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Free GitHub Alternatives

I’ve decided to migrate my projects away from GitHub. A search for free Git alternatives produced the following:

  • BitBucket - Unlimited private repositories and free for up to 5 users. Also offers Mercurial.
  • GitLab – Unlimited private repositories and private collaborators.
  • Gitorious – Offers free public repositories.
  • Codeplex – Open source hosting for Git, Mercurial, or Team Foundation Server.

I’ve created a BitBucket account here and I’m looking forward to evaluating the service.  I’m also going to carefully review GitLab, though I don’t require more than five collaborators. I’m skipping Gitorious and Codeplex because I use private repositories.

I hope to use this migration to accomplish another goal: getting more of my free-floating code organized into repositories. This migration should be a good opportunity to do so.

Magento Developer Plus Certification Progress

I’m presently studying for the Magento Developer Plus certification. I hope to take the exam in early June and I’ve created a study plan to accomplish this.

First, I’m reading the excellent and free (with sign-up) Magento User Guide. I’m fairly new to Magento and knowing how the platform works as a shop owner and end-user is a good starting point before I map out and explore the source code.

I’ve also downloaded free The Magento Certified Developer Plus (pdf) official study guide, which is also offered here (with sign-up) along with other guides. I plan to read through it thoroughly after I’m finished with the user manual.

Finally, I found the free eBook “How to pass Magento Certification Exam in 30 days“. I’m undecided on reading it because my main goal of getting certified this year is to master the platforms I’m studying. I’m less interested in passing the test just for the sake of getting the certification.

I’m also thinking about taking Magento’s front-end certification towards the end of the year. I’m primarily focused on back-end systems, but the additional detail seems like it might be useful at some point.

Bundle Stars

Bundle StarsBundle Stars is my new humble bundle.

I used to love buying games from in-store bargain bin sales that supplied me with older and often unusual titles. This weekend I discovered Bundle Stars, a humble bundle-like distributor, only with more games that cost $4.99 or less per bundle.

I bought the Toxic, Extreme Sims 2, and Kalypso bundles which totaled to 30 games. I had originally planned to buy 4-5 of them, but now I have them all along with at least 15 others intriguing enough to try at least once. I was especially impressed with the farming and logistics simulators from the Extreme Sims 2 bundle because they are exactly the type of bargain-bin games I might have grabbed back in the 1990′s.

Bundle Stars games are distributed as Steam licenses, so there’s no physical packaging or manuals, but the documentation and related items are easy to find online. I’m excited to play all of these newly acquired games.

Week in Gaming 4/21/2014

Elite 1 Title ScreenPlaying Elite 1 for the first time on my emulated Amiga 1200 was the highlight of this past week in gaming. I had fun reading the Elite 1 manual; it went on at length about pirates and offered tips that seemed funny out of context, ex. “Don’t trade expensive trivia to a hungry world.” I also fixed emulation display issues with the game and hope to post a configuration guide once I’ve put more time into testing it.

I chanced on two recent indie games: Quarries of Scred and the independently produced spin-off Quarries of Scred 1982. The first is a colorful futuristic mining exploration game that killed me quite a lot, the second is a text-based version that seemed to have more rogue-like elements (at least as far as text-based adventures go).

The Quarries of Scred games reminded me to play a variety of games in 2014. I’m going to spend this upcoming week working out a plan and possible schedule to make this happen.

Atari 2600 ET Landfill Dig

I am astonished that permission has been granted for a documentary crew to dig up potentially millions of unsold Atari 2600 ET game cartridges that were buried in a landfill in the early 1980′s. Despite a postponement last year for chemical testing, on April 26th filmmakers and the creator of the game will search a New Mexico landfill for the vintage cartridges.

I remember playing ET as a kid and getting stuck in pits quite a lot. I didn’t dislike the game, but it was so difficult there wasn’t much fun in finishing it back then. I also remember finding one piece of the telephone, which ET uses to call home, and it felt like a major victory at the time.

I won’t be in New Mexico on the 26th, but I might watch  some of the footage if they stream it. I’m also going to play the game again and see how well I can do as an adult.

Review: The Lurking Horror

The Lurking HorrorThe Lurking Horror is an H. P. Lovecraft inspired text adventure game by Dave Lebling, the author of Zork. Published by Infocom in 1987, it’s a spooky text-based look at college life. This is a no-spoiler review of the Amiga version.

The game begins with the player confined to an almost eerily empty campus encased by a brutal snowstorm. After rushing to a computer lab to complete an assignment due the next day, you receive help from a frazzled computer expert who partially guides your actions.

The college campus is a fun space to explore and the puzzles are intuitively easy. The game comes with useful feelies that include a map and student id. Background music uplifts the story during action scenes.

Controls are immersive but frustrating. Early on I had to look through spoilers to determine how to interact with a microwave using terms the game could recognize. Navigation is also problematic. It’s not always obvious where entrances and exits are even after close examination of a room or area.

Despite the controls, I enjoyed the sparse characters that inhabited the creepy and desolate campus. Their movement patterns and behavior reminded me of Oblivion, sans graphics. I was even chased outside by one until I ended up in the snow (the character patiently waited for me to freeze to death at the campus entrance).

The Lurking Horror doesn’t include much lurking or horror, but I enjoyed the Amiga version of the game. The brief reminder of wandering around campus during my own college days more than made up for it.

Passed the Zend Framework v1 Certification Exam

On Saturday, April 12th, 2014, I passed the Zend Framework v1 certification exam. This is a legacy test sourced from version 1.5 of the Zend framework.

The Zend’s framework exam is a difficult test to study for because, despite its age (and unlike Zend’s PHP language certification), there isn’t as much study material available. I found Zend’s official study guide to be the most helpful along with reading through the 1.5 edition of the manual.

I used the following documents to study for the exam:

The Zend Framework is quite large and I went into the exam feeling like I could use an extra week of study. I also felt like a historian while reviewing the APIs of services from companies now out of business. Despite this legacy aspect, I’m appreciative that Zend is still offering this test and I’m happy to have taken it.

My next certification will be for Magento Developer Plus, an e-commerce platform that uses Zend Framework v1 for part of its core. I’m glad I invested my time into the framework exam because I believe it will help me learn Magento development more quickly.

I’m a Zend Certified PHP Engineer

Zend Certified PHP Engineer

I’m happy to report that, in March, I became an official Zend Certified PHP Engineer after passing Zend’s new PHP 5.5 exam. This is the first of a couple Zend certifications I hope to complete this year. I’m also looking forward to taking the Zend Framework version one exam in mid-April. It’s a bit retrospective for me, but as someone who works on legacy systems I’m glad the old framework exam is still being offered.

Zend also emailed me a perpetual license for Zend Studio four days after I passed the exam. I’m very grateful for this as it helped to justify the cost of the test and also, I genuinely need a new comprehensive IDE for PHP development. I might follow up with another blog post when I’ve had some time to dig into it.

MySQL 5.6 Developer Certification

Oracle MySQL 5.6 Developer LogoThis weekend I received word from Oracle that I passed the MySQL 5.6 developer certification exam I took in December. I am now officially an “Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL 5.6 Developer”. Hurray! Achievement unlocked!

I ended up not having time to do the 5.6 DBA exam prior to going on vacation last year,  so I’m looking forward to taking it within the next few months. It will be interesting to see what Oracle’s finished and out-of-beta exams look like.

Long Live the Queen

Long Live the QueenLong Live the Queen is Hanako Games’s latest video game production in the graphic novel simulation genre. Released in June 2012, it cleared Steam Greenlight in November 2013. Despite the increased attention and popularity, it sadly wasn’t enough for the game to be shortlisted for the 2013 IGF awards.

The game lets you play as the character Elodie, whose mother has died one year before she is eligible for coronation. Elodie’s mission is to train to become a queen while running the kingdom. The game’s roguelike mechanics present scenarios with political intrigue, politics, assassination attempts, and military invasions.

Each week Elodie selects classes and completes an action such as asking her father for advice or visiting the treasury or dungeons. Long Live the Queen is stats focused and the learning curve involves understanding how the information relates to the storyline. It’s not always obvious what options are available or how much further Elodie needs to train to conquer obstacles.

The gorgeous anime graphics are very much an acquired taste. I found the overdone pink princess theme enjoyable after my second or third playthrough.

The depth is not apparent at first, but each attempt at the throne took approximately two days. After several untimely deaths, I eventually finished the game after playing every day for about a week. The replay value is enormous, and there are at least three or more character builds that can win the game.

Long Live the Queen is a highly entertaining beautiful and deadly roguelike princess simulation. Hanako Game’s exciting and cute take on Game of Thrones is worth it.

Source: Purchased on Steam.