13 December 2007
12 December 2007
11 December 2007
10 December 2007
The thing is, there’s only one way to improve an online discussion.
- It is not leaving
- It is not whining
- It is not smacking down the trolls
- It is not criticizing the moderators
It is simply ignoring the trolls and posting the kinds of posts you want to be reading.
I suppose I should note that my recent absences from web fora has nothing to with not being happy with them. They just aren’t a priority for me right now.
Not to say that I’m not a hypocrite. Just not in this specific case at this specific time. (^_^) I think.
- I think additional complexity needs huge justifications
- I’m suspicious of claims that anything should be added because it will improve the sales pitch
This may be the most brilliant bit of guitar gear ever.
- Plug up to eight effects pedals into it
- Use a simple bank of eight DIP switches to choose which effects will be used when you step on one of the Octa-Switch’s footswitches
- Each of its footswitches has its own complete set of DIP switches right there above the footswitch itself
Simple and easy to use. If this had been around last spring, I might have seriously considered individual pedals instead of the Digitech RP350.
(Of course, the RP350 still has the advantage that switching presets also does the equivalent of twiddling knobs on the individual pedals. And 140 presets. And USB. And a tuner. OK, the RP350 has a lot of advantages.)
Human languages therefore differ not so much in what you can say but in what you must say. In English, you are forced to differentiate singular from plural. In Japanese, you don’t have to distinguish singular from plural, but you do have to pick a specific level of politeness, taking into account not only your degree of respect for the person you’re talking to, but also your degree of respect for the person or thing you’re talking about.
Which struck me as a particularly profound observation about both human and computer languages.
06 December 2007
02 December 2007
01 December 2007
29 November 2007
Amazon’s new Kindle e-book reader looks very interesting. My issues...
- No back-light: While being able to be read easily in bright daylight is important, one of the things I love about the Rocket eBook is that it is perfect for reading in the dark.
- QWERTY keyboard: Being a Dvorak typist, I get so tired of devices that don’t have real keyboards but that use the QWERTY layout. I think the Crockford keyboard probably makes more sense in these situations. (Though I still like Graffiti.)
It does appear that you can freely put your own documents on it if you can get them into Mobipocket format.
Which is a bit annoying. It should be trivial for a user to load plain text and HTML documents onto a device like this with no conversion fee. (Yes, Amazon wants to charge a conversion fee to load HTML or Microsoft Word documents onto it! (o_O)) Arguably PDF as well. And this should be loudly touted as a feature.
The Wikipedia article has links to a few more current e-book devices that I’ll have to check-out now.
Though hopefully the iPhone SDK will reveal a way to load HTML and PDF besides temporarily loading them via the web or e-mail.
I don’t really get the (PRODUCT)RED campaign. Looking at How (RED) Works, I have to wonder why, if they’re serious about this, Apple doesn’t donate $10 from the sale of every iPod nano rather than just the (RED) ones.
Well, maybe it’s to better raise awareness. Though, couldn’t they still have all the (RED) hype and donate $10 from the sale of every iPod nano? In fact, wouldn’t that provide even more opportunities to hype it even more?
Well, perhaps it brings people to new products. Though, if somebody is going to buy an iPod nano because of (RED), aren’t they even more likely to buy one if Apple still donates the $10 even if they prefer a blue one?
While one of the benefits of external FireWire devices is their ability to be connected to a computer while both are powered up (or “hot”), there may be issues with a specific manufacturer’s driver that precludes it from being hot-pluggable.
However nicely you put it, that’s a defect. File a bug report.
It’d be sweet if Sweetwater noted such defects in the description of products on their site. That kind of thing would really help to further distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill online music store.
24 November 2007
20 November 2007
13 November 2007
On the down side, people with malicious intent can use this extensive archive to figure out ways to hack the Mac. The fact that this hasn’t happened—like I said above, Darwin has been available for years—is a testament to the integrity of the Apple community.
