Archive for December, 2009
I’ve recently re-arranged a few things in my computer setup at home. Nothing major, just started working downstairs in my basement and plugged in an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor. I finally got everything more or less functional and got back to work on my app, Boom Dice.
But when I tried installing the new version of the app, I got a message saying, “An unknown error occurred.” and a fresh restore of my iPhone led to a message saying, “The iPhone could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (2005)”. I found a post on support.apple.com and it turns out that problem was with the USB cable or more specifically, that I had attached a USB hub for the external keyboard and mouse.
So I found that I can install my latest builds if I’ve unplugged the USB hub. It also seems to work if my iPhone is already turned on and unlocked. It’s a little inconvenient but at least I figured out what the problem was.
I love this time of year because it’s a chance to get together with friends and family that I don’t get to see during the rest of the year. And as a kid, Christmas was great because we got presents! My favorite were Legos and Transformers. But now that I’m an adult, I find that I have enough stuff, as do most of my friends. In fact, I have more stuff than I have space for that stuff (although, that might be a function of living in the Bay Area). So instead, I like to purchase gifts that don’t take up much space (like iPhone apps!) or are perishable (like chocolate!). But the other thing I like to do is donate to a worthwhile charity. A couple of our favorites are Doctors without Borders and Heifer International.
So in the spirit of this season, I’m combining those ideas and donating 10% of all my iPhone app sales (Mach Dice, Holograms, and Boom Dice) between Christmas and the end of the year to Heifer International, a charity that lets you purchase sustainable gifts of livestock to families in need all across the world. Now, my app sales numbers are actually pretty modest but the week after Christmas can be twice as big as other weeks so hopefully, it’ll lead to a purchase of a couple flocks of ducks or something nice like that.
So if you happen to purchase one of my apps between Christmas and the end of 2009, not only do I thank you but some very grateful family out there in the world also thanks you. Merry Christmas!
Michael Heilemann over at Binary Bonsai wrote a blog post that happened to mention my iPhone dice app, Mach Dice. He also linked to a couple videos about dice where a certain Colonel Louis Zocchi describes why most dice are not that random, which I was surprised to learn. Essentially, most manufacturers who make 20-sided dice are not very precise and thus end up with dice that are much less likely to roll certain numbers. So in a funny turn of events, Mach Dice might actually give you a more uniform distribution of numbers than many physical dice.
I saw James Cameron’s Avatar on Friday. Story-wise, it’s a lot like Dances with Wolves, which may or may not be your cup of tea. But that aside, the work on that film was spectacular and I mean that in a literal sense. The movie was very much a spectacle. This is a film that you want to experience on the biggest possible screen you can. I saw the trailer on a small computer screen last month and it seemed kind of garish. It didn’t seem like it would work as a movie. But on the big screen, it’s completely different. It feels epic, especially in 3D.
The world feels fully real, the environments are gorgeous, and the aliens are suitably alien yet totally appealing in motion. I think there are a number of other directors that are as enamored of new technology as James Cameron. But I don’t think there are any that are as deft at using that technology to create a compelling movie. So if you want to see what motion capture can do in the right hands or see how exactly one can spend nearly $500 million to create a movie, go see Avatar. Believe me, you’ll understand when you see it.
Looking for another stocking stuffer for Christmas? How about one of my fine hand-crafted iPhone apps: Mach Dice, Holograms, or Boom Dice? Okay, they’re not really stocking stuffers since a copy of my apps doesn’t really fill out a stocking. So if you’re in the market for something a little more physically tangible, how about the Perpetual Top? Well, it’s not really perpetual, but it does spin for a very long time:
You can find these online by searching for “perpetual top”. I think I got mine at Arbor Scientific.
Disney’s latest princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, is a wonderful return to the world of 2D animation. If you’ve got a little girl in your family, you should definitely take her to see it. But even if you don’t, I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see a fun movie with gorgeous set pieces.
The movie also marks Disney’s first Black princess, a subject that is not without its controversy. But it’s a good kind of controversy that gets people talking. It’s also possible that the movie has more significance to Black women over 35, like my wife, than to their relatives of younger generations. When my wife was growing up, there were no movies that starred little girls that looked like her. And if there were Black girls or women in movies, they were always background characters, if that. So it’s very encouraging to her to see a movie where the Black girl is the star and the hero.
It’s also very encouraging that although this is a Disney princess movie, it’s not the story of a girl who just pines after the wealthy handsome prince. It’s a story about a girl who grew up poor, and had a dream of owning her own restaurant and pursues it through hard work and determination throughout the whole movie. There’s even a bit of subversive commentary in there when she says that you can’t just “wish upon a star” and expect your dreams to come true.
There’s also a very enjoyable secondary character, a slightly spoiled daughter (who really does act like a princess) of a wealthy landowner who grows up knowing Tiana, the main character. I think the movie did an incredible job of creating a believable and genuine relationship between those two characters while acknowledging their very different backgrounds. She’s also incredibly funny.
The movie is filled with so many memorable characters: Mama Odie, the witch who reminds you of the grandmother who wouldn’t hesitate to spank some sense into you; the alligator with a secret passion; the firefly who falls in love so earnestly that your heart breaks; Prince Naveen, a spoiled young man who you just want to slap silly, but can’t stay mad at because he’s just so charming; and Tiana’s dad whose warmth guides her through her whole life. They are a delight from start to finish.
So go see The Princess and the Frog!
I recently got to try out a couple new iPhone games made by different friends:
The first is “SpaceDuel!“, a space shooter where you get to duel against a computer player or a friend over WiFi. The neat part is that you get to choose which ship you use and they all have different abilities. Some have tracking missiles, others are more powerful but slower, some have EMPs, some can teleport, etc. Check it out!
The second game is “Khromax“, a simple color matching game where you drag similarly colored circles together without touching circles of different colors. The best part about it is that you can try out the game for free on their website. Check it out!
I’ve made a few silly videos with the built-in camera on my Mac. They’re fun to do but there’s one problem. (Well, okay, I’m not very good at making them but that’s another issue entirely.) When I record directly to YouTube using the “Record from Webcam” feature, the videos get cut off.
But I’ve found out a web page that explains how to record videos from the built-in camera to the hard drive which you can then upload to YouTube without problems. Basically, you download Quicktime Broadcast (for free!) and then under the Network Tab, set the Transmission to “Manual Unicast”, and the address to 127.0.0.1.
Now I just have to come up with something worth making a video about…
At work, our department had this event where a bunch of us baked something. I decided to try my hand at mini cheesecakes based on a recipe that a friend recommended at Tante Marie’s. I’m really not much of a cook (I once messed up making French toast for my wife by mixing up sugar and salt — apparently, sugar is the shiny one) but I had fun copying down the recipe in my notebook and making the little cupcakes. They were so cute!