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Topics - Lashiec [ switch to compact view ]

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Years and years of hosting software and letting everyone on the net download them for free has apparently taken its toll on CNET's finances, which are now offering software packages wrapped in their own custom installer, complete with the omnipresent toolbar offer. Not only that, but developers subscribed to the Premium Service have the option to provide the original, unmodified installer for its own software, presumably for a meager monthly fee.

2011-08-22 21 07 11.png

Not only this move is completely unacceptable from an user point of view, but also breaks the TOS included with many software installers, which disallow modification of the original installer, or re-distribution of the software under different terms. As you can see in the picture above, even VLC, which is distributed under the GPL, doesn't escape CNET's clutches.

NINJA EDIT: According to the FAQ linked above, registered users still can get the original installer. The rest can go... grab the installer from the developer site themselves.

via Slashdot

The guys at the Mozilla Foundation unveiled today a clever solution to the problem posed by maintaining several different accounts for all the Internet services the average Internet user handles daily. The solution is called BrowserID, and it combines your e-mail address and browser client to identify yourself in the Internet, effectively eliminating the need to juggle several different identities and all the passwords associated to them. This is an idea that Mozilla has been working on for a few years, but only now we're able to see the first results yielded by the research.

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While it certainly improves usability, specially for those less technically inclined, there are potential security concerns that Mozilla isn't clearing at the moment. For starters, this method would transform your e-mail account into the sole point of failure, which if compromised, could jeopardize your entire digital identity.

More information, including an interactive demonstration, is available at the link above. Documentation and technical details are on a separate blog post.

via Slashdot

Though I'm far from developing RSI on various parts of my body despite making heavy use of computers, they say prevention is the best medicine so I try to take a break every once in a while. The problem is that one tends to lost track of the time, so I cannot tell when should I take one.

Thankfully, software is there to help. On Linux, I do not have this problem thanks to GNOME's typing break feature, but on Windows things are not so straightforward. I know of the existence of Workrave, but I feel it's a pretty heavy solution to what it's a simple problem.

So, does anyone know of an alternative?

DC Gamer Club / NightSky
« on: January 06, 2011, 10:45 PM »
Nifflas new game, NightSky, has been released a couple of days ago. Previously believed to be developed solely for the Wii, turns out Nicklas also planned versions for both PC and Mac. Unlike his previous titles, NightSky seems to be much more of a puzzler, as you have to guide a sphere through levels filled with various mechanical contraptions.

Screenshot - 07_01_2011 , 5_40_06_thumb.jpg

The game is available for 10 bucks, but until Monday, Nifflas is offering the game for a mere $7.2.

Found Deals and Discounts / [EXPIRED] Bejeweled 2 free today
« on: October 10, 2010, 04:33 PM »
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bejeweled, PopCap is offering Bejeweled 2 completely free just today. Getting it is fairly straightforward, despite the occasional site hiccups surely caused by the overwhelming demand, so grab it fast before it's too late.

Developer's Corner / Game On 2010 - Mozilla's web games contest
« on: September 30, 2010, 09:10 PM »
The guys at Mozilla Labs launched yesterday the Game On competition, geared at kickstarting development of web games based on open technologies, including the nascent WebGLw. As you may know, Flash is the cornerstone of nearly every game available on the net today, with more complex games like Quake Live opting for proprietary plugins not compatible with all browsers, and others like Minecraft preferring to use the ubiquitous Java plugin.

Screenshot - 01_10_2010 , 3_33_28_1_thumb.jpg

But recent advancements in HTML standards, plus the furious race to develop much faster JavaScript engines, have made possible for game creators to finally leave plugins behind and code games to run directly in any browser that supports the latest standards, an excellent example being Biolab Disaster. With almost all browsers now capable of running these games, and Mozilla encouraging further development, true web games will begin to be the rule, rather than the exception.

Further information is available at the site linked above. Naturally, all games must run on Firefox 4 (which this competition also helps promoting), but apart from that, the rules are pretty relaxed, as expected from Mozilla. The deadline is on January, 11th 2011, though some people have been working on a concept for some weeks now, and I hope they share something with us ;)

via Asa Dotzler and Mozilla Links

Living Room / PayPal horror stories: Getting uglier each day
« on: September 10, 2010, 12:14 PM »
Looks like PayPal should not be your payment service of choice if you intend to do some serious business, or you suspect your little pet project might hit the big time.

