Friday, April 23, 2010

An Epic Game

I was at game night last night just long enough to get in an epic game of Tichu with a couple of my old lunch buddies. Jason and I teamed up against Adam, who recruited Mike to complete the quorum. As you can see from the score sheet below, Adam and Mike engineered a mighty comeback which resulted in a mighty close finish. I especially liked how, although Adam made his Tichu call on the last hand, he and Mike still lost the game because Jason and I took 105 points in play! Good times!

























Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cancer Sucks and Some People are Idiots

Warning: this post is going to be a little more personal than you might be used to in this forum. If that upsets you or makes you feel uncomfortable then perhaps that's the point. I promise not to make a habit of it.

My wife has Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It's not been a pleasant experience for anyone but we're coping and we hope to get through this just fine. I'm not looking for sympathy and neither am I looking for advice but I am interested in dispensing just a little.

When some people (and I'm not talking about any of our close friends) find out that she has cancer, it seems like they just can't help but offer unsolicited advice.

One gentlemen, a long-time distant acquaintance of my parents, talked my ear off at my father's funeral (of all places) and actually had the nerve to tell me that before we should settle on a course of treatment, we should FLY ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY to solicit advice from cancer specialists. I'm not quite sure what world he lives in but in our world such things are generally prohibitively expensive, and rather foolish considering that we live next to some of the country's best cancer research centers. People generally come to Seattle seeking cancer treatment; not go looking for it elsewhere. I'm sure he meant well.

But today something happened that nearly sent me through the roof. One of my wife's facebook acquaintances posted a link to an article which said that cancer is caused by "negative emotions". The article even listed a table of which emotions are supposedly linked to which form of cancer. Not only is this bad science (if you can even call it that) but it's downright insulting. This person basically just suggested that my wife has brought her cancer upon herself. I'm sorry but that is probably the worst possible type of wrong. There is absolutely no science behind this idea. Perhaps next this person will be suggesting that space aliens have injected tracking devices in my wife's cancer cells. (I've decided not to post a link to this article because I don't want to give it any more exposure.)

People. If you have a friend who is suffering from cancer (or some other life threatening disease) the best thing you can do is just be their friend, let them know that you are willing to offer help and support if it's requested and then leave it at that. Your friend doesn't want you to offer medical advice. She doesn't want you to suggest a doctor, a cause or a cure. And she sure as hell doesn't want you to suggest that her cancer is her fault!

Thank you for indulging my little detour. I promise to go back to the fun stuff next time.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Realy? Isn't that a little harsh?

I've got a peeve to pet.

What kind of app justifies a one-star rating in Apple's app store? Apple's guideline text that appears when you hover over the one-star rating is "hate it". Hate is a mighty strong word. For myself, I tend to reserve that for things that are pretty darn awful.

So we come to FireworksToy. FireworksToy is a really simple fireworks application that I threw together in a few hours as a test harness for the victory overlay in Mü. Since I had fun playing around with it, I thought I'd go ahead and release it as a free app. I thought "Hey, this isn't much but it's kinda fun to play with and perhaps someone will enjoy it." I thought I was doing something nice. Did I think that it was a great app? Of course not. But apparently there are some people who enjoy flicking open and closed a virtual Zippo lighter, surely there would be people that would enjoy shooting off virtual fireworks.

I was very careful to make sure that the descriptive text that appears in the app store didn't oversell it. I didn't want people thinking they were getting one thing and then feeling cheated when they got another. THAT might merit a one star rating in my book and I really was just trying to do something nice so I kept the description pretty low key.

So I have to admit that I'm a little hurt by the fact that nearly half the people who have rated it in the US store have given it one star; and even more so by those who posted negative reviews slamming it. I mean really people. Come on. You knew what you were getting when you downloaded the thing. Or at least you should have. Isn't "hate it" a pretty strong reaction? It's not like you were ripped off. It's free!

Oh well, I guess I'll be crying all the way to the bank. After all, the little ad banners that I tossed onto the bottom as an afterthought are making enough money to pay for my lunches these days.

Not bad for a throwaway app that was released as a nice gesture.

Guess I don't care all that much after all.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Musings on the iPad

So you may have heard that Apple's shiny new toy debuted this weekend. You may also have heard that I have one. I needed it so I could test Mü on it. (Yeah. That's it.)

So now that I've become an expert on all things iPad (one weekend with the device will do that, you know) I thought I'd take a little time to post my feelings on it.


* It really is a phenomenal way to browse the web. It's very zippy and multi-touch gestures let you pan and zoom the image to your heart's content. Ever browse to a site with a layout that doesn't quite fit properly on your screen? That problem simply goes away on this device. Put it in landscape mode or portrait mode just by turning the device. It's instant. It's very organic. It's just a joy to browse on this thing.

* Video is buttery smooth and looks awesome.

* There are TONS of great apps for it with more coming every day. Think of all the cool apps on your smart phone (if you have one) and now think "bigger, better, prettier, more powerful" and you have the idea. Most of the best iPhone apps have been re-worked and improved (not just embiggened) to run on the iPad. And although they're on average a little more pricey than their iPod/iPhone counterparts, they're still really cheap compared to software on a PC.

* It's an excellent ebook reader. The Kindle app is nearly perfect and Apple's iBook app is pretty sweet too. It's got enough heft and a large enough screen to have a kind of bookish feel to it and the screen is absolutely wonderful on the eyes. Way better than the laptop screen I'm typing this blog entry on.

* The battery life really is as good as they say. They advertise ten hours of video playback and I totally believe it. I used mine almost all day yesterday for games and browsing the web, all on a single charge.

* It makes a great electronic picture frame too.


* 71 ¼ square inches of glass is kind of heavy (compared to the iPod) and fragile. I definitely worry about dropping this thing. This is not something that you can just stuff in your pocket like the iPhone. If you're looking for something to carry with you everywhere, this probably isn't it. On the other hand, it's far more portable than a laptop and does about 90% of what I want a laptop to do. And what it does, it does REALLY well.

* The keyboard, while functional, is not good enough for touch typing. Again, 90% of what I want a portable computing device to do, doesn't require massive typing, so not a big deal for me.

* No USB port. You can buy a dongle for it with a USB port but even that is only really good for downloading pictures from a camera. You're not going to be able to plug in printers or scanners or other heavy-duty peripherals. For me, not a big deal, but for some it might be.

* No camera. I kind of wish there were a front-facing camera so you could use this for video conferencing. I don't know if I would ever use it for that but it would be nice to have the option.

* No Flash. OK. This one kind of hurts. This means that any web site that uses Flash won't work. There aren't many flash sites that I go to on a regular basis but there are some (my wife's for one). I understand why Apple doesn't want to go down that rat hole but I wish they would.

The verdict?

I'm sold. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons, and most of the cons can be rectified over time. Is it for everybody? Of course not. And it's certainly not a laptop replacement. But it's sure going to see a lot of use on my daily commute.

And Mü looks really cool on it too. :)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

New Version of Mü Available Now

The new version of Mü for iPhone, iPod touch, and now iPad is available now in the App Store. Those of you who already purchased Mü for the iPhone will get the update for free.

Want to hear something frustrating? I ordered an accessory for my iPhone from Apple earlier this week. According to tracking emails, both packages left the same warehouse in China on the very same day. The accessory arrived yesterday. If it weren't for the fact that Apple won't let UPS deliver my iPad before Saturday, it would be here now.

I hate waiting.