A New Job and a Crocheted iPad Case!

July 1st, 2010

I have been remiss in my posting duties again haven’t I?
In my defence life all got a bit stressful for a while there choosing between two jobs (I know, nice stress to have!) ;)

Monday marked my first day working full time for Lightwood Consultancy. I have been working for Chris for a few weeks already part time, but Monday was still an exciting day for a number of reasons :) Firstly, I got to spend the morning working on a new game idea (hopefully I’ll be able to tell you all more later, and maybe get some of you involved with testing) and secondly, the afternoon saw me gaining some new gadgetry :)

Working on iPhone/iPad development with my “pretend” Mac has been frustrating at times… when it works, it works wonderfully… when it doesn’t, it just totally refuses to work for anything up to 2 hours! :( So, as much as I don’t really like Mac OS… I am very pleased to have a 17 inch Mac Book Pro sitting on my desk! Even more pleased to have an iPad sat on my desk too ;)

Yes, my desk is suitably covered in gadgetry in that photo :) I had to have a bit of a rearrange as I’m rather too used to having Mac development to the right of PC work… which leaves the extra monitor for my email :) It is rather nice having a full time job where I get to work at home :)

Since today I have been arguing with some silly image transformation nonsense, I took some time out this afternoon to write a little blog post for Chris. Being the strange person that I am, my first instinct when I got the iPad was to make it a case. Oddly, Chris seems quite content for me to put crochet patterns on his blog… I’m hoping for a recipe next time ;) If you’d like to make a case for your iPad and know how to crochet then you can find some rambling and a crochet pattern over on his site – A Simple iPad Case.

I haven’t forgotten about you, this blog, or Worcle. I’ve just been enjoying my new job and the new crocheting opportunities it brings! :D

Worcle Update

June 11th, 2010

Those of you not on my beta team might be wondering what’s happening with Worcle… it has been rather quiet on the development front I know. I’m pleased to say that it is progressing nicely and I’m ever hopeful that I’ll get it all finished before the end of the summer :)

I have both game modes working nicely, so you can choose whether to work along at your own pace scoring as highly as possible, or fight against the clock to get your words made. I have highscores working (though name entry only on Android and iPhone at present). I have neatened up the graphics, though I’m still not 100% happy with them… they are much better than they were :)

I still have a long todo list… some bug fixing, a reworking of the dictionary system, and a few more features to put in (like trophies, and maybe some form of social network integration). But the end is in sight, my todo list is shrinking, and there’s nothing huge and scary left to add :)

So today I have finally paid Apple the $99 to become a proper, paid developer, and those of you with iPhones, iPod Touches or an iPad (real iPad support will be in Airplay at the end of June, but for now it should work just in iPhone resolution) should register on here if you haven’t already and then email me your UDID :D I only have limited places, and I’m more likely to give you a slot if I know you but leave me a nice message here and I might add you even if I don’t! You also have to promise not to share the game with anyone (less easy to do on iPhone anyway).

Thanks to finally finding a job, I’m only working on Worcle one or two days a week. I’m trying to get updates out on a Friday to give weekend play time :) This means I am hoping to get a new beta up this evening for everyone to play, and if Apple play nice (i.e. email me back quickly) and you’re speedy with your UDID, then you might get to play for the weekend! :D

Weekend in Wales

May 25th, 2010

We have been blessed with some beautiful weather over the last few days (although it’s looking rather grey today!) We made the most of the weather at the weekend by taking a trip to Wales to spend some time with Bryan’s Mother and to see the sea! :)
First we went over to Conwy to see the castle…


We stopped by the smallest house!

Then headed to the seaside to eat icecream and go for a paddle :)

On Sunday we took a picnic over to Lake Geirionydd. It’s one of those well hidden places that somehow everyone knows about! The single track lanes with grass growing down the middle didn’t look like they were going to lead to a well-known area… but when we arrived there were already plenty of people out canoeing and playing in the lake, with many more sitting and enjoying the sunshine.

By the time we left the lake the roads you can see in the photos were packed with cars… and given their narrowness, this made escaping quite a challenge! I was very glad not to be driving! It was a beautiful place though, and well worth a picnic if you’re nearby and brave enough to drive those roads! ;)

Amazingly, the Google Streetcar has been down there – “Street View” of the Lake
There are a few more photos over on Facebook – FB Photo Album (you don’t need to use FB to see my photos!) :)

So how did you all spend your weekend? Were you out enjoying the sunshine? Or stuck inside revising for exams?

