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Blog 11/4/06

I forget just how long it takes to administer a website. Mind you, I have an automatic web site builder. All I have to do is just cut and paste the text into the appropriate area, push one button, and everything's automatic. Unfortunately, the sifting of materials and making sure that all the materials are in the right place takes a while. So, updating the website takes a while.

Add to that, the fact that I update the website rarely (I have unreliable Internet connection), means that the whole job piled up into one big mess. So, this update takes a few hours.

If you think that it would have taken much longer doing it manually, then you're wrong. Even using Notepad, I can convert upwards 50 pages/day. It's not the HTML convertion. It's the data generation and organization.

Note on the Under Construction pages: I know since the web is continually changing, I don't have to put that there, or if I do, I should at least put a deadline date. But I'm using it for placeholder right now. Transparent web planning, so to speak.

Blog 10/21/06

How to be Successful

You know how to be successful, right? All you need is a great big idea, and you have it made. In fact, ideas are dime a dozen. Most computer programmer will tell you that it is in implementation that is the key to successful enterprise. I say: "Hogwash!"

In fact, you need 4 elements to be successful:
1. Idea: Of course you need a great big idea. That's not too hard to find. Most people I know have ideas one kind or another. But you need to have more than just an idea; you need a GREAT BIG idea! Most successful people know at least one. Why "at least" one? Because I have about a dozen or so myself. About another 20 or 30 "good" ideas, and dozens of "so-so" idea. Ideas are really cheap for creative people, and I'm not the only one.

2. Implementation: This is how well the idea is worked into reality. Even great ideas have been destroyed through faulty implementation. One of the most disappointing products is Ubisoft's Sudoku game for Sony PSP. It has this annoying bug of reminding the user to charge the device whenever the battery is low. This disrupts the game process! Better is to design the game so that if, for some reason, the power got interrupted, the game is saved and be resumed later on without too much traceback.

3. Marketing: Even the best games can fail with improper marketing. Let's say you have a cartoon-like game. The audience for this game happens to be adult. Now, there has been a segment for adult animated industry, but unless this message got reinforced very, very strongly, the game will market to a wrong demographic and will fail. Marketing isn't the same as demographic. Take for example "My First ABC" program. The user demographic for this program is 5 year olds. The marketing effort should focus on their parents. Even if it is a great educational program, marketing it to computer game stores where parents do not usually browse is just a waste of time and money.

4. Audience: Or user demographic. This is frequently neglected by anyone except the industries executives. In fact, those executives are probably incapable of doing anything but this. They certainly don't have the daring-do to create a completely new computer game. But they know their market cold. They know how big a market is and whether or not a product, if well implemented and marketed, can succeed. It is a wise developer to listen to these people, if not for their technical skills, at least for their user attunement. Those who lost it will probably bring down the company. Remember Atari's ill-fated ET? It's not that it's a bad game, but that the potential audience was greatly over-estimated.

Let's take a couple products and analyze their successfulness quotient with these principles.

Segway: A great idea, and Dean Kamen's implementation cannot be faulted. This is as close to a magical carpet as possible! As far as marketing is concerned, you cannot beat "Good Morning America" show! Where product fails is in the Audience. There are several problems that cannot be overcome by Engineering alone. 1. Lack of parking space. We have trouble finding bicycle rack enough, but Segway rack? Is there such a thing? 2. Lack of route. How often do you see "No motorized vehicle on sidewalk?" You cannot take Segway anywhere! 3. Lack of support. Why should people buy this expensive thing when a Golf cart can carry more cargo and has better industry support? The places where Segway has been successful tend to be places where these problems have been overcome. Airports, Malls, and other closed facilities, where you can use and park Segways, but Golf carts are overkill.

Deer Hunter: Good idea, and well-implemented. A lot of people attributed the success to marketing, but I think not. It isn't Wal-Mart distribution that makes the product successful. After all, Wal-Mart carries a lot of products, and they're not all successful. The success of this product lies in clever Audience identification. They are not targeting Hunters, or Computer Gamers. They are targeting people who want to give Christmas present to Hunters, but balked at packaging 25 lbs of blackpowder keg under the Christmas tree. So, they look for inexpensive gifts and when price is a concern, Wal-Mart is King! So they market it to Wal-Mart and have a very, very successful program.

