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Comment Inform 7 (Score 1) 237

Inform 7. The good thing about text adventures is that they don't necessarily require gigantic graphics and sound budget - you can focus entirely on storytelling.

Inform 7 is also a good example of how programming can be extremely unintimidating. Inform is one of the few "natural language" programming languages that actually accomplish the goal of being an usable programming language and not making programming too verbose.

I think I7 would be a good platform for introductory games from a pedagogical point of view, at least - it lets you focus on creating puzzles, internal logic and story, which to my non-expert understanding are probably fairly important topics when you actually sit down and design games. =)

Comment Re:No secret decoder ring here! (Score 1) 140

What I'm more concerned is the choice of words: the stuff is "encoded" and you need "special software".

I certainly hope this is just a bad choice of words and they meant to say it's encrypted using some decent enough cipher. If it uses public key crypto, then we can assume the messages are sent in a reasonably secure manner. But who has the secret keys, by the way? How they have designed the key infrastructure? Will everyone who has access to the "special software" be able to read every message ever, or is the potential for damage somehow being compartmentalised?

In short, it's not enough for them to just say "eh, it's encrypted anyways" - we all would love to know if it's encrypted sensibly. Marketers say the protection is super unbreakable, but we need to remember that the same was said of the DVDs, and look at what we found there.

Comment Re:Having been into the lunar sample vault... (Score 1) 132

To give a quick (and slightly oversimplified) example, an initial sample brought back from the moon may have been labeled A. After it was broken in two, the two samples were A-1 and A-2. When the first one was broken in three, it became A-1-a, A-1-b, and A-1-c.

Ah, the migrations may have failed in the past, but we have the technology to do the sample management efficiently now! Simply replace the existing sample management system with Bitcoin technology. It works the exact same way! Plus, it wouldn't affect the actual worth of Bitcoin in any way. Everything would stay just as speculative!

Comment Re:Go to the software producer's site (Score 2) 228

People are creatures of habit, and once they learn how to use the download.com ( or some other site like freshmeat.net ) interface, they just return to it out of habit, and the fact that they already know how to search and navigate the site.

Thought here's a small but crucial difference between download.com and freshmeat/whatevertheheckit'snowadays: Download.com hosts stuff, while freshmeat just listed and categorised software, linking to developers. The details on where to get the software are posted by the developer on freshmeat. You get the software exactly where the developer wants you to get the software. A choosy user can then download the source or official binaries or just say "hey, it looks like it's already packaged in my distro".

In open source world, you can see that there's a chain of trust going on: You can be pretty sure that if the developers say that the source or binaries that are hosted somewhere are kosher, then you can trust them. You can be pretty sure that if you go to a major Linux distro and look at the packaged binaries, they were built and vetted by the distro people and in most cases the developer is very much aware that the packages exists in these distros. You trust the developer, you trust the people the developer chooses to trust.

In similar vein, it wouldn't be bad if I knew that the developers had vetted the distribution site. If I see an open source project sticking files in SourceForge, I kind of trust that they trust on SourceForge to do their job properly. You can fully expect VLC folks to come out and say "oops, well, VLC was also listed on Download.com, but we didn't check what they do to the binaries. We didn't even link to them, so in the future, take all unofficial builds with a grain of salt."

It boggles my mind that people keep looking for software from sites that don't necessarily have the developer's trust. I just tried to find Windows 7 drivers for a piece of older hardware, and I was assaulted by a bunch of random megadownload links. Yeah. Right. Manufacturer has changed name, has apparently ended support for the old model, and I'm supposed to download kernel mode stuff from some random megadownload posting which isn't even mentioned by the manufacturer anywhere. Sounds totally legit to me! ...I'd follow the same pattern on Windows as I do on Linux: I'd go looking for the drivers from the manufacturer's site, and if they link to download.com, maybe I'd get it from there (while protesting).

It's like Wikipedia: People just trusted everything they read online, and now they're slowly waking up to the realisation that other people just might be posting bullshit and that they need to actually check the sources - and not just in Wikipedia, they need to do that everywhere. People need to be taught to be more critical and not believe everything they see.

Comment Re:Biology question (Score 1) 124

Unlike most textbooks this one was "Intelligently Designed"

And when the search function can only find what they type and not think, or when the DRM stops them from doing some basic stuff, or other similar little glitches ruin the student's afternoon, they just sigh and say "this Intelligent Design isn't very intelligent, is it?"

Comment You'd really better think what you ask for first (Score 2) 427

I'm living in one of those "other countries". Finland, to be specific.

And I think the legislators did the right thing. I just think that the expression "Right to Broadband" was a little bit grandiose considering what happened.

