Eldritch World

I wrote a text adventure:

It's like 15% complete, you can reach the first of four "recursions"/other worlds but then you're stuck. And today it only has a Mac console binary (you can run it from source on other platforms, with a little effort), I'll get on the cross-platform compiling and Terminal wrappers tomorrow, but this is a playable thing under a deadline!

TODO App

I'm yet again frustrated by the state of checklist TODO apps. I had a perfect one once, ToDo on the Palm Pilot; aesthetically it was of its time, but for usability on a stylus-based PDA it was perfect. Everything since then has been a compromise.

Must:

  1. Run locally on iPhone and Mac.
  2. Sync automagically, preferably with iCloud and/or Dropbox.
  3. Have multiple lists, though does not need nested folders.
  4. Show a list of items I can check on/off.
  5. Be able to show or hide checked items, delete checked items with a command.
  6. Be able to reorder by hand (or sort with a command).
  7. Start up instantly right back where I was.
  8. Be usable while drunk, stoned, tired, or hungry. UI cannot be a giant pile of fiddly little switches.

Nice to Have:

  1. Due dates/expire dates.
  2. Priority tags.
  3. Search screen to show "What's next?", showing date, priority, list, item in that order.
  4. Notifications. But local notifications require a recent app launch, so you might miss stuff; or interacts with calendar which many people find annoying; or uses push notifications, which costs real money past a small number of users.
  5. Emoji & color tags, photos, long notes, etc.

Must Not:

  1. Give my information to Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or other evil mega-corporation who will weaponize my shopping for killer drones or advertising, or both. I'm dubious of Apple & Amazon, but at worst they seem to be venal, not evil.
  2. Be subscription-based.

Don't Care:

  1. Other platforms. Android, Linux, Windows, I don't use these so they're not a pain point for me. If mulle-objc works out, I could think about that.
  2. Pomodoro, GTD, and other fetishistic rituals.

State of the Field

  • Clear was good on iOS, but it's been "dead"/rebooting at Impending for 2 years already, and they won't be making a new Mac version.
  • Apple's Reminders is awful on the Mac (try finding the "show all" button, and keeping your list in order).
  • Things, Trello, OmniFocus, etc. are too slow & heavy for a grocery list.
  • Text files in Editorial or Drafts don't have usable (finger-sized) checkboxes.
  • Wunderlist got bought by Microsoft and destroyed as per usual. They're getting to be as bad a product graveyard as Yahoo! was.
  • RememberTheMilk is not super useful until you pay $40/year, which is not what a dumb todo list should cost.

What Am I Doing?

Thinking about this. I could write the app I want, release it for $5 on each platform, use Marzipan to make it use the same codebase. In theory, this is pretty easy; I can write a database-backed table view thing in a week. Making it nice is a while longer. Marketing is my least favorite thing, who do I use to get it in front of millions of people?

But I'd have to pay Apple to get back into the sharecropping business, and deal with their shitty Xcode tools and the rotting corpse of developer.apple.com which got fucked over by Apple marketing so you can't get to the FUCKING DOCUMENTATION. @invalidname went to work for them and got sucked into the black hole.

Time and Space Wednesday Music

Feeling like some prog, spacey rock, á la Venture Bros.

Apple Music was no help today:

apple music blank albums

I'm really not "into" Michael Jackson, especially not twice. I assume it took him appearing on GotG Awesome Mix as support. So I just went thru and hit Dislike on every one of the little creep's albums, hopefully this never happens again. I keep suggesting to Apple Music to let us block an artist we don't like so they never reappear, and they've done no such thing. Somewhat ironic: His last few albums were Invincible and Immortal; not so much.

How Fast is My Scheme

I ran a dumb Sieve of Eratosthenes benchmark on a few Schemes. I have previously found idiomatic Swift 3,151x slower than C so surely a GC'd LISP can't do that great, right?

