Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How To Not Touch Touchscreens

Since the advent of the LCD screen, one of the traditional commandments has always been never to touch the surface. Contact with the screen can distort images, ruin pixels and wear out a pristine monitor quickly. This still applies to standard desktop and laptop monitors, so if you like to take the hands-on approach in your computing affairs, stop reading and get a screen protector pronto.

As we proceed into the age of smartphones and touchpads, those of us used to the “no touching” rule find ourselves in a foreign, backwards world where touching the screen is not only acceptable, it appears to be necessary to use the device. All the new toys use capacitive screens, which require something conductive in order to work... such as a human finger. It's madness, I tell you.

Capacitive screens are protected from the aforementioned dangers, of course, but that doesn't mean it's always pleasant to use fingers to touch them. Screen smudging is an issue, fingers may not always be clean and jobs may demand a stylus for better accuracy. Most PDA styli don't work since they aren't conductive. It's a problem that had gotten so bad that folks in South Korea started using sausages once they discovered, through what had to be some fantastic trial & error experimentation, that they somehow worked. Thankfully, Targus has a conductive stylus on the market now.

Making a conductive stylus is more complex, so they aren't cheap and only recommended for those who either need the accuracy of a stylus or dislike sausage.

If you're only worried about screen smudging or just can't stand the thought of making direct contact with an LCD screen, try 3M's Screen Protector Film. It can be cut to the size of your phone and reduces smudging while keeping the device fully functional. You can feel better touching this with your fingers or, if you still prefer, your favorite encased meat.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Whiteboard Tower Defense

It was recently brought to my attention that an artist/game developer was bringing his own unique brand of physical gaming into the world.  Rather that just create a project and move on he decided to start a Kickstarter campaign to try and get this project moving a little faster (if he could turn a profit, I'm sure nobody would be crying).

If you've ever played a Tower Defense game you get the general scheme of things here.  Create a path, setup towers, enemies approach your defense system and wipe you out as they exit the screen. Doodle Defense takes the tried and true formula and just changes the medium you play it in.  Rather than using your fingers or a mouse you use dry erase markers on a whiteboard. If you are interested in the tech that powers this game, good on you, it isn't very interesting.

The demonstration videos and photos aren't very clear or useful, but here's what I could glean from it. You have to use a red, blue, green, and black marker so you'll have to make sure you have a package of all four color dry erase markers.  I saw that at least two different types of markers were used, both Quartet dry erase markers and Sanford Expo dry erase markers.  I couldn't tell what kind of whiteboards were used.  I couldn't see the brand or attempt to divine the size of the boards.  I assume it'll all depend on how close you keep your projector to the board.  The source code for the game is available if you want to try to build your own rig, but that's too much effort for me.

So I just went looking to see if any other whiteboard games were available and found Whiteboard Tower Defense.

This is really just a standard Tower Defense game and the only reason that "whiteboard" is in the name is to excuse the poor art quality in my opinion.  You can see in the screenshot that somebody took a photo of the whiteboard in their office and used that as the backdrop for the game.  They even left the Quartet logo in place on this game's backdrop so you know they have a Quartet whiteboard.

I doubt that Quartet officially sanctioned this game, but whatever.  That's for the lawyers to fight about.

Who Cares About Vintage Erasers?

Apparently somebody does.

Sometime ago I bookmarked Less than 100g, a self described "blog dedicated to tiny & beautiful stuff." The idea for the blog is novel enough.  Showcase things that the author finds that are both small and cool. They ran an issue (they call every blog posting an issue) dedicated to a collection of vintage erasers that was featured on another website.  So of course I had to visit the original page.

I get liking little things, and I get collecting things, but old erasers?  That's something I just can't get behind.  Some of the erasers don't even look very old.  The octagon erasers are odd and earn points for being interesting, but what's so special about a Pink Pearl?  I mean I guess the logo printed on the eraser has changed a little since it's current introduction and the eraser most readily available is a 100 instead of a 101.

Is there any monetary value to be gained by collecting old erasers? Is there a market for antique erasers?  Is anybody out there really jonesing for a chunk of disposable rubber that is the exact same as what they used as a child? Wouldn't that mean you enjoyed using the eraser?  To go further down the rabbit hole, what people usually erase are mistakes, so if you enjoyed erasing you must have enjoyed making mistakes.  If that is the case, then you are clearly a confused individual. If you are collecting erasers because you are a hoarder, then you've got other problems.  With the wide variety of erasers available today, just throw out your old ones and get something new.

Me?  I prefer a pen.  Sure I make mistakes, but as the kids are fond of saying, YOLO. Just give me a normal pen and a notebook.  If I screw up badly, I'll scratch it out and use the next page.  If it's not to bad, I'll just edit and continue on.  It is a lot easier when I don't have to worry about keeping an eraser on hand at all times.