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February 25 2014

February 03 2014

Four short links: 3 February 2014

  1. How In-App Purchases Has Destroyed the Games Industry — fantastic before-and-after of a game, showing how it’s hollowed out for in-app-purchase upsell. the problem is that all the future generations of gamers are going to experience this as the default. They are going to grow up in a world, in which people actually think this is what gaming is like. That social engineering and scamming people is an acceptable way of doing business.
  2. Making Makers — kid-tested curricula for kids learning to code, to 3D print, stop motion animation, and more. (via BoingBoing)
  3. 555 Footstool in the Wild — awesome furniture in the shape of the ever-popular timing chip.
  4. What a Brand Knows About You When You Log In With Facebook (Twitter) — good lord. (via BoingBoing)

January 30 2014

Four short links: 30 January 2014

  1. $200k of Spaceships Destroyed (The Verge) — More than 2,200 of the game’s players, members of EVE’s largest alliances, came together to shoot each other out of the sky. The resultant damage was valued at more than $200,000 of real-world money. [...] Already, the battle has had an impact on the economics and politics of EVE’s universe: as both side scramble to rearm and rebuild, the price of in-game resource tritanium is starting to rise. “This sort of conflict,” Coker said, “is what science fiction warned us about.”
  2. Google Now Has an AI Ethics Committee (HufPo) — sorry for the HufPo link. One of the requirements of the DeepMind acquisition was that Google agreed to create an AI safety and ethics review board to ensure this technology is developed safely. Page’s First Law of Robotics: A robot may not block an advertisement, nor through inaction, allow an advertisement to come to harm.
  3. Academic Torrentsa scalable, secure, and fault-tolerant repository for data, with blazing fast download speeds built on BitTorrent.
  4. Hack Schools Meet California Regulators (Venturebeat) — turns out vocational training is a regulated profession. Regulation meets disruption, annihilate in burst of press releases.

December 16 2013

Four short links: 17 December 2013

  1. WebGraph a framework for graph compression aimed at studying web graphs. It provides simple ways to manage very large graphs, exploiting modern compression techniques. (via Ben Lorica)
  2. Learn to Program with Minecraft PluginsYou’ll need to add features to the game itself: learn how to build plugins for your own Minecraft server using the Java programming language. You don’t need to know anything about programming to get started—-this book will teach you everything you need to know! Shameless Christmas stocking bait! (via Greg Borenstein)
  3. In Search of Perfection, Young Adults Turn to Adderall at Work (Al Jazeera) — “Adderall is just the tip of the iceberg,” Essig said. “There are lots more drugs coming down the pike. The way we set up our cultural model for dealing with psychologically performance-enhancing drugs is a real serious question.”
  4. Explain Shell — uses parsed manpages to explain a shell commandline. (via Tracy K Teal)

Four short links: 16 December 2013

  1. Suro (Github) — Netflix data pipeline service for large volumes of event data. (via Ben Lorica)
  2. NIPS Workshop on Data Driven Education — lots of research papers around machine learning, MOOC data, etc.
  3. Proofist — crowdsourced proofreading game.
  4. 3D-Printed Shoes (YouTube) — LeWeb talk from founder of the company, Continuum Fashion). (via Brady Forrest)

November 28 2013

November 18 2013

Four short links: 18 November 2013

  1. The Virtuous Pipeline of Code (Public Resource) — Chicago partnering with Public Resource to open its legal codes for good. “This is great! What can we do to help?” Bravo Chicago, and everyone else—take note!
  2. Smithsonian’s 3D Data — models of 21 objects, from a gunboat to the Wright Brothers’ plane, to a wooly mammoth skeleton, to Lincoln’s life masks. I wasn’t able to find a rights statement on the site which explicitly governed the 3D models. (via Smithsonian Magazine)
  3. Anki’s Robot Cars (Xconomy) — The common characteristics of these future products, in Sofman’s mind: “Relatively simple and elegant hardware; incredibly complicated software; and Web and wireless connectivity to be able to continually expand the experience over time.” (via Slashdot)
  4. An Empirical Evaluation of TCP Performance in Online GamesWe show that because TCP was originally designed for unidirectional and network-limited bulk data transfers, it cannot adapt well to MMORPG traffic. In particular, the window-based congestion control and the fast retransmit algorithm for loss recovery are ineffective. Furthermore, TCP is overkill, as not every game packet needs to be transmitted in a reliably and orderly manner. We also show that the degraded network performance did impact users’ willingness to continue a game.

October 14 2013

Four short links: 17 October 2013

  1. PencilAn open-source GUI prototyping tool that’s available for ALL platforms.
  2. lmctfyopen source version of Google’s container stack, which provides Linux application containers.
  3. ASCII WWDC — searchable full-text transcriptions of WWDC sessions.
  4. Cryptogeddon — an online infosec wargame.

