Cool as Ice!

No one will argue that there are different levels of cool. But nothing, and I mean nothing, says cool like a penguin. And some snow. And some ice. Oh, and the Antarctic. That's as cool as it gets.

Mon Dieu, François! I realize it's a warm day outside, but it is positively freezing in here. Our guests will need coats, in August, no less. What are all these portable air conditioners doing here? Is that frost I see on the windows? François! I shudder—make that shiver—to think what this possibly could be about. Yes, this issue's theme is Cool Projects, but nowhere did it say frozen. And, when our editors said cool, I think they meant it in the sense of “really interesting and exciting”. Never mind. Our guests will be here momentarily, and I don't think they are dressed for this. Quickly, run to Diane's Manteaux de Cuir across the street and beg her to provide us with some coats for tonight. Vite! Our guests are arriving as we speak.

Welcome, everyone, to a very chilly Chez Marcel. Please pardon the cold. My faithful waiter has once again taken a simple idea to its amusing, if somewhat outrageous, extreme. Nevertheless, he will return shortly with warm coats for all. In the meantime, please take your tables and make yourselves comfortable. Ah, François, you have returned with Diane. Thank you, Diane, for your help. While everyone slips into their coats, perhaps François can fetch the wine. There's a case of 2004 Bodegas Muga Reserva from Spain in the lower level of the cellar's east wing.

As François already has set the stage for us, we're going to explore some Linux coolness. The symbol of Linux coolness is, of course, the penguin. Tux, the Linux mascot (designed by Larry Ewing), is a penguin, and penguins show up pretty much everywhere you turn in the Linux world. In fact, you can't go near a Linux system, magazine, T-shirt, mouse pad, coffee mug or book, without running into some kind of penguin. That's okay for most people, because, well, penguins are cute.

Ah, François, you have returned. Please, pour for our guests. Enjoy the wine, mes amis. This Spanish beauty is very rich, very complex, yet fresh tasting and well balanced. Hmm...make sure you fill my glass as well, François.

The first item on tonight's menu is Matthew Miller's IceBreaker (Figure 1). The premise is similar to events you see every day in the news. A bunch of penguins need to be captured and sent off to Finland. They are all on an iceberg in Antarctica, in an area where global warming hasn't yet started breaking the ice. Penguins, as it turns out, need to travel with ice or they just won't behave. The question becomes, “How much ice?”

Figure 1. In IceBreaker, you must send your penguins packing to Finland with as little ice as possible.

As you can imagine, shipping penguins to Finland is expensive, so the order of the day is small ice chunks. When you left-click on the iceberg, a line is drawn across it, separating the two areas of ice. If a penguin hits the line as it is being drawn, your cut effectively is halted. A right-click changes the direction of the cut from horizontal to vertical (or vice versa). To clear an iceberg and move on, you need to clear at least 80% of the ice. Should you manage the job, another penguin is added and you get to start over on the next level.

The more penguins you add, the more complicated it becomes, as they bounce frantically across the ice field. On the off chance that you find this all too simple, there's a menu of options where you can change the difficulty level. Click MENU on the lower right of the screen, and a pop-up menu appears (Figure 2). Not only can you change the difficulty here, but you also can turn sound effects on or off, check high scores and run the game in full-screen mode.

Figure 2. If the game seems too easy, you can increase the difficulty.