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Friday, June 13, 2008

Dear IGN

Just a friendly note.

Some of us read the site on a mobile device. Sometimes tired and cranky and in a cab.

So whoever thought purple was a good background color while the graphic hasn't quite loaded?
Please take them out back and shoot them.


Days Of WWDC 2008, End of Day Five

Technically the day isn't quite over. I'm at one of the hardware connect stations here at Moscone taking advantage of the sweet ethernet speeds here. Both the new iPhone OS and SDK hitting the hard drive in like three minutes.

Took advantage of the labs this morning and had an Interface Builder engineer give me the guided tour. Less shaky about it now (she called it the fear of the NIB) but I don't think I'm breaking any real NDA by saying that there will be some pretty decent enhancements to IB as the App Store goes live. Since then I've been compiling some notes and playing around with the sample apps. Still a little too conference weary to finish any serious code.

Humorously the kindly engineer was also trying to "trick" me into developing for OS X by starting off with some CoreData examples. Apple is at this weird crossroads. They have this extremely mature, extremely powerful dev platform in OS X which is playing bridesmaid to belle of the ball iPhone. iPhone on the other hand, is still young and growing and a large number of questions at the end of sessions end with "file a feature request."

Apple is listening, and they would love to build the mountain for Mohammed and all, but mountain building takes time. I'm glad for the July 11th release date as it will give the OS more time in the cooker, but honestly I'm more excited for July 2009. Everyone wants to write the first killer app for the platform - but somewhere in the frenzy a level of community will still have to arise.

And I would totally write for OS X if my desktop attention wasn't already driven by AIR in the first place.

Anyway, I've got my files and all my hardware is charged and full. My iPhone is down to a paltry 750MB of space as I jammed it full of video for the long flight home. I'm about to head over to ThirstyBear for some final San Fran microbrew, and then a quick swing by the Wharf before heading home.

See you in like many hours, Chicago.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Days Of WWDC 2008, End of Day Four

The conference has now officially dwindled down into the investigation and hoarding of various technical bits. There's also a surprising number of lines remaining. Lines seem to kind of draw the various boundaries of the conference, delineating the sessions deemed worthy of actually standing in one to attend.

Honestly quite exhausted at this point. There's thinking on your feet in that cliche dexterity sort of way and then there is walking and/or thinking for eight hours straight while trying to take and maintain notes on all this information and to figure out how best to actually continue investigating and hoarding said information.

As is usual for my behavior at these kinds of things, I've got a few new projects started. Hard to tell if I'll have the energy to finish them into anything anytime soon.

Did, however, stop by to see the sea lions on the way home tonight. So that's what woke me up this morning...

For Sunday: Something Biblical In Iowa

The Brother gives a pretty grim view of of Iowa City as well. Water, for instance, being a concern is something of bad thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Days of WWDC 2008, End of Day Three

We're kinda waiting for the Apple Design Awards. I say kinda because we aren't in line and have no expectation of winning. And there's a huge line. My expectations are fettered because even though we have a productivity app which is a bit precocious for its age, we just got a consultation from Apple on the overall design yesterday ... and honestly there's little bits of information which should go into a decision like this that you need from the inside that other people got way before we did.

So instead I'm giving Bossman a quick tutorial on bit torrenting off this sweet ass wifi while we still have it. As I type this, the line is already snaking past us and back towards the escalator. Soon it will lead down the escalator. What's odd is that a majority of the awards will still be about OS X apps even though the vast majority of this WWDC has been iPhone focused. It's like a lens converging on itself.

We hit ThirstyBear before this, an extremely prudent conference survival decision I think, and maybe might end up hitting it during this as well.

Depending on how these movie downloads go, of course...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Days of WWDC 2008, End of Day Two

Damn does this hotel wifi suck. It's like they strain it through a special peer to peer downloading application before getting to every room. This place might be a front for some kind of underground dvd download and burn ring or something.

