Thursday, June 11, 2009

10 Worlds of Tux (aka TuxWorld) Alpha Launch!

Well, the time has finally come to reveal a project I've secretly been beavering away on for a while now....

10 Worlds of Tux!

Erm... what exactly is "10 Worlds of Tux"? It's a new 3D side-scrolling platform game inspired by the easy to learn, fun to play game mechanics of the 90's, with a 2000's shot in the arm for graphics (or at least that's what the press release will say! ;-)

From a gamers perspective 10W.o.T will feature 10 worlds (surprise, surprise!), fluid controls, a freedom inspired plot that doesn't take itself seriously at all and stays out of the way of the gameplay :), homages to many icons of the FOSS world, hidden secrets and bonus galore and... an easy level designer to let you customise the game further.

From a development point of view, everything is being designed from the ground up to make it as easy as possible for beginners to contribute and add to the game. It's developed on the rapidly advancing Blender Game Engine, using resolution independent vector image based textures, and will be available on at least Linux and Windows. Mac versions will follow, too if Blender can get it's mac sound issues sorted out... hopefully for v2.5 late this year!

Anyway, enough talk! The pre-pre-pre-pre-alpha (featureing bugs akimbo!) can be downloaded here:

The .blend file needs Blender installed on your system to play currently (sudo apt-get install blender). Just open the file with Blender and hit P to play (and Esc to quit). Binaries will be made available soonish, hopefully with debs following if I can wrap my head arround the horrors of packaging.

Viva Freedom Gaming!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A couple of options for Linux and DRM free Commercial Music

OK, if you've been in the open source scene for a while, you've likely come across creative commons style music sites such as that let you browse thousands of artists releasing their music for free download. But what happens when you want access to music that's a bit more commercial? Of course there's always the option of buying the CD and ripping it (making sure you keep the original). If like me, you prefer your music collection all digital (save space, plastic, the environment, hassle, earchability etc) then you may want to look at these other *legal* and DRM free options to break free of your musical iCaptivity:

1. mp3 store - USA and UK only:

Yes it sucks that they don't distribute outside these two countries (at the time of writing), but a huge music catalogue, DRM free mp3's, cheaper songs than iCaptive and a linux based download assistant make these a great option if you live somewhere you can access it. If not, start filling out those "customer satisfaction" forms and complain people! They'll go to the effort wherever the demand is, and remember, it's always assumed that for everyone who contacts them that theres a few thousand more who couldn't be bothered. Speak up for your few thousand! /

2. Rhapsody Unlimited - USA only.

"Rhapsody, not iTunes, in my opinion, is the future of music" ~ Fortune Magazine

6 million songs. Over 80 commercial free radio stations. Just about everything you could ever hear on the radio and much more. Better yet, they support Linux (see here) and can be accessed via the web.


3. eMusic - worldwide

OK, they hide the price better than easy exits from Alcatraz, but at only around $10 (at time of writing) per month, you get access to a wide range of high quality independant music to download and keep in a DRM free format. They've also managed to grab a huge back catalogue of music no longer available anywhere else and one or two fairly large acts, rebelling against the DRM lockin demanded by the four major commercial labels. eMusic is also well known for having an excellent engine for finding you *new* music you'll love either by your previous preferences or by entering other performers you love. They also have very generous introductory offers like 45 free downloads. The only thing to watch out for is that credits don't roll over from one month to the next. All the more incentive to get in there and discover new music every month! On the upside, redownloading something you've previously downloaded (say if your harddrive crashes) is completely free. Another great music provider providing their software on the free and open source Linux desktop. :)

PS Their music catalogue is also rather craftily hidden away, but can be seen here!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

[IDEA] Easy, Beautiful Progress Notifications in KDE's Task Bar

NOTE: Please *vote* on this idea here!

At the moment, apps can let us see how far through a task they are, such as Dolphin with it's file copy progress bar. The problem is that:

  1. There's no obvious link between the different programs and where their progress is shown (in a small, minimised, generic system tray applet marked "i")
  2. The systray applet either hides that anything is happening if minimised, or covers a pretty large section of screen to show only a small amount of information if maximised.
  3. Strangely it is currently set to show for the first few seconds and then "dissapear" (minimise to the system tray). More than one user I know has pulled a flash drive still being written to thinking the copy was finished. Even if you understand it you're stuck with point 2 above.

If you're copying in Dolphin or burning a CD in K3B, wouldn't you prefer to have a beautiful looking progress bar that is economical with screen space, needs no big pop up windows, looks great and always gives you feedback, right on the application's taskbar entry?

