Touch table King and Queen Domino

I’ve completed a touch table conversion for King Domino and Queen Domino. King Domino is a relatively simple tile placement game with the interesting mechanic where the player who chose the “best” tile goes last in the next round. Queen Domino takes the kingdom building and tile placement mechanics from King Domino and adds city tiles that can have buildings added to them.


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Netbrix/Lego Review

I’ve been wanting to put together a large Lego set, but I don’t really want to display or keep the finished product, so I gave netbrix.biz a try. It is a Lego rental service – kind of like Netflix for Legos.

I rented a Technic Excavator set and the large London Bridge set.

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Fitbit Charge 3 review

This Christmas I got a Fitbit Charge 3 fitness tracker that tracks steps, heart rate and sleep quality. It has a grey-scale touchscreen that displays the date and time along with steps or heart rate when tapped. It can also display text messages, calls, and email from a phone.

I really like having a fitness tracker that also displays the date/time. I also appreciate having heart rate data for workouts and getting notifications on the watch.

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Year in Review – 2018

2018 was a good year for me. I took two big trips, my brother and his family came out for Christmas, and I kept myself busy with touch table conversions, reading and movies.

Trips

In July I went to Scandinavia with my parents. I enjoyed seeing some of Scandinavia and learning about their history, art and food. I really like the art by Munch and Vigeland and was surprised by how much I liked the scenery in Norway.

In September I went to Cape May and Philadelphia with my parents and my brother’s family. Highlights from that trip were time on the beach and the Barnes museum.

My brother and his family came to Colorado for Christmas and we spent the week at my parent’s house. It was fun to spend time with my niblings again. The youngest is 2 1/2 and I was impressed by how much he had changed since this summer.

Programming

I made seven games for the touch table this year: Notre Dame, Azul, Medici card game, Automobile, Settlers of Catan, Between Two Cities, and Galaxy Trucker. Automobile is probably the most fun that I’ve had doing any conversion, and I’ve also enjoyed doing some larger games this year. As we make more games for the table, each game gets a little less play. Automobile and Settler’s of Catan in particular are games that we were basically done playing before they were converted.

Bill also made a few touch games this year:

  • Caylus – Strategy game where players compete to build a city and castle
  • Stop, Squat and Roll – A territory claiming and press your luck game also know as “Claim It”
  • Codenames – Players compete to get their teammates to pick the correct pictures based on a one word description.
  • Ocean Raiders – A press-your-luck style treasure hunting game

Activities

In March I was lucky in the ticket lottery and got to see Hamilton in Denver. Even after all the hype I was still surprised by how good it was. It is the best musical that I’ve been to by a decent margin.

Also in March our residential Solar panel installation was completed. This really hasn’t changed anything, but it has been fun to see how much time-of-year, time-of-day, clouds and snow change the power generation.

We took the touch table to two events this year: The FoCoBoCo in Fort Collins and the B-Con in Denver. It is always fun to show the table to new people and get their reactions to the game conversions.

We got a Cricut paper cutting machine in September and Bill has spent a lot of time making decorations and cards for friends and family:

I went to a few other cultural/arts events this year

  • A friend introduced me to the Kirkland museum, and I highly recommend it. It is an art and design museum packed with very fashionable and artistic household products.
  • I went to a couple of the “One painting at a time” discussions at the Clyfford Still museum. They were just OK, but I really enjoy the museum itself.
  • My brother got me season tickets to the opera and I really enjoyed La Traviata. Their second show will be Marriage of Figaro in May.

Other

Creating touch games is how I spend most of my free time, but I still only spent 650 hours making games this year (not including bug fixes or updates to old games). The rest of my free time is divided between computer games, books, Netflix and Violin.

I played quite a few computer games this year: Opus Magnum, Stardew Valley (again), Surviving Mars, Far Cry 3, Heat Signature, Sniper elite 4, Superhot, Pillars of Eternity, Bomb Squad Academy, and Wing Commander (again). Like the past few years, I’m spending less time on computer games than I once did. I still enjoy it, but games don’t hold my attention like they used to. The best games that I’ve played lately are Stellaris, Witcher III, Heat Signature and Stardew Valley.

I did more reading this year. I get e-books from the Denver library. The wait list is usually long, but it is super convenient. My favorite books this year were the Mistborn series, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Rebecca (my grandmother’s favorite book) and Little Fires Everywhere.

I also watched a lot of Netflix. Some favorites from this year: The Good Place, Infinity Chamber, Anomolisa, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brigsby Bear, Personal Shopper, Bojack Horseman, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. In particular Bojack Horseman has made some of my favorite episodes in any series. One episode this season made it into imdb’s top 10 episodes of all time. Unfortunately, you really have to watch the whole series to enjoy it, and some of the episodes are weak. The Good Place is also both funny and well made. Here is a fun video about why it’s such an interesting show.

