The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'nifty'


Toy of the day: PuzzleScript is an online (browser-based) game development environment capable of making a wide variety of turn-based puzzle games, ranging from Sokoban (of which the Hello World-esque example one starts with is a variant) to more sophisticated and/or eccentric games.

Games are written in a functional/declarative notation, consisting of rules; for example, the Sokoban rule allowing the player to push a crate is written as:

[ > Player | Crate ] -> [ > Player | > Crate ]

Graphics are deliberately kept simple, with elements being 5x5 blocks of coloured pixels, giving the game a vaguely Atari 2600-esque aesthetic.

There is a gallery of games made by users, each with an animated GIF representing the game's play. Some examples:

Games were originally turn-based (in that nothing happened except when the player moved), but there is an experimental real-time feature. Somebody has already coded a (semi-functional and not particularly exciting) Pac-Man clone.

(via MeFi) functional programming hacks javascript nifty videogames 0


Jeroen of Spritesmods (who previously built a miniature arcade machine out of a Raspberry Pi) has an interesting piece on the possibilities of hacking the controllers in hard drives; most hard drives these days contain embedded ARM-based systems, often with reasonably powerful processors. (One WD hard drive had two ARM Feroceon cores, similar to ones used in network-attached storage appliances.) It is possible to reprogram the firmware in hard drive controllers, which has a number of defensive, offensive and other applications, from silently patching system files to insert exploits to detecting attempts at drive imaging (such as by police, customs officials or spies) and returning corrupted or falsified data. (I wonder whether algorithmically generating a FAT32 filesystem, empty except for one file named GOATSE.JPG, would be feasible within the memory footprint.) Also, given that broken hard drives with perfectly functional controllers are literally free (they're legally electronic waste that costs money to dispose of correctly), they could possibly serve as a source of free microcontrollers for various projects, such as hobby robots or circuit-bent musical instruments (assuming that one figures out how to make them control things other than hard drives).

hacks nifty security tech 0


The age of vector graphics on the web is drawing closer; Raphaël is a JavaScript library which gives you a portable way of drawing vector graphics, not only on all modern browsers but, amazingly enough, on Internet Explorer from version 6 upwards. (It uses SVG on modern browsers and VML on Microsoft's ones.) Anyway, Raphaël code looks like:

var paper = Raphael(10, 50, 320, 200);
var c =, 50, 40);
c.attr({fill: "#000", stroke: "none"});
c.node.onclick = function() {
    c.attr("fill", "red");
It also handles images, text, and paths (using the SVG path notation). And here is a set of free icons, all implemented as path strings for use in Raphaël; they look fairly neat and modern, though, being single path objects, are monochrome. Being paths, though, they scale seamlessly.

So how soon can you use this in your web sites? Well, it runs with most of the web browsers in use these days, though needs a 55Kb (20Kb gzipped) JavaScript file. You'll probably need to host this file yourself, neither Google nor Yahoo! seem to have added it to their public CDN systems yet (though perhaps it's only a matter of time).

graphics javascript nifty svg tech web 0


Architect Gary Chang, like most Hong Kong residents, lives in a tiny (32m2) apartment. Unlike most residents, though, Chang has developed a way of transforming his apartment into any of 24 combinations of living space, using a system of sliding elements on rails. Each room is combined into the walls of two adjacent elements, and designed to be or fold flat. The bed folds against the wall, and the next element that slides out exposes the kitchen; a wall-sized CD shelf moves to expose a linen closet, which in turn conceals a bath and a guest bed. There's a 4-minute video here and a New York Times article here (warning: requires registration). Chang also has a book about the history of his apartment and its various transformations, though it's not clear whether it covers the current arrangement.

architecture awesome design efficiency hong kong nifty 0


A few quick links to things recently seen:

design gin google music nifty pimms privacy psychology rainbow arabia street art sydney tech the pains of being pure at heart urban planning video 0


Today is the 30th anniversary of the video game Pac-Man, and so, the Google homepage has a special commemorative graphic. Only this one's even more special than most: it's a complete implementation of the Pac-Man game, in pure HTML5.

Not only is there no Flash involved, but its assets consist of only one image, with the individual elements being drawn using CSS sprites. Alas, it'll probably be gone forever come the 22nd, so play with it while you can.

Update: Google PacMan is permanently located here.

awesome google html nifty pac-man retrocomputing videogames 0


Best Apple pie ever:

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) apple craft fanboys food nifty 0


This is pretty cool: a researcher at Adobe has developed software for manipulating moving objects in video in real time. The software works by tracking points and assigning them to objects, and as the demo shows, allows, among other things, moving objects to be automatically "graffitied" with text or annotated with automatically moving speech/thought bubbles. It also maps the degrees of freedom of a point in an object, and by clicking and dragging on it, automatically moves the video to a frame which has that point going in the desired direction, allowing video to be "scrubbed" by dragging moving objects. He even has it compositing frames of video with different objects (people, in this case) at different positions.

