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Saturday February 28, 2015
A comprehensive commentary on (mobile) app/site "onboarding"
For those interested in user interface design -- especially in the mobile app world, here's a website that does a pretty impressive job of examining, critiquing, and comparing the signup ("onboarding" in fancy lingo) process for different apps:
Friday February 27, 2015
Ghacks is dying and needs your help
Martin Brinkman, who started the Ghacks blog back in 2005, has written a post asking for some financial support from all of us who have benefited from his writing over the years.
A search of the donationcoder forum turns up HUNDREDS of posts mentioning ghacks, and few websites can match ghacks in terms of caring about independent coders.. Martin always spreads the word when he spots a new DonationCoder app he thinks is useful.
So I'd like to ask everyone who wants to show some support for ghacks to go over and read martin's post here:
We small independent sites need to stick together and support each other! I have donated a small amount on behalf of DonationCoder folks, but if you can donate a few bucks to him, please do. If you can't then consider taking a minute to at least post a comment of support on this blog to let him know his work is appreciated!
And let's show Martin that we DC people do not forget our friends.
False Positives OpEd from WinPatrol
At DonationCoder we've discussed False Positives and how they affect freeware/OSS developers. It's good to see an OpEd from someone in the security side of the industry and how it affects them as a company.
Antivirus industry deluding itself
The one thing this doesn't address is the costs with submitting software for the "Trusted Source" initiative, both in man hours and money, and the fact that to people that don't make a living off of selling software, it can seem like this is aimed at squeezing out Freeware and OSS contributors.
In fact, if you look at the bottom of the announcement from Google, you'll see that this isn't just an idle fear.
So what are the next steps? We are looking to grow our collection of trusted software, if you happen to be a very large software development company you might want to contact us in order to share this data and help us mitigate the issue of false positives. Please note that this initiative is not open to potentially unwanted applications and adware developers.
And the bad thing? The emphasis isn't mine.
So where does this leave you with google automagically blocking and deleting files that the user downloads if you're not large enough to be one of the trusted vendors?
Out in the cold.
Thursday February 26, 2015
Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games
There has been some buzz recently around a few articles that demonstrate machine learning in the video game domain.
Here's one writeup:
Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games
For the academically inclines, I would recommend:
Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning
Which talks in detail about the methods used.
The use of the term "deep" seems to me to be as much about coming up with a catchy term that has gone viral and is being hyped like mad -- and has little innovation behind it -- but the new wave of practitioners using neural networks for large scale problems are getting undeniably impressive results.
Again, getting back to the video game results:
There is nothing particularly novel in the approach -- the domain is wonderful, and the basic focus on using the same architecture and parameters to tackle a large collection of learning problems -- and using large dimensional raw input, is great. And the results are impressive. Again -- in my mind this is more a story of the new wave of practioners who are getting very good at leveraging fairly standard neural network techniques on larger and larger problems.
Having said that, this line of work offers little qualitative improvement on the hard problems in AI -- on serious multiscale hierarchical planning, scene recognition, etc. For that we are still waiting for some paradigm shifts.
Tuesday February 24, 2015
Logitech G910 Keyboard Review
MSR Price: $179.99
The Logitech G910 Keyboard, dubbed the 'Orion Spark', immediately caught my attention. I've long before standardized on the Logitech series of peripherals after vacillating between several brands, and now have the Logitech G13 Keypad, G930 Wireless Headphones, G710+ Keyboard, and G602 mouse. I have several other Logitech peripherals also- they've been pretty reliable with dependable and easy to use software (that comes into play later), and features that fully leverage the uses of the peripheral in question.
In general, because of my use of the G13, I don't really use the keyboard for anything but chatting/typing and anything I couldn't fit on my profile. But for development, I've found that the feel of the gaming keyboards is better suited than most of the non-gaming class keyboards. So I didn't really have that many needs or expectations going into this. The primary things I liked were the lighting options, the romer-g switches, and the Arx control integration. The Arx control is an app that you download on your Android or iOS device, and it communicates with your devices attached to your computer, to show layouts of controls, resources of the computer, and even control the launching of games and such. It divorces the UI elements that they've been trying to integrate into devices from the device itself, which I thought was a good idea.
Unboxing, the G910 seemed a bit flimsy in construction compared to the G710+. The G710+ feels really solid, and like it's built to last for years, the G910 hails back to the more flimsy construction of prior lower end keyboards like the G15. It has only one cord, which was better than the G710+, but it has no passthroughs, so that explains the simpler connections. But as I've never used passthroughs, that wasn't a concern. Connecting it was a breeze as usual, but then I found that it didn't show up in my Logitech Gaming Software. After some research online, I found that they had made several updates to the gaming software, and one of them introduced the G910, so that made sense. Downloading it, I ran into my first problem. The site didn't let me download the 64-bit version of the software, and the 32 bit version won't install on a 64-bit system. After some research, I found that it was mirrored on another site because this has apparently been a problem on the Logitech site for a few months now. Troubling, but at least I got the software.
The software was all it said it was and more. You could customize it to the nth degree- both hardware and software uses. It added functionality to my already installed peripherals. And the ability to light up regions on the keyboard in different colors based on the game profile- it made me think of using my keyboard more and my G13 less.
The keys are strangely shaped, but I became used to it quickly- they have a beveled area in the center of the key, which really helps to increase my typing speed strangely enough, and give feedback that my finger is positioned in the key. The switches themselves, I didn't notice much difference between them and cherry MX brown keys. They do have an o-ring around each key, which gives a bit of dead space when the key is clicked, which I don't really like as I love the clickiness of mechanical keyboards, but I got used to it.
