August 6, 2010

Community Submitted Road Trips


Yesterday, I drove 13 hours from Augusta, GA to Muncie, IN. Today, I will be driving about 6 hours from Muncie to Elgin, IL for a wedding this weekend. And on Monday, I’ll be driving 17 hours from Elgin back to Augusta. This is the longest solo road trip that I’ve ever taken, and it’s been loads of fun (with the exception of some creepy backroad detours I wound up taking).

What I’m curious about though, is if there is any interest in developing a user submitted website for road trip details? For instance, if you’ve traveled from Atlanta to Chicago before, you could post details of any sites you saw, mileage, advice, etc. I used to abhor GPS devices, but then I decided to get the Navigon software for iPhone and I’m a believer. With the exception of losing 30 minutes due to detours (which could have been avoided had I purchased the Live Traffic package, but I’m a cheapskate), it was perfect.

For instance, this is the basic outline of my road trip up to Muncie:

  1. Departed from Augusta at 10:30 AM.
  2. About 15 minutes later, I entered South Carolina, the second of eight states that I’d be traveling through.
  3. Got off I-20 onto US-25, drove for maybe an hour to highway 121, about another hour in, got onto I-26W.
  4. Along the way, I found Trenton BBQ, which I had previously heard about but was uncertain where it was.
  5. Passed a pawnshop, considered purchasing a gun and picking up on the way back.
  6. Followed I-26W all the way to Asheville. Along the way, I encountered a very heavy storm, absolutely torrential sheets, could hardly see 30 feet in front of me. Also entered North Carolina, three states down.
  7. Stopped for lunch outside of Asheville, right off I75. Somewhat seedy area, but Burger King was great. Been traveling for about 4 hours now.
  8. Taking I75 for a loooong time. Entered Tennessee, fourth state of eight. Hit another thunderstorm outside of Knoxville, even worse than the one in Asheville. Not only was there torrential downpours for 30 minutes, I was also in a hotspot for lightning strikes. I had one bolt hit probably not even 100 feet away.
  9. Entering Kentucky, state number five! While heading down I75, I briefly considering detouring to Elizabethtown (I love the movie and I’ve always wanted to go there, even though it wasn’t actually filmed there), but it was around 80 miles out of the way and would’ve added on an extra hour or so. I decided to save some gas.
  10. Around 7, I stopped in Berea (home of Berea College) and visited the Traveler’s Artisan Center. Talk about a lush rest area. I wish more states had places like these…
  11. Passed through Lexington. Saw a lot of horses in the area, but not a single blade of bluegrass… also saw an Amish commune.
  12. Crossed the Ohio River into Indiana, state number six, but promptly entered Ohio (my birth state!) after maybe 20 miles. Stopped at a Wendy’s. Travel time so far is around 10 hours.
  13. I somehow made the mistake of setting my GPS to take me along the backcountry highways through Ohio to Muncie, rather than continuing on the interstate. I did see a gorgeous sunset though, smelled lots of manure, saw the Coney Fair, but then I hit Oxford, Ohio.
  14. Oxford is home to Miami College and headquarters for some of the biggest Greeks (Delta Zeta is one of them, and Sigma Chi Phi). Since school hadn’t started yet, it was dead. I was sticking with US-27, but the straight and narrow was completely closed. The GPS recalculated a route for me, but it took me along some of the creepiest backroads ever. The small towns I passed through would have made Stephen King proud.
  15. Finally got back on 27 after about 30 minutes of detours. Took that and I-70 up to Highway 3, which I took straight into Muncie. Arrived around 11:30 PM, for a total driving time of 13 hours and 674 miles.

Anyways, I think it would be a lot of fun to establish a website containing stories of people’s road trips, utilizing the Google Maps API. This way, people planning to go somewhere could have an idea of some places to stop, things to see, things to avoid, etc. If anybody thinks this is a good idea or would want to help spread the word, get it started, help with programming, etc., lemme know in the comments or email.

July 20, 2010

Lack of Updates

Tuwiuwokia - Haven Wikia

My apologies to the handful of readers for the lack of updates recently. I’ve been slaving away at another project, a new wiki for the TV show Haven. It’s a supernatural/sci-fi thriller a la the X-Files, Buffy, or Fringe, featuring a seemingly innocent town that harbors some mysterious people with strange powers.

I discovered the show quite by accident: even though new episodes air on the SyFy channel, USA happened to be re-airing the series premiere a few days after it aired on SyFy. Seeing as how I only have basic cable which doesn’t include SyFy, I was glad that USA was airing it as well. At first, I didn’t really get what was going on, so I sort of tuned out, but after the first 15 minutes or so it caught my attention – a sign of a good show. I wanted to find out more info on it, so I Googled “haven wiki” and found nothing. After checking IMDB, I found out that the show had only premiered a few weeks ago (July 9th), so obviously there wouldn’t be any wikis yet. And seeing as how I enjoy wikis a lot and have always wanted to start one, this was a perfect chance for me.

Now it’s been 11 days since the premiere and the second episode has aired, with a new one slated for Friday. I’ve already got the basic stuff set up on the wiki… a few character pages, an episode page for the first episode, some pictures, etc. The name Tuwiuwokia comes from a line in the show about the Migmaw word for “haven” or “haven for God’s orphans”, which is “tuwiuwok.” Setting up a wiki truly is grueling work though. My congratulations go out to the admins of the popular wikis like Wikipedia, Lostpedia, Memory-Alpha, and others – I know your pain now. I would love to get some help developing the site and I could also use some authors… so if you’ve seen the show and like it, hop on over and lend a hand!

