net-o-grama: An ancient idea, done very well

Even if a program doesn’t do anything terribly new, it’s still possible to win points with me just for doing it well.

2015-03-21-6m47421-net-o-grama-01 2015-03-21-6m47421-net-o-grama-02

And there’s a best-case scenario: net-o-grama.

Because let’s face it: Anagram games are not new. They’ve been around for centuries. Ordinarily there’s a pen and paper involved, and you might sit down with a newspaper and work some of them out. I’ve even seen pocket-sized paperback books of anagram games in supermarket checkout lines, so it’s nothing innovative to come up with a computer program that does the same.

But just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. net-o-grama is a perfect example of that, and you can probably see why.

Excellent color (for the most part avoiding that red-blue shift we talked about), giant-size letters, easy keystrokes, speedy scoring and dictionary checks, multiplayer and network support with a server interface managing the entire process, custom dictionaries and adjustable time settings, plenty of documentation and help getting started … I could keep going, but there’s already enough here to satisfy any anagramaniac.

To be fair, I’ll give you a couple of negative points. First, I do get that same flicker effect whenever the screen is updated. I’m not sure why that happens, but this is not the only title I see it in. Luckily net-o-grama doesn’t rely heavily on animation, so the only times I see the flicker are when I type a letter or a character is redrawn. So just sitting and reading the board probably won’t trigger a seizure.

net-o-grama can handle custom dictionaries, and I would strongly recommend using one or sculpting one of your own. Even just in the game you see above, the root word was “aloofly,” which is rather esoteric. But to complicate things, the default dictionary knew neither “oaf” nor “foal,” both of which should have been viable answers. That can be frustrating.

I didn’t try full-blown network support beyond ssh from one machine into another, so if there are some networking intricacies, I leave them to you to solve.

Games can be micro-managed through the server, which should be running in a separate terminal so you can see the game dynamics. From there you can boot players, restart games, add more time and even force the end of a game.

As a client, your keys are primarily the letters, the Enter key and a few arrows for editing. Esc and CTRL+C both drop you out of the game without interfering with other players or disrupting the server. In any case, the bundled documentation had plenty of instructions and key lists for both server and client.

net-o-grama never gave me an error message or refused a connection for mysterious reasons; the only issue I had was when I started two servers at once and somehow drove one of them into a zombie status, and it had to be forcibly killed. But I forgive that because I was using the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. 😉

It surprises me that this game is neither in AUR nor Debian, since it seems like a simple, straightforward slam-dunk for either distro. Perhaps licensing issues are in the way, or perhaps it’s just not well-known at this point.

Regardless, I’m willing to give net-o-grama my heartiest stamp of approval: ⭐ YJNOE! 😉

1 thought on “net-o-grama: An ancient idea, done very well

  1. Pingback: Bonus: 2015 in review … and a farewell | Inconsolation

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