Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Memory Fox

I've just found a nifty Firefox extension that drastically cuts down Firefox's memory usage. If, like me, you have several instances of Firefox open, and multiple tabs open in each instance, you'll find Memory Fox gives you back quite a bit of RAM.

To check your current memory usage, open up your Windows Task Manager and locate Firefox on the Processes tab. Make a note of how much memory it's using and note how many tabs you have open. Install Memory Fox, and restart Firefox. After restarting Firefox you should have the same number of tabs open as before. Enable Memory Fox and check the memory usage again: you should see a significant difference. I had four tabs open and Firefox was using 300,000K (around 300MB) of memory. After installing MemoryFox and restarting the browser I checked again and memory usage had dropped to around 90MB!

Read more about it here on MakeUseOf.com: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/memory-fox-helps-tame-memory-usage-in-firefox/

Currently, there's a minor snag when installing the extension. Instead of installing as it should, there's a minor glitch which results in an error message. After ticking the "install experimental add-on box" and clicking the "install button", an error message pops up.

Just select the line of code and paste it into the browser's address bar; delete the "?confirmed" part and press return and the extension will install. Alternatively, use this: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/downloads/file/72813/memory_fox-1.03-fx-win.xp


Berlusconi nose broken by protest attacker

Synchronicity: two or more apparently unrelated events occurring together in an apparently meaningful way. For example, earlier this week controversial Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a short-haired man in a suit, was hit in the face with an object that broke his nose. There's a BBC news story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8411198.stm

Bankers 'whacked' in arcade game

Meanwhile, Tim Hunkin, Suffolk's favourite boffin, was in the news because his new arcade game on Southwold Pier allows visitors to use a mallet to hit short-haired men in suits on the head. Apparently, Tim has to keep replacing worn out mallets (perhaps he should consider swapping the mallets for plaster statuettes of Milan Cathedral). There's a BBC news story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/8410453.stm

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wow! It's just like a cathedral

Slaughter of the Innocents. Chartres Cathedral

In a marvellous article in today's Guardian (just 30p in a student shop near you), Sam Leith likens the popular time-waste 'em up World of Warcraft to a cathedral. According to Leith, World of Warcraft is:

[A] sword'n'sorcery game in which players control virtual characters who whizz about killing monsters, collecting treasure, fighting or ganging up with one another. Azeroth has a functioning virtual economy, and (mindbogglingly) an exchange rate with the real world: a WoW gold piece, enough to buy you some virtual barbecued boar ribs, is currently worth about one and a half euro cents. Also, WoW has some wicked magic swords. Yet grown-ups play it. In fact, seduced by the beauty of this whole new world that's theirs to explore, they find it eats their lives.

Leith goes on to tell us that World of Warcraft is not like a film. What it is like, however, is a cathedral. A great big gothic cathedral, in fact. Just like Chartres. Leith's logic is that the fractured narrative of a WoW session is a repetetive grind, with lots of boar-slaying, getting ambushed and being killed. Quite unlike the oneric experience of sitting in a big dark room full of strangers, gazing upon the projected spectacle of cinematic truth at 24 frames per second.

For Leith, a much better comparison would be to liken WoW to a medieval cathedral: a magnificent work, created by many hands over a great period of time and which remains largely unfinished. "All those programmers", according to Leith, "are the modern-day equivalent of stonemasons, foundation-diggers and structural engineers". Moreover, Leith asserts, there isn't a narrative in a cathedral (that's debatable, but we'll let that one slide) but there is a mythos--a whole system of stories--along with a wealth of detail, and a social space.

Oh, and apparently the number of people who play World of Warcraft outnumber the population of Greece. Now there's a sobering thought.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Machinima Expo 2009 - Map and Schedule

A map of the site is available on the expo site at machiniplex.net/expo, along with a schedule of screening times. Click the image above for a larger version. Click the image below to open the schedule as a PDF.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Machinima Expo 2009

Click on the image to open a link to the Facebook group associated with the event. More information about the Machinima Expo is available here: http://machiniplex.net/expo

Alternatively, you can click on the following SLurl to go to the Second Life location if you have Second Life installed: http://slurl.com/secondlife/ucsville/141/124/25

Second Life can be downloaded (for free) from http://secondlife.com/support/downloads.php

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zotero: bibliographical tool

Zotero is a bibliographical tool available as a Firefox-plugin for Windows, Mac and Linux. Version 2 is available as a beta (ie, not quite finished) but, according to ProfHacker, it is stable.

