Things that highly amuse me include: making the (famous?) CSS Is Awesome mug design in actual CSS:
After you sit through what I assume will be a ~30 second unskippable ad you can jump forward to 1:50 or so to see me doing computer stuff (or you can watch the entire report if you want). I was actually working on a thing that randomly censored the search results on our site for the day (because SOPA/PIPA are the worst, but you already knew that). Also I didn't know the camera guy was recording me. It's pretty amusing to be the 'guy who is working in the background' on CNN though. I always knew I'd make it!
Pretty exciting, I guess! Also: happy 2012!
As a brief follow-up to my critique of Gawker network's design I feel that I also ought to critique the thing I am perhaps more qualified to; namely the tech behind it all.
Hopefully hash-bang does not become some kind of new standard, but you never can tell with these things. In the end leaving display of your site's content up to the client is a poor decision, at best. We'll see how things pan out in that regard. I won't actually get upset until the New York Times web site starts to use it.
While the Gawker Media collection of sites have never really been my cup of tea for any number of reasons (which I won't get into) you really can't deny the popularity of their network in their respective industries. If you want some video game news out there you need to get it up on Kotaku. If you want the world to know about your new unreleased iPhone, leave it in a bar so Gizmodo can buy it off some guy. If you're a celebrity and want your inner-most secrets leaked to the public then a good bet is to contact someone at Gawker. I'm starting to get catty so I'll just move on, but you get the idea.
For once the news of the day for was not the content of one of these sites but rather how it is presented. Let me get this out of the way first: the new design, aesthetically, is a huge improvement over the old design. The old design was fairly hideous and wasted a lot of space. About the only things it did well were present a ton of the site's most recent content and keep some big-ticket articles of note up at the top. But now, out with the old, in with the new. The new Gawker sites look like a professionally designed iPad app. In fact that's the thing that most people seem to think of first when they see it, which was obviously the intended reaction.
That itself isn't bad, but sadly the site not only looks like an iPad app but seems to function as if it was intended to be one. This fact is made highly unfortunate due to the site being broken in mobile Safari. I don't have an iPad to test it in myself but it's more or less unusable on my iPhone, and I haven't heard much better from iPad owners.
You are alone. Or at least it seems that way at first glance. In front of you are grassy hills spattered with trees, and behind them lie some larger mountains and some odd looking stone structures. You turn around and see sand and a vast body of water. Is it an ocean or just a large lake? Difficult to say. You can see some islands off in the distance but not much else. You take in your surroundings and gradually realize that you're not actually alone. Up on the hills appear to be a few cows and a pig. They don't seem to be doing much, but it's nice to know living things inhabit this place.
Okay, now what? Better look around, right? Seems logical. You head towards the hills and mountains. You discover hidden alcoves and shallow caves. You meet more cows and pigs and even some sheep and ducks. What exactly is this place? You keep wandering and eventually stumble onto a much deeper cave. It's dark and scary inside. You can't even venture too far in before it becomes impossible to navigate in the dark. You turn around and head back to the outside. The sun is setting. That makes you nervous, though you're not sure why. Maybe you should take up refuge in this cave? That thought doesn't sit well with you, plus the cave is too dark anyway. Instead you dig up some dirt with your bare hands, just enough to make a small makeshift house in the side of a mountain. You leave only an opening big enough to walk out of.
Clicking 'Read More' will get you some quickly done examples of a couple of CSS3 properties, including some Webkit specific animation stuff. So if you want the full effect I recommend you read this post in Chrome or Safari or your Webkit nightly build of choice. Firefox 3.5 will work for some, but not all, and Internet Explorer will fail in every way. See how annoying that was?
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The final nail in the coffin? One can only hope. I've been dreaming of this day for almost a decade I think.
