Monday, March 31


New In 1.2: Video At Last!

Just as a reminder, this series of posts is talking about features in the new 1.2 relase coming in April. These tags aren't available on the live system just yet; I've copied the HTML produced by the test system to demonstrate their effects.

A couple more toys for you to play with, in the form of the [video] and [music] tags. I'm cheating slightly to show them working here, because while the player is installed on the server, the updated BBCode engine isn't.

To start with something simple, the tag [video=/flash/NewCuteyHoneyOp2.flv image=/flash/NewCuteyHoneyOp2.jpg theme=dark width=480 height=360] produces this:

The width and height default to 480 and 360 respectively, so if you're happy with that, you don't need to specify them. An extra 20 pixels is added to the total height for the player control bar. Two themes are currently available: dark, as shown above, and light, which is light grey with black buttons.

The image option specifies a placeholder image to be displayed until the user hits play. Or you can add an autostart option to, well, autostart. But that could get annoying - particularly if you have more than one video on the page...

Your file needs to be in FLV format at present (or SWF, but FLV is probably easier). There are a number of free tools that will convert AVI or MPEG files to FLV - Riva Encoder is one that I've tried that seems to work fairly well.

The [music] tag will display a simple player for MP3 files. The tag [music=/files/music/Eva-3-34.mp3] will produce:

You can specify a width and a theme just as with the video player.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:48 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, March 30


New In 1.2: Search, Filter, And Wiki

Three more BBCode tags on their way to you in next month's update: [search], [filter], and [wiki].

These make it easy for you to refer to related items on your own site.  [search=wombat] will provide a link to /search/wombat like this: wombat*  That will bring up a search page listing your posts that refer to wombats.

[filter=wombat], on the other hand, produces the link /filter/wombat: wombat*  The difference here is that instead of giving you a search page listing the entries, it displays the entries themselves.

Finally, [wiki=wombat] links not to Wikipedia (use [wp=wombat] for that) but to your own lovingly crafted wiki.  Or, if you don't have one, to whatever it can find.  The link generated is to /wiki/filter.w/wombat: wombat*  What this does is an exact title match on items in your wiki folder - or, due to the way Minx works, on your entire site if you don't have a wiki folder.

You can set up a wiki in a number of ways - as a category, as an area (more on those soon), or as a smart folder.  And by using a smart folder, you can merge results from any number of other Minx sites, to create your own meta-wiki.

There are some limitations in the 1.2 implementation of smart folders that make it hard to construct a multi-site wiki with clever navigation like you see at TV Tropes, but that will be lifted when I enable cached smart folders, which will be in either a 1.2 update or 1.3.

* Link doesn't work, because we're not on 1.2 yet.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:42 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, March 29


Open A Can Of Awesome

I don't know who made this, or why, but it's seriously cool.


Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:32 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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New In 1.2: Dump (And Now, Print!)

A couple of hours of hackery and I've added a very useful new tool to Minx: The [dump] tag.

The dump tag comes in five forms: HTML, XML, HTML table, JSON, and text.  What it does is simple: You give it a tag, or a list of tags, and it dumps the tag data in an appropriate format.  The one trick is that if you give it the name of an object, it dumps all the fields and sub-fields for you automatically.

This makes it trivial to write, for example, an export routine.  This will do it:
[posts count=9999]
[print.xml post]
[print.xml comment]
Also very handy for writing APIs like, oh, OpenSocial or MetaWeblog.  Should I happen to be considering doing that... wink

Come to think of it, that dump routine would be less than ideal, since it would expand out all the auto-format options.  And there are a lot of those.

Want to see just how much data Minx gives you for a single post?  Hit the extended entry.

Update: Okay, I've added a [print] tag which strips out most of the excess baggage.  So [dump] to get the entire contents of an object, and [print] to get the useful contents.


Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:26 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Return to Shigofumi

A Spoiler-free Review

I couldn't sleep the other night - upset stomach, spondylising ankylosis, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome, or some such - so I watched some more of Shigofumi, having set it aside after it turned out to get rather darker than I'd expected at the end of the very first episode.

And as it happens, after it gets dark, it gets weird.  It's not relentlessly dark, nor is it relentlessly weird, but when it's not one or the other it's usually both.  Also, sometimes, stupid; episode 8 nearly went off the rails in that way.

And then I reached episode 11, where a certain someone does a certain something to a certain someone (those who have seen it will know what I mean), and I didn't have episode 12, which you would expect to reveal the outcome of the event of episode 11.  And then, last night, it showed up on the other anime torrrent site, and I downloaded it, and just now, I watched it.


