Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Witness Essay Status Update

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2017 by Matthew VanDevander

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(Cross-posted from Patreon)

Since I’ve been working on this Witness video essay for so long, I figured I should probably give a bit of a status update to all my backers. At the very least so nobody worries that I’m not actually working on this thing.

Thus far, the hardest and most time consuming thing has been writing and finalizing a script. I initially thought this whole video was going to be a short month-long project, and that one month has turned into 6. There have been a lot of factors leading to this essay taking so long to get done, but certainly one of them is just that it’s difficult try to properly communicate in words what The Witness does so effectively without them. Much as Richard Feynman said of attempting to lecture about physics to the layman: I more or less have to accept failure before I even begin, but proceed anyway.

Still, the video is coming along pretty well. I have 4 and a half minutes of more-or-less final video cut together already, 5 and a half minutes of finished and recorded VO that needs to have video edited to go alongside it, and also there are around 10 minutes left of words (2108 words) that are sitting in a text file that need to be polished up before they can become the rest of the VO for the video.

I have been working on the video in sections: writing the script for each section, recording the VO, and polishing the video before moving on to the next. I have around 3 of 6 sections done.

So, the progress is pretty good, and although it may seem from the numbers like I’m at the halfway mark, I feel like I’m a bit further along than that, as most of the core ideas that I want to cover are already in the script. That means rather than wracking my brain for days, it really is just a matter of polishing up what I have.

Anyway, thanks for backing, and I hope everyone enjoys the final video when it is done.

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Richard Feynman – The Character of Physical Law (audio lectures)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2016 by Matthew VanDevander

I’ve been listening to this lecture series on physics by Richard Feynman lately. The audio quality on the videos is a bit low, so I decided to clean it up a bit and make the entire lecture series available in easy podcast-able audio only form. There are a few diagrams that you will be missing from the videos, but most of the points are easy to understand even without the visual. If you have a long commute or enjoy learning about physics, perhaps you will enjoy them as much as I have:

(Note: there are also some somewhat higher quality videos with decent audio available here)

Part 1: The Law of Gravitation

Part 2: The Relation of Mathematics to Physics

Part 3: The Great Conservation Principles

Part 4: Symmetry in Physical Law

Part 5: The Distinction of Past and Future

Part 6: Probability and Uncertainty

Part 7: Seeking New Laws

If you enjoy these, you can also find the complete text of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, which is essentially an expanded version of the above, publicly available here:

http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/

Star Trek: The Next Generation Watchlist

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2016 by Matthew VanDevander

(Posted here for archival purposes)

Well, everyone and their mother has done one of these, but considering I’ve just made it through my first run through the whole series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I felt it was probably useful to some people to know my opinions on the show. It’s definitely one of my favorite shows ever, but as we all know: not all of the episodes should be on your bucket-list. So here’s my list of the episodes to watch if you’re short on time but not TOO short on time to watch Star Trek.

Season 1

(You really can skip all of these, as Season 1 has no real good episodes at all, but here’s some picks)

Encounter at Farpoint
Skin of Evil
The Neutral Zone

Honorable Mentions

Where No One Has Gone Before
Hide And Q
The Big Goodbye
Datalore
11001001

Season 2

A Matter of Honor
The Measure of a Man
Q Who

Honorable Mentions

Elementary, Dear Data
The Royale

Season 3

Deja Q
Yesterday’s Enterprise
The Offspring
Sins of The Father
Hollow Pursuits
The Best of Both Worlds (Part 1)

Honorable Mentions

Booby Trap
The Defector
A Matter of Perspective
Allegiance
Captain’s Holiday
The Most Toys
Sarek

Season 4

The Best of Both Worlds (Part 2)
Family
Brothers
Remember Me
Data’s Day
The Drumhead
Redemption (Part 1)

Honorable Mentions

Reunion
Future Imperfect
Final Mission
The Wounded
Clues
Galaxy’s Child
Qpid
In Theory
I, Borg

Season 5

Redemption (Part 2)
Darmok
Ensign Ro
Cause and Effect
The Next Phase
The Inner Light
Time’s Arrow (Part 1)

Honorable Mentions

Disaster
The Game
The First Duty

Season 6

Time’s Arrow (Part 2)
Chain of Command (Part 1) <- My personal favorite episode
Chain of Command (Part 2)
Ship in a Bottle
Tapestry
Starship Mine
Frame of Mind
Second Chances
Timescape