First Release – Aidan J Reed iPhone App

May 13th, 2010

Friday was an exciting day for me, which involved a lot of happy dancing! :) You might have noticed an extra link at the top of the page… or perhaps the title of this post gives it away ;)

Apple approved my first ever solo iPhone app! Barring the pretty pictures from Kaweb it was all my own work. And Apple approved it first time! :) Oh the relief!! :D

Okay, I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting thing I’ve ever created, and unless you live in or are planning to move to Leicestershire then it’s not going to be of much use to you. However, it was a very interesting project and I learnt a lot about the whole app development process.

Being without the Astraware framework is odd for me. Most of my C++ was learnt in amongst their framework and I didn’t really know anything else. Then I started learning the Airplay SDK which was similar, but different. So I was jumping in the deep end with a switch to Objective C and learning Cocoa Touch, plus all the other things I’d never considered. From the simple (how to re-skin a button) to the more complex (slow-loading images) it was a wonderful learning experience. Lucky for me, the internet is a wonderful resource and my Google Fu is strong, so when I found myself struggling with something, a quick check of a few sites usually yielded the answer (I don’t think I would have coped without Stack Overflow!!)

The app lets you search for properties based on a number of criteria (you are only given a location choice and sale/let/student choice on the title screen, but you can refine your search as you would expect). You can save your searches so you can get back to them quickly. You can also email links to your friends, and contact one of the branches. You can view the property location on a map, zoom into images, view floorplans. All the kind of things you would expect from an estate agent app really :)

You can read the proper blurb about the app over on Aidan J Reed‘s website which includes a nice link to the app store.

I learnt all sorts of important things about how to work on an iPhone. I discovered not having an actual iPhone is a bit of a pain (I have an iPod Touch, but testing things like location awareness is hard, and I can’t test things like call functionality!) I also learnt that dealing with people can be frustrating… trying to find a balance by being nice and letting them change their mind a little without letting them just keep adding features and going completely outside the original contract. Also, people are slow to approve things… I spent much longer waiting for client approval than waiting for Apple approval! I discovered that only the “Team Leader” can create distribution builds, which led to some need for password sharing :?

Most of all, I discovered that it’s rather exciting to have built something from scratch all by myself and for it to be download by people all over :) I can’t wait to get some more things ready for release! :D

Visualising Binary Strings

April 30th, 2010

Yesterday I met an interesting lady called Lisa doing her final year art degree project at Staffs Uni. Her project looks at the interaction between man and machine, I’m sure she could give you a nice, long explanation, but I’m not an art student ;) The reason I got involved was because I can knit! Lisa had taken a poem (Ode to the Framers of the Frame Bill) and converted it into binary. From there, she had converted it into knits & purls. We were all asked to sit in front of computers and follow the onscreen and spoken instructions, knitting and purling together, man following machine, introducing mistakes and the human element.

It was an interesting experience. I was one of very few who could keep up with the instructions, right up until I got a tangle in my yarn :( But I managed to play catchup and there was only half a row of random ;) The collection of final knitted pieces were a very interesting selection. I don’t think many of the knitters would have been employed by a knitting factoy ;) Or perhaps we just all needed slightly slower instructions and less tangly yarn? :D

We ended up chatting for quite a while afterwards, as Lisa was interested in other ways her string of binary could be used. We discussed ways of turning it into a picture of some sort… and so I lost my evening to playing with some C# code creating bitmaps in various ways from binary strings. So as not to spoil Lisa’s project, I will be demonstrating my crazy image creation with a different poem, If… by Rudyard Kipling. First, we need to turn that into a binary string, for which I used this translator as recommended by Google ;) So from words we get a binary string which starts like this: 01001001011001100010111000101110001011100000110100001010000011… :)

The first two images are fairly obvious… translate each digit into a pixel, with 0 = black and 1 = white or vice versa. Lisa wanted an image 64 pixels wide to match other pieces in her project. Obviously a multiple of 8 works better (there being 8 binary digits to each letter) but here I’ve chosen 128 to get a more square image. I’ve also zoomed in for you, so you can see the detail better :) (click on the images for even bigger versions!)


