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Comment I hate to be THAT GUY... (Score 2) 240

But, I was seriously disappointing in the film. Not due to the book, since I have not read it. But because it gave the impression it was going to have some sort of scientifically-accurate veneer on it.

But as the story unfolded, I immediately started to shake my head and smack my forehead in disbelief at the blatant nonsense of the film from a science standpoint.

It would take an immense post to cover all of the things that wrong both scientifically, practically or procedurally. For those interested, I'll cover as many as I can before fatigue sets in. This is based on the film, not the book.

Launching a space-ship in a violent storm. So violent that it is pushing the dang thing over. Obviously one could argue it was designed for that, but I see no reason to believe it was from the movie.

Watney is hit by debris and whisked away. An astronaut asks how long he could survive if his suit was breached (or something like that). A) That question would not be asked, they would know. B) The answer is not whatever they said (1 minute or something) but rather 3 minutes (max, which is what they'd be concerned with).

Watney is in left on the surface, and wakes up the next.... day, I guess. O2 is low, apparently, but otherwise in pretty good sleep. Suit or no, he would have faced freezing to death. Quite often the film deals with cold one moment and then ignores it the next.

Funny thing... he used a normal Hero camera to do his vlogging... yet the results as shown were 3D. :)

Watney talks about the awful things that can go wrong. The final one he says something like, "... and if the hab fails... I'll implode!" Implode? You don't implode in a thin atmosphere! Or even zero-atmosphere. Your bowels and bladder would evacuate. You'd lose consciousness pretty quick, and die in 3. If you held your breath your lungs would rupture. But you don't frikin implode. He must be thinking of... the bottom of the sea or something? Mr. science astronaut guy would never say anything so lame-brained.

Hollywood's rediculous portrayal of computers, even the kind everyday people use, is on full display. Sure, some of us appreciate the shoe-horned in nod to Zork 2 and Leather Goddesses of Phobos (especially, given it's Mars), but takes nothing away form everything else shown. When Watney goes around talking about "Hex-Y-Decimal" spoken like someone who's never picked a color for a web page before, I just cringed.

It wasn't clear, but it also looks like he tried to point the communication dish at Earth? It is true Pathfinder had the ability to communicate directly to earth through both a low and high gain antenna, but the way it would work is the low-gain is omnidirecitonal, and once signal is received then they remotely determine how to orient the high-gain which is more focused. That is more of a quibble.

Some basic of Mars are wrong, like gravity. Sure, hard to get right.... but still wrong.

There were many scenes on the Hermes where EVA was treated very poorly. I was really amused when the one guy pop'd the hatch to watch the docking operation. Maybe he was going to help out instead of what was really happening.... putting himself and the mission in ridiculous danger. The whole EVA crawling around the space station was just shy of Gravity-level ridiculousness.

Basics of space wrong: There is no sound in the vacuum of space. Sure some sounds could be heard in the suits from things happening to the suit (things dinking off the helmet or whatnot) but there was way more sound than that going on.

The Hermes itself was not believable. It had these parts with gigantic glass picture windows. That's not a likely design feature. Needing a bomb to open a hatch... okay maybe, but mostly just seemed a way to try and figure out how to "science up a bomb" on screen than anything.

I'm sorry to disappoint, but poking a hole in your glove does not make you Iron Man. How do I know? Because this has happened before. Know what really happens? Your skin seals the hole, ,without much notice, and you get a little red welt that goes away later. Very non-dramatic.

Now I think the worst part for me had to be where they introduce the supposed astro-navigation socially-inept genius. Everything about that was absurd.

First, the idea of a sling-shot gravity assist to get back to Mars is not some genius plan. It is basic space vessel navigation. The idea he had to dumb it down so the head of NASA could understand it was so laughable I almost fell out of my seat. Bad plot device... BAD.

Seeing him sit in a data center with his laptop jacked into some server so it could tell him "Calculations Correct" was a laugh-out-loud moment. Guessing those servers were not on any network, huh? And, um, why would Mathmatica not run the same on both computers? :)

Nothing to do with science, but watching them try and lift every cool line they could form Apollo 13 made my eyes roll each time. They WERE cool in Apollo 13, but here they sounded desperate in an Armageddon-sort-of-way.

I didn't read the book, and it wasn't mentioned, but it looked like Watney might have had scurvy at the end there. If so, that part was a nice touch. I assume his vitamins must have run out at some point.

I must be forgetting as many gaffs as I remember.

Getting things right wouldn't make this story worse, it would have made it better. It didn't look like there was decisions made to skimp on the accuracy so much as a lack of caring. From what I understand, the opposite of the book.


