This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

November 2008 Archives

November 26, 2008

Programming Google App Engine, the book

Programming Google App Engine is a new book about Google's web application hosting service, to be published by O'Reilly Media, Inc., next year. Written by yours truly.

I've been on the App Engine team since February, as the primary author of the official documentation. I'm writing the book mostly in my spare time, but with the generous support of the team and of Google. App Engine is a rich and exciting subject, and I hope to use the inside perspective to give the book a worthy amount of depth and completeness. The official docs will continue to be my day job, and it'll take everything I have to keep up with all of the features they're adding in the coming months.

You can get early access to drafts of the book as I'm writing it with O'Reilly's "Rough Cuts" program. The first few chapters are already up. There's also a companion website with a blog and a feed—running on App Engine, naturally. If I'm not blogging here, hopefully I'm blogging there, or writing the book.

And no, they haven't told me what the animal is going to be. I'll let you know.

November 25, 2008

The Criterion Collection has a new website. $5 gets you a 1-week pass to watching a movie online, which you can apply toward the purchase of the DVD or Blu-ray disc. They'll eventually have a free ad-supported film series online as well. Looks great so far. Love the 1-minute free previews. This could be a great way for people to discover and explore great films. I suspect the rent-to-own idea will be appealing to film buffs, where collecting great films is an eventual goal.

For more traditional uses of rentals, I wonder how these ideas will stand up against Netflix, in both the short term and long term. A paid digital movie rental that cannot escape the browser is less appealing than getting a rental DVD in the mail (short term) or streamed to a set-top box (long term).

For recent incarnations of online viewing of movies, especially for classic films, $5 for an ad-free experience beats the ad-laden Hulu experience. That feels like a sweet spot.

Speak of which: Blockbuster has a new set-top box, a catch-up step to compete with Netflix, but with a different model: pay-per-view pricing. It's not clear what makes the most sense when it comes to rentals: Pay per view lets me control my consumption, but membership takes the sting out of the fact that I'm paying for something I don't get to "keep" in any meaningful sense. I suspect selection will trump all of it, though. Netflix streaming is merely a supplementary source right now, not someplace I check when I want to watch a specific title.

And then there's the short-term problem of each of these services requiring its own proprietary set-top box. That has to end ASAP. Apple TV + boxee gets Hulu and other streaming services to your TV unofficially, and I hope the end result works similarly but in a more official fashion. Will it be a monolithic marketplace and device sold and managed by one company? Will it be a suite of protocols for processing payments and streaming product? Will it be a general purpose set-top computer, with software written by individual providers, such as the XBox or Apple TV? Will I still be able to collect ("own") media?

November 18, 2008

Ensuring the Future of Food [YouTube].

November 10, 2008

Smule: Ocarina for iPhone. See the video, and the online score generator.

MS Paint Adventures, a web comic adventure game where readers suggest moves and the author implements them. Infocom meets LucasArts meets Final Fantasy meets Imperial Nomic meets Pokey the Penguin meets how the hell did I not know about this until now? Problem Sleuth consumed most of my Saturday.

LEGO Inside Tour, The Ultimate Experience for LEGO fans. A three-day tour of the factory and behind the scenes at LEGOLAND, meals and conversation with LEGO designers, hotel accommodations at Hotel LEGOLAND, and a special gift. $1,700 (I'm guessing per person), does not include travel to Denmark. Three tours of 20 people in June 2009, email Camilla to reserve your spot!

November 5, 2008

99 Bricks [Flash game]. Not Tetris. I like games where failure is just as satisfying as success.

November 4, 2008

YouTube meta videos.

Amazon.com introduces Frustration-Free Packaging. Amazon.com, changing the world in ways I didn't think were possible.

From the iTunes Store:

Wall-E Pre-order on iTunes

Why would I pre-order a digital download? Do they think they'll run out?