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Comment: Playing games doesn't make you a programmer (Score 1) 145

by discord5 (#49754111) Attached to: Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career?

Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?

Not really. My dad was the one who set me on this career track the day he came home with a Amstrad CPC 646 when I was 6. It came with one game on casette (my dad bought that extra), a book on BASIC in English (which was not my native language), and an insatiable curiousity (although that might have been there at the time). I was lost in the book at the point where it explained how to draw a circle on the screen, but I pounded in the code and started playing with the variables in and before those weird sin() and cos() functions.

And yes, I played videogames. I saved up months worth of allowance (money to buy candy, hey, I was 6) for that dinky little joystick, but I spent more time playing around with it than actually playing videogames on it.

When I was 12 I saved up for a "real" computer. An 8086 with 640KB of memory, and after I got used to working with DOS, floppies and a hard drive with a giant 20MB of space, I bought books on programming for the PC. Yes, I also played videogames, but it was the programming that fascinated me. Making that computer do things for me, albeit very useless but that wasn't the issue, it was doing things I had told it to do. I learned how the machine worked, what memory addresses were special, what interrupts were, ... It was a fantastic journey.

By the time I was 17 a friend of mine introduced me to Linux, and it didn't take long for me to make the switch. A program crashing wouldn't take down the whole operating system anymore, and best of all, it was free (gratis), came with a compiler (again free), and it came with everything you ever wanted in documentation, and if that failed, there was the source code. I played games... I had to dual boot for it, but I played games and even organized a small LAN party with friends in the basement and learned the basics of networking as I went along. When the internet became a thing in my country I could e-mail people around half the globe about a bug in a program, send a patch file, download the source code to something I wanted to try, and learned something new every day.

I'm sad for a lot of the programmers graduating today. The fact that the phone in my pocket has thousands of times the resources of that old 8086 of mine means that inefficient code comes at a smaller cost for small programs. And sure, it doesn't matter in small programs, but when they start writing real code it shows and often in painful ways. Instead of learning how to program, they've learned how to play games. Aside from the graphics card, there's no real need for adding something to a desktop machine anymore, and even if it were it's all pretty much (actually working) plug and play these days. There's no incentive for people who play games anymore to tinker with a machine and learn how it works.

As time has progressed I've seen less and less interns passionate about computing, and more and more people who say "I went in IT because I'm good with the Internet, like chatting and playing games.". Oh, there's a big buzz around the usual hot topics, like "social", "big data", "cloud", "internet of things" and whatnot, and I'm not claiming that's a bad thing, after all times have changed and everyone adapts new models and technology, but still... There's few who are interested in the machine, and how to really make it do things. When a kid tells you a database with 2GB of data in it is "big data" and we should be putting that shit in "the cloud" I start wondering about the future. There are exceptions, but far and few in between.

And yes, as the gray hairs on my head have started to become quite numerous, I still play videogames. But I still spend most of my time with the machine doing other fun things.

Comment: Re:Good idea, bad implementation (Score 1) 239

by discord5 (#49567033) Attached to: Valve Pulls the Plug On Paid Mods For Skyrim

1) They set a minimum price far too high. Relatively few mods are worth a dollar, even the ones that are worth buying at all.

I agree to a certain extent. For Skyrim certain mods have just become standard fare to install, like SkyUI which makes the UI at least usable. I'd be happy to pay a dollar for SkyUI (ignoring the whole SKSE thing for a second) if that would rid me of the default UI for Skyrim for the 200+ hours I've put into the game.

2) They didn't protect from fraud.

This was in my opinion the worst problem with the whole ordeal. Not just fraud, just the fact that they barely checked what was going on with the mods in question. Even their rules for mods that used other mods made it clear that they really didn't give it too much thought. A lot of mods are frameworks that make developing mods easier, or that make modding possible in ways the API of the creators of the game didn't allow (eg SKSE). With SKSE you start entering this legal murky area and I can't help but feel that Valve never gave it too much thought (and neither did Zenimax/Bethesda).

On top of that, modding communities are rarely good places to build a business in. Most of these people aren't professional developers, and while it's not unheard of that amateur developers can build a sane business model, let's not kid ourselves here. The minecraft modding community is the perfect example of amateurish behavior and so much drama. I don't want to generalize that entire community, since there are a lot of people doing a lot of neat things with that game, but there's been more than a few cases of a modder purposely breaking the game when another mod was installed simply because of some stupid fued between them.

