Game Review: Armagetron

In the ongoing quest to keep myself entertained, I try to rummage around looking for good distractions to while away the hours between the time I declare “I can’t work anymore” and the time I can safely say “It’s time to go to bed.”
My earlier solution to fill these hours was Kobo Deluxe, which, while still an outstanding game, gets wearing after a while. Not to mention crampy on the hands.
I recently discovered ArmageTron, the most accurate reproduction of the infamous Lightcycle ‘game’ in the 1982 movie ‘Tron I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of ’em.
Now, I, like other geeks, had daydreams about that lightcycle game for the longest time. I even wrote a version of it for the TRS-80 called ‘Gridrunner’ that was a load of fun, but hardly as visual as the movie.
ArmageTron reproduces the exact look and feel of the movie game. The scrolling green grid, the whine of the motors on the cycles, the exact left! right! left left! action of steerig the bikes and everything. The game designers have also brought in things that puzzled me in the original movie, but make the gameplay perfect.
For instance, your lightcycle runs faster if it’s close to the jetwall of another cycle. If you’re brushing up against it, it’s the fastest. This doesnt’ work for the arena walls (so you can’t go tearing around the outside of the arena), but it does make chasing someone else interesting. The person behind doing the chasing has the advantage of picking up speed, the person being chased has the advantage of being able to make a right angle turn directly in front of the chaser.
In keeping with the original premise in ‘Tron’ (that the programs were actually small autonomous creatures living inside the computer – and they could think live and die on their own), the AI opponents in the game are named after well known applications that are known to be somewhat tempermental. This is presumably to give you satisfaction ramming them into a wall. It works. There’s nothing like tearing off in pursuit of ‘Outlook’ and slamming it into a wall.
I installed ArmageTron via the Debian Sarge packages, so installation took only took a few seconds. The game is rock solid and very playable, though does require a fully functional GL installation. I haven’t tested the networked version yet, but variable-level AI is quite a challenge in its own right.
This is a fast paced, well designed, and extremely well executed game, taking a simple concept, with a baseline for presentation, and making it an eminently playable game. Kudos!

Web Developer Firefox Plugin

I do a fair amount of ‘web development’, meaning I tend to write things that are viewable via a web browser. Whether they’re posted on my blog, or on other sites I sometimes maintain, generally my preferred ‘user interface’ is a web browser.
I’ve been using a plugin for quite a while called “Web Developer Extension“. It’s a set of tools that integrates tightly with Firefox and lets you do all the things a web developer needs to do to make sure his or her application is displaying properly.
The most useful feature I’ve found is ‘Outline block elements’ and ‘Display ID and Class Detail’ – these functions change your displayed page and draw lines around all your block level elements (such as ‘div’ and ‘table’ and ‘span’), and can also label them with what class and ID they are.
When dealing with multiple nested CSS elements, this sort of display can save HOURS trying to track down what element belongs to what container, particularly when working with content management systems like Movable Type.
The plugin is non-intrusive, and is only triggered when you select it off the menu. I can’t imagine doing web development without it.

Review: Mozilla Bookmark Synchronizer

For a long time now, I’ve been searching about for a mechanism to synchronize my bookmarks from one machine to another. There are times when I run Firefox on more than one machine at a time, and the bookmarks have become one of the more valuable resources in my desktop setup.

Lo, along comes Bookmark Synchronizer, a Mozilla extension that adds the capability of publishing or retrieving your bookmarks from a server at any time, including whenever you start or shut down your browser.

The installation and configuration was trivial using Firefox’s excellent Extensions manager, and I made a copy of my bookmarks onto my main server inside 10 seconds. Now I can import that file (in the documented XBEL – XML Bookmarks Extension Language format), anytime I need to, as well as publish changes into it

I do have one or two little nitpicks. I would like to be able to ‘sync’ without going into the Extensions window, selecting bookmarks synchronizer, clicking Options, then clicking Upload now. A hot button somewhere in the browser would be a lot easier. The other way the sync happens is automatically when starting up or shutting down Firefox, which also makes me a bit nervous. Usually the only reason I shut down Firefox is due to a crash or instability – throwing another function in during that situation may not help the situation.

But other than these comments, the tool works perfectly. A very easy way to move bookmarks from one machine to another. Bravo!

Followup: Puzzle Pirates

About a month ago, I posted a review of Puzzle Pirates. I said at the time the game looked interesting and was fun to play. A month later, I thought it might be a good idea to post an update.
I’m still playing. 🙂 And not only am I playing, I’m addicted. This is really the first MMPORG I’ve gotten into, and while it isn’t quite as immersive as, say, Everquest or World of Warcraft, it’s still mindbogglingly addictive.
Since I wrote that article, I’ve teamed up with great crew, and have recently been promoted to an officer (though a junior one. I have a lot of practice ahead of me before I can consider myself a decent officer 🙂
The puzzles are still fascinating, but with the added bonus that the crew has to work together to make the ship run well (and this is done not only by performing the puzzles well, but also working together during swordfights and trade), it really does suck you in. I’ve gotten more involved in how the commerce works in the system as well, buying and trading goods, how the individual stores, islands, and the like work.
If you like puzzles, like interracting with other folks, and like gaming where you’re working together to reach a common goal, I heartily recommend you take a serious look a look at Puzzle Pirates.

Review: Sage RSS feed aggregator for Firefox

In the world of blogging, and increasingly on other sites with dynamic content, a mechanism has been developed to allow a person to review all or part of a site without actually logging into it. Article headlines and content is delivered via a ‘Syndicated Feed‘ to a news aggregator which, as the name implies, collects the feeds and displays them in an easy to review fashion. I’ve been looking for a good aggregator for a while, but haven’t found anything I liked… until now.

