23 September 2013

On bad logos

2013 Brand New Conference logo & identity

Wow. I now have some idea of how companies so often manage to spend so much money and end up with a crappy logo. After reading the justification, I actually started to like this one. But you have to be able to back up sometimes and say, “No. The emperor has no clothes.”

(And I’m not saying the Brand New Conference spent a lot of money here. What I’m saying is simply that the fact that their justification almost convinced me to like this helps me understand how companies end up spending lots of money on bad logos.)

I suspect when you’re paying lots of money for an “identity”, the people involved are going to over-think it and, to justify the cost, you’re going to buy into their over-thinking too. Ironically, Brand New normally comes to a logo with fresh, uninvested eyes and provides a good critique. But then, they say they were going for “uncomfortable” here, and they did succeed in that. I’m still going to call it “bad uncomfortable” rather than any sort of “good uncomfortable”.

I think this is also a case study of how good execution in its application can overcome a terrible logo. If that was the point, then point made.

14 September 2013

When the prototype is too good

In general, a prototype isn’t nearly as nice as a finished product. That may end up not being the case for Rocket Dice. The prototypes shown in the Kickstarter promotions were 3D printed, which produces a much more consistent product than most dice manufacturing processes. Which Game Salute seems only now to be discovering.

There are more consistent dice manufacturing methods. They’re used for Casino dice and precision Backgammon dice. Those come only in six-siders and lack the fanciful shape of the Rocket Dice. They are also very expensive. Gamescience makes precision polyhedral dice, but they’re also more expensive than other polyhedrals. Especially when inked, because they have to be inked by hand. Game Salute says they are committed to deliver the “best dice possible”, but that’s likely to be a lot more expensive than they bargained for.

One thing in Rocket Dice’s favor is that the spur from the molding process could be located in a less obtrusive place than on Gamescience dice.

It will to be interesting to see what happens.

13 September 2013

The full rig

Here is nigh all the guitar gear I’ve collected assembled into a single rig.

It is sort of a wet-dry-wet setup. The Princeton amp in the middle gets the guitar signal without any effects. (Though that amp does have compression, overdrive, and reverb built-in.) The stereo outputs of the RP350 and VG-8 are mixed together (by the VG8), goes into the JamMan, and then into the left and right amps. A Morley ABY controls whether the Princeton, the RP350, or both get a signal. (A switch on the Roland-ready Strat controls whether the Princeton/RP350 path, the VG8, or both are active.)

Here’s how it’s wired up.

Layering three different sounds seem to work surprisingly well. If the trio ever gets some gigs, this could let me fill up a lot of sonic-landscape when we want to. But it may have to suffice with just pleasing me.

The biggest challenge is that the VG-8 is hard to program and doesn’t have any dedicated “user” banks that you can use without overwriting factory settings. It is also the piece that would be the most expensive to upgrade.

12 September 2013

iRig Pro

I ranted about the iRig HD, but I think the iRig Pro looks like a winner.

11 September 2013

Ad hoc programming

Does everyone need to learn programming?

Obviously, not all program development time is measured in man-years. One could no doubt write a program for generating anagrams in a couple of days, [...]

This is intentionally a trivial example, but it is practical tasks of this scale that are exactly why you should learn to program.

It isn’t because computers are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Most people aren’t going to write the software for appliances that happen to have computers in them. Most people aren’t going to write application software for general-purpose computers.

It’s the small tasks that are never going to be a bullet-point feature of an appliance or application where most people can benefit from learning to program.

If you’ve ever written formulas in a spreadsheet application, you’ve already done some programming. And while spreadsheets are appropriate for some tasks, there are better ways to program that aren’t really any more difficult that are more appropriate to a much wider array of tasks.

[...] though it would take the average neophyte the same couple of days merely to type in the 75 to 100 lines of code required. Not only can a single misplaced colon or parenthesis mark foul up the works, but it often takes an enormous amount of time to discover such a seemingly minor error.

Programming is, indeed, sometimes like this. But with good tools and experience, it is the exception rather than the rule.