Couple of points:

First, I'd expected Shigofumi to be episodic, but to weave together a cohesive story from the largely unconnected episodes, like Popotan or Azumanga Daioh.  And it is, and it isn't, and it does, and it doesn't.  Which makes it hard to discuss, really.

Second, as happens from time to time in this business, the ending would have been much stronger if they had left it out entirely.  Watch episode 11, let it sit for a week or two, and then watch episode 12.  See?

Shigofumi: Well.   Um.   Yeah.  Solid production values.  Good costume design.  Also, cats.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:40 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Friday, March 28


SimCity Sydney

I was overjoyed when EA announced a few years back that SimCity was getting a new release - for about five minutes, until I learned that the new version, dubbed SimCity Societies, represented a marked dumbing-down of the game, focusing on social aspects rather than, well, simulating a city.  I fully expected the new game to be a flop, and lo, it came to pass.

The people at EA were apparently worried that the game was becoming too complex to attract new players, and there's some truth to that.  Unfortunately, their solution attracted no-one at all.  GameSpot gave it a score of 6.0, and in the inflated world of game review scores, that's roughly a 2/10.  Not only was it the exact opposite of what I wanted, it wasn't anything anyone else wanted either.

What I want from a city simulator is to be able to choose from commuter rail, light rail, elevated rail, subway, intercity rail, and trams.  To be able to pick the designs and layouts of my stations and the stopping patterns of my trains, and how they integrate with my buses and ferries, and to have to send out the emergency crew when a ferry runs backwards down a hill and ends up on the tracks.

I want to have to route not just power and water, but sewer and gas and telephone and cable and fibre and, while we're at it, pneumatic delivery tubes and steam pipes, and deal with the resultant disaster when any two of those networks get cross-connected.

SimCity 4 caused me some grief because my sprawling cities didn't quite fit in my then 512MB of memory...  And when I added another 256MB, I tripped over a bug in Windows and my system got corrupted.

But that was then, and this is now.  Instead of an Athlon 1.2 with 512MB of memory, I have a dual Athlon 2.6 with 8GB of memory.  And if SimCity 5 were actually available, I'd cheerfully upgrade that to a quad-core Phenom.  (Which is just a CPU swap.)  But, of course, it ain't.

The reason this comes up is that the NSW state government has just announced a new "metro" line for north-west Sydney.  The line was announced to run via Wynyard and Epping and then on to Castle Hill and Bella Vista (the suburb that appeared overnight) and beyond.

Which is fine if a little dull.  Run the trains from Wynyard over the Harbour Bridge to Chatswood, then through the underground line to Epping (which should open this year), and then up the newly constructed line.

Except that's not what they're doing.  What they are doing is rather more interesting, in several ways.  This is what the plans are at present:


(Click to enlarge.  The proposed North West Metro is indicated in black.)

They're starting at St. James, a station I have never had any use for, crossing the city with a stop at Martin Place to Wynyard, then heading due west along the south shore of the Parrammatta River, before making a new crossing, heading up between the North Shore and Northern lines, and creating a third junction point at Epping.

That only leaves two pieces to complete the north-west puzzle - the Carlingford-Epping connection, and the Rouse Hill-Vineyard connection, each of which would tie together two railway lines.

Okay, so they're building a larger and more significant railway than I'd first thought.  That's nice, but what, you ask, is so interesting?

Well, there's a lot of history to this, if you know Sydney.  For starters, there was a railway line to Castle Hill before.  It was never a commercial success, though, and it closed in 1932. 

Then there's the oddity of the trains starting at St. James, of all places, probably the least-used of Sydney's underground stations.  Why there?  This is why:


That's part the original plan for Sydney's rail network as envisioned by John Bradfield, who also designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The key point here is the blue and yellow lines on that map were never built - at least, not the way they are shown.  A short line to the eastern suburbs was built much later via a different route; the northern beaches line remains a wistful thought in the minds of commuters on the packed bendy-buses on Military Road.

But while the lines themselves weren't built, provisions for them were made.  On the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which originally had four rail lines and six vehicle lanes, as opposed to the current two and eight; at St. James, which has an odd, single, massively wide platform because it was originally designed to be the junction for the City Circle and Eastern Suburbs lines, and at Wynyard, where the platforms are, curiously, numbered 3, 4, 5 & 6.

So what we get is rather clever.  Start from St. James, proceed to Wynyard via Martin Place through tunnels already partly constructed, then turn left and head out past Darling Harbour, possibly sharing right of way with the Metro Light Rail (which was in turn built largely on old goods lines) before heading off to Epping and points north-west.

