Farewell, adventurer

It’s a sad day - Gary Gygax, pioneer of pen-and-paper roleplaying games and one of the original DnD creators, has passed away aged 69. While I never played the original DnD (I was only a year old when it was released), Gygax had a hand in many of the seminal experiences I had with PnP RPGs. I’ve had a long history with them, starting from MERP (which all came about from reading LOTR) when I was 13/14 all the way to the present day.

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I’m not even sure it’s possible, but EA seem to think it is. I’m kind of intrigued by Battlefield Heroes - they’re making it free to download, apeing the Team Fortress 2 toungue-in-cheek approach (along with the cartoony visuals), and supposedly making it friendlier to those who don’t live & breathe online gaming.  I’m skeptical though, I’ve yet to see any online FPS that is actually fun to play unless you practice like a man posessed.

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I never touched Flash coding before this weeked - I’ve never really felt inclined to do so, I generally dislike Flash interfaces on websites and as such I never felt the need to buy expensive tools from MacromediaAdobe to develop in that environment. There was also the fact that forcing someone to install a plugin to view your content always left a bad taste in my mouth. A few things have changed that attitude recently though.

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Holy cow, the EC has now fined Microsoft a cumulative figure of £1.27bn (~$2.6bn) for what they say is the worst case of non-compliance with antitrust / competition law in 50 years. Even when set against the quadzillion dollars Microsoft makes every waking second that’s a pretty robust kick in the knackers if I ever saw one. The latest round covers the period where MS finally opened up some specs about desktop interoperability, but charged competitors disproportionate royalties to use them - supposedly because APIs now represent ‘significant innovation’ if you’re Microsoft, although in my opinion an API spec represents about as much innovation as my next shopping list.

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Hibernate, presented

I reprised my former role as ‘wizened business software guru’ last night by giving a presentation to my local developer community on Hibernate, the Java-based object-relational mapping system (ORM). I really like Hibernate; not only has it got an enormous amount of features, and performs really well, but it’s also built on very sound design principles. As someone who has used several ORMs in the past, and written a couple of my own going back a decade or so, I can appreciate the thought that has gone into it.

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Go, ninja, go

XBox Live Arcade continues to serve up some great small gaming experiences, it’s one of the major boons of the platform at the moment I think. It’s great to indulge in some micro-slices of gaming goodness while at the same time supporting independent developers - that’s why N+ is to be the latest addition to my collection. I played the demo version last night and thoroughly enjoyed it so I intend to buy the full game next time I’m on the 360.

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Chariot, upgraded

I’ve never been a car nut. I know that generally, as a bloke, I’m supposed to be genetically compelled to care about the physical prowess of the motorised metal can I haul my arse about in, but I can rarely muster up much enthusiasm. As far as I’m concerned, it’s primarily a tool for getting from A to B, and given that our island has a top speed of 35 miles per hour, people who buy fast / huge / flash cars are either compensating for something, or have more money than sense.

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I often wish I could post more here about the work I do. It’s an unfortunate fact of the industry I work in that ‘innovation’ often also means ‘secrecy’, and such things generally go against my innate nature - I like to think of myself as a sharer of knowledge, an active participant in a global intellectual cauldron that spawned the open source development approach, among other things. When I find something out, I generally want to tell people - I want to show it to them, and have them pick it apart and give it back to me with a bunch of Post-It notes attached telling me all the things I did wrong and how I could make it better.

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Big news today - Microsoft’s top executives have held a press conference, stating on record that they will be opening up access to APIs and protocols associated with Windows and related technologies to an unprecedented level. That means, among other things: It will publish full API documentation for Vista, Windows Server, .Net, SQL Server, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint and such It won’t sue open source developers working on non-commercial projects over patents It will charge “reasonable and non-discriminatory” royalty levels over patents for writers of commercial software implementing Microsoft APIs and protocols They will allow developers to plug-in new document formats to Office One of the key factors here is what “reasonable and non-discriminatory” royalty levels actually means - after all, non-commercial outfits aren’t a direct competitor for Microsoft’s core business customers, the offices which require that their infrastructure is provided by professional, commercial outfits.

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I talked a few days back about my preferred Eclipse plugins, and that my chosen Subversion plugin was Subclipse. Subclipse has been going for many years which is why I instantly gravitated to it without really thinking about it, but David was good enough to recommend in the comments that I should take a look at an alternative: Subversive. Since Subclipse has been working just fine for me it took me a while to get around to doing it, but I finally did today.

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