- A General Technique for Automating NES Games — software that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
- 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)
- KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
- 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)
Automating NES Games, Code Review Tool, SaaS KPIs, and No Free Lunch
Pandemic, a collaborative board game, casts a different light on competition and gaming.
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.
Malware Industrial Complex, Indies Needed, TV Analytics, and HTTP Benchmarking
- Welcome to the Malware-Industrial Complex (MIT) — brilliant phrase, sound analysis.
- Stupid Stupid xBox — The 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.
- 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.
- wrk — a 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.
Next Big Thing, Reproducibility Recognized, Watching the Watchers, and a Netsec Board Game
- Creating The Next Big Thing (Wired) — excellent piece showing Tim’s thinking. Apple. They’re clearly on the wrong path. They file patent suits that claim that nobody else can make a device with multitouch. But they didn’t invent multitouch. They just pushed the ball forward and applied it to the phone. Now they want to say, “OK, we got value from someone else, but it stops now.” That attitude creates lockup in the industry. And I think Apple is going to lose its mojo precisely because they try to own too much.
- Nature’s 10 People Who Mattered This Year (Nature) — I’m glad to see The Reproducibility Initiative recognized.
- Open Observatory of Network Interference — to collect high quality data using open methodologies, using Free and Open Source Software (FL/OSS) to share observations and data about the kind, methods and amount of surveillance and censorship in the world.
- d0x3d — a network security board game made of win. (via Reddit)
Kids Design With Minecraft, MOOC Analysis, Hobbit Revisited, and Santa's Little Drones
- Kids Use Minecraft to Design School — “Students have been massively enthusiastic, with many turning up early to school to work on their Minecraft designs and they continue to do so at home too.” Also see the school’s blog.
- Napster, Udacity, and the Academy (Clay Shirky) — the fight over MOOCs is really about the story we tell ourselves about higher education: what it is, who it’s for, how it’s delivered, who delivers it. […] The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies.
- The Hobbit, Redux — the main programmer for The Hobbit game was a woman. Under-credited, as usual.
- Aerial Drones — from the Make magazine holiday gift guide. I want five of everything, please Santa.
Collapsing Transaction Costs, Scientific Research Reputation, Retro Adventure Ambition, and Where Startups Come From
- When Transaction Costs Collapse — As OECD researchers reported recently, 99.5 per cent of reciprocal access agreements occur informally without written contracts. Paradoxically, as competition becomes more intense or ”perfect”, it becomes indistinguishable from perfect co-operation – a neat trick demonstrated in economists’ models a century ago. Commentary prompted by an OECD report on Internet Traffic Exchange. (via Laurence Millar)
- Faked Research is Endemic in China (New Scientist) — open access promises the unbundling of publishing, quality control, reputation, and recommendation. Reputation systems for science are going to be important: you can’t blacklist an entire country’s researchers. Can you demand reproducibility?
- The Hobbit — ambitious very early game, timely to remember as the movie launches. Literally, no two games of The Hobbit are the same. I can see what Milgrom and the others were striving toward: a truly living, dynamic story where anything can happen and where you have to deal with circumstances as they come, on the fly. It’s a staggeringly ambitious, visionary thing to be attempting.
- How to Get Startup Ideas (Paul Graham) — The essay is full of highly-quotable apothegms like Live in the future, then build what’s missing and The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.”
Video Effects, Old School, Data Set, and Games Numbers
- Atkinson Dithering in Real Time — a Processing app that renders what the video camera sees, as though it were an original Mac black and white image.
- Patching Binaries — a patch for a crashing bug during import of account transactions or when changing a payee of a downloaded transaction in Microsoft Money Sunset Deluxe. Written with no source, simply by debugging the executable as it shipped for XP.
- Book Crossing Dataset — Contains 278,858 users (anonymized but with demographic information) providing 1,149,780 ratings (explicit / implicit) about 271,379 books.
- Network Games Market Update (Cartagena Capital) — The myth that players use mobile only ‘on the go’ has been shattered. Smartphones and tablets are now mainstream gaming platforms in their own right and a significant proportion of players play in stationary use case scenarios. Stats abound, including 38% of tablet gamers play more than five hours per week compared to 20% of mobile phone gamer.
Internet of Copters, Privacy Game, Visualizing Data, Secure Configs
- Tilt-to-Fly Controller and Copter (Kickstarter) — This looks totally awesome and hackable. The controller has a USB port, the protocol is documented, and you can even connect your own electronics payload, like an Arduino, camera, or homebrewed project to the auxiliary serial (UART + power) port.
- The Privacy Game (The Open University) — This game is designed to highlight how privacy and consent work online. Players make decisions about which information they reveal, who they reveal it to and why. For example, you may decide to trade some information for gifts when shopping on a website; or you may decide to keep other information secret when posting on a social networking site. (via BoingBoing)
- statwing — very easy analysis and visualization of data.
- duraconf — a collection of hardened configuration files for SSL/TLS services. It’s easy to reduce crypto effectiveness with crappy choices and options, so it’s good to have solid configurations to go from.
Deblurring Images, Games Design, Secure Control, and Faster Emulation
- Restoration of Defocused and Blurry Images — impressive demos, and open source (GPLv3) code. All those blurred faces and documents no longer seem so safe.
- Peter Molyneux Profile in Wired — worth reading for: (a) Molyneux’s contribution to the genre; (b) the inspiration he drew from his satirical Twitter mirror (@PeterMolydeux) is lovely, and (c) the game jams to build the fake Molyneux games, where satire becomes reality. (via Andy Baio)
- Trusted Computing for Industrial Control Systems — Kaspersky reveals plans for an open source O/S for industrial control systems, so reactors and power stations and traffic systems aren’t vulnerable to StuxNet-type attacks. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Android Virtual Machines — faster emulation for testing than the traditional simulators.