Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Public Transport

I'm on the bus to meet my mom and sister Mary in Manhattan. One of the things I hate about winter is that I have to bundle up against the freezing cold, but then the bus is like an Easy-Bake oven. Do you know it's only recently I found out that those things worked by using a high-watt light bulb? (My sisters never had one.) When I was a kid I set fire to my socks once because I tried to warm them on a lightbulb. Or how about when I wanted to try hand-drawn animation in high school, and I used this tracing table we had since we were kids, but the low-watt bulb burned out and I replaced it with a regular one, and it melted the opaque plastic? Or how about when I used my father's super-8 camera at night and it had a halogen light (without a protective glass I may add) and I tried masking it for a shadow effect by duct-taping two wooden rulers in front of it- and within seconds they exploded into flames? In my defense, my father was with me and didn't expect that to happen either. In short, I have a bad history with lightbulbs, which is kind of funny since I'm an electrician and playing with lightbulbs is sometimes the entire job.

Did I mention that the lightbulbs in my room have been burnt out for almost a week now, and I keep forgetting to buy more? I've been using my anti-depression lamp. I don't know if it actually does anything for my mood, but obviously it's no help with memory or procrastination.

Now I'm on the subway, listening to "Wish You Were Here." I'm standing and holding onto a pole. I'm impressed I can hold this in my hand and swype with my thumb.

On the subway home, at least I have a seat this time. Had a wonderful day despite being anointed with pigeon poop. At least it was just on my coat...

I'm listening to Tom Lehrer. The woman next to me is engrossed in a book and I can't help wishing it was one of mine. I'm going to make that a goal, to write a book that people will want to take on subways. I'm a little tired and at Queens Plaza. I'm going to take a little nap. Be right back.

On the bus now after my little nap. Once again I feel like stripping down to my boxers to avoid feeling like a light-bulb-baked cupcake. Are boxers indecent exposure? What if I was wearing denim shorts? Or denim boxers for that matter. Hmmm that would chafe the goods me thinks. I'll resist the urge somehow.

Almost everyone on this bus has some sort of device, all of us with our phones, texts and mp3s, all of us in our own little worlds trying to blot out this one, even though it can be quite beautiful at times. Could that be one of there wishes- to find the world so interesting I don't need distraction?


Friday, December 10, 2010

Adventures in Apps Pt 2: Making Android App Inventor My Bitch

Using the procedure I mentioned in a previous post, I found a way to make multiple screens for the adventure game app I'm developing for Android. Each room is a separate table screen-arrangement, with lots of true/false if/than 1/0 clauses to decide which and when each room is visible. I have to break each image up into tiles. Each tile then becomes a separate picture or button. I've found the awesome freeware paint program GIMP to be best for this, because it easily lets me enter the quantities for size and position of the box select tool. The easiest way for me right now is to list the starting coordinates and sizes of each column and row for each room before I start:

I then had a dilemma. I want to have text notifications across the bottom of the screen, but when I make a table, each item in a column has to be the same size as the others (the same with rows.) I decided to make another table, this one with a text window and a button to look at the inventory or show what current (if any) item is picked. Again, this requires a plethora of variables and clauses to make sure if and when something is showing. Also, I had to use a timer to make the text disappear after a few seconds. This wasn't anywhere near as simple as it should be, but I have it figured out.

Yes, this was my bedroom. I've tried to turn back the clock to the way my parents' house was back in the 70's and 80s.

I have two worries right now. First of all, I don't know what happens when I run out of room in the block editor. I've just started and it's already pretty full. Second of all, there are a lot of functions for each room. I'm trying to keep a list of what procedures I have to do for every new room or line of text, but I can see that debugging is going to be annoying.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cleopatra: Queen of...

Civilization V is a crappy game that does not live up to the hype or expectations. What's worse, it actually has less features than previous Civ games (No "Hotseat" multiplayer, no religion, a "streamilned" (read "less than before") technology tree, no animated scenes for wonders or victories...) basically, it's the same exact game it has been for twenty years, but with a prettier engine, and with less actual gameplay quality than before.

Whoever runs Civ V's facebook fan-page has been triumphantly announcing award nomination after award nomination for the past month. Each one winds up getting about a hundred jeering, smart-ass comments from pissed-off players, along with a few words of support - yet they cheerfully keep pumping out announcement after announcement. They have every right to self-promote, but after a point I have to wonder if they're just living in denial, or if the PR department is making bets on how many complaints they can receive.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Adventures in Apps, part 1.

A few years ago I bought a wonderful program called Adventure Maker. It's great for making 90's style multimedia adventure games for the PC. The only problem is... no one buys multimedia adventure games anymore. I've been working on a game on and off for years as a hobby. After becoming an Android fanatic, I decided to look into how to make an Android version of my game. I've been trying to teach myself Java (or the Android version of Java, which is frustratingly different) and... it's been very slow going.

Enter Google with its new program, The Android App inventor. It seemed like the answer to all of my prayers, but the process has become very very frustrating. Before I start kvetching, let me make a few things clear. 1) The program is free. 2) It is still in it's beta testing phase. 3) There are many helpful programmers who answer questions and give advice in the forums, even if only to say "We're working on it." To sum it up, it's a wonderful program if you want to make apps that have text and buttons but limited graphics.

OK, let's get to work.

I followed the instructions, but I can't link my phone to work in real time with the program. Annoying, but no big deal, I'll just upload my apps to my phone and test them that way.**

**Addendum: 12/8/2010, they have updated block editor and this issue is fixed.

Next step, let's look at the empty designer screen window in the app inventor. Oh wow, it's drag and drop, that's so simple... oh dear. The screen seems to be for the old G1 Android. The low-res screen isn't the end of the world, but it has a different aspect ratio than my WVGA Samsung Captivate. Alrighty. Can I change the screen size?


Hmm... this puts me in a bit of a pickle, because now the buttons I put on my screen won't line up with the background images. It's just spreading the buttons out along the length of the screen. Sigh... I'll figure out a work around, maybe some forums will help me. But it's not too bad. Once I figure it out, it's just a matter of going from screen to screen, kind of like a web page. OK, I have a basic test pattern for screen-1. Now how do I make screen-2.

I can't. There's only one screen.

Well according to the forums, there is a workaround someone has figured out... I guess I'll have to Google it and research that too... Well... let me make a test app, it will be nice just to see a program I make work on my phone. Let's install it and...

And it wants phone contact and full network internet access permissions.

Why does the program I wrote need those things? I didn't put anything like that in there. Lots of Android users - myself included - are wary of apps that need internet and phone access for no reason, because of data usage and privacy concerns. Is there any way to change that? Is there even any sort of explanation for that?


(Inner Homer: Urge to kill... rising....)