At the surface Erik Svedäng's Blueberry Garden doesn't appear to be much. As far as games go, it's fairly stripped down. It comes across as a platformer, though one seemingly without a clear goal. the world is mostly white, with plants and random animals adding some color to the bleak world. Unlike a regular 2D platformer, however, your goal is not to move from left to right to get to the finish, but rather to explore and find out what your goal is.
The goal itself becomes fairly evident after your first playthrough which will almost certainly end with your demise. Find various large objects such as apples, pencils and top hats hanging around the world and stack them. Touching one of these objects (or standing next to it) will cause it (and yourself) to teleport to the stacking point. The higher your stack the more you can explore by jumping or flying over the game's geography. Some items are easy to collect; just walk over to them. Some take a bit of thinking to get to.
There first 'mission' of the game is to turn off a large faucet that is flooding the world. There's a water level to the entire thing and after a certain amount of time the water will begin to rise. Our player cannot survive underwater unaided for very long, so once the water raises above all the land (or your stack) the game sadly ends.
Helping you out during the game are various kinds of fruit. There are red berries of some sort, something resembling onions (though they grow on trees), some kind of star-shaped fruit and of course blueberries. Red berries and onions alter the terrain when you eat them. So the area you happen to be standing by can be warped by eating one. This adds an interesting element to the game since stacked items are positioned in the stack in the same position they are collected in. So if you have a pencil laying on its side it will appear that way in the stack, however if you tilt it 45 degrees by utilizing berries then it will appear in the stack tilted 45 degrees as well. Using this method it's possible to create a taller stack with fewer items.
The game's soundtrack, a simple, almost somber piano tune, adds immensely to the atmosphere of the game. Often kicking in when you leap from your stack and fly across the level, the sparseness of the world combined with the music is something of an experience. It's a very 'indie' experience that some may not notice or care for, but it made the game extremely relaxing and enjoyable for me.
At a meager five dollars on Steam (sorry non-Windows users, it's an XNA game), Blueberry Garden is certainly not a major purchase. Once you figure it out there's not much more to the gameplay (I have played it for a total of 1.7 hours according to Steam) but its mechanics are simple enough, and its atmosphere interesting enough that you may find yourself replaying it even after you've completed it.
The results are interesting for a variety of reasons. First off the top score (held by Rockstar) is 19. The system works by awarding positive, negative or zero points based on review scores. In R*'s case they have 23 titles in Metacritic. Six of them are worth 2 points, ten worth 1 point each and three of those points are canceled out by three D-rated games (worth -1). If you're wondering why that only adds up to 19 games it's because four of them simply don't count for or against the score. This seems off to me, but we'll just run with it for now.
Regardless, R* has the top score clocking in at a whopping 19 points. The bottom score is held by Ubisoft with an impressive(ly depressing?) -148 points. For those of you keeping track that puts the median score around -65, which means that the vast majority of video games are shit.
My second issue with the data is how it doesn't quite seem 'right'. For instance look at the #3 and #4 ranked publishers. Blizzard, highly commended for their addictive, polished and downright beautiful games, has a score of 11. Microsoft comes very close to Bilzzard with 10 points. However looking only slightly deeper we see the apparent flaws in this system. Blizzard's 11 points come from a meager sevem titles, four for 2 points, three for 1 point each. Blizzard has zero games that didn't count or counted for negative points, which would seem to mean they put out only a few games (less than one per year) but those games are of very high quality. Conversely Microsoft's 10 points comes from a set of 110 games. They published 103 more games than Blizzard since 2000 but also earned one fewer point. So it would seem the distribution of points among Microsoft's games is nowhere near as good as Blizzard's. Indeed if you look at the breakdown the majority of MS published games fall in B-range with the rest mostly distributed below B and only eight (7% of total) getting an A score.
A perhaps more accurate gauge of how consistent a publisher is would be to look at the average score per game, and indeed this paints a much different picture of the stats:
This places Microsoft much lower than Blizzard by quite a bit. In fact MS's per-game average is below 0.1, as is Nintendo's (which is even lower). This is more or less intuitive based on the number of titles each publisher puts their name on. There are a bunch of AAA titles (Gears of War, Halo etc for MS, Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess et al for Nintendo) that bring up the overall score enough that the publisher remains consistent in the eyes of the calculation.
