Retiring as a blog

For a while now, this site has been mostly moribund, and certainly out of date. Thanks to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and other services, I haven’t really made much use of With my profile, there’s not that much left for this site to do. Well, there is one thing it can do – host my projects.

So, effective immediately, is no longer my blog. Instead, will serve as blog, and I will try to move my blog posts over. Then I’ll pull the site down to rework it into my personal projects store and portfolio. This will probably take a while to do, given all the demands on my time, but hopefully by the end of the year the new will be up and running.

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Radio Alarm Clock 0.11 now available, and shinier too

alarm clock, bought from IKEA

Image via Wikipedia

That’s right, after over a year’s wait, a new version of Radio Alarm Clock. Technically, it’s actually version, as I found a serious flaw in 0.11 after tagging and building release packages, but before putting it online.  These things happen, though. So anyway, the new version is here. And what does it add?

  • Rebuilt user interface for Vista and Windows 7 users. The new UI makes use of Aero glass transparency, as well as providing sleep radio and snooze functions from the taskbar. For those who’d rather have the original look, that’s still provided too, although cleaner, and more in-line with the new look.
  • Separate radios for sleep and alarm. No longer are you forced to use the same playlist for both!
  • Updated options dialog.

Of course, for all this to happen, the requirements have gone up. Radio Alarm Clock requires that the .NET Framework 4.0 Client Profile be installed on the computer if you’re using Windows, or Mono 2.8 if you’re using anything else. And there are still no alternative radios available, just the Windows Media Player radio.

Radio Alarm Clock comes in an installable MSI package, or a zip file for those who’d rather not use MSIs (or can’t). I’ve also provided a torrent for the MSI package, simply because I can.

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Nationalize the last mile? Breaking the telco monopolies for superior consumer choices

Phone pole with phone and mainly electric lines

Image via Wikipedia

During this whole debate about usage based billing, one idea that’s popped up is the idea of nationalizing the “last mile”, that bit of cable running between the home and the local phone service central office. Of course, the idea of nationalizing any service raises concerns about competition and limiting user choices. What I’d like to put forward is an idea that saves competition, while preventing the anti-competitive practices of current last mile operators/ILECs such as Bell Canada.

I’ll start off by explaining why some people believe that the last mile should be nationalized, or at least taken out of the hands of the companies that now operate it. All of the large telecommunications and internet service providers in Canada also own media companies and broadcasters. This creates a conflict of interest. Think about how Bell doesn’t just provide internet service (both as a wholesaler and direct to consumer) but also partially owns CTV (which competes with Netflix and other video services) and is a phone service (competing with Skype and other VOIP services). If you look at the other big providers here in Canada, it’s not hard to find similar conflicts of interest.

The big providers are very interested in controlling how people use the internet, so that online services can’t compete with their own subsidiaries.  Separating the last mile from the established telecommunications companies makes it harder, or impossible, for them to control consumers this way.

So what do we do?

We start off by putting everything from the local exchange to the customer’s curb in the hands of provincial or municipal agencies created for the purpose of operating the last mile (which we’ll call LMOs, or last mile operators). This means it’s no longer Bell or Telus who owns the cables running from the demarcation point, but rather a crown or municipal corporation that has no role but to handle the physical management of the local phone system. The LMOs are able to contract out the actual operations of the last mile to companies that would actually manage this work, most likely to the current incumbents, but would be able to use a competitive bidding process to ensure that costs would be kept as low as possible.

Costs for LMOs would come from subscribers via their service providers, with no additional bills to the subscribers. As the costs of maintaining the last mile would no longer be handled by the ILECs, any increase in costs to consumers would be minimal, to cover the overhead of remitting what once would go towards last mile management to the new LMO.

So we’ve covered how the nationalized system would be organized, and how competition would be kept, nay, expanded, under this scheme. But what about actually getting service? To be honest, that wouldn’t be much different than how things already are. Under current rules, the ILECs are required to make their exchange central offices open to competing carriers and service providers (CLECs), for users who don’t want to use the incumbent’s services.

Under the nationalized last mile scheme I am proposing, you’d no longer have one ILEC and several CLECs. Instead, everyone would be a CLEC, with the same level of access to the exchange. They would have the same options as now: connect their own network in at the exchange (or possibly at serving area interfaces, those tall brown and green boxes we see sometimes along the sidewalks). Or they could piggyback on someone else’s network, as some internet resellers do with Bell and Rogers.

It’s technically possible to do this with cable TV services as well. No longer would you be living in a Rogers neighbourhood or a Shaw one, but you’d be able to choose which company would numb your brain with TV stations. For landline phone service, internet service, and cable service, the result is greater competition, as carriers would no longer be able to shut out competition the way they currently can (and do).

What’s the result?

By nationalizing the last mile, consumers see more competition. Artificial measures are no longer required to keep the market open, and incumbent providers no longer have motivation or means to manipulate how consumers use certain services in order to gain more value of others. The new LMOs only handle the physical connection between your home and the exchange central office, and are funded by the services you use, rather than by you directly (making them transparent).

