Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Only zefrank**

There are so many words hanging from their idea pegs, awaiting their turn, that I can't possibly do justice to them today. Or tomorrow, or the weeks to come, unless I devote myself full time to this job, forgoing some silly stuff like eating or sleeping (the rest, alas, is essential). So I am jumping straightaway into deeper waters: here is zefrank.com as promised last.

I agree that this index page is rather unattractive for kids, who will surely not appreciate the humour in the labeling of extra spaces on the page, but bear with me. There must be a hundred links here! Skip the 'Buy things', 'Recent projects', 'Stuff, stuff' - none of these are likely to be useful for children. 'Stuff to read', 'stuff to watch' and 'other stuff' can be stuffed too; I at least found them too tedious to explore further after a couple of links proved useless for my purpose. From the section interactive toys, I am posting the descriptions for all games, and including links so you may bookmark individual games if you wish. Be warned that the names on the links can sometimes be pretty obscure. Most of the links, when clicked, will open in a separate window or tab. Some are totally ad free, others are crowded with them, so you have to be around when your kid is here. . .

Meditation flowers are er, flowers which will grow as you sing, or whistle or just blow into your mike. Even if you do stop, it will keep on moving and changing shape on its own. Admittedly its not really a flower, but well, it is so much fun! If your toddler doesn't like it, you might find yourself staring and humming when really you are just there to write that report...

The frog works on the same principle of sound evoking action. In this case it is a frog which mouths the words you speak :)

String spin we have already talked about. Carol maker is where you can make la-la-la music, voice supplied. You can add notes (high, low or double - don't know what it is called musically but I mean when two people sing at the same time in different registers), and change their timings, to make a little 'carol'. Something like the animal sounds concert over at Cbeebies. Or you can choose from a preset, and then send as an e-card to a friend. They get to see a pic of elves in a chorus hopping up and singing...

Flake maker asks you to click and drag anywhere in the given circle - and then, it will automatically generate a six sided symmetrical snowflake from that. You can make it rotate in two or three dimensions, and keep on adding more if you so wish. Nifty, but not the best of this site.

Scribbler also has been covered earlier. The next one - 5 sec doodle defeats me utterly. For one, it opens in the same page and I keep closing that tab instead of pressing the back button when I am done. And another, although it claims it will morph my 5 second doodle to the last one(s), nothing seems to happen. Maybe because it is a first doodle and there are no past doodles? But it doesn't have any option to let me make more. So it must be the net, that convenient post to hang blames on :)

The rather strangely named dtoyvsbyokal is 'The drawtoy vs. byokal'. Draw, and you shall see. That little grey triangle - see that? It will turn your image, no matter how doodley or how refined, into a kaleidoscope. No more, no less. In fact there are two other gadgets here called drawtoy and kaleidoscope, which should explain the name. I think.

Your mama is one which I didn't quite like. The idea seems alright - change the facial features, and when you click play, it will animate them in the order in which you clicked them. But, somehow, it wasn't as enjoyable as it might be. Plus, it is a little confusing at first. (I think I am also prejudiced because of its name - had it been 'make a funny face', perhaps it would have been acceptable?)

The puppet dances to the music playing, and you can adjust 'appearance, sensitivity, gravity and damping'. This hasn't been subjected to the child test yet, so I don't know for sure if these technical sounding controls will be fun or not. What I can predict is that sooner or later mine will find out that the puppet falls down if you fiddle with the gravity in the right direction, and then that will become the goal of the game!

Flowers is a nice little game where you can take your kids after you have been teaching them the parts of a flower, or types of petals, or - whatever! There are a few petal shapes, lots of colours, choice of number of petals and the opacity of paint, and voila, you just have to click and drag once to get a perfect flower with as many petals as you specified. Remember that the flower is always central, so if you wish to make other things, adjust the slider to draw one petal rather than many. You can save your creation, or email it.

The next is snm#1 or craymachine. A little orange square. Type in low case letters, and you'll get shapes on the screen accompanied by various musical sounds. Perfect for infants who just want to bang on the keyboard! Or anyone really. I loved the falling drops - letter l, I think.

