Archive for the 'Colony West' Category

Published by Kenneth on 06 Jul 2009

Comparing the Trade Profiteer with Bleach!

If you’ve come across the Trade Profiteer, chances are you’ve heard of or used the Pirate Commodity Trader with Bleach! application. So how exactly does the Trade Profiteer compare with Bleach? Well in many ways they are both similar: both are intended to import commodity data and display a comparison between two islands, but that is, well fortunately for me, where the similarities end.

Because the Trade Profiteer is a standalone application, there is plenty more that can be offered that the Bleach application cannot. Many of the benefits of this application are listed on the page for this project.

Self-contained, standalone application

The first main benefit of the Trade Profiteer is the fact that it is an entirely self-contained, standalone desktop application. This means that there is only one thing to worry about. It also means that when the data comes to your computer, it stays there. Like the Bleach application, the data is read out of the Puzzle Pirates window and saved into a database. With Bleach, however, the data must first be sent to a remote server over which you have no control before you can receive any information – assuming the server or your Internet connection doesn’t crap out along the way.

But there’s more: on the server are multiple, and I do mean, multiple points of failure. This standalone application creates only one point of failure: if the application decides to crap out, you kill the application, restart it, and go. If the server craps out, you’re out of luck. Just check Bleach’s forum thread to see how often complaints have been posted about the server being down or inaccessible for some reason, sometimes for days on end.

So what are the multiple points of failure? There are three main points of failure, among other: the service software that actually delivers the data to your browser, the separate database service that keeps track of the data, and the scripts (both on the server and those fed to your browser) that drive the whole thing. Plus there’s the separate uploader application that must collect the data and upload it to the server. Multiple, multiple points of failure.

If you’re an experienced merchant on your ocean, you know that the fewer ways something can go wrong, the better. And if it does go wrong, the fewer steps and less time needed to get things relatively back to normal, the better. For that reason alone you shouldn’t trust the Bleach service.

Everything stays local

You will likely note that I’ve mentioned the separate uploader application a few times… and I just did again. It’s an important point to emphasize, and when I set out to create the Trade Profiteer, it was something I set out to eliminate.

Everything stays local with the Trade Profiteer. The commodity market data stores off quick; there is no wait while it uploads because it doesn’t go anywhere. Plus because everything stays local, you don’t have to worry about conflicting data from other sources screwing you up. The data is also stored off automatically – you don’t have to do anything to make it happen.

On the off-chance, however, that building names change or a new island is colonized, you might have to tell the application what island you’re on, but that should be relatively rare. However with younger oceans like the Crimson Ocean, this could be somewhat common as islands are opened up and flags compete for the islands that are open.

But it’s still simple: the Trade Profiteer will ask you which island you’re on and prompt you to specify what building name it should use to recognize that island in the future.

Store off frequently-traveled routes

This is something that the Bleach tool cannot provide without implementing user-logins, and I doubt they’d want to complicate an already horrendously-complicated mess even further.

This is one feature I feel you’ll like the best, and this is the first tool to provide this feature: you can store off routes you frequently travel. And making use of your stored routes is easy.

Multiple island pick-up and delivery

How could I not include this feature? You want a way to maximize profits, that’s the way to go. It does carry with it greater risk, though, so be forewarned. But you can select multiple start and destination islands.

And this is a feature also introduced first with the Trade Profiteer.

Doesn’t interfere with your work

I tried dropping several hints to get the Bleach developers to realize that there is a better way to do the window auto-scrolling. I’m sure after they’ve had a go at this application, they’ll find a way to reverse-engineer how I’m doing it and finally see the light.

Sorry to the Bleach developers, but you didn’t do your research properly if you never found out how to scroll the window without interfering with the user. It didn’t take me long to find it.

With the Trade Profiteer, you can still talk and do other things within the Puzzle Pirates window while the window is auto-scrolling. Something get in the way? No problem. It’ll pause the scrolling so you can take care of the interference and continue.

What is the Trade Profiteer missing?

