Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekly Plan: 3/14/2011 - 3/20/2011

   Well, I hardly made it back to the side projects last week. However, the shape of my plans are changing a little bit this week. I have not yet gotten my own Android project off the ground, but a friend wants to do a collaborative project. We started brainstorming game ideas today. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will have a solid idea as well as some code going.
   I will be having some busy days at work, so most everything else will be on the back-burner at the moment. I am trying to get some games finished so I can write some good game reviews. Also, due to popular demand, I will be hunting down a fun to play free game this week. I have not had time to look for free games with everything else going on, but really, getting the word out on some free games benefits everybody. The developers love some buzz about their games, even if it is a bit critical. They still like having people go play their games. Besides, I always recommend you form your own opinion on any game I review. Just because I do not think it is the greatest does not mean you will not have serious fun.
   Finally, I will have at least one book review this week, if not two. I am within 20 pages of finishing The Parent Plan. This is an excellent parenting book. I also read Sam's Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours which I think was HORRIBLE.
   This is the first week since we have been back in Sacramento that we do not have plans for the weekend. Of course, this does not mean we do not have a list of "want to do's" to attend to. I believe we may be taking a trip to Old Sacramento and a museum this weekend. I also have a remote control helicopter that has sat in its box the whole several years it has been in my possession. I am going to charge it up and we will give it a shot. Hope for no rain. If there is rain, well, Rock Band is always a great rainy day filler.
   Between work and trying to get a collaborative project going, my week will be pretty busy. As you can see, have plenty more going on though. What is going on in your life this week?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cool Stuff Watch: Brain Quest

* What? Brain Quest *
* Why? Trivia Fun *
* How Much? $10 *
* Where? Barnes and Noble *
* Really? It is like "Are You Smarter *
* than a 5th Grader", Only Your *
* Kid Shows You Up *

   My wife bought Brain Quest earlier today. Those that do not know what it is, look at the listing, here at Barnes& Wanting to be a bit above our kids' level, she bought the fourth grade version.
   While it is my personal belief that trivia itself is worthless in most educational settings, I think practicing it is great stimulation for the mind. Apparently, my wife feels the same thing. She has been randomly spitting fourth grade trivia in my direction all afternoon. I have to admit, try as I might, I cannot stop myself from answering any question she throws my way.
   I can see many a drinking game evolving from the Brain Quest deck. If you have kids, or nothing to do, go pick one up and read up on your trivia. Next time you are at my house, you might find yourself taking a shot if you do not know the answer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday's Wallpaper

   Welcome to Wednesday everybody. Being on the West Coast of the US of A, I am guessing most people's days are right about over by now. I know many of you may be having a bad week, which is too bad. Unfortunately, I cannot solve your problems for you, but I can do something. I can give you a little piece of me, or at least, a link to the wallpaper that I am currently using as my desktop background.
   Of course, Wednesday's Wallpaper is a direct ripoff of Life Hacker's Wallpaper Wednesday (click to go to site).
   This week, I give you a wallpaper that I found at my old favorite wallpaper site, (Click to follow link) This wallpaper is based on an anime series that I have never seen, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. This was posted by the user, Lavabug, whose blog you can reach by clicking here.
   I hope you like it. Next week, I will try to give you one of my originals!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Experiment with Ubuntu - Buh-Bye Windows XP

