Friday, September 28, 2007

Bugs That Eat Your Desktop (Screensaver)

A screensaver that consists of little bugs that eat your desktop, have offspring and complete to survive.

Following disney's rules the bugs would be cute and made of a simple circle with big eyes and when moving they would bend their shape slightly. When in heat they would pulsate and as they got older their color would get darker. While sleeping they could close their eyes and ever so slightly "breath".

When the screensaver starts a set of bugs are randomly generated. They start out very small (~1px) and as they eat food (colors) they can grow in size, mate, and have offspring. As the desktop colors are eaten they slowly grow back as though the desktop was grass. The bugs movements would be controlled via a gnome and a genetic algorithm would be at the heart of the screensaver.

Each bug has a set of parameters that determine its attributes:

- What color is the bug itself?
- How fast it can move?
- How much does it cost to move?
- How big it can grow (i.e. how much energy can it store)?
- What colors it can eat?
- How far can it see and what can it see?
- How much it sleeps (does it sleep?)
- Does it reproduce sexually or asexually?
- Max time it it can live before expiring.
- How much extra energy it needs to reproduce.

The interesting aspect of the screensaver is that because it is based upon whatever is on your screen at the time that the screensaver starts different bugs will emerge every time it is run. A little bug that only walks the black border of all the windows, a big fat one that eats a green webpage and a tiny parasite bug that nibbles on bigger bugs.

Update (Nov 14th 2007): Check out this super cool video on PolyWorld.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

web logs for desktop applications or why web applications kick desktop applications butt

When developing any application after you get the core built you begin adding features for the users. Typically you have to guess what would the users want and would use. This results in some features being essentially dead because almost no one ever uses them. There is no way to know what is *really* used V.S. what is used every once in a while.

With a web app:
- You can divide your customers in half. Give something a shot and if it works then role it out otherwise kill it.
- View the logs to see what page they leave one. Rework the text. Ad a link to the bottom.
- Follow customers through your sign on pages and see that 50% stop after page 2 and don't get to page 3
- Every page, every link, every action, even mouse movements can be tracked.

Compare this to desktop applicaiotn. Today you can only track the number of downloads or the number of CD's sold. Desktop applications need a way to log all of the user actions so that the developers can get reports about the usage.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Simple version:
If the only bank in the world has only $1000 and loans $200 out to five people, what happens the next year when the five people try to pay it back?

The year is 1914 and you are in charge of a new bank called the central federal bank or CFB for short. All money is now traded in "Federal Reserve Bank Note" or $ for short. The CFB can load money to other banks or the government.

At the start of the game the following are the starting values for CFB that you can change:
- Owns 10,000 tons of gold
- The bank must hold at least 40% of its outstanding loans in gold.
- $ are valued at $20 per ounce so the bank has 16 billion dollars it is allowed to trade for gold or loan out.
- Loan interest rate starts at 1%

Gold production starts at 500 tons a year and increases on average 15 tons a year.

The point of the game is to last as long as possible and to make as much as possible. You make money by giving out loans with interest (such as to the government). Giving a loan creates new notes into the system. If there are too many notes in the system there will be inflation. To much inflation and the people try to revolt and you might loose the game. Too little money in the system and many defaults on their loans causing a depression and you might loose the game.

One of the first goals of the game is to remove the FRBN from the gold standard.

The interesting part of the game is because the majority of money is eventually created from loans (with interest) the system will collapse on itself. The longer things go on, the more interest is owned. It is your job to make it last as long as possible. It is Tetris, eventually you will loose, just a question of when.

Of course games are about fun, taking the above basic parameters create challenges that start out simple, but get harder and harder as time goes on with rewards for successful completion of tasks. Collecting more and more assets before the collapse. Gaining abilities such as tweaking parameters at the banks within the system and buying political clout. Wars, depressions, getting off the gold standard, inflation, new presidents, bubbles and busts, everything that can, does happen :)