Tag Archives: oneaday

It’s Official. I Can’t Do the #Oneaday Thing

I tried. I even faked it for a while. But I just can’t keep to the one a day (#oneaday) blogging schedule so valiantly pioneered by my little brother. This makes me officially crap. Chalk it up to burning the candle at both ends, a seemingly endless list of adult responsibilities, the desire to squeeze going to work, going to the gym, and spending time with family and/or friends into a day (along with the fact that I’m old, and fall asleep before 10:30) and the result is this… I haven’t blogged in over a month.

I will continue to blog regularly, I just won’t be pretending to stick to a schedule. I have tagged this entry #oneaday though, just to mock myself.

Mystery Reader

I didn’t go into the office today. I worked from home so I could be the “Mystery Reader” in my little-guy’s kindergarden class. It was awesome. I had to provide some “clues” for the class before I showed up, so the teacher could test the class to see if they could guess who would be reading to them. Mine were:

  • He likes riding his bike
  • He has a beard
  • He has a younger brother
  • He works in videogames
  • He’s from England

I think the little guy had it pretty much nailed by that fourth clue. It’s quite a giveaway, although it turns out I’m not the only dad in that group with a career in this area.

I read two Mr. Men books to the class, Mr. Topsy-Turvy and Mr. Dizzy – both of which were very well received. Seeing the look on my youngest’s face when I walked into the classroom will be something I’ll remember for a very long time. He looked so excited and happy to see me.

Our PS3 hates us

Today, Sony released the 3.60 firmware update for the PS3. Apparently it adds some stuff to the already overburdened array of stuff that the lousy interface already fails to accommodate adequately, as well as “cloud saves” for people paying for PlayStation Plus.

Cloud saves should absolutely be this year’s thing, and kicking this off is one of the most forward-leaning things that Sony has done in a while. They should be applauded. Loudly. And then everyone should copy them as quickly as possible. Particularly mobile developers. And especially those making universal iPhone/iPad apps. Or hybrid Android tablet/phone apps.

I applaud regular system updates on any and all hardware, I really do. I think they do a great job of evolving technology to accommodate our changing needs, and they can sometimes change things so significantly that they completely overhaul our relationship with the device. My issue with the PS3 updates is that they’re always so damn intrusive.

These days, we tend to use our PS3 as a Netflix and Hulu player rather than a games system. That’s not a conscious choice, and certainly no indication of bias but we just seem to play more on Xbox 360 these days. We don’t like using that console for media though, because the fan and drive mechanism is so comically loud. Really. You have to crank the sound on the TV up to drown out the noise of the disc spinning and the cooling system going into overdrive. Anyway, I digress. The PS3 and Netflix; great for the kids when it’s raining (which is something it’s doing a lot lately) and Mrs D and I have been working our way through TV shows that we have never watched before, but meant to; Veronica Mars, Bones… the list is ever-expanding. My issue is that unlike the vast majority of other devices; whether it’s the iPhone, the Xbox 360, my Mac, or anything else I can think of – the PS3 is rendered utterly useless as an online device as soon as a new update is available.

So, today when the kids wanted to watch something cartoony on Netflix, the PS3 just refused. “You have to run the system update” it whined and then just completely cockblocked any attempts to circumnavigate its insistence. “But we just want to watch something funny,” we told it. “No,” it bitched unreasonably, and promptly disappeared up its own 25 minute download, install, update hole by which time the kids had taken to hitting each other with plastic swords instead.

After so many updates, and so many complaints from so many people, you’d think that someone at Sony would have put their hand up at a planning meeting and said “hey, maybe we should make the update process suck less?” Hey… I get it. When you’re working with product managers and engineers and coordinating with teams internationally you have to think about all kinds of considerations. Sequencing and prioritizing projects is a real handful, but at some point you have to stop worrying about adding yet another piece of functionality and start thinking about user experience instead.

It would be nice if v3.61 finally showed some evidence of this kind of thinking.

My first iPhone app. Kinda

Technically this happened yesterday, but I didn’t want to diminish the significance of the fact that it was the wife’s birthday by droning on about some work-related thing.

After being such a sucker for cool iPhone apps for so long, yesterday allowed me to put my money where my mouth is (somewhat) as it marked the launch of the first app that I’ve ever had any kind of hand in actually creating. The Movie Finder by Metacritic app is (as the name suggests) an app for finding movies, that pulls your GPS location, finds nearby theaters, and then provides the metascores for all of the movies that are on so you can make a choice based on how well they’ve been reviewed.

All useful stuff, right? The real flair comes in the shape of the augmented reality movie finder thingummy though. This is the thing that lets you point your iPhone at a theater, and it pulls up the next available showtimes along with their metascore. This feature almost didn’t make it into the release, and in fact it was never scheduled as part of the concept at all. It emerged as an entry in our annual Hack Day challenge at work, where our iPhone developer submitted the idea after less than 24 hours of work on it. It was intended as a demonstration of how you can mash up some of the Apple SDK stuff with our own Metacritic API to make something incredibly cool. We loved it so much that we pushed our submission date back a couple of weeks so he could include it in the first release. It’s kinda gimmicky, but there’s definitely something very cool at pointing the camera in the general vicinity of any movie theater and seeing it immediately pull up a full list of movies with scores.

We still have stuff that we want to add in to future releases, but as a v1.0 we’re pretty proud of it.

