Geekery

As a web developer I find myself challenged with code that is my own and the completely bastardized versions of things that people call code from others all the time. It’s part of the challenge I love and part of what makes me good at what I do.

Recently I was in the #php chatroom of the Ubuntu Servers in IRC and I found myself giving advice to someone looking to provide a shopping-cart like solution to his website. After talking to him for a while, the real problem came out. Apparently, there was a symbol that was appearing in the output file that was not allowing them to easily open it. So, rather than come up with a solution to change the file, they started to look for a ‘shopping cart’ solution.

Once he was convinced that it wasn’t that he needed a new solution, but a new look at his code, this is the conclusion of a long conversation with him:

me: craigbass1976, then start to learn to use php.net and its search functionality.

craigbass1976: Ok, I’m going to go break more stuff. Thanks

me: craigbass1976, and go through the code. It’ll take time. But you’ll learn and understand simultaneously.

craigbass1976 (n=craig@*************************) has left ##php (“Leaving”)

me: Heh… sometimes people just need confidence to break stuff.

It’s amazing to find that people just need the confidence and the reassurance to go ‘break code’ that may cause their application to work properly.

So, the point of this post is:
YOU CAN COPY YOUR FILES AND THEN BREAK THEM

It’s such an important lesson that I even decided to hit the caps lock key.

Breaking code is a huge lesson when it comes to learning how to write code. If you are afraid that you are going to break things, then that may curb you from stepping outside of your bounds. Don’t be afraid to push your limits when it comes to writing code. Use a complicated array in a weird way to find results associated to a weird database.

It’s important to push yourself.

I think that one of the biggest things that can help you is learning how to easily access the search engine of code language of your choice. First of all, this suggestion is for Firefox. Not Internet Explorer.

Here’s one of the tips that has helped me so much:
Setting Keyword Searches

Oh man. This allows you to type simple things in the browser and have it search the location of your choice.

Here’s an example:
Say I wanted to know what the function strstr() did in PHP. I can open Firefox and type in the location bar: php strstr and that’s it. It will immediately take me to here.

This can apply to whatever language you want. I use pgsql for when I am searching for PostgreSQL related things in a similar manner.

Here’s how simple it is.

  1. Go to the website of the language of your choice. In this case, we are going to use http://www.postgresql.org because it is the best database setup ever:
  2. If availabile: find the search box for the site and make sure you select the type of search you want. On some sites this will be selections such as “Function List” or “Online Documentation”. I personally prefer to select the most general search option to ensure the largest number of answers. In our example here, there isn’t a basic choice in the search box.

    Once you have selected your option, right click in the box and select “Add a Keyword for this Search…”:

  3. Now that you have selected the search box. This will bring up the “Add Bookmark” dialogue. Here, you can enter a Name for the search (in this case PostgreSQL Search) and the Keyword for this search (pgsql).
  4. Click on the “Add” button.
  5. Enjoy. Try entering the following into your address bar pgsql drop column and you will see that you will be brought to here. It’s as easy as:

Now you can easily access the search engine of the language of your choice and you can plow through code and easily search what it is you’re really looking for. Hopefully this will be helpful to those that are trying to learn how to write code or trying to learn a different language.

Ultimately though: this applies for anyone looking to ease their browsing experience.

Now that you have easy access to the documentation you need, you can go about breaking stuff. Start at the top of the code and work your way down. When you come to something you don’t understand, fire up your browser and start searching. Having the keyword search available at a whim will save you a ton of time. It will also allow you to minimize the time spent away from your code. The more you trudge, the further you’ll get. Eventually you’ll start to learn simple bits and pieces about the code in front of you and the results you see on the screen.

It will take time, but patience and perseverance will pay off in the end.

That’s it for now. If you enjoyed this post, then you should consider subscribing to my RSS feed.

Geekery

Well everyone. It’s been quite a few days so I expect that you all are awaiting part 2 of the Ubuntu / Open Source game review. I apologize for the delay but my girlfriend, Bonnie has had a huge women’s policy event to plan for. The amount of work and dedication needed to help plan and organize an event of this nature is enormous and would take it’s toll upon anyone. So, I’ve done my best to be there for her. But, that aside: everything is now well.

So, without further adieu, here it is!

Last time we went over how to install games using the wonderful operating system known as Ubuntu. We also went over the first 3 games in the list of games that are easily accessible with the Ubuntu operating system: Abuse, Adonthell – Waste’s Edge and Airstrike.

Now that you know how easy it is to install the games, you can follow along with the next few games in the review:

AisleRiot Solitaire (Homepage)
While you may have played solitaire on Windows, you have never seen a solitaire program as flexible as this. There are a number of different card solitaire games to choose from. You can play games from Gay Gordons to Beleaguered Castle and enjoy everything in between. This is a very flexible and diversified solitaire card playing program.

