Monthly Archives: January 2005

Delicious coding

Delicious Library Apparently I wasn’t the only person to purchase Delicious Library in the first week of release. They’ve had $250,000 in sales so far. For an app that no one really needs, this is pretty incredible.

And no office space overhead. At O’Reilly’s Mac conference Wil Shipley emphasized a similar point, to cut costs down by selling directly to the customer instead of a boxed product in stores. See Niall Kennedy’s blog post for a link to the MP3.

Wil also likes Cocoa Bindings. From an Apple interview about Cocoa Bindings, he said:

“It makes it really easy for programmers to present data in a way that’s very clear and intuitive to the user. It makes every app look and feel like an iApp.”

I haven’t bought into Bindings yet. I commented on Michael Tsai’s blog about it last month. The funny thing is, the little details in Delicious Library that are so impressive required some significant programming, and shaving a few dozen lines of code that handles sorting in a table view seems to pale in comparison. For example, look at the gradient in this screenshot, and how it works correctly for contiguous or non-contiguous rows. You don’t get that kind of stuff for free.

Back to politics

Thursday is the presidential inauguration, as well as Not One Damn Dime Day. Every year or so you hear about one of these attempts to effect the economy, and of course they usually have no noticeable effect. But you never know — one day one of these virtual protests will catch fire.

“On ‘Not One Damn Dime Day’ those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.”

Meanwhile, I’m almost at the point where I can listen to the news again. For years I’ve listened to NPR every day, the Sunday talk shows, and frequently Nightline or (when I had cable) The Daily Show at night. But after the election I shut down everything except weblogs. It was just too painful to listen to the media.

Howard Dean is receiving strong support in his run for DNC chair. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who read what I wrote during the Democratic primaries last year that I support him 100%. Hopefully there will be a way to help — it doesn’t have the same grassroots feel as a presidential run because there are so few people who will vote.

Pat Smith’s secret

From the journal of Pat Smith:

“it’s strange to start a new animated film. it seems so far away that i’ll be sitting in a theater watching it. but there’s a big secret about animation: it’s a series of steps, none of which are all that daunting. and sooner or later, there’s no more steps to take, and BANG, your film is done! at least that’s how it works with me.”

I got the same feeling watching the extras on The Return of the King DVDs last week. The task was too enormous for most of the crew to comprehend in it’s entirety.

I guess that’s the way it is with a lot of things. You keep doing it and doing it. Sometimes I catch myself thinking too much — staring at a software interface instead of writing code, or reading art blogs instead of lifting a pencil. Better to just try something, and save the thinking for walks or long drives.

New year gaming

Traci couldn’t find the GameCube games she was looking for (mostly Pikmin), so for Christmas she bought me a Game Boy Advance SP. This was a very unexpected surprise. I hadn’t really used a Game Boy since the original one I owned was stolen/lost a dozen years ago.

To cut right to it, I returned my GameCube system to the store and am now the happy owner of a handful of GBA games, with more on the way (a new Zelda comes out next week).

I’ve also played a fair amount of Halo (1) lately, and did a lot of game research over the holidays, trying to catch up on what the game market looks like today. It all put something in perspective for me: I like 2d games. The lure of Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto is strong, but I won’t buy an Xbox or PS2 just to play those games.

Advance Wars The GBA has a number of things going for it:

  • Portability. It’s a lot easier to flip open the GBA and play for 10 minutes wherever I am than dedicate time to sit in front of the television.
  • Inexpensive games. I bought Advance Wars 2 (see image) for $10 at Best Buy, but $25-30 is common for most new titles.
  • RPGs. It turns out RPGs work well on a portable system, and the GBA has a few good ones.
  • Good-enough graphics. While there are first-person shooters and 3d racing games, the system is much better at pre-rendered sprites, multiple backgrounds for depth, and that sort of thing.
  • Battery. 10-15 hours or more on a charge.
  • Hacking. An active developer community, mostly hobbyists. I wrote a test “game” over the holidays.

But, you ask, what about the Nintendo DS? Isn’t the GBA obsolete?

I hope not. The DS is an innovative system, but it’s not a new Game Boy. It’s too expensive, too big, and too different. Nintendo wants to position the DS as a higher-end portable to go head-to-head with the Playstation Portable, but new GBA games will still be released over the next year or two. We are also seeing new GBA add-on gadgets, such as the wireless adapter and upcoming movie player. Some people speculate that a real Game Boy to replace the SP may come out in 2006.

Joystiq has some good points about the DS and PSP:

“The fact is, Nintendo just needed a product to head off Sony’s entry into the portable market. They knew Sony’s attack was inevitable and they planned well for it. They know that, as long as the DS competes with the PSP, the GBA can continue to be the money-maker it is. The high-end DS and PSP can disappear for all Nintendo cares. They’ll still have their little gem.”

The Xbox and PS2 seem to dominate the press, so it surprised me that the GBA was the best-selling game system in North America in 2004, with good holiday sales despite the Nintendo DS introduction.

Here’s what Retrogaming has to say:

“However, now with the advent of the Nintendo DS, I’m a bit worried that nobody will continue making quality 2D games for the precious system for very long. Even Nintendo themselves have already put Advance Wars 3 out on the DS. I understand they want some good launch titles for the system to fend off the PSP, but I’m still worried.”

The biggest risk to the GBA is that developers will focus their effort on DS-only games. But for now, I want to play some fun games again, and the GBA accomplishes that quite nicely.