All entries for Monday 21 November 2005

November 21, 2005

Still Life with Chair Caning

Writing about web page

This is an interesting approach to the online presentation of learning materials. It's a recording of three people discussing a painting by Picasso, while at the same time they have the painting on screen and can use the cursor to move around it. As the discussion goes on, the image changes to show different aspects of the painting and different images and objects to compare parts of the painting to.

It's technically very simple; it was made with Camtasia which is a piece of software designed to record everything that happens on your PC's screen and let you overlay the recording with an audio commentary. So all that the authors had to do to prepare was to make sure they had a series of images lined up, then gather round the screen and talk, pointing things out on the images and moving between the images as they went along. But even though it's technically not complex, it's surprisingly effective. The authors talk about the project on their blog.

I wonder whether there are other disciplines where recording a discussion on top of a series of images would work well. And I also wonder how long it will be before you can download such image/audio combinations straight to your iPod or other media player.

Winter Tales

Writing about web page

Update: seems the web site owners don't want people to link directly to the game, so you now have to go via their home page; the link is at the bottom right of the page.

I have a soft spot for these games where you lay down pieces of pipe or track to make a workable route for water to flow or a train to run or whatever. In this case, appropriately enough given the weather, you're making tracks through the snow for a snowman on skis to travel along. Cute.

My soft spot stems from the fact that way back in nineteen eighty something, I invented (as far as I know) the original one of all these, called Pipe Mania. Since then, the game has appeared on just about every platform known to man in one guise or another, including an arcade game, which is something I'm quite proud of; not many games start out life on home computers and make the transition to the arcades. (It also gave me a surreal moment in Weston-Super-Mare when I walked past an amusement arcade and heard my own music echoing out of the doorway as if to summon me to come and take a look.)

It's a very simple game, requiring little in the way of fancy hardware and even less in the way of programming skills, and for that reason it's a popular choice for people who are just starting out writing games, or for platforms which have limited functionality – PDAs, mobiles, web browsers, etc. There must have been a hundred versions since the original came out, some with cool new features of their own, some just straight copies. It's nice to see something done so long ago having such a great afterlife, and since it made a ridiculous amount of money for me, it seems churlish to begrudge other people their crack at it too.

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