Audio only games

Recently Amazon was in the news for launching a voice-only game for Alexa.  Good for them, I’m all for trying new kinds of games.

Sound only games go back a long time, all the way to the 1970’s.  According to Wikipedia, “Atari released the first audio game, Touch Me, in 1974.”  Milton Bradley made the sound-only game an art form with Simon (1978), which became one of the hits of the 1980’s.  To be fair, these games involved touch as well.

Amazon Echo Adventure Games, which can be developed using the Alexis skills kit,  are truly voice only.  They are similar to the kinds of text only adventure games of the 60’s and 70’s, like Zork (1977).  A big difference with Alexa, though, is that the games run in the Cloud — no game code on the device.

Video gamer creates VR surgical simulator

Nice to see ComputerWorld giving recognition to a video gamer (Sam Glassenberg, founder and CEO of Level EX) who designed a VR surgical simulator.

Funny how paths cross.  According to the article, Glassenberg was a lead developer on Microsoft’s DirectX.  When I worked on porting Digital Picture’s “Double Switch” game to Windows 95, I programmed with DirectX 1.0.

We’ve come a long ways since my classic video game “Microsurgeon” (Imagic 1982), but I was happy to be one of the first to tie video game technology to the healthcare industry.

Level EX :60 Trailer from Level EX Team on Vimeo.

Microsoft Edge tab previews

I’ve been using Microsoft Edge quite a bit since extensions were added this year.  Mostly I find it fast and simple, a nice browser.  But I still miss IE’s ability to easily reorganize (and save) my Favorites.  I’m the kind of user that tends to ignore minor inconveniences, but recently I realized just how much tab previews (dropdowns) were getting in my way.

So I looked up how to remove tab previews from Microsoft Edge.  While there is no simple user interface check box for doing this, it turns out there is a Registry key that can be created for turning off tab previews.

Please exercise great caution whenever editing the Registry in any version of Windows.  Instructions for turning off tab previews in Microsoft Edge can be found on a number of websites.  Just look up “disable Microsoft Edge tab previews”.   Here is just one.  You will also find a few YouTube videos on the subject.

I added the suggested registry key with value 0, and now I no longer get tab previews.  I wasn’t using them anyway, and now they no longer drop down and get in my way.

Tab Duplicate clip art

Genetic code privacy

Some of the political talk about technology rights in the past few years has been about encryption and phones.  There has also been a great deal of news about genetics, but since many of us are not geneticists, not all of the issues are easy to understand.

Since many of us have twins in the family or know someone who does, here we have a genetics issue that can easily be explained.  MIT Technology Review recently included an article entitled “Do Your Family Members Have a Right to Your Genetic Code?

As for genetics issues we may face in the future, I’ve written a few short stories you might enjoy that are in my anthology “Science Fiction: Genetics“.



Deflecting earthquakes and tsunamis?

In my science fiction story, “Seismic Morality” in my anthology “Science Fiction: Tragedies“, I have described a future where an administrator struggles with how to handle an earthquake prediction that is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

In another story, “M. Deidra”, hurricanes can be steered away from major cities, but at a cost.

Nowadays, where science sometimes surpasses science fiction, it appears that early detection of tsunamis and quake-proofing cities may be possible in the not-too-distant-future.


Microsurgeon interview in Retrogamer issue 163 — January 2017

Microsurgeon” (Imagic 1982 and 1983) is the first, or one of the first, video games related to healthcare.  It’s been mentioned in numerous magazines, featured on album and magazine covers, written about in books, nominated for awards, recognized at the Consumer Electronics Show, and gotten several good reviews over the decades.

I loved designing and programming “Microsurgeon”, and I always enjoy answering questions about it.  Look for my latest interview — with Graeme Mason of Wizwords — in the Jan. 2017 issue #163 of Retrogamer.


Robots like to play games too

For years, we’ve read about chess, checkers, and more recently GO and Jeopardy, played by computers with artificial intelligence.  The new trend seems to be robots that play games, whether it is a way for robots to learn or just computer scientists amusing themselves.

There are robots controlled by humans, of course, and drones are a good example of that.  Now there’s drone golf, where a golfer uses a drone to play golf.

