Monthly Archives: September 2013

Humpday Reading List 18/09/2013

Black Angel will see a new lease of life at the Mill Valley Film Festival.  / Picture: Roger Christian

Black Angel will see a new lease of life at the Mill Valley Film Festival. / Picture: Roger Christian

Let’s just dive into things this week with your first tasty morsel coming out of Skywalker Ranch (kind of). Black Angel, a short film that ran before The Empire Strikes Back, and thought to be lost for years, will have a re-debut at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Ars Technica interviewed the film’s creator, Roger Christian, about how the film came to be.

Check out this series of vintage crime scene photographs superimposed over the modern day NY streets.

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about Trayvon Martin, black-on-black violence and American racism. I generally like to avoid politics on here if at all possible but Coates writes such good stuff that I want to spread the word.

Badass Digest’s RJ LaForce explores whether Wes Anderson can ever top Rushmore, the film that is largely considered to be his best. Badass Digest also has an interview with Brie Larson who, after her stints in United States of TaraScott Pilgrim vs. the World and 21 Jump Street, has pretty much cemented her position as one of my favourite people ever. She talks about her new movie Short Term 12 which tackles much more serious issues than the above mentioned films.

Anyone remotely familiar with the game development process knows how taxing it can be working for a AAA studio. Raphael van Lierop has created a studio, Hinterland, that is spread across the United States. The idea is that developers don’t have to uproot their families and can work in a comfortable, sustainable environment that isn’t going to suck the life out of them. There’s a great feature on Hinterland over at the Penny Arcade Report.

Remember how everyone lost their damn minds when Jessica Chobot was in Mass Effect 3? I do, and it was kind of silly. Anyway, she’s now working at Zombie Studios on their new horror game, Daylight. Polygon has a feature on Chobot along with a video featurette. Polygon does, in my opinion, the best longform video game writing of any online publication and their video features consistently knock it out of the park. Also I love the shots fired at Olivia Munn, blink and you’ll miss it.

V-v-v-v-videos

Check out Ben Affleck on Jimmy Fallon talking about getting cast as Batman and the internet backlash that followed.

That’s it from me, I have to go eat some soup now. See you all next week!

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Phonebloks could be the responsible future for mobile phones. Or the responsible future of awesome Lego phones.

Also: super cool.

Electronic devices are generally not designed to last. Inevitably they fail and then you’re stuck looking at either hundreds of dollars in repair costs from some sort of “Genius” or having to replace the phone entirely. This is particularly evident with Apple devices where both the software and the hardware are part of a closed system. There are some customisation options when you purchase a device, but if one part ends up failing it is often difficult and expensive for Regular Joe to replace the part. It’s usually easier to just throw it out and start again.

This is causing a huge problem for a number of reasons. It’s unbelievably expensive to replace the whole device instead of simply repairing the faulty part. Yes it’s easier and if you have more money than sense then I guess it’s not really a problem but with most new smartphones sitting around the $600-800 mark that can get seriously expensive. Particularly if you’re in the habit of dropping phones into toilets or smashing the screen as a lot of people are wont to do.

It’s also wasteful to just discard the entire device if only a part of it is faulty or no longer performing at the level you require. But because so many consumers don’t possess the technical know-how (or the devices are specifically designed to limit end-user modification) they’re often not left with a lot of options. Let’s also not forget that smartphone manufacturers like Apple work on a system with built in obsolescence. Usually after 18 months of a phone release there will be a new system designed to work on a new OS which is increasingly less compatible on older models. Try running iOS 6 on an iPhone 3G or 3Gs if you want to see what I mean.

Enter Phonebloks, a concept for a completely modular smartphone made from a series of “bloks” that are attached to a central base. Do you like taking a lot of photos with your phone? Then why not replace the blocks for bluetooth or the compass to free up some space on the base for you to install a better camera. Or if you do a lot of work in the cloud you could reduce the size of the on-board storage blok and opt for a bigger battery. Finally parents around the world could be living the dream of having a modern phone “that just makes calls” and children around the world could give their eyes a rest from all that rolling they’ve been doing every time they hear that same…joke? Is it a joke? Do they think it’s funny? I don’t know, the point is they can stop and the world would be a better place for it.

