Learn to program with Minecraft

ComputerCraftEdu Turtle

I’ve long been interested in messing around with Javascript in Minecraft courtesy of ScriptCraft but I never got around to it, partly because it required using an external program to edit code but something always stopped the code running. I gotta go bug Walter about it! :)

Anyway, I recently discovered ComputerCraftEdu which is a mod for Minecraft that has both a drag and drop and text mode code editor to program turtles that do anything the player can do. It’s a different beast to ScriptCraft and necessarily more limited but I think it’ll make it easier to teach the basics of programming to my eight year old son. Loops, conditions and functions are all possible here and will hopefully give him a taste for what’s possible. He’s already hooked on command blocks but that single line interface is awful!

ComputerCraftEdu drag and drop editor

ComputerCraftEdu code editor

Installing ComputerCraftEdu is fairly easy, but we experienced some odd problems:

  • Minecraft would crash as soon as we started a map saying it was “shutting down internal server”. The problem was the draw distance. Set that to 16 blocks and it fixes it.
  • One of our machines had weird graphical glitches. Blocks were see through, or corrupted, the icons of the drag and drop editor disappeared but showed the text hint when the mouse hovered over them. Setting Mip Mapping to 2 (from 4) fixed that.

There are a whole series of tutorial videos and a programming section on their wiki to explain the commands available. There are example maps, guidance for parents and tools for teachers available so it’s definitely worth looking into.

Thanks Alex for telling me about this mod. Here’s what r/FTB had to say about it. They’re enthusiastic too! :)

Kick Off World

kickoffworld

I’m not a huge fan of football or spectator sports but there’s a certain charm about Kick Off World or “The Player Manager 2016″ (I can’t decide what it’s called). It’s a remake of the Kickoff/Player Manager games of the 90’s on the Amiga. Graphics are simplified of course. The view of the playing field is overhead like in Kickoff or Microprose Soccer but still manages to be interesting, at least for the first few matches. You can also skip the game and go straight to the results if all you’re interested in is the managerial side of the game.

There’s loads to see in the game, lots of players and teams as well as options to set tactics. Go get it on Windows, Mac, Linux or even Android. They’re all linked from their homepage including a (slightly out of date) Flash version you can play in your browser! Watch out for updates on their Facebook page.

Delete the junk that games and apps leave behind in Windows

Use CCleaner and winapp2 to clean out the junk left behind by Steam installers, temporary files, cache files and more.

Before you run this make sure you play all your Steam games at least once or you’ll have to “verify integrity of game cache” of each which will force a download of the install files again. The UI is basic, you can click a box to select all games plus Desura and Steam install files so I went for the big one. I saved 17GB of space by deleting Desura game cache files I didn’t know I could delete. I found out afterwards that there’s an option in Desura to “Clean up MCF’s after use” too which is probably worth doing if you’re running short on space.

There’s also the Tikione Steam Cleaner but it’s written in Java and it’s 195MB when installed! Check out this thread on Reddit for more. I found out about winapp2 there.

While we’re on the subject of saving space, download Space Sniffer to see where all your space is used.

The prisoners are escaping!

2014-10-10_00002

Prison Architect is a game where you design and run an ever expanding prison. It’s still in early access but the developers bring out a new update every month.

The latest update introduced random characteristics for new prisoners. For example, some will be volatile and cause a riot for no reason at all. Others will be stoic and pay no heed to any sort of punishment given. Imagine a prisoner who was volatile and stoic? They also apparently increased the chance of a prisoner trying to escape using a tunnel. That’s why my guards perform a shakedown of the prisoners every second night to catch these subterranean trouble makers.

In the screenshot above, a dog handler suspected a tunnel was being dug so I ordered my workmen to dismantle local toilets, and look what they found! Upon further investigation I found another two toilets compromised. Quite a stink.

You don’t see that in Orange is the New Black now, do you? (No spoilers please for those who haven’t seen season 2!)

