May 10, 2008

Trialling MacJournal

Sorry for the lack of posts here. I haven?t had a lot to post lately. However since I should be using this journal more I?ll make an effort to do more post-worthy things.

I?m currently trialling out a piece of Mac software called ?MacJournal? to see how it goes. It?s basically a word processor for journals, with organisational abilities like folders and tags. It?s pretty lean but it?s the sort of thing I need for organising small articles and other documents. I also have a paid copy of VoodooPad, a personal wiki software, but that?s more useful for my own reference notes and less so for complete documents.

MacJournal also has the capability to interface with WordPress blogs, or at least it claims to - this post is my first test to see how well the system works. If this seems to go smoothly, I?ll start typing up more of these things off-line rather than in the WordPress editor. And I?ll strongly consider buying a licence to MacJournal in a few days time.

Edit: Additional

Well, looking at the entry above it seems like it gets through smoothly enough, but something is eating up my apostrophes. I’ll have to see what I can do to fix that next time…

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April 24, 2008

No Involvement with the Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic torch is passing through Canberra at the moment (it’s probably finished its public tour by now). I’m not entirely sure why, given it’s a bit of a detour from the path between Greece and Beijing. I suppose it’s to help build support for the Olympics, but it’s not as if you need much hype for such a major sporting event in sport-mad Australia. Especially since it’s being held in roughly the same time zone as us.

I didn’t bother going to see the torch, as it’s not exactly super important to me. Given this is Canberra, it’d be attended by a mix of Chinese nationals and supporters (we’ve got a big multicultural mix here), combined with the protest groups for Tibet or Falun Gong that seem to have permanently camped outside the Chinese embassy. I doubt there’ll be any violence, but the whole show just doesn’t seem like my kind of thing.

Apart from not doing anything regarding the Olympic torch, which unsurprisingly has not taken a lot of effort, I’ve been spending a bit of time thinking ahead for what I’m going to do with the website after I complete my studies in a couple of months time. I’m most likely to be wrapping up my Ph.D. thesis write-up in June, but I have not yet got anything definite planned for after that.

I’ve still got dreams of starting my own on-line game business; selling indie games over the ‘net to make a living. I’ve got plans for how I could get that up and running, but it’s not without a whole truck load of risk. I’d probably be burning through my savings pretty quickly for the first year at least. So the question I’m debating is whether I go for broke by running with the online business idea full time, head into a more traditional career path, or (my current favoured option) a blend of some type of possibly part-time employment that also allows me to run the online business on the side.

This isn’t something I’m going to decide upon very soon. I’ve still got a couple of months left before I’m done here, and it wouldn’t be amiss taking a couple of months holiday afterwards. I’m moderately astute at saving money up for a rainy day, so it’s not as if I’m going to be begging for scraps this year, at least. But it is something that now the end of my formal education is nigh I’ve got to keep bubbling around in my mind so I make a decently informed decision.

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April 3, 2008

Putting on a new look

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about what I’d like to do after I finish up my PhD study. I still don’t know what I’d like to do immediately, but there’s still a large part of me that wants to do the whole indie developer thing. I don’t know if I could do this full time, and I certainly don’t think I could straight out of uni, but it’s something I don’t think I should dismiss. At the very least it’d be a good hobby, and with a modest effort it could easily be a decent source of income.

I’ve deviated a lot off my original plan that I wrote a few years back for how to get there (according to the original plan, I’d have been selling games two years ago), and now I’m in the final throes of my PhD I don’t have the time for anything major. But I can still work towards the goal in my spare time, albeit slowly.

First on my list is to resurrect the original purpose of this journal - to get some experience in managing a website. I’ve been letting this site stagnate for a bit too long, defeating the original purpose. So it’s time to reinvent the site and make it look a bit like one I’d need if I were launching the commercial version.