Now that everything is post keynote, I'm not supposed to divulge any gritty Apple details. Honestly if you aren't developing for the iPhone, I wouldn't have much to divulge and even then it's so freaking nuanced I wouldn't know where to begin. There's maybe a couple juicy rumors or the like, but really nothing to set the world on fire.

I'll say what I've been saying all along though - there are a lot of people heading towards the App Store and it isn't all big studios and companies. My optimism is holding out for the podcasting of app development here.

Also, I should say that WWDC is easily the best run conference I've ever attended. The wifi is strong and easily available (compared to Max where IP's ran out by noon) and even power outlets are easily available. Heck, I accidentally flipped a power switch that ran one of the massive routers on and off and by the time I was resettled and practiced my innocent face - they already had someone up to the floor to check on it.

Sorry, anonymous Apple employee. I was only trying to plug my power cord in.

The sessions have been pretty good as well. Even if it has seemed basic I've managed to glean a few nuggets of interesting information. UI review with an Apple interface guy went amazingly well. Bossman and I went to a brewpub (ever search for "brew" on the maps app of an iPhone in San Fran? It's awesome) and now I sit looking over these air conditioning units on the hotel balcony.

I really should work on my game, but it suddenly feels more like 11 than 9 to me and I might just not make it there.

Footnote: This blog is so freaking weird. I have WWDC to talk about and highest traffic page is some people looking up Superman: Doomsday? Shortcut: the movie sucked. Go google iPhone or something interesting.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Days of WWDC 2008, End of Day One

So post keynote I'm not allowed to blog about any specific technology I learn at sessions. Which is fine, because the rest of day one was mostly review material of already known facts to those who have played with XCode. While the population density of the conference didn't change much after The Jobness left the building, the rockstar lining was definitely pulled away.

So to recap a bit:

iPhone App Store
According to the icon on my iPhone, it is two words - so sorry if I've been misspelling it. So the assumption is that this will launch July 11th with the iPhone 3G. I'll know more later but ironically won't be able to share, but let's call it a safe assumption.

Developing for the iPhone has a pretty low bar of entry and a wildly popular consumer base. Not to mention some pretty classy hardware to boot. Xcode has never looked better and Apple has done a lot to make not just the development process mature, but the deployment developer friendly to boot.

Now let's consider this: this WWDC was less of a product launch and more of a market launch. Yes, yes, you'll have your lovely new 3G phone and all, but much of the keynote, in fact the entire keynote was bookended with this message: the iPhone is ready for business. Enterprise business. This means the iPhone isn't just a pretty face, but gives developers a wide range of customers to appeal towards.

Well, you still need a Mac to get started. And that sure as hell isn't going to change anytime soon. Plus, if you wanted to focus on specific products (like that Skype thing or that FireFox thing), Apple will simply tell you to go take a hike. That's their gated community, and they hold the keys.

But wait, there's more
There were some unspoken heroes at the keynote. I'm dying to know more about this messaging protocol they're putting out and what it will mean for interapp (and possibly interdevice) communication. This is a subtle thing that is hard to put any spin on, so I can get the soft sell and all - but if my app and my manager's app can do little secret deals while I'm playing Super Monkey Ball?

mobileme platform

It's technically quite impressive. I can't say I'm not tempted, way more than I have been by a .Mac account for sure. I want to know a lot more about the APIs (if there will be any) and the like before getting too excited though. I won't be leaving the google world of information if I can't hook into it.

Name is kinda silly, to be honest. $99/year still feels a bit expensive for services which others offer for free.

$199 iPhone 3G

Cheaper. Faster. Slimmer. GPS. Plus a hoard of OS updates which you couldn't even begin to cover in the keynote.

It's a better phone than the first gen iPhone, for sure, but again I'm not feeling any real remorse here. The lower price is somewhat bittersweet when you factor the two year contract to boot.

The real summary here can be best put alongside the debate we had at the Irish pub later in the day. Should RIM be afraid? I'd say so. I've never seen Apple focus their attention so squarely on such a specific spot. This is not like saying "we're going to sell music" (like the iPod launch), this like saying "we're going to sell music to audiophiles". One year after the launch of the iPhone, Apple is saying "we're selling this to large companies now. Get ready." Nobody spends the bandwidth of Jobsian stage appearance on something like that without a truckload of intent.

