Month of Kinect Fitness

Hello Everyone!

A few weeks ago I bought myself Kinect for Xbox360 and I have been thinking a lot of things since then. Most of the games I have come across lately have not been that awesome (except for the Gunstringer being smartly created story-wise). Nonetheless, I am 100% sure that Kinect is something that can blow up the bank, once someone just figures out how to use this new controlling paradigm.

Well, my goal here is not to promote Kinect (but in case someone at Microsoft reads this, I can do that for a small price 😉 ), but to write about my experiences with the system. I have been sitting on my butt for quite some time now and been meaning to start training. Well, maybe not today, but tomorrow 😛 So, as I had Kinect and noticed the amount of training games it has, I decided to buy one and start practicing with it. After doing some fast googling and youtubing (those ARE VERBS!) I went for Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, even though the name sounds a little bit umm… gymnastic for my taste. Well, sometimes you have to throw prejudices out of the window and jump to something new – and that’s what I did.

For the next month from now on, I promise (whether you care or not :-P) to write about my experiences with the fitness game. I hope to get in shape with the help of the game (being too lazy to get out of the house and hit the gym – especially now that it is damn cold here in Finland and just snowing every day). Hopefully toying around with the game is fun and training goes almost by itself (which I hugely doubt). Anyway, I am about to find out.

Few words about my current physical condition. For the last six months I haven’t had time (or so I tell to myself) to really work out. Considering this, I am not in the best possible condition, but I try my best to get back the great physique I once had. However, currently a solid 30 minute cardio training would probably be something I could not handle 😛

Day 1

Dear diary. Today I started my month of training with Kinect. In the beginning, the system scanned me and tried to guess my height (which went completely wrong, it thought I am 170 cm although I am 190). Also, the Kinect bugged for some reason and did not manage to look down enough to see my feet. However, it fired the first practicing program where it taught me the basics of the game and tried to calibrate the system to my current level of physique. Some of the tests went straight to hell, because Kinect did not see my feet. When I tried to recalibrate the system, Xbox decided to quit the game and go in to calibration mode (although when I started the game first time it did the calibration there?). Once I got back to the game, it had forgotten my settings and I had to start all over again.

Well, after going through the test exercises again, I finally got to the menu where I was able to continue practicing how I wanted. As there was option for personal trainer, I was kinda waiting for some suggestions on how to train – but no. Well, it did give me recommendations on what I should do. Well, as I am open to everything new, I went with the recommendations (in the end, personal trainer is supposed to know what is good for me… right? RIGHT?).

As my first recommended workout I received some leg training. I had already pumped through the test exercises twice (all leg training), but what the heck, I guess it’s just for my own good? I did 10 minutes short workout and then somehow managed to continue with another 10 minutes leg workout. After finally getting through the 40 minutes of plain leg workout, I was ready to drop dead. However, given my old habits of practicing a lot, I couldn’t give up yet. I still had to do some biceps. I decided to take a short 10 minute bicep training, but guess what – it had leg exercises included!!

I survived somehow. Yet, I was expecting more full body exercises and a little less leg workout. I got something else, but perhaps my personal trainer living inside the Xbox knows better 😛 After one hour of jumping and squatting in front of the TV I was dripping from sweat. At least it really had some effect. The time did go really fast and in the end I enjoyed a lot – although I would like a little less legs the next time. After all, how hard would it be to remember my last exercises and not include any more legs after 30 minutes of solely pumping those!

Anyway, day 1 is now over and the game is open. Tomorrow my legs will be quite sore, I am sure. However, I will keep going and see what tomorrow brings. I hope it’s a little bit less leg workout and more on the upper body 🙂

Internet Roaming

Good morning everyone and Happy New Year! I know this comes a little bit late (it’s already 15th of Jan), but I have been travelling in Spain the last few weeks.

During the trip I needed internet access quite often. Or at least, I would have needed had this been possible. Travelling on your own time when you are supposed to work brings a few requirements – like reading and answering to your emails if nothing more. During this trip I also realized that I was badly addicted to internet. I have an iPhone and Android tablet, both quipped with massive data plans (my phone contract has 2Gb transfer/month and my tablet has unlimited transfer every month). In my study & workplace (the Lappeenranta University of Technology) a Wi-Fi connection is available all around, so I am basically hooked to cyber world all the time. Not having internet in my pocket and available all the time made me feel inferior. It was like my left hand had been cutoff.

Having Internet in your pocket (almost like in this joke of The IT Crowd from YouTube) makes life just so easy! Especially when travelling in a strange country (to be honest, I lived one year in Madrid, so it was not that strange, but nonetheless) internet does have its upsides.