To start, I’ve made a new theme to replace the light, airy minimalist one that was here. This one is loosely modelled off the look of my GameDev journal, although I won’t go as far as making the headers all Comic Sans to emulate the comic book look. I’m debating whether I should put an image as the background; sometimes I find them distracting, but a nice pattern can work well if it’s carefully chosen. I might also play around with the colours a bit once I’ve seen the site in action. I also need to see if this font works well for blogs - I’m not sure how Trebuchet MS handles large blocks of text at smaller sizes.

I’ve also retired the poll I’ve had up for ages: building blocks had been winning for quite a while (probably the game developer influence there!). I’ll try cycling them around a bit more often.

Any suggestions for the site look? Any layout bugs I’ve missed?

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October 14, 2007

Out with the Brown, In with the Blue

I was getting a bit sick of the brown theme, so I whipped up another one in tints of blue. I’ll give this one a go until I settle on a look I think is right.

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October 8, 2007

Journal Split

This may be the last tandem entry at both my journal and I’m not going to be stopping either; I’ve just resubscribed for another year at GDNet and I’m keen on expanding my own site in the near future; but I think it’s time to give each it’s own flavour. Plus I’m getting sick of having to cut and paste everything.

For now I’ll start dedicating the GDNet journal towards GDNet related topics, such as contests (Four Elements, MAGIC, etc.) and anything I feel specifically relevant to the community there. I’ll also post regular summaries of what I’m up to from a game development perspective, but at a lower frequency than at my own site at I can then start branching out towards other topics less related to game development if I wish.

I also need to spend some time into jazzing up this site at, since it’s been languishing for a while. I’m a bit sick of the brown CSS theme, and there’s a few more widgets I want to try out in the sidebar. I also need to clean up the games section and add a few articles in here.

On the game development front, I’ve been spinning my wheels for a bit, sadly. Without my MacBook Pro I tried spending a bit of time sketching out on paper where I need to go with Flash development but I didn’t really get to any useful conclusions.

I spend most of my useful time playing around with Inkscape again, this time with my new larger Intuous tablet. I’d forgotten how much I like it. I’m not sure exactly why it is, but working with vectors in Inkscape seems a lot more intuitive to me than with Illustrator. It might just be my lack of familiarity with Illustrator, but my present attempts to work with it have been a bundle of frustration. I suspect the interface has something to do with this though, as I haven’t felt the same way with my attempts to draw things in Flash.

I suspect even once I’ve gone up to speed with Illustrator I’ll still be using Inkscape as a development tool alongside it. The main downside to Inkscape at the moment is the Mac OS X port doesn’t run as nicely under X11 than the Windows version which is native. I think there’s an attempt to port Inkscape across to native Mac OS X, so I’ll check what they’re up to once I get my laptop back.

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July 30, 2007

Downloadable Game Page

The first version of my downloadable game page is now up at It’s also on the nav bar for easy access. Currently it’s rather spartan and there’s only two games available (Brixtar, and Pierre and the Fish) - I’ll need to fill that out soon with more info and preferably more games!

I spent a while studying the WordPress help pages to figure out the best way to put in something like an archive of downloadable games. In the end though I just tinkered around with pages to get something done. I’m hoping it’s globablly workable; please tell me if something isn’t working right.

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July 25, 2007

Today: IE fixes, Lunch

I made a few tweaks to the CSS, and it now seems to be working in Internet Explorer (at least for version 7). The functionality isn’t quite the same but at least the nav bar is usable now. I’d be grateful if IE users could mention if anything is amiss.

I also met my first member face to face today, when I had lunch today with “Avatar God”. I can vouch that he’s still alive and well. Tomorrow he’ll be heading over to Melbourne for a few days if anyone wants to keep an eye out for him.

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July 24, 2007

A fresh coat of CSS

As you can see if you’re reading this, I’ve moved the journal to the front page. It seemed to make sense given that currently it’s the only thing here. I’m still up in the air about whether I’ll keep this here or move it into a subdirectory once I put some more content in the site, although I’d like to keep news postings and major updates on the main page if possible.

