Real Life TRON! With GPS!

31 01 2005

This is just too cool. Engadget has a link to an article about a real life ‘TRON’ game, using hand held phones and GPS receivers. You pick blue, your opponent picks red. GO! The maps draw in realtime on the display. You can’t cross your own line, you can’t cross your opponents line. First one to run into a line loses.
I so need to get this working in my car. 8)

Followup: Puzzle Pirates

30 01 2005

About a month ago, I posted a review of Puzzle Pirates. I said at the time the game looked interesting and was fun to play. A month later, I thought it might be a good idea to post an update.
I’m still playing. 🙂 And not only am I playing, I’m addicted. This is really the first MMPORG I’ve gotten into, and while it isn’t quite as immersive as, say, Everquest or World of Warcraft, it’s still mindbogglingly addictive.
Since I wrote that article, I’ve teamed up with great crew, and have recently been promoted to an officer (though a junior one. I have a lot of practice ahead of me before I can consider myself a decent officer 🙂
The puzzles are still fascinating, but with the added bonus that the crew has to work together to make the ship run well (and this is done not only by performing the puzzles well, but also working together during swordfights and trade), it really does suck you in. I’ve gotten more involved in how the commerce works in the system as well, buying and trading goods, how the individual stores, islands, and the like work.
If you like puzzles, like interracting with other folks, and like gaming where you’re working together to reach a common goal, I heartily recommend you take a serious look a look at Puzzle Pirates.

Nice when things just plain work

27 01 2005

I’ve been lamenting the loss of my camera for quite a while. Lisa took pity on me and long-term-loaned me her Sony Cybershot DSC-P30 camera. It’s a simple 1.3megapixel camera, with an optical zoom, 128meg memory stick, and 1280×960 resolution. Fine enough for most of what I want to do, and will hold me over until I can really get my true dream camera.

Anyway, one of the things I was worried about was that the Sony uses a “Memory Stick” – a proprietary format that only Sony manufacturs. They’re not any different from any other small medium, but making anything that reads or writes from them requires some sort of unholy legal contract with Sony, so the number of public readers for these devices is somewhat limited.

But lo, on the side of the camera is a normal mini-USB port. “I have USB”, sez I. So I plug a spare cable into the camera, jack it into my little mini-hub, and watch to see what happens.

I had tried this once before with an older camera, and wasn’t pleased with the results. This time, however, things Just Plain Worked. Linux happily recognized the camera as a ‘mass storage device’, and brought up the active device:

USB Mass Storage device found at 4
usb 1-1: USB disconnect, address 4
usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using address 5
scsi3 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
Vendor: Sony      Model: Sony DSC          Rev: 3.28
Type:   Direct-Access                      ANSI SCSI revision: 02
SCSI device sda: 253696 512-byte hdwr sectors (130 MB)
sda: assuming Write Enabled
sda: assuming drive cache: write through
/dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0: p1
Attached scsi removable disk sda at scsi3, channel 0, id 0, lun 0
WARNING: USB Mass Storage data integrity not assured

This is the message that normally comes up when a USB mass storage device is added to the system (the USB stack uses the SCSI driver for block device access).

A quick filesystem mount, and I was able to read and write files to the memory stick (which, btw, was still inside the camera) just like it was another drive on the system. This is identical to the way my Sandisk pen drive is used, so this was all familiar territory.

I copied off a few sets of pictures, and finally, after almost a year away from it, I’m populating my picture archive again. Of course, one of the first pictures had to be a pic of the snowstorm we had last weekend. This particular one is after our second snowfall yesterday, which dropped another 5″ of snow or so. The unfortunate vehicle here is my mothers Subaru station wagon, which lives here over the winter while she’s away in Florida. Hi mom!

Arisia post-mortem, with pictures!

26 01 2005

With special thanks to Lisa for the loan of her Sony Cybershot, I have some pictures from running registration at Arisia.

We learned a lot this weekend. It was the first time we deployed the CONGO Kiosk terminals for at-con registration of attendees. We needed to make some functional changes in the code at the event, but for the most part, it worked pretty well. The Kiosks allowed people who were not pre-registered to enter in their contact / regsitration information themselves, and get a printed receipt. This meant the operators didn’t need to re-key all the data into CONGO, and slow down processing. For a first time out, I’m really pleased with the results. There were no disasterous failures (in fact, I can’t think of a failure beyond ‘we’re out of paper’), and folks seemed to like the kiosks, modulo the normal kvetching that’s pretty much unavoidable.

Gateway Operator terminals
This was also the first time we used the Gateway terminals for cashier / operator use. This was a HUGE win for the operators, as the terminals are MUCH faster than the iOpeners for general data access and work. Not to mention the fact that when things slowed down, the operators could play games on them 🙂

We ran all badges ‘on the fly’, meaning that even pre-registered attendees had their badges printed as they showed up. This allowed us to make minor changes to information before we wasted a badge (such as a spelling of a badgename, etc).
We had no delays and no problems with the printers. One other thing we did was used blank white badge stock, so we were printing the -entire- badge image on the fly. It was a black ‘stippled’ image (not grey scale, but ‘screened’ to look like it was grey), using an image from our artist guest of honor. They came out great! We had to hand-punch the stock before running it through the printer to get the slots on them, but with a pair of new slot punches, that was really no big problem.

All in all, a very successful event, despite the snowstorm. All the work that went into CONGO in the last 2 months since our previous large event was well worth it, and made the product even better.

