Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ok, maybe this isn’t the best route…

I began implementing the Managed Scripting engine into the MUD Creator Tool Kit and found that I wasn’t thrilled with how it was going to work. While the engine provided a simple approach to creating objects, it wasn’t practical for what I needed, and thus I have reverted back to the previous version of the Mud Creator Tool Kit using the XML file formats. I have also opted out of allowing custom expandability as the engine and tool kit are open sourced, so this removes the constraints I had when I was previously working on the Pre-Alpha edition of the kit. The original UI will be re-implemented and the engine will be useable once again by the end of tonight.

MUD Creator redesign underway

I started Monday working on the re-write of the MUD Creator. I uploaded a new copy of the source to CodePlex SVN with all the source files deleted and slowly began commiting new files as I worked on them. The user interface will be re-designed from the ground up with the custom UI being trashed for a more traditional Windows UI. The editors will be seperated into seperate forms instead of having everything contained on a single form like the previous versions where. This should help make things a little easier to find and let me work on building a work flow through the menus.
I'll be spending today working on it, designing the UI and focusing on fleshing out a couple classes that I uploaded to SVN.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Apple Restored my iPhone

So i destroyed the screen on my iPhone the other night by dropping it face down on my driveway. I was expecting to pay $499 for a new one but was surprised when Apple told me my warrenty allowed me to buy one at $199. Still expensive but better than paying retail.
I really love how the iPhone works in regards to synchronizing. I went and bought my new phone last night, brought it home & plugged it into my laptop and once it was done restoring and syncing my phone was back to its old self. While it took almost two hours to do the restore and sync my data, it was worth the wait. No othe phone works so smoothly when it comes to restoring back ups.

Apple 1 everyone else 0

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Custom iPhone Ringtones. Make them Freely

I got tired of searching for free ways to take my existing music collection and create ringtones for my iPhone in a manor that did not cost me $19.99. There really isn’t that much involved in it, just cut up a song, and convert it to an AAC file that iPhones can play back. Seems simple right? Well I guess all the companies out there feel it’s a difficult thing to do, and so they charge you for the conversion process.

After doing some research I found that Nero offers a free set of command line based AAC tools for encoding WAV files into an AAC file. Sweet! Only thing I needed now was to cut up the song, which I can do easily with Audacity. Another free application.

What did I do? I wrote myself a quick little application called iPhoneRingtones that would use the AAC toolset and convert my WAV files exported from Audacity into AAC ringtones, rename the M4A filename to M4R (iPhone ringtone extension) and then copy the ringtone into the iTunes Ringtones folder, launch iTunes and add it to the iTunes library. It’s simple, quick and takes literally seconds to convert and add to the library.

I bundled the whole thing together in a zip file, including Audacity, the Nero AAC encoder Tools, and my iPhoneRingtones application. They can be downloaded HERE

The download includes instructions on setting it up and getting your music converted into an iPhone ringtone, for free! You can use MP3, OGG, AIF or WAV files to load into Audacity, cut the song up till you have what you want for a ringtone, and then EXPORT the song as a WAV file. Once exported run the iPhoneRingtones.exe application, browse to the neroAacEnc.exe which is found under the Encoder directory included in the downloaded ZIP file. Then you will need to select the directory of your iTunes Music Library. This MUST be the ‘iTunes Music’ folder. An example would be C:\Users\Scionwest\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music.

Once those two options have been set, click ‘Create Ringtone’ and select your WAV file. Once you have selected your WAV file, the app will launch the Nero Encoder and convert it into an iPhone ringtone, start iTunes, add it to your Ringtones library and tada! You can now select the ringtone from your iPhone Synchronize settings under the ringtones tab, and sync it.

One last note, I’ve found that ringtones longer than 30 seconds wont show up in the ringtones library. Keep your ringtones to 20~25 seconds so that iTunes will make sure it’s placed inside your phones ringtones library.

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Amazon feeling the pressure

Acording to Slashdot, Amazon is prepping a Windows PC application that will allow windows users to read their Kindle books on their Windows PC, iPhones via Kindle for iPhone or the Kindle device.