   Recently, a friend of mine has been talking about wanting to switch his operating system (OS) from Windows Vista to a Linux OS. His reason for wanting to switch over is to lessen the memory footprint from Vista in order to be able to run World of Warcraft more responsively. Being the proud owner of a laptop that once ran Vista before it fried its own motherboard, I feel the pain of any Vista user that just wants out; especially the 64-bit users.
   I have also taken a personal interest in the Linux OS currently available, but for different reasons. I have a lot of hardware that is loosely connected in the very much insecure ways of Windows 7 OS. Not only that, but I have multiple monitors hooked up to single machines. Windows 7 only offers a simple selection to either span the screen across the monitors (with much reduced functionality on the secondary monitor), duplicate the displays, or use one or the other display. Most people with multiple monitors hooked to one rig; myself, namely, would actually like to have each monitor work as its own workspace; with functionality that is wholly independent of the other workspace. Linux supposedly offers quick and easy solutions to both network security and multiple monitor support.
   In order to help my friend out as well as serve my own needs, I have decided to switch my Windows XP laptop over to Linux. Most people in America know next to nothing about Linux. The first thing to know is that many major distributions of the OS are free. It is an excellent go to if restoring a paid OS will cost more than it is worth. There are many flavors of Linux, definitely some are worth more than others. I decided to do some research on which OS I might go with. One article I read at (click to read) had some great information on different popular OS in the Linux family.
   In the past, I have worked with Red Hat Fedora, which I do not care for much. The OS certainly does everything it is supposed to. It also works with most devices that Windows works with. That is, you really do not need to worry too much if your hardware is compatible these days. Most hardware that came stock in your machine will have a Linux-compatible driver either from the manufacturer or the Linux community. Plug-n-play devices also tend to work very well with the drivers available. The thing I do not like about Fedora though is that it still leaves many of the low-level OS processes up to the end user. This is a great choice if you want a Windows-type environment, but next to no processes running in the background.
   Being a typical end-user type of guy, I am okay with background processes, especially if they do not add up to the footprint left on a machine running Vista. However, I really like the fact that the computer is capable of handling processes itself and seek to keep a lot of that in my OS. After reading the article linked above, I decided Ubuntu would be the OS for me. Ubuntu supposedly offers a great end-user experience and also has strong offerings in terms of multimedia and applications support.
   So the transition begins. Now, anybody looking to do the same should understand something important. The transition will not be seamless, but a 100% rate between hardware and Ubuntu should be very possible. One way to ensure all of your hardware comes online as expected is to go to the manufacturer's website for your computer and write down all of the hardware in your computer. Because Microsoft and Apple want owning one of their products to be similar to being part of an exclusive club, you should expect to have to hunt down drivers for a lot of your hardware when switching from one of these OS. Luckily, the Linux community has gone a long way to making this process painless. Google searches should return quick and reliable results. Microsoft and Apple believe that if they make the process of change difficult, people will not change. For most, this may be true; however, there is no need to be deterred by their bumps in the road.
   In reality, the hardware transition is the easy part if you are accustomed to the application suites offered by Microsoft. Many things do have Linux equivalents, but not all. You should be able to find a productivity suite that provides the same functionality as Microsoft Office and is even compatible with all Office standard formats, but be prepared for the fact that they are simply not Microsoft Office. A bigger concern to some is that many games do not even consider Linux an OS. In some cases, there are workarounds; however, in many more cases, you will have to accept that you simply cannot run the game on your OS. DirectX, a popular format for developing games, is a Microsoft thing. Good luck getting any love from Microsoft on that.
   For those of you still not deterred, I say, give it a shot. So far, I do not have everything set up the way I would like it. However, I am very happy with the look and feel of Ubuntu. Hopefully I will be able to help my friend set up his rig in a similar fashion and his WoW playing days will be better than ever. I do not yet have the multiple monitor support fully worked out. I also do not have the server working yet. However, I will write another post in about a week with an update on how it goes. If it goes well, I may very well become a nothing-but-Linux type guy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weekly Plan: 3/7/2011 - 3/13/2011

   Welcome back everybody! I have been away much longer than expected, but let me tell you, moving from a two bedroom apartment to a three bedroom duplex is an incredible amount of work. The first few days is just a sea of boxes. Everything you do, or even touch, leads to another handful of tasks that must be done. The beautiful and lovely Jen did the overwhelming majority of unpacking boxes, but there were plenty of other things that consumed my time. Even last week, it was everything I could do just to put in an eight hour day at work.
   Now I am ready to get back to it and I have quite a bit of good game reviews coming up. I am a little short on the free game side of things, because I have been spending a lot more time with my PlayStation ever since the television was hung on the wall. It is simply irresistible. The upcoming reviews are all PlayStation 3 games. A couple are brand new releases on the PlayStation Network, although one has been around for a while, it is just new to PSN. Those are PixelJunk Shooter 2 and Castle Crashers. The other is a disc-based game that has been out for a while, but I just recently got my hands on, 3D Dot Game Heroes. I am in the middle of all of these games, so hopefully I will get some finished by the end of the week.
   I am also reading a book I will be writing a review on soon, The Parent Plan , by Margaret Briem. It is an excellent book that discusses parenting in different situations. I am only into the first chapter of it so far, but it talks about parenting explicitly. This applies to all aspects of parenting, from dealing directly with the children to bringing the other adults involved in the child's community into the parenting process. So far, this is a great book, and it is a short read, so expect my review soon.
   PROGRAMMING!! Just like the blog, my programming ambitions have been on hold since the move. I have not finished Swap Meet Server (unacceptable). I did get my Android development book. Therefore, I will be working on both this week. I still need to finish up the graphics, sound, and high score interface on SMS. On the Android front, I am going to work through this book and see where it takes me. I was having issues doing real basic things when I last worked with the Android platform. I am not sure why I was unable to get the screen to refresh for my projects, but all I was really successful at with my project was making it flash between two screens. That is not going to work. I really wanted to take the time to learn how everything works on Android with Java. Now I have the time to do it.
   At home, we also have quite a few things going on. James' birthday is on Saturday. Unfortunately, they will not be here on Saturday, so we may or may not do a gathering for him on Sunday. Either way, he has a couple of fun gifts to play with, so will be happy with or without a party. I am also going to try to get my kids to the park. We have not been to one in a couple of weeks. Everybody should make it a point to get their kids to the parks as much as possible. We spend too much time locked up inside with our electronic gizmos and doo-dads. Some real run-around time for the kids always helps with the spasticity that goes on with kids when they do not stretch their legs enough. This will be the first week of me not being Hitler of Homework. The teachers will take recess time from the kids if homework is not done, so I am off the job. No sweat off my back. The one that gives me trouble with it will supposedly have to use recess to finish it if it does not get done at home. If this is the case, I can back off, because my concern is the homework should be completed always, no matter what it takes to get there.
   Alright, that is all I have. Really, one heck of a week; however, they all are. Only live once. Thanks for reading, Trish!