Friday, November 29, 2013

Card Game Building

Last night I decided to look into creating custom game cards,
specifically for a few games I had been playing at work.
My goal was to make a few themed sets for New Years.

The first game I had in mind was Love Letter. After looking at other themed versions (Firefly, Star Wars, etc), I decided I wanted to theme based on the Star Wars Old Republic comics. I started lining up the card types with characters, beginning with Jarael as the Princess.
Of course I searched the interwebs for hours finding different possible images and info to use.

I downloaded Magic Set Editor and gave it a try, using the VC card style. I found only a very limited set of templates, but it was super easy to use, just plug in text and images. Printed and laminated. Quality is ok and laminating makes them harder to see, cloudy. Printer messed up and wound up with 2 black lines on the back of Jarael. I tried to fix, would be ok with solid back sleeves to cover.

Here is the final set, not too bad:

The second game I looked into making cards for was Hanobi.
I decided to go with the Star Wars theme again, had the idea to line up the colors with symbols. I was lucky to stumble across the images almost immediately.

This time i went with a different program, NanDeck. This was almost perfect, no installer this time, just an exe. And instead of form input, it's writing code to create the cards, allowing any templates. Templates are easy to share as text (or zip with images). I started from a few of the example tutorial templates.

Printed and laminated, again more printer issues. I had to reprint at least half of the pages. Some cards still ended up with thin lines on them. I'm still happy with them as a first test, though the yellow numbers are bright and need an outline or darker gold color.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Part 1: Writing Websites

This is the first in a series (I imagine) about issues in creating websites today.
Just random observations or brain dumps of what I is going on.

And of course the big news at the moment is...
It's been all of the news for a while now, since its launch at the beginning of last month.
So I've been laughing about it over all of that time, on news especially the Daily Show.

In summary, I don't think it's a big deal and I don't care a lot about the issues with the website. Well, other than entertainment.
Sure, I can see how these websites problems can be annoying and look bad, but to me it just looks like the news networks are bored and found some fresh meat to pounce on.
And with the latest comparisons of this website rollout to Katrina?! Stop. It's a website. Not a failed mission to start a space colony on Mars.

But in reality, my understanding is that 80% of the country doesn't need the website. I don't. My employer healthcare is good enough. Do I expect that the remainder of the country without health insurance (actual citizens looking for help) jumped on the website to sign up? Or do I expect that news network employees hammered the site?
Apparently there were long wait times on the rollout, it couldn't handle the load, slow at even 1K users but was expected to work for 50K and had up to 250K.

Sadly, I can tell you what I expect those numbers are not. They are not young people 20-30, especially those without a dependable job or one providing health insurance. Basically those the mandate is trying to push into having insurance. Those struggling with college debt and confused about this healthcare law. Sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be pushed or forced into action, waiting out the website storm in the news. The ones that really need a single payer health care system, because it means having to do nothing and higher taxes sound more positive than a tax penalty.
I'm just glad the mandate deadline to have health insurance has been extended farther into 2014.

Back to the site, I had a glance at it before, but tonight I was curious to see what I could gather at a longer look.
Well the page itself uses a bunch of fairly recent UI JS libraries like Bootstrap, JQuery, Backbone, Underscore. But it also loads almost 60 JS files including tons of JQuery plugins. Not that these are the cause of specific issues, I have no problem with them.
More interesting was the CreateSaml2 POST with a 200 Success but response text of "success: no". Awesome.
It gives two different feelings for the front end and back end, which makes sense given the history. Apparently these were contracted out to two different companies and then subcontracted.
I can imagine the mess involved with this project, and I'm sure it's worse than even that.
But the only lesson I get is that the government can't build websites. Should I be surprised?

I'm a dev, I know that bugs happen, so I am not at all surprised when they do.
I also have been staring at different HTTP error codes for years, since I began using the internet.
So websites are not a mystical beast.
But they can be complicated to develop, especially large scale.
Sounds like this project had changing requirements and no clear direction or project management.
And of course not enough testing, there can never be enough.

Demo Bug
With not enough testing, you can guarantee issues.
I sat through a horrible meeting today to demo work I've been loosely involved in.
And I had the pleasure of sitting through this uncomfortable and embrarrasing meeting,
seeing an error message in red up on the screen saying 500 NullPointerException.
Which just makes everyone involved look bad.
But that's how it goes sometimes. It shouldn't happen but it does.
Thankfully this isn't rolled out anywhere yet, and of course it wouldn't be like it is.