Areas that need development:

  • Better site logo – the current one (pictured here) is a crapjob I did in Illustrator. I don’t have a good hand when it comes to logos, so I need a creative person to design one.
  • Episode summaries – I’ve done Welcome to Haven, but haven’t done one for Butterfly yet. As more episodes air, I’ll need more authors to keep up with everything.
  • Character pages – both major and minor, along with the corresponding actors.
  • Site development/design. I have a few infoboxes that I’ve designed (using Lostpedia as a guideline for the styling, thanks!), but I probably need more templates. A custom skin wouldn’t hurt either… but that’s far out of my coding skill.

SyFy has ordered 13 episodes for the first season, but I’m hoping it won’t go the way of Firefly or Gilligan’s Island and disappear from television despite the fan base. Of course, I’m hoping that Haven will also develop a good fanbase as well, otherwise I’ll have spent the last two weeks coding and typing and snapping screenshots in vain. So help a fellow author out and log in or sign up over at Tuwiuwokia!

July 12, 2010

App Review – Fruit Ninja

Fruit Ninja App Store link

Fruit Ninja

Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Category: Games
Price: $0.99 USD
Version reviewed: 1.3 (iOS 4.0 tested)

- “I’m slicing fruit with my fingers!”

- “This game is so addicting, I just can’t stop playing!”

Those are two quotes that I’ve heard from people who have sampled the app on my iPhone. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite games to play on the iPhone.

Main Screen

Teaser
You play as a fruit crazed ninja (I prefer to think of myself as a vegan monkey ninja) who is tasked with slicing fruit as it is thrown in the air. You must hone your skills so that you can accurately chop each fruit as you see it. Think quickly enough, and you can get combos of multiple fruits, doubling the amount scored. But beware, the master samurai will sometimes throw you bombs, often with fruit mixed in, along with a rare fruit worth 50 points! Fulfill the quests he gives you and unlock new blades and new backgrounds. Slice quickly enough, and you might find yourself the new master samurai. Failure to strike quickly and accurately will yield you a week of scrubbing fruit goop off the walls and floors.

Bomb fruit!

Summary
There are two game modes: Classic and Zen Mode.

In Classic, you have an unlimited amount of time to slice and dice, but drop any more than three fruits and you lose! It also gets tricky when you hear a fuse burning and a bomb is thrown in the air. While the fuse runs forever, if you accidentally hit it you lose! This is easy at first when there is only a bomb in the air, but it gets tougher when two, three, or four bombs are thrown up with a fruit or two in between. You’ll have to use precise surgical cuts to get that fruit without knicking the bombs.

In Zen mode, you’re given 90 seconds to chop as much fruit as possible. You can drop as many as you like, and best of all, there’s none of those pesky bombs! Think of it more as target practice, a chance to practice timing your cuts to get the most fruit in a single slice.

Combo descriptions

Sensei's description of fruit combos

Features
Just so you don’t waste your time chopping fruit and getting bored, the game also includes several unlockable items found in the Sensei’s dojo. These don’t do anything to upgrade your sword chopping prowess, they’re merely for aesthetic appeal. Currently, these are just different sword effects and backgrounds. Still, by setting a goal, it keeps you coming back for more. Any action you do in either classic or Zen mode counts toward achieving these items, with the exception of the “I Heart Sensei” background which must be unlocked in classic mode. Critical hits seem to be random, but I think there’s some secret to it. I tend to get them often during the first six fruits in classic mode. There’s also a rare fruit, which is of course, rare. It’s a spiky pineapple looking thing that travels across the screen, from right to left (at least it did the one time I got it). Slice it, and you’ll be rewarded with 50 points. For a touch of humor, the Sensei tells you your best combo in Zen mode and gives it a description, i.e. tasty, fruit basket, or Banana Cake.

Tips

Timing is the key to a high score! The fruits launch at different speeds and fall at different speeds, so the goal is to wait until as many as possible are in a line and slice. This can be in any direction – up, down, diagonally, left, right, arc, whatever you want so long as it’s a single swipe. Playing with the sound on is a good way to be aware of when the bombs are coming up. You’ll hear a gear ticking noise right before the bomb is tossed up. Keep an eye on the bottom of the screen too. Sometimes there’ll be a fruit hidden in a combo that you miss. A couple of extra frantic swipes never hurts.

iPhone 4 Compatibility

The game runs perfectly, although the graphics don’t yet take advantage of the new Retina display. There’s no multi-tasking support either, but the game does save itself if the app is terminated.

Conclusion

Fruit Ninja is a very entertaining game that is fun for anyone. At $0.99, it’s a steal. You’ll get endless hours of fun out of it and you’ll have your friends begging you to let them play it. It would be nice if they implemented sword/character upgrades, i.e. increased chances for critical hits and additional lives. While the graphics already look great, Retina-enabled graphics would be stunning. Overall, a resounding two thumbs up!

UPDATE: Halfbrick just released a minor upgrade, v 1.3.1. Two new blades have been added, Old Glory and Butterfly. Some bug fixes were also applied. Retina display support is said to be coming very soon along with an unveiling of “Mystery Mode”. An iPad version is also in the works.

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