Wednesday, 18 April 2012

In memory

April 14th

Second World War veteran, mechanic, aviation buff, pilot, computer whizz, gardener, painter, and much more.

Dearly beloved.

Rest in Peace.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Taking a break

I've got a few new projects on: an ebook directory, a new site, and the seashore game migrating to a database (if I can find a reliable database dev).

Which is when real life delivered a few body blows, in the form of a very ill (and dearly loved) relative. I may not be blogging for a while. Projects may be delayed. Sorry.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Life under SOPA

In summary: someone claimed copyright over one of my holiday snaps on Zazzle. I just found out the hard way that there is no way to contest a copyright claim with Zazzle, despite owning the original image.

I was going to write a long rant, but frankly the above speaks for itself.

Anyone supporting SOPA or ACTA should consider carefully what it means for the web. Images, Videos, Articles, Ebooks, even your holiday snaps can be claimed by third parties. And you have no right of appeal.

Given this I've reacted as most content creators will: I've pulled the rest of my aircraft and dinosaur content off Zazzle - even the model shots, which I set-up, snapped and photoshopped - simply because there is no way to defend against this type of claim. The cat photos are still there, but I own the cats as well as the images, so if Zazzle accept an unproved copyright claim the issue of model releases comes up, which means I have every right legally to find out who claimed to own them.

Sadly there won't be any more Vulcan images, since the model I used to pose them was donated to the Vulcan to the Skies charity at the Salute wargames convention where we sponsored them.

The other implication is for the games I was working on. Since a digital watermark and base psd files are apparently not proof, it is going to be nearly impossible to prove ownership of photoshop-created images. This severely affects merchandising, one of the major revenue streams for free games. Since there is one game where this is a major feature, we may need to re-think how that one works.

On the other hand I've got two more sites going live soon, one being a repurpose of the original SmashingReads ebook directory software we wrote. By the way, for anyone who is interested in running an ebook directory, this software is easily customised/tweaked, so let me know.

The other one? Lets just say it's my version of a very targeted social network.

Friday, 2 March 2012

A cultural difference

There's an interesting difference between the UK and US, regarding volunteer work. I've run into it before, but I've just encountered it again.

The US company wants to know why our names aren't all over the tools we built, since it would be great promotion and a boost to the CV. In the UK in certain industries like computing, doing volunteer work or even hobby coding is not a boost to your CV. In fact, it has the opposite effect.

For example, an agent who became aware I'd built them promptly offered me a lowered rate for my next role on the grounds that I must be desperate since I'd done work for free. It is a sadly common attitude.

I wrote a small chat program for free for my own use as few years back, only to have a later potential employer say that since I could do that for myself, I could give it to them for free, uncredited. They remained a potential.

In general volunteering isn't viewed by the value of the code or the experience or the skills it demonstrates, just the price tag: the classic "price of everything, value of nothing".

This view also has the side effect of stifling innovation. After all, why try to develop something in your spare time or do coding research, if the company will either a) dock your pay or b) demand the rights? It is generally not good for anyone.

The problem right now is how to communicate this politely to a US company, where the idea that displaying useful and effective coding skills could be a liability on a CV seems to be rather alien.

(For any coders not put off by this, IT4Communities is a useful place to find charities who need help.)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Amends and expansions

Making a few tweaks to the code for the search in the game, so that users will be able to search even if their pockets are full, they just can't take anything.

An extra bit will be needed to click on events when they occur to interact with them, so highspeed clicking through the beach won't get you anything (currently it gives you a good chance of only missing curios).

Regarding the Smashwords tools, animation is still the most requested item. We still don't have a Flash dev onboard, so we are looking at options. The php option is not currently on the table as our server doesn't support it, but the java dev says he can create a standalone app that will generate animated gifs for users to download and save. With Java we timed it - the app takes 2 seconds, but the plugin that supports it takes 20. While this is a problem for an e-reader, for a banner generation app it might be less of one.