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Wednesday July 09, 2014
Board Game Micro-review: Telestrations
Another party board game mini-review, this time for a game called "Telestrations".
Telestrations is a light-hearted drawing game that works similarly to the kids game of "Telephone". Each player gets a secret word (or phrase), and tries to draw it. They then pass along their pad clockwise to the next player who looks at the picture they drew, and tries to guess (in words) a description what it is a drawing of. Then that player passes along the pad clockwise and the recipient draws a picture of the description that the previously player wrote. So as each pad goes around the circle, it becomes a sequence of drawing, description, drawing, description, etc..
After each pad has gone around the circle, players take turns becoming the center of attention and showing off the sequence of drawings and descriptions in their pad while everyone else laughs at how wrong things went.
The best part of this game is that the worst artists create the most fun. Children will especially enjoy being the center of attention as people enjoy the mayhem.
It's a pure fun game that should work well for any group, has tons of laughs, and is great for kids of all ages. Highly recommended.
The normal edition supports up to 8 players; there is a "party pack" that goes up to 11 or 12.
Wednesday June 25, 2014
Programming on a Keyboard… a Piano Keyboard
If you feel brave enough, you can even try to completely replace the computer keyboard with a digital piano. All you need is to have some piece of software on the computer to translate MIDI messages into computer commands. It could be a user-mode driver, or you can create a plug-in for your favoride IDE to teach it new tricks.
Which we did. Just for fun, I developed Midichlorian, a Visual Studio extension that allows you to write code and automate VS using MIDI instruments. And, inspired by The Song of Pi, my colleague Lana composed a song which is both a melody in the key of C# minor and a valid C# computer program. Watch her in action!
Complete with sheet music, Hello World: a Suite for Visual Studio in C# Minor
Friday June 20, 2014
58 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Everything We Do
58 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Everything We Do (via Business Insider)
We like to think we're rational human beings.
In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we're rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.
The study of how often human beings do irrational things was enough for psychologists Daniel Kahneman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and it opened the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics. Similar insights are also reshaping everything from marketing to criminology.
Hoping to clue you — and ourselves — into the biases that frame our decisions, we've collected a long list of the most notable ones.
More at link.
I realized some of these... but not all. And a very good reminder and article (with examples no less).
Saturday June 14, 2014
Interesting Academic Blog: Overcoming Bias
I wanted to post about a blog that I check out regularly, called "Overcoming Bias", that I thought might be of interest to some here.
It's a somewhat strange blog, written by an economics professor and futurist (Robin Hanson), that discusses human behavior and societal interactions and incentives.
It's a little hard to describe what I find interesting about the blog -- except that the tone of it is quite different (perhaps the author has Aspergers or is able to view issues unusually dispassionately) -- it's hard to put my finger on it.
The blog often comes across to me as matter-of-factly talking about things that seem slightly off-kilter, but in a very plain and logical way. Like an alien analyzing human behavior without our normal social moorings. Think "spock" from star trek. I suppose this is the kind of approach you expect from an economist but the results when applied to human behavior can be quite interesting. He's often talking about "signaling" -- like the signals that people give off to attract mates, and proposing unusual hypotheticals and thought experiments in order to make a point.
For example, from some recent excerpts:
"So my advice is to choose a focus for your honesty, a narrow enough focus to have a decent chance at achieving honesty. Make your focus more narrow the more dangerous is your focus area. Try to insulate beliefs on your focus topics from beliefs on risky topics like your own value, and try to arrange things so you will be penalized for dishonesty. Don’t persent yourself as a “rationalist” who is more honest on all topics, but instead as at best “rationalist on X.”
"There’s a simple signaling explanation here. We like to do big things, as they make us seem big. We don’t want to be obvious about this motive, so we pretend to have financial calculations to justify them. But we are purposely sloppy about those calculations, so that we can justify the big projects we want."
"Consider two possible work strategies. One strategy is just to try to do a good job. The other is to try to kiss ass and please your boss any way you can. Of course you can try either strategy, both, or neither. Which makes four different kinds of workers. Now ask yourself, of these four kinds of workers, which ones do you think achieve the most career success? Which ones have the most job and life satisfaction?"
Anyway, it's an interesting and unusual academic blog -- worth checking out if you like that kind of thing.
Monday June 09, 2014
(Pre) Release: sChecklist
Like most of my apps, I wrote this because I couldn't find a simple checklist app that suited my needs. What I'm talking about is off-the-cuff, ad hoc types of lists. The ones that, in the course of your (work) day, you find yourself wanting a quick way to set up a checklist, especially one that can be easily used over and over. Just rows of text entries and a checkbox for each. No B.S., no time tracking, and no crazy wizzbang features. In other words, this app is not a time tracker nor is it meant as a full-blown project tracker. There are plenty of extremely well done apps that already do this. Task Coach, MyLifeOrganized, & ToDoList are but three that I'd recommend.
Again, rows of text entries and a checkbox for each -- that's what this app strives to provide.
Thursday May 29, 2014
TrueCrypt is Now Abandonware?!
Their webpage at SourceForge now contains this "cryptic" message:
WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues
This page exists only to help migrate existing data encrypted by TrueCrypt.
