Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Googly-eyed Ork

I'm not sure what to do with this yet, but I'd like to share it anyway since it's cute.
Ork is an alien critter I've been scribbling since childhood.  This particular version has some good personality to it -- he might need a platformer game or something, someday.  :^)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Well, it was disgustingly close, but (enough of) the votes are in, and the campaigns are over.  We've said "no thank you" to the worst of the regressives.  Little by little we've said "we are equal" to gays.  And of course, we've said "yes we can" once again.

There's a great deal of work to do to keep this nation great, but we've made some positive moves.  Today, I'm relieved.  Today, I'm proud.


Oh, the polls in Utah.  I've seen some crazy stuff here before, but I've never seen a polling place this crowded.  We probably have the LDS church to thank for that - gotta make sure all the good little drones go vote to fulfill their prophecy.  (Nope, not kidding.  Wish I was.)

On our way in, we passed an old couple leaving.  The husband wore two "I voted" stickers - his and his wife's.  The symbolism was priceless.

We were corralled into two lines by last name: A-E and F-Z.  I'll let you guess which one snaked around and out the door while the other actually ran dry a couple of times.  This, folks, is Utah planning at its finest.  After a while, they changed it to A-H and I-Z.  This all took place in a public school, where doubtlessly-stellar alphabet, arithmetic and problem-solving lessons are taught every day.

To everyone who's voted, even the ones whose rationale escapes me:  Thank you.  To everyone else:  What's wrong with you?  Get out there already!  You'll have no right to whine about the state of things if you don't even try to have a voice.

Monday, November 05, 2012


It's time to earn your right to complain, citizens!  Get out there and vote!

I won't tell you whom to vote for, but if you support anybody from the anti-equality, anti-science, rape-is-a-gift-from-god party, you really ought to have your head examined.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Open webOS Cameo

Today, Open webOS 1.0 made its way into the world!

This is a big deal to me; it represents a certain kind of immortality for a platform and project that I've got very attached to.  Enough pieces are in play to keep webOS alive now in ways never anticipated, despite the heartbreaking series of corporate blunders that nearly destroyed the project.  I feel a lot like I did when Blender was rescued and turned open-source.

Anyway, I have a small cameo in the Open webOS announcement video.  Not me per se, but my "penduin" symbol, specifically its use in my Picross icon.  At about 1:09 in the video, you can spot it near the upper-left of the app launcher.
To the Palm and HP teams and the entire enthusiast webOS community:  Thank you.  You've made me very happy today.  :^)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tong on Wii

Well here's another fine mess I've gotten myself into: Tong can now be played on Wii!

It's fitting. Back in ... 1997? Some friends and I came up with the idea, and imagined it as a multiplayer game on Nintendo64, the party machine of choice at the time. That didn't happen, of course, but years later I did finish a single-player PC version. Years after that, I ported it to the GP2X/Wiz handhelds. Now, it's come all the way to a home console, and a Nintendo one at that.

...Plus, the line-breaking sound effect is me saying "Wheeee!"

Now before you go off to the Wii Shop Channel looking for Tong, let me save you some time. Nintendo doesn't endorse this kind of open/free homebrew, but unlike some manufacturers, they don't fight it either. Read up on the Homebrew Channel, then visit this site and use its handy packager to get homebrew running on your Wii (they've made it very easy, you won't break anything!) Once you have the Homebrew Channel, you can grab Tong for Wii here; just unzip it to your SD card.

My favorite bit of feedback about Tong has always been that it's a "bad idea well implemented". Nowhere is that clearer than on Wii, with tilt-controlled paddles. I've gotten pretty good at it, but it's probably the hardest and most insane version yet. Why I would be happy about that is a bit of a mystery.

For anyone interested in the technical details, "devkitPro" and "devkitPPC" are what you're after. Cross-compiling to Wii is mostly painless, and I only ran into a few snags. First, libfat needs to be initialized before doing any file access. That isn't the first thing that occurs to those of us who normally build stuff for OSes instead of raw hardware. Second, the guys who ported SDL to Wii did a pretty good job, but when it came to SDL_mixer, I think they got it working for their own stuff and then moved on. The easiest workaround is to resample your sound data to 32000Hz, which struck me as very odd considering how common 41000 and 20500 are. Also, simultaneously playing a Mix_Music and a Mix_Chunk causes some fascinating interference if they're both using tremor (ogg vorbis decoder). In my case that meant saving the short Mix_Chunk sound effects as raw .wav data instead. Finally, as much as I love to use my own simple-as-possible Makefiles, I had a much easier time working from devkitPro's examples. They're very flexible and general-purpose, I'll give 'em that. Everything's checked in; have at the CVS repository if you're curious.