This is an interesting twist, and something that I’ve felt Amazon has needed to do for quiet some time. Major players such as Google, Sony and Barnes & Noble are competing in the eBook market and Amazon I’m sure will be risking costumers if they do not follow suit and provide a desktop application for reading eBooks.

Personally for the cost of the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony eReader or Amazon’s Kindle people can purchase an iPod Touch for less money, and download for free the Kindle of iPhone and download the Barnes & Noble for iPhone, both of which will read the entire library of Google Bookes, Barnes & Noble books and any other website that supports the widely popular ePub format.

Amazon is going to see some serious competition from Sony, Barnes & Noble and Google, and will have to offer ePub as a supported format on their Kindle device if they want to compete.

Follow me!

I have two different twitter accounts I have setup, one for random tweets about what I’m doing, and another for the Managed Scripting Engine. Come follow my tweets!

Scionwest Tweets

Managed Scripting Tweets

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogging\Tweeting from anyplace.

I spent the night setting up my laptop and iPhone so I can blog and tweet from them both while I'm at home or out and about doing things. For tweeting I have three different twitter apps on my iphone but found that Tweet Deck works best on the phone.

They have Tweet Deck iPhone and Tweet Deck PC, and between the two I am able to update my twitter account, and monitor the people I follow without much of a haste. Both applications are free to download and use which is a plus.

For RSS reading, I used Google Reader to act as a hub, allowing me to store all my RSS feeds there, then I downloaded RSS Bandit for Windows and monitor my feeds from my desktop as RSS Bandit allows for Google Reader synchronizing. For the iPhone I downloaded RSS which synchronizes with Google Reader as well. Now all of my RSS readers are synced together and I have all my basis covered. Like my Twitter apps, both RSS Bandit and RSS are free applications to download and use.

For blogging I use Windows Live Writer to post blogs from my PC, and I use BlogPress to post blogs from my iPhone. While Windows Live Writer is a free download provided by Microsoft, BlogPress costs $2.99. It’s well worth the cost, and there is a free version available HERE to try prior to buying.

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Favorite 5 iPhone/iPod Touch Applications

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I currently own 243 iPhone applications, which caught me off guard a little bit when I was reviewing the apps within iTunes tonight. After realizing this, I decided to count the number of apps I actually have installed on the phone. I counted 6 pages, and after doing my math was surprised that the number came to 85. You don’t realize that there’s that many applications installed on your phone until you actually do the math. It’s quiet impressive that the phone runs so smooth with 85 applications sitting on it. Makes me glad that Apple restricts the phone to running only one app at a time. I could see the phone easily becoming lagged down by several memory intense applications running in the background, such as an RSS reader, Tweeter client and streaming radio. The phone would crawl to a stop.

With that having been said I decided I was going to look over my list of installed iPhone apps and plug a couple of them. Five to be exact.

  1. MemoryInfo
    This app works great for quickly clearing the phones memory, I use it several times a day to clear it up and it greatly increases the speed and response time of the phone. As a side benefit it also shows the battery charge remaining and its current state.
  2. Pocket Informant
    For those of you that have a Franklin Day Planner this app works great for letting me create calendar events, todo tasks and it syncs with Google Calendar which makes it even better. I purchased it while it was on sale, but at $12.99 it’s still a pretty good deal considering a Franklin Day Planner will run you roughly $60. They do have a LITE version that’s free, you can give it a test drive before buying it HERE
  3. Pocket Tunes
    I spent the last year waiting for a solid app to come along that let me listen to streaming music in the background while I continue to use my phone for other things, such as sending a text message or reading my RSS feeds. It took 8 months, before I got Pocket Tunes and I have loved every minute of it. It is a little pricey at $6.99, but having the ability to listen to hours of streaming radio from 16,000+ radio stations is the best. Pocket Tunes can only play MP3 or AAC+ content in the background, so not all of the stations in Pocket Tunes can do it, as some are WMA, but for the most part, the stations that I’ve found and enjoyed listening to have all been MP3 or AAC+
  4. Shazam
    Ever been in the car listening to the radio and wanted to know who sings the song that’s currently playing? Shazam takes care of that. Hold the phone against your speaker and it listens and tells you who the artist is, what song is playing, what album its from and even provides links to buy the song in iTunes, watch on YouTube or read the lyrics. It works very nicely.
  5. RSSRunner
    This app works great as a stand alone iPhone rss aggregator, allowing users to search for feeds, import Google Reader feeds and import OPML stored files. It’s free and runs quickly, however if you are wanting to synchronize between Google Reader online, your desktop and iPhone the I prefer using RSS which is also free.