Honorable Mentions

True Q
Rascals
A Fistful of Datas
The Quality of Life
Lessons
Suspicions
Descent (Part 1)

Season 7

Attached
Parallels
Lower Decks
Preemptive Strike
All Good Things…

Honorable Mentions

Descent (Part 2)
Phantasms
Thine Own Self

BONUS TOP 10 WORST TNG EPISODES EVER

Since I’m apparently in the business of saving you some time, I feel as though it would be remiss on me not to tell you the episodes that you should outright avoid at all costs. And since when Trek gets bad, it gets REAL bad, I thought it might be fun to rank the worst stinkers in the show’s history. Starting from least bad to the worst TNG episode of all time.

10 S7E7 Dark Page

It’s got two things going for it to make it one of the worst episodes ever. One is always bad and always impossible-to-remember-how-to-spell Lwaxana Troi. And the other, is a wierd freaky-deaky delve into the telepathic consciousness. This is definitely one of the more out-there episodes, but not the worst on the list, for sure.

9 S6E20 The Chase

What’s strange is that I’ve seen this episode show up on some people’s favorite lists, but I think it’s terrible. It essentially follows a It’s a Mad Mad Mad World race-to-the-mystical-macguffin type plot, similar to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and with similarly terrible results. What’s found doesn’t live up to the hype, and ultimately feels like a forced kumbaya message. The laughably bad acting along the way, a rarity for Season 7, doesn’t help.

8 S2E22 Shades of Gray

A clip show. Think about it, an episode has to be pretty bad for a clip show to rate above it in terms of watchability. I think this episode gains some brownie points for borrowing good clips from the first two (admittedly rough) seasons. Not a great way to end Season 2 though.

7 S2E10 The Dauphin

Wesley Crusher. Love Story. Two things that almost never work on this show, combined. Nuff said.

6 S1E15 Too Short a Season

Bad bad bad acting in bad bad bad old guy makeup. Abort! Abort!

5 S7E14 Sub Rosa

About as fucking wierd as this series ever gets. Spoilers! Beverly Crusher’s family has been secretly controlled by a rape ghost for a thousand years. Yep. That’s totally canon now. And this is Season 7, so this is coming out of nowhere.

4 S1E3 Code of Honor

Too much like the original series. Racist stereotypes. Battle to the death. It’s all here but the ears, baby.

3 S1E7 Justice

Wesley Crusher finds himself in a pickle when he stumbles onto some flowers in this perfect society with a deadly secret! Yeah no, Wesley is in prime form here, by which I mean he is sucking. I wish they really would’ve let him be put to the death here. We would’ve missed out on Final Mission, but it might’ve been worth it.

2 S1E13 Angel One

Probably as offensively bad as the show ever gets. An attempt a message about transcending gender norms falls worse than flat and actually trips into sexist garbage, and besides, it’s just not a very good episode.

1 S2E1 The Child

Speaking of not a very good episode, and sexist trash. The worst episode, the crowing achievement of badness that this series has ever offered. The Child can probably be shown in feminist classes because of it’s flawless execution of the Mystical Pregnancy trope. It’s lazy, shallow writing that disrespects Deanna’s character, and more importantly–my limited time on this Earth. Although she doesn’t often shine when she’s in the starring role, this is the worst of Deanna’s run, and my pick for worst of the series.

Some VR thoughts…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 7, 2014 by Matthew VanDevander

So, my last post was definitely reactionary. Though at this moment I have not went back to read over it so I’m not entirely sure what my feelings were at the time. But as for now, I have still not cancelled my DK2 preorder, and it is now July, the month when it is supposed to ship out.

My thoughts on the Facebook acquisition now go something like this: I think it’s good for VR, but ultimately bad for Oculus in the long term. Facebook is no less creepy, and I still think they will do bad things if they have access to retina or iris identifying information through a HMD. Or even if they only get gaze tracking. Facebook has not shown discipline when it comes to handling a large amount of personal and private information, so I don’t expect that pattern to reverse itself.

I am also disappointed with the way that the VR community (particularly in the oculus subreddit) has finally joined the rest of the internet in consisting primarily of entitled morons and assholes. I may be excited about the concept of VR, but I maintain a healthy skepticism about the reality of it. Oculus has a lot of challenges ahead of it.