I continue to work on learning violin. I played for 310 hours this year – basically an hour a day when I’m home. But I don’t feel like I’m making as much progress as I used to. Part of it is that 300 hours isn’t as big of a percentage of my total time as it used to be. But I also feel like my progress has slowed since I stopped taking lessons, and that if I wanted to improve I’d need to spend more than an hour a day practicing. I spent the first half of the year working on Suzuki book 9 and the second half on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I’d learned Spring and Summer before, so this time I tried to be more accurate and faster. I’m currently about 2/3 done learning Autumn which is harder than Spring or Summer. Sometime in 2019 I’ll hit 5000 hours of violin. Here I’m playing the last part of Four Seasons – Summer:

2019

I don’t have many solid plans for 2019. We’d like to make a trip to Mexico and will probably sell the house there. We might also make a trip to New York to visit my brother.

I’m tentatively planning to do the “Tour De Vineyards” bike ride in Palisade CO this year. I’ll need to get road tires for my bike and find out if my time biking in the gym translates into road biking stamina.

There is a chance that my family will travel to South Carolina or Illinois, but that will depend on my brother’s schedule and my dad’s health.

I received a Fitbit fitness tracker for Christmas. I’m enjoying it so far. The biggest improvement over my old Jawbone is having a watch and getting notifications from my phone. So my first programming project for the new year will be getting Fitbit data into my Timeline program.

I don’t really have any big resolutions for 2019. I want to continue spending my time the way I have been in 2018 with maybe a little more effort toward hiking/biking this summer and a few more trips downtown for a symphony or other show. The light rail line to Union Station has made trips downtown much more enjoyable for me. I always hated finding and paying for parking.

Touch table Galaxy Trucker

I’ve been working on a touch table conversion of Galaxy Trucker since October. I’ve completed the base game and a few of the expansions (new tech tiles, five players, and side B ship hulls). I’m still planning to do at least some of the Rough Roads expansion.

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Touch table Between Two Cities

I’ve completed a touch table version of Between Two Cities with the Capitals expansion. I had a hard time getting excited about this conversion and it took me two months to put in the 50 hours needed to write the game.

But I’m glad that I finished it. The conversion plays well and it adds another relatively easy 7 player game to the touch table.

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Trip to Cape May and Philadelphia

I took a trip to Cape May New Jersey and Philadelphia with my parents and my brother’s family. Like our trip to Montreal last summer, the primary purpose of the trip was to spend time with family. We stayed in two AirBnB houses, had some time on the beaches and saw some sites in Philadelphia.

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Trip to Scandinavia

My parents and I took a trip to Scandinavia this summer. We visited Sweden, Denmark, and Norway with a tour group. The trip was a lot of fun. We saw some beautiful scenery in Norway, learned about Scandinavian history and saw a lot of art.

You can see the rest of the photos in the gallery.

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Wing Commander and retro gaming

Wing Commander came out in 1990 and, along with Doom, was one of the first great PC action games. The game required a 12 MHz CPU, 640 KB RAM and supported 256 color VGA graphics at 640×480. I played it on a 386 25 Mhz. It’s been a long time and I’m no longer sure about this, but I believe that I bought a sound card and joystick mostly for this game and Wing Commander II.

During the latest GOG sale, I re-purchased the whole series of games for $14. The game will still play on a modern computer mostly thanks to DOSBox which is software that emulates an old PC running DOS. Playing games in DOS was not quite as simple as gaming today and I remember struggling with the MS-DOS extended memory manager (EMM386.SYS) so that the game could use all of my 2 MB of memory. DOSBox and GOG hides all of that and the game runs with minimal effort.

Playing Wing Commander on my modern computer (i5-8600K, 16GB, Windows 10, 4K display) is a reminder of how much computers have improved in the last 27 years. Here is the game running in a 640×480 window on my desktop:

It is a little hard to see, but the game, running in a emulator, is taking 0.9% of my CPU and 0.4% of my memory. 640×480 is 4% of my 4K screen. In most ways, computers today are 100-1000x better than computers in 1990, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise.

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about playing Wing Commander again is using the Roland MT-32 sound. The earliest PCs just had a PC speaker which could play a single (square wave) tone at a time. My first computer was a Tandy, and one of its big advantages was that it had a three tone speaker. A few years later, you could buy dedicated sound cards from Adlib or Soundblaster. These had multiple channels and could play 8 bit (square wave is on/off, 8 bit allowed 256 levels) sound. The Roland MT-32 was the holy grail of sound quality at the time (and at $550 it was much to expensive for me to justify). It is a MIDI playback device and had built in high quality samples of instruments that the software could play. So for the game, it was kind of like providing sheet music to the Roland.

Today there is an emulator for the Roland MT-32 called Munt which  supports DOSBox. Here is a video comparing the sound quality of Wing Commander II with the Roland and a high end Sound Blaster card.

Touch table Settlers of Catan

I’ve finished my touch table conversion of the Settlers of Catan board game. I also converted the expansions: Seafarers of Catan and Cities and Knights

It ended up being a larger project than I expected, but I’m pretty happy with the game.

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