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Michelle “Eingang” Hoyle
The original quirky blonde Canadian. Passionate about community, teaching, gaming, & technology.
The original quirky blonde Canadian. Passionate about community, teaching, gaming, & technology.

Michelle's posts

Is anyone still using +iShare+ for Google+? Maybe +Alan Cann? I'm not keen on the official Google+ app for the iPad. It seems too focused on being a photo wall. It looks nice, but it doesn't satisfy my intellectual cravings. iShare makes it easier to get at things but it's still painful to write things in it and feels … clunky.  Is there something better?

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Call for Papers: Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley are guest editors for a special issue in Sage's Simulation & Gaming journal on engagement, simulation/gaming, and learning planned for autumn 2013 publication.

They are "seeking submissions from a range of viewpoints and theoretical bases, using a variety of research methods and approaches, as well as articles that provide a practical perspective grounded in research.  We hope that this symposium will offer a holistic and critical analysis of engagement – as well as related ideas such as motivation, commitment, immersion and flow – and an evaluation of its relevance and value in the sphere of educational game and simulation design, implementation and debriefing."

Relevant topics could include (from the CFP):
* engagement theory from different disciplinary perspectives;
* the relationship between engagement, games and learning;
* factors influencing levels of engagement with games and simulations;
* case studies evidencing engagement in games and simulations;
* ways in which to evaluate and measure engagement; and
* engagement in reflection and debriefing with games and simulations

Finished articles should be between 4000-6000 words.

Proposal deadline: End October, 2012
Full article submission: End January, 2013
Final article submission: End April, 2013

Contact details:
Nicola Whitton:
Alex Moseley:
David Crookall (S&G editor):

The full CFP, with full details and contact information, can be downloaded from Alex Moseley's blog at

Good call, +Alan Cann, on passing on the Sparrow Mac e-mail client. Sparrow announced today that they've been bought by Google ( A Lifehacker commenter ( said Sparrow sent current users a message including the following:

----Quote Starts-----
We will continue to make available our existing products, and we will provide support and critical updates to our users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at Google, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps."
----Quote Ends-----

In other words, Sparrow has been Stanza 'd with a side order of Thunderbird.

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"Just a perfect day,
You made me forget myself.
I thought I was someone else,
Someone good."

I was visiting the UK from Switzerland when the BBC aired this "commercial" for themselves in 1997, based around Lou Reed's classic Perfect Day. I remember being completely blown away by the production in terms of its visuals, the diversity of performers, and the BBC's not-so-subtle message. On a beautiful blue-sky day here in London, it makes me cry a little watching it but in a good way.


PS: Why can't you easily add YouTube videos from the Google+ iOS client?! I couldn't do it from either +iShare+ or the newly-released official Google+ iPad client. I had to delete my original attempt and use my laptop. I couldn't even easily do it from Safari on the iPad, because Google insisted on showing me the mobile version.

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+Postbox, the Thunderbird -forked e-mail client I've been playing with for the last month after a discussion with +Alan Cann about e-mail clients, has now substantially dropped in price from $29.95 US to $9.95 US. The previous $10.00 US discount if you tweeted about it has been reduced to $5.00, but it means you can buy _Postbox_  (MacOS or Windows) for only $4.95!

This price drop comes probably not-coincidentally as Mozilla announced they won't be putting resources into further feature development for Thunderbird. It also makes Postbox more competitive with Sparrow, another Mac e-mail client. Both applications tout their wonderful Gmail integration features, but I'm a long-time POP/IMAP user keen on keeping my mail on my laptop and not in the cloud, so I've been appreciating the robustness of Postbox_'s POP/IMAP _Thunderbird heritage.

Postbox 's recent blog post ( highlights some features they're most proud of: unified folders/account groups; integrated social networking features with Twitter, Facebook , and LinkedIn; conversation view (across multiple folders!); Dropbox, Evernote, Things, Alfred, and Omnifocus integration; various bits of Gmail support including labels and keyboard shortcuts; quick reply; and quick move. I didn't find the social features that compelling, but some of the others have been useful. I'll write more fully about my Postbox experience in a separate series of postings, but it's worth taking a look at—at least on the Mac. You can try it for 30 days and there's a 60-day money-back guarantee too. Download it from


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O'Reilly Game Playing and Game Development e-Books on Sale Today

This might be of interest to both #games players and #programmer s. O'Reilly's Daily Deal today includes over 20 books (and some videos) on game playing and game development at 50% off, including developing games for #iOS and #html5 .  Ones that caught my eye particularly included (if only for amusement) The Guild Leader's Handbook and something intriguingly titled Playful Design.