Also, artificial intelligence researchers are using games like Minecraft as a testing ground, as well as StarCraft and other games.

Finally, as more evidence, I give you the robot that set the new Rubik’s Cube record.

When does 13 baskets equal almost 20 baskets?

It’s no secret that I like math and games.  It should also be no secret that I like sports.  The first video games I developed were based on the game of Bowling — Mattel Handheld Bowling and Intellivision Bowling.

Sports also permeates a bit of my science fiction writing.  In my latest anthology, “Science Fiction: Genetics“, I’ve included “It’s in the Stars”.  This story is about a couple’s desire to determine the best sport for their child to play, hoping for them to become a star.

I also enjoy watching sports, like baseball and basketball.  So I am very impressed with the new 3-point record set by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors NBA team last night.  He made 13 out of 17 3-pointers — outside the 3 point arc — to set a new record of 13 3-pointers in a single game.  That’s 39 points just for the 13 3-pointers he made, while it would take 20 2-pointers to score 40 points.


Moving a favorite in latest Microsoft Edge browser

If you have a number of favorites in various folders in Microsoft Edge, it can be difficult to click-and-drag the favorite from one folder to another — especially if the other folder is far down or up the list.  Here’s another way to move a single favorite.

In Microsoft Edge, the latest Windows 10 version as of November 2016, select a favorite from your list.  The browser tab should open that favorite.  Now just click on the Star icon at the top right of the browser as if you are adding a new favorite.  Select the folder you want it in.  Microsoft Edge will save this favorite in the folder you chose, but it will also move it out of the folder you previously had it in.

Shiny Star clip art

Ambient Computing

Desktop computing gave way to laptops — though some analysts have recently wondered if desktops are making a comeback with attractive options like Microsoft’s new Surface Studio and competing products from Dell and others.  Laptops gave way to 2-in-1s and some tablets — though tablet sales are down or flat.

Now there’s a trend called ambient computing that will bring us devices that don’t look like devices or just “blend in”.  Some say Amazon’s Echo line is part of this trend.  Google’s assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and other digital helpers also contribute to ambient computing.

As a science fiction writer, I always try to place new technologies or technological trends into future perspective.  How will the new devices fit in?  What differences will they make?  For example, will ambient computing make computing better and/or easier for those who can’t handle a physical input device — such as a mouse or keyboard — or see a monitor screen?

In my short story, “Assisted Living”, I wrote about a young woman with disabilities who has this kind of all-around-her technology access.  You can find it in my anthology “Science Fiction: Future Youth”.



Ukraine versus “The Ukraine”

I enjoy writing, especially science fiction, but I don’t always know the answer to every grammatical question that comes up.  If you’ve ever wondered why some countries are referred to as “[country]” versus “the [country]”, such as “Ukraine” versus “The Ukraine”, you might enjoy this article from Grammar Girl.  Or should I say “the Grammar Girl”?

So what’s the answer?  Grammar Girl suggests you use “Ukraine” when referring to the country.  Another example is that you don’t say “the France”.  You just say “France.”  But you do say “the Netherlands”.  So it may be best to do a little research before you decide to use “the” before a country name.

Accidentally dismissed Microsoft Edge tab

Sometimes I’m in a hurry, and if I click once too many times on the browser tab to close it, I’ll close the one next to it as well by accident.  Although there may be various ways of recovering the lost tab in your browser, most browsers support Control (Ctrl) + Shift + T — or on a Mac, Command + Shift + T.

So when I recently accidentally closed my Microsoft Edge tab, I just pressed Ctrl + Shift + T and it reopened immediately!


Landing on Mars is really difficult

The ExoMars lander recently re-confirmed what those of us on Earth already know.  Landing on Mars is really difficult.

We don’t know yet whether the ExoMars lander is still capable of communicating, but it doesn’t look good.  Scientists are busy piecing together the data to determine exactly what happened on the way down.

Someday living on Mars will be as easy as landing on Mars, which is not to say it will be all that easy.  But until then, you have plenty of science fiction stories and novels to read that take place on and around Mars.  You’ll find some of these stories in my anthologies, such as “The Time of your Life” in “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2”.