Alien Arena (Homepage)
Version 6.10 of this game has gotten a lot of attention from different publications (read as here and here, and so on). Even though it offers different types of gameplay such as CTF (capture the flag) and AOA (all out assault), it really doesn’t deliver anything spec-tickley-taculour. I’m just being honest from a game playing point of view. While the graphics are pretty well done and scale well for better systems more than some other games, Alien Arena just doesn’t pack enough unidentified flying punch to make it extremely worthwhile. Here’s a screenshot of one of the aliens about to be creamed:

Ultimately, if you are looking for some open source multiplayer action that is akin to other FPS games, then maybe Alien Arena is for you. However, don’t expect to find anything extraordinary from this well designed FPS.

Overall, I would say that Alien Arena is good if you are looking to play some medium to fast paced first person shooter type games. But if you’re looking for the game that will blow your socks off, Alien Arena is not for you.

Anagramarama (Homepage)
If you couldn’t tell from the name, this game is all about anagrams. As such, this is a game for those who are fond of coming up with words given a set of letters (think Boggle). The game itself is pretty small and doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles. However, the sound that it makes when you have an incorrect answer is exceptionally annoying. There aren’t really any options for the game so you just play as hard as your lexicon of a brain will let you.

Also, if you have ever been a fan of the popular Yahoo game Text Twist, then this game will be right up your alley. However, this author prefers the Yahoo version in this case.

As you can see by the screen shot, there’s nothing new here:

However, if you like word games and you want to waste a few minutes, this game might be for you.

Angry, Drunken Dwarves (angrydd) (Homepage)
Well, this one happens to be a revamp, but it’s pretty damned fun and it’s got loads of originality. One of the first things you’ll notice about this game is the description that is given for the installation of the game. Here’s an excerpt:

“In Angry, Drunken Dwarves, you are an angry, drunken dwarf. Why are you so angry? Who knows. But you’ve decided to take your aggression out on other dwarves, by dropping gems on their heads. Lots of gems.”

If you’ve ever played Dr. Mario or Super Puzzle Fighter, then you will probably like this game. It even allows for two player action if you are using a USB game pad or if you don’t mind getting cozy with your opponent on the same keyboard. Like I said though, the originality of the game is sorta what gives it some flare. Just as an example. Here’s the mug of one of the characters: Ogi Hammeraxe.

Here’s a great excerpt from his description:

“He once punched this other dwarf in the face just for laughing after he accidentally rhymed while explaining the function of he hammer.”

The different dwarves drop different types of crystals on their opponents when they get combinations.

I wish the originality and graphics would have worked their way into the gameplay however as it is a bit drab. Not to mention the fact that the “original music” is tolerable at best. Here’s a screen of that gameplay:

Match colors to make big gems. Make the gems go boom. Other guy gets gems dropped on their screen. Rinse, repeat.

However, in comparison, here is it’s competitor Super Puzzle Fighter:

The use of animated characters with the voice acting (albeit somewhat annoying voice acting) adds enough flare to make this game more worthwhile. Hopefully we’ll see more in a later release of angrydd.

Akhart (Homepage)
Okay, so this isn’t really a game per say, but more of a framework for those interested in developing games… in 2003. Since it was part of the menu of games that were possible to install, I decided to give it a try. I loaded up the game and adventurously clicked on the ‘Histoire’ menu button to find out a bit about the game. Okay, there’s a world, some people… oh god:

“They where [sic] the owners of a powerful yet wise knowledge.”

Yea, I pretty much stopped reading there.

I clicked on the Options button… no luck there. Hmmm… how about the Multi button? Nope, nothing there. Okay, single player here I come. The arrow keys move you forward, not backward, and you can turn. Oh, and the mousewheel works. That’s about it here folks. It’s also worth mentioning that it is a HUGE resource hog on my humble laptop. Here’s a screen shot of all its wonder:

Yes, I tried clicking on the NPC(?) next to me to see if anything happened. No, nothing did. I don’t think anyone will be writing a game using this framework anytime soon. But, who knows?

Well there we have it. That’s it for part 2 of the Ubuntu (Open Source) game review. Subscribe to my RSS feed and check out the Ubuntu (Open Source) Games Review – Part 3!

Geekery

One of the things that I have learned to do, to live with my girlfriend, is adopt some games to play as part of my life. This allows me to cool down or relax after hard days work. It also allows me to reflect on what has happened during the day as the game puts me in a state of mind that is complimentary to letting everything slip away. It also gives me something to do while she is working on changing the world.

Considering both her and I run the wonderful Linux distro known as Ubuntu, I thought it was only suitable that I would find my relaxation in a game that might be accessible through the distribution. Considering I come from the background of an old PC gamer, (old read as ‘Jumpman‘) I figured that it would be easy to find a game I enjoyed.