Of the features provided by the Bleach application, there is only one that I have determined is not available (yet) in the Trade Profiteer, that being the ability to take the list of items and quantities to purchase and figure out what can fit into a particular ship. While this feature is certainly useful, it was put on the back burner for now, but there are plans to implement something similar. I have a couple other things I’d like to implement first.

Fini

So there you have it, a few ways in which the Trade Profiteer excels beyond the Bleach application. If you’ve made use of the Trade Profiteer, I’m sure you’ve found more.

As usual, any questions or concerns can be e-mailed to me through the contact form on the web site.

Published by Kenneth on 05 Jul 2009

Trade Profiteer reaches open beta

It is with great pleasure that Colony West Software Company announces the release of the Puzzle Pirates Trade Profiteer into open beta. The software has been through much development and a lot of testing through the many months since the project first started. The time has come to give others the opportunity to use the tool and report back on any bugs they find.

Now one thing you’ll notice right away is that this tool is much different from anything else out there, and is certainly different from the Bleach tool, and that is intentional.

Many of the tricks that the developers of the Bleach site tried to use are avoided in this application. For example when scrolling the commodity data list, you are free to move the mouse around. This allows you to respond to chat channels, and you won’t be interfering with the data read either.

Further this application is entirely standalone. There isn’t any server to which this application talks except when you select the “Check for updates” option on the help menu, in which case it’s talking to my web server to retrieve a version number. Nothing more.

So what happens next?

The application will be in open beta for, hopefully, only one month, but that can vary depending on how many bugs and enhancement suggestions are reported. If there is a high amount of feedback or bug reports, the open beta may be extended. If there aren’t many bugs or issues reported, then the open beta period may be shortened and a full release provided sooner.

Right now the aim is to release a full version sometime in early August 2009. I also aim to have some semblance of a manual put together by that time, too. Right now I don’t have a bug tracking site up and running, but I’m experimenting with a few systems and will set one up when I’ve settled on one.

Fair winds, everyone.

Published by Kenneth on 03 Jul 2009

Open beta approaches for Trade Profiteer

It brings me great pleasure to announce that the Trade Profiteer will be released into open beta within the next few days. We are finishing up a few details with the application along with drafting an announcement for the Puzzle Pirates forums. The application likely would’ve been released sooner, but Three Rings opened two new oceans recently: Crimson (family ocean, English primarily) and Jade (Spanish ocean). This caused only a slight delay.

The Trade Profiteer supports eight (8) of the ten (10) available oceans. The only oceans not supported are Jade and Opal. Jade is the new Spanish ocean while Opal is a German ocean that has been open for about two years. Information for the Ice ocean is distributed with the Trade Profiteer, but it has not been tested with the Ice client. Feedback will certainly be welcome, but problems are not anticipated.

Now it will be possible to add support for Jade and Opal, as you can merely change the option for Puzzle Pirates on those oceans to use English as the interface language, but we did not think it fair to German and Spanish players. Those oceans were opened to target native German and Spanish speakers. However we do aim to globalize the Trade Profiteer to make it more friendly to the widely diverse group of players on all oceans. As globalization was not originally considered when the project began a year ago, the application will need to be adjusted to allow for this. It is one of the planned enhancements and, like adapting the application for Java 6, it is also a priority.

If you wish to assist with the globalization effort, let me know either by sending an e-mail using the contact page on the web site or enter a reply to this post. I would prefer native speakers where possible.

So otherwise, keep an eye out over the coming 4th of July weekend for the announcement. Again, finishing touches for release are underway and we hope to have this finished up and released into open beta hopefully before Monday.

Fair winds.

Published by Kenneth on 24 Jun 2009

Why Joomla?

One question I’ve received a few times over the last several months since converting the web site to Joomla is why I selected Joomla. There are numerous reasons why I picked this CMS as the one for which to run my web site, but I’ll try to provide the main points.

First I will say that I do have a web server in my home. If you’re going to be creating a web site, you need one. You need a server that you can use to test a particular CMS, various extensions for that CMS, and so forth as a sandbox instead of using your live web site (or what you think is a “hidden” section of it) as a test bed. That is how I tested many CMS setups to determine which one suited my needs best.

