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What Wipeout sees when it dreams.

I like to think of full disclosure as a kind of challenge. Did you know that I never learned how to ride a bike? The trousers I’m wearing right now have a hole right on the bum. I have a cut on my thumb and I don’t know where it came from. Permutation Racer is made by a graphical wizard called Tom Betts who works for Big Robot, the company founded by Jim to make games like Sir, You Are Being Hunted. It’s a free, procedurally generated racing prototype, and there’s a video and a download link below. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today.

The game jams together chunks of geometry to form an infinite canyon which stretches out in front of you. You steer a floating vehicle between pillars, through caves and around ravines, while jumping to dodge obstacles and collect stars to fill your boost meter. There’s a little bit of pressure, in that you’re constantly trying to hit the next checkpoint to extend your time limit, but the ambient music and polygonal world whirling past makes it a meditative experience. There’s this fluttering feeling in my right eardrum at the moment, and I looked up what causes that once but I’ve forgotten.

It’s probably unfair to call Tom Betts “my boss’s friend”, joke or not. Tom is the gentleman programmer responsible for a whole bunch of very cool procedural experiments, amongst other programming and graphics projects I probably don’t understand. I saw him give a talk once. My headphones are yellow.

This also seems an appropriate time to link to things Jim has written about racing games. Here he is on futuristic racers like Wipeout for The Escapist in 2007. And here’s him talking about his projected future for the genre on RPS:

The future of racing games is, therefore, a non-linear race across an entire planet, with some scripted on-foot action sequences, which tell the story of a heart-breaking existential romance between a car and its driver, produced with user-generated terrain, where you manage a party full of racing experts, a team assembled via careful negotiation, some of whom are aliens you can have sex with in your trailer. I call this game NEED FOR THE SKID-MARKED ONE: THE ULTIMATE ORIGIN OF RACECRAFT, or perhaps we might throw in enemy Nazi drivers and call it THE MASTER RACE. Either way it will be out Q1 2017. I can’t wait.

You can download Permutation Racer over at the Big Robot site. I fried some mushrooms for lunch today.

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Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

Consistency vs. best practice: they are two competing interests any time a dev is working on legacy code. If LINQ hasn't been used previously, should it be used today? "To what extent are patterns part of code style," Robert Johnson asks, "and where should we draw the line between staying consistent and making improvements?"

Robert Johnson continues: "With the hypothetical LINQ example, perhaps this class doesn't contain it because my colleagues are unfamiliar with LINQ? If so, wouldn't my code be more maintainable for my fellow developers if I didn't use it?"

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Megan Geuss


List your passwords alphabetically, so it's easy for you and others to find them!

Give three password crackers a list of 16,000 cryptographically hashed passwords and ask them to come up with the plaintext phrases they correspond to. That's what Ars did this week in Dan Goodin's Anatomy of a hack: How crackers ransack passwords like “qeadzcwrsfxv1331.” Turns out, with just a little skill and some good hardware, three prominent password crackers were able to decode up to 90 percent of the list using common techniques.

The hashes the security experts used were converted using the MD5 cryptographic hash function, something that puzzled our readers a bit. MD5 is seen as a relatively weak hash function compared to hashing functions like bcrypt. flunk wrote, "These articles are interesting but this particular test isn't very relevant. MD5 wasn't considered a secure way to hash passwords 10 years ago, let alone now. Why wasn't this done with bcrypt and salting? That's much more realistic. Giving them a list of passwords that is encrypted in a way that would be considered massively incompetent in today's IT world isn't really a useful test."

To this, Goodin replied that plenty of Web services employ weak security practices: "This exercise was entirely relevant given the huge number of websites that use MD5, SHA1, and other fast functions to hash passwords. Only when MD5 is no longer used will exercises like this be irrelevant." Goodin later went on to cite the recent compromises of "LinkedIn, eHarmony, and LivingSocial," which were all using "fast hashing" techniques similar to MD5.

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Cyrus Farivar

On Thursday, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, announced that it would require all users to “be verified in order to perform any currency deposits and withdrawals. Bitcoin deposits do not need verification, and at this time we are not requiring verification for Bitcoin withdrawals.”

The company did not provide any explanation about why it was imposing this new requirement, but it did say that it would be able to process most verifications within 48 hours.

The move comes two days after federal prosecutors went after Liberty Reserve, another online currency that had notoriously poor verification. (In court documents, a federal investigator in that case included an address of “123 Fake Main Street, Completely Made Up City, New York” to create an account that was accepted.) It also comes two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security started investigating Mt. Gox over the possible crime of money transmitting without a license.

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Jon Brodkin

Niall Kennedy

Todd Kuehnl has been a developer for nearly 20 years and says he's tried "pretty much every language under the sun."

But it was only recently that Kuehnl discovered Go, a programming language unveiled by Google almost four years ago. Go is still a new kid on the block, but for Kuehnl, the conversion was quick. Now he says "Go is definitely by far my favorite programming language to work in." Kuehnl admitted he is "kind of a fanboy."