Every component, including the screen, is completely replaceable

Every component, including the screen, is completely replaceable

It’s a really clever idea and it allows the end user to be entirely in control of the phone they are buying. You wouldn’t have to compare the different HTC models (what are there, 500 now?) to find the one that best suits your needs. You could just build the phone you know you want to use now.

All smartphones come with their own app store where you can purchase and download different applications for the OS, Phonebloks would run a similar model for hardware with their Blokstore. If your needs change and you need to change the configuration of your bloks you just order the new bloks from the store and when it arrives you send them back your old, unwanted bloks. This is where the cool tech meets environmental responsibility. At least as far as they’re claiming on their website, this system is designed to minimise e-waste, since you’re not actually throwing out electronic devices. They don’t actually mention it at all on their site but there may be a market for used bloks but eventually they would have to have some sort of plan for responsibly disposing of or recycling the outdated or damaged bloks.

It seems their first prototype design would be roughly the size of an iPhone 4

It seems their first prototype design would be roughly the size of an iPhone 4

This is just an idea at this stage, the phone doesn’t exist and it’s going to be a difficult uphill battle to make it exist. The Phonebloks website contains information about their plan as well as a link to “Join the Thunderclap” where you essentially sign up for a giant, worldwide social media blast. The idea is to make hardware manufacturers pay attention and see that there is a demand for such a product. I am usually very cynical about these sorts of things but I want it to exist so bad because my phone contract expires soon and I want a goddamn mobile phone made out of Lego! So sign up for the Thunderclap, it requires about the bare minimum of effort on your part to support a really cool project and it’s cheap as free (the support, that is, who knows how much the phone would actually cost?).

Anyway, this advertorial was brought to you but Not Enough Sleep, Overenthusiastic Nerd Excitement, and Phonebloks®: The Phone Of The Future For Today™©.

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Humpday Reading List 11/09/2013

Oh man, some stuff has happened in the last week, right? We have a new government here in Australia and a lot of people are unhappy about. Obviously not as many people than are happy with it, I guess, because…you know, democracy? Anyway this is our new Prime Minister:

I can see clearly now, Lorraine has gone. She was the worst.

Ok, so Dickwolves are back. I could go on about it here but MC Frontalot wrote a fairly comprehensive blog post about it on Google+ so just read that instead and that should fill you in on what’s what.

Christopher Sawula has written a guest post over on Play the Past about historical interpretation in the Assassin’s Creed series, especially the latest entry Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will feature famous historical pirates, including Blackbeard. Picture: Ubisoft.

Also on Play the Past (which I think I am starting to fall in love with) is a feature on the technologically deterministic nature of video game tech trees. Get on it.

Kill Screen reached out to a number of Jewish game designers – including Warren Spector – and asked them Is there a Jewish identity in videogames? 

I loved S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. It was the first Ukrainian video game I had ever played and it was unique among the first person shooters of its time with a combination of RPG and survival horror elements mixed it. Polygon has a feature on GSC Game World, the developers of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., that looks at the company’s collapse and what happened to the nearly 200 employees that found themselves out of a job.

Microsoft recently acquired Nokia for $7.82 billion in an attempt to weasel their way further into the smartphone market. The Financial Review interviewed Frank Nuovo, the man behind the designs of Nokia’s most popular phones, who says he knows why the company has failed and warns that Apple could be next if they don’t learn from Nokia’s mistakes.

Texas continues to try to limit evolution in school textbooks.

I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is considered for adoption. Students should have the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills to weigh the evidence between evolution and ‘creation science.’

That quote was from one of the textbook reviewers. I suspect they don’t understand exactly what “evidence” is. I think this is the evidence they’re referring to?

Conclusive proof!

Conclusive proof!