You have also probably realised that I’ve put in a fresh coat of CSS. After an intense amount of tweaking, I’ve finally got the basics of a journal-style CSS theme up to a presentable level. It’s still not perfect; I’m still playing around with colours, and there’s some glitches with Internet Explorer that I haven’t tracked down yet (seems works fine in Firefox, Opera and Safari, however).

I’ve also installed two plugins that will be a great boon in the future. The first is the Semiologic theme for WordPress. This is a fantastic theme that adds in a lot of functionality to extend WordPress from a piece of blogging software to something more. Although I haven’t yet dug fully into it’s capabilities the amount of tweaking it allows from the dashboard is extensive. It’s great if you don’t want to spend ages mucking about with PHP to do minor changes.

The second is Democracy, a plugin that allows you to run simple Internet polls which you can see on the side of the site. I’ve been wanting have a poll in my journal for ages, because they’re great tools for getting feedback or just having a bit of fun. And now I can. Currently I’m just playing around with them, much like I am with the rest of the functionality here, but eventually I’d start using them for development related purposes.

I’ll continue to add more to this site this week. I hope to get things up to a good baseline by the weekend so I can start posting more on the website than just details about the website.

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July 20, 2007

Choosing the right tool for the job

After trialling out Joomla! and Drupal over on their test pages and reading through miles of documentation and comments on various CMS systems, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably best if I just use WordPress for my site.

My reasoning is that I just don’t need the full power of a total CMS system. All I really require is some blogging software to post progress, with some static pages for things like articles and game pages (possibly with commenting). WordPress will easily allow me to do all that.

Furthermore, there’s the whole time issue. If I have to choose between spending my time managing a website, or actually doing something worthy to post about on the website, I’d choose the later. From the looks of the more advanced CMS systems I reckon it would take me weeks to get them properly set up, and that’s time I can’t really afford right now.

I’ll start crafting the new site on the weekend. My current inclination is to make the journal itself the front page (since that’s what a regular visitor will be wanting to see), so the location of this journal may change.

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July 19, 2007

WordPress or Joomla! or Drupal?

The more I read about CMSes (Content Management Systems), the more confusing the options become. There are a number of powerful CMS systems out there, each with their adherents and detractors, and choosing the right one for the site will involve some research.

From my studies, I figure there are three feasible CMS systems, WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. Here’s my current take on their pros and cons (please correct me if you feel I’m mistaken; I’m a total newbie at this):


WordPress is designed as a blogging tool, and the consensus is that in this area it really shines. It’s a snap to set up (especially on DreamHost). It’s probably the easiest of the three to get running and learn how to work with. It’s also very easy to configure the look and feel, and there are many plugins.

The main downside is that, as a blogging tool, it’s not really meant for CMS although it can be extended to do so. However I may eventually hit a wall if I strain it too much.


As a CMS system, Joomla! has a lot more functionality than WordPress. It’s also easy to set up under DreamHost, but will take a fair bit longer to get running. However it has a lot more capability to be extended. I’d also need to install a fair number of plugins to get the functionality I need; I’m not sure if blogging comes in the base install, for example.


My understanding is that Drupal is even more powerful than Joomla! I know it’s used in a lot of high-powered applications. However it does not have a “one-click install” function under DreamHost, so it’s a lot harder to install. However I’ve read it’s probably the hardest of the three to learn to use and configure. I’ve also read some negative comments about the amount of resources it uses, which is an issue on a shared account at a hosting company. I need to look into Drupal a bit further to figure out what it is capable of.

I’m very undecided about what is best. I’m leaning towards WordPress or Joomla! purely for the ease of installation. I really don’t want to have to spend months learning the intricacies of PHP and SQL to use my website; I’ve got far, far too much on my plate already! WordPress has the advantage that it’s already got the blogging commenting built in, which is mostly what I want for my journal and articles. Joomla! however is more feature rich.

For you more web savvy people out there, what do you recommend?

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Made with WordPress and the Semiologic theme and CMS • Trazoi Bounce Box skin by David Shaw