years ago. At the time, it was recognized for the innovations that it brought to gaming, both for the technology and for its story telling abilities. Since then, Valve has been hard at work creating HL2.

Valve has also been working on Steam, a new game distribution platform that lets you buy and download games. With HL2, people were able to download it, but not play it, before the game was officially released. By getting all of the download and install process out of the way, anyone who bought it could start playing at midnight today (last night). Well, not quite at midnight. It did take about 10 minutes for the activation process to decrypt all of the files.

I stayed up to try it out. I don’t want to say too much because I haven’t really played very far into the game (it’s a bit like reviewing a movie after seeing only the first five minutes. The graphics are great, and I’m sure they would look even better on a high end video card like the Radeon X800. What I’m most impressed with is the mood that has been set. The game starts out in City 17, a very run-down and oppressed city that just begs to be liberated. I’m looking forward to spending my nights this week playing Half-Life 2. See you on the other side.

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