October 07 2013

Four short links: 8 October 2013

  1. Lightworks — open source non-linear video editing software, with quite a history.
  2. Puzzlescript — open source puzzle game engine for HTML5.
  3. pudb — full-screen (text-mode) Python debugger.
  4. Freelanfree, open-source, multi-platform, highly-configurable and peer-to-peer VPN software.

October 04 2013

Four short links: 4 October 2013

  1. Case and Molly, a Game Inspired by Neuromancer (Greg Borenstein) — On reading Neuromancer today, this dynamic feels all too familiar. We constantly navigate the tension between the physical and the digital in a state of continuous partial attention. We try to walk down the street while sending text messages or looking up GPS directions. We mix focused work with a stream of instant message and social media conversations. We dive into the sudden and remote intimacy of seeing a family member’s face appear on FaceTime or Google Hangout. “Case and Molly” uses the mechanics and aesthetics of Neuromancer’s account of cyberspace/meatspace coordination to explore this dynamic.
  2. Rethinking Ray Ozziean inescapable conclusion: Ray Ozzie was right. And Microsoft’s senior leadership did not listen, certainly not at the time, and perhaps not until it was too late. Hear, hear!
  3. Recursive Deep Models for Semantic Compositionality
    Over a Sentiment Treebank
    (PDF) — apparently it nails sentiment analysis, and will be “open sourced”. At least, according to this GigaOm piece, which also explains how it works.
  4. PLoS ASAP Award Finalists Announced — with pointers to interviews with the finalists, doing open access good work like disambiguating species names and doing open source drug discovery.

September 12 2013

Four short links: 12 September 2013

  1. Amazon Compute Numbers (ReadWrite) — AWS offers five times the utilized compute capacity of each of its other 14 top competitors—combined. (via Matt Asay)
  2. MIT Educational MMOThe initial phase will cover topics in biology, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics, providing students with a collaborative, social experience in a systems-based game world where they can explore how the world works and discover important scientific concepts. (via KQED)
  3. Changing Norms (Atul Gawande) — neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day in and day out, even when no one is watching. “You must” rewards mere compliance. Getting to “X is what we do” means establishing X as the norm.
  4. The Mythologies of Big Data (YouTube) — Kate Crawford at UC Berkeley iSchool. The six months: ‘Big data are new’, ‘Big data is objective’, ‘Big data don’t discriminate’, ‘Big data makes cities smart’, ‘Big data is anonymous’, ‘You can opt out of big data’. (via Sam Kinsley)

July 26 2013

Four short links: 26 July 2013

  1. Good UI — easily digested tips for improving UIs. (via BERG London)
  2. Mapping Millions of Dots — tips like The other thing that goes along with this brightness scaling is to draw fewer dots at lower zoom levels. By the time you get most of a continent on the screen, the dots are so much smaller than pixels and there are so many of them to draw, that it looks the same and is much faster if you draw half as many dots at twice the brightness apiece. (via Flowing Data)
  3. 118g 10x Zoom Camera for Drones — little less than 800×600 resolution. (via DIY Drones)
  4. Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform7 (Amazon) — all you need to write your own Zork, or even do better. With foreword by my hero (I squee like fanboy when I remember meeting him at the first Foo Camp) Don Woods. Yeah, Colossal Cave Adventure Don Woods. WIN. (via Marshall Tenner Winter)

July 09 2013

Four short links: 9 July 2013

  1. Autonomous Intersection Management Projecta scalable, safe, and efficient multiagent framework for managing autonomous vehicles at intersections. (via How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities)
  2. Quantum Information (New Scientist) — a gentle romp through the possible and the actual for those who are new to the subject.
  3. Ambient Backscatter (PDF) — a new communication primitive where devices communicate by backscattering ambient RF signals. Our design avoids the expensive process of generating radio waves; backscatter communication is orders of magnitude more power-efficient than traditional radio communication. (via Hacker News)
  4. Top Free-to-Play Monetization Tricks (Gamasutra) — amazingly evil ways that free games lure you into paying. At this point the user must choose to either spend about $1 or lose their rewards, lose their stamina (which they could get back for another $1), and lose their progress. To the brain this is not just a loss of time. If I spend an hour writing a paper and then something happens and my writing gets erased, this is much more painful to me than the loss of an hour. The same type of achievement loss is in effect here. Note that in this model the player could be defeated multiple times in the boss battle and in getting to the boss battle, thus spending several dollars per dungeon.