Next up, Cayden suggested using each 8 bit section as a colour, using that number as the RGB values to create a grey scale image. Here’s the result…

This naturally led onto using 3 characters per pixel to create a colour image from the text…

Next came one of my ideas… I had envisioned a tree, branching out from each side, a string of 0s creating a branch on the left, a string of 1s a branch on the right. Of course, there aren’t any particularly long strings of matching digits, so it wasn’t quite what I expected. I turned it sideways and it looks more like a bar graph now :) This is just a short section as the full text is over 6000 pixels wide, and that’s before I zoomed in to make it clearer ;)

Then I had an idea about it making a path, 0s going right, 1s going down. This created a nice, almost diagonal line, but that wasn’t very exciting. So instead, I limited it to a 64 pixel height, and reversed the direction of the 1s each time it hit the edge. This created fairly neat hills :) Again, this is shortened as the full text is very very long!

Then Bryan suggested that for a 0 you could turn left and take a step forward, and a 1 would turn you right and a step forward. I thought this would just end up with basically a circle… oh how wrong I was! Instead it created these beautiful maze/fractal/organic pictures…

Well, I couldn’t resist adding a little colour, first getting the colour to cycle black to white through all shades of grey, increasing the RGB value with each step…

Then using 0s to increase the red value, and 1s to increase the blue value, each resetting to zero once 255 was reached. I’ve also marked the start and end with a bright green dot! :)

So there you go… a number of ways to visualise a binary string taken from a poem. Of course, the text can be anything you like! A lot of time was spent last night parsing various things through the program and sharing crazy images :) Here’s the Declaration of Independence:

Should any of you be interested in playing with my program, here’s a nice little zip file of the latest version. It’s not very intuitive, it only displays a few of the images in the window, but does generate all of them (just look in the folder). It shouldn’t crash, but if it does, send me an email with the binary you used to crash it and I’ll look into fixing it :)


Oh, and in case you’re interested… here’s the source code ;)

Smile Inducing :o)

April 26th, 2010

Inspired by Attic24‘s “Three Things” posts, here are three things which made me smile over the past few days…

A big pile of DVDs purchased with an Amazon gift voucher my parents gave me for Easter.

There’s something of a Tim Burton theme, and for anyone interested the DVDs are: Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood and 9. Coraline also arrived a couple of days later :)

Baking cookies! :)

I love the spritz cookie maker I was given for Christmas, it’s so easy to make cookies with! :) This batch were just the classic recipe, decorated with some very sparkly “barbie glitter icing gels” I was also given as a present. Rupert, Bryan and I had great fun getting icing, silver balls, chocolate sprinkles, hundreds & thousands, glace cherries and the like everywhere :) They tasted pretty good too ;)

Watching my garden grow :)

Can you see all those little specs of green? In that photo there are radish, lettuce, leeks, purple and white sprouting broccoli, spring onion and carrot growing. No sign of the courgette or runner beans, but I’m not giving up on them yet :) The strawberry back left was a bit of cheating, since it was transplanted out of the middle of the gravel patch (no idea how it got there!) in the hopes of keeping it away from the ants so we can eat some this year.
Inside I have some flowers growing, and this morning I caught a first glimpse of green in the pepper tray! :) It’s all very exciting… if they would just grow a little bit faster, I want to eat them already! ;)

What has made you smile over the last few days? :)

Websites I Frequent

April 21st, 2010

For those of you reading this blog who haven’t signed up to be part of the beta testing, you might be thinking that I never post. I do… it’s just all hidden! ;) So I thought I should write some posts which everyone could see.

Today’s post is going to be about the websites I frequent and why I find myself spending time on them. Places you should maybe consider having a little look at to see if they might interest you too :)
In no particular order…

If you are in any way knitting, crochet, weaving or other yarn related craft inclined, this is the site for you! This site eats up rather more of my day than I’d care to admit to, thanks to its HUGE pattern database which I browse for ideas, and the very chatty forums. There are people around to help when you can’t figure out a new technique, groups where you can chat about the latest episode of your favourite TV show (including ideas on how to create any knitted/crocheted items seen) and so much more. It helps me keep track of projects, tries to organise my stash (though I have more than I’d ever admit to!) and has a lovely community.

Another craft related item, this time a blog. Lucy documents her life in beautiful, colourful photos. Her posts are almost always upbeat and cheery, full of random moments from her day, and never fail to make me smile. I love Lucy, and I bet you will too! :)

Camp Chemist
Following on the blogging theme, I have a friend from Stafford Concert Band who studies chemistry up at Keele Uni. He’s started writing a blog and I’m sure he’d love some more readers. His posts could do with a spell check ;) But he’s generally quite interesting, talking about chemistry, astronomy, and his days.