[Image: Taskbar_progress_meter.png]

This mockup is designed to show mainly the TaskBar (although I've included a tooltip in the mockup, too). This is just Dolphins, flash drive capacity bar, scaled and set to 80% opacity. If needed it could be used in addition to the current system. If you're copying three things at once it could show the progress of the combined tasks and still let people click on the "i" only if they want a more detailed breakdown. The bar could just fade in when used, and once finished could fade out once that app is given focus.

NOTE: Please *vote* on this idea here!

QBBT: Which Logic Bricks Get Used First?

You'd never expect a programmer to write code without any idea of which line was going to be executed first. Blender's Game Engine Logic blocks are a brilliant way to let visual artists "code" by connecting visual blocks together to create logic and AI in games. The funny thing is that almost no one learning the Blender Game Engine comes across anything that tells you which logic bricks will actually be executed in what order. This can make figuring out complex setups far more difficult than it should be. In a nutshell heres how it seems to work from my tests:

Basically it seems that blender starts with the list of actuators (the ones that make changes on the right) and works it's way down. In this case Blender tests to see whether to play the armature action first... then the message actuator, the state actuator and the end object actuator.

This is especially important to know if you're using the state actuator which switches which controllers (and thus which other actators) will be used from this point on. Obviously if your state controller switches an object to use a different set of actuators, the actuator you had set up just after it isn't going to be run. Also worth remembering is that an actuator hooked up to a delay sensor, while it may be examined first, won't actually be executed until the delay sensor has counted to the end of it's time delay. What happens if a delay sensor is still counting up when a state actuator triggers it? Good question.... to be answered in a future QBBT!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Source Search Has Arrived

Do you love open source? Do you remember a time before when using locked off, proprietry systems that gave you little control seemed so normal because you'd never found anything else? Are you using an open-source search engine?


"Open-source search engine?! I can hear many of you gasp. But... doesn't Google use Linux? Yep. But can you look at the code for how they control what information you see (and don't see)? Nope. Are they legally bound to show you the best results possible? Nope. Are they legally bound to do whatever it legally takes to make the most money even if it means not giving you the best search results? Surprisingly, yes. (For fairness sake, this also applies to Microsoft's Live search, Yahoo search or *any* search run by a publicly listed company).

In fact *every* common-law country based public company is legally bound to do *whatever it takes* within the law to get the most money for their shareholders. (Note: No, I'm not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Look it up for yourself, and also go watch "The Corporation" while you're at it.)

So if we want human knowledge to be truly free (as in beer *and* speech) what's our best option:

Wikia Search.

Hmmm... It's still in beta (at time of writing), howver: It's open-source. Everyone has access to the index (in-fact you can even automatically help build it yourself). Everyone can see how the index is ranked, but the trick is, that like Wikipedia (which was founded by the same guy) it relies on mass numbers of human users to make it relevant. It worked there. It works here, too. Before you gasp that that must lead to people gaming the system remember that human entered data is most likely what Google is using as well. Think about it. Do you really think that all that data they have when you "vote up" a result in their search rankings does nothing? And that marking that (Google owned blogspot) blogpost in your (Google) RSS reader is just ignored? And of course they would never track the number of click throughs you do on different links... oh, except for where we know they do already like Adwords.

The difference here is that Wikia lets you know what they do, has it community monitored and lets you much more comprehensively improve your own (and others) results. There's combinations of commenting, annotations, adding alternative key-phrases, giving (1-5 star) ratings of search results and even seeing which (logged in) users contributions added to the results you're seeing.

That's not to say that Google is evil. Personally I feel that in some areas we need proprietry software just to "fill the gaps" until a great open-source option comes along.

My feeling is "just" that the great open-source search option has arrived...

How I learned to stop worrying and love KBlogger

At the time of writing, Kblogger is in Alpha2 (read NOT released yet!) and has some... well.. need of love to get it going.

When you do get it going though, it's a beautiful, lightweight app that integrates nicely with KDE4 and makes blogging easy.

So how do you get past those "getting it up and running blues"? I can't offer tech support on every situation, however here's what worked for me with a blogger account and Kubuntu Jaunty (Alpha 4).

There are two main issues:

1. When trying to create an account I always got "Could not get blogs".
a. Visit your blogspot site (ie and log-in.
b. Click on any link (such as Create or Edit Posts) that ends in ?blog-id= and a long number. Copy that number from your browsers url bar.
c. In the "Create account" section of kblogger, click the advanced tab. Paste the number from step b above and click ok. You're ready to go! However, you'll now notice that...

2. None of the buttons appear (you know, unimportant stuff like, well, add a blog post)

Temporarily this can be worked around by adding shortcuts (settings -> Configure shortcuts) for New, Upload and Synch. Use them instead.

You're now well on your way to becoming a Web 2.0(tm) journalistic superstar! Go forth and make the mainstream media tremble!