Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life











{October 25, 2014}   Video game players and Gamers are different things

Even though the Wikipedia defines “gamer” as “someone who partakes in interactive gaming, such as (predominantly) video games or board games”, this doesn’t really gets close to that term means socially at the moment. Going back to Wikipedia, we find that the video game subculture is “a form of new media subculture that has been influenced by video games”, so it might be quite accurate to define gamers as members of that subculture. You will find that most of the uses of the term “gamer” in the social networks and in the blogosphere refer to that. Please notice that, even though it is quite likely that most of the gamers play video games, the other way round does not need to be true and, in fact, it isn’t. Not everyone who plays video games belongs to the video game subculture, shares their point of view, their values and aesthetics, or even know about it. Kind of like what happens with the word “hacker”. Not everyone who hacks around with a computer belongs to the hacker subculture.

Mostly everyone who has access to the technology plays video games now. From babies and kids to grandparents. And people play them in every possible technological system around, not only on video game consoles or personal computers, but alse on mobile phones, tablets, web browsers. And many of those people who use different kind of technologies to play video games are not gamers. Not in the sense of belonging to the video game subculture. It is important to acknowledge that: that the video game subculture does not have the monopoly over video games or the video game developing industry anymore.

As you can imagine, all this rand doesn’t come from nowhere. During the last months, we have been witnessing a fight between some conservative core members of the video game subculture and people who want to bring some fresh air into the sociocultural elements of that subculture. Namely, that women shouldn’t be discriminated inside it. As every time that a women raises her voice to complain about anything in the Internet, they have been subjected to insults, attacks, rape and death threats, etc. I’m talking about something called #GamerGate, and even though I’m not going to get into it, I will provide some URLs in case someone might be interested. Please acknowledge that not all the points of view might be represented in this list (in fact, they are not, as I won’t be promoting in my blog things that I severely disagree with), so search the web for more information if you want to get that.

I’ve never been a gamer myself, meaning part of the subculture I mentioned. At some point I was probably closer tho the core values they had then than I am now. In any case, video games have already consolidated themselves as an important part of current culture, entertainment, education and socialization, and are definitely here to stay. That will probably mean that the percentage of gamers (members of the video game subculture) will become smaller. as the number of non-gamer video game players keeps raising.



{January 18, 2014}   Löve is a changing project

 

 

I have just uploaded a newer version of Löve to Debian, 0.9.0. As usual, this version breaks compatibility with the API of previous versions. Literally: “LÖVE 0.9.0 breaks compatibility with nearly every 0.8.0 game“. It’s a hard to fix situation from a package maintainer’s point of view, at least until they agree on a stable API, hopefully in a 1.0 version sometime. Löve has been in Debian official repositories since 2008.

As major changes, we can see that it’s using SDL2 and LuaJIT now. Depending on where the bottlenecks were in some of the demos and games, the performance might have improved a lot. The improvements have been a lot, and the structure of the API is more consistent and clean. Congratulations to everyone that has made it possible.

On the bitter part, well, most of the previous games and demos will most likely not work any more without some changes in the code. As we don’t have any reverse dependencies in the archive (yet), this won’t cause any severe problems. But, of course, Debian is not an isolated island, and people might need to execute some old code without being able to migrate it.

I have prepared some packages for older versions of Löve that might make the situation more bearable for some, until code is migrated to the new API. These versions can be co-installed with the latest version in the archive (0.9.0). I’m not sure if it will be needed, but if it was, I might consider putting previous 0.8 version in the official repositories. I would prefer not to do it, though, as that would make me the de facto maintainer of the upstream code, as Löve community is moving forwards with newer versions.



{September 13, 2013}   Pink Pony: a 3D multiplayer Tron-like racing game, with ponies

The first time I found this cute game, was around 2009, but for a bunch of reasons I haven’t been able to get it into the archive until now. Pink Pony is a cute game in which you have to control a pink pony who’s main goal is to last in the game more time than the other ponies. You might remember the game Tron, or the film, in which there were light cycles who left a trace behind, with which the other cycles crashed. Well, this is the similar game concept, only with cute ponies instead of light cycles. You can see a video of the game in action, if you want to get a feeling of how it is.

Thomas Weber (Ginko), has published a newer version of the game (1.3.1) a couple of days ago, and that is the one that has entered Debian repositories (sid) today. Thanks, Ginko, for this lovely game!