Lastly, there's an implied expectation of a consumer that a modder will maintain his work when a game gets updated if he's paid to do so. Few publishers release preview builds for modders to work on, and even if they do with many of these amateurs even that wouldn't be a guarantee that they would update their mods in a timely fashion. Quite frankly, if I have to pay for SkyUI, I expect it to work without too much problems even years after I bought it.

3) They didn't share the profit well.

I'd like to agree on that point, except in the end Valve just agreed to the terms of the publisher and did the math on their own costs. But let's be honest here, Skyrim as a 4 year old game won't be getting anymore updates. Basically, from a community point of view, that's just Zenimax/Bethesda being greedy at this point. It's like a city council deciding that they're going to charge an admission to the sandbox if you're planning on building a castle, while the whole thing was built with community taxes. (Yes yes, not the most accurate of metaphors, but at least it's not a car) Sure, Bethesda could say something like "Yeah, we were planning on using that revenue to keep the game updated, provide a more complete API, interface with the community" etc etc, but let's face it. Bethesda is working on newer titles, and anything and everything Skyrim is just bookkeeping from now on.

What it is, is perfectly in line with the vision many of these companies have these days about what a community means to them. While I'm not a fan of the so called "Let's play" videos, if you look at the whole drama there about monetizing it's a perfectly good example of what's wrong with many publishers these days. Many publishers want a cut from the video revenues today, while in essence it's really free advertising they're getting. The arguments being made are that most people won't buy the game if they can just watch it being played online, but I don't think that argument really flies. To me, Let's Play videos are kind of like a gameplay video. Before I buy a game I go check it out on a Youtube channel that isn't clearly a marketing channel, and then decide on the gameplay I see if I buy it or not. If your game is so simple that a Let's Play ruins the experience or doesn't entice me to buy it then more than likely it's not a very good game. So let's be fair here, and say that if you are basically taking a cut from someone who's making free advertisement for you, that you're operating on the premise of milking your community instead of building one.

4) They launched it suddenly, with no notice. Nobody had any inkling it was coming, least of all the modders who would be most affected by it.

Their biggest mistake in my opinion was doing this with an established modding community, especially one the size of Skyrim. The move was bound to be controversial, whatever game they picked, but they should've just gone with a newer title with a less established community to test the waters. Skyrim as a testing bed was bound to fail as for the existing userbase it would be too bitter a pill to swallow.

Gabe Newell made the mistake of going to Reddit to make some quick one-liners as a way of dealing with the shitstorm in his mailbox. While he did make a couple of good points there (especially on the topic of accounts getting banned on Steam for criticizing the paid-mod change being a really bad idea), his quick one-line replies offered little to no reasoning with the community. He might as well just not have done the AMA at all, because let's face it, all you're doing is painting a big target on your back in this kind of situation. Kudos to him as a CEO to try and engage with the angry mob, though, as I doubt few other CEOs would be willing to do that.

As a final remark, I think Valve is a really oddly run company given its revenue. For a company that seems to more or less know what its consumers want and have both experience as a developer, publisher and the most successful distribution platform for games this whole ordeal has made them seem ignorant of the communities they cater to. From my point of view, the stunt they pulled just illustrates how Valve mostly depends on "lucky guesses" for their business. Greenlight is another example of ill-conceived ideas at Valve at trying to make the platform more user-driven. Skyrim may have been the smartest move from a market potential point of view considering the size of that modding community, but the dumbest from a community point of view given the size of that community.

All in all, I think it's a missed opportunity for developers of games and mods. Think of it like this: a steady revenue stream from modding could've enticed many publishers to build better APIs and tools, offer some basic support to the modding community, etc. A developer could've kept their update cycle going a bit longer with the revenue from paid mods if successful. But taking a 4 year old game that won't see anymore updates, slapping "paid mods" on it and generally being disruptive to such a large community is what leads to the situation Valve finds itself in now. The whole concept is now extremely toxic and no dev is going to be willing to touch it for years to come.

Comment: Re:Please stop the Phoronix shouting! (Score 5, Funny) 232

by discord5 (#49558835) Attached to: Linux 4.1 Bringing Many Changes, But No KDBUS

Yet Phoronix and now also Slashdot are shouting: "numerous features!

