Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogger frustrations

Gah, Blogger is very frustrating in regards to formatting posts. I had to edit the previous post a dozen times to make it look decent because I had copy-pasted some text from an external site that used tables.
Even after removing all the html code I could barely make it work.
I think Blogger is another failure of Google where it just is leaving it to die a slow death. Why did Google buy Blogger anyway?

Dumbing down

I just stumbled upon a blog post I wrote 5 years ago, at 3 in the morning, bemoaning the state of computer games. I'm reprinting it here because it made me realize that the situation has gotten significantly better in 2009, with many developers re-learning that gamers might just have a decent IQ.

Dumbing the game down
Posted at Sep 29, 2004 3:04AM PST
Are gamers considered to be a negatively evolving species? Why are we now only given "cinematic experience", or only faster action? Are we supposed to simply regress back to better reflexes? Or become fatter couch potatoes as we see longer and nicer cut-scenes? What happened to long involving storylines? Where's the intelligence factor gone?
Download Ultima V and play it on the emulator of your choice. That was a real game. Something worth playing, where you as a gamer were respected by the developers as an intellectual peer, not just as a wallet or fast fingers.
I am so happy that we have emulators of old systems. Maybe that will teach the next generation of game developers how to write games. The current one seems to have forgotten.

My quick reviews
Posted at Sep 29, 2004 3:18AM PST
Call of Duty: Beautiful cinematics, but scripted to death and ultimately simply a nice very long movie.
Far Cry: Could have been great, they messed it up by including monsters. Developers: We are sick of monsters. Give us real regular people and make the story not need monsters! You can do it, come on.
Deus Ex 2: Too simple, catering to 10-year-olds. There wasn't one challenging piece, even though the story was better than average. The original Deus Ex was targetting older gamers, in my opinion.
Splinter Cell: An exercise in frustration because it's so precise and scripted. It turns into a game of guessing how the developer wants you to move around the dimly lit room.
X2: Good, but its scope is a little too large with not enough differentiation. It has great potential with a few mods.
Sacred: Very pretty hack-and-slash, better than Diablo 2 except that unique items aren't varied enough, and there are still frustrating bugs at version 1.66. Version 1.7 supposedly fixes them. But the storyline is good, and the world is very large.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

.tel management app for iPhone: My.tel version 2

It's high time I updated the My.tel iPhone app for managing .tel domains.
I've been working on it heavily in the past couple of weeks, and it's shaping up well. I still have a lot of work to do (especially graphics work) but I've already achieved most of my goals. In fact, version 2 is going to be so powerful that I'm worried regular .tel owners will not want that kind of app. I'll probably publish a 'lite' and a 'pro' version.
Among the new features:

  • support for multiple .tel accounts at multiple registrars (in process)
  • support for domain display title (done)
  • much more intuitive profile handling (done)
  • native Google Maps instead of OpenStreetMaps (done)
  • rewritten keywords section (in process)
  • support for the latest record types (done)
  • profile renaming (done)
  • subdomain renaming (in progress)

That's about what I can remember off the top of my head. Feel free to comment and ask for other features. I can't promise anything, but you may get lucky.

Note that this will be for iPhone OS 3.0 and above unfortunately, due to a number of reasons including Google Maps support and certain other functions.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mobile Advertising

Considering that mobile handsets are quite probably over 4 billion today, v.s. computers at 800 million pieces, mobile advertising is something of a hot potato.

But mobile advertising is much trickier than regular Web advertising for a number of reasons, most notably:

- Not all mobiles have data access
Mobiles that don't have GPRS/EDGE/3G are restricted to phone and SMS.

- Extremely varied screen sizes
Some motorola handsets have screens of 128x160 pixels. The iPhone has a touchscreen of 320x480 pixels. And there's all sorts of sizes in between and outside that range.

- Random Web support
It is so difficult to know how (if at all) the handsets will display web pages that the .mobi registry has created a specific product called Device Atlas to help developers understand the features and limitations of each device.

- Cost and speed of data access
There are now more and more "all-you-can-eat" data plans thanks to the advent of the iPhone, but this is by no means the majority. Furthermore, roaming data access remains prohibitively expensive. On a recent trip to Canada, over a period of 6 days with relatively little roaming data access, I managed to accrue a Euro 450 bill on my French SFR mobile. Talk about forgetting to acquire a local SIM card and switch my .tel domain to it (I won't make that mistake again)! Also speed is a concern, even with the latest 3G technologies that favor larger files over smaller ones: the cost of initiating a connection is high, which will happen for every ad.

A new paradigm

As we were designing the specifications for advertising on .tel domains, we decided from the start that one of the requirements would be that ads should be available directly inside the domain itself, and not just as an add-on to the web interface. Doing so would allow any native application the ability to display those ads without resorting to HTTP requests.

Beyond the obvious efficiencies in a small and fast DNS query, an additional benefit of storing the ads in the DNS (or providing a DNS interface to an ad server) is that the ads are structured data, much like an XML API for ads. So you can easily determine how you wish to display them in a native application, removing all issues of matching advert size to handset screen size at the server level.

An ad in some.domain.tel domains is a TXT record, generally stored in _ad.some.domain.tel, with the following structure:

TXT ".tad" "Version" "DisplayPreference" "Preference" "Title" "Label" "URI" "Description"

where "URI" and "Description" can be multiple consecutive key/value pairs, ensuring that both can be as long as necessary.
Specific information can be found in the full spec for ad serving in a .tel domain.

I am looking forward to seeing ad servers implement a DNS interface to their ads, and in the process making them even more suited to mobile applications of any type.