I'd like to be more psyched about the small developer's role in the App Store. The conference is a huge show of hands that a lot of people are interested in producing apps for the device. The weirdness is the pricing. So many large companies can afford to give away apps for free, and with the large gaming companies focusing on the $10 mark - I'd say $20 will be the high end for App Store prices. Those traditionally are indie price points - so what will indie price points on the iPhone be?

WWDC, Liveblogging Keynote Notes (refresh for latest)

11:47. Initial release: July 11th.

11:45. iPhone 3G 8GB will be $199. (16GB $299. In white too).

11:42. iPhone will now be available in 70 countries. Up from, um, 6.

11:39. GPS? Yup.

11:38. Increased battery life as well.

11:36. iPhone 3G "36% faster" than other 3G phones for download. Approaches WiFi.

11:34. Flush headphone jack. Wootness. Otherwise, the look is pretty much the same but slimmer.

11:33. "iPhone 3G" announced.

11:32. And more affordable... (?)

11:31. "Next mountain" for iPhone: 3G. Enterprise support. Third party apps. Global marketplace.

11:28. mobileme will be $99/year. Free trial. Mobileme will now be replacing .mac. Early July release. .Mac users will be allowed to port over.

11:25. Demonstrating moving back and forth between updates on and the iPhone. Data seems to be synched insanely fast, nearly immeadiate.

11:23 "" material apparently gets pushed (not fetched?) right away to the iPhone.

11:18 "" is Web 2.0 version of mail, photos, calendar, documents. I think Apple just shot something across Google's brow.

11:17 "" announced.

11:15. mobileme is "Exchange for the rest of us." ActiveStink joke inserted. Basically "Exchange as a service" if you will.

11:14. "mobileme" announced.

11:13. Also, "ad hoc" distribution.

11:12. Enterprise disto details. Enterprises can authorize specific phones and apps. Apps can be downloaded via Intranet. Synced via iTunes.

11:10. Talking about the AppStore setup. Same info as before. Also, if your app s 10MB or less, it can be downloaded by anything (cell, wifi, iTunes), otherwise WiFi or iTunes only.

11:09. iPhone 2.0 OS will be out "Early July". There you go. Now Jobness is talking about AppStore.

11:07. Parental controls will be included now.

11:05. iPhone features update. Better MS Office support, and iWorks as well.

11:04. "Push Notification Service". This is new to me. Allows for background messaging essentially.

11:02. Talking about background processes. Humorous parody of Task Manger followed.

11:00. Few more apps. There's a bit of a sleight of hand here, I think, with the constant repetition of developing "in a few weeks". You can prototype well in that time, but note that many of these apps won't be ready for relase by the end of even this month.

10:51. MLB app will offer on the fly video clips of games (while the game is ongoing).

10:49. "Band" (virtual instrument suite) got a big applause, but there was a slip: AppStore in a few weeks time.

10:46. Two games from Pangea, also $9.99.

10:42. Note that everyone is saying "when the AppStore launches".

10:40. Also free: Loopt (location based twittering essentially) and Typepad.

10:34. eBay app will be free.

10:31. OK, was wrong. Super Monkey Ball will be $9.99. That's significantly lowered than some expected the big guys would aim.

10:29. Super Monkey Ball from Sega. Nuff said.

10:28. iPhone is "third major platform" - David Pogue. Linux no longer counts?

10:26. IB seems more capable of dealing with landscape more now.

10:22. Interface Builder demo. I've been avoiding it, honestly, but this looks more mature than the last build in the beta.

10:20. Instruments. iPhone code optimization suite. This is new to me.

10:17. SDK Overview. For people who have been in the beta, this is nothing new. iPhone OS based on OS X, Location API, Graphics API, Cocoa Touch, etc.

10:16. Rah rah video about Exchange just closed up.

10:11. Details on Exchange hookup. Large beta, hugely based on enterprise feedback.