No, it means that it’s really true that openness leads to better security. In fact, Apple took a lot of their open source code from OpenBSD, a system known for its security focus.
So here are my observations: Mac OS X, and Apple’s development paradigm, is the anti-Linux. And it’s Steve Jobs’ big accomplishment that Apple has built a better (I should actually say “more successful”) Linux than Linus Torvalds has ever been able to do.
This seems to imply that Mac OS X and Linux (or Jobs and Torvalds) have the same goals, which clearly has never been the case.
Edit: It would seem I’m misremembering. It seems Apple leveraged FreeBSD more than OpenBSD. See the comments.
In the annotation to Irregular Webcomic number 1752, Morgan-Mar rants against fans feeling betrayed. I agree with everything he says.
Perhaps we have to look beyond what people say. I don’t think people really mean that they expect constant perfection from artists and every work to be greater than the last. I don’t think people really mean that their enjoyment of the older work has been ruined by the newer one.
What they say may be all reaching and exaggeration, but—no matter what they say—you can’t deny what they feel. That they feel. That feeling isn’t really about the newer work. It’s about the connection they have with the older work.
I think the phrase “betray the fans” is—under the surface—the fan’s way of saying, “I’m not going to let this newer work take away my enjoyment of the older one.”
11 November 2007
10 November 2007
From this thread on the TidBITS forum:
I'm glad we disagree, because this raises the following profound question: How hard would it have been to make this a pref? Come to think of it, how about a pref for stacks, menu bar opacity, and sidebar text/icon size? This is what I really object to: not the changes, but that Apple thinks it knows better than I do what I want. Choice is good.
Three reasons not to make things preferences:
More preferences ≠ easier to use: It makes it harder to find the preference that really can improve your productivity when it’s hidden amongst a bunch of frivolous preferences. It can distract you into messing with a much of preferences that aren’t going to improve your productivity.
More preferences = more complexity: More complexity in software is bad. It means more bugs. It means more time to write the code. It means more time to test the code. It means more time to maintain the code. If you’ve ever complained about bugs or the cost of software, then you don’t want software to be any more complex than it needs to be.
Consistency: Consistency is a core principle of the Mac. Arguably, consistency has been more important on the Mac than the mouse or windows or the menu bar. Of course, total consistency isn’t really practical. If for no other reason than that today’s experiment ends up as standard practice in a future revision of the user interface guidelines. Still, consistency is important, and preferences are counter to consistency. Too many preferences means not enough consistency.
Choice is not always good. So, what should be a preference and what shouldn’t? When the usability of a choice depends upon the user, the environment, or the hardware. Otherwise, it probably shouldn’t be a preference. At least that’s how it should be on Macs.
For example: The size of text used in a user interface that is best from a usability stand-point depends upon the user, the display, and the environment. One user needs larger text because they can’t read it if it is smaller. Another user needs smaller text because they don’t have trouble reading it but they need lots of things on the screen at once.
The opacity of the menu bar, however, does not need to be a preference. It does not have a significant impact on usability. (Besides, choosing the right desktop wallpaper makes the issue moot.)
Now, I have to admit, I don’t like this conclusion. Forget opacity, I'd like to be able to swap the menu bar for OPENSTEP style menus. Edit: Probably better to link to the earlier NEXTSTEP instead of OPENSTEP.
I’m pretty sure making the menu bar translucent wasn’t a good idea, but it wasn’t so bad of an idea that it should’ve been made a preference instead. In fact, if it was that bad an idea, it shouldn’t have been done at all.
07 November 2007
- Plain text files (& the occasional file in another format) on a USB thumb-drive
- A TiddlyWiki on a thumb-drive
- Google Notebook
06 November 2007
04 November 2007
29 October 2007
If a character has polymorphed into a hydra and loses a head, what happens when he returns to his normal form?