June 13 2013

Four short links: 13 June 2013

  1. The Unengageables (Dan Meyer) — They signed their “didactic contract” years and years ago. They signed it. Their math teachers signed it. The agreement says that the teacher comes into class, tells them what they’re going to learn, and shows them three examples of it. In return, the students take what their teacher showed them and reproduce it twenty times before leaving class. Then they go home with an assignment to reproduce it twenty more times. Then here you come, Ms. I-Just-Got-Back-From-A-Workshop, and you want to change the agreement? Yeah, you’ll hear from their attorney. Applies to management as much as to teaching.
  2. Fixing SigninThe general principle can be stated simply, in two parts: first, give users a trust-worthy way to identify themselves. Second, do so with as little information as possible, because users don’t want to (and simply can’t) remember things like passwords in a secure way. (via Tim Bray)
  3. Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi (Adafruit) — finally, a clear incentive for kids to work through the frustration of setting up their own Linux box.
  4. Mieko Haire — Apple’s fictious demo lady. Or is she fictitious? This is a new aesthetic-esque glitch, but while most glitches are glitches because you see something that doesn’t exist, this is glitchy because the fictions are actual people. Ok, maybe I need to lay off the peyote.

May 21 2013

Four short links: 21 May 2013

  1. Hyperinflation in Diablo 3 — interesting discussion about how video games regulate currency availability, and how Diablo 3 appears to have messed up. several weeks after the game’s debut a source claimed that there were at least 1,000 bots active 24/7 in the Diablo 3 game world, allegedly “harvesting” (producing) 4 million virtual gold per hour. Most of the gold generated by the ruthlessly productive, rapidly adapting bots found its way to third party vendors in a black market which undercut the prices in the sanctioned, in-game auction houses.
  2. Dell Project Ophelia (PC World) — $100 USB-stick-sized Android computer.
  3. Call Me Maybe (Kyle Kingsbury) — a series on network partitions. We’re going to learn about distributed consensus, discuss the CAP theorem’s implications, and demonstrate how different databases behave under partition.
  4. OpenWorm (The Atlantic) — simulating the c. elegans nematode worm in software. OpenWorm isn’t like these other initiatives; it’s a scrappy, open-source project that began with a tweet and that’s coordinated on Google Hangouts by scientists spread from San Diego to Russia. If it succeeds, it will have created a first in executable biology: a simulated animal using the principles of life to exist on a computer.

May 09 2013

Four short links: 9 May 2013

  1. On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
  2. Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printerin contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
  3. ThingpunkThe problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
  4. Kickstarter and NPRThe internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.

April 11 2013

Four short links: 11 April 2013

  1. A General Technique for Automating NES Gamessoftware that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
  2. rietveld — open source tool like Mondrian, Google’s code review tool. Developed by Guido van Rossum, who developed Mondrian. Still being actively developed. (via Nelson Minar)
  3. KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
  4. Life Without Sleep — interesting critique of Provigil as performance-enhancing drug for information workers. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one’s wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep. [...] Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did. (via Dave Pell)

March 20 2013

Rethinking games

At a recent board games night hosted by Greg Brown (@practicingruby), we played a game called “Pandemic” that made me rethink the meaning of games. I won’t bother you with a detailed description; it’s enough to say that there are four or five players who take turns, and the goal is to defeat outbreaks of disease.

What makes this game unique is that you’re not playing against the other players, you’re playing against the game itself. It’s almost impossible to win, particularly at higher levels of difficulty (which Greg encourages, even for newbies). But you quickly realize that you don’t have a chance of winning if you don’t cooperate with the other players. The game is all about cooperation and collaboration. The players don’t all have equal abilities; one can move other players’ pieces around on the board, another can create research centers, another can cure larger swaths of disease. On your turn, you could just move and do whatever you think is best; but once you get the hang of it, you spend a good bit of time before each move discussing with the other players what the best strategy is, whether there are other effective ways to accomplish the same goal, and so on. You’re always discussing whether it would be better to solve a problem yourself, or move someone else so they can solve the problem more effectively on their turn.

In some ways, it’s not all that different from a role-playing game, but there is never any advantage to stabbing another player in the back or striking out on your own. But at the same time, even though it’s radically collaborative, it’s challenging. As I said, it’s almost impossible to win, and the game is structured to become more difficult the longer it goes on.

It’s a great example of rethinking gaming and rethinking competition, all in a little game that comes in a box and is played with pawns on a board.

March 12 2013

Verpatzter „Sim City”-Start: Worst Case des Cloud-Gamings

Wenn ein Online-Spiel offline geht: Der Fall „Sim City“ zeigt, was beim Cloud-Computing schiefgehen kann.

Unfreiwillig hat die Spielefirma Electronic Arts die große Schwäche des Cloud-Gamings offenbart: die Server des Anbieters müssen permanent online erreichbar sein. Genau das misslang nach dem Verkaufsstart von „Sim City 5” am vergangenen Donnerstag. Als hunderttausende Spieler anfingen, online virtuelle Städte zu bauen, versagten die überlasteten Server den Dienst. Zahlreiche Nutzer machten ihrem Ärger Luft und verlangten ihr Geld zurück. Bei einem großen Online-Shop bekam das Spiel reihenweise schlechte Bewertungen.

