Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan was a fun, quick read. I have to agree with other reviewers that the book lacks a certain amount of depth, and anyone interested in the history of video games probably already knows most of the material in the book. It manages not to feel like a rehash, however, and there are a number of interesting trivia gems throughout. The humor is mostly corny, and not always in a good way. It doesn’t add much for me, but isn’t too distracting either. The book kept my interest all the way through, and it certainly makes you want to go play Mario. Overall I’d recommend it for any Nintendo fan.
This book is a classic, but until now I’ve never gotten around to reading more than a chapter of it. The major premise of the book is that things should be designed in ways that make it as easy as possible to use them. While this sounds obvious enough, Norman points out how the every day objects around us, from doors to telephones, consistently violate the principle. He gives concrete guidance for designing just about any sort of project, be it physical or digital. At times the book delves deeply into psychological analysis, yet it provides many entertaining antidotes throughout and avoids coming across as dense. Definitely a must read for anyone who designs (or uses!) any product.
A little interlude between project posts… I’ve uncovered a lost character from the Canterbury Tales:
A watchmaker was anachronistically there,
His bent back and crooked hands his sins to bear.
He carried the tools of his wicked trade,
The masters of men he slavishly made.
No longer a dial, a candle, a glass;
Banish the sun and moon alas.
Equal hours were his dark art,
Crafting time as empty as his heart.
The Prince of Darkness beside him as he rode,
A pilgrimage was his hope’s last abode.
Xovos is the senior project I completed last May. It is a program that develops web designs in an evolutionary environment with user interactions and preferences as the selection criteria. The project consists of five basic parts. The user interface allows the user to interact with the program. A set of genes makes up a chromosome that describes a design. An offspring generator mates the designs from the current generation to form the next generation. The design generator parses the design chromosomes to create the visual representations of the design. Finally, environmental preferences (also called monsters) allow users to set basic criteria for designs that will be automatically selected against. In my research I have not been able to find anyone else who has tried to apply evolutionary programming to web design in this way. The closest related work is on evolving programs that are designed for specific tasks and are not visually oriented.
No tame trail leads one there
Through wild rye and tangled brier,
Over paths unworn,
To the old stone wall
That weathers all.
A remnant of lost triumph;
The artifact of forgotten struggle.
When leaves ate wood
And thatch wore to soil,
Crops to seed,
And stock to feral,
It stood there still:
The old stone wall
That weathers all.