Keep in mind that the maximum possible average (obtained by 2D Boy) is 2.0, so the fact that Blizzard is hovering near 1.6 is very impressive. Speaking of 2D Boy, it's also worth noting that they should probably be dropped from the list entirely because their publishing efforts consist of two titles; the PC and Wii versions of World of Goo. Both of those scored very well but with such a small sample consisting of what is realistically only a single game doesn't seem to be statisically relevant.
And so, if you were looking for the most consistent publisher in video games that would be Blizzard, as one might expect. However I'd hesitate to suggest these stats, or even Metacritic in general would be a good gauge of much of anything. Essentially throwing away an entire set of scores for each publisher (the C-level games) as well as not weighting anything in any significant way based on the volume of games makes it suspect. However I'm sure there is some useful info to be gleaned from Metacritic, though I'm not going to hold my breath thanks to arbitrary score scales or bizarre scoring systems that many game review sites use. All that we cab really gather from this data is that there are a lot of games out there and the majority of them are not very good, and I confess I already knew that before we started. Video games!
Weirdly enough a good portion of Safari 4's UI seems to have taken a page from Chrome, though it's obviously stylized to Apple's standard (which is perhaps more appealing than Chrome's look). In fact the layout of the browser is almost an exact mirror of Chrome's, with a very minimalistic navigation bar containing front/back buttons, the URL bar and two settings buttons. Safari opts to have the refresh/stop button in the URL bar similar to the iPhone version of Safari whereas Chrome places is next to the back/forward buttons. The tabs in both browsers are at the top of the application in lieu the standard windows application header.
Also in what is perhaps an answer to numerous complaints, the tabs in Safari, at least when using the Windows Classic theme, utilize the color scheme and look of Windows rather than duplicating what the program looks like on the Mac.
Running the same speed test (which, again, is by no means any sort of official benchmark) I found the old version of Safari I had (3.2) took 300ms to run. The new version has improved upon that quite a bit as it completed the test in a scant 64ms. For reference sake, Chrome is still much faster (version 126.96.36.199 runs it in 28ms) and Firefox 3.0.6 is much slower (clocking in at 258ms).
Other interesting aspects of Safari 4 are nice, but largely cosmetic. Apple's take on Chrome's 'Most visited' page speaks volumes about the two companies. While Google's version is simple and utilitarian, Apple's accomplishes the same thing with a good degree of style thanks to some simple graphical additions. Your 'Top Sites' are displayed as if on a curved surface, complete with a reflection. It's gratuitous and perhaps unnecessary, but looking at it next to Chrome's simple, flat version is almost jarring.
Also not to be outdone, Safari implements its own version of iTunes' coverflow for the browser history and bookmarks. Instead of a simple link you get a bunch of screenshots that you can flip through. I'm not entirely sure what I think about that as it seems mostly unnecessary for such a thing to exist, but it doesn't really hinder the browser, and you can still use the bookmark list if you like (you can even shrink the coverflow graphics so you can't see them any more).
Fuck. Anyway I finally made a Twitter account. Twitter is stupid but also oddly fun. I take back whatever I said about it. I'll probably add it to the sidebar some day too. It's a blog within a blog!
George W. Bush was elected in the year 2000 and sworn in in January of 2001. Shortly after a horrible thing was put up to replace the minimalist Clinton-era site, though it was improved upon from time to time.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks a newer version was put up, though archive.org is missing anything between July and September of 2001, so it may have gone up sooner. That version, while not overly great by today's standards, was reasonable for 2001. Tabular layout, half-assed use of CSS and your old friend Verdana.