For example, almost every phone has Google maps. It can be used to search for streets and to show public transportation routes – but only if you are connected to the web! Otherwise you can only use it like a normal map, but you have to load the maps to your phone’s memory beforehand. Another good help is the access to messaging applications. No need to send expensive SMS if you can just use WhatsApp or MSN. No need for international calls if you use Skype or Viber. The amount of money you can save! But alas! the prices for data roaming!

Data Roaming

Roaming in telephone operator slang means using other than your original carrier’s network. This happens when you go abroad and don’t have your original service provider to connect to (you have AT&T but when you come to Finland the operator does not exist here – thus the phone has to connect to either Sonera, Elise or DNA network). Data Roaming means using the foreign teleoperator network for surfing the web.

Internet roaming is very, very expensive. I can give an example of my own to help understanding the situation: My phone operator is Finnish Sonera. The price for data roaming in Spain was 0.121 € for every starting 50 kb. Just looking at my Facebook profile picture would cost me over 20 euro cents (the picture is 50.5 kb)! Opening just my Facebook home view would probably cost more than 1 euro! Cheap? No way!

Another option to approach this is to purchase a SIM card from the local operators. Well, getting a normal plan is impossible again (at least in Spain you needed local bank account, some residence number and minimum time for contract was one year). Luckily, there are also prepaid cards to which you can also buy data plan. Sounds great in theory, but…

Prepaid Pricing

I started searching for the different operators for their prepaid internet offers. Honestly, the options were pretty bad. Not many of them offered anything at all, but I found few acceptable from Orange and Vodafone.

Orange offered prepaid internet for 3.5 €/day. Not that bad, but there was data limit included. For the 3,5 € you can surf the web with maximum speed until you reach 250 mb. After that the speed drops down to 64kb/s (slooooooow). However, for checking email, twitter, Facebook and doing some navigating and few searches this should be decent.

The other notable provider was Vodafone. They offered a wider range of options and underneath is the table describing the services offered. A quick translation for those who don’t understand Spanish: Bono means the type of contract. The options are Fin de semana (weekend), seminal (weekly), mensual (monthly). So for example 1Gb/month is 22.42 € with VAT included. Not really bad offer, considering the hotel we were in offered internet connection to room with “reasonable” price of 15€/day.

BONO

RECARGA

VOLUMEN

PERIODO VALIDEZ

CODIGO AL 2207
PARA RECARGAR

Fin de semana

9€ (10,62 IVA inc.)

Hasta 500 MB

3 días

C QUI

Semanal

15€ (17,70 IVA inc.)

Hasta 1 GB

7 días

C SEM

Mensual 100 MB

8€ (9,44 IVA inc.)

Hasta 100 MB

C VAS

Mensual 500 MB

15€ (17,70 IVA inc.)

Hasta 500 MB

C ABA

Mensual 1 GB

19€ (22,42 IVA inc.)

Hasta 1 GMB

30 días

C PRE

Mensual 2 GB

32€ (37,76 IVA inc.)

Hasta 2 GMB

C MES

Someone! Do something!

In the end, all I can say is that the telephone companies are evil for not letting me to use Internet for a decent price! That is a violation of my human rights (if you didn’t know, internet access is a human right according to UN)! Luckily, the European Union is taking action and limiting maximum tariffs for roaming. But we still have a long way to go, until I can enjoy from mobile internet even abroad.

Purchasing prepaid SIM cards is not the perfect solution for a one week trip, but it’s a start nonetheless. So please, phone operators, make prepaid internet available in every country! We need internet; it makes life so much easier! Paying 20 euros for a 1 GB internet for a one or two week trip is not that big a deal. I will gladly pay it, because it makes my life so much easier and my trip more enjoyable. So please, follow the example of Vodafone and do the same in other countries (or even better, make roaming affordable!)!

Flash Development 101

I have never, ever programmed with Flash in my life. I just figured that now it might be the time, as I just signed up for the Global Game Jam. As programming with Python is kinda awkward (and not the best when you want to do games) and with Unity it quite often falls down playing with 3D graphics and getting them to work properly. Besides, 2D games are faster to make and can be (actually some are) way better than fancy 3D games. I think Flash is also nice, because everyone has it installed on their computers, so playing my games does not require extra installs and uninstalls (why would you uninstall my games!?). Also, I like learning new stuff and challenges are welcome.

Well, so much for the motivation. Now, to the big deal.

How to get started?

 

Well, first you need to get the Flash SDK, right? umm… it is pretty expensive when bought from Adobe and I don’t feel comfortable stealing it. Luckily, there is an open-source option called FlashDevelop. Installing everything was not that big of a deal and the wiki site has pretty decent guide for that. So, just follow the guide and in few minutes you are ready to get started!