Ars Technica have an exhaustive article about creating the ultimate creative content OS out of the best bits of Mac, Windows and Linux. Warning: it’s really long.

The Dissolve continues their Conversation series by discussing the merits and flaws of belated sequels.

Commander Video

Stop motion is kind of the coolest, and PBS Digital Studios have a nice 8 minute look into this ancient video art form.

Someone has used a Lego Mindstorm to create a home-made kindle scanner. This combines two of my favourite things: awesome robots and fighting DRM.

I’m going to leave you this week with an important message from Sarah Silverman, the NRA’s newest spokeswoman. Enjoy!

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Humpday Playlist 4/09/2013

Ah, the middle of the work week. For me that means writing this blog post, going to the gym, watching some TV and then gently weeping into my pillow until the Sandman comes to whisk me off to dream land. For you it probably means slogging through another eight hours so you can eventually go home and yell at your children.

Not this Sandman

So why not forget about your troubs for a while and focus your brain-pouch on this big ol’ list of links I’ve scrounged up for you. You can thank me later.

I have a fairly large blind spot in my right eye, I can ignore it most of the time but occasionally people or objects jump out of it and frighten me. Anyway, here are some things you can read with your eyes.

Let’s ease into things today with this feature from Polygon about Joseph White, the creator of Voxatron, who might just be creating the future of video games.

Also from Polygon is a feature on Video Game Championship Wrestling, a crazy show featuring video game characters beating the snot out of each other created using the apparently pretty robust character and storyline editors in WWE ’13.

I’ma Wario! I’ma gonna ween! / Photo: MikeLL

Ben Lewis-Evans has a blog post over on Gamasutra about dopamine, what it does to our brains and how it relates to video games. Cool stuff!

I always new there was something special about gin and tonics, my preferred summer (and autumn and winter and spring) drink, what I didn’t know was how important it was to British colonialism.

Lee Hutchinson over at Ars Technica is currently four days in to a week long trial of the nutritionally complete meal substitute, Soylent. The intro article (which contains links to the next four days worth of experiments) can be found here. I’m naturally super sceptical about these sort of things and often have to stop my eyeballs rolling right out of my head whenever anyone mentions “juice fasts” or “detoxes” or I see a #cleanfood hashtag. I’m currently reading the day two post and the side effects seem to be fairly similar to what you hear from a lot of people trying liquid meal replacements.

It was bad. These weren’t mere ha-ha toot kinds of emissions; this was hair-raising. It was room-clearing, horse-killing, World War I mustard gas-type gas. I migrated from room to room in the house like I was giving up territory to the Kaiser, my face fixed in an expression of horror as green hell-fumes trailed behind me, peeling paint and wilting plants. My wife, bless her heart, said nothing.

All I’m saying is I’m glad Lee Hutchinson is willing to suffer for my amusement.

OK here’s a quick list of a bunch of other stuff you could read, or not, I don’t really care:

  • The A.V. Club has the first of their Internet Film School series, this one is all about framing.
  • A beginner’s guide to the king of comics, Jack Kirby.
  • Shut Up & Sit Down‘s Lord Custard Smingleigh has a column on board game house rules.
  • Eve Online is one of the craziest MMOs out there and apparently they recently had the largest PVP battle in gaming history. I will never tire of reading about the crazy stuff people get up to in that game.
  • War on YouTube: how publishers are missing the boat of video coverage, and attacking their friends – The PA Report.

Pictures that move? What devilry is this?!

I’m going to start this video part off with this look into Richard Garriott‘s insane New York home. Dude has secret doors and Sputniks all over the place.

Then this interview with Mythbuster Jamie Hyneman.

Or how about an hour long interview with John Landis hosted by other Mythbuster Adam Savage. I assume this is awesome but I haven’t watched it because I’m going to see John Landis for the Melbourne Festival and want to stay fresh.

Finally I’ll leave you with presumably super high Patrick Stuart demonstrating his most powerful dramatic tool: the Quadruple Take.

See you next week, kids!

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