The Null Device
The Dashboard project looks quite interesting. It's a bit vague (the only documentation is a developer's diary, with screenshots) but it appears to involve applications (terminal windows, mail programs, IM clients) sending XML-based "cluepackets" to each other, looking up information related to the subject at hand and then sending it to a "dashboard" sidebar for display; i.e., if a friend's ID appears in GAIM, a cluepacket is sent off to various agents, which match it against their address book card, and the dashboard shows their message logs and the RSS feed of their blog. It's a GNOME thing; not sure whether it's integrated into the GNU Network Object Model (whatever that is) or whether non-GNOME applications can play as well. It's good to see open-source developers trying something novel rather than just chasing taillights and trying to implement a GPLed equivalent of your favourite Microsoft/Adobe/Electronic Arts title, only five years later. (via Oblomovka)
A US-born Australian academic has told the Fulbright Symposium that there's a 20% chance of Australia joining the U.S. in the next 50 years; if al-Qaeda attack Australia or Indonesia becomes an Islamic fundamentalist state, this increases.
Dr Mosler told the 2003 Fulbright Symposium at Griffith University yesterday that he decided Australia was "an unreformable society" after the loss of the 1999 republic referendum. Australians, he said, had no flag of their own; a weak sense of nationhood; no prime minister in the Lodge, with John Howard living in Sydney; no national bushfire or water plans, even with the worst drought in history; and no "broad knowledge of nation in public discourse or popular culture". Australians had replaced "Empire with Yanks" after 1942, and the country retained a "quasi-colonial status".
Does this mean we all get guns and oversized SUVs and legislated morality (oops, we've already got that) and Clear Channel radio stations in every city? I wonder if we'll get a Bill of Rights (rather than it being conveniently harmonised out of the equation, much in the way that Jefferson's fair-use copyright provisions don't apply to digital media). Though would the Yanks have us?
After ten years on the high seas, a flotilla of plastic bath ducks is about to make landfall on the shores of Nova Scotia. The ducks, which originally numbered 29,000, were lost at sea when a container broke open during a storm in the Pacific; they have since floated around the Pacific, crossed the Bering Sea and entered the North Atlantic.
More on the Tulip/Commodore 64 thing: they're pretty much ruling out taking down non-profit sites, threatening open-source emulators or doing anything else to piss off the fan community (and quite wisely). Oh, and they're the mob who tried to sell a 486 Windows PC with a C64 emulator as the "new Commodore 64" a few years ago. (Which sounds like a daft idea, but is it any more so than marketing a new designer luxury car as a "VW Beetle" or "Cooper Mini"?)
Null Device Retro Videogame Feature #1: Elevator Action
Publisher: Taito, Japan
The objective: descend from the top of a skyscraper to your getaway car in the basement, picking up secret documents and avoiding and/or shooting the bad guys before they shoot you.
Not sure what the backstory is; I'd say it's a "spy story" of some sort, with the proviso that tradecraft in the Elevator Action universe involves going through a building, stealing documents and shooting everyone you see. Actually, it might make more sense to think of yourself as a disgruntled postal worker than a secret agent. Another way the Elevator Action universe differs from our own is in the world of lift control algorithms. If, in the real world, the occupant of a lift could control its movement, there'd be a lot of pissed-off people waiting in lift lobbies, not to mention fights for the controls. (If everybody carried a gun, things would really start to get interesting.)
Elevator Action came about in the days of 8-bit CPUs (it runs on 3 Z80s; the same chips that powered Sinclair ZX81s and the like) and 16-colour pixel graphics (the basic 8 plus lighter versions thereof; think Commodore 64 graphics with a less miserly hardware budget), after everybody got sick of plain black backgrounds but before game designers started trying to wow audiences with the depth of their palettes. As such, there is no shading, outlines or any other such sophistication; objects are pixelated blobs of solid colour. Which, in this days of Generation X Atari nostalgia and 1980s revivalism, is the height of modern-primitivist retro cool, a latter-day equal of Polynesian tiki kitsch and 1960s pop art.
Anyway, back to the graphics. The action is set in a building with pastel-coloured walls and bright blue doors (which turn red if the room contains documents), which suggests that Smersh or whoever cared enough to hire a decent interior decorator. You, the player, are a little guy in a brown top, tan trousers and, for some reason, red shoes, with a sandy blond crewcut. The bad guys all look identical, dressed in black suits and fedoras, the usual cartoon "spy" uniform. They follow you around and shoot at you, and you have to dodge their bullets; which isn't hard, as they move slowly enough for you to easily jump over them. All that makes one wonder whether or not Elevator Action was a formative influence on the Wachowski brothers.