Archive for Philosophy & World View

Hackathons are Brutal …

On the up side it’s free and has some of the best food and swag you can get. Swag included free electronics, phone chargers and an animated mind-reading cat ears head band. That was my first day-and-nite real hackathon and it was a brutal experience. This was the 2014 ATT Wearables Hackathon in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino.

On my arrival I had no idea what to expect I asked around only to find that most people where already in teams. Some were already prepared with their own equipment including giant boxes of electronics, 3D printer, a stationary bike, a quadcopter, a fully assembled robot, and a violin, to name a few. I am a programmer with a hint of electronics training so I had some hope that I could get somewhere. We named our projects and got lots of free equipment such as arduinos, sensors, heart rate monitors and many more. Most of my day was spent figuring out how to program the Arduino which was a colossal waste of time. I should have gone through this before arriving. Then figuring out the various APIs that were mandatory to win prizes such as Gimbal, M2X and M2M. To my dismay having a MacBook was practically required for the Gimbal, I had a PC laptop. That night I was resigned and decided to pack it in around 8pm. I gave up. But as I drove home the bitter taste of failure lingered. I was determined to do something, anything. When I got home, I went to my desktop iMac and proceeded to make an iOS7 app that I could submit to the competition. I drank coffee and was up till 4:30am next morning. I slept a few hours and woke up at 9am. I successfully completed my app and was happy.

I made a nice presentation and speech and got there by 12 to present. There were over 100 teams. At first the judges asked questions to each team but as everyone noticed it was taking too long the judges questioning practically stopped and a 90 second speech was mandatory, else you where sequed and clapped out of existence. Teams of 1-10 who had spent hours, probably some sleeping there or working through the night had 90 seconds and they often fumbled and had to be cut short. It was sad because you can tell some were disappointed and worked very hard. Almost as if their work was for absolutely nothing. They were taken off the stage and hurried along.

My presentation of a patient proximity health care data idea I read straight off a piece of paper. I knew it was bad form but I didn’t want to miss any important points as so many others had because of the 90 seconds. Everything went smooth until I could not connect my app to the proximity sensors, so I fumbled. But I got everything I wanted to say into it. Some of the presentations included a pillow that will detect when you are lonely, a lighted accelerometer violin, a drunkeness detector, a pilot sleepiness detector, a wrist band that will send you cute cat pictures and a teeth grinding detector. Many teams chose to go the firefighter/police route because there was a public safety sub-prize involved.

The night of the final day of presentations was almost over, everyone became restless and was chatting away relentlessly. The teams who came up after me, maybe half the audience were listening. People of other competitions were having their finals and presenting it afterwards. There were many winners, many teams winning more than once. Prizes ranged from $25k, $10k and $5K with many more sub-prizes. I did not win anything, but I learned alot, and had an interesting time. I will though think twice before trying it again though, it was quite brutal. I’m going to get some sleep now …

Phun with Phi Phlowers

Phi is supposed to be in nature so I made a little program to plot what looks like the center of a sun flower perhaps? Black is odd, red is even. Looks interesting, you can follow the outer red dots to form a curved string to the center. The middle itself looks like a star.

Your Game Idea is Too Big (La Reve)

For the countless times people approach me with new game ideas here is a new website to help crush your dreams and pull you back into reality. All the dreamers with a game concept, your idea must be destroyed simply because it can’t be so. On top of that, if you can’t code, then there is no way you will find a programmer that will help you because he can just do it himself, and most likely, he will have his own unattainable grandiose ideas. Also for that special case, the moment you say “MMO”, the mere mention of those three letters, you may not realize it, but you have just said something insane.

Yes my friend, your game idea is too big:

There are Other Minimalist Programmers!

Everyone has moved fiercely into the ever increasing complexity of frameworks like MVC and Robotlegs. There are books, presentations and everyone swears by it like a religion. But let’s face it, it gives you more files, more classes and more abstraction. Making a system with it requires tons of documentation, and lots of time to teach it to others.

For along time I thought I was the only one who strived for simplicity. I watched a Python video where the presenter, Jack Diedrich, was even encouraging people to “Stop Writing Classes”. He shows that writing an entire class file that contains a few lines is absurd, or how making a class with two functions (one is the constructor) doesn’t make sense when you can make a single function. Much MVC code will be a class with one page of SLOC (Controllers/VOs) some people even prefer it this way.

When I program in AS3 for small games I always try to make as little classes as possible. I make it so that basically I can save time easily teaching someone else what I made. Make sure that my job is easily replaceable, good or bad. So I was happy to see that there is a person or community (Python) that also thinks this way. Tim Peters is the author of “Zen of Python” who is also a minimalist. Some main points of the presentation:

  1. Simple is better than complex.

  2. Flat is better than nested.

  3. Readability counts.

  4. If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.

  5. Namespaces are not for taxonomies (Java).

  6. Don’t do hard things in the first place if you can avoid it.

  7. Revert complications later.

  8. We ship features, we don’t ship code.

  9. We don’t have customers because we have lots of code.

Stop Writing Classes

Most Children’s Books for iPad Don’t Work

I have 3 kids: 3, 3 and 5. I’ve tried a couple of iPad interactive books already including a few from the Touchy Books series. They are all very nice, but for my kids at least, they cannot replace real books. It could be their age range, but I can’t see how it will work at any age range, especially if your goal is to teach them how to read.

Here are some of my major reasons why they don’t work:

1) Nothing beats a physical hard book that they can touch. The iPad is heavy and delicate at the same time. It costs too much to just leave with them, especially knowing that there is a possibility they can damage it.

2) More interactive elements make it worse. When I read the book to them, all they want to do is touch the items and not care at all about the words. Having a read button, and maybe some light background music should be enough. Anything else makes it more like a game than a book.

3) It’s harder to share an iPad with more than one child. I’ve tried reading with two kids at a time. The viewing angle seems fine, but there is something about it being only 1 page wide that reduces it’s usefulness for more than one child at a time.

4) It’s not good for bedtime. Have you tried holding an iPad at bedtime, especially with a protective case around it? It will hurt your hands within minutes. Then once you’re tired and balance it on your chest, it will feel like it’s slicing you.

5) You lose access to your own iPad. A real children’s book is about $5-$10. Your iPad is worth $500+. When you hand it to them to read you lose access to it, on top of that as #1, you give them the possibility of damaging it.

How can it be changed?

1) Children’s books on iPad should be cheaper to make it worth it. Real books should still be on your mind, but if your away from the house, on vacation, it will do well. Maybe a company can offer both real and iPad versions together? It’s basically a scan of pages.

2) Remove all useless interactivity. Take out shaking the iPad for cheesy physics effects. Or moving characters around, I don’t see how it teaches anyone to read and pay attention to words.

3) Only have a voice read button. That read button should also highlight the words being said at the time, that is something that will help a lot.

4) Put in light music that is not distracting. It will help the mood of the theme of the book. I don’t see much downside for music.