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2009 News Archive

Counting with a clown

Posted on November 12, 2009

Last night, I had a dream that I was back in school, tutoring the actress who played Loonette on YTV's The Big Comfy Couch after the end of class. "Algebra means running math backwards. You see a letter on one side of the equal sign, and you do the opposite of what's being done to the letter. For example, if x + 5 = 7, do the opposite of plus 5 on both sides, and you end up with x = 2." The trouble is that I couldn't get her name right (and no, it wasn't "Alyson Court" in the dream or even "Clarissa Quimby"; it was something like Tyra with a double-barreled last name), so I ended up just calling her Loonette.

But now there's another clown on TV, and his name is Billo. Let's hope he can do the math better than freshmen at City University of New York.

Gnometris is dead; long live Quadrapassel

Posted on October 29, 2009

As of GNOME Games 2.29, the GNOME Games project has renamed Gnometris to "Quadrapassel" to distance it from the Tetris trademark. At the same time, Same GNOME became Swell Foop because "GNOME" in app titles has become deprecated anyway. I guess nobody told them about Quadra.

In other news, Ubuntu 9.10, a popular GNU/Linux operating system distribution based on Debian, is out now.

On clones and disappointments

Posted on October 3, 2009

People accuse me of building most of my portfolio from clones of commercial falling block puzzle games. But each clone has a specific purpose derived from a particular disappointment with one of these games. I made one game because MS-DOS was dying, and I was disappointed with Windows' inability to run Tetripz correctly. I ported it to GBA after feeling how laggy the GBA port of Tetris Worlds was. (Little did I know at the time that the lag I felt was due in part to other growing problems in the Tetris franchise, such as the broken infinite spin mechanic.) I made Luminesweeper because I was disappointed with Q Entertainment's choice of Sony's PSP, a new and expensive handheld system, as the exclusive platform for a falling block game. I made another falling block game for two reasons: to demonstrate how The Tetris Company was destroying what some felt to be the challenge of the game and to fix Tetris DS's lack of specialized training modes.

But now I'm disappointed in Nintendo's attempt to block individual developers from pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. I ranted on this earlier, but since then, Nintendo released Wii Menu 4.2, the first update to specifically attack homebrew rather than illegally copied commercial games. The cat-and-mouse game on the Wii isn't quite as intense as Sony's was in the first years of the PSP, but Nintendo's intent is clear: only corporations established in the mainstream video game industry are allowed to develop for its hardware.

Even apart from the persecution of homebrew, the rise of HDTV has made PC platforms (Windows and Mac OS X) start to look more attractive. Virtually all new LCD TVs sold in major United States retail chains have inputs for VGA and HDMI signals from computers. I understand that a lot of people don't know about this, which is why I've written Cable finder, a guide explaining how to connect your PC and your TV.

That's it

Posted on September 24, 2009

I'm tired of game consoles. They have three advantages over a typical PC: small size (as opposed to a typical ATX mid-tower), compatibility with standard-definition TVs (as opposed to PCs with only a VGA port, which need an HDTV), and a guarantee of sufficient graphics performance (as opposed to Intel GMA). These allow for multiplayer with one console and one large monitor, which is cheaper than four PCs and four smaller monitors. But their big disadvantage is overhead on the developer's side. Console makers such as Nintendo expect developers to have a "secure office" and "industry experience", but a team of part-time developers with day jobs outside the video game industry is unlikely to have the cash to lease an office or to take internships with a major video game developer in another state. So instead, I bought a Mac mini: it's roughly the size of a Wii, Apple sells an SDTV adapter, and it has NVIDIA graphics.

I'm also tired of having to put up with legal threats. I've put my falling block game in a code freeze until I feel like converting it into a more general engine that can cover other falling block game types like Dr. Mario, Columns, and Puyo Pop. That might not come very soon because I'm working on other projects.

Finally, I'm tired of illiteracy, and I'm doing something about it. More to come.

The fairy tale becomes a sport

Posted on July 8, 2009

Here's a new video that should have no chance of tripping anybody's copyradar: Little Red Riding Hood. It's an outdoor game that I invented based on a story collected in 1697 by Charles Perrault.

Tetris Concept has moved

Posted on June 25, 2009

Caffeine, who ran TetrisConcept.com, got tired of running a forum. So he moved the wiki to Wikia and shut down the forum. Members of the community have started a temporary successor forum.

YouTube is slow.

Posted on June 14, 2009

On Thursday, June 11, a YouTube representative finally got around to switching the protest video back on, a total of 21 business days after the counter-notification was filed. The trouble is that U.S. law specifies that a video is supposed to go back up 10 to 14 business days after that, not 21.

The 2000s decade is coming to a close. It will soon be the teens, and time for something new.

Happy Birthday Tetris!

