Tag Archives: websites

Serendipity

I was trolling around the internet yesterday looking for a puzzle game I used to play a few years ago. I have no idea why this game popped into my head yesterday, but I got a huge craving to play it again, only I couldn’t remember what it was called or where it was, only that it was a big grid with numbered colors out to the top and side, and you had to put the right number of colored blocks in the right spaces, and you’d end up with a picture. Googled, searched my usual game haunts (though I knew it wasn’t one of the big ones like Yahoo!Games or Shockwave or Uproar–I was just hoping they’d have something similar to help job my memory). Nothing. Found lots of Sudoku! But not what I was looking for. Finally I gave up, intending to eventually e-mail the friend who had introduced me to it in the first place if I didn’t remember it myself within a few days.

Then today I got a new Game Informer magazine, and I casually flipped through the reviews (BTW, they gave Bioshock a 10! I’ve never seen them give a 10…I might have to add it to my list of games to check out once I get an Xbox360), and kept going past the Xbox listings into the handheld reviews–which I don’t always do, since I don’t hold a handheld system. AND THERE WAS THE GAME!! Nintendo released it as “Picross” for the DS; apparently there was a Picross version on the Game Boy back in the ’90s as well. I knew I hadn’t known it as Picross, but looking at the pictures it was absolutely the same idea. Googled “Picross,” found a reference to “Nonogram” on Wikipedia, which apparently is the general term for these type of games. And they listed “griddler” as an alternate name, AND THAT WAS MY GAME! Wow. It’s so incredibly weird that I would suddenly think of that game yesterday after not having played it in probably two years, and that it would happen to coincide with the release of a similar DS game and that I would actually read the DS reviews in the Game Informer this week.

So, anyway. If you’ve got time to kill (and I warn you, these puzzles are addicting), check out Griddlers.net. The site is a bit confusing at first–I recommend creating an account first thing so it’ll save your progress on any puzzles you can’t finish in one sitting–but the puzzles are a lot of fun. I didn’t realize there was a whole group of games like this…if you don’t like the Griddlers site, you can google “nonogram” or “picross” and find similar games on other sites.

Book Info Search

I wish that book resources on the internet were as easy to find as film and music resources. Now, maybe I’m just better at looking for film and music information than book information, but I find it odd that for each type of book-related website I’d like to find, I can name an exact equivalent for the film world. For a long time I’ve wished that there were a book database as extensive and dominant as IMDb is for films (there are some vying in the area, like Internet Book List, Internet Book Database and a few others, but most of them are gearing more and more to social networking and message boards, it seems, than to straight information–compare to IMDb, which has a message board, but it’s peripheral). I gave up on that.

Now I just want a site that does for books what Cinematical does for movies–news about upcoming books, rumors, reviews, tidbits about what bigwigs in the blogosphere and media are talking about, that sort of thing. I found a lot of litblogs by poking around various blogrolls, but they all seem to be either personal/review sites (some of which look very good, don’t get me wrong–just not what I’m looking for) or too closely tied to either a specific publisher or a specific genre of book. Now in this case it may just be that there isn’t much information about books before they come out as there is about movies, simply because writing tend to involve only one person rather than cast, crew, studio, and who know who all else–you don’t have “oh, this film is being made” and “oh, here’s the director”, and “oh, here’s the cast,” and “oh, here’s the poster,” and “oh, here’s the problem they’re having with the MPAA,” etc. with books. But still. There would seem to me to be room for a professional-level group blog not associated with a particular publisher or interest group with writers who could each focus on whatever they wanted to in the bookworld (enough writers with different interests that everything would get covered) with news about which writers are currently working on what, reviews of what’s just come out, and features on earlier books perhaps or just general bookworld stuff.

As a side wish, I wanted to find a site that would list the release dates of upcoming books–not just a selection of potential bestsellers (which I can get off Barnes & Noble or Amazon), but of ALL the books coming out. This, again, is ridiculously easy with movies. IMDb has a very nice list of upcoming theatrical releases, and when I wanted to see upcoming DVD releases, a Google search for “upcoming DVD releases” gave me a dozen sites that listed every upcoming release for the next several months. A Google search for “upcoming book releases” or “book publishing dates” or variants brought me to a Barnes & Noble “notable releases”-type page and a lot of individual publisher sites. Is it really true that I’d have to look at each publisher’s list of upcoming titles to get a full picture of what’s being published soon?

What is this? Is it just that there are too many books published in too many different areas by too many different publishers for one site to keep track of it all? Are book publishing dates not as firm as film and DVD release dates? Are books just so completely uninteresting to most of the internet world that nobody cares about book information? In other words, is it a question of lack of coherence in the book publishing world that makes it difficult to produce such an triumverate of book information (database, Cinematical-esque blog, release date list), or is it a question of a lack of audience to make such a venture worthwhile? Related to the worthwhileness, perhaps, is my other petpeeve about book sites in general: Movie sites are pretty, by and large. Compare IMDb to the book databases listed above. IMDB, though not in my top ten of pretty websites, is a lot prettier than they are. Some of the bookshelf collection-tracking sites are pretty, like Shelfari, but I don’t think they’re quite what I want at the moment.

