Shared posts

29 Oct 17:02

TSA supervisor confiscates raygun belt buckle -- because terrorism!

by Mark Frauenfelder

TSA braindeath just keeps going on :D

A TSA supervisor confiscated Sean Malone's toy ray gun belt buckle at the airport. Malone described the encounter:

"You understand that this is a belt buckle, right?

Read the rest
28 Oct 19:08

Knit Cthulhu mask

by Xeni Jardin

A gorgeous shot of a gorgeous piece of knitted art by Tracy Widdess, shared in our Flickr Pool.

28 Oct 19:30

Joystiq Streams: Long live the Empire in TIE Fighter

by Anthony John Agnello

TIE Fighter is also the only Star Wars game where you can properly work *for* the Empire without braindead "I defect!" type of "surprising" plot twists... Yes, I know that in the EU that was also retconned, but I choose to ignore that sort of propaganda.

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the writing was on the wall for LucasArts. The company had been shuttering studios for years already, slimming down Disney Interactive piece by piece. LucasArts did die, but with the house's best years long...
28 Oct 18:04

Security checklist

by CommitStrip

27 Oct 10:00

It's Easier This Way

by snoofle

After more than two years at WTF Inc., I thought I'd seen everything that could be done wrong actually done wrong in the worst possible way. Whether it was DBAs who wcouldn't administer a database if their lives depended upon it, managers who wcouldn't manage anything, or business people who simply could not understand the concept of save a dollar today, spend ten tomorrow to fix it.

After that dalliance, I'm back in my chosen field. While crazy things sometimes get done in insane ways, it's usually in the name of beating the competition to market, and (almost) always with the understanding that it will be fixed later - at a price.

However, this one struck me as sooo wtf that I'm not even going to try to anonymize it.

Every project from hello world on up has a source tree. It might be as simple as a single directory with one or more source files, or it could be an entire hierarchy of packages, common and external libraries, and so forth. The one thing they all have in common is that the one or more main programs in a project are all applications that pertain to that project. You never see two unrelated projects sharing the same source tree. They might share a common shared library, but not the same source tree. It just isn't done.

Or so I thought.

At my present firm, the culture specifies that for major architectural/code reviews, there must be one very senior member from an unrelated team/department present, and that individual has veto authority on anything that's said or presented. This is to allow an unbiased opinion to be offered without threat of reprisal by the manager.

As one of the more senior folks, I was volunteered for this task at a department that could only be linked back to me from five levels up. I didn't know any of these people, and so had no axe to grind. I went in with an open mind.

When they described their project, for the most part, their approach, level of scalability and parallelism, use of database, messaging and services, etc. made sense. Then they showed me their repository tree. It did not make sense. There were thirteen different (unrelated) projects in there. Together:

	  |-- classes
	  |-- srcproject1
	  |    |-- com
	  |         |
	  |         |-- company
	  |               |-- business
	  |               |-- comm
	  |               |-- gui
	  |               |-- services
	  |               |-- util
	  |-- srcproject2
	  |    |-- com
	  |         |
	  |         |-- company
	  |               |-- business
	  |               |-- comm
	  |               |-- gui
	  |               |-- services
	  |               |-- util
	  | ...
	  |-- srcproject13
	  |    |-- com
	  |         |
	  |         |-- company
	  |               |-- business
	  |               |-- comm
	  |               |-- gui
	  |               |-- services
	  |               |-- util

Naturally I queried why all the other projects were in there together, and why all of their source directories were configured as source directories in this project, I was told that they were told that it's easier this way.

Though I began to shudder, I just had to know, so I looked into the source trees. There were numerous classes with the same names and implementing the same interface at the same package path but in multiple source trees. Thus, auto-complete could pick any one of them because they all had the same signature, albeit subtly different implementations. As you might imagine, this led to all sorts of debugging fun at run time.If they were lucky, something would be null and it would dump the stack. If they were less than angelic, it wouldn't perform the calculation in quite the right way. If they had been particularly bad, if wouldn't perform the calculation in quite the right way only some of the time.

