Tag Archives: COMPUTERS

YouTube’s ‘Filters’ are quirky, but can still help discover videos that otherwise will never be shown

I rarely watch programming on the family room television, but over the past several years I’ve spent a significant amount of my evening downtime watching short-duration videos on YouTube across a variety of hobby-based interests.

YouTube mobile apps and website offers viewers a prominent search bar where one can enter keywords. The feature works great, until after a period of time you begin to question to yourself, “There’s got to be more than five people on YouTube uploading videos about [baking | fishing | woodworking | etc.] outside of the handful of contributors I already follow.”

Whether YouTube realizes it or not, there is a lot of great content to discover that is created by contributors with less than 250K subscribers. But don’t rely on YouTube to show them without you putting in some extra work. Let me show you how I recently discovered how to find them.

In addition to the prominent search bar, at least at the time of this writing, you’ll find in the site a ‘Filters’ feature, displayed as either a button or command depending on whether you’re using YouTube’s website or phone/tablet application.

Here’s where things get quirky. I’ve experimented and had the best luck discovering new content when applying TYPE = Video (or) Channel, and SORT BY = View count.

I’ve included a few screen captures below to better illustrate.

Selecting TYPE = Video and SORT BY = View count will show the videos with the highest play counts at the top. But these are the videos for which I’m already most familiar, and therefore this offers no significant benefit to me.

However, selecting TYPE = Channel and SORT BY = View count, the channels relevant to the chosen keyword are sorted with the smallest number of followers, and therefore contain the videos we’ve likely never seen.

Give this a try next time you’re exploring YouTube and I hope you get to discover new content on your favorite hobbies submitted by lesser-known contributors.

YouTube search filters shown on a desktop computer web browser.
YouTube search filters shown in the YouTube app on an Android phone.

Feeling nostalgic for ’90s computer games? Play them for free in a web browser

I lost interest playing most console and computer games in the late nineties. Although there are some exceptions that I will explain another time, the high-level reasons are:

  • I never adapted well to using four additional remote controller buttons introduced on the Super Nintendo in 1991
  • Learning how to program computers began to spoil the enjoyment of playing games
  • New PC games seemed to use practically every key on the full-size keyboard, requiring a steeper time commitment and learning curve

In the nineties there were many enjoyable PC games available that used only a few keys on the keyboard to move, jump, and shoot.

A few years ago I discovered that many of these games are available to play for free, online in a web browser, at the Internet Archive website.

Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and websites.

https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_msdos_games?tab=collection

The Internet Archive website makes these games playable to visitors using an in-browser emulator named EM-DOSBOX. Once on the site, use the left-hand navigation menu to further refine the filter criteria.

Learn basic coding and electronics using Adventure Kit: 30 Days Lost in Space

Six months ago I first began seeing advertisements on social media for Adventure Kit: 30 Days Lost in Space (InventrKits LLC). I was instantly intrigued by the cleverness of the kit and ingenuity of the young men who created it. To show my support and satisfy my curiosity, I ordered one.

The kit is reminiscent of the Radio Shack electronic project lab I once received from Santa Claus as a child. In retrospect, I believe I was probably a few years too young to grasp the enjoyment of the project lab. It sat unused for many years until being tossed out during my college years when my family moved to a new home.

Adventure Kit: 30 Days Lost in Space is a small box of basic electronic components, an Arduino Hero board, and online access to 30 video tutorial lessons (20-30 minute running time each) on basic programming and electronic components.

What I found most clever is how the team at InventrKits LLC crafted a video tutorial series based upon a science fiction scenario that finds our spaceship stranded beneath an ocean of a distant planet. Through the 30 video tutorials, we’re taught how to repair our spaceship by controlling basic electronic components like switches and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

I don’t want to spoil the entire story line, but for example, Day #2’s lesson finds us learning how to restore power to our ship’s lighting system (by controlling the power to a LED).

Once the kit is in-hand, all that remains is to download the free, open-source Arduino integrated development environment (IDE) to a PC, MAC, or LINUX computer. This is the software application where the Arduino firmware code is written, and then pushed from the computer across the included USB cable to the Arduino board.

The kit is proving to be great fun. If you are considering this for a young person, I recommend it is suitable for people age 11 years and up.

The Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is the software used to write code that controls the Arduino board once uploaded to the hardware using a USB cable. Day #3 finds us controlling the LED via a dip switch.
Arduino Hero board and an electronic prototype bread board mounted to a small piece of pine wood (not included) to help keep the pieces more steady on a work surface.