Zotero is essentially a database that lets you keep bibliographies (and notes) for the different topics, or different projects etc, you might be working on. You can grab information from the web, Amazon, online databases like the UEA electronic journals, etc and Zotero will keep it all organised. When you're working on your essay, all you need to provide is the page number and, with a couple of clicks, Zotero will provide the reference--in any of a number of citation style (Harvard Chicago, MLA, etc) At the end of the essay, Zotero will also insert a fully formatted bibliography of the materials cited.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Suffolk eLearning Forum

As well as the talks, there were some student games on show, both complete games from some of the L2 and L3 design and programming students, and paper prototypes of games being developed by the L1 Computer Games Design group. The Curiosity Collective were showing some of their curios (I liked the proverb generator) and Matthew Applegate had an installation running too.

Sum Leaping

The Search for The Bloodstone

Sarah and Michael's Picnic


Dragon School

Whisper Village

Curiosity Collective

Matthew Applegate (Pixelh8)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Suffolk eLearning Forum

There was a great turnout, interesting speakers and a nice set of prototypes of student games on show at the today's Suffolk eLearning event.

Scott Hewitt of RealProjects kicked off the talks with an overview of the development of elearning, from screen -> screen -> test type-scenarios to current developments that make use of 3D game engines, not to mention a variety of portable devices, including familiar pocket-fillers such as the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and the Apple iPhone, as well as some examples of how Wii-controller technlogy is being harnessed for training and educational use.

Scott Hewitt has posted his presentation on the RealPrtojects website. View it here: Games-Based Learning. Other resources are also available on the RealProjects site: http://www.realprojects.co.uk/gamebasedlearning/

Dan Mayers and Adam Mayes's presentation on Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) was really interesting and thought provoking. I'm not that familiar with the concept of ARG-ing beyond it involving some running around and "doing stuff" IRL, but the presentation suggested how ARG-ing can bring a whole new lease of life to things like field trips and guided walks. There are some great integrational (is that a word?) possibilities, directing users/players to online content--web pages, information, clues, video etc.--using QR codes and mobile phones. Truly fascinating stuff.

Adam wasn't physically present--he was in Denmark, so it was great that he took part via Skype with nary a hitch (I've been to several tech-focussed conferences where the inevitable technical hitch leads to non-ironic whoops from the audience after someone gets on stage and manages to get the speaker's Mac to connect to the internet via wifi. Adam's link-up today was so seamless that no-one noticed or, if they did, they were all too cool to whoop or make a fuss).

There was some concern about Matthew Applegate as his last known contact with the world was a tweet last night to say that he was feeling poorly, but he nonchalantly arrived, bang on time, with a laptop and a carrier bag and talked about the decline of programming in the school curriculum and went on to make some suggestions about some ways people could get coding (eg: scratch, squeak, atmosphir, processing) and he also mentioned some projects that will bring basic--beginner's all-purpose symbolic instruction code--to some popular consoles.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free Presentation Software

Another nice free thing (with a couple of paid options) is a presentation application called Prezi. It differs from PowerPoint in that it is like a zoomable poster rather than a series of slides of bullet points. Here's a video clip that provides an overview of the key featues:

There's some discussion of Prezi here: http://www.profhacker.com

Free Brainstorming software

Bubbl.us is free web-based brainstorming application that allows users to:

  • Create colorful mind maps online
  • Share and work with friends
  • Embed your mind map in your blog or website
  • Email and print your mind map
  • Save your mind map as an image

Looks like it could be useful for collaborative projects. Click on the little image below to open a bigger Flickr pic to get an idea of what it looks like.