(via Engadget) adobe cs nifty research video 0


An artist in Portland, Oregon bought an old Pullman rail sleeper car and converted it into a living/working space. The interesting thing here is that it's not sitting in a yard somewhere, sans wheels, but is on the North American railway network. It's stabled at a private siding, for which the owner pays $150 per month; electricity, cable TV and DSL are available. Should the occupant get bored of their locale, they can move anywhere on the railway network by getting a freight rail company to attach their wagon to a train and move it, for $1.50 a mile.

Now that it's known that one can rent private sidings with facilities, and contract freight train companies to move your home around the railroads, perhaps a new subculture of bohemian railcar dwellers (let's call them "boho hoboes") will arise, comprised of similar sorts of people that live in houseboats in Europe. And perhaps the railway revival that some are saying expensive oil will lead to will include new private, full-service sidings catering to the new hipster-hobo class.

I wonder whether something like this is possible outside of America. Could Europeans take advantage of the European railways' open-access rules to do something similar? If so, could an European rail dweller bounce around the entire EU at will for euros per kilometre? What about in Britain? (Though there, the problem arises that British rail cars, and the spaces between platforms, are quite narrow, which could make living arrangements somewhat cramped.) Could one make a railcar home compliant with British and continental standards and the Channel Tunnel's safety standards and cross the Channel with it? I'm guessing that in Australia, where the railway networks are more fragmentary and limited (and old sleeper cars are somewhat scarcer), such a thing could be more difficult.

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) awesome current nifty railway travel video 0


Colors! is a program which turns a Nintendo DS into a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet/sketchbook. It includes translucency, and can be used to create some rather impressive drawings. There's a gallery here.

Colors! is free, though, being homebrew, requires a homebrew loading cartridge.

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) creativity graphics nifty nintendo ds software 0


Web toy of the day: FontStruct. A Flash-based web app which allows you to create your own geometric fonts from a selection of tiles.

The site lets you make your characters as large or small as you want, and gives you access to all of Unicode (so if you want to do the entire set of Chinese pictographs, knock yourself out). You can download your creations in TrueType or Flash bitmap format, or share them in the site's galery under a variety of Creative Commons licences. Or just browse the gallery for other users' creations, which vary from the sorts of geometric and bitmap fonts you'd expect to find to retro-styled ones, blackletter fonts, and the odd twee-looking picture font.

Which is way cool, though I can't help but think that FontShop has just wiped out its market for geometric fonts. (Not that that was unexpected; with the rise of user-generated content and better authoring tools, content is no longer a seller's market, and the standard of user-generated content is rising to the point where, even if it's on average not as good as the professional stuff, it's often good enough.)

(via MeFi) creative commons design nifty typography web 2.0 web toys 0


Web toy of the day (if not the year): Hobnox Audiotool. A TR-909, two TB-303s and a bag of effects pedals in a Flash applet, with a nifty patch-cord interface.

It sounds pretty authentic (well, at least as much as the various ReBirths and 303 softsynths) and flexible (the knobs produce the right amount of variation in the sound), which suggests that there is more to this than a bunch of samples in a simple player. The two options are:

  1. Recent versions of Flash have some kind of MSP/SuperCollider-style unit-generator-based audio engine built in, and pre-stocked with a bunch of useful components (such as wavetable oscillators, envelopes, filters, delay lines, convolvers, &c.), so that the Flash code only has to assemble a network of these and press play. Which essentially means that this sort of high-powered computer music infrastructure has become thoroughly commodified, to the point of being embedded for free in the infrastructure, remaining unnoticed until one actually uses something made from it. And that it would be possible to assemble quite usable audio production web applications in Flash, or:
  2. The applet merely communicates with a process on the web server, which synthesises the audio and streams it back to it.
Option (a) is, of course, the more exciting one. Anyway, I'd be interested to see how this is done.

(via MeFi) dance music electronica flash music nifty roland softsynths web toys 4


Something I didn't know until today: the Facebook API includes a complete SQL-style query language for querying one's social graph, which allows you to do things like:

SELECT name, pic, status, music FROM user WHERE uid in (select uid2 from friend where uid1 = 1234567890)
FQL, as it's called, can be called from the Facebook API, or you can play with it here (using the fql.query method).

