As not-quite-promised, here's the bigger post I haven't been quite able to get out for some time. For those that are interested, Natalie seems fine after yesterday's crash, her neck is still a bit stiff so she'll be going for X-rays just to be sure it's only whiplash, but it seems that she escaped any sort of major injury.
Wonder Woman kicked out of E3
First off, we've got a video that came out recently on YouTube of Kasey Poteet, host of Geek Rawk (No, I don't know either..) getting booted from E3 because of her skimpy Wonder Woman outfit. Personally I suspect she was booted because Wonder Woman's just lame. If you're really bored it's worth watching a few minutes of the movie.
Five Realistic Steps To Starting A Game Development Company
Jeff Tunnel of Garage Games posted an interesting first entry in a series of articles on his Make It Big In Games blog. The series, which he intends to eventually turn into a full e-Book, focuses on realistic steps in getting yourself into a position of writing indy games fulltime. The advice is based on some of his own experience and is well worth a look for those that think they're going to licence an engine and churn out the next Quake-killer straight out of school.
The first of the 'new' Google goodies I had a quick look at last week was the latest release of Google Earth. It is the first time I have played with the product since it was initially released, and it seems to have moved on nicely since then. Besides support for textured 3d building models, the new edition has some nice interface tweaks, making an attempt to keep your map view as clear of obstructions as possible. It's relatively simple to quickly add new pins to landmarks, which are then kept in your collection of pins. You can optionally 'share' these, which requires you to register for an account.
To be honest I can't really see much practical use for this app, other than to show off the Google Maps API, but it's a fun enough toy to play around with for a couple of minutes. It really is a pity that Google haven't managed to secure roadmap data for South Africa yet, or I might actually have found it useful (the same goes for maps.google.com) as the ability to find routes between two points is great.
Adding to the Google suite of office-like tools (again: I told you so!) is Google Spreadsheets. This online spreadsheet tool is to Excel what Writely is to Word. It definitely doesn't have the extensive functionality of Excel, with features ranging from the basic (cell border formatting) to the advanced (graphing tools) leaving it lacking when compared feature-for-feature to Microsoft's well-known spreadsheet tool. The 'trick' with Google Spreadsheets though, is that it supports true collaborative editing of documents, as opposed to Excel's 'Notify when document is available' approach. I can see this feature being useful in many cases, and have in fact already spoken to one user that finds it extremely useful for easily editing and issuing invoices to clients. It's worth mentioning that it's also possible (and dead easy) to export these spreadsheets to a local Excel os XML file, which is certainly a very useful feature. My biggest concern with GS is that of security. I am fully aware that Google quietly sifts through my emails in gmail, my chat conversations in chat and my search queries on google.com to fine tune the ads they bombard me with, and I'm ok with that. However making financial information available to them (as this is what would typically be stored in spreadsheets) is not something I'm quite ready for.
Finally a quick look at Google's website traffic analysis service, Google Analytics. This service has limited subscriptions, so when you apply you're informed that you will be sent an activation code when one is available. These seem to be ranomly allocated, rather than allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis and I was lucky enough to recieve mine last week. Setting up the service was a simple case of registering with the activation code provided, and adding a small amount of provided script code to the end of those pages you wish to monitor. By the next day I had some basic usage stats coming in, and I could fiddle around with the tools available. The summary view is great and as a casual user I doubt I'll venture beyond this very often. It provides a quick weekly summary of visits and page views, a pie chart comparing new and repeat visitors, another pie chart comparing link sources and a world map highlighting visitors' locations. Digging a bit deeper there are tools for conversion goal progress and more detailed statistics aimed at various user levels, from marketing managers to systems maintenance personnel. Most, if not all of the data provided could be obtained from a typical hosting package's provided scripts, but the presentation and ease of use of Analytics is what sets it apart. It does the leg work of processing some of those raw statistics into really practical overview charts and graphs, providing the kind of data 'dashboard' business users are so fond of these days. If you can get hold of an activation code, go ahead and check it out, you may actually find monitoring your daily site traffic quite addictive.