To non-geeks who waded through all that, I should reward you with something clever and witty. ...Too bad. Play Tong for a few minutes; your brain will forget all about such small-scale confusion. :^)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Evacuations Lifted

This evening, things got well enough under control that officials lifted all evacuations in the area. There's still a raging fire burning up a mountain, and even when it's out, mudslides will now be a problem for people living around there, for years to come. I hope it was worth the thrill of shooting off guns at the dump, whoever you are.

So, our important stuff is back in the house, which I'm told is now as safe as the Subaru it was crammed into. All our servers are alive again, and the rest... will be dealt with in due time. :^)

We have two fundraising suggestions for the mayor, or for... whoever. After all, there's a great deal of effort and treasure being spent fighting this blaze.
- T-shirts: "I survived the great dump fire of o-twelve" etc
- A punching post
...The second one might need some explaining. Basically, we find the dumbass who started this whole mess (before he gets more ammo...) and tie him to a post. All residents of the towns he tried to burn down get one free punch, and additional punches are a dollar a pop. Fire fighters get a full minute free, those who were evacuated get an extra free punch (kids get double!) ...Well the details aren't that important, but you get the idea.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ready to Evacuate

I've got the reader's-digest version of my life (and my wife's, of course) packed up in the car, and am prepared to grab the cat and flee should the need arise. Whether that actually happens will come down to which way the wind blows. Truly!


In any case we're safe, the stuff we wouldn't be able to replace is packed, and life's good, just sort of on standby. :^)

update, Saturday afternoon:
No evacuation notice here as of yet. All is still well, if a little smoky-smelling outside. Links to up-to-date information:

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Dear Restaurant Owners

Stop catering exclusively to rednecks and hillbillies by playing country music and/or hanging TVs on the walls in your establishments. Life is already too easy for these people; they've been wrecking things for the sane for some time now.

I go to your businesses to eat, not to be nauseated by twangy whining and have my peripheral vision harpooned by wrong-aspect-ratio sports talk.

Dear Technology Columnists

Stop calling webOS "dead". The world of technology is not full of "products", it's full of "projects".

Read and digest the documentation over at http://openwebosproject.org/ or at least play with http://enyojs.com/ for ten minutes. This stuff is very much alive and useful. There aren't any Palm/HP Pre or TouchPad devices to be found in stores right now, and that's a shame, but by the end of the year we're going to see webOS running on more devices than you've ever imagined.

That's the thing about opening a platform - it becomes un-killable. A project doesn't need to burn up sales charts in order to be solid, fascinating, and entirely not-dead.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Shameless plug ahead...

I've made a Picross game for webOS devices. (TouchPad, Pre, Pixi, Veer...) It also runs happily in a modern web browser, including those on iBerry and BlackDroid and AnPhone and whatnot.
web demo:
webOS app:

The idea behind the game is that the process of solving a puzzle, using numerical clues, creates a pixel-art picture. I didn't invent Picross; someone much more clever did. But, I turned the idea into an HTML5 toy, and spent many insomniac hours thinking up 8x8 pictures, then testing and re-testing them to guess at their difficulty and make sure the clues weren't ambiguous. I recruited some help too; my wife contributed a handful of puzzles, as did a coworker and an enthusiastic early adopter.

Like all my little pet projects, it's open (GPL3) and you're encouraged to peek inside and learn from or build on it. I do sell the 99-cent webOS app with all of the (384, but who's counting) puzzles and the builder tool enabled, but when I say it's open I mean it - it's not hard to enable that stuff anyway if you're broke/cheap/webOS-less. :^) For BlackBerry PlayBook users, I'll probably release the game and demo in the BlackBerry store too at some point, but for now the web version runs very nicely.

Happy Puzzling!

Fortune Cookie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Evil Potato

My wife got me a truly exceptional present for Valentine's Day, one so perfect it needs no explanation:

...Well okay. According to the spectrum of confused reactions this got at work, maybe it does need some explanation. It's a provide-your-own-potato kit, but more importantly, it's GLaDOS, the insane artificial intelligence from Portal, in humiliating potato-powered form, as seen in much of Portal 2.