ATT is in trouble

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega mentioned in a conference call earlier this week with analysts that he believes AT&T will continue growing strongly without the iPhone when the exclusivity of it ends sometime in the future.
A statement like this comes as a bit of a surprise after seeing the quarterly numbers from AT&T this past week. 4.3 million new phones were activated on the network -- 3.2 million of which were iPhones. If AT&T thinks it will continue growing at its current rate, it will need to keep dreaming, without the iPhone, the companies growth will be reduced considerably.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mud Creator Beta 1

The Mud Creator Beta 1 is currently in the planning stages, with a revised user interface planned, an improved in-editor testing setup, a re-write of the way objects will be created and stored and a scripting engine implemented.

Currently the engine supports either hard-coding the objects within the developers game source code, or pre-creating the objects and serializing them out to XML files that the engine can load during runtime and use, similar to how the Tool Kit handles it.

Mud Creator Tool Kit utilized the XML serialization/de-serialization features of the engine, storing all of the games objects as XML files. It worked out very well, but I have since developed a managed scripting engine that supports C# and VB syntax and I’ve decided to implement it into the Mud Creator engine, and I’m considering re-writing the internals of the Tool Kit to support it as well. I’m not sure if this is a good route to go or not, and will need to do some looking into it.

Beta 1 will introduce a scripting engine that will let developers create their game objects via scripts, that the engine will load during runtime. The scripts can be stored server side while the client just receives the text needed to inform them of their current location and surroundings preventing any object modifications. If the project is a single player/local only game, then the scripts can be compiled into a standalone .dll file in order to prevent the end users from having access to developers scripts.

Finally the Tool Kit will be overhauled a little bit as well, working on improving the user interface and adding all of the missing elements. Development on the Tool Kit will resume once the engine has been updated with the changes I have scheduled, and these changes can’t take place until the Managed Scripting engine is updated to support the features I need such as dynamic re-compiling of scripts during an applications lifetime.

Microsoft, Apple & Google

It's pretty unclear when it comes to the future of these three companies, regarding what they'll be doing 20 years from now. In the mobile world, Google has the Android phone and an open development model that will ensure a nice large sum of applications being available across all of the handsets Android powers, but Googles android reminds me a lot of how Linux is. Its open source, available on many devices, but missing the glitz that the iPhone and Apple have succeeded in obtaining. Android will confuse people as they will ask cell phone sales personel, "why do you carry 4 different Android phones? Don't they all do the same?" The answer to that will be a stern no. Each manufacture will design the interface and apps to suite what they feel should be on the phone. So Sussies Android based phone will not have the same functionality as Bobbies. However, Alex and Jason's iPhones will work the same and come with the exact same apps.
What about Microsoft and its Windows Mobile platform? It's a dieing OS, and is badly in need of a replacement. Microsoft needs to abandon the platform in favor of something more user friendly. Something like a Zune based phone. Something glitzy and fast. With the .Net framework and XNA developers will have an easy way of developing cross platform applications and games for Windows 7 and Zune devices. Apples iPhone SDK requires a OS X based system to develop on while both Android and Windows Zune can be developed on Windows, Mac and Linux (Zune via Mono.NET)
Windows is loosing ground in the mobile industry, with Apple, Google and RIM pushing the boundries with each new handset released. Microsoft has taken a standard Windows approach to their mobile platform without taking into consideration the things people really need in a smartphone. They supply an OS that's 5 years old with a face lift.
In 5 years i bet Apple will still be on top, but google and its android will be right there with them, and Microsoft will be considering if they should pull out or trash Mobile for a new approach. If they want to compete, a Zune phone would be the way to go.