Blog 10/9/06

I think I will get me a Nintendo DS Lite soon. What pushed me over the edge are really the games, or software to it. I think Big Brain academy is what caused me to go for it, although there are many more. Really diverse game section there on Nintendo DS. It is really true that Sony PSP is for hardcore gamers and Nintendo DS is for everyone who wants fun. I think Brain Age has this killer appeal. I can just imagine it, the older you get, the more addicted you are to it. :)

Blog 9/12/06

It's not usual that I watch news or read them, but I did today. And I found out that Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, has an accident and died. I feel a tragic loss. One has to admire the guts to jump over a crocodile's back. Not to mention other creatures as well. But more than guts, Steve has this rare, frank delightful personality who can share his passions with other people. I truly miss him.

Blog 9/9/06

I watched an RC race competition today. I can't say I'm impressed with it. Maybe the qualities of the racers have something to do with it. Too many cars are jumping the hoops and dividers. They have this slalom type track, and the cars just went straight over them, mostly.

What impressed me is the fact that electric RC cars can go over 30 mph! This is the fastest yet I've seen. Enough to send me over to the nearest RC hobby shop. I still don't have one, yet, though. I don't see any attraction to steer a car round and round going nowhere.

Blog 8/29/06

Nintendo is cool again. I've just read this Nintendo Power magazine and in it, there's a review for Nintendo's Wii. I've always say that for regular people to play computer game, we need to get away from keyboard and joypad, and focus on pointing device. Nintendo went one step further and have not only pointing device, but motion sensor as well. This is really great! It's very natural thing to do.

Am I the only one who thinks Nintendo DS Lite has the perfect form factor for PDA? Talk about user interface, I think if somebody would code a virtual keyboard (as seen on my Quija! game) there, I think it would be really neat. Think of all the different keyboard you can have, from ABC, QWERTY, DVORAK, or FITALY, or whatever. It has voice recognition and Wi-fi, too! It would have been really nice if somebody would just rip the gut out and make a PDA out of it.

Blog 5/27/06

Designing Sudoku

I'm working on Sudoku program right now. Like most everything I do, I like to add in my own personal touch. In this case, I put in extra views to help you solve the puzzle. Patterns are really easy to detect when you organize them into Row, Column, and Section View.

Unfortunately, I have noticed that the more I progressed in the program, especially the solver part, the better I get at solving the puzzle, and the less I need alternate views. It used to take me 1/2 hour on easy puzzles, and 1 hour on medium one, with marks method. Nowadays, I can do easy in 15 minutes and medium in 30 minutes, without using mark method! The easy method includes line drawing to determine where a digit is supposed to go. The medium level includes counting possible digits in blank squares, pairing squares, and considering single row/column possibilities.

Regarding Hard Level, this is done by trial and error. I would consider the links of the squares and pick the one with the biggest link, yet smallest possibility. This is where other programs fail. They simply provide UNDO option. This is useless. You still have to remember how many undo steps you're doing, and if you're doing multiple tries, then forget it! LOAD and SAVE is a much more useful solution. This only works if the save includes all the marks, not just the original puzzle. Saving also obviates the need to keep persistence mode, which requires database for performance reason.

I think most people confuse the need of UNDO because most other puzzle programs require it. However, it is usually because of sequential nature of the puzzle. You can't revert back to previous state in, say, Mahjong game. But you certainly can in Sudoku! This is where a good designer is worth his salt. Programming either is easy, but knowing what to do, even if it is most obvious in hindsight, isn't so easy.

Hopefully, you can see that anyone who put UNDO in Sudoku, but not LOAD/SAVE can be considered an amateur. I'll be happy to hear your side of the story if you're one of those Sudoku programmers who put UNDO but not LOAD/SAVE. If not, then I may as well be preaching to the wind.

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© 2006 Harry M. Hardjono on "earthlink-dot-net", please email "ramstrong"