Just wait until they benchmark that xbox controller force feedback. They'll have useful graphs such as "Bootup time with and without xbox controller (lower is better)", "Strenght of feedback on odd and even numbered seconds (higher is better)", and the ever so important "Adbucks generated by pointless benchmarks on an xbox conroller (higher is better)".

Hell, I can't wait to see the graphs on that last one.

Comment: Re:Their software cost an arm and both legs yet... (Score 1) 35

by discord5 (#49522295) Attached to: OSGeo Foundation Up In Arms Over ESRI LAS Lock-In Plans

I'm not surprised with this. GIS is almost a mono-culture that has been dominated by ESRI since forever

The attitude is slowly changing though, with more and more open source tools becoming available. Like you said, gdal and qgis are adequate for most common use, but in the case of LiDAR there's PCL (point cloud library) offering a workable alternative for the traditional las/laz tools in some cases. On the server end there's PostGIS which is a really nice set of geospatial procedures for Postgresql which for a lot of uses is more than enough. There's geoserver, mapserver, and the various html/js frameworks like openlayers and leafletjs. If you're a bit on the creative side and have the expertise (or moderate experience and willingness to learn) in the field of remote sensing you can build quite a few nice applications.

The market is more than ready for a new player that will make reliable software (whether commercial or open source, doesn't matter to most as they are used to pay through the roof for ESRI software anyway).

There's been a few older smaller players that I've been in contact with that are not so happy with the open source tools available as they're seeing competitors pop up getting a headstart in their dev cycle with lower initial costs. The barrier of entry has been lowered really, which is a good thing, because a lot of the smaller players were feeling too comfortable in their own niche applications as well. Personally, I take great pleasure in watching those new companies come along and use and improve these open source tools and try to upset what is traditionally a very "embedded" market.

Sure, ESRI will still dominate the market for some time to come, but I think that they realize that in the not-so-far future they might lose that position. Moves like this fileformat seem like an indicator to me, and I wouldn't be surprised if they start pushing their format on instrument builders or the people involved in large scale data acquisition. They wouldn't be the first to do this, since las/laz by itself is not the best of formats for quickly seeking through unless you start building indexes (and even then it can still be ... cumbersome). I've talked to plenty of people who convert their flightlines into nice quad- or octrees for their own tools with a dash of compression on top. Personally I'll still be asking for either las/laz or XYZ data. To me, the data itself is just a means to an end really, so I'd rather have a format I don't have bend over backwards to get what I want.

As for the price issue, for most people dealing with large enough datasets the real cost is in data acquisition, flight planning (when airborne), storage, and if you work in countries with strict privacy guidelines wrt remote sensing data there's a lot of cost in managing your data according to certain policies and oversight. If anything, that last one alone can be quite migraine inducing, although it's less the case with lidar I guess..

But I am noticing that in more and more environments where there's research being done, or where there's active development, people are more and more embracing other tools, often open source, which gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. I've been seeing a lot of pre- and post-processing in python with gdal and numpy lately, and you notice on the internet that there's more and more people picking it up.

Comment: Re:Make it DARKER dammit. (Score 4, Interesting) 233

by discord5 (#49163197) Attached to: Spock and the Legacy of Star Trek

What would it take to get it back in line with TOS? Maybe a dose of optimism and belief in conquering great evils and striving for a greater society. Maybe it just isn't a widely held set of beliefs anymore

I like to think that the decline of Trek is a combination of various factors. If we disregard TOS, the series that is most in line with that line of thought is TNG. Picard (in the series at least) holds those ideas in high regard and acts in nearly all episodes as a strong moral compass. The hand of Roddenberry is strong in that series, but Gene Roddenberry died during the making of TNG yet somehow Picard hasn't made a complete 180 and the show retained much of its popularity.

The change in the Trek universe is much more visible in the series of DS9, which sets an overall darker tone with the Dominion war. The point has been brought up before that DS9 battled for viewers with B5 where the tone in general about the future is far less resembling the Trek utopia, although comparing it to most modern scifi it's not all that "grimdark". To be honest, one of my favourite episodes in all of Trek is "In the Pale Moonlight", where Sisko basically goes against everything he stands for because it was necessary to get the Romulans on their side.