As if this wasn't far enough off the beaten path, I noticed that they were all using the same build/package/deploy mechanism, but at seemingly random intervals. It turns out that to prevent each of the teams from blocking any of the other teams from doing a deployment-at-will, all of the units of work were designed to be less than one day. That is, you had one day to design, code and test your work before committing. Thus, if the other team needed to deploy, they could grab the entire tree - including all of the tiny units of work done by the other teams - that compiled but didn't necessarily accomplish anything useful - package it up and deploy it.

Of course, if someone happened to be changing some piece of functionality that was shared, but hadn't yet made all of the one-day-of-work units that comprised the larger logical change, it was possible to get a melange of code that could best be described as: it might work.

Needless to say, the entire department was experiencing very high levels of instability, blocking deployment collisions when some piece of code absolutely could not be deployed without the rest of the related changes - without breaking the other projects.

When I pointed out the folly of all of this, they told me that the boss four levels up had experienced massive problems with multiple projects under his control, and decided that a single source tree would only need to be fixed once and would thus improve throughput. I told them that all of the projects had to be liberated separated into individual project source trees. Anything that was common would need to be its own project and released on its own schedule. When they were informed that this had to be done, they said they were under a mandate from four levels up. I went to the common manager five levels up, explained the situation, and that this was the reason for all the red on the dashboard.

The order to break it all apart was given.

24 Oct 15:59


by Jari Juutilainen

Komeahko aamurusko kuvattuna työpaikan pihamaalta.



22 Oct 15:51

Extreme Winds Cause a Waterfall in England to Blow Upward

by Christopher Jobson

Extreme Winds Cause a Waterfall in England to Blow Upward wind weather waterfalls England

Extreme Winds Cause a Waterfall in England to Blow Upward wind weather waterfalls England

Hikers exploring England’s Derbyshire Peak District earlier this week stumbled onto a rare phenomenon caused by extreme winds. The River Downfall, a 30-meter (98 foot) waterfall was blown back almost vertically by a powerful updraft, making it seem as if the waterfall was simply flowing into nothing. Very cool. (via Twisted Sifter)

24 Oct 02:00

3D Realms returns with 32-game Anthology release

by Danny Cowan

I'm seriously considering! :D

Once-defunct publisher 3D Realms has re-opened its doors, releasing a 32-game compilation and promising a slate of upcoming releases from a newly-assembled staff. The 3D Realms Anthology, available for $19.99 from the publisher's website, collects...
22 Oct 16:01

Snappy coroner's answers to stupid cross-examiner's questions

by Cory Doctorow

"How can you be sure [the patient wasn't alive] Doctor?" "Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar." Read the rest

21 Oct 12:00

Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah Bat-VAN!

by Cory Doctorow


20 Oct 20:09

Realistic cactus cupcakes

by Xeni Jardin


From Alana Jones-Mann, a baker, culinary artist and DIY enthusiast in Brooklyn, cupcakes that look like miniature cacti. They're so cute, they're even planted in crushed graham cracker soil.

Read the rest

18 Oct 19:20

If you don't agree to the new Wii U EULA, Nintendo will kill-switch it

by Cory Doctorow

I have no words to describe this.

When you bought your Wii U, it came with one set of terms-of-service; now they've changed, and if you don't accept the changes, your Wii seizes up and won't work. That's not exactly what we think of when we hear the word "agreement." Read the rest

19 Oct 23:56

The Guardian has arrived

by Josh

Swestar has released a new mech into the wild. It answers to the name “Guardian” and it’s pretty dang cool. But I especially love the atmosphere he has going on in the base/hanger in which he introduces the Mech. The presentation is just about perfect.

Guardian arrives

16 Oct 22:16

FBI chief demands an end to cellphone security

by Cory Doctorow

Because law-abiding citizens have nothing to hide and so on, hm?

If your phone is designed to be secure against thieves, voyeurs, and hackers, it'll also stop spies and cops. So the FBI has demanded that device makers redesign their products so that they -- and anyone who can impersonate them -- can break into them at will. Read the rest

16 Oct 12:08

How Microsoft hacked trademark law to let it secretly seize whole businesses

by Cory Doctorow

The company expanded the "ex parte temporary restraining order" so it could stage one-sided, sealed proceedings to take away rival businesses' domains, sometimes knocking thousands of legit servers offline. Read the rest

16 Oct 12:39

Virality, conversion rates, LTV and why I care

by cliffski

So here are some harsh figures that will make you cancel your ad spending for your indie game.