NBA and VR

I’m all for trying new things with technology, but I think I’ll pass on this one.  My vision for VR (Virtual Reality) is more in line with the “Star Trek” Holodeck like experience, where I’m in VR but my body experiences it essentially the same way I experience reality.

But sports has often led the introduction of new technology, such as 3D TV, computer game consoles, and other devices.   In the new NBA Digital/NextVR teaming up, you can watch an NBA game with a VR headset.  An NBA game is 2 hours long.  But how long can one comfortably wear a VR headset?  I guess some will find out when the NBA season starts next week.

Goggles Guy clip art

License Plate Games

License Plate Games start screen
License Plate Games start screen

A popular game — at least in the U.S. — to play while riding in a car is finding a license plate for every state.  You might use an app to help you remember state license plates you’ve seen.  There are quite a few of these on various app stores.

But nowadays there are sometimes hundreds of specialty license plates associated with each state in the country.  What if you want to remember every specialty plate you’ve seen for each state?  That’s where my upcoming (very soon) app “License Plate Games” comes in.  Both a BINGO-like license plate game, as well as a state and specialty license plates game will be included.  Don’t play while you are driving, though, and know your state laws.

Many of the state specialty plates are included in the game, though text is used to describe each plate rather than images.  If you would like to see what each specialty plate actually looks like, below are links to websites that may include pictures of specialty plates.

Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia)
Hawaii (Wikipedia)
Massachusetts (Wikipedia – has link to pdf of plates)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia


Outlook 2016 disconnected and related issues

Over the last several days I have noticed issues with sending, and sometimes receiving, emails from Outlook 2016.  Often, Outlook 2016 would report that it was disconnected — the Microsoft Exchange message at the bottom of Outlook that indicates connected or disconnected or Working Offline.  This morning, things got worse.  I had sent a couple of messages that went through, but in my Sent email folder it showed that the messages were copied to a couple of other people and attached a image001.png file I did not attach.  I had no idea why that happened, so I started to search help and online.

There were some references online to attached files, mostly regarding the use of signatures, html, or stationery in emails.  I did not use a signature or stationery, so I focused on html and turned on plain text.  This made no difference for me, so then I just focused on the disconnection issue.

I finally came upon a solution that worked, mentioned in the Microsoft Community on  Back in August 2016, this user had a similar issue to mine where Outlook 2016 was often disconnecting them.  The solution that worked for them — “removing and then adding the email account back into Outlook…” — also worked for me.  At least so far!  Also, when I looked at the messages that previously seemed to have an attached image001.png file and a couple of people I did not send to, the messages were now correct (no wrongly attached files and no people copied).

Just because this worked for me, I cannot guarantee it will work for you.  I am only posting this in case it helps someone who has the same issue as me.

Removing my Exchange email account and adding it back in from Outlook 2016 was easy.  I went to File-Account Settings in Outlook 2016, then selected the email account I wanted to remove.  Then I clicked on Remove (make sure you have the right email account selected, if you have more than 1).  Then I clicked on New, to add my email account back in (you’ll need your password and email address).  This is for an Exchange email account, so I have no idea what to do if you have disconnect issues with a Pop3 or other-than-Exchange email account.

Note that removing your email account from Outlook also deletes your associated email .ost file (offline folder file for synchronizing with the Exchange server) and recreates it.  If you have a lot of email on the server, it will take some time for Outlook to recreate this .ost file.  I have most email in local folders, so it only took a few minutes and my .ost file was completely restored.

Robot arrest

No, I don’t mean a robot arresting someone.  Back in 2010 there was a report of a UAV being credited with making an arrest.

A robot was almost arrested!  According to MIT Technology Review, “At a political rally in Moscow, police are reported to have attempted to handcuff and detain an activist called Promobot.”

Promobot is a robot, and although the incident might have been somewhat of a publicity stunt, it is only a matter of time before intelligent robots get arrested or do the arresting.  Will robots have similar rights to humans, or will there be an entire shelf or more of law books dedicated to robot rights?

Time will tell.  In the meantime — as a time travel writer, I can’t help but like the word ‘time’ — you might enjoy reading my “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” and “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2” anthologies.