A short but pretty decent introduction to the Raspberry Pi. The book is best suited for complete beginners, but there are still some helpful tips for those with plenty of software experience. I got a free Raspberry Pi at both PyCon and the Erlang Factory.
I also attended a great workshop run by Omer Kilic of Embedded Erlang that included a free expansion board with LEDs, buttons, switches, and a temperature sensor. They are about to release an Erlang-based embedded development environment.
Back in the late 1980′s, some friends and I developed a variant of the game hide-and-go-seek with inspiration from the Alien and Aliens movies. We were in high school at the time (and yes, obviously, we were and are nerds) and played the game for several years before going off to college. I am documenting the rules and their motivation here, as best as I can remember, for the benefit of anyone else who might want to play. Because, frankly, it is an awesome freaking game. Seriously, you should play it if you can. But see the disclaimers below.
I believe the following people were involved in the rules development and present at the first game:
- Frank Bozyan
- Michael Nilsen
- Dave Peticolas
- Spence Powell
- Scott Whitney
The game of Aliens is a form of hide-and-go-seek with a special set of rules. The rules are designed to create a spooky and tense atmosphere reminiscent of the movies Alien and Aliens. When played correctly, it can be a very scary, but fun, experience. It can also be a little dangerous. Play at your own risk! You have been warned!
Aliens must always be played at night. Space is a dark and scary place. Moonless or cloudy nights are the best nights for Aliens.
Aliens should be played in a large house and the surrounding grounds. The house should preferably be at least two stories and have many entrances (ideally including second or higher floor entrances via an external staircase). The owners of the house should be extremely cool people. Not cool as in “wears the latest fashions” but cool as in “high tolerance for property damage”.
All the lights in the house should be turned off and remain off during the course of the game.
Historical note: the first games of Aliens were played at Frank Bozyan’s house in Austin, Texas. Imagine the sheer coolness of his parents for allowing that to happen on a regular basis.
To play Aliens you need at least 4 and preferably at least 6 and probably no more than 10 people. The players should be in relatively good physical and mental health, enjoy adrenaline rushes, and be willing to endure injuries caused by running at full speed in the dark.
- There are two types of of players: Humans and Aliens. There must be at least two but generally not more than two Aliens. All other players are Humans.
- Aliens carry flashlights at all times. They may turn them off and on and direct them as they wish and may conceal them on their bodies. Humans carry no special equipment.
- When an Alien touches a Human, the Human becomes an Alien, and the Alien becomes a Human. The new Alien immediately takes the old Alien’s flashlight. For the next 10 seconds the new Alien must remain in place and may not touch any Humans, including the new Human. The new Human is immediately vulnerable to touches from the other Alien(s). After the 10 seconds have elapsed, the new Alien can begin hunting Humans (including the Human just created). To summarize: at this point the new Human probably needs to start running.
- Humans have no power over Aliens. An Alien only turns a Human into an Alien at the Alien’s discretion, i.e., a Human cannot run up and touch an Alien to become an Alien. Humans can run and Humans can hide. That’s it.
- Any player may lock or unlock any entrance they come to, except for one entrance to the house designated at the start of the game which must remain unlocked at all times.
- Humans may only hide for short periods of time in order to rest. Extended hiding is not allowed. Humans have to stay on the move. Aliens can do whatever they want.
- Humans may not congregate in packs for extended periods of time. Solitary wandering is the fate of the poor Human. Aliens can do whatever they want.
- Humans may only talk to other Humans in whispers. And Aliens may only talk to Aliens in whispers. Aliens and Humans do not talk with each other.
Ok, so you’ve got your friends together on a moonless night in a rented house and you’ve got two flashlights. Let’s play Aliens. Turn all the lights off in the house, unlock all the entrances and pick one entrance, probably on the ground floor, that is to remain unlocked during the game. Pick two people to start as the Aliens and have the Humans scatter.
The goal of a Human is to remain a Human for as long as possible. This means staying quiet and out of sight of the Aliens, but almost always on the move, occasionally joining other Humans to confer (in whispers) about the locations of the Aliens. Or just stay one step ahead of another Human who gets caught.
The secondary goal of an Alien is to tag a Human, thereby becoming a Human. The primary goal of an Alien is to scare the living freaking beejeezus out of as many Humans as you can. Be creative. Remember, you have a flashlight, but you don’t have to use it. You can even stick it in your back pocket and pretend to be a Human. For a while. And the Aliens can work together.
The game of Aliens is over when everyone is completely exhausted or someone is seriously injured. The winners are the players not seriously injured. No, I mean everyone wins because everyone has fun. Or something.
There is a pretty obvious variation where Aliens remain Aliens after a touch, and the number of Humans dwindles until there is only one left (presumably the winner). But we never actually played this variation. Really, the point of the game is to scare each other, not to produce a winner. Having lots of short games would dispel the atmosphere. And seriously, the game can be really, really scary. Playing it is totally different from reading about it. So give it a try, and have fun. And if you do end up playing, drop me a line and let me know how it went.
Another book on design, but this one emphasizes the actual practice of design and how to make it better. The first two-thirds or so is just excellent. Brooks’s contention is that the best designs always come from either a single designer or (at most) two designers working very closely together. The reason is that the quality most important to a great design is conceptual integrity, an attribute that “design by committee” can never achieve. But design reviews are best done by multitudes, bringing many different perspectives to bear.
The last third of the book is a compendium of case studies. A few, like the design of IBM’s S/360 mainframe computer, are interesting to a computer geek like myself for their historical value. But others, like the design of the Brooks family beach house, are quite frankly boring. But no matter, the good parts are well worth the price.