Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GameLog 173 & 174

Hegemony: Philip of Macedon (40h) - More Philip campaign stretching all the way down to Athenia, and more east toward the second port city needed for boats. Seemed to get bogged down in constantly monitoring 5 battles at once, but eventually it didn't seem to be too much of a callenge with phalanx and cavalry ruling everything else.

Gran Turismo 5 (10h) - Ordered a new force feedback wheel for this one when I pre-ordered a week ago, but the wheel still isn't here :/. Plays Ok on controller, but there seems to be no real direction as to what cars you should (or shouldn't) be using for the next challenge. What it really needs is a way to filter all cars in the dealership and 2nd-hand lot according to a challenge. Even worse, future challenges don't even show you what the requirements are until you're the right level :(. The game also is unbearably slow between races, even after clearing 8Gb on the HDD to "speed up loads". I didn't notice that much speed up. Lucky the Cricket was on at the same time and I could catch up with the score while it all loaded up in the background.

Bejewelled Blitz (3h) - More matching mayhem. New catseye gem is a bit weird. Way more powerful than the moonstone gem that seems to have dissappeared, and as it's shareable you can also more or less trigger it when you want rather than hoping a lucky moonstone lands when you have the cash to use it. I'm predicting scores approaching 1 million with cateye, although I've only got up to ~550K using it with other multipliers.

Team Fortress 2 (2h) - Twiddling time waiting for GT5 and Cataclysm to hit. Going through some of the older stuff as it might be a long time until they see the light of day.

MtG: Duels of the Planeswalkers (1h) - Another twiddler. Not sure why I put this one down, but after a few games I remembered the arbitrary nature of the interface. Almost always feels sluggish until you WANT to cast an interrupt, then there's no time at all. Lucky I didn't lose a game because of it, but it was frustratingly close.

Civilization 5 (1h) - Loaded up some uploaded scenarios and I finally found how to trigger the 'scenario' button, but they still seem end immediately with no opponents.

Ravenwood Fair (1h) - I'd heard that Romero was developing a facebook game, but was incredibly dissappointed to find it's another Farmville clone. In frustration I also dug through some more games and for the explosion that Zynga had back a couple of years ago, there's bugger all available. There seems to be either farmville clones, mafia wars clones, or travian-like web games shoehorned into the facebook juggernaut. Really dissappointed. I'm hoping Sid Meier can do better.

The lament had me put some time into designing a new game that allows a different type of social player interaction. Like all my games it's probably never going to get past the design stage, so I'll publish it up here once I've fleshed out the idea.

Monday, November 22, 2010

60Gb internode plan

After lamenting the previous internode offerings while mired deep inside Telstra's price squeeze, Internode have finally released their new plans for people still on the Telstra monopolized DSLAMs. Well, they're awesome. Going from $70 per month down to $60 per month and going up from 20Gb, to ~50Gb (60Gb, but measuring down and up traffic would equate to ~50Gb down for me).

In Simon Hackett's rant about the Telstra price squeeze, there's one thing that is painfully obvious:
This situation also underscores that a key and critical requirement for the future National Broadband Network, in whatever form it takes, which is that there is an ironclad legal requirement that the NBN Company must only be a wholesale provider – that it must not directly offer retail services to consumers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moodle 2.0 presentaion

Found a link to Martin's recent talk to a polish MoodleMoot on the new featuress of Moodle 2.0.

One of the main features that has me excited are the community hubs. Not only will it be easier to see good moodle courses, but I believe it quite possibly could be the silver bullet to bring about my vision of the future of education. The key will be to establish a framework of authorative tags to represent the skills that the course will teach, and the skills required for entry to the course. Once these are in place, there will be both an open market available using community sites (from the community hub model) and the easy contribution to the market by publishing sites. Even the ability of creating your own hub will mean that there doesn't need to be an authorative global tagging system. Each authority (Eg: Queensland Studies Authority, or the approaching national curriculum) can establish their own hub of approved courses, and set their own tagging practice up to allow the courses to merge seamlessly.

We're living / teaching in exciting times!

[Edit] More links
Community hub discussion
Learning Object Metadata
Australian Classifiication for Education standard (used in Moodle)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

USB memory sticks are good for transfer, bad for storage

Here in the IT department we would get on average a student a week with problems accessing their stored files on a memory stick. They are almost always attempting to retrieve a critical file for an assignment or presentation due today. Even though we have many options to recover damaged files, over half are simply not recoverable due to physical damage to the memory stick. Put simply, they die. Often.

The great thing about memory sticks is that they are very portable, and have a relatively good transfer rate. This makes them excellent choices to transfer files from one computer to another (Eg: from school to home), but their unreliability means that they are poor choices to store data for an extended period of time.

To offset this unreliability, it is recommended that you copy files to and from your memory stick, but never run or edit anything on it. Here’s an example:
Fred has started work on an assignment at school. He finishes up for the lesson and saves the file to his ‘My documents’ drive located on the server. He wants to continue working at home, so he manually copies the file to his memory stick. That night Fred wishes to continue work and inserts his memory stick. Instead of working directly on the file, he copies it to the desktop or an allocated space on the hard disk. From there he can work quickly and effectively on the file. Once finished he can then copy back the updated file onto the memory stick, possibly renaming it to another version. At school the next day, Fred continues his assignment by copying the previous night’s file onto his ‘My Documents’ drive and working on it from there.