10:10. Next OS: "Snow Leopard".

10:07. His Jobness.

WWDC, Waiting In Line

8:38. It was "iPhone". Go figure.

8:34. Apparently wifi exists but requires some secret handshake. Could ask that guy with a goatee but have nothing better to do but guess SSIDs anyway.

8:21. The guy behind me has been here for "three, four hours". I've been here like an hour.


8:16. No wifi? Seriously?

8:11. Doors apparently not open yet. Bossman wanted me to save him a seat. Afraid that guy videoblogging will resort to cannabalism if I tried. Especially after seeing the buffet.

8:06. Finally found buffet.

8:02. If you thought it couldn't get dorkier ... that guy is videoblogging himself walking in line.

7:59. It almost looks like this massive line is a big U turn back outside. That would be hilarious.

7:58. If you thought being a Mac developer at WWDC could be pretentious ... realize there are French Mac developers at WWDC.

7:45. The faithful in full force. Buffet was a trick ... be lucky to even get a chair I think. Data network is totally choked.

WWDC Preflight Check

Speaking of flights, ours was on the ground for near an hour before takeoff. The flight itself was fine in that so turbulent trying to type makes you go blind kind of way. Free hooch was a nice touch though. Word of advice to the airlines - losing out on even decent whiskey is always better than armed rebellion. Have iPhone. Will revolt.

The Radisson here on the wharf hasn't improved the city much. My sleep number bed was set to fail. The free wifi is about half accurate (it is indeed free). refuses to get any mail before a timeout however. Will have to try to ask the screaming kid in the room behind me if he has a cat 5 cable. Or maybe the business guy in the other room who really didn't need that 5AM alarm since he snoozed until 6 anyway.

6 Pacific time, of course. That's 8 in the civilized world.

Considering taking Claritin to cure the redeye. If anyone has any medical advice on that one, please send along.

As soon as the caffeine hits I'm off to the keynote, or rather the free buffet before the keynote. iPhone, check. Macbook, check. The Futon shirt so that I can wear black but show that I'm completely different kind of sellout? Check.

Oh hey, my alarm just went off.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Few WWDC Predictions

  • The big star will be worst kept secret, the 3G iPhone. Honestly I'm not exactly overwhelmed with joy over the product. My old phone had 3G and I still prefer my current iPhone. As I've said before, this in part due to my wifi enabled world, but it is what it is. It will probably be prettier and sleeker, but my current phone shouldn't feel jealous.

  • IF the App Store is available at the 3G launch - there will probably be only a handful of Apps pre-blessed by Apple. I probably can't get into too many details here, or shouldn't without double checking that whole NDA thing, but let's just say technically it's hard to see everyone having a fair shake to be ready for release by tomorrow.

    That said, I'm really jazzed about the App Store in general. Apple really seems to have the right angle on it. Their primary concern is to get a good library of apps for the users while being friendly to developers and business interests. That's harder than it sounds, but it really looks like they'll be pulling it off.

  • Software updates galore, but I can't imagine any huge surprises or new products. I think the big A has had their hands full lately.

  • WWDC is going to be packed, possibly standing room only kind of deal, as iPhone developers who aren't even the biggest Mac addicts line up with the faithful. Much of the iPhone track still deals with developing web apps and hence doesn't require a Mac to be hold an interest. Imagine the glances that old Thinkpad would have gotten me...

Anyway, I really, really should be getting ready now. I'll try to keep up with the keynote, etc. See you all next week.

Some GTA IV Mechanics In Brief

One thing that keeps impressing me about Rockstar is their ability to evolve their GTA franchise by removing old mechanics, adding new ones and updating some that remain. While this was certainly notable with San Andreas (and not nearly as much with the various side stories, with GTA IV they've taken the game to a whole new paradigm.

The next gen graphics, for instance, allow the game to have a more "realistic" feel. Powerups no longer float and rotate (as they have in about 80% of every 3D game to come before) - but sit and glow on the ground. The mission markers no longer glow with huge circles but rather small yellow errors. And of course, we have the waypoint path finder - which marks the "shortest legal path" between you and your driving goal.

