It’s 2016 so I switched to Twenty Sixteen

After 3 years I decided to dust off my blog and freshen up the look and feel.

Wading through a ton (or maybe metric tonne) of themes didn’t convince me to spend a few dollars on a commercial theme and I found myself indecisive on some of the free ones. So, I went with the stock WP theme for this year, Twenty Sixteen. It’s fine though a bit plain in it’s current form. That’s probably better if I ever decide to start posting some professional blogs.

While I was at it, I added some plugins and widgets:

There’s a nifty Flickr Badges Widget, though I think the pictures there are several years old. I’ve started to relocate pics from a pair hosting service over to Flickr and while my albums are getting organized, the photo stream itself is somewhat random as far as when the pictures were taken. New pics from public events will show up eventually.

I also installed the standard WP caching tool. Since I’ve been dealing with WordPress at work, my knowledge of caching options and behavior in WordPress has grown. This makes me wonder if my hosting provider has opcache enabled by default? … I checked and it looks like it’s disabled. Maybe I should consider database object caching as an alternative…

That’s all for now. We’ll see if this year–after more than 20 years of maintaining a personal website–will be the year I start making regular posts.

OUYA Impressions

OUYA - Console My Kickstarter funded OUYA arrived today. I can say that my experience is in line with most other reviews I’ve seen. Here’s a somewhat quick set of first impressions.

Unboxing and Physical
I had opted for an additional controller when pledging and the 2nd controller comes in thin foam bag alongside the main console box. Padding was sufficient but there was certainly room for the controller to move around.

Inside the OUYA box, there are just the essentials: console, controller, power adapter, HDMI cord and a thin booklet with some regulatory information. The included controller was intact, unlike the experience of many game reviewers a couple of weeks back. I appreciate having an HDMI cord in the box. Why can’t a popular console costing $250 to $300 pack one in?

I’d have to agree that the controller build materials aren’t as refined as mainstream consoles. I don’t like the seam along the controller handles. Spring action in the left and right triggers also isn’t as smooth as the OUYA’s big brothers. Overall the controller is workable.

Setup and Getting Started

Setup was straight forward, starting with specifying Wifi settings and the system making an unsurprising software update. A a Kickstarter backer, I already had a username selected and signing in was quick.

OUYA has custom menus for the most common functions but setting up Wifi as well as some other more “advanced” settings will throw you into a standard Android UI. It’s not a good experience as basically you’ve got a phone / tablet oriented menu system on the big screen.

This is where I first encountered one of my main issues with OUYA. There apparently is no way to compensate for TV overscan and OUYA seems to not have tested with TVs that have overscan on by default. My own TV is getting on in age at almost 8 years old now, overscans the picture and has no options to fit the image to the visible area of the screen (probably because it’s a rear projection model).

The main side effect of this is that not only do the Android menu screens all get clipped but almost all the games I tried get their UIs clipped. Apparently, OUYA doesn’t have guidelines to just use 90% of the screen like the major consoles or doesn’t enforce them. I’m sure I’m part of a shrinking minority in this situation but it’s still a poor experience.

The UI itself feels sluggish. It’s hard to tell how much is controller latency and how much is the system not pushing the menu’s pixels quick enough.

The Games

I downloaded and played a few games. It was a generally smooth experience though you’re thrown back into the Android UI when it’s time to install a game or app. The games were as you would expect: entertaining but that impressive. The positive is that all games are available as a free download to start with some kind of limited play mode built in. At various points such as completing a level or trying to activate some function, the user is prompted to purchase the full version. I’m sure there are freemium games too.

Here’s what I played:

iMech Online — A mech-based 3rd person shooter. Gameplay feels like from 15 years ago as it’s just a free-for-all destroy as many mechs as you can arena. Mechs and weapons are limited in the free trial version. The UI feels like it was unchanged from it’s original touch interface with just a highlight cursor added. If they improved the mech animation and added team or objective play modes, it might be interesting.

Vector — Basically like Canabalt but with parkour elements. The animation is smooth and there’s a decent opening animation that gives some background on what you’re running from. After a few runs I still hadn’t figured out how to do the first special move which left me a bit discouraged.

Radiant HD — I actually got this retro styled shooter from Amazon’s App Store a long time ago. It’s basically unchanged but with controller input. The overscan issue caused problems in seeing the score and remaining ships.

Twitch — This is a gaming oriented streaming video app. The UI seems to have no alterations from it’s mobile device version. I spent time watching some Injustice: Gods Among Us matches broadcast from a fighting tournament. I enjoyed it more than playing the games.

Flashout 3D — Basically a Wipeout clone where you race sleek flying cars (or maybe hover jets) in futuristic environments. The free version seems limited to a single track and vehicle. I’m not sure how to describe it but the physics seem a bit off… racing feels too smooth, compared with how racing in the Wipeout series feels.

I downloaded a few others like Amazing Frog but haven’t played them yet.


OUYA right now feels like more potential than fact. The UX overall is a little rough and most of the games I played could have used more tuning and polish. The Tegra 3 graphics are solid for 7″ or 10″ screens but when blown up to 50″ or 60″, it loses its punch.

It’s best to think of the OUYA as showing where home gaming can go. It used to be just a few big companies that can compete. The mobile space has demonstrated that people don’t necessary need what’s termed a AAA gaming experience to be entertained and invest a lot of time. If performance can be improved and the games on the device polished more, it might make a convincing argument that you can fill your time between Netflix sessions with home gaming from someone other than the big 3.

