Monthly Archives: May 2005


Madagascar is easily the best of Dreamworks’ (or PDI’s) recent animated films. The animation is filled with great character poses, holds, and snappy movement, and the designs and composition are fresh in a way that makes Shrek look only mediocre. And really, those penguins are hilarious.

While Madagascar was thoroughly entertaining, Dreamworks’ first film, Prince of Egypt, still holds a special place for me. It was risky and dramatic in a way that few films were before or since. We are now clearly in the era of Pixar-inspired buddy comedies. Maybe audiences won’t grow tired of that formula, as they did 10 years ago when every studio was attempting to mimic Disney’s musicals, but I’m still hopeful that a traditional studio will seize the opportunity to reinvent the artform, again.

Re-evaluating the PSP and DS

After a colleague bought a PSP, I decided to re-evaluate the PSP and DS. I did some more research, looked at the available games, pricing, and features. I still enjoy my Game Boy Advance SP, and stand by what I wrote earlier in the year.

But I didn’t place enough importance on how it is the games that sell a platform. Forgetting the price tag or the cool non-game features (internet and movies), the PSP’s initial game lineup wasn’t that appealing to me. If I wanted those games I would own a PS2. There are definitely a few gems in there, though — Lumines looks very good.

Not surprisingly when you consider the unique pen input option on the DS, the DS games are going in another direction entirely, and for the most part I like it. This video of an upcoming Kirby game looks fun, similar to the new Yoshi. And then there’s Electroplankton, a bizarre title that is less game than musical experiment.

4 color rebellion on casual gamers:

“Many gamers are so emersed in the medium, or have been at it so long, that they dont look at the casual market with open eyes. All of those new gamers Nintendo is talking about? This is where they are. They dont know what Final Fantasy is. They havent beaten Super Mario 64. Its the simple, enjoyable games that get them interested.”

I fall somewhere in between casual and hardcore gamer. I want games that I can learn fairly quickly, and that I can just as easily play for 10 minutes as 2 hours. I also enjoy old games (lately I’ve been mixing Advance Wars 2 with Super Mario Bros 2).

Getting back to the PSP vs. DS debate. Would I trade in two screens for a single screen the size of the PSP’s? Probably so. A next-generation Game Boy would ideally fit somewhere in the middle, with a larger screen than the current GBA but maybe not as big as the PSP, to keep that easy “in your pocket” advantage.

This illustrates the challenge Nintendo faces with their three-tier strategy. Although the DS can play GBA games, a new Game Boy is unlikely to play DS games. Nintendo is the unquestioned king of backwards compatibility, but it’s unclear how they are going to solve this puzzle.

After I wrote the above, Nintendo announced the Game Boy Micro. This is not the next-generation device that some were expecting, but it sure looks cool. It is lighter than an iPod mini and just a little bigger. If the price is right (and I expect it will be), and it works with the Play-yan for music and movies, this could be a killer little device.

Integrating web applications

We all use web apps. Google Maps or Mapquest, Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail, Basecamp and FogBugz. The ubiquity of these services has reached the point where it is increasingly useful to point to them from other applications, web or native. Mac OS X’s Address Book and Dashboard Yellow Pages both point to Mapquest.

Mac OS X Hints has a hack to point Dashboard at Google Maps instead, but what I’d really like is system-wide settings for important classes of web applications. My default search engine, maps, or photo management apps could all benefit from this.

Sadly, even on the desktop — where native apps can easily register for protocol handlers and play nice with others — the situation is often closed. The “Lookup in Dictionary” command in Tiger’s Safari is hard-coded to, instead of checking what other app might have registered to handle dict:/// URLs. If dict:/// was replaced by, it becomes even more extensible. But in Tiger, third-party developers who have a great dictionary application or web site are obsoleted without a user choice.

This problem will only become more exagerated over time. Every app that could potentially exchange data, whether web-based or not, should have an integration story. If the OS doesn’t want to help this effort, perhaps an open framework in the spirit of the original Internet Config can fill the need.

WebTV in the trash

The other day I went for a walk and on the way back picked up a candy wrapper on the sidewalk, to throw away when I got home. If I pick up other people’s trash (not a frequent activity, but not that uncommon either), I don’t expect a thank-you or for anyone to notice. But this time I did receive a thanks, of sorts.

I opened our outside garbage can and staring at me from the bottom was a pile of cables and an original WebTV. I had bought the WebTV years ago. The reasons given for this strange purchase ranged from “browsing the web in your living room is neat” to “it’s for my mom” (she didn’t end up liking it). The ancient and mostly-useless device almost made it into one of our garage sales, on Traci’s request, but I’d always feel guilty even trying to sell it. It was obvious she had thrown it away, giving up on me and my often unreasonable tendency to keep everything.

Rummaging through the technology junk, I salvaged a Firewire cable, audio/video cables, a power cable, and a Laserdisc remote control. It felt good to finally close the lid on the WebTV. Who knows, maybe the Laserdisc will be next.

Respect to Dave

Frontier box Dave Winer turned 50 today. I first met Dave over 9 years ago, back when the free release of Frontier ruled web application development and automation on the Mac. I ran the frontier-talk mailing list for a time, was active in that community, and built a bunch of great stuff on top of his work. A lot has changed since then, both on my platform of choice and in the tasks that Dave has tackled. While I haven’t kept in touch with him, I am usually quick to defend his record. If you ever find yourself upset with Dave, take a deep breath and then disagree in a way that shows some respect for what he’s been able to accomplish.

Experience before animating

Kelly is studying in Paris. She writes about animating from your experiences after talking with Pixar animator Bolhem Bouchiba:

“But it made me realize something about good animation. It dosen’t come from studying other films. Or live action. Or acting. It comes, first and formost, from living life. From being hurt, being ecstatic, being bored, being in love, suffering, moments joyful and rich, things you can’t describe. It comes from experiencing them, and shoving them onto the paper. I don’t think you can animate something truthful if you’ve never felt it yourself.”

Meanwhile, in the first Animation Podcast interview, Andreas Deja talks us through his early childhood in Germany, from the first time he experienced Disney animation up to the beginning of his career at the mouse studio. This is a must-have podcast feed for animation fans.

My own podcast episode should be done in another week. It also touches on animation, with excerpts from a few films and my own audio recordings during a trip last month.

Tabs are a hack

I don’t like Safari-style tabs. Sure, I use them — and in NetNewsWire if you want to use the built-in web browser, there is no choice) — but I’ve always thought that there should be better ways to manage windows, and it should be built into the operating system. As left to third-party developers, each application implements tabs in a slightly different way. Everything from the visual appearance of tabs, to where they are attached to a window (drawer, sidebar, or toolbar), to how the close box works, to the keyboard shortcuts for opening and closing tabs, to the persistence of tabs.

Instead, Apple should have built upon Exposé to offer system-wide window grouping state, so that in any document-based application the user is in control of how windows are tabbed. Actions like dragging to rearrange tabs could be implemented once and work consistently across all applications.

Of course with Tiger now shipping, it’s probably too late. By the time 10.5 is announced a year from now the damage will be all but permanent. It always impressed me that Apple was so quick to roll out a standard toolbar implementation in both Cocoa and Carbon, and I think we would have seen similar gains from a tabs framework.