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Why the Xbox One’s Snap Feature May Ruin Immersive Gaming As We Know It

xbox-one-fantasy-snap-mode-team-roster_1920

 

 

So let me start out by saying I currently have both consoles preordered from Amazon and I am a current owner of all last gen consoles. I absolutely have no horses in this race. This is really a discussion about a feature and not a brand so lets not turn this into brand wars. I would write this same post if this was a lead feature for the PS4.

Also, this is not a post about the possible technical implications of running true multitasking on a gaming system. We all know the rumors about the possible roadblocks to getting the OS to run seamlessly. I’m going to assume that every thing goes as planned and in the not so far distant future the snap feature works perfect on the xbox one.

Let’s start the show

One of the most impressive things about gaming is the ability to immerse you in a world or a system. Commonly this immersion occurs through story driven beats that keep the player engaged. Other times it may be a gameplay mechanic that is challenging and nuanced. In either case, the player becomes fully engaged in the experience because the developer was able to pull them in. For example I know people who have put countless hours into skyrim, mass effect, final fantasy and even mobile titles such as tiny wings. No matter what the game, there is something that keeps the player engaged for extended periods of time.

One of the major reasons gaming is able to keep players immersed in the world is the concept of a single screen experience. Lets move a few generations back. At some point in gaming there was no concept of a friend request or an external achievement notification. Games took up the whole screen and they were the main focus. The only graphical content on the screen was related to the current game being played. I used to sit for hours in front of the TV and play sonic. Nothing else was on my mind.

Then that all changed. We got systems with notifications and friend requests. Now the consoles themselves were able to provide users with notifications of external events. For me personally, things got a little more complicated. I distinctly remember missing something in gears of war because i was too busy glancing down at an achievement popup or losing my train of thought in an FPS because i went to check out a message I was sent. Part of the immersion gets lost because of the push for multitasking and feeding players external information.

Now lets look at what is about to happen specifically on the xbox one with snap. With snap you actually resize the gaming screen to make the secondary content the same priority as your game. You can put content such as youtube, a web browser, Skype, twitter feed all on the side of the game while you play. Basically you no longer have any semblance of the single screen experience. In real time your attention can be shifted to something else without needing to pause the game.

I highly suspect this may have lasting impacts on the gaming world. The modern home is already full of other devices to distract from the gaming experience. People commonly game with a phone, tablet or computer on their lap. Now rather than pausing and moving their focus to a new device the system serving the game will be distracting them from the experience.

Currently this feature is optional. However, it will be interesting to see if this becomes the norm for gaming devices going forward. Is single tasking in the gaming world dead? Will gaming just become another window in a sea of content that we are shoveling into our brains. Only time will tell.

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Consuming Music in the Modern Age

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In the year 2013 there are quite a few ways to legitimitely acquire music:

  • Physical Media
  • Streaming Services
  • Digital storefronts

Within each audio distribution approach there are various competitors vying for your money. While I haven’t used every service out there I did want to give a little insight into how I consume music.

 

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Digital Storefront

My digital storefront of choice is the Amazon MP3 store. While I love using iTunes to organize my music, the prices for Apple’s digital store are not that great. Amazon commonly has better release day pricing and monthly sales on older albums. During the holiday months, you can even find digital new releases at deeply discounted prices. To sweeten the deal, there is commonly some sort of mp3 credit attached to other physical purchases on Amazon. If you buy a lot of stuff you are bound to end up with some of this sweet free mp3 credit.

 

amazon-logo

Physical Media

Every now and then I want a physical copy. Sometimes it might be just a CD and other times I want to splurge on a collectible vinyl. The choice here is very clear. Amazon all day every day. First of all I am a Prime Member so I get free 2-day shipping on most orders. Also, on music, I get free release date shipping. Even better, some physical music purchases on amazon come with digital versions at no extra charge. You heard me right, no extra charge. Amazon is killin it.

 

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Streaming 

Even though I buy a lot of music, I still pay for a streaming service. Streaming is great when you want to preview new releases that you aren’t super interested in buying. Also, you may want to make a large compilation based on genre, artist or your current mood. I personally think everyone should subscribe to a streaming service even if they are a big music purchaser. My weapon of choice is Spotify. The interface is decent and the social features are plentiful. Also, it helps that a lot of my fellow music loving friends use this service.