I don't have any of the books, but I have bought many other O'Reilly e-books. They're always DRM-free and usually available in multiple formats (PDF, .mobi, .ePub, sometimes DAISY, etc), although which formats depend on the book.

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Nice idea: #game devs banding together to promote (briefly) selling #games at prices they set and a good opportunity to pick up iOS, Mac, Steam, and Android Store games on sale for 1 week only. Some good stuff in the iOS one.

+-+-+-Quote Starts+-+-+-

"We believe that developers should have the freedom to price their games how they like, without interference from the online stores that sell the games. Why? Because it allows us to promote our games more freely, as we are doing here! We rely on the ability to promote our games for our livelihood and control over pricing is an important tool for this purpose.

For the last week of May (May 24 through June 1) our games will be deeply discounted to celebrate online stores that give us control over pricing: The App Store, Google Play, Steam, Desura, IndieVania, and a few others."

+-+-+-Quote Ends+-+-+-

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"Textbooks are dead!", someone cried and the crowd went wild, stamping their feet and throwing their hats in the air. Or not? Are printed textbooks stone-age technology for learning in our universities? Apparently there are those who think so and believe the future is e-books. The Open University, for whom I work, for example, has been pioneering efforts to distribute enhanced e-books with images, video, and sound via iTunesU (e.g.,

I've been reading electronic versions of books on various devices since the late 1990s. I find my iPad is absolutely brilliant for annotating PDF research articles. It's great for reading fiction too. I haven't been so keen on using it for either reference texts or large amounts of non-fiction relevant to my research interests. Why? It's usually difficult to jump around the books easily, other than by chapter. Annotating them and/or getting the annotations somewhere useful (like into my searchable research notebook) isn't as easy or convenient as working with PDFs.

I have great tools for annotating PDFs and exporting out. If I buy a Kindle e-book, I'm stuck with using Kindle tools. You can annotate and highlight, but it's not as nice as my PDF tools and, if you don't actually have a Kindle but use Kindle software, the process of getting the annotations somewhere else is a bit of a pain (see my article on how to do it at Apple's iBook software has some nice annotation tools. I can highlight in different colours or make notes. No idea on how I get the annotations out of there. Unlike the Kindle software, I don't have a quick/easy way to even sync the annotated book back to the Mac and then open it. I assume if I did get it back on the Mac, Stanza or Calibre would read it, but I'm not sure if I'd see any annotations.

Whither e-textbooks then? I'm not sure but Ars Technica posted a recent article about "The Stubborn Persistence of Textbooks" (, examining the issue. Perhaps the future's in open educational content that's curated based on just-in-time interests? What do you think?

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If you haven't ever tried Machinarium, it is a very beautiful point and click puzzle/exploration adventure. I played it originally on the Mac (you can play it in a browser or download it), but they've also released it for Windows, the iPad, and, as +Romain Guy comments here, Android. Judging from some of the comments in his thread, your mileage on Android (because of the many different form factors) may vary, but it truly is a wondrous game. The soundtrack's lovely too.

The developers, +Amanita Design (, recently released a new point and click adventure with an eco theme called Botanicula ( for Mac/Linux/Windows. I bought mine in the recent Humble Bundle, but haven't tried it out yet. It has some stunning screenshots though that are now making their home on my many Mac virtual desktops. (-:

If you've tried Botanicula, let me know how you liked it. If you haven't tried Machinarium, give it a whirl! There's a demo available at It takes me back to my Myst days but the puzzles aren't nearly as difficult. Enjoy!
Machinarium is a fantastic adventure game that I loved playing on my desktop. It is now available for Android devices and I urge you to give it a try.

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Is there anything geekier than taking pleasure in using regular expression (RE) tools to convert something from one format on the web to another? I derived immense pleasure from solving the following little problem in two different ways.

The Problem:
Produce a Google+-friendly list of Epic Games's 20th anniversary free music tracks with the track number, track title, game title, and composer intact.