The law that gave us the "right to broadband" didn't give us any "inalienable rights". I think it would be absolutely absurd to call Internet access part of citizen's fundamental rights. Definitely a right, but not fundamental. I certainly wouldn't want the legislators to mess with the frigging Constitution to get us that.

Technology comes and goes. You don't want to guarantee the citizens to have an access to something that could be obsolete. If you try to make the legislation to stand the test of time, it will end up too vague to be put in the constitution. No, if you want to give people the right to use specific technologies, that calls for less grandiose and narrower laws.

Besides, you can't force people on the Internet, perhaps against their wishes, perhaps against the wishes of other people. ISPs still need to be able to tell the spammers to fuck off, for example. You can't turn that kind of very necessary exceptions into a broadly applicable part of the constitution, dammit.

So here's what the "right to broadband" actually entailed here: Telecom companies have to get off their asses and build the network to the specs of the day. They must ensure that all customers who want reasonably fast broadband Internet will get it at a reasonable price.

And why did they do this? A lot of services depend on the Internet. You need to be able to do banking and talk to the government bureaus and whatever -- a lot of that is in the Internet these days. On the less essential side we have internet shops - folks who live in the middle of the woods need to order their stuff online.

All this is here to highlight something: You need to ensure that people who need to get online will get online. Even if you're a repeated spam offender and can only use your Internet bank account in presence of an armed guard (a completely hypothetical scenario, yeah), but dammit, still, you can't take it away because that's what you sometimes have to do to get through the day.

But note that all of that is completely separate from freedom of speech. You have to campaign to get your right to access the internet. You don't need to campaign for your right to say pretty much whatever you want on the Internet because you already have that right. Unlike the right to get a reasonably priced Internet access, the right to free speech is something you can put in a constitution, and it bloody well already is there.

Comment Cold War secrets finally revealed! (Score 1) 151

"And that’s what a lot of people don’t realize. It’s not just a bunch of cooks in the kitchen making up recipes."

<tinfoilhat>

Finally, the American government tells the truth!

Back during the height of the Cold War, one Finnish grocery store chain had a rather popular series of TV commercials where a nice likeable chef gave out nice recipes and, of course, showed off he delicious food on sale right that day.

The problem was, some of the Finnish TV transmitters were a tad bit too powerful. In that people in northern Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic could tweak their TVs a little bit to also receive PAL broadcasts and watch to something else besides state-approved television. Stuff like Dallas and Knight Rider. Not material that turns people into burning-hearted Communists. And they had these commercial. Ugh.

Anyway, Once the word got out to the highest levels of authority, they had to make a statement. A carefully prepared official story said that the chef is obviously a CIA plant. The food shown was obviously just plastic replicas. No way that stuff was real - the grocery stores were dismal and often empty in the Soviet Union, and obviously the capitalist world was doing even worse, dear citizens! They also filed a formal complaint to the Finnish government, though it was not acted upon.

So now the American government finally reveals the culinary programs and use of food as weapons? I used to dismiss the statement from the Estonians as ridiculous propaganda, because I have lived in Finland all my life and our food has never tasted of plastic. But the true identity of the mystery chef remains a mystery! In light of this new information, perhaps he was a super-chef-spy! Perhaps he spread delicious recipes that were penned in some dark laboratory in the US!

And I liked Knight Rider - was it nothing more than a carefully calculated ploy to defeat the Soviet Union? The culinary mystery is solved now, but we still need the details on Knight Rider! The food question is relatively irrelevant compared to that. And talking cars are cooler. We need information! Question the American government!

</tinfoilhat>

Comment This seems familiar. (Score 2) 94

...led in and to the table of the chief [Stargate Earth symbol], who asks him:

First, if he desires to become [mouth symbol].

Secondly, if he submits to the rules of the [dotted circle] and without rebelliousness suffer through the time of apprenticeship.

Thirdly, be silent about the [pentagram] of the [dotted circle] and furthermore be willing to offer himself to volunteer in the most committed way.

The candidate answers yes.

The chief [Stargate Earth symbol] then shall lead the candidate and the assembled [mouth symbol]s through a series of ordeals, then proclaim the candidate a fellow [mouth symbol]. He shall then remind the new [mouth symbol] of the ancient and secret traditions of the order, then urge the [mouth symbol]s to celebrate the new [mouth symbol]'s initiation with [beer stein symbol] and [ping-pong paddle symbol].

Comment Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (Score 1) 461

Have you been to a bookstore lately?

Sparkly Vampire #16, Sparkly Werewolf #5, Oscar Wilde - Vampire Hunter (Ok, I might read that one), Zombies Vs Vampires #9, More Zombies #97.

