A blog about the many neat things in life, along with the many other things that are lying around. Categories include: political things, philosophy things, design things, template things, garage things, music things, and lots and lots of other things!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hilarious Things

Leopard seems to be doing well. Really well. I decided to check Leopard's "2 million on opening weekend" number against Vista's opening weekend number. Google results shown above.

You can't even Google Vista! Apple is kicking some butt.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Panda Security Video

We shot this for our CGT 346 class (video editing). It was a bunch of fun to make, especially since we had such an awesome team to make it with. Bonus kudos to Stacie for putting up with our shenanigans, and major kudos to the Allen family for letting us borrow their house, props, and DV tape.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Startup Weekend

We launched Scrolltalk last weekend, as a part of Startup Weekend West Lafayette. It was a hell of a ride, and we were the first Startup Weekend to launch our product by Sunday. We skated into the deadline, going live at 11:59:57 on Sunday night - we were ready at around 1:30pm, but testing a few servers forced us to upgrade, and upgrading our server configurations took a while.

So, how did it go? We came in with no idea what we would be doing - unlike other startup weekends, who debated for a week or longer on the blog before the weekend, none of us really had any idea what to expect. We spent the first few hours brainstorming - we got a bunch of ideas, ruled out a lot of them as unfeasible over the course of the weekend, and narrowed it down to four. After enough debate, we didn't like any of those ideas, so we scrapped 'em and started over. Then we hit upon scrolltalk - an evolutionary chatroom that watched what you wanted to talk about, and brought you together with other people who wanted to talk about the same things. No rooms, no user lists, just you and the people you want to talk to.

We bought a domain name, started getting ideas and planning the program architecture, and called it a night around midnight.

Saturday was a wild ride. We had a lot of debates about what architecture to use, what platform to go with, what the structure of the app should be... But by Saturday evening we had an "ugly duckling" version of the chat going. We had it working with tags and filtering conversations and doing everything it needed to. We had some more debates, talked about the company, worked on PR stuff, and eventually called it a night around 12:30.

Sunday was pretty crazy as well. What were just going to be a few tweaks on Sunday morning turned into a bunch more features we could add by launch time. I was wary about how many toys and niceties we could realistically add without breaking the code in some way, and still be able to launch on Sunday. But between the devs working on the code, we managed to get a lot done, and added a whole bunch of features to the app. We did a "Delta" launch (think beyond beta, man!) to our email list subscribers, found some server problems, and closed down to work on them.

By Sunday night we had switched over to the new servers, and after some last-minute changes, we were ago! We were the first Startup Weekend event to launch our product by Sunday.

So what did I do in all this? I wrote code. Here's my contribution in about 20-24 hours of coding time.
  • Wrote out AJAX with Prototype to poll our chat service and update the client's window.
  • Wrote out php to poll the chat db, filter down to user conversations which were relevant to the client, and display them with proper markup so our designer could work with them.
  • Wrote out AJAX and PHP snippets to deal with adding tags and setting users you always want to follow.
  • Wrote regular expression filters to watch for markup in the chat message and apply it (try typing +tags into the chat box!).
It was a huge amount of development, and if it weren't for some other really talented folks, Scrolltalk certainly wouldn't have happened. Thanks to the rest of the team for all your contributions - we made something awesome this weekend, and I feel very proud of our baby.

As for where scrolltalk is going -- well, we're an LLC now, and we're looking at what it will take to make scrolltalk the most interesting way to connect with people on the web. We'll be working on it, and in touch.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My 2 cents: Halo 3

Zero Punctuation has a particularly funny, if undeservedly harsh, take on Halo 3 here. I love watching ZP, even though he's usually very harsh on games that are high-quality and super-fun. But I'm not writing a review of our fast-talking Australian, I'm writing about Halo 3.

At a time when Half-life had just invented the concept of FPS games having a story, Halo did an awesome job of taking a simple story and making it awesomely epic. Halo 2 didn't quite live up to its predecessor - the story felt repetitive and somewhat hackneyed. Halo 3, on the other hand, brings back the epic in full force. You are part of a last, desperate force trying to save what little is left of humanity, and the pressure is plenty to keep you turning on the 360. It feels very immersing.

The game plays pretty much like you would expect. You have to kill lots of aliens, and the strategy required by this task is what makes the game fun. "Run in and shoot everyone" definitely does NOT work, even on Normal difficulty - something my buddy Jaspar found out last night.

In Halo 1 and 2, I felt very much like a one-man show. Master Chief owns, everyone else sucks. In Halo 3, you feel like a part of something - in almost every level, the NPC's get as much crazy equipment and vehicles as the Master Chief, and if you strike out too far on your own you get squished like a bug. Well, except when you've got the tank. But you're required to be part of the attack force, rather than the attack force. It's a much more epic style of play.

On the minus side, it's a little short. I felt very satisfied at the end - I had gotten plenty of play out of the game, but some folks feel differently.

Duh. I mean, really. Certain details might not look as shiny and neon-awesome as Bioshock's characters, but Halo is set in the outdoors, whereas Bioshock was a corridor shooter. Halo's outdoor environments, which has been the series' hallmark since the first Halo, return in even more gorgeous form. With details like plant-mapping and spectacular water effects (watch what happens when lasers hit the h2O), Halo looks as pretty as a next-gen shooter ought to. It dares the Wii to try something.

Sound is lush and gorgeous. I had the theme song stuck in my head for hours after beating the game. Voice acting is tastefully done, and enhances the game's story rather than detracts from it.

Halo 3 is a great game. I haven't heard all the hype about Halo 3 becoming God and causing the Revelation or whatever - I've only heard people complain about how the game didn't live up to the hype. Since I didn't have any expectations about the game (except that it would be another excellent Halo game), I can say I came away from Halo 3 completely fulfilled. This was a totally worthy project.

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