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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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.

September 2010 Archives

September 24, 2010

Google Search with My Location: Pizza:

Mad props to the actor. It's easy to underestimate how difficult this is.

September 23, 2010

What would happen if you put your hand in the Large Hadron Collider beam? See the article, but watch the entire video for partial answers to this and other questions:

Chrome Web Store: Supplying Images, rudimentary icon design advice from Google.

Introducing "ū--": A Distraction-Free Writing Environment.

September 17, 2010

Is Minecraft as great as everyone says it is? Yes. Yes it is. Still in early alpha stages, it's not even a complete game, but its core game mechanics are so addictive that, as of this writing, it has sold over 171,000 preorder/alpha access passes at a discounted rate.

The game desperately needs documentation and in-game tutorials, but until then, there are plenty of fan-made tutorials on YouTube. Here's a good one:

If you're not sure you want to get into it, you might still want to try Minecraft Classic, an earlier version of the game with no creatures and unlimited build ability that you can play in a browser (unsigned Java applet) for free. But the latest alpha is already worth the few bucks the author is charging, and those few bucks get you every future version of the game going forward.

Finishing a Game.

Jim Henson Making Muppets, 15 wonderful minutes from 1969:

Via waxy via Devour.

A lovely effect of Apple's rescinding their ban of code interpreters in iOS apps (as long as they don't download their interpreted code the Internet), the Commodore 64 app now has an official BASIC mode.

Needs an iPad version with proper C64 keyboard (I'd pay extra), and a mode for ditching the cute but obnoxious rounded TV border. They've also added OpenFeint, which makes this yet another app I need to say no to OpenFeint to before using.

September 16, 2010

10K Apart was a contest to build something cool in the browser with just 10k of JavaScript. The winners have been selected, and they're cool. Don't miss the runners up.

September 14, 2010

Everything Is a Remix, part 1:

September 13, 2010

Biolab Disaster. Slick, fluid, pixely platformer with great sound, particle animation, and music. Made with JavaScript and the HTML5 canvas tag. Works in most modern browsers, no plugin required. (Alas, it doesn't quite work on an iPad/iPhone.)

Someday the author will publish his game engine, ImpactJS. Play the game first, but then check out his making-of video:

Update: Some neat responses from the author in this reddit thread, including a link to the demo of the level editor.

Musopen raises $40,000 to set classical music free. One more day to donate via Kickstarter and qualify for gifts. Let's get to $50k! Update: $51,000 and 19 hours to go. This is 5 times more than the original goal. Do I hear $60k?

And don't forget to vote for Musopen to receive $25k by September 30. They're, uh, currently ranked 150th, so we've got some work to do.

September 12, 2010

Musopen is a non-profit organization raising money with Kickstarter to record classical music whose scores are in the public domain, and release the recordings royalty free. When someone performs and records a public work, the performer retains a copyright on the recording as if it were original, so while plenty of great music is in the public domain, quality royalty-free recordings are hard to come by. So far, Musopen raised enough money to record the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky, and every $1,000 earned funds another project.

The Kickstarter rewards are quite affordable: $10 for early access to digital recordings, $25 for early access to a copy of CDs, all the way up to levels that earn permanent display of your name as a benefactor and pick the pieces that get recorded with your money. You can help purchase great works of art for the world to enjoy in perpetuity.

The Musopen website already has dozens of recordings, sheet music, and a start on an open content music theory textbook. Also streaming radio.

Update: After listening to Musopen's streaming radio for a while, I'm compelled to update this entry with a reminder that volunteer-contributed content isn't always great. Like Wikipedia, Musopen's recording collection to date is mostly awesome, and is pushed to more-than-awesome status because of its purpose and its license. And some of their recordings are top notch.

I feel bad criticizing some of the lesser recordings, because the amount of effort it takes to get most of the notes right is so great that punishing the whole thing for not hitting 100% commercial-grade virtuosity is unfair. Perhaps it is fair, however, to count performance mistakes against the production of the recording. In studio, professionals do multiple takes and blend together the best bits. That's much harder for an amateur to do than to just post a single take, but it's easier than getting a single take that's perfect.

The Kickstarter-funded effort will involve hiring an orchestra and studio time, so that's still exciting. I've heard some not-great orchestras, but many of them already populate the dregs of classical recordings on bargain labels. And more recent classical-in-bulk packages actually have some great stuff in them.

Another update: Pepsi is giving away money for attention, and will give $25,000 to Musopen if it's voted up the ranks. You can vote once per day.

The Electronic Coach:

September 9, 2010

Issendai's Superhero Training Journal: How to keep someone with you forever.

Are Your Pants Lying to You? An Investigation.

The Esquire Guide to Shopping, with lots of great advice for men shopping for clothes, including How It Should Fit.

The story of Michael Larson.

Paul Michael Larson (May 10, 1949 - February 16, 1999) was a contestant on the American television game show Press Your Luck in June 1984. Larson's claim to fame was his winning $110,237 in cash and prizes, which he was able to do by memorizing the patterns used on the Press Your Luck game board.

Yet another epic win for Wikipedia, though admittedly the story was already well-researched by others, including a documentary (not on DVD) and an episode of This American Life. Wikipedia gets full credit for presentation, though. As my wife likes to say, "Where is Britannica's article on Michael Larson?"

Tom Lehrer's Elements song, in Google Instant:

September 2, 2010

Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris:

The Guild, the unbelievably good web comedy series about a group of MMORPG gamers, is several episodes into its 4th season. I just received and devoured the Season 3 DVD and it was one of the most entertaining things I've seen in a long time. Like any good web series, there are many ways to watch it, but I recommend buying the DVDs for the bonuses. Until you get to season 4, of course, at which point there won't be enough to sate you.

If you haven't seen it lately, it's time to catch up. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to start from the beginning.

Oh, and also:

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&fg=Xbox_Channel_GUILD_S4_FINAL&vid=8cb424dc-cbdb-40be-90c5-8fb450462d2f" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Music Video - "Game On"">Video: Season 4 - Music Video - "Game On"</a>

(Seriously, what else would success look like for a web series?)