Here’s my answer:
Ricky, when you come to a question like this—that the rules do not explicitly cover—there are three methods the Dungeon Master may use to answer this question:
- What would be the most fun?
- What makes for the best story?
- Let the dice decide.
Most importantly, however, is to recognize that this is the key ingredient of games like Dungeons & Dragons: They have a human referee (Dungeon Master, Game Master, &c.) who serves as a living rulebook. As was written in the third of the original booklets...
In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!
...why have us do any more of your imagining for you?
What I think isn’t important. It is what your DM decides that is.
I will, however, note that a wise DM seeks & considers the advice of his players.
So far, I’ve only been able to find two reasons to buy a Playstation 3...
On the other hand...
- PS3: $400
- Xbox 360: $280
Turns out there is going to be a version of Rock Band for the PS2, though it won’t have all the features.
19 October 2007
(I suppose I could try to generalize and consider EcmaScript a representative of the Smalltalk tradition versus C++ and Java as representatives of the Simula tradition; but that probably opens a lot of other issues.)
When I have needed inheritance, it has most often been for polymorphism. In EcmaScript, you don’t need inheritance for polymorphism.
(With C++, you can have polymorphism without inheritance, but that requires the complexity of templates. Likewise, in Java you can use reflection to achieve the same sorts of things, but you get more complexity with it.)
Sometimes I’ve abused inheritance in C++ or Java to work around limitations. Such as adding additional methods to an existing class. In EcmaScript, I can add methods to objects (or objects serving class-like roles) directly.
In EcmaScript, I only really need to use inheritance when I need to share an implementation, and that just doesn’t seem to come up as often in my experience.
(Moreover, I find closures—which EcmaScript has but C++ and Java lack—extremely useful.)
Now, there are—of course—trade-offs involved. EcmaScript isn’t all roses by any means. Give it a static debugger (like MrSpidey/MrFlow), and I think it could hold its own versus C++ or Java for many applications.
- “Combat is just trading blows until somebody runs out of hit points.”
- “After he casts his single spell, a first-level magic-user has nothing to do.”
- “A rogue’s sneak attack doesn’t work against plants, so the rogue player is going to get bored in encounters with plant-monsters.”
(These all happen to apply to various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but similar sentiments have been uttered about every P&P RPG.)
If a player is bored during a pencil & paper role-playing game, is it the game system’s fault?
Maybe, but I think that is rarely the case. After all, the people who created, developed, and play-tested the game didn’t find it boring or it wouldn’t have been published.
The examples above tend to be cases of not seeing the game for the rules. Most games are more than just the rules. According to Hoyle, the rules of chess are seven pages. Yet I’ve got one 217 and another 362 page book on how to play it. Reading the rules that govern bidding in bridge won’t teach you how to bid. How much more does this apply to role-playing games?
08 October 2007
Of course, there are a few server-side EcmaScript solutions out there, but I’m used to rolling my own light-weight version when investigating such things.
I didn’t want to jump right into that, however, so I tried to come up with an idea for a command-line program I could start with. Spidermonkey comes with a command-line interpreter, but it is very minimal. Hardly more than readline and print.
So, I thought of text adventures (a.k.a. interactive fiction). I had the basics of Cloak of Darkness mocked up PDQ. It went faster and farther than I think any of my other attempts at such a program has gone in any language. My opinion of the EcmaScript is continuing to increase. I began to think I should break out some of my old text adventure ideas.
The thing is, though, I’d have to make some significant enhancements to Spidermonkey’s command-line interpreter to really make it practical for IF. It would make a lot more sense to just use browser-based EcmaScript (instead of command-line) or to use Inform, so that people besides just me could actually play it.
Inform is a DSL (domain specific language) for interactive fiction. That’s fancy computer geek jargon for a language specialized for a specific purpose.
HTML and Postscript are domain specific languages. (Incidentally, HTML is not a programming language, but Postscript is.)