They still don’t have a good input solution, for one. And it’s impossible to say what the level of VR that a general public will accept or consider valuable enough to overcome the dorkiness will be. Is a 1440p screen enough. Is a seated experience enough? Is a gamepad enough?

Certainly for a small audience of enthusiastic and hopeful techy people, we can put up with a device with a lot of shortcomings. I mean, we’re willing to dismiss when a device makes us physically ill, for Christ’s sake!

But we are not normal people. We are dedicated and frankly, at this point, a lot of us are crazy. We believe so strongly in an idea, that some of us can’t stand the possibility of disillusionment. We don’t want our bubbles burst.

So what is VR going to be? Not the holo deck, and not the matrix. At least not anytime soon. Instead it’s at least going to be a box you strap to your head that some people think is too heavy and too low resolution, and too expensive, and whatever else.

If that’s all it is, then it won’t succeed. But the jury is out on what Oculus will bring to the table as far as a consumer product, and what ultimately will be enough to satisfy a general public.

Even still, it’s not satisfaction that counts for mainstream success. It’s not novelty. It’s applicability. It’s utility. The average person needs to see how it is too difficult to live WITHOUT VR in order to convince them to live with it. So it needs to have practical applications that outweigh any downsides.

And there will be downsides. It will either still make people sick sometimes, or the resolution will still be impractically low, or the tracking will be a bit…unreliable. Or something. Nothing is perfect, especially when it has to be designed as a one size fits all device.

So this is all a bit ranty, as it’s quite early in the morning at this point. But I felt it would be worth while to follow up on my last post about VR with some of my later thoughts. Still haven’t even tried VR, so it’s just musing anyways.

Rooting For The Little Guy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 26, 2014 by Matthew VanDevander

Facebook, you probably have one, you may even use it every day. You probably kinda hate it too. Don’t feel too bad, you’re just like everyone else on Facebook. Remember when we were excited about social media? Now it has become a basic utility we use to keep in touch with each other. Nobody is excited about Facebook, just like nobody is excited about the power company.

What is it that keeps us using it then? Thumbing through our news feeds with glazed eyes and a sort of blasé attitude? Is it the dopamine release you get from seeing a new post? Is it that little squirt inside your brain’s reward center when you check a notification, only to find out that it was so-and-so’s birthday for 12 hours today and actually you just don’t care? Why are you Friends with him anyway? Randomized schedule, randomized rewards. It’s the definition of a Skinner box.

Or maybe we really do just like staying connected to people. Even if in a strange and ethereal way, maybe it’s totally good natured friendliness. If it is, you have to admit that rummaging through dozens of personal pictures of all your friends would’ve sounded pretty creepy about a decade ago. Now it’s an afternoon’s leisure activity. They posted those pictures expecting you to look at them. It’s a strange mixture of desperation and honesty.

On top of all this mostly harmless but potentially creepy windowing into our personal lives and thoughts, Facebook is building an empire. They are logging all those status updates, geotagging your pictures, and using facial recognition to find you in others. They are mining through your “private” messages to friends to find keywords that might, just might, suggest that you’d be the type of person who likes to “Eat Fresh.” You may know this, you may have come to accept it, but I guarantee that you have friends, real life people you care about, that are oblivious that they are being spied on by Facebook. Or that anyone, anywhere, can read their posts if they know their name, including the government.

“So how did it get this way?” An outside observer might ask. “Who would ever choose this dystopian nightmare?”

We were never really given that choice exactly. It happened through a long process of accretion, like water wearing away a boulder. The argument was never “Do I want a Facebook that spies on me and sells my identity or no Facebook at all,” it instead became “well, Facebook with ads is better than paying for Facebook, I guess,” and, “well, Facebook with targeted ads is better than Facebook with more ads, I guess.” If you make the damage smaller and dose it out over time, it becomes easier to accept. Frog in the pot with the heat slowly turned up. You stick around instead of running because there’s no shock.

So why does this matter? Why care? I mean, it’s just Facebook. Don’t use it if you don’t like it. (Full disclosure: I do have a Facebook, bear with me) Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Facebook has a profile for you, even if you aren’t a member. They are gathering data on you from wherever they can get it. Shadow profiles. Once you come, you can never leave, they keep your profile information indefinitely on their servers.