The original web page had the track list in a table ( Just copying the rendered list from Firefox into my text editor gave me a list that looked like this:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. Unreleased Theme Unreal Tournament 3 Rom Di Prisco (2007)
2. Dan Jill of the Jungle Dan Froelich (1992)
3. Main Theme Unreal Alexander Brandon/Michiel Van der Boss (1998)
4. Armored Prayer Gears of War 2 Steve Jablonsky (2008)
5. Vault of Tears Infinity Blade II Josh Aker (2011)
6. Space Epic Pinball Robert Allen (1993)
7. Main Menu Unreal Tournament Alexander Brandon (1999)
8. Menu Song Jazz Jackrabbit Robert Allen (1994)
9. They’ll Be Coming For You Now Infinity Blade Josh Aker (2010)
10. Hope Runs Deep Gears of War 2 Steve Jablonsky (2008)
11. Main Theme Tyrian Alexander Brandon (1995)
12. Hyperblast Redux Unreal Tournament 2004 Kevin Riepl (2004)
13. Hanover’s Favorite Son Gears of War 3 Steve Jablonsky (2011)
14. Main Theme Shadow Complex Josh Aker (2009)
15. 14 Years After E-Day Gears of War Kevin Riepl (2006)
16. Lockdown Unreal Tournament 3 Jesper Kyd (2007)
17. Theme Bulletstorm Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz/Michal Cielecki (2011)
18. Pull Back the Bass Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Alexander Brandon (1998)
19. Transistor Unreal Championship 2 Kevin Riepl (2005)
20. Finally A Tomorrow Gears of War 3 Steve Jablosnky (2011)

++++Quote Ends++++

While the information is there, you can't easily tell where the track title ends and the game title begins. It's just not attractive. The writing mechanic in me doesn't appreciate that titles aren't italicized either. As there were tabs between the chunks, I could have solved this by writing a single regular expression. For example, if I wanted the first track to look like "1. Unreleased Theme from Unreal Tournament 3 by Rom Di Prisco (2007)" then I could use the RE-powered search and replace in BBEdit, my text editor, with the following parameters:

search: ^(\d{1,2}\.\s+)(.) \t(.) \t(.* \(\d{4}\))$
replace: \1_\2_ from _\3_ by \4
options: Grep

Note: I can't "escape" Google+ formatting characters. If you see two underscores together, it should really be just one underscore.

For those a little rusty on their regular expressions, you'll find a nice cheat sheet on Cheatography ( In English, that regular expression says something like:

++++Quote Starts++++

I want to look for an entire line of text
(because of the ^ and $ delimiters)

that has four particular pattern groups (the sets of parentheses that don't have a preceding \).

Group 1: The Track Number -- (\d{1,2}\.\s+)
The first group should have between 1 to 2 digits
(\d is the set of numbers between 0 and 9. The {x,y} bit specifies how many matches we want as a range, i.e. 1 to 2),

followed by a period
(written as \. because periods--AKA full stops--have a special meaning in RE patterns. The \ "escapes" it or tells the pattern matching engine that the character that follows should be treated literally and not interpreted as being a special pattern instruction character),

followed by any number of white spaces
(that's usually a tab or space to the rest of us, although it will match linebreaks too)

Basically, that just gives us the track number, e.g. "1. " or "12. " but not "123. " or "1- ". We've separated that out specifically as a group because we want to italicise the title, which is easier to do if we isolate it.

Group 2: The Track Title -- (.*) \t
The second group can contain anything.
(The . means match any character and the * means as many times as you possibly can, even if that's 0 times).

We don't match anything beyond the title because the next bit says the match should continue until we encounter a space followed by a tab.
(\t is a tab character. Each of the track and game titles in the original list had a trailing space and tabs were used to separate the three columns of the original table.)

Group 3: The Game Title -- (.*) \t
The third group can also contain anything and uses the same rules/logic as the track title.

Group 4: The Composer and Year -- (.* \(\d{4}\)
The fourth group can contain anything,
(Our friend .* again)

followed by a space,

followed by a set of four digits surrounded by (), e.g. (1994).
(Parentheses have a special meaning in REs, so we need to escape them; hence, \( and \). We need exactly 4 digits. {4} says we must have 4 -- no more, no less. The number of matches shall be 4. 4 shall be the number of matches.)