Inzwischen erklärt Electronic Arts, man bekomme die technischen Probleme in den Griff. Das Unternehmen habe die Server-Kapazitäten für Sim City um 120 Prozent erhöht, teilte eine Sprecherin am Samstag mit. Grund für die Probleme sei gewesen, dass mehr Kunden gleichzeitig spielen wollten als erwartet. Auch von der „Intensität“ des Spielens zeigt sich das Unternehmen überrascht. Die Kunden sollen mit einem Gratis-Spiel für die Probleme entschädigt werden.„Was passiert ist, tut uns außerordentlich leid“, so die Sprecherin.

Umstrittene Account-Bindung

Viele Nutzer fragen sich, warum Sim City nur spielbar ist, wenn ein stabiler und schneller Online-Datenaustausch zu den Unternehmens-Servern gewährleistet ist. Electronic Arts argumentiert, indem Unternehmens-Server die Berechnung des Spiels übernehmen, könnten auch Nutzer mit weniger leistungsstarken Endgeräten in den Genuss einer anspruchsvollen Grafik kommen. „Wir wollten ein Spiel, das grafisch ansprechend ist, aber keinen Hochleistungscomputer voraussetzt.“

Ein weiterer Grund dürfte sein, dass der Online-Zwang als Kopierschutz wirkt. Die Nutzer müssen sich online registrieren und einloggen, wenn sie spielen wollen. Ihren persönlichen Zugang dürfen sie anderen nicht übertragen. Weil jeder Kunde über eine Seriennummer identifizierbar ist, können sich auch nicht mehrere Nutzer einen Zugang teilen und parallel spielen.

Gegen diese Form von Account-Bindung“ gehen Verbraucherschützer derzeit gerichtlich vor.  Sie führe praktisch dazu, dass Kunden ein Online-Spiel nicht weiterverkaufen können, so das Argument. Die Anbieter verweisen darauf, dass sie dem Kunden nur Nutzungslizenzen einräumen, jedoch keine Eigentumsrechte.

Sim-City-Ausfall verdeutlicht Abhängigkeiten

Der Serverausfall bei Electronic Arts macht die Abhängigkeit bewusst, in die sich Kunden von Cloud-Anbietern begeben. Sollte Electronic Arts beispielsweise einmal pleitegehen, wäre auch Sim City 5 nicht mehr spielbar. Die Tageszeitung taz malt sich diesen Fall aus und vergleicht ihn mit dem Autosektor: „Man stelle sich vor, nach Schließung des letzten Opelwerkes würden alle jemals produzierten Fahrzeuge dieser Marke nicht mehr fahren können, weil die Zündung zum Schutz vor unerlaubtem Weiterverkauf des Fahrzeugs einer Synchronisation mit einem Rüsselsheimer Server bedarf, der dann leider nicht mehr existiert.“

Der vorübergehende Ausfall eines Online-Spiels ist ärgerlich, scheint aber verkraftbar. Sollten jedoch einmal Dokumente, Kalender und Adresslisten nicht mehr verfügbar sein, weil die Server des Cloud-Anbieters streiken, könnte manches Büro nur noch beschränkt arbeitsfähig sein. Ein wenig Vorbereitung auf das Worst-Case-Szenario „Offline-Modus“ scheint also angeraten – zumal Sim City kein Einzelfall bleiben muss.

Was der Nutzer von Cloud-Games rechtlich beachten sollte, hat iRights Cloud in einer Rubrik zusammengestellt.

February 14 2013

Four short links: 14 February 2013

  1. Welcome to the Malware-Industrial Complex (MIT) — brilliant phrase, sound analysis.
  2. Stupid Stupid xBoxThe hardcore/soft-tv transition and any lead they feel they have is simply not defensible by licensing other industries’ generic video or music content because those industries will gladly sell and license the same content to all other players. A single custom studio of 150 employees also can not generate enough content to defensibly satisfy 76M+ customers. Only with quality primary software content from thousands of independent developers can you defend the brand and the product. Only by making the user experience simple, quick, and seamless can you defend the brand and the product. Never seen a better put statement of why an ecosystem of indies is essential.
  3. Data Feedback Loops for TV (Salon) — Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC production also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher. Therefore, concluded Netflix executives, a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer, to the point that the company committed $100 million for two 13-episode seasons.
  4. wrka modern HTTP benchmarking tool capable of generating significant load when run on a single multi-core CPU. It combines a multithreaded design with scalable event notification systems such as epoll and kqueue.
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