You may recognize Panic as the company behind popular Mac software like Transmit and Coda, or perhaps as the publisher of indie games such as Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game. At first, the Playdate might seem unremarkable; it's a tiny console with a black-and-white screen, a pair of buttons and a D-pad. But, it also has No, the crank isn't meant to power it up; it's actually meant as a game controller. Yes, really. So much so that within 24 hours of its announcement May 22nd, more than 70, people signed up to be on the waitlist for Playdate today, there are over , In the weeks and months since then, more than 8, developers have also registered their interest in making content for the device.
The same goes for the device's intriguing retro-yet-modern appeal. The Playdate is definitely not just some Gameboy clone. This is especially the case for a relatively small company that has zero experience making its own hardware. Sasser and his cohorts had to learn, through extensive trial and error, to figure all of it out for the better part of seven years, all while running a software company.
Now, the company is ready to share it with the world. There will be many samples for people to play with. It will be, in essence, the product's first real-world stress test. The team at Panic is, understandably, nervous. We're definitely looking to make sure it does. It's smaller than I expected. At roughly 3-inches-square, the Playdate has the feel of a novelty calculator that was barely larger than a stack of Post-It notes. It's certainly smaller and lighter!
It's only 86 grams than any gaming hand-held I've handled. To be honest, I wasn't sure if that was a good thing. Yet despite the initial skepticism, a smile spread across my face the more I played around with it. It's a charming little device, with its tiny 2. Next to that aforementioned display is a tiny menu button and a speaker, while the USB-C port and a headphone jack are underneath. Sure, the Playdate is small, but after a while, I didn't mind its size at all.
The D-pad felt clicky enough, as did the A and B buttons on the right. It handled perfectly fine in my hands. Of course, I was especially keen to try out the crank. It comes in a closed position, with the metal part of the crank resting on the Playdate's right side. To access it, I flipped it open and pulled the bottom part of the crank up degrees to reveal a small rotating yellow handle.
Then I was free to rotate the crank backward or forward as much as I wanted, similar to how you would work the reel of a fishing rod. It was pretty fun to rotate through the Playdate's menu simply by spinning the crank. As for how it feels -- well, that depended on the prototype. In one model, it ground a little as I spun it around. In another, it felt a lot smoother. While I was playing with one model, Maletic noticed that the crank continued to spin after I let go of it, which he said should not happen.
Obviously, the movement and motion of the crank still need some fine-tuning. What surprised me the most about the Playdate was its black-and-white display. It's not at all like the e-ink screen you'd find on your Kindle. It's a Sharp Memory LCD, which is surprisingly crisp and clear, with a high pixel density that looks great even under bright sunlight.
It's a display that's not used a lot in consumer electronics, with the exception of early Pebble watches. In a bit of trivia, Sasser told me he heard from someone at Sharp that it's also common in coffee makers in Japanese 7-Elevens. Perhaps one reason it's rarely used is that it's surprisingly expensive, partly because it's not mass-produced. I think that's a hard thing for people to grasp. We have dreams of when your Playdate is sleeping on your desk, it shows a clock or other cool things.
As you might expect from Takahashi's history, the game is, well, a little wacky. The premise is that you're a character named Crankin and you're late to your first date with Crankette. You then have to run to meet her, but you inevitably end up late, and she's not too pleased. The game then pushes you to the next day and you start over, but now there are obstacles and enemies, such as flying butterflies, blocking your path, and you need to avoid them or you'll fail.
The obstacles become more difficult with each level. The only controller in this game is the Playdate's crank, which is used to control the flow of time. Spin it forward, and time moves forward; spin it backward, and Crankin goes backward too.
The trick, however, is that those aforementioned obstacles exist outside the flow of time, and you need to position Crankin in the right spot to avoid those enemies.
If Crankin bends down to smell flowers, for example, you need to make sure he does so exactly when bees fly overhead. At first, it seems like a relatively easy game, but the difficulty ramps up considerably, with precision timing becoming increasingly important as time goes on.
Let's just say that I didn't make it past level five. The only real complaint I had is that I thought the text on the screen was far too small to read, which Maletic said is an issue they're working on. Speaking of games, that's another area that sets the Playdate apart: Aside from Takahashi, Panic has signed up other indie designers such as Zach Gage and Shaun Inman to participate in its inaugural season. You'll eventually be able to sideload other games, but Panic liked the idea of you getting a new game every week as a surprise.
The season-of-games concept, however, was a lot more achievable. Unfortunately, Panic isn't ready to talk about battery life, as the Playdate isn't close enough to production. For now, the company is just hoping to show people how it looks and works, and events like PAX West are one way to do that. Preorders are slated for later this year, with the product expected to ship in early If you're interested in ordering one, you can go to Playdate's website to get on a mailing list so you'll be one of the first to know when it's for sale.
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This time, we will use Transmit, another popular application among Mac users. Like Fetch, Transmit is a commercial application. It is available for purchase from Panic, Inc.
