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Recently, the YouTube show Extra Credits make a video about the issue of narrative in competitive games. Its a really interesting topic and I invite you to take a gander to get a better idea of what I'm about to talk about.

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Sean Gallagher

Aurich Lawson

A little more than a year ago, details emerged about an effort by some members of the hacktivist group Anonymous to build a new weapon to replace their aging denial-of-service arsenal. The new weapon would use the Internet's Domain Name Service as a force-multiplier to bring the servers of those who offended the group to their metaphorical knees. Around the same time, an alleged plan for an Anonymous operation, "Operation Global Blackout" (later dismissed by some security experts and Anonymous members as a "massive troll"), sought to use the DNS service against the very core of the Internet itself in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

This week, an attack using the technique proposed for use in that attack tool and operation—both of which failed to materialize—was at the heart of an ongoing denial-of-service assault on Spamhaus, the anti-spam clearing house organization. And while it hasn't brought the Internet itself down, it has caused major slowdowns in the Internet's core networks.

DNS Amplification (or DNS Reflection) remains possible after years of security expert warnings. Its power is a testament to how hard it is to get organizations to make simple changes that would prevent even recognized threats. Some network providers have made tweaks that prevent botnets or "volunteer" systems within their networks to stage such attacks. But thanks to public cloud services, "bulletproof" hosting services, and other services that allow attackers to spawn and then reap hundreds of attacking systems, DNS amplification attacks can still be launched at the whim of a deep-pocketed attacker—like, for example, the cyber-criminals running the spam networks that Spamhaus tries to shut down.

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The SXSW Gaming Expo is preposterously loud. At one side of the room, a Starcraft tournament is reaching its climax, but on the other side, one group of guys is yelling louder. They sound like a basement full of adolescents discussing the newest Electronic Gaming Monthly cover story, or like the NINTENDO SIXTY-FOUR kid unwrapping his Christmas present.

“Is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3D headset, the future of gaming?” they ask. “Or, is it something bigger — the future of life on planet Earth?”

At a panel entitled “Virtual Reality: The Holy Grail of Gaming,” Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski joined Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts, Words with Friends co-creator Paul Bettner, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey...

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The high-resolution web is coming. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

Given enough time, all simple, already solved problems of the web eventually rear their ugly heads again.

Remember when limited bandwidth was a huge problem? Then bandwidth was infinite. Now it’s a problem again. And that means serving up images is once again a complex problem with no elegant solution. Its seems simple. Websites should serve the right image to the right screen, high-resolution images to high-resolution devices and low res to the rest. But of course it’s not that simple. Factors like bandwidth as well as screen size and orientation complicate the matter considerably.

Arguably the best solution right now is to send low-res images to every device. Sure, your images might look terrible on high-res screens, but at least you aren’t wasting people’s time or worse, costing them money.

While that’s the safest solution for now, the web doesn’t get better if no one takes any risks. Fortunately, until some standard or best practice emerges, we’ll likely continue to see developers pushing the boundaries and discovering new ways to handle the seemingly simple task of serving the appropriate image to the appropriate device.

The latest image cleverness we’ve seen is Adam Bradley’s Foresight.js. Foresight.js is designed to make it easy to serve up high-resolution images to devices like the new iPad, but what sets foresight.js apart from half a dozen other solutions that do the same thing is that it not only checks for a hi-res screen, but also checks to see if the device currently has a fast enough network connection for larger images. If, and only if, your visitor has both a device capable of displaying high-res images and a network connection fast enough to handle the larger file size, are larger images served.

Part of what makes Foresight.js appealing is its use of the proposed CSS image-set() function, one possible solution to the problem of serving up the right image at the right time. The image-set() function, which works in WebKit nightly builds and is under consideration by the W3C, looks like this:

myselector {
    background: image-set(url(foo-lowres.png) 1x, url(foo-highres.png) 2x) center;
}

Foresight.js takes the image-set() proposal and uses an ingenious hack to make it work in other browsers: the font-family property. Yes, it sounds crazy. But it works and remains technically valid CSS because font-family allows for arbitrary strings (to handle font names). That means browsers have no problem with a rule like this:

myselector {
    font-family: ' image-set( url(/images/foo.png), url(/images/foo_2x.png) 2x high-bandwidth ) ';
}

It’s a hack to be sure, but it’s our favorite kind of hack: clever and functional. Because browsers successfully parse the font-family rule (even if they can’t apply it) the value is added to the DOM and JavaScript has no problem accessing it, which is exactly what foresight.js does.

For more on foresight.js, head over to the GitHub page which as links to plenty of examples uses and copious documentation on the script’s many tricks. Also be sure to read through Bradley’s Challenges for High Resolution Images, which offers some background on foresight.js and the design decisions he made.

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The high-resolution retina display iPad has one downside — normal resolution images look worse than on lower resolution displays. On the web that means that text looks just fine, as does any CSS-based art, but photographs look worse, sometimes even when they’re actually high-resolution images.

Pro photographer Duncan Davidson was experimenting with serving high-resolution images to the iPad 3 when he ran up against what seemed to be a limit to the resolution of JPG images in WebKit. Serving small high-resolution images — in the sub-2000px range — works great, but replacing 1000px wide photographs with 2000px wide photos actually looks worse due to downsampling.

The solution (turns out) is to go back to something you probably haven’t used in quite a while — progressive JPGs. It’s a clever solution to a little quirk in Mobile Safari’s resource limitations. Read Davidson’s follow-up post for more details, and be sure to look at the example image if you’ve got a new iPad because more than just a clever solution, this is what the future of images on web will look like.

