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My feeble attempt at a blog

The Lost Museum Of Synthesizer Technology » Synthtopia

I had no idea this place ever existed, or maybe I would have tried to visit.  Nice to have these videos of the place though.

Apparently a lot of the synths ended up in the collection of Turnkey on TCR in London.  I wonder what will happen to them now that Sound Control have gone bankrupt?

Spelunky

On the subject of cool indy games, Derek Yu (co-developer of the awesome Aquaria) has just released Spelunky, which is a sort of hybrid of platformers like Cave Story, and a Roguelike.  It’s maddeningly hard, but incredibly addictive.  Lovely.

Cave Story

Today I’ve been playing Cave Story.  It’s a nifty little Japanese indy platform/adventure game for Windows, vaguely in the style of Metroid.  It’s not exactly new (2004), but people seem to like it, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Though I’m not very far into the game yet, what I’ve seen I really like.  Unfortunately it’s not the most accessible game, as the original binary is all in Japanese.  You’ll want to grab both that, and the patch available on this page. Unzip the original binary, then point the patch installer at the resulting “doukutsu” folder.  I don’t know whether the key bindings work out of the box, but I also disabled the joypad using the config program before I ran the main game, since I don’t have one.

Japanese Bobtail

It’s possible that the Japanese bobtail may have a stunted tail because of the belief that cats with long tails might “evolve” into evil “makeneko” (sort of demon-cats), with the ability to raise the dead, amongst other things.

Cowon D2 Mini Review

The good:

  • It works (Unlike the iPod Touch and Zen I had to return)!
  • It sounds lovely.
  • The bundled headphones are really very good (in fact they’re better than the little Sennheiser ones I already paid for, annoyingly).
  • It plays FLAC files.
  • The SD slot works properly (amazing how few players do this right).
  • The battery life is superb, even playing FLAC files off an SD card.
  • It feels nice and solid - I will have to try extra hard if I want tobreak this one.
  • It’s a very nice size, if a bit thick.
  • The UI is a big improvement on previous Cowon devices I’ve used.
  • It happily worked first time with every OS I threw it at (Linux, OSX and Vista) without needing me to install any filthy third-party crap.

The Bad:

  • It does something odd with the FLAC meta-data (doesn’t seem to pay attention to the Album Artist field), which will need me to write a script to fix.
  • You have to resize videos to get it to play them.
  • "Resume" doesn’t actually resume when you switch it back on.
  • It takes about 5 seconds to boot every time you turn it on.
  • Using the little stylus is a bit finicky.

I’m very pleased with the purchase so far.  It’s a much more convenient size than the Touch, and plays a much wider variety of formats, albeit while lacking all the Touch’s fancy features (which, while amusing, I wasn’t actually going to use).

Thoughts on the Macworld keynote

If “Apple is a Hardware Company” as some assert, they really didn’t announce an awful lot of hardware. Perhaps they believe that during a recession they’re not going to expand the market for their hardware very much?  Certainly none of the announcements point to a company that’s trying to grow beyond its current user base.  In fact, it just looks to me as though they’re trying to milk the mac faithful by selling them software upgrades while times aren’t so good.  Given that the software upgrades are probably relatively cheap to produce (relative to hardware R&D costs, I mean) they’re probably extremely profitable too.

I don’t expect Apple’s hardware sales to amaze anyone over the coming year, so this is probably wise.

Whilst battery research doesn’t exactly have Apple’s usual “glamour” factor, it’s understandable that Apple would want to invest a lot in trying to extend battery life. If the hype matches reality, then the boring battery stuff is probably the most exciting thing they announced today.  Hmmm.

Lastly, the iTunes announcement is good, but IMHO not good enough.  I’d like to see completely lossless music tracks on ITMS, but that’s probably just me.

Prediction: Apple’s next “event” is unlikely to have any significantly more exciting announcements than those we heard today.

Space Giraffe: The Musical

Space Giraffe is a great game, but it lacks plot.  Here is one of my many plot ideas that Jeff Minter may like to adopt, perhaps for a “Special Edition” of the game:

The Space Giraffe represents a poor, lonely boy born in the wrong part of town.  He has fallen in love with a girl whose affluent parents refuse to acknowledge him as a suitable match for their daughter until he makes something of himself.  Somebody probably needs to make some FMV here to insert before the game starts, with the Space Giraffe/boy bursting into a particularly mopey song about how awful his life is, and how much he loves the girl and wants to win her parents over.

His poverty and lack of education leave him with few options in life, so he takes a job as a street sweeper, mopping up the streets of an ever-increasing tide of garbage (grunts), some of which is extremely harmful to him.  Particularly when he is exhausted (i.e. the power bar has been reduced all the way to the rim), he is susceptible to being engulfed in rubbish and temporarily rendered unconscious.

As well as rewarding him with cash, his employers attempt to provide him with a constant supply of lucozade (obvious product placement opportunity), which he drinks to gain enough energy to be able to jump over the piles of toxic rubbish beneath him, sweeping it away with his special brush, which he can upgrade by drinking enough lucozade.

Repeatedly drinking enough energy drinks is enough to render the boy a bit senseless, at which point he enters a trance where he dreams of collecting flowers for the girl he loves so much (bonus rounds, obviously).  Perhaps collecting a particularly large number of flowers should result in another FMV, and some more singing.

The neighbourhoods of the town grow progressively more and more dangerous and difficult to navigate, containing increasingly deadly rubbish.  The boy needs to learn to navigate around deadly flowers, as well as rubbish on which his special broom is ineffectual unless he jumps over it or sweeps it away only whilst it’s blowing from east to west (boffins), and even sentient rubbish that has become enraged by his attempts to clean up the town, and which tries to kill him (aggressive boffins/rotors). 

Middle of the way through the game, it should be revealed that the girl’s parents are so dead-set against the marriage that they have been poisoning the boy-giraffe’s food and making it increasingly difficult for him to make out the things going on around him.  They also resort to poisoning rubbish to make him feel as though the world is constantly spinning.  This whole sequence could also benefit from a bit of FMV treatment, with the parents singing operatically about how they’d never tolerate their daughter marrying the Space Giraffe.

About two thirds of the way through, the boy has saved enough to be able to buy himself a Commodore 64, which he uses to write poetry and music and love-letters.  His girlfriend gets jealous of all the time he’s spending on his computer, so his quest becomes even more urgent, making it necessary for him to find his way past dangerous electricity pylons (zappers) to get to extremely difficult-to-reach and particularly rubbish-soaked suburbs.

Finally he makes his way to the the girl’s house to ask her hand in marriage, and to demonstrate to her parents how he can support their daughter now that he’s earned a ludicrous fortune from his sweeping activities.  The game could end on another FMV of the girl/boy on their honeymoon in an exotic part of the world, strolling hand-in-hand down a beach and singing about their love.