Throughout the years, I have enjoyed games from The Heist on the Commodore 64, to Super Dodge Ball on the Nintendo Entertainment System. From Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold on the 386 to Gears of War on the 360. In other words: I like to consider myself an experienced gamer.

However, most of the reviews that I have read for open source games are more focused on comparing them to the hottest PC and console games. The other reviews are simply limiting the selected games to a certain genre or even just one game. Since Ubuntu comes with very easy to use installation tools for games, I thought that I would be able to find the game that was right for me. However, after downloading, installing, playing and uninstalling many games I have come to one conclusion: there should have been a better guide to let me know if these games were even worth learning how to play.

So, now that I have gone through this process, I have decided to take this guess work out of your hands and bring you the ultimate guide for Ubuntu (or open source) games.

Please Note: this guide is meant for those running Ubuntu. While the games listed in this guide may be easily accessible through other operating systems, this particular guide was written by a user of the Ubuntu distro.

So, first thing is first. How do you start installing your new games? I will state, yet again, that this guide was made for those using an Ubuntu distro of Linux. Considering that: this guide will contain steps that are familiar to users of that operating system. Now that I have repeated myself, I can go ahead with the first steps of the guide:

Getting Games Installed
Before you can start enjoying the many games that are offered in the open source realm, you have to familiarize yourself with the installation process. Unlike Windows, Ubuntu offers a very easy interface to start installing and playing brand new games on your computer.

  1. The very first step is to click on the “Applications” link in the top left corner of your screen:
  2. Then select Add/Remove.
  3. You will now be presented with the wonderfully easy interface for installing new software. To make this guide complete, we are going to be looking at all of the games that are available. To do this, you will want to be sure you are browsing all of the games available. Near the top right you’ll see a down arrow next to “Supported Applications”. Click there.
  4. Select “All Available Applications.
  5. The installation manager may take a moment to update with all of the new applications. Then you can select “Games” from the categories on the left.
  6. Now you can select which games you would like to install by clicking the box next to the game.

Now you’re all set! You can select multiple games and then click on the “Apply Changes” button. It will confirm which games you want to install, and then you can sit back and let the installation manager download and install your new game. It really is that easy!

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for, the game reviews! There are SO many games that are available through this method so it will take quite some time to complete the list. However, I will try to include as many games as possible in each part. Since this is the introductory article, we will start with the first 3 games on the list.

Abuse
This is a shoot ’em up side scrolling game that delivers about as much excitement as one would expect from a side scrolling game that places you in the futuristic year of 2009. The introduction consists of a graphic of you, Nick Vrenna, holding a smoking gun and looking very much like the female version of Predator from the movies.

Within the first moments of the game I was attacked by a giant UFO shooting missiles. Then I descended down a hole into an underground… area… and there were a bunch of werewolf, looking, things followed by some explosions on the screen from my awkwardly aiming predator-girl-sprite-man-thing. It turns out that if you shoot the werewolves, they explode into a few pieces. Oh, and there are random blinking things and walls that also explode violently when shot.

I tried the multiplayer aspect out. Luckily it exited the game when I ended the LAN with myself because I was about to stab my right eye with a spoon for yearning of a feeling other than this.

Here’s a screenshot of the cross hair that I attempted to aim with and some pieces of a werewolf exploding. I am the brownish blob in the middle. The pieces of werewolves are the reddish-brown blobs flying around me.

While this game may have had some saving graces back in the day, they certainly are not evident right now. I might consider playing this game again if I am bored. However, you can find better side scrolling action in online Flash games that put this game to shame.

Adonthell – Waste’s Edge (Homepage)
The description given of this game in the installation manager is this:

“A 2D graphical RPG game inspired by good old console RPGs like the ones on the SNES. This package contains the Adonthell engine. You’ll also need a game to be able to play. For this release, the official game is Waste’s Edge, found in the package adonthell-data.”

We’ll have to take their word for it. As the game would not run once installed. Should you feel inspired by such an amazing description of the game: you can check out their website to get this game going for you.

Airstrike
If you ever enjoyed the Intellivision back in the day, then you probably remember the awesome two player game Biplanes.

If not, there is a review of the game from GameSpot here. The premise is simple: blue plane vs red plane. This game is meant to be played with another person on the same computer as the AI on the default enemy is hilarious. The game has been updated a bit with new graphics and new obstacles but it is the same old dogfight. The controls are simple enough and the game play is not too fast paced. Overall, this game would be a good one to enjoy with a kid present, or maybe one of your old buddies who used to sit on the floor next to you staring up at the awesomeness that was Biplane.

Here is a shot of that dirty Red Baron being annihilated by the center, rotating, cannon… of death:

Well that’s it for part 1 of the reviews. Since you know how to install the games now, I will be able to include a larger number of games in the next part.

If you liked this part, please subscribe to my RSS feed to be sure you don’t miss out on the Ubuntu (Open Source) Games Review – Part 2.