(Picked this up via Realprojects' twitter feed)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blocking Murdoch

Apparently, Rupert Murdoch is planning to block Google from displaying the content of the various domains he controls. The idea is that people will then pay to access News International sites (there at least two flaws there, but let's overlook them for the sake of convenience).

Anyone who doesn't want to wait that long, if they aren't already doing it, can exclude content from Murdoch's domains by adding a simple filter to their search terms in the form of a minus sign, the word "site" and a colon, followed by the domain to be excluded. For example:

  • "balanced news" -site:thesun.co.uk

  • "celebrity obsession" -site:thetimesonline.co.uk

  • "cross-media promotion" -skynews.com

If excluding individual domains on every search seems a bit tedious, Google offers a custom search engine option: http://www.google.com/cse/. After setting up a custom search engine, it's possible to add a list of domains to exclude.

Oh look, this post is also on the letters page of today's Guardian.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

JFGI: The Boxed Game is Dead

The mobile gaming market is looking increasingly erm ... mobile. While established mobile platforms from Sony and Nintendo are currently being eclipsed by johnny-come-lately handhelds in the form of the iPod Touch and the iPhone, Google's Android OS may be about to cut a swathe through mobile market and upset the Apple iCart as Android 2 includes free sat nav.

The new Nintendo DSi, which incorporates features commonly found in mobile phones in an attempt to make the platform more appealing and stem the loss of sales, is already redundant as Nintendo prepare to launch the DSi XL in the spring. The XL is a thicker, heavier version of the DSi, with larger screens and bundled apps (see this brief games news piece from yesterday's Games Review in The Guardian's Guide supplement). A visual comparison of the DSi and the DSi XL can been seen in this Wired article. According to this BBC news story, Nintendo DS sales have dipped by 15% over the last year while, in the same period, sales of iPhone and iPod touch have doubled. (That BBC news story, which moots Android 2 as a threat to Nintendo, Sony and Apple, also contains a nice video clip of Android's satnav running on a Motorola Droid but, irritatingly, the video clip isn't embeddable.)

Sony's response to the stiff competition was to restyle the niche PSP as the overpriced PSP Go (at £225, it's almost the same price as a £250 PS3) and introduce "Minis" -- downloadable games at affordable prices. (Click on the image for an insightful review of the PSP Go at ArsTechnica.)

The rise in downloadable content for handhelds may be the beginning of the end of content on a chip in a plastic box, as the overheads and distribution costs are considerably less. This is likely to have a trickle-down effect on the high street for box-based retailers like Game, and also an effect on the second hand market. Just how does one sell-on a download when you've finished with it? What do the people who rent you games games publishers think of the whole second-hand thing anyway? See, for example: Sony's Clampdown on second-hand games; Second-hand games sales are "a huge issue" -- Epic

On a less fraught front, the open source handheld market, specifically the GP2X, is keeping up with developments too, in the form of the GP2X Wiz, available at an affordable £129. There's a five minute video showcasing the Wiz's capabilities below:

Another open source development is the intriguing Pandora. It looks like a great device: a cross between a handheld console and pocket version of the netbook. It looks like a great device for developers and fiddlers, especially as the technical specs refer to an "un-brickable design with integrated boot loader for safe code experimentation". It has a TV-out (composite and S-Video) but not, apparently, a VGA port. The Pandora isn't quite available everywhere yet, but can be had for $330 from limited outlets. Check out the specs on the Pandora website, or see the preview video below.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Games Based Learning

Some of the level three students on the Computer Games Design and Computer Games Programming courses will be showing some of their key Stage 1 games at the forthcoming Games-Based Learning event to be held at the UCS Waterfront building, 2.00-5.00 on 11th November 2009 in collaboration with Real Projects. Student games on show include Bloodstone, Sum Leaping and Music Man. Additional information about the event can be found on the Suffolk eLearning Forum website.