Markus Persson, game developer, is the latest example of a worrying trend. After achieving huge success with the unconventional Minecraft, with more than 500,000 registered users, and 100,000 licenses sold for the "premium" version, and the accompanying buzz in major gaming sites, Markus decided to pursue the idea of setting up its own videogame company, to offset much of the burden of supporting Minecraft, so he could focus on continue to develop Minecraft, as well as having the means to back a completely different gaming project.

Screenshot - 10_09_2010 , 19_11_50.png

Problem is, the vast majority of the money intended to fund the new company is now blocked by PayPal. And we're not talking about hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but a staggering 600,000 €. What's more, if PayPal detects something suspicious during their reviewing process, PayPal keeps all the money, and Markus will have to start again from almost zero.

via Rock, Paper, Shotgun

It's pretty telling when the founder of one of the pioneers of news aggregation says the model doesn't work at all. Perhaps that's why FARK has an editorial team that promotes links to the frontpage, while the rest remain in the back.

Screenshot - 30_06_2010 , 23_58_39_thumb.jpg

Of course, the statement has to be taken with a grain of salt, as he's talking about comments, which are personal opinions on a matter, not a combined effort of a group of people in order to reach a single answer. Plus, this is FARK we're talking about.

Living Room / The Story of Conficker
« on: May 16, 2010, 09:14 AM »
A really nice writeup on one of the most devilishly designed computer worm ever: Conficker. Its origins, evolution, and how security companies are facing a fight the worm seems to be winning for now.

Screenshot - 16_05_2010 , 16_10_12_thumb.png

For the technical details, I suggest the Wikipedia article on Confickerw, and, of course, the thread started by Ehtyar in this same forum, which acts as a summary of sorts of both sources, with a healthy discussion as a cool bonus.

via Daring Fireball

Living Room / Ars Technica on the problem with adblocking
« on: March 10, 2010, 03:47 PM »
On Friday night, Ars Technica decided to set up a system to catch those visitors running "a very popular ad blocking tool" (presumably Adblock Plus), which in turn would block those users, not allowing them to see any content on the site. As expected, shit hit the fan once the users stopped freaking out, and found out what happened (kinda expected for a tech-centric site) with the articles. So, on Sunday, Ken Fisher, one of the site founders, explained everything about the experiment, and the reasons for doing it. Nothing new there, expect for the fact that ads on many Internet sites now are paid on a per view basis, instead of clicks.

While the post sounds very reasonable, and no one is threatening to cut access to those running adblockers, many people think otherwise, and express so in the post comments. What's more, now the debate spreads to the rest of the Internet, as the post gets slashdotted (and probably digged as well), and people starts weighing on the issue, ranging from John Gruber noting the complexity of the situation to Tech Dirt telling Ars that it's time to evolve and stop complaining. Other people, like Scott Wasson at The Tech Report side with Fisher, painting a situation very similar to Ars Technica.

Screenshot - 10_03_2010 , 22_43_28_thumb.jpg

One of the most ironic things about the whole situation is that the same Internet sites that are supposedly replacing newspapers as major sources of information are also struggling to find sources of ad revenue, and many say that their business model is 'dead' and they should be researching alternative models. So, are 'old' and 'new' media sharing the same dying model? Fun.

I should note that all the arguments 'for' and 'against' have been beaten to death, even here on this forum, but it's always interesting to see the affected business expressing their opinion on the whole matter. Now, if the ad companies said something as well...

Found Deals and Discounts / The Steam Holiday Sale
« on: December 22, 2009, 08:43 PM »
Just like last year, and not to let the rest of the competition reap all the benefits, Valve has started its massive Christmas sale. It can't be missed since the frontpage has been transformed into a massive ad, that is, there's no regular Steam page. In addition to savings up to 80% in most of the games in the store, each day until the 3rd of January, a set of daily deals will be published, with even greater savings over the Christmas discount.

Word of advice: Do not buy anything else except for the daily deals you might be interested in, since it may be possible that one day you find out Valve is offering such game for a lower price. Considering that some of the games offered during the past Thanksgiving Sale are available for much lower prices, I would not rule out such possibility. Heck, even I feel a little scammed after seeing some games I bought not that long ago now available for almost nothing.

Of course, once you know it's the last day of the sale, buy anything else you want without remorse! :D

Amanita Design, the guys behind the recently released Machinarium, is offering a superb deal on its blog. Starting today and up to Christmas Day, you can get Machinarium, Samorost2 and the soundtracks for both games, all coupled with high-res game covers, for a mere 10 bucks. No DRM and multiplatform versions (thanks to the "magic" of Flash :P).

