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Benjamin Oakes

Photo of Ben Oakes

Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize TechCorridor.io, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Mobile and tablet internet usage exceeds desktop for first time worldwide

by Ben

Source: Mobile and tablet internet usage exceeds desktop for first time worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats

Welcoming the Xamarin team to Microsoft

by Ben

I am pleased to announce today that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Xamarin, a leading platform provider for mobile app development.

Source: ScottGu’s Blog – Welcoming the Xamarin team to Microsoft

Sunsetting Parse

by Ben

Beginning today we’re winding down the Parse service, and Parse will be fully retired after a year-long period ending on January 28, 2017.

[…]

First, we’re releasing a database migration tool that lets you migrate data from your Parse app to any MongoDB database. During this migration, the Parse API will continue to operate as usual based on your new database, so this can happen without downtime. Second, we’re releasing the open source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server. Once you have your data in your own database, Parse Server lets you keep your application running without major changes in the client-side code.

Source: Michael Tsai – Blog – Sunsetting Parse

Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

by Ben

Broadband access is declining, data caps are becoming commonplace, surveillance is increasing, and encryption is under attack.

Source: Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

Nintendo Plans for Mobile Games

by Ben

What We Know About Nintendo’s Plans For Mobile Games | TechCrunch.

The games giant partnered up with fellow Japanese outfit DeNA, a billion-dollar company that made its name with phone gaming, in a surprise alliance announced today that will see the duo develop mobile apps. But don’t expect a sea change from Nintendo; mobile is an expansion of its existing reach and not a wide-ranging pivot away from games consoles.

Interesting… I could see this working out well, even if all they do is release some Virtual Console titles (as many companies have done in the past). I’ve bought those from Capcom, Sega, Square-Enix, and others. Offering older titles could help Nintendo’s footing on mobile, but not erode sales of their own hardware. Other tie-in games could do the same, but Virtual Console is low-hanging fruit.

Chrome 42 Beta for Android Brings Powerful Developer Features

by Ben

Chrome 42 Beta Brings Powerful Developer Features.

The web is quickly becoming as powerful as native apps and Chrome 42 beta brings a number of huge features for developers to Android devices.

First, it brings a new “App Install Banner” that allows websites to show a prompt to users that asks if they want to add your site to their home screen. The idea is that Google wants to encourage users to start pinning the sites they frequent to their home screen, just like apps.

[…]

Chrome 42 also brings push notifications to the web, thanks to a new Push API that allows them to send a system notification. Your website can now send a full notification, even if Chrome isn’t open.

Happy to see the mobile web — or at least Chrome’s version of it — is catching up to “native” apps in terms of supported features. Let’s hope Safari and Firefox make the Push API a priority!

Pixel Dungeon, a quality open-source dungeon crawler

by Ben

Pixel Dungeon – Android Apps on Google Play.
Pixel Dungeon – F-Droid.
watabou/pixel-dungeon – GitHub.

pixel-dungeon-gameplay

Traditional roguelike game with pixel-art graphics and simple interface.

I randomly came across Pixel Dungeon today, and it was well timed because I was recently thinking about re-playing Diablo, a very well known take on the “rougelike” concept. However, though I kept thinking it would better on a tablet. (I played it a little on a Windows XP tablet. Yes, there was such a thing, and I had one… though I didn’t have the time to sit down and enjoy it back then.) Unfortunately, Diablo isn’t on Android, and from what I can tell, it’s not worth the trouble of trying to get the Windows 95 version up and running under emulation.

I found NetHack, famous for being one of the oldest continually developed games, which has some okay Android ports with some okay tilesets. I was hoping for NetHack with higher fidelity, maybe some retro-styled graphics, maybe some sound effects, and if I was lucky, some decent music. I found all of that in Pixel Dungeon. It’s definitely a gem of open-source mobile games; I’d recommend trying it. I haven’t played it much yet, but it’s definitely worth sharing.

Side note: it turns out Michael Toy was one of the original authors of Rogue, in addition to also a main part of the Netscape documentary called Code Rush that I watched recently. That’s quite a coincidence!

60fps on the mobile web

by Ben

60fps on the mobile web — Flipboard Engineering.

Flipboard launched during the dawn of the smartphone and tablet as a mobile-first experience, allowing us to rethink content layout principles from the web for a more elegant user experience on a variety of touchscreen form factors.

Now we’re coming full circle and bringing Flipboard to the web. Much of what we do at Flipboard has value independent of what device it’s consumed on: curating the best stories from all the topics, sources, and people that you care about most. Bringing our service to the web was always a logical extension.

[…]

Most modern mobile devices have hardware-accelerated canvas, so why couldn’t we take advantage of this? HTML5 games certainly do. But could we really develop an application user interface in canvas?

Using <canvas> for everything seems like a bad idea. It means you drop any painting or CSS optimizations, sacrifice any searchability (e.g., Google’s spiders), and accessibility (e.g., screen readers). It essentially means writing your own display engine, just to get some very particular display behavior. I get it, but all the code they wrote will probably be obsolete in just a few years.

300ms test for Mobile Browsers

by Ben

300ms test.

Try it on Chrome for iOS vs Chrome for Android. (Video.) The former feels ridiculously slow by comparison. Same goes for Safari, even on iOS 7. When I talk about it being a problem that there’s only one browser engine (Apple’s version of WebKit) allowed on iOS, this is the type of problem I’m referring to.

How In-app Purchases Have Destroyed The Industry

by Ben

How In-app Purchases Have Destroyed The Industry (by @baekdal) #opinion.

We have reached a point in which mobile games couldn’t even be said to be a game anymore. Playing a game means that you have fun. It doesn’t mean that you sit around and wait for the game to annoy you for so long that you decide to pay credits to speed it up. And for an old geezer like me who remember the glory days of gaming back in the 1990s, it’s just unbearable to watch.