In the last 8 days my figures show me this…

For every 100 visits to my index page for D3, 48 people will proceed to the register page. Of those, 11 will hit the buy button, of those roughly 1 will buy the game. That earns me about $22.

so the maximum cost per click that makes sense is $0.22, or £0.13, which is practically unachievable.

So how can ads make sense?

The beauty of ads is that the person who comes and buys the click is just one factor in the equation. There are many other factors, and the problem is they are hard to quantify.  Here are the ones I think matter and the rough guesses.

  • The life time value (LTV) of the customer has to include every other game they buy, including DLC. Assume D3’s DLC adds 10% to total income, and assume a 20% chance of buying another positech game eventually  so LTV factor is 0.3.
  • The virality of the customer has to include friends that he persuades to buy the game. This is hard to tell, but lets say it’s pitched at roughly 20%. So one in five people will eventually lead to another sale, either directly or indirectly through a forum post or tweet about the game, so this includes people they have never met. So this is 0.2
  • The untracked sale. This includes people who visit the buy page at work/school, then buy at home, or view it on mobile but buy on desktop. I suspect that is around 10% so another 0.1.
  • The delayed / wishlist/ bargain hunter. I crunched the numbers once for Democracy 2 and found roughly 33% of revenue was from sales, so thats 33% of income not being tracked here, or earned here, but stored for later, so lets say 0.33.
  •  The impression that wasn’t a sale. This is a big thing. Some people used to say you needed to see an ad 5 times before it worked. Other research claims even 1 impression has an impact, and >5 can still help. Because click-through rates are pretty low, we are totally disregarding the impact on brand awareness. Essentially you visually prime a customer with your logo to ensure subconscious recollection when viewing a review, portal listing or whatever else. Personally I think this is a big factor, lets say at least 25% to be cautious.

So if we add that up, we get 0.3 + 0.2 + 0.1 + 0.33 + 0.25 = 1.18, so an extra 118% of income generated by that sale. In other words our 0.22 is really 0.48. That *is achievable, although still not easy. What should be immediately obvious is that we have a LOT of fuzzy numbers and guesses in here that really cannot be tracked. Putting hard numbers to some of them would help a lot.

Looking at it the other way, we have to take into account the fact that a big chunk of site visitors are not ad related but coming from reviews, portal links, tweets etc. Ideally I need to deduct that traffic to get a better picture (which would make my figures much worse).

So for now, lets assumed that we break even at $0.48 per click, what are the possibilities for making an ad-based strategy work?

  • Target traffic more cleverly so the people who arrive are more suited to purchasing. That would push up that 48% who go to the register page.
  • Increase the lifetime value of the customer. More games. Cross-promotion. Maybe more DLC, or sequels, there are various strategies here, but I’m already doing most of them
  • Reduce leakage points. Find out why people don’t hit the buy button, or then hit the actual order form buy button. A/B testing to improve both stages.
  • An ad that more clearly prevents non-buyers from clicking, and thus targets better. I don’t want people who expect a free game, or a mobile game. Luckily adwords lets you analyze each ads performance. I should do this…

Fun fun fun…




13 Oct 12:26

We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind

by but does it float
The Bus by Paul Kirchner Title: J.G. Ballard Atley
12 Oct 00:00


New Cyanide and Happiness Comic.
11 Oct 16:14

Forum Post: RE: 1:48 Sally B B17G

by Richard Spreckley

The evergreened interior is going to be insane, when it's all done (as it's pretty insane already) :o

More detail today, I wanted to show the little known or portrayed life raft stowage compartment, so I have cut out the access door and scratch built the interior, I will add the liferaft at some point.

09 Oct 17:50

Jakub Rozalski's dystopian sci-fi countryside paintings

by David Pescovitz

The future bullies its way into the traditional European countryside in German artist Jakub Rozalski's dystopian paintings. (more…)

10 Oct 02:42

The fiery world of Mustafar sculpted from 60,000 Lego bricks

by Nannan

Michał Kaźmierczak has built several large dioramas, and they all keep getting bigger and better. His epic rendition of the volcanic world of Mustafar from Star Wars captures the fiery landscape and the realistic texture of the lava. The diorama rests on a footprint of 35 large gray baseplates. Here is a photo with the builder for perspective.