Screenshot - 18_12_2009 , 1_30_21_thumb.jpg

Just another proof that random surfing in forums unearths cool things :D

via Steam Forums

Developer's Corner / Free Unreal Development Kit released by Epic
« on: November 05, 2009, 03:48 PM »
Looks like game developers took notice of the potential lying within the indie scene, and they're increasingly making things easier for them to get into the market. If a few days ago Unity Technologies released a free version of its engine targeted towards hobbyists and aspiring developers, today is the turn for the very same Epic Games, who released what essentially is a non-commercial version of its Unreal Engine 3, perhaps the most widely used engine in commercial games during the last years, including some really big hits like Gears of War, BioShock or Mass Effect.

Screenshot - 05_11_2009 , 22_32_50_thumb.jpg

Unlike Unity, this looks to be a full-fledged version, except for its non-commercial use (those wishing to publish the game later, can take a look at the licensing terms), and the limited compatibility scope. While the engine can usually target games developed either for the PC, the XBOX 360 or the PlayStation 3, the UDK is restricted (for now) to the PC. There's more information about other things at the official website listed above, and a good summary over at ShackNews, along with the tools available for download.

via ShackNews

Developer's Corner / Unity Game Engine now free
« on: October 29, 2009, 08:37 PM »
Stumbled onto this yesterday on TIGSource, realized it could be interesting today :P

So, Unity Technologies released a free, limited version of its Unity Game Engine, a game development tool similar to Torque Game Builder. Targeted at independent developers, it lacks a bunch of the advanced features the paid version has, but still looks interesting enough for those interested in game creation.

Screenshot - 30_10_2009 , 2_18_31_thumb.jpg

For those interested in what you can achieve with it, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari ;D

via TIGSource

Living Room / Google vs. the rest: Is it fair?
« on: October 29, 2009, 08:10 PM »
Earlier this morning, Google introduced a beta version of its new phone application, Google Maps Navigation. As the name suggests, this is nothing more than a turn by turn navigation app, using all the information Google has accumulated over the last years and made available via Google Maps. Nothing really special, except for the fact this is a free application for Google's own Android OS, with versions for other smartphones coming at a later date. The rest of the app details have been covered by Gizmodo in a neat post.

As noted there, Google faces no competition with its newest toy. Similar apps for the iPhone run around $25 per year, while Google is totally free (at least for the time being). Gizmodo is concerned with the severe lack of competition at the same price level, and wrote another piece detailing what's in in for the rest of navigation software makers, who also offer navigation devices that could end up being replaced by the same smartphones Google is offering this app for.

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The criticism expressed in the article can easily be applied to any other venue Google is or may be involved in the future. It has been commented several times how most Google products face little to no competition, with most pressure coming from other behemoths like Yahoo or Microsoft, instead of innovative startups like RTM, and one wonders where all that venture capital money went. But I never considered what's in for all the companies making business in fields that Google chose to participate in, and how its lack of a price can seriously damage these companies in little time, possibly putting them out of business. It may be nice to have superb services available for nothing, but man, it obliterates any competition it may have. Not to mention that, while Google main sources of revenue can sustain other ventures for now, in the long term everything could change, and we could end paying for services coming from just one company. Mapping the entire planet is a costly affair.

Developer's Corner / Inside Windows 7 Redux
« on: October 23, 2009, 07:56 PM »
Last year, Microsoft's Channel 9 interviewed Windows expert Mark Russinovich to discuss many of the refinements and new features introduced in Windows 7 to ensure it would run and scale better with newer hardware that previous versions of Windows. To celebrate Windows 7 release, Channel 9 has interviewed Mark again to talk about the rest of the new technologies and changes that, due to time constraints, were not discussed in the first interview.

Screenshot - 24_10_2009 , 2_45_45_thumb.jpg

It's a pretty long video, but if it's like the first one (which I advise you to watch prior this one), it's worth the time. Specially interesting is the demo showing Windows 7 running on a machine with an astounding 256 processors. User machines won't be hitting that ceiling anytime soon.

via Mark's Blog

General Software Discussion / Opera 10
« on: September 01, 2009, 01:50 PM »
As announced, Opera Software has released today the final version of Opera 10. Despite the major change in the version number, the list of brand new features is actually not that large, and after looking through the changelog, one might say the Opera team focused its efforts on improving existing features, adding a couple of nice touches here and there, and polishing everything else, something to which some of the new features contribute. After the bittersweet release that, in my opinion, Opera 9.5 came to be, it's nice to see the browser going back to its usual high standards.

