Monday, May 30, 2005

Month metric update

A while ago, I posted the idea of a month metric for gauging quality/longevity and overall "goodness" of a game. Essentially, count the number of unique months in which a game is played. That is it's score. Read the old entry for some more discussion of it.

I figured I'd post an update of games with a high month metric. I've
only been keeping accurate numbers since 1999, so the theoretical
maximum score is in the sixties.

Electronic Catchphrase is the only with a score above 30 at 32, and I expect it
will continue to go up though more slowly than it did in recent years.
Five games get scores above 20: Crokinole (25), Can't Stop (23), 6
nimmt! (23), Call my Bluff (23) and Battle Line (21).

Another five games score 15 or above: Zirkus Flohcati (16), Speed
(16), Lost Cities (15), TransAmerica (15), and RoboRally (15). This
list rapidly betrays my taste for fairly short but not overly light
games. RoboRally is the only one on the list (with the occasional
exception of Crokinole) that goes over 45 minutes.

Sixteen games have a score of 10 or above and there starts to be a
number of "big" games here: Ra (14), For Sale (14), Apples to Apples
(13), Knockabout (13), Carcassonne (13), Hick Hack in Gacklewack (12),
Princes of Florence (12), Puerto Rico (12), Ricochet Robot (11),
SpinBall (11), Traumfabrik (11), Settlers of Catan (11), Medici (10),
Igel Argern (10), Lord of the Rings (10), and Schnaeppchen Jagd (10).
The auction games (Ra, Medici, Traumfabrik) and LOTR would all be
higher if they were more favored in the groups I frequent.

In the end, I'm pretty happy with the month metric. All 27 games on
the list are "great"s. Some recent games seem likely to make the list
within another year or two (Ticket to Ride, Oasis, Heroscape, San
Juan, Adam & Eva) but it's too early to be sure and the month metric
has that conservativism nicely built in. The only games that seem
like their "missing" from the list are Vinci (current score: 8) and
Euphrat & Tigris (current score: 8) and they'll get there, though it
will take more than two months.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pair of Sea Nettles

Two Sea Nettles (New England Aquarium)

Sea Nettles, a variety of poisonous predatory jellyfish are extremely photogenic.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Slogger, Spotlight and boolean logic

Spotlight is great. In a just a few days of use I've already found it
extremely useful. But, there's two things that have further improved
it's value: Slogger and "secret" codes and logic.

Slogger is a firefox plugin (href=>available here) which
lets you log the full content of every web page you visit. With
Spotlight, this means every web page you visit is now indexed. Very
useful for the "I know I just saw this...". Sort of like a better
version of Google Search History without the nagging privacy issues.
Unfortunately, Slogger on OSX has some issues. First, the log
directory selection doesn't work, so you have to manually set it using
about:config. Second, they've got a (common) firefox extension bug
(not Mac specific) which causes pages loaded in the "background" (eg,
background tabs) to not get logged. I fixed this and provided href=>a patch to version 0.3's slogger.js file
which fixes this. They're up to 0.5 now, and my patch won't work
directly on that version, but the basic idea is the same. I've sent
the info over to Ken Schutte, the maintainer.

Secret logic. Spotlight lacks a sophisticated query grammar, or
does it? On the href=>Spotlight
Tips page they list some useful special keywords like "kind:image"
for restricting searches, but some experimentation has turned up a few
others. We know that a space implies "AND", but it is a "least
precedence AND". Using most other punctuation ("+ "and "," both work,
for example) acts as a "high precedence AND". The "|" (pipe)
character is an "OR". Finally, "(-token)" seems to act as an
excluder, which isn't quite a NOT, but close enough. It has to be
immediately after another keyword with no space. The different
precedence ANDs are nice.