The microscale imperial shuttle in this photo really shows off the scale of this massive display.


09 Oct 09:42

Finland Wants to Kill Crowdsourced Copyright Law

by Andy

In 2012, Finland introduced a modification to its national constitution which allowed the public to provide input into the kind of laws being put in place.

The changes, which allow citizens to put forward legislative proposals for Parliament to vote on, came at a time when restrictive copyright was already under the spotlight.

As a result the citizen-drafted ‘Common Sense for Copyright’ initiative quickly gathered momentum. It was hoped that the proposals would influence updates to copyright law being prepared by Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture.

The draft, the brainchild of the Open Ministry nonprofit, calls for reduced penalties for copyright infringement and current penalties to be applied only in cases of a commercial scale. Fair Use provisions would also be expanded, alongside exemptions for those wishing to backup purchased media and time-shift commercial content.

In July 2013 the initiative made history after reaching the required 50,000 signatures. It was submitted to Parliament in November 2013 but now the future of the proposal is in serious doubt.

Much to the disappointment of its backers, the Finnish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee is recommending that Common Sense For Copyright should be rejected.

European Digital Rights (EDRi), a group which defends civil rights in the information society, reports that the Committee concluded its handling of the initiative yesterday as expected.

“In its report, the Committee notes that the initiative suggests several ambitious amendments, but that it considers it impossible to propose, based on the initiative, even partial changes to the existing copyright law,” EDRi notes.

“The report states that the initiative includes internal contradictions and that many of the amendments it suggests are too significantly incompatible with the current legislation.”

As late as last week, Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi), the Finnish Pirate Party and the Open Ministry submitted complaints to the Chancellor of Justice over the way the Education and Culture Committee has been handling changes to copyright law.

The complaints allege that drafting has been carried out in secret, contrary to the Committee’s obligations under the Finnish Freedom of Information Act. Furthermore, the criteria to be applied in web-blocking cases had not been made available.

Parliament is expected to vote on the citizens’ initiative next week but after the Education and Culture Committee’s recommendations the odds are stacked against it.

Any rejection of the key points will come as a big disappointment to the 50,000+ citizens who supported the initiative. Many had signed following widespread outrage provoked by a police raid on the home of a then 9-year-old girl whose Winnie the Pooh laptop was confiscated after an allegation of file-sharing. The case was later settled for 300 euros.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

08 Oct 20:31

Forum Post: RE: Star Wars AT-AT Imperial Walker 1/48 Scratchbuilt

by Movie Kits

Wonderful work!

Here you have an advance of the first paint layers on the head (using the salt technique) and the work with the 7 led circuits covered with a see-through posterboard. More detailed info in our site :)

03 Oct 09:00

Working on a shared code base

by sharhalakis

by Etan

03 Oct 21:22

I'm sure this is what parenting will be like. I'm sure of it.

05 Oct 23:30

CRT-themed Super Win the Game recalls the good old days

by Thomas Schulenberg

SWtG is awesome 8)

Modern, retro-tinted platformers have got the whole "classic graphical style" thing down at this point, but emulating the warm glow of CRT TVs is a rarer feat. Minor Key Games has coated Super Win the Game in the softer presentation, pairing with...
02 Oct 21:54

Holy ravioli!

by Iain

Tumbler schmumbler, if you’re an old fart like me then there can be only one true batmobile, and that’s the one from the super-camp 60’s TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward! As many of you know, this year marks the 75th anniversary of Batman, and than means we’ve seen a lot of new LEGO sets and fan builds celebrating the Batman franchise. Including one rather disappointing attempting by the LEGO company to create an exclusive “chibi” batmobile for ComicCon. So many thanks to Orion Pax for rectifying the situation with this super-accurate version!

And you can check out the full gallery of images over on Mr P’s website here.

02 Oct 09:22

Show Me The Games updated, needs games!

by cliffski

So, my little side project (not so little any more…) showmethegames has been converted to wordpress. You probably can’t tell, it looks exactly the same, but what this means is…

  • submitting a new game (still done by me) is much easier
  • Submitting an article (done by dan) is TONS easier
  • It has comments!
  • It has endless-scrolling!