The 2001 version of the site received some tweaks during its tenure as First Web Site, but mostly kept the same look in a post-9/11 world. The last version I linked to remained the president's site through his 2004 reelection and up until early 2007 when a new version was put up. This new one, although better looking, was mostly just a restyling of the previous version. It was slightly wider but still had a tabular layout, which while acceptable in 2001 was a crime in 2007.
And now we have the current site, which was put up at almost the very moment the clock struck noon in Washington (elected presidents become president at noon on the third Tuesday of January regardless of whether or not they take the oath, which is mainly a formality). So now we have a site that looks a lot like Barack Obama.com, probably because it was designed by the same guy. There's a news ticker/slideshow at the top with crossfades, lots of little details and the site is remarkably standards compliant (stupid image borders). Also I should mention, since I've been harping on it, that the layout is entirely CSS driven. There is a single table but it's used to keep a form in line (which isn't perfect, but I can accept it). It's actually a nice looking, competent, well designed government web site, which is saying something since there are some pretty terrible ones out there. Okay that last one I mainly threw in because the URL is hilarious (and horrifying).
At any rate, while I may not be overly excited to finally have the word 'blog' be associated with the President of the United States, I think Obama's technical initiatives as well as him being the first president to utilize things like 'computers' and 'e-mail' at least shows some signs of hope for the future. Does it mean that the government will finally stop being baffled by technological wonders such as MP3 players and video games? Probably not immediately, but the chances of congress understanding things like DRM and government-sanctioned censorship of violent games and why they may not necessarily be the best thing for the American people may not be as far away as I once thought.
So how about that? A little hope from a simple web page. Promises as advertised. Let's see what else this new guy can do.
Ranging from GTA4 to Mega Man 9 to Imagine Party Babyz the list has it all! Also a couple of my own hastily written reviews can be seen on pages 2, 4 and 5, written as such since I thought they were casting a GOTY pod (Jake works the same place I do, so I usually know when he's leaving to record one) and I wrote my email in about 15 minutes. They weren't doing that at all though, so I could have maybe written something more readable and with less use of the word 'retarded'.
I'd like to have my own list of sweet 2008 games on this blog thingy like I did last year, but I haven't played some of the games I feel I'd want to add to the list, so if I manage to finish them up in the next month I might do that, but otherwise just take the Thumbse.cx list since it's pretty good. Except for Space Giraffe. Fuck that game.
Of course I moved out of my parents' house in aught six (as an aside I can't believe it's only been two years since that; it seems a lot longer somehow) and when your server administrator is a 52 year old woman with limited computer knowledge and a 58 year old man with very little patience for computers, well, you apparently end up with a computer that gets rebooted every other week. Amazingly none of that fried the server itself and I am told it still exists and still chugs along.
What it does not do is share internet access, which sort of defeats the fundamental purpose of the thing. Myself now being 2,944 miles from the computer (that's what Google Maps tells me) makes it a bit difficult to do tech support, and so my advice was to buy a router.
So that went well but it turns out that that machine also hosted its own DNS (both primary and secondary servers), which of course spells disaster when it is not connected to the internet. However Mike, of not myself fame was already hosting my blog to begin with and offered to pick up the DNS of vect.org. So now this site actually works and will probably continue to work. If you used any other vect.org services (and I know one or two people who read this may be curious) they probably won't be back in the immediate future, though I do have a spare computer that I had initially planned to be a vect.org replacement (and then some sort of media/gaming computer, and then sort of a waste of space) and it may yet fulfill its destiny.
In other news I said goodbye to Verizon for the first time ever and said hello to AT&T after I was tempted by the magic of the iPhone and its "whole internet". This is actually the very first Apple product I've owned, and it's pretty slick to say the least. I recommend it (or the iPod Touch if you have no need for a phone) to anyone who likes to have a single device dominate their life. For example you don't ever need to know where you are going when you have one... or how to get there. Also if you ever wanted to get your e-mail whenever you wanted (for example I just took the dog out to the bathroom and read my latest Google Alert) and never ever have any downtime from it, well, there you go. Granted many people already did that prior to the iPhone, but not in such a stylish way. Also having played around with Blackberries and Windows Mobile phones I will also put it out there that the iPhone's UI is far, far better.