Updated 2013-05-11: Added OUYA controller image.

PowerBook Duo Memories

My first laptop was a PowerBook Duo. When I got it while I was in college and dabbling with a Newton 110. After living with no backlighting and problematic handwriting recognition, I decided that a laptop would be more productive than a PDA. Still, I didn’t really need one and I’m not sure why I even thought to bring it up to my parents who were gracious enough to help me buy it. I didn’t use it that much but I do have some great memories of Duo… I created my first complete set of Gunbuster web pages on it while down in L.A. for a week and the following year I brought it and a QuickTake to Anime America ’96.

I decided recently that I needed to recapture some of those memories by adding a Duo to household. You can read more about my PowerBook Duo 2300c auction win on my blog at RetroMacCast.

Jumping on the Twitter Bandwagon

Since many of the podcasts I listen to seem to constantly be talking about Twitter, I decided to sign up and integrate it into my blog. Maybe 140 character posts are the solution to blog entropy?

By the nature of my job, probably not much in the way of updates during the day but hopefully I’ll develop some habits to to twitter (or is it post tweets?) in the evening and weekends.

As a side note, the WordPress 2.5 admin look and feel is pretty nice. To bad I’m mostly compelled to upgrade for solutions to exploits and not to get access to new features.


WonderCon 2008 Show Floor The California convention season got started for me this weekend with WonderCon. WonderCon is produced by the same group that handles Comic-Con and the Alternative Press Expo (APE). After existing in Oakland for a number of years, it migrated over to San Francisco’s bigger venues. Unfortunately, it’s coincided with the Game Developers Conference the past two years and has been squeezed into Moscone Convention Center‘s South Hall after a turn in the newer and visually impressive West Hall. The South Hall fits well but the layout makes the overall show feel cramped and the location for some of the smaller panel rooms is not ideal for good foot traffic.

WonderCon has become mostly a TV and movie panel show for me while I concentrate on shopping and autographs at Comic-Con. Compared with the insane lines at Comic-Con, it’s relatively easy to get a good seat and see actors, writers and directors of current and upcoming genre shows. This year had well known television shows and movies like Get Smart, X-Files 2 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles represented. Actors and creators like Steve Carell, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter and Anne Hathaway took the time to show up and answer audience questions. It was a nice, relaxing weekend.

Pictures from the panels and the exhibit hall are available for your enjoyment.

iPhone Web Apps

While I’m writing posts, I’ll update on my Comics DB web app. I’ve started to do a mock up of a user interface for iPhone. Not that I did a huge amount of investigation, but the most serious choice for a framework looks to be Joe Hewitt’s iUI. It’s a combination of JavaScript and CSS which neatly transforms simple HTML elements into nice iPhone-like menus.

I really need to put more time into this as I’d like to get it up and running in time for field use at WonderCon next month.

Quick Progress

The long Thanksgiving weekend was a good opportunity to make some progress with my comics database web application. I was actually surprised how easy it was to get something more or less fully functional running in a few hours spread across the weekend.

I ultimately decided to just go with CakePHP. For the reasons listed before, it ended up making to most sense based on what I’ve already had experienced with and what seemed to be installed by default with my ISP. I just followed the Cake Blog Tutorial, recasting blog postings into comic book titles with the appropriate field changes. Some retyping of code and minor editing of values and voila! a complete web application was born.
Continue reading “Quick Progress”

Comics DB Update

I spent a little bit of time this past week familiarizing myself with the current crop of web database application technologies. Of course everyone’s heard of Ruby on Rails. I checked on Django, which has been used at my work for some projects. Lastly, I read up on CakePHP. My search for some introductory screencasts on CakePHP lead me to and some critical videos of other solutions.

I’ll have more in depth to say after I’ve finished my reviews. I might settle on CakePHP if for no other reason than to be able to apply increased PHP knowledge to my blog at some point.

Managing a Comic Book Collection

I’m still planning to write some additional articles on Japan, specifically on Akihabara. Since pictures are always good, I’ve started to look through my backlog of trip photos. Unfortunately, organizing family pics have taken precedence. In the mean time I’m contemplating my first private programming project in a while.

I have a lot of comic books… when I stopped counting years ago I must’ve had around 3,000 by estimate. With many short boxes added in the last few years, the count should be over 3,500, maybe even 4,000. Since I’ve long stopped remembering comics by issue number or cover, I’ve turned to databases over the years to keep everything organized.
Continue reading “Managing a Comic Book Collection”

Little Red Robby

Little Red Robby on Tekzilla Among the shows I watch is Tekzilla, Revision3’s follow on to InDigital. Tekzilla is a weekly show aimed from beginners to intermediates with topics spanning all areas of technology. Besides gadgets, CE devices, computers and software, they’ve covered other things too like the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and visited the Exploratorium but with just three shows under their belt it’s hard to say what are the limits of their coverage. So far I’m thinking I liked InDigital a bit more but maybe I’m still a bit miffed that it was pulled not long after I started regularly watching it.

Anyways, they’re still working on their temporary set and this week they adorned the fake brick backdrops with shelves holding little items including a little red Robby the Robot tin toy.

Not much to see but it’s always good to see something of Robby.