Yeah, scary, isn't it? Then I remember that the publishers are only interested of about 1% of the manuscripts that come to them - the ones that actually have commercial potential and that the publisher can find time and energy to actually work on.

If this is the result of gatekeeping, do I really want to see the ones that didn't make it?

Yeah, there's a chance that someone wrote an awesome, commercially viable novel but just couldn't find a publisher for it, and published it through self-publishing channels - but unless there's someone who vets the books and says "seriously, no one's going to buy this" or "this one's not half bad", I'm always just a bit sceptical. Because if the publisher's money isn't on the line, they're not necessarily concerned about making the works shine.

Comment Re:It's not a rant, it's a plea for change.. (Score 2) 354

What I found most striking about his post is that I am apparently a fucking genius, because I have never had any trouble at all using Amazon's web site.

It's functional. If you are dead set on going there and buying something, the Amazon website works. Whether the product pages are cleverly designed is another matter altogether - I think that currently, the product pages themselves are incoherent messes, random details strewn about the page with no rhyme or reason. You only find the crucial details you're looking for if you squint hard enough. (To their credit, at least the information is usually there.)

Comment Wait a frigging second, what's going on here? (Score 1) 124

They recently deleted my account. After not having used it for a few years, I started getting several messages about old comments and reports I'd made being deleted, then I got a message saying my account would be deleted as well.

They deleted my account as well - didn't mess with the pledge stuff and no malice on my part, just the fact that I got game consoles and Linux gaming didn't really keep me on grip. =)

But the weird thing is this: they just now sent me a new password. Did you get this notice as well? I tried to log in with the new password, and it said the account didn't exist. I re-registered, boom, there I was again, so it was not like it was somehow closed for all the eternity.

Did they keep my email and hashed password on file after they deleted my account? If so, why the hell did that happen? If they wanted consistency, couldn't they just change the email to "former_user_NNNN@dev.null.invalid" and blank the password? I don't think they really have a good grip on security over there...

Comment A question of perspective (Score 1) 519

"Already [Facebook] has added features inspired by Google+, particularly in terms of improving the transparency of its privacy options."

...that's not exactly what Facebook has been doing. This is how I picture it:

"Yes, we're perfectly aware that this lovely neighbourhood is in fact nuclear wasteland. Let no one say that we are a responsible company, however - we are giving all of you radiation suits, free of charge."

"That's, er, very kind of you. But what are you going to do to decontaminate the area?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's still incredibly risky to live there, isn't it? Sure, the radiation suits probably help you to survive there, but..."

"Well, hm, er, it's better if you don't ask difficult questions like that..."

Comment Re:The plural of anecdote (Score 1) 163

I think Minecraft illustrates the problem perfectly. It's obviously a game that targets geeks: here's your digital Lego set, now go play with them. And that's what people do. And of course, Minecraft has features that are probably supposedly incredibly interesting for programmers specifically. You can build logic circuits and build incredibly complex machinery in it. Whee!

But in the end of the day, I have zero interest in making use of the circuit features. I have no education on digital signals; yeah, I know what an AND gate is, but don't ask me to wire one. I start getting weird ideas like "hmm, I wonder if it would be possible to tell LLVM to spit out Minecraft levels?" and reject them right away, because those ideas would take a lot of time and effort to implement and that time would be better spent on actually playing the game. =)

So, I'll just go out and build something else. I can build anything from rude mud huts to epic fortresses. Those things are much more fun to design and make. I can just hop on and be like everyone else in the game - it's time to just try to use my creativity and make something cool. That's what programmers are supposed to do, right? Make something cool? Last I checked, "Turing complete" is just a tiny, tiny subset of "cool stuff". =)

...that said, I've spend lots of time on Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach and Assassin's Creed series lately. "Doing awesome shit" is also a subset of "cool stuff". =)

Comment Re:What's the problem? (Score 1) 292

Yeah. Here's the thing: The site is the Italian language Wikipedia, not national Italian Wikipedia. Wikimedia servers actually run in the free world, out of Italian government's jurisdiction. The worst that could happen would be punishment to Wikimedia Foundation's Italian branch (if any; I can't remember if they have local presence), and possibly seizure of .it domain names. And, of course, relentless persecution of individual editors within the borders. But the server itself would continue to run, unimpened.

There was a single case like this in Germany, and the locals had to settle for a more complex solutions and publishing retractions on wikipedia.de domain - no prominent dramatics on de.wikipedia.org itself, mind you.

But it is terrifying what kind of effect this kind of legislation would still mean from local perspective. A free hint: it involves (proverbial) importing of technology from China. Not a nice thought if it happens to a modern European country. If this sort of shit continues, EU really needs to bring down the hammer. Can't have prominent first-world countries trampling on basic human rights...

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