To be honest, nationalization isn’t actually required. The idea is that the last mile is independently operated from the actual service providers. This might actually be more easily accomplished by breaking up Bell and the other ILECs, rather than just taking control of the last mile from them – however, this break-up has to be done properly, unlike how AT&T in the USA was divided up. Rather than slicing up the cake into smaller but still vertical segments, we need to separate the layers of this cake to ensure that consumers will get real competition, rather than just a broader oligopoly.

As with anything else, there would be need for some regulation on the new system. Mainly, LMOs can’t be owned by service providers, in whole or part (that would just bring us back to where we are now). They can’t discriminate against service providers. What they charge to the service providers for managing the last mile, and how much, would likely be regulated by Industry Canada or the CRTC. But this is simpler and more preferable than the complex and confusing regulatory scheme currently in place for local telecommunications operators.

In the end, Canadians will be safer from abuse of telecom monopolies, enjoy greater choices for their phone, internet and TV services, and no longer have to deal with certain service providers using misconceptions about internet use to bolster their already enormous profit margins. Whether by nationalization or by breaking up the ILECs more directly, separating the last mile from service providers is an option Ottawa should carefully examine.

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I’ve not written in a while on here…

It’s been far too long since I blogged here (or even on my stream of derp Tumblr account). I figure I should give a bit of accounting on what I’m up to lately, barring any real content.

On the project front, it’s been pretty silent but I’ve been working on two different games (well, a game and a visual novel, depending on how you slice your toast). This isn’t exactly new news, but there’s not been much mentioned about them.

Anyway, Painter Story is pretty generic, especially as far as original English language ones go – boy goes to school, girl magically appears in his life, boy learns about the importance of love and relationships, blah blah blah. To be fair, though, the original intention of PS is to serve as a learner project for me, get me comfortable with writing interactive fiction. I’ve got ideas for more original VNs, but I’d rather hold off on them until I’ve cut my teeth with this one.

It’s been slow going on Painter Story, though, and that’s mainly my fault as story designer and main writer. Originally, not much work had been put into developing the theme or plot of the story, and the first attempt at a draft was pretty much universally reviled. It took the summer and most of the fall so far to get things to a state where I felt comfortable with writing. But here we are now, with a better, more detailed (and complete!) storyline, and I intend to get to work on actually writing out the scenes this week.

The other project is UFO Panic!, an XNA remake of my old Alien Abduction game from the first TOJam. So far it’s been more or less a simple port from SDL.NET, which the original was built on, to XNA. However, I have plans for this as a sellable title, and the idea of going 3D is one that I’ve not dismissed.

UFO Panic! is a shooter, pretty much – you fly around shooting “tractor waves” at aliens to beam them up, and energy bolts at defending tanks before they can blow you out of the sky. Power-ups were part of the plan but never realized in the original versions. If you want to check it out, I’d advise not downloading it from the TOJam site, as that version is horribly buggy. Instead, I’ve put up a somewhat improved version on MediaFire, which while still full of problems, at least works.

Pulling it all together, I’ve also started work on the new version of and its new brand – coldacid development group (CDG). CDG is me and a couple of people I know, and it exists to design and develop entertainment and new media properties (not necessarily games, but also social web services, etc.). When I get back to working on Taskerrific, it’ll be under the CDG brand, also.

This isn’t the only stuff I’m working on right now, but much of the rest is personal, not professional improvement, and probably irrelevant to talk about here. I might post something about it on Tumblr if/when the DDoS attacks end and I can actually access it reliably again!

I should set up a weekly task to remind me to blog something, anything. It’s really been too long.

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How would a PSP phone affect mobile gaming?

Image representing Sony Ericsson as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

The rumour mill has lately been talking about an Android-based PSP phone from Sony Ericsson. While the jury’s still out on whether this magical device is real or not, I’ve been thinking about what it means for phone-based games.

On one hand, it’s not like this’ll be the first time someone’s tried combining phones with handheld game consoles. Remember the Nokia N-Gage? No? Not surprising. It was kind of a flop. Despite attempts to bring phones and games together by Nokia, Apple, and most lately Microsoft, the vast majority of mobile games are for full-fledged mobile consoles like the PlayStation Portable or Nintendo DS.

On the other hand, we’re talking about a phone that is a PSP. That alone can give Sony the edge in phone games, especially if they open up the platform’s power to apps running on the phone’s Android 3.0 OS. Backwards compatibility with existing PSP titles will clinch it.

The images I’ve seen of prototypes for this proposed phone include physical controls as well, similar to what’s offered on the PSP Go. As someone who’s tried both physical and touchscreen buttons for games, this goes a long way in the PSP phone’s favour, over the offerings of Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 systems. From what I gather, the latter only requires three physical buttons, none of which can be coopted for application use, making them useless for games. And what’s the likeliness of developers restricting themselves to just the higher end phones with usable physical buttons? With margins where they are, not bloody likely.

If the rumours are true, Sony has everything to gain. Hell, I’d go as far to say they’d be stupid not to put this thing out, even with me being a Microsoft fanboy and all. The PSP phone would blast the iPhone game market back to the stone age (lol fart apps) and strangle Microsoft’s WinPhone gaming opportunities in the crib.

Next year’s mobile industry will certainly be a fun one to watch.

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