I could explain further that Portal and its sequel are video games, crafted with wonderful dry humor. They are played in first-person, which means my valentine can't watch them in action without getting motion sick, but she has overheard much of the game's story and my resulting laughter. And now, we've got Portal's antagonist stuck in a spud in our home, ready to insult us and scheme about murder anytime.

So romantic, it brings a tear to my eye. ...Or is that the neurotoxin?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The People of Utah: Mr. Ice Fisherman

I overheard a (Mormon) guy talk about an ice fishing trip he took recently. This is either a quote or a very near paraphrase:

"It's fun for the first hour, but then you're like, it's really cold here and there's not much to do."

...Well, I suppose those things would be true if you forgot the beer, or if your religion forgot the beer for you. What's next, beerless inner tube rafting? Silly Mormons.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Censorship, Freedom, Soapbox

I don't want this blog to be primarily a political soapbox, so I won't harp on this topic again at least until the next specific outrage. But I have my own two cents to say about the specific power grabs Hollywood is currently pursuing, and about the shift of power to the elite in general.

In the 1990s, the DMCA was enacted in the name of fighting "piracy". It was wrong, it was overreaching, and it was immediately abused. It remains so today. The discussion should be about how much of it to dismantle, not how to give those same for-profit actors even more power over a fundamentally democratic, peer-to-peer network.

In the broader picture, here on Earth, speech and money are not the same thing. Corporations and human beings are not the same thing. The discussions should be about how to protect speech from money, and humans from corporations, not how to grant human rights to non-human entities while denying them to humans.

The great equalizer in an alleged republic like ours is that every citizen has his vote, and his voice. But this has been overturned: the strength of any citizen's voice is now directly proportional to his wealth. If your individual ability to spend political money makes a blip on a scale populated by billionaires, then you've got a voice. If not, then you have only your vote, and in fact that will be influenced by the voices you're able to hear. The wealthy voices. The voices which can coerce an otherwise deadlocked government into supporting broad, unaccountable, no-due-process censorship. These are voices we should fear, avoid, or at least hear with the heaviest of skepticism.

But we don't.

We keep looking for the next quick fix, the next promise of competence in a pool of puppets, the next lie we wish were true. And we keep ignoring the truths we don't like. We respond to marketing better than we do to fact, maybe because it's more seductive, maybe because we're just plain stupid. In poetic and political terms, we deserve the government we're getting, because we did nothing to prevent it. The government I refer to is of course not made of senators and presidents and governors, it's made of CXOs and boardrooms of corporations, accountable not to voters, not to justice, not even to popular opinion, but to profit.

Perhaps I'm just old now (I'm certainly younger than the old white men making the claims and decisions that bother me so) but I no longer can reconcile the world I live in with the loudest voices within it. They seem alien and factually null. But they've got nearly all the power, and can seemingly co-opt anybody as necessary.

Well there's my two cents. I need to give my brain a break from this stuff, it's just too draining. I'll translate that into giving my (admittedly puny) readership a break too. If I've made you depressed, my advice is to read up on something awesome and optimistic for a while, for example NASA's newly-launched Mars Science Lab mission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I've babbled about the rise of the wealthy and the corporate at great expense of the populous, a number of times. Well here it is again.

Today, myself and a few other folks who care about individual freedom are blacking out our websites in protest of some truly horrific stuff that our corporate overlords have in the pipeline, namely SOPA and PIPA.

(If this is new and/or confusing to you, there's another good article on slashdot.)

Watch the videos, read the commentary, and if you value anything about the internet as it exists today, voice your concern.

[edit: the following section is added years later, in November 2018.]

That last link is broken, but these battles continue.  The laws and acronyms have new names but all the same terrible ideas are still buzzing around.  Take a look here for some solid info on what's happening and what you can do about it:

I was on the fence about whether to add this link, since it has popup ads for VPN subscriptions (in addition to a section which also has affiliate links to sign up for such services) but there's real information to be found there, besmirched as it may be by commercialism.  VPN's are not a bad concept, of course, and in practical terms they're almost necessary now; I just hate that capitalism is doing its best to both destroy the internet and sell it back to us.