Originally the Colony West web site used XOOPS as the underlying content management system (CMS). XOOPS is a decent CMS and has several underlying administrative features missing from Joomla, such as granular control over user access. However with the new setup, I didn’t consider granular user access as a need as I don’t believe I’m going to be needing granular control except in only a couple components.

I originally employed XOOPS because of a software project management system called xProject, which is no longer available. It was a great extension to XOOPS. I still have that package around, but as the project is no longer actively available, meaning no longer actively developed, I needed to look around for something else. This also gave me the chance to eliminate XOOPS from the picture, and looking for extension to XOOPS to suit my needs was not a consideration.

I left XOOPS because it just didn’t seem right. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but it just didn’t quite have the right feel. So I went looking around.

And as I said, I tried many different CMS systems. And the place I started looking was CMS Matrix, where you can search around a lot of different CMS systems and even narrow your search based on your needs. It made finding things a lot easier as I had a few set of stipulated requirements that I had to meet.

1. PHP and MySQL

First and foremost, the CMS had to run using PHP 4 as the scripting system using MySQL as the backend. That is what my web host provides, and that is what I needed.

Sure I could’ve selected Perl as well, since my host provides Perl support, but I want a CMS for which I might later write extensions, and I don’t know Perl, nor do I have a desire to learn it. I’m reasonably familiar with PHP and given its similarities to C and C++, I feel I can further learn PHP a lot easier than starting to learn Perl.

2. Free

This one was a no-brainer in my opinion. Obviously since Colony West Software Company is little more than a DBA (“doing business as”), I needed a CMS system that wasn’t going to cost me more than my web hosting fees. There are plenty of CMS systems that fit this category.

Now why didn’t I say “free and open source”? Most CMS systems that are distributed as Perl or PHP are distributed as source scripts. So by selecting one that uses PHP, I’m almost guaranteed to get the source code as well, though I don’t particularly need it, simply because I’m picking one that is free.

Is it GPL’d? BSD? [Insert license here]? I did not care, and it was never a consideration the license for the CMS so long as I could use it on my web site without having to send someone money first. Joomla is GPL’d, but like I said, I don’t care.

3. Actively supported

Most CMS systems will fit this category. Any CMS system that is actively and heavily used will be actively supported as well. Bugs and security concerns need to be addressed on a regular basis.

4. Broad availability of extensions

Seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a clarification that should be mentioned. I’m not talking about a lot of extensions, but a lot of categories of extensions. I don’t know what I will be adding to my site next as it grows, so knowing that options are available brings piece of mind in selecting a CMS.

And of course, falling under requirement 3 above, the extensions that are available should be actively supported as well. There’s no point in having a broad availability of extensions or modules if I won’t get any updates after bugs are reported.

What others were considered?

There were several others that were considered, and the one that was the main competition for Joomla in my selection process was Drupal. Like Joomla, it met my requirements with ease. It is a PHP-based system with MySQL as the backend. But what I didn’t like about Drupal is how much it provided right out of the box.

If you were to compare the feature list for Drupal with the feature list for Joomla, or try both systems out for yourself, you’ll find how much Drupal gives you right away. This can be good, but for me it was too much. I don’t mind looking around for extensions to add functionality to my site; to me, that’s better than having everything handed to you – one of the reasons I don’t like the various Linux distros much.

Plus like XOOPS, there was something about Drupal that just didn’t quite feel right.

Why Joomla?

Okay, so why Joomla? Joomla meets the four requirements provided above. It is PHP 4-based using MySQL as the backend, though some available extensions require PHP 5, and it’s free, actively supported and developed, with a broad availability of extensions.

Plus one thing I noticed with Joomla as well was the ease of installation, not only of the main system but also with regard to extensions. It is also easy to administer and maintain.

And it doesn’t provide many extensions out of the box. To some this might seem like a down-side, but to me it was a plus. It meant I had control and I was guaranteed to have options.

