13 December 2007

Gibson robot guitar ad

Gibson has a self-tuning guitar they’re calling the “robot guitar”. They got some funny ads for it playing up the “robot” angle. This may be my favorite...

12 December 2007

Mongoose Traveller playtest v3

Wouldn’t you know it. Yesterday I print the Mongoose Traveller playtest document v2—today they post v3.

11 December 2007

ADD, Mongoose Traveller, & me

I feel like, as I get older, I’m developing attention deficit. I printed out the Mongoose Traveller playtest document, but I just can’t seem to concentrate on reading it.

Look it up!

I’m often amazed to see people suggest that something in an RPG should be glossed or explained when it can just be looked up in nigh any dictionary or encyclopedia. I don’t think games should bother explaining such things unless it’s use in the game differs in some important way from the real-world.

Rogues in the RPG

Today, I read this sentence in reference to the Mongoose Traveller playtest document: “Rogue—sounds too D&Dish, honestly.” That’s kind of ironic considering that Traveller used “rogue” long before (Supplement 4, Citizens of the Imperium, 1979) D&D did (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Player’s Handbook, 1989).

Building a story, a world, or...

It seems it’s been a while since I posted anything RPG related. I guess I’ve been taking a mental break from the hobby. Except for playing my PCs. I’ve been mulling things over in the back of my mind, though. I think I really need to make an effort to focus less on mechanics and more on...content. Ray Winninger’s seventh rule of dungeoncraft has been haunting me: “Running a good D&D campaign is about building a world, not about building a story.” (Please note that this is about my own interpretations of those phrases, not necessarily Ray’s. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many important parts of his articles.) Building a story has actually worked pretty well for me in the past. I even tried to fool myself into thinking I wasn’t building a rail-road when I really was. I want to try to avoid doing that again. I’ve tried a pure sandbox campaigns (a sandbox for the PCs to play in rather than a plot for the PCs to follow), but those often haven’t been very satisfying either. (And I’ve currently sworn off modules again. I’m seldom happy with the outcome when I run someone else’s adventure. Though the recent running of B4 wasn’t too bad.) I think the Lord of the Rings campaign went pretty well. Ostensibly it was a sandbox—or I tried to convince myself it was one—but it wasn’t really. It was creating and playing antagonists. There were events afoot that the PCs were going to choose to get involved in, but their parts weren’t written for them. Presumably they could have not gotten involved, but I had no doubt they would. Another set of players might not have, and it probably wouldn’t have gone so well in that case. Of course, another big ingredient in the LotR campaign was the encounters I made up for their journeys across Middle-earth, which would often be more local color than anything to do with the wider events taking place. But enough rambling aimlessly. The essential point is that I really think I need to think more about “content” for the next campaign I run and less about mechanics.

10 December 2007

Exposé and ion

I’m a fan of Ion, a window manager for X. Arguably one of the few window managers that actually manages windows. I think we spend way too much time at our computers moving, resizing, and switching between windows. Ion helps with that. It’s biggest problem is that too many applications make assumptions that can be at odds with Ion. There’s also a case to be made that, for some applications, the traditional method works better than Ion’s. An Ion user, however, can use Xnest to have the best of both worlds. Exposé kind of reminds me of Ion. It allows me to temporarily switch into an Ionesque paradigm for a moment. In fact, since it shows live windows–just scaled down—I’ve found myself remaining in Exposé when I’m waiting for multiple tasks to be completed.

Web forum whining

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.