Ipega 9025 Controller and Terraria on Android

The Android version of Terraria is on sale right now on the Play Store and Amazon App Store so I bought it last week and it’s a pretty decent port of the PC original. Controls are reasonably good although I’ve sometimes found the movement swipes (left side of the screen) get confused and my character uses his weapon/tool instead. The local multiplayer over wifi is great!

Anyway, I had ordered a Ipega 9025 controller on dealextreme and it arrived a few days ago. It’s a bluetooth controller designed to hold a smartphone in a cradle so I was interested to see if it would work with Terraria. Initial tests were not good and various forums said Terraria didn’t support the controller. I tried Tincore Mapper but could not figure out how to map anything.

I finally read the manual for the controller and found it mentioned something called the ipega game lobby. You can find the APK for it here. It’s the file called “IPEGA Game Center_ENG.apk” and should be side loaded on your phone. Most of the app has been translated to English but Chinese characters still show up in a few places. Getting it to work is a bit fiddly too. My Galaxy S4 wouldn’t always connect to the controller, but the game lobby would usually find it and launch the test app. Moving the analogue sticks around moves a green dot on the screen to verify it’s working. Terraria now works fine and is very playable with the controller!

Ittle Dew worked perfectly and I also tried RetroArch, the multi-system emulator. It didn’t pick up the controller until I defined the keys explicitly and told it which “keyboard device” or IME to use.

Here’s where the major downside to using the game lobby comes in. It doesn’t require root which is great, but it does ask you to set the controller as the default keyboard. That means when you later use your phone to send tweets, emails or type anything it’ll be through this keyboard. I’m rather fond of Swype, and TBH, I don’t fully trust them that they won’t try to download everything I type.
There is a way around it however. By using Llama Profiles I set up an action to catch when the controller disconnects. It then used the secure settings plugin to change the keyboard back to Swype and display a brief message saying, “Swype activated again”.

The Ipega 9025 is also available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. The controller feels good in my hands. It’s not going to feel as good as an Xbox 360 controller but it gets close and it’s super convenient being able to clip the phone to it. Recommended!

Photos from Helios XM Anomaly in Dublin

Last weekend I took the train to Dublin to take part in my first Ingress event, the Helio XM Anomaly. All I knew was that both Resistance and Enlightened would be there fighting over portals but not much more than that.

Fights for portals were intense 15 minute battles. It must have made a strange sight watching two groups of adults bent over their phones on a street or park tapping at their phones. The only thing heard were the frequent shouts calling “DEPLOY”, “MOD” or “CUBE” as we shouted what we were doing. Who won? The Resistance of course!

The next (closest) Helios event is in Manchester but if there’s another one in Ireland I’d like to go if I can. Good fun, lots of walking.

Almost 23,000 steps around Dublin

I watched the World Cup too

Watching the World

Many might be surprised to hear that I watched the World Cup. You see, Bob Kerman left his cup of tea in his command module because in the vacuum of space the tea would boil off. Unfortunately for Bob his command module isn’t pressurized to sea level pressure so his cup of tea is taking an age to brew. You know you can’t get a decent cup of tea high up a mountain?

While waiting he decides to go on EVA and watch the World. His cup will wait.

#WorldCup

Turn your Android phone into a steering wheel

I was looking on Amazon over the weekend for PC steering wheels when I remembered that my phone could do the job! Install JD SimWheel from the Play Store, grab the device driver and server from here for your PC and you’re 90% of the way there.

It might take a few minutes tinkering with the settings in-game but Euro Truck Simulator 2 works fine with it. I still can’t reverse properly but now I can take corners smoothly and two of the buttons on-screen are already configured for left and right indicators!

Here’s a howto video and demonstration using the game GRID created by user MyHD2AndOthers on Youtube.

Next on my todo list is using a WiiMote as a steering wheel as I already have the steering wheel adaptor for it and it should be more comfortable than holding a phone!