Sam Davyson

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Google’s Da Vinci Code Challenge

22/04/06 - 20.03

ModuleAs was first seen on the Google Blogoscoped Blog, Google teamed up with the Da Vinci code film release to produce a set of puzzles relating to the film. The prizes were varied on the basis of where you lived, but I never checked what they were. I just wanted to play the puzzles. Google played a good trick with this thing though, they made the puzzle a Google Module for their personalised homepage which will have brought in new users to that service I am sure. I thought the puzzle would appear actually on your homepage but instead the homepage keeps track of your progress as you move through the challenges. And as I moved through the challenge I realised that it wasn’t just the personalised homepage being advertised here. Google interweaved a lot of their services into this challenge.

Day One
The link launched a flash window in which the puzzle was explained and played. The basic idea was a 2 x 2 x 2 sudoku with 4 symbols instead of numbers. In some puzzles the “boxes” weren’t boxes either they were all sorts of different shapes. But it was always pretty easy to complete. Here is one example: Question/Solution. Upon completion a question was asked about the symbol on the character that appeared on the left like this. The answer was “blade”. This answer was soon on all the forums but it was also on Wikipedia beforehand and on About.com here. This challenge gave a point in the symbol row.

Day Two
This puzzle was pretty dissapointing. On a honeycomb style grid you had to combine hexagons that were one space apart exavctly. The thing was if you did it in just the right order you could clear them all (or leave one), and that was the aim in the puzzle. The context was about revealing a message. The question which followed was another “name this symbol” type question and About.com had the answer again, “Greek Cross”. You got a point in the restoration row.

Day Three
This was a really different challenge. And here Google went for something clever again. They asked you to find a video on Google Video which was atrailer for the film. You then had to watch the video carefully inorder to answer three questions. The first was the name of another symbol that appeared in the clip which was “Fleur de lis”, then about a painting that also featured “vitruvian man”, and finally a maths question. This final one is possible with no maths knowledge via a Google search or possible with no Google search via Maths knowledge. It was about an encrypter with so many parts with 26 letters on each. The total number of letter combinations was 11,881,376. How many parts wre there? 26^5 = 11881376, so the answer is 5. This challenge gave you a point in the observation row.

Day Four
This was a curators challenge. You had a series of hooks which you were to suspend pictures from. The pictures were such that some required two hooks etc, so it wasn’t as easy as it may sound — but it was still very easy. At the end of putting all of the pictures on the wall you had to identify another symbol on someone’s face, this time it was “Chalice”, which could be found at a variety of resources online, as other symbols above could be.

Day Five
Very good puzzle today. Chess game style. You move your opponents pieces too so that makes it easier. But you get one move, they get one, and then you get one and…. in the space of those three moves you have to get them in check mate. But it is easier than that: There are only a few (four) possible moves allowed at each step. But you can also solve it if you are crap at chess! Each of the four allowed moves corresponds to an answer to a multiple choice (Da Vinci) question that appears on the left. So you can answer three questions correctly (and you will automatically checkmate the king) or you can use your chess skills. Also in the description it says you may want to use Google Web Search to help you with the questions. Another Google service that they are advertising through this competition. Nice. The correct answers were 1/ Cilice 2/ Senechaux 3/ Keystone.

Day Six
This puzzle was a jigsaw, and the picture was of an image from Google Earth/Maps. So that is a neat bit of link up with the maps service to start with. Also at the top it said “Lost your bearings? Try Google Maps”. Once you had assembled the puzzle you had to answer a question about the place namely “Where is this?”. But they linked it with Da Vinci by giving an extra clue saying that some sculpture of one of Da Vinci’s works (The Last Supper) is in this city. The answer was New York. This got a point on the Geography row.

So lets just do a quick tally, we are six days in so a quarter of the way through. Google has brought in Google Video, Google Web Search, and Google Earth/Maps, as well as having the whole thing on their Personalised Homepage. So if they keep bringing in services at this rate we can expect roughly one every other puzzle. I really think that Google will be doing well out of this deal. As for the film, well, who knows! I have never read the book. But having sat through the trailer, information about the characters, and pages of symbols I might be interested in going to see what it is all about.

Interestingly Google is pushing this quiz hard, they are advertising it on the Personalised Homepage like this. I wonder how many people there are playing now. If you missed it starting then you aren’t too late, just sign up on the Homepage and you will have all the challenges still to do. If you do get involved then you can follow all the progress, and discuss the puzzles in the Google Blogoscoped forum.

