For the day that’s in it

I never got around to doing a post on this when I actually finished and what more appropriate day than today to share it?

This was done over a period of 6 weeks, spending an hour here and there on it.  I ended up with nearly 500 images which I imported into iMovie to create the video.

The setup was simple – my Nikon D40 on a tripod over the table and shots taken using a remote.  I had big plans (as you can tell from the start) for being adventurous with the pieces – having them dance around the place and all that, but I got a bit bored after a while and felt it was taking too long.

It wasn’t until I put it all together that I realised that the lighting in the room changes so much over the few weeks I did it.  If I were to do one again, I would try and block off more time to do it over a day or two as well as having a few more lamps around.

All said though, an enjoyable little project that kept me amused in the evenings.

Dizzy – Prince of the Yolkfolk walkthrough

I got a massive blast of nostalgia this weekend when I discovered that that one of the old Dizzy games has been released on the iPhone. It brought me back to the glory days of the C64, the puzzle platformers and the massive walkthroughs in Commodore Format and Zzap64.  I used to buy both of these religiously while I was in secondary and I was always in awe of the people that sat down and hand drew maps as guides to games.

So in the spirit of these, I present you with a walkthrough for ‘Dizzy – Prince of the Yolkfolk’.

One assumption before we start – whenever you come across a star or a cherry (there are 20), pick it up.

Pick up the bucket of water, the match and the leaves.  Move to the door and drop the leaves then, the match and lastly the bucket.

Move left until you meet the troll.  Pick up the pick axe.  Go back the way you came and jump up onto the first platform then across to the next platform and finally across to the bard.

He should be under the bridge Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Don't feed the troll

Continue right, ignoring the rolled up carpet and pick up the fluffle cage (the crate).  Continue past the lion until you come to the tunnel.  Use the pick axe on the rock and enter the cave.  Follow the cave, pick up the gold nugget and exit.

The rock you need to use the pick axe on in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
The rock you need to use the pick axe

Going left again, continue on until you meet the Grim Reaper.  Give him the gold nugget.  Keep on going left ignoring the MP3 player until you meet the Fluffle.  Drop the fluffle cage.

The fluffle in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
The fluffle - he's an angry little chap.

Jump up to the platform beside the cloud and jump onto the cloud.  Keep jumping across the clouds until you come to one with the ACME bridge building kit.  If you drop off the cloud and fall into the water you’ll be returned to the platform you started on.  Pick up the ACME bridge building kit and go back to the wooden platform.

Those clouds are more solid than they look in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Jump across to the cloud. Have faith - it'll hold you!

Jump up two platforms and at the sign that tells you can’t jump the gap and use the ACME bridge building kit. Cross the bridge and go as far right as you can on the platforms.  When you get to the end, you can jump across to the clouds and on to the castle from there.  Drop to the bottom of the tower and pick up the angelic harp.

Floating in the air in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Solid.

Return to the platforms and get to the leftmost platform 2nd from the top.  Jump onto the cloud and keep jumping to the left until you meet St. Peter.  Give him the angelic harp and take the cheese.  Go back to the fuffle, put the cheese in the cage and pick it up.  Bring it to the troll and use the cage so he runs away.

Stairway to Heaven in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
It's a stairway to heaven.

Enter the castle and get the outboard motor.  Bring it to the Grim Reaper and swap it for the old metal scythe.  Return to where you got the angelic hard and cut down the thorns.  Follow the corridor.  Pick up the horn and continue down the corridor.  Ignore the flask of liquid.  Go up the next level and continue on ignoring the metal spanner for now.  Take the platform to the next corridor up and follow it to the end and pick up the tweezers.

We'll be back for this later

Return to the lion and use the tweezers on him and take the thorn from his paw.  Pick up the thorn.  Go back to where the metal spanner is in the right-hand castle and drop the thorn to the right of the trapdoor.  Get to the button in the corridor above and let the zombie Dizzy run into the thorn.  Go back and pick up the metal spanner.

Zombie Dizzy taken out in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Take that!

Return to bard and give him the horn for the funny joke book.  Continue to the left castle.  Go up the lift to the first level and continue left until you come to the winch.  Use the metal spanner on the winch to lower the drawbridge.  Leave the castle via the drawbridge and continue left until you meet the princess.  Give her the joke book for the flag.

A crying princess in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
A good laugh will sort this out.

Re-enter the castle and make your way to the flagpole at the top.  Use the flag on it and the king will appear and make you a prince.  Drop down one level and pick up the key to the right.

