Archive for General Digressions

“Hacking the Naked Princess” – latest chapters are in print in 2600 Magazine

Get Part 11: Volume 34, #2 (Summer 2017) to read the continuation of Dev Manny’s newest case, “Hacking the Naked Princess”.

Here are all published issues where you can get the story so far:

Part 1: Volume 29, #2 (Summer 2012)
Part 2: Volume 29, #4 (Winter 2012-2013)
Part 3: Volume 30, #2 (Summer 2013)
Part 4: Volume 30, #4 (Winter 2013)
Part 5: Volume 31, #2 (Summer 2014)
Part 6: Volume 31, #4 (Winter 2014-2015)
Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015)
Part 8: Volume 32, #4 (Winter 2015-2016)

Part 9: Volume 33, #2 (Summer 2016)
Part 10: Volume 33, #4 (Winter 2016-2017)
Part 11: Volume 34, #2 (Summer 2017)

Future chapters will be serialized in 2600 in every other issue.

2600 Magazine is available in many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble. Individual issues can be purchased at the above links.

“Hacking the Naked Princess” – latest chapters are in print in 2600 Magazine

Get Part 10: Volume 33, #4 (Winter 2016-2017) to read the continuation of Dev Manny’s newest case, “Hacking the Naked Princess”.

Here are the back issues where you can get the rest of the story:

Part 1: Volume 29, #2 (Summer 2012)
Part 2: Volume 29, #4 (Winter 2012-2013)
Part 3: Volume 30, #2 (Summer 2013)
Part 4: Volume 30, #4 (Winter 2013)
Part 5: Volume 31, #2 (Summer 2014)
Part 6: Volume 31, #4 (Winter 2014-2015)
Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015)
Part 8: Volume 32, #4 (Winter 2015-2016)

Part 9: Volume 33, #2 (Summer 2016)
Part 10: Volume 33, #4 (Winter 2016-2017)

Future chapters will be serialized in 2600 in every other issue.

2600 Magazine is available in many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble. Individual issues can be purchased at the above links.

“Hacking the Naked Princess” – latest chapters are in print in 2600 Magazine

Get Part 9: Volume 33, #2 (Summer 2016) to read the continuation of Dev Manny’s newest case, “Hacking the Naked Princess”.

Here are the back issues where you can get the rest of the story:

Part 1: Volume 29, #2 (Summer 2012)
Part 2: Volume 29, #4 (Winter 2012-2013)
Part 3: Volume 30, #2 (Summer 2013)
Part 4: Volume 30, #4 (Winter 2013)
Part 5: Volume 31, #2 (Summer 2014)
Part 6: Volume 31, #4 (Winter 2014-2015)
Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015)
Part 8: Volume 32, #4 (Winter 2015-2016)

Part 9: Volume 33, #2 (Summer 2016)

Future chapters will be serialized in 2600 in every other issue.

2600 Magazine is available in many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble. Individual issues can be purchased at the above links.

“Hacking the Naked Princess” – latest chapters are in print in 2600 Magazine

Get Part 8: Volume 32, #4 (Winter 2015-2016) to read the continuation of Dev Manny’s newest case, “Hacking the Naked Princess”.

Here are the back issues where you can get the rest of the story:

Part 1: Volume 29, #2 (Summer 2012)
Part 2: Volume 29, #4 (Winter 2012-2013)
Part 3: Volume 30, #2 (Summer 2013)
Part 4: Volume 30, #4 (Winter 2013)
Part 5: Volume 31, #2 (Summer 2014)
Part 6: Volume 31, #4 (Winter 2014-2015)
Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015)
Part 8: Volume 32, #4 (Winter 2015-2016)

 

Future chapters will be serialized in 2600 in every other issue.

2600 Magazine is available in many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble. Individual issues can be purchased at the above links.

“Hacking the Naked Princess” – latest chapters are in print in 2600 Magazine

Get Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015) to read the continuation of Dev Manny’s newest case, “Hacking the Naked Princess”.

