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June 2006

Mystic Inn: A Modern Tapper?

I don't have as much time to play video games as I'd like (who does?) so when I do play, I tend to gravitate towards engaging games that call upon the skills that I honed during my youth. (Some might call this evidence of a misspent youth, but I disagree.)

Um, in other words, I'm a sucker for any game that is vaguely "retro" in its approach, game play, or style.

Big Fish's new Mystic Inn caught my eye because it seemed like it was reminiscent of the arcade game Tapper. That was one of my favorites, and I also really enjoyed the ColecoVision version, too.

I was pleased to find that I was right about Mystic Inn. It has much of the same qualities as Tapper, but it is updated in many fun and clever ways. In addition to serving drinks you have to seat customers, deal with "to go" orders, and handle an ever increasing menu. Unlike Tapper, you don't have to pick up the empties, but there is still a critical time element involved; your customers won't wait forever.

One thing I had to get used to is that all the customers are doll-like wizards (inexplicable, really) and boy are they thirsty. Seriously, these witches go through a tray of sparkly purple potions like Vegas bachelorettes shooting JägerBombs.

The trial period is plenty long to decide if the game has staying power for you, so give it a whirl. If you have the time, of course. Oops, I gotta go. Table 3 needs another round...

Book: The Acme Catalog

I'm enthralled with a new book I picked up yesterday at my local quirky bookstore, Quimby's. In fact, Amazon says it has not yet been published, but it has made it all the way from Chronicle Books in San Francisco to Chicago, and I assure you that it does, indeed, exist.

It's the Acme Catalog. Yes, the very same Acme Corporation that apparently had a monopoly on products in Loony Tunes land. The catalog lists all of the various products you saw Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, and the gang use in all their whacky adventures. It's like a regular catalog, complete with part numbers and pricing, but includes things like the Portable Hole, A Boxing Glove On A Spring Box, and (of course) anvils. At almost 100 pages, it seems pretty darn comprehensive; you'll even find the drop-flag ray gun that Marvin the Martian pulled on Bugs.

acme.jpgWhat do I like best about it? Hard to say, it might be the nostalgia of remembering my childhood cartoons, it might be the inspiration of the imaginative products, or it could be the neat illustrations. Whatever it is, you might enjoy it too. It's good for a quick laugh, or even longer study.

As an aside, there's a factory loft conversion here in Bucktown that sports an ACME sign over the main entrance. I don't know if it's a joke by the developer, or it really was the factory before it went condo. but it never fails to crack me up.

A Super Duper portable strategy

I can't add too much to the chorus of people who like Super Duper as a Mac OS X backup utility, mainly because I don't use it that way. (For backups I faithfully use psyncx.) However, I am a very happy Super Duper customer. I use it because most of the time my primary computer is a desktop iMac. But when I have a presentation to give, or I'm otherwise going to be out of the office, I use Super Duper to copy my /Users directory to a PowerBook. This ensures I have all of my files (and the different user accounts that I use) with me when I need them. When I get home another Super Duper session back to the iMac and I'm once again current and have all the changes I made while on the road. Because I have to do this somewhat regularly, I use the "changed files only" option to reduce the time it takes; but overall it's definitely fast enough and very, very convenient. I know that I'm missing out by using Super Duper as a one trick pony, but it's a good trick that is essential for my current working style, so I'm happy. If you're faced with a similar need, I suggest you give it a try. IMPORTANT UPDATE. DEC 2007. - SuperDuper is not compatible with Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard. Despite knowing about this before Leopard's release, the product has not yet been updated. Do not use SuperDuper with Leopard, it will be unable to correctly restore your files. It will, however, happily run without complaint while it screws up your system. I speak from experience.

Monitor Your Driveway with Python

In Smart Home Hacks, Michael Ferguson (creator of the Mac home automation application XTension) contributed "Hack 54 - Monitor Your Driveway" which describes his techniques for knowing when a vehicle has entered his property and when it has arrived at the house. It uses some simple, but useful, scripting along with motion detectors and a photo-electric beam.

Neil Cherry, on his Linux home automation resource list, pointed me towards an interesting alternative approach by Fred Stelter, as published in Linux Journal. Fred's techniques uses a serial I/O box, a magnetic sensor, and some clever Python scripting.

When it comes to home automation, knowing multiple approaches allows you to choose (or more likely, combine) what works for you.