Chicken (compiled) and Chez do great; I would expect Chez to do better on a less numeric example, this kind of array-humping is what Chicken's perfect for, since it just compiles to C. Chicken's interpreter is ridiculous, in dev it's fine for seeing if something works, but you'd never ship that. Racket's sad, and it gets worse if you try to do anything productive. Biwascheme was impossible to even test properly, but at 10% completion it wasn't going to do anything useful.

Also, I want to complain about every Scheme having a different way to call the interpreter as a script, and invoke main with command line arguments. NOT A ONE of these are consistent, and only Chicken does what's reasonable.

# C - 100% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeC% time ./primes 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-c.txt
./primes 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-c.txt  0.05s user 0.00s system 92% cpu 0.054 total

# Chicken interpreter - 1.4% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeScheme% time src/primes.scm 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-chicken.txt
src/primes.scm 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-chicken.txt  3.74s user 0.12s system 99% cpu 3.872 total

# Chicken compiled - 26.2% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeScheme% ./build.zsh primes
Compiling primes.scm
Linking...
./build.zsh:40: no matches found: *.import.scm
Built bin/primes
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeScheme% time bin/primes 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-chicken.txt
bin/primes 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-chicken.txt  0.19s user 0.01s system 98% cpu 0.206 total

# Chez interpreted - 23.8% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeSchemeOld/chez% time ./primes.ss 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-chez.txt
./primes.ss 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-chez.txt  0.20s user 0.03s system 98% cpu 0.227 total

# Chez compiled - 23.9% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeSchemeOld/chez% chez-compile.zsh primes
compiling primes.ss with output to primes.so
()
()
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeSchemeOld/chez% time bin/primes 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-chez.txt
bin/primes 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-chez.txt  0.20s user 0.02s system 97% cpu 0.226 total

# Racket interpreter - 9.6% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeRacket% time ./primes.rkt 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-racket.txt
./primes.rkt 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-racket.txt  0.46s user 0.09s system 99% cpu 0.560 total

# Racket compiled - 12% C
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeRacket% raco exe primes.rkt
mdh@Aegura:~/Code/CodeRacket% time ./primes 1000000 >~/tmp/primes-racket.txt
./primes 1000000 > ~/tmp/primes-racket.txt  0.37s user 0.07s system 99% cpu 0.443 total

# Biwascheme - 0.03% C
# Used stopwatch, took 13.89s for 100,000, couldn't get a result for 1,000,000

Scheme Record to RecordType

So, in "classic" Scheme (up to R5RS), there were no structs/records/classes. You could fake them with a Vector and writing all the accessor methods by hand, but it sucked.

SRFI-9 added a very minimalist record type with a lot of repetition, and no inheritance, though at least SRFI-17 fixed setters.

R6RS (as implemented in Chez Scheme) added a much more powerful system with inheritance and constructor methods, but half the Scheme community hates nice things and voted it down. There's a half-assed reimplementation of R6RS in SRFI-99 and sequels, but it still doesn't have read/write mechanisms. R7RS still only ships with SRFI-9 built in. Unbelievable mess.

Chicken has a convenient define-record macro, and read/write methods, but by default uses SRFI-9, and hides SRFI-99 in an egg; so chicken-install -s srfi-99 and then (import srfi-99) everywhere, and then write a ton of boilerplate for every type. So I just automated it with Python (doing string parsing in Scheme is more annoying):

Documentation is in the module help (or just read the source, Luke). I use it by writing the Chicken macro (define-record Point x y), then at shell:

% pbpaste|schemeRecordToRecordType.py|pbcopy

And paste back:

;; (define-record Point x y)
(define-record-type Point  
    (x)
    (y)
)
(define-reader-ctor 'Point make-Point)
(define-record-printer (Point p out)
    (format out "#,(Point ~S ~S)"
        (Point-x p) (Point-y p) 
))
; module exports:
; make-Point Point? Point-x Point-y

Note that none of this really gets me an "object-oriented" system, but records are sufficient for most programs, and inheritance works with define-record-type. There are OOP systems but I don't especially like any of them so I'm passing on them for now.