Comment This is a BS concern. (Score 4, Insightful) 468

I use Waze virtually every day. It can only be used to spot for cops who are running speedtraps. It doesn't "stalk" them in anyway. It is not very accurate because it relies on someone to note their location, and cops move a lot (say, when they go after a speeder and setup somewhere else or move on with other duties). At best it can bed give you info like "There's been some activity by police looking for speeders around here recently."

If Google caves to this nonsense, I'm going to be very disappointed. And, for the record, never have any reason to use Waze again.

Comment This guy doesn't know Unity (Score 4, Insightful) 127

I hate to say it, but this Jeff guy is fairly cluesless when it comes to Unity. And is, therefore, in a poor position to give any useful insight into Unity vs. UE4.

My studio (of roughly 27 years) has used a lot of tech in its time. We even developed our own engine, HeroEngine (used in games like Star Wars The Old Republic MMO). We've made lots of games and have lots of experience with Unity. I used Unity to do the Android port of Temple Run, and we've made a lot other titles with it too. We're currently working on a marquee franchise for a major publisher... using Unity.

Unity is not just for small teams. Jeff didn't do his homework on this one. Our team is 27 strong, using git for version control. We use a deep feature-branch approach and it works well not only for our developers, but our non-techies: artists, designers, sound guys, etc. Sure there are issues with Unity and version control, but you find ways to make it work through convention and approach. Same thing happens in all Engines. They all have their issues. The only engine that put collaboration at the forefront was our HeroEngine, but even that has issues. Though we sold off that tech, you can still check it yourself... just Google.

The 32 bit editor limit is true, but is it really an issue? It never has been for us. His problems smell strongly of bad development practices... they can't seem to manage their memory resources well and that suggests other major issues in their group. Just reads a bit amateur to me. No engine will save you from bad practices. The game builds are 64 bit, and the Editor will be also in Unity 5 (how did he not know this?).

It is notable that the guy is fascinated with a lot of things in UE4 that, as it turns out, you can also do as well or even better in Unity. He loves, for instance, Blueprint visual scripting... did he bother to check out uScript for Unity? He loves the node-based Shader in UE4.... well there is ShaderForge in Unity. He loves Physically Based Rendering in UE4 but doesn't mention Alloy in Unity. Sure some of these things are add on costs (usually pretty tiny) and there are also lower cost or sometimes even free alternatives to many of them. The best part is you can mix and match which pieces work best for you. If you don't like UE4's node-based shader... tough! But in Unity you have a few to pick form..... .... or better yet, you can make your own! The best part of Unity is how seamlessly extensible the editor is. This is a huge productivity booster. Every game we do we create custom tools that enhance the efficiency of the designers and artists. It's so easy to do, you just naturally create augmenting tools as the need comes up. Our designers and artists can do amazing things without ever having worry about writing any code... much less even a visual scripting system. This is because we made the tools specific to the game that let them express what they need all from the inspectors and the scene tools.

Another cool thing: make a great addon that is generally useful... then wrap it up and sell it in the Asset Store. Monetize that sucker! Or give it away for free if you like.

Is Unity perfect? Nope. But it is insanely efficient for developing games. Works with any sized team well enough, and creates titles that run across tons of platforms. And the Asset Store is a treasure trove of extensions that just make it better and better all the time.

The places where it falls behind a tad are either addresseable from add ons, and ultimately in Unity 5.

I am not advocating that one choose Unity over UE4... but if you are going to make an argument, at least make a balanced one with all the facts. I would take his critique with a grain of salt. Try each engine yourself, but make sure you take the time to fully understand both the tool and its eco-system and how it applies to what you are doing. And above all, make sure you have sharp developers on your team who understand the fundamentals. Like I said, no tool will get you out of a jam of your own making.

Comment MUDs are far from gone! (Score 1) 99

FULL DISCLOSURE: These are products I created and operated by my company. But very relevant.

The term MUD tends to harken back to an earlier time before 'puters had graphical horsepower of any note. But the reality is, online text-based games come in all varieties, and the one's we operate are in a league all their own. More significantly, they are still serious ongoing commercial efforts. If you want to see what a MUD can be when it's been in continuous development, expansion for decades, then check out:

GemStone IV, which began its life as a sequel to GemStone ][ (then called GemStone III just to confuse everyone) first came to existence on the online service GEnie. Eventually it moved to CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy and others. When online services went the way of the doodoo bird, we moved them to the internet machine. DragonRealms is somewhat younger than GemStone, but same sort of history. I began work on it shortly before forming my company Simutronics, something like 27 years ago.

Despite having worked on lots of other types of games, such as mobile titles, and working on other PC/Mac/Linux games of a much more graphical variety now... these text based games remain the corner stone of Simutronics.

Comment I already have a 4K monitor on my computer (Score 2) 286

I got the SEIKI 4K TV from TigerDirect not long ago. I hooked it up as a 4th (!) monitor. It dwarfs the 3 30" dells I have next to it since, well... it's frikin 50"!

