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December 30, 2008

Filed under: random»linky

One Link Per Child

Won't you think of the children?

  • The OLPC program is on a roll with its recent ad efforts (don't they have better things to do? Like, I don't know, not screwing up distribution?). First, they imply that their hardware will stop child labor, prostitution, and soldiering. Keep this in mind the next time that they claim that the project has been misrepresented as a poverty-fighting panacea. Then they digitally revived John Lennon to shill for them. Stay classy, Negroponte.
  • This a while back from Boing Boing: computer scientists devise a test to predict programming skill. Basically, the authors of the paper (which is pretty funny, actually) tested people on some simple statements of assignment and sequence. They found that the classes could be divided into three groups: people who applied a consistent (but completely arbitrary) model to the questions, people who tried to solve each question based on informal meaning, and people who refused to answer because the whole thing looked like nonsense. The first group, unsurprisingly, contains the best programmers.
  • Pandagon's Jesse Taylor comments on the Fear of a Black ISBN--i.e., the fallacy of a section for African-American literature in bookstores. "If James Patterson can write eight million terrible bestselling mysteries about a black protagonist, then actual black people can probably write equally terrible bestsellers about equally unbelievable black (or even white!) people."
  • A friend sent me this report from the WSJ: As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S. Be sure to scroll down for the map, which splits the country into four pieces between Canada, China, the EU, and Mexico. I, for one, welcome our 220-volt standardized overlords.
  • If you get the chance to see Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, take it. It's intensely structured, filled with a cast of great actors, and closes with a bang. Really ought to win a ton of awards.
  • Obviously, I've gotten sidetracked lately from reading about new media for social protest into their use for development. One cool initiative: Mobiles in Malawi tracks the use of SMS communications for coordinating community health workers.
  • I guess at the end of the year it's customary to make best-of lists. I don't really have anything for that. I will say that, in gaming, one of the high points for me was the sound design of Geometry Wars 2. The original game already used sound really effectively to warn players about spawning enemies. What the sequel adds is a fascinating use of filters and processing to deepen the relationship of the action onscreen to the sound of the game. For example, in King mode, leaving the safe zones muffles the sounds with a lowpass filter, and entering them opens it back up--it instantly reinforces the fact that the player is only secure and fully-powered inside the zones. The interactive music and time-stretch effects literally grind to a halt when the player dies in Deadline or Evolved. These kinds of effects are well-known in more "realistic" games, I think. But it's really nice to see them used to augment the abstract, arcade landscape of GW2, and a tribute to the power that good audio design can have.

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