And that's all I have to say about that.
As a browser it's surprisingly minimalist. It takes the Safari route by not using the OS look and feel for the application. When I first checked out Safari for Windows I was annoyed by that, but I've since softened. My favorite media player is still Winamp, and generally any other media player has its own skin. In fact I strangely prefer it when they do; media players such as Foobar or VLC look like ass. So thinking about why a browser would annoy me but a media player does not... I don't know. Maybe years of using Steam have taken their toll, but Chrome's non-standard look has entirely failed to bother me.
Anyway aside from being a magical blue thing that sort of reminds me of XP's horrible default theme the UI is amazingly minimalistic. There's the usual minimize, maximize and close buttons in the upper right, but there's no title bar or brazen display of the application name. Indeed only a very tiny 'Google' appears next to the buttons on the right when the window is not maximized. When maximized the browser makes maximum use of space, with only tabs and the address bar filling up non- web site real estate. No border and no title bar at all.
The options are few. You can view history and downloads only in their own tabs (as opposed to the sidebar most browsers use), and there are some minor settings you can change, but nothing is really customizable. It's the essence of a browser, really. There's no extra stuff. No insane security settings, no extensions, no custom buttons or adjusting the size or order of the interface elements. Even the status bar at the bottom only shows up when it needs to and takes up the least amount of space necessary before quickly fading back away.
Another argument entirely is if or not this is a good thing. There are arguments for both sides, obviously, but regardless of that Google was successful in building something that's purely web browser and nothing more.
Firefox 3: 223ms
Firefox 2: 587ms
I guess, really, what this comes down to, is that the browser market is finally moving somewhere again. There was a huge stagnation period where nothing was really better than IE6. Mozilla was the only real competition, but most people felt that was too bloated. Firefox (or Phoenix as it was called back then) aimed to change that by removing all excess stuff from Mozilla and eventually it paid off. During the period of Firefox's rise there wasn't really any actual competition and it consisted entirely of Firefox chipping away at IE6's market share. Slowly. Very slowly.
And then recently (within the last two years or so) there was a resurgence. Opera stopped charging for their browser, Microsoft finally released a new version of IE (though IE7 is sort of the WindowsME of Internet Explorers) and has another one in the pipeline. Safari was released for Windows, and now Google, champions of the entire internet, have their own browser. It's about as exciting as browsers can get. There's competition in the browser market again, and that's never a bad thing for anyone.
Due to the list being full of spoilers for games you may or may not have played, I'm going to put the article a click away.
Marmite is a genius
After me saying about being unable to get a copy of GTAIV, he sent the "preorder phone text" to my mobile for me to try and get a copy.
So on the way home I walked into a game, showed the text and said "I've just got the message about my preorder, I've been unable to find my receipt though" to which they responded "You must be Greg Stephens, you're the last one to get your preorder", to which I replied "Yes, yes I am"
So I now have my copy of GTA IV, because Marmite is AWESOME.
Which may be why Montgomery looked at himself — a 45-year-old former marine with a reddish mustache, bulging gut, and disappearing hair — and decided to become someone else. That person, he wrote on Dynabrade stationery that he stored in his toolbox at work, would be an 18-year-old marine named Tommy. He would be a black belt in karate, with bullet scars on his left shoulder and right leg, thick red hair, and impressive dimensions (6'2", 190 pounds, and a "9" dick"). Emboldened by his new identity, Montgomery logged onto Pogo in the spring of 2005 and met TalHotBlondbig50 — a 17-year-old from West Virginia, whose name, he later learned, was Jessica.For the full bizarre story (and trust me that paragraph is only the tip of the iceberg), check out the article on Wired (it's many months old, but it's new to me!)