In the olden days you could pick up a tape cassette containing a Spectrum or Amstrad game for a few pounds (yes, I’m British). At this time, the gaming industry was in its infancy and the business side of the game was highly underdeveloped. Games were written by a single (or a very small group) in squalid conditions and these programmers were like rock stars, or mad scientists working alone in their lab (complete with the associated lightning and electrical apparatus). Some games turned out to be “smash hits” (Monty Mole, Manic Miner, Dynamite Dan to name a few), others were of very poor quality but hey, that’s the price you pay for experimenting. How things have changed!
Lots of people tout the benefits of web applications over old fashioned fat clients or desktop applications. Yes, I agree that it solves the problem of rolling out software upgrades and requires little or no installation effort because the user just needs a web browser. People do tend to ignore the disadvantages of thin clients however. With the advent of software as a service it might be worth looking at those disadvantages before jumping on the bandwagon. (more…)
This is a photo I took in Bejing a few years ago and have been meaning to upload it for ages. The picture is of a couple of guys repairing a telephone line (or some sort of overhead cable). The work was undertaken in the face of oncoming traffic.
Some of you may remember those ZX Spectrum classics Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy (if not go here and here to play them in your browser immediately because you are missing out on some important computing history!). You may not know the fascinating story of Matthew Smith, the programmer who dreamt up and programmed these games.
You only have to look at Jet Set Willy to see that this is the brainchild of an eccentric. Willy has thrown a party and his dominating housekeeper refuses to allow him to go to sleep until he has tidied everything up. Through out the house are such nightmarish creatures as snapping toilets and killer telephones. Willy doesn’t live in a bungalow; he lives in a mansion of ludicrous proportions (presumably paid for from his wealth acquired in the mining business), filled with deadly traps. The various rooms of the house have names such as “The Banyan Tree” which he can use to climb up into the upper regions of his home. The monsters kill with a single touch and the user is forced to jump with pixel precision to avoid falling into chasms and eventually being crushed by an enormous boot (in a Monty Python like manner).
After writing the game Matthew became the computer programmer equivalent of a rock star and eventually vanished of the face of the Earth. His whereabouts were unknown and he became somewhat of a legend. The mystery of Matthew Smith stirred many rumours, some true, some untrue.
Then, one day out of the blue, he came back. Here is an interview with him recently broadcast. He is no longer the long haired bedroom coder, but he still has a wild look in his eyes.
The bonsai tree in the sidebar changes every day. It loses the leaves slowly through the week until, at the end of the week, it has none left. As the new week begins, new leaves begin to sprout and the cycle repeats itself. The tree graphics were done using the free graphics tool Inkscape and the graphics switching using a small piece of PHP code. Please come back again tomorrow to see how the tree it doing.
Guatemala is home to a large number of volcanos. It boasts the highest in all of Central America, Tajamulco, which reaches approximately 4200 metres above sea level. It is also home to the highly active Santiaguito (2500 metres) and the steep sided Santa Maria (3770 metres) volcanos. A few years ago I hiked up Santa Maria with some fellow students at the Spanish school where I was studying.
Santa Maria is the dominating figure on the horizon, ever present as a ludicrous triangle blotting out part of the sky. While walking the streets of Xela (short for Quetzaltenango), it is almost impossible to find a place where the mountain cannot be seen, so dominating is it to the city dwellers. Indeed, in 1902 an eruption killed several thousand of Guatemalans living in the city.
It feels good to get off the airplane and walk straight out the airport. It gives me immense pleasure to walk past all those people waiting by the baggage collection point, and a guilty bout of schadenfreude when I see people struggling with large unwieldy suitcases. About 2 years ago I was invited to go to a wedding in Hong Kong. I took the opportunity to plan a trip around the wedding. The plan was to spend some time in Hong Kong and then move on into mainland China and see how the two regions differ. To add some spice to the trip I challenged myself to take a very small rucksack (one which I was using to carry documents and perhaps the occasional lunch to work with) and to see just how little I would actually need for three and a half weeks in China.