I'm no expert in programming, but I talked to Kuehnl because I was curious what might draw experienced coders to switch from proven languages to a brand new one (albeit one co-invented by the famous Ken Thompson, creator of Unix and the B programming language). Google itself runs some of its back-end systems on Go, no surprise for a company that designs its own servers and much of the software (right down to the operating systems) that its employees use. But why would non-Google engineers go with Go?

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Casey Johnston

Casey Johnston

Aereo, a service that streams over-the-air channels to its subscribers, has now spent more than a year serving residents of New York City. The service officially expands to Boston tomorrow and is coming to many more cities over the next few months, including Atlanta and Washington, DC. Aereo seems like a net-add for consumers, and the opposition has, so far, failed to mount a defense that sticks.

But the simple idea behind Aereo is so brilliant and precariously positioned that it seems like we need to simultaneously enjoy it as hard as we can and not at all. We have to appreciate it for exactly what it is, when it is, and expect nothing more. It seems so good that it cannot last. And tragically, there are more than a few reasons why it may not.

A little about how Aereo works: as a resident of the United States, you have access to a handful of TV channels broadcast over the air that you can watch for free with an antenna (or, two antennas, but we’ll get to that). A subscription to Aereo gets you, literally, your very own tiny antenna offsite in Aereo’s warehouse. The company streams this to you and attaches it to a DVR service, allowing you both live- and time-shifted viewing experiences.

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Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

Where have all the user-defined operators gone? tjameson can't "find any procedural languages that support custom operators in the language," he writes. "There are hacks (such as macros in C++), but that's hardly the same as language support." Is there any good reason we can't write our own operators? See the original question here.

Are you experienced?

Karl Bielefeldt answers (94 votes): There are two diametrically opposed schools of thought in programming language design. One is that programmers write better code with fewer restrictions, and the other is that they write better code with more restrictions. In my opinion, the reality is that good experienced programmers flourish with fewer restrictions, but that restrictions can benefit the code quality of beginners. User-defined operators can make for very elegant code in experienced hands, and utterly awful code by a beginner. So whether your language includes them or not depends on your language designer's school of thought. Related: "How are operators saved in memory?"

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Peter Bright

Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

In a bid to make JavaScript run ever faster, Mozilla has developed asm.js. It's a limited, stripped down subset of JavaScript that the company claims will offer performance that's within a factor of two of native—good enough to use the browser for almost any application. Can JavaScript really start to rival native code performance? We've been taking a closer look.

The quest for faster JavaScript

JavaScript performance became a big deal in 2008. Prior to this, the JavaScript engines found in common Web browsers tended to be pretty slow. These were good enough for the basic scripting that the Web used at the time, but it was largely inadequate for those wanting to use the Web as a rich application platform.

In 2008, however, Google released Chrome with its V8 JavaScript engine. Around the same time, Apple brought out Safari 4 with its Nitro (née Squirrelfish Extreme) engine. These engines brought something new to the world of JavaScript: high performance achieved through just-in-time (JIT) compilation. V8 and Nitro would convert JavaScript into pieces of executable code that the CPU could run directly, improving performance by a factor of three or more.

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Lee Aylward


One of Ars Technica's many memcached server graphs. Look at all those misses!

This week, memcached, a piece of software that prevents much of the Internet from melting down, turns 10 years old. Despite its age, memcached is still the go-to solution for many programmers and sysadmins managing heavy workloads. Without memcached, Ars Technica would likely be unable to serve this article to you at all.

Brad Fitzpatrick wrote memcached for LiveJournal way back in 2003 (check out the initial CVS commit here). While waiting for new hardware to help save the site from being overloaded, Fitzpatrick realized that he had plenty of unused RAM spread across LiveJournal's existing servers. He wrote memcached to take advantage of this spare memory and lighten the load on the site.

memcached is a distributed in-memory key-value store that uses a very simple protocol for storing and retrieving arbitrary data from memory instead of from a filesystem. To store a value, a program connects to the memcached server on the default port of 11211 and issues a series of basic commands. (Note: a binary protocol is also supported.)

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Andrew Cunningham


I log some face-on time with Glass at Google I/O.

Florence Ion

"When you're at a concert and the band takes the stage, nowadays 50,000 phones and tablets go into the air," said Google Senior Development Advocate Timothy Jordan in the first Google Glass session of this year's Google I/O. "Which isn't all that weird, except that people seem to be looking at the tablets more than they are the folks onstage or the experience that they're having. It's crazy because we love what technology gives us, but it's a bummer when it gets in the way, when it gets between us and our lives, and that's what Glass is addressing."

The upshot of this perspective is that Glass and its software is designed for quick use. You fire it up, do what you want to do, and get back to your business without the time spent diving into your pocket for your phone, unlocking it, and so on. Whether this process is more distracting than talking to someone with Glass strapped to his or her face is another conversation, but this is the problem that Google is attempting to solve.

Since Google I/O is a developer's conference, the Glass sessions didn't focus on the social implications of using Glass or the privacy questions that some have raised. Rather, the focus was on how to make applications for this new type of device, something that is designed to give you what you want at a moment's notice and then get out of the way. Here's a quick look at what that ethos does to the platform's applications.

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