So all this seems pretty creepy, not exactly a “Friend” you’d want to hang around with, you know, virtually. Related or not to the creepy factor, they have been bleeding users in the past several years, particularly young ones. They’re moving on to Twitter or whatever the Next Big Thing is. So this puts Facebook, a company in the business of owning your online identity, in a bit of a bind.

The natural thing for a large company to do at this point is to start “diversifying their portfolio.” Or buying up smaller companies in order to broaden their income base. Thus far, Facebook has primarily been buying up other social media platforms. More or less trying to just own the Next Big Thing before it becomes even bigger than Facebook. It’s like MySpace buying Facebook while it still required a .edu email address.

So far that seems to have worked out fairly well for them. After two years, you still wouldn’t know Instagram was a part of Facebook unless someone told you. (I didn’t) And the strategy of not micromanaging has allowed it to continue to grow slowly. But the management style may change with time. In fact, they announced recently that they will be replacing foursquare integration in Instagram with Facebook Places, their in-house solution. So perhaps it has already changed.

All this has somehow lead up to a $2bn acquisition of Oculus. That’s right, Facebook, a company which makes a product which your Mom probably uses every day, is acquiring a hardware company. Not only that, but one that is currently targeting hardcore gamers who want to feel completely immersed in a video game. Don’t see the pattern here? Most people don’t, and Facebook’s stock dipped accordingly.

As with Instagram, Facebook has made the bargain with fans of Oculus that “they won’t change a thing.” And that’s great for VR, but probably not so great for Oculus. Because although I believe them, it’s only to a point. They won’t change anything as long as they believe that they can’t improve their profits by doing so.

Oculus is going to be huge. VR is going to be huge. There’s no avoiding it. It’s a revolution in the way that we consume media, and it has the potential to change the way we think of “reality.” And Facebook is ready to ride this wave to the top. They will be building their version of the Metaverse, the virtual world inside the real one, where we keep in touch with our old friends and loved ones.

But even though VR will stick around forever, Oculus will not continue growing forever. They will slow down. It is the nature of business to grow until the market is filled. But Facebook is a publicly traded company which answers to many disinterested investors. These people want a return on their investment, they want year-over-year growth. If the percentage growth goes down from last year, they want to know why.

Of course this is preposterous, as maintaining a solid percentage growth every year is an exponential curve, and nothing can grow exponentially forever. This is why markets bust and bubbles form. People are terrible at estimating complex non-linear equations. It’s just not something we’ve had to be good at, evolutionarily speaking. So they make bets on the future of businesses expecting the trend of the moment to continue longer than it will.

So once Oculus plateaus, or begins to plateau, or looks like it might possibly maybe be thinking about plateauing, the squeeze is on from the investors. This is the point at which Facebook gets involved in Oculus. This is when we get blue Facebook branded headsets with the “thumbs up” on it. This is when you have to implicitly sign an invasive EULA just to open the box.

This seems to be the major concern of many of Oculus’s fans, that Facebook is going to ruin Oculus. That they will need a Facebook account in order log into Oculus Share. That games will require advertisements overlaid on top of them.

This is not my concern however. That will all be happening a while after VR is officially “a thing.” So if you’re worried about that, please stop.

My concern is for my own self. My own moral integrity. It shows a lot about who you are as a person or a company by who you choose to partner with. And Facebook, regardless of how they are “planning on ruining Oculus” or not, is a company that has shown a willingness to be deceitful towards it’s users if it’s in Facebook’s best interest. They are not, in my opinion, a company that has shown moral fiber. And now Oculus is associated with them.

So what does that look like? A company with moral fiber? Sadly, there aren’t a whole lot of big ones. It seems that when companies reach a certain size, they are seduced by the Dark Side, so to speak. But a few that come to mind from the gaming space are RAD Game Tools, Mojang, and until now, Oculus.

So what has changed at Oculus when they insist so deeply that “nothing has changed?” They have chosen to associate themselves with what I would consider an immoral company. And not just in a superficial way, they are literally part of that company now. Facebook and Oculus will forever be synonymous. So if I don’t trust Facebook, I don’t trust Oculus.

So why do I care? Why do I feel betrayed? Because I believed in Oculus. I thought of it like a group of friends, not just another company, even though that’s really all it was. I should’ve known better really. After they accepted Venture Capitalist money, the writing was really already on the wall. VCs are always looking for a quick buck, a ROI, a buyout.