Why I fear complexity in EcmaScript 4

Various thoughts I had whilst reading Brendan’s @media Ajax Keynote. I don’t see why every EcmaScript programmer can’t learn to use closures and prototypes. These are not difficult concepts, yet they are extremely powerful. Of course, if the new stuff is really less verbose and less error-prone, I’m all for it. It’s better, however, if any more concise and less error-prone elements are built on top of existing features rather than introducing new features. The thing that worries me about adding classes to EcmaScript is that it increases the complexity. An increase in complexity in software means an decrease in stability and a decrease in security. For EcmaScript, it also means raising the barrier for implementing and maintaining the language. Less complexity means that implementors can take time to do things like removing the memory leak bugs from their closure implementation rather than wasting time adding essentially duplicate features and, by the way, implementing those poorly as well. It’s not that I’m afraid I’ll be forced to use new features that I don’t want to. I want new features, and I want to use them! I’ve been writing software long enough to know the dangers of complexity, though. Features have to over justify the complexity they bring. Better to add macros that allow more concise syntax to use existing features than to add features because you don’t have macros. Putting more burden on people writing static analysis tools is exactly the wrong thing. EcmaScript needs to encourage lots of static analysis tools. And, by the way, the less complex they are, the better they will be as well. I’m all for evolution. I certainly think things can and should be made better. But I want it to be better. I think I mostly agree with Bredan except:
  • I think additional complexity needs huge justifications
  • I’m suspicious of claims that anything should be added because it will improve the sales pitch

Brand-new beat-up guitars, redux

Here’s the thing that really bugs me about these brand-new beat-up guitars: There can only be—what—1,000 people who care. (They’re usually limited runs of less than a couple-hundred units.) So, let’s limit the hype to channels that’ll hit that 1K and keep the noise out of the channels the rest of us are listening to. Let’s spend more time looking at the instruments that the millions of the rest of us can afford to buy and actually play.

The Octa-Switch

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.)

The web ain’t print!

I read a 929 word article recently. It was split into three web pages. This isn’t print. An article that short works better on one web page than three. Even worse, the last page was just a single sentence. That would have been a faux pas in print as well.

Two unusual guitars

Around 1976, Fender tried to make it’s version of a Gibson ES-335: The Fender Starcaster. Around 1993, Gibson tried to make it’s version of a Fender: The Gibson Nighthawk. Neither were considered a success. (Also, I don’t think either were the only attempt by either company to copy be inspired by the other. Just interesting examples.) (These were brought to mind when I noticed that Fender has revived the Starcaster name for what appear to me to be rebranded Squier Strats.)

What you must say

From this year’s state of the onion (page 2):

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.

Good-bye CompUSA

One of my former employers is going out of business. I was trying to put into words why this wasn’t a surprise to me, but it turns out David Pogue did that for me last spring: “Most of the stores I’ve visited have been sterile and soulless, and pervaded by a feeling of abandonment.” (The Gutting of CompUSA) That’s indeed how I felt the few times I was there in recent years. I was lucky that, when I worked there, there were some great people who ensured that wasn’t the case. They were knowledgeable. They were friendly and fun. They created events—in connection with local Austin developers when possible—and other ways to draw people into the store. But they did it in spite of the company. The company did nothing to create, attract, develop, or retain such people. Sure, competing with online stores isn’t easy, but—with the right people properly motivated—I’ve no doubt they could have done it successfully.

06 December 2007

A common misconception about DVDs

Since copy protection failed in the software world ages ago, they had to come up with a new name for it once the book, record, and movie companies wanted to try to revive it. So, now they call it DRM—digital rights management. The so-called DRM used on DVDs does absolutely nothing to prevent copying. Pirates don’t have to break the copy protection to copy DVDs. Rather, it merely prevents you from building a DVD player (or writing a software DVD player for a computer) without a license.

02 December 2007

Singular they

In the annotation to Irregular Webcomic! No. 1769 David Morgan-Mar discusses singular “they”. For myself, as long as even the prescriptivists continue endorsing the use of singular “you” rather than the grammatically correct “thou”, I’m going to remain perfectly happy with singular “they”. Of course, when both Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw used it, it’s hard to believe even the prescriptivists can be against it.

01 December 2007

Geek rock

According to Wikipedia, there’s a “geek rock” genre. Weezer, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, and Barenaked Ladies are listed as examples. On a loosely related note: Friday I was listening to Weezer’s blue album both in the car and at my desk. I was shocked by the difference between the car’s speakers and the headphones. Of course, I expect things to sound better with headphones, but in this case the difference was much greater than what I’d expect. I should do stereo mixes of the Söundcheck songs. They’re basically a mono mix in stereo. Any differences between the channels came from the RP350, not from me. Well, what I really should do is work on some of our half-finished songs. (^_^)