 

How do you consume music in the modern age?

Uncategorized

That Day When The Huffington Post Looks Like Drudge on Steroids

One step from insanity. A sign of the times I guess.

gHFwYFH

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A Usable Metric For Measuring the Importance of a Twitter User

 

Twitter-Logo-Volt

A while back I was pretty interested in coming up with a way to determine a user’s value/importance in a social network. I’m not sure why, but I’m interested in social network metrics and I have a a few ideas on how to implement my own. There are metrics for nodes on a graph(eigenvector centrality, katz centrality) that attempt to give value but I was trying to come up with something off the top of my head.

Twitter is the network I have some actual experience in when it comes to APIs, so I will talk a little about that here. First of all let me explain following and follower count for people who are not twitter users:

  • Followers: how many people are forced to  listen to your drivel
  • Following: how many people’s drivel you listen to

One of these things is not like the other. I would actually say that one of them is totally useless. The useless one being your following count. You can inflate this number until you hit twitter’s rate limiting. You have full control over this number and you can game the system easily if it has any reasonable value. You might be able to make the case that this metric is useful:

followersoverfollowing

I think the following count is irrelevant and you can make a usable metric with follower count alone and some second level digging(what a follow actually means). So lets move the following count off the table and just look at follower count

The Value of a Follow

Suppose the only number you are given is a user’s follower count. That alone may be useful, but to get any real value you need to put a weighted value on every follower. The question is what makes a good follower? I would say a follower is more valuable if they have a high follower count and a low following count(that metric I threw away for first level analyis). This means 2 things

  • People(probably mostly bots) want to follow them more than they follow others
  • They are selective about who they follow(and they accidentally hit the follow button for you one day)

Now I would use the metric I showed above but the problem with that metric is that a user with 2 followers and 1 following is the same as a user with 2000 followers and 1000 following. Even though they have the same ratio, I would say that the user with 2000 followers needs to be worth more. To compensate for that you need some term before the ratio. Probably something like this:

fixed1

A follower with 2 followers and 1 following would have a value of 2 and a user with 2000 followers and 1000 following would have a value of 2000. You are probably asking “what happens if followingCount is 0?” . If following count is zero then the twitter API is broken ;-) . How can they be following you and and have a following count of zero. However, just in case it is probably best to check for that before doing calculations.

Putting It all Together

Now that we have a value for a follower and we know that followers matter I envision the metric looking something like this:

fixed2

Basically you go over all of a user’s followers and sum up their weights using the aforementioned metric and add those things together. This is probably not a great metric but I think it is a good basis for one. There may be more user metadata that could be relevant here. I had a site that attempted to do this before. I need to dig up the source code/site and get it up on codemusings.org .Also feel free to inflate my importance by following me on twitter at twitter.com/techaficionado .

Video Games

G.O.G. Giving Free Games to Furloughed Workers

obama_phone

Finally, we would like to express our condolences to everyone who’s been furloughed by the shutdown. More than that, actually, we’d like to offer you the games pack of our special Shutdown Promo for free. Send an email to with your picture holding the official furlough letter you received, before Friday 11 October 2013 at 12:00 EDT and we’ll give you The Guild: Gold Edition, Capitalism, Capitalism 2, Tropico: Gold Edition, Alpha Centauri + Alien Crossfire, Theme Hospital, and Redneck Rampage free. We hope the games will keep you all occupied while you’re waiting for someone on Capitol Hill to get their act together. Meanwhile, get The Guild, Capitalism Plus, Capitalism 2, Tropico: Gold Edition, Alpha Centauri + Alien Crossfire, Theme Hospital, and Redneck Rampage 50% off (or free if you met the requirements above), in our special Shutdown Promo! The offer lasts until Thursday, October 10, at 12:59PM GMT
GOG Press Release

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Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?

I’ve been reading The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver.  If you don’t remember Nate Silver, he is the guy behind http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/. During the 2012 presidential election he was able to predict the winner of the election and the outcome of every state. Basically he’s kind of a big deal, that guy, and the republicans hate him.