And oddly, except for that last one, these are probably the least successful updates in the game. It's nearly impossible to distinguish weapons until you've picked them up and it's much easier to miss the mission markers from a distance now.

Of course we have next gen hardware now which means we get next gen physics now. This is easily my favorite as launching a SUV over a railing, rolling three cars over as you careen and then bouncing off a building is fun.

Anyone who just read that and thought "what's fun about a car accident simulator" - wait til the end.

With the new physics we also get more complicated driving mechanics. Keep cars from fishtailing and turning at high speeds certainly takes more practice than any previous edition of the game but in the long run I'm willing to put it down as a plus. Car chases remind me of the classic Driver chases more than any game thus far.

The new wanted systems has gotten a lot of talk at first blush. What's interesting I think is that for all the changes - the end result is about the same. Sure, you can avoid one star easily by driving real fast in a straight line. Is that any different than just being able to jump into a pizza joint? One star was always a joke to shake off, and two stars not much more so. Avoiding three stars and above can be a subgame on its own, as it should be.

We also get the most vastly expanded set of combat controls in the history of the franchise. Niko is far more capable of using cover, blind firing, moving and aiming, aiming at body parts, etc., than any of his predecessors. The end result here is that Niko feels a lot more the badass everyone seems willing to hire.

And everyone wants a piece of Niko. While typing this, The Girl got three text messages and two phone calls. The whole social networking can be overbearing at times (Roman especially seems to enjoy calling when you're in the middle of a high speed chase) - but also quite hilarious. Just watching how different character react to getting drunk with Niko is a comedy show on its own.

The fact that Niko can then turn around and drive drunk has turned the "murder simulator" fight into "drunk driving simulator" fight (partly because I think people outside the gaming culture are realizing the joke that Jack Thompson really is as a lawyer and "expert"). The thing is that this argument is just as ignorant as the previous one. The game doesn't reward you for driving drunk any more than it rewards you for flipping cars over or running down pedestrians. The fact that you can do something in a game doesn't mean that the game encourages, trains or gives you point for doing it. Especially in a game like GTA IV where you can do all those thing and pick up a hooker without it having anything to do with the main game itself.

In this way, GTA IV resembles its protagonist Niko Bellic - who in the words of his cousin is a "miserable sociopath". You can bring your ethics to the table if you want, but they're just your ethics and the game doesn't really give a damn. It didn't ask you to bring anything at all. But if you do so, make sure you take everything into account. Like that the game warns you about driving drunk, that you can take a cab and even a miserable sociopath like Niko seems to remember helmet laws for the most part. The truth is that the detractors of the game seem mostly to wring their hands over the fact that the game doesn't punish you enough for these acts - but unable to verbalize in any way that doesn't make them look ridiculous that what they want is a big alert window saying "Driving Drunk Is Bad".

If playing a PSA was in any way fun, I might even see their point. But it isn't, and I don't. Being a miserable sociopath, on the other hand, clearly has some entertainment value because otherwise GTA IV wouldn't have the financial pull of Fort Knox.

And more to the point - no GTA game has ever harmed anyone. Sorry there, BatJack, but you had your day (days in fact) to prove your point and now you're getting disbarred. This case is closed and it's time to move on.

To finish up that note though, I think Niko might be the best character the series has ever produced. CJ from San Andreas was something of a hip hop action hero. Despite being a thug, thief and overall gang lord - you still got the impression the CJ loved his mom, hung with his homies and was generally a good guy with which you could share a forty.

Niko, on the other hand, is a broken down soldier who thinks everything is crap and meets his enemies and friends the same sly grin that insists he could snap you in half. Roman pegs him - he is a miserable sociopath but in being so it makes him feel more realistic and three dimensional than a lot of previous entries into the field. Niko has a past and that past clearly haunts him even when he's not talking about it.

Time to go - The Girl just lifted an armored van to take Little Jacob home again. She might just have to call that lawyer chick for a favor again before the day is through.

For Sunday: Tropic Thunder Viral Video