This is a fun little project I’ve been working on: a port of the Colossal Cave Adventure to the web. The monitor itself is nearly 100% CSS (with the exception of one image for the masking tape/signature and the diffuse reflection of the background).

The interpreter is all Java and compiled to JS via GWT. It can save its state to localStorage right now when you save in-game (although I’d like to automatically persist the state of the engine continuously before I release it).

And, FWIW, the Colossal Cave Adventure is a surprisingly hard game. 

UPDATE: Source is on github and you can play it here.

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This is a follow-up to my week with a ChromeOS netbook post.

The Google Chromebook is an interesting product to watch. I’ve been a fan of and using them since the early Cr-48 days. In fact, two Chromebook laptops were in service in our household until just a few weeks ago when the Samsung Chromebook broke (although I hope to repair it soon).

These laptops sit next to our couch in a stack as a set of floater laptops we use for random surfing. If any of us are just looking for a quick bite of information, we generally pull out the Chromebook rather than walking over to the Macbook that sits on our kitchen counter. The Chromebook is also great for our son to use when building LEGO from PDF instructions.

Browsing is far better on the Chromebook than it is on any Android or iOS device I’ve used, hands down. I find the browsing experience to be frustrating on an iPad or my Galaxy 10”, while the Chromebook experience is flawless. The device is basically ready-to-use for browsing as soon as you lift the lid, in contrast to the fair amount of time it takes to get logged into the Macbook (especially if another user has a few applications open in their session).

The hardware itself in the early models was slightly underpowered, but that doesn’t really seem to matter much unless you’re playing a particularly intensive Flash video or HTML5 game. Scrolling is fairly slow on complex sites like Google+ as well, but it’s never been a showstopper. The touchpads have also been hit-and-miss in the early models. For what we use it for, the hardware is pretty decent. I imagine that the next generations will gradually improve on these shortcomings.

What makes these devices a hard sell is the price point. The cheapest Chromebook experience you can get today is the Acer (@ $300). Considering the fact that you are buying a piece of hardware that effectively does less than a laptop, I would find it hard to justify spending that amount if I were looking at hardware today. Even though I prefer to use the Chromebook when surfing over the tablets or the full laptop, I feel like the cost is just too much for a single-purpose device like this.

For Chromebooks to really take off in the home market, I think that a device with the equivalent power to the Samsung Chromebook 5 needs to be on the market at a $199 price point. I could see myself buying them without a second thought at that price. Alternatively, if we saw some sort of Android hybrid integration with the Chromebook, I think that this could radically change the equation and add significant perceived value to the device.

I don’t see the Chromebox being popular in households ever - I believe that we’ll see the decline of the non-portable computer going forward at home. Now, if I were running a business where a large subset of employees could get by with just web access, I would definitely consider rolling these out. The Chromebox looks like it could be a real game changer for business IT costs.

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I’ve been snooping around the Google+ code a bit and found some more upcoming features.

Hashtags are getting a bit of a boost with auto-completion. When you type the hash character, you’ll see a list of potential auto-completions (this doesn’t appear to be hooked up to any data). When you hit space, it turns into a blue block containing the hashtag, which acts like the blue blocks that contain + mentions:

Circle management looks like it might be dropping the circle visual metaphor. The new interface lists your circles on the left, although this wasn’t working very well, so it’s difficult to say what the final result will look like:

The new interface contains two menus: one replaces the existing Relevance drop-down, while the other contains some interesting new menu items. Increase and decrease circle size appear to change the size of the circles on the circle management page. Might be an internal option for the user experience team to eyeball the correct sizing:

There’s a new “more” dropdown on a profile page that doesn’t seem to do anything, and games may appear in the right sidebar:

Photos are getting some tweaks. The photo previews are appearing larger in the photos tab, and there’s a new “Link to this photo” option:

There’s a new “Recommendations” link on the left side of your home screen that links to a page that doesn’t exist yet. Clicking on the Recommendations link takes you to a 404 page at

You can now control who can post on your public posts. This might be useful for celebrities, although I’m not really sure who it’s targeted at:

Individual posts are now getting a “Hangout” button. Discuss a post in real-time with others that have seen it!

You can now mute a person in addition to a single post, and the post sharing dropdown is getting a bit of a makeover with item icons:

I’m not sure if this welcome page was already there, but I haven’t seen this screen before:

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Today I had a chance to play with the Canadian equivalent of the Kindle Fire, the Kobo Vox. It’s an Android 2.3 device, which means that it effectively has access to the entire ecosystem of Android apps. What it lacks, unfortunately, is the official Google Market application. It did appear to have access to the Gmail app, which makes the lack of Google’s Android market surprising.

The Vox is a bit lackluster in the graphics department. Full-screen animations like zooms and fades are choppy: 5-10 frames per second. The same animations in the Kobo application on my Galaxy Tab 10 are fluid and smooth. This makes the Kobo Vox feel like a really cheap bit of hardware. It’s not a big deal while reading books in the Kobo application: paging is lightning fast, although it doesn’t have any sort of animation to indicate page flips.

One thing you get with the Vox that you won’t get with the plain Kobo application on other devices is the “Kobo Voice” social reading experience. You can annotate passages in books and share them with other readers. I don’t find this to be a big loss. The Vox also offers a way to lay out books in two-page landscape mode, which would be amazing on the Galaxy Tab 10, but feels a bit cramped on the smaller Vox screen.

The Kobo Vox does have a nice screen. The Dell Streak 7” tablet has issues with narrow viewing angles in portrait mode. From what I could tell, the Vox was beautiful in portrait and landscape orientation. The quality of the display feels pretty good.

Based on the five minutes I played with it, I don’t think it’s worth me buying. I’m tempted to look at the Kindle Fire for use in Canada, but I suspect that Amazon’s less-than-perfect support for Amazon services in Canada will make it less of an interesting piece of hardware. If you don’t already have a tablet, however, this might not be a bad device to purchase.

Comparable devices:

  • Kindle Fire: $200
  • Kobo Vox: $200
  • Dell Streak 7”: $399 (terrible for reading in portrait!)
  • Galaxy Tab 8.9: $400-600 (couldn’t find it for sale in Canada)
  • Galaxy Tab 10.1: $649
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EDIT: In a response to this post on Google+, Louis Gray says that he’s notified the team. I’ll update this post as I get more information.

The Google +1 extension for the Chrome browser sends an RPC event to Google for every page you visit, https or not.

I hate to be a downer on cool stuff like this, but I really don’t think this is acceptable. It’s even sending the querystring, which could potentially contain a secure session token. All of the communication to the Google servers happens over https, but I don’t think that excuses this. https:// traffic needs to be off-limits for auto-tracking like this.

I’d be OK if the button allowed you to disable auto-reporting of the current +1 count (this can default to ‘on’), and added a default-off option to show +1 counts for https sites.

Below is a screenshot of the RPC request sent to Google’s RPC endpoint, showing the https URL of a bank’s login URL, complete with query-string.

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