As Davidson says:

For the first time, I’m looking at a photograph I’ve made on a screen that has the same sort of visceral appeal as a print. Or maybe a transparency laying on a lightbox. Ok, maybe not quite that good, but it’s pretty incredible. In fact, I really shouldn’t be comparing it to a print or a transparency at all. Really, it’s its own very unique experience.

To show off the sample on his site Davidson uses a bit of JavaScript to toggle the high- and low-res images, highlighting the difference.

But how could you go about serving the higher res image to just those screens with high enough resolution and fast enough connections to warrant it?

You can’t.

So what’s a web developer with high-res images to show off supposed to do? Well, right now you’re going to have to decide between all or nothing. Or you can use a hack like one of the less-than-ideal responsive image solutions we’ve covered before.

Right now visitors with the new iPad are probably a minority for most websites, so not that many people will be affected by low-res or poorly rendered high-res images. But Microsoft is already prepping Windows 8 for high-res retina-style screens and Apple is getting ready to bring the same concept to laptops.

The high-res future is coming fast and the web needs to evolve just as fast.

In the long run that means the web is going to need a real responsive image solution; something that’s part of HTML itself. An new HTML element like the proposed <picture> tag is one possible solution. The picture element would work much like the video tag, with code that looks something like this:


 
 
 

The browser uses this code to choose which image to load based on the current screen width.

The picture element would solve one part of the larger problem, namely serving the appropriate image to the appropriate screen resolution. But screen size isn’t the only consideration; we also need a way to measure the bandwidth available.

At home on my Wi-Fi connection I’d love to get Davidson’s high-res images on my iPad. When I’m out and about using a 3G connection it would be better to skip that extra overhead in favor of faster page load times.

Ideally browsers would send more information about the user’s environment along with each HTTP request. Think screen size, pixel density and network connection speed. Developers could then use that information to make a better-informed guess about which images it to serve. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we’ll get such tools standardized and widely supported before the high-res world overtakes the web. With any server-side solution to the bandwidth problem still far off on the horizon, navigator.connection will become even more valuable in the mean time.

Further complicating the problem are two additional factors, data caps on mobile connections and technologies like Apple’s AirPlay. The former means that even if I have a fast LTE connection and a high-resolution screen I still might not want to use my limited data allotment to download high-res images.

AirPlay means I can browse to a site with my phone — which would likely trigger smaller images and videos since it’s a smaller screen — but then project the result on a huge HD TV screen. This is not even a hypothetical problem, you can experience it today with PBS’s iPhone app and AirPlay.

Want to help figure out how the web needs to evolve and what new tools we’re going to need? Keep an eye on the W3C’s Responsive Images community group, join the mailing list and don’t be shy about contributing. Post your experiments on the web and document your findings like Davidson and countless others are already doing.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but eventually the standards bodies and the browser makers are going to start implementing solutions and the more test cases that are out there, the more experimenting web developers have done, the better those solutions will be. It’s your web after all, so make it better.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

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TEDxOjai - Jacque Fresco - Resource Based Economy

Jacque Fresco is a self-educated structural designer, philosopher of science, concept artist, educator, and futurist. He is considered by many to be a modern-day Da Vinci. Peer to Einstein and Buckminster Fuller, Jacque is a self-taught futurist who describes himself most often as a "generalist" or multi-disciplinarian — a student of many inter-related fields. He is a prolific inventor, having spent his entire life (he is now 95 years old) conceiving of and devising inventions on various scales which entail the use of innovative technology. As a futurist, Jacque is not only a conceptualist and a theoretician, he is also an engineer and a designer. His organization, The Venus Project works to provide a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. The Venus Project reflects the culmination of Jacque's life work: the integration of the best of science and technology into a comprehensive plan for a new society based on human and environmental concern. It is a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. A major documentary entitled, Future By Design, on the life, designs, and philosophy of Jacque Fresco is now available at www.fbdthemovie.com. The film Zeitgeist Addendum featuring Mr. Fresco and The Venus Project produced by Peter Joseph was released in 2008. A sequel to this documentary Zeitgeist Moving Forward was released in 2011 featuring Mr. Fresco, his work, and direction for the future. In thespirit of ideas <b>...</b>
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[In this sponsored feature, Umbra Software discusses the pros and cons of various methods currently being used for occlusion culling and explains its own automated occlusion culling system that can take any type of polygon soup as input. Founded in 2006, Umbra Software is a Finnish middleware company specializing in graphics rendering technology. The company was spun off from Hybrid Graphics when it acquired the dPVS system and continued its development into what became Umbra ...

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Last week, we covered the story of Camping Alfaques, a Spanish vacation spot whose owner recently sued Google in a local court. His concern: top search results that feature grisly images (note: thumbnail versions of a few appear in a screenshot below) of dead bodies from an old tragedy. Such cases have so many implications for the future of search engines and the companies who depend on them that we spoke to the owner of Camping Alfaques to learn more about his situation. He told us what led him to sue Google, how much the case matters to him, and why he doesn't want anything "deleted" from the 'Net—just relocated.

Mario Gianni Masiá, now the owner of an oceanfront vacation spot called "Camping Alfaques" in southern Spain, was a child in 1978 when a tanker truck exploded into a fireball on the road just beyond the site. 23 tons of fuel ignited, immediately turning 200 campers to ash and badly burning several hundred more. Safely on the other side of the camp, Mario was unscathed.

Photographers descended, of course; pictures were snapped, graphic shots of bodies stacked like charcoal, carbonized arms rising from the earth. Newspapers covered the deaths. A movie was made. But 30 years is a long time, and while memories of the disaster never vanished, visitors to the campground didn't have the most shocking images shoved in their faces just for planning a trip.

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