Signup Nightmare
To the extreme of website issues,
What if the individual mandate for health insurance was only a day, or even less than a day?
What if the country only had a limit of 100K slots for health insurance on Oct 1 to signup and get it super cheap?
What would that have looked like? A complete mess, yes.
It would be all over the news, and on that day the website would be swamped and would go down.
This is basically what the PAX 2014 signup was like.
Registration, especially getting hotel rooms was an online battle, not just between people but also servers. It was insane. It was sold out in less than an hour. Systems were down, and of course everyone just kept trying F5 with errors and partial page loads and trying to call in but systems were not available there either.

So building dependable websites to handle large load can be hard. Bottlenecks happen.
Not that I know any of the intricate details of these systems (I'd love to),
But I would imagine that knowing an advertised live date and number of users, with (god I so hate the word) "cloud" servers and stateless designs the flexibility exists to handle a lot of load. With Amazon, Google, whatever, scale up a ton on that first day, monitor it and adjust. At least be prepared for the onslaught that you welcomed with open arms.

Monday, November 18, 2013

TV, Doctor Who

I finally started watching Doctor Who a couple months ago and I was hooked.
I've been watching it constantly on Netflix, the newer series from Eccleston to Tennant to Smith, Rose Tyler to Martha Jones to Amy Pond.
Sadly I've almost finished series 1-6 which are the only ones available on Netflix right now.
But thankfully there are more to watch.
At first I didn't like the transition between main characters, it was jarring. But then I found I enjoyed each set of characters almost more than the last. The writing definitely got more intense.
I really enjoyed a lot of the Futuristic episodes, more than the historical. But despite my apprehension, I was always pleasantry surprised with how each episode turned out.
So yes, I'm a total fan now.

I've also started watching some of the new seasons of shows, like getting caught up on Arrow and Walking Dead.
For Arrow, I always enjoy the mix of current and island flashbacks, almost enjoying the island scenes the most. After watching s02e01, I look forward to ditching the 'Hood' name and hopefully being called Green Arrow for once.
I'm also really looking forward to seeing more DC characters mixed in. I've really liked seeing DeathStroke, Deadshot, Black Arrow. And I'm looking forward to more, just as I did watching Smallville. I really hope Roy Harper becomes Red Arrow/Speedy. But having the League of Assassins involved could always lead to a Batman cameo. One can dream.

I'm almost caught up on Walking Dead. I really liked the horde/herd in s04e03, reminded me of comics 59-60, not being able to get through/away from the mass of zombies in a car.
The safety of the prison being called into question is interesting, with the infection spreading easily with people living in close quarters, and also being trapped when zombies/walkers have invaded.
So far so good.

For others, I'm always enjoying Supernatural. I have yet to watch the latest Misfits.
Checked out Tomorrow People and Almost Human, I prefer the later I think except for one issue. Saying such a futuristic show takes place 35 years in the future (2048). With bionic/synthetic body parts like leg, android cop partners (with tons of capabilities like xray, facial recognition, blood analysis, combat, etc), and flying cars. This just feels like too much for the proposed date, I'm sure these things can happen in the future, but we are not there yet. I would have believed 2148 or 2248 better (prove me wrong, so i can see it in my lifetime).
Now don't get me wrong, I love the type of story, it fits right in with Asamov's detective Elijah Bailey and robot Daneel Olivaw.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Geek shirts

I've been searching for some new t-shirts, without spending too much money.
I found 6 dollar shirts but wasn't sure if it would be worth the money.
Sure they are cheap, but how would the quality be.
And I don't love all the designs on the site, only a handful really (Dr Who, techy).

After debating for a while, reading reviews, I went ahead and bought 5 medium shirts.
I was planning to buy 10 shirts for $50, but I was planning to pay with a $50 gift credit card and shipping put me over. So I ended up only being able to get 5 shirts, costing about $7.78 each with shipping. I did find a $10 off code, but it only ended up giving me $3 off for the number of shirts. 

I received them less than a week later. They are good quality and survived wash/dry. Only annoying thing is the tags bunch up after multiple washings, so just cut them off. The Heather color shirt is softer and feels a little bigger than the others (maybe because it's stretchier).
Altogether a good deal (especially mine were free).