Continue reading “Review: Sage RSS feed aggregator for Firefox”

Review: Spout

I like finding cutesy little games that are fun to noodle around with. It’s particularly nice to find something you can play in a few minutes that doesn’t require a half hour of loading CD’s and selecting playing options.
I keep an eye on Happy Penguin to see what’s new in the Linux gaming world, and saw a few references to Spout, so decided to give it a go.
It’s a hyper-simplistic game. You fly an abstract little ‘ship’ that has a vicious exhaust. You’re trying to gain a maximum altitude by navigating up through simple obstacles. At any time, you can spin your ship around and use the exhaust to blast through things in your way.
The game was originally written for a small LCD display, so the resolution is gritty at best, not to mention black and white. Nonetheless, I find myself playing it a bunch. The animation of the exhaust is outstanding, and watching all the little particles flying around is just a load of fun.
For something to noodle with while on the phone or just to kill some time, give it a whirl.
Spout was originally written by Kuni. It was ported to Linux and is now hosted on mizzencode.

Kingdom of Loathing: An interview with Jick

It began innocently enough. Somewhere in the vast communications jungle
that is my interaction with the net, someone pointed me to this swords and
sorcery-ish game that ran on a website. “Fine”, sez I, “I’ll take a look”. I
didn’t think much of it, other than the odd name, ‘Kingdom of
Loathing’. To me, web-based gaming, in particular RPG games, never really seemed
to be worth getting into. I’d rather play something local.

A month later, I’m still playing the game daily. I work through my daily
alottment of moves usually before noon, and I’m learning all the little tricks to
get more Adventures so I can advance my character faster.

These guys definitely have something.

Continue reading “Kingdom of Loathing: An interview with Jick”

Review : Kobo Deluxe

It’s rare that I get totally addicted to a game under Linux. I mean, the
environment isn’t really conducive to totally immersive gaming. Back in my
Windows days I’d have a serious game every week or two I’d play pretty
constantly until I either beat it or got tired of it. Since I’ve gone totally
Linux, that just hasn’t happened. Now, many would consider this a -good- thing,
since games can in fact be total time sucking life suckers, but gosh darn it,
sometimes ya just have to take a break from the full time job and just blow things up
for a while.

I’m not a cutting edge sort of gamer. If I like something, I’ll play it for
a while. And I mean a while. I’m still playing Quake 3 Arena just because
durnit, it’s a fun game, and lets me, well, you guessed it, BLOW THINGS UP!
When I shifted over to Linux, Q3A wasn’t really an option anymore (yes, I know
it’s possible, but I just wasn’t up for the hassle.

Continue reading “Review : Kobo Deluxe”

Review : Mozex plugin for Mozilla / Firefox

I’ve been having hassles doing some of the major editing on
the blog, due to the
fact that it’s difficult to do serious editing in HTML Textarea
windows. There’s a couple ways around it, such as having an an intelligent client
to edit in
. I’m still searching for a good client, but it’s sort
of weird when we already -have- one, that being a web browser. Gotta be
a better way!

Continue reading “Review : Mozex plugin for Mozilla / Firefox”

Review : BloGTK – a Linux blog tool for Moveable Type

I’ve been having problems doing longish postings using Moveable Type‘s standard maintenance interface. While it’s fine for simple babblings, when doing longish reviews and commentary, say, like this one, doing all the edits in a <textarea> really gets wearing. So I set out to find a tool for my Linux machine to make posting easier.

Continue reading “Review : BloGTK – a Linux blog tool for Moveable Type”

Linux. KDE. Laptop. Mmmmm.

A month or so ago I embarked on setting up my working environment on a laptop running Linux. The iniitial platform was an IBM Thinkpad T20 running Redhat Linux release 9. I was reasonably happy with it, but RH9 is being end of lifed, so perhaps learning all there was to know about that platform wasn’t the best approach.

At a recent event, said T20 Thinkpad was stolen. But, out of adversity comes opportunity. I saw this as a reason to not only upgrade to a more powerful laptop, but also try a differenr Linux distributions. I’m super happy with what I ended up with, and knowing there are others either using this combination of hardware and OS, or are just curious how to go from scratch to full environment, this is a rundown of what my system is like, how I built it, and my thoughts on the state of the art in Linux desktops.

Continue reading “Linux. KDE. Laptop. Mmmmm.”

Switched blogrolls, and a recommendation

I’ve changed where I pull my blogrolls (displayed as the ‘other blogs’ section on Planet Geek’s main page. I had been using Blogrolling, but I found their interface cumbersome, and their features lacking.
I’m now pulling the roll from Bloglines , a great site run by the same fellow who originally founded eGroups, (now Yahoo! Groups).
The other advantage is BlogLines is an online Aggregator, which can summarize multiple websites and blogs into a nice browseable form. Feel free to add Planet Geek to an account on Bloglines, and you’ll see postings show up there.
The LiveJournal ‘Friends’ pages are an example of an aggregator, though they’ve tailored the concept considerably to LJ’s particular view of the blogging world.
Between your own LiveJournal friends page and Bloglines, you should be able to read virtually all the news / blogs / comments sites on the net.

When desktops go bad!

Ah, the joys of being your own sysadmin. I guess.
For the last 2 years, I’ve been doing probably 90% of my desktop work on Windows based systems. Unfortunately Intuit, my former employer, is a very strong Windows shop, and even though they were mostly okay with me running Linux on my desktop machine, the added time / effort necessary to make it all work together just wasn’t there.
Now that I’m on my own, I can switch back to my natural environment, a Linux desktop.

Continue reading “When desktops go bad!”