While I was in Aachen, Steffen and me used the time to toy around with some programming stuff. Steffen had discovered the ASCIIMoviePlayerSample example project on Apple's developer site. It is a command line program that plays a QuickTime movie in a terminal window - so it's one of those things in the useless but cool (in a retro way) category. And the code for it is really short.
At first we wanted to incorporate it in a Cocoa application of our own - our main thought being that this wouldn't only give us more flexibility and control for the drawing options but also more speed by not taking the detour via the Terminal. Saying this it should be mentioned that running the program uses quite a bit of processing time: Playing, say, the large version of the notorious Ellen Feiss beep beep beep beep ad, a 400MHz G4 will easily use all of its processing power without playing it nearly smoothly - about 40% go for the decoding and converting to ASCII, the rest is eaten up by the display process.
Unfortunately, it turned out we were quite wrong about improving the speed. Using what we considered standard programming techniques in Cocoa, the films seemed to run even less smoothly than they do in the Terminal. Most probably another instance where Cocoa proves to be a very pretty and efficient environment for programming but still lacks the same efficiency when it comes to performance issues.
Thus we decided to improve the command line tool and wrap it into an AppleScript Studio (in short: ASS, which apparently makes emails about it bounce from certain paranoid corporate e-mail servers) application. Documentation on ASS is still a bit poor and not everything seems to be implemented yet but in the end we managed to generate a decent application for playing films in ASCII. All you'll have to do is watch this space for an announcement of the application and think of reasons why you'd actually want to use it in the first place.
The command-line part of this may actually be "useful", say, to the Unix or Linux people who are desperate to see some Sørensen encoded film. They could simply ssh into a Mac and watch the film in their terminal. As doing this has a non-trivial bandwidth requirement of about 100 KB per second, they might want to pick a Mac that's reasonably close to them... in which case they might consider simply watching the film on the Mac in the first place. That will also have the advantage that they can hear the sound which strangely will be played through the Mac's speakers, even when you start the application when logged in via ssh as a different user that the one logged in on the GUI. I consider this a kind of security flaw as surely I'd suppose that no other user can access the speakers while I'm logged in on the GUI.
Finally, let me give the Top 10 Tips for better ASCII QuickTime viewing as given by Apple's engineers.
Hm, when trying to fill in the links for this post, I saw that pretty much everything I found funny here, has already been found funny over at Slashdot. It's kind of - - - a bummer.
Also, while I was at Steffen's place, his flatemate made a nice apple cake, the base of which was just a thin dough made with some healthy whole grain spelt flour. It tasted quite good. I think I'll try making a similar cake soon.