The Infocom Implementor's Creed

THE IMPLEMENTOR’S CREED

I create fictional worlds. I create experiences.

I am exploring a new medium for telling stories.

My readers should become immersed in the story and forget where they are. They should forget about the keyboard and the screen, forget everything but the experience. My goal is to make the computer invisible.

I want as many people as possible to share these experiences. I want a broad range of fictional worlds, and a broad range of “reading levels.” I can categorize our past works and discover where the range needs filling in. I should also seek to expand the categories to reach every popular taste.

In each of my works, I share a vision with the reader. Only I know exactly what the vision is, so only I can make the final decisions about content and style. But I must seriously consider comments and suggestions from any source, in the hope that they will make the sharing better.

I know what an artist means by saying, “I hope I can finish this work before I ruin it.” Each work-in-progress reaches a point of diminishing returns, where any change is as likely to make it worse as to make it better. My goal is to nurture each work to that point. And to make my best estimate of when it will reach that point.

I can’t create quality work by myself. I rely on other implementors to help me both with technical wizardry and with overcoming the limitations of the medium. I rely on testers to tell me both how to communicate my vision better and where the rough edges of the work need polishing. I rely on marketeers and salespeople to help me share my vision with more readers. I rely on others to handle administrative details so I can concentrate on the vision.

None of my goals is easy. But all are worth hard work. Let no one doubt my dedication to my art.

—Stu Galley, Infocom

From a Moonmist retrospective.

Also, I loved his Seastalker — I was marginally older than the target audience, and sailed thru it fast, but it combined so many things I like, Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, underwater laboratories (SeaLab 2020 pre-Adult Swim, Man from Atlantis, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV show, etc.), and tactical roguelike combat with the submarine. For years the sticker was permanently attached to my dresser mirror.

Infocom

Jason Scott of archive.org has just uploaded Infocom's source code, and keeps adding a bunch of other game source. I've made an easy script to get all the text adventures; if you want Quake or whatever, go grab that yourself. [updated 2019-04-19 for a few gold versions]

#!/bin/zsh
for repo in \
abyss \
amfv \
arthur \
ballyhoo \
beyondzork \
borderzone \
bureaucracy \
checkpoint \
colossalcaveadventure \
cutthroats \
deadline \
enchanter \
hitchhikersguide \
hollywoodhijinx \
infidel \
infocom-sampler \
journey \
leathergoddesses \
leathergoddesses-gold \
lurkinghorror \
minizork-1982 \
minizork-1987 \
minizork2-1988 \
moonmist \
nordandbert \
planetfall \
plunderedhearts \
restaurant \
seastalker \
sherlock \
shogun \
softporn \
sorcerer \
spellbreaker \
starcross \
stationfall \
suspect \
suspended \
trinity \
txtelite \
wishbringer \
witness \
zork \
zork-german \
zork1 \
zork2 \
zork3 \
zorkzero \
zork-fortran \
zork-mdl \
zork-1 \
hitchhikersguide-gold \
zork1-gold \
planetfall-gold \
wishbringer-gold \
; do
echo $repo
git clone https://github.com/historicalsource/$repo.git
done

The ZIL (Z-Machine Implementation Language) code is not too weird a LISP variant, and I expect there to be good compilers or translators to modern Scheme pretty soon; if necessary I'll write one. Many of the others are written in, preposterously, FORTRAN or C, easily two of the worst possible languages to do text-manipulation and abstract data structures in.

Zarf's post mentions a working ZIL compiler, ZILF.

You may also like Infocom: The Documentary and The Infocom Cabinet

As a large database of high-quality, production game source, this is a treasure trove for anyone who makes games. Read these and figure out how to do what they did.

I'm also amused by the icon, The Source came and went from the online services world just as I was getting into BBSing. I had as I recall a free couple months so I didn't have to pay the signup fee, but it was stupidly expensive per hour (Source was maybe $10/hour? Delphi was $20 for 20 hours per month, and not much more for overtime), and then shut down soon after.