Here are the back issues where you can get the rest of the story:

Part 1: Volume 29, #2 (Summer 2012)
Part 2: Volume 29, #4 (Winter 2012-2013)
Part 3: Volume 30, #2 (Summer 2013)
Part 4: Volume 30, #4 (Winter 2013)
Part 5: Volume 31, #2 (Summer 2014)
Part 6: Volume 31, #4 (Winter 2014-2015)
Part 7: Volume 32, #2 (Summer 2015)

 

Future chapters will be serialized in 2600 in every other issue.

2600 Magazine is available in many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble. Individual issues can be purchased at the above links.

What happened to MrBtongue? A Tasteful, Understated, Nerdrage interview

“MrBtongue” is a video mashup creator – you may have seen his series on YouTube, titled “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage”.

The TUN videos detail his opinions of not only specific video games (it all started with Mass Effect 3, and continues with Dragon Age, Skyrim and others), but also includes his views on the state of the gaming industry, analysis of games’ thematic strengths and weaknesses (including multiple cram courses on what makes good storytelling), and recommendations for making games better.

That last one is big – it’s easy to complain, but how often do you see a “nerdrage” video with intelligent solutions to a problem?

The short summary of all of the above: MrBtongue has released videos that are entertaining, relevant and intelligent, of interest to geeks everywhere.

An even shorter summary is from YouTuber pauliewasson: “MrBtongue is the last, best hope for videogame journalism.”

The below is an interview with MrBtongue, who has graciously donated his time to answer a few questions.

Andy: MrBtongue, thanks for your time today! Let’s start with the big one: What’s happening with you? Some rumors are that Electronic Arts has hired you away to oversee game design in a secluded basement room. Or they’ve gone the other direction, and have hired ninjas to silence you permanently. Are you still alive? Does TUN have a future?

MrBtongue: I always assume there are ninjas nearby at all times, but so far they haven’t done me any harm, nor have I been hired by EA. What really happened is that I had to study for some big tests (the CPA exam) and took a break from the videos to do that. Unfortunately I left a bit abruptly and without much explanation, and I’m sorry for everyone who was left wondering.

I do have plans for more videos – I hope to have one in the next couple of weeks, though experience has taught me not to commit to too much of a schedule, as I do get busy with other things. Just today the trailer for CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk game came out, and that’s the excuse I need to finish up the cyberpunk video.

Andy: Part of TUN is insight and education. You’ve shown in great detail what makes a good game. You’ve taught what “Gesamtkunstwerk” means. Being able to apply such knowledge means more than restating Wikipedia. How did you get to this point? Can you give more detail on your background?

MrBtongue: Spend a decade or so of your life overeducated, underemployed, and with access to the internet, and you’ll develop useless knowledge on a wide range of subjects. In college I studied literature and music, and thought about going into graduate school for literature (though I didn’t). Now I just read a lot (including wikipedia) and learn where I can.

Andy: You have a handle on the state of the video gaming industry. A year ago, one of your videos presents the idea that smaller game companies can and should be able to compete against the massive game publishers like EA, particularly in areas of development costs and creative control. Do you still see this change happening? Where do you see the industry in the future?

MrBtongue: I do think the momentum is going to switch towards smaller developers, though I suspect it’s going to happen frustratingly slowly. The main advantage of the EA/Activision approach was their ability to raise lots of capital, but their financial performance hasn’t necessarily justified the amount they’ve raised, and we’ve already seen their pace of acquisitions and growth slow down.

I should note though that while I know my way around a spreadsheet, I’m not a financial analyst or anything, and not immune to wishful thinking either. But I do think that smaller studios are going to take a more leading role in the future.

Andy: You know what makes a good story and how that ties in with what makes a good video game. Do you have interest in writing or story design work (in or outside of gaming)?

MrBtongue: I do – but of course jobs aren’t easy to come by these days, and especially jobs in gaming.

Andy: Several commenters have expressed interest in giving you money to ensure more quality content. Any thoughts on monetizing the TUN videos?

MrBtongue: I have looked into monetizing them, but the first couple avenues I looked into I didn’t go with for various reasons. Then the whole thing went on backburner with the videos themselves. I’ll probably start looking into that again once I get back into the swing of making them regularly. I’ve been complaining about things so long for free that it’s strange to think of making money from it.

Andy: What do you do when you’re not expressing nerdrage?

MrBtongue: I work at a nonprofit in San Diego part-time, I’m a student part-time, and teach saxophone. I play games too, of course, generally RPG and strategy.