Even though the game might not seem too appealing for some of the adult users of Debian or Ubuntu, maybe some of their kids will like it as much as I do. The game is quite quick, though, so very young kids might have trouble controlling the pony. I would suspect it might be all right for kids above 9 years old, but I haven’t been able to test my hypothesis, so if you find out, please tell me :)



{September 03, 2013}   pySioGame: Educational activities and games for kids

I discovered pySioGame for the first time in the first half of 2012, and even though it was still in a beta state, I liked it a lot. pySioGame is essentially a set of educational activities and games for kids.

pySioGame was initially developed by its author -Ireneusz Imiolek- for his son, but he soon decided to make it Free Software. And I’m glad that he did, because it’s a very cute application.

Even though -in it’s author’s own words- it’s hard to put age range on this kind of games, it is primarily targeted to children from as young as 3 years old, up to about 10 years old. The activities included, many of which are grid based, cover topics like maths, reading, writing, painting, and memory activities, among others.

I was finally able to upload pySioGame to Debian during the DebConf, and it has very recently hit the archive. I’m convinced that pySioGame is soon going to be one of the references among the free programs for small kids, among titles such as GCompris, ChildsPlay, PySyCache, or Bouncy. Or, even though it’s not in the archives, Omnitux.

Finally, to whet your appetite, here is the link to a video, and there go some screenshots:

 

 



{July 04, 2012}   Scratch in Debian

Scratch has finally reached Debian repositories. Scratch is a programming learning environment created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab designed to be accessible by young learners (over 8 years old). Scratch makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art through a visual interface based on blocks. Thus, beginners can get results without having to learn to write syntactically correct code first. It is powerful enough to have even been adopted as an entry-level computer language in computer science programs at different universities.

Scratch makes use of pieces of code embedded in different blocks that are shaped like puzzle pieces. That way, programming consists on putting different blocks together, which gives immediate visual feedback to the programmer about the correctness of the syntax: If the pieces fit together, then the expression is valid. Scratch programming system is so nice and easy that has been the inspiration of other systems such as MIT App Inventor or Google Blocky.

Scratch animations consist of sprites that are animated by dragging the corresponent blocks into the Scripts area of the Scratch interface. Multiple sprites can be created and interact with one another. Each of the sprites can have different looks (called “costumes” in Scratch). You can use built-in sprites, load them from files, or draw your own using a drawing tool integrated in the environment.

Scratch itself is coded in Squeak, a Smalltalk implementation derived from Smalltalk-80.

The Scratch 1.4 source went GPLv2 on March, but there were some incompatibilites with the Squeak Virtual Machine currently in Wheezy that had to be resolved first. Luckily we were able to solve them, with the help of the Scratch and the Squeak guys, so I’m happy to say that Scrach is finally available from Debian repositories.

Note: If any Scratch derivatives (such as BYOB or Panther) also need to be ported to the current version of Squeak, they should have a look at the comments in the Scratch ITP, and especially to the script uploaded by Bert Freudenberg, that replaces 90 indexed primitive declarations (removed in later versions of Squeak VM) with their named counterpart.

Note 2: This wouldn’t have been possible without all the great work and effort made by Amos Blanton and many others. Lots of thanks!



{November 19, 2011}   3D Puzzle Game: Phlipple

You might remember the action puzzle game Zaz. Well, we now have a new puzzle game from the same author (Remigiusz ‘mal1ce’ Dybka), called Phlipple.  The goal of the game is to reduce a 3D shape to a single square in each level, removing squares by flipping edges around, like you would do in a cardboard box. The Free/Open source version of the game, including 50 levels, is now available in Debian, in case that you want to give it a chance. You can watch the promo video in Youtube if you want to have a better idea of what the game looks like. I hope that you like it, I do :)

Here are some screenshots of the game:

Screenshot of the gameScreenshot of the gameScreenshot of the game



{October 04, 2011}   Periodic Calendar in Debian

Periodic Calendar, a GPL’ed GUI application, coded in Java that helps keeping track of women menstrual cycles and predict fertility periods, has just entered Debian. This information can be used as supportive either for conception or contraception planning.