So there you have it, a somewhat nutshell version of why I chose Joomla over others that I tested. I’m sure there are others out there that I could’ve selected, but I also didn’t want to look around and investigate every option out there, otherwise likely I’d still be testing… Instead I went with an option that appeared very popular, well supported, and, of course, stable.

Published by Kenneth on 01 Jun 2009

Trade Profiteer almost ready to set sail

Back in July 2008, I started work on what I then called the Puzzle Pirates Commodity Trader – pathetic name, I know, but it was generic enough to suit my project needs at the time. Late August 2008 is when the name would change to Puzzle Pirates Trade Profiteer, the current name of the project.

The project started as another application I was developing while unemployed to keep my programming skills going while searching for a job. It combined two things I enjoyed: writing software and playing the online game Puzzle Pirates. I do still play that game, otherwise this project would’ve died months ago.

In a post to the Puzzle Pirates forum, I announced the project and it garnered interest right away. It also spawned a huge debate over the pros and cons of desktop and web-based applications, including the definition of collaboration.

Just a side note, I will say that collaboration is about a symbiotic relationship between two or more beings with everyone involved benefiting from the collaboration. Parasitism, which is what can happen with the Bleach application, is completely different, as others can benefit from your gathering of commodity information and steal your ability to profit.

So what is the Trade Profiteer? Well, the web page for the project pretty much says it all and describes what it’s about: it’s an application to aid in commodity trading within Puzzle Pirates. It’s also intended to directly compete with, and hopefully eventually replace, the Puzzle Pirates Commodity Trader with Bleach!, an application which I actually helped beta test. I’m thanked in the credits for this as I provided a lot of bug slips for the developers to work on.

So why the announcement regarding the Trade Profiteer? Well, beta testing approaches, and it will likely be an open beta testing as well – as in I put out the application for anyone to download and you report back any bugs you find. I do have a Bugzilla installation on my web site, though it’s not public, and I am considering switching out for something a little less intimidating – I’m open to suggestions.

After a time in beta testing, hopefully things will proceed forward to release in a short time. At that time, I’ll provide an announcement of what I have planned for future releases of the Trade Profiteer. One thing I will say, though, is that I do intend to attempt a cross-platform adaptation of the program, including its OCR code – something that will be one hell of a challenge. One of the first things on the list, though, is determining a way to support Java 6 since Puzzle Pirates likely won’t support Java 5 for too much longer.

Well that’s all for now. I’ll be using this blog to post updates regarding this application. If you’re interested in beta testing, please comment to this post or use my web site’s contact form to drop me a line.

Published by Kenneth on 05 May 2009

Introductions

As this is a new blog, I feel introductions are in order. For those of you not familiar with Colony West Software, I am Kenneth Ballard, the proprietor of said company. I started Colony West Software back in 2001 under a different name now long forgotten. I’ve been putting out software and code libraries since then, though I haven’t released anything in quite a while, though that will hopefully be changing soon.

Colony West?

I will concede that Colony West is an unusual name, though there are plenty of other organizations and establishments that use Colony West as part of their name. So how’d I come up with it?

Well I used to live at Green Valley Apartments in West Des Moines, Iowa, now called Woodland West Condominiums. Across the street from the complex are two office buildings, one of which houses an FBI office. One is called Colony Park and the other is called Park West. I just took the names, removed Park, and voila, Colony West was born.

I registered the name with the Polk County Recorder at the end of 2005 as “Colony West Software Development”. It was re-registered with the State of Missouri in May 2009 as “Colony West Software Company”.

Current projects

Currently there are two projects under development at Colony West, one of which is prominently displayed on the company’s home page.

The Puzzle Pirates Trade Profiteer is a helper application for the online game Puzzle Pirates. The Trade Profiteer is a tool to assist with commodity trading in the game. Read more on the project’s web page.

The other project currently under active development will be announced when I’m close to releasing it.

The Future

So what does the future hold? Well, pretty much more software development. I’ll be posting updates here periodically, and I’ll also post other things here as well, such as commentaries on tech articles and the like.

So subscribe if you’d like or bookmark this blog to keep informed of what’s going on here at Colony West Software Company.

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