Andy: Anything not covered here you’d like to mention? Any other projects you’re working on?

MrBtongue: Just my next video, ETA two weeks maybe? I have a backlog of subjects – after cyberpunk is MMOs, and then violence in video games. I also have some plans for shorter segments, which are not reviews of entire games but detailed pieces on very small bits of them. Difficult to explain.

Andy: Pretend that EA’s ninjas have marooned you on a desert island. There’s a Kickstarter campaign to save you, but the project won’t close for another couple weeks. You have an Alienware gaming rig, crippled to allow an install of only one game. You have plenty of food and liquids. It’s 2013. What game would you play while you waited for rescue?

MrBtongue: Yeeeeesh that’s hard. Right now I’m playing the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition and Far Cry 3, which are both good, but I think if I absolutely had to choose only one at the moment it’d be Skyrim. Not necessarily because it’s the best (though it’s very good), but because it’s the biggest and would vacuum up the most time.

Andy: Thanks for your responses!

Stunt kite recommendations and tips on how to fly

Stunt kites are a blast. Here’s an example of their capability. This video features a quad-line stunt kite, which I’d like to get someday but haven’t yet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbFXYrIlyss

The above video stars an expert pilot with an expensive kite, but the hobby is easily available to beginners. Other stunt kites have the more traditional look, and allow you to do some pretty incredible things (please ignore the embarrassingly dated music – focus on the visuals!), as we see here:

Here are tips for anyone interested in getting started:

My first stunt kite (what you see in some of the video above is a Prism E2 – here’s the Prism E3, the next generation in that line). It’s a great “intermediate” kite that I was able to pick up in just a couple sessions. I had no other stunt kite experience at the time. 

(Alternatively, if you want to practice all of the below with a kite with fewer breakable parts, get the Prism Snapshot 1.2. No carbon fiber or plastic bits. It’s not as versatile as a stunt kite, and is a little harder to launch it solo, and requires more arm strength to fly, but it’s great for flying and not worrying about breaking the thing.)

I learned on my own and crashing now and then, but I also got technique help from this video that came free when I purchased the kite at a local store. It shows some awesome advanced tricks, but gives great basic technique, too. There is also a ton of good stuff on youtube, of course.

Andy’s list of quick tips on how to start flying a stunt kite

This is the info that would’ve helped me the most when I was first starting out:

Even if your left/right lines seem to be the same length, there are still probably small variations (and there will be more as you snap and retie lines). Keeping your kite steady and unmovving may actually mean one hand is pulled in more than the other. You’ll have to experiment to find this sweet spot.

Learn a good knot for rejoining a broken kite string. Versus a standard square knot, it will look better, be far stronger, and will lessen the changes of breakage.

If your kite just can’t seem to stay in the air, verify your build – you may have put it together incorrectly. You should be able to at least launch the thing from the ground. Watch this video for an example (start at 0:55):

If it doesn’t get off the ground, you don’t have enough wind, or your kite is assembled wrong. If it launches but then soon turns and nosedives, then your steering is off – pull the string of the side you want the kite to turn to (if it turns right, pull on the left string until it evens out). If the kite pinwheels a bunch of times, then either something is wrong with the kite (check your build, or a line may be tangled on the kite), or you’re pulling too much on one string.

When you launch, make sure your strings are NOT twisted – each string should head right to the kite without crossing over the other. You can still launch all twisted up, but given the above tip, twisted strings make steering trickier.

Keeping the kite straight does not need big movements. It’s like when steering a car down a straightaway: Use small, corrective motions. Resort to big moves and moving back/forward when you’re doing tricks or recovering if you lost wind.

Expect to break a few carbon fiber struts and things. Luckily, the kite is designed so that repair parts are modular and cheap.

Give yourself more room than you think you need. Expect that the kite will crash anywhere within your flying radius. If you have 100 feet of string, anything in that 100 radius the leeward side of the flyer is a target. Keep kids and pets FAR AWAY from the kite path – that carbon fiber arrow can fly up to 70 MPH. It’s a fun hobby, but don’t screw around with safety.