Ubuntu 22.04 included Software Centre is too amateurish for this modern OS

Canonical’s Ubuntu 22.04 desktop operating system is a polished open source PC operating system that for the last two years has replaced Microsoft Windows in my home. And frankly, that’s a wonderful feeling.

I agree with Canonical in its advertisement that Ubuntu is:

  • Complete because includes essential applications like a browser, email, photo and video media applications, and office suite
  • Secure due to security-by-design and included firewall, as well as five years of included security updates
  • Visually Stunning with a shallow and robust settings menu offering a simple, intuitive way to browse and make changes

Where this package falls flat for me is in the included Software Centre application. This application is too amateurish to be included in this modern operating system.

Software Centre, Software Center, or Ubuntu Software?

Across the operating system and when compared to Canonical’s own website, there are discrepancies whether this application is formally named the Software Center (EN-US), Software Centre (EN-UK), or Ubuntu Software (application ABOUT window). Pick a standard and stick with it, please.

An advertisement?

When the application opens, what is shown to the user front and center? A banner advertisement, of course! Advertisements in Ubuntu feel out of place. But don’t be too discouraged as this is not typical of the overall Ubuntu experience.

Non-descriptive tiles

The next three images display tiles, tiles, tiles, tiles, tiles, tiles. There’s no shortage of non-descriptive tiles.

And this is largely my problem. I don’t shop for applications simply looking at icons and quirky application names like postman, Hopsan, and functy. You’re making me work too hard. I can’t click forever browsing for applications like this. Please just show me a sentence or two description of each application.

Software Centre opens to reveal a front-and-center banner advertisement, followed by the Editor’s Picks of favorite icons. It’s up to you to click the icon to discover what purpose kdenlive serves if you’re not already familiar with the application’s name.
Drilling into a category (like Science) reveals pages and pages of tiles that offer little more than cute icons and quirky names.
Drilling into a category (like Finance) reveals pages and pages of tiles that offer little more than cute icons and quirky names.

Mediocre application descriptions

I suspect I can’t blame a mediocre application description on Ubuntu, but instead the application developer.

While in the Finance group, I decided to drill down into a green leaf. Because of course, green leaves and Finance go hand-in-hand in most users’ minds.

This particular application is called nervatura. It’s Open Source Business Management Framework. Ahh, I see. Okay, let’s read more.

Nervatura is a business management framework. It can handle any type of business related information, starting from customer details, up to shipping, stock or payment information.

Phew, that’s good. Because I have business related information that I need handled.

Through no fault of Ubuntu, some application descriptions are written poorly by the developers.

In summary

Kill the tiles, and add a sentence or two description of each application.

The 6-year inspiration that drove the creation of Series-V: A game of space of space exploration

I’m out of the professional coding world for over fifteen years, but it hasn’t stopped me from creating a multi-player online game inspired by 80s/90s computer bulletin board systems (BBSs) in the spirit of TradeWars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon.

To try the game yourself, visit https://series-v.com. Or, watch the short narrated demo walk-through below.

Watch a short demo of Series V: A game of space exploration

I still remember the specs of my first brand-new PC in the fall of 1993 that cost me $3,000: an Intel 486DX2 processor with 8MB RAM, 340MB hard drive, SoundBlaster Pro sound card, and a USRobotics 14.4K modem. With that PC came the joy of exploring local dial-up BBS systems, namely the Trenton NJ area It’s All Rock ‘N Roll and the text-based multi-player games the SysOp offered his members.

During the winter of 2016-17 I felt nostalgic for the bygone era of personal computing. To kill some time in the evenings I installed a DOS emulator on a second-hand netbook and loaded a copy of the WWIV BBS system to see if I could get it to run: and it did. While I knew there was no merit to keeping that setup, I turned my attention to creating a multi-player, text-based space exploration game playable in the browser on desktop, laptop, and tablet devices.

Initially, I had little expectations that I would fully finish the project, but I saw the challenge behind building a proof of concept. As a bonus, I would learn PHP and MySQL to experience new-to-me technologies.

Because the game is text-based, players are encouraged to use pencil and paper to draft maps and to note the location of objects and obstacles.

The objective is to win the game by having the highest score among all players when time expires. Players earn points by exploring space and mining asteroids, but should be cautioned that points are also deducted for mischief.

Designed with casual gamers in mind, the short-duration “pop up” nature will allow me to activate the game during long holiday weekends. I can then focus on building out minor enhancements and features as time permits throughout the year. Because the universe is reconfigured at the start of each game, it encourages players to skip rounds and jump back in at a later date to explore a newly-configured universe with different players and objectives.