Happy Birthday, Mrs D

The longer you’ve known someone, the harder it is to come up with something truly excellent for a birthday gift. Back when we were first married, it was possible to astound Mrs D with seemingly incredibly conscientious and well-considered gifts without too much trouble. For the most part, the key was just listening and remembering the important stuff, and on a few occasions it has involved timing a really big purchase so that it coincided with the approximate birthday time frame. Like cars. Which always go down pretty well, particularly if they’re luxury convertibles. In the old days, jewelry was a reasonably easy cop-out too. Rings, necklaces, ear rings, bracelets… you can get through a fair few years with well-considered purchases in that general area and keep the Mrs in a fairly steady state of awe at your impeccable taste and/or ability to interpret finger-pointing in catalogs and store windows.

After nearly nine years of being married and more than 10 years together though, it’s definitely getting harder. “Needs” start to outweigh “wants” (“we really need a new [insert boring thing for the house here] so maybe just get that?”) and you can’t just buy jewelry indefinitely, because it stops being romantic and starts being boring. So…what to buy the woman that apparently has everything? (Hey, she has me. What more could she possibly need?) This year, the boys and I went in on attempts to satisfy a triumvirate of needs/wants in an effort to hit the full spectrum of wifely/motherly needs.

By way of practical, domestic luxury cooking item we bought her a bread maker, informed by some comments made a few weeks ago after a neighbor brought us some home-baked bread. Humorously, these comments were later redacted by Mrs D, but by that point it was too late… the Amazon order was processed and the appliance shipped. For something practical in a different way (but still luxurious to some degree) we bought a pair of expensive Oakley sunglasses, and for something luxurious and pretty/girlie, my little guy picked out a silver bangle at Nordstroms. He also had all the salespeople in the jewelry department swooning at how charming he is during the process. He is nothing if not a real charmer. That boy’s going to be trouble when he gets older.

The result? Great success, I think. But I now I’m completely out of ideas for our wedding anniversary next month.

My life, shared

Here’s what I chose to share with the world today. There’s usually no rhyme or reason to what I post on Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes I find looking back to be an odd insight into my mood, and my level of engagement with the world in general.

So, to start with, I shared this picture of the back wall of my office. As part of the Trans-Bay mass-destruction/redevelopment thing, they’re tearing down the old bits of freeway that have been dangling above San Francisco for years. Big chunks of it ran right behind our building.

Next, I shared the fact that the “Let It End Like This” exhibition in New York is going to open this week, and the gallery had posted a preview with some pictures of all the pieces (including mine) on their website. The link to that is right here.

After that, I’d clearly been cruising news sites while eating lunch because I shared a story about antibiotic-resistant germs living on BART seats. Ick.

After this, I was clearly pretty repulsed and went completely dark.

What does this say about me? Destruction? Creativity? The pursuit of artistic recognition? Germs?

What I’m playing

One of my favorite parts of the old 1UP Yours shows (and subsequently my favorite part of any other shows I end up guesting on) are the “Whatcha been playing?” segments. Belaboring under the false impression that any of you actually give a crap about what I’m playing at the moment, I thought I would occasionally revive the concept here. This is hopelessly self-serving in several ways. 1) It makes me feel important and somehow entitled to tell you what I think is worth checking out or not, and 2) it gives me a templated approach to this blog that lets me get super-lazy and just default to something without having to give it too much thought when I can’t think of anything else to write.

So…

Battleheart

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it to quite the extent that I have, but I am totally and utterly hooked. For $2.99 you get a wonderful game with tons of replay value that’s optimized for both the iPad and Retina display on iPhone 4. If you’ve not had the chance to check it out, you really should. Imagine the fundamentals of MMO-style combat, with a touch-interface, and visuals as cute and kooky as Castle Crashers. Each battle is a single-screen affair, and you control four characters (from a much larger selection) that fall into the basic categories that you find in RPGs. There are magic users, healers, tanks, etc. The whole thing is just the best parts of grinding in short, digestible battles with cute graphics. There’s no story, and no dialogue, but it has tons and tons of charm.

Bulletstorm

Yes, still. I really, really didn’t think I was going to like it. And for the first few hours I’d sort of already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but it won me over. Yes, the dialogue is utterly, utterly stupid (“I will kill your dicks!” Really? What does that even mean?) and it’s rather more violent than I typically like, but it just has a special something that shows the people behind it were really thinking about making it fun. It’s really well paced, the set pieces are spectacular, but not too showy, and the attention to player-motivation through emergent challenges is really admirable. Whether you’re riding a train while trying to avoid a giant rolling wheel of death, or destroying bad guys with a life-size radio-controlled T-Rex, it keeps things imaginative and interesting all the way through.

Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4

While we wait for Lego Star Wars III The Clone Wars in a couple of weeks, the boys and I have been working our way through Lego Harry Potter, and I have to say it’s absolutely the best game from TT yet. They’ve taken all the best gameplay mechanics and co-op optimized stuff from the Star Wars and Indy games, and put them to great use here. Because my kids refuse to play co-op games together and instead insist that I play with each of them, I’ve now played through all four “years” of this twice, and it wasn’t nearly the chore that some of the other games in the series were. The combat is fun, the puzzles are imaginative, and it manages to blend elements from both the books and movies very effectively. It’s testament to the game’s design that both boys still want to play, even after they’re done with the bulk of the story. I’m sure they’ll move on once Clone Wars hits though.