Credit where Credit is due
I would like to thank all the folks that made this possible. Without this team of folks volunteering many many many hours of work to the process, we never would have had such a smooth running registration:

Sarah Twichell – Killer answerer-of-email and registrar-on-the-ball. Sarah answered registration requests and paypal registrations within minutes of receiving them. The database was always up to date whenever I needed to find someone.

Lisa Wilson – Database geek extraordinaire. Lisa kept the database sane and was also on the front lines of requests and registrations. We had tons of comp lists, updates, and changes going on, and Lisa helped plow through them all, even though she was 2000 miles away in Colorado!

Jonah Safar – Jonah was one of the people who first took a gamble on CONGO with an event he was helping run. Since then he’s been there when I need him for coding, hacks, and general help.

Yonah Schmeidler – Yonah showed up to help with Arisia last year and ended up staying til 4am helping with some database and postscript issues. This year again he helped all through Thursday doing database updates and maintenance just for the heck of it. He also plays a mean FreeCIV 🙂

Katy (Pancua) – Katy was the badge goddess all through the mayhem on Friday, and helped out all weekend with things that Just Needed To Be Done. She brought a lot of energy to the whole situation, something we all need after spending days in a coat room 🙂

Ben Cordes – Ben is sort of the unofficial roadie for Stonekeep Consulting. He’s worked with me at a ton of events, and not only knows the systems and the processes well, he also knows my quirky management style. Even in spite of that, he keeps coming back for more. This weekend Ben was a great help with setup and maintenance of all the system components, not to mention being a great crowd wrangler.

Catya – I can’t leave Cat out of this thanks. She puts up with an awful lot to let me do these events – and I love her dearly for it. Thanks!

Dayblogging Arisia – Day 3

23 01 2005

End of the con. We’ve been calling this sort of ‘Arisia ’05 – The Extended Edition’. Many folks decided to just stay in the hotel this evening, and try to make our way home tomorrow. We hauled out the Registration terminals and set up a LAN game of FreeCiv – since I was done with services for Arisia, it was nice just to relax and game for a while.
Now the laptop is the last thing that needs to be put away, and the rest of the work is done. All the terminals and printers are packed up in the shipping cases, and we’ll load them out into the van tomorrow.
I’m tired, but it’s a mostly good tired. A lot of things learned, we’re already making plans for next years event.
The word of the day is ‘snow!’ – 18-20″ of snow fell overnight, and it’s windy as all git out. There’s nasty storm surge along the cape. Boston is basically shut down, state of emergency all over the place.
The hotel internet link is up and down, so I haven’t been able to post that much (not to mention being horrifically busy). Most folks are extending their hotel stays through Monday, opting out of even attempting travel.
The con has gone well – I’ve got a fantastic team working with me, things have gone really well. I’ve almost gotten enough sleep too, how weird! 🙂

Dayblogging Arisia – Day 2

22 01 2005

STORM! Aieeee! There’s a major snowstorm (they’re using the word ‘blizzard’ freely:

Snow…heavy at times. Snow accumulation of 10 to 14 inches by morning. Blustery. Not as cold with lows around 10 above. East winds 10 to 15 mph…becoming northeast 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.
snow Sunday
Snow…heavy at times in the morning…then tapering to flurries in the afternoon. Total snow accumulation of 14 to 22 inches. Windy with highs around 10 above. North winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. Bitterly cold wind chills.

It’s spooking a lot of hte attendees, it’s the quietest Saturday night I’ve ever had at an Arisia. At least the reg system worked great!
Wow, missed an entire day. The hotel network link was out of service for most of yesterday, so we had on network connectivity at all. Woe!
At any rate, things are workign! We’ve been making on the fly tuning to the Kiosk app and CONGO all weekend – CONGO itself hasn’t needed much tweaking (except for badge layout issues we resolved yesterday morning), but the Kiosk, being a ‘brand new app’, has definately needed some nudging.
No disasters, no major catastrophes, in fact, no real bumps for the whole weekend. We’re at about 2/3rds of the people checked in, more news later.

Dayblogging Arisia: Day 0

20 01 2005

As expected, things went chaotic once I arrived here at the hotel. I’m pretty beat now, but the terminals are all running, we’ve run badges for a large chunk of the staff and guests, the kiosks are running fine, and folks seem to be happy. The reg team has been doing great, we did a ton of work today that didn’t -need- to get done, but I’m glad it did. For instance, we had a backlog of probably 200 address changes from bounced mailings. A couple of the reg team folks buckled up and entered all of them into the database. Yay!
OF course, now I’m exhausted. I’ve dumped out the database into a backup file, and copied the backup to my pen drive. We’ve shut down the terminals for tonight, and now I’m heading off to relax until we open at 2pm tomorrow.
I’m a little nervous about the state of hte hardware – some of the Gateways are being a little flaky, and the iopeners are being their normal odd selves. The Kiosk app needs some tuning, though JB and Joel H and some other folks gave some -very- good feedback on making the kiosk easier to use.
The proof will be tomorrow when we have hordes of folks moving through the kiosk lines and registering. Stay tuned!
Packing is complete! We have a lot of boxes and crates, but thanks to Steph and Dwight, we have a lovely minivan to haul it all. Lisa is helping me pack up and load, and things are going swimmingly. Only a little tired. 🙂
Off to load up and drive in.
Ung. A slow morning – not quite enough sleep (it’s a con, right? :). I have to take Z to school first, so I’ll make a stop at dunkin donuts en route to pick up some high test. The equipment is all laid out in the great room mocking me. I think I know how i’ll pack it all, just have to get crackin. Still have to take the seats out of the van too.
On the other hand, only 2″ of snow fell last night, and the sun is out now. It’s really quite beautiful outside.
Off to Framingham and back.