The plan integrates half of the proposed Anzac Line with the previously proposed North West Rail Link:

It may even serve part of the purpose of the (proposed, now presumably abandoned) Redfern to Chatswood rail line.  If commuters can be delivered the new platforms at Wynyard, Martin Place and St. James, then perhaps Town Hall can get the refurbishment it urgently needs.  (They already did what they could without closing at least part of the station, but it's a 1930's-era railway station that serves half the CBD of a major city.)

Once this new line is built, I will have four alternative rail routes to work - assuming, which is unlikely, that I still live and work where I currently do in 2015.  See where the red and yellow lines head off the top of the first map?  Well, where they join, that's where I live:


So I'll be able to commute into the city via Chatswood, via Epping, via Epping and then Chatswood (or via Chatswood and then Epping, but then I believe I'd need to change trains), or via Epping and Gladesville.

Oh, and: The adjacent suburbs of North Ryde, West Ryde, and Top Ryde will now all have railway stations - none of which connect directly to the others.

That's what I want to do in SimCity 5.  That's the sort of thing that would bring the game to life, that would keep someone (at least, someone like me) tinkering with a city potentially for years.  Oh, and pre-ordering expansion packs the moment they are announced.

EA, you've made a small large quite huge, actually, fortune on The Sims.  How about a little love for the game that started it all?

Update: Oh, I forgot to add a mention of this:


(Click to enlarge.)

That's a wow of a plan if it could be brought off.  It's already been superseded in part by the North-West Metro - the Wynard-Gladesville-Epping route on this map is similar, but not the same - but it reconstructs the original Hills Line, and finally builds Bradfield's Northern Beaches Line, at least as far as Dee Why (and via Crows Nest, where I used to live).

It still doesn't connect Carlingford with Epping, though, and considering how close the two are, that's crazy.  (If you have a decent sized monitor, Carlingford Station will be at lower left, Epping Station at upper right.  A distance of a little over a mile if you dig a tunnel along the route of Carlingford Road, or about 15 miles via the current rail route.)

Update: Here's the full plan that the previous map was excerpted from:


(Click to enlarge.)

The original was at some point resized by an idiot, so the quality isn't great.  This is sad, because rail network maps of this complexity are transformed into works of art.  I wonder where Wikipedia got their relatively high-quality copy; the only source I could find is here.  (Section 5 contains the map.)

Update: Can't find a better copy, so I've resized the original with a soft filter.  I also noticed that the full map does have the Carlingford-Epping link.  Just needs the Moss Vale-Unanderra line to be reinstated for passenger services, and it's perfect.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:53 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, March 23


Sketchbook: Full Color Apostrophes

Azumanga Daioh, if all the girls were Osaka.

Which you can take as a recommendation or a warning, according to taste.

Update: Just finished watching it, and I have to say that Azumanga Daioh where all the girls are Osaka is really really good.

It's a quiet and somewhat slow-moving series, something you probably need to be in the right mood to enjoy, but if you are in that mood, highly recommended.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:12 AM | Comments (19) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, March 22


I Didn't Know You Could Do That With Minx!

And there are two likely reasons for that:
  1. You couldn't; this is a new feature in the forthcoming 1.2 release.
  2. Um, I never documented it.
Where the big thing in 1.1 was the new layout engine (and themes and such), there are three areas of focus in 1.2:
  1. Making sure everything that works is documented.
  2. Making sure everything that is documented works.
  3. Moving the support for sites other than blogs from experimental to production.
Here's a sample of 1, 2, and 3 in action: a short excerpt from The Minx Book.  You can see mention here of features related to wikis, site integration, and so on.

Progress on the book is slow at the moment because I am testing (and in some cases, coding) the features as I document them.  And progress on the 1.2 release has been slowed because I need to document everything as I code.  But it's all coming together for a big April release.

In this 25-page excerpt of the book, I give a brief overview of 2 of the top-level tags*, many of the formatting options, and the 1.0-version programming tags.

I think this may take a while.

On the other hand, many of the tags are minor variations on others - there's only about 70 distinct data structures in Minx - so once I get the templates set up I can easily churn out all the different combinations with a bit of cut-and-paste and search-and-replace.  Of course, if I overdo that, we'll end up with a 12,000 page manual...

* Out of 1068.  cry

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:30 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, March 18


Commuter Woes

Please not to be parking of the buses on the railway lines.  Is inconvenient for commutators.* Also hard on suspension.

Thank you.

* I was 45 minutes late to work, which actually isn't too bad under the circumstances.  It would have been worse except that I live at the junction of two major railway lines, and they only had one bus.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:48 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
Post contains 63 words, total size 1 kb.


Still Waiting On The Bus To SimsVille

But this might be cool.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:26 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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