Only time will tell.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Documentation Pains

As i wrap up my first release of Managed Scripting i find myself loathing the task of writing its documentation. Writing good documentation is crucial for an programming library, even more so with something as complex as deep as Managed Scripting.
Im not a good documentation writer, and so working on this part of the project is really time consuming due to the fact that i keep putting it off, and re-working it.
I think if i just sat down for a solid weekend, i coukd get it all wrote, but it's not something i'm looking forward to.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smartphone Revolution

Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, largely in thanks to Apple and its iPhone.
As consumers see more and more people being able to keep track of their lifes with smartphones, using the calanders, keeping track of stocks, GPS and other features that tend to come standard on a smartphone, they want to use it too.
The iPhone app store has pushed Palm and Microsoft to both open up an App Store like environment for their devices as well, and allowing their clients to have access to 3rd party apps that can extend their smartphones to even new levels of helpfulness.
I wonder if the symbian based phones will start to loose market share soon and everyone will be using a smartphone of some kind.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Small Bumps

As I continued working on the game getting a project going from scratch I realized that I had stripped out the games in-game editor, and would not be able to create the environments from within the game. This was not the ideal solution and so I attempted to get the creator directory added back into my project, but in a way that would allow me to toggle it on or off via a global variable. This way I can simply ship the end product with the creator directory missing and not allow support for modifying the games environments.

I had a problem with the engine crashing when it tried to load the creators UI elements, and I realized that it was probably looking for the customProfiles.cs script that was within the demonstration folders that I had removed, so I created a copy of them and placed them within my projects directory structure, executed them and had the engine go ahead and start loading the UI elements.

Sadly it didn’t get far, it still crashes but further down the line, when it tries to load the Lighting UI elements. I’m going to spend some time tomorrow looking at what files I might be missing to cause this too. Once I get the creator up and running, my User Interface design can begin.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Torque Game Engine Project

I've had the Torque Game Engine for a couple years now, and have messed around with it for quiet awhile. I spent the last couple of days thinking about how I would build an RPG game using it, and decided I could give it a try and see what happens. Considering I have the Arcane FX pack already, my skill effects will be easily created, all I need to do is decide on how I want the gameplay to be designed.

I spent the first part of today getting everything up to date, downloading the latest version of the engine and the pack, and also checking out some of the existing content packs at the garage games website. I found two of them that I will start putting some money back for. The Cirrus Sky pack and the Plastic Tweaker Tool for creating Datablocks on the fly with a gui driven toolset.

Next thing I did was setup my directory structure for the project. I will be using all of my own scripts for this project, removing all of the pre-scripted Garage Games content. That meant that the Common folder, the arcane.fx folder, demo folder, show folder, creator folder and the starter/tutorial folders had to go. Once the structure was created I loaded the engine source up in Visual C++ 2008 and adjusted the engine so that the main.cs file could be renamed to game.dat and loaded with that filename & extension instead. I recompiled the engine, and renamed the file and everything ran smooth.

Finally I created a startup.cs script that contained the code needed to load the games preferences, create the canvas and initialize the audio. The game.dat file which will be the only non-compiled file for the project will be kept with the least amount of code in it possible. The file looks like the following:

if(exec("game/startup.cs") != true)
error("Error: Unable to luanch game, content missing.");

The startup.cs file will obviously be a compiled .dso when the game is distributed, so no one will be able to access its contents, and the onStart() is a function within the startup.cs script. This keeps the unprotected code to a minimum, allowing me to hide the remaining startup code within a compiled .dso file.

So now I have myself a blank canvas that starts up, I now need to look into setting up the UI Profiles, and begin creating the startup UI.

-- Posted from my iPhone