That said, programming is not for everyone. If you like math, you will probably enjoy programming. If you don’t like math, you probably won’t. So, the benefits may not be worth the costs for everyone.

10 September 2013

Food advertising

If you’re trying to sell me food, and you talk about a lot of things except how it tastes, you’ve not sold me.

I will gladly choose oil over cream because I like the taste of Cool Whip more than Reddi-Wip.

No matter how “natural” your product is, the technical names of chemical compounds in it don’t sound any more appetizing than those you point out in your competition’s products. And I don’t remember what your product even was. I can’t even come up with enough to google for it like I could for Reddi-Wip. So, that was a complete failure.

In fact, no matter what you’re selling, if you’re talking more about your competition than your own product, that’s a bad sign.

Sargento, I am glad you talk about your product in your commercials, but you don’t have to insult other products that I also like at the same time.

07 September 2013


Dear fast food restaurants,

What is the point of having numbered combo meals, if you have to ask me...

  • what side I want
  • what size side I want
  • what drink I want
  • what size drink


None. Because now we’re back to exactly where we were before.

06 September 2013

Competition in business

A very wise couple of sentences from Marco’s “Mutex Nintendo” post:

Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about competition. The biggest lesson has been that in most cases, products and companies live and die by their own actions, not their competitors’.

Although I have first hand experience of a company that took a fatal blow from a competitor, that has been the exception.

Fatal? Could we have recovered from it? Perhaps, but there were other opportunities at the time that seemed more promising and less of an uphill battle.

05 September 2013

Kindle MatchBook

About Kindle MatchBook, Gruber writes...

This is the e-book/print combination I've wanted since 2007.

But it’s too late. I do still get print copies of books shipped to me on occasion, but almost never when buying from Amazon.

Yet, there are sadly books I still can buy in digital form.

04 September 2013


Gruber, Marco, and Siracusa have all been talking about Nintendo.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: Being a 3DS owner has felt like you were dealing a company that was living in the past and only barely keeping up. I can only store settings for three WiFi networks? Buying an app/game and getting in to download in the background takes a large number of seemingly pointless taps? Games are still sold on cartridges? If I buy the cartridge version of a game, we can play it on any of our 3DS systems—one at a time. If we buy the digital version, we can only play it on one specific device? Etc.

Are these just software problems or are some of them hardware problems being reflected by the software? I don’t know, but it seems clear that Nintendo is not great at making a great overall product despite being in control of the hardware and the software.

I’m not convinced that getting out of the hardware business will help. I’m not convinced that writing software for other platforms will help. I am convinced that making great products will help.

There’s also a point made that the 3DS library—which includes all DS games as well as the 3DS games—makes up for this. Personally, though, I’ve found more games I want to play on iOS than for my 3DS. In any case, having a deep library is good, but it doesn’t invalidate criticisms of the system.

03 September 2013


I think Steve Ballmer did the best job he could as Microsoft CEO. I think almost anyone else Microsoft could’ve gotten for the job would’ve done it better, though.

I couldn’t blame Ballmer for the state Microsoft is in. That blame lies with the board. It was their job to replace him when it was clear he wasn’t the person for the job. They didn’t.

Yes, I did—sort of—defend Steve Ballmer.

02 September 2013


Playing with λ-calculus is fascinating. That everything we do with computers can be represented simply with unary functions is mind-blowing.

But when I think about it too much, I begin to doubt the applicability of λ-calculus to what we actually do in practice. We don’t use Church numerals. We use two’s compliment binary integers and IEEE floating-point and—when necessary—various arbitrary precision numbers. Our conditionals aren’t based on Church Booleans but on conditional instructions built into our microprocessors. Our lists may be built out of pairs, but our pairs aren’t functions. We don’t use the Y-combinator to express recursion; we simply give our functions names, which get turned into jumps.

Granted, closures in Scheme—much like functions in the λ-calculus—are used to build higher level features. (And, of course, the keyword for creating closures is “lambda” in reference to the λ-calculus.) But lots of the lower level stuff isn’t built from closures because it wouldn’t be efficient enough. (Could it be if the effort was made to design hardware for it?)

Edit: Here’s some example code.