The flag pole in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Run it up the pole

Go all the way back to the right-hand castle to the last moving platform.  Take it all the way to the top and jump across to the locked door.  Use the key to open the door and move to beside the bed.

A sleeping beauty in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
A sleeping beauty.

Daisy will wake up and as long as you’ve collected all 20 cherries you’ll ‘find’ a ballon in your pocket.  Off home you fly!

A balloon ride home in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Home safe and sound.

A year in the Broadsheet

It’s been a year since Broadsheet.ie and launched and it’s been a rather interesting year to see it grow with such limited resources.  I’m going talk here about some of the bits and pieces that have interested me.

Obama > Queen > Stephen Ireland

For the last three months, Broadsheet has done over 1 million pageviews a month, which accounts for about half the total since it started.  Considering the site started off on shared hosting and is now on a vps, it’s pretty good going.  For caching, the site had been using WP Super Cache but it seemed to struggle somewhat (this, in fairness, could be down to being misconfigured).  I switched W3C Total Cache and that seems to have improved things.

The first standout post the site was one about Stephen Ireland’s house.  It was one of those posts that caught people’s imaginations and spread like wildfire across the net.  It reappears every so often on football sites, usually to howls of incredulity.  It remains the second most popular post on the site.

There’s been a couple of outstanding days where there’s been a general surge in traffic, most notably during Obama’s (78,041) and Queen Elizabeth II’s (69,154 64,735 55,199) visits.  The nice thing about days like those is that there’s generally a little extra boost to traffic afterwards.

However, despite all that, the most consistently viewed post is a silly screencap of a Yahoo question.  It ended up on Stumble Upon and people are still coming to the site nine months later for a cheap giggle.

Something that surprised me was the number of people that viewed the previous posts pages.  There’s a huge drop off from those that view the second  compared to the first page and continues to drop off rapidly.  The fifth page has less than 1% of the views of the first.  So the moral of this story is content dies very quickly.

The top five posts of the last year have been:

Facebook > Twitter > Google+

Traffic from Facebook has been pretty consistent, being about 1/3 to 1/2 more referrals than from Twitter.  That said, the site has been taken down via links from Graham Linehan and Charlie Brooker’s twitter streams.  Google+ is yet to have an impact, with barely a trickle of incoming links.  Both Boards.ie and Politics.ie both provide a steady supply of views, usually for the politically charged stuff (and pictures of Irish models, of course).

The top five referrers were:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Stumbleupon
  • Boards.ie

Dirty Old Goats

The growth in traffic from Google has grown steadily since launch with some notable spikes (Bing and Yahoo provide so little traffic they’re not worth talking about).  Brian Cowen hungover on the radio and then the sketch on Jay Leno was the first example of search traffic spike.  Neil Prendeville and his misadventure though is the king of spikes, adding 4.7K visits to a baseline of under 1K at the time.

But the queen of keywords is Madeline Mulqueen after her appearance in that Rubberbandits video.  Plenty of dirty beggars out there looking for more photos of her and who are we to disappoint?

Six of the top ten searches bringing people to the site involve ‘broadsheet.ie’ (mostly because people are too lazy to switch to the URL bar), so excluding them the top ten is:

  • madeline mulqueen
  • gary busey
  • neil prendeville
  • alison o’riordan
  • jean byrne
  • dominic hyde
  • sarah carey
  • jay leno brian cowen
  • damo and ivor
  • brian cowen drunk

I wonder if Alison is happy with her internet fame?

IE6, why won’t you die?

Firefox rules the roost, with 29.98% of the browser share.  IE follows with 24.70% but Chrome is snapping at its heels with 23%.  Safari lags behind with 15.74% (which would include both desktop and mobile versions).

8.72% of all visitors still came via IE6.  The only glimmer of hope is that this month it’s fallen to 7.88%.  One day, it will be ground into the dust and be forgotten about like a bad dream.  But that day is not today.

Android accounts for about the same amount of traffic as iPads and iPods combined but is still 1/3rd of the traffic from iPhones (and if there wasn’t an app it would only be higher). After that there’s there usual suspects of Blackberry/Nokia/Samsung (in that order).

How much poorer am I now?

So on the day of the government press conference, one of the lads in work jokingly asked if I would be making an update to TaxCalc.ie to show the changes announced.  He even suggested a domain for a single serving site – howmuchpooreraminow.com. Since I’d nothing better to do, I decided I throw something together.