Finally, if anyone knows of such sites as I have outlined here, please PLEASE direct me to them. I would be forever grateful.

Quick Note…

I am not skipping Music Monday this week; it’s just going to be late on account of the presentation I’m writing for tomorrow. Hopefully there shall be musics up tomorrow sometime.

Also, on the subject of movie list responses to AFI’s new Top 100, Eddie Copeland’s got a great one. He doesn’t follow AFI’s rules, though, and includes a generous helping of foreign film. Which is a good thing. I think I’ll do that sometime, but it’s going to be difficult and not as good as his, because I haven’t seen nearly as many films as he has. Ah well. Something to aim for, right?

Also also, on the subject of things that make me laugh, Book-A-Minute is awesome. A friend mentioned it to me right at the start of class this morning, so of course I looked it up, and it was all I could do not to bust out laughing as class started. “When even the Cliff’s Notes are too long…” I just wish they had more of them.

Langston Hughes paper and various technological points

Well, I think my presentation of my Langston Hughes paper went pretty well yesterday, so I’m going to go ahead and post it. And also plug a new site that just opened from private beta, called Scribd. It’s basically a site for you to upload documents, and it displays them in Flashpaper, and allows downloads as .pdf, .doc, and even converts to .mp3. I’m not wholly convinced that this is a needed service, since documents are so easy to upload pretty much anywhere, but the conversion to different file types is nice (would work as an online .pdf converter, in fact, if you don’t have one), as is the Flashpaper display. I also like that you can embed documents in the Flashpaper player (because I’m a huge fan of embedding everything). Like this:

So it could be that this does fill a useful niche, though I doubt it will ever take off like YouTube or Odeo or Flickr. Right now the site’s servers are pretty slammed, though, because it’s getting press from TechCrunch and other Web2.0 trackers, so converting is really slow ATM. Anyway, it’s an interesting entry into the Web2.0 space, so I thought I’d mention it.

While I’m mentioning things to do with .pdfs, I need to return for a moment to my PDF Rant from a couple of weeks ago, because I actually found a .pdf reader that does what I need to do. I mentioned that Foxit Reader let me do some annotation, but I gave it short shrift. After poking around in the menus for a while, I found additional toolbars that let me add comments, arrows, even a “typewriter” tool that puts the comments directly on top of the .pdf. (The comment tool puts a marker box that you have to click to see the comment.) The highlighter tools still don’t work if the document is a scanned copy as opposed to OCRed text, but you can work around that by using drawing tools around the part you want to highlight. It’s still not IDEAL, but until people quit using DRM, it’s passable.

And while I’m mentioning things with websites, I must transfer my anger from .pdfs to Blogger. Not too much anger, because I don’t have to use it very often, since I gave up using it as my blogging platform a long time ago. But I would like just once, JUST ONCE, to be able to leave a comment on someone’s blogger blog without having to type in the verification code MULTIPLE TIMES. Note that I don’t have a problem with the verification code. It’s a very good idea to have it. But there’s some sort of bug or something in blogger, because every single time I leave a comment, I type in my comment, type in the verification code, hit “post comment” and it pops up with red text telling me to enter the verification code. I DID! And so I do it again. Sometimes it works this time, but often I have to do it AGAIN. Google, the last upgrade to blogger fixed a lot of things, and added a lot of helpful functionality. But the comments are still broken! (Also, I dislike the fact that posting comments opens a second window instead of just doing it all on the same page, but that’s an aesthetic choice, I guess.)

Netflix Rules

So Netflix doesn’t have a set-top box yet for downloading rented movies and playing them on your TV screen, but this is the next best thing. They’ve started rolling out a WatchNow feature, where subscribers can watch movies on their computers. That is, the movies stream, you have full fast-forward and rewind capability, and no commercials. You’re limited to a certain number of viewing hours (18 if you’re on the 3-at-a-time plan), but it goes strictly by time–that is, if you watch five minutes of a movie and decide not to watch any more, you’re only down five minutes, not the full length of the movie. They’ve got 1,000 movies in the program so far–compare to iTunes’ 250 movies available for download–plus some TV shows.

DID I MENTION THIS IS FREE FOR SUBSCRIBERS? In other words, if you’re already a subscriber, you pay nothing extra for this. You continue to get your three or four or however many DVDs a month by mail, PLUS you can watch these streaming movies for 18 or so hours, depending on your plan. I have four-at-a-time DVDs. Add 18 hours of streaming which I calculate to be roughly 9 movies a month. Extra. Free. Immediate.

Granted, they’re not full downloads. Granted, you can’t watch them on your TV (unless you have a PC-to-TV connection). But it’s still a heckuvalot better than anything else out there, especially if you’re already a Netflix subscriber. It’s only out to a limited number of people right now (not me, *pout*), but they’re supposed to release it to everyone by June of this year.

See a screencast of it at Hacking Netflix.