Many folk will already have seen this by now:
I’m not sure if it is the most expensive music video ever made but there’s no doubt that the backdrop is by far the most impressive. There isn’t a special effect or film set available that can beat the use of the International Space Station and video footage taken on board it as a background.
There is not much to say other than that this is one of the best cartoons ever:
This one is damn funny too:
For more funniness visit the hysterical world of BizarroComics.com where you will find more of Dan Piraro’s fantastic comics.
So, you’re looking for an easy way to tune your guitar (6, 7 and 12 strings) bass (4, 5 and 6 strings), banjo, mandolin and ukulele? You want the ability to use tunings other than standard? And you need a ready reference for scales, arpeggios and chords. With a metronome too?
Mmm, what are you going to do?
If you have one of those nifty i-devices from a certain Cupertino based consumer electronics outfit then I recommend you visit the outfits online store and get yourself a copy of GuitarToolkit from Agile Partners.
At 6 of Her Majesty’s pounds and 99 of her pennies, it is a bit more expensive than your usual app but, as I alluded above, you get several nifty bangs for your quid. You get all of the things I mentioned wrapped up in an easy to use interface that looks particularly good on one of them there tablet-sized i-devices. The app will even strum the chords for you giving you a pretty good representation of how they should sound.
I’ve been using GuitarToolkit for over a year now to help keep a couple of guitars, a mandolin and a ukulele in tune and have been greatly impressed by the results. The chord reference has also been really useful for identifying chords I find myself playing but have no idea what to call them. Making up names based on the shapes I contort my fingers into just doesn’t work!
For me, GuitarToolkit is a genuine 5-star app and a very worthwhile investment. One of a handful of apps I really would be lost without.
I’ve also been delving into the world of Interactive Fiction recently, or should I say revisiting it as the first computer games I played belonged to that category.
The Interactive Fiction Database has proved very useful in this regard as it hosts a range of IF games for download and points you in the direction of the interpreters (e.g. Frotz, Glulxe, etc) that you will need to run them. You can also refer to the Interactive Fiction Archive for more on both games and interpreters (in fact, Frotz and Windows Glulxe can be download from there).
I’m currently having a stab at IF games called Anchorhead, Zork I (one of the games that started it all) and (you can’t fail to have heard of this one) The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. And very enjoyable they all are.
This latest interest has also prompted me to have a tinker with a piece of software called Inform, a tool which allows you to develop interactive fiction in a fairly natural and easy manner. From the Inform web site:
Inform is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. It is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided by contemporary work in semantics and by the practical experience of some of the world’s best-known writers of IF.
So far I’ve developed a basic world for some action to take place in and have gotten a handle on how to move around that world. Now I just need to populate it with some stuff – people, objects, brain-melting puzzles and challenges. Nothing too demanding.
Keep watching this space to see what develops.
I’ve been growing increasingly interested in independent games of late – thanks to offerings such as The Humble Bundle, The Free Bundle and the Indie Games Weblog. All three are well worth a visit so I though I’d just give them a quick plug by calling them to the attention of anyone who happens by this blog. There are some great independent game developers out there some offering their wares for free, others for the smallest of fees. So you’ve very little to lose by trying some of these games either by downloading them or playing them in a browser.
One day (ah, the legendary “one day”) I’d like to try my hand at developing a game but there’s a lot of other calls for my attention at the moment. So … one day.
In the meantime I’ll make do with trying out someone else’s games and perhaps I’ll spot an independent niche that hasn’t been filled yet.
Since it was announced that Google are axing Google Reader – the web-based RSS reader that rather a large number of people have been using for a long time – I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a suitable replacement.
Following my initial search I settled on two candidates: Feedly and The Old Reader.
To cut straight to the chase, Feedly (which I’ve been using for a month now) is leading the way. As I mentioned before, it is available as a Firefox plugin and has apps for iOS and Android. As a result of using the Firefox plugin and the iOS app I now know that Feedly is also fast – very fast. And very nice looking – well laid out, good use of fonts and images, as well as offering flexible configuration and theme options (you can make the Firefox plugin behave almost as if it were Google Reader). Syncing between the different clients is seamless too as these all connect to a web-based service. Overall it is an excellent RSS reader and it’s getting better – in the time I’ve been using it there have been a couple of updates as the Feedly team respond to feature requests made by the droves of people who are flocking to Feedly from Google Reader. So top marks for responding to and supporting customers are due too.
Note – I’ve only recently added Feedly to my Android device but early indications are that it works just as well there as it does on iOS. The Android app is very similar to the iOS one and seems to be just as fast and reliable. Which means I’m probably sold on Feedly as being the future for my RSS needs.
However. Let’s not forget about The Old Reader.
The Old Reader is a clone of an earlier incarnation of the Google Reader and it does the same job very well. It is described as being “the ultimate social RSS reader” and the sharing, liking and trend watching features it offers certainly suggest it is moving in that direction. As with Feedly, The Old Reader has seen a fair bit of development recently as it’s makers adapt to the needs of their share of the Google Reader pie. This suggests that it will have a bright future too – though I think it may be a bit too niche to appeal as widely as Feedly. There are no mobile apps for The Old Reader yet but these have been promised but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue as the present web-interface seems to work quite happily in different browsers (well Firefox, IE, and Chrome anyway – haven’t tried it anywhere else).
There are quiet a few other options for replacing Google Reader out there but these two appealed the most to me – initially because they’re free but now because they both offer good features, work very well and are backed by responsive and creative developers. I think I’ve decided to stick with Feedly but can happily recommend The Old Reader to those looking for a more familiar and direct replacement for Google Reader.
xkcd is “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.” It is also very funny and at times ground-breaking – I recommend it as food for everyone’s inner nerd. I never thought that stick figures could be so cool!
I also recommend its companion site, what if?, which provides further sustenance by answering questions with physics. Questions such as:
Head on over to either and you will laugh or be enlightened. Perhaps even both.