In chapter 2 of his book, he discusses the accuracy of pundits. To no ones surprise, in general, pundits are pretty bad at predicting things. Their predictions are about as good as a coin flip ( you could get a coin on your political  morning show for a lot cheaper). However, there were some with higher percentages of correct predictions. Philip Tetlock of Berkeley delved deeper into a dataset to find out what made these pundits better than the rest. There were two types of pundits Hedgehogs and Foxes.

Hedgehogs: These people are big idea people. They commonly focus their whole being on 1 or 2 guiding principles. When they get new data they are trying to figure out how it relates to these ideas. If things don’t align with these big ideas then they say it was just a one off. Commonly attempting to oversimplify the world

Foxes:These people believe in a plethora of little ideas and a bunch of different ways to solve a problem. They are more tolerant of alternative approaches. If things don’t align with their view they are willing to admit their ineptitude or a limitation of their approach.

It turns out the foxes are better at predicting. It seems that taking in information and being able to be flexible about the possibilities makes you more accurate. We should all strive to be like the fox.

So, are you a fox or a hedgehog? 



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Technology Uncategorized

Why You Should Care About TouchID

Apple’s iPhone 5s has minimal aesthetic changes in relation to its predecessor. To the untrained eye it almost looks like the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5 are the same phone. However, this is not the case. There is more to the new phone than meets the eye.

iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s is a radically different design internally. Apple has increased the processing power greatly with a new 64-bit A7 CPU(almost twice processing power of that found in the iPhone 5) and opened up the door for some amazing fitness apps with a dedicated M7 motion coprocessor. The camera subsystem has been modified with a 15 percent larger image sensor and the ability to take slow motion videos. These are great modifications, but the real advancement has come with the addition of TouchID.

TouchID Exploded

TouchID is Apple’s first attempt at biometric authentication. The technology embeds a fingerprint reader behind the familiar and always present home button. This allows users to unlock their phones, and login to the app store with the touch of a finger (or 1 of 5 fingers). When this was first announced the naysayers were out in full force. “Motorola did it first”. Yes this is correct, Motorola did do it first in the Atrix. By all accounts the Atrix was a failure and the fingerprint sensor barely worked. A more appropriate remark would be that Motorola’s fingerprint sensor implementation was first to do it wrong. Apple has shown time and time again they are rarely first, but they are commonly first to do it right (“Good artists copy, great artists steal”). However, I digress. Let’s get back to why this is actually important, the sensor’s utility.

I have owned multiple brands of smartphones over the years and one of my biggest annoyances has been the screen lock. Honestly, I find it extremely annoying to have to type in digits or swipe a pattern just to get to the home screen of my phone. Because of this, I almost never enabled phone lock on any of my devices. This is terrible security practice and honestly, everyone should keep their phone locked. You should keep your device locked not only because your friends might post fart jokes to all your social media accounts ,but because a much more malicious users could make your life a living hell. Imagine if someone took your phone and emailed your business contacts right wing foolishness, deleted all your dropbox/google docs files, and tweeted some ridiculously inflammatory stuff. You could probably clean the mess up, but the initial fallout would be far from minimal.

The inconvenience of previous screen lock approaches has probably kept a lot of people from locking their device. A more technical way of saying this is that the previous approaches were not usable. If a security feature impedes a user’s ability to use a device the way they want to it is likely they will not enable it. TouchID eliminates this barrier by providing a simple yet effective approach to unlocking a locked device. It effectively increases the usable security of the device. The phone lock is no longer a nuisance.

Some tech sites will say “oh group X hacked the TouchID”. All these hacks are barely hacks. They all involve cloning a user’s fingerprint and making a duplicate high resolution finger to trick the sensor. However, I believe this is a much harder task than breaking the 4 digit pin. Honestly if they really wanted to get into your phone they could hold you hostage and hold your finger over the sensor. If your attacker is this desperate you probably have bigger problems.

In general touchID is great a addition. I’m sure we will see similar hardware in competitors’ devices now that Apple has done it right.

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A first…

Honestly, I won’t even get into how long I have owned this domain… I haven’t posted a single thing here yet. It’s pretty sad. In general I am a ball of ideas with a lack of execution. This is the case for blog posts, programs, website and research. I’m trying to remedy this and I am hoping that writing my first post here will be “action therapy” for me.