“Quite Interesting” Media Round-up: 29th April 2013
In a month where Margaret Thatcher died shortly after the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and the Boston marathon got bombed – doubtless leading to a renewed and never-ending security tirade from our friends across the pond, I thought it would be a good time to start a new regular column highlighting interesting media I’ve found while trawling around the web and my satellite channels (read: The Pirate Bay), with of course, an emphasis on programming, science and gaming.
Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 is out, bringing with it a slew of enhancements but no finished C++11 compiler, although Microsoft says they are working on this as a separate fork.
Andy Kung has finished off his 5-part LightSwitch end-to-end application tutorial on the Visual Studio Team Blog, showing how to make a search box and customizable user interface.
Want to learn calculus? I had to teach differentials and integrals – the study of change in quantities relative to some other quantity (most often this quantity is time in physics and computing) – to a friend this week, which led me to Calculus for Beginners and Artists, a quite amusing yet thorough take on the whole calculus sorcery thing, along with many other pages that were over-complicated unreadable dross. Of course, there is also the obligatory but handy Wikipedia Differentiation Rules reference page. For those of you who own the book Tricks of the 3D Game Programming Gurus by Andre LaMothe, there is a basic calculus section on pages 335-361 (I would not recommend you buy this book by the way, due to its author’s glib and annoying writing style, horribly long and pointless code blocks and the fact he couldn’t even use the correct mathematical fonts or symbols, instead drawing fractions with hyphens (!), then complaining that Word is not a good book editor. Really? Use a proper book editor then, it’s a published work, take some pride in it for goodness’ sake)
For the more adventurous, I recommend the Riemann Zeta function for some good-ol’ mind-bending maths. To quote: “The Riemann Zeta function is a function of a complex variable that analytically continues the sum of the infinite series 1 / n^s which converges when the real part of s is greater than 1. Awesome!
In general IT…
A staggering 88% of “sexted” online photos of youngsters are stolen and re-used, according to Childnet and the Internet Watch Foundation. And for the more gentle souls out there, Yahoo finally presents a simple and cogent explanation for the masses of why liking Facebook virals makes scammers rich. Yes, that includes the cancer children. Sorry to burst your bubble.
This week I distracted myself reading about the CLOCK gene and consequently Circadian Rhythms. This is all stuff that controls the internal daily ‘master’ clock in animals including us humans. Lots of fascinating stuff there. Wikipedia is such a great time-waster isn’t it?
Did you know that we don’t have 5 senses, but erm, 15, or, 19, or 21, or some other amount depending on who you ask? Wikipedia can further fill your head with fascinating trivia, teaching you about all these senses, which include equilibrioception (sense of balance), thermoception (sense of temperature), proprioception (sense of knowing where your body parts are even with your eyes closed), nociception (sense of pain), chronoception (sense of time) and more. Good to know.
BBC aired a nice documentary entitled Licence To Kill which was all about why people suddenly become aggressive and reckless when at the wheel of a car. It follows the stories of some victims and (accidental) perpetrators, along with looking at the psychological factors and possible prevention methods. I was happy the documentary wasn’t over-dramatised as could so easily have happened. 28-year old presenter Sophie Morgan is herself a paraplegic after causing a reckless accident when she was 18, so she was able to convey clear insight into the emotional side of things.
First of all, I have to take my hat off to Gaijin Games for their superb running platformer-collect-the-gold-bars-thingy Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. What a mouthful! But this downloadable title is one of the best I have played for ages, even if you’re not normally a fan of platformers. Even my non-gamer friends got hooked on this little gem. Available on Steam, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (not in Europe for the latter, because of course we know that SCEE takes 3-24 months to certify anything; that was not a typo), and apparently to be released for Vita and iPhone in the summer.
This week I also had a bash at the new Tomb Raider. Never been a fan of Tomb Raider but the new, more character-driven Lara Croft comes across well in this prequel reboot with great graphics and decent gameplay.
I also had the fortune (misfortune?) to try the Star Trek Video Game. I love Trek, this game is riddled with bugs and poor controls and dull corridor shooting, yet at the same time crams in many different elements and you want so badly to like it. The voice acting and interplay between Kirk and Spock is excellent and often LOL-worthy. It’s just a shame about the mediocrity of the rest of it.
It’s been an uncommonly busy period (for this time of year) for gaming news. Microsoft has announced it will.. erm.. announce the new Xbox on May 21st at a “low key” special event, followed by a full reveal at E3 in June. As with the PlayStation 4 reveal back in February, I’ll have a report following up on that.
Speaking of PlayStation 4, lead hardware architect Mark Cerny has answered a lot of interesting technical questions about the new device in an interview with the industry-leading GamaSutra. One of my main concerns for PS4 though is the extremely slapdash management of the existing game network on PlayStation 3, and even IGN has chimed in now with their article Dear Sony, Please Fix The PlayStation Store.
A wheelchair-bound gamer was banned from twitch.tv after it would appear he raised over $80,000 while faking his disability. In the meantime, Jason Rohrer has created a game that he claims will take over 2,000 years to complete. Upon closer inspection, it would appear that the game will take 2,000 years to find buried in the desert somewhere, and about 5 minutes to complete. So if we factor in the resourcefulness of internet denizens, it will probably take about 2 months to find.
Finally, on the subject of ridiculous games, that controversial figure Peter Molyneux (famous for, among other things, Fable, and his dubious obsession with Milo for Kinect on Xbox 360) has created new micro-transactions for Curiosity Cube which I can’t quite work out whether they are pure evil, pure genius, or a mixture of both. For those not familiar with Curiosity, well, Google it, suffice to say Molyneux has added the option to pay to add cubelets back onto the main cube. In other words, he has added the option for users to pay, to make other users pay, to remove parts of the cube. Evil or genius? It remains only for human stupidity, sorry, curiosity, to decide. Personally, I can hardly wait to see what is in the centre cube – but I think I’ll let other people pay to find out.
See you next time!