Going about creating it

To get the 2010 breakdown, I converted the class written for the TaxCalc.ie app from Objective-C to PHP.  This was pretty trivial and helped me refamiliarise myself  with the current tax system.  It also gave me a chance to look at updating the calculator for the 2011 budget.

Rather than flood people with options all the options of the app, I decided just to give two choices for personal circumstances – single and married with 1 income.    The only tax relief I was interested in were rent, union subs (because these two were going completely) and pension (because of the large changes).

A trivial form, some if loops and and ignoring user input validation I had a crude calculator knocked together that made some sweeping assumptions about the changes in the upcoming budget.

Initially, I was only concentrating on how much worse off you’d be in 2011.  Based on some feedback from twitter, I changed things so it included some of the extra charges (increased registration fees and the site tax) as well as predicting the pain over the next 4 years.

To make things work, I had to do a bit of hand waving and educated guesses.  The press conference was light on actual details and none of the article in the paper were much help.  The Times supplement gave me the most information but I still had to make plenty of assumptions.

My assumptions

  • PRSI, income levy and tax rate (i.e. the 20% and 41% rates) stay the same for the 4 years
  • Rent and union sub relief is completely removed in the 2011 budget
  • Tax credits (i.e. how much you earn tax free) drops by 66% in 2011, 14% in 2012, 10% in 2013, 10% in 2014
  • The cutoff point (i.e. above which you pay 41%) drops a total of €6000 in increments 66% in 2011, 14% in 2012, 10% in 2013, 10% in 2014 (this was the only way I could figure out how someone on €55K would drop by €1860 by 2014)
  • The drops in credits and cutoff are based on how much the government plans to get from the changes in income tax over the next few years
  • If you’re married, you’ve only 1 income
  • College ‘registration’ fees will not rise again
  • Site tax does not rise in 2013 or 2014

Lessons Learned

1. A surprising number of people will enter a number with a comma (e.g. 25,000 as opposed to 25000).  Since I was expecting an integer and the string was URLencoded this resulted in no net change for the user as the gross was interpreted as 0.  A lot of people were confused by that so it was the first fix.  I’m guessing it’s because the number involved pay and people are used to seeing the number with a comma.

2. Just because it’s a throwaway site doesn’t mean people won’t check if the HTML validates.  When people said this to me at first I thought they meant validating inputs.  It didn’t take much to sort out (the damned tweet and share buttons were the most awkward fixes).  Next time I’ll be validating before showing it to anyone.

3. People on the internets are lovely.  I don’t do prettty, I make things work.  Hence the site was black and white with a plain old H3 tag and some centering.  A couple of hours after it started spreading around, I got an offer for some CSS from Stephanie Francis, which I jumped on.  Now the site looks like some care and attention was poured on it!

4. People need examples.  There was much confusion over why someone on €500K was no worse off than someone on €50K.  People seems to miss out on the fact that higher earners are being hit by reducing the tax efficiencies they can use for tax avoidance.  So the change in the pension relief will hit them hard.

5. People don’t read credits but those credited with the work are happy to point out the right person.  A couple of people who saw the link on twitter asked the person sharing it if the site was accurate or why they had a problem.  The asker was quickly put right and directed to me.  Which was nice.

6. Simple pages that are just a web form are now web apps.  It goes to show how much the concept of apps has taken hold that people don’t see a difference between a single serving site and an app for a phone.

What next?

Well once the budget is out on the 7th of December I’ll be able to update the details for at least 2011 and possible the following 3 years.  This will obviously make the figures more accurate (and probably more depressing).  They’ll still be a little off for some people as I won’t be including every relief and benefit, but they should be a good indication.

I’ll also be able to include things like changes to child benefit and other social welfare payments.  This should bring home how much the average family will be hit over the next few years.

Brew night

Tonight I’ve been mixing up my second proper batch of homebrew (the first doesn’t count as I never bottled it). This time I’m brewing Coopers Brewmaster India Pale Ale.

The kits are pretty easy to get going.   Adding spraymalt instead of sugar and a better strain of yeast produces a very drinkable pale ale last time round so I’m trying that again.  I did get some hops to throw in but I decided to leave them for the next attempt.

I’ll be leaving the beer in the barrel for about a week before transferring to another barrel for another week.  After that it’s the bottling process which can be a bit of a pain in the nads.

This brew should be ready for New Years so here’s hoping for another success!