GDC 2012

I’m on vacation this week at the 26th annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. You can read all about it on my personal blog here: http://insearchofsecrets.com/2012/03/05/gdc-2012/. I’ll be updating it throughout the week, so check back often. Cheers!

BIRT Kills Puppies: A Fair and Honest Review

So I’ve got this job at a pretty rad place called Windward.  We make, among other things, software that helps companies analyze and organize their data more effectively; this is the field of “Business Intelligence” (BI).  This week, I’m looking at some of the competition: BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) is an open-source project founded and maintained by a company called Actuate, which uses it as the foundation for most of its commercial products.  BIRT is an Eclipse plug-in that allows you to design report templates and publish them in web-ready HTML, among other formats.  It comes with a visual editor with drag-and-drop functionality and support for pretty much everything you would ever want in a report: charts, tables, text and images, etc.–and, since it’s open source, it costs absolutely nothing up-front.  If you want to do more than just make reports, you can opt for one of Actuate’s commercial products, which add functionality such as the ability to host interactive reports on a web server, embed reports into web applications, and use interactive Flash charts, gadgets, and widgets in your reports.  Sounds great, right?  So what’s the problem?  Well… Continue reading

AutoQuery vs. Tableau: Fight!

AutoQuery and Tableau are competing software products within the rather paradoxically named field of “Business Intelligence” (or “BI”, for us lazy typists).  BI programs are designed for the purpose of making data analysis and presentation easier.  So, for instance, let’s say I’ve got a bunch of data sitting in a database and I want to put some of that data into a neat-looking graph, but I don’t want to actually look at the database—in fact, I’d rather not even think about the database because it has 3 million rows of data and that’s frankly terrifying.  So, I get some BI software and tell it what data I want to put in the chart based on which columns the data is in.  Not only do I not have to look at the database to do this, but if the data changes somehow (like, I dunno, our customers buy more of our products or something?) that change will be updated in the graph, because it’s pulling data from a live database.  Then, if I look at my beautiful chart and see something weird—like, say, one of my stores seems to be losing revenue every time employee Ian M. Athief is working the register—a BI program will let me filter out the data I don’t want to look at and “drill-down” to a tighter level of detail. Continue reading

IndieCade 2011

Independent games hold a very dear place in my heart.  I love games, and the quirkier and more experimental they are, the better.  Large corporations can’t make quirky, experimental games as easily because of the risk that experimentation entails—with some of the larger blockbuster games requiring teams of hundreds of people and budgets of tens of millions of dollars, it’s no wonder that big publishers tend to stick to established franchises and proven formulas.  If left unchecked, this can lead to stagnation and decay, and the industry suffers as a result.  This is where the independent developers come in.  Since independent developers aren’t tied to big publishers, they have more freedom to make riskier games on smaller budgets.

IndieCade is a festival celebrating independent games and the people who make them, held every year in downtown Culver City, Los Angeles.  It’s been called “the Sundance of video games,” and in addition to having many independent games set up for attendees to play, there are talks, panels, activities, and “big games” that attendees can participate in.  This year, I went to see the sights and try to meet new people and find new inspirations, and that’s exactly what happened. Continue reading