The development of TrueCrypt was ended in 5/2014 after Microsoft terminated support of Windows XP. Windows 8/7/Vista and later offer integrated support for encrypted disks and virtual disk images. Such integrated support is also available on other platforms (click here for more information). You should migrate any data encrypted by TrueCrypt to encrypted disks or virtual disk images supported on your platform.
And this article at BoingBoing explains why:
Tuesday May 27, 2014
The Internet With a Human Face
Marc [Thiele] emailed me a few weeks ago to ask if I thought my talk would be appropriate to close the conference.
"Marc," I told him, "my talk is perfect for closing the conference! The first half is this incredibly dark rant about how the Internet is alienating and inhuman, how it's turning us all into lonely monsters.”
“But in the second half, I'll turn it around and present my vision of an alternative future. I'll get the audience fired up like a proper American motivational speaker. After the big finish, we'll burst out of the conference hall into the streets of Düsseldorf, hoist the black flag, and change the world.”
Marc said that sounded fine.
As I was preparing this talk, however, I found it getting longer and longer. In the interests of time, I'm afraid I'm only going to be able to present the first half of it today.
This leaves me with a problem of tone.
To fix it, I've gone through the slides and put in a number of animal pictures. If at any point in the talk you find yourself getting blue, just tune out what I'm saying and wait for one of the animal slides, and you'll feel better. I've tried to put in more animals during the darkest parts of the talk.
Look at this guy! Isn't he great?
Sunday May 25, 2014
Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
Rock, Paper, Shotgun continues to be a great site for thoughtful commentary on videogames. Today they point to a long blog essay on independent game developers, and the idea that we've seen a growing trend of indie games that has reached its apex, producing an unsustainable number of generic low-quality games, which is making it harder to find quality projects.
Indie gaming started out as games written with passion for people who embraced and loved them. Now too much of it is about churning out giant mounds of decent but undifferentiated product to be bought for pennies by people who don't give a crap either way. It's not sustainable...
Tuesday May 20, 2014
Super-sized Newsletter for May 20, 2014 - Codename: Slow and Steady
It's been 125 days since the last newsletter. In that time, approximately 837 new threads were started on the forum, and 8500 new posts were made (133 of those have been selected for inclusion in this newsletter); 300 spammers were banned by our moderators, 3187 new members joined the forum, and 600 new people donated to the site (thank you!).
In those 125 days, the site has registered over 20 million pageviews and served over 4 terabytes of data (most of that coming from our free software downloads).
I highlight those stats because freeware has been getting a bad name lately, with adware, junkware, and toolbars being bundled into downloads by more and more formerly-respected software hosting sites (sometimes even against the will of the original coders) -- and our site has remained free of such things since we started 9 years ago.
That's been possible only because of the support of normal everyday folks who have donated to the site. Your donations have meant that we have been able to pay for a fast dedicated server and have never had to depend on software hosting sites or the whims of advertisers. And that's made all the difference.
Thank you for supporting our site and making it possible for us to keep doing things our way, as a small independent site.
And now on to the newsletter -- a collection of some of the best posts on our forum in the last few months, and a summary of recent updates to our software.
Hopefully you'll find something worth your time.
Friday May 16, 2014
Linux Lite - viable 1st Linux alternative for XP and Vista users
The good folks over at Linux Lite have just announced the release of version 2.0 beta of their already fine distro which is geared up for first time Nix users and reluctant refugees from Windows XP and Vista.
Based on Ubuntu LTS releases, the goal is stability, ongoing software support, a familiar interface, and high out-of-box usability. System requirements (700Mhz CPU/512Mb RAM/5Gb disk space/VGA 1024x768) are very modest and should run on anything Windows XP is currently running on.. If you're interested in seeing what this whole Linux thing is all about - or you're reaching the point where you have to move off Windows XP for whatever reason, this is an excellent distro to at least try out.
Here is a quick overview of the current v1.0.8 stable release:
Look here for more information on Linux Lite here.
(Note: the homepage does not seem to be working correctly. So if you have trouble navigating the site, just return to www.linuxliteos.com/linuxlite.html. The tour and other pages don't appear to have this problem.
The 688MB 32-bit ISO can be directly downloaded from here.
Saturday May 10, 2014
Correlation is not causation
You have heard that said, maybe even said it yourself. But there are those that still don't get it. Spurious Correlations will help illustrate it in a way that others can understand. 1000's of examples. Have fun finding the craziest ones.
Wednesday April 30, 2014
Nice Long Read: The Great Works of Software
Nice long blog essay looking at some influential software programs.
So I set myself the task of picking five great works of software. The criteria were simple: How long had it been around? Did people directly interact with it every day? Did people use it to do something meaningful? I came up with the office suite Microsoft Office, the image editor Photoshop, the videogame Pac-Man, the operating system Unix, and the text editor Emacs.
Monday April 28, 2014
State of US Nuclear Silos (60 Minutes)
This is a pretty crazy look at how out of date our nuclear silos are here in the US. It was a story on 60 Minutes last night. 8' floppies? From the 1960s!?!
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