Friday, April 28, 2017

Star Wars: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter - Balance of Power - Imperial Task Force Vengeance Mission #10

Another mission, another capture op. I chose the TIE Advanced, as usual. From that, your main role is going to be interdicting fighters before they can take out the capturing transports, and defending against reinforcements.

Roughly the same if you go the Assault Gunboat route, but you'll focus on disabling the two ships for capture before moving over to help the Brights as best you can.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Twin Cities Code Camp 2017 - After Action Report

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Twin Cities Code Camp for the first time. Actually, despite being in the industry since before the Code Camp concept had even started, this was the first one I'd ever had the opportunity to attend. At the urging of a coworker who had attended a number of these events for the past few years, I loaded up my trusty steed and made my course north-east towards Minneapolis.

While the ride up and back is beyond the scope of this discussion, I do want to note that this was the first trip longer than a single tank of gas that I've made on my motorcycle. At almost two hundred and fifty miles each way, this made a good shakedown run for some of the longer rides I've got planned for later this year. I came away with a couple of items that I definitely want to adjust for next time, but overall the ride went well.

For code camp, I attended five sessions: Building C# and iOS apps with Xamarin, Augmented Eyes = Azure Cognitive Services + Hololens, Scratch: Programming for Kids (and Adults), The Importance of Networking (human, not computers), and Cool SQL Features Everyone Should Know About. Having previously worked on HoloStudio and Robo Raid, the Hololens talk was a personal highlight. The post talk Hololens play session where people were trying on the devices for the first time and experiencing Robo Raid was great. Watching other people have those "Whoa!" experiences for the first time is fantastic.

The Xamarin talk was another excellent one for me. I've been hoping to work on a personal project for mobile devices later in the year, and Xamarin is sounding very promising as a technology for me to use. Since I'm primarily a C# developer these days, the promise of being able to use what I already know to develop for multiple platforms sounds like a great time saver.

The most humorous moment for me came at the start of the Networking panel. Let's be honest, most of us in the software industry are introverts to one extent or another, and it was never more obvious than before a panel about talking to new people, when literally no one in the room was talking to each other! No wonder we need an extroverted placement specialist to help remind us why we need to be talking, making new friends, and keeping our personal networks up to date.

This isn't meant to slight the other two panels I attended either. While the SQL talk was a bit over my head (I'm still working on better understanding SQL), there was some excellent advice there. The Scratch panel was also fantastic, introducing me to a programming language I'd never heard of before,that it sounds like some of my kids will really enjoy.

It was a great use of a Saturday. I met some new people, learned some things, and came away with a cool new t-shirt. I'll definitely be back next year. If you're even tangentilly involved in software development, or interested in writing code, I highly recommend finding out if there's a code camp near you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Backlog Burndown #22 - Highschool Possesion

Today on Marooner's Rock I take on one of Dharker Studio's earlier visual novels: Highschool Possession.

After coming home from school with a massive headache and laying down for a rest, Hikaru wakes up the next day to an unfamiliar ceiling. Even more shocking, he's inhabiting a familiar, yet very unfamiliar body: Akiko! As Hikaru tries to navigate Akiko through her day, he finds that rather than having a perfect life, she's got some serious problems. A bad boyfriend is trouble enough, but Akiko has some serious depression issues that she's been hiding from everyone. But as night falls and Hikaru goes to sleep, this will have just been a bizarre one-off event, right?
Check out the whole story here: Backlog Burndown #22

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Star Wars: X-Wing vs.TIE Fighter - Balance of Power - Imperial Task Force Vengeance Mission #9

Another intercept and destroy! This time I ended up taking the Assault Gunboat. Ion cannons and Proton Torpedoes are a lot more useful when a bulk of the enemy craft are capital ships or heavy freighters.

Monday, April 24, 2017


In Southern California, the weekend's box office numbers make the front page (usually below the fold, to be sure) of Monday's newspaper. In Seattle, the latest moves by Amazon, Boeing, and Microsoft are reported at the top of every news program. In South Dakota, no news broadcast is complete without a list of prices for major crops and cattle.
Photo Credit: South Dakota Magazine
 Priorities reveal what's important to the soul of a region. Southern California thrives on the movie biz. Seattle views itself as a tech hub. South Dakota, despite a vibrant and growing tech and banking industry, has its heart in the farms that start just past the city limits.

I can't say whether one is better than the other. I remember as a teen, hating the superficiality of SoCal's news, and counting the days until I could finally leave. To be free of the valley whose buttes and mountains felt like they hemmed me in.

