I thought I’d write a quick roundup of the movies I’ve seen, games I’ve played, and books I’ve read this year. Note that not everything on this list may have been released this year, but I experienced them for the first time this year. Feel free to just skim the headlines if you can’t be arsed to read the whole thing. Without further ado…
I’ve recently become somewhat addicted to Minecraft – the hit indie game that’s currently earning its creator over £100,000 a day. I find it quite hard to summarise what I find so brilliant about Minecraft, so I’ve collected together a few links to articles or videos that give a good idea of why Minecraft is awesome, and why you should be playing it right now.
Helsing’s Fire is a fun, brilliantly presented, innovative puzzle / arcade game for iOS.
You play as Van Helsing, on a mission to destroy the foul Count Dracula. To do this, you progress through 90 levels across 3 worlds, all filled with a hordes of monsters. The monsters in each level stand stationary, and are coloured red, blue, or green. To defeat them, you must move your flaming torch, casting rays of light around and between objects scattered across the level. Once your light falls upon the monsters you want to vanquish, you tap one of a selection of coloured potions to match the colour of the monster. This gets tricker as you progress through the game, as you must avoid monsters of a different colour to the potion you’re using. Different types of monster also present other challenges: bats fly around the level once you’ve attacked them, werewolves turn into innocent maidens who you must avoid with your potions, and ghosts turn invisible in your torch’s glare, so you have to remember their locations. The mechanic of casting light and shadows works really well and looks great.
The game is nicely presented, with a good little story, fun characters with humorous dialogue, and catchy gothic tunes to accompany your adventure (I really recommend you play this one with the sound on – or at least the introduction). I especially like the little touches such as the way Van Helsing and his assistant bump fists or high five one another when you finish a level.
The game starts off pretty easy, but there’s a Mario-style difficulty curve where new gameplay elements are regularly introduced, spicing things up a bit.
There are 90 levels in the main campaign mode, including some more arcade-style bosses that fly around the screen and require you to keep your torch on the move to avoid their attacks. Each ‘world’ also has an unlimited, randomly generated survival mode. A recent updated added a new campaign with 30 more levels, some new enemies, and another survival mode arena. I found it to be quite an addictive ‘just one more go’ pick-up-and-play game.
Very good value for 59p – they really should be charging more for this. Highly recommended.
I play quite a lot of games on my iPhone. I thought I’d write a quick post to highlight some of the games that I’ve really enjoyed and I keep coming back to. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of rubbish to wade through (either games that are just plain bad, or fun for five minutes and then you’ll never play it again); so here are the ones that have stood the test of time with me. Continue reading “iPhone Games”
So, last night I got to play with an iPad for a couple of hours (thanks @davea!) and thought I’d post some of my initial impressions. Obviously these are my thoughts, your mileage may vary.
- It’s smaller than you probably think it is
- It’s exactly as big as you thought it was if you were sad enough to make an actual-size cardboard model of it months ago
- The screen is gorgeous. Really bright, the colours just jump out at you, and the viewing angles are unreal. Photos look brilliant on it, but you see a slight lack of resolution in text when you’re zoomed some way out of a web page.
- That said, because the screen is a piece of glass, it seemed as though glare could definitely be an issue depending on where you’re sat. I was trying to read Winnie-the-Pooh, and I could just see my face reflected in the screen because I was in the wrong position.
- It feels really nice in your hand. It’s a good weight (although lighter would be nicer) and it feels reassuringly solid.
- It’s fast. I’d read all the reviews saying how quick it was, but I didn’t expect it to be quite that quick. Everything just feels so slick and fluid, and I think this is a very big part of why I found it so nice to use.
- Web browsing and Google maps are just brilliant. Again, there was a lot of hyperbole about how browsing the web on this thing is a totally new experience and you have to try it to understand it – and whilst that’s a little OTT, I kind of get where they’re coming from. It feels very different (in a good way) from anything I’ve used before. For casual web surfing, lay back on the sofa or in a comfy chair, and for actually reading web pages, I think it’ll be brilliant.
- The Instapaper app was probably the nicest reading experience I came across while trying out the iPad. With the default font settings, it’s totally gorgeous. I could spend hours and hours working my way through my Instapaper reading list on this thing.
- Reading PDFs is also a pretty great experience. It’s so nice to be able to flick through a PDF, and hold it like a book. A vastly better experience than reading them on a laptop or on my Sony Reader (which is far too slow for PDFs, and they don’t work well with that screen size).
- Photos look great, and the slideshows work really well. The iPad would make a brilliant digital photo frame whilst not in use.
- The keyboard surprised me by being much more usable than I was expecting. Portrait mode’s a little cramped, but landscape seems nearly full size. Straight away, I was typing very quickly with very few mistakes. I could see myself inputting a lot of text without the need for an external keyboard. NaNoWriMo 2010, perhaps?
- It seems a very social device. Sure, we were all interested in trying it out and so it got passed around a lot – but it’s just so easy to spin it round or hold it up to show other people something cool. Or to load up an app and hand it over to someone to play with. It’s very unlike a laptop in that respect.
- The ‘just a big iPod Touch’ comment that people have made is total crap. iPhone OS on a device this size is a very different experience. The extra screen space adds a lot. Web browsing in particular feels completely different to browsing on an iPhone.