EcmaScript isn’t really a domain specific language, but as it is most widely and most easily used within web browsers, it often tends to be one in practice.
I’m all for DSLs, but the problem I have with most of them is that they’re wholly new languages. Ideally, a DSL—unless really simple—should be an extension or a subset of an existing language. This is the resistance I have towards using Inform.
The Lisp and Scheme advocates like to point out how they often extend their languages to create DSLs within them, which I’m finding to be a very compelling argument.
03 October 2007
In The Command Line—The Best Newbie Interface?, Richard Wareham makes a case for a command-line user-interface being better—even for non-technical users—than graphical user-interfaces. A case based on his experience teaching a beginners’ computing course.
It’s an interesting line of thinking. If a fraction of the effort that has gone into GUI’s were applied to command-line interfaces (not—by the way—to discount the advances that have been made), I think his case could be bolstered considerably.
I probably spend roughly equal time with both types of interface. Which suggests that—for me—each has strengths & weaknesses; neither being superior. I have a tendency, however, to think that this balance wouldn’t hold for average users.
30 September 2007
18 September 2007
10 September 2007
08 September 2007
06 September 2007
OK, this has been sitting around as a draft getting stale...
In his GenCon blog, James Wyatt wrote, concerning running Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 after having spent so much time developing the 4th edition rules:
Oh, look at all the people forgetting about attacks of opportunity (especially at reach) and getting pummeled as a result.
This seems like bad form to me, no matter what system you’re using. The DM should give players fair warning of possible attacks of opportunity. Attacks of opportunity aren’t traps; rather they are calculated risks. Arguably, the whole point of the rule—more often than not—is to prevent the actions that provoke opportunity attacks. “Threatened squares” represent a very obvious threat to the character. If that threat isn’t obvious to the player—because a miniature on a battlemat doesn’t fully convey the threat or because the player is less conversant in the intricacies of the combat rules—the DM should warn the player in advance rather than surprising them with an attack.
(Not to say that there might never be a suprise opportunity attack, just that it should be the exception rather than the rule.)
Which is part of a larger point that applies beyond attacks of opportunity and beyond D&D3.5. The GM should always give players fair warning. Might the player not realize the risks of that action as much as the character would? It’s better to warn the players too often than not enough.
(None of which is not meant to be an attack on James by any stretch. Just an observation spring-boarding off his post.)
04 September 2007
29 August 2007
28 August 2007
25 August 2007
21 August 2007
20 August 2007
19 August 2007
- More streamlined mechanics
- Clear roles for PCs
- Different mechanics for different things (e.g. PC & monsters don't need to operate by exactly the same rules)
- Not everything needs mechanics (e.g. the loss of the Profession skill)
17 August 2007
- Defender: Fighter & Paladin
- Leader: Cleric & Warlord
- (Battlefield) Controller: Wizard
- Striker: Rogue & Ranger
16 August 2007
- The initial "core" rules are published
- Supplements are published
- Some of the best ideas from the supplements are integrated into a streamlined new edition of the core rules
13 August 2007
10 August 2007
09 August 2007
03 August 2007
The interface for editing sounds is easy to use. If you’re used to sending text messages from your cell phone, using the Pocket POD will be a piece of cake.(^_^) This is some strange new use of the phrase "easy to use" that I am unfamiliar with.
23 July 2007
05 January 2007
From Compass may offend, but nothing to fear by Bill Fentum:
A boycott, though, only gives free publicity to Mr. Pullman’s work. And sheltering Christian youth from the concept of atheism is futile, too; they’re bound to meet a few atheists in the big, bad world and need to learn how to deal with it.
So why not use these movies, the books and the controversy itself to spark productive dialogue—not only with kids but also adult friends?
If we don’t, the church treads too closely toward matching the Magisterial model set up by Mr. Pullman. And that, indeed, is something to fear.
I’m not familiar with the books. I was intrigued when the subject came up in the 8th grade Sunday school class that I lead.