Despite being a lot bigger the pixel density is roughly the same as the 30" Dells which are only 2560x1600. The SEIKI 4K is rocking, obviously the 4K resolution of 3840x2160.

So is it cool?

Kinda of.

The fundamental problem, of course, is that the refresh rate is only 30 hertz. This is driven by the fact that current 1.4 HDMI spec can't push faster than that. So the screen has a soft pulsing. It also tears badly on fast moving things, but this may be a separate issue not related to the TV, not sure. Been messing with my video card to try and solve that. VSync doesn't seem to help, so maybe it is the TV.

Color reproduction is just ... meh. You have to switch modes to get things to look right depending on what you are doing... say work vs. play. Games do look spectacular at the high resolution and the big size. I have the monitor at a normal seated distance, so it's ... immersive. Much like the Rift in that way, but without the nausea and fatbits.

The bottom line is, don't get this TV unless you are a crazy early adopter who just likes cool toys and throws money away to do it. Wait until next year when HDMI 2.0 comes out and more monitor-class 4K units come onto the market. Then, yes... if you are a resolution junkie like I am, get one! Because even in this early form, the promise is quite clear.

Oh, and it impresses friends. Very important point. :)

Comment Better than bad grammer... transcription! (Score 1) 193

I find that an even better way to construct a password (that you can still remember) is to use a language other than English for all or part of it. More specifically, it works best if you use a language that that requires transliteration to type in the Latin character set and then use your own transliteration/transcription spelling (rather than, necessarily, the common or "official" one). Good examples might be words in Hebrew, Russian or Greek.

Consider the Russian word for 'good'. I will spell it using substitute Latin characters since /. seems to strip it otherwise: "xopowo"

I love Russian because it uses mostly Latin or Latin-like characters, but they are usually pronounced differently (that "p" looking guy sounds like an "r" and that "w" looking character is more like "sh").

So that word is pronounced, to the American ear, something like "hur ah show" (leaving out the hard-to-transcribe soft guttural). You might spell it in your own transcription style as "herisoh" or "whoreashow" (which might be easier to remember!) or whatever.. the more you make it your own, the better.

You don't have to master another whole language to do this, just a few words will do.

Oh, and be sure to stay out of the rainbow table range or none of these techniques are all that helpful.

Comment Commercial Solution: Death Switch (Score 1) 257

Didn't notice if this was mentioned or not, but there are some commercial solutions like

They fire off emails to you on a schedule. If you fail to respond, then they suspect maybe you are pushing up daisies... other fail-safes kick in (they check with a designated friend, etc.). If you are, indeed gone, then they spew whatever you want to whomever you designate. You can even program in a follow up or two for later. A year after you are dead, a nice parting practical joke, eh?

Comment There's no need for a book (Score 1) 188

Seriously.... a book?

Just Google what you want to know.

If you've done C#, then look at XNA. It lets you do game stuff in C#. You know how to program, now just pick up things you don't know to build on that toolbox. On sites like you can find all the information you need, and better yet, full functioning examples projects to pick apart and learn from.

Why back in my day there was no Google machine. Much less any book son the subject. Now there is so much information out there, for free, you have no excuse to not just trip over it even if you take 10 seconds to look for it.

Comment Re:Vacation? What vacation? (Score 3, Interesting) 948

Yes, I was being hyperbolic to make a point and get attention.... :D

We did away with formal vacation time, sick time, etc.

You have unlimited amounts of it.

ROWE is a system where an employeer treats their employees like competent adults who know how to manage their time.

Does everyone know how to do that? No. And those people fail to get good results under ROWE and get fired.

Is measuring results hard? It's as easy or as hard as you want to make it. You can do 360 Reviews and all that BS if you want. Or you can keep it more informal, like we do.

ROWE increases productivity and employee's become amazingly loyal.

The biggest difficulty with it is for the boss(es) who feel like they are somehow losing control. Who fear that the day after they start ROWE no one will come into the office anymore. Know what really happens? People come into the office, they get work done, and they feel far, far less stress.

It is amazing. Its simple. It works. And of all the BS systems that have come and gone, this is the one that just flat out does what it says.

We'd never consider going back. Ever.

Comment Vacation? What vacation? (Score 3, Insightful) 948

At my company, we did away with vacations. You get no vacation time. At. All.

But that was just for starters, we also did away with sick time. None.

Personal days? Don't make me laugh.

I am proud to say that was my initiative.

One might think this could have some impact on moral. But when asked during on camera interviews, how much would people have to pay you to leave? Some said at least double, and most said they couldn't even think of a number.

If you want to know how that's possible, then Google ROWE. Results Only Work Environment. And you'll understand why.

I give talks about our transition to ROWE, and it's been nothing but phenomenal.


"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel