BlogBlox Free Laszlo Applications for Personal Blogs

Blogboxes provide exciting, instantly deployed functionality for your blog or Web site. They are free for non-commercial use. Enjoy them and spread the good word!

Photoblox: Show personal image slideshows on your Web page, customized to suit with dramatic presentation effects, annotations and PayPal integration.

Linkblox: Compactly present your favorite URL links within expandable tabs. Customize the Linkblox with your own external OPML XML file.

Weatherblox: Always have an answer to "How's the weather?". Enhance your blog or homepage with WeatherBlox.

Soundblox: Let your visitors play MP3 format audio directly out of your Web page. Customize the appearance and content of your SoundBlox with your own XML playlist and media.

NutritionQuest Personalized Surveys in Laszlo

I'm working for NutritionQuest, developing a Laszlo based personalized nutrition survey.

Laszlo OPML Viewer/Editor

I've been discussing the design of an OPML viewer/editor with Marc Canter and Dave Winer.

It will serve nicely as a stand-alone component like a simple blog roll or nested link browser, or as a more advanced customizable blog applet like BlogBlox, and it will also be customizable for use in Laszlo applications, like the database interface, for editing XML structures stored in SQL databases.

Update: Here's a first cut of server side support for Drupal, and the client side for Laszlo: OPML Site Map Based on Drupal Taxonomy. Laszlo OPML Drupal Taxonomy Site Map Browser.

Laszlo Koosh Ball Generator

For fun, and to test out Laszlo's rendering speed with lots of lines, I rewrote the classic NeWS "Koosh Tool" koosh ball generator in OpenLaszlo.

It's amazing how many colored lines Flash can animate on the screen at once!

Laszlo Koosh Balls Demo

Laszlo Koosh Balls Source Code in Laszlo

John von Neumann's 29 state Cellular Automata Implemented in OpenLaszlo

For fun, and to learn OpenLaszlo, I implemented the classic 29 state self reproducing cellular automata, invented by John von Neumann.

The JavaScript and XML code is written with no thought to efficiency, just conceptual clarity and convenience of implementation. It can't run a lot of cells at once, but at least it's slow enough to watch it compute. Don't worry: there's not space for it to reproduce!

I've configured it with several interesting initial conditions, including several different approaches to signal crossing, and an exclusive-or gate.

It uses pie menus for editing the grid of cells.

Laszlo von Neumann Cellular Automata Demo

Laszlo von Neumann Cellular Automata Source Code in Laszlo

Laszlo Pie Menus

I've ported my JavaScript pie menu code to OpenLaszlo, and rewritten it to take advantage of Laszlo features like Flash graphics and animation, constraints, events, prototype customization, and XML data binding.

I'm using the Laszlo pie menus in the Sims Content Catalog, and the von Neumann 29 State Cellular Automata, and other projects.

Laszlo Pie Menu Demo

Laszlo Pie Menu Demo Source Code in Laszlo

Laszlo Pie Menu Component Source Code in Laszlo

Laszlo Mail

Note: Laszlo Mail is now live! You can sign up for a free account at, and try it out now!

This is stuff about Laszlo Mail, which is a rich web email application, runs in any web browser supporting the Flash player, talks to a Java server via asynchronous XML, and provides a rich desktop-application-like gui with drag-and-drop, etc.

Laszlo Systems is developing Laszlo Mail and other Laszlo components for customers like Earthlink, who are deploying their "Earthlink Ehanced Webmail" customized version of Laszlo Mail to millions of customers.

I've learned how to develop large complex Laszlo applications like Laszlo Mail, by working as a contractor for Laszlo Systems.

I developed the email folder tree, with drag and drop editing of a tree of mail folders, and also the attachments upload component.

OpenLaszlo Stuff

This is OpenLaszlo stuff, including demos and screen snapshots. OpenLaszlo is an open source XML/JavaScript based declarative programming language, for developing cross platform interactive web applications that run in the Flash player.

I love programming in OpenLaszlo -- it rocks! It's quite elegant and powerful, with many of the advantages of Lisp.

Here are some descriptions of the Laszlo projects I'm working on, and other interesting Laszlo projects. I will put links to the demos, source code and screen snapshots, soon as I get a chance, and they're ready to release.

Software Development Magazine: Inside the Stupid Fun Club

Riding around in a remote-controlled car seat while being shot by ping-pong balls. Software Development Magazine wrote an article called "Inside the Stupid Fun Club" (registration required).

The author, Alexandra Weber Morales, unexpectedly encountered the Sad Robot, broken down and crying for help on the streets of Oakland.

We were shooting a couple of hidden camera reality TV "One Minute Movies" for NBC: one of a Sad Robot torn apart into pieces and pleading for help from passers by, and the other of a Robot Waiter taking orders, serving food and bantering for a tip in a barbecue restaurant.

I (Don Hopkins) developed the custom "robot brain" software for Will Wright's Stupid Fun Club, mostly in Python. It involved writing lots of high level Python code and XML data, and integrating all kinds of different software components together with SWIG, C++, ActiveX, Java, IRC, HTTP and WiFi. The robot features 3D facial animation, speech synthesis and recognition, conversational scripting, artificial intelligence, personality simulation, telerobotic remote control via wireless networking, with an interactive web interface for controling its behavior in real time.

For another Stupid Fun Club project, I also used Python to develop expressive synthetic speech authoring tools (audio speech "phonoscoping", like visual animation "rotoscoping"), and talking toy simulations.

Python is ideally suited for brainstorming and prototyping new product ideas, as well as developing custom real-time robotic software for supporting creative Stupid Fun Club projects like reality TV production.

Sims Designer Chris Trottier on Tuned Emergence and Design by Accretion

Will Wright, Gordon Walton and Chris Trottier brought us an exciting look into The SIMS Online. The only question now is... will they sell IV's for those users who won't be able to tear themselves away from it to eat?

The Armchair Empire interviewed Chris Trottier, one of the designers of The Sims and The Sims Online. She touches on some important ideas, including "Tuned Emergence" and "Design by Accretion".

Chris' honest analysis of how and why "the gameplay didn't come together until the months before the ship" is right on the mark, and that's the secret to the success of games like The Sims and SimCity.

The essential element that was missing until the last minute was tuning: The approach to game design that Maxis brought to the table is called "Tuned Emergence" and "Design by Accretion". Before it was tuned, The Sims wasn't missing any structure or content, but it just wasn't balanced yet. But it's OK, because that's how it's supposed to work!

In justifying their approach to The Sims, Maxis had to explain to EA that SimCity 2000 was not fun until 6 weeks before it shipped. But EA was not comfortable with that approach, which went against every rule in their play book. It required Will Wright's tremendous stamina to convince EA not to cancel The Sims, because according to EA's formula, it would never work.

If a game isn't tuned, it's a drag, and you can't stand to play it for an hour. The Sims and SimCity were "designed by accretion": incrementally assembled together out of "a mass of separate components", like a planet forming out of a cloud of dust orbiting around star. They had to reach critical mass first, before they could even start down the road towards "Tuned Emergence", like life finally taking hold on the planet surface. Even then, they weren't fun until they were carefully tuned just before they shipped, like the renaissance of civilization suddenly developing science and technology. Before it was properly tuned, The Sims was called "the toilet game", for the obvious reason that there wasn't much else to do!

Here are some questions and answers from the interview with The Sims designer Chris Trottier:

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