I ordered a Developer Kit with big plans on making content and helping Oculus “change the world.” Now, I don’t want to help Facebook change anything, certainly not the world. I’d rather they just rot into the dust and go away than reshape the world in their image.

The thought of a company with shaky morals putting it’s weight behind the most significant technological and social revolution since the internet kinda turns my stomach. So it’s scary.

It was nice rooting for the little guy for a while. It was nice feeling able to trust a company like Oculus who was changing the world. Now they are part of something bigger, something scarier, and I don’t trust it one bit.

So the question is, what am I supposed to do about it? I still have my DK2 on order, but I am not sure why. I don’t know that I feel comfortable actually developing anything with it. That makes me just a consumer buying a product, and as Palmer and Nate so earnestly pleaded, “Consumers shouldn’t buy DK2, we don’t want consumers to buy DK2.”

Sorry everybody, MASSIVE BUG.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 by Matthew VanDevander

DiveDive will have to be late for 7DRL, I accidentally left a testing hack in there last night in my coding delirium. It’s literally one line of code. Proper build will have to wait till tomorrow though…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 by Matthew VanDevander

Just a teaser

Ah, you thought I’d forgotten…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by Matthew VanDevander

Well, I haven’t forgotten, and I will continue immediately with more movie review of 2009! Yeah, that doesn’t sound as cool now that it’s February, but still. It’s a fun exercise for me. Before I start however, I feel the need to give some update about the status of Fij. As is, I’ve been secretive to the point of misleading someone to think that I’m not even working on it.

Things are going rather well with the game. The game itself is up and running, although the features are quite minimal at the moment. I may or may not have a video soon. I’d like to have something more interesting looking before I show it off. The editor and the game have split off developmentally, so that I can continue work without having a huge mess of code that’s unrelated to the game. Although it would be nice to have a one button game-test inside of the editor. I feel that I’ve made the best decision for the moment. The game engine itself is designed to hopefully be the start of something I can reuse on more projects. Although I haven’t gone overboard on making it reusable. The important thing is to complete this game, after that, if I have some pluggable elements for the next one, then that’s just an extra bonus. I’m also in the process of looking for music that suits the themes of the game. It’s a bit difficult though, as I need to find either royalty-free music, or pay-licensed music. Of course, I could write my own music, and I may still consider that option if I can’t find anything better.

Now, on to some more reviews:

Continue reading

Tired

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2009 by Matthew VanDevander

Not doing much right now, just putting this up from a public computer. About to go to my Old Testament class, which is the most sleep-inducing class of my school week. Unfortunately I’m already tired, so this is not going to be so good.

I’m currently mulling over some ideas for my next programming project. My goal is to keep myself working on making game projects so that I can actually be a developer. Rather than sitting around hoping that I’ll “be a game developer one day,” I figure I should just jump in and start completing projects. So far I’ve been making pretty good headway. I just don’t know what exactly I’m going to do next.

I’ve got some ideas for tools to make my big project (Fij, of course,) but I think it might be better of me to stick to actual game projects that are quite small and should only take about a week of work to implement. (barring any serious bugs, like the memory leak issue with my Pong clone) The main reason that I sort of feel this push as a necessary thing is that I want to learn game development, not just programming. And that means I need to learn as much as possible how to design and manage the programming and development of my projects until they are completed.

So, whilst doing other random things later today, I’ll hopefully try to mull for some ideas deep inside my brain.

Either that or I’ll just end up writing a space invaders clone.

Random post of dook.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Matthew VanDevander

I figure it’s been too long since I posted something on here, and although this post will not be long, it makes me feel more at ease.

I’ve been eating some Warheads candies for the first time in many years. They seem much less sour than I remember, but they still burn my tongue when I eat a bunch of them at once. They are certainly delishus.

Sad to say, not much progress on any game projects, as usual. My weekend has been spent with my fiancee, and not on any programming/flash goodness. So, I apologize to anyone who cares. Which is probably no one, but it’s out there in the open anyways.

Also not much progress on me becoming less sleepy. I have no clue why I am so tired all the time. Seriously. I got up at like 2PM, so I’ve only been awake like 11 hours, and I’m so freaking tired I feel like just sleeping all day tomorrow. But I do have classes, so I will not be able to do any such sleeping all day.

Dookie braing.