This wouldn't have happened with Gainsborough or one of those proper painters.

Wednesday, March 27


Slow Release

The current XKCD amounts to the world's slowest animated GIF.*  It's a seaside scene that's been playing out for more than a day.  

Now the sandcastle has a little bridge.

Update: There's a new XKCD up now, but the previous one is still going at the link above.

Update: Still going!  That is one fancy sand castle!

* It's actually handled server-side, and with a 256-bit hash for the filename so you can't look ahead, but...

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Wednesday, March 20



I have my Nexus 4 and 10 now, which gives me the full suite of current Nexi.

Quick impressions (and in the case of the Nexus 7, slow impressions):

Nexus 4: Fine size for a phone, but too small to do anything interesting with Android.  Good clear screen.  Haven't tried the camera yet.

Nexus 7: Possibly the perfect size for a tablet for reading, games, and many utilities, though too small for comics, text books, or comfortable web browsing.  Needs a faster CPU and a higher resolution screen, and a lot more storage.  I'd like to try an 8" tablet if one can be made with the extra size but no extra weight.

Nexus 10: Superb screen.  Just wonderful.  And the speed improvement over the Nexus 7 is very noticeable - everything is faster and more fluid.  Unfortunately, its size makes it heavy enough that it's annoying to hold one-handed for prolonged use.  You either need to use both hands (which makes it awkward to navigate the touch screen), or rest it on something.  Android's scaling works very well for the most part, though the vertical layout of the icon grid in the launcher is a bit off.

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7" screen; I think I want a 5.5"-6" device for my phone, and 8" for my main tablet; I'll know better after using these widgies for a few months, by which time the thing I want might actually exist.

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Friday, March 08


Top Ten TV Shows That Should Be Turned Into Kairosoft Games

Actually, I haven't come up with 10 yet, so suggestions are welcome.
  1. Barney Miller
  2. Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes
  3. Buffy
  4. Torchwood
  5. Stargate SG1
  6. House
  7. WKRP in Cincinnati (thanks Wonderduck!)
  8. Get Smart
  9. Thunderbirds
  10. Murphy Brown
Wonderduck's suggestion brings to mind Lou Grant and Murphy Brown as possibilities as well.

If you haven't encountered Kairosoft, they're the creators of a line of little management sims on Android and iOS that are just insanely addictive.  They actually started out back in 1996 writing games for PC and DoCoMo phones - at a time when a 320x200 phone display was pretty much state of the art.  They've had something of a rebirth since porting their first game, Game Dev Story, to Android and iOS in 2010, where it became a bestseller.

Since then they've released 18 more games (plus two or three more that are on Android or iOS but still Japanese only), and have a catalog of 36 titles across all platforms.

And yes, I have every game they've released on Android; they're no more than $5, and good for at least 10-15 hours of play each.  Some of them more; I did two full play-throughs of Grand Prix Story to unlock everything, which probably totalled 20 hours over a couple of weeks.

The general pattern set with Game Dev Story is that you run a small company, organisation, or group of some sort, and you have to hire and train staff and research technology to make better and better...  Something. 

Game Dev Story is almost entirely menu-driven; you can watch your people working in the office, but while this display reflects the actual progress of your game projects, it's not interactive.

Later games like Mega Mall Story, Dungeon Village, Epic Astro Story, and the recent Pocket Stables have an interactive map (or for Mega Mall Story, a cross-section view of your building).

Pocket Stables, Grand Prix Story, and Pocket Leage Story also have non-interactive contests - races and football (soccer) games; you train your players/drivers/horses as applicable and set a strategy, but once the contest starts you can't directly influence the outcome.

The games aren't hugely complex, but they are brilliantly crafted little artworks.  The pixel art is just perfect, retro-stylish, adorable, and full of amazing details.  I had dozens of screenshots to show this off, but I lost them all when my Nexus 7 bricked itself.  Here's one, showing two of my horses leading the pack as they round the first corner:*

Anyway, back to the meme: It would need to be some sort of ensemble cast, albeit with a clear leader, working toward a common goal.  And the less sense it would make as a management sim, the better, given Kairosoft's already quirky take on the genre.

* Why, yes, that horse is wearing sunglasses.

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Phone Home?

My cheapie featurephone (a Huawei G6600D) that I've been using for years has developed a teensy problem: It turns itself off if it gets jolted, say, for example, if you pick it up to answer a call.  I'm thinking it's finally time to get myself an Android phone.