This program (pcalendar in Debian) is by far more complete than mencal (a simple menstruation calendar that can be run in the console) or cycle (a windowed calendar that can calculate stuff based on the length of the cycle or on statistics of previous periods), and provides support for BBT and sympto-thermal methods, which have the highest reliability in fertility periods prediction. User can thus choose any subset of the features to be used or even fall to the generic calendar method (which if used alone is very unreliable).

 

Screenshot of Periodic Calendar

Keep in mind, though, that -as the authors of the program insist on- Periodic Calendar is NOT an equal substitute to the fertility planning consultants or doctors, and methods used are not 100% effective. It’s a useful program, anyway.

I’ve also translated the program into Spanish, made some cute icons and added MIME support so that data files can be easily open from the desktop.



{August 30, 2011}   Fantastic Park 2011 is over

On the 26th of June I wrote that I wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere this summer (including DebConf 11), because I was going to be teaching lots of things related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to a bunch of kids. That was a bit more than two months ago. On the 27th of June we started the first edition of Fantastic Park with a lot of enthusiasm, and hoping that the kids participating could get in touch to the ICT world while having fun. After all, it was summer holidays.

The results have not only more than fulfilled our expectations but, from what their parents tell, we have also been able to overcome what the children were expecting. It was somehow encouraging to know that the kids were telling their parents to get up half an hour earlier (heh, sorry for them, but that’s what being a parent is about, isn’t it?), to be able to start as soon as they could, and also to make them wait until the last minute for going back home.

These four editions have involved more than two months of work (280 hours), and 82 kids have taken part on it (57 boys and 25 girls). There have also been visits to different companies that work on the field of ICT (32 in total), and there was an important number of other people collaborating (thanks to all of them). Finally, the last edition of the Park has ended yesterday.

Along these weeks, the kids have been able to get acquainted with a lot of different things, such as robotics (using Lego WeDo), digital photography and photo edition (using Pinta), Free Software, satellites, GPS or learning to code with Scratch. It has been very intensive and I’m almost exhausted, but I’m also quite sad that it’s over. Hopefully some of these children might have developed an interest in this field, and who knows what might come out of it.

If somebody is interested in the daily activities at the Park, we have been writing a blog with daily entries (in Spanish, sorry). We have also published quite a lot of photos of the activities. Of course, needless is to say that I’m really happy to have taken part on it, and that the kids participating were simply great. I’ll miss them.



{June 26, 2011}   I won’t be able to attend DebConf this year

I haven’t blogged for a while, because I’ve been doing so many things that I scarcely had time nor will for it. Among all those things, and during the weekends of the last few months, we have been teaching kids (8-12 y.o.) about computers, Free Software and technology. Those kids are great, very intelligent, very motivated, and very funny to be with. I miss them a bit after the program has ended. In any case, I’ve been given the chance to teach some more kids during summer weekdays, and I’m really looking forward to it. The downside of this is that I won’t have any summer holidays and, thus, I finally won’t be able to attend DebConf 11 in Banja Luka, which was something I was also looking forward too. But, even though that’s something  I’d really love to do, one cannot be in two places at the time, so this year I finally won’t be able to attend DebConf either. Have lots of fun! I’ll miss you! :)

In case you want to know more about all of this (sorry, links are in Spanish):

Oh, and to show you what I’m exchanging you for (nothing personal):

Photo of the official presentation, with the parents and the kidsPhoto of all the kids in Campus TICPhoto of all the kids in Yo ProgramoPhoto of the kids in my group of Campus TICKids in Campus TIC working with their computersTeam group of my kids in Campus TICGroup photo of the kids in my group, in Campus TICKids in Campus TIC working with Lego WeDo robots

I wouldn’t like to end this post without thanking all the kids from both Campus TIC and Yo Programo for being so cool, and also to welcome the kids from Fantastic Park, in case any of them -or their parents- are reading.

Oh, and all of you who attend DebConf this year, have a lot of fun! :)



{September 12, 2010}   Gnash 0.8.8 in Debian Squeeze

Gnash 0.8.8 was released on the 23rd of August, a bit more than two weeks after the freeze. There are very important features in this new release that made 0.8.8 by far a better option than buggy 0.8.7 for Squeeze:

Today, the Release Team has unblocked 0.8.8-2, which has already reached Testing, so I’m proud to announce that Squeeze will be released with latest Gnash. Thanks guys!




about

This is a personal webpage that belongs to Miriam Ruiz.
If you want to contact her, you can do at:
webmistress(at)miriamruiz(dot)es.

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