June 22, 2009 - Just say no

Dear Apple,

First let me say I love your iPhone, and I admire what you’re doing in the gadget market – it’s simply brilliant work and I’m behind you 100%. I do however have one small request:


Not in the next version – NOW. If you introduce a feature, have the common sense to realise there are some people in the world who would like to toggle that feature. When you implemented say, the repeat message alert, did you think there may be occasions when a user may not want to be reminded that he or she’d received a text at 3am in the morning, and their iPhone is in its dock on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM, and so that means getting out of bed and looking at the damn thing just to shut it up?

Oh and you didn’t just slip up with the iPhone. What about when I’m using remote in iTunes? Say I want to have iTunes hidden well away in the system tray while I’m working on my PC (and I don’t want to look at it because its interface makes me cry) and then I may decide I want to pick a tune from my songs playlist. Why does iTunes have to pop up to say hello? If I minimised it, and I’m controlling it via Remote, is there ANY good reason why it has to appear on my screen? Just let me keep it minimised where I want it Apple, it’s not a big ask!

I understand that in many cases you know best, and you invent novel – nay genius ways to interact with your products – I’d just like the ability to once in a while be able to choose to use some of these features.



June 15, 2009 - Mine’s bigger than yours

It’s been nearly 5 years since I upgraded my PC, and last week things came to a head when my creaking old system started wiping its own backup drive randomly. So, I set myself a budget of £1,000 and went to and built up a machine. To cut a short story even shorter, I ended up getting the following spec:

  • Intel Core i7 920 (4 cores @ 2.66GHz)
  • 6GB of CAS7 RAM
  • GTX 275
  • 300GB WD VelociRaptor

And installed Windows 7 RC1 (which is absolutely fantastic – well done Microsoft, about bloody time!) on the whole caboodle. The results are highly pleasing – it can cope with the 21 megapixel raws I throw at it all day long now! The moral of this story is this: these days, you can get a hell of a machine for a lot less money than it used to cost.

Oh, and on an unrelated note… if you’re a web developer, you may want to check this out. I’ve created two sites with it now and I’m never going back to the old ways. This thing makes putting websites together lightning fast and the results are joyous in all browsers – yes, even IE6. Marvellous! Give it a go!

June 2, 2009 - The Krypton Refactor

I’m sure it’s not just me, but I’ve found that sometimes some of the most difficult and profound decisions you make on a project only occur when you’re half way through writing it. It’s monumentally difficult to work out the specific heirachy of classes in advance (especially when you’re trying to write something modular) and sometimes you just have to write the damn thing before you realise where things actually should go!

The current project tree

The current project tree

So as I tapped away this afternoon, I realised I’d reached a critical point where I was starting to introduce messy hacks to send messages down and back up the chain of command undergoing several changes along the way – it’d stopped being efficient and had I gone any further with it, it’d have become a big nasty mess. At this point what’s needed is for some of the core classes (notably the game, board and renderers) to be refactored and reimplemented. Thankfully as it turns out this isn’t a large job (another huge benefit of observing OO best practices) and things will once again be going smoothly very soon.

Also, I have to thank each and every one of the people who’ve commented, emailed and otherwise shown interest in this project. It’s a great boost to the old morale to know it’s not only myself who’s excited about playing it! I’d like to take a few moments to clear up a few questions I’ve been asked:

  • Will there be a beta test? Can I be a tester? An online game is obviously going to require people to help iron out the bugs, and so yes, there will be phases of testing throughout the lifetime of the project (as new features get rolled out for instance – hint hint) and when that time comes, I’ll announce it. The iPhone version will be a different matter, as Apple are (understandably) tight about running code on other people’s devices. As such, when the iPhone version is ready to be beta tested, the only people who will be able to participate are those who have an iPhone development license themselves. Again, I’ll release more information about this at a later date.
  • How different will your remake be from the original? This is something I’m very conscious about – basically, Julian knew what he was doing when he created the original. It’s a formula that works through and through (obviously, as people are still playing it!) and I don’t want to tamper with it in any way. However I also see a lot of scope for expansion of the concept (though I might add not to the level of even Lords of Chaos, which I felt over-complicated the game somewhat) with the likes of new spells, new units and so on. It’s important that any changes I make are optional and modular – in fact ‘modular’ has become my mantra for the whole project. I’m by no means the authority on Chaos and its mechanics, and so I’ll leave such things open to tweaking.
  • Why isometric? It’s just so cool! Don’t worry though, there’ll be a traditional style renderer out of the box too!
  • Can I contribute? At this very precise moment, I’m afraid the answer’s no. My plan is to get the game into a playable and respectable state, and then make it open source. Besides I’d not wish to unleash my ghastly uncommented, undocumented alpha-quality code upon anyone else right now. I’ll make one exception however; if any talented pixel artists wish to update the original unit graphics (and maybe other graphics) then I’d be very interested in hearing from them. As nice and retro as the original sprites are (even the fettled ones I used for the old Flash version by Richard Phipps) I have a funny feeling that it’s only nostalgia that’s making them acceptable to current eyes…
  • What’s taking so long? Several things; my desire to get it absolutely right, my commitments to my real life job, my recent weekends spent in the company of my mates and my camera, my evenings spent watching Richard Dawkins on YouTube and working out a way I can apply all that evolution by natural selection stuff to the AI (I jest not!) and the occasional bout of Killing Floor or Left 4 Dead. Be assured this project is not about to disappear, I (hopefully) won’t suddenly be dragged away by ‘real life issues’ and my hard disks and backups won’t miraculously explode.

And now back to the music…