Or maybe they just borrowed a page out of Chrome's playbook, who knows...

Screenshot - 01_09_2009 , 20_10_12_thumb.jpg

As expected, Opera Unite didn't make it to this release, and will debut in a future Opera 10.1, along with form autocomplete and extension support ;-). So far, the browser feels great, and while is still early to see if the annoying issue I encountered in 9.5 is fixed (HDD trashing, the rest of the problems remain), the only thing worth griping about is minor cosmetic issues with the skin here and there which, otherwise, is fantastic. Hat off to Mr. Hicks.

Also, a new icon! nontroppo must be happy ;D

General Software Discussion / Agnitum Outpost Free is alive again
« on: April 27, 2009, 12:41 PM »
Talk about unexpected announcements. As you may recall, back when Outpost was a new player in the firewall arena, the app did have a basic free version that garnered critical praise for its features and thorough protection. Unfortunately, Agnitum never updated the software to include the many improvements done in the "Pro" versions, or to improve compatibility with the new Windows versions.

But it looks like the team decided to change this, and they're offering a free version of Outpost 2009, with the usual restrictions applied (you can also get the Pro version for free with TrialPay, but I think there's enough spam in the web nowadays). Still, Agnitum remains as one of the best options for a firewall according to the various tests done around the net, so even a basic version is a good alternative.

Screenshot - 27_04_2009 , 19_36_06.png

I would like to know why Agnitum decided to do this right now, and why they did not update the firewall during almost seven years, though.

via FileHippo

DC Gamer Club / Braid - Awesome independent run 'n' jump game
« on: April 12, 2009, 07:14 PM »
If there's any XBOX 360 user in the forum, Braid will be old news to them, as the game was originally released in XBOX Live Arcade more than 8 months ago to critical acclaim, and receiving several awards during the year.

For those who don't know nothing about the game, Braid is simply a 2D platform game. Nothing more, nothing less. You run around and jump on your enemies heads while collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces. The final objective of the game is to rescue a princess, very much like Super Mario Bros. (there are various nods to this and other games during your playthrough).

What makes it different from another platform games, apart from the really nice graphical style that it uses, is the various ways you can manipulate the passage of time for your own benefit, either to grab a jigsaw puzzle which is completely out of your reach, to grab a key that lets you open the door that blocks your way, or simply to correct your mistakes. It starts letting you rewind time to save you from a certain death at the hands of the enemy (much like in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), but as the game advances you discover new uses based in how certain objects in the game world react to your time manipulation. The developer took advantage of this feature to implement various puzzles here and there that requires certain thinking in how to solve them, which manage to be not very difficult to solve but original at the same time.

braid.exe 0 01-32-27.jpg

The game was released for Windows just yesterday, and the demo is available at the various game distribution systems which offer the game, which includes Impulse and Greenhouse (Steam, for the time being, offers the game and a trailer, but not the demo). A Mac version is also planned. The system requirements are extremely low, so practically everyone can run the game, including netbook owners. The price is very adequate, which makes up for the fact that it seems to be a short game, although probably longer than certain games from the big names in gaming, which are everything but affordable.

Developer's Corner / Firefox Addons Developer Guide published
« on: March 11, 2009, 04:07 PM »
The guys at the Mozilla Corporation published today a still unfinished guide for all those who wish to develop a extension for Firefox, but don't know where to start. I ignore if a 3rd party did have something similar, but as far as I know, Mozilla just had a rough number of guidelines that seemed not that helpful to a beginner.

Screenshot - 11_03_2009 , 21_57_38.png

This guide changes all of that, and while many things require fixing, it seems quite comprehensive, even including an appendix to help you choose an appropriate license for the resulting extension. Pretty neat.

via Asa Dotzler: Firefox and more

Living Room / Stop-motion videos
« on: February 03, 2009, 05:28 PM »
As I was getting up to date with my list of feeds, I saw two videos posted in one of the few blogs about design I'm suscribed to, that looked particularly interesting judging by their description.

The first one is amazingly cool, I love it. Called "Western Spaghetti", it shows a recipe for spaghetti with very particular ingredients.

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The second one is a music video of a song by Oren Laview called "Her Morning Elegance". The video shows that elegance, and the song is not bad.

Screenshot - 04_02_2009 , 0_18_32.jpg

Hope you like them :)

via Cuarto derecha

Developer's Corner / Qt now also licensed under the LGPL
« on: January 18, 2009, 09:30 AM »
I held onto posting this since I expected Ehtyar would mention it in his weekly news report, but he did not so here it is.