Some of the level one Computer Games Design students are preparing paper prototypes for the event. I've had a sneak preview of some of the artwork and it's incredibly good. The other thing that's stunning is that the level one students have only been on the course for six weeks and they are getting stuck-in to the development of their games for Key Stage 1 (that's for children aged between five and seven for anyone unfamiliar with the terminology of primary education in the UK). When the level one students' games have been finished, they will be exhibited at a different event.

Other exhibitors/speakers include the delightfully madcap mob known as The Curiosity Collective; the prolific chip-tuner Matthew Applegate (aka Pixelh8); our own Dan Mayers, games designer Adam Mayes, and Scott Hewitt from Real Projects.

Here are some sneak preview images from one of the prototypes:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Unreal Developer Kit

There's news on the Beyond Unreal site that Epic has released an Unreal Development Kit. This makes the Unreal Engine 3 runtime available free for non-commercial use.

It seems there's also the possibility of releasing mods or total conversions commercially via Steam, in what appears to be something akin to the way in which independent developers can develop and flog apps for the popular apple phone: the vendor takes a 30% cut and the developer keeps the rest. There aren't any details on this yet aspect of the UDK yet, but it would appear to open up possibilities for modders/game developers.

There are a couple of games included too, a ball game and something called Whizzle. There's also a design document and developer's video diary for the latter which should make interesting reading and viewing. Beyond Unreal refer to the UDK "the most powerful game creation toolset there is". Click on the image to read the news on BeyondUnreal.com and get the download links.

GameCity, Nottingham

The GameCity 2009 computer games festival in Nottingham has just finished. (It ran from 27th-31st October). It'd be great if we could get a trip to the festival organised for next year. Hopefully, costs for transport, accommodation and entry won't be too prohibitive and, if enough people were committed to going, we could see what kind of group rates we could get. They offer student "internships" too ("internship" seems to be the new word for "placement" that appeared to gain popularity after the news was full of stories about a certain Whitehouse "intern" and her infamous blue dress a few years ago). I imagine that, while there would be a lot of interest in securing such a placement, it would be something well worth the effort of submitting an application. There's no pay and you'd have to sort out your own accomodation, but they do feed you, you get to get involved in the festival and, when you're not "on" will get access to the event itself. And just think of how that would look on a CV.

Click on the image to go to the Nottingham GameCity photostream on Flickr.

Machinima Expo 2009 - Student Showreel

Nicole Small created a great promo piece for the Machinima Expo that's taking place at UCSville in Second Life on 22nd November 2009. Another of Nicole’s machinima pieces will be showing at the festival, as part of the UCS student showreel. The showreel includes the following works:

Ben Deakin, When Mr Deff Comes Calling
Ben Deakin, When Mr Deff Comes Calling

Alexandra Burnell, The Tell-Tale Heart
Alexandra Burnell, The Tell-Tale Heart

Mark McLaughlin and David Hunter, S.P.A.Z.
Mark McLaughlin and David Hunter, S.P.A.Z.

Aaron Giles, American Beauty
Aaron Giles, American Beauty

Alan Salmon, Soldiers of War: Tribute
Alan Salmon, Soldiers of War: Tribute

Aaron Bridgeforth, Dante Vein Interview
Aaron Bridgeforth, Dante Vein Interview

Nicole Small, Carmilla
Nicole Small, Carmilla

It’s great that these pieces will be seen by an international audience along with some of the most exciting and cutting-edge machinima around. A full list of the films in the running for prizes can be seen here:


As well as the film festival itself, and the associated awards to be given by a panel of judges, there’ll be other things going on too, such as discussion panels, Q&A sessions with machinima directors, presentations and various exhibits and stands (it’ll be a bit like the Latitude festival, except it won’t be in a field).

Of particular note is a presentation called “Which Machinima Engine For You?”, which will be of interest to those who want to get started in machinima and who might be wondering which game to use (did I mention machinima is the art of making films using games technology?)

Another highpoint will be an installation featuring the work of machinimator Lainy Voom. Her wesbite is here: http://www.voom-machine.com/

Meanwhile, if you have two minutes to spare, spend them watching her recent film, Push, which was screened at the Cambridge Film Festival.