Once you get to Voyager, the change is irreversable. Voyager pretty much throws nearly continuity and Trek philosophy out of the airlock as Captain Janeway happily trods her way through the delta quadrant making alliances with the Borg, violating the prime directive in an almost action-hero kind of style, using warp 9 at an almost daily basis (despite it being forbidden in TNG by starfleet), contemplating genocide with the Borg, oh and in the series finale violates the temporal prime directive... It did make for good TV though. Compare Janeway to Picard (in the series) and you'll notice that they embody totally different ideologies. You could argue that over 70 years away from the federation they had little choice but to go with the flow, but just imagine Picard in that position.

A lot of Trek fans attribute the change in Trek to Rick Berman, but I think it's more complex. The audience has changed, and above all science fiction (or rather special effects) became relatively cheap to make. Trek suddenly had to compete with a lot more shows, and instead of focusing on storytelling the choice was made to focus on things like action and effects. Voyager is the best example of having a lot of characters they could build incredible stories about, but opted not to. They take on a Maquis crew, but aside from a few episodes it hardly gets mentioned what kind of problems this causes. Bellana as a half-human, half-klingon could have had so much more character development but barely got any aside from 2 episodes in 7 years. The only character to really get any character development was 7 of 9, and even there the plot always felt so underwhelming.

By the time Enterprise came out, I think most Trek fans were giving up on the franchise. I remember at the time that few people had something good to say about the show, so I skipped out on it.

As for the Trek movies. Picard in the TNG movies is no longer the Picard from the series. A complex man who upholds his principles and beliefs above all else was written into the role of an action hero,and in some movies even has a one-liner to finish off the villain. The TNG trek movies are action movies in line with the Trek universe, and I think the Trek reboot just makes the gap between the Trek ideas even bigger. I don't think they are bad movies, as long as you watch them as action movies and not as TNG Trek.

The problem with Trek, I think, is that the franchise is overused. The only way it can continue on and attract an audience is in a way that derivates from the original work but strays as far from it as possible. The traditional Trek audience won't be happy unless Picard 2.0 comes along, and the traditional Trek audience simply isn't as big as the generic-action-movie audience. With how cheap special effects have become, any new Trek series would have to compete with generic cheap scifi show X.

I think that for all purposes and intents, Star Trek is dead. There's not a lot left to do with the universe that fits into the Trek vision, especially if you want to keep a sense of continuity. Really, start something new that incorporates the philosophy of Trek, but dumps the setting. Trek has always had to carry its own history with it, which is what eventually lead to a ridiculous attempt at rebooting the Trek universe into a hyper-energized mirror of itself recently. It's a pity because we love the iconic things this series has given us, but at this point I think the franchise is far beyond salvation.

Comment: Re:sounds like a hoax (Score 1) 175

by discord5 (#49019735) Attached to: Hobbyists Selling Tesla Coil Kits To Fund Drone Flight Over North Korea

All of the money from this project will be used to extend the distance our drone can fly, so the more backers we have, the farther it will be able to go!

Ok, now I know it's a hoax/scam.

It's not a hoax, it's a hot air drone. Basically they're going to be burning all the money they got underneath the drone. If the pile is high enough and the wind is in the right direction, clearly it'll reach Pyongyang.

Comment: Re:Just remove the camera (Score 1) 324

by discord5 (#48882709) Attached to: What Will Google Glass 2.0 Need To Actually Succeed?

All Google needs to do is remove the camera. That way, it can still be used for notifications, searches of information and other overlays

The only applications I can think of where glass might work as a useful item actually all use the camera to do computer vision kind of applications. The appeal suddenly immensely decreases if it's unable to do that since what is left is just another interface for my phone or PC to show me messages I can see elsewhere irrelevant of any context.

An application I personally think would be useful is in large server environments. Imagine walking in to a serverroom and simply looking at a server to get a list of the name, IP addresses, its function, applications or virtual machines running on it, being able to view open (and perhaps closed) issues with the system. We already have plenty of software to view all that information with a browser, but it would be nice to have a way of viewing that sort of info just by looking at the server in question. Patch cabinets come to mind as well, etc etc.

The last thing I want to do is use this sort of thing as yet another way to take pictures, keep track of my appointments, see if I've got mail, etc. I've got perfect things for that: a phone, a laptop, etc etc. I really don't need more devices to manage my mailbox, in fact I'd rather have less of them as my mailbox already consumes enough time of my day.