So, "xmas|christmas bob|robert" is ((xmas OR christmas) AND (bob OR
robert)) and "jack+jill|hansel+gretel" is ((jack AND jill) OR (hansel
AND gretel)). The exclusion operator doesn't seem to combine with
others except as a final exclusion step, but something like
"foo+bar|baz(-quux)" works as "(((foo AND bar) OR baz) AND NOT quux)".
As noted on the tips page, putting a phrase in double quotes looks for
that phrase, but it doesn't seem the most consistent; that phrase
appearing in text files, for example, will not show up. Finally,
prefixing the whole query with a single quote has some effect, but
what exactly that is isn't obvious: it seems to exclude any image
search results and according to macosxhints, it doesn't search deleted
text in Word files, for example. Hopefully, Apple will provide some
more detailed docs on this, but in the mean time, exclusion in
particular is really useful to have.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Tiger first impressions

It's been about a year since I switched to OSX. I've
been very pleased with it, and have been looking forward to a number
of the new features announced for Tiger. So, like a good Mac devotee,
I went out to the Mac store on Friday night, along with hundreds of
others, and picked up a copy of OS X version 10.4, aka Tiger.

Overall, it's very good. The feature I was most looking forward to,
Spotlight, delivers on those high expectations. It's fast, it works
and is integrated throughout the OS. The interface is frequently
awkward, incomplete or inconsistant, but it works so well, and with a
few exceptions, it works the way you want to that these flaws are
forgivable. Within smart folders (whether in mail or in Finder), you
can create reasonably though not arbitrarily complex queries.
However, in the search bar, there is no syntax (whether with parens,
"+" and "-" symbols, or something else) for more complex queries.

I've already found Spotlight quite useful, but there have already been
occasions where I've wanted to do a structured restriction of a query.
Switching to a Smart Folder for such a query isn't too bad, but it
would be nice to be able to add it to the tex queries in some way
similar to the way google has the search qualifiers like "link:" and
"site:". The ability to add "comments" to files which will then be
found in Spotlight is nice too, though I'm not sure I'll use it a lot.
One of the nicest accidental Spotlight surprises was that Adium, a
very nice IM client, stores its logs as HTML and these are
automatically indexed. They simply show up as "Documents", rather
than their own category, which would be nice, but still, very slick.
Sadly, Stickies are not indexed, which seems like a dumb oversight.

Dashboard, I wasn't particularly looking forward to. It seemed
like it was a bit more sizzle than steak. It turns out, that's only
partiallly true and the sizzle is really really nice. It'll take a
bit more use before I determine if it is actually useful in the long
run, but for now, there are several useful widgets and having very
fast access to them is convenient. Plus, they are pretty.

Automator is a bit of a disappointment, but I didn't have high
expectations. All of the first several "workflows" I wanted to create
turned out to be impossible because of either missing actions or the
lack of multiple inputs on existing actions. Further, the ones that
are possible are not always straightforward to build. There's also
some weirdness with other application interactions (see below about
Mail). I'll have to try it a little more to be sure, but my gut says
that until there's a much wider corpus of "generic" actions, I won't
find it so useful.

Mail has a few changes, the biggest of which is "Smart
Mailboxes", which is really a spotlight feature. Smart Mailboxes are
great. I love being able to filter and slice up my mail and Smart
Mailboxes dramatically improve this capability. Key to this
usefullness is their speed. Most smart mailboxes come up effectively
instantly. A couple of the very large mail boxes (roughly 20,000
matching messages each) take a few seconds, but that's clearly related
to the display of the messages, not the underlying query. Another
smart mailbox, which relies on the 20,000 message box as a qualifying
condition, but further narrows the list substantially, loads
instantly. Mail added some other nice Spotlight features, including
improved searching within mail and easy quick Spotlight searches of
senders, names, and the like. The user interface of Mail has also
changed and I'll agree with the href=>Ars Technica
evaluation that mail has been "beaten with the ugly stick".

One more Mail weirdness. In all of the smart mailbox filtering, there
is no filter for read versus unread messages. Annoying, but
manageable. However, if you go into Automator, you can create an
Automator workflow which selects unread messages and then you can tell
Automator to display those. They pop up as though they were their own
mailbox, but they really exist only ephemerally. There is no mailbox,
even though you have on selected, the message list corresponds to
those selected by your Automator query. A little weird. Overall
though, other than the ugliness, the new mail features are very
powerful and useful.

Preview now allows you to, among other things, annotate PDF
files. I like this idea a great deal. It remains to be seen if I'll
use it much, but I think I might.

Overall, I like it a lot. The system speed seems better, if
anything and Spotlight remains the star of the show, but it's
amazingly well integrated.