All of these are GOOD THINGS. For those new to this blog, SMTG is my indie-promoting site that acts as a database of cool, high quality indie games you can buy direct from the developer. You can get almost all of them from Steam or GoG too, but we like competition, so we support multiple payment options for gamers.

What I need is… MORE GAMES. The requirements are pretty simple:

  • Game must be high quality. Something that actually sells. If it’s not going to sell 100 copies, it’s probably just your first game, and thats *fine*, but not what the site is aimed at.
  • Game must be available from you, thew developer, through any payment system (Humble widget, BMTMicro, PayPal, fast-spring) in some format, not a portal-exclusive.
  • It must be finished and on sale, not a kickstarter, early access game. And currently not a F2P game, sorry :D
  • PC only.

If your game fits all those criteria and it isn’t already on there, email cliff AT positech dot co dot uk with this…

  • Game Title
  • Game Description (about 100 words)
  • Game Genre
  • 445pixel width screenshot of the game in jpg format, the best one you have to summarize how the game plays
  • A single ‘feature image’ of dimensions 740px by 356 in jpg format
  • A website URL
  • A demo URL, if available.
  • A purchase URL
  • A contact email (not published)

And I’ll add it. What’s in it for me? NOTHING. I just like supporting indie games. What does it cost you? NOTHING. How much traffic will it generate? err…some, but it will be veyr targeted and high quality.

If you are looking for something else to read now, go read dans summary of adventure games on the site.

01 Oct 17:30

US top cop decries encryption, demands backdoors

by David Kravets

"Think of the children" and "NINE ELEVEN NEVER FORGET!" are my two favourite excuses for all the stupidities on Terra. Or not.

US Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder, the US top law enforcement official, said it is "worrisome" that tech companies are providing default encryption on consumer electronics. Locking the authorities out of being able to physically access the contents of devices puts children at risk, he said.

"It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said during a Tuesday speech before the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online conference. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so."

Holder's remarks, while he did not mention any particular company by name, come two weeks after Apple announced its new iPhone 6 models would be equipped with data encryption that prevents authorities from accessing the contents of the phone. At the same time, Google said its upcoming Android operating system will also have default encryption.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

22 Sep 15:37

Announcing Big Pharma – The pharmaceutical strategy game

by cliffski

Regular blog readers might know that I published a game by a third party indie developer called The Tiniest Shark which produced Redshirt, the sci-fi comedy social-networking life sim game, which you can buy HERE. I enjoyed taking on the role of indie publisher, for all kinds of reasons I’ve talked about before. And lo, so it came to be that I was pitched another indie game that I’d love to see made, and it’s called Big Pharma


Big Pharma is being developed by another UK studio called Twice Circled, and designed and coded by Tim Wicksteed, whose blog you will find here. We also have a bare-bones facebook page for now for the game here and an actual website for it (with some very early images) here. In terms of genre, it’s a strategy game based on running a large pharmaceutical company, that is part biz-sim, part isometric factory/lab building sim, and it looks like this…



I LOVE the design and idea behind big pharma. I want to play it right now. It scratches that itch you get from games like Anno 2070 about laying out production lines, without having to use uplay or wait 40 minutes for the game to load. It’s also a proper biz/management game, which is obviously right up my street. It *is* quite early to be announcing this game, by positech standards. We normally wait much later, but the reason to announce now is that YOU CAN PLAY IT if you come down to the Eurogamer expo in London this coming weekend. Big Pharma will be there, alongside Gratuitous Space Battles 2.

So journalists…come…be our friends. We will shake your hands and talk enthusiastically about both games. You can have a go, and ask us questions. Big Pharma is NEW, nobody has played it yet, or heard about. Come and be the first to tweet/blog/write novels about your impressions of it. We dare you! And obviously come play Gratuitous Space Battles 2 as well. It is a sequel, but it has spaceships exploding, so swings and roundabouts…Plus we will have badges. Actual proper badges.

Me and Tim will be at the show all four days, so no need to book a time or anything. We will be in the indie area near prison architect. Oh, and if you like the look of Big Pharma, pls like it on facebook so we don’t feel lonely there…