The composer bit of the original string contains both the composer and the release date. I didn't have any reason to break them out into individual elements, so they're grouped together.

++++Quote Ends++++

The grouping ability of regular expressions means that we can rebuild the matched string better and stronger. Each matched group can be referred to by a number, starting with 1 for the first group, 2 for the second, and so on. That enables us to build a replacement string that will look like: TrackNumber _TrackTitle_ from _GameTitle_ by ComposerAndYear.

Those are our four groups. As a regular expression replacement (or substitution) pattern, that's how we end up with: \1_\2_ from _\3_ by \4.

Unfortunately, that was too simple for me. What I actually did was the following:

1. Select the list in Firefox.

2. Right-click and choose "View selected source". Firefox obliged by showing me the source and the HTML for the selected list was highlighted/selected.

3. Copy HTML to the clipboard.

4. Paste HTML (which was an HTML table) into BBEdit, my text editor. That gave me something starting with "1." and then the subsequent list with its appropriate HTML table markup, e.g.:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. <a onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Epic Soundtrack', 'Click', '01—Unreal Tournament 3 – Unreleased Theme']);" href="" target="_blank">Unreleased Theme</a></td>
<td valign="top" width="140">Unreal Tournament 3</td>
<td valign="top" width="311">Rom Di Prisco (2007)</td>
<td valign="top" width="154">2. <a onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Epic Soundtrack', 'Click', '02—Jill of the Jungle – Dan']);" href="" target="_blank">Dan</a></td>
<td valign="top" width="140">Jill of the Jungle</td>
<td valign="top" width="311">Dan Froelich (1992)</td>

++++Quote Ends++++

5. Ran a script to convert the selected HTML to Markdown (John Gruber's text markup language -- That gave me something that looked like this:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. [Unreleased Theme][1]
Unreal Tournament 3
Rom Di Prisco (2007)

2. [Dan][2]
Jill of the Jungle
Dan Froelich (1992)

++++Quote Ends++++

The [something][someNum] is Markdown for making a link. The content in the first [] becomes the hyperlinked phrase and the [someNum] after it is a reference to the URL in a numbered list later in the Markdown document. I didn't need them here.

6. Search with "Grep" option enabled (to allow regular expressions patterns BBEdit) for "\[|\]" (Match either a [ or a ]) and replace with "_" to give me:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. _Unreleased Theme__1_
Unreal Tournament 3
Rom Di Prisco (2007)

2. _Dan__2_
Jill of the Jungle
Dan Froelich (1992)

++++Quote Ends++++

7. The URL number isn't actually useful, so I stripped it out by searching for "__\d+__" and replacing it with nothing:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. _Unreleased Theme_
Unreal Tournament 3
Rom Di Prisco (2007)

2. _Dan_
Jill of the Jungle
Dan Froelich (1992)

++++Quote Ends++++

8. Now, the tricky part.
Search: ^(\d+\.\s+_._)\r(.)\r(.* \(\d{4}\))\r$
Replace: \1 from \2 by \3

This is very similar to the pattern I discussed earlier except the track number and title are grouped together because I've already surrounded the track title with underscores. It also needs to do something about the different parts being on different lines. \r is the code for a return character in MacOS text. The result:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. _Unreleased Theme from _Unreal Tournament 3_ by Rom Di Prisco (2007)
2. _Dan_ from _Jill of the Jungle_ by Dan Froelich (1992)

++++Quote Ends++++

The Result:
We're sorted! List now appears like this on Google+:

++++Quote Starts++++

1. Unreleased Theme from Unreal Tournament 3 by Rom Di Prisco (2007)
2. Dan from Jill of the Jungle by Dan Froelich (1992)

++++Quote Ends++++

OK, that was a roundabout way to do it and it doesn't cure cancer, but it was somehow extremely satisfying, even if the first method (if I'd thought to check for tabs initially) would have taken far less time and fewer tools. :-P

See the result in the post on Epic Games's 20th anniversary free music download weekend (

Image Credit:
Agora eu vou desenhar by AlineCoutinho from Flckr under a CC BY-NC 2.0 License. Accessed May 11, 2012:,
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