How I Mine For Reality

Hello everyone. My name is Tim Colwill, and I have a problem.

Hello, Tim!

Actually, I have a number of problems. For example, my facial muscles tend to operate on a ten-minute time delay, which causes me to sometimes be unable to properly communicate emotions to people important to me. In the same manner one can look up at the sky and see the stars as they were hundreds of years ago, my face is a delightful mirror of the emotions I was feeling ten minutes prior.

Working in combination with my expressionless voice I often, to my great chagrin, give people the impression of being either utterly disinterested, monstrously sarcastic, or having actually passed away several minutes ago and now operating entirely on volatile corpse gas and twitching nerve reflexes. My thanks to all those who have frantically, and mistakenly, dialled for an ambulance. I appreciate it.

But we’re not here to talk about that, are we? Today I would like to talk about my unnerving tendency to not so much blur as demolish the line between the internet and real life. I have, at various times in the past done, and probably will do again in the future, the following things.

  1. Picked up envelopes addressed to me, fresh out of the mailbox, and gleefully exclaimed “Oooh! Email!”
  2. Mused aloud on the possibility of “bookmarking” delightful staff at restaurants so that we could come back to the in the future.
  3. While sketching from a reference book, reached out to flip the pages of the reference book so that it would not go into screensaver.

Yes, I have done all of these things. I am not proud of these things, but they are my things, and I have done them. I will probably do more of them in the future even, until the time comes when I am found curled up in the foetal position on the floor, sucking binaric dregs from a blue CAT-5 cable and cackling quietly to myself.

Still, at least when I am asked in job interviews whether I “eat, sleep and breathe the internet”, I can hold my head high and say proudly: “Yes. Yes I do”. And then I can break down in a series of embarrassed, choking sobs.

I’ll always have that.

Twimage Release

UPDATE: Since Twitter has now ditched RSS feeds as part of their careful plan to make using their service increasingly difficult for anybody that doesn’t want to use their clients, Twimage no longer works. At all. Sorry!

Ever since I joined Twitter, it always bothered me that there was no way to display my tweets in a controlled web environment, one that didn’t allow scripts or embedded Flash content. Twitter offers plenty of badges in Flash and Javascript, but if I wanted to display my latest tweet in, say, my forum signature, I was basically screwed. Most forum software such as phpBB is very restrictive on what users can and cannot put into their signatures, but the one thing they all allow are images. And so Twimage was born.

Twimage is a PHP script I wrote that grabs your Twitter account’s RSS feed, reads it, strips it down, and then prints the latest tweet from it to a 648 x 40 pixel PNG image. You can then display this image anywhere you would normally be able to put a regular PNG image file – including your forum signature! The final result looks a lot like this (resized for width, see full size here):

Twimage

Because Twitter’s RSS feeds are painfully unstable – often returning HTTP 400 errors for no fucking reason whatsoever – I’ve also included a Twimage Feedchecker. This is nothing more than a simple PHP file which tries to print your RSS feed in plaintext, and will helpfully tell you any errors it encounters so you can accurately troubleshoot. I’ve also included the source file for the background image, if the colours I’ve chosen don’t take your fancy.

I’m not going to lie: this script is basically a complete and total hackjob and is very, very rudimentary in nature. RSS2HTML does most of the heavy lifting, and I just polish it, clean it up and print it into a PNG. It’s nothing that somebody else couldn’t write for themselves in about ten seconds, and indeed if anybody out there wishes to improve on it (which shouldn’t be hard!) I welcome them. I’d love to see what you do with it. Enjoy.

Video Games, Comics, and Navel-Gazing

Hey, have you guys heard of Teh Learning Curve yet? It’s a pretty cool gig; the premise of which being that a couple of guys sit on a couch, play a video game together for 30 minutes, then give their impressions of it – all of which is condensed into a five-minute YouTube video for the ridiculously short attention span of the discerning modern internet viewer. I did some logo work for them a little while back, but before that I actually took time out from my busy schedule as an international man of dysentry to appear, in real life, and show them the correct and most efficient way to play Braid.

 

 

If you’re having trouble recognising me, I am the attractive ponytailed Adonis sitting on the right hand side. I think we can all agree I have a bright future in game reviews, if not actual successful game play, or any manner of timing and co-ordination.

For those who don’t know, I used to do a (semi) regular webcomic by the name of Refried. I was looking back through the archives last night, and aside from the odd cringe or two, it really made me want to pick up the webcomic gig again. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this; it’s been almost two years since I stopped updating Refried and so I’ve had quite a reasonable amount of time to consider my position. So much time in fact, that I apparently fell asleep at the wheel and drove my car off the webcomics highway into the blissful ditch of real life.

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Aluminium Chef: It Burns So Much

IT BURNS SO MUCH

On today’s episode of Aluminium Chef, you will learn the following things:

1) Putting a Cadbury Creme Egg in the microwave to make it all “nice and melty” to go over your ice cream will result in a loud, ear-piercing shriek as the gooey creme filling bursts forth, geyser like, from the chocolate shell and sprays all over the inside of the microwave.

2) The gooey creme filling will be superheated to a temperature comparable to that of molten lava as it exits the chocolate shell. Touching the gooey creme lava will cause first degree burns to your fingers.

3) As the filling that decorates the inside of your microwave slowly cools, you will discover that it is almost impossible to clean off. You will spend at least fifteen minutes furiously scrubbing as you hold your hand in a glass of cold water, incredulous with pain and rage, alternating under your breath between vicious swearing and confused denial.

4) Thoroughly cautious, you will gently touch the now-empty but surprisingly intact chocolate shell of the Creme Egg, only to find that is in fact stone fucking cold.

Why I Love: City of Villains

As the history – or more accurately, this slightly faded receipt in my hand – tells it, on the second of December 2005, at 4:47 PM precisely, I walked into EB Games Carousel and purchased the City of Villains Collector’s DVD Edition for the princely sum of $74.85, beginning an on-and-off love affair that would last over three years.

City of Villains was pretty much my first MMO, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. And while I can look back and suspect that my shine for it might still be slightly rose-tinted for that naivete, I’ve since tried other MMO’s – Warhammer Online (for several months), World of Warcraft (for two weeks), Tabula Rasa (for six hours), Ultima Online (for… well, thirty minutes) – and I’ve even spent the last year balls-deep in development of another MMO. None of these games, no matter who I played them with, no matter how good the anecdotes about them, no matter how much I enjoyed working on them, none of these games have ever kept me interested, kept me excited and kept me coming back again and again like City of Villains.

As you may or may not know, the people behind City of Villains, Cryptic Studios, are currently working on another superhero-themed MMO called Champions Online. Naturally this sort of news is exciting to me, and while discussing it with my friends, all the good memories from the City of Villains days came flooding back. Our incessant talking about those halcyon days was enough to convince Jess that it was time to try it for herself, and so a few weeks ago we fired it up, and we haven’t looked back since.

There have been probably three distinct City of Villains eras for me before this one, and though I’ve always been pleased with the game’s ongoing development each time I’ve restarted, logging in again for the first time in nearly two years really floored me with the amount of improvements that they’ve been quietly crowbarring in. Though I’ve always loved the game to pieces, it has always had some distinctly glaring issues, or what I would consider to be incredibly obvious design decisions that needed to be made but which just weren’t. This time around, I could not help but be amazed at just how far they had come along in addressing those concerns. In fact, I’ve been enjoying playing it so much that I decided it was about time to write it all down and tell the world exactly why.

Continue reading Why I Love: City of Villains