In this example, the assignment will exist in multiple locations and have multiple versions. If at any point the memory stick dies, or even the home computer or school computers become inaccessible, the file will be recoverable with a maximum of a few hours of work lost. For times when you REALLY need that file, even copying it to multiple memory sticks is a wise choice. They don’t need to be super expensive, anything in the ~$10-$20 range should be sufficient for a simple transfer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

GameLog 171 & 172

Hegemony: Philip of Macedon (40h) - New steam pickup while waiting for GT5 and Cataclysm to hit. Very polished for a 5-man indie title, and has a good historical feel along with open ended play. Replaced it with Hegemony gold alpha as it handled a slower pace of recruits. Means less troop for me, but mainly allows taking out enemies in pitched battles then having time to siege the city before they regenerate. Still trying to come to terms with utilizing the population effectively between offense and defense, but at least it makes for an interesting game.

Currently playing through the Philip campaign and have pushed back the Illyrians out of Diabolis and the Athenians almost back to the Thermopylae pass. Hopefully I can sweep up north and force the Illyrians into submission, then swing onto the peonians before moving east. Not sure whether I push further down the greek peninsula. Don't have ships yet and Athens is already raiding my shorline back near the capital

Civilization 5 (25h) - Finished off the emperor Mongol scenario in under 60 turns. Downloaded scenarios don't seem to be working? A little more on the Terra Australis map.

Dungeons and Dragons Online (6h) - Already picked up Cataclysm, but this was an interesting diversion to get back into the MMO space.

Bejewelled Blitz (2h) - Free multiplier weekend ended with a new record: 626,100

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Telstra monopoly?

Internode released some new plans recently and it looked like I'd get an extra 5Gb for the same price, but when attempting to sign up for it, the price jumped by another $10. Upon investigation, Internode buried this little gem in their press release:
Due to Telstra pricing that differentiates between exchanges in different areas, Internode has applied a two-tier price structure for its Home-Fast2 broadband plans. The prices for Zone 1 exchanges, where a Telstra competitor has DSLAM equipment installed, are lower than for comparable plans in Zone 2 and 3 exchanges, where Telstra retains a monopoly position.

Did they just specifically state that the price change isn't per region, but whether your exchange has competitors?? How is this not monopoly abuse?

Google Reader: Star, Like or Share?

My use of google reader has slowly declined since I have finished the uni course, but I still see the need to follow smart people, and google reader still gives me that instant hit of something to think about.

About a year ago Google Reader updated their social features to first let you star an article, then star or share, and finally star, like or share. It seemed a bit confusing when you would want to do each, so I generally found myself either checking all of them, or none at all. I finally figured out it's all about context:

Star - It's of personal interest: You might star something as a reminder to get back to it, because it's important to you personally, etc. I'll generally star things I've responded to so that they are easier to check followup comments, or make the whole conversation easier to find when I'm searching for a previous article.

Like - Attribution back to the author and other readers of that feed: This is an easy way to communicate simply with other readers of the same feed. Liking every single article on that feed doesn't really help you or the other readers, it's best used as a tool of discernment. I'm also far more interested in seeing who else liked the article if there are fewer names, and repeat names are worth investigating. Likes are one step above a comment as a way to easily engage with the audience of the article.

Share - Distribute the article to your friends that may not know about it: Share the link with others. Need to check the publicity settings before mashing this button to see where it'll go. I also send my shared feed out to a widget on this blog as a semi-kudos instead of writing up something specific about it.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Teaching IPT

Firstly the news: I've accepted a position at St Luke's as a full time teacher next year. Mainly IT subjects, but a little splash of maths too.

To prepare for next year, I'll also be putting together a work program for 11/12 IPT as the syllabus for 11 has changed this year. It'll most likely change again next in a couple of years when the national curriculum comes in, but we'll tackle that one when it comes. So, for the next couple of research Thursdays I'll be reviewing the syllabus and sample work programs to try to build a work program that doesn't restrict all the things I have in mind.

First up is a work program for teaching a composite class with the same content. I'd wondered if that was possible because the current composite class has effectively 2 different subjects being taught at once. It's possible by designing a largely self-driven learning environment, but it would seem more appropriate in keeping both classes on the same subject, just modifying the assessment for either 11 or 12.

Lots of reading, lots of decisions ...

Monday, November 01, 2010

GameLog 169 & 170

Civilization 5 (70h) - Majority of the time in the SDK looking at making a mirror map and documenting stuff for the CiV Wiki. Recently the Mongol Scenario came out and plays very well. Really captures the spirit of a highly mobile army hellbent on burning europe.

Minecraft (20h) - Tinkered a bit with multiplayer, then started building some challenges for myself in single player to make it a little more interesting. First the one tree challenge, then a spelunking challenge where you have to find diamonds while only modifying the landscape by 1 tile (makes you explore open caverns rather than dig to the bottom). Took Ben and I about 1 & 1/2 hours to finally find some in a huge cave system.

League of Legends (4h) - Might shelve this one now, player base is getting too narky.

Bejewelled Blitz (4h) - Some light entertainment after work. Been using the musical method of training where you start slow and methodical for 2 runs, then fast as possible for 2 runs regardless of position, then settle to fast & accurate runs.