Monday, October 31, 2011

Google Reader

Today Google Reader was updated with a new UI and Google+ integration. Although the reaction on Reddit seems to be quite negative, I like the new UI. One complaint people have is that there is much more whitespace and less space for content than the older version. While this is true, it doesn't bother me because of the way I use Google Reader. I focus on one feed item at a time, using a hotkey to cycle through items. Feed items usually are a short snippet of text so don't need much space anyway.

In case anyone doesn't know what RSS feeds are or what Google Reader does, I will give a short explanation here. Many websites update a .RSS file whenever they post new content. A feed reader simply listens to a set of RSS feeds and tells you when new content is posted. Instead of manually visiting a long list of your favorite websites to find content, you can find it all organized in one place with a feed reader. RSS feeds can have other uses as well: my blog posts automatically get imported into Facebook via RSS.

I get the majority of my news/entertainment through RSS feeds, so I encourage everyone to try it out. My favorite feeds come from Reddit (and various subreddits). Webcomics are perfect for RSS feeds - some of my favorites include: xkcd, The Perry Bible Fellowship, Nedroid, Hyperbole and a Half, The Oatmeal, Penny Arcade, Buttersafe, and Abstruse Goose.

Google Reader has some interesting statistics in the "Trends" view. The graph above shows the time of day that I usually read items. Since October 7, 2005 I have read a total of 102,284 items. I can also view the number of people in Google Reader subscribed to various feeds - my blog currently has 14. Here is my blog's feed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DARPA Shredder Challenge

This weekend I started working on the DARPA Shredder Challenge. This is a contest to reconstruct shredded documents. There are a total of five puzzles and a $50,000 prize. So far I have solved one puzzle using a combination of algorithms and manual assembly. The first puzzle was pretty tough, so I am worried that I won't be able to solve any of the remaining four.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dark Souls Defeated

I managed to beat dark souls in a total of 57 hours of play time. I made heavy use of the multiplayer components of the game - summoning other players to help me defeat powerful enemies. I suspect that without taking advantage of the online functionality this game would be significantly more difficult. Overall I enjoyed Dark Souls more than Demon's Souls. Throughout the game I was stunned by the creativity and beauty of the level design. The design team must be incredibly talented since the world they created is far more immersive than any other game I have played.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Dark Souls

Demon's Souls was one of the greatest games I have played. The game was so difficult that I considered giving up several times - but I eventually beat it. On Tuesday a sequel to Demon's Souls was released called Dark Souls. I am only about 5 hours into the game but so far it is incredible - maybe even better than the original. I have been warned by online reviews that Dark Souls is even harder than Demon's Souls, so I am hoping that I won't get stuck and miss out on experiencing the full game. It is interesting that such a frustrating/agonizing game is enjoyable at the same time - the joy of beating a monster makes up for the pain of spending hours trying and failing to beat the monster in previous attempts.