As a game developer at the start of my career, Settle's tech obsession intoxicated me. The pace, the changes! But the rain, the gloom, and the traffic all combined to wear me down year after year.

South Dakota is growing on me. The wide open spaces, a sense that my future is wide open again, and boundless possibilities for my family and me are right on the horizon. Seeing four actual seasons is different. The biting cold and snow of winter give way to green and the new life of spring. New life blooms into fullness in the heat and humidity of summer. The adventures of summer are celebrated and memorialized in the fireworks of autumn, and we breathe in the crisp air that presages another rest, another blanket of snow from winter once again.

Still, I find myself missing California. I miss mountains covered in snow, salty sea air, and cold Pacific ocean waters. Perhaps someday, California will right itself from the political disaster that it's become, and in my later years, I can return.
Image source
Perhaps not. Maybe, like a teenage first love that's long past but never forgotten, I can't go baqck again. That doesn't mean I'm not happy or in love now, just that memories of the past can co-exist with a happy present. Maybe, to borrow a classic song lyric: "If you can't live in the place you love, love the place you live."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Star Wars: X-Wing vs.TIE Fighter - Balance of Power - Imperial Task Force Vengeance Mission #8

Time to try out the new hotness! I recommend the TIE Advanced for this one, although the gap between the Bright and the Assault Gunboat is a lot lower for a lot of missions. Still, this one has a lot of fast inspections and fighter killing, so the Bright is usually the best choice.

Roll in fast, and try to get your inspections done quickly. Note that the two Corvettes are hiding inside the repair yard, so either wait for them to come out, or fly close (or inside) the repair yard to get your inspection goals done. Just try not to crash into anything.

After that, it's mainly just another round of killing overmatched enemy fighters, and making sure the Rage doesn't take too much damage from attacking Rebels.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Community Surprises - Pinny Arcade and Baseball Card Traders

Fake items. Sharks taking advantage of people who don’t know the value of what they’re trading. Aggressive traders trying to wring every cent of value from a trade. I should have been prepared. After all, I’ve been in in the baseball card hobby a long time, and learned my lessons the hard way there. But this wasn’t sports or collectable cards of any kind, this was pin trading, and it was supposed to be fun.

Official PAX South 2017 set. Or "con fodder" to some.
A little background: In 2013, The Penny Arcade guys started a pin trading brand called Pinny Arcade. Official pins have a stamp on the back, and can be acquired in a variety of ways. Some are sold online, sometimes for a limited time only. Others are show exclusives, available only at a particular booth or dealer. Still others are giveaways, promotions for a game or brand, and might be purchased, or given away for completing a demo or something.

The only official rules are that that limited-edition pins and sets are limited to two purchases at a time, Penny Arcade Staff and Line Entertainment Enforcers can’t deny trades, and that pins should be undamaged for trading. Simple, right?

Not so fast. As always, where there’s collectables and a market, there’s value. This one is just a bit more… fluid. Pins that you can buy as sets (the cheapest way to acquire single pins) are categorized as “fodder” and there’s a whole exchange rate of fodder for more desirable pins. Want that Fallout 4 pin that Bethesda gave away at their PAX Prime booth in 2016? You’d better be willing to part with a C-Note’s worth of fodder for it if you don’t have anything better to trade. Such is capitalism, and turning four hours of waiting into $100 of merchandise is a pretty good hourly wage.

Fake pins, where someone has gone to the trouble of making their own look-alikes and passing them off as the real deal, are also apparently another problem. Imagine someone making their own off-brand of Magic or baseball cards, then trying to pass them off as just as valuable and worth trading as the real thing. Reactions would not be good.

One of these is a fake. Guess which one?

The peculiar contrast is that I’ve also come back to baseball card trading, at least through, and found the community there to be helpful, generous, and easy to work with. Perhaps it’s the ease of making trades from the comfort of your own computer. Almost certainly the fact that there’s a recognized authority on value, which both parties are visibly aware of, helps to ensure that trades are fair. Oh, there’s counterfeit cards at the high end being passed around on eBay sometimes, but no one is wasting their time creating batches of cheap rookie cards from the ‘90s to trade around.

Perhaps it’s a bit ironic then, that the community I thought was “just for fun” is the one filled with piranhas, and the one I expected to be filled with sharks turns out to be populated mostly by harmless, friendly guppies. I’m not going to quit pin collecting, but I will probably keep most of my trading restricted to places where there’s an agreed upon, authoritative value for things.