Oh- but wait! WTF? What am I supposed to program? They have Action Script 2, Action Script 3, and HaXe? WHAT ARE THOSE MONSTERS!? Well, yeah. The wiki does not explain anything about these, but this is what I found out quickly: AS2 is the older version which was used programming Flash. AS3 is the newer, faster and (I assume?) better one. And HaXe seems to be some multiplatform language, that allows you to make one code to be javascript, php or flash. I myself did not see the reason for going all the trouble and finding more about that. At least, it seems to me that I can get quite nicely AS3 tutorials with Google.
So, choose AS3

HelloWorld! (or Flash)

 

The FlashDevelop site did not have any information on how to get started with the coding. The forum had lots of posts, but I felt anxious to start browsing through them for beginner info. So, google again and vóila! Thanks to DevMag post, I was watching the Hello World in no time 🙂 Go and check out the site (http://devmag.org.za/2009/04/02/flash-for-free/)

Okay, now I had the hello flash showing up. Time for some real action (to learn some basics!). Google google google…. and I found: http://prototyprally.com/making-games-in-actionscript-3-using-flashdevelop-part-1-the-setup/. This link starts with the same how to install, but then quickly moves to introduce some basics of Flash, like sprites & bitmaps, moving objects, clicking and events. Although the shown code is not very well  explained on where to put, it is still worth your time. At least I got hang of the thing already.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty! (more posts to follow in the future)

A Great book for tech starts

I just read a really great book on how to run a small tech company and felt that I MUST share it with everyone. The book was just so good. It’s called ReWork, which you can get easily either from Amazon.co.uk or from amazon.com. Truly a great piece of work! I found the book by reading Developer magazine and someone mentioned in an article four must-read-books for small game companies. So, without further thinking, I bought the book to my Kindle. And really, it was worth all the money!

The book is made in a very easy-to-read way. I was really stressed out today and all, but wanted to read my new purchase. And just like pure magic, I noticed few hours later that I had reached the back cover (not by cheating this time :-P). It was just so well made and full of great advice. Just to point few, the book tells how to concentrate better on clients, not to spend too much time on planning something that is not really the core-idea. Perhaps the key point in the book is to keep things simple, honest and personal. Forget all the big industry things, make having only a little money an advantage and use the agility of a small company. All those are the key to a great success!

A Must Read!

 

Modern Warfare 3 Breaks sales record

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has broken the all time fastest entertainment sales record (Call of Duty NewsCNET). The game has been sold for over $1 billion US dollars in 16 days. That is a huge record and breaks the previous one (breaking 1 billion mark in 17 days), which was made by James Cameron’s 3D movie Avatar.

What should people think about this? In my opinion this shows, that video game industry is really a notable part of the whole entertainment industry. A lot of people still consider games are made just for kids and teenagers, but truly, that cannot be the case anymore. Even the late night shows are using games to make jokes (continuing on the path of MW3, here is a take from Jay Leno).  With the rise of tablets and smart phones (iOS on the forefront), playing games is becoming more common even in the life of Average Joe’s.

I truly hope that video game industry would soon be considered as a more realistic (although still maturing) part of the entertainment business. If someone wants to join the industry and become a game programmer, artist or designer, that person should not be gazed weirdly as some geeky backroom nerd. After all, he (or she) is making your next Skyrim, Batman or Angry Birds.

Chrono Trigger Coming Soon!

I just noticed that Chrono Trigger is coming soon to iOS! I remember reading something about the eventual release somewhere, but the release date is coming close. For those who don’t know what Chrono Trigger is, I just have one thing to say – Shame On You! The game is one of the best RPG games ever made (not counting FFVI & FFVII for example). It includes everything a nerdy guy can want – time travel, parallel universes, different endings, a frog man. For those who have no idea, I suggest checking out the wikipedia article. The rest of you, here is the soon-to-be-released-trailer (for iOS):

 

ps. I just bought myself the full special edition of Indie Movie. I have high hopes for this thing 😉

The Really Big Bundle Available!

Indie Royale – website dedicated to selling bundles of games by independent game developers has announced yet new bundle! The Really Big Bundle! The games included are Really Big Sky, Runespell: Overture, Cthulhu Saves the World, Eufloria and Breath of Death VII as a bonus content. All of these are really great and I suggest especially checking out Cthulhu Saves the World and Eufloria, if you haven’t yet.

All of the games activate on Steam, and all except for Really Big Sky on Desura (it’s like Indie version of Steam). And what’s best, all these games run currently for less than 3 euros! Get them from here: http://www.indieroyale.com/

Here’s videos of all these games:

Really Big Sky:

Eufloria:

Cthulhu Saves the World:

Runespell: Overture