Wind speed is critical. It’s obvious, but do pay attention to it – how fast it is, and (most important), how stable. My kite was only good within a certain wind speed range. Not enough wind (or if it was just intermittant gusts), and I’d lose momentum and stall out. Too much and the kite would move extremely fast, be difficult to control, and was potentially dangerous (your lines may break). The best experience I had was taking it to a beach when the wind was constant. 

Stunt kite flying: It looks cool and can engage anyone with basic coordination and the knowledge of right and left. The best part: It’s a lot of fun.

For my own credentials and confirmation of skill, here’s visual proof that there has been at least 1/30th of a second when my kite was actually airborne:

I do not like IBM AIX

I do not like IBM AIX
I do not like it, IBM techs!

I do not like it with a reboot
I do not like it even as root

I do not like unhelpful PS AUX
I do not like it when cd0 is lost

Instead of lurking in my subnet
I’d rather it be quarantined as a threat

I do not want it in my domain
Since the half-baked Linux eats at my brain

The perk of a system without any GUI
Is supposed to be that it won’t go kablooey

But after three IPLs, the only thing I grep
Is that I’m moving quickly from patient to upset

I do not like IBM AIX
You don’t agree? Then YOU fix this mess!

Voice precognition: One reason more why brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing

I placed the shrink-wrapped box on the counter and the checkout girl smiled at me. She had a light in her eyes, an intimate twinkle that was hard to match, unless you were genetically gifted or practiced a lot.

It went downhill from there.

“Hi, how are you doing today?”

Her first question was fine. The second one, asked as she scanned my purchase, told me everything I needed to know about the rest of our relationship.

“Would you like to purchase our extended warranty program that gives you peace of mind against hardware problems for an additional two years?”

“No thanks, I’m not interested.”

“May I ask why?”

“It’s just a fifty-dollar device. If it breaks within a year, it’s still under factory warranty and I’ll get it exchanged. If it makes it longer, it probably won’t break between years one and three. Besides, all extended warranty policies like this are done for a profit – the customers lose in the long run. So while I do realize some situations call for an extended warranty, mine isn’t one of them. I stopped in to quick get this thing – I could’ve ordered it online for less cost, but I wanted it today, and now I just want to get back to my office.”

…I would’ve said that, but I didn’t. I just shrugged and looked away. Her eyes lost a little of their twinkle, and her lips changed from their happy-looking parabola to a resolved parallelogram. It was clearly my fault I wasn’t spending more money, and by doing so I was disappointing her personally.

She tried again.

“Are you a member of our ‘Super Savers’ program?”

“No, thank you.”

“Just so you know, I don’t work on commission! Can I interest you in our interest-free credit card that gets you 5% off every in store-purchase?”

“No, thanks.”

She hovered carefully-painted fingernails above the cash register keyboard.

“Can I get your home phone number for our records?”

“No.”

My answers were growing shorter. Just like my temper.

All I wanted to do was to spend fifty bucks and leave. If she kept asking me questions, my clearly-throbbing forehead vein was going to pop and she’d be responsible for the mess.

“Why is it so hard,” I said, frustration boiling over, “to just give you my money? I don’t want anything else!”

There. It was out. Some things just had to be said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. Her intimate eyes now flashed cold and arrogant. “I have to ask the questions. It’s just my job.”

“Just because it’s your job doesn’t make it okay.”

Again, some things just had to be said.

…Actually, everything above is what I wanted to happen. Reality was a bit different: I said “no” to all questions, paid my money, got my purchase and left, my thoughts a seething irritation. I pledged not to appear in that store again if I could help it.

Online shopping isn’t immediate, but the experience can’t be beat. A store’s customer treatment tells us exactly how they see their clients: In this case, I was a money-filled udder. Squeeze me hard and milk me dry.

Attention every store everywhere: The easier you make the shopping experience, the more likely it is that customers will come back.

Some things shouldn’t need to be said.

How to protect your sighting of Elvis

A very brief search can easily turn up the strangest things on the Internet.

Apparently Elvis sightings are enough of an issue that the U.S. Copyright Office felt they needed to deal specifically with it, thirty-plus years after his death. The below is taken from the U.S. government’s “What Does Copyright Protect?” FAQ:

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office website, fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.

Finally, now I know what to do with all those pictures I took in Vegas.

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