Since Nokia bought Trolltech last year, Qt has seen significant improvements in many areas that have made the toolkit even more interesting to work with. Despite this, the licensing terms governing its usage made difficult for many developers to use it in their projects as the available options meant they either had to open source the software in order to comply with the GPL and thus be able to use the free edition, or to pay a significant sum of money for the commercial license.

But with the release of Qt 4.5, Nokia will introduce a new licensing option: the LGPL. Technicalities aside, this means developers of non-commercial closed source projects will be able to finally use Qt without having to open the source code of its software. Commercial developers also can take advantage of the new licensing terms to use Qt without paying a cent, but their freedom to develop the software is more constrained and it lacks certain support options.

Another important change is that Trolltech will open a public repository containing the Qt code, which in turn will make more easier for other people to review and enhance the toolkit.

Qt 4.5 also includes other nice new features, like better integration of Qt-based apps in GNOME desktops. Information page about the new license, analysis at Ars Technica and discussion at Slashdot

Screenshot - 18_01_2009 , 15_49_19_thumb.png

So, mouser, about that cross-platform FARR...

Ars Technica and [url=]Slashdot

DC Gamer Club / Two games for the holidays
« on: December 19, 2008, 07:57 PM »
Christmas is the time for games, and I found two that look fun and use novel ideas, either in how you control characters, or how you solve the problems you encounter

The first one is a Flash game called Straw Hat Samurai, and as you may imagine, you are a samurai. The objective of the game is to defeat the warlords that are raging war across the land, and between you and them stand tons of other samurais. The cool thing about the game is that the control is mouse-driven, and to kill the other samurais you have to slash through them using mouse gestures. Aim for vital parts and cut them in group to get higher points.

Screenshot - 20_12_2008 , 2_27_39.jpg

The second one is the work of a company called ratloop, and is competing on the 2009 IGF. It's a 3D platform game, where you play as two characters, the Engineer and the Actionaut solving puzzles and collecting items. Nothing groundbreaking. What it's groundbreaking is the way you can solve the puzzles, which is explained in the link below. My jaw simply fell to the floor.

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If you don't want to play or your hardware does not support DX9 (unlikely), watch the video and prepare to be amazed. And curse everything for not having a scanner.

via Pixfans and TIGSource

Living Room / Greek computer rebuilt
« on: December 19, 2008, 06:46 PM »
They say life was better in past times, and for computers this is true, as they were used for something useful instead of surfing for pr0n. Michael Wright, a former curator of the Science Museum in London, rebuilt a 2,000 year old Greek machine that can be considered as the world's first computer. Called Antikythera, the machine was used to track the movements of the planets known to humankind back then.

Screenshot - 20_12_2008 , 1_31_23_thumb.jpg

There is also a video showing how it works.

via Unhandled Perception

Living Room / On photography
« on: December 19, 2008, 06:30 PM »
Today I collected a couple of links to interesting pages that involve photography in various degrees. So I decided to include them in just a single post, instead of one per page. Let's start.

The year in photographs

The Boston Globe, like the Wall Street Journal, has a daily section devoted to posting high-quality photographs illustrating different news around the world. Today they posted the last part of a special edition dedicated to showing in photos how the 2008 was. It's pretty amazing overall.

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Part 2 and Part 3. The three pages are pretty heavy in graphics, so they may take a while to load. Word of warning: The most striking photos are not showed by default, so be sure to read the description below each one before clicking in the frame to see the picture. A couple ones really are not for the faint of heart, so proceed carefully.

Photo retouching: Before and after

It's not a secret that most photos in professional publications nowadays are retouched using the ubiquitous Photoshop, or similar photo editors. In his page, Glenn Feron exposes some of the work he did for his clients, showing us the retouched photo and the original one if we move the cursor over it.

Screenshot - 20_12_2008 , 0_32_58_thumb.jpg

Weight is lost, wrinkles disappear, breasts get bigger and, in general, everyone is younger in the hands of Glenn. The results sure are better than plastic surgery :P

How to get better pictures

Even if digital cameras are far easier to handle than traditional ones, Chris Foresman at Ars Technica teaches us a few tips on how to get the best out of that gorgeous new digital camera, and make better shots, complete with some graphical examples.

Screenshot - 20_12_2008 , 0_33_15_thumb.jpg

Seasoned photographers will probably not learn anything new, and a few ones are common sense (flash, blergh!), but with the commoditization of digital cameras, knowing how to make good photos sure come in handy.

via Fotografía Microsiervos and the Ars Technica feed

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