A limited demonstration version is also available for download from the Panic website. If you do not own Transmit already, and are interested in following along with the example scripts throughout this month's column, then I would encourage you to download and install the demonstration version. All example code in this column was written and tested with Transmit version 3. If you are using a different version of Transmit, then some of the example code specified below may need to be adjusted in order to function with the version that you are using.
Connecting to a Server The first step in interacting with a remote server is to open a new connection. If you have the ability to do this on a separate local machine, then you may wish to do so. However, before you do, you'll want to make sure that your network is secure.
If you do not have a separate local machine that can be used to simulate a remote machine, then you will need to gain access to a remote server. Figure 1. A New Connection in Transmit To open a connection to a remote server, you must first create a new document in Transmit, and then open a connection session within that document.
See figure 1. The following example code demonstrates how this is done. Many of Transmit's commands will result in a true or false value, indicating whether or not the command was successful.
To do this, make use of the connect command's connection type parameter. For example, the following code would attempt to open an SFTP connection with the specified server, rather than a standard FTP connection. In this case, I have chosen to use the server IP address for the name of the document. Doing this provides me with a way that I can refer to the document by name later, if I should choose to do so.
I have also set a variable named theDocument to the result of the make command, which is a reference to the newly created document. This variable may also be used later in my code to refer to the document. When a new document is created in Transmit, an initial session is automatically created, but is not connected to the server at that time.
The connect command, therefore, must be used to initiate the connection to the server. In the example code above, we addressed the initially created session in the new document by referring to the current session property of the document.
In Transmit, a single document can actually contain one or more connection sessions. Like Safari's ability to display multiple web pages within a single window, this is done through the use of tabs in the document's window. See figure 2. Figure 2. Example of Transmit's Session Tabs If you are working with a document that contains multiple session tabs, you may interact with any one that you wish, by referring to it by name or index, i. For example: The following code demonstrates how to retrieve the name of the current session.
Prior to initiating a new connection, you may want to determine whether a session is already connected to a server. You can do this by accessing the is connected property of the session. To create a new folder in the current remote directory, use the create remote folder command, and specify a value for its name parameter. By accessing the their stuff property of a session, you can determine the path to the currently displayed remote directory.
This specified path should be in relation to the currently displayed remote directory. For example, the following code would change the directory to a folder named Job , within the current remote directory. In Transmit, however, you can also manually navigate your local drive from within the same session tab that displays your remote connection. Doing so can allow you to select files and folders to upload or download, synchronize directories, and more, without ever having to leave the Transmit application.
In addition to the AppleScript terminology we have discussed for interacting with remote directories, similar terminology exists for interacting with local directories. The following example code demonstrates how to change the local directory to a specified folder on your hard drive. This particular code will change the local directory to the current user's desktop folder. Uploading Items Uploading files or folders to a remote directory is done with the use of the upload command.
When using this command, you may specify the path to an item to be uploaded, relative to the current local directory, or you may specify an AppleScript alias reference, as done in the following example code. In the previous example, I chose to replace existing items. Other options include prompting the user to specify what to do, resuming a partially uploaded item, or skipping the upload all together.
Downloading Items Downloading remote items is done in a similar manner to that of uploading items. Use the download command, and specify the name or path to the item you want to download, relative to the currently displayed remote directory.
Like the upload command, the download command has an optional with resume mode parameter, which may be used to specify how the download is handled if an existing item with the same name already exists in the download folder. Also, when downloading a remote item, a download folder is not specified. The specified item will be downloaded into the currently displayed local directory for the specified session in Transmit.
Remember, you can change the currently displayed local directory by using the set your stuff command. Transmit can also be used to perform a variety of other tasks, some of which we will now discuss briefly. To delete a remote file or folder, you may use the delete remote item command, and specify the name or path, relative to the currently displayed remote directory, of the item that you want to delete.
This may be done by using the refresh command. The following example code demonstrates how to refresh the currently displayed remote directory. Another similar session property, their stuff selection, can be used to retrieve a list of any selected files or folders in the currently displayed remote directory.
To do this, you will first need to change both the local and remote directories to the desired locations. Once you have done this, use the synchronize command to perform the synchronization. Optional parameters for this command will allow you to specify the type and behavior of the synchronization that will occur.
For example, the following code will perform a mirrored synchronization uploading new or modified local items to the remote directory. This is done using the mirror command, as demonstrated below. To do this, make use of the disconnect command. Fetch's AppleScript support does provide access to some additional functionality, which is not currently accessible through scripting of Transmit. However, regardless, both applications are very user- friendly, and have great AppleScript support that is fairly straightforward, and should be relatively easy to learn.
Personally, I enjoy scripting and using them both. If you are interested in scripting Transmit, be sure to explore its AppleScript dictionary in detail, as there are a number of features that we did not discuss in this column. You may also want to download the example AppleScript files that Panic provides to get users started with scripting Transmit.
Until next time, keep scripting!