(via brad) facebook nifty programming social software sql web 0


This guy attached a digital camera (a specially modified keychain camera) to his cat's collar and recorded the sequences of images as the cat (named Mr. Lee) went about his daily journeys. The images vary in quality (as one might expect), and include a lot of obscure nooks and crannies of the sorts cats frequent, and quite a few meetings with other neighbourhood cats.

The author of the page, J. Perthold, also sells cat-mountable digital cameras of his design for people who want to photograph what their cats are seeing. The next step, I imagine, would be to integrate wireless networking capabilities of some sort into the unit and set up a catlog.

(via alecm) cats hacks nifty photography 1


The latest architectural fashion in America is building houses with secret rooms. Not so much out of fear of home invasion by terrorists/gangbangers/zombies, but out of the sheer fun of having a secret room behind a sliding bookcase (the usual cliché), retractable staircase or similarly cool (if expensive and cumbersome) alternative door:

Since March, when the Beghous moved into the house, Cami estimates that she has had about 30 friends over. Not one was able to detect the bookcase's secret without guidance. "Most people don't even recognize that it's there," said her father, Eric Beghou, who owns a consulting company with his wife, Beth. "When the home inspector came by to examine the house, our builder shut the bookcase, hiding the room. The inspector went up and down the stairs a couple times - he knew that something was unusual - but he couldn't figure out what was there."
One popular trick is to hide a room behind a bookcase that looks like a standard built-in but is equipped with hidden hinges, rollers and handles, as at the Beghous' house. Contractors can either build the bookcases themselves or buy a piece from a growing collection of companies, including Niche Doors, the Hidden Door Company, Hide a Door, Secret Doorways and Decora Doors. Prices range from about $800 for the most basic models to more than $10,000 for custom-made versions.
She remembered a woman in St. Paul who asked for a room hidden behind the rear wall of a closet. "She said she wanted a secret room for her art studio," Ms. Susanka said. "She was a very introverted person, and she had to hide in order to let this expressiveness out."

(via Boing Boing) architecture nifty usa 0


Tourist Remover is an online photo utility which, when given several photos of a scene, creates a composite photo containing only what appears in all the photos. I.e., if you give it several photos of a busy scene, thanks to the magic of image analysis, it'll give you an eerily empty scene from that point of view.

(via Boing Boing) nifty photography software tech websites 0


Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music, a Flash applet giving a chart of the different genres and subgenres of electronic music, past and present, each with loops from several examples.

<ANORAK> The guide has a few curious anomalies; for example, it includes gothic rock at its most rockist in the "trance" category (presumably because trancy music gets played at today's goth clubs), whilst omitting much of the rest of non-electronic music of the time (the Cocteau Twins, for example, are classified as "darkwave" (or "industrial goth"!)), and while "French pop", "musique concrete" and "minimalism" get mentions, Krautrock is lumped into "psychedelia" along with The Beatles; meanwhile, Milli Vanilli are classified as "new jack swing" (an American movement they had nothing to do with), Laid Back's White Horse is classified as electro-funk rather than punk-funk (given that Laid Back were European and got played mostly in predominantly white mutant-disco sets alongside the likes of The Clash, Ian Dury and The Normal, placing them alongside George Clinton and Roger Troutman may not be the most accurate categorisation; then again, perhaps looking at it from the direction of goth, IDM and post-rave techno (towards which there seems to be a bias), you might not pick up these distinctions), and DFA/LCD Soundsystem-style punk house doesn't seem to appear (except perhaps as a footnote to electroclash, which the author has redubbed as "synthtron", arguably the only possible name dafter than "electroclash"). And there's the matter of a genre of hard dance being named "stupid". </ANORAK>

Nonetheless, it is quite comprehensive, and quite useful if you wanted to know what various genres (such as, say, abstract hip hop, liquid funk, JPop, casiocore, Rio funk, power electronics and buttrock goa), sound like, or are looking for starting points for MP3 downloading CD purchases.

(Incidentally, "buttrock goa" is goa trance with heavy-metal guitar riffs. Heavy metal does seem to have a bit of an anal fixation, doesn't it?)

(via uon) culture electronica genres music nifty 2


JS/UIX; a complete virtual UNIX machine that runs entirely in JavaScript using DHTML. Well, not entirely complete; the realistic-looking executable files in /bin, upon closer inspection, have sizes of 'n/a', and are basically façades for JavaScript pixie dust that does what they are meant to; also, the shell doesn't actually support any scripting commands. However, you can create and access files, and it even has a mostly usable implementation of vi.

(via /.) javascript nifty unix web web toys 0


Lemmings in DHTML/Javascript; a faithful reconstruction of the classic Amiga game, with no Flash/Java involved. Still a work in progress, but impressive as fuck. See it before it's Slashdotted. (via MeFi)

dhtml javascript lemmings nifty web web 2.0 1

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