All the Streaming Video

In which I compare some of the thousands of streaming media services:

  • Netflix: $13/mo for adult content: Love, Death & Robots, Bordertown, dozens of other crime dramas, adult comedies, and a huge backlog of content. In anime they have a bunch of current series, the Godzilla anime, classic Robotech (goddamn I still hate Minmei), and this summer they're replaying Neon Genesis Evangelion. Best video player of any streaming service. One caveat is that because Apple won't guarantee secure HDMI out on Airplay devices anymore, Netflix took down their Airplay support; I watch on a PS3 or desktop in Chrome, so this doesn't affect me, but some people will have to change how they watch it.
  • Amazon: $120/year for adult content: Bosch, The Tick, The Man in the High Castle, The Americans, and a huge backlog of (mostly shitty) movies for free. Second-worst video player I've ever seen, I scream obscenities at Amazon every time I watch something distractedly and want to go back 1 minute. I can't quit, anyway, I rely on Prime too much.
  • Disney+ (November): $7/mo for kids shows, mostly Marvel, Star Wars, Disney/Pixar (Dixar), and 512 seasons of the fucking Simpsons, which hasn't been funny since it left Tracey Ullman's Show. Not much new content, almost nothing for adults to watch.
  • Apple+: Unknown date & pricing. G-rated, mostly mainstream garbage content from what we've seen. Steven Spielberg should just find a rest home in Florida, he won't live long enough for the flooding to be a problem. If Apple makes it free with Apple Music, I'll take a look and mock the shows, but I expect nothing of interest to an adult.
  • CBS All Access: $10/mo for STD, er, Star Trek Discovery, and a lot of mainstream garbage content.
  • Twitch: "Free" with a shitload of ads; not just games, there are several networks streaming content, like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, ShoutFactory playing MST3K, The Prisoner, classic (good) Dr Who, Thunderbirds Are Go, and more. I would happily pay Twitch to get rid of ads.
  • Crunchyroll: $8/mo for currently-streaming anime. Second-best video player and queue manager. Really no longer a high value compared to Netflix and Amazon's anime selections, but sometimes there's new stuff you can only reasonably get on Crunchy. Partnered with/part of VRV, which has a bunch of other nerd media services, but the VRV player is the worst thing I've ever seen, really unusable, and the VRV staff are jackasses.
  • Funimation: Just like Crunchyroll but less current (usually; sometimes they have first-run and I have to sub for a month), and mediocre video player.
  • Hulu: $12/mo for "no ads" which has quite a lot of ads before and after shows, but at least doesn't have them in the show. Moderately shitty video player. Very poor new content, lots of old TV shows; Rockford Files was great but it's not worth $12/mo.
  • HBO Now: $15/mo. Usually has 2 current new shows at any time, a moderate amount of older shows and (often good) movies. Only really valuable for brief binges, then disable it; you'd quickly run out of content if you kept it subscribed. Ought to be half the price.
  • Criterion: $11/mo or $100/year. I haven't tried this yet, but I really should, they have dozens of old samurai movies and thrillers, which alone would pay for it. Their new content is very very limited, since good movies mostly stopped being made in the 1990s. There's a "channel" there of Guillermo del Toro talking about classic movies and then you watch the movie! OK, this is next month's media activity for me.
  • Youtube: Did you know Youtube had original content and a paid service? Well, they do, but nobody uses it.

Given this, if you're over 18, you should have Netflix and Amazon, and bang Criterion and HBO Now on the side once in a while. If you like old nerd media and current game streaming, watch Twitch. If you have kids, Disney+ and Crunchyroll are great deals. There's very narrow interest areas for the others.

On top of which, I check out iTunes Movies every month for their deals; never pay full price. This month I got Lawnmower Man (director's cut!), The Crow, and Equilibrium for under $8 each, all of which I can rewatch endlessly in actual HD, better than any streaming service.