As a programmer and father of young boys, I have something to get off my chest--namely, most of the gaming industry, and especially that aimed at young children, leaves me in a furious rage. Maybe it's the time that a $35 in-app charge for a million popping bubbles showed up on my credit card (thanks Apple). Or maybe it's that whenever I look at what the kids are "playing", they're usually just sitting around watching a timer to see how long they have to wait before a tanker hatches out of an egg, boards a boat, and travels across the ocean to the racetrack to put fuel in their racecar (or pay and race now!). Or the incessant ads, or requests for a Facebook login, or any number of other annoyances that pop up constantly. Who makes this crap?
Well, I can tell you who makes it in the eyes of my kids--dad. Yes, I'm the one who "makes" the games through some kind of magic incantation. Frankly, I'm getting tired of hearing "dad, this game sucks." At this point, I'm pretty reluctant to install any game at all because I know that odds are it will be terrible and I'll be annoyed. However, enough of that.
Over the weekend, I got tipped off to the game Monument Valley. I'm so blown away that I'm motivated to write this brief post. In short, the game is visually stunning, mysterious, and engaging in every way that a game should be. In short: I love it and so do the kids.
However, it's more than just that. This is a game that is devoid of ads, in-app purchases, waiting around, powerups, gambling, violence, or any other mainstay of modern "gaming." For that, I'd like to heap some praise on its maker Ustwo. Thanks for making Monument Valley. More games like this please! I'll gladly pay.
As many of you know, Brian Jones and I have been hard at work on the Python Cookbook, 3rd edition. If you haven't been following us, you might not know that the book is actually finished and in final production. In fact, O'Reilly brought some bound galley copies that we signed and gave away at PyCon.
Galley Copy of the Cookbook
Book signing at PyCon
Readers familiar with past editions of the Cookbook might be inclined to think that the 3rd edition is simply an updated version of that material. However, the upcoming edition is a completely new book, written from the ground up to target Python 3.3. Rather than focusing on past techniques and working within the restrictions of backwards compatibility, this edition aims to solve various problems in the most modern manner possible. Thus, if you're thinking about moving to Python 3 or simply learning more about how it's different, this is the book you'll want. We think you'll like it.
Although the official release date for the book is in May, you can get the book in progress as an e-book in O'Reilly's Early Release program. Also, if you keep a watchful eye, O'Reilly has been offering a 50% discount on the Cookbook in various promotions. For example, today (March 19), the cookbook is discounted in this promotion. An added benefit of the early release edition is that you get to submit errata for inclusion in the final book.
Last, but not least, if you're waiting for a print edition, look for it in the bookstore in late May. You can follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.
So, I was recently at an event where some students from Chicago's Northside College Prep High School showed up to demo some of their robots and to talk about their upcoming participation in the upcoming FIRST Robotics Challenge. For example, here's one of their past robots:
As a kid, I did more than my fair share of things related to computer programming, but I definitely never built a robot. Now that I'm an adult though (sic), I can definitely see the advantages that a robot might offer. For instance, programming it to chase my 3 and 4 year boys around, keeping a menacing eye on them when in "time out" (think Cylons), and cleaning up after their messes. However, where would I even start with a diabolical project like that? I don't know anything about robots.
As I've learned, sending a team to a robotics competition is no cheap affair. This is especially so if you're at a public school and you want to equip your basic entry-level robot with all sorts of cool accessories such as laser beams, plasma torches, x-ray vision and stuff. And don't even talk about travel. No, seriously, these students are probably all going to be huddled in a van using the robot's plasma torch just to stay warm. On a serious note, this is actually the very first year that Northside has participated in the FIRST Robotics Challenge. As a rookie team, time and resources aren't always easy to come by.
Sensing an opportunity, I've decided to help solve both problems by sponsoring a Build a Robot Army event on February 9, 2013 at my office in Chicago. The Northside students are going to stop by with some robot kits and teach everyone the basics of building a robot. It's limited to only 8 people. As such, it will be hands-on and in-depth. All of the proceeds will go to help the Northside team. In short, it will be an awesomely fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.