Sequencer, simple though it may appear to be, is beyond tone deaf me. Click on notes to arrange them - and wait to hear - your melody, or cacophony. You can save it for public pleasure, if you so wish, or load from what the rest of the world has created...

Gyro will draw mesmerizing spirals from a set of given shapes, for which you can change a variety of er, parameters like rotational stability, chaotic movement, alpha, or horizontal bias. Never mind the technical language - isn't it fun to twiddle knobs just to see what happens? Indulge that wish here!

Bug is. A bug. With four pair of legs, or is that five? Anyway, the point is that they all point in the same direction, viz your cursor. So the little ones can enjoy that, and getting the legs all in a knot when you are directly over it :)

For shelda's mom is a kaleidoscope with a choice of eight shapes, from which the kaleidoscopic pattern is made by, and your mouse movement changes the resultant design... Build yer own is a kaleidoscope too, with a little visual explanation of how it works. An early design I think.

Matrix is just that - a matrix of tiles arranged in different patterns revealed by rolling over the image. If you click, it will show the maths behind the pattern. Rather useful for someone interested in studying patterns, or teaching them, I imagine. It made me a bit dizzy though, and I yet have to subject it to the kid test :)

Oranges - witness the growing of a vine with 'oranges' of different hue at the click of your mouse. Cute, but of course, utterly useless. Or perhaps cute because of that? Quotes animates famous words, or your words, in random order and no particular reason. Too fast for me to read even one full sentence though.

What we want is not for kids: a rapidly changing mosaic of facial features and singles ads.

Googly - you know those image elements which seem to snap back as if on an elastic thread when you pull (click and drag)? That is what it is. Could be interesting for toddlers and infants, but I think it'd hold a pre-schooler for all of five seconds maybe.

Babypics does not have baby pictures, period. It is an animation in the form of three cylinders with the same funny face animated image on each - and you roll over each to make it 'spin'. Not very funny, really. Letters 1.2 is related to the 'letter project' - since 2001 Apr, this guy has been collecting photos of people holding a letter (the first letter of their last name if you really want to know). You type a phrase, and then watch the computer cycle through those images, using the corresponding letters for your words. Punctuation seems to be understandably rare: I have not met anyone yet whose name starts with a comma or an exclamation point! Still, quite a project, don't you think? Webnoise is - be warned - noisy! In effect, background music and a collection of clicking points which add further sound effects. Neither melodious nor particularly attractive.

Kal 2 is yet another kaleidoscope. Choose from 18 thumbnails and it will make a kaleidoscope of that image. Gets slightly spooky when eyes and ears appear: not sure if all kids will take to it.

From the rest, I have not checked out each and every link, and have forgotten some that I had checked, but the following are the ones I thought suitable for our purpose -

Animal noises - very short videos of man making animal noises. First time I ever heard a giraffe noise, by the way. And, yes, the sound of the horse's rear end is gross, and so of course, will be popular with 4 year olds! If you want to see some cat videos, check My cat Annie. You might like to use the santas request line if your kids forgot to write to Santa in time :)

Remember the dtoyvskal above? Well, drawtoy is the drawing component all by itself. Worth a few minutes at least! You can save your image, and view others in the gallery too.

Memory game is the usual but there are short animations instead of images. Definitely worth trying! Also for those so inclined are the digital version of matchsticks - you do remember them from childhood, don't you? Remove or replace a few sticks to change the figure? You have to know the solution: this program doesn't give you extra chances!

Overall, its a nice site with lots of little toys, but - totally kid unfriendly. If only it were set up in a Poisson rouge kind of setting, what fun it could be! In fact, it is perhaps owing to the tedium of having to sit and sort that the rating is a star less than what its individual games deserve!

The url - http://www.zefrank.com

P.S. Hope this extra long post goes a little way in compensating for my prolonged absence? I see that I had started this on 28th of last month...

P.P.S. Don't ask me why, in the middle of the post, when I had selected all text to change its colour, is one sentence in black!