April 22nd, 2006 - 8.03 PM | No Comments »

Google Calendar

13/04/06 - 15.35

There is a lot being said about Google Calendar right now, since it only launched early today. It is quite obviously a calendar from Google, and it is awesome. I don’t want to repeat to much of what everyone else is saying so for a full review I advise:

These all get you up to speed on the features. Here is my summary. It is like the other web calendars that have sprung up recently essentially. It looks very like Kiko with the different views for day, week, month etc. This is a feature also shared by AirSet I believe. It has a quick add feature like every other online calendar (but particularly worked on by SpongeCell and 30Boxes) that understands real english and plops it on the calendar for you. You can move events around drag and drop style, you can highlight strips of days to add events, and you can highlight custom amounts of days for display on the minicalendar. There are no tags or “labels” but it does have a powerful search and the ability to make several different coloured calendars, so for instance one calendar could deal with all the events relating to your job or your football team or whatever. Invitations work like everywhere else except the interface is nicer. Events are private by default but can be shared on an individual basis, or by calendar. You can also share events without saying what the events are. You just get “busy” for each of the events, but at least it lets your pals know when you are busy. You can show your friends calendars on your own calendar much like you can in 30 Boxes, and you will see however much your friend lets you see. There are numerous key board shortcuts too which a few of the other services also do.

So it seems that it is pretty much the same as every other calendar application? Nothing worse, but not much better. Well this is where a few things come in. Firstly Gmail integration whilst not fully active yet is a big bonus. Adding events straight from gmail would be nice (and is promised shortly). A link already appears in the calendar to go to Gmail, a reciprocal link is coming. That is one plus for Google Calendar. Also it is very intelligent I have found. After setting up a reapesting event what happens when you edit it? Should all of them change or just the one you edited? It depends obviously… and Google Calendar knows that so it asks you. Secondly the interface for this thing is awesome. It is like Gmail only quicker. Admittedly it was slow and performing crazily a little earlier on but things seem to have settled down. And for a third take a look at the image above.
In a previous post on calendars I stated that a big difference between services was how much calendar they gave you. 30 boxes was the clear winner back then. I think Google is a good contender though… that is a lot of calendar. Compare with four other online calendars here. This calendar also has the bonus of resizing neatly to your screen size. Clever. One thing it doesn’t do though is allow you to put RSS feeds on it like I was enjoying doing in 30 boxes. But I think the other pros blow this one con away.

One last place to check out information on todays news is:

Here 30 boxes users are justifying their positions. Are they going to switch, or are they sticking with 30 boxes. I am certainly with the former bunch. Google have done it again….

April 13th, 2006 - 3.35 PM | 1 Comment »

The Web Riddle

12/04/06 - 00.12

I have written a bit about web riddles before. They typically consist of a single page. The aim is simple. Get to the next page. And that is it, you use clues that you pick up from around the page to determine the URL of the next page. There are quite a few of these things out there already. Some with 100 and more levels.

I have had great fun playing them, and thought it might be even more fun to make one. The Web Riddle is the result of my effort. It is not 100 levels long. It is new for heavens sake! At the moment there are just four levels. However they are all fairly tough. At the end of the fourth level there is a stop off, with a list of people who made it. If you get there make sure you leave your name so we can see who are the best riddlers.

So far I have tested the riddle on a few friends. None of them made it through completely unaided. So there’s a challenge — you could be the first. As we are still in the early stages if you are interested in designing levels in the future then do get in touch. Also if you think a particular level is too hard, is plain rubbish, or has misleading clues then the same applies. Let me know and I’ll get it changed.

There are a few more levels already in the planning stages so there will be more soon but the main development is expected over the summer. I hope you enjoy The Web Riddle.

April 12th, 2006 - 12.12 AM | No Comments »

Briefly Offline

06/04/06 - 16.11

sam.davyson.com just hit offline status for a few minutes. I am not sure why it happened and there is nothing to suggest it was anything major. All scripts, images, pages are now back and functioning correctly. This post does remind me… I need to sort out the updates blog.

Update // So I went to install a new blog… which took this one offline. Trying again now.

Update // Fell offline again! But now have the new blog up and running. It is the Site Log. All site updates will be logged there. Really big/cool ones will hit here too.

April 6th, 2006 - 4.11 PM | No Comments »