Finally, I really don't want to go through everyday life wearing those things as I interact with people. For one shoving a camera in another persons face makes them quite uncomfortable, and wearing one on my face as I interact with people makes me kind of uncomfortable. I don't really see any practical use for glass in every day life. I don't want to read online reviews of the carton of milk I'm buying ("Very milky, 10/10, would drink again" -- xXxmilkmaster2kxXx), nor see recipes for lasagna when I'm buying tomatoes, not to mention how awesome it would be to see every bit of info in my field of vision scanned for possible advertisement opportunities.

I think there's a lot of useful applications that lie in the realm of augmented reality, most of which you need a camera for to do computer vision type of stuff. But at the moment from what I gather Glass is underpowered CPU wise (and tbh, I didn't expect anything else) and has terrible battery life, so the sort of thing I hope to someday see is probably far off. Sadly, most of the types of applications I keep hearing are the same stuff I do with my phone, and I don't quite need that on my face to be honest.

Comment: what it is and isn't doesn't matter to the public (Score 2) 88

by discord5 (#48460071) Attached to: Revisiting Open Source Social Networking Alternatives

I was surprised to see so many public figures and media entities jump on board — mainly because of what Ello isn't. It isn't an open source, decentralized social networking technology

Public figures and media entities don't give a flying fuck what it is or isn't. It's a matter of "can we monetize?" and "holy shit, look at that untapped audience". Things like "open source" and "decentralized" are the things only we nerds care about, and even in that group we find ourselves often in the minority.

If you want to build that social network utopia and get it to see some actual usage, you'll need to have a clear advantage and be able to get everyone and their grandma to move away from facebook, twitter and whatnot. For a media entity "decentralized social network" means "unreliable demographics" and "open source" sadly still means "not easy to monetize". Aside from that, you also need a certain momentum to build up, and have features that someone else doesn't have. Google+ is a perfect example of not being able to convince the greater public that you've got a better offer.

Personally, I can think of hundreds of more interesting hobby projects than hacking together an open source decentralized social network. But if you find it interesting, please do contribute code/documentation/fleshed out ideas to the community. Happy hacking!

Comment: Re:Secure pairing is hard (Score 1) 131

by discord5 (#47504003) Attached to: The "Rickmote Controller" Can Hijack Any Google Chromecast

This is a general problem with devices that are "paired". How do you securely establish the initial connection, when neither side knows anything about the other?

The problem isn't the initial connection really. Sure, there's an attack window there, but if it weren't for the actual problem it wouldn't have been as easily exploitable as it appears to be. The problem is that it is trivial once the Chromecast is connected to the WLAN to force it to reconfigure.

The Youtube video of his presentation (no transcript, sorry, go listen to it in the background while doing something else) makes it clear that it's trivially simple to get the device looking for a suitable partner again. If I understand it correctly the attacker sends one (or several) deauth frame(s) to the network and within 5 seconds the Chromecast will start looking for a new network at which point the attacker can take over control of the device.

The thing is, this was a userfriendly feature for when you're using your Chromecast device on other networks. If the developers had required a physical button press (on that nice reset button would've been fine), the attack window would've been just during the pairing, which is a much smaller attack window. While it doesn't take away the pairing issues you mentioned, but the beauty of this attack really lies in how easy it is to make Chromecast hop onto another network.

Semi-secure systems involve things like creating a short period of temporary vulnerability (as with Bluetooth pairing).

Which is the case as far as I understand it. The chromecast is vulnerable until it is configured. The attack just makes reconfiguration trivial because there's no physical intervention required.

Comment: Re:Fun Factoid (Score 1) 435

by discord5 (#47476761) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

The promise of having virgin subordinates in the afterlife is not a traditional Islamic belief.

Oh, are you one of those people who reads the Onion and is outraged at how factually incorrect their articles are? I'm sorry... For the record, I don't think there's a JihadBot 3000 prototype either. So don't spread that as truth either...

Comment: Re:Automation is killing jobs faster than ever (Score 4, Funny) 435

by discord5 (#47468079) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

Even suicide bombers are being rendered useless.

It's a matter of cost-cutting. Those virgins every holy warrior gets in the end cost a lot of money and aren't really contributing much to the cause themselves. The holy warriors themselves could unionize, but their union membership is rather short lived by nature. Aside from the membership problems, what exactly would they do? Threaten to blow themselves up? I'd explain into detail on the soon to be introduced JihadBot 3000, but the projects development costs have gone through the roof, and the prototypes have all blown up for some reason.

Pardon my stereotyping...

"Don't talk to me about disclaimers! I invented disclaimers!" -- The Censored Hacker

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