I've never actually used an Android phone - or any smart phone - but I use my Nexus 7 tablet constantly, so I'm familiar with Android and mostly like it.  I'm open to suggestions, particularly from anyone who's used any of the phones on my shortlist.
  1. Nexus 4?  Goes nicely with my Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 I ordered yesterday, 720p, 3G, only 16GB and no SD card, but on the other hand, half the price of any of the others on the list.

  2. Galaxy Note 2?  Big screen, easy on my ageing eyes, stylus.

  3. Grey-market HTC Butterfly a.ka. Droid DNA?  Looks like a very nice phone, 1080p, but not officially sold in Australia and probably won't do 4G on our networks.

  4. Sony Xperia Z?  Announced here in Oz, 1080p, but not shipping here yet.

  5. Wait for Galaxy S4?  Due to launch in about a week, expected to be 1080p, but no telling how long it will take for it to ship.

  6. Other?

Update: Decided to go with the Nexus 4.  It's almost half the price of the other phones, while still giving me everything I want except for expandable storage.  And it's currently in stock, where the Xperia Z isn't shipping yet and the S4 isn't even announced yet.  Plus, I know I won't be waiting 6-12 months for an update when Android 5.0 is released.

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Wednesday, March 06


SimCity Launch A Natural Disaster

SimCity 5 - or as Electronic Arts likes to call it, "SimCity" is out.  In that you can buy it; it's far less certain that you'll be able to play it, or even that you'll want to.

All of which was predicted by everyone, and was entirely avoidable.  And happened anyway, because people are dumb.

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Monday, March 04



I said earlier that I thought there was a bug in the spam filter, such that it was identifying spam but then failing to block it.

I was right.  Think it's fixed now.  We should see a marked decrease in spam going forward - about the only thing that is likely to still get through is those lunatics who manually sign up and post comments like real human beings.

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Sunday, March 03


Slowly They Catch On

About 18 months ago I wrote a piece about AMD's Fusion range, Llano and particularly Bobcat, and how in my opinion they were some of the most significant chips in the entire history of chipping.

It took them a while, but Sony have just announced the PlayStation 4 - and it's based on AMD's latest low-power Fusion architecture, the Jaguar core.  Jaguar features both minor improvements - a longer pipeline to allow higher clock speeds, a larger, shared level 2 cache, and instruction improvements for higher IPC - and major ones - four cores, up from two, and a 128-bit floating point unit to replace the 64-bit unit in Bobcat, for at least twice the integer performance and four times the floating point performance.  Jaguar (in the form of the Kabini family of chips) is built at 28nm, a full node advance on the 40nm process used for the Bobcat-based Brazos chips, so it does all that while using less power than its predecessor.

Microsoft haven't officially announced their Nextbox yet, but the information that's leaked out says that they're basing their next system on the Jaguar too.  Meaning that of the three big game consoles in this generation, AMD are supplying CPUs for two and graphics for all three.*

And here it gets interesting.  AMD's fastest existing Fusion processors have 4 CPU cores and 384 graphics shaders.  Jaguar too is designed as a module with 4 CPU cores.  But the PlayStation 4 will have 8 cores - two quad-core modules - probably running at around 2GHz, and 1152 shaders - three times the current largest Fusion chip - at 800MHz.  Plus it will ship with 8GB of 5.5GHz GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus, avoiding the major pitfall of integrated graphics, lack of memory bandwidth.  It should run faster than a Radeon 7850.

The Xbox 720 (if that's what it's to be called) has a slightly different configuration: Again 8 CPU cores, 768 shaders (so two thirds of the PS4), and 8GB of standard DDR3 memory, but with 32MB of embedded memory for the graphics frame buffer.  That's similar to the Xbox 360 which has 10MB of embedded RAM and the PlayStation 2, which had 2MB.

Both approaches are entirely workable.  The PS4 has faster access to general memory; the 720 will probably have faster access to the frame buffer, while keeping costs down for main memory.  For a general-purpose system the 720 chip would allow 32GB (or maybe more) of cheap RAM coupled with integrated graphics at least twice as fast as anything available today.

Where it gets interesting is comparing the development process for this generation of consoles to the previous generation.  Sony, with Toshiba and IBM, spent about $2 billion developing the Cell chip that powers the PlayStation 3.  For the PlayStation 4, they just called up AMD and asked for an a-la-carte chip based entirely on existing designs.

And AMD has said they're open to providing the same service to other customers.  While there's still huge barriers to entry for new consoles - first and foremost, getting attention from developers - 95% of the NRE (non-recoverable engineering) expenses have just evaporated, and the market is wide open for innovation.

* The previous generation was all PowerPC; now two out of three will be x86, or rather, x64.

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