- My iPhone now seems very small, cramped, and slow.
I liked it, and can’t wait to get one. I think my primary use would be reading – Instapaper, websites, feeds, and PDFs. And I think I would use it a lot for all of those things. In fact, other than coding and managing my photos, I could see it replacing my laptop for a lot of things I do with my computer – namely, using the web, email, etc. And for me, that’d be a good thing – I hate being stuck behind a laptop when all I want to do is read. It’d be a nice distinction, because laptop would be for getting something done (coding, etc), and iPad would be for leisure. The iPad would also come in very hand whilst coding, for reference books, etc.
I just wanted to share an iPhone app I came across the other day which I’ve totally fallen in love with. It’s called Momento.
Momento is a diary/journaling app, which I guess is fairly self explanatory – you can add text to days in the form of ‘moments’. You can also attach photos to days, as well as tags for people, events, and geolocation information if you wish. Momento also has the ability to passcode your journal, to hide it from prying eyes (the main reason I want an electronic journal rather than a paper one). It’s super-simple to use, which is part of its charm; it gets out of your way and makes journaling easy (low barrier to entry: check!).
You can browse through your entries in a sweet calendar view or flick through individual days. Take a look at the screenshots on the Momento website – this thing is gorgeous. It’s a joy to use, both for writing and reading, and feels pretty damn close to using a paper journal. It brings to mind Tweetie 2 in terms of its visual polish – in fact, it even has that cute little arrow that slides along the tab bar at the bottom of the screen when you change modes, just like Tweetie.
In addition to its kickass-as-it-is journaling functionality, Momento can pull in ‘social moments’ from Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, and Flickr. Fill in your account details for any of these services, and it’ll show your Flickr uploads, Twitter updates, etc, alongside your handwritten journal entries. In fact, it even grabs this data from the past, so you instantly have a very rough historical journal without having to write anything yourself.
My only real criticism of the app as it is is that there’s no easy / automatic way to export / import data. As it stands, you can email yourself an XML file of your journal entries from within the app, but there’s no way to re-import that data and the export is a manual process. Some kind of sync might be nice. It’s mainly for security purposes, just so I don’t lose my entries – I’m not interested in sharing them with anybody (I have a blog for that!). That said, paper journals don’t have a backup system!
I’ve been using Momento every day for the past week, and it’s brilliant. I’ve been wanting to keep a journal for a long time now, but I’ve never really given it a proper go. I’m intending to carry on with this now I’ve found a great way to do it – I’m going to try and write every day for a month, and then hopefully just keep on writing.
In recent years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about my scatterbrained-ness. I find it hard to focus on a single task for a prolonged period of time: for example, I find it takes me far longer to get through a book, or even read a short passage of text, than it ever used to. I don’t listen to the other person when I’m having a conversation — or rather, I try to listen, but the information somehow always seems to pass through my brain without being stored anywhere. I’m not really present in the moment. My brain gets distracted very easily, and I’ll swear I hadn’t had that conversation with you. My comprehension of texts is perhaps worse than it’s ever been, too. Not all the time, but often, I have to concentrate quite hard in order to actually take in the details of what I’m reading if I want anything more than a cursory understanding. When using the computer at home, I never seem to do anything productive — just follow an endless cycle of checking my feed reader, my e-mail, Twitter, and flicking through my open tabs. Sure, I get things done, but slowly, and piecemeal. My concentration usually feels scattered, my focus divided, my brain like it’s trying to juggle too many balls/clubs/knives/porcupines at once.
- 1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 small potato, quite finely chopped
- 250 – 300g frozen peas (I used 275g)
- fresh mint, torn; I used one really really good sized handful. Don’t be stingy, it can take a lot!
- A good squeeze of lemon juice
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Some oil for cooking
- Heat the oil in a pan at a medium temperature. Add the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion starts to soften. Add the potato and cook a little longer, just to start it off.
- Add the stock, cover, and simmer until the potato’s fairly soft (10 minutesish?)
- Add the peas and the mint, stir, cover again, and cook until the peas are just soft.
- Scoop out a small amount of the peas with a slotted spoon / spatula (you can stick them back in at the end when you serve it).
- Blend until smooth. You may need to add a little extra water to get it to a consistency you like.
- Season, and add a good squeeze of lemon juice – adjust to taste.
- Spoon into bowls, and garnish with the peas you took out earlier (it’s best to lower them in on a spoon, or else they just seem to sink) and a little more chopped mint.
python -m SimpleHTTPServer
This starts a service on port 8000, and shares all files in the current directory (and subdirectories). Rather handy.
These days, my primary computer is a 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s an amazing machine, but sometimes those 15″ can be a little unwieldy (yes, that’s what she said).
Apple used to make a small, very portable laptop: the 12″ PowerBook, which was unfortunately retired during Apple’s switch to the Intel platform. However, the transition did introduce the potential ability to run Mac OS X natively on non-Apple hardware. Whilst Apple don’t (currently) make their own netbook1, a big community has sprung up around running OS X on non-Apple netbooks. I should note from the outset that installing OS X on non-Apple hardware potentially violates the OS X EULA. If you’re going to do this, in the very least ensure you own a legal copy of Mac OS X Leopard.