It seemed the perfect keyboard, but as time went on, I began to become less enamored. It was more a function of the software update rather than the keyboard itself however.
As I stated, you can program the game to respond to the profile that you have loaded, and color keys according to that profile. But in the case that you aren't gaming, you have to go into the software and switch it from profile lighting scheme to another scheme, or all of your keys won't be lit-up. An annoyance, but with the SDK I knew I could program something that would take care of this, and it was pretty well detailed and simple, even if I was going to have to do a refresher on LUA as the scripting language uses it.
The larger issue was the memory usage/footprint. Normally it ranges around 40M to 70M or so with the UI open for LCore.exe- the main program. I was playing a game, and the game was all of a sudden responding less after an extended gaming session. The LCore process was using 4GB(!) of RAM. I found several references, both on their forums and on other outlets to this- it has been a problem since build 145 was released last year. One was even in a review, though it didn't affect the final score as "they have to fix it at some point". Apparently not, as they've barely acknowledged it, and refer you to a user workaround, which is a stopgap measure, and disables the use of the Arx control and resets your lighting profiles each time you use it.
I've also tried my own workarounds- one was using Process Governor (great app, by the way) to limit the amount of memory that it could allocate. I figured it would catch it, close, and I could just restart it. It doesn't handle out of memory exceptions at all, and crashed my computer 3x before I gave up on that approach. So I tried to create a batch file that would use pskill to kill it on demand, and then restart it. Apparently, after restarting it, the memory leak is even worse, because I've noticed that actually starting the process, I can watch it gobble memory. As a last resort, I coded something to use the memory level to trigger the restart, but that's when I found out how bad the memory leak actually was- once it starts getting higher in usage, the scale of memory loss is not a standard progression, and so it would shoot past my set limit before I could do anything about it.
I really love the keyboard. But the software is killing it. I'm comntemplating whether to return it (it was a gift, so doing so involves more than just taking it back), or just hoping that they fix the software eventually. My personal verdict? Give it a pass for now.
Reference to threads:
Monday February 23, 2015
Internet Lynch Mobs
'Overnight, everything I loved was gone': the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone
When a friend posted a photograph of charity worker Lindsey Stone on Facebook, she never dreamed she would lose her job and her reputation. Two years on, could she get her life back?
Scary stuff. And at least some form of justification for the slightly paranoid way that I handle online identity.
Friday February 20, 2015
Preloaded spyware, courtesy Lenovo
It seems that Lenovo has been preloading their consumer grade laptops with ad-injecting spyware.
Even worse, this particular spyware installs its own root certificate and serves fake certificates on the fly.
You can read more about it here.
Thursday February 19, 2015
Three articles on what kind of high quality (gaming) monitor you should buy
The video game review/commentary blog "Rock, Paper, Shotgun" wrote
Wednesday February 11, 2015
WhenLast (Android app) - v1.82 released Feb 10, 2015
"WhenLast" is a simple app that helps you keep track of the last time you performed some activity (like changed the batteries on your smoke detectors).
Latest features include:
Long essay on the business of starting (feminist) collaborative publications
Nice long article with lessons learned from someone starting a collaborative publication, discussing issues from what software to use, to paying contributors, to hiring a lawyer. Focuses on the business end of things.
I am very hopeful that other intersectional feminist tech publications - possibly many others - will start in the coming year. This blog post is my way of supporting these nascent publications: an offering of everything I've learned about starting and running publishing companies...
Tuesday February 10, 2015
Release: Arti (Aspect Ratio Tool for Images)
There really isn't much more to be said than the description above. This app was written on request from a photographer and its main focus is to quickly view the aspect ratio of images loaded into its interface. There are columns for exact ratio (determined by straight math) and nearest preset match which can help to see the nearest aspect ratio for files that aren't pixel perfect. The software comes preloaded with a large list of aspect ratios but this is entirely configurable. Of course, the more aspect ratios, the more accurate the nearest preset match is going to be.
Download the zip file and extract its contents into a new folder. Run Arti.exe to start the application. Add some images and behold.
Thursday January 29, 2015
Web Essay: Never trust a corporation to do a library's job
Something for all of us to remember..
In the last five years, starting around 2010, the shifting priorities of Google’s management left these archival projects in limbo, or abandoned entirely.
After a series of redesigns, Google Groups is effectively dead for research purposes. The archives, while still online, have no means of searching by date.
Google News Archives are dead, killed off in 2011, now directing searchers to just use Google.
Friday January 23, 2015
The Untold Story of the Invention of the Game Cartridge
Here's an interesting article about the world before interchangeable game cartridges existed, and how the game cartridge came to be.
Consider the humble video game cartridge. It's a small, durable plastic box that imparts the most immediate, user-friendly software experience ever created. Just plug it in, and you're playing a game in seconds.
If you’ve ever used one, you have two men to thank: Wallace Kirschner and Lawrence Haskel, who invented the game cartridge 40 years ago while working at an obscure company and rebounding from a business failure. Once the pair's programmable system had been streamlined and turned into a commercial product—the Channel F console—by a team at pioneering electronics company Fairchild, it changed the fundamental business model of home video games forever. By injecting flexibility into a new technology, it paved the way for massive industry growth and the birth of a new creative medium.
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