Stafford Concert BandStafford Concert Band
Since I mentioned them, I thought I would add a linky to their Facebook page. I would link to their site, but it’s updated even less often. I’ve been playing with them for a few years now and have just been “promoted” to first clarinet (i.e. none of our current first clarinettists can make it to some of the concerts this year!) We play at quite a lot of fetes during the summer, and are always looking for new members! :)

Paper or Plastic?
Some of you may remember Astragali from the Astraware beta forums, but I don’t know how many of you will know he writes a web comic. The art might not be stunning (but then xkcd is just stick men) but the comic always makes me laugh :)

Walker Tracker
With the current trend for everyone to feel a need to get fitter, I’ve found one good way to keep myself moving is by wearing a pedometer. Walker Tracker gives you somewhere to write down your daily steps, provides nice little graphs, and has a competition area to keep you motivated.

Conceptis PuzzlesConceptis Puzzles
A site full of lovely Japanese logic puzzles to steal away your free time. I love the ones which make pictures in particular. They have a free one in each section every week, and more if you’re willing to pay.

Hopefully one or more of those links got clicked, and I showed you something new :) Just don’t blame me if you spend the rest of today reading the Ravelry forums, playing logic puzzles, or reading comic/blog archives! ;)

Apologies for Silence

March 23rd, 2010

Well, I feel like I’ve been gone a while… sorry about that! The release of OddBloB marked the end of my employment with Astraware and life has been a little busy since then. On the personal side, my best friends are getting married this weekend and so I’ve been busy being prodded with pins and baking cakes. On the work side, I’ve been working on my first contract developing an iPhone app. Yes, you heard that right, app, not game! :(

On the bright side, app development is very different and so has been keeping me interested because there’s been a steep learning curve and lots of new tech to get to grips with. It’s been interesting learning how to write contracts, trying to stick to the original agreed specification when the people I’m working for aren’t actually the end client, and keeping myself disciplined to do 7.5hrs work a day without ending up working 10. When I get engrossed I tend to forget everything else, like food or sleep. Luckily I have Bryan dragging me out of my office every evening so I’ve been doing okay!

The most exciting part of the new work was that I didn’t actually have a Mac… in fact, I still don’t! Thanks to a few friends and some cunning, I have Snow Leopard running in VMWare. So my shiny new Windows 7 laptop has a Mac running in a window! Look….

My Office Setup

Mac on the right, Windows 7 on the left, with my Windows XP box under the desk which I’m remote desktopping into for email checking purposes! There’s also a Windows 98 machine under the desk on the right, for game playing purposes! Plus some pretty daffodils :) Although, they’re looking a little droopy now as that photo is a few days old!

I haven’t forgotten my games, and I certainly haven’t forgotten Worcle! I am desperate to get back to it… but I haven’t even had time to get the required software installed on this new laptop yet. It literally only arrived the day before I had to start work, and I was rather focused on getting everything set up for iPhone development. I will get back to it soon, promise :) I have ideas I want to implement, and mostly I just want you all to get to play the game that’s in my head, rather than the rough prototype you’re stuck with!

OddBloB Released for iPhone

March 2nd, 2010

OddBloB Title Screen

Exciting news today! The game I had been working on for months at Astraware has finally been released today! :) iPhone only to start with, though I know they’re intending to convert it over to other platforms (and I had it running on Windows Mobile, just lacked graphics in the correct resolutions).

OddBloB is a cute little game made from modeling clay, which involves helping a little purple dude bounce from the bottom of the screen to the top, collecting as much fruit and points along the way as possible. There are obstacles to avoid, a “Cake or Doom” mini game to play, and you need to move quickly to avoid the tiles crumbling away from under your feet! :)

I really enjoyed creating this game, and I’m very glad to see it finally released. It took a long time to go from “basically finished” to having the final sounds and music in there, so it seemed to drag on for rather a long time! But it’s finally out there and you can go grab yourself a copy over on iTunes: OddBloB

I realise I’m a little biased here, but I think you should all go and get a copy, because it’s a lovely little game which I worked very hard on! :)

Here’s a nice little video of the gameplay which you can watch which should help convince you to part with your monies:

Worcle Prototype – Sneak Peek!

February 7th, 2010

Here’s a little screenshot of the prototype to encourage you to join the beta group! :)

Use the register link on the right to sign up and then leave a comment on this, or the previous post, to let me know what devices you have :)