Posted on June 6, 2009

Google celebrated the 25th birthday of Tetris today with a custom logo on the Google Search page. In June 1984, Alexey Pajitnov completed his first prototype of the video game Tetris on an Elektronika 60, a Russian clone of Digital's PDP-11 minicomputer. Fans of computing history may recognize the PDP-11 as the platform on which Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie first developed the Unix operating system. Since then, both Unix and Tetris have been cloned numerous times, just as the PDP-11 was. Tetris Zone can run on Mac OS X, which is based on Darwin, a clone of Unix. The Linux operating system, used by Tetris Friends and by Tetris Zone's web site, is also a clone of Unix. In fact, the IEEE publishes an international standard called POSIX that tells exactly what a Unix clone should look like.

Where did the name "Tetris" come from? Vadim Gerasimov, who ported Pajitnov's prototype to the PC, described it as a portmanteau of "tetromino" and "tennis". Tetromino itself is a portmanteau of Greek tetra-, meaning four, and "domino". "Tennis" comes from French tenez meaning "take", short for "take heed that I am serving the ball". Tenez itself comes from Latin teneō, meaning "I hold", whose infinitive form is tenēre. And like most Latin words, teneō is derived from a Proto-Indo-European root, the same root word that produced English "thin" (like an I piece) and the Greek word tetanos, or "tetanus", or "lockjaw", which calls to mind L and J shaped pieces just as "Tetris" calls to mind the T.

Why there is no Wii section

Posted on May 21, 2009

You may have seen the NES, GBA, and DS sections on this web site and wondered why I haven't tried developing for Wii. Wonder no more: I'm starting to like the PC better than homebrew.

Free software spotlight: Pygame

Posted on May 17, 2009

Pygame is a set of code modules designed for programming video games for the PC in the Python programming language. It wraps the SDL library so that games made with Pygame can work on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. Popular video games made with Pygame include Pydance, Frets on Fire, and Galcon.

Numerous people have used Pygame to develop puzzle games. But unfortunately, the developers of some falling block games appear to lack imagination in the naming department.

Free software spotlight: Gnometris and LTris

Posted on May 13, 2009

A falling block game called Gnometris is part of the GNOME desktop environment. Canonical Ltd. distributes Gnometris, along with the rest of GNOME, as part of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. Likewise, Novell distributes Gnometris as part of the openSUSE project.

LTris is another falling block game. It comes as part of the operating system loaded onto ASUS Eee PC subnotebook computers, which is based on Xandros Desktop.

GNOME and LTris are is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GNU GPL is one of many free software licenses that grant the user the freedom to change the software and to share it with their neighbors, including selling copies, without breaking copyright law. Other widely used free software licenses include the Apache License, the Mozilla Public License, the MIT License, and the new BSD License.

A lot of programs distributed as free software are "clones", or replacements for proprietary software that perform the same function. You may have already used OpenOffice.org (compare to Microsoft Office), GIMP (compare to Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop Elements), Mozilla Firefox (compare to Internet Explorer), Pidgin (compare to AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, and mIRC), VLC media player (compare to Windows Media Player), or any of several others. Because copyright does not cover functionality or menu structure, these free applications present a reasonably familiar user experience, allowing users to learn them quickly. In fact, users of Microsoft Office 2003 have found OpenOffice.org easier to learn than Microsoft Office 2007.

2009 archive | 2008 archive | 2007 archive

Flagged.

Posted on May 6, 2009

Arika, publisher of Tetris the Grand Master, is spraying DMCA takedown notices for videos of falling block games across YouTube again. But this time, Arika got YouTube to take down a video of a falling block game that isn't a direct imitation of any Arika product, and even a video criticizing Arika's practices, which should be textbook fair use. So to be safe, I've put development of falling block games on hiatus until the situation becomes clearer.

More like pona ala

Posted on April 24, 2009

My dream last night became a nightmare when I ended up trying to express the idea of "free software" in Toki Pona. I could get the "free" part (roughly "any person can give or change this"), but Toki Pona, a very Eloi-ish language, doesn't fit well for describing the Morlock concept of "software".

Down with the sickness

Posted on April 12, 2009

I hope everyone had a happy Resurrection Sunday today.

I'm not Catholic, but I did make a bet with the Lord that I could lose eight pounds (3.6 kg) between Ash Wednesday (February 25, 2009, the first day of Lent) and Good Friday (April 10, 2009) by limiting myself to 1500 calories (6300 kJ) of food per day. The first two weeks went fine, but then I lost the willpower to diet. I resumed my old eating habits and gained some of the weight back. But two weeks later, I came down with a spell of dry coughing fits and off-and-on fevers up to 103.1 degrees F (39.5 degrees C). It all ended around Good Friday. In fact, I think the Lord might have let me get sick for a reason: I lost all the weight that I had set out to lose.

Making ads more relevant

Posted on March 13, 2009

We've been using Google ads for a couple years now, and they're about to get better. In April, Google will introduce new ways to determine what ads you'll find most interesting. The privacy policy has the details. And thanks to whoever reported the problem with the contact page: it works now.

Real